Food and Water
I recommend making a catalog of everything in our stores, if time allows. Do this for sure if you are staying at our home. Open all of our buckets; some contain non-food items! Do not forget to include items in the garage, shed, and throughout the house that may be useful. This list will be invaluable when it comes to planing what to cache and how to solve problems. You need to know what you have to work with. Obviously, hide this catalog very well.
The kind of foods you want to pack in your BOB include things you can cook easily or that do not require cooking– oats, peanut butter, and all bread on hand. (Smoosh bread into balls to conserve space). After that pack as much rice as you can. Rice will require longer to cook. After that pack all the flour, sugar, and salt that you can. (You probably will not have much room for the flour, sugar, and salt if you are traveling alone. I have bought a lot of rice.) When you pack your BOB, the stuff I have ready is already in mylar bags. Double bag them in plastic grocery bags (or preferably some ziplocks) a couple times each in case they break open!
As far as packing for the car goes, after you have filled your BOB, get some kind of container for the rest of the stored food, such as a large Tupperware container. Then go to the kitchen and pack everything that has a shelf life. Take a few our your spices as well. Pack the pasta, beans, oils, crisco, and all of your baking supplies.
After you have all of the non-perishables packed, get the collapsible cooler and pack up what you can from the freezer. Meat is fine, but it will obviously go bad, and if traveling by car, you will not be able to cook it while driving. However, it will last for a few tanks of gas in the cooler. Take some yogurt, all of the veggies and fruit, milk (put it next to the frozen meat and drink a big glass as you do so), any syrups or jellies, and like-products. Most of the stuff in here will go bad quick, so this is where you eat from first!
Take the chicken feed and the chickens. Quickly read the section on butchering them from our butchering book. (It is one of the books I scanned at work, printed, and then bound myself.) Obviously, they will be a good source of fresh eggs, so only kill them if you cannot feed/cage them. You can eat their feed, but I would boil/fry it first if possible.
Any food and supplies you cannot pack in your BOB and/or the car, bury them in a cache as described in Section ↓. You never know, you could make it one block from home and get all of your possessions taken from you!
For water, if going by car, take as much as you can in all the bottles you can. Take the extra water in bottles we have in the closet as well. Water stored in bottles from our tap should be fine for a long time.
As far as filtering goes, you have five means to get good drinking water. (1) the water filter, (2) the iodine tables, (3) iodine tincture, (4) boiling, (5) chlorine bleach or chlorine powder for the pool.
When using the water filter, find water that looks as clean as possible. The more cloudy/dirty the water, the more you have to clean the filter and the lower the pump rate. Our Nalgene bottles will screw onto the bottom of the filter. To fill other shaped bottles, use the Nalgene to pump and then pour the water into the other bottle. For short-term storage of the filter, pump any remaining water out of filter. For long-term storage, clean (with the included scrubber pad), and dry the filter. To sterilize, take off the O-ring and boil it in water for five minutes; then let it air dry completely. (It will take a few days to dry.) Only sterilize it if you get unfiltered water on the inside of the filter or plan on not using the filter for more than a few days. You need to clean every few uses by unscrewing the top, pulling out the ceramic insert, and rubbing it clean with the scrubbing pad. Then pour clean water over the cleaned filter and you are ready to go. Pumping is slow and hard with a dirty filter. DO NOT get unfiltered water in the inside of the ceramic filter, or you will need to boil the whole thing. So be careful with it when you are scrubbing it unless you plan on boiling it after. I have a replacement parts kit for the filter that includes extra O-rings and an extra ceramic filter. Be careful with the ceramic filters; they will crack if dropped. So store this piece of equipment somewhere cushioned.
The iodine tablets come in two bottles. They’re in the bottles labeled “Potable Aqua Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets” and “Potable Aqua Plus”. The bottle labeled Plus does not purify water; it simply takes the bad taste away from using the Germicidal tablets! When using the iodine tablets, if you scoop up untreated water, put in the tablets and wait 30-60 minutes for the water to get potable. Be sure to flip the bottle upside down and let filtered water flush out the screws at the top of the bottle before drinking since unfiltered water will be up there since you used the bottle as a scoop!
To use the iodine tincture, place five drops in one liter of water and wait 30-60 minutes. If the water has a bunch of floaties in it, you can double the dose and wait longer, if possible. Try to filter the water with a cloth (or something similar) to avoid this problem.
According to the U.S. Army, to boil water safely, boil it for one minute at sea level plus one additional minute for every 300 meters above sea level– just boil it for 10 minutes unless you are really constrained for fuel or time.
For chlorine-based disinfection, your options are (1) using standard household bleach or (2) using pool shock. To use household bleach (make sure it has no additives that make it smell like “mountain air” or “fresh grass”, those labels mean the bleach will harm you), add four drops per quart or liter, eight drops per half gallon, 16 drops per gallon (or four liters). Then stir the water, and let it stand for 30 minutes. You must be able to smell the chlorine after 30 minutes; if you cannot, repeat the steps above and let stand for 15 more minutes. If you still cannot smell chlorine, then the bleach lost its strength and you cannot use it. Double the dose for cloudy water. The problem with household liquid bleach is that it looses strength really fast, within months. Therefore, we have two pounds of calcium hypochlorite powder (Pool Shock) in the garage. To use this, add 0.23 oz (half a tablespoon) of the powder to two gallons of water and stir. (Follow the safety precautions on the box and wear gloves and eye protection.) Then add one pint of this “stock solution” to each 12.5 gallons of water to be purified. The water should smell like chlorine; if it does not, then the “stock solution” lost its “power”. If the water smells too strong, you can pour it from one container to another a bunch of times to drive off the excess chlorine. These instructions are assuming there is “45% available chlorine”. Modify them accordingly. (Multiply by the ratio of 0.45/0.XX where 0.xx is the new “% available chlorine”) for different strength pool shocks. If you find some other pool shock, make sure it does not have any additives to control fungus or algae and that the chemical name is EXACTLY calcium hypochlorite.
If you find yourself out of water and you cannot find any streams try:
- Collect morning dew from vegetation or anywhere you can find it. Then filter/purify it somehow. (I have done this; you can gather a lot of water quite fast using this method. Look for long grassy areas.)
- Dig for it. Try the bottom of dried up ponds/lakes/ditches. Try the deepest spots in such places. If you find soil that is really wet, but cannot find standing water, put the wet soil into a shirt and ‘wring’ any water you can out into something. Then filter/purify it. Believe me, this is quite tiring so do not attempt if you are already exhausted.
- Do not drink alcohol (not that you will have any) or urine if you are running low on water.
- If you are in a forest, look for trees with multiple trunks coming from the ground. There may be a place in the center of the trunks with standing water. Scoop/siphon it out and then filter/purify it.
- Hot water heaters will still have water in them after the water/power/gas are all turned off. There is a valve at the bottom you can empty the take from. Toilets will have a gallon or more of clean water in their flushing tanks; many people may overlook this!
To not be tempted to drink un-purified water. Water borne illness and/or parasites can kill you when you are in an already stressed and weakened state away from all medical help.
For cooking, I mean anything that will require heat to eat. You can eat oats, flour, and rice raw. For the rice, some sources say you increase your risk of getting a food borne illness, but it can be done. Obviously the meat will have to be cooked thoroughly (since it was probably not kept fully frozen). For heat you have three options: (1) the camp stove, (2) the pocket rocket, (3) a fire. The large green propane tanks for the camp stove will not fit the pocket rocket, and the small red tanks for the pocket rocket will not fit the camp stove. You do not need to actually apply heat to cook rice or oats for the entire cook time. You can simply get up to boiling and then let it sit with a cover on for 10 minutes or so. This will conserve your fuel.
Using the Camp Stove or Pocket Rocket
To use the camp stove: you simply screw in a green propane tank, light a match (or use a lighter), turn the propane on, and bring the flame close to the burners until you see it ignite. You can adjust the output using the dial.
To use the pocket rocket: screw the pocket rocket into a small red tank, extend the ‘feet’ on the pocket rocket, light a match or lighter, turn on the gas and bring the flame close to the burner. You can adjust the output using the dial.
When you set up the camp stove or the pocket rocket (especially the pocket rocket), set them up shielded from the wind so the burners do not blow out. For the pocket rocket, be careful about not knocking the cook pot off the burner, you may have to hold the pot over the burner if you cannot find a solid enough surface to place the pocket rocket on. Use the aluminum pot holder for holding pots over a heat source and for moving around hot pots.
If you are backpacking and run out of the small red fuel cells, throw away the pocket rocket as well; it is now useless. Keep the pot holder!
The fuel cells will get cold during/after use. This is normal.
Disconnect the fuel cells when not in use in case there is a leak in the valve of the stove.
Making a good fire requires three things: (1) a way to start the fire, (2) fuel, and (3) air.
To start a fire:
- Use a lighter.
- Use matches.
- Use the flint and steel fire starter. While the methods above directly create a flame, this method only creates a spark. To get a flame, you will need something dry, combustible, and with a lot of surface area like dryer lint (which is in the bag with the flint and steel). You can use the little balls of cotton/wool that form on socks in a pinch. This method could frustrate you (not an easy method to start a fire), so use it only if you really need to cook something to survive, or if you have no other means to purify water than to boil it.
- Friction methods like the “bow method” or the “hand drill method” or the “plow method” all involves using friction to create heat to start a fire. Believe me, if you have not practiced this, do not attempt unless you are desperate.
Before you begin attempting to start a fire, you need to be certain you have enough fuel. Gather the dryest wood available. Look for low branches on trees in a forest that may have been dead for years and are shielded somewhat from rain; being off the ground they dry much faster relative to wood you find on the ground. Gather dried grasses or birch bark to light first. The basic idea to to light things that are going to burn for longer and longer until you get up to log size. For cooking, you really do not need to get logs. In fact, collect no wood larger than one inch or so if you can since you will want to the fire to go out quickly after you are done cooking. For fire starter, use least important pages from the Bible or the first-aid book if you cannot find dry grasses or bark.
You do not want to set up the fire in a very windy area, or it will blow out. You do, however, want some air to get into the fire. You need to leave spaces between sticks so air can get in. A good design is to lay down a layer of stick all parallel to each other (like a step pyramid), and then lay down slighter larger diameter sticks on top of those perpendicular to the first layer. Leave a little space between each layer for air to flow. Once the fire gets going, add more wood (more layers) as needed in the same manner. As sticks burn out in the center, ‘flip’ the un-burned ends into the fire as well using a stick.
To keep a fire going:
- Make sure the heart of your fire does not go out. A lot of times the small stuff you light first will not cause the bigger sticks to start and then the larger sticks are left un-lit and your fire goes out. This is why I recommend the pyramid style fire. It is much easier for the heart to go out of a tee-pee type fire than for the other types.
- If it is winter and all your wood has frost on it, keep your wood ‘huddled’ around the fire so it can melt off the outer layer of frost. This method will not work for drying wood for your purposes. For the amount of time you will have the cooking fire going, you will not be able to take wet wood, dry it, and then use it.
- In general, if your fire is very smoky after the initial lighting phase, something is wrong. Try fanning (or blowing on it) to give the fire more air. Try moving some wood around to open up the fire to any breeze that may be present. Make sure the heart of the fire is not going out, leaving the outer larger sticks to smolder.
I know you can do it! Just do not give up, Smaug!
- Do not go to sleep wet, if you can help it. Get out of your wet clothes or wet under/outer garments. It will feel colder at first, but you will warm up much faster this way and hopefully they will dry some as you rest.
- Do not breath into your sleeping bag since it will put a lot of water vapor inside it, and it may start to condense.
- Avoid direct contact with the ground. Pile leaves, grass, pine needles, newspaper, anything to separate you from the ground.
- Assume anything left outside at night will get a nice coating of dew on it in the morning. Bag your boots and clothes if you think it is going to dew.
- Do not underestimate primitive natural shelters. Anything you use to get your body off the ground and to break the wind and perhaps even shelter you from a little rain will go a long way in keeping your body temperature up.
Shelter in the Car
Sheltering in the car is the best place to stay dry and, therefore, warm. Use what clothes and sleeping bags/blankets you brought with you to stay warm.
If you are traveling without a sleeping bag or blankets (or come upon an abandoned car) use the seat coverings and seat insulation to make a sleeping bag/blanket. Cut the seat coverings such that you have a tube or a bag shape of fabric left over. Put yourself inside that with as much insulation/crumpled paper/dry leaves/other seat fabric you can for insulation. Use your imagination. Good insulators have many pockets of isolated air.
Shelter in the Tent
Try not set up your tent in a low spot. Cool air pools up in low spots and these spots are much more likely to have copious amounts of dew than spots on top of small ridges or on slopes. If you find some dry leaf matter– pine needles or dry grass– pile them under where you plan to sleep to insulate yourself from the ground. This will help keep you a lot warmer than if you are in ‘direct’ contact with the ground.
Shelter Without Car or Tent!
The biggest mistake you can make is to try and construct some kind of elaborate shelter out of sticks and leaves. Most likely, it will take you hours to build, waste a lot of energy, and probably leave you colder than what could take minutes to build.
Try to use any type of plastic you can find or have with you. Plastic will keep you dry and will help keep you insulated for warmth. If you have two sheets of plastic (garbage bags, ponchos, tarps) use one for a makeshift sleeping bag and the other as a tent to keep out the rain. If you have only one plastic sheet and are already wet and have no dry clothes, use the sheet as a sleeping bag and wrap yourself in it. If you only have one plastic sheet and you have some dry clothes to wear, or think you can stay warm enough without using the plastic sheet for warmth, use it as a tent. If you have a plastic garbage bag, open a small hole for your face in one of the corners. If done properly only your eyes and mouth will be peeking out. This will keep you warmer by trapping a lot of your body heat inside the plastic. Be careful about falling asleep though, you could suffocate. And try not to exhale into the bag or you will cause condensation to build up inside the bag.
If you have nothing synthetic, you must rely only on the natural materials around you to stay warm and dry. Evergreen trees do a pretty good job of shielding the ground beneath them from rain. Look for any big tree and check under it. The taller and more densely foliated the tree, the better the chance it is dry underneath. To stay warm, cut as many foliated branches (evergreen or deciduous) as it takes to make a mound large (the U.S. Army suggests 1 meter of material thick) enough to cover your body. Then pile it up with some leaves or grasses. Then crawl into this pile (leaving some matter underneath you to separate you from the ground). People waste too much energy here. For a life and death situation, you do not need to make a fancy hut; you need a pile of brush that will hopefully trap some body heat, get you off the ground, and perhaps shield you from some rain and wind.
If you find any kind of rock formations that have natural shelters, be sure to sufficiently insulate yourself from the rock if you sleep there; the rock will be much more efficient at sapping your body heat than would soil.
Shelter Without Car or Tent in Snow
If there is snow on the ground you may be able to use it for your advantage. If the snow is less than a few inches, simply build your shelter as described above. If the snow is deeper, use it to cover your shelter. If the snow is deep enough in places to completely cover you, or almost that deep, you can dig out a little cave, line the floor with plant matter for insulation and crawl inside. You may have to gather some coverings for the top of your cave if the snow is not deep enough. In addition, some plant matter should also serve as a “mattress’ as you do not want to be in direct contact with the snow.
If you have any clothes on and you are getting them sweaty or they are wet from rain, take them off and replace them with dry ones if you can. Try to under dress a little in the morning so you will not have to waste time later pulling off layers of clothes that got sweaty. You waste energy this way and you waste water. You want to maintain a comfortable temperature in which you can avoid having to sweat. This may be difficult if not impossible in summer with a loaded backpack. This is why I like to backpack in the summer with my “short shorts”.
- Dress in layers. The outer layers should be something that snow will not stick too. If you can avoid it, keep cotton away from your skin as it will keep you warm only until you sweat in it. Save the cotton for the night when you should not be sweating, but if possible, do not bring any cotton.
- Take off any layers of clothing that have snow on them when cooking if you can. Clothes with snow on them get hot near fires, the snow will melt and then when you are done cooking, your outer garment will become hard like a board and loose its insulating capacity. Obviously keep your outer layer on if it is actually snowing while you are cooking.
- You need to protect your eyes in winter when there is snow on the ground and it is sunny. You can get sunburn on your eyes and go temporarily blind. The onset of this affliction is a feeling of dirt scratching at your eyes. Make sunglasses out of a cloth you cut small holes in (to restrict the amount of light reaching your eyes).
- Keep some water bottles inside your layers so the water does not freeze.
- To stay cool tie wet cloth around your head and neck.
- When walking through thick foliage: some plants are toxic to humans and open cuts can also become infected. These problems can be avoided if you are protected with long pants and sleeves. So it is kind of a catch 22 when it comes to staying off the beaten path, staying cool, and staying free of cuts and scrapes.
Use your best judgment when it comes to shelter; be proud of yourself if you can find a nice dry place to lay low and rest!
Socks and Shoes
Socks are probably the most important piece of clothing to keep dry; underwear is second. It is important to keep socks dry because they are at the interface of a lot of pressure between your feet and your boots. Their job is to cushion and ‘lubricate’ your feet as you walk. If your socks become wet your feet may start to become irritated as your feet rub against your shoes.
Socks and Shoe tips:
- To keep your socks dry, change them often and hang them from your pack, if the weather cooperates, so they dry as you walk.
- In the rain, without rain pants, you feet will become soaked, and you may have to stay put for a day to dry your shoes and socks.
- Socks can be dried by ‘cooking’ them over a fire stretched out on sticks but extreme care must be taken to avoid them getting burned. Once singed up they will loose their water wicking ability.
- Avoid leaving boots outside at night. Dew can form inside them. If they are somewhat dry, bag them in plastic. If they are soaked then leaving them out to dry a little is probably fine since a little dew will not make much difference.
- Wash your boots if they get dirty. Muddy boots will not breath and your feet will get sweaty inside. In addition, mud on your boots will break them down faster. Mud and dirt on any piece of gear will break it down faster. Keep your gear and clothes CLEAN!
- Pack some kind of sandals or croc-like shoe to wear to give your feet a rest from socks and boots. Wear these secondary shoes while setting up/taking down camp.
- The “butt” cream used for baby butt rash is perfect for your feet! Use it if you start to have difficulties with your feet.
1P. Underwood,US Army Survival Manual (Skyhorse Pub Co Inc, 2011).
2S. Skipton, B. I. Dvorak, and J. A. Albrecht, Drinking Water: Storing an Emergency Supply (Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2004).
3N. P. Cheremisinoff, Handbook of water and wastewater treatment technologies (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001).