Learn Skills for Cheap Thrills

November 9, 2008
Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Bored, but too broke to hit up the latest chick flick? Challenge yourself to learn a new skill each week. Pick something that will save you money, augment your fitness goals, aid in survival or preparedness, or all of the above. Bring a friend on board, or even plan an outing with friends to attend a workshop or simply learn together.

Skills I’ve really enjoyed, especially in the company of friends, include knot tying (get your mind out of the gutter), survival fishing, making snares, identifying and preparing wild edibles, survival signaling and old-school orienteering.

Geocaching with a GPS unit is another great way to get friends and family out of the house and on the trail.

Household frugality skills that have become rusty for many of us include bread baking, intensive gardening, soapmaking, candlemaking, knitting, basic home improvement & maintenance, and medicinal herbs.

Many community colleges or county recreation departments offer inexpensive classes on the above topics. Online resources and printed guidebooks can allow you to learn a new skill in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee.

Learning with friends is the way to go. In my old home city, my girlfriends and I took turns planning outings in which we’d either learn something new, or attend a lecture or reading that broadened our own horizons. In addition to learning something new, you learn more about the people in your immediate lives. A favorite activity was an outing to a rock climbing gym, when one buddy earned my respect for the hard-earned skills she’d built in a few short months of training.

Another was a CPR class I took with my family before we embarked on a three-month boating trip through Alaska’s inland passage, by way of Canada’s San Juan Islands. (After that, I learned to suture pickled pigs’ feet and administer insulin injections into oranges, woo hoo).

My general philosophy is to make preparedness and self-reliance a natural part of my life. Never be ashamed to admit you know how to field dress a rabbit, make glue from pine pitch or change the oil on your Subaru.

Building good skillsets benefits your self-confidence as well as your self-reliance, and makes you more interesting at social gatherings. You may be tempted to demonstrate bushcraft firestarting at your cousin’s wedding reception next summer, and I’m here to let you know that that’s a bad idea. Knowing how to use your emergency suture/fishing kit to fix the bride’s bussle, on the other hand, will make you the belle of the ball.


Hey girls, be road savvy!

November 9, 2008
Don't just stand there, girlfriend!

There's more to a good roadside emergency kit than outstanding cleavage.

One of my favorite memories of my Dad was his endearing ritual whenever I left for a considerable road trip. Returns to college after visits, or weekend expeditions to the Sierras, for example. I’d be raiding the fridge for last-minute snacks, and he’d be circling my Blazer with a  bottle of Windex and tire gauge, making sure The Beast was ready to go. He’d check my oil and antifreeze, wash my headlights and scrape the dead bugs off my windshield, and more often than not he’d tuck a $20 where I’d find it, just in case.

I miss him a ton, and think of him every time I call AAA…even though he made sure I knew how to change a tire before I got my license, and insisted I carry a good emergency kit that includes the following essentials:

  • flares
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight
  • folding shovel
  • Thomas guide
  • Matches/Fire starting Supplies (note, if you have fresh flares, you’ve got a backup)
  • snow scraper (in winter)
  • tire chains (in winter)
  • Rain-X Wipes (in case you lose your windshield wipers)
  • Duct Tape
  • 2 quarts motor oil
  • $20+ cash
  • water
  • blanket
  • raincoat or poncho
  • Wool cap
  • Work Gloves
  • paper towels
  • tarp
  • jumper cable
  • Red Bandanna (tie to antennae as a signal, also handy for carting around lumber or oversized stuff in everyday situations)
  • Tow Strap and/or Come-Along

No wonder I had to drive a full-sized truck! Nowadays I keep most of this stuff in waterproof river bags in my car-top carrier, along with a couple old sleeping bags and a few extras I’ll mention below.

I always made sure I had something to eat; crappy snack food is the highlight of any road trip. When portable cellular phones became somewhat affordable later in my college career, he was thrilled when I added a clunky bag phone to my car kit, and even offered to foot the bill.

Today, I’ve modified my kit a bit to include a Garmin GPS system with tons of road maps, Rain-X wipes, cell phone car charger and in addition to old-fashioned jumper cables, a combo power source/jump starter/compressor. I use it all the time, and in fact used it last week when I discovered a flat tire while on break from work.

Good thing, too. It occurs to me that, in spite of years of off-roading, I personally haven’t changed a tire since I was 16 and my dad was there to coach me. I’ve been lucky; my flats–infrequent as they were–occurred on well-traveled public road, either in the company of a strapping beau or within range of AAA.

Looks like it’s time for me to get familiar with the flimsy portable jack in the back of my sports wagon. I still spend a lot of time on rural or unpaved roads (with or without my dear and capable beau) but no self-respecting, self reliant woman’s gonna sit and cry if her tire blows out 20 miles from civilization because she can’t remember how to do this simple deed.

I’m not going to give you a tutorial, since this page will do it better than I can, with video, and anyway I have to go let my dog out. She’s had cataclysmic diarrhea and I’m afraid she’s in for another round. Note to tin-foil hat-wearing, emergency-prep-minded self: This is a reminder that switching a dog’s food too suddenly is NOTHING you want to mess with when there’s no good supply of water, and your patience/paper towel supply is limited.

But before I (and my dog) go, I want to remind you to make sure you have the above basic necessities in your vehicle at all times. Before heading out for a major road trip, you might want to augment your kit with an indoor-safe portable car heater (or make your own, as per Ron Fontaine of SurvivalTopics) additional food for you and your passengers, plastic baggies and toilet paper and–this is important–stuff to keep you or your kids entertained in case of breakdowns or long

(we interrupt this program to let the dog out. We now return to our regular programming.)

road-closures, such as one I encountered over the Christmas holiday one year when, for four hours, my dog (thankfully, her intestinal fortitude was in its prime) and I sat on the side of the highway several miles outside Weed, California among hundreds of truckers and other holiday travelers because there were three inches of new snow on the Siskyou Pass, and everyone knows that Californians don’t know how to drive in snow. That was an experience. Out of the blue, a buddy of mine loaned me a hand-held CB radio he’d found at The Bins, and I was able to monitor the chatter of the truckers down the line–fine entertainment, especially since I got few stations on the car stereo, and I was bored to tears by my own CD collection.

This non-survival situation DID challenge my supplies, and since there were no roadside amenities–not even concealment on this flat, barren plateu–I was forced to contemplate means of relieving myself away from the view of all the other roadsters who were just as devoid of entertainment as I. Perhaps carrying all these supplies in a gamma-seal bucket might be an option for shy travellers? (Don’t forget the baby wipes and trash bags!)

A bright bandanna or reflective tape, with a note, is better.

A bright bandanna or reflective tape, with a note, is better.

Here are a few more tips that might help you get out of a tricky traveling situation:

  • Stuck in mud or snow? Use a floor mat under your tire to provide traction. Might not work on the first try, but in most cases, you’ll succeed!
  • If you’re stranded in deep snow, make sure your tailpipe is clear so you don’t get a backup of carbon monoxide. Check it frequently if you’re staying put. Otherwise, snow on your car will provide added insulation. A tarp and shovel/spade will improve any wet weather dig-out or chain-up situation, trust me.
  • In really harsh winter emergencies, the foam in your car seats can provide excellent insulation for your clothing. You can use a tire, worst-case-scenario, or siphoned gasoline to light an effective and very toxic signal fire. (Stay away from the smoke, and don’t start a grass or forest fire!). Bring all your emergency essentials from the trunk or car topper into the main compartment to reduce trips outside.
  • If you leave your vehicle for any reason, be sure to leave a note where rescuers will see it. Tell them when you left, when you were stranded, where you went and when you expect to be back. I suggest writing a short note on reflective tape with permanent ink affixed to your antennae, with another on your dash.
  • Inform a friend of your intended travel route before you leave, and plan to check in with this person upon arrival. Which leads to…
  • If you tend to take unexpected or scenic routes on a whim, take the time to text or call a reliable friend with as much information as you can. Include mile markers, road numbers or names, even GPS or map coordinates.
  • If you use any type of portable indoor-safe heater, you’ll still want to crack your windows for cross-ventilation. NEVER burn anything inside your car unless you’re sure the fumes won’t hurt you; you may be better off making shelter and a warming fire outside of your car.
  • ALWAYS CARRY STURDY WALKING SHOES in your vehicle.
  • Always carry water in your car, and rotate your supplies regularly.
  • Consider carrying easy-to-prepare meals and snacks in your car, such as Mountain House, Mainstay, candy bars or trail mix bars.
  • Bring along a food-safe metal container in which to boil water or melt snow.
  • Bring along extra prescription meds if you require them, and keep an extra pair of prescription glasses on hand and/or a spare set of contact lenses. Bring along saline fluid if you wear lenses!
  • Got kids? Bring spare formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and maybe some extra disposable gloves.
  • Oh yeah. Hand sanitizer!

Another important tip. If you are stuck on the side of the road, trust your instincts. Unless you’re completely convinced otherwise, only allow the assistance of a stranger if you cannot raise help on your cell phone, and even then, simply ask the stranger to put in a call for you when THEY can get phone service.

Here’s a story that explains the exception: Once, my engine blew out along a major highway, and a family of three pulling a tow dolly were right behind me. As it happens, they had just delivered a vehicle to their son, and were heading home. They offered to tow me 300 miles back to my home, since it was on their way, and after careful assessment of the situation, and after calling a friend of mine to give him their plate numbers, truck model and the given names of the family, I agreed. I bought them dinner after they cheerfully unhitched my car in front of my house, and promised them I’d do something soon to “pay it forward,” the theme of a movie that we’d discussed on part of our shared journey.

I regret losing the contact info for this family, but they’re up in Seattle, and I think of them often.

Now, for more tips:

  • Keep your vehicles in the best condition possible, and be prepared for the worst.
  • Never let your fuel tank get below a quarter tank, and fill up more frequently if possible. This will also let you stretch your legs and prevent road-weariness. It’s also a good time to give your car a quick once-over, too; tires properly inflated? Chains on right? Oil, antifreeze and caffeine levels up? CHECK!
  • Practice changing your tires on an annual basis, and consider carrying a full-size spare in your vehicle. Regular spare tires tend to be rated only for a few miles.
  • Always budget for an extra night’s stay in a motel room when traveling. If you’re stuck with a really shady motel, insist on viewing the room before you pay for it. BELIEVE ME. I’ve rejected motel rooms with broken door locks, broken windows and horrible sanitary situations. I’ve often opted for car-camping in public forests or maintained campgrounds because I honestly felt more secure.
  • Be VERY wary of highway rest stops, especially at night. Opt for a well-illuminated service station for pit-stops or quick naps.
  • Keep a basic survival kit, similar to any you’d take with you in the woods, in your car. This should include a FireSteel, signal mirror, emergency blanket, basic first aid, hand saw and multi-tool. These items are available at my Amazon store in the BOB categories! Shopping through my Amazon portal helps support this site, as well as my own preparedness budget, so thanks in advance if you choose to stock up with me!

Happy Traveling!


YIKES.

November 5, 2008
In this case, change isn't good...

In this case, change isn't so hot.

“My first priority will be to reinstate the assault weapons ban as soon as I take office. Within 90 days, we will go back after kitchen table dealers, and work to end the gun show and internet sales loopholes. In the first year, I intend to work with Congress on a national no carry law, 1 gun a month purchase limits, and bans on all semi-automatic guns.”

–Barack Obama, VPC Fund Raiser, 2007


Frugal is Fashionable Again!

November 5, 2008

And to this girl, who shops for clothes by the pound rather than by the price on a tag, that’s a good thing.

Our economic climate isn’t much of a shock. So many Americans were living on overextended credit, and “keeping up with the Joneses” became “keeping up with minimum loan payments” in no time. I’m not smug about it, either, because for years I struggled with the burden of credit cards and the consequences of falling for dangerously deceptive promises of easy-to-land loans. I’m still working hard to keep the bills paid, but at least I’m working at something I love, even if the pay’s less. I’ve simply trimmed the fat and reduced the obligations that have stressed me out.

Frugality has become as much a source of psychological relief as a necessity in my world. Gardening, careful grocery shopping and strengthening self-disciplinary skills have allowed me to stress less about out-of-the-blue emergency expenses, and reduces the guilt I feel when I splurge on a night out with friends or family.

Two of the biggest challenges to living a frugal lifestyle include social pressures and convenience. I live in a medium-sized city with lots of fun stuff to do, and lots of friends who are always putting out the call to meet at this bar or that restaurant on any given night (or morning, or lunch hour). None of my friends are gazillionaires, but most have a meatier paycheck than I do. Many would offer to pick up the tab, but I hate not pulling my own weight, no matter how often my friends convince me I’m doing so just by being present.

Lately, these same friends have been confiding to me that they’re in deep financial dook. So-and-so is regretting the purchase of the shiny, gently-used luxury car she bought, even though on paper, she SHOULD be able to afford it with no problems. But, having sat down and examined her expenses, she realized that all the lunches-on-the-fly, dinners out after an exhausting day at work, twice-weekly trips to the bars with friends and frequent weekend getaways–even lower budget ones ones–add up.

“I don’t have time to make lunch every morning, or dinner every night” is something we all hear and say. Well…that’s a load of crap. At least, that’s the “EUREKA” I had when I began planning meals, and building a grocery list based on foods that meet the following criteria:

  1. Can be prepared (if not cooked) in 20 minutes or less
  2. Is healthy, with few unnatural additives
  3. Is inexpensive, and if possible, based on easily stored foods
  4. Revolve around a core of ingredients that work with a variety of recipes and cultural styles
  5. Make excellent leftovers

Most of my new-favorite recipes will feed and please friends and fam for less than seventy cents per whopping serving. Seventy cents is actually quite posh, and usually indicates the locally-raised, natural meats I buy from area farmers.

I highly recommend learning how to safely store food. Doing so will provide you with a surplus you can fall back upon in hard times, really hard times, or full on SHTF scenarios. In the short-term, it will save you money, even considering the cost of food dehydrators, vac sealers & supplies, buckets, mylar and oxygen absorbers. (love the Red Dawn music on that last link, heh) Want to learn more about food storage? Check out the Mormons’ preparedness information. Say what you will about Jesus Jammies, but when it comes to preparedness, nobody does it like the Latter Day Saint crowd.

I expect that my friends and I will spend more time planning potlucks at one another’s homes, and less time holding each other’s hair over the toilets at downtown bars. Fortunately I live close to great hiking trails (both urban and semi-wilderness) and I enjoy stalking good books at the local Goodwill. I’ve discovered that my beau can cook as well as any of my favorite local chefs, with the right (cough) motivation, and I’m not that bad, either.

And thankfully, I live in a town where the person sitting next to you at the Opera is as likely to be wearing jeans as she is to be wearing a designer dress. (This USED to bug me, until I learned the value of being able to enjoy some culture in times when my weekly paycheck was lower than my IQ).

Another thing I’ve had to ratchet down (speaking of jeans at the Opera) is my clothing budget. Find a local thrift shop, or see if there’s a Goodwill outlet near you where items and clothing are indeed sold by the pound. This is where I’ve found some of my favorite jeans, workshirts, tee shirts, jackets and housewares. On occasion I’ve found items of value to market on eBay or Craigslist. (Avoid used shoes unless they’re hardly worn or will be hardly worn; shoes broken in to another person’s podiatric problems can cause foot, knee and back problems in your own bod). It takes work, and you have to battle serious bargain shoppers and resellers at “The Bins”, but it will pay off if you have a few items in mind and some patience. Oh yeah. Take hand sanitizer! Hoo, boy.

There are a great number of frugal living websites out there. Check them out! Sooner or later, I’ll post a few tips that have worked for me, and maybe some recipes, too. And feel free to leave your own in this post’s comments!


The Lady’s B.O.B

November 5, 2008
This one could use a few extra MREs in her BOB.

This one could use a few extra MREs in her BOB.

Ever check out a firearms or preparedness forum? Threads abound where members show off or list the contents of their bug out bags. It’s the male equivalent of Ally Sheedy dumping out her purse in The Breakfast Club.

What’s a BOB? Well, it’s pretty much a grab-and-go 72-hour (or so) survival kit that you would take with you into unknown conditions in the case of a major emergency–anything from a house fire to massive evacuation to flat-out armageddon. Assembling a BOB is actually a lot of fun, if you’re into gear, gadgets and doodads.

There are variants on the basic BOB, such as the “Get My Arse Home from Work To My Real Bug Out Bag” bag, which you might carry in your vehicle, or the “I’m At Lockdown At Work” bug-IN bag, or maybe the “I’m Stranded in my Car for Weeks” bag. But the true BOB is equipped to provide warmth, a change of clothing and footwear, personal protection, shelter and the very most basic of survival tools.

When planning your primary BOB, take into consideration the most likely catastrophies that could strike your area. Factor in local climate, and whatever plans you and your family have for rallying in the case you have to bail from your home.

And factor in the fact that each person has his or her own requirements to keep safe and sane in a stressful scenario. Especially if you’re female.

I’m not going to list absolutely everything you should have in your BOB, since you can find that information anywhere. But, true to the mission of this blog, I will add a few things you won’t find in the typical survival blog or forum. That’s right–GIRL STUFF!

Feminine Protection: Well, DUH! Of course you’re going to want to pack along stuff to prepare you for the Invasion of the Red Army, if you get my drift. If you’re not familiar with applicator-free products, give them a test run and seriously consider adding them to your bag. Most brands make a multi-pack. Note in my Welcome post, I celebrate the OB tampon as one of the best survival tools due to the compressed volume of fire-starting cotton and bonus prize of 12″ cord.

For longer-term emergencies, consider reusable pads or cups, but ONLY if you’ve familiarized yourself with their use well in advance. Having to bug out is bad. Having to bug out while on the rag is horrible. Having to bug out and all you have to keep yourself tidy is some weird miniature toilet plunger is a catalyst for a meltdown.

You’ll also want to carry scent-proof baggies, or the more rugged and less-disposable O.P. Sack to transport soiled reusables.

Chocolate: I’m not being divine here, I’m serious. Chocolate has positive neurological effects that would be beneficial in a BOB situation, and it’s also a good energy boost. Problem with chocolate is that it melts, so use caution when packing in a BOB that will be stored in your car, for example.

If you have kids, chocolate is a great motivator. Looking after the psychological well-being of you and yours is often overlooked in emergency preps, and attitude is everything.

Toiletries: Along the same line as chocolate, toiletries will help your sense of morale. I’m not a fan of beauty magazines, but you can always rifle through them for sample packets or perfume strips, which are easy to pack and will help you feel better after a few days away from your shower and Spin Spa. Go easy on the fragrances, as an overdose of eau d’parfume can be more offensive than body odor.

I love witch hazel packets and baby wipes. But lacking these, a steaming hot bandanna rubdown is the best part of waking up to a back-country morning.

If you’re a cheapskate like me, you like free stuff. Save complimentary hotel toiletries, or even better, write to the manufacturers of your favorite products and request free samples. Now, you can pack the stuff that works for YOU. Don’t go overboard, though; you want your bag as light as possible, and in spite of the importance of morale, comfort and hygiene, your favorite hair gel will need to be 86’d if it comes down to that or emergency food rations, water purification or first aid items.

Sports Bra: Do you normally subject yourself to underwire, or otherwise less-than-comfortable undergarments? Get yourself a breathable, moisture-wicking, non-cotton sports bra, like this one, to stash in your BOB. It will help regulate heat, prevent chafing, and provide comfort while carrying a heavy pack.

Self-Defense: Whether you’re bugging out over road or trail, you must have some basic unarmed and armed defensive skills. Don’t rely on pepper spray alone to get you through a rough spot. Get a firearm and learn to use, carry and draw it. Get a good survival knife, and take a class in blade fighting. Contact your local police department, city college or YWCA to find out about effective, affordable women’s defense courses that teach simple physical and verbal techniques. I specify women’s defense courses because some of these offer techniques that are rarely taught to men, and I strongly believe that women-only classes allow participants to focus better on learning.

Train, and practice, and remember that you’re worth fighting for.

MISC: It’s a good idea to pack along pharmaceuticals and herbals that will help you if you’re bugging out with Aunt Flo, in addition to a basic first-aid kit. If you’re menopausal, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the shelf life of your medications, and have an extra month’s supply on hand to rotate into your preparations.

The necessities for a woman’s survival pack differ than those for a man’s, and there’s no shame in admitting it. Plan to take care of yourself.


Support RKBA

November 4, 2008
Click on the photo for a great website.

Click on the photo for a great website.

I first learned to shoot in summer camp, back when summer camp still taught skills useful in real backcountry situations. But it wasn’t until Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” came out that I became a gun nut.

That’s right, Michael Moore turned me into a gun nut.

Because I smelled a rat, and I did my own digging.

Like a good party mix, gun nuts come in all shapes, sizes and colors. (I’d consider myself from the honey roasted variety). We’re not a bunch of drooling, thirteen-toed inbred rednecks, as some folks would have the world believe. Nor would we all identify with the Religious Right, Republican ideals or roadkill cooking.

Your local gun nut might be the last person you expect, and their reasons for carrying might astound you. If you are a female, your reasons may differ than that of many men…but if you are a female who has endured a stalking situation (as the victim, silly) or who has survived rape or abuse, you probably realize better than most the reality that police and the justice system are not there to protect you from harm, but to deal with the aftermath.

I am not going to bash our President Elect, because that’s not my style. In many ways, I truly admire him. In some very important ways, I’m worried. Barack Obama has a clear history of supporting ill-conceived firearm restrictions.

January 20 will be a day to celebrate, regardless of whom you voted for today. George Bush, who now has the worst approval rating since the beginning of approval ratings (it’s official!) is getting the boot, and it’s also my birthday (WOOT!) Between now and then, I highly encourage each of you to visit one or more of the RKBA (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) websites over there —-> and edjumacate yourself a bit. Learn why the term “assault weapon” raises the hackles of well-informed firearms enthusiasts, and why certain laws in certain states (cough cough california cough) are not only nonsensical, but laughable.

Have an inheirent hatred of guns? Try a little aversion therapy. Head down to a local range, and ask for some instruction and orientation.

Afraid that if you hold a gun, it will spontaneously go off? Unlike a teenage boy, firearms don’t just go off at the slightest touch. Even those that have no “safety” switches. You’ll learn about this, too, with a few minutes of research.

Have you heard the one about “A gun will only be used against you?” Who came up with that? Sure, happens a ton in movies, but extremely rarely in real-world self-defense situations, regardless of (lack of) training.

Are you already a hoplophile? Then take it upon yourself to get the word out. Take some non-nut friends to the range, and…SUPPORT A 2A group! Seriously, for the price of a box of ammo (that is, the price of a box of ammo before legislation jacks it up next year) you can join one of the groups over —> and make a difference.

‘Nuff said. For now.


Buggin’ Out with Fido

November 3, 2008
Palisades Pack by Ruff Gear

Palisades Pack by Ruff Gear

If you’re a dog lover like me, you probably take your pooch hiking, camping and even skijoring whenever you can. If you (and your dog) need a little inspiration to spend more time on the rough and rugged trails together or to pursue your bushcraft skills, the following tips are excellent for both adventure and emergency purposes.

Quality of gear is important to prevent injury to your dog, and wasteful loss of cash due to shoddy workmanship. I tend to avoid the national chain dog supply stores for this reason. The best places to get your dog’s trail gear is from specialty purveyors of working dog equipment. You can also check with your local search and rescue or police canine units for recommendations in your area or online. I personally like Wolf Packs (who made my own dog’s pack nearly 10 years ago) and Ruff Wear products.

Booties: Your dog may encounter rocky trails, hot asphalt, broken glass, sharp rocks and long roads in any bug-out situation. Booties will prevent injury, and also keep your pup’s pads in good condition on regular hikes. Make sure your dog is accustomed to his or her booties, and correctly fit with a set that are durable. Ruff Wear makes some of the sturdiest boots, worthy of checking out.

Dog Pack: A dog in good health should be able to carry up to 25% of his body weight. It’s imperative to distribute weight evenly between packs, as they can slip quite easily. Make sure the pack you purchase can be easily removed if your dog becomes caught up, and that it’s equipped with adequate padding at potential pressure points or where fasteners could pose a chafing problem.

My advice is to keep all contents in two large Ziploc baggies or small dry bags, and keep a lightweight fishing scale on hand to weigh loads. Watch out for high-volume bags: You don’t want to be tempted to overload your dog, nor do you want your dog’s lateral profile to protrude more than necessary.

Portable Dog Bowl: You’ll want to be sure your dog is hydrated, and collapsible dog bowls ensure that your dog’s slobber doesn’t get into your squirrel stew.

Vet & Vaccination Records: You never know when you’ll need to drop your dog off at a boarding kennel or FEMA/HSUS evacuation shelter. Keep a waterproofed copy of your vet’s business card and current vaccination records in your dog’s pack at all times, and additional copies in your emergency file folder.

Pet First Aid: A basic pet first aid kit would include elastic vet wrap, sutures, a blood clotting agent (cornstarch works in a pinch), nail clippers, vet-prescribed sedative tablets and gauze. It’s not a bad idea to keep a good broad-spectrum wormer in your dog’s longterm kit, as your dog will be more prone to picking up parasites. Packets of electrolyte powders never hurt, nor do cold packs. Talk to your vet about other items you might include; he or she may even give you some supplies for a nominal fee.

Here’s something else you should SERIOUSLY consider: A muzzle. Dogs that are injured or under extreme stress are more likely to bite. Yes, even YOUR dog. The Mikki Muzzle is a compact, lightweight muzzle that has worked well for my aggressive dog, and it can also reduce barking. Even better–it’s super cheap, usually less than $5.

Leashes, Collars & Harnesses: How well trained is your dog? Is he or she prone to pulling? Seriously evaluate your dog’s restraint needs, and consider upgrading to a pinch collar or a harness if your dog strains at the collar. Pack an extra leash, and be sure your dog’s ID tags are updated with rabies info and perhaps an additional contact person, such as your out-of-state contact.

Ruff Wear has a harness that can double as a working harness, by the way. You wouldn’t want to use it to pull carts, but it has been known to be popular among skijoring fans.

Food: You should always keep a supply of quality canned dog food on hand for long-term pet food storage, since oily kibble goes rancid after a short time. You’ll also need to consider the effects suddend dietary changes might have on your dog’s digestive system For bug-out situations. My own dog is on a mix of kibble and canned foods. In her bug out stash, I keep 5 days’ food (about 10 cups kibble) at the ready. Each time I buy a 50lb sack of kibble, I rotate out the stash. I also recommend keeping freeze-dried dog food on hand, such as Stella & Chewy’s Lamb Steaks or ZiwiPeak products. Mix familiar with new foods gradually, to reduce gastrointestinal problems. Speaking of….

Water: Last thing your pet needs is a case of giardia, so be sure you treat your pet’s water as well as your own. Some dogs and cats are finicky about water that tastes different than their home tapwater supply, and sometimes adding something like RescueRemedy will assist with the transition, as well as act as a calming agent.

For Small Dogs: If you have a pocket pooch or a small dog that won’t be able to cover long distances, shop carefully for a carrier that will be comfortable for both you and your pet. Sherpa soft-sided carriers are fantastic, and most of their models are airline-approved.

Other Considerations: If you have the means, take along a hard-sided, sturdy crate for your dog. It should be large enough for him to turn around, stretch, and lie down comfortably, and should have a decal with contact information, dog’s name, vet’s name and number, and any dietary or medical requirements. Depending on the scenario, you may need to leave the dog with a shelter or friend, you’ll want to be sure he or she is well-equipped. Shelters will be overcrowded, and you don’t want your dog stuffed in with strange animals.

Whatever you do, do NOT plan to simply turn your pets loose in an emergency situation. Not only is this cruel to your animals, it leaves them as a danger to rescue workers and others.

I’ll continue to post about prepping for your pets. In the meantime, here’s a tearjerker to get you motivated…