Camping as an evacuation drill exercise

This is a guest post by Roberts E

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

I previously wrote a contest entry which I suspect was lost as M.D. recently let us know he had some email problems for several months through no fault of his own. I was going to resubmit it, but in all honestly, the content may have been too simple to be published and it was a fairly short article. Since I cannot locate my original draft of the essay I decided to rewrite it to include some lessons from my own past experiences.

In my original essay I suggested having drills which would put your preps to the test during a simulated emergency which required evacuation. It might sound silly, but evacuations are not as uncommon as we might think. In May of 2011, all Japanese citizens within 12 miles of the Fukushima nuclear power plant were given 2 hours to leave their homes.

They have yet to return home even now and the evacuation order has since been expanded to a 25-mile radius. This situation could happen in any one of the 100+ American cities which have a functional nuclear power plant, waste dump, or missile silo; such as Los Alamos, N.M. In June of 2011, more than 12,000 people were evacuated from Los Alamos due to a 61,000-acre wildfire which threatened the nuclear facility located there. Also in June of 2011, the entire town of 40,000 in Minot, North Dakota was forced to evacuate immediately due to flooding of the Souris River.

Evacuations due to flood have also occurred many times in the past in towns located along the Mississippi and other rivers. Hurricane threats often inspire mass evacuations along the south/southeast coastlines as well. A day may come when an earthquake could result in massive evacuations too, for a full 39 of the 50 states have moderate to high seismic hazard risks. Hundreds of thousands of people can be subject to mandatory evacuations at virtually any time. Are we “really” prepared for an evacuation? There is only one way to find out: Put your plans to the test!

To make an evacuation drill more tolerable as a learning experience I would suggest a camping trip during a three-day weekend. After all, both an evacuation drill and a camping trip involve many of the same activities such as packing the car, a road trip, and living elsewhere in temporary housing. The difference is the amount of planning involved, for virtually no amount of planning time is allowed for an evacuation drill whereas a camping trip is usually planned weeks in advance.

Why a camping trip when heading for the woods is not really a good long-term strategy for survival? Several reasons can apply here. First, most people live near friends or relatives who could shelter them, but during a real crisis they may be evacuating also. Those who have relatives living far away will likely camp for at least one night when travelling to those safe destinations. Do not assume we’ll always be able to find motels with vacancies or that we’ll maintain a fast and predictable speed when using our vehicles.

During an evacuation delays caused by traffic jams, detours, car accidents, and empty gas tanks will slow us down. If we’re among thousands who are also needing lodging and travelling at a slower pace than the posted highway speed limit chances are we will be doing some primitive camping as we make our way towards safer places. Camping also gives us a chance to practice little-used survival skills such as fire making, outdoor cooking, navigation, fishing, etc.

The evacuation drill I recommend (and practice myself) has only a few simple rules:

1) There can be a set date and time for the drill (especially important if family members will be joining you), but there cannot be any special planning, packing, or preparation for it. Of course, participants will be thinking about it in advance, but that mental exercise is good training. When the drill begins everyone involved has only a short time to pack (e.g. 1 hour maximum).

2) The “safe zone” destination of your choice has to be more than 60 miles from home and the primary goal is to get there as quickly and safely as possible. Conducting the evacuation drill during a major holiday weekend such as the Fourth of July can add a bit more realism (e.g. more traffic jams, fewer lodging vacancies).

3) Nothing can be purchased from retailers along the way, although buying from stores is acceptable after travelling to a “safe zone” which is more than 60 miles from home. After all, everyone else in town will be emptying shelves and lining up at every gas station, grocery, and retail store. During a real evacuation we would do well to avoid wasting time, as well as to stay away from places where desperate and unruly mobs can become violent looters or dangerous rioters. Expect to stay in the “safe zone” for at least two nights.

Sixty minutes of packing, sixty miles of traveling, and sixty hours of camping. That’s a good starting point, but it would be an awesome accomplishment to hit the road in 15 minutes or less. Winter drills can offer additional challenges as can week-long drills in any season, but I would recommend a warm-weather drill during a three-day weekend to start.

On a side note, this article cannot begin to cover how best to prepare your home before an evacuation. Boarding up windows, for example, is appropriate in some situations but not in others. However, this level of responsiveness isn’t necessary for an evacuation drill. For sure we should know how and when to best secure, protect, and safeguard our home during a real crisis; but for the sake of brevity this article will focus on the evacuation drill as it relates to packing, fleeing to safety, and making the most of our survival camping experience.

One thing I quickly learned to appreciate right off the bat was the value of having a clean and fueled vehicle at all times. There is nothing more frustrating than having to clean out miscellaneous stuff from a car at a time when you’re supposed to be packing it in a hurry. Just as irritating is having a car that is running on fumes at a time when you need to be travelling far and fast while avoiding long lines at fueling stations. Keep all vehicles in ready-to-go condition at all times and never let the fuel tank level fall below half-empty.

A GOODIE bag (Get Out Of Dodge In Emergency) is an absolute must for evacuations. I expanded mine to include absolutely everything I would need for a three-day drill, including a solo bivy tent. It is virtually the only thing I have to take with me and I could evacuate in a literal minute. However, in a real evacuation I would also take a few more moments to fill the car up with some additional gear and tools, extra clothes, and more emergency food supplies. If you don’t have a GOODIE bag, please make use of the many articles have been written to help you make one.

Keep your home clean and organized. If you wish to take fishing gear, for example, you won’t have time during an evacuation order to detangle a knotted mess of fishing line from a dozen separated two-piece rods which were carelessly stacked in a basement corner. And where did you store your tackle box after last using it two years ago? Keep important gear and supplies readily accessible, not in hard-to-reach attics or buried deep in the back of a messy storage room. Being highly organized can reduce the amount of time you need to pack food from the pantry, clothes from the closet, supplies from the medicine cabinet, and gear from the garage or basement. That time savings can get you on the road faster as you head towards safety.

Have a few Rubbermade tubs, coolers, and/or sturdy moving boxes to transport food and supplies in a hurry. Containers for storing and transporting water are just as important to have on hand. Load the big items into the vehicle first and fill in the surrounding spaces with smaller items. Secure items to the roof of the vehicle as well, if practical. However, do not overload the vehicle to the point it becomes unsafe to operate or your vision is severely obstructed. A breakdown or traffic accident is the last thing you need to deal with during an evacuation (even if it is only a drill).

If in doubt about whether to take an item or leave it behind, remember your priorities: Material possessions can be replaced, but lives cannot. If the item in question has no legitimate survival purpose chances are you should not take it with you, but do be reasonable. One does not really need shoes to survive, but having a few pairs of sensible shoes is desirable whereas packing a dozen pairs is a waste of vehicular storage space. As space allows, permit reasonable exceptions for each person to bring a few personal items. Giving in to some minor demands at this point in time can spare some major disruptions of the family peace later on.

While on the road take breaks and help others learn how to use a compass and read maps to improve their navigation skills. Teach them how to find north using a variety of natural means involving the stars and shadows from the sun. Show them how some man-made objects can help orient a compass bearing, such as satellite dishes which almost always point towards the south/southwest.

When conducting evacuation drills more often than not my intended destination (a commercial campground) was already full and I was out of luck because I (purposefully) did not have a reservation. Sometimes I had to travel additional miles to locate a National Forest or other suitable place for camping. I have even slept in the vehicle on occasion, so be prepared for minor setbacks and have backup routes and destinations planned in advance. GPS devices are great, but paper maps will always be useful.

After you arrive at your campsite the evacuation drill takes on a new form, one having deeper roots in true survival skills. It is a great time to practice building a fire, experiment with various fishing or hunting strategies, prepare dinner without having the luxury of a stove or microwave, etc. Yes, this time can be fun and relaxing too, but remember it is supposed to be a learning experience above all.

One of the things I quickly learned is that I use far more water when camping than I originally estimated. During hot summer months most people live fairly comfortably in their homes with air conditioning units, fans, roofs which provide shade, tap water, bath tubs, swimming pools, etc. Because they keep cool in various ways they consume less water. However, camping outdoors subjects a person to constant exposure to the sun and sometimes high humidity too. As a result, stored water is not only used for cooking, personal hygiene, and cleaning; but also in greater amounts for drinking and cooling off our skin.

Unfortunately, that stored water will also become hot from the sun unless you make some effort to keep it cool by natural means. Ice in the cooler won’t last long, but burying a two-liter bottle of water a few feet deep in the earth or submerging it at the bottom of a deep lake can keep that water cool and refreshing. Just remember where you stored it and ensure you can retrieve it quickly and easily. This drill is also an excellent time to practice purification techniques using water collected from rain fall, lakes, streams, and other sources.

Speaking of the summer heat, little else will tire a person faster than being exposed to constant sun and humidity. As if that were not exhausting enough a camper will also be required to perform more physical labor than usual, such as hiking everywhere, fishing for dinner, gathering firewood, hauling water, etc. Sleeping in such hot conditions on hard ground is not truly restful either and an exhausted body can quickly become vulnerable to various accidents, injuries, ailments, and illnesses. Further, nature can inflict other bodily damage through sun burn, allergies, and various plant or insect toxins such as poison ivy and mosquitoes.

Take care to plan for the prevention or treatment of medical conditions such as body aches and pains, minor abrasions and cuts, allergies, intestinal problems, sun burn, and insect bites. If possible and practical, also provide yourself some minor comforts to minimize physical exhaustion such as a sleeping pillow, air mattress, lawn chair, etc.

One can go overboard with too many comfort-related items, but don’t feel bad packing some of them in a vehicle if they really help you endure a survival situation. In my own case, I cut a standard pillow into fourths and sewed them up tight to create an extremely compact yet comfortable camping pillow which stores under a vehicle seat. A small packable hammock can provide a comfortable place for afternoon naps in the shade of two campsite trees. They take up a little valuable space but your body will thank you for it time and time again.

In my own experience, I initially found it to be extremely difficult to make a fire without starting fluid but it wasn’t hard to graduate to using only newspaper as tinder. Yes, I can now make fire “caveman-style” if you don’t mind hearing some new curse words while I do it, but I simply do not ever want to be without a means of instant fire again. It’s just not worth the hours of frustration given the fact instant fire is so affordable so I keep plenty of BIC lighters on hand.

Although they don’t work as well in storms or cold weather, the manufacturer claims each lighter is good for a minimum of 3,000 strikes (both in terms of fuel and flint usage). With this estimate in mind I have enough BIC lighters in my GOODIE bag to start 30,000 fires, which is equivalent to three fires a day for 26 years. Accounting for accidental breakage and other incidentals, ten good quality BIC lighters should be more than enough for a few years of instant fire and I consider that to be a well-spent $15. Regardless of which form of instant fire you prefer to use to ignite tinder, stock plenty of it!

Reliance on electronic devices will drastically fall during a camping outing, but an LED flashlight and AM/FM/Weather radio can be extremely useful in a survival situation. A solar charger and/or hand-cranked dynamo-type charger can prove to be extremely useful in maintaining the rechargeable batteries in these devices (even cell phones too).

Boredom won’t happen too often for most campers, but it does rear its ugly head once in a while. Regardless if the game is solitaire or involves the entire family, I found a deck of playing cards and five dice can offer hundreds of hours of numerous entertainment possibilities for just a few dollars. Best of all, they don’t require batteries and require very little storage space.

When it is time to return home evaluate how future evacuation drills could be improved. What went right and what went wrong? Did you take too much of one thing and not enough of another? Could you improve the evacuation response time? Do you need to replace some old gear or acquire some new ones? If others participated in your drill, what do they plan to do differently next time? If tensions were high what can be done to lower stress levels? After conducting even one evacuation drill you’ll know how to better prepare for and respond to a real evacuation emergency. Of course, camping can be a lot of fun so practice these drills as often as you like.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Auntie_Em says:

    Thanks Roberts E for this article. It’s full of good ideas.
    In Arizona, the most likely reasons for evacuations would be wild-fires or if the nuke facilities had a melt down. It gets a little dicey, after that, finding a place to evacuate to. Can’t go south, there’s the border. Can’t go to the burned-out areas in the eastern and southeastern mountains (which burned areas now cover about of half-milion square acres).
    It would have to be a true life-threatening nuke melt down to get most urbanites out of the cities and into hills here.
    Best bets for places to plant yourself in Arizona (during evacuation)—- parks and Nat’l forest areas near Prescott, Cottonwood, Jerome, Kingman, non-burned areas of Mogollon rim. Less liklihood of wildfires in these NW quadrant areas of AZ because their rainfall has been much better in the past 2 years than other AZ areas.
    The only issue left: highways and roads to get to these areas are few in number. While an evacuation exercise now is a wise thing to do—now is the time to look for alternate routes to and from these areas—unpaved county roads that don’t show up on Rand-McNally maps. (I used to work for Pinal County Highway Dept. and there are plenty of graded, well maintained county roads that don’t show up on conventional commercial maps. You should be able to contact county offices and buy a copy of the county roads map for a nominal fee.) If there is ever a true emergency/ life-threatening situation where evacuation must happen—you have 1 million people in Tucson and 3.5 million people in Phoenix needing someplace to go—-all at once—-and only a few major highways on which to do it.

    • riverrider says:

      auntie, darn, i’ve been meaning to get by the county office for those very maps. thank for the reminder!

    • Shhhhhhh. Don’t get us killed trying to help “them.”

      • charlie says:

        I don’t know the terrain out west. The only parts of the US west of the Mississippi I’ve ever set foot are airport teminals and Hawaii so take what I’m about to say for what it’s worth. However, if I were in your area and everyone was trying to get out and head for the high ground and the green pastures and woodlands, I’d be very likely to head down into the burned over forest fire area. It’s already burned, it can’t burn any more until it regrows. I’d try to head through it and find my way to an unburned edge or a rock ledge or some place where I could find shelter and some sort of security. I would do that exactly for the reason that no one else would think to do it.

  2. AZ Rookie Prepper says:

    Roberts E. Thanks for a good article. I double endorse your comment about additional water needed. So critical. I also very much concur with the practising of fishing/hunting skills. It is much more difficult than a lot of people believe. Another skill to practise should be identifying edible wild plants. Can come in handy whether you bug out or bug in.

    • Yeah , gotta figure that if it takes X square of territory to support a big predator like a mountain lion in nature out here , should give you an idea of how hard it may be for a human to try to live off the land . It aint Alaska ( show me a man that starves in Alaska and I’ll so you man that will starve in a cafeteria )

  3. Old as Dirt says:

    Evacuation is a way of life down here on the Gulf in Hurricane season. When you get in a line of traffic that goes for miles and miles and its hotter than all get out, and tempers are flaring. Animals are hot and kids are beyond crazy. I wonder how anyone can prepare for that grueling trip. But that all aside. I want to give you one hint that will keep you in the line of traffic, as they will never let you back in when you pull off the side of the road. Have a large baby diaper and a bucket. When the kids have to go [pee] let them do it in the bucket. The diaper will absorb a gal or more. Then you can just toss it.

    • Nifty idea the diaper.
      Now what about the poo?

    • Caoimhin says:

      OD Great Idea on the Baby diaper and bucket. To avoid the traffic be prepared to go as soon as it is announced. My folks live in Fl. on the east coast at St Lucie. They evacuate to west coast or up north when hurricanes approach. Their go bags are ready in less than 15 min with meds, papers, clothes and plenty of road food and water. They learned this by going 2 hours into an evacuation once and spending 8 hours going 50 miles. When talk of storms starts get ready so you can go quickly.

      • Actually, another thing that might help here in situations where evacuations are a semi-normal part of life is to pre-position some items at your remote BOL, assuming it’s that of a friend or relative and not just a motel. A couple of Rubbermaid tubs with clothing and other gear would not take up much space, and could provide a little more comfort in a Bug Out situation, at a nominal cost.

  4. riverrider says:

    robert e.,
    good post. i’ve thought about, but never done, a drill many times. i’m inspired. since i’m already bugged in, i have to figure out where to bug to first, but i have things ready jic. we use the clear rubbermaid totes to organize the bug out gear and have them all stacked in one place, so we will just grab and go. those, the lockbox, pets and several guns scattered around the house, and we’re off. if the pets co-operate, i figure 15-20 minutes including hooking up the camper. another 15 to fill the clear water tanks if needed. one add-on, people should at minimum do a load-out to verify everything they plan to carry fits. in the military we did load-outs at least every 6 months to account for new gear or added requirements, and frequently had to make adjustments to the plan because there was just too much “stuff”. the unlimate would be to have an extra trailer loaded and in a garage, just hook up n go…again, good job on the post. made me use some brain cells.

  5. EXCELLENT article! I carry a 72 hour emergency packpack in the car at all times (in case of an EMP and I get stranded somewhere), but had not thought too much about emergency evacuation. Tonight when I get home from work, I will collect all my camping gear and place it in ONE spot – close to the car so I can throw it all in within seconds. Thank you Roberts for the reminder and for the ideas for some items I had not considered.

  6. I remember camping.
    When we first started camping we had an old Alaskan camper. It was a heavy old thing. But even though it wasn’t even modern in some respects we had fun. Our daughter was just a baby and I would pump water into the sink to bath her and then we would break down the table and make a bed (looked more like a play pen). She would go right to sleep. That ol camper sure was cool. We hit a couple of really hot places and it stayed real cool and better than bearable. For the life of me I can’t remember where we stuck everything but we always had what we needed.
    Always the plan was when my husband said we were going camping, I would load the camper while he was at work. It took practically all day as we didn’t store stuff in it for camping except for some cooking utensils and such. And as it had an ice box my husband would stop somewhere for ice on his way home so that the food didn’t suffer. He would get home take a shower load the camper on the truck and off we would go.
    Later we were to get a Six Pac camper. I never enjoyed it as much. It was to cramped and whatever the weather was outside was inside too. The bed overhead you would suffocate even in the cold weather and would have to open the vent. Now it did have a refrigerator which was nice and more storage. We did keep some canned goods in there at all times but now wouldn’t do it unless we could keep the thing at a more even temperature.
    I don’t really think that you need some big fancy thing to survive a camping trip. If I had to survive I would take the Alaskan over any thing I have seen so far. For the fact it would keep more of the weather off of you. I am speaking now of surviving more than a camping trip.
    The only problem was the storage and as I say I cannot remember where we put stuff but we always had whatever we needed packed in the thing. And I can’t remember where we went to the toilet. Total blank there.
    If I had something like that ol’ Alaskan and it packed and BOB’s I think it would be very doable. The Alaskan to survive in and then the BOB’s in case we had to abandon the camper.
    Any shade of living less than what we are used to is going to be rough. So we should plan. The excursion’s you suggest are great and now it would be fun. If we plan and then use the plan in trials we will know if we are going to make it or die. The plans you have are spur of the moment trials. Which is good and most likely all the time we will have if something does happen.
    I know this is a big ramble, but I know I made a point somewhere.
    While I am thinking of it we should be looking for wind up watches and clocks. Just incase the big magnito happens.

    • Just bought a antique Elgin wind up pocket watch yesterday. So far, it keeps time just fine.

      • charlie says:

        2slim, I’ve got an old pocket watch but I’d never want to rely on it. They are fragile and you have to remember to wind them.
        A cheap, modern digital watch with a new battery in it will run for a couple of years and be absolutely accurate. Get a couple of those and some extra batteries and keep the Elgin for the possibility that those will no longer work some day.

        • A self winding (kinetic) watch would be better yet. They don’t use a battery and there is no “changing” batteries, ever.
          See Sportsmans Guide for inexpensive kinetic watches.

          • Michael, I agree with you there but those things have a tendency to break. In fact they won’t even work on some wearers for reasons I think no one has ever figured out.
            It would still be good to have them in the cache along with the rest.

  7. STL Grandma says:

    This was a great article, Robert! When I was a newly divorced person with three kids aged 16, 12, 9 – my ex got mean with the kids while I was at work over and over again, so I picked up one weekend’s Friday Night after work, packed as much as I could into a Uhaul and my car, grabbed a friend who was NOT prepared and took off for parts at least 700 miles from STL.

    I ended up in Omaha, NE with no job, only the cash I had on hand and all the food and supplies that I had grabbed. I put the household furniture that I had uhauled in a storage locker and took the kids to a campground about 20 miles outside of Omaha and that is where we lived for two solid weeks while I got a job and found an apartment for us.

    My kids remember this as one of the best times of their lives. They talk about it still at family gathers. They learned how to be self-sufficient and how to cook over a fire and how to build that fire in the first place and they have used the skills hundreds of times since.

    It wasn’t quite an evacuation, such as you see it.. but we did evacuate from STL just as fast I could. My youngest son is doing this exercise this weekend with his “not used to camping” wife for their anniversary. I’m keeping the kids so he can do some survival skill training without having to care for them, too. It will be enough for him to do to train the wife.

    For the end of the story – my ex moved to El Paso, TX during the year we were in Omaha, and as soon as I was sure he was gone, I returned to the house that I did not sell while I was gone and moved right back into our life.

    • Bravo, Bravo
      You did a needful thing and it was at the time hard on you, but now it is remembered fondly. What a lesson you and your kids learned and can use today.
      I admire you for not staying where there was danger and chose to be resourceful and not give up.

    • another a– hole in el paso? There are a few of them here.

  8. Excellent article Robert E. Not everyone can fly out for a week to two weeks of hunting or fishing in very, very remote area, but if you can you should. You will learn what it is like to live with what you have with no resupply available. You will have to start and maintain your fires in all kinds of weather without liquid fire starter or paper. You will have to gather your fuel supply and keep some of it dry for wet times. You will have to prepare all your meals with what you have or catch or kill. Also, you will not have human interaction as you do in a campground. One of the things many people find they have a hard time with is worrying about what will happen if someone is hurt or gets sick and there is no way to get outside help or evacuation. A trip like this will also test your equipment and tell you which ones are reliable and which ones are really useless or provide minimal service. A trip like this, especially if you are limited to 50 pounds of gear and food other than the clothes you have on, will really test you and give you confidence that you can handle whatever comes.

    • Could not agree more..

      Been on some amazing camping trips in my life but the best was a b-day present from hubby when we lived in the canadian north, It was summer and hubby said pack for a two week long trip, including the dogs, I figured we were driving till he took me to the dock and we loaded a float plane and just headed out, he said.. pick a direction and pick a lake.. it was awesome! but I did figure out things I would have packed different if I had known, compared to thinking I could get things on the road (I thought he was being frugal when he told me to get everything ready before the trip)

      Took a group camping/hiking trip to Auyuittuq National Park, when we lived in Iqaluit, Nunavut, it was a great flight up the coast and the boat ride over to the park was in an over itself part of the adventure, but its was a learning lession about working in a group by the end of it, I knew I would go with some anywhere and never with others.

      MD, I have included a link to the park to give an idea of how different it is compared to what most folks think of now as a park with public campgrounds. but if its not ok, please delete it, thanks.

      • riverrider says:

        farmgal, holy moly, that was mars if i ever saw it:) new found respect here. camp on.

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        farmgal, you get my vote for camper of the year!

  9. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Great Article!!!!

  10. Getting out in one hour sounds like good practice for maintaining a well stocked BOB. I suspect this would show you the holes in the plan with minimal discomfort. Good idea. The only thing one might think about beyond this are the scenarios you mentioned in places like Minot, where you won’t be coming home soon if at all. This is where you additionally need your INCH preparations also. For a camping trip perhaps you have a faux INCH with representative things, papers, etc. that could be thought about and analyzed at your destination, because unlike the traditional BOB, if you left something valuable behind, the chances are it is gone.

    All in all a well written and well thought out piece.

  11. STL Grandma, you have the intestinal fortitude and can do attitude it takes to survive. BRAVO.

  12. Off topic:
    Just heard on the news that the draught conditions in the south are bad and no end in sight. Well drilling is backlogged. That means especially next year there will be shortages of some food stuffs. Corn and whatever else they grow.
    Peanuts (Butter) for one. I can hardly imagine that. So I guess we will have to buy it up and if we get to much will have to start eating it inbetween meals and off the spoon so it doesn’t go bad.
    But better to buy it now than when it is less available.

    • Hunker-Down says:

      No peanut butter next year? You just turned me into a panic shopper! If I’m on the road, there is a PB&J under the seat. PB&J is lunch, 7 days a week.

      The price will probably do next year what sugar did this year.

      • No doubt.
        But who in their wildest dreams thought Peanut Butter would be scarce? Well the price will go up probably.
        Goes to show you how the world is working, let alone the politicians.

    • JO (Georgia) says:

      I’m still really not sure about all these “drought” tales I keep hearing that were in. We are last I checked (earlier this month) exactly .2 inches below average. Not sure how that’s a drought. Maybe its a combo with the heat. but I wouldn’t worry to much about peanuts Georgia’s actually not so dry.

      • riverrider says:

        jo, i noticed a lot of that lately. commodity brokers and others seem to be manufacturing these “crisis” to bump up the price/demand for their product. started with wheat, then corn, now peanuts. last year it was oranges etc, yet i find no shortage just higher prices….makes you wonder.

        • Well if that is the case we are double done in.
          I think it is more than criminal for them to do such things. Just how much money is enough?????
          Besides the poor depend on that peanut butter to keep their kids going. Doesn’t hurt the adults either.
          I pray that that is not what they are doing.

      • charlie says:

        Jo, it’s powder dry up here in coastal NC and HOT on top of that.
        102 in the shade here today. A lot of our crops are not worth picking. A lot of soy beans didn’t even get planted.

        • JO (Georgia) says:

          That must be where its coming from. What crops do you have in that area? I used to live in the mountains in NC but all I remember for crops were tabacco…

          • charlie says:

            Jo, we grow anything in coastal NC that you grow in GA
            except maybe some citrus in deep south GA.
            According to these maps you’re in a drought too unless you live in N/W GA.

            • JO (Georgia) says:

              I do live in NW Georgia. So there you go I guess. I think we are protected by the mountain range from a lot of weather related problems. Here’s our rainfall scorecard. I think maybe all the rain from March is/was keeping the numbers here afloat.

            • JO (Georgia) says:

              also, I wonder if that map you sent out is month by month, My parents live in northwest Arkansas, which according to the drought map is under a moderate drought. Their lawn had been so wet up until this past month that they couldn’t mow for the standing water. They are up in Bela vista in the mountains.

            • AZ Rookie Prepper says:

              charlie, thanks for the drought monitor link.

            • JO,
              OPSEC? Look closely at the top of the page from your link. Just something to keep in mind 🙂

            • charlie says:

              No problem on the link. I knew there was such a site and found it easily with a web search.

              Jo, there are always little pockets that get plenty of rain even in a drought. I think most of the mountain range has been getting rain all summer. I know my friends in the NC mountains are getting plenty but 50 miles east or west from them is a different story.

            • JO (Georgia) says:

              not sure what you mean, my page just says NOAA?

            • JO (Georgia) says:

              if your referring to the Peachtree City location, thats where the weather center location is for Ga. Has nothing to do with me.

    • Amateur Gardener says:

      Yikes, thanks for the heads up about peanut butter, potential shortage. An important prep item!

  13. Vienna (Soggy prepper) says:

    Great article! I truly enjoyed it. We just camped for 4 days last weekend, course I do plan for that, mostly the food. We have a 19ft camper trailer that has just about everything we need in it always. We would have to fill it with water and hook it up before buggin out, but no big deal. Food. Well, I’d grab a box on the way out that has 23 mylar meals in it. They each make enough for 2 meals for the entire family, so I’d have roughly 40 meals. I’d grab other “storage to go” foods also and everyone would also grab their bob’s. I liked riverrider’s “load out” idea. Plus I’m a note person. I think I need to make a “grab and go” note and stick it in the cupboard to grab things like extra water, fishbiotics, coats, extra pair of shoes, dog food! (I forgot the dog food last camp trip. We had to run to town while out camping and get some). Having a camp trailer kinda feels like cheating as it’s already mostly packed. Oh tent, gotta put tent on my list too for those that don’t have time to grab a shelter. Gotta go make a list!

    • riverrider says:

      vienna, i have the fish biotics, iv’s etc in a box marked bugout 1st aid. box for clothes, including jackets n shoes, kitchen box w/ cast iron skillet n such and cooking essentials, sleep box w/ blankets, sleepbag etc, ammo box, etc and a stack of cases of #10 cans set to go. beans, rice, oats, sugar, salt, canned meat, tomatoes, onions, cereal and milk. etc. that go together to make meals. built a cart that holds 2 trash cans full of dog/cat food. takes about 5 minutes to load…camper, i was told you ain’t trying if you ain’t cheating:)

  14. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Good article, Robert E. You mentioned fishing rods and the fishing line getting loose and tangled, that was a real problem any time I took off fishing for a few days. Then I started using gun socks for storing my fishing rods. Break down the rods, keep the reel in position on the butts, and slip each piece into the gun sock. Now you’ve got each rod protected and the line won’t tangle.

    GPS devices are fine in daylight, but never rely on one during the night. My brother has a GPS in his car and it told us to turn where there was no road and had we followed it in the dark, we would have driven over a cliff. So be wary of those things, a detailed paper map is still the best roadway guide IMO.

    Don’t forget that during an evacuation, you’ll want to take some family keepsakes like old photos, valuables (jewelry, coins, etc.), and some cash. Plus, you’ll want to grab your important papers as OhioPrepper mentioned.

    Camping is a great way to teach survival skills without getting anybody all freaked out and stressed. And it’s usually a good bonding experience, although some women won’t like the bugs and the dirt and the smoke, so prepare accordingly (bug spray, campstove, tent with floor & screened windows). 🙂

    • alikaat says:

      Hey… no discrimination here! In my household, it is my husband who hates to be around dirt and bugs, and me who takes the kids backpacking into the mountain country! Chances are, if there are women on this site, we aren’t the beauty-salon mani-pedi types.

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        Point taken, no offense meant. But I have met far many more women who hate to camp than I’ve met men who hate it. So, I was making a generalization.

        A guy has to be so careful, sheesh. 🙂

      • When I was single I camped a lot. After getting married I practically had to drag my husband into the woods! After moving to our present home we don’t have the need to camp because we’re already away from it all! We bought this place because it reminded me of the places I liked to camp – except with a permanent log cabin.
        Now our only concern is forest fire. I’ve gone over in my mind about bugging out with the animals, but I’ve never practiced. The cats & the chickens would most likely be on their own, the rabbit cages are easy to unhook & put in the back of the truck. The rabbit food & a couple bales of hay would go on the truck, too. I don’t have a horse trailer so my husband would take the truck & I’d walk the donkeys out. Where we would meet would depend on which way the fire is going.
        I’ve definitely got to practice grabbing important documents before bugging out. At least they are in a couple of file folders in a cabinet.

        God bless,
        Opportunity Farm
        NE WA

      • Amateur Gardener says:

        I love to camp – roast those marshmallows etc, enjoy good books, company of like minded friends who also don’t mind the dust etc, ha. I wear a hat all day for shade and so as not to worry about my hair, other than washing it. Just ordered a new hat from site in Texas, ‘made in USA.’ 🙂 Love it!

    • Em in GA says:

      Be careful of maps too. When stationed in Texas I was going home through either Mississippi or Louisiana and the map had me going over a bridge. Looked for the bridge but finally had to stop and ask. The bridge was on the map but hadn’t been built yet. Now it’s funny but at 3am I was not happy.

  15. Roberts, good article – camping does provide insight into your preps.

    I can see you have left yourself wide open for failure. Your “flint” based lighters will give you trouble – flint tabs melt in water. I canoe here in Michigan and end up with flint mush because of the wetness. I use peizo based lighters since the water can be shaken out and the lighter works. If you really wanted to cover your bases then you would have some refillable, piezo lighters with lights on them. A small can of butane could give you a hundred lighters worth of time in the space of 10 lighters.

    Also, if you think that you are going to get 3000 lights from your lighter, your dreaming. Depending on how long you keep it lit, you may get 500 ten second flames. Ask any smoker, “how long their lighters last”. If it is 3000 then, that is about 10 lights a day for a year – do your lighters last a year?

    Last insight, carrying a fishing pole and tackle box are good cover for camping but, you cannot survive by dropping a hook and sitting around like Andy an’ Opie. Get a fish net, then use it like a cargo net (to avoid the wrong arm of the law) until you really need it.

    The chair idea is good but, “multi purpose” is bringing a “zero gravity” chair and using it for sitting, lounging or sleeping. It can keep you off the ground and negate the need for air mats. Use rolled up clothes for a pillow (multi purpose 😉

    • The peizo-type lighters produce a spark that is too weak to be useful for anything else, especially after the lighter fuel is spent. A BIC, Zippo, or other flint-type lighter can still generate a spark to ignite tinder even when no fuel remains in the lighter. In my experience, the flints in BIC lighters seem to outlast the fuel and I have even used them as replacement flints for Zippo-type lighters. I have gotten BIC lighters wet and they won’t work again until they are fully dried out, but I have never seen one suffer permanent damage from exposure to water. Then again, I didn’t submerge them in water for long periods of time either. Gear can be expected to both work and last if it is taken care of properly. Having several BIC lighters has never failed to produce a fire for me in a quarter-century of outdoor adventures.

      If you should happen to fall and your butane can breaks there goes all your fire making potential. The odds are just as good that a lighter could break during a fall too, but not ten of them all at once (especially since I pack them in different pockets). Having a dry-box (waterproof Lexan container) might help prevent breakage of the can in your case, but it could also be helpful to keep any and all kinds of lighters protected and dry. It can store tinder to keep it dry as well.

      I didn’t keep precise records of lighter use when I was a smoker, but I vaguely seem to recall I went through only a few BIC lighters every year. At one pack of 20 cigarettes per day that would amount to 7300 strikes per year, so I don’t doubt the manufacturer’s claim that each lighter can provide 3000 strikes. Of course, it does depend on how long you keep it lit and starting a campfire can take several strikes, but ten BIC lighters is more than enough for a few years of fire. All said and done, having several ways to start a fire is wise thinking.

      As for fishing, chairs, and pillows, to each his own, but do test these ideas out first. I tried the “clothes in a stuff sack as a pillow” idea and that isn’t as comfortable as one might imagine. A zero-gravity chair doesn’t sound like a bad idea for lounging and resting but I like to stretch out and move around when sleeping at night. For me, I’d still prefer an air mattress and sleeping bag in a tent for protection from bugs and critters.

  16. Good article .
    When I lived in Maine , I knew a few people that did this . They were practicing for bug out and not evacuation . Here in Arizona , other than a few okies out in the forest fire area , evacuation expectation is slim to none . We just dont have anything to worry about that would warrant it . Bug out is another matter and this is where its a good idea anywhere you live .

  17. JO (Georgia) says:

    To add to your cities list, and I know you intentionally didn’t mention them all but these two are close in my thoughts…. Atlanta, Ga. is a terrorist missile target site because of the CDC. They keep some scarey shite in that building. As does Emory and Tech. Also last I knew (and its been 10 or so years) Ames, Ia (30min outside of Des Moines, which makes it a near miss site) is a target site too, but this time because a huge number of servers for the internet are there. Anyway I often think I should add gas masks to our Bug Out Bag because we are so close to Atl.

    • I didnt have a gas mask for the longest time . Then broke down and got one . The thing that made me get it was thinking about all the tear gas and pepper spray that may be going around if people ( and law enforcement ) panic while your on your way out or try to uproot you from your bug in . Problem with masks are depending on what one you get and the filters , they may not be of any real value to you except for a very short time for certain types of fallout . Most are not all that small either when it comes to space in a BOB .

      • JO (Georgia) says:

        What stops me is that I’m not sure anything less than a hazmat suit would help.

        • Yeah , thats just it . Its reasonable to have one that will protect from what you will most likely encounter ( dust , tear gas , etc . ) but other than that , its very difficult to protect against some chemical agents . Even the military and soldiers know that all their equipment designed for this will only protect them for a limited time . The military system is designed for support , we are not . Isocyanates are one of the most common , odorless and colorless . You first have to know your in danger before you can try to protect yourself from it and unless your working in a factory , you wont know . A lot of nasty crap out there . Some people are more sensitive to them than others . For a lot of the stuff I mentioned , an industrial respirator with the right cartridges and goggles may be plenty , 3M makes several good ones . They break down fairly small as well vs. the other if thats a concern . I have both ( the company issued me the respirator ) I bought a light duty gas mask with tear gas in mind . Depending on where you live , its probably not worth a lot of effort . Other people are always the main problem .

          • charlie says:

            I’ve spent half my life working as a contractor in industrial plants in some of the foulest sludge, liquids and fumes you can imagine. Here is the deal on commercially available masks, the half face cartridge masks are made for ESCAPE ONLY from an area with an known concentration of gas. If you are ever caught in an area with a deadly amount of poisonous gas the mask’s filter capabilities will be overwhealmed almost immediately. In my opinion instead of trying to put on the mask you are better off to spend that time running like hell. Experienced industrial workers usually know where the sources of dangerous gas are and keep a constant watch on which way the wind is blowing.

            That doesn’t translate into a good scenario for using filter type masks in a shtf situation.

            If you are going to go to the trouble of having a gas mask, you need to spend the money to get a high quality, expensive, supplied air type mask. It will have a belt mounted filter box and air pump or a similar set up or an air tank.

            • Agreed ,
              Tear gas from law enforcement is more what i’m worried about when their trying to stomp out a riot or other . I would trust a military surplus gas mask for that . respirator and goggles for building debris dust .( your not going to be sticking around if you can help it )

            • Yes T.R. I agree with you there. I didn’t mean for my comment to sound like I was disagreeing with you. I was really trying to support your earlier comments.
              Chaos broke out here ( in the form of a Jack Russel Terrier who wanted to go out) while I was writting and I rushed through my comment without being clear. Tear gas is a very good use for a half face or full face cartridge mask. Folks just need to know that they should be kept in a sealed bag until needed and deployed only when the threat is immediate. Then before the thing stops working try to get to an area of clear air. The masks also need to be fit tested to your face and often beards make it impossible to get a seal.

              I guess if I was in fear of a tear gas situation I would want 2 masks per person and a bunch of spare filter cartridges. That way you could wear one mask while you exchanged cartridges on the other. That would get you buy for an extended attack until the air could clear.

              Most any large city or big town with industrial plants near by will have a safety supply outfit. Those places are generally expensive but might be a good source of information. Once you figure out what type cartidges you need, (they are color coded usually) you can shop for them online. The ones I have are filters for dust and organic vapors. I think they would work for tear gas but I’m not sure. I guess I should find out.

    • AZ Rookie Prepper says:

      JO (Georgia), As others have said, gas masks under many circumstances are almost not worth it. I did 21 years in the army, much of that time on NBC (Nuclear, Biologic, Chemical) Defense Teams. Depending on what gets used, a gas mask could save your life, BUT, only if you know what is coming or have an idea what might get used and when. Without the detection equipment and knowledge on how to use it, much of the time you will already be contaminated and probably well on your way to death before you’ll even know to put your mask on. If you are considering one for tear gas defense, thats ok, but remember that tear gas isnt normally fatal, just really miserable. A gas mask does NOT protect you against radioactive fallout if used for more than a small amount of time, all it does is collect the fallout dust in the filter where it gives you a nice concentrated radioactive burn. Personally, I would save your money for other preps.

      • AZ, you make an excellent point. In one of the industrial plants
        I’ve done a lot of work in, the major gas risk is from Sulfur Dioxide. Most folks are familiar with it and know it smells like rotten eggs. However what most folks don’t know is it only smells like rotte eggs in less than lethal concentrations. When it gets to lethal concentrations it can NOT be smelled. I’ve been in it and I can feel it when it hits my lungs even if I can’t smell it but most folks don’t have that level of experience and for me it is only with that one gas. The feeling in my lungs is similar to what you felt the first time you ever inhaled a cigarette but with no taste or smell. If you don’t notice that feeling and there is no alarm or warning in a few more seconds you’ll be on the ground.

        Once I was walking with two of the engineers from the plant into a work area. All at once I stopped dead in m

        • continued.

          … dead in my tracks. The two engineers looked at me and said “WHAT’S WRONG”. I said, GAS. They said they didn’t smell it. I said I don’t either but I feel it in my lungs. Being good, safety oriented professionals they headed my fears and we went up wind. Sure enough we found out they had just had an accidental gas escape and we had walked into the edge of it.

  18. Sandyra says:

    Excellent advice!
    About fire… you might try making a fire without matches, using something like a flint steel or other manmade device. Myself, I like the Sparkie – it throws off a huge amount of sparks at 5500 degrees, can be used with just one hand, and can be operated in the rain or high winds. You might add to that some WetFire tinder, which will burn even when wet.
    Another option might be to get some Storm Proof matches which will light and stay lit even in the rain and high winds. I’ve tried it – they do what they claim to do.
    There’s one kind of fire construction that will give you the most heat in a concentrated area, using the least wood. You can learn how to build the “tipi fire” at It’s an art unto itself.

    • Sandyra says:

      PS – You should be able to light a tipi fire using just one match if they are built right. Takes a little practice, but even kids can build and light a tipi fire with one match with some practice.

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      I like storm proof matches. The good thing about matches is you can give a couple to somebody for their fire and still retain some for your own ability to make a fire. But if you loan somebody a lighter or a ferro rod, etc. you may never get it back and then your own ability to make a fire is relegated to the laborious bow drill. 🙁

  19. SrvivlSally says:

    Great idea as a starting point and you covered various aspects pretty well. Thinking about the hot Sun and heat, working out in it as you mentioned, I would gather all of the water that I need for the day time and work only during the morning and evenings when the Sun is not so potent to avoid heat exhaustion, burn and stroke. Surely I would sweat and it would feel a little uncomfortable, but a good pair of cut off jeans and a t-shirt with the sleeves removed, the center of the collar cut down a few inches along the chest, would help to relieve that. The same goes when having to walk anywhere, which is to avoid the Sun during it’s hottest times. I enjoyed reading your article.

    • charlie says:

      Sally, I’m 61 and grew up on a farm. I’ve always dressed pretty much as you describe but I have to tell you, that isn’t the way the old folks dressed. They used their clothes as protection from the heat, insects, vermin, sun burn and also to keep them cool. They wanted their clothes to soak up the sweat and cool them as it evaporated. Most of the time they even wore long sleeve shirts buttoned at the wrist even in 100 deg weather. I’m not saying that is necessarily what I would do but they had their reasons for doing it.

  20. Amateur Gardener says:

    I keep my tent & designated gear in a big duffle bag. And I have a couple mid sized Rubermaid tubs that I use to store food items/cooking tools etc when camping (keeps the squirrels or other critters at bay). Helps going with experienced campers, as I did not get much opportunity when I was a kid. There is more I’d like to learn, such as how to make good boiled coffee ‘cowboy’ style; or cooking with a Dutch oven – good goal for next trip. 🙂 Great article!

  21. What a great article! One tip I thought I would mention is that when planning your evacuation gear, you should consider using Space Bags for the packing up the soft goods. You can use a roll-up Space Bag to flatten and compress extra clothes, blankets, towels and other items to the size of a single, 3 or 4 inch packet. This really saves room when loading up the trunk or backseat of the car.

    — Gaye

    • Similar to your space bag idea, when I packed my BOB I used a vacuum sealer to compress clothing into super-small airtight packages. They are hard as a brick, but they won’t get wet or dirty while in storage.

  22. gary in bama says:

    Kinda funny im reading this sunday nite spent about an hour today packing my Teardrop trailer. Me and the wife are bugging out to destin fl in the morning for 4 days. I keep this little trailer packed to go on 3 day trips at any takes about 15 minates to double check it .Can food for a week stays in it. Cooler stuff takes 5 minates before we leave I use frozen 2 lts for ice. I could fly in 15 minates with it but have you ever known a woman that could pack a bag in under an hour.i bet i had to tell her 4 times i didnt need slacks put the damn shorts and tee shirts in a bag its the beach!!! P.S. will be back friday .

  23. My husband’s lighters have been thru the washer and dryer so many times (in the pocket of his jeans) and every one of them worked every time. I was really surprised. They were not all Bic lighters either. Many were purchased from the Dollar Store.

  24. I’ll agree, if you dry out the lighter (takes a while) the flint will work again. The flints are made with flint flakes and binder, the binder is heat resistant not water resistant. The BIC brand does have larger flints then other lighters and I know that they have (for me) lasted longer then the fuel in some cases.

    Starting a fire with the spark of a flint lighter would be a tough sell for me. The spark itself goes into the heat shield, that would have to be removed, which would leave the spark wheel loose in it’s plastic pivots. Once the spark wheel starts rolling away the flint flies out and I loose it. I think that I could start the butane (blowing out of the can) with a small peizo spark, that would light a fire.

    As far as “breaking” a pressurized metal can of Butane – very small risk. The can could be punctured but, again very small risk. I’ll admit I have found (in my pocket) more broken lighters because they are plastic. But, all things considered – I’ll have more then one way to light the fire.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!