BASE CAMP BASICS
Key considerations for your home-away-from-home
As I write this article, many of my friends on the Big Island of Hawaii have been forced to bug out due to the recent eruption of the Kilauea volcano. Some flew off the island to stay with friends on the other islands; others flew to the mainland. Still others are forced to stay, move to safer locations on the island and ride out the river of lava. Gathering with friends and neighbors, they have pooled their resources and established base camps as—hopefully, temporary—“homes-away-from-home,” if you will. They’ll stay in these safe places until they can go home again. They will make it through this natural disaster, because they planned in advance and were prepared to deal with this dangerous situation.
WHAT IS A BASE CAMP?
Simply put, your base camp is your base of operations after you’ve been forced from your residence. It is where most of your (remaining) supplies are kept. It is where you will find “the comforts of home,” as your new situation defines them. Your base camp is your safest haven in times of trouble. However, a base camp, along with the relative sense of security it provides, is only as good as the people in it and a plan and gear that put it all together. It all starts with that plan.
Something has happened that causes you to leave home quickly. You have all the “stuff.” Your bug-out bag is overflowing with the latest gadgets (which, hopefully, you know how to use), and your truck is full of fuel. You are ready to go, right? Not if you don’t have a plan. Where are you going to go? Who will you go with? What skills, supplies or gear will they bring with them? How are you set regarding medical and communications capabilities? If you haven’t figured all this out, you’re basically just all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Long before any disaster strikes, you should have a plan drawn up and be able to execute it. As things change over time (minute to minute, in some cases), you should also have a plan B and perhaps even a plan C. As you devise your plans, keep where, when, who, what, why and how in the back of your mind. Where? Figure out where you will run to, if anywhere. The area you choose for your base camp could even be your own home. The area selected must offer several types of protection: It should be as free from natural threats, such as floods, as possible and defensible from the human kind while having access to water and food sources that can supplement your stores. Is your base camp easy for you to get to or get away from but not readily apparent as a survival shelter to the unknowing observer? Do you have enough space to store your supplies? All this needs to be taken into consideration when picking a location for your base camp. When? When do you make the call to head to your base camp? The sooner the better. At the first sign of danger, you should have your vehicle ready to go. You should have contacted all the members of your party so everyone knows you are on the move. In addition, confirm when and where you will meet. When do you start planning? Now! All members of your party should be stocking up on food, water, medical supplies, fuel and ammo on an ongoing basis. Don’t wait until you are running out the door to plan a quick stop at the Piggly Wiggly. Who? Who will you have with you? Does your group comprise friends and family? Does it include neighbors or members of a like-minded survival group? Who will be in charge? Who will delegate the different duties that go into making a base camp run and make sure the work is done right? All this should be part of the plan, and it should be agreed upon long before the plan needs
WITHOUT A PLAN, YOU COULD END UP IN A WORLD OF HURT. IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, HEED THE WORDS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU ARE PLANNING TO FAIL.”
to be implemented. One person can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything. Serious consequences can arise if there is only one skilled and prepared member in your group. The primary advantage of the group is that you share each other’s strengths and minimize the impact of their weaknesses. For example, if anyone in your party has medical training, they should be in charge of all medical situations and supplies, which will include proper hygiene and sanitation. If someone is tech-savvy or mechanically inclined, I would put that person, or persons, in charge of keeping the power going (generators, solar panels, recharging batteries, etc.) and communications (radios and cell phones, in particular). While all members of the party are responsible for base camp security, I would put the most experienced hunters or those with applicable military or policing skills in charge of weapons and security. In other words: Pick the right people to get the job done in the most efficient manner. What? While there is no one-size-fits-all list of “stuff” that will guarantee success in a survival situation, you should be able to assemble a list based on a scaled-back version of your current everyday needs. Basics include— • Food and water and the implements needed to process and prepare them; • Medical, hygiene and sanitation needs; • Security and food-procurement materiel; • Tools suited to the variety of projects, tasks and repairs you expect to face; • Assorted types of identity, health, ownership, financial and legal documentation, along with reference materials for survival and other skills. This list is longer, of course, but remember to weed out the things you’ll be able to make from materials at your new location from those you have no choice but to bring with you. Why? Why do you need a plan? Why do you need to move? Why do you need the help of others? Without a plan, you will lose focus. You will get nothing done, because you will be pulled in different and unproductive directions. Without a plan, you could end up in a world of hurt. If you don’t believe me, heed the
words of Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Despite your best efforts, your current location might no longer be safe, and you might have to move. Follow the plan, and head to your base camp location—no matter where it is. You need others, because it is highly probable you won’t survive over the long term if you’re alone. On your own, you might go down due to an illness or injury that someone else could have helped you overcome. Working with others allows you to pool resources, divide up the work that needs to get accomplished and helps defend what you have from those looking to take it from you. (Learn from human and animal predators that will probably approach your location in groups.) Being part of a group allows you to draw upon the skills of others. The term, “safety in numbers,” applies here. It also enables you to provide each other with emotional support, without which you might not be able to thrive. How? How do you plan on getting to your base camp? Are you traveling by vehicle, on foot or via some other method? How will you manage if you have to carry all your supplies on your back? How can you take advantage of natural resources at your new location? How is it all going to work? How long can you stay at your base camp? The answer: Prepare and follow the plan.
Wherever your base camp is located, it is important to stay organized. Areas need to be designated for medical, kitchen, supplies and latrines. Fuel storage must be separated from living areas. Latrines, if they must be dug, must be located away from food storage, processing
LONG BEFORE ANY DISASTER STRIKES, YOU SHOULD HAVE A PLAN DRAWN UP AND BE ABLE TO EXECUTE IT. AS THINGS CHANGE OVER TIME (MINUTE TO MINUTE, IN SOME CASES), YOU SHOULD ALSO HAVE A PLAN B AND PERHAPS EVEN A PLAN C.
and dining areas, and water sources. If your base camp is a sound building, shelter is already taken care of. If not, you need to set that up as quickly as possible, especially if the weather or environment is harsh. Once your base camp is established, take stock of your supplies. Figure out what you have and what you need. Food and water are your top priorities. You will never have enough of either. Unless more of both can be found, you need to be prepared to ration them. Keep in mind that all water sources are suspect, so have the means to purify it before drinking or cooking with it. Sanitation is another topic that needs to be addressed. A group of people, no matter how small, will carry diseases and germs. Poor sanitation will increase the chance of illness quicker than almost anything else. Have the means to stay clean. Make sure human and pet/livestock/ poultry waste is disposed of properly—away from food or water sources. Dig a latrine away from base camp and then bury the waste; alternatively, develop a composting plan if anything other than human waste is anticipated.
MY BASE CAMP PLAN
This is something I hope I never have to implement, but I am prepared to do so if necessary. In my plan, my first choice for a base camp is my home. I chose this for numerous reasons: • It is located on high ground so flooding is not an issue. • It is easily defendable. • It has a large stockpile of food, water and other supplies. • There are friends and neighbors nearby with resources that can be combined/shared. • There is plenty of room for family, friends and neighbors to join us. • It offers numerous escape routes if we need to evacuate quickly. • I am very familiar with the area and region. Because even the best-made plans can go wrong, I have a plan B. This is another base camp site that is deeper in the woods and is already stocked, just in case. Every emergency situation will be different, but you have to be prepared, no matter what. You could be at your base camp for days, weeks or even months. In a worst-case scenario, it might become your new home. You might have running water or even electricity (for a little while), but chances are, you will not. Work as a team with the members of your group, whether they’re your family, friends or neighbors. You can’t rely upon the state or federal government to take care of you. If you doubt that, just look at Puerto Rico—now, almost a year after the hurricanes hit that island—as an example. If you develop a plan, stick to it and are proactive instead of reactive, there is a good chance you and the members of your group will be fine.
THE AREA SELECTED MUST OFFER SEVERAL TYPES OF PROTECTION: IT SHOULD BE AS FREE FROM NATURAL THREATS, SUCH AS FLOODS, AS POSSIBLE AND DEFENSIBLE FROM THE HUMAN KIND WHILE HAVING ACCESS TO WATER AND FOOD SOURCES THAT CAN SUPPLEMENT YOUR STORES.
Natural disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. You had better have a plan and a place at which your group can weather it out.
When severe weather has made staying home impossible, it’s time to get out and follow your plan for setting up a remote base camp.
Left: A cabin in the woods makes a great base camp location.
Right: Keep accurate records about the supplies you have on hand.
Near right: Go through your supplies so you know exactly what you have.
Far right: Set up an area where food will be prepared and served.
Far left: Make sure your base camp is fully stocked with freeze-dried foods and MRES, such as those from MRE Star, Mountain House and Paleo Meals to Go.
Left, middle: A Solo Stove bio-fuel stove is just one way to cook meals in base camp using available, free fuel.
Left, bottom: The enclosed front porch of this cabin makes a great base camp communications room.
Above: A good pack, such as this one from Blackhawk!, will help ensure your gear makes it to your base camp with you.
Always try to secure more food whenever you can.
Portable stoves, such as this Camp Chef Everest, as well as a good cast-iron Dutch oven, such as this one from Lodge, will make food preparation much easier.
This base camp is well-constructed and will provide good protection from the elements. Would you and your group be able to build something this robust quickly and efficiently?