We like to make sure our families and homes are prepared for the unexpected. We have shelves stocked with disaster-preparedness items: bottled water, canned goods, flashlights and batteries.
Our family members know a safe meeting spot—the basement or a hallway, maybe— to gather in case of emergency. Being ready feels great. The only problem is, we aren’t always home.
While it might not be practical to spend every possible moment in the safety of our houses, we do have a practical alternative.
Bring Survival Gear with You
One of the best ways we can stay prepared for the unexpected is by keeping a smart stash of survival gear in an everyday carry pack. That way, we will be ready for almost anything no matter where we are.
Many options of bags are available, from army-style backpacks to sleek messenger-style bags. Once you have your pack, optimize its usefulness with the following suggestions.
1. Staying Hydrated Means Staying Alive
Without hydration, our bodies shut down quickly. Always keep a reusable water bottle with fresh water in your daypack. A stainless steel canteen or thermos is your best bet, as metal is durable and holds up well despite extreme temperatures. It could also help you with cooking needs.
Pack water purification tablets so you can create more drinkable water when necessary. Consider iodine tablets or chlorine dioxide tablets. Beyond water, all living things also need a small amount of salt to stay hydrated.
Quench your body’s thirst completely by filling a re-sealable, waterproof plastic bag with electrolyte powder. This can be dissolved in drinkable water, and when your supply has been exhausted you can find a new use for the bag.
2. Fueling Up with Food Supplies
Hydration, sleep, and sustenance are our top three biological needs. Be prepared with several nutrient-rich, high-calorie meal bars. Also pack some lightweight dehydrated meals, which are optimally consumed with the addition of a small amount of water.
Be ready to find and prepare more food, if necessary. Always carry a small, metal cooking pan with a folding arm. Food can be cooked in it and eaten out of it.
Also invest in a set of metal utensils—again, they can be used for both cooking and eating. Keep a small book with an abbreviated list of edible plants found in local woods.
3. Preventing Infection with a First Aid Kit
Small wounds can turn into serious infections, if not treated properly. Pack a re-sealable, waterproof plastic bag with medical supplies.
This should include cloth squares of several sizes. Large pieces can be used as slings or tourniquets, in the case of injury. Small pieces can be used on wounds in place of gauze, and later sterilized in boiling water for re-use.
Pack several individually wrapped alcohol-soaked toilettes that can be used to disinfect cuts. Also pack band-aids, athletic tape, cotton swabs, and cotton balls. A small tub of petroleum jelly is very helpful for treating chapped or damaged skin.
4. Maintaining Your Sense of Surroundings
Not knowing where you are can be disorienting. Keep maps of local and surrounding areas in your daypack. Pack maps in a re-sealable, waterproof plastic bag.
Also keep a sturdy compass, and make sure you know how to use it properly.
5. Building and Repair with Durable Multi-Use Items
It can be difficult to know exactly what types of situations you might find yourself in. But a few survival supplies have proven themselves to be so useful that it makes sense to keep them on-hand. Rope can be used for securing branches together when building shelter, or hanging damp clothes up to dry.
Duct tape can be used to patch up damaged supplies, or cut and folded to create new items. A multi-purpose knife can help harvest wild edible plants, carve wood, and tear fabric if necessary. Pack all items in re-sealable plastic bags.
6. Warming Up and Using Light without Electricity
Exposure to the elements can be dangerous to your health. Stay warm and dry by allowing yourself to build a fire anytime, using waterproof strike-anywhere matches.
Keep a super-lightweight emergency thermal blanket in your daypack to help stay warm. Also keep a solar-powered headlamp in your supply kit.
Headlamps are extremely convenient, as they allow you to see and freely use both hands in the dark. A headlamp equipped with solar panels will stay lit for seven hours.
7. Recording Information and Communicating Off the Grid
You will often benefit from recording or swapping information with others. Make this possible by stocking your daypack with a leather-bound journal and waterproof pen.
Pack a whistle in case you ever need to sound a distress signal, and memorize SOS. A mirror can also be used to make signals, help you maintain personal hygiene, treat wounds, and stay sane if isolated.
8. Taking Care of Yourself
Poor personal hygiene can lead to poor health. Illness is the last thing you need in a survival situation.
Be prepared with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and multi-purpose biodegradable soap. Use the soap for your face and body, hair, clothing, and cookware.
9. Clothing for All Situations
Keep a tiny, travel-sized sewing kit in your daypack. Make sure you have a basic understanding of how to use a needle and thread to repair clothing.
Pack a lightweight waterproof outer layer. Staying dry in inclement weather will help you maintain a healthy body temperature.
Also pack an insulating thermal layer, hat, and gloves, which may be needed to stave off cold weather. Pack extra wool socks to keep feet dry.
Wool is an excellent survival material as it is durable, dries quickly, and repels moisture.
10. Remembering the Other Important Things
Psychological research has shown how important it is for us to feel a sense of love and belonging.
Feeling connected with others not only tethers us to reality—it often gives us reason to live. Help yourself through the most unexpected and unwanted of times by keeping a personal memento or two in your daypack.
Someday, a special photograph or trinket might be just what you need to keep on pushing forward.