Scavenging Supplies — A Thought Exercise

Posted on: February 18, 2015

As you might expect, the subject of survival and disaster planning comes up somewhat regularly at our home. I like to toss thought exercises out to my kids from time to time, just to see where the discussion leads.

Over the weekend, my wife and I were heading out for a few hours to do some running around. I decided to leave my boys a short homework assignment, based in part on a book I’m currently reading. In the story, there is a small group of young adults who are traveling across the country after a major disaster. As they begin their journey, they come across a big box retail store and stock up on supplies and gear for the journey. I decided to use that premise as a thought exercise. Here’s what I gave my boys to work with:

There has been a major disaster. You and a small group of survivors are traveling home and it will take several days to get there. You come across a Walmart store. You have one backpack, nothing special it is just like the one you use for school. What supplies would you take from the store? Remember, you’ll need to be able to carry the fully loaded pack, so weight is a concern. Assume you have nothing with you other than the clothes on your back.

I asked each of my boys to make a list of their chosen supplies. When we returned, I went over each list and we talked about the different choices. Here are some of the highlights.

My eldest (15 years old) was the only one who had included a knife on his list. My middle son (12 years old) was the only one who thought of socks and other clothes. My youngest (10 years old) thought to grab apples and oranges, assuming they’d still be good to eat.

They all thought to grab water bottles but no one thought of water filtration gear or purification tablets. No one grabbed any sort of cordage but my eldest mentioned taking a couple of bandanas. All had matches or lighters on their lists. No one thought of flashlights, though.

One thing I found rather interesting was that no one had anything on their lists that you might consider frivolous or foolish. No toys, mp3 players, or other nonsense. My eldest mentioned a prepaid cell phone, which on the surface is a good idea, depending upon the nature of the disaster, but he didn’t know the phone cards had to be activated at the cash register, which likely wouldn’t be an option.

A few other things I pointed out that might be good ideas to grab:

–Mess kit
–Granola bars and other prepackaged “ready to eat” food
–First aid kit

All in all, the exercise resulted in a pretty interesting discussion. For those curious, the book that prompted this discussion is SYLO by DJ MacHale.

So, what would be on your list?

3 thoughts on “Scavenging Supplies — A Thought Exercise

  1. Cass How about firearm? And be carefull with new boots that haven’t been broke in yet. How about hat ,gloves walking stick, book to read on survival? Tea or coffee . Good list

  2. We live in Florida. Bug Spray is high on the list. Some other things.
    Hatchet or folding saw
    Sun Block

  3. You weren’t very specific in your instructions, I am going to assume 2 things; The lights are on in an empty store and I don’t have to pay for my treasures.

    First I would change my clothing into something with LOTS of pockets—cargo pants, pocket T and light coat/hoodie with pockets. Would be best if it were a pullover hoodie with pouch pocket, but I’ll take any kind with pockets. Then would be my own coat over the new outfit and head for the shoe department for study boots and several pairs of socks.

    Food: Small pop top cans of beans (2-3…you said a couple of days journey)
    Open up boxes of my favorite granola bars and shove one box into hoodie pocket and one box contents into outside pocket of backpack
    Candy bar or two, just cuz
    Several pouches of nuts with salt.
    A couple of small bottles of Gaterade
    Open up a box of plastic spoons and forks and shove a few of each in an outside backpack pocket.
    A jar of peanut butter
    A packet of sandwich “thins” (in outside pocket with forks)

    Now to sporting goods:
    Smallest water filter they have in stock and water purification tablets
    Water bottle with wide screw off top. (Fill it in back of store at water station before leaving store, if it still works, otherwise wait til I go back for water in aisle and fill it up there from bottle
    Several caribener (sp) clips (use one immed. to hook water bottle to belt loop)
    3 -4 of the brightest small flashlights with 6 sets of batteries for each. (why 6? Cuz I am afraid of bumps in the night)
    Waterproof matches and long lighter
    Small “pup” tent
    Smallest/thinest sleeping bag in stock
    Bungee cords to fasten tent and sleeping back to underside of pack, even if I have to hook it to the side pockets of the pack
    Multi-tool…2 sizes, cuz different sizes have different things
    Camper’s toilet paper, cuz I’m a girl, several rolls
    pack of travel wipes for hands
    Small First Aid Kit
    Steri-strips to add to it
    Tube of Antibiotic ointment
    Fixed blade knife
    small camper’s saw for making big sticks little sticks for fire

    Cosmetics Dept:
    Package of make up remover pads
    small jar petroleum jelly (One dipped into other makes a wonderful, easily portable fire starter)

    Now back to water aisle. Fill water bottle from gallon jug and hang rest of gallon on back of pack with caribiner clip.
    Fill any remaining space with individual size water bottles. Grab a second gallon of water and off I go. Well, right after stopping at the rest room to forestall the first potty break in the 3 -4 day walk ahead of me.

    When packing the pack for the journey , I would take everything out of it’s package (expect the make up remover pads) and shove it in the smallest space it will fit, be that the back pack of one of the many pockets I (now) have. If I found I had extra space I would pick up more hand sanitizing wipes, a fabric hand towel (in summer), extra gloves (in winter) and some of those individual cups of cookies and crackers they have up front…comfort food, ya know. (and empty plastic cup can be used to scoop up water if I run low) Since it is only 3 – 4 days, I am not overly worried about nutrition….I can fix my nutrient levels when I get home. I am worried about enough protein and sugars to keep going at a steady pace toward home.

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