Deploying to Haiti & Preparedness While Traveling

by David Morris on January 18, 2010

To begin with, I want to thank everyone who is or will be deploying down to Haiti to help with the recovery and stabilization efforts. I will be praying for you.

If you or anyone you know is among those deploying to Haiti, please get in contact with me ASAP. I am getting in touch with as many people as possible to share their notes, experiences, and lessons learned from their deployments.

Next, I wanted to talk about something particularly timely in light of the earthquakes in Haiti…what preparedness gear I carry while traveling for business/vacations.

This doesn’t just apply to long-distance travel. You can take what I use for travel and apply it to everyday intermediate gear to have handy, or as a first step in making a GO bag/72 hour kit.

I have traveled a few times a month for several years (with 4-8 trips a year to DC) and this has been a constantly evolving list of equipment.

With the new airline luggage restrictions, I’ve pared my travel gear down considerably. I’ve now got the challenge of fitting everything I check into one bag that weighs under 50 pounds, including my sidearm, clothes, toiletries, work items, and preparedness items.

Here’s what I carry, broken down into the 4 major survival categories:

Food:
It depends on the trip, but I usually carry a few packages of jerky, 5-10 Cliff bars, survival/meal replacement bars, or whatever is decently healthy that I can buy in bulk at Costco.

I also carry two other items that are somewhat unique…fiber capsules and meal replacement capsules. The combination will allow me to function at about 85-90% for a few days without food and without feeling hungry. Best of all, they take up almost no space and weigh almost nothing. (I’m negotiating a SCREAMING deal for y’all and will let you know as soon as it’s ready.)

When I combine a little bit of food with the fiber/meal replacement combo, it’s possible for me to carry a week or more of food in a VERY compact form.

Fire:
I’ve got a few fire starting tricks with me, including two from the AMK mini survival kit, which fits into my cargo pocket sized first aid kit: http://www.rei.com/product/708135

The two fire starters that are included in this kit are a Fresnel lens and a tiny orange stick with a “spark wheel” like you’d find on a lighter. Most importantly, they include 3 pieces of braided cotton to use as tinder.

I also carry a blastmatch. The blastmatch is a one-handed fire starter that uses a combination of 4 metals to create 1400 degree sparks. From a pure survival standpoint, it’s not necessary. The little orange “spark wheel” does just as well with the proper tinder, but I honestly just enjoy using the blastmatch.

Two items that I carry to use as accelerants for making fires are chapstick and fish oil capsules. Adding either to tinder makes starting fire so much easier that it is almost like cheating.

The laws on matches and lighters in checked/carry-on baggage seem to change so often that I don’t even bother with them.

Water:
I carry a Sawyer 2 liter water purifier. http://www.rei.com/product/786393 I also carry the Katadyn carbon cartridge to filter the chlorine out of hotel water.

If needed, I can use my bandana or a cotton shirt as a pre-filter.

I also carry a Nalgene so that I have something to put the water into besides a tiny hotel glass.

Shelter:
My shelter options are very limited due to size/weight restrictions, and so, while I do carry a mylar blanket from the AMK kit, my primary strategy is to pack layered clothes and acquire/create shelter if necessary.

Medical:
I carry a simple REI Day Pack first aid kit http://www.rei.com/product/753285 along with superglue, electrolyte replenisher, an extra triangle bandage, and some beefed up blister gear. I don’t carry any CPR gear, and frankly, don’t intend to do CPR on anyone other than immediate family while traveling. This kit is to fix myself. If I have to fix anyone else, I’ll use their supplies or supplies that I acquire.

I also carry a bottle of prescription pain meds. I’ve learned the hard way that I have to jam-pack the bottle with cotton balls to keep the pills from dissolving from vibration. (I don’t take them and carry the exact same pills for months/years at a time, so the vibration of airline travel adds up)

Security/Tools:
Some of the other items that I have with me are:

-A big knife. I carry an 8″ full-tang sawback knife (I mistakenly said serrated originally) that I have abused enough in the woods & around the house to know I can trust it. I don’t mention the brand/type because it is not that impressive of a knife…it’s just a workhorse of a knife. Most importantly, I’ve used it enough to identify it’s faults and fix/compensate for them.
-A few zip ties of various lengths.
-Multi-tool
-2 lights…a Surefire Backup and a Petzl Zipka.
-backup batteries
-2 pepper sprays. (both a traditional “jogger” Saber spray and a Kimber Guardian Angel)
-pocket/neck knives to the extent that they’re legal where I’m traveling.
-Belt, boots, a bandana & a few cotton T-shirts.
-A roll of black electrical tape.
-Urban Survival Playing Cards from http://www.UrbanSurvivalPlayingCards.com.

I’ll usually throw in a couple of new things to test out each trip, but that’s the core of it. The best part about this setup is that, other than my big knife, it’s all SMALL, light, and very usable.

Let me know what preparedness items you carry with you when you travel. How do you deal with the fact that you’re basically choosing to be unprepared hours or days away from your home, family, and supplies? What systems do you have in place should a disaster hit your family while you’re gone? Tell me by commenting below:.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vote -1 Vote +1Glenn Willis
February 7, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Most of the time when I travel it is by Truck. Flying is so seldom that I have to research it afresh every time.
The last time I flew was Aug/Sep ’08. The on line instructions actually allowed for a plastic knife, so I carried one in my carry on. I always have a mini mag in my pocket when flying. They want to see it work, which is fine with me.
I carry a small knife in my shirt pocket that looks like a pen under the five foot rule. I have been through as many as three pat downs in a row and it still passed.
One of those square magnesium bars with a flint.
And I carry a self addressed bubble pack mailable envelope with a couple bucks of postage on it in my carry on in case someone gets more anal than I could have planed on. I don’t want to throw a seventy dollar knife or anything in a box for a guard to carry home. (Sometimes I wonder if that is why they search you AFTER you check your big luggage. I had a soda along last time I flew, and they confiscated it.

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