You can really get left out in the cold if you fail to prepare for a winter storm. What steps do you need to take to make sure you’ve got everything your family needs to stay safe? If you’ve read my other pieces on general survival and the rule of three’s, this should sound a little familiar.
The most obvious problem you could run in to when you prepare for a winter storm is staying warm. As long as you don’t lose power, this is a non-issue. Unless you live in an area that doesn’t normally get cold, your heating system will support you through the storm.
What you need to prepare for is if you lose power. If you have natural gas in your home, you’re in luck. Gas stoves and fireplaces can still be used without electricity, although you may need matches or a lighter to get them going. If you do not have gas heat, staying warm will require a little more preparation. It’s always a good idea to have chemical heaters (Hot Hands and similar brands) on hand. They’re easy, convenient, and can last for hours. You should always have plenty of coats and blankets on hand, enough for all members of your family. Speaking of your family, there’s quite a bit more you can do to secure them if you lose power in a winter storm.
The go bag items you have on hand may be the only thing that you can bring with you if you have to head for the hills in a hurry. It pays to think out in advance what you’re going to need. That way, you won’t stumble into situations you’re not prepared for. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
How To Think About Go Bag Items
When you’re planning your go bag items, you have to think a little differently. You want everything to be as light as possible, including the bag itself. The “go” in a go bag means you’re trying to be mobile and agile.
Survival is also paramount. You’re not trying to assemble your must-have luxuries, you’re trying to stay safe and alive. The best way to make sure you’ve got your bases covered is to remember the Rule of Three’s.
Go Bag Items And The Rule Of 3’s
You can only survive 3 minutes without air. Luckily, Earth is mostly covered in it. Problems arise when something contaminates the air. Many types of disaster might do this. Volcanic ash, tear gas, or even heavy smog can impede your ability to get oxygen in your system.
For this reason, air masks are a must have for your go-bag. You should at least have N-95 masks handy. These are cheap, lightweight, and easy to use. If you’ve got extra space or fear that air quality will be a major factor in your escape, opt for a larger respirator.
This one surprises a lot of people, but shelter can be more time sensitive than water or food. You can only survive 3 hours in extreme hot or cold environments. Shelter should include your clothing and something you can camp with.
This depends on your environment. If you’re in an area that experiences extreme heat or extreme cold, you should have a change of clothes that will protect you from this. You should also have a folding poncho. Getting wet can be deadly in a survival situation. It very quickly wicks heat away from your body. Getting a poncho with grommets will mean that with some rope or twine, you can use it as a tent as well.
As for your shelter, your rain poncho and cord should be able to cover you, but what about keeping you warm? Emergency Mylar blankets are cheap, versatile, and very lightweight. You can line your shelter with it, wear it around yourself, and even signal for help with shiny ones. They’re a must-have go bag item.
You can only survive 3 days without water. Because water is so heavy, you can bet that you cant carry enough to sustain you for long. This is where planning comes into play. I’ve already written an article about water purification you can read (HERE), so I’ll spare you the details. More important than having water is being able to clean water you find. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a water purification straw for the short term, and techniques planned for the long term.
You can make it about 3 weeks without food, depending on the person. While it’s another one that requires renewability, it’s a little easier to carry than water. Emergency rations have a good shelf life, and are easy to carry. You can toss a 72-hour supply of food in as a go bag item that’ll carry you until you reach a safer destination.
Bug Out Items – Tools
There are a few tools you’ll want to add to your list of bug out items in addition to the Rule of Three’s gear.
First off, you’ll want light. If you plan to be traveling at night, or if you will be out after dark, you’ll need to be able to see. Cheap flashlights are lightweight and can be found everywhere, but headlamps are an even better idea. They’re hands-free and also very lightweight.
Additionally, you’ll want a good multitool. They come in a million shapes and sizes but the must-haves are a cutting edge, pliers, and a fire-starter. If you have these bases covered then you’re ready for most everything.
Go Bag Items Wrap-up
Ultimately, what goes in your go bag is up to you. You need to make sure that you understand how to use everything you pack. And you need to make sure that the total weight is manageable for you. Otherwise you’ll be chucking useless items as you go, wasting time and energy when it matters most.
Once you’ve bugged out, water purification is one of your highest priorities. You can’t go very long without water, and it’s too heavy to carry it all with you. Drinking from unfiltered sources can make you sick. This will be even more true depending on what kind of disaster you’re bugging out from. So where does this leave you?
Like most essential things to your survival, you need redundancies. You should bring some water with you. You should also have something you can use to quickly filter other water sources. Even though it won’t be clean, it helps to know you’ve got a water source where you’re going. On top of that, you should know how to use things you can find to purify water if all else fails. In this article I want to run through your best lines of defense for staving off dehydration, in the short and long term.
Water Purification by Fire
Boiling water to purify it is the simplest, but not always the easiest method for purifying water. You only need 3 things, the water, something you can boil it in, and something to boil it on. Finding water is a whole ‘nother article. But as a general rule, head downhill and look for moving water over stagnant. Once you’ve got the water, boiling it can be easier said than done.
I recommend you keep a couple things with you for boiling water. First is a pot. Aluminum is a good metal for this because it’s sturdy and safe enough to heat, but it’s also very light. Carrying a tripod to hang it over a fire is unrealistic so you can shoot for putting it on a grate or bars resting between rocks.
The other thing I recommend is a way to start your fire, in fact you should have a few. Fire is imperative for your survival, for more reasons than just boiling water. Having a flint and steel will last you longer than matches, but having a few little lighters is cheap and easy too.
You likely won’t have a thermometer, so just get your water bubbling. Let it sit for at least a minute before transferring it or drinking it. High altitudes effect the temperature water boils too so if you’re up in the hills, give it at least three.
Straws and Bottles
If you’re looking for easy, it doesn’t get much easier than pre-built filters. They’re not the cheapest solution, but I certainly recommend them for the safety net. The straws are nice because you can drink right out of the water source with them if you want. Both the straws and the bottles will give you a very easy way to purify water on the go. Their main downside is that they are finite and will get less effective over time. They’re absolutely perfect to cover the gap if you’re bugging out to a secondary bug out location. This straw from Purewell is a good deal for a very useful tool.
Building a Filter
Easy is the last thing this method is. Building your own water filtration system is involved and high-effort. But having this knowledge can seriously upgrade your bug out spot. The easiest way to construct your own water filter is with three 5-gallon buckets. You can also use the same method with just one bucket and 3 layers inside it.
The top layer of your filter is fine gravel. This will catch larger debris that might be in your water. The next level underneath is sand. This is a little finer and will catch finer debris. Finally your bottom later is charcoal, this will catch anything too fine for the sand or gravel. Once your water drips out the bottom of this, it’s safe to drink. With this method you can load up a bunch of water in the top and let it run through slowly over time, totally hands off! Water purification without babysitting a fire.
Water Purification by Sun Distillation
This is another passive water solution that’s a lot easier than building a filter. Plus, this solution works for getting the salt out of salt water. There are a lot of physical setups for this process. So I’ll just run you through the theory and a couple easy varieties.
The way sun distillation works is by using the heat of the sun to evaporate water and collect it again. Only the pure water gets evaporated, leaving behind salt and contaminants. So once you recollect it you’ve got pure ready-to-go drinking water.
One simple process only requires 2 bottles and something to seal them. (Think disposable plastic or sports drink bottles.) Take your two bottles and fill one halfway with dirty or salty water. Tape the other one on top of it so the mouths are touching and it’s one long container. Then you prop up the bottles so the empty one is higher than the one with water. Leave this in the sun and the water will evaporate up to the top bottle. Once you carefully disconnect them you’ll have some water ready to drink. The downside to this method is that the amount of water you can make at a time really relies on your bottle shapes.
This water distillation setup will help you speed up the process. You’ll need some sort of box or bin that can hold water, a piece of glass or plastic that can fit over top of it, and a trough or funnel to collect water.
Start by setting up your box so one side is taller than the other, either by cutting it or adding to it. Next lay your glass over top of it, so one side is lower than the other. Make sure that there is some gap or other way for water to roll from the glass to the trough. Finally, you’ll install your trough at the low side of the glass. Once you put some water in your box and leave it in the sun, it’ll start purifying. The vapor will collect on the glass and roll down to the trough. Put another container or bottle for the trough to lead water into and you’ve got a bulk, hands-free water purification!
Under normal circumstances, rainwater is perfectly safe to drink, no water purification necessary. But, you do have to take your area and situation into account. Be wary if you’re fleeing a nuclear disaster, or if one has occurred on the continent. If the environment is relatively normal, rainwater can and should be collected!
Simply set up a tarp or poncho by tying corners to nearby trees or buildings. Then, just set something to collect it in under the lowest corner. For added effectiveness, don’t tie the drip corner to anything. Just tie a string or rope to the corner and let it hang down into your collection place. This can even collect water when it’s not raining. Morning dew or high humidity can both collect on tarps. If you have any unsafe drinking water, it’s not a bad idea to store it under the tarp and let the warmth of the sun slowly evaporate it onto your tarp.
The Importance of Water Purification
I hope I’ve given you a solid plan to act on both for stocking your bug out bag and for long term solutions. Water is the next most important thing after air, you can’t get by without it. Your survival relies on your access to drinkable water. If clean water gets scarce don’t get caught unprepared!
This whole website is about preparing for scary and dangerous situations. Even with that being the case, I try to keep it positive. The bright side of prepping is that you’re prepared. When you know you’re prepared, you can relax. You know that whatever comes, you’ve got a plan. You can keep your cool and you’ll continue your life. With this in mind, there are few situations that will radically change life as we know it. Those situations are pretty unlikely. The chance of a Hollywood style disaster sending the world into chaos is extremely low, everywhere except for Yellowstone.
This is why Yellowstone scares the hell out of me.
Yellowstone: The Numbers
On average, Yellowstone catastrophically erupts about every 690 thousand years. It’s been 630 thousand since the last one. That puts us well within the range of another “big one” at any time. It’s worth noting that we don’t have a ton of data on this, and we can’t predict when eruptions will happen. But these numbers are close enough to keep me worried. I live in the midwest, Yellowstone is in Wyoming. If it’s halfway across the country, why am I concerned?
What Is A Supervolcano?
I’ve seen it very eloquently put: Volcanoes make mountains, supervolcanoes erase them. Most people are familiar with the Mount Saint Helens eruption. It’s the most well known US example of a volcano.
The last time Yellowstone erupted, it was 4000 times bigger than that. Projections put the survival rate in Wyoming at next to 0 if it were to go. While it’s true that the most violent threat of a volcano is it’s debris and lava, the ash is the most far-reaching. The entire western US would likely feel the shaking from the eruption. There isn’t a part of the world that wouldn’t feel the ash.
The Last Supervolcano
The last time a supervolcano erupted it was around 70,000 years ago. This is known as the Toba supervolcano in Sumatra, Indonesia. We weren’t there at the time but evidence from the environment shows devastation. Scientists believe that the eruption caused a “volcanic winter” effect. This effect blocked out the sun for 6 to 8 years. To the wildlife afoot, this must have truly looked like the end of days.
Yellowstone: What Can You Do?
The point of this site is preparation. All this doom and gloom is meaningless worrying unless we can put it to good use. The possibility of a supervolcano eruption should do a few things. For starters, it should bring some humility. There are so many massive things in the world that are out of everyone’s control.
On the other hand, some things are in our control. We can take it into our own hands to be as ready as possible for these massive disasters. By taking our fate into our own hands we can relax. We can rest assured in our knowledge that we’ve done what we can. What exactly can you do?
For starters, if you live within the blast zone of this disaster, you need an exit strategy. For a lot of people living close to Yellowstone, there’s nothing to be done but move. Disasters like this are huge and happen quickly. Within a certain range, destruction is inevitable.
That said, if you’re anywhere within the larger ash zones, you’ll have a chance to flee. If the big one goes, there will be a mass exodus. Many people will successfully get away from the brunt of the disaster. This explosion will shake the world, but life will continue. Being a refugee in a state you’ve never been to is a whole lot better than being part of Pompeii part two.
On top of this plan, you can make sure that you’ve got the supplies to keep going as you escape. You may be stuck in your car, or even on foot with a bag for days or weeks. If you have emergency rations and supplies, you’ll be able to keep trucking along to safety.
Air masks and respirators will be the absolute most important piece of gear you have. The second this event hits, they’ll be impossible to find. The world’s production won’t level out on these for years. If you make sure you’ve got enough masks for you and your family, you’ll be in a much better position.
The prep for this event isn’t much different from the prep for other major disasters. The real piece of knowledge to take away from this is just the possibility that it’ll happen. Most people know that a hurricane or a tornado could throw their world around at any time. The fact that there is a massive supervolcano under America’s most beloved park is shockingly less well known.
I’m going to try not to make this another Covid article. As I write this, information is cloudy. To know what is/was really going on with the virus and its response will take the clarity of hindsight. A pandemic is a serious thing, which is why we have to identify what it looks like.
That said, two things have proven true. The world will eventually be okay, we’ll get back on track. The other is that this virus wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Mortality rates are in question but it’s clear that we aren’t looking at the New Black Plague. The world population is largely unchanged. The lives lost are tragic, but society continues on.
Identifying a Pandemic
So what does constitute a pandemic? It’s actually a pretty loose definition. It’s normally defined as a disease/virus/germ, that effects many people across borders. By this definition, seasonal flu’s every single year are “pandemics”. This likely isn’t the pandemic you’re thinking of or trying to prepare for. If you’re worried and prepping, the pandemic you’re worried about is more intense. You’re thinking death in the streets and uncontrollable spreading. This describes something else. Something that has a much higher chance of coming from somewhere more sinister. This sounds like a bio-weapon.
Some conspiracy theorists think that Covid is a bioweapon. I don’t know if this is true. What I do know is that if it is a bioweapon, it’s not a very good one. When people talk about the risk of bioweapons, this isn’t what they talk about. There are hundreds of truly terrifying diseases locked up in research centers. If you were a terrorist, there are much scarier options to choose from.
Are we at risk of biological terrorism. The information, especially now, is cloudy. Biological weapons are outlawed by the Geneva Convention, but criminals don’t follow laws. The only thing we can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
That said, when do you bug out in the face of an epidemic?
Emergency RespondersIn A Pandemic
I’ll start by identifying some markers and we can look at how they could be flags it’s time to get out of dodge. Let’s start with hospitals. At the start of Covid a big concern was keeping hospitals from hitting capacity. Fortunately, they never did. If they had, this would have been a red flag. If hospitals are pouring out into the streets, this is a sign that society as we know it isn’t handling the pandemic.
How about police? In the face of Covid, police put on masks. They didn’t stop responding, they didn’t abandon their jobs. If police stop responding to calls, or they fall apart all together, that’s a red flag.
Stores and Supplies
Let’s look at supply chains. When there’s any sort of public panic, there will be runs on supplies. Stores will run out of key items. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. As an item starts to run low, word gets out that it’s getting scarce. As word gets out, people will blast the supply even more. This is what happened to toilet paper and hand sanitizer at the start of Covid. But then something important happened. Stocks leveled back out. You can find these things again in most places. This means we avoided what would have been a red flag.
If the grid broke down due to people abandoning critical infrastructure, this would have been a huge red flag.
When you’re trying to decide whether it’s time to head for the hills, you have to take stock of the situation. Look at everything objectively and make a rational decision.
Before you have to make that decision, you want to be prepared for it. This is why it’s so important to have a bug out plan and a hunker down plan. If you have the space, you need to have emergency supplies. Once you realize you need these things, it can be far too late to get a hold of them.
A Faraday cage isn’t always a cage like you might imagine. You can buy them pre-made or make them out of just about anything. I’ve made one out of a shoe box and a roll of aluminum foil. To answer what a Faraday cage is, I’ll start with how it works.
Faraday cages work by blocking electromagnetic fields. This includes things like wifi and phone signal, but also EMPs. This EMP blocking effect is the part we’re the most interested in for prepping. In my example from above, the aluminum foil formed a complete seal around the inside of the box. With the aluminum touching completely, it forms a shell. That shell absorbs and redirects these waves and pulses. So why might this be necessary?
Where Do EMPs Come From?
There are a couple things that could cause an EMP you’d need to worry about. The first is the most obvious: EMP weapons. EMPs were first discovered when the US government was testing nuclear weapons. They observed that detonating these nukes high in the air had an EMP effect felt on the ground. These EMPs fry electronics and bring down electrical systems. Everybody knows this now, and if a foreign power wanted to, they could use it.
The risk of another country using these kinds of weapons is high and it’s low. CIA agents and government officials always say that we’re much closer to global war than we know. While this is true, it’s also true that a global war is bad for everyone. Even the country starting it will be worse off for having done it. The world has enough nukes to blow itself up twenty times over, a global war could end life as we know it. For this reason, the risk is also low.
In this war scenario, it’s likely that the bombs would be a lot stronger than EMPs. If nukes start flying, we won’t have to worry about bugging out or prepping either way.
The other EMP risk is scarier because we can’t predict or control it. That’s solar flares. Massive solar flares could crop up at any time and knock down the grid. One happened 150 years ago that would have done this, but the grid wasn’t up yet. These flares aren’t even particularly rare. Our electric life as we know it just hasn’t been around long enough to see one.
What To Put In The Faraday Cage
So you see the risks here. The next question is, what do you put in a Faraday cage? There are lot’s of pre-built professional Faraday cages at a range of prices. You can get one to fit any need. The only limit is your budget. I recommend, at your entry level, getting an emergency crank radio and a flashlight.
Emergency radios are incredibly important. They’re a lifeline. It’s easy to forget how connected you are. If something big happens, you’ll be aware of it in hours, likely minutes. If cell phones, the internet, and TV all go down, you’re cut off. The blackout could be a small cyber attack or it could be the end of the grid as we know it. The first things to come back up, or possible the last to go down, are emergency radio broadcasts. If you’ve got a shielded emergency radio, it’ll keep you hooked in, even when everything is going down.
If I had a lot of disposable income, I’d go even bigger than that. I’d put together a Faraday shed with a full HAM Radio in it. It really is the truth that your budget is your limit. If you’ve got the money for it, you could Faraday harden your bedroom, your entire house!
This is a tangent. The average person, you and me, should look at realistic solutions. The realistic solution is this: get a small Faraday box/bag and put a radio and a flashlight in it. If you’re including these items in your bug out bag, it’ll pay to protect them.
The fact that you’re reading this article means you’re hooked into the grid. The grid refers to the power grid. It’s the massive interconnected system that keeps everyone powered and communicating 24/7. This is a far-reaching, complex system kept running by hundreds of thousands of people. What if it all suddenly stopped? Is this even possible?
Yes, and it’s terrifying.
What Can Cause It?
I’ll start with how this could happen. The flashiest options are also the least likely. One method of taking down power grids would be with EMP attacks. These electromagnetic pulse weapons are just missiles with a heck of a payload. There’s a chance that another world power could use one of these, but it’s not likely. This would be a massive act of war that would lead to the destruction of society as we know it.
Unfortunately, there’s a natural phenomenon that’s unpredictable and just as dangerous. That’s solar flares. There are solar flares all the time, most of the time we don’t notice. About 150 years ago, just such a solar flare hit us. Some scientists believe we’ll see another one within the coming decades. It knocked down telegrams and some operators even reported getting shocked. Since the technology was new and not big, damage was small. If a solar flare of that size happened today, the damage would be trillions of dollars.
Not only would the damage be expensive, it would be disruptive. This is much scarier for the average person. Governments and big companies will get supply chains back on track, but how long will it take. You can bet anything that the gap is going to be chaos.
But even though some scientists believe a solar flare is coming, it’s still not likely. What is likely, are cyber attacks. USA Today states that a cyber attack hits the grid about every 4 days. All it would take is for one of these attacks to be more successful than they are. Power outages already cost us $33 billion a year to fix, and that’s with them being as small as they are.
So if the big one hits, what happens?
What’ll It Look Like If The Grid Goes Down
First off, it’s going to get quiet. Most people aren’t used to the silence that would follow a grid down event like these. Fortunately and unfortunately, it wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Some businesses might have generators but stores would close fast. At this point, the panic would start. You’d see a drastic spike in “survivor crimes”. These are things like looting and self defense around the looting, the things you might see around other disasters, but worse. This makes stores and major streets dangerous places to be.
If the grid was knocked down by a cyber attack, it should be back up soon. This is why preparation is important. If you’ve got even a week up supplies at home, you don’t have to go out and try to get it. You can hunker down with your family and wait for things to get back under control.
If it was an EMP, this may be a different story. EMPs damage circuitry. This damage can’t be reversed from a distance. Electronics would need replacing. The time to get the world back up and running gets a lot longer. There’s a chance that the world may never fully recover from the chaos that follows this. This is the kind of situation that bugging out can help. Once stores are picked clean, looters will turn to residences. Your supplies are only good if you can hold onto them. Getting out of dodge, especially in urban areas, will put space between you and unrest.
We live our lives completely intertwined with the grid. In a way, the fates of the grid and society are intertwined. By preparing for major disruptions, you detach yourself from this reliance. By having plans to follow, you keep yourself from falling into the chaos.
Bugging out in the event of a hurricane is different than a lot of other bug out situations. For starters, you’ll have some warning before you need to get out. You’ll likely be able to return after a temporary period of time. You also know if you’re in an area that’s at risk. With all these things considered, what questions do you need to answer about your evac plan?
When do I need to bug out?
Step one is keeping an eye on when you might need to leave. Where do you get this info? NOAA has a website specifically for keeping track of active storm risks. It can be found right here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov . If you live anywhere near the east coast, it’s a good idea to check this site often during storm season. This is especially useful for planning travel or outdoor activity. If you’re thinking about going camping or boating, makes sure you know the storm schedule.
What should you bring with you?
I’ve got some articles about what to put in your bug out bag, so you should have a good baseline. There’s no telling what can happen when you have to bug out. Even with a solid evacuation plan, you should try to be ready for anything. That said, your bag should fit your plans.
If you’re planning to go to a public shelter, there are things you likely won’t need. You won’t need a heavy cooking kit. You can leave the axe and saw at home. There are other things you can spend the weight on! This is a good time to consider luxury items you wouldn’t normally. Pillows and blankets are in short supply at shelters. Not to mention, it’s nice to have comfort from home. Bringing these will ensure your family will stay comfortable.
Another thing to keep in mind is keeping entertained. There’s a chance you’ll be in the shelter for a week or two. That’s a whole lot of down time. Bring things like iPads or laptops, but also make sure to bring non-electric stuff. There’s no telling if you’ll have continued access to power. If you bring books, notebooks, and games, you’ll have entertainment that won’t die on you.
What if you can’t make it to the hurricane shelter?
That all said, prepping and preparedness is about planning for the worst, not the best. There’s a chance that for one reason or another, you won’t get to the shelter. For this reason, you don’t want to slim your bug out bag down too much. You can drop some weight for luxury, but make sure you stay self sufficient. Make sure you can still start a fire, make a basic shelter, and clean up drinking water. A hurricane brings a lot of water. You’re going to want to make sure that you can get some clean for drinking. You’re also going to want to make sure you can get dry and keep warm.
Should you always evacuate when there’s a hurricane?
The government actually doesn’t recommend evacuating unless your area has a flood risk. I don’t either, to an extent. When evacuation orders hit, everyone hits the road at once. Usually more people than even have to. There’s been a trend recently of over-evacuating. This can be very dangerous if the storm hits while everyone is still choking up the highway. You stand a much better chance hunkering down at home than in a car.
If you can evacuate ahead, this might be a good opportunity to visit family or vacation. Evacuation can be very expensive. Hotels sell out and are costly in the first place. By staying with friends or family, you save money and likely have a more comfortable time. If it looks like something serious is headed your way, that might be a great opportunity to visit family. If you’re going to spend money on a hotel, you might as well go somewhere nice and make a vacation out of it.
When you’re wondering whether your bug out plans are complete, answer these questions. That’s the crux of planning. Figure out what questions you’ve got, and then make sure you have an answer. If you answer all your questions, you can rest assured that you’ve done all that you can. That is, until you look up some more questions to answer!
Should you bring a bug out hammock for your bag? When you’re bugging out, there are a few primary goals that rise above the others. You need to keep things light and keep moving quickly to reach your destination. You should keep a low profile when you can. Hammocks are an excellent solution to sleeping. Not to mention that they’re way more comfortable than a lot of other sleep options.
There aren’t a lot of other items that provide so much comfort with so little weight. Hammocks are just ridiculously comfortable. People use them all the time without it being a survival situation. If you don’t have a hammock your other options are leaves and wood.
Backpackers And Campers Already Use Hammocks
When you think of hammock you may think of the wide woven rope hammocks that you see on a lot of porches and patios. These are very comfortable. The problem with them is that they’re enormous! In come camping hammocks.
Camping hammocks are usually made of parachute-like materials. When you feel them, they’re quite thin. This might lead you to believe that they’re not durable enough for a serious situation. Despite how light they stay, they can handle it. The nature of them keeps them off the ground and out of harm’s way for most of their use. As long as you don’t wear knives on your belt, you’re not going to hurt them either.
Camping hammocks are still big. They can easily fit any full grown person. That said, they fold down small. Camping hammocks come with compact bags that compress it down to fit in darn near anything. Often, the bag is attached to the hammock. This is important for keeping track of it.
The thing it’s more important for is a pouch that keeps things close in hand at night. You can keep your flashlight, your multi-tool, even a firearm right there with you. This will keep you ready for anything at a moment’s notice.
Most hammocks come with a carabiner on their end for attaching it to your hanging solution. Mine came with a couple cheap metal-ish S-hooks. They did the job for a while but eventually one gave out. If your hammock doesn’t come with any, they’re worth picking up.
They’re sturdier than other options and aluminum carabiners are light, too. As an eagle scout, I recommend just having a lot of carabiners in general. They’ve got a million uses for hanging on to things and for construction.
You can buy (and some come with) special straps. These elastic straps make setting the hammock up dead easy. These take all the rope work out of setting up your hammock. With these straps, setting up your hammock takes minutes, if it even takes more than one.
Even without them, you just need to tie some knots and play around with them a little to get the right hang. The paracord that I’m sure you’ll have in your pack will serve you well.
Another much needed upgrade is a roof. With another simple line you can throw your tarp or poncho over the top. Boom, for less than the price of your backpack you’ve got a lifted tent. You’ll be more comfortable than you were on the ground, and likely warmer. You can tie the edges of the tarp to give yourself a floating tent that’s sealed from the wind.
For the weight, a hammock is the best “luxury” item you can include in your bug out bag. It’ll turn scraping by in a stressful situation into a relaxed backpacking trip away from trouble.
Can you do some bug out location prep and pre-build your camp? I talked about this in my piece on caching at your bug out location but I like talking about bushcraft style camps. You’d be a lot more comfortable if you can build a vacation home and bug out to it. It’d be a lot easier to prep there and basically just move if things go south. That said, it’s not fun to talk about.
I think there’s something in a lot of people that makes us want to build a camp in the woods. When we were kids, play usually involved a lot of “bases” and tools, and they were fun to build. The grown up version of this is bushcraft and it’s a whole animal of its own. It just so happens to fold into bugging out perfectly.
Can You Build At All?
Building a bushcraft base is not really a low impact activity. Pre-building your location will need permission to use the land. If your plan involves a national forest, people will get mad at you for making a war camp in the middle of a hiking trail. But, if you own the property or you know the person that does, then you’ve got options. This is also a great place to stash supplies ahead of time.
Bug Out Location Prep: What To Build First
I’d love to tell you that your first priority is a cool canopy treehouse so you can live like a movie character. Unfortunately, the truth is a little less flashy.
The first thing you should consider building is a latrine. Digging a hole is no fun, it’s best to do this while you can still go get a burger and a nap after. To dig your latrine you’ll want to go for a deep, slender hole. Go as deep as you’re comfortable digging. If you have to bug out for any real length of time, you’ll need to dig another eventually. You can cover this hole with a piece of wood or a big flat rock.
Since you’re pre-building, you should even consider blocking it with a seat. If you’re worried about modesty, you can make a “stall” out of tarps, but you should take these down before you leave. Leaving the ropes to hang them is fine, but tarps might not be there when you get back.
Bug Out Location Prep: Building Your Shelter
At least I think it’s fun. Rule one of a shelter is that it needs a roof. It’s basically what makes a shelter a shelter. Even the most basic roof will block the sun, which is important. Sunburns and heat sickness are a couple of effects of prolonged sun that are normally minor. In a survival situation, anything that throws you off your game is more dangerous.
What’s even more dangerous, is getting wet. If you’re wet and it gets cold, you could be in serious trouble. This is why keeping your shelter as waterproof as possible is crucial. This can be done in a lot of ways. The easiest and most common is to pile at least a couple feet of leaves, mud, or other debris on top of your shelter. This should keep water from making it all the way down. Leaks can be patched with more mud.
Other Helpful Bushcraft
Now that you’ve finished your shelter, build another one. No, seriously. In a survival scenario, a second shelter is a great idea. Likely, if the first one was your first ever, the second one will be better.
If anything happens to one of them, you’ve got the spare. If you end up linking up with anybody else, the extra space will be useful. Speaking of the space, having a spare sheltered room will be useful for supplies.
You can also work on building a fire pit. Half digging, half construction, a fire pit will help contain embers and heat. Certain designs can even be used to direct heat towards your shelter. This can also obscure light from a distance. This could be useful to avoid attracting attention.
All things considered, there’s really nothing you can build that won’t help you out. Besides maybe giant rickety structures that will fall on you.