- Cooking Supplies
On the road or in a refugee camp you will need ways to prepare food. Preparing food almost always involves heat, usually provided through fire. When thinking about preparing food in a refugee type situation, you need to think a lot farther than you would for a typical camping situation. Anything that runs off gas or some sort of combustible liquid should be disqualified. Why? Because you will run out of fuel and end up throwing it out anyway. Don’t spend money on a fancy gas burning camping stove; it’s a waste, unless you go camping a lot for fun and then is a great investment. Instead, think about what resources you have locally for fuel.
Most regions have wood available in some form or another. Wood burning stoves have been around as long as there has been fire. While simply starting a fire with a bunch of sticks on the ground and cooking over them could work, it is horribly inefficient and has a high risk of fire spreading out of control. Instead, look at building a small rocket stove or hobo stove. These can be carried with you and are low weight, if you make them out of the right materials. A rocket stove will use a small amount of fuel to quickly boil water or cook over. It can also be made to stably hold a few different size pots.
Stoves that run off fire need a way to start the fire. A standard Bic lighter may last for a while, but eventually it runs out of fuel. Instead, look into a ferro strike rod, such as the Light My Fire 2.0 Army Swedish Firesteel. It last for about 12000 strikes, which will start a lot more fires than a Bic lighter.
Once you have your heat source, think about what you need for cooking. A good gallon-size pot and a skillet should suffice for most families. The pot can be used for water purification and making soups, while the skillet can be used to cook meat or whatever you find. If the weight of both is too much, just keep the pot. Its bottom can be used as a skillet type surface. To keep your pots clean, use a scraper to clear any residue after use, and ideally have a small jar of oil to use for cleaning and maintaining your pans.
For utensils, a lightweight wooden ladle and spatula would be invaluable and should cover most cooking needs. If you already have these at home, then just plan on grabbing them before you hit the road, unless you want to make a separate kit that you keep ready for an emergency evacuation. Each person in your family should have a spork and cup that can be used to eat out of. You shouldn’t need a separate cooking knife; just use the one you will have on you.
The last thing you may have seen listed as essential items are tools that people brought with them. Having a specialized tool makes you valuable. If you are the only one who can perform a certain function, this makes you more valuable to a group of people.
Below are a list of specialized tools that you may already have. The temptation may be to get all of them, but realistically it is better to have everything you need to get one specialized task done well than to have a little bit of everything and be generally useless.
I think you should have some basic tools for cooking just to be self sufficient in this area. However, if you loaded up on spices, oils, and pots and pans, you could become valuable as the “camp chef” of your refugee group. By cooking other people’s food you could take some of it as payment and support yourself. Make sure you have plenty of fire-starting materials. Bulk packages of Flint Rods can be used with the back of a Gerber Prodigy or Mora Buschraft to start thousands of fires.
Wood Preparation Tools
If you have a quality full-size ax then you can be the designated wood chopper. Having woodworking knives and tools could allow you to carve wooden utensils and other needed items for trade.
Most people do not know how to use medical tools. If you have first aid or advanced medical training, stock up on some specialized tools that will make you valuable to other people. A good doctor will be jealously guarded by a group of people because of their importance in keeping a group functioning properly. Everyone should have a basic medical first aid kit prepared, but it is impracticable for everyone to have a kit of dental surgery tools. Make yourself valuable by having the essential healthcare trade.
Many people do not have firearms. If you have a range of weaponry, ammunition, and maintenance supplies then a job as the group’s sentry or soldier could help support you. Guns are heavy and you can’t eat them, so make sure you have others that know how to cook and find food; otherwise you may be using the gun in ways you never thought you could.
Clothing/Equipment Repair Tools
One interesting refugee carried his sewing machine with him. It allowed him to offer a valuable service to others by fixing their clothes. While a full manual sewing machine may not be practical, having a large assortment of thread, needles, buttons, and buckles could make you the go-to person for mending clothes and gear. Life as a refugee is stressful on all your equipment, so having the ability to repair on-the-go is essential.
While the odds of you getting enough wild game on the road to support yourself let alone others is slim to none, having hunting supplies could be useful. Having fishing tackle could give you an opportunity to catch fish if you are camped near a lake. Bringing snare wire and knowing how to use it could allow you to set traps before sleeping and potentially wake up to fresh breakfast.
Even if the grid is down, people will still have electronics that need charging. If you built a portable solar or crank charging system for storing and dispensing energy you could be a very popular person. Consider getting a basic solar charger that you can use to collect energy from the sun. The downside of these is that they only have energy available if the sun is out. Store excess energy in a big external battery (or a few smaller external batteries) that can be transferred at night or a more convenient time. You can also use a USB battery charger to fill rechargeable AA or AAA batteries that can be used in flashlights or other portable electronics. Grey Wolf Survival has a great article on building a portable charging station that I highly recommend if you want to take your charging station to the next level.
- Alternative Transportation
After reading this list you may be feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of carrying all this stuff in your backpack. That is because it would be pretty much impossible to do so. It is important to think of alternative means of carrying around your essential equipment now. If you have ever read the book or seen the movie called The Road, you would have watched how the main character carries his precious goods in a shopping cart. If you live near a major city you have probably observed this trick with your local homeless population as well. While in a true emergency a shopping cart will seem like a wagon from heaven, if you have the opportunity now invest in some better alternatives.
Gardening wagons come in a variety of sizes. These have the advantage of being able to carry a larger amount of equipment (depending on the size you select) over more difficult terrain than a shopping cart could handle due to using inflated tires. They also offer a smoother ride for young children so that you can carry them when they get tired after about 100 yards of walking. If you buy one with inflated tires, make sure you get some spare tires as well as a pump. Automotive flat repairing kits are a must as well. Here are examples of large, medium, and small wagons that may suit your needs.
Another standard strategy employed by the homeless is to use a dolly. Dollies are a great way to carry around heavy gear. They only have two points of contact with the ground, which makes it easier to navigate through tough terrain that even a wagon could not. If you go this route, buy a dolly that has solid one-piece construction for the frame and non-pressurized wheels so you don’t need to worry about a pump or spares. The extra weight of the solid frame will more than make up for itself with its added durability. The disadvantage of the dolly is that it cannot easily be used to carry children, and it also cannot carry as much as a wagon. If you are traveling with a group or your family, consider having both available to you. If you like the idea of a dolly but wish for the convenience and stability of having four wheels on the ground, there are dollies available that have four wheels and can be used either as a wagon or a dolly. If you are going to go the dolly route, make sure you have some bungee cords to keep everything attached.
The last and maybe the most versatile way to carry your gear is on a bicycle. A good mountain bike equipped with storage racks in the front and back can be an invaluable tool. Not only can you walk with it and have it carry the majority of the load, it can be unloaded and used in its normal purpose to quickly move you around. Having at least one person in your group with a bike could be life and time saving as they can scout for food or danger far quicker than someone on foot. If you don’t already have a mountain bike, consider getting one that does not have any additional rear suspension components. The fewer moving parts there are the less there is to break. May sure to pack five or six extra inner tubes of the correct size and a patching kit as well as tools to make basic repairs. Also, have extra tires.
If you are planning on going the bike route, a pull-behind child’s trailer for a bike could be used for its intended purpose or as additional storage space. There are also more simple bike trailers that are designed specifically for cargo.
Being a refugee should ideally be a temporary experience. Being prepared now can help ease the discomfort of such a devastating situation and prepare you to make the time as short as possible.
While I certainly hope and pray that no one reading this ever finds themselves in a refugee situation, if it does happen remember to maintain hope and maybe you will be a little better prepared by taking some of the steps listed. Best of luck neighbors! Charles T.