Convenience and Simplicity Over True Preparedness – Pt. 1
There is a trend in the Prepperverse of taking the easy way out. Everywhere we turn there is another snake oil answer to our survival problems.
Case in point, pre-made bugout bags. From $36 and up you can toss one of these in your cart and you are ready for that systemic collapse we’ve been worried about. Thank goodness there was a company that solved that problem, now we can get the t-shirt and get on with our lives.
Not so fast, if only it was this easy. Anyone who jumps in bed with a wholesaler from China and thinks they are doing you a great service may be actually doing you a disservice. It turns out there is a catch when it comes to any piece of equipment, you need to try it out at the very least and preferably be proficient with said equipment before your safety depends on it. Since your gear can’t speak, you’ll need to play with it to become familiar with its operation, quirks, dependability and safety. These kits usually claim to have survival supplies including but not limited to:
- Water packets or filter
- Survival blanket
- Rain poncho
- A way to make fire
- Some type of food ration
- A signal device
- Dust mask
- Vinyl gloves
- First-Aid kit
- Light source of some kind
- A handy backpack or fanny bag
So what could possibly go wrong?
- The water packets are a good option as long as they are Coast Guard Certified for survival kits in extreme climate conditions (your vehicle trunk) The juice box type have tendency to leak, grow interior mold and are bulky.
- The water filters usually included can be of questionable specification and quality. We find that they may not filter some common contaminants and often break after or during the first use. A filter is only as good as the way you use it. Does it come with safe use instructions? Do you know anything about water purification?
- The survival blanket must be used as a cocoon to work properly. Tossing it over your shoulders as a cloak will do nothing for you. Is it big enough to cover you completely? Can you seal it shut without the material tearing? Most cheap blankets tear very easily. Have you tried to use one in advance? A note on this, don’t expect to be able to re-pack the blanket back in its compact form. Buy a spare and use it to practice, they cost about a dollar for the type used in most kits.
- The rain poncho is usually the .50-cent version from a dollar store. It has its survival uses but don’t count on it being very durable.
- The usual included fire starter is a package of waterproof matches. We did a review on the UCO brand of matches and found that there is nothing waterproof about them. They might work if they became slightly damp but don’t count on them if they are exposed to water for more than a few seconds.
- The food rations that are usually included vary by brand but are usually some sort of ration cookie or bar. Some brands are ok but do your research on the nutrition they contain. Remember that if you need to eat these bars, you will probably be in a tough spot and calories count. Make sure they offer some nutrients and are not too much protein. In a scenario where you are stranded, water may be scarce and protein depletes your body stores. Some brands indicate they do not promote thirst for this reason. Don’t forget to look for the Coast Guard Certification as with the water packets. A good goal would be a 3-day supply of rations and at the very least, 1200 calories per day for a total of 3600 calories. Remember, you may be walking a long way and you’ll need energy.
- The signal device will usually be a whistle or a mirror. We’ve tested different whistles in the wilderness and some just don’t work well enough to hear for any distance. Make sure you try it out with a friend from a good distance before you need it to signal for real help. Signal mirrors are very effective… If someone is looking for you. Otherwise they are usually ignored as an accidental reflection of some sort. What would you do if you saw a glint of light in the distance?
- Your kit may come with a “respirator”. This means dust mask. These are not protective from aerosols or any kind of chemical. They will not be effective against smoke either. At best they may help with dust from a building collapse. They are marginally effective with airborne pathogens.
- Vinyl gloves. A good idea but keep in mind why you would need them. Will these knock off gloves protect you from blood borne pathogens? Will they deteriorate in the kit and tear when you use them?
- The first-aid kit is usually a few cheap Band-Aids and some sporin cream. These kits are severely lacking for much more than a paper cut.
- The light source. This is usually a chemical light or flashlight. Chem lights are great as long as you have a quality brand that will be bright and last for the full 12 hours claimed on the label. The Chinese versions will do neither. We’ve all purchased a bargain flashlight at some point so I don’t need to reveal why that’s a bad idea. If the kit offers a wind-up light try it out to make sure it works and the handle doesn’t break off when you crank it.
- The handy backpack they offer is usually of a quality on par with your child’s first kindergarten bag. Remember you will definitely need to add some personal items and possibly wear the bag for many miles. If you have ever worn a backpack that chafed your skin and possibly tore at an inconvenient time you already know how bad that can be. If you have never walked with your bug-out bag, you absolutely must take it for a walk of at least several miles if not more. It takes that long to truly reveal all the discomforts and defects you may have to contend with.
So, before you run out to Costco or that new fancy online store, take a good hard look at the products they are offering and whether they truly suit your needs and will take you OUT of harm’s way, instead of putting you right INTO it.