There were many things inside. Decomposed trail mix, corroded batteries, rancid peanut butter and clothing that was far too small to fit us anymore.
But those weren’t the only things I found after opening the crumpled bag. There was also a good helping of shame and guilt in there. Wasted food and ruined supplies are not the example I want to set for family, friends and survival students. But hey, we all make mistakes and forget about things from time to time. Life gets busy, it happens to us all. And honestly, sometimes we can learn more from shameful mistakes than we can from easy successes. So here are a few lessons I learned from losing an emergency kit and then finding this rotten time-capsule. I hope this helps you and your loved ones.
Lesson One – Rotate On A Regular Schedule
This can be as easy as marking a few “gear check” days each year on your calendar and then faithfully following through with it. The strategy of “I’ll check it when I think about it” didn’t work too well for the neglected bag I discovered. Every 6 months would be fine for most kits, and that’s only twice a year (you can handle that, right?). Or if you’re really serious, schedule a seasonal “gear check” – 4 times a year.
Lesson Two – Restock Your Gear
When “gear check” day arrives, go through your bag or kit, and inspect every item. If you decide to include items that legitimately expire, swap them out for fresh ones. Plan your items and the timing of your “gear check” day so that the items you are removing are still able to be eaten or used, then you won’t be wasting a single item you when you remove them from the kit. Consider a seasonal change of clothing, too. Those winter clothes won’t be too handy in the summer, and the summer clothes are an even worse fit for a winter emergency.
Lesson Three – Focus On Non-Perishables
If that rotten bag of trail mix had been something else, like a freeze dried Mountain House meal, it would have still been good to eat after being forgotten for 7 years. Whatever you pack in your bag, try to focus on items that will last.
Lesson Four – Carefully Pack
I can’t tell you how many bug out bags I’ve had students bring to me for critique, and they contained plastic bags filled with loose batteries. This just won’t do. When the terminals touch each other in the bag, they start to discharge. This means that after a little jostling around and some time – you have a bag of mostly dead batteries. Corrosion is also a common result of this storage method. A sack of bad batteries isn’t very helpful in a disaster, is it? Instead, keep your batteries in the original packaging, or pack them in a way that resembles the original pack. Similarly, be careful how you pack the other items in your kit as well.
And if that’s not enough, you can:
Follow Tim on Twitter @timmacwelch
Take one of his survival classes at www.advancedsurvivaltraining.com
and check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles at Outdoor Life Magazine’s survival site, The Survivalist.