Spring is the time of year many of us make our Emergency Evacuation Plans, or our "shelter in place" plans. It is also the start of camping season. If you camp then you are saying ahhh I see, if you have never been or haven't been in a long time, I recommend it. Here we are, reviewing our Emergency Kit and plan and considering our next get away weekend. I'm not organized so these particular activities happen sometime before late April, no matter how many times FEMA and the local news remind me to get it done. We have our box of canned goods, water and nonperishable supplies and ensure that we have food and water for 3 days. We have the tent up in the yard and I am going over our gear for the first weekend away. In my mind I am planning, dinner breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, breakfast, lunch for our weekend by the river. I am looking at a box full of canned wieners, tuna, crackers, and protein bars and all I can think is there has to be a better way than this. I plan camping food all the time, why should my Emergency Supplies be this bland. Why should we have sawdust and water? There has to be a better way. This year there will be a better way. This year we are counting our camping gear with our emergency kit and making something much better. Our new plan we are calling Camping on Short Notice. If we are staying at the house and lose power and water for a few days fine, it's camping at home, if we have to leave. Taking our camping equipment with us will ensure shelter and the ability to cook, better food, YAY.
We camp, we like to camp, we are not your hike out into the wilderness with just what you can carry campers, we are also not the take your home in the RV campers. We are tent campers. Camping will prepare you for an emergency situation, it is a vacation while choosing not to take all the amenities of home. If you are an RV camper, then you already have your mobile escape home handy and don't have to give up much. I can only suggest you can modify my plan to suit your needs and some of the shelf stable items aren't as critical for you, you will have refrigeration. If you are a hike out into the wilderness with just what you can carry camper, please let me know if you have ideas I might have missed. I can speak to car camping, which is camping where your car is not more than 50 yards away so you can bring extra equipment, for comfort and resources. You can still only bring what fits so plan accordingly. If you are already a camper, you could skip the camping sections and jump directly to our storage and assessment plan at the end of the article.
*** We shop resale stores and garage sales for camping gear.
To start we should address the basics of camping gear. The minimum you need is food, shelter, water and yes entertainment. I know, I know some of you are saying entertainment we're camping isn't that entertainment enough. The short answer is NO, the long answer is, there is only so much to do by the lake, river or out in the woods and without some guided entertainment you will get bored and you will be miserable. Food is the hardest to discuss so we'll talk about it last. This is a basic idea, and further in to this article is a more detailed introduction into camping.
Starting with water, the recommendation is 1 gallon per day per person or animal for 3 days, for us that would be 9 gallons as it is my husband, myself and the very special very spoiled Casey the wonder pup. We typically keep 2 cases of water and 6 gallon jugs of water at the house for emergencies. If we are given any kind of notice of severe weather approaching and we are "Sheltering in Place", we also fill up a 5 gallon bucket and the bath tub. I wouldn't recommend the bath tub if that is your safe place in a tornado, if you have an alternative safe location or if tornado is not your concern, fill the tub, you will have extra water for hygiene and other things. If we are leaving, we take a case of bottled water and a gallon or two of water and we have a 3.5 gallon collapsible water jug to be filled at the campground. The basic idea of 9 gallons of water is good to have on hand if you are caught off guard and were unable to fill up ahead of time. I'm sure some of you are saying what a waste of water, filling up the tub like that. The last time I filled the tub, I tried a few things so as not to just dump the water down the drain, water the plants, hand fill the washing machine, washing the dog.
If you find yourself without a sufficient clean water supply there are some things you can do. The best is to heat and bleach. We keep a pool chlorine tablet in our supplies a small scrape of the tablet into a gallon of water to kill what might be alive, my husband recommends heating it as well. I have tried to heat water using gallon size zipper bags inside a black plastic garbage bag and it worked well enough but I cannot say it brought the water to a boil. The experts recommend household bleach and an eyedropper. I find that the liquid bleach is messy and expires faster than dry chlorine. You could also use powdered pool shock in a bag, a pinch in a gallon of water and then reseal the bag. The other thing I have found really helpful because floaties, no matter how dead are gross is to put a coffee filter or towel over a pot and run my water through it.
Moving on to shelter, you need a roof over your head, something to sleep on, something to sleep under and someplace to sit. If you have a camper, my suggestion would be to take it out put it up and make the repairs. If you use your camper, skip on down to food you already know this part, or read it through and supply helpful suggestions. If you have a tent, take it out and put it up, spend a night in it. Make sure it is clean, dry and you still have all the poles. If you have a tent and use your tent, skip on down or read and help with suggestions. If you have never been camping or don't have shelter, tents are the most cost effective camping shelter. Lean-tos are advanced camping, difficult and for the novice or for this city dweller, a little too close to nature. Tent it is, we have an 8 man heart shaped tent that was a gift from my mom many years ago, we clean it after each trip and keep it packed up so it is in great shape. You will need a tent that sleeps at least 2 more than the number of people you intend to sleep in the tent. I am not sure what the manufacturers use to determine the number of people a tent sleeps but the pictures show people side by side on their back with no gear, blankets or pillows. I don't know anyone who sleeps like that so get a tent that is bigger than what you need. When we were younger and camped with my parents, they had a tent where most of the gear and clothing were kept and my sisters and I had our own tent. If you have young children, they should sleep with you but if your children are old enough to be on their own a little, get them their own tent. It isn't necessary in this age with modern tents but ground cloths are still beneficial, for one they help protect your tent bottom from rocks and twigs and for two they help keep the inside of your tent clean. Get a medium grade tarp that is at least 5 inches bigger than your tent floor. We use an old blue tarp with holes in it, no one said it had to be in good conditions, it covers the ground after all.
Once you have your tent, you now need somewhere to sleep. The air mattress is my friend, in my much younger years, I slept on the ground, and it isn't even possible anymore. Don't get too fancy here, a raised bed, auto inflating mattress is a bit much for the inside of the tent. If you already have one, try it with a hand or battery operated pump inside your tent before you go out and spend money. We use a classic air bed and a beach air mattress for the dog. She doesn't always like to sleep with us because we move around so we made sure she had her own bed. When shopping for an air mattress, get one that is big enough, if you sleep on a queen at home, don't imagine you can sleep on a twin while camping. Some friends have 3 boys, they thought a king size mattress would work for them and the mattress takes up most of the tent floor space. Start by measuring the floor of your tent, deduct 3 inches on each side and at least a foot near the door then decide what you need. You will need that foot or so by the door for shoes, flashlight and jackets. Many people have sleeping bags, we don't use sleeping bags; we use pillows and blankets from our house. We use old blankets and sheets and then bring our regular pillows. You are free to do what you want. Remember, something between you and the mattress, something to cover you and somewhere to place your head.
Some people consider chairs a luxury but I consider it a necessity. Picnic tables provided my most campgrounds are fine for dinner and fine for short periods but my precious booty needs more comfort than that. I have one of those folding camp chairs, the kind that fits in a bag, my husband prefers something with more stability and support so he uses an old fashioned folding chair. The thought here is, it has to hold you and it has to fit in your car.
The final item that is not a necessity but is quite nice is a tarp or pop up tent for shelter from rain over the kitchen area. If you are a tailgater and have a pop up tent, it fits, bring it, if not, a tarp works, one of those blue construction tarps from the home improvement store, some rope and extra stakes with a little creativity can turn into rain shelter or a sun shade. We tend to tie ours between some trees or sometimes to the tent. Generally speaking, a tarp, extra stakes and rope are a necessity for safety and emergencies anyway so using them to make shade is a good use of supplies.
We have water, a place to sleep and sit now we need to keep busy. Camping itself has plenty of activity and that much exposure to the elements makes you pretty sleepy at night but midafternoon when everyone else is napping, I need something to read. I have a Nook and I do take that camping with me (campgrounds have electricity and if not I do have the car to charge it in) but I often take cheap paperbacks. These books are for camping, they could get wet or muddy, and they will get dirty so I don't spend money on them. I go to the local Goodwill or used book store and buy a couple of the 50 cent books and put them in our gear at the start of season and there they stay until we leave. My husband brings his magazines and a guitar. We also bring along a radio and an IPod that connects to the radio. Electronics while camping are a personal decision, we have a 10 year old iPod and a radio with an adapter connection for the iPod. I bring my nook and keep it in the car most of the time. If I decide to take it out, it is put in a Ziploc bag. The thing to remember is that the possibility of the electronics being ruined while camping is high so don't bring the good stuff and if you do, understand the risk. Some friends camp with their children for weeks in the summer and they bring a DVD player and an inflatable outdoor flat screen and do movie night with the kids. During the day, the kids have no access to electronics so movie night is a real treat for them. If you have children, bring some games, Frisbee, balls, cards, comic books and books at their age level. There are plenty of sites on the internet that will give your ideas. I would suggest you pick up a couple of books or comics and a deck of cards to keep in the gear for camping days.
We have reached the food, this section takes the most work, thought and planning. You need a breakfast, a lunch, a snack, a dinner and a dessert for each day of camping. You also need to plan for extra drinks. Food preparation and storage requires some basic equipment, you need something to heat, something to cook in and something to keep cool. In other words, you need a camp stove, grill or fire rack, a pot or pan and a cooler.
Let’s start with heat, a camp stove is most convenient, it is similar to a gas stove and is fairly easy to operate. The old standard is a two burner propane stove that works off the 16 ounce green bottles found in most sporting goods sections. If space or money is limited you could also get away with a single burner stove. Society being society and camping having a shift to glamping, you can even purchase a standalone commercial grade burner that runs on the standard 5 gallon white propane tank. I strongly suggest if you are new to this, the standard two burner with two bottles of propane. Most campsites have grills at the site or near the site so a bag of charcoal is a good plan. Finally, if you do not have any of these, you can certainly cook over a fire in the fire pit. You could go out and get a fire grill that has folding legs for placing over the fire. We use cookie cooling racks from the dollar store balanced on rocks or bricks. The idea here is to have a way to heat water and food. The bonus of having a fire is roasted marshmallows, a camping must in my book.
You need something to cook with and in. We use an old 5 quart sauté pan we kept after having to replace it. We also have a small pot, a coffee percolator and a cheap cookie sheet, again the dollar store. You will need a flipper, a stirrer, a grabber, something to cut with and a can opener. We use an old pancake spatula, I prefer metal as sometimes it has to go into the fire and the plastic ones don't hold up well to that. To stir we tend to use a regular metal soup spoon and a regular metal fork to grab. If I remember to pack it we take tongs and maybe this year we will add tongs to the standard pre-packed gear. This is not your home kitchen and the last thing you are going to want to do is dishes so the less utensils the better. The sauté pan is pretty functional as it can fry, grill and boil depending on our needs. Before we purchased the new one for regular use, we packed the one from our kitchen when we planned a trip. The coffee percolator serves mostly as a source of hot water, I have never mastered percolated coffee so we tend not to use that part and just use the pot for water. You can certainly use your sauté pan or a pot for such a job, I just like the separate source. The final item you must have for camp cooking is heavy duty aluminum foil. When all else fails, wrap whatever you want heated in foil and put it on the edge of the fire.
You have the ability to cook the meal, now you need the ability to eat the meal. We use a combination of paper and plastic. I love the dollar store and we use plates, cups, bowls and silverware from the dollar store. We have paper plates that we sometimes use but prefer something with a little more structure to it. It is a balanced choice, dishes or trash. We each have our own camp cup that gets used for everything. Other friends who camp use strictly paper when they are camping, they bring along a stack of paper plates and paper coffee cups and plastic silverware, this limits their dishes to the cooking items.
For food storage, we have an old Coleman steel belted cooler from the 1970's we found at a yard sale for $1.00 from an old camper who was just happy we would be using it when he had reached an age where he couldn't anymore. On a side note here, if you are shopping garage sales for camping gear, talking to the seller about camping will garner you good information and often more items you didn't know they were selling, campers are friendly people and want to share the experience. We keep our nonperishables in an old paper box. This box serves two purposes, before we get to camp, it keeps our food safe and organized after we get to camp it can be made into an oven. Do a basic search on box ovens and you will see various levels on how one is made.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When camping I wake up famished so we eat breakfast. One of our favorite dishes is Instant Oatmeal. This product is shelf stable, warm and filling. We make our own using oatmeal, powdered milk, brown sugar and raisins or dried bananas but the packets from the store work just fine. Oatmeal is easy because all you need to do in the morning is heat water. Scrambled eggs are a good dish. My husband likes his scrambled eggs made with powdered eggs. I have to say it is an acquired taste but do able. We have meal portioned bags of powdered eggs and jars of Hormel Bacon Bits for emergency situations and if we plan ahead we bring real eggs and bacon. Flour tortillas are pretty easy to make and take about 10 minutes of mix, 20 minutes of rest and 5 minutes to cook. We keep flour tortilla mix in a container and only need to add water, knead then flatten and cook. When we have time to prepare we bring or buy a loaf of bread. Pancakes are a great not too difficult breakfast meal. I have found a few just add water and stir mixes, the one we like most is Krusteaz. Dry cereal is another good breakfast, if you have milk great, if not eat it dry. Finally, we keep dried fruits, apples, raisins and banana chips on hand to help with breakfast. Now what to drink? Water, milk if you have it, tang and coffee. We keep a package of Tang mix in our kit, it is not as healthy as juice but juice is a space taking luxury. We have powdered milk on hand, I personally cannot drink the stuff unless it is almost frozen but other people seem to like it. Finally coffee, the old saying don't talk to me until I have had my coffee definitely applies to me so I have a plan and a backup plan for my morning coffee. We have Folgers instant coffee packets, a French press and coffee and finally we have coffee in filters with a tablespoon of coffee tied up like a tea bag.
Moving on to lunch. Lunch should be easy, quick and light if it is warm outside. When we can we have fruit, a sandwich and maybe chips. Our standard emergency food has peanut butter, jelly, tuna, and chicken. I try to save the chicken and tuna for dinners. If you have bread, make the sandwiches, if you do not have bread, crackers make mini sandwiches and finally, the tortillas from breakfast, wraps. We keep chips in our emergency food gear. We got a few of the lunch portion bags and keep those. Then the fruit, if you have fresh fruit super, have some fresh fruit. We like bananas and apples because they do not need to be cooled. My husband eats two or more bananas a day so we have them in the house most of the time, if not dried fruit it is. You could also have nuts. The idea hear is to fill the tummies and make it quick.
It is 3 pm now and the drowsies have taken over. You need a pick me up. For midafternoon pick me up, we drink Tang, lemonade or Kool-Aid. When camping or in an emergency evacuation, the extra sugar is necessary. I like nuts and fruit. My husband tends to eat a multigrain bar. What you want here is some sugar, some electrolytes and some protein to recharge the batteries for the next few hours of daylight and fun,
Dinner is the most versatile of the meals with thousands of ideas. When we are planning our camping trip and have time to prepare, we cut up the veggies, we marinate the meat and we prepack the plan. It is camping and burgers, hotdogs and steak are almost required. Sorry to you vegetarians out there. I prefer not to make fresh chicken or pork while camping because under cooking these will make someone sick. Now for the prep when you know you are going ahead of time. Make hamburger patties at home, wrap them in wax paper and freeze them, the frozen meat will hold up for a few days and will keep your cooler cold along the way. Tacos and fajitas are an easy camping food, before you go, brown the meat add the seasoning and then freeze, when you get to camp, heat and eat. Hot dogs are one of the easiest camp foods, put it on a stick and hold it over the fire, put them on the grill and heat or put in a pan of boiling water. If you have buns great, if not again, tortillas are easy to make. For dinner sides, baked potatoes take forever so we rarely have them at camp. We take instant mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and rice. We also take veggies, fresh when we are able but cans work as well. You can heat the canned veggies in a pan or peel the label off, open the can and heat directly in the can. Dinner, like breakfast should be hearty. It should have a protein, carbohydrates and nutrients.
Camping and dessert go hand in hand. We make banana boats- bananas with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips heated in foil. We also make s'mores and sometimes we just have a few cookies. There are some really great camping sweets out there and I highly recommend all of them.
We shop the dollar stores, resale shops and garage sales for most of our camping gear and the rest has been so generously given as gifts from our family. Thank you Mom, Tracie, Amy and Andrew for the tent, the stove and the fan. We have found some great bargains at garage sales and I have been tempted more than once to pick up another camp stove. Garage sales and resale shops are great places to find gear, the hard part is making sure it works. I usually pick up a few paper back, we found our percolator in one and we got our chairs and cooler at a garage sale. If you are going to buy a tent from the yard sale, make sure it is in working order.
That about sums up the basics and I know you are thinking “why would this be my emergency plan?” Well, if you need to evacuate your home, you will need someplace to go. Hotels are expensive and you will have to eat out every night. You could go to a shelter, sleep in a gym with hundreds of other people and eat the Red Cross food. You could go stay with friends or family, a good choice if you are able. Our family is 6 hours north and west or 6 hours south and east and we want to be closer. Camping solves that problem for us and we get the bonus of it feeling less like a crisis and more like a trip. The other bonus of camping is you have some flexibility in locations and have a better chance of finding a place with electricity and water.
The links below will take you to our lists and to more detailed explanations about camping, choosing camping gear, the food box, how to prepare the food and some basic recipes to get you started, as well as the car emergency kit with the what, when, where, why and how (come on, you are the who) of all of this.
Storage Assessment and Plan
The front seat holds us, the chargers, the electronics (cell phones, tablet, laptop, portable back up hard drive) and our records (insurance, dog shot, medical...)The glove box holds our medications, here is where I tell you that I practice a bad behavior, I have an old aspirin bottle that has acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, allergy medication, over the counter sleeping medications, I know the experts say not to do that, however I am a smart girl and the pills are different shapes sizes and colors and I know which one does what so 5 bottles NO, this bottle is always in the glove box and gets rotated out every few months. We also keep a roll of antacids in there. The back seat is Casey's territory. She is a pretty good size dog that has the ability to make herself bigger when she thinks we might put something in what she considers her space. Casey also gets frightened easily and in highway conditions likes to lay on the floor board of the car. The back seat can only hold blankets, pillows and the small lunch cooler. Then there is the hatch back, its dimensions are 4.5 feet wide, 2.9 feet deep and 2 feet tall, we refuse to block the windows. We splurged last year and purchased a soft top car carrier, mostly for ease of packing and decision making as my husband is a musician and his equipment takes up a good deal of space.
In our hatchback, we have an emergency kit, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, storm chasing gear and a charging box so that takes our hatchback space down from 26.9 cubic feet to 13 cubic feet and we have about 4 cubic feet of unaccounted for space in the car top carrier. Once you know your space, you can make some decisions. I would begin with deciding what in your house cannot be replaced, old photos, prized guitars, grandmas teapot, you get the idea, this is stuff that will be lost forever if your house is destroyed. The next would be the items in your car for safety as some of it will also be items listed here like the emergency kit and the first aid kit. As a side note, I scanned our old photos into the computer and put all our photos on the back up drive so as not to make the mistake of forgetting them and having the photos lost forever. After you know your available space and have made your decisions of what you cannot leave behind (only things that cannot be replaced.) You now know what space is available for the emergency supplies and the luxuries. When making your decisions about what is emergency and what is luxury, use some creativity and find duel use items.
Our Basic Plan
If we are lucky enough to have notice of severe weather coming, we gather our supplies early and have more time to prepare and get it together. If we only have a few hours we move a little faster and don't have the opportunity to prepare.
I can pack the house and supplies and load them into the car alone in just 3 hours. With my husband we can get it done in just 1 hour.
1. Get the list - that list is this plan here
2. Put the emergency documents file in the car. I keep the list in the emergency documents file so this is re The Trusty Get it done list ally one step.
The emergency documents folder has our insurance information, copies of our identification, birth certificates and marriage license, the dogs shot records and microchip number, a list of important family and friend phone numbers, and our living wills and medical information. We also keep a list of campground possibilities to stay at.
3. Put the car top carrier on the car
4. The Husband gets his music studio important items while I collect the house irreplaceable items and grab the backup hard drive. Whichever is done first gets the emergency cash
5. Chargers, cell phones, laptop and camera
6. Grab the cooler and fill it with the milk, eggs and stuff from the freezer
7. Grab any bag and fill it with any fruit chips and bread not in the cooler
8. Grab the camping gear - this is all kept together and prepared and is easy to access
9. Grab the pillows and blankets from the bed and put them in the back seat
10. Reassure the dog everything is going to be ok
11. Pack a bag-we keep a duffel bag in the closet and just grab it and stuff clothing into it. The type and items really does come pretty natural but shorts, pants, t-shirts, undergarments, socks - lots of socks, warm shirts - usually our jackets. We also have an emergency clothing bag and a hygiene kit.
12. Pack the dirty clothes - I know WHAT!!!!! You heard me pack the dirty clothes. The thing you know about the dirty laundry is that they are items you wear. -sometimes a trash bag, sometimes a duffel bag whichever is easiest to find.
14. Make sure you have water.
13. Look around the house for the shoes - I can never find my damn shoes
14. Load everything into the car
15. Go through each room, look around slowly, unplug everything, and make sure you didn't forget anything.
16. Check the cars fluids and tire pressure - usually done at the gas station on the way out and is better done regularly so you don't have to worry about this in a bug out.
A Days’ Notice
1. Get the trusty list
2. Put the important documents in the car
3. Get cash and the emergency cash
4. Check the cars fluids and tire pressure, fill the tank
3. Wash and pack the dirty clothes as well as any additional clothes you want or need
4. Turn the freezer down - super freeze your food so it lasts longer in the cooler
5. Pack the irreplaceable items from the house
6. Organize a pile of pack the car items
7. Prepare some items food items, I make the dog her special chicken treats they take 20 minutes of work and 12 hours of drying time
8. Look through the pantry to see if you want to supplement or alternate items from your emergency food box
9. Quick look at your supplies for picnic type foods and if you have time and need go to the store.
10. Back up the computer to the hard drive and collect the electronics together
Closer to leaving time
11. Fill cooler
12. Put pillows and blankets in the car
13. Put the car top carrier on the car
14 Grab any bag and fill it with any fruit chips and bread not in the cooler
15. Grab the camping gear - this is all kept together and prepared and is easy to access
16. Reassure the dog everything is going to be ok
17. Make sure you have water.
18. Look around the house for the shoes - I can never find my damn shoes
19. Load everything into the car
20. Go through each room, look around slowly, unplug everything, and make sure you didn't forget anything.
Now that you have a plan, practice your plan a few times to make sure you can execute it. Also, your plan allows you to decide on a Friday afternoon to go camping and be on the road within an hour of work.