Emergency Kits

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Depending on where, and for how long you intend to be camping, an emergency kit is always a handy item to have, at least some form on first-aid kit and knowledge on how to correctly use it. So a St Johns first aid course is a pretty good idea & it may also help you work wise as well, a lot of employers these days look favourably on those who have it, or require it.

What to pack into an emergency kit will depend on a few key factors:
Where your going, for how long, the environment your in.

The former and latter fall into the same basic category, if your heading into a wet area then your need to carry more water decreases as your body will not absorb as much liquid as it would in a hotter climate. Technically most people would (and should) last a week on a litre of water. Duration is a little more hard to predict, as this is dependent on why your in need of your emergency kit, have you just fallen over and badly sprained your ankle to the point of not being able to walk, or is the injury of a more serious nature?

Last year, whilst doing some work in one of Victoria's more colder and wetter parks, I slipped and twisted my ankle quite badly. I still had around a 5 K walk back to the carpark area, and as it was coming on dark I knew there would be no way of making it before dark, considering just the task of standing was exceptionally painfull. My two options were to stay put and rest, or continue and risk further injury. The decision to stay put was a pretty quick & easy one, having located a fallen tree close-by I laid my ground sheet down, and wrapped the thermal blanket around me, and lighted a small fire to aid keeping warm. Now its illegal to light fires in almost all parks willy nilly, and this is something you should think very carefully about before doing, especially in the summer months. But at the end of the day if it means survival then you only have the one option. Without my kit with me it may have been a completely different outcome.

My emergency pack is simply a basic backpack with the items I find handy in it. Such as...
  • Torch & spare batteries
  • Kero fire lighter blocks (Pack of)
  • Wire cutters
  • Small ground PVC sheet
  • Thermal blanket
  • First Aid supplies
  • Insect repellent
  • 2.5L of fresh drinking water (2x 1.25L old Coke bottle works here)
  • Baby wipes
  • Latex gloves
  • Cup-A-Soup packet
  • Instant noodles
  • Small tins of tuna etc (x4) (Buy fresh before going out)
  • Mirror
  • Tin Whistle
  • Compass (Only any good if you know how to use it, otherwise skip this)
  • A portable transistor radio
  • An old newspaper
  • Large tin mug
  • Towell
  • Nylon rope
Now there is more in my pack then this, but we will get to the rest later on. First I will explain why each item is in the pack, and most of these can be picked up on eBay from various sellers or at the local supermarket cheaply.

Torch & Spare batteries:
Don't really need to explain this one do we? Spare batteries are always handy to have in the pack, and they take up very little space.

Kero fire lighter blocks:
Your going to need these if your stuck somewhere and need to get a fire going to keep warm or boil up some water. Also, its worth buying the 'brand name' version of these, I have used the no-name or supermarket chain-name variety before with varying results, but more often then not you will find the no-namers quite hard to light and get going. Not really what you want when things are going wrong.

Wire Cutters:
Only a small pair are needed here, just handy to have in case you get tangled in wire, or your vehicle does. Also if you come across an animal tangled up in wire you will be able to quickly get it free - But use some common sense and caution here, if the animal is aggressive when you approach it, its likely to attack you once free. Sometimes, especially if the animal has being caught up for quite sometime and very weak its actually more sensible to put it out of its misery.

Ground Sheet:
A waterproof ground sheet is a must, nothing worse then laying on, or trying to sleep on damp or wet ground, and also helps keep hypothermia at bay. The dryer you can stay the longer your going to last basically.

Thermal blanket:
Goes in pair with the above, great little item to keep you warm. Although, again common sense applies here, I've seen many people wrap themselves in a thermal blanket when they are soaking wet. This is a silly move, and if your in this situation with no way of drying yourself off or no dry clothing, take as much of it off as you can. Thick/heavy jumpers and the likes should be taken off as they hold quite a lot of water, and you will only cause onset of hypothermia quicker this way.

First aid supplies/Insect repellent/Water:
All self explanatory

Baby wipes:
Again something you could easily go without, but these are great for cleaning up, wiping your hands, washing away dried blood if injured etc. Also handy for cleaning things in a pinch.

Latex Gloves:
Not an essential item, but can be handy if you have injured yourself, or someone else has and you need to have contact with the wound, not only do you protect yourself from any problems, you also lessen the risks of infection to the wounded party.

FOOD! - You do not know how long you may be stuck there for. Especially if you have injured yourself, these take up very little space and can mean the difference between survival or death. What food you take is purely personal preference, but its extremely wise to take foods that can be eaten either cold or hot. Taking foods that can only be eaten when cooked as part of an emergency kit defeats the purpose.

Mirror/Tin Whistle/Compass:
The first two for signalling, and the second to help you if your lost. I think its always good to enroll in a basic orienteering or navigation course. Don't rely on the likes of GPS's, whilst they are great and pretty damn accurate they also run on batteries, and they have a nasty habit of going flat. And also you can be in areas where the GPS receiver wont work, or wont lock on correctly.

Transistor radio:
More for sanity then anything especially if your alone, even something as boring as 'Question Time' on the ABC can break the monotony.

For times when you can light a fire with old paper screwed up, use it and leave the kero blocks as a backup. Plus you can read it if your really bored!

Tin mug:
Obviously to drink from, but you can also use it to heat up water for cuppa soups and noodles.

A towell is something most forget, but when your soaked to the bone you are going to wish like hell you had packed one!

Nylon rope:
Variety of uses, can be strung between trees and used in conjuction with the ground sheet to make a quick makeshift tent, or strung out to put clothing on to dry.

In the next part I will go through other items that I carry in my kit, and even though it may seem like a lot, it all goes into the backpack nicely and is rather easy to carry. In my mind its worth the extra effort for the peace of mind knowing you will be able to survive if the worst does occur.

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