Preparedness Month: 7 Prep Skills You Already Have From Being Outdoors

September 06, 2017


This article was written three weeks ago. In the subsequent wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we have received many well-intentioned inquiries of how our community might be able to donate BioLite gear to hurricane relief efforts. We are humbled and grateful that you would consider us in your actions, and we ask that at this time you direct your financial support to local organizations in Texas that have direct lines to the resources most needed at this time. A quick word of advice from our peer who worked the relief efforts of Hurricane Sandy back in 2012:

"Sending cash donations is the best way to help during times of crisis as responders can use it to purchase exactly what is needed, when it is needed, where it is needed. Donating unsolicited goods can cause logistics issues taking warehousing, staging locations, transport, staff and other resources away from the most immediate needs. While physical donations are given with the best intentions they can often cause great difficulty for local governments and aid organizations. Cash is king."

-Sandra Rothbard former Director of Supply Chain Logistics at NYC Emergency Management

Looking for a place to start? Here are three local recommendations:

The Greater Houston Community Foundation
Established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Donate online, or text HARVEY2017 to 91999 to support the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Feeding Texas
Statewide nonprofit that works alongside state and federal relief efforts.

Austin Pets Alive
Rescuing dogs from neighborhoods and shelters affected by the storm – currently operating at 10x their normal capacity.

Staying safe in the backcountry takes skills. Some of those skills are learned from trusted experts, others are forged in moments of crisis, many just develop over time and repetition. You’ve logged the nights outside, you've learned how to weather different conditions, and you know the gear you need for a successful and safe adventure.

Well, guess what? Those skills are directly translatable to being prepared for an emergency much closer to home.

This year’s theme for National Preparedness Month is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” Revisit these 7 common outdoor skills to start planning ahead in case of an emergency.

1. You know how to rendezvous.

Everyone sticks together when hiking as a group. Yet in the situation that a group member gets separated or you actively decide to break off to do something else, it’s important to have a meetup plan discussed ahead of time as cell phones are service are no guarantee. Same thing holds for emergency situations: make a plan with your household to meet a specific location in the event disaster strikes. List 2 backup locations if your meeting spot is in an affected area. Use’s guideline to help strategize your meet-up plan.

In the outdoors you also appreciate the power of a point of contact – going for a trail run by yourself? You tell a friend before you take off. Similarly in emergencies, email a friend or family members who lives far away – they may be able to play messenger to others who are trying to get in touch and learn your whereabouts.1

2. You think about water. A lot.

Whether you're lugging in your own supply or bringing a filtration system to process in real-time, making sure you have more than enough water for a multi-day expedition is a top priority. When it comes to disaster management, it’s advised to store one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. Learn more about creating & storing an emergency water supply from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Both a backpacking pack and an emergency disaster kit should also include a way to purify water. After locating a water source, use a water filter (or iodine tablets if you don't mind the taste) to ensure that the water is safe to drink. Boiling water over a stove is also a good method for backup purification when you're not dealing with sediment. And just like the outdoors, TRY YOUR GEAR before you need to use it in an emergency. Walter pumps can often require a small learning curve, and you don't want to be learning for the first time in an urgent situation.

3. You know how things change when the sun goes down.

Preparedness Lighting
Preparedness Lighting

Without light, a lot of tasks are difficult to accomplish: cooking, walking, reading, or just plain seeing what’s in front of you. A good light can go a long way, which is why it’s important to keep one on you and think about the jobs you'll need to accomplish at night. Will you be moving around a lot? Chopping with a sharp knife? Are you housing a bunch of people and need to illuminate a large space?2

Whether at a campsite or during a power outage at home, communal lighting can help ward off isolation and encourage a more social atmosphere. Headlamps make for a terrific personal light, but also consider overhead group lighting that can facilitate conversation, group activity, and feelings of home.3

4. Meal prep away from the fridge is a familiar challenge.

How to store food for a long period of time is the big question every time a camping trip is being planned out. That’s also the task at hand when preparing for a disaster. Experiment by preparing your own dried meals or buy packaged freeze dried meals for just-add-water convenience to prepare for both outside adventures and emergency disasters.4

5. You know the power of UNO (...yeah, UNO.)

Distraction is a powerful motivator. Analog entertainment is a great way to keep everyone calm and to help pass the time when you’ve found yourself in an emergency shelter or in a power outage. Similar to the communal lighting tip above, it encourages conversation, engagement, and reinforces that you are not alone in this stressful situation.

While planning for entertainment to put in your preparedness pack, avoid battery or USB-operated toys as that power could be put to more practical use. Things like card games, coloring books, or building sets provide outlets for creativity without electricity.

6. You practice regular gear checkups.

Preparedness Lighting
Preparedness Lighting

Climbers know the importance of practicing a regular gear check. Discovering a rip in your equipment after you’ve already stepped out of your home isn’t a very fun feeling, especially when relying on your gear for safety. That situation can be avoided by evaluating and inspecting what you already have packed. Keep an eye out for any wear and tear, and make sure that your tent’s seams and covers are still waterproof.

Keep your kit updated by making sure your first aid is replenished if it’s low on anything. Packing versatile first aid products are a good way to prepare for different kinds illnesses or injuries. Using multi-use treatment can replace packing for a handful of medications. (Pro-tip: always pack more band-aids that you think you need - it's often not a huge injury that will do you in, but a blister on your pinky toe). 5

7. You are a master of layers.

Yes, layering is considered an outdoor skill. You know that layering is the key to comfort and performance, and it’s all about choosing clothing that is packable, versatile, and can handle different weather conditions. A layer could keep you warm during colder temperatures, and can also block sunlight when the sun is blazing. Adjusting your layers allows you to be in control your body temperature during any situation.

Staying dry during cooler temperatures is a matter of safety when outdoors or in an emergency situation. Make sure you have a waterproof shell handy when it rains, but also be sure that your base layer keeps you dry and wicks away moisture when you sweat – which means the cardinal rule we all know for choosing appropriate clothing material: Avoid wearing cotton. Lastly, keep an eye on your feet: choose shoes that can take you for many miles and handle multiple terrains or weather conditions. Pack a pair of flip-flops in the event you need to shower in a shelter or somewhere away from home.

8. *Bonus for pet owners: Your Pup is prepared, too.

When bringing your pets along for an outdoor adventure, you’ve checked to see if areas allow your furry companion to accompany you. Do research ahead of time to know which emergency shelters allow you to bring along your pets, or if they require certain documentation when accepting pets into the shelter.

Just like how you pack for your pet on a camping trip, pack for your pet in case of an emergency, too. A pet emergency kit includes their food, medical records, cleaning supplies, a crate or carry bag, and water (also a gallon of water per day for at least three days). Have your pets microchipped, just in case they lose the ID tags kept on their collars. Learn more about pet disaster preparedness from ASPCA’s website.


Here are additional resources to help you prepare for handling an emergency situation:


Preparedness Product Round-Up:

You have the preparedness skills -- but do you have the emergency gear sorted out? If you need to replenish your emergency kit, we've gathered a handful of products that can be tested out on the trail and ready for use if disaster strikes.

  1. Turn your phone into a "walkie textie" using the goTenna Mesh, which allows you to use GPS and text someone else who has a goTenna without having to use any service.
  2. The BioLite PowerLight Mini is a versatile light source that can either clip on your shirt when you're on the move, or act as a free-standing lantern.
  3. Lightweight and daisy-chainable BioLite string lights provide a comforting sense of home and also help with your sense of direction during a blackout.
  4. With 15 pouches of packable freeze-dried food and a 30-year shelf life, meals in your preparedness kit are all covered with a set of the Mountain House 5 Day Emergency Food Supply.
  5. Replace packing for Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, and aloe vera with BLDG's Active Repair, which treat wounds, cuts and scrapes, rashes, sunburns, and other skin irritations with just one kind of medical grade spray.