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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 6: Eating Comment
    Gregory Morris, 6/5/09 11:20:53 am
    See parts one, two, three, four and five of this series.

    Eating while backpacking or during survival situations shouldn't be awful. I believe that under really bad circumstances, you can still eat decent food if you spend a little time preparing beforehand. Eating well makes a big difference in your mental state, which directly translates to how likely you are to survive during an emergency.
    A lot of survivalist publications discuss storing dried/canned food and such. While I agree that it is generally a good idea to keep a good store of canned food (or even MREs), that isn't really my concern here. If you have a secure, well supplied base, then you don't need to worry about bugging out. My concern is mobility, and that means preparing primarily for your short term eating needs, making sure you have the capability to survive longer if necessary. The good news is, backpacking food and kitchen gear is perfect for survival, and there are tons of options. Obviously if your short-term emergency turns into a long-term survival situation, you'll need the ability to acquire food. Once again, not my concern here, but it is certainly worth looking into.
    • Backpack stove (canister, stove fuel, or multifuel) - There is a lot of debate about what the "best" backpacking stove is. Most people I know have an MSR “Whisper Light”. They work well with many types of fuel, and will function in nearly any weather. The downside of that style of stove is that they have a lot of little parts that can break or get lost, and they are complicated to operate. I personally have a cheapo Coleman F1 backpacking stove. It takes their proprietary 70/30 gas-mix cartridges, which means you are beholden to Coleman to run it. However, it is super light, tiny when packed up, insanely easy to use and (at least for me) perfectly reliable. I also have an old model 1942 stove which runs great with gasoline or white gas. It is just really heavy. If the S were hitting the F, and I knew I wouldn't be able to reliably acquire cartridges for my F1, I'd grab the 1942. On the other hand, in a worst-case scenario, if you find yourself without a camp stove, you can always build an alcohol or stick burning stove rather easily. Then, of course, there is the good ol' campfire. Even though you can generally just pile up some sticks and light them on fire, sometimes a fire is not an option. If you are trying to evade other people, a smoky fire is a dead giveaway. There are also times when firebuilding materials are not available (or too wet). A functioning backpacking stove is an easy way have a hot meal. However, like any other piece of gear, it can malfunction. It can run out of fuel. This is why I make sure my gear allows me to cook over other heat sources.
    • Stove fuel - Obvious. I keep a single cartridge in my pack when backpacking, but I keep 3 or 4 with my gear at home. A cartridge will last me about 5-7 days with normal usage (hot breakfast with coffee and hot dinner.) Survival situations may require longer periods of use, and cooking for more people. For this reason, it is important that a significant portion of your food be edible without cooking, so you can conserve fuel.
    • Lighter or matches - Also obvious. As I've mentioned before, it is a good idea to have a lighter and/or matches. It is a real good idea to have waterproof strike-anywhere matches. But get a fire steel too!!!
    • Spork - I used to carry one of those stainless steel knife-fork-spoon combo sets. Now I have a plastic "Light My Fire" spork. I don't need the mess-kit knife because I have my primary knife. I'd suggest having a few on hand if it is likely you'll need to feed people besides yourself.
    • Mess kit (pot w/lid, cup) - Here is another source of disagreement among backpackers. I am an advocate of the cheap, light, basically disposable aluminum all-in-one mess kits. With it I get a cup, a pot with a lid, a frying pan, and a plate. A lot of backpackers just carry a pot with a lid. This is a matter of personal preference. I think having all the major components is a good thing, but the little pot in my mess kit can't boil that much water. On the other hand, the kit basically has what you need to serve dinner for 3 people. One thing I don't recommend is non-stick pots. The non-stick surface is not at all durable, and requires careful use which isn't always feasible. You need to make sure you can set your pot directly over a fire to cook, otherwise it is useless.
    • Piece of aluminum foil - You'd be surprised how many ways this can come in handy. Examples: windscreen for your stove, a way to cook whole potatoes or onions directly in the fire, etc. You don't need very much, and the weight is negligible.
    • Food - Of course, there are a million options here, and everyone will have their own preference. I'm going to list my typical "one day meal" for backpacking. I've made it modular enough that it is relatively simple to add days or add people. In a survival situation, my daily ration is quite a bit more than you actually need, so it can also be re-apportioned to fit your circumstances. I pack all of the seasoning and staples in wire-tied plastic baggies, then all of the baggies in one big heavy-duty zip-lock bag. If you buy dried goods in bulk, this layout works well, because you can easily pack as much or as little food as you need. This is also adequate to keep your food stores dry and easily accessible, without adding much extra weight. Also notice that all nearly all of my food is dry. Food is one of your biggest variable weights, so sticking with dehydrated items is your best option. Canned wet food keeps well, but it weighs a lot more. However, just because a food is "dry" doesn't make it ideal. Beans and rice take a long time to rehydrate and cook. Get cooked dehydrated cooked beans, and instance rice instead. Clearly, portions should be customized to your needs.
      Mountain House and Alpine Aire both make high quality just-add-water meals. They sell their products both in bulk cans and in one/two meal packets. The bulk cans are great for storing in your home for emergencies, but the packets are fantastic on-the-move food. You simply open the packet, add some hot (or even cold) water and let it soak for a little while before eating it directly from the bag. The shelf life for those products is around 7 years, so you can toss a few in your pack and forget about them. I usually keep either a few of these meals, or my own assortment of staples in my pack, with other foods items stored nearby.
      The makeup of your bug-out food supply should provide you with the short-term energy you need to keep mobile, which means a lot of carbs and protein. You can still keep it well balanced nutritionally with a little effort. I also like to keep the food modular enough to allow for me to eat regardless of the situation. Fast-cooking or no-cook meals and snacks are key, but you need to be able to have a hot meal too.
      • Breakfast
        • Tea/coffee bag
        • Instant oatmeal
        • ...or a pre-packaged dehydrated breakfast (i.e. - Mountain House)
      • Lunch/Snack
        • ~8oz Gorp (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, m&ms, etc.) - Design your own!
        • Power bar
      • Dinner
        • ~1oz (dry) Carbohydrates (instant rice/noodles/couscous/dehydrated potato)
        • ~2oz (dry) Proteins (beans/TVP/Jerky)
        • ~1oz (dry) Vegetables - Misc dried veggies. Usually soup-base items like celery, bell pepper, carrot, onion, tomato, corn etc.
        • 1 bullion cube for making soup (note: you only need a little crumble off the cube per serving)Fat (butter/oil) - I usually just keep a small travel-size plastic bottle of olive oil.
        • Seasoning: salt/pepper, sugar, garlic powder, dried onion, pepper flakes, hot sauce - whatever you like.
        • ...or pre-packaged dehydrated dinner

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 6: Eating
    Blake Sobiloff, 6/5/09 11:19:32 am
    "fireproof strike-anywhere matches"? :)

    Seriously, though, great suggestions as always.
    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 6: Eating
    Gregory Morris, 6/5/09 11:21:28 am
    Doh! Fixed. Thanks.
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