A few summers ago, we went camping, full of expectations of campfire cooking and long wilderness walks. Instead, we learned a lot of preparedness lessons that anyone can use. Pay attention, because some of these could save your life. (And not a single one is “How to start a fire without matches”!)
I did not get a chance to use my flint and steel or cook over a campfire.
I did not have leisurely walks in the woods to learn to identify plants and trees.
In fact – most of the weekend, we stayed at a 5-star RV resort (EJ and I were in a tent, a five minute walk away from the nearest toilet!), where we swam in a saline swimming pool and a gorgeous lake, lounged on manicured lawns under shady trees, and had the children entertained by a program director for a couple of hours each day.
Those were the highlights of our weekend, as well as lengthy visits with my Mom who lived near the resort.
There were, however, many unpleasant parts to the weekend, and many lessons learned.
We had planned to be gone until Thursday or Friday and instead we returned home on Monday. EJ and I had many conversations that began with “Okay, what prepping lesson can we learn from this?”
I will say one thing – this weekend has strengthened our resolve to be prepared at all times and in all situations.
Shelter Comes First
Setting up your shelter is much more difficult after the sun begins to set, especially if people are tired and hungry.
If you have any choice at all, begin setting up your shelter – whether tent, RV or a lean-to made from branches – before evening.
Shelter is, of course, absolutely vital.
In order to set up before sunset, though, you need to know where you’re going and what you can expect there.
Test Equipment At Home
Test all of your equipment regularly, even if it was working fine the last time, and especially if it is brand-new and has not been used.
Test it when you do not need it.
Two in the morning is not the time to discover that the air mattress has a leak or that the roof of the tent has holes big enough for mosquitoes. When dinner is late because the group has been fishing or working hard, no one wants to find out that the fancy propane barbecue is missing parts.
For that matter, foam pads are better than air mattresses which can deflate, and too many things can go wrong with that fancy barbecue.
Keep your equipment simple and repairable.
Even though food comes after shelter in the order of importance, do not make the mistake of thinking that food is unimportant.
Especially if children are part of the group or older people with diabetes or other health issues, regular meals which contain more than one food group are vitally important for both health and attitude.
Ensure that all adult members of your party agree with this, especially the party leader (whether appointed or self-appointed!).
Sunscreen and aloe vera lotion.
Buy it before you become a cooked lobster.
Sunburn can happen at any time of the year, if unprotected skin is exposed to the sun, so make sure that any bug out bag or knapsack contains sun protection.
Prepare by Having Easy Food on Hand
Make sure that you have food that does not require preparation or heating. Hard boiled eggs in a cooler bag. Pemmican or jerky. Pieces of dried fruit. Granola bars or homemade breakfast cookies. Crackers.
Expect that there will be times when, for whatever reason, you cannot have any heating/cooking source. You still need to eat, though!
Do not underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. Unless you’re six years old, you are not going to sleep well on the hard and uneven ground. If you’re anywhere over the age of thirty, a night like that will leave you exhausted, sore and extremely cranky.
Nothing good comes of that!
Pack a foam pad in your sleeping bag, or have a lightweight air mattress (one that does not require a pump) and the means to field repair it.
That last bit is really important – an air mattress without air is obviously the same thing as sleeping directly on the ground.
Pack Your Own
Always pack your own parachute. Always load your own gun. Put the saddle on your own horse. There are so many variations of this, but they all come down to the same thing.
Do not rely on anyone else to be responsible for something that you need for survival.
If YOU don’t have it, assume you DON’T have it.
Do It Yourself
My father’s corollary to packing your own parachute has always been “Shoot Your Own Horse”, and it fits here, too. If there is an unpleasant task that must be done, buck up and do it.
If YOU won’t do it, don’t assume that anyone else will, no matter how much it needs to be done.
Lose The Pride
Pride has no place in a survival setting and yes, camping can be a survival setting, depending on where you are and who you are with! If you make a mistake or forget something vital, acknowledge this and accept help from party members.
Allowing pride to build into anger and resentment will endanger everyone.
By the same token, do not assume that anyone actually has the knowledge, skills, supplies or experience that they say they have.
Like equipment, test your party members in a safe setting.
If you find yourself in a powerless situation, immediately begin searching for ways to change it.
Retain your own transportation, for example, or make sure that food supplies are distributed evenly among party members.
We frequently hear people worried that, in a survival situation, those who are not prepared will drain the resources of those who are prepared. We would like to suggest another possibility which is even more frightening.
Some of those who are not preparedness-minded, especially those who consider themselves more important or knowledgeable than they actually are, may actually sabotage your efforts.