8 Must-Attend Survival Expos

If you’ve ever even simply casually investigated disaster preparedness and survival, you probably already know how much “prepper” information exists online. You can bone up on the basics of weathering both natural and manmade “SHTF” scenarios and order the necessary tools and supplies—all over your computer or smartphone. (And hey, we like to think our Mountain House blog has some useful resources along both of those lines…)

That’s all well and good, but there’s much to be said for reinforcing that web-based learning and provisioning with some hands-on and face-to-face activity. That’s the virtue of a high-quality prepper expo or survival expo, good examples of which can be found all across the country.

Drawing folks from all walks of life, these gatherings see experts share knowledge, practitioners swap advice, and vendors sell wares—all in the name of being ready in the event of a grid failure, a severe storm, a flood, or any other disruption, as well as generally adopting a more self-reliant mindset and lifestyle.

A Sampler Pack of Survival Expos

These prepper conventions and doomsday expos range in size from small county-level affairs to major regional exhibitions, and we won’t be able to present an exhaustive list of them. Here, however, are a few standout examples from different corners of the U.S.

(1) National Preppers & Survivalists Expo (Gonzales, LA)

The National Preppers and Survivalists Expo fills its two days with loads of exhibits, high-level classes, and other resources for anyone interested in emergency preparedness, homesteading, and survival. This year’s hits March 4 and 5.

(2) SGK Emergency Prepper Expo (Fredericksburg, VA)

The SGK Emergency Prepper Expo puts the focus both on emergency preparedness as well as all-around sustainable living. The next SGK Emergency Prepper Expo falls January 28 and 29, 2017 at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center.

(3) Prepper Camp (Saluda, NC)

Prepper Camp takes place in a bushcraft-friendly setting: the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina. It’s an immersive experience, what with the cookouts, fishing, swimming, music, and other rustic fun augmenting the demos, lectures, classes, and vendor stalls on hand. The 2017 Prepper Camp runs September 15 through 17.

(4) Great Lakes Emergency Preparedness Expo (Dimondale, MI)

One of the premier prepping happenings in the Midwest, the Great Lakes Emergency Preparedness Expo offers lessons from the experts on everything from assembling a 72-hour kit to taking care of Fido and Fluffy during a disaster. This year’s run-through happens April 1.

(5) Sustainable Preparedness Expo (Grants Pass, OR & Spokane, WA)

For the past several years, the Sustainable Preparedness Expo has been held in multiple locations; in 2017, it’ll take place May 21 in Grants Pass, Oregon and October 1 in Spokane, Washington. This survival expo focuses on off-the-grid self-sufficiency and disaster protocol.

(6) Preparedness Expo (San Luis Obispo, CA)

Put on by the American Red Cross, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and El Dorado Broadcasters, this prepper convention provides attendees with the know-how to respond to all sorts of cataclysms, although it puts special emphasis on the kinds of disasters San Luis Obispo County residents might be most likely to experience. (For instance, “THE BIG SHAKER!”, a 24-foot-long hydraulic trailer, simulates an temblor of 8.0 magnitude.) The 6th Annual Preparedness Expo takes place March 11, 2017.

(7) PrepperCon (Sandy, UT)

PrepperCon markets itself as the “ComicCon” of prepper expos, and it certainly goes above and beyond to incorporate a bit of fun and entertainment into the proceedings: from celebrity appearances to a prepper-themed fashion show. The Hurricane Simulator, meantime, gives you a firsthand taste of a Category 3 tropical cyclone’s punch. This year’s PrepperCon falls April 21 and 22.

(8) Full Spectrum Preparedness Expo (Topeka, KS)

The Full Spectrum Preparedness Expo has the classes, lectures, and supplies needed to ready yourself for whatever contingencies might be coming down the pike. This survival expo—which also proudly aims to foster a sense of community among Sunflower State preppers—will take place March 25 and 26 this year.

Whether you’re a veteran prepper or somebody who’s just now realizing the importance of readying oneself for garden-variety emergencies and once-in-a-lifetime disasters alike, doomsday expos and prepper conventions can provide valuable instruction, tried-and-true survival equipment, and plenty of opportunity to touch base with likeminded enthusiasts. Any of the above prepper expos are well worth checking out, and remember that there are plenty of others.

Turn to Mountain House for Prepping Tips—and Provisions!

Meanwhile we hope you’ll explore some of the other Mountain House blogposts dedicated to emergency/disaster preparedness—whether prepping on a budget, building a storm shelter, or properly storing food for emergency use. They make good background reading ahead of an emergency preparedness expo. And don’t forget that Mountain House’s Just In Case…® 14-day Emergency Food Supply kits make ideal provisions for your bug-out bags and other prepping reserves: This compact and stackable stockpile includes a delicious diversity of breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals for one person (totaling 100 servings). Like other Mountain House products, the 14-day kit hits a homerun with a killer combination: the longest shelf life in the industry and mouthwateringly good preparations—from Granola and Blueberries to Chili Mac with Beef to Chicken Teriyaki. (Hey, who said emergency rations had to taste like cardboard?)

Whether or not a prepper convention’s in the cards for you this 2017, we wish you luck in whatever disaster preparedness you engage in over the coming year: It’s worthy work, no doubt about it.

Cooking in the Backcountry With Your Kids

Backcountry camping with kids is a great joy. You get to see your kids experience the natural world, learn new skills, and move at a slower pace.

But bringing food into the backcountry for your whole family can be a bit of a challenge. You not only need enough calories for everyone, you need food that tastes good enough that everyone will eat it.

This is where Mountain House excels. We make products you can rely on to taste the same trip after trip, so your kids know what to expect and you don’t have to worry about bringing all the ingredients and spices to cook for multiple people in the backcountry.

There are two main ways to make the most of mealtimes with family in the backcountry.

As Many Calories, as Light as Possible

Freeze-dried food is pre-cooked and seasoned, which means a chef has cooked it before it gets to you. So, you can count on it to be delicious when you heat it up. That’s the other thing about freeze-dried: all you have to do for it to be ready is to heat it.

Bringing multiple large packages allows you to have several servings at a time, while also being able to mix up the flavor from meal to meal. We recommend bringing a spread of flavorsthat you know your family will like, such as:

Beef Stew
 Beef Stew

Chicken Breast and Mashed Potatoes Chicken Breast Mashed Potatoes

Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice and Tomatoes Italian Style Pepper Steak
See the full line of our pouch flavors here. 

To be absolutely sure you have enough to feed the whole family, you can also get most Mountain House flavors in our #10 Cans, each of which has 10 servings. And once the can is empty, you can use it to pack out any waste you might have! See the full line of our #10 cans here.

Don’t Forget Dessert

Dessert is a great way to get the whole family some extra calories and make sure the next day on the trail is full of fun (rather than dragging feet). When you’re in the backcountry, you’re active almost all day. And if you’re not active, you’re still out in the elements. You need calories to fuel this activity, and at the same time you need calories to replenish the energy you’ve already spent for the day.

Dessert helps everyone get the calories they need to replenish and keep going. A chocolate bar is a simple option. Or, you could go with something that brings the flavors of home to your campfire, such as our New York Style Cheesecake Bites. Browse our full selection of breakfasts, entrees, and desserts. And the next time you and your kids hit the trail, take a pic and share with us! #savortheadventure
Cheesecake Bites


How to Prepare for a Flood: Emergency Flood Checklist

A flood is among the most universal of natural disasters: It can happen just about anywhere. That includes parched desert country, where canyons and washes are highly vulnerable to flash floods. And that includes urban areas, too, where heavy rainfall over a paved-over cityscape often generates violent runoff and overspilling channelized streams, and where storm drains may back up from clogged debris or simply the magnitude of precipitation.

Whether a seasonal floodplain overflow or a catastrophic 500-year inundation, floods can kill and sicken, rack up billions of dollars in property and infrastructure damage, and impede transportation and services for days and weeks on end. (The National Weather Service tallies some pretty sobering yearly flood statistics.)

Here’s how to ready yourself for high water in your neck of the woods!

Waterlogged Primer: The Nature of Floods

Floods come in all shapes, sizes, and timetables. They might impact a single waterfront neighborhood or swamp entire towns or regions. Hydrologists distinguish between slow-onset floods, which may slowly build from multiday rainfall and persist for weeks or months, and rapid-onset floods, “flashier” affairs that rise and fall more quickly.

Streams and rivers may leap their banks due to heavy and/or prolonged precipitation; they may also flood from spring snowmelt. Some parts of the country often see inundations from ice jams. (For instance, the Red River of the North, which flows, rather unusually, poleward from Minnesota and North Dakota to Lake Winnipeg, is notorious for regular flooding not only due to its pancake-flat basin, but also because its southern watershed often melts out earlier than the northern portion, where lingering ice can dam the river’s swollen springtime waters.)

Ferocious as the winds of hurricanes and tropical storms most definitely are, the most lethal effects of these tempests tend to be flood-related: from storm surges—where cyclone winds pile up ocean water inshore—and inland deluges caused by torrential rains. Storm surge can also coincide with high tide to result in a so-called “storm tide,” which may pummel coastal areas with waters better than 20 feet above the normal tidal reach.

Floods, of course, can also stem from the failure of artificial infrastructure: breached dams or levees, for instance, or burst pipes.

Flood Risks

Sound flood preparation means understanding just how dangerous high water can be. Overland floodwaters are deceptively powerful: A mere six inches can knock you clear off your feet, and only a foot or two can sweep a car away. (Cars can also stall out in surprisingly shallow water, leaving occupants vulnerably stranded.) Overflow may also be contaminated, and there’s also the risk of electrocution. In short, whether you encounter them while evacuating by foot or vehicle or inside your home, avoid entering floodwaters if at all possible.

Besides drowning, electrocution, waterborne illness, and other directly life-threatening effects, flood impacts can also include damaged or destroyed property, blocked transportation corridors, interrupted power, and polluted municipal water supplies.

Flood Preparation for Your Home

If you live in the U.S., you can assess the vulnerability of your home to flooding by looking up your address via the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center. The agency generates Flood Insurance Rate Maps (aka FIRMs)that portray high-risk, moderate- to low-risk, and undetermined-risk flood hazard areas. Federal law requires many home- and businessowners in high-risk areas to obtain flood insurance. It’s not required in moderate- to low-risk areas, but damaging flooding can still occur in these zones: According to FEMA, they account for a third of flood-related federal disaster assistance and better than 20 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims.

If you live in a place prone to flooding, it’s smart to take measures to protect your house, such as:

  • waterproofing your basement;
  • installing a backup battery-powered sump pump;
  • elevating electrical systems and appliances such as furnaces at least 12 inches above the projected flood level; and
  • securing fuel tanks.

Putting Together a Flood File

As part of your flood checklist, FEMA recommends maintaining a “personal flood file,” a collection of essential documents kept in a waterproof container. Said file should include copies of your insurance information and a detailed inventory of major possessions, including serial numbers and receipts for appliances.

Flood Checklist: Emergency Kit

You may need to evacuate in the face of a flood and be unable to return home for an extended period of time, and goods and services may well be disrupted during and after the inundation. This means it’s vital you have an emergency readiness kit already assembled before a deluge comes knocking at the door. This should include water and non-perishable food provisions (such as Mountain House Just In Case…® supplies) for at least three days and preferably a week-plus.

Your flood preparedness/flood evacuation kit(s) should also include first-aid, any necessary prescriptions and toiletries, insulated clothing (including raingear), sleeping bags and/or blankets, flashlights (and backup batteries), a charged cellphone, spending cash and credit cards, and other essentials. A battery-operated or hand-crank NOAA Weather Radio is also a valuable tool to have on hand, as it allows you to closely monitor real-time flood conditions.(Check out this FEMA factsheet for a full flood checklist.)

Developing a Flood Action Plan

Evacuating ahead of or during a flood is much easier when you have some sense of where you’re going. This means developing a flood action plan that everyone in your household’s well versed in. Identify evacuation routes to high ground in your neighborhood as well as around workplaces and schools. In the event of a large or long-lasting flood, you may need to take refuge out of the region, so make a list of friends or relatives you might be able to stay with. Make sure everyone’s phone has emergency numbers programmed in, and identify a family member out of the region to serve as an emergency point of contact.

Practice makes perfect, right? “Dry runs” (if you’ll pardon the pun) put the finishing touches on any flood evacuation plan. Carry out periodic simulated flood drills with your family so everyone’s familiar with the step-by-step. Besides instilling confidence, these exercises can help you identify and fix any potential hiccups in your plan.

Flood Forecasts & Evacuation Orders

Pay attention to those meteorologists: The National Weather Service issues a “Flood Watch” (or “Flash Flood Watch”) when conditions are ripe for flooding; a “Flood Warning” (or “Flash Flood Warning”) means a flood’s underway or soon to occur. It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on alerts from the NWS River Forecast Centers, which monitors current and predicted river levels.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway): Take any evacuation orders issued by local or state officials seriously. The sooner you can seek safe high ground ahead of a flood, the better: Traffic’s liable to be heavy on major evacuation routes.

Imminent Flood Preparation

Besides the general measures we outlined above, you may need to implement some last-minute prep if a flood watch or warning has been issued. (But remember, again: Evacuation is the most important course of action in many cases, and you should absolutely abide by any evacuation orders issued by local or regional officials.) Move important documents, rugs, furniture, and other possessions to higher floors of your house. If directed to do so, you may also end up shutting off utilities and/or water to your house. Clear your gutters and downspouts of twigs and other debris in anticipation of downpours.

Don’t let floodwaters catch you off-guard: Prepare a flood checklist, assemble an emergency kit, come up with (and practice) an evacuation plan, and stay abreast of weather/hydrographic forecasts and any emergency declarations. You can learn more about flood prep and response over at Ready.gov.

Here’s to staying dry—and safe!

The Ultimate Hurricane Survival Kit Checklist

hurricane preparedness

Hurricanes are among the largest and most violent storms our Planet Earth brews up: real cyclonic monsters powered by warm ocean waters that may sprawl across hundreds of miles and last for many days. Millions of people in the United States, particularly along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, reside in high hurricane-risk zones, and millions more may be affected by rainy hurricane remnants tracking far north or well inland.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to prepare for a hurricane—much of which is best done when there isn’t one bearing down. We’ll review hurricane forecasts and what they mean, hurricane prep lists for your home, and hurricane emergency kits and evacuation plans. Read on to learn how you can get ready for these atmospheric titans!

Hurricane Season

Hurricanes require ocean waters of a certain temperature (roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit down to about 150 feet deep) in order to form, which means in most ocean basins they’re a seasonal phenomenon. (In the Northwest Pacific, where they’re known as “typhoons,” they can essentially develop year-round.)

When should you be on base-level hurricane alert? The North Atlantic hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to November 30, with mid-August through late October the peak interval. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season lasts from May 15 through November 30.

Hurricane Risks: Many & Varied

Hurricane winds are awe-inspiring in their power: The strongest hurricanes, ranked as Category 5, claim winds of 157 miles per hour or better. Even a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of between 74 and 95 miles per hour, can topple trees and ravage roofs, siding, and mobile homes. Whether from collapsing structures or airborne projectiles, these storm gales are absolutely life-threatening.

But wind isn’t the only threat. Overall, more people die from the floodwaters stemming from a hurricane, which can take the form of storm surges and storm tides—devastating coastal seawater pulses that may be 15 feet or more above normal high tide—as well as inland flooding resulting from torrential rains. Even after a hurricane transitions into a weakening windstorm, its intense precipitation can create flooding risks in places far from the cyclone’s initial landfall.

If a hurricane wasn’t bad enough, it sometimes can spawn tornadoes: much smaller tempests that nonetheless may pack higher winds. Lightning’s a more widespread risk.

As with any natural disaster, meanwhile, hurricanes can also create a whole messy host of secondary problems: blocked transportation routes (which may delay emergency responders from reaching affected areas), widespread power outages, contaminated water supplies, and the like.

All this underscores the importance of understanding your specific hurricane risks and developing a hurricane preparedness list. These storms can be really epic disasters with prolonged impacts: Planning and preparation are an absolute must so you stay safe and comfortable during and after the catastrophe.

Understand the Forecast

It’s imperative to pay close attention to weather forecasts during hurricane season, and to follow them closely by radio or TV if a watch or warning has been issued for your area. (It’s an excellent idea to include a NOAA Weather Radio among your emergency supplies.)

We’ll explain watches and warnings in a moment, but, first off, a little meteorological terminology: Hurricanes evolve from less-intense disturbances called tropical storms (which, in turn, arise from low-pressure disturbances called tropical depressions). A tropical storm packs winds of at least 39 miles per hour; if they ramp up to 74 miles per hour, the tropical storm officially becomes a hurricane. Of course, you need to pay attention to tropical storms not only because they may graduate to hurricane status, but also because they’re plenty destructive in their own right.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues Tropical Storm Watches or Hurricane Watches when conditions are favorable for the development of storms. The agency posts watches 48 hours ahead of the projected development of tropical-storm-level winds. If a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued for your area, heed the alert: Get your home ready, ensure your vehicle’s got a full tank of gas, and go over your evacuation plan.

A Tropical Storm Warning or Hurricane Warning—released 36 hours ahead of anticipated storm-force winds—means the NWS expects a tropical storm or hurricane to develop. In the event of a warning, you should be wrapping up prep and getting ready to evacuate should officials direct you to.

The NWS also issues Extreme Wind Warnings when the most intense winds of a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) will likely hit within the hour. An Extreme Wind Warning means you should immediately take shelter.

Hurricane Home Prep

So how do you prepare for a hurricane? If you live in a coastal area vulnerable to hurricanes, you might want to consider permanent structural enhancements for your home. This might include the installation of a safe room, a reinforced refuge independent of your house’s structure and built to withstand hurricane-force winds. (We wrote about safe rooms recently here at the Mountain House blog—check it out!) You can also install metal “hurricane straps” to bolster your roof and reinforce your garage door: Torn-off roofs or garage doors allow hurricane winds to enter the interior of your home and wreak real havoc.

You might also raise your electrical utilities above the projected flood level for your area to better safeguard them from storm surges or other hurricane-caused deluges. Buy a generator so you’re ready for the power outages a hurricane commonly creates. And keep trees close to your house and other structures trimmed.

If a tropical storm/hurricane watch has been issued for your area, bring inside yard furniture and any other loose objects that might become airborne (and therefore dangerous) in high winds, and anchor heavier infrastructure such as sheds and propane tanks.

Ahead of a hurricane, you should also cover windows and doors: Permanent hurricane shutters are the best choice, but plywood’s better than nothing. Unplug electrical appliances, move possessions from lower to higher levels of the house (in anticipation of floodwaters), and set your fridge and freezer to their coldest settings in case of a power outage, in which case keeping those appliances as cold as possible—which also means minimizing how many times you open them—will maintain their food supplies longer.

You can find more details on hurricane home preparation in this Federal Emergency Management Agency fact sheet.

Putting Together a Hurricane Kit

Assemble a hurricane emergency kit before a tropical cyclone (or any other disaster) strikes. We’ve written about disaster preparedness kits here at the Mountain House blog before (for example, in our “How to Be an Urban Prepper” post), but let’s review some of the basics.

You definitely want at least three days’ worth of non-perishable food and water, and preferably more. With the longest shelf life in the industry, Mountain House meals—including our Just In Case…® emergency food supplies—make excellent provisions for your hurricane survival kit. (We go into more depth on emergency food storage principles in this blogpost.)

Water-wise, you need at least a gallon per person per day. It’s smart also to include some means of treating potentially unsafe water, such as household liquid bleach or a water purifier.

Your hurricane kit should also have first-aid materials, prescriptions, backup eyeglasses, flashlights, extra batteries, matches, extra clothing and blankets or sleeping bags, cash or traveler’s checks, a wrench or pliers for shutting off your utilities, and other essentials. (Check out this FEMA brochure for a hurricane kit list.)

You should keep a hurricane emergency kit at home, at your workplace, and in your vehicle. (And speaking of: Be sure to outfit your car with its own specific emergency supplies, such as jumper cables and extra fluids. If you need to evacuate, you’re going to be relying on your vehicle for safety, so you want to keep it well stocked and in good working order.)

Keep in mind: You don’t want to be gathering all your hurricane preparedness supplies in the couple of days ahead of landfall, as store shelves may be picked over. Plan ahead! (You can learn some tips on savvy emergency stockpiling in our “Prepping on a Budget” blogpost.)

Hurricane Evacuation Plan

Ahead of a hurricane making landfall, officials may issue evacuation orders for residents of coastal communities and any other vulnerable zones. Heed any such orders pertaining to your area: Those who fail to evacuate not only place themselves at mortal risk, but can also endanger emergency responders.

Develop a household emergency plan and familiarize yourself with evacuation routes for your home as well as schools, workplaces, and anywhere else you or a member of your family spends a lot of time. Maintain a list of important emergency numbers: from local law enforcement and utility companies to a friend or family member out of the region who can serve as a point of contact for your household in case you’re separated.

As with any disaster, learning how to survive a hurricane means accepting (not shying away from) the risk, planning and prepping ahead of time, and closely following any advice or evacuation orders issued by government officials and/or emergency managers. And hey: Don’t forget to make mouthwatering Mountain House meals part of your hurricane preparedness supplies: They sure can make hunkering down or evacuating that much more pleasant!

Mountain House Staff Holiday Gift Picks

Practical doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, the practical gifts are the ones that often enable adventure, and adventure — by nature — is never boring. Right? Right! So if you’re stumped for a practical and fun gift idea for the adventure-enthusiast in your life, our team has a few suggestions …..


Brandi knows how to take cozy to the next level: by doubling up with the Big Agnes Big Creek +30 Double Sleeping Bag! Yeah. We all want this one. Details here.

Brandi Wants This

Spencer is pretty confident that the IceBreaker MerinoLOFT Ellipse Long Sleeve Half Zip Hood is the game-changing gift that will kick his adventures up even when the temperatures kick down. Details here.
Spencer Wants This

Melanie wants “Serenity now!” and serenity, as you know, is found in the current of the river as she paddles along in the Guster Kayak by Emotion Kayaks (in pink, please). Details here. 

Melanie Wants This

Lacey wants the wind in her hair, bugs in her teeth, and a trail zipping by beneath the dual suspension of the Thruster KZ2600 Mountain Bike. (edit: Lacey says she doesn’t actually want bugs in her teeth …). Details here.

What Lacey Wants

Brandy is ready to rip it up without fogging it up, but first, he needs the ABOM Anti-Fog Goggles (would that make them … Foggles?). Details here.

What Brandy Wants

Zac wants the Kusa Shirt (in Copper) from Cotopaxi, and after reading that it’s filled with fluffy llama insulation! Well, now we all want one. Details here. What Zac Wants

Holly has promised to invite everyone over for a backyard feast, if only she’d find the Backyard Pro Portable Outdoor Gas and Charcoal Grill/Smoker inside an oversized stocking this Christmas. Details here. What Holly Wants

Cory wants to build a cocoon and hibernate for the winter, or at least sleep comfortably without being a snack for mosquitos and no-see-ums tucked inside the safety of the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy. Details here. What Cory Wants

How about you? What’s on your list for fun and practical gift-giving this holiday season?

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


“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


“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


“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


“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!


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


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


“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.


“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


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!

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!


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!