Trail Tested Gift Guide & Giveaway!

Trail Tested: A New Way to Share the Products We Love.

Trail Tested

The holidays are nearly upon us. Soon we’ll be up to our eyeballs in ads and promoted posts telling us what we HAVE to buy for that special outdoor-enthusiast in our lives. But at Mountain House, we believe that buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff is an old game, and now more than ever folks are seeking the gift of experience. Because it’s experience that builds treasured memories and compels us to get outdoors more! So we sought out some of our personal trail tested favorite products from 2016, from brands that we believe are making it easier to get outdoors and make memories.

We sent two people from our team out to trail test the following products:

And of course, we sent them out with plenty of Mountain House Adventure Meals™! Their mission: To find forest gold! Chanterelles! Read on to see how these adventure-enabling products stood up to the test, and don’t miss out on entering the giveaway at the bottom of the gift guide!

Trail Tested Product: A·Phlex™ performance hikers from KEEN footwear

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“I’m a hard-sell on hiking boots. I had my favorite pair of hikers recently give up the ghost at the end of a 5 day trek through West Glacier, and I bid them a fond farewell at the trailhead. In a trash can. There are a lot of footwear brands on the market, and hiking boots can get super spendy! But the A-Phlex boots from KEEN come in well under what I would expect to pay for sturdy, weatherproof, mid-weight hikers. After a weekend trekking up slippery trails and scrambling up soggy hillsides and over streams, my feet stayed dry, my footing was confident, and the A-Phlex proved to be equally as comfortable as my previous pair, may they rest in peace. Trail Tested: Approved. Totally.” – KM

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“Why was I stomping through a stream when it’s well-known that chanterelles prefer higher ground? Because I could, of course! The A-Phlex Waterproof Boots had great traction as I clambered over rocks, and even with my most ferocious of puddle stomps, my feet stayed dry! Trail Tested: Approved.” – JW

Trail Tested Product: Keb and Vidda Trousers from Fjällräven

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“This is the Pacific Northwest. And in true November fashion, it was pretty much constantly raining. Our luck panned out and we came upon the forest gold we were seeking, but that meant a lot of time spent with knees in the moss. I became a quick fan of the water resistant G-1000 material (which makes me feel super high-tech!) and the double reinforcements over the knees on the Vidda Trousers. There are also reinforcements over the rear, which proved a critical addition as I inadvertently took a seat on the forest floor! Trail Tested: Approved.” – KM

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“Sun, rain, snow, ice … you name it, I’m out in it. I do a lot of photography and film work and often find myself in rugged places where most pants are scared to go. And while mushroom hunting may not be the material threat that, say, rock climbing or canyoneering might be, after testing out the Keb Trousers, I’m confident they’ll hold up to the demands of my day job. The durability on these is impressive, but my favorite feature might be the leg vents. Cooling off while climbing high is a breath of fresh air. Trail Tested: Approved.” – JW

… we interrupt this Trail Tested Gift Guide to bring you …

Mountain House Hacks!

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Mountain House Adventure Meals™ are delicious as-is (and with a 30 year taste guarantee!), but adding your own special ingredient can take delicious to the next level. We often hear from folks who like to carry along hot sauce for their Mac and Cheese, or fresh rosemary for Biscuits and Gravy. We call them Mountain House Hacks (#MHhacks)! Our trail testers offered up a couple of their own #MHhacks: Fresh-caught fish in Pasta Primavera and chanterelles in Chicken and Dumplings. Yum.

*we hope this goes without saying, but please only eat fish you’re allowed to catch, and don’t dig in on any mushroom that you’re not 100% confident is edible

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Trail Tested Product: JetBoil MightyMo Backpacking Stove & 1.5 Liter FluxRing® Cooking Pot

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“I’ve been a JetBoil fan for a long time, my JetBoil Flash is the perfect accompaniment when I’m just heating water for myself. But there are still times when a lightweight backpacking stove is needed, especially when I’m heating water for more than just me, or needing to use in conjunction with more traditional outdoor cookwear. The first two times I used the MightyMo Backpacking Stove I had to double check that it was actually lit and working. It was THAT quiet. And look at how photogenic it is! Trail Tested: Approved.” – KM

*The MightyMo Backpacking Stove is currently available only on REI.com and will be available more broadly in 2017.

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“I often have to help prep food for several people, and I’ve been toting around the same heavy cook system for years. This FluxPot is a game-changer. It’s lightweight, sits sturdy on the MightyMo stove, and is incredibly efficient. We boiled the water first, then poured it into our respective Mountain House pouches. Then while our pouches did their steamy thing, we used the pot again to sauté our chanterelles. Trail Tested: Approved.” – JW

As mentioned, we’re not so into the whole buying stuff for the sake of stuff game. But give us some solid gear that’s going to stick around in our packs awhile and we’re sold. And since we think you are, too, we’ve asked JetBoil, KEEN, and Fjällräven if they’d join us in a Trail Tested Giveaway to go with our Gear Guide. And they said yes!

Two lucky winners will each receive the following:

  • Fjallraven: choice of Keb Trousers or Vidda Trousers
  • KEEN: a new pair of KEEN, A·Phlex™ performance hikers
  • JetBoil: MightyMo Backpacking Stove + 1.5 Liter FluxRing® Cooking Pot
  • Mountain House: Just in Case…® 14-Day Emergency Food Supply

Good luck! And Happy Trails!

Thank you to Uncage the Soul Productions for the photos!

Trail Tested Giveaway

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

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In 2015 (according to the National Interagency Fire Center), nearly 70,000 wildfires raged in the United States, scorching more than 10 million acres and racking up better than $2 billion in federal suppression costs. A wildfire may spark in the middle of huge wilderness from the lick of a lightning bolt; at a front-country campsite from a careless campfire; or within city limits when the spark from a car or a tossed-away cigarette alights the brush and weeds of an untended lot or roadside hedge.

Wildfires can be terrifying and life-threatening. They don’t need to be terribly large to become essentially uncontrollable, and many of the biggest yearly blazes only die down with the help of Mother Nature in the form of sustained rainfall or snow—though wildland firefighters across multiple agencies do an amazing job protecting lives and property. Here are some tips on wildfire preparedness any homeowner would do well to take to heart.

The Risk

Wildfires are on the increase in the U.S., as they are in many parts of the world. The reasons aren’t cut-and-dried, although global warming is almost assuredly playing a role by, for instance, enhancing drought and proliferating tree-killing pests and diseases. And the historical American policy of essentially blanket wildfire-suppression has also made many landscapes—evolved over millennia under the influence of occasional scorching—more vulnerable to bigger burns: woodlands, savannas, shrublands, and grasslands once regularly flushed by low-intensity wildfires have in many cases become overgrown with trees or brush, making a much larger fire more likely.

Keep in mind that, while we often colloquially refer to “forest fires,” wildfires can and do occur in non-forested habitats. Brushfires and grassfires can be swift and ferocious, threatening structures far removed from the nearest timber. Furthermore, wildfires may break out in rural and even urban settings.

The Wildland-Urban Interface

Among the people most vulnerable to wildfires are those who inhabit what’s called the wildland-urban interface. This describes the overlap zone between developed, human-dominated areas and wilder, undeveloped country. Millions live in these threshold landscapes, not least because they directly appeal to many homeowners eager to reside on the edge of countryside or wilderness.

These homes are often located in fire-vulnerable settings such as canyons, shrubby or forested foothills, and enclosed woodland. If this describes your HQ, it’s incumbent to make your home and property as fire-resistant as possible—and to develop an emergency plan of action in case a blaze breaks out in or advances into your vicinity.

A Fire-wise Home

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) oversees an initiative called the Firewise Communities Program aimed at educating homeowners about steps they can take to make their households safer from wildfires. The Firewise website is an absolute must. We strongly urge you to take advantage of the many resources it provides.

The first step in converting your domicile into a Firewise one is assessing your so-called “home ignition zone”: the area 100 to 200 feet around (and including) your home that may cause it to catch flame via embers, brands, or simply radiant heat. That home ignition zone is your defensible space, and you want to make it a buffer less likely to fuel and/or carry a fire.

It’s a good idea to begin your Firewise effort with your home itself: the most important part of your property, after all. Keep your roof and gutters clean, as accumulated leaves, twigs, and other debris can combust from a mere ember. You also want to make sure to fix or replace any busted or missing tiles or shingles, as the gaps they create can allow embers to enter your house. Vents can serve as similar entryways for flaming material, so consider guarding them with wire mesh.

Decks and patios can be significant avenues for fire. Remove material from underneath and alongside them, and blockade the crevices beneath with mesh or some other material so debris doesn’t build up.

The NFPA recommends keeping a “fire-free” radius within five feet of your house. Eyeball the exterior walls of your home, and you’re more likely than not to see something combustible leaned or stored against them: woodpiles, lumber, compost bags, brooms, etc. And that’s not even including plantings. Remove flammable items and consider replacing vegetation or mulch with hardscaping: gravel, pavement, and the like.

Beyond the immediate radius of your house, consider planting trees, shrubs, and herbs that are less likely to violently combust in a fire. The Firewise website has links to state/region-specific references on fire-resistant landscaping. Space out trees and shrubbery: For instance, within 30 to 100 feet of your home individual trees should be separated by 20 feet and tree clusters by 30 feet. And you want to prune your property’s trees so they’re free of branches six to 10 feet from the ground. Such low-hanging boughs are what firefighters and foresters call “ladder fuels” for their propensity to carry a ground-hugging flame into the canopy.

Fire Emergency Plan

Just as critical as Firewise home maintenance and landscaping is developing a sound fire emergency plan for your household. This should include assembling the sort of emergency kit we’ve discussed here at the blog before—including an adequate supply of non-perishable provisions such as Mountain House meals!

In the case of a fire, you may well be forced to evacuate with little advance notice, so you’ll want an emergency kit designed as a “go bag” that can quickly be grabbed on the way out the door. In addition to food, water, first-aid, and other survival essentials, it should include backups of any prescription medications as well as copies of critical documents.

You’ll also want an emergency kit stowed in your vehicle in case you need to evacuate by car, or you’re blocked from returning home by a wildfire.

Your wildfire evacuation plan should specify at least two and ideally more escape routes from your home and neighborhood, in case an oncoming inferno blocks one or more exit points.

Everyone in your household should be familiar with the fire preparedness plan, and it should include evacuation and other emergency-protocol details for workplaces, schools, and anywhere else family members spend time. Program emergency numbers into everyone’s cell phones.

You also want to refresh yourself as to your homeowner’s insurance policy and inventory your home’s content ahead of any potential wildfire.

You can be the most diligent Firewise homeowner out there, but your wildfire preparedness may end up being for naught if your neighbors aren’t as responsible. Educating your neighborhood about fire-resistant landscaping and home preparation is an excellent first step in coordinating communal safety efforts. You’ll all be more secure and better-prepared if the entire neighborhood keeps tabs on the local risks of fire. That also means making sure street signs are clearly visible (for emergency responders), and having a sense of who’s most vulnerable in your community—for example, the elderly or infirm.

Ahead of an Approaching Wildfire

The most important instruction if a wildfire’s in your area is to heed any and all evacuation orders. If such haven’t been issued, take other anticipatory steps: Besides doing another once- or twice-over of your defensible space to get rid of or more safely away from any combustible material, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends attaching garden hoses of suitable length to reach all parts of your home and filling tubs, bins, garbage pails, and other receptacles with water.

Keeping Tabs on Weather

In the U.S., you can stay abreast of potentially dangerous fire conditions by keeping tabs on any National Weather Service (NWS) alerts. When particularly hot, dry, stormy, and/or windy weather is forecast, the NWS may issue a “Fire Weather Watch,” a “Fire Weather Warning,” or a “Red Flag Warning.” (You might consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver for your wildfire emergency kit so you receive up-to-the-minute notifications of fire weather.)

Wildfire is nothing to play around with. Check out helpful wildfire-preparation resources such as FEMA and Firewise, and prepare—and practice—a fire emergency plan for your household!

Out of the Norm: Celebrating 52 Years of Service

by Spencer Kloewer

The birth of Mountain House dates back to early 1969, but the history dates back even further, and one individual has been there since the beginning: Norm Jager. After 52 years with OFD Foods, his contributions have had lasting effect. His impact has shaped the foundation of the quality, longevity, and the passion that makes Mountain House the reputable brand it is today.

Norm began his historic career with OFD in 1964, loading strawberries onto trays. At the time, freeze dried strawberries, found in popular cereals, accounted for 100% of the company’s business. The company quickly recognized Norm’s talents and within the year, Norm began working in what was internally known as, “The Lab.” Since there were no formal departments like there are today, Norm had a mix of responsibilities that included Quality Assurance, Quality Control, and Research and Development.

Not only did Norm Jager formulate many of Mountain House’s famous meals, he also provided his looks for a magazine shoot.

Not only did Norm Jager formulate many of Mountain House’s famous meals, he also provided his modeling skills for a magazine shoot!

By the mid-60s, the Vietnam War had already begun to cause turmoil across the globe. In 1967, the United States military approached Oregon Freeze Dry to create meals for their soldiers. They recognized the old “C” rations would be a problem for the soldiers because of the long range patrols they’d go on. This led to the creation of the LRP (Long Range Patrol ration), which OFD still manufactures for the military to this day. Norm played a key part developing the eight meals, two of which are still popular today: Beef Stew and Spaghetti. In addition to the 9,600,000 LRPs produced, OFD also produced cottage cheese and steaks.

For the next few years, soldiers began to write to OFD, praising the taste of the LRPs. They asked where they could purchase them, and we began selling the excess inventory to Army Surplus stores. As the fan base for the LRPs began to grow, they recognized a natural transition into camping and outdoor recreation activities. The rations quickly gained popularity and sold out. In early 1969, OFD was approached by Recreational Equipment, Inc. (better known as REI) to re-sell the military rations to backpackers. By the end of the year, the LRP packaging was changed from military-drab color to brilliantly colored red, yellow, and green foil pouches. Mountain House was born, and at the center of tastefully-formulated meal: Norm Jager.

From 1970-1980, Norm recalled a very different Mountain House than the one consumers know today. “We made pancake mix, French toast mix, nut chocolate Lurps®, pudding mix, orangeade, and even tuna and egg salad.” Our company freeze dried unusual products during that time period, including watermelon, sea cucumbers, Douglas fir seedlings, and even honey. Norm recalled freeze drying honey as “a sticky situation.”

Peter Mittmann, the guru behind Mountain House’s patented packaging, “heavily relied” on Norm’s expertise. “Whenever I had a question, I would always go to Norm.” Since 1979, the packaging structure has changed three times and every time Peter would ask Norm for his blessing.

“Every time we made a change, we checked with Norm to verify the change was the right change.”

Norm’s expertise didn’t stop with Mountain House. In 1982, OFD approached NutriSystem with a line of Fruit Crisps®, freeze dried strawberries. Instead, NutriSystem wanted a range of entrees. They selected six dinner entrees and asked OFD to reformulate to meet their dietary specifications. According to Mittmann, “Norm was key.” This multi-year agreement led to nearly a 50 percent increase in production capacity, greater facility expansion, an R&D center (which would later be named after him), additional rooms and equipment, and computerization for all Plant 1 chambers. Due to the volume NutriSystem required, along with demand from the military, and the production of industrial ingredients, Mountain House was pushed to the side and not a first priority for the company. However, there were many crossover entrees from both NutriSystem and military formulations that found a home with the Mountain House line: Rice and Chicken, Chicken Stew, Beef Stroganoff, Spaghetti, and entrées no longer in production such as Beef Burgundy and Green Pepper Beef.

The growth of OFD allowed Norm and the R&D team to explore their creativity. NutriSystem offered a chance to formulate fresh breads, such as waffles, tortillas, burritos, and even pizzas. In the early 1990s, the Gulf War took to the forefront as military production increased due to Desert Storm and Desert Shield. This time, their interests were providing fresh bread for their troops. This led to the first time OFD began packaging with Oxygen (O₂) absorbers, now a staple to the success and quality of Mountain House meals. Another critical element addressed in the early 90s was the introduction of the gusseted pouch. The gusset allowed consumers to eat from the pouch easier and provided the ability to hold it in their hand without feeling the heat of the pouch. These changes would set the new standard for freeze-dried meals.

OFD Foods, Inc. honors Norm Jager by naming the R & D Center after him.

OFD Foods, Inc. honors Norm Jager by naming the R & D Center after him.

Without Norm’s knowledge and expertise, Mountain House could not have created a product that we confidently back with a 30-Year Taste Guarantee. Many of the meals he helped formulate in 1968 are still top sellers for the brand today, such as Beef Stew, Spaghetti, and Chili Mac. According to Mittmann, there is one critical part about Norm’s presence at OFD:

“His dedication to quality and safety of food is unmatched.”

President Jim Merryman comments on Norm’s contribution to the company:

“One person has been involved with Mountain House from its inception in the late 1960s to present day, and that person is Norm Jager. Throughout all these years, Norm has been the steward of Mountain House, formulating recipes and the fine art of freeze drying to bring the very best food to MH fans.”

Norm Jager and Jim Merryman at Norm's 50 year bash!

Norm Jager and Jim Merryman at Norm’s 50 year bash!

CLASSIC BUCKET 50% OFF at SAM’s CLUB NOW

A VERY limited supply of the Mountain House Classic Bucket is on sale at participating Sam’s Club Stores for $44.81! That’s over 50% off the MSRP* of $89.99! The Classic Bucket includes 2 pouches each of fan favorite meals, including Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Teriyaki, Beef Stew, Lasagna w/ Meat Sauce, Noodles & Chicken, and Granola w/ Blueberries. 

Buckets can be found in the Sporting Goods section (might be called “Seasonal”). Ask for item 484001 if you have trouble locating the buckets.

This deal is active at the following select stores (strikethrough indicates that location has sold out), but please be advised that inventory levels may vary, and some stores may have fewer than 10 buckets left, so please call your store ahead of time before making a special trip.

If you experience any issues finding us at any of the listed stores – please email mh-info@ofd.com and put in the subject line SAMS CLUB.

*This is the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, not the EDLP (Everyday Low Price) marketed at Sam’s Club and Walmart stores. 

SC Store # City State Store Zip Code
4829 GILBERT AZ 85295
4830 AVONDALE AZ 85323
4915 BULLHEAD CITY AZ 86429
4927 CHANDLER AZ 85286
4955 SURPRISE AZ 85374
4977 PRESCOTT VALLEY AZ 86314
6241 SCOTTSDALE AZ 85260
6604 FLAGSTAFF AZ 86001
6605 GILBERT AZ 85234
6606 PHOENIX AZ 85037
6692 TUCSON AZ 85704
4704 FRESNO CA 93720
4709 CORONA CA 92881
4735 LA HABRA CA 90631
4767 PALMDALE CA 93551
4819 BAKERSFIELD CA 93313
4822 MURRIETA CA 92563
4824 SANTA CLARITA CA 91350
6235 SAN DIEGO CA 92115
6378 RIVERSIDE CA 92507
6405 YUBA CITY CA 95993
6433 VACAVILLE CA 95687
6610 CHINO CA 91710
6612 CONCORD CA 94520
6614 EL MONTE CA 91731
6615 FOUNTAIN VALLEY CA 92708
6620 FOLSOM CA 95630
6621 ROSEVILLE CA 95678
6622 SACRAMENTO CA 95828
6623 SACRAMENTO CA 95821
6624 SAN BERNARDINO CA 92408
6625 SAN FERNANDO CA 91340
6627 STANTON CA 90680
6628 TORRANCE CA 90505
4745 THORNTON CO 80229
4777 DENVER CO 80238
4816 AURORA CO 80016
4987 LONGMONT CO 80501
6219 COLORADO SPRINGS CO 80920
6360 GRAND JUNCTION CO 81505
6549 PUEBLO CO 81008
6630 ARVADA CO 80002
6631 AURORA CO 80012
6632 DENVER CO 80209
6633 FORT COLLINS CO 80525
6634 LONE TREE CO 80124
6635 LITTLETON CO 80123
8147 LOVELAND CO 80537
8272 FOUNTAIN CO 80906
6345 IDAHO FALLS ID 83404
8215 SPRINGFIELD IL 62704
8174 MERRILLVILLE IN 46410
6333 BANGOR ME 4401
6462 AUGUSTA ME 4330
8186 SCARBOROUGH ME 4074
6419 TRAVERSE CITY MI 49684
6320 HERMANTOWN MN 55811
6427 ROCHESTER MN 55901
4805 BILLINGS MT 59101
6379 GREAT FALLS MT 59404
4933 BISMARCK ND 58504
4784 LAS CRUCES NM 88011
4938 ALBUQUERQUE NM 87107
4961 ROSWELL NM 88201
6347 FARMINGTON NM 87402
6408 SANTA FE NM 87507
4768 RENO NV 89509
4974 NORTH LAS VEGAS NV 89030
4983 LAS VEGAS NV 89113
6257 LAS VEGAS
6382 LAS VEGAS NV 89117
8177 LAS VEGAS NV 89120
6423 MIDDLETOWN NY 10941
6440 LATHAM NY 12110
6456 PLATTSBURGH NY 12901
6547 MUNCY PA 17756
6575 PITTSBURGH PA 15275
6678 PITTSBURGH PA 15237
8175 HARRISBURG PA 17111
6565 RAPID CITY SD 57701
4718 SOUTH JORDAN UT 84095
4730 WEST JORDAN UT 84084
4786 LOGAN UT 84341
6682 LAYTON UT 84041
6683 MURRAY UT 84107
6684 RIVERDALE UT 84405
6685 PROVO UT 84601
6686 SALT LAKE CITY UT 84115
4729 STERLING VA 20166
6458 LYNCHBURG VA 24502
4835 RENTON WA 98057
6687 SEATTLE WA 98133
6688 AUBURN WA 98001
8189 CLARKSBURG WV 26301
6425 CASPER WY 82609
6430 CHEYENNE WY 82009

 

How to Build an Emergency Shelter In Your Home

You’ve probably seen the pictures, even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid the experience yourself: sturdy homes reduced to jagged rubble by a monster tornado or hurricane. It’s a stark and shocking illustration of the power these violent storms wield—and the threat they represent.

If you live in an area prone to such atmospheric disturbances, one option for protecting yourself is installing a safe room: a reinforced, firmly anchored shelter that can shield you from hammering winds and projectile debris. Here we’ll take a look at some of the basics of building such a structure and briefly consider other kinds of at-home emergency shelters.

The Safe Room

Under the guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a safe room is meant to deliver “near-absolute protection in extreme weather events.” Such a room needs to be independent of any surrounding or connected building structure (in the case of an interior or adjacent safe room). FEMA’s standards call for safe rooms to resist winds of 250 miles per hour: an “extreme weather event,” to say the least. (Most of the information in this blogpost comes from FEMA Publication P-320, “Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.”)

A home constructed solely to local building codes is still definitely vulnerable to the devastation of a major windstorm. A Category 4 or 5 hurricane boasts winds in excess of 150 miles per hour; the most powerful tornadoes, classed as EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, may whirl away at better than 300 miles per hour. Single gusts in less intense storms can still pack a heck of a punch.

High winds aren’t just pummeling a building from the outside: They can also smash out roofs and walls by streaming in via windows, doors, or any other openings, and lift a structure right off its foundation. And that’s not even considering the ballistic impacts of windborne debris: tree branches, 2X4s, sheet metal—all manner of everyday objects turn into missiles during these sorts of maelstroms.

A properly designed safe room, accessed via a single stormproof door, resists such forces with its reinforced roof, walls, and foundation, to which it’s firmly anchored. Besides being resilient to wind loading and windborne wreckage, safe rooms also are meant to withstand the collapse of a surrounding building.

Should you invest in a safe room? If you live in the U.S., you can gauge your home’s vulnerability to damaging winds by checking out Figure 2-7 in “Taking Shelter from the Storm,” which divides the country into four wind zones and also identifies hurricane-prone regions.

A Word on Terminology

We’re mostly focused here on FEMA-defined safe rooms. The International Code Council (ICC) established a set of standards for “storm shelters,” ICC 500, in collaboration with FEMA and the National Storm Shelter Association. FEMA’s safe rooms meet the minimum ICC 500 guidelines while incorporating additional protective design elements. In other words, a FEMA safe room meets or exceeds the ICC’s storm-shelter standards.

And it probably goes without saying that a term like “storm shelter” is pretty loosely bandied about in books and websites, so don’t assume the structure in question actually meets FEMA or ICC standards. The same goes for so-called “storm doors”: Many of these don’t meet the benchmarks of a tested tornado safe-room door (which you can learn more about in this FEMA factsheet).

You’ll also see “safe room” used synonymously with “panic room” to refer to a location secured against home invaders. That’s a different aim, of course, than a FEMA-style stormproof safe room, and it’s beyond our purview here.

Long story short: It’s absolutely critical to understand terminology and standards when it comes to safe rooms or any other survival shelter. You’re relying on this installation to keep you safe and sound during a life-threatening event at home: Skimping is not a good idea.

Construction Considerations

It’s pretty much always easier to install a safe room in a home under construction than in an existing one. For example, as FEMA notes, it’s relatively straightforward to incorporate a safe room into the layout of a home being built of concrete block by adding steel reinforcing bars and grout to the exterior walls and then using reinforced concrete-block interior walls and a concrete roof deck to wall off the shelter itself.

It’s certainly possible to retrofit your home for a safe room, but the process is more involved. For example, you may need to cut out a portion of your slab foundation to install one of the proper thickness and reinforcement to support a safe room.

With an eye toward minimizing household disruption, logistical headaches, and (most of all) costs, often the best bet for an existing house is to go with an exterior safe room rather than monkeying around with retrofitting.

Besides having a custom-built safe room added to an existing or under-construction home, you can also opt for a prefabricated unit. These are increasingly available as both interior and exterior safe rooms, often made from steel or precast concrete. Prefab safe rooms tend to be less expensive than custom-built ones. Keep in mind, though, that unless an existing foundation can adequately bear and anchor the safe room, you’ll still have to thicken and/or reinforce the slab. (It’s a good idea to have the prefab safe room and the foundation professionally inspected to make sure the setup will actually do the trick.)

Realistically, the construction and installation of most safe rooms—particularly those made from reinforced concrete block, solid steel, or fiberglass—should be left to professional builders. That said, you can find resources for building your own, such as this Family Handyman version of plywood and steel.

Other Considerations

One common complication for safe-room installation in those low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to hurricanes is the risk of flooding. A below-ground safe room isn’t appropriate, for obvious reasons, in a place prone to storm-surge inundations. FEMA has special criteria for safe rooms in Special Flood Hazard Areas; check out P-320 for more info. (If you’re in the U.S., you can use the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to investigate your area’s flooding potential.)

If you live in a region with significant seismic risk, you’ll want to take into account the additional reinforcing standards necessary to protect your safe room not only against wind and debris, but also earthquake damage.

Also, you may want to incorporate certain comfort and convenience amenities—electrical outlets or ceiling fans, for example—into your safe room. Some of these features may make more sense if you’re in a zone vulnerable to hurricanes, as these large, long-lived storms may require holing up in a safe room for a more extensive period than a tornado or severe thunderstorm.

Siting a Safe Room

One basic decision to make when installing a safe room is whether to place it inside or outside your home. As we mentioned above, the design of your existing house and the realities of your bank account may well make an exterior safe room the better option. Keep in mind, though, that reaching such a safe room will expose you to the weather: Particularly in the event of a tornado, you may not have very much time to seek shelter, so you want it close enough to be swiftly reached. One option is to build a safe room that shares a (reinforced) wall with your house and is accessed via a properly bolstered safe-room door in that wall.

Inside, some common locations for safe rooms include bathrooms, basements, closets, and storage areas. As FEMA points out, a typical bathroom may recommend itself above other options because it has the crucial elements of a toilet and a water supply, and also because it may well be inherently less cluttered than other rooms—making it easier to access and safer to hole up in during a storm.

Safe Room Size

The size of your safe room depends on a variety of factors, not least how many occupants will need to use it and—as we touched upon above—the type of windstorm you’re safeguarding yourself against. Exceptionally violent as it is, a tornado is a short-lived phenomenon: You likely won’t be sheltering long from one, so your safe room doesn’t need to be particularly roomy. A hurricane, by contrast, may require hunkering down awhile. Therefore, FEMA advises that a tornado-focused safe room in a one- or two-family home accommodate at minimum three square feet per person; a hurricane-focused safe room in the same house, by contrast, should have seven to 10 square feet per person.

Cost to Build Underground Bunker/Safe Room

As we mentioned above, it’s typically cheaper to install a safe room during the construction of a new home rather than retrofit an existing home. Furthermore, a prefab safe room’s usually less expensive than a custom-built one: You can buy a turnkey unit of 10 square feet for as little as a few thousand dollars (though remember you’ll often still need to reinforce the foundation).

You may be able to obtain some funding assistance for the installation of a safe room via various FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants. You can find out whether your project’s eligible by contacting your State Hazard Mitigation Officer.

Other Kinds of Shelters

If you live in an area vulnerable to tornadoes, hurricanes, and other significant windstorms, a FEMA-standard safe room provides the most assurance. Maybe, though, you’re looking for a cheaper, less rigorous option, or a shelter that’s not necessarily extreme-stormproof.

If you’re curious about how to build an underground shelter, there are many resources both on- and offline. Many DIYers opt to construct a semi-buried shelter to lessen the excavation work involved—say, by using bermed-over earthbags or poles. Don’t forget to check your local building codes before tackling the project. Also, any such bunker should be equipped with two entries so you can bail in the event of a fire.

Though a basic version is simpler to construct than a safe room, the disclaimer we made early on in this article should be heeded again: You want to be absolutely certain of your bunker’s structural integrity, as a shoddily designed and poorly sited one may flood or collapse—even without the stresses of a natural disaster. It goes without saying an underground bunker needs to not only be adequately bolstered against the forcing of surrounding and overlying soil, but also well ventilated.

Outfitting Your Safe Room or Bunker

You’ll want to have an emergency kit inside your safe room for meeting your basic needs while hunkering down. You can learn more about assembling such a kit by reading another of our recent blogposts, “How to be an Urban Prepper.” Needless to say, Mountain House Just In Case…® products are ideal for covering your bases food-wise—remember, we’ve got the longest shelf life in the industry!

You’ll also want the means to force open the shelter’s door if necessary, in case it’s blocked by debris.

Depending on your situation, building a safe room or emergency bunker may be a practical choice for safeguarding your household in the event of a storm or other disaster. And stock up on tasty (and long-lasting) Mountain House meals for your shelter’s provisions!

shelter

Prepping On A Budget

Maybe you want to ready yourself for a potential natural disaster or other unpredictable emergency, but you worry that gathering the necessary supplies will be too expensive. Indeed, more than a quarter of households responding to a 2011 survey by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) complained that prepping was prohibitively pricey.

When you’re staring down bills, grocery lists, a car making less-than-encouraging noises, and other everyday budget concerns that seem a heck of a lot more in-your-face than some hypothetical hurricane or earthquake or alien takeover, it’s easy to write off emergency prepping as a luxury.

Here’s the deal, though: Emergency preparedness doesn’t have to break the bank. We’re going to run down some tips for budget-conscious prepping in this blogpost, but at the outset a little perspective’s probably in order. So, two points to keep in mind when weighing the cost of disaster readiness:

(1) A life-upending contingency can happen to absolutely anybody, it’s just part of the deal in our stormy, restless, volatile, and increasingly tech-dependent world. You can go about your life ignoring that reality, and maybe you’ll never get in trouble. But even something as mundane as a grid malfunction can result in several days (or longer) of not being able to cook on your stove, or draw water from your tap, or combat the cold of a winter’s night with a simple crank of the thermostat. Not a time to play the odds.

So consider a modest investment in emergency preparedness as a completely sound and practical investment: a form of insurance in an uncertain universe. Money spent on the supplies that you and your family need to get by for a few days or weeks in case the normal systems and routines you rely go out-of-order—well, that’s about as far from a frivolous expense as you can get.

(2) By its very definition, prepping delivers built-in cost savings. If you wait to stock up on essentials until the flood warning is declared or the monster nor’easter is winding up offshore, you’re not only facing the very real likelihood of absolutely ransacked grocery/hardware/drugstore shelves. You’re also under major time pressure, and thus don’t really have the option of picking-and-choosing. You may be forced to buy more expensive supplies, or grab goods willy-nilly without assessing whether or not they’re of practical value in your situation.

Prepare for such events before they’re actually imminent, and you have the luxury of seeking out good deals, purchasing only those items you’ll likely need, going about prepping incrementally—in short, all the good stuff we’re about to cover.

So let’s consider some of the ways you can secure yourself and your household against the unexpected without devastating that pocketbook of yours.

Define Your Needs

Do a little online research about prepping, and you’re going to find entire galaxies of advice: some of it good, some of it questionable. But keep in mind that many preppers are focused on “SHTF” strategies for going fully off-the-grid: “bugging out” to some remote hideaway for a spell, or even going full-time backwoods if circumstances call for it.

All well and good with the right perspective, but remember that, if budget constraints are an issue, you don’t necessarily need to prepare yourself for off-the-grid living: You need the essentials that’ll see you through days or even weeks of upheaval until things get back on track.

Buying (or learning to build) equipment for indefinite living-off-the-land can be a more expensive proposition than readying a 72-hour kit, like the one FEMA recommends. And sure, maybe at some point you’d like to outfit yourself in the event of a more extreme and protracted survival scenario. But start with the emergency basics, that needs to come first.

See What You Already Have

Whether it’s from FEMA, the American Red Cross, or your local emergency-management agency, review an authoritative checklist of staple supplies for an emergency kit. Then assess your household and see what you might already have on hand.

Sure, you might need to go out and buy a hand-crank flashlight or radio, but you probably have some spare blankets and warm clothing lying around that can be dedicated to your emergency supplies. And perhaps you have some plastic soda bottles that can be turned into storage vessels for your backup water supply. (At a minimum, you should have enough for a gallon of water per person per day for at least 72 hours.) Ready.gov includes detailed instructions for preparing these bottles for safe long-term water storage.

Remember, too, that some emergency-kit essentials don’t need to be purchased at all: for example, copies of essential personal documents such as birth certificates, deeds, and medication lists.

A Little Here, a Little There

The other key thing about prepping on a budget is that you don’t need to get all your emergency supplies all at once. (Remember what we said about having the luxury of time to plan and prepare?) Do a little here and there, and before long you’ll have the basic essentials without making any distressingly big single purchases.

You might buy one or two prepping items each time you go grocery shopping, for instance—or, if it’s more amenable to your financial situation, maybe one item per month. Keep a list of the goods you need to round out your emergency kit, and cross them off as you acquire them piecemeal. The expenditure of a few dollars a month can slowly but surely compile what you need, and hey: You’ll also be buying a little peace-of-mind as you go along.

Savvy Shopping

If you’ve always got one eye on prepping, you can be ever-ready to pounce on a pertinent sale item: a discount sleeping bag at the camping store, a winter parka on the summer clearance rack, canned juices the grocer’s price-slashed, etc. In other words, coupon clipping is an excellent way to go about gathering cheap emergency supplies.

When you’re outfitting yourself for backpacking or camping, you don’t want to rely on low-quality apparel or equipment. But for keeping warm in a stranded car or an unheated house, any old outerwear and blankets picked up on the cheap can do the trick—it’s all about layering, after all.

Another tip: Give up one trip to the movies or dining-out night a month, and you’ll have that much more pocket change for doomsday prepping on a budget. A bit of fiscal sacrifice can build your buying power for those emergency essentials that do honestly cost a bit of money, such as a NOAA weather radio or a water-purification system.

Putting Together Your Own First-Aid Kit

Sure, it’s convenient to go down to the drugstore and buy a prepackaged first-aid kit (another absolute fundamental of your emergency stockpile, of course). Often, though, you’ll save money by putting together such a kit by yourself. Sometimes this means having to purchase, say, gauze pads or bandages in larger quantities, but remember you’ll ideally be spreading out these supplies among several first-aid kits: You want one in your car, at your office, and in your house.

Going Makeshift

Cheap emergency supplies can still be lifesavers. For example, it’s easy and inexpensive to outfit your home and your car alike with the materials necessary to build a makeshift space heater. As Jennifer Abel nicely explains in a Consumer Affairs writeup, all you need is a coffee can, tea lights in metal cups, and matches.

Another tip: For cheap backup fire-starting materials, shred up newspaper into strips, roll these into bundles, and secure them with a rubber band. Store these with your matches and lighter in a waterproof container, and you’ve got reliable tinder for when you need a flame.

Mountain House Food Supplies

To toot our own horn a little bit, Mountain House can be your best friend when it comes to prepping on a tight budget. Our delicious freeze-dried meals lay claim to the longest shelf life in the industry: That 30-Year Taste Guarantee of ours means you can purchase from us with confidence! And our super-handy Just In Case…® multiday food supplies make stockpiling a breeze!

prepping

Basic Emergency Food Storage Principles

From an evening power outage to the weeks of turmoil following a major natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake, the world has a habit of occasionally playing havoc with our daily routine. From the inconvenient to the catastrophic, it’s always a smart idea to have an emergency food storage at the ready in case the unexpected does befall you. And anchoring those supplies must be an adequate reserve of food and water—the absolute fundamentals.

Fortunately, Mountain House makes stocking emergency rations easy. Our meals boast the longest proven shelf life on the market—and, best of all, they taste absolutely delicious! Survival fare, as it turns out, can be both nutritious and lip-smacking—at least when it comes from a company with a half-century reputation as a leader in the freeze-dried food industry. (It’s no surprise many of our customers reach for Mountain House cans and pouches for everyday at-home dinners, not just for camping trips or survival stockpiles. From the kitchen to the backwoods, from routine evenings to disaster zones, Mountain House always delivers!)

Let’s run down some of the best long-term food-storage tips so you’re ready to hunker down when the next contingency comes knocking at the door.

food storage

How Much to Store

A recent blogpost of ours spelled out the calculations you’ll want to consider when deciding how much emergency food you should be stockpiling. Factors include the size of your family, the caloric requirements of each individual, and any special dietary needs.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to disaster preparedness is to have what you need to get by for at least 72 hours, but, naturally, larger supplies give you more security in the event things take much longer to get back to normal.

Our Mountain House Just In Case…® emergency food supply kits come partitioned in two-, three-, four-, five-, and 14-day amounts, which makes assembling reserves a breeze. You can use our handy-dandy Emergency Food Supply Calculator (available on our Emergency Preparedness page) to estimate how many of what size kits to purchase for different intervals and numbers of people.

Don’t Forget Cooking Water

When estimating how much water to include in your emergency supplies, be sure to factor in what you’ll need for cooking (including for those Mountain House delicacies!). And remember: Besides stockpiling bottled water, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with the means to purify water in case you need to rely on questionable sources.

Emergency Food Storage Containers

A supply of emergency rations doesn’t do much good if it’s improperly stored. Here’s another of the many pluses of Mountain House: Between our waterproof pouches, vacuum-sealed Pro-Paks®, airtight and sturdy #10 cans, buckets, and kits, our containers are ideal for maintaining an emergency food supply for the long term.

Place other ingredients such as rice, cereal, sugar, spices, and the like in resealable containers (a screw-top jar, for instance) to preserve freshness and keep out insects, rodents, and other pests. Wrap perishable nibbles such as crackers in plastic bags and keep those in a resealable container, too.

Label all your containers with the date you restocked the supply so you’ve got a yardstick for gauging your food’s level of freshness.

Where to Store Long-Term Emergency Rations

You want to make sure any long-term food supplies stay sheltered from moisture, high temperatures, and direct sunlight. Cool, dry, dark—that’s the best sort of setting for your emergency rations.

Figuring Out What To Use When

Let’s say your power goes out for an extended period. How should you prioritize your rations?

Eat what’s most vulnerable to spoilage first, namely those perishables in your refrigerator and on the pantry shelves. As the USDA notes, an unopened fridge can maintain foods such as eggs and meat at a safely frosty temperature (at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) for four hours or so. Freezer items should be next on your list: A properly insulated and completely full freezer that isn’t opened can keep items safe for some two days (less if it’s only partly full). As long as a food item still contains ice crystals, it normally should be OK to eat—and it can be refrozen.

Try to minimize opening the fridge and freezer doors to preserve as much of their cold as you can. A good strategy is to keep a regularly updated list of stored items taped to your freezer so you know what’s in there and where: That cuts down on costly rummaging time. If electricity’s not looking to come back on board for some time, the USDA recommends sticking block or dry ice inside the refrigerator.

Once you’ve worked through your perishables, move on to those items with longer shelf lives. A simple and effective way to arrange non-perishables by their expiration date (whether indicated by a “use-by” label on a package or the date you filled a container) is to keep older items in front, newer ones in back. That way you’re reaching first for the foods that need to be eaten soonest.

Mountain House meals don’t have any competitors in the emergency-food department in terms of shelf life—not with our 30 Year Taste Guarantee! A manufacture or ‘Best Used By” date of a given product can be found on its packaging. Refer to the information on our website to determine the specific shelf life.

Keeping Tabs on Your Stockpile

Periodically inspect your food stores to make sure they’re in good condition. Discard expired items, containers that have been punctured, swollen or rusted cans, and any foods that smell or look spoiled. Don’t take risks with foodborne illnesses.

Assessing Flood Damage

If floodwaters breach your emergency food supply, you should get rid of any items that might have come into contact with them. As the USDA explains, you can still use all-metal cans and retort pouches if they weren’t damaged or otherwise compromised by floodwaters: You should take off their labels (which can foster microbes), wash the cans or pouches with soap and water, rinse them with potable water, and then sanitize them using either boiling water or a bleach solution.

Whether you’re outfitting a 72-hour bag or a bomb shelter—or you’re just looking to spice up your pantry options—turn to Mountain House, your go-to source for the highest-quality, best-tasting, and longest-lasting freeze-dried food around!

5 Inspiring Camping Pics to Get You Outside!

We view the outdoors as sacred places of exploration and adventure, and we’re pretty sure you do, too. Our meals fuel this adventure, and we want to provide some more fuel for you: 5 pictures to inspire you to pack your packs and hit the trail.

All these images are from our contests on The Dyrt, one for Illinois and one for Wisconsin. Anyone who’s ever camped in these two states can enter our contests by submitting campsites reviews to TheDyrt.com. Submitting a review automatically enters you to win a contest, and at the same time you’re helping us make camping even better. Winners each receive a 5-Day Food Kit, and September is the last month of our contests!

Because these images are all user-submitted, that means they’re from real people just like you and me. They have dedicated their summers to exploring the outdoors from their campsites. Here’s to following in their footsteps!

wisconsin

Daniel B. and his trusty pup making the most of Big Bay Town Park, WI. Dogs are explorers by nature. Follow their energy, channel their spirit–use whatever mantra you need in order to adopt their free will to roam. Read his campsite review here.

Devils Lake

The Dyrt user Brandon C. pointing far off into the distance of Devils Lake State Park, WI. All good explorers point into the distance from time to time. Read his campsite review here.

Big Bay Wisconsin

Daniel B. exploring Big Bay Town Park, WI by canoe. Exploring by boat is uniquely rewarding, as it allows you access to much more terrain than would be feasible by land alone. Read his campsite review here.

Hennepin Canal

Matt S. exploring the grounds and bridges of Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, IL. Finding structures new and old is one of the many joys of exploring state parks. Read his campsite review here.

Leah P. showing us how post-exploration relaxation should look from her campsite at Coon Creek, IL. Hammocks and canopies will make you feel transported to a forested world apart from our own. Not a bad way to end the day! Read her campsite review here.

Leah P. showing us how post-exploration relaxation should look from her campsite at Coon Creek, IL. Hammocks and canopies will make you feel transported to a forested world apart from our own. Not a bad way to end the day! Read her campsite review here.

There are a million reasons to spend more time outside. We hope these 5 help tip the bucket and inspire you to get out there!

How To Be An Urban Prepper

In the developed world of the 21st century, it can be all too easy to forget how quickly the comforts and systems we’re used to can go out the window: All it takes is a bad storm or a major power outage. You may be well-versed in the 1,2,3’s of wilderness survival, but the idea of having to apply some similar tools and techniques as an urban prepper may be a new one.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of urban survival and what it takes to be an urban prepper.

urban prepper

Urban Survival

There are plenty of scenarios that might disrupt the normal and predictable routines of everyday city life. While our imaginations might gravitate toward visions of disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks—or the odd zombie apocalypse—extreme weather events are a more likely situation. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, severe thunderstorms, blizzards: The atmosphere can wreak real mayhem, and in the wake of one of its outbursts you may find yourself stranded in a devastated neighborhood, marooned by floodwaters, or simply contending with a widespread, long-lasting power outage or a contaminated public water supply.

Similar calamities can also occur via earthquake, tsunami, wildfire, and any number of other natural disasters. Because many such natural disasters are difficult to predict, and because one kind or another can strike just about anywhere, preparing in advance is the first step in reducing your vulnerability.

You might have only a few days’ advance warning about a hurricane making landfall, and if you wait until then to stockpile provisions you might be facing long lines at the grocery store and gas stations—not to mention picked-over shelves.

In this hyper-connected day and age, abrupt emergencies might also arise from a cyberattack (or, less dramatically, a system malfunction) that disrupts, for instance, a region’s transportation or power grid.

The Urban Prepper

A person might decide to become an urban prepper for any number of reasons, and there’s no question some have more dire outlooks than others. But being prepared for the unexpected—wherever you live—is sound, rational, and potentially lifesaving.

Imagine an unforeseen catastrophe occurs: a tornado detours through your subdivision, an unexpected shift in winds means you need to quickly evacuate ahead of a blaze. In such situations, you may not have the time or the ability to assemble what you need to stay safe and comfortable for some unknown length of time—however long it takes for things to get back to “normal.” And you shouldn’t assume rescue workers will quickly come knocking at your door (or tracking down your stranded vehicle): Depending on the circumstances, they may have their hands full, and transportation corridors may be blocked.

Self-reliance and forethought are called for. If you’ve readied yourself for a disaster—even if, of course, you didn’t know what form it might take—you’ll hopefully have emergency supplies at hand and a preplanned emergency protocol to follow.

You may never have to use the urban survival gear you acquire or the urban survival skills you cultivate—hopefully you won’t! But urban prepping gives you the peace-of-mind of knowing you’ve got a game plan—and some practical tools—if disaster does strike.

The Basics

A basic emergency kit, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency notes, should provide the supplies you need to get by for at least 72 hours, and ideally longer.

We’re talking at least a three-day share of non-perishable food and water (a gallon per person per day), with larger reserves all the better. Here at Mountain House, we offer a selection of kits and buckets, including our three-, five-, and 14-day “Just in Case” emergency food supplies ideal for an emergency kit. (Don’t forget: Our products have the industry’s longest shelf life, which is backed by our 30 year Taste Guarantee!)

You’ll also want items such as a first-aid kit, a battery-operated or (better yet) hand-crank radio, multiple flashlights, backup batteries, a cell phone with a charging system (or two), a whistle, and materials such as plastic sheeting for making an emergency shelter.

It’s also a good idea to include blankets and warm clothing, copies of critical documents, some cash money or traveler’s checks, and household chlorine bleach (which can be used to disinfect both wounds and water). If you use prescription medication or you wear glasses or contact lenses, keep backups of these in your emergency kit as well.

And don’t forget Fido and Whiskers! If you have pets, they need their own emergency kits, too (including their own stockpiles of water).

Urban Survival Training: Practice Makes Perfect

It’s one thing to have assembled the urban survival equipment necessary for a comprehensive emergency kit. But that’s not all that urban survival demands: You also want to define a plan of action, and make sure that everyone in your household’s familiar with it.

This means mapping out an evacuation route in your house, ensuring everyone knows how (and when) to shut off utilities, and practicing putting these kinds of measures to use through emergency drills. Occasionally running the family through a simulated disaster response might seem like overkill, but if an actual disaster occurs, you’ll be thankful for the game plan you established—and that were able to refine through trial-and-error—in calmer moments.

The same idea applies to workplaces, schools, and anywhere else you or a family member spends a lot of time: Familiarize yourself with that location’s particular emergency-response protocol, and make sure everybody in the family has the contact info for every pertinent location.

Bug-Out & Get-Home Bags

There’s plenty of lingo connected to modern-day urban prepping, and some of it refers to variations on the standard emergency kit. You may have heard about “bug-out bags,” for instance, also known as “72-hour bags” among several other monikers. Bug-out bags are meant to include items to sustain you while you evacuate from a disaster zone to a safe retreat (a “bug-out location”). Given such havens might be in the backcountry, bug-out bags typically include many of the same items an experienced wilderness traveler carries, such as fire-starting and water-purifying materials, in addition to tools for “living off the land,” such as fishhooks. (Some Mountain House freeze-dried meals would come in handy, too!)

And then there’s the urban “get-home bag,” a survival kit specifically designed to help you return home if an emergency or disaster catches you away—say, at work. Many people, after all, spend most of their waking hours on the road, at an office, or in a classroom. A get-home bag’ll typically be smaller and lighter than a bug-out bag—weight’s at a premium, after all, when you’re trying to get yourself home as quickly as you can—and might include items such as tennis shoes (for comfortably walking or running blocks or miles of city streets, not to mention hopping fences and other obstacles) and a detailed city map. Once home, you might determine you’re secure enough to hunker down there (what some call a “bug-in” scenario); or, if conditions are dicey, you might reach for that bug-out bag of yours and light for safer territory.

Both kinds of survival kits are meant to be catered to your personal situation. A bug-out bag will look differently depending on the sort of place you live: The tools and supplies for bugging-out in a swamp forest, for instance, won’t be exactly the same as those a desert dweller would depend upon. And a get-home bag will reflect the specifics of your workplace (or wherever you spend most of your time outside the house), including—naturally—how far from home it is.

Building Confidence

It’s all too easy to go overboard when it comes to urban prepping, both in terms of scaring yourself silly with apocalyptic visions and in terms of amassing too much equipment (or impractical stuff for downright outlandish scenarios). But remember: Readying yourself for emergencies of even the most mundane sort is actually an exercise in building confidence, in feeling calmer and more secure in your day-to-day life. Life’s unpredictable, but some simple preparations and straightforward provisioning can go a long way to helping you sleep a bit more soundly!

Up a Tree: A New View on Outdoor Recreation

Here at Mountain House we keep a keen eye open for stories to share with our community, particularly those that encourage folks to get outside and explore. And wonderfully, people are doing just that! From hiking the PCT, to summiting mountains, to discovering natural wonders in our own backyards, outdoor recreation seems to be at an all-time high. Great news, right? Well yes. But … we’re also keeping an eye open for other stories, too. Because as more and more people get outside and turn little-known areas into popular “must-see” experiences, there’s a risk that some ecologically-sensitive areas could be “loved to death.” So we want to highlight a different story, and encourage you to consider experiences that instead, love these special places to life.

Kelli Martinelli, one of our team members, recently had the opportunity to experience a cool new way to get outside here in Oregon. Her goal was to take a trip up to the top of an old growth tree, and if possible, spend the night up in its branches.  Thanks to Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and Expedition Old Growth, Kelli got the adventure she was seeking, and then some.  She writes about the conversation she shared with her EOG tree guides while up in the canopy:

“… we discussed the language that trees share with each other. There is an unmistakable communication system, not so different from human neural and social networks. As an example, one tree in a grove could be under attack by an invasive bug. As the bug chomps on leaves, the tree releases volatile organic compounds into the air. The other trees detect these airborne stress signals and ramp up their production of a chemical defense mechanism in response, warding off attack. Makes it easy to wonder, are there signals being sent out to us that we simply haven’t been sufficiently aware in order to receive them?”

From Rejuvenation to Recreation

The Opal Creek Wilderness is the most recently protected wilderness area here in Oregon, thanks to the folks behind the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. Through their efforts they have been able to conserve 35,000 acres of old growth, protecting this vital watershed and ecologically diverse gem. They now concentrate most of their conservation efforts through programming offered at the rejuvenated mining outpost in Jawbone Flats, from outdoor schools, to wilderness medicine certification programs, and even private cabin rentals in the midst of old growth Douglas Fir, Western Cedar and Hemlock. Lots of people head to Jawbone Flats during the warmer months, taking advantage of the cool swimming spots and cliff-jumping opportunities. And while those activities are certainly fun, just think about the richer experience of doing something that integrates recreation with education and conservation, so that those swim spots and big trees will continue to be around for future generations.

Gear and safety check with Damien Carré of Expedition Old Growth.

Gear and safety check with Damien Carré of Expedition Old Growth. Photo credit Uncage the Soul Productions.

No Monkeying Around. Climb With an Expert.

Expedition Old Growth partnered with Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center to offer an immersive tree-climbing/camping experience. Damien Carré, owner-operator of EOG, has been up inside trees for 17 years, possessing the technical skill to ascend and descend safely, while minimizing the impact on the trees and surrounding forest. Interested in ascending a tree in your neck of the woods? Find a guide! Expedition Old Growth, for instance, provides experienced catered climbing excursions in Oregon and Washington.

Enjoying a 360 degree view of an Oregon treasure.

Enjoying a 360 degree view of an Oregon treasure. Photo credit Uncage the Soul Productions.

Remember taking field trips as a kid? Sure there was fun in heading to the zoo (again) or to the local paper mill (maybe), but we just bet the memories that stuck around had more to do with the expert guides and the hands-on education than just the place itself. Kelli writes,

“While I can’t speak for anyone’s experience except my own, I cannot imagine you’ll return to roots-level without a newfound understanding of this breathtaking symbiosis. I’m still dizzy with elation over the experience and am challenged to reinterpret my own relationship with trees, no longer seeing them as a “renewable resource” or even “friends” — but instead as wondrous, mysterious neighbors in whom I can trust, and for whom I will strive to be worthy of theirs.”

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So we want to hear from you. What gems have you discovered in your own backyard that have offered you an experience where you were able to play — and learn — all at the same time?

You can read Kelli’s full account here, Asleep in the Arms of Ancients. And yes, she did get the chance to have her overnight in a treetop. Not only that, she brought Cheesecake Bites. Because she could.

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