Emergency Kit Essentials: Packing Primal

September 08, 2015

Part one of BioLite’s Outdoors for the Indoors Series.

Kevin Rosenberg is a long time mountain guide and survivalist who turned his love for the outdoors into a career helping people explore life outside. Kevin is no stranger to survival; during ROTC Ranger training and his time as a Navy pilot he discovered a passion for sleeping under the stars and relying upon himself in remote off-grid situations. A native to Brooklyn, he realized that his neighbors needed help accessing the outdoors and getting their hands on the right gear. He opened Gear to Go Outfitters, the only full service outfitter in Brooklyn, to offer locals trustworthy, high performing products and a knowledgeable staff who could support their outdoor adventures.

In between renting weekend getaway gear and issuing fishing licenses, Kevin leads backpacking expeditions around the world. Last year he spent 8 days on a solo scout of the Arctic Circle trail. Before leaving to take a group on the now-scouted route to Greenland this summer, he sat down to help us get set up for an urban survival situation.

So, you’re an outdoorsman in Brooklyn... what's that like?

Being based in Brooklyn opens up a wide range of outdoor areas for exploration. I don’t think most people realize that New York State is one of the most rural states in the union. Just 1.5 hours away from they city and you’re in the Hudson Highlands. Within 2.5 hours you have the Shawangunks, Catskills, and Berkshires. Within 5-6 hours you can be in the Adirondacks, Green Mountains of Vermont, or even the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

You consider yourself a pretty well-trained survivalist - how do your experiences outdoors prepare you for times when you may be stuck inside during an emergency?

In an urban emergency you need to focus on your primal needs: food, water, and shelter. This is exactly the same focus someone on a backpacking trip will have. Think about what hazards you expect to encounter in different disasters and how you are going to deal with them to protect your core needs. If clean water isn’t available, think about how you’ll purify it. If someone in your family has a special diet or medication, do you have enough supply? If your heat is off, do you have a way to stay warm? If you have to get out of the city, do you have a route planned out? Consider every situation you can and have a backup plan.

Alright, let’s talk specifically about gear, what are your go-bag necessities?

A backpacking trip more so than a camping trip will let you know what you need and what you can do without. I like to keep my backpacking gear by my prep stuff so that if an emergency hits I’m ready to go. Here are few items that every go-bag should have:

  1. Freeze dried or shelf stable food. If you’re backpacking you probably have freeze dried meals sitting around the house. They have a shelf life of years. Include other foods that only require you to boil water like pasta or ramen noodles. If disaster does strike, keep in mind that a lot of what people refrigerate doesn’t need to be kept cold. For example, eggs and hard cheese can last for weeks.
  2. Water. You can only survive without water for three days, so make sure you have plenty.
  3. Water purification tools. If you need to purify water, you can boil it or use chlorine dioxide drops.
  4. A headlamp/light. Lighting is always a key need and I definitely recommend LED lanterns over gas lanterns or candles.  
  5. A small folding knife. I think everyone goes for the scariest knife they see but that is not really the way to go. You can get a combination knife with a serrated and straight edge, just make sure it is good quality.
  6. First aid kit. Adventure Medical makes great, lightweight ones that are waterproof. You can also put one together yourself. Make sure you cover basic bleeding, basic medication, anti-diarrheal, benedryl for allergies, anti-inflammatory, gauze, band-aids, neosporin, quikclot, and anti-itch.
  7. Stove. BioLite’s CampStove is great because it can fit in a go-bag and doesn’t require fuel canisters. The outdoor industry is moving towards re-chargeable so having a stove that generates electricity means that you’ve got a renewable power-source while you cook or boil water. There are a lot of other stove options to choose from but keep in mind that most stoves are meant to be used outside only.
  8. Sleeping Bag. If you have a sleeping bag, make it part of your go bag. A space blanket may come in handy if you don’t have a sleeping bag.
  9. Synthetic or Wool Clothing. If cotton clothing gets wet, it stays wet and draws heat away from you. All go-bag clothing should be synthetic or wool.

One additional item that is nice to have, especially if you have children, is a morale booster. Consider throwing a deck of cards or a roll up checkers game that you’d take camping in your go-bag.

A lot of go-bag lists get long quickly - is there any gear that we just don't need?

Hatchets and Axes. Between my years in the military, my own backpacking experiences, and almost 7 years of guiding, I have never carried or needed a hatchet or an axe. I know they’re trendy right now but unless you’re planning to build a cabin or start selling firewood, leave the heavy tools behind and travel light. The most I’ll carry if I see a need to gather large amounts of firewood for a group is a pocket chainsaw. It’s relatively lightweight, inexpensive, and fits in a case about the size of a can of shoe polish.

OUTDOORS for the INDOORS is a three part Preparedness Month series highlighting how outdoor skills prepare you for indoor emergencies.
View the entire series here.