Camping. You may have a love/hate relationship with it. Or you may have a hate/hate or love/love relationship with it. Regardless of your feelings, here’s the reality: camping is good for preparedness.
Here are 10 ways camping can help you prepare for emergencies:
1. You’ll get used to sleeping in less-than-ideal circumstances.
Growing up, my family would camp pretty frequently, and someone (who shall remain nameless) always snored like a bear. It would keep me (and others) awake at night, leading to crankiness and fatigue the next day.
So, camping with the sound of your neighbor snoring his brains out or—even more distracting for some people—the sound of animals and the wind working their way through the trees can build up your “immunity” to those sounds. After a while, you may find that you actually enjoy the rustling of the trees and the sound of birds and other animals.
You may not develop immunity to the sound of snoring, though. So consider packing a pair or two of ear plugs in your camping gear and your bug-out bag.
Even if you end up at a shelter in an emergency, rather than roughing it, earplugs could help drown out sleep-talkers, kids screaming, or other noises. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of not being able to hear, though. If sounds are muffled, you might not hear someone trying to wake you up (or someone who is rifling through your stuff).
2. You’ll learn to eat meals that are easy to cook—or don’t require cooking at all.
Camping is great for practicing emergency cooking. Try out your canister stove, Kelly Kettle, or Volcano stove on a campout to get used to different cooking methods. You’ll find that the easier the meal, the better—in most cases, anyway.
That simplicity translates well into emergency situations. When the stakes are high, complicated meals may not work out (wasting food), or take longer to prepare (leaving you and your group hangry [hungry + angry]).
For MREs, you’ll just need some MRE heaters, a car engine, a warm rock, or some other way to warm it up. You can even eat them cold, because they’re 100% pre-cooked and ready to eat.
To cook just-add-water meals, you’ll want to have a way to quickly and efficiently boil water, like the Kelly Kettle or a canister stove. Then you just add the water to your food, wait about 10 minutes, and dig in.
3. You’ll get used to using “the facilities” in less-than-ideal circumstances.
I don’t know anyone who prefers using toilets that don’t flush (there could be someone out there, but I personally don’t know anyone). But in a large-scale emergency situation, disrupted utilities are highly likely. That means no flushing toilets, no running water, and finding a way to safely deal with human and pet waste.
If you have to evacuate to a location without a permanent shelter or running water, experience “taking care of business” in the outdoors will come in handy.
One of the easiest ways to deal with bathroom needs in an emergency is a Tote-able Toilet and enzyme packets. The toilet is a 5-gallon bucket with a specially-designed toilet seat that fits on it just like a lid. Each time you use the bathroom you can sprinkle some of the enzymes in, and they will help to fight odor. You can even grab one of our deluxe privacy pop-up tents
Don’t forget the toilet paper!
4. What you deem “necessities” will likely change.
You may think you know what the necessities are—and maybe you’ve had to experience enough bare-bones living to know what you actually need and what is just nice to have.
Camping regularly will give you an idea of the things you actually need to have to stay safe, healthy, and fed when you’re away from home.
That doesn’t mean you can’t put “want-to-have” items in your bug-out bag. Some familiar items will bring comfort and can provide distraction during long wait times at shelters or in food or aid lines. But when it comes down to what is really necessary to survive, camping will give you a pretty clear idea.
5. You’ll have a chance to practice important skills and become more resourceful.
Knowing how to build a shelter from branches and other resources you find nearby, start a fire without matches, identify edible plants, fish, and many other skills can come in handy in a survival situation—and camping is the perfect time to learn and perfect those skills.
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, it’s just a fact of life that if you go camping, you’re bound to forget something—sometimes trivial, sometimes important. Forgetting some of the necessities doesn’t have to derail your whole adventure, though. Turn the irritation into an opportunity to find creative solutions—either drawing on the resources you’ve brought with you or those provided by nature.
Forgot rope? Are there vines or crawling ground cover you can use to lash things together?
Forgot matches? What about using a magnifying glass or a pair of reading glasses to start your fire?
When the stakes are high and you have to make it on your own, you’ll feel better knowing you’ve had practice making things work during campouts when a trip to the store wasn’t actually out of the question.
6. You’ll learn which kinds of clothing, shoes, and outerwear are the best fit for the outdoors and your needs.
The best type of clothing for the outdoors changes depending on the area you live in and the weather you expect to face. But there are some pretty basic rules that work no matter what:
1) Dress in layers—that way you can add or subtract layers as conditions change.
2) Wear clothing that will dry quickly and wicks moisture away from your body.
3) Comfort and safety are the most important things to think about when it comes to outdoor clothing.
4) Cotton is the fabric of death. (Most of the time. In the hot summer sun, light cotton or linen clothes can be ideal.)
7. You’ll be more at ease in nature.
Spending time hiking, backpacking, and camping will help you get comfortable spending long periods of time with Mother Nature. You’ll start to understand things like: how easily you sunburn, what kinds of plants grow in your area, where to find water or shade when you need it, what kind of wildlife is common in your area (and how frequently they disrupt campsites), etc.
Spending time outside is a novelty for some people—don’t let that be the case for you. Spend time outside, get to know your surroundings, and use them to your advantage if the time comes that you have to evacuate by foot or camp out after a disaster—even if it’s in a park right next to the Red Cross or other relief shelter. If your home isn’t safe and there aren’t enough shelters, you’ll have to find a way to stay safe, clean, warm/cool, and fed—which is a lot more likely if you’ve had some practice.
8. Your kids (if you have any) won’t be quite as freaked out that they aren’t sleeping in their own beds.
Spending time camping—whether it’s multi-day backpacking trips or car camping at a developed camp site—will help your kids feel more at ease if your family ever has to sleep in a tent, under the stars, or in the car. Camping for fun before camping out of necessity will help them feel at ease in nature, be less anxious away from home, and develop what I consider one of the most important things a person can have: a sense of adventure.
9. You can get used to finding and treating water before you drink it.
Safe drinking water is one of your first priorities in an emergency. Staying hydrated is crucial to keeping up your energy and well-being in any circumstance, and in an emergency it can become a serious challenge if you haven’t prepared.
In an emergency where water isn’t readily available—maybe your supply has been ruined by a tornado or earthquake—you’ll have to search for it. Knowing in advance where to find it will give you a big advantage, so you don’t waste precious energy combing the area near your house for water sources.
If you’ve got a water filter, water purification system, or a combination of both, then you’re well on your way. Using these tools on campouts will get you in the habit of treating found water before you use it. Although many filters are quick to use, water treatment tablets like MicroPur can take up to 4 hours to thoroughly treat water (if it’s dirty and cold)—so be aware of the time it may take for your water to be ready, and plan accordingly.
Note: Don’t use a water filter on your campouts if you don’t need to—once the carbon in filters has been exposed to water, it’s only good for six months, so it doesn’t make sense to pull it out for a “practice run” unless you’re planning to use it regularly in the upcoming months.
10. You’ll be really efficient getting your camp set up.
The more you go camping, the better you’ll get at setting things up, packing things away, understanding what’s going to make life easier and what’s just going to get in the way, and a whole slew of other things. It might not seem like a big deal if you’ve always had good weather and plenty of time to get things set up, but if you’ve ever set up camp in a rainstorm or in the dark, you know that the more familiar you are with how your gear sets up, the sooner you’ll be warm and cozy in your tent. And in an emergency, that can be priceless as far as keeping your body temperature up, keeping sickness at bay, and keeping everyone calm and happy in a stressful situation.
So… Go Camping!
Like I said before: you may love camping, you may hate it. Either way, I’m here to tell you that you should go camping on a regular basis. It will not only help you enjoy the beauty of nature (hopefully… if not, you may be doing something wrong), it will also help you gain experience and skills that will come in handy during an evacuation or other emergency.
Editor's Note: Why is Cotton the Fabric of death? 100% cotton clothes are not good for survival situations because they absorb and retain moisture. Since it absorbs moisture, wearing that wet cotton shirt could lead to hypothermia because if you are cold and wet, that makes you more susceptible to hypothermia. Also, Items that are 100% cotton are heavier, making running or hiking through the woods hot and could lead to easier fatigue. In other words, make sure that you have clothes made of lighter or more breathable fabrics packed in your emergency kit for a survival situation. Cotton polyester blends are lighter than 100% cotton. In essence, look for cotton blends to help you in survival situations.