In this installment of “Real-World Prepping,” we will be covering a first here at The Loadout Room: a top-ten list, but with a twist. Our list will focus on things that most preppers tend to overlook or forget to add to their cache of supplies. Note: This list isn’t in order of importance; it’s just a list. In my opinion, lists that go by order of importance seem to be a source of contentious arguments for a lot of people.
- Lip Balm: I know there are people laughing or scratching their heads right now trying to figure out if I have lost my mind. Well, I haven’t. Anyone who has endured the unrelenting, cutting cold of arctic air, or the blasting furnace winds of the desert knows how fast your lips dry out. It doesn’t take long at all for your normally moist lips to turn into something that resembles a reptile’s skin. Some people will just say “lick your lips more,” but excessive licking and sucking of your lips can lead to Cheilites—a condition that comes with swollen, scabby, sensitive lips. Life after an emergency event is hard enough; it’s the little things that can screw with your mind and spirit. There are nine major varieties of Chap Stick brand lip balm—they cover every flavor or style you can think of, from UV protecting to sensitive-skin protection. Check the local box store for more kinds of Chap Stick than you ever really wanted to know about.
- Batteries: It sounds like a no-brainier, but people that forget batteries do eventually run out of power, and usually exactly when they need their battery-powered devices most. I personally have two changes of batteries for all my battery-powered devices, flashlights, and gear. As a side note: I strive for standardization of battery sizes in my equipment. It makes no sense to have six different battery sizes from a logistical standpoint when you can have devices of the same quality use the same size batteries. Battery types are completely up to the end user; honestly, there are so many types, it hurts my brain. Nickel Metal Hydride, Nickel-Cadmium, Lithium Ion, rechargeable, non-rechargeable, Lithium Polymer…it just goes on and on. I’m a fan of regular old Energizer Alkaline batteries. I install them, they work. It’s a lovely relationship. If you have a favorite brand or style, by all means, get them. Just have enough on hand to keep yourself covered.
- Coffee: In survival situations, it’s all about the little things. Coffee is a little thing that can lift spirits and make people smile when they are cold and miserable. I have been on job sites that were -25°F for hours, digging and repairing water lines. Coffee was always such a welcome relief to my soul. We former-military types remember the old grizzled sergeant who everyone was afraid to talk to until at least his second cup of coffee. Coffee is a powerful thing in the world of men. I shudder to think of drinking instant coffee, but it might be all you have in a post-disaster situation. If you have to resort to instant coffee, I suggest you pick a damn good one, because the only thing worse than no coffee is coffee that tastes like it’s been strained through a mixture of dish soap and gym socks. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of instant coffee. The Huffington Post conducted a great taste test of the best instant coffees that you should read. I used it when ordering my disaster coffee; I noticed that Sanka was on the list and figured it was a good option. That said, if on a normal day I get offered a cup of Sanka, I’m throat punching someone.
- Tooth-care products: Just because your world may have been changed dramatically by a disaster event doesn’t mean you can neglect oral care. Not trying to sound like a dentist here, but the importance of a clean mouth is huge. Remember, tooth infections were serious health issues for thousands of years, often deadly. It goes without saying that everything you eat or drink passes over your teeth, so brushing and flossing is still important, especially since you might not be near a dentist or doctor for days or weeks. You can floss with any sort of thread, but it’s not advisable. Of course, flossing with something is better than nothing. But high-quality floss is cheap; grab some and an extra toothbrush to toss in with your bug-in supplies. When you have to interact with people “post-incident,” it’s still rude to have your mouth smell like a sewer.
- Tampons: Stop laughing. I type this at great risk of personal injury from female family members. (I’m kidding. Mostly.) In all seriousness, every one of us has had a mom, sister, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or some sort of female family figure in our lives. We know the basic physiology of women and how they work; menstrual cycles are nothing to laugh at. I am not alone in saying that I have seen polite, docile, kind-hearted women turn into something evil, something that makes even the infamous Echidna of mythology seem like a kitten. Most battle-hardened men run for cover when their women get in this condition. Keep in mind, this is when they have access to the needed supplies at a local drug store. In a post-incident scenario, things will be worse than during normal times. Even if you don’t have women in your group, tampons work well for absorbing blood. Once, I cut myself all the way to the bone with a shard of porcelain. After pulling the piece of porcelain out of my forearm with a pliers, the only thing I could find was a clean tampon and Scotch tape. It worked until I got to the emergency room four hours later. I was then sold on the power of the tampon.
- Clothing that fits our bodies and the seasons: We pack bug-out bags, bug-in bags, and totes thinking that’s the end of the story. That would be short-sighted indeed; we need to periodically check our packs to ensure our clothing and gear A.) still fits and B.) is suited to our environment and the seasons. Few things would be more useless than having it be spring or summer and only have access to winter gear. I tend to check my things out in the spring and fall—about the same time you are supposed to adjust your clocks or check your home’s smoke alarms. Once you get into a routine of checking on things, it becomes easier and more efficient. And in prepping, efficiency is a very good thing. Simple works.
- Secured important documents: This is something I never thought about at all until my in-laws had a house fire and had to figure out a way to prove who they were. Your birth certificates, marriage licenses, retirement account information, driver’s licenses…the list can go on for a mile. Once lost, they can be extremely difficult to get copies of. That’s why I am in the process of developing a two-stage protection plan. First, I keep the original documents in waterproof food-storage bags, Second, I’m working on scanning all my documents onto an easy-to-carry flash drive. Although placing these inside a Ziploc bag might be overkill, it makes me relax knowing if I have a pipe break, they have a better chance of survival. Flash drives can be found online or at just about any box store around. You would be amazed at how many documents can be put on an eight gigabyte device, but if you need more space, I’d suggest picking up a solid-state detached hard drive. These are getting cheaper every day and can easily be password protected. Most FedEx and UPS stores will scan your documents for a very reasonable price, and they are far faster at it than using a single-sheet scanner at home.
- Baby wipes: Personal hygiene will be crucial to maintaining health and a positive attitude after a disaster. Everything will be filthy, I can almost promise you that. Filth spreads disease, and combating that starts with keeping yourself clean. During field exercises in the military, we refer to field-washing as a “whore bath.” Basically, you wipe down the really smelly stuff and important parts, and move on—hoping for a shower eventually. Well, if you don’t have a shower handy, there are still ways to keep clean and in a reduced-odor condition (notice I said reduced odor, not eliminated). I recommend saving potable water for eating and drinking, and use non-treated water to wash with. Baby wipes, moist towelettes (Wet-Naps), and similar products are a fantastic alternative, and I heartily recommend keeping some on hand. I have used Norwex brand antibacterial washcloths in my kit, and they are extremely durable, but take some getting use to in regards to the way they feel on your skin. They tend to feel like they are exfoliating your skin, but they work, and that’s my number one concern.
- Insect repellant: Insect repellant seems like a small thing until the bugs arrive; then, it’s worth its weight in gold. Insects spread diseases such as West Nile Virus and Malaria—both deadly in developing countries and potentially deadly in a post-disaster world. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but even if you take precautions to stop insects, not everyone around you will have the same attention to detail that you will. Bugs will come, so prepping to stop them is important. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. We aren’t talking Starship-Troopers-style bugs, but that doesn’t make them less of a problem. Citronella-based products such as oils or candles have proven an effective bio-insecticide for decades. Research shows it also has strong anti-fungal properties. There are several top brands of personal bug repellant that you can use or toss in a pack. Some of them are: OFF, Ben’s, Repel, and Cutter. I’m sure you can walk down the aisle at any store and find half a dozen more brands than I have listed. Be sure to think about people in your group that may have sensitive skin, such as children and the elderly, and make your selection accordingly. One word of caution: Wash your hands before using the bathroom following an application of any insect repellant. I have, unfortunately, learned through experience that bug repellant—even a faint trace on your hands—will make your genitals feel like they just got hit with a napalm strike.
- Knife Sharpener: Any bladed implement in your kit will eventually dull with use. It’s not rocket science—even the Cro-Magnon man had this figured out: a sharp blade cuts and slices much better than a dull one. In my kit, I use a simple draw-through knife sharpener and a wet stone. You should have and learn to use a manual sharpener, because the chances of having electricity post-disaster is slim to none. Plan and prep for the worst; that way, you are ahead of the odds. The brand or style is wholey up to you. Lansky, Chef’s Choice, AccuSharp, Gatco, and Smiths are just some of the reputable makers out there. Any major retailer should have several varieties to try. The biggest issues in my mind when it comes to sharpeners are: A.) Do the blades of your tools fit in it? B.) Are you comfortable using it; can you actually sharpen a blade with it? and C.) Is it practical? Gear that is flashy and doesn’t work is a liability.
Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to like us on Facebook, Twitter, and comment on the website. Send messages and interact with us; we are here to help. Coming up next week: my “medical bucket” loadout, followed by a review of the Heckler & Koch P7M8. Then, I play mad scientist as I test the Lifestraw personal water purification device. Stay safe, and thank your local law enforcement officer—they have had a rough couple of weeks.
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