Camping 101: Winter Is Time To Restock Raided Packs

I stole at least three items last year, from packs that were initially designed for a specific purpose, purposes for which my thievery was only technically justified.

In the first instance, I was hungry and had not brought even so much as a snack to nibble on while casually paddling around a county lake near my home. Clearly not a survival situation, but the pangs of hunger called for emergency measures. I broke into my survival kit and consumed half of the power bar emergency food I had purposefully included for survival situations.

Tom Watson

The second case of robbery involved taking several bandages from my first-aid kit when I discovered that the box of Band-Aids in my medicine chest was empty. Wads of toilet paper wasn’t squelching the blood flow to my finger so I sought out my first-aid kit I use for camping and nabbed a few strips from within — one for now and a few to replenish those I tend to keep in my wallet.

Lastly, I had prepared my BBQ grill for a late fall salmon feast. The coals were poured into the starter chimney, the fish was seasoned and ready to go, and the basting sauce simmered on the stove. The only thing missing to kick this off was a match — one lousy match, or a lighter, to start the coals. I had neither. “Ah-ha!” I remembered my survival kit in the garage. There was a lighter and a container of matches in it that I could “borrow.”

That’s the key word: “borrow” — as in pay back! These were kits that I have to depend upon to save my life and I had stolen key components from them just because it was convenient. OK, not having a way to start the coals when fresh Alaskan salmon is on the menu is a bona fide emergency. For the rest of those instances, however, it was the lazy man’s way out of having the right stuff around the house to cause me to break into my emergency supplies.

Make Sure To Replace Taken Items
This all brings me to the point of this article. If you are going to rob “Peter” to pay “Paul” (in this case, yourself to tend to yourself), make sure you pay “Peter” back! You don’t want to be in a real life situation of hunger where a bite of fuel food that will give you the energy boost to stay warm or get home is missing from your kit because you gobbled it down three months earlier and never replaced it.

Use the housebound days of winter to restock all your kits. Replace those food items in your survival kit that may be old and stale — or previously consumed. The same goes for your first-aid kit. I can’t count the times I’ve robbed aspirin from my kit. I surely don’t want to be in the backcountry with a splitting headache only to realize that my aspirin container is empty. Medications get old and stale, too, so make sure yours are replenished periodically.

I carry a fire-starting kit with me that includes a lighter (the ubiquitous BIC) and strike-anywhere matches. I also carry fire sticks, those wood fiber sticks with a farmer’s match shoved into each end. It’s the first place I go when I am without matches for a weekend barbeque. It’s good to check fuel levels in lighters and the freshness of matches periodically as well.

These are simple tasks, but it’s man’s nature to commit small crimes of convenience when we can so easily justify breaching our own unspoken rules: “What’s in the survival kit is for survival only!”

I guess we can sneak by on definition of terms, but better yet, take some time this winter to re-stock your kits, freshen up your first-aid kit, and re-supply your cache of energy bars so you can hit the trail this spring running with a full, fresh kit!

For a fine assortment of Camping Accessories, click here.

Tom Watson is an award-winning writer who lived in Alaska for 16 years, 12 of which were on Kodiak Island. He is a frequent contributor to “Camping Life,” “Canoe & Kayak” magazines, author of three books: “Sixty Hikes within Sixty Miles of Minneapolis,” “Best Tent Camping-Minnesota,” both by Menasha Ridge Press, and “How to Think Like a Survivor,” by Creative Publishing International. He’s also an avid kayaker, camper, naturalist, writer, and photographer residing in western Minnesota. He will write a weekly column on camping tips for

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