Prof. Bainbridge sasses some big dogs

Preparedness Week: Packs, Cans, and Protection

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the "fundamental" posts and -- especially -- the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and the looking after yourself post. The post on room kits is here. The next post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Yesterday's post is actually several posts, combined into one looking at packs, snivel gear, and more. Today's post is another several combined into one.

Disasters come in all sizes and shapes. Some can be shrugged off, and others can and do require a great deal of effort. While my preference is to stay put if at all possible, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, you may find yourself moving out on shank’s mare. When that happens, how do you take your world with you, especially when it may not be a paved road or even a path you have to follow?

The simple answer is as old as most of recorded history: you put it on your back. This limits what you can carry, but you can get a surprising amount out that way. I have my big pack for big things:


And I have smaller packs for smaller things and smaller people:


Now, I have these because I love hiking and camping, and because of work. The big pack was bought for the former, and the smaller pack for the latter. Why on Earth would I need a pack for work? Simple, when doing trade shows you need to carry out each night the truly valuable stuff, lest it disappear. The pack was the easiest way to do this, and it also tended to draw less attention from thieves and muggers than the fancy cases used by others. It also could be used for any hiking or climbing I got to do whilst on such trips…

Now, the large pack is not fully packed as shown here. There are many things, such as sleeping bags, that should not be kept compressed. I have all of my gear in one area, so that in an emergency I can pack it very quickly. The paper you see is a note to myself on some items, including where to find them. Things that can be packed ahead of time are, and many are packed in add-on pockets already in place. I like the add-on packs and pockets as they give a great deal of flexibility, and they give you additional options for caching and flat-out ditching. I have a post here talking about snivel gear and such that goes in the pack.

The short version is that I have shelter, light, food, water, means to get more potable water, comfort gear, some clothes, comfort gear, and means for defense and hunting. The load-out will vary based on the disaster at hand. By swapping out add-ons and such, the conversion can take place very rapidly if need be.

The smaller packs are for smaller emergencies and smaller people. In any disaster, everyone must pull their weight, from the eldest present to the youngest. Given that not everyone can carry a 50-100 pound pack, have some around that are appropriate for the others involved. As I said before, I use these for other things, so make yours multitask as well. Be creative, and give the items as much fun use as possible.

Small kits hold small amounts of materials, and will get you by short term. If you are worried about longer term issues, from severe winter weather cutting you off from the world to someone doing something really nasty, you need a bit more tucked away. One of the best means of doing this are paint buckets.


Paint buckets are for all practical purposes air and water tight when sealed, hold a large volume, and have many, many uses. They can store items, they can store liquids, and they make handy-dandy field expedient toilets as needed. Their use is limited largely by your imagination.

I use them for larger kits and bulk storage (and when brewing beer). There are some kits I have done in them that contain somewhere on the order of a hundred different items. Others serve as hygiene kits, holding 12-24 vacuum sealed (to reduce bulk) rolls of toilet tissue, tampons, toothbrushes, and other such items. Still others hold bulk packages of textured vegetable protein, salt, baking soda, and other food. They are easy to carry, easy to transport, easy to store, and have at least a 20 year shelf life if kept in cool, dry places. Line one with about three garbage bags, cut several layers of cardboard for a seat, and you have a field toilet. Once opened and used, they can then be used for other purposes, such as hauling water or other materials.

Do I have all of this here at the lair? Not hardly. You see, one of the things I have done is tuck some of these items away at other locations, ones that I am likely to head to or by if I have to bug out in an emergency. That way, if the disaster hits while I am out or away, I still have options. They also provide the people I care about a core around which to build their own preparations. If I am home and have to bug out, it gives me flexibility in choosing what to take.

Which leads us to the concept of staging. When planning a bug out, plan it for several levels. If there is time, I am going to load as much as possible into my vehicle. In fact, I am going to try to take it all with me. If the vehicle dies or there is another problem, I am prepared to switch to a bike and proceed on with all that I can. When the bike fails, then I am on foot and reduced to what I can carry on my back.

Remember also that the ability to move long distances as quickly as possible is often a key to surviving any disaster. Having as many modes short of walking greatly improves your odds, so try to figure out how to give yourself as many options as possible. For example, there is a rental center almost next door. If time permits, I would look at renting a truck and trailer. Load as much as possible in the smallest truck I can get, get the vehicle(s) up on the trailer, and bug out. If something happened to the truck, then pare down to the vehicle(s). When something happens to the vehicle(s), go to motorcycles or bikes. If something happens to them, try to find a horse. Only as a last resort should you go to shank’s mare.

Plan ahead for this, decide in advance what will get taken, and what will get left at each stage. If you have caches elsewhere, it makes that decision process much, much easier. The more you plan, the better off you are going to be. So, plan for the worst and hope for the best.


I promised more on rational preparedness, and it is time to deliver. The questions I get asked the most that have not already been addressed come down to one topic: personal protection. There are two main topics: guns and gas masks.

I am going to take the easy one first, gas masks. No, I don’t think you need to go get a gas mask right now. There. Easy. Happy? The reasons why are fairly simple. Gas masks work great if you have warning with enough time to put them on before you are exposed. It is doubtful that the terrorist are going to give warning, so the utility of a gas mask is questionable.

In the interests of full disclosure, yes I do have one. It was given to me by an acquaintance when I visited them on a regular basis, as they happened to live next to U.S. Government repository for nastiness. We probably needed MOPP gear, but he had the mask and it made him feel better for me to have one too. Not sure if the canisters are still good or not, but it is somewhere in my closet.

What to do if there is a warning and you don’t have a mask? Simple, according to government sites and experts: take a tight-weave t-shirt, get a double thickness, and put it over your nose and mouth. It is not as good as activated charcoal and layers of micron-level filters, but it will get quite a good bit including – I am told – most biologicals.

If you look at the odds and types of threats, the likelihood of same, and do a cost-benefit analysis and decide differently, knock yourself out. Don’t want to spend that much? There are escape hoods that are much more reasonably priced and will do in a pinch. They are even good for travel in case there is a fire at the hotel or other location.

Now we get to the nitty gritty and the thing that will upset most people: guns. The upsetting part is that I am going to say up front that most people should not go buy a handgun.

Unless you are going to take the time to buy the gun, get instruction on proper use and safety, and practice with it on a regular basis, please don’t get a handgun. If you are like people I have met over the years and go get one, load it, and put it on the bedside table, please never invite me to your house.

“I got my gun today!”

“You did? What type?”

“I got a Frick 9mm. I’ve got it loaded an up on the bedside table. Want to see it?

“Well, how does it shoot?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t shot it yet.”

“Really.” (Oh bleep. This guy is an accident waiting to happen, and I don’t want to be the accidental death) “When are you scheduled for the range and lessons?”

“Oh, I haven’t done that yet. Don’t know when I will.”

“Oh.” (Wonder if I can take out a policy on his wife, kids, and dog?) “But you have it loaded and ready to shoot?”

“Yeah! I will smoke any intruder that comes in.”

“Since you haven’t shot it, how can you be sure that it is accurate?”

“Oh, the sights are good, and everyone tells me it is the most accurate pistol on the market.”

“The sights probably are good, but without being sighted in how can you be sure that where you aim is where you will hit?”

“Oh, its accurate and it will hit where I aim!”

“Riggghhhhtt.” (Can you take out insurance on other people’s possessions?) “Well, then, what type cleaner did you use on it?”

“Oh, it was clean as a whistle when I bought it.”

“Oooookay.” (Wonder if I can take out a dismemberment or death policy on him?) “You didn’t check to be sure there was no grease in the bore or receiver?”

“No, should I?”

Okay, you get the drift here and the truly scary thing is that this is close to a real conversation or three I have had. This is a perfect example of a firearms accident waiting to happen, and I tend not to go back to these people’s houses. People like this give responsible owners a very bad reputation. This is also the type person who sticks the gun down the front of their pants and eliminates future contributions to the gene pool.

If you do want a pistol and are willing to be responsible and do it right, here is the way to go. Go to a reputable gun store. To find one, talk to those who do shoot and get recommendations. Try different guns, find one that fits your hand and has the things you need, such as stopping power, ease of use, good skull sweat in the design, etc. Also, keep in mind that no one pistol is going to be the best thing for all situations. Try them on a range, this is something good gun stores are happy to do. Most shooting ranges will rent pistols to you or let you try a variety of rentals for the price of one if you are pistol shopping. Once you have done your shopping and research, then buy what works best for you.

Once you have bought, then take the gun to the range and get with the range master/certified instructor. They will help you learn the pistol, clean it before using it (you need to get a kit with the gun), and teach you all you need to know. This may take more than one lesson, though a lot of range and safety basics can be covered during the try-them stage. Then practice, practice, practice. You need to do a lot to get used to the pistol and to break it in. You then need to go at least once a month to maintain your proficiency.

Unless you take a full day at the range once a month, maintaining is about all you will do. To give you an idea, I used to fire around 500 rounds per weapon per month when I was semi-serious about shooting. That was simply to maintain, not to necessarily improve – though I took any advancement I could get.

Rather than a pistol for home defense, I tend to recommend a shotgun. If there is a situation, real or imagined, the adrenaline flows. Your hands shake, your heart hammers, your breath comes in gasps, and none of these things is conducive to pinpoint accuracy. Take a look one day at the statistics for gunfights, and see how many shots are fired at very close range, and how few (if any) hit the target(s).

A shotgun makes up for that with lots of bullets, called shot. Get some number one buck, or even some number two shot and it will do the trick. Lots of pellets with punch to do what you need done.

The trick is, also, that you need to shoot the shotgun at a range as well. That way, you can see the damage that will be done. You will know what it is going to do to your home, which is tear the holy hell out of it. Even though you can get rounds that won’t penetrate a wall, they are still going to tear up the things in that room where you shoot and the wall.

This is a good thing. It means that you are not likely to use it unless you have a clear target that really needs shooting. You are not likely to shoot the spouse, the kids, the dog, the cat, the bird, or a shadow. If you do have to shoot someone or something, you are going to do it right to spare the rest of the house.

Two other quick points:

First, I do not believe in trigger locks or locking guns away. This is dangerous, far more dangerous than you think.

Second, teach your kids properly about guns. Do NOT traumatize them so that they never want to touch one; that is your psychosis and should not be put off on them. Teach them responsibly and well, be it with an Eddie Eagle program or some other. My parents taught me from a very early age, about 3 if I remember correctly, that guns were not toys. I knew not to touch one unless I was going hunting or to a range. I knew what they could do and would do if not handled properly. Doesn’t mean I did not make mistakes, just that the mistakes were controlled and knowledge applied to the seat of learning as needed. Do thou likewise, as an educated child is far less likely to do something stupid simply because you were stupid and did not teach them properly.

Final thought of the day: the choices you make are yours. Live with them and take responsibility for them. No one else is responsible for your decisions, for what you do, or what you do not do. You and you alone are the master of your fate.

Short and sweet, you do need lists. You need the lists so that everything gets done, when it should, and you are not caught short. Lists can help ensure you have a can or bottle opener to deal with all the cans and bottles.

You also need communications. I heard this morning as someone pushed cell phones as great for emergencies, and they are just that. When they work. All too often, natural and man-made disaster tend to overload or take out the cell phone system, so don’t rely on them alone. Spend a little bit and get some good walkie talkies. They can and do come in handy for non-emergency situations, and are worth their weight in gold in an emergency.