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I have to confess something, I’ve never been much of a reader or follower of the whole bug out bag thing or movement. If things get bad due to natural disasters, government failure, or some other catastrophe, I plan on staying in my home.
I think we’ll be far better off at our home, even without power or support from the outside world. We’re pretty self-sufficient as is and have went two weeks without power during a winter mudslide. We know our neighbors, I grew up with over half of them, and believe having a community of people who will support one another is far better than hiding out somewhere.
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Now, I realize this isn’t the scenario for everyone. Stay with me here for a minute. We live rural. You might live in the middle of the city. This is where everyone has to take a look at their own situation and scenario and decide what is truly best for them and their family. Because it’s not all one size fits all.
In light of this revelation, I have never put too much energy into a bug out location and stocking said location.
Then we entered into this summer. We’re in the most severe drought Washington State has ever had since they began recording weather in the 1890’s here. Pretty much the worst drought ever. Update: We were just blessed with three days of rain, and not a moment too soon.
We’ve had no rain and because we normally our drenched for the most of the year, hello Pacific Northwest and western side of the state, we don’t have things like irrigation put into place. Water has always been an abundant resource here.
Enter August. Our state has been declared a state of National Emergency due to the wild fires. To look at a map, it seems the entire state is ablaze. Lightening has been the cause of most of the fires. There have been loss of homes and loss of life. Three fire fighters died last week while fighting the blaze on the other side of the pass from us.
Twenty-five miles from us in two towns over, a lightening fire gained strength and devoured timber. It jumped the river and the road, causing the evacuation of one town and part of another. My brother is working on the fire and sent me photos. I’ve never seen anything like it in person.
Smoke blanketed our homestead. We sit in a gorgeous little valley at the foot of a mountain and the Cascade mountain range swirls around us. Thick smoke blocked the mountains completely from view. Driving home from church visibility was so bad we couldn’t even see the next turn, it was like driving in the worst fog you’ve ever seen, except it was lung stinging smoke.
Thankfully, after two days, the wind shifted and cleaned out most of the smoke.
But another fire in the town I work sparked up.
I realized, I needed to have some type of things prepared in the order of an evacuation.
You’d have thought I would have realized this a month ago when my truck broke down in the middle of the city and I was stranded for an hour waiting for the tow truck.
Alas, sometimes it takes a bit longer to grasp certain things. Please tell me I’m not alone in this.
If you’re a typical American, then you spend quite a bit of time in your rig. I commute 18 miles one way to work and over 30 miles to get to the nearest large town and shopping areas. The chances of being in your vehicle when an emergency strikes is pretty high.
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1. First things first, in an emergency you probably won’t be able to stop and get fuel. If a fire is licking at your heels, you won’t have time. If the power is out, you won’t be able to operate the pumps and get gas. So always keep a ½ tank of gas/diesel in your rig. You’ll never run out of fuel this way and if you have to leave in the middle of the night (we don’t have 24 hour gas stations up where we live) you won’t be left stranded.
2. Shelter is your next concern. If you’re stranded on the side of the road, you need to keep warm if it’s cold out, or shaded if it’s hot. A blanket will provide both. Your best bet is wool. Wool will still keep you warm even if it’s pouring down rain. It might be itchy, but it’s is superior for warmth. You can wrap up in it to keep your body heat from being conducted into the ground, or string it up for shade if it’s hot.
Check a military surplus store for wool blankets. We have a pawn shop and military surplus in the town I work at and I was able to purchase one there for the trunk of my car. I purchased mine for $20 as I like to shop local when I can, but if you don’t have a military surplus, this wool blanket from Amazon comes in at $18. Remember, you shouldn’t every dry wool products in the dryer, line dry for best results.
A small tarp is also a good idea for shelter or an all weather blanket that has some long lasting ability to it, like this Space All Weather Blanket.
3. Water. You should keep some bottled water in your trunk. Be sure to rotate it out and check it during the winter if it’s freezing solid. I always fill my stainless steel water bottle and take it with me when I leave the house, but you’ll want extra reserves in your trunk or the back seat of your truck (if you don’t have a canopy).
After a water bottle, or with it, you should have a water filtering system. This way, if you have to leave your vehicle or run out of water before help comes, you have a way to safely drink from a nearby water source. Where I live, our roads follow the river and there are lots of creeks and smaller bodies of water near the road. I personally own a Lifestraw. It’s light weight enough it won’t weigh you down, which is important in an on foot situation, and comes as a stand alone filter or in a water bottle. The water bottle is good if you need to walk away from the water source.
4. Food. Water is most important, but if you get stranded with kids, you know how important it is to have something for them to eat if they’re hungry. Even big kids… aka adults. I recommend some dried fruit and nuts. They’re light weight and won’t go rancid quickly. Just like anything, you’re going to want to rotate the food and water out every so often. (More on that to come soon) Even though I love chocolate, especially Theo brand chocolate, pure chocolate melts. You don’t want something that’s going to melt all over your car… at least, I don’t.
Sealed energy bars are another great option for on the go. You see a lot of people recommend candy bars, but I’d rather have something that will give my body fuel, not just a sugar rush and then crash. But make sure you have some type of food source in your vehicle.
5. Walking shoes. When I go to work at the pharmacy, I’m not wearing tennis shoes or hiking boots. You’re probably not either, depending upon your job. But if I get stuck alongside the road on the way home from work, I’m going to need some footwear that will let me cover some terrain. Keep an extra pair of walking or hiking shoes/boots in your vehicle with a pair of wool/hiking socks.
6. Fire starter. You need a way to stay warm, especially in cooler climates. Hypothermia occurs most often between 30 and 50 degrees, obviously it will happen faster if you’re below freezing, but many people underestimate the range between 30 and 50 degrees Farenheit. Because there are different options to starting fires, how to do it and some safety measures, check out how to start a fire without matches or a lighter here.
7. Light source. When it gets dark you’re going to want light. It can also help you signal for help and allow rescue workers to find you easier. A flashlight is always a good option, but be sure and pack extra batteries with it. Most times, you can find little LED flashlights that will hook right onto your key chain. Never a bad idea to have more than one light source.
Another option that is also water proof and extremely small, portable, but puts off a decent amount of light are these solar powered bag lights. We use ours camping and in case of power outages, plus no need for back up batteries, and ours is going on two years. They’re really awesome, waterproof and they’ll float on water! Did I mention they put off 16 hours of light from one charge? LumiAid Solar Light
8. Pocket knife. A knife can come in handy in so many different ways. It’s small, light weight, and something you should definitely have in your car. This Swiss army knife fits on a key chain and has multiple tools, plus, it comes in different colors, which I know doesn’t matter from a preparedness standpoint, but I’m just girly enough to want to pick my own color.
Now, you’ll probably want a slightly bigger blade, but something that still folds up and is light enough to carry. This one is sturdy, with a decent blade, and is under $10–> Tac Force Folding Knife
These are what I consider the most basic of basic items to carry at all times in your car.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.