Editors Note: A timely guest submission from valnut79, as summer draws to a conclusion in the Northern Hemisphere and tries to make a new beginning down under.
Let’s face it, if we were to plan an SHTF event, there’s no better time for it to happen than the tail-end of summer. Our gardens should be in full force, churning out food left and right, the threat of power outages have minimal impact to our daily lives thanks to the long nights and warm temperatures. There’s still plenty of things to keep us busy as we work on projects, or simply lie in the hammock enjoying cool beverages and good content to read, whether in a book or on a mobile device.
Let’s take advantage of the weather and the sunshine then to do some true tests of your preparedness. “Test your preps” is one of the first and foremost principles of living a lifestyle of preparedness, and now is the time to really, truly see what you can do. You can learn quite a bit about yourself and your supplies as you try to work your way through scenarios.
Challenge #1 – Take Yourself Camping with your Bug Out Bag only.
Find a Friday night , and plan a short, close to home camping trip for you and the family. If you don’t want to leave, then simply camp in your backyard. On Sunday, you can return at midday to prepare for the coming workweek.
Bug Out Bags are designed to be used for a 72-hour period, and contain everything you’ll need for those days, including food, shelter, clothing, and tools for a disaster situation. Testing it in the summer allows you to see how far your bag will take you in case of a real disaster. The Friday-to-Sunday routine is long enough to experience at least a little hardship without being overwhelming if your bag is determined to be underwhelming.
When I tried this two weeks ago, I found that I had a few changes I needed to make in order to make the most of my bug-out bag. My supplies were heavy with too many improperly chosen clothes, and I didn’t include nearly enough food. Since we went with the backyard approach, I just went inside and grabbed two more packs of Ramen Noodles and breakfast bars so that we didn’t starve ourselves, but I cataloged the experience and amended my supplies when the experiment was over. I also found that the multi-tool I packed was not in great shape. It needed a little oil and some TLC to get the sand out of it, and now it’s working much better. I found that I wanted a dedicated cooking pot, and didn’t pack for that eventuality, so now an iron skillet is sitting in the bag, ready to go.
In the end, this helped me modify my bug-out equipment, and reminded me of the value of packing a Summer and Winter lineup of clothes – those sweaters were simply unnecessary, but had been sitting in my pack year-round.
Challenge #2 – Don’t Go Shopping…For a Month
August is a great month, and this August in particular is great because there are three paydays this month for our family that are falling within a one-month period, giving us an extra bit of disposable income. That disposable income is going into our second challenge – we will not go shopping for a whole month, because we’ve prepared for an SHTF situation in which we will not be able to head to the store for any old convenience.
This is the best time of year for you to avoid a trip to the store. As I mentioned above, the garden should be in full-swing. I know that I’m drowning in cucumbers presently, and in a week or two, I’ll likely have a dozen tomatoes to garnish my sandwiches. As of the start of this challenge, I have full food stores for about two months for our family.
Now, as for that disposable income I mentioned earlier. I don’t actually plan to run my supplies down to the bare minimum – we’re using that first August paycheck to definitely go to the store and purchase a whole new set of long-term food storage, but we’re not going to use it for this challenge. We’ll save for the rest of the month to re-earn our money, but that big paycheck lets us go mega-shopping on day 1. Let’s face it, it would be Murphy’s law in the extreme for us to actually use up all of our supply and have the SHTF the very day of our going to resupply.
What will this teach us? Our family is in the beginning stages of this experience currently, so it’s hard to say exactly, but what I hope to learn is how well we’ve actually meal-planned for the coming catastrophe. Is our food supply varied enough to provide nutritional and interesting meals, or did we simply buy too much oatmeal and too many beans? Did I actually calculate correctly when I rationed out the calories, and will we end our month with more than another month of food still left over (we’re eating partly from our garden after all)? Will my wife and I actually enjoy all of the meals we said we would when we taste-tested our Legacy foods? We’ll find out when all is said and done.
Challenge #3 – The Lights-Out Weekend
I believe that, as the parent of a teenager, one of the most difficult SHTF scenarios that I can try to stave off is any time period in which there is no electricity to power her devices. To that end, we tested our ability to reasonably care for our family in case of a long-term power outage by flipping the switch on our breaker box on a Friday afternoon when I came home from work, and turning it back on Monday morning as I left for work.
Do you currently have enough backup power-making equipment to survive a weekend with a technology-less teen?
We found that, fortunately, we did plan for this well enough. The lights-out weekend, was, in fact, so fun that my daughter is willing to do it again in a month or two. I decided that I would prep my wife for this idea by proposing a lights-out weekend to her about 30 days in advance (happy wife, happy life). I told her it was coming, but I didn’t say when. We did not tell our daughter. I live a very routine life, so it’s not difficult for me to over plan for a specific weekend. When I sensed that my wife’s radar for the lights-out weekend was off, I flipped the switch, and called my daughter to come home from her friend’s house. There was no way either of them could plan for this eventuality.
We then went over the rules – use your phone and tablet as much as you’d like, but no leaving the house to enjoy other people’s power and technology, including stores, friends, car chargers and libraries. I distributed one charger from our supply of backup batteries to each person, handed out some candles, and went over the rules of requiring my wife and daughter to snuff them before leaving the room or falling asleep for the night. We then went on about our business.
Friday was a typical weeknight – our daughter spent the night doing her own thing while my wife and I did our own. We did require that she cancel her plans with friends and stay home, which she did willingly. We spent most of the evening enjoying the sunset, my daughter used her battery pack to watch a movie on her tablet. Her pack was spent, so a small argument ensued on Saturday morning, which was quelled shortly thereafter – she knows I’m a stickler for the rules, and as stubborn as it gets, so she didn’t press her luck.
Saturday was where it got fun. There being no technology to entertain her in her room alone, and no contact to be had with friends (her phone was dead too, as she made the bad decision of leaving it on overnight), our daughter was forced to do a very un-teenager thing and actually interact with us. She asked for book recommendations, and I made them willingly, and she actually followed through and chose one of the books I told her about and started reading. My daughter isn’t a complete non-reader, but I was surprised that she made this choice. We were all a little inspired, actually, and with the AC off, we spent the day outside reading on our shaded patio. When night fell, we stayed inside, playing a few games from our board game collection by candlelight. Quality family time.
On Sunday, my wife chose to use her battery pack to power the tablet, and we watched a movie outside together, and then we all chipped in to help do some work in the backyard and gardens together. We cleaned the house when we went inside, and played a few more games and read a little more from our individual books.
This was a really great experience for us. We had a whole weekend of family time, and it came when everyone was least expecting it, so nobody was able to prepare or cheat their way out of it. It was a hot weekend – around 95 degrees for us every day, but we managed to keep cool outside. It was difficult to sleep in such hot weather with no AC, and so we’re now actively looking for ways to manage airflow in case of this being a real situation, but we did know that we could always set up a tent in the yard if necessary.
We learned this – tablets with battery backup are awesome, and you should keep some local copies of digital movies handy in case your router is down. Candles, books and good board games (we play designer games like Ticket to Ride, Catan and Pandemic, not Chutes and Ladders) also make for essential entertainment options. Family time doesn’t have to be a drag, and my daughter learning that alone was well worth the price of being slightly late to work on Monday (apparently the power being off affects my alarm clock’s ability to wake me up on time!).