Monday, August 1, 2011

Test Your Gear and Polish Your Skills by Going Camping

Personally, I think camping is one of the best ways to learn what you may be in for after a disaster.  Now I don't mean renting a fully equipped trailer with all the bells & whistles.  I mean down and dirty no service camping in a tent with no power, and a nice long walk to get water or firewood.  This is as close to post SHTF reality there is.  No, you may not be living in a tent, but having to travel by foot for water or wood is a likely scenario.  If you have never been camping before, then start with the basic supplies...a tent, camping cookwear, and a cooler.  No, you don't need sleeping bags as you can just as easily bring along some blankets instead.  Leave those expensive camping toys such as propane water heaters and battery powered blenders where they belong...on the store shelves.  Not sure you want to invest in the equipment?  Many campsites offer "turnkey" packages, with a tent, camping stove and some dishes & lantern ready to go.  If you have been prepping for any amount of time, you may find that you already have most, if not all of what you will need.

So just what will a camping trip teach me?  Well, for one, you will meet all sorts of people that have been camping for a long time.  They will have learned all sorts of tricks for keeping warm & dry, not to mention how to set up a site, lighting & keeping fire, etc.  The most valuable lessons will be fuel consumption.  For cooking, you will learn how much wood it will take to cook a meal.  If you are using a camp stove, you will learn how long a can of gas will last.  Once you know this, you can find ways to cut down on cooking time by bringing prepared meals that need only heating or short cooking periods.  Gas lanterns and oil lamps also use up fuel and a weekend camping trip might show you how much they really use...the answer may surprise you!  The other option for camping lights is battery operated lanterns & flashlights.  Not only will you learn how long a set of batteries will last, but how much effective light they put out.

Although hunting for wild game will surely get you evicted from a campground very quickly, fishing is usually permitted, provided you carry a valid permit.  in fishing for your dinner, you will learn how big(or small) the local fish are and how many it will take to feed your family a meal...not to mention how long you will have to fish to get that meal.  Also, practical experience will be gained by cleaning & cooking them on site, without the benefit of modern facilities & conveniences.

Pest control will be a valuable lesson on your trip.  Not just how to keep bugs away or treat a bee sting,  but how to keep larger wildlife like raccoons or even bears away from your site and food.  Remember, food is what these creatures are after.  Keeping garbage cleared away of your site, storing food in airtight containers and out of reach, and washing dishes after every meal should send any unwanted visitors looking somewhere else for an easy meal.

Once you get back home, it's time to take stock.  How much fuel did I use for cooking or lighting?  How many sets of batteries did I go through and were my flashlights and radio effective?  How cold did it get at night and how many blankets did it take to keep warm?  Was some of my equipment ineffective and need to be replaced?  ow many water containers should I have to minimize traveling for refills?

Now for the most important question....how tired am I?  How badly do my muscles ache?  How long did it take to accomplish basic day to day activities such as cooking or cleaning up?  Once you answer these questions, you will have a good idea of what kind of preps and efforts you will need for a disaster situation.  You can upgrade equipment, adjust methods, or change some things around then try again. My advice would be to try camping a few times each year, in different weather conditions.  This way you continually test your skills & equipment while getting your mind and body used to the extra work involved in day to day post SHTF life.  Remember, experience trumps all the information you can gather from books, blogs, videos, podcasts & forums.  Just get out there and give your preps a workout.

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