The Modern Survival Guide #83

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Preparing for At-Home Camping

Fortunately, we live in a time where surviving for three weeks without electricity and water isn’t that big a deal. Fundamentally this becomes an exercise in camping in your own house.


Stored food should be canned, freeze-dried, or hermetically sealed if you’re storing dry goods. All of those options are easily available to anyone who can visit a Walmart. Some considerations:

  • All canned foods have an expiration date, and it’s a pack of lies. It’s just there to get you to replace the product. Canned products will last years past their expiration dates; see the previous bullet to determine if you should use any given can or not.
  • Remember that freeze-dried meals are, well, dry. They will require water to re-hydrate them and make them palatable. This can impact your water usage calculations.
  • Remember that most recipes involving dried grains (flour, rice, oats, etc.) also require water, milk, or eggs. This can impact your water use calculations and, naturally, your recipes.


A rough back-of-the-napkin water calculation for one person’s clean water use is as follows:

  • 2 quarts per day for drinking water (this may scale up in high temperature areas)
  • 1 quart per day for cooking
  • Water does not go bad. You can fill up once and use it years later with no ill effects aside from a stale taste.
  • Try to find a container with a spigot. It’ll make it easier to control water flow for uses such as hand washing and teeth brushing.
  • Have a water filter on hand, with enough replacement filters to last for at least a month’s worth of use. Make sure you know whether your filters have an expiration date, and replace them as necessary.
  • Have water purification tablets on hand, with enough to purify at least a month’s worth of water. Use the clean water guidelines above to make that calculation. Make sure you know if the tablets have an expiration date, and replace them as necessary.
  • You will not be taking showers or baths when the water is out. Go ahead and resign yourself to sponge baths now so you don’t have expectations later.
  • Find a source near you for grey water. In most parts of the US, that’s going to be a stream or river. Once you run out of water in your home, this becomes your source. Purify any water from a grey water source before using it for cooking or drinking. In some parts of the country you may not have a stream or river available; increase your stored water requirements accordingly.
  • If you need to purify grey water for drinking and cooking, run it through a filter, then boil it, then use a water purification tablet. If that sounds like overkill, there is no overkill, there is only fire and reload when preventing dysentery. Don’t go out like your Oregon Trail character. Kids, look it up on YouTube.

Other Necessary Items

Once you have your food and water storage sorted out, there are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Camping Stoves: It’s worth your while to buy and store a small camping stove and enough fuel to run it for a couple of weeks. This will primarily be used for cooking and boiling water.
  • Flashlights/Camping Lanterns: No power means no lights in the dark.
  • Batteries: No power means no outlet charging. If you want to keep using your phone or other electronics, have a battery backup. Also keep batteries on hand for flashlights.
  • Toilet Paper: Listen, in any disaster scenario toilet paper is basically gold.
  • Heating/Cooling: If you have a fireplace or a wood stove, maintaining a wood stockpile is always useful as a backup heating/cooking solution. Also having a hand fan, battery-powered fan, or evaporation-based cooling pack on hand can be lifesaving in high heat conditions.
  • Cleaning Wipes: It may be better to use these for cleanup tasks rather than cut into your water supply.
  • Radio: A small emergency radio will allow you to keep track of what’s happening around you. This may mean the difference between staying put and running for the hills.
  • First Aid Kit: A lot of natural disasters come with accompanying risk of bodily harm. Be prepared to patch yourself up.
  • Entertainment: A pack of cards, a good book, and a couple of board games will help pass the time.

Preparing to Get Out of Dodge

Sometimes hunkering down and trying to ride out a disaster isn’t the best plan. If the flood waters are rising, or the wildfire is shifting your way, camping in your house becomes a losing proposition. To paraphrase the old joke, if you get hit by a Volvo thrown by hurricane-force winds, it doesn’t matter how many sit-ups you did that morning. You are not tough enough to survive everything Mother Nature can throw at you.

  • If you are sick or injured: If you require immediate care of any kind, or if you require regular access to medication, do not try to ride out the disaster. Get out if you can, and get to someplace more stable.
  • If you do not have supplies: If you haven’t stocked up, don’t try to ride out a major disaster. You will simply become a burden on emergency response personnel.
  • If you have dependents or pressing business elsewhere: If you have to take care of someone else who is somewhere else, or your business requires you to be elsewhere, do not try to ride out a disaster. Go where you need to go before the disaster hits (assuming you can see it coming).
  • Pack food and snacks for a couple of days. That should be enough to get you out of the disaster area.
  • Remove all the money, small valuables, and important paperwork from your home. Cash, jewelry, titles, and birth certificates all go in bag in your car. Looting often follows in the wake of a major disaster, so take the things you want to keep.
  • Do not take furniture or large electronics. They’re bulky and the electronics make your car a target. If it can’t fit in a bag, it doesn’t go in the car.
  • Have a few gallons of gas on hand to go in the trunk. Don’t assume that gas stations will be functional in the disaster area.
  • Pack everything you can from the “Other Necessary Items” section. Because you never know, and almost everything in that section could come in handy in certain circumstances.
  • It should go without saying, but put people in the car first, then see how much room you have for baggage. Also, put your people in as few cars as possible. It’s safer to have everyone in one car with their luggage on their laps then to spread your people out over multiple vehicles.
  • If you must take multiple cars, make plans for a rendezvous point for each day. Never assume that you’ll be able to stay together in transit; make sure you know where you’re meeting up.
  • Check the road status before you leave. Make sure you can get where you’re trying to go. If you can’t get where you’re trying to go, go somewhere else. It’s better to end up in a hotel vs. a relative’s home rather than getting stuck overnight on the highway.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Last but not least, remember: hope is not a strategy. If you catch yourself saying something like “Gosh, I hope the hurricane goes the other way,” and you’re sitting in its predicted path, you’re doing it wrong. Hope gets people killed during disasters. Do not make plans based on hope. Figure out your risk, prepare, and act. If the best outcome happens, yay. Otherwise, you’re far better off preparing for the worst. Worst case scenario, you’ve spent some money and you’re that much more prepared for the next disaster.

Searching for truth in a world focused on belief.

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