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The easiest (and most expensive) way to have food in your pack is to purchase "Meals Ready to Eat" (MRE's) from an Army/Navy Surplus store or a survival store. The cost (as of this writing) is around $4.00 for each meal if purchased separately, or around $36.00 to $40.00 per case. (12 variety meals.)
The advantage to MRE's is that they are totally self contained. In addition to an (arguably) tasty and nutritious meal, each meal package also contains toilet paper, (freeing up much needed space in your pack as you won't have to pack separate toilet paper), a book of matches, snack candy, coffee, powdered drink mix, gum, salt, sugar, hand cleansing towelets and eating utensils. Each MRE is about 1800 to 2200 calories, ... enough to keep an adult healthy (if not happy) for another day. Remember, you burn more calories while on the move than you do sitting in the comfort of your home in front of a TV.
The MRE's come packaged in a water tight vacuum sealed thick plastic pouch. They are quite buoyant, and in a pack will provide more than adequate flotation support to use if crossing a deep river or stream for even a full grown adult. Being sealed the way they are, they can be buried for weeks or months and retrieved at a later date for consumption.
The disadvantage of the commercial MRE's is of course they are quite expensive compared to what you could prepare for yourself in a home made MRE. If you wish to take the time and trouble, you can dehydrate your own fruits and vegetables, prepare stews and soups, jerk beef and other meats, pack dried beans and legumes, rice and commercially prepared bread and biscuit flours, (just add water) mixed nuts, etc .
The disadvantage of preparing your own MRE's is that for the most part you will need to re-hydrate the foods before you can eat them using much of your precious drinking water, and you will have to cook them to make them edible. (The commercial MRE's can be eaten dry if necessary, as the main course already has moisture in it, and they don't need to be cooked or heated.)
If you decide to prepare your own MRE's, be sure to concentrate on high energy, high calorie LIGHT weight foods. Be concerned about nutritional properties of the foods that you pack. Whether you buy commercial MRE's or prepare your own, you should pack supplemental "one a day" type multi vitamins to stay healthy.
Water will be one of the heaviest and most vital items that you put in your pack. Every member of the family should have and carry at least one container of water. Water is for drinking! It is not for washing hands or cleaning cooking gear! If needed, clean sand does a fine job of scouring cooking gear. Water can be carried in plastic "screw top" bottles or canteens.
A small bottle of water purification tablets is vital. It's suggested that you have at least one bottle per person in your family. They can be bought at Walmart, K-Mart, and many other department stores or anywhere that camping supplies are sold. A drop of chlorine bleach per quart of water can also be used to purify contaminated water, ... but if you decide to pack a small plastic bottle of bleach, be sure that the lid is firmly secured as bleach rubbing against skin for a day will cause sever burns. River and creek water, ... even water from a ditch, ... can be made safe to drink if you use a water purification tablet or bleach.
Water can also be boiled to kill any bacteria or insect larva if you don't have the purification tablets or bleach, but it's very time consuming and smoke from a fire may give away your location to those that you are trying to elude. Many people are packing the little "purification straws" in their packs for emergency use. (These can be purchased at most Army/Navy Surplus stores or in a survival store.) Using one of these straws, you can literally scoop up a cup of muddy water and suck through the straw giving you a safe drink.
Prescription Medication
This is of course self explanatory. It's suggested that you carry at least a 30 day supply of any medication that you or your family members need to take on a regular basis. Little children's medication should be carried by their parents or an older sibling. Be sure if you're diabetic that you bring a supply of syringes and alcohol.
It's important for each person in the family to carry at least one change of clothing in their pack for health reasons. (A cold wet and clammy shirt on your back is not only uncomfortable, it's unhealthy and dangerous as well.) I carry several pairs of socks, (blistered feet are not fun to walk on!) and underwear. Time permitting, socks, underwear and other clothing can be washed in river water, creek beds or road side ditch water and allowed to dry in the sun or near a secluded camp fire.
I personally carry two changes of camouflage clothing and two changes of black (night use) clothing. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money on specialty clothing, although it's nice if you can afford to. A couple of pairs of good sturdy jeans will last a long time in the woods. I also carry a set of lightweight "tennis shoes" to give my feet a rest in camp from the hiking boots used while traveling. The use of a plastic bag to hold soiled or damp clothing is also recommended.
Every person should have some type of waterproof poncho or rain gear. Bright red or other florescent colors are not recommended! A large poncho can also double as a lean-to type shelter or a ground cloth for sleeping. Camouflage rain gear and ponchos are available quiet inexpensively from Walmart and sporting goods stores. At times extremely good bargains can be found at Army/Navy Surplus stores.
I also carry at least two baseball type caps. (I prefer the camouflaged kind.) We live in a sub tropical area, and for the most part we're not used to being outside all day. A good cap with a visor can ease a lot of eye strain from bright sun and help prevent heat stroke on a blistering hot day. Also keep in mind that 80% of your body heat is lost through your head, so wearing a cap or hood on a cool or cold night will make you far more warm and comfortable.
I personally carry a small two man tent with collapsible tent poles and stakes. It's extremely lightweight and compact, ... easy and fast to set up and break down. Again however, it's not necessary to spend a great deal of money on an elaborate tent or shelter. A thick sheet of plastic or a light weight blanket sprayed with water repellant makes an excellent lean-to or two sided tent, and they're easy to pack. Even a poncho stretched from a tree in a lean-to arrangement can be quite comfortable and snug on a cold or drizzly day or night. Let your budget and your family's needs be the guide, but don't waste money on a large, heavy, hard to set up brightly colored dome tent. The key words should be "light" for ease of carrying, "easy" and quick to set up, and "compact" for packing purposes.
It is strongly suggested that you consider purchasing a lightweight 22 caliber rifle and/or a 22 caliber target pistol in addition to your main firepower. Don't sell this small caliber short! It makes far more sense in hunting (to supplement your MRE diet) to shoot at a squirrel or rabbit with an inexpensive 22 caliber bullet than to blaze away with a Colt AR-15 .223 caliber round! A properly handled 22 caliber rifle or pistol can be deadly against a human as well, ... and the accuracy can be phenomenal. With practice, you should easily be able to put a 22 bullet into a two inch circle at 25 yards (75 feet) which is equivalent to placing the round in a squirrel's head in the top of a tree.
Another strong advantage of the 22 caliber rifle or pistol is that it's quiet, (harder for those you are trying to elude to determine where a shot is coming from), and that the ammunition is cheap and very light to carry. Even a 12 year old child can handle the weapon to bring in much needed food, and many women that may be more timid with the heavier rifles and pistols become dangerous and deadly shots with a 22.
Self explanatory. Carry the ammo that you will need for the weapon(s) that you have chosen. At least 100 to 200 rounds is recommended, but be careful of the weight! Ammo is very heavy, and most common rounds can be appropriated in the field as needed. It's also recommended that you carry loaded extra magazines for your semi automatic rifles or pistols. It's the easiest way to carry the extra rounds, and makes re-loading an empty weapon very fast. If you are carrying a 22 caliber weapon as a primary or supplemental weapon, you can pack literally hundreds of rounds at very low weight. Even a pre-teen child can carry hundreds of 22 rounds with no strain.
Sleeping Bag - Blanket
You will need a good sleeping bag or a blanket for sleeping in order to be fully rested and healthy each day. There is no need to spend a great deal of money on the "best of the best" in sleeping bags. Most light weight (3 to 5 pound sleeping bags) are more than adequate for the area and elevation that we live in and can be purchased in the sporting goods/camping department of most department stores from $14.00 to $20.00 or so. Be sure that each member of the family has their own sleeping bag, and make sure that it's attached securely to the pack to stay in balance. These bags roll up nicely and once packed into a separate small duffle bag or stuff sack, it can be attached to the pack simply and is then very compact and easy to carry. If you don't have a sleeping bag or need to wait to purchase one, a good quality blanket can be used instead.
Fire Starting Materials
As any smoker that has ever tried to light a cigarette with a wet Bic lighter can tell you, there's nothing more frustrating than trying to get fire and not being able to when you need it. Certainly you should include several Bic type lighters in your pack, but keep in mind these things will not work when they are wet! Old fashioned kitchen matches ("strike anywhere", ... not the "safety matches") with the striker head dipped in hot candle wax and then allowed to cool will last for months even if they become submerged in water. You can also purchase "fire sticks" at the Walmart sporting goods section or other camping supply outlets. A "fire stick" is a wax impregnated sawdust bundle that will burn strongly for a half hour or so once ignited. These can be used to coax wet wood to burn in starting a camp fire or even used alone to cook one quick meal on the trail. You can make your own "fire sticks" by soaking tightly wound paper in candle wax and letting it cool, although they won't burn as long or as cleanly as the commercially prepared ones.
Fine steel wool will also burn brightly and quickly when ignited with a match or lighter, and is also very useful in starting a camp fire with damp wood. For around $5.00, you can also purchase a small magnesium block at the camping supply section of Walmart and other department stores. These little blocks have a built in flint striker that is used to ignite the shaved magnesium from the block. You take your camp knife, shave off a little pile of magnesium, and then holding the striker next to the pile you scrape the knife edge along the striker producing hundreds of bright long burning sparks. With practice, you can start a fire just as fast with this as you can with a match, and it has the added advantage that it doesn't matter if it's wet or not.
Prescription Eye-Glasses
Again, self explanatory. It will be dangerous and frustrating stumbling around if your eye-glasses become broken or lost. I personally keep a spare set of regular and prescription sunglasses in my pack at all times. It's better to be safe than sorry!
Rope is an often overlooked and extremely necessary piece of equipment to keep in your pack. It can be used to support tent poles, secure a lean-to, hang meat and food from a tree to keep animals from stealing your precious supplies, as a tourniquet, to tie extra equipment to a pack, to repair broken pack straps, used as a belt and literally hundreds of other uses. Medium weight cotton rope is the most preferred because of ease of handling and tying, but nylon rope is strongest.
Insect Repellent
Much to the back yard "Barbecue King's" surprise, the woods and fields are swarming with far more insects than they could have ever imagined. If you have not camped out in the woods before, heed the warning! A small and inexpensive bottle of liquid insect repellent will save you many hours of miserable scratching and perhaps even infection from insect bites! This is an often overlooked and much needed item for your pack. Every member of the family should have at least one bottle.
Survival Tools
The key to this category is multi-use tools and light weight! It becomes very easy to go overboard with all the different tools and gadgets that you "think" you will need. Remember, every thing you pack is going to be that much more weight on your back, and that many more calories that you have to burn to carry them.
Basic tools that you should have are; a strong and very sharp knife, a hatchet (the flat end of which can be used to pound in tent stakes) or small collapsible wood saw, and a multi purpose pocket knife such as a "Swiss Army Knife" that has a blade, tweezers, pliers, scissors, awl, file, etc., and finally a small sharpening stone for your bladed tools.
Maps & Compass
Each adult and teenager in the family should have at the very least a map of the state where you live and a good reliable compass. If you are part of a group of people that intend to rendezvous at a location, each teenager and adult in your family should have a clear understanding of where that meeting place will be and when, with the approximate route to the location marked out on the map. A good quality working compass is vital, for it becomes very easy to be turned around in the woods and fields where there's no roads or street signs to guide the way.
It's obvious that the map with the rendezvous location should be well guarded or even committed to memory. At no times should the map be left lying around in the open or be allowed to be viewed by prying eyes of your neighbors or co-workers.
Cooking Gear
This is another area where weight can be a tremendous factor. It's not necessary at all to have a complete set of cookware in your pack complete with pots and pans and skillets and coffee pots. A very simple field kit (available in Army/Navy Surplus stores) or a back pack cook kit (available in department store camping sections) is adequate. One kit can easily prepare two MRE's in a short period of time. If you rub bar soap on the bottom of your cook ware before placing it on a fire, it makes clean up as simple as wiping it down with leaves or a cloth.
I personally keep one set of metal eating utensils (fork and spoon) in my pack to be used with my camp knife to stir and help prepare food. In addition to the MRE's, I also carry a small plastic spice container that's divided into compartments and holds different herbs and spices that will help make wild foods more palatable and tasty.
First Aid Kit
There are many commercial small and inexpensive first aid kits available in department stores and drug stores. A very simple first aid kit can be made by using a water tight small Tupper-ware box and placing first aid products in it, thus avoiding the cost of buying a commercial kit that may not be as complete. Be sure to provide plenty of Band-Aids, anti-biotic creams, small scissors and tweezers, (if you don't have a Swiss Army type knife with them included), larger bandages, adhesive tape, perhaps an Ace bandage for sprains, a magnifying glass to help with splinters, etc. Most of the items one would put in a first aid kit are very light and small, so you can really cram them in there. Don't forget the aspirin or other pain killers!
Included with your kit should be a good quality snake bite kit! This is another item that's often overlooked, but is vital should the need arise for one! They are very inexpensive and are available almost everywhere.
Toilet Paper
There's an old soldier's saying that goes, "I'll share my rifle, and most of my ammo if you need it. If I only have one biscuit, half of it is yours, ... but don't you touch my toilet paper!" Nuff' said.
Light Source
Undoubtedly a lot of travel will be done at night. Even if it's not, there will be times when you may need to travel at night and will want a light source to guide your way. Do not buy the large multi cell "Mag Lights", as they're too heavy and too powerful for what you need! A small pencil Mag Light or equivalent will do fine, ... illuminating a few steps in front of you and yet very light to carry. (Be sure to carry a couple sets of fresh batteries.)
Another good source is the little "snap lights", ... the liquid filled tubes that glow with a soft green light when you snap them. Be sure to purchase green ones and not red ones, and keep in mind that though light in weight, they can only be used once, so a large supply will be needed if you intend to depend on them exclusively.
Soap, Toothbrush & Other Personal Hygiene Items
This is another item that's often left behind, ... and sorely missed in the field. Unscented bar soap is good, but there's commercially available unscented tubes of soap used by hunters that's better because it uses very little water to rinse off. Remember, it's not only more pleasant to have clean hands and a clean body, but it's healthier too! Fungus infections on your skin and scalp will make you miserable, and left unattended could actually be life threatening. Do yourself and your companions a favor and bring soap! The same goes for the toothbrush. Clean teeth and a clean mouth not only feel better to you and smell better to your companions, it's healthier for you as well. Women and teenaged girls should bring their choice of tampons or sanitary napkins. A sanitary napkin also makes a superb bandage for large cuts or wounds.