I have my Dad to thank for my skills in taking every day household items and turning them into a practically patentable survival kit.
I have been the lucky recipient of Dad’s annual model release (complete with detailed instructions) for many years at Christmas. Thankfully, I have not had a real emergency situation that has warranted using it, but I have certainly felt marginally more prepared for having it.
So in this chapter of the Survival Guide, we will leverage elements of Dad’s kit and suggest some new additions for the scenario we find ourselves coping with. (I hope my recommendations make it into the next model and I am appropriately compensated for said upgrades.)
Selected features of the latest model, the 2019 Acme Survival Kit MAP Upgrade:
- Individually wrapped emergency snacks (a.k.a. candy): No need to elaborate on the value of these. I will only issues a strong warning to protect these with your life. These are most likely to get swiped by thieving quarantine buddies.
- High grade space-age plastic spoon: personally, I wouldn’t get too caught up on whether your spoon is “space-age.” During a quarantine, no one is going anywhere, much less space. My recommendation is to focus on as high quality and sturdy an option as possible to be able to withstand hardy or extremely dense food items (i.e., very frozen ice cream). It could also serve as a shovel. California-inspired uses for this include gold digging, burying treasured valuables, or slowly digging a secret passage out of your Alcatraz-like quarantine location.
- Top grade plastic knife: Dad says this is useful for portioning snacks (ha! as if I’d share), cutting firewood for emergency campfires, and a small degree of self protection (I’ll buy that; I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve managed to cut myself on a plastic knife before…see below for recommendations on additional precautionary supplies should you choose to pack this item.)
- Top quality Balsa wood toothpicks: first off, not sure how Dad knows what his toothpicks are made of, and I’m not convinced the wood type really matters. So I would say just throw in whatever you have, so long as they are wood. No, not because I’m from California and might say this is because they are biodegradable, but because Dad claims you can rub two together to start a fire. I personally have not tested this, but sounds marginally plausible. Worse case, they can serve as stealth protective weapons when applied with proper precision and force (stay tuned for a future Survival Guide entry on self-protection and weaponry).
- Clear waterproof Gorilla Tape: as Dad indicates in the Kit Guide, there are so many uses for this item: patching holes, taping bandages in place, earthquake-proofing the house, to name a few. In a pandemic situation, I find it could be extra useful as a sealant around, say, gloves, masks or doors, to help the truly paranoid feel like they are further preventing disease entry. You could also use the tape to secure annoying quarantine buddies in an out-of-the-way location for a time. Just a little tape safely applied over their mouth for some temporary peace and quiet might be OK, too.
- Multi-purpose Super Sponge: recommended uses include cleanups as well as first aid for those with the OUCHO condition (Often Unable to Clear Hard Objects). As a victim of this condition, I really appreciated this upgrade this year. Though note, for those who fall closer to what Dad calls the EAP (Extremely Accident Prone) end of the spectrum, this (plus the bandaids and tape) still likely will not suffice. See additional recommendations below that address this.
Pandemic Survival Kit Add-ons:
- Spirits (for adult kits only): listen folks, let’s be real here. Things might get pretty grim. Or, worse, really boring. Pick up some of those mini boozes from your friendly neighborhood liquor store, or if you want to be more economical (and subtle) about it, get some tiny medicine bottles and fill them up with your favorite spirit from your home bar. Bonus idea: if you have room, those pre-assembled travel cocktail kits are a classy upgrade. Let’s face it, you’re not getting on a plane anytime soon anyway.
- Toiletries: since you have already started disassembling your travel kit, might as well throw some toiletry items in there, too. Who knows, you might want to brush your teeth once in a while.
- More Band-aids: Dad’s kit includes one “high quality (name brand) Band-aid.” I would suggest throwing in a few more. This is especially important if you suffer from EAP and/or have packed the Plastic Knife and Spirits.
- More snacks: chewy granola bars and fruit snacks are my personal favorites. They’re compact, have enough preservatives in them to keep indefinitely, and darn it they taste good.
- Bandanas (in fashionable assorted colors): besides the obvious use these days as your requisite face mask, you can also leverage these for their more traditional benefits: a gag (for annoying quarantine buddies), bandit face mask (if things get really bad and you need to rob a 7-Eleven for some emergency ice cream), and a stylish headband or neck scarf (because after a while, it’s the little things like dressing up a bit, that help you retain some sense of human dignity).
- Plastic gloves: again, a requirement these days when doing risky activities like grocery shopping. They are also moderately useful as hand warmers and are great entertainment for all ages (who doesn’t love plastic glove balloons!).
- Tile Tracker: this is pretty high tech, but remember when these handy little doohickeys came out? They promised you could attach it to a key chain or throw it in a purse and never again wonder “now, where the heck did I put my keys?!” With your handy tracker you could simply log into your phone and find out where they are. Perhaps the novelty wore off, or if you were like us, you were so afraid of losing the tracker itself that you put it away for safe keeping. Well, if you can remember where it is and how to use it, might as well try and get your money’s worth and throw it in the bag.
Some final tips:
- Don’t cheap out on packaging. The housing of your kit is as important as the contents. Note this isn’t your run-of-the-mill flimsy sandwich baggie. This is the heavy duty freezer grade model with the dual ziploc action seal.
- Bonus points for using clear packaging. So you can easily see what’s inside and better keep track of inventory (i.e., candy).
- Make it your own. Look, we all have our little guilty pleasures. If things get real down in the dumps, slipping in a little surprise for yourself that will help lift the spirits (beyond the spirits I have already recommended) could go a long way. What’s in mine? C’mon, I can’t tell you that. Keep is secret so the others don’t get greedy or jealous.
- Make your own. Based on my personal experience with kit items magically disappearing in the night, I recommend everyone have their own kit to avoid potentially ugly territorial situations when times get tough. I’m not suggesting you don’t support your family if necessary. But this is about survival. If anything, you will want to have some items squirreled away that can be bartered or used as leverage in difficult negotiations (i.e., you’re down to the last scoop of ice cream).
As the farm girl’s favorite survival mantra goes, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.