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Thursday, August 7, 2014

What Camping taught me about Preparedness

My earliest childhood memories are of family camping trips. Not just camping, but backpacking – Mom and Dad carrying food, water, the tent, sleeping bags, etc. on their backs. My brother and I shouldering much smaller backpacks with room enough for just a few items. When you are preparing for a trip where you carry everything on your back, you must plan very carefully in order to bring all your necessities, and still be able to carry the backpack.

Photo Courtesy of NPS Photo

This week, as I began to plan and prepare for my family’s non-roughing it camping trip (no items will be hauled on our backs), it made me think about how comparable planning for a camping is to preparing for potential emergencies.

The first thing I always do is make a list of needed supplies. Then I go through the garage and kitchen, gathering items and placing them in the center of the room. I check them off my list one by one as I place them into the plastic tubs that will go in the back of the car. I double check the important items (mosquito repellant, matches, water, tent, air mattress, etc.), knowing that if we don’t have one of those, the family will be miserable.

A few years ago, we forgot to pack the pump for the air mattress. While you don’t need an air mattress to survive while camping, it sure does make the experience nicer. My husband and I were both slightly grumpy most of that trip, due to sore shoulders and backs. My friends forgot their tent cover one year, and it started to rain right before nightfall. They slept, rather uncomfortably, in their truck. When they learned it was most likely going to rain the next night, they drove home. It didn’t rain, and they missed out on the fun and games that day.  

When preparing an emergency supplies kit, most people remember the large stuff – water, food, first aid. But what about a manual can opener? It would be pretty tough to open all those canned items you stocked without one. Or is there something new in your life, such as a puppy or kitten? If so, add supplies for him or her.

When we purchase a new item for camping, I always try it out before we leave. Have you ever tried to set up a new tent in the dark? No fun. If you purchase a water purifier or a satellite phone for your emergency supplies kit, make sure you know how they work before you need to use them. When you create an evacuation plan with your family, practice evacuating so everyone is comfortable leaving the house and getting to the meeting place.

I tend to write out plans for the entire trip out when we are going camping. I plan, and write out, the menu ahead of time. It’s no fun when you have a missing main ingredient, like beans, when you are trying to make chili in the middle of nowhere.  Or even worse, no marshmallows when you are about to make s’mores (check out this Emergency Kit Cook-Off recipe for Ultimate S’mores) with your toddler, who has been talking about said s’mores all week. Even though we have a map feature on our phones, I print the maps out. How do I know we will have a cell signal driving the winding canyon roads? I make a list of our planned hikes and share them with a friend. I also let a friend know when we are expecting to return home.

Just like planning for a trip and writing down important information, everyone needs to plan for an emergency and write down their important information – phone numbers, doctor information, family meeting places, evacuation plans, etc. Having all the necessary information in one place eases the panic that can set in when you are trying to find Dr. Smith’s contact information when your cell phone isn’t working.

Doing the work before the camping trip ensures that I will relax and have a great time with my family out in the middle of the woods. I will be in the moment, helping my daughter fish for the first time, and laughing at my dog splashing in the water. I will enjoy those sticky s’mores, instead of worrying about what I forgot and how to fix it.

If you write your family communication plan and create an emergency supplies kit now, you will be one step ahead if a disaster does affect you.

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