Disaster Kit You Can’t Live Without

Disaster Kit You Can’t Live Without

California State University, Los Angeles
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Originally printed:

University Times (California State University Los Angeles), May 1st, 2007

A born and bred Midwesterner, I could take a tornado, but I’m not in Kansas anymore and unlike back home the earth moves in California. I’m completely terrified of an earthquake, and talk about “the big one” doesn’t comfort me in the slightest. So when I was assigned to make a disaster kit and try out the stuff, I went at it full throttle.

Essentially this kit needed to keep me from starvation and dehydration, keep me clothed and relatively clean and oh yeah, alive.

My quest led me to Sport Chalet at the Santa Anita Mall right off of Huntington in Arcadia—about 20 min away by car. There I met Tony, a tall strapping young man in his mid twenties, a former Iraq soldier, and sales associate/expert survivalist–what luck! He filled me on a few things I already knew and then some.

“Everyone needs a kit of emergency food; I have roughly about two week’s worth of food just in case. I have a 5gallon jug full of water, and I also have a water purification kit. I have iodine tablet just in case too. Extra clothing, emergency blankets, I actually have a pocket stove [as well]. Flashlights, candles, I actually have fire starting materials like tenders, stuff like that, and a little extra money just in case.” Tony instructed first and foremost.

“It’s really personal preference food wise. I have a lot of stews, honestly from my experience that taste the best.” Listening to his advice and ideas that you should pack foods you’d want to eat normally; I picked up Alpine Food’s brand of self heating beef stew. For variety sake I also packed Richmoor Freeze dried corn and Mountain House eggs and bacon.

Tony laughed when I picked up the breakfast food, “Personally myself, anything, I really don’t like the eggs. They taste really powdery to me. Some people like that taste but I don’t.”

Tony then continued to explain what was in personal kit as we toured the various sections in the store “My kit weighs a little over 100lbs. that’s for me, my mom, and my girlfriend. You could make a really good kit out of backpack for about a week though. It’s roughly 33lbs per person, but we’re talking about each person being well fed for two weeks. If it was just for me I’d be well feed for two months. The thing is water weighs a lot.”

When I told Tony about my plan to seek refuge in my dorm bathroom by the toilet because I’d reasoned there’s no glass and water right there he clued me in on these cool purifiers I’m going to make my dad get me. “This water bottle is for personal use when you squeeze it purified water comes out, not matter what water you put in. It will get rid of the bacteria and viruses. You might want to use a water tablet and purifier for a double dose just to be sure. You’d rather have the iodine taste versus the toilet taste.” With a base staple of things to try Tony left me with this, “Emergency wise you don’t have to worry about clothes too much, so just pack two to three things, the rest of it food, water, hygiene.”

Returning home with my bag of items to test for my starter kit, I recruited my best friend Lauren to try them with me. We did everything full disaster mode style; rationed water, the mini cooking set and everything.

The self heating stew dinner was the first choice. I’ll admit I was highly skeptical of this product. It comes in several flavors like chicken parmesan, chili and more. Beef stew is fine. I like stew.

So you have this small rectangular shaped box with a picture of this bowl of steaming hot stew. Looks delicious. The only instructions are lift up this sliver of cardboard and pull on the tab. Sit on flat surface, wait fifteen minutes and enjoy. Right. I didn’t believe this for one second, and my hungry friend looked at me like I was crazy.

I pulled the tab and we waited. Three minutes went by and I remained unimpressed. Then I picked it up and felt the bottom. It was already warming up! I was so shocked I almost drop it.

Fifteen minutes later, we had our plastic spoons ready—I actually used the spork that came in the box. I pulled out the food entrée and disposed of the plastic covering and I was greeted with a wave of steam. There were huge chunks of beef, fresh looking vegetables galore, and this delightful aroma pouring out of it.

If it’s possible it tasted even better than it looked. This is going in my kit most definitely. This is the easier to make than toast. I imagine during a disaster I’m not going to be in the mood for anything remotely difficult. We have a winner. This may even go on my regular grocery list.

Next was the freeze dried bacon and eggs in a bag. First instruction is to boil a cup of water. This involved the five piece cooking set and the campers’ heat. Unscrewing the campers’ heat is like opening a jar of jelly, it’s difficult at first them you give it to someone else and they immediately open it. After it was unscrewed the off white center was lit by a lighter and a flame was produced. Carefully one cup of water was poured in the mini easy bake oven lookalike pan with attached basket handle. I picked it up and the water fell out. This happened twice before I moved to the miniature skillet. I can’t afford to waste anymore. While holding the skillet, I learned very quickly that standing there holding something while waiting for it to boil is a very daunting task. Finally it boiled and I poured the water in the bag of eggs that looked like pieces of yellow sponge. No sign of the bacon. I shook it up and waited the designated five minutes before pouring the contents into the piece number three, mini plate.

The bacon looks like bacon bits, but it’s there. If it looks like eggs, smells like eggs, feels like eggs, it still doesn’t mean its eggs. To the touch of your finger it feels like eggs, but the feel inside my mouth was vastly different. It felt like a half soaked sponge. Fortunately adding salt is a very helpful distraction and actually made this food edible. The bacon was flavorful as well.

Following the breakfast meal I then tried the bagged corn product. The campers’ heat is apparently more difficult between uses and had to be repeatedly re-lit. Try eating the corn in Ramin Noodle packages only and you’ll understand how this tasted. It was half soft and half dry. Adding lots of salt and pepper was the only option. Add enough pepper and you can forget how anything originally tasted.

So there was this Gatorade powder mix that Tony recommended it has more minerals and electrolytes than water alone. All that’s required is opening the packet and emptying the contents in a gallon of water. It tasted just as you’d image powder Gatorade would; very chalky. In my book that negative out weighed the positives, so I’ll be sticking to water in my time of need.

The last couple of things tested were the makeshift toilet and no rinse shampoo. Lauren has very long hair, and if we’re stuck somewhere after an earthquake and she wants to wash her hair, I’ve decided to shave her bald in the night. I dropped this bottle twice as well, but 90% of the contents went on her hair. That was the whole bottle though. Include a couple of these in all kits, one may not cover it. Her hair was wet, and the shampoo smelled nice, but I can only imagine ever using this in extreme cases of emergency. All that’s done is wetting of the hair and towel drying it. Her hair didn’t feel too clean, but when water has to be saved there aren’t a whole lot of options, so you make it work.

During emergencies bladder control isn’t going to get you through. At Sports Chalet there were several mini porter potties, special bags and deodorizers. In a pinch if the basics are kept on hand, all will be okay.

The special toilet bags are necessary. They’re cheap, and just the right size to put inside a sturdy five gallon sized bucket; do your business, wrap it up, and close the lid on the bucket. Being stingy and only keeping lid-less buckets around will only hurt you in the end.

My emergency disaster kit will include the following:

  • 5 gallon bucket with lid Toilet bags
  • Flashlight/ Hand crank portable radio combo (good one at Target for under $8)
  • Extra batteries
  • Several self heating meals
  • 5 gallons of water (at least)
  • First aid kit (comparative shop, Target has a lightweight one that will only set you back $7)
  • Lighter/matches/candles Salt/pepper
  • Aspirin
  • No rinse shampoo
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Trash bags Toilet paper Baby wipes (If Tony can use it so can I)
  • Duct tape Scissors/pocket knife with screwdriver
  • Extra clothes/shoes/socks
  • Candy (high energy food like cookies and hard candy)
  • Toothpaste/toothbrush combo
  • Comb Bleach Body cleanser
  • Microfiber towel Poncho (The one in the back of my closet from Sea World should do)
  • Pens/paper
  • Energy bars (Cliff bars especially) Beef jerky/nuts/peanut butter
  • Map of the area
  • Sleeping bag (fancy one not required, Target has bags that will be just fine)
  • Book and deck of cards
  • Purifying water bottle
  • Passport $20-$40 cash
  • CD-ROM containing scanned copies of photos/bank-credit information/inventory of household items (and printed copies) in water proof bag

Hopefully I’ve provided some tips on how to make a decent survival kit, be safe and be prepared.