Building a disaster bag has started to become addictive for me. There’s so many cool technologies and capabilities to consider for it. Sure, there’s the 2400 calorie lemon bars and the 3 days worth of water. It has a simple and reliable alcohol stove with extra tinder, fuel and matches. Lightweight backpacker’s tent, sleeping bag, emergency bivvy, extra tarp, paracord, guy line string, all pretty much standard stuff.
As I refine my build, I find myself adding more technology, as well as refining some of the basic things and getting more organized.
Fold Out, Ultralight USB Solar Charger
Lightweight and durable are two rare qualities for a high powered portable solar charger. Some even contain lots of glass. Up until now, I had not found an acceptable solar charger for my disaster bag, other than the underpowered (but still cool) WakaWaka solar lantern with USB charger. With its 1.something watt solar cell, in full sunlight it would take at least 8 hours to charge a smartphone, and probably a couple days to charge a high end tablet. But it’s small, and has a built in lantern, and hey, in an emergency that is plenty good. But I wanted a little better, and now that means I have a backup to the new Levin I just got.
This new one is pretty awesome. Just making a halfway attempt to aim it directly at the sun, it puts out a solid amp, which is as good as the wall charger that came with my smartphone. The good thing about the Levin is that it has no built in battery pack, so it can charge your phone or tablet directly (or any standard USB device), which is impressive. Of course even this ultralight panel weighs a whole pound, and every pound counts. But this pound is worth it because it can pretty much give one person a live-off-the-grid capability with all their electronics. That’s a lot of capability for a pound.
Someone once told me not to sweat the small stuff. In my experience, all that small stuff adds up, usually to a very bad day. One of those little, overlooked things is sealing your tent. Sure, they were supposed to do that at the factory, and sure, they have a money back guarantee. But if your life situation is so dire that you are now living in this small backpacking tent, contacting customer service isn’t going to be your first thought when you’re getting rain dumped all over you and your gear. Why chance it? The tent sealer is only a few bucks. It’s a hassle to crawl around painting all the seams on not only the tent, but the rain fly as well. That’s a lot of little seams. It’s also a lot of points of failure that you are plugging up. I can’t say what life will be like when it’s so bad that I have to live in a little tent, but I know that I will be dry.
I don’t normally buy cheap camping gear like this Ozark tent I got from Walmart, but this particular tent was only 30 bucks and had what seemed like better reviews than a tent in this price range should have. It’s actually very light weight, which is also amazing at this price point. The consensus of the reviews seemed to be that it was a great tent if a) you seal it and b) you put it in a compression sack. It took me a while to get around to ordering the compression sack because I figured ‘how bulky could it be?’ and yeah, it was a nightmare getting it to fit in the bag. Some of the reviews of this tent mentioned being able to get the tent minus the poles and steaks to about the size of a football, and yep! Now the little football-sized tent fits nice in the bag, and the poles fit neatly next to the Ka-Bar machete.
Again, the little stuff. Having a sharp, durable knife. Sounds simple, but that aren’t that many great knives under $200 that really caught my eye as far as replacing the perfectly good one I already had in the bag. And just like the one I already have, this one comes with its own fire steel built into the Kydex sheath. It was a little pricey at $120 but it’s superbly made. And Tops has a pretty good following.
This Tops is an absolutely fabulous survival/bushcraft knife. Holding it in my hands, it looks like I could use it to chop up lesser knives. It looks indestructible. It probably is indestructible. But I’ve told myself that since this thing weighs almost a pound, something else has to come out of the bag, and I’ve been trying to think of what to trade it for. Also, there is already a Mora Light My Fire knife in the bag, which this Tops Fieldcraft knife would replace. The Mora is a fraction of the weight and has a sterling reputation. So I’m trying to decide if the step up in quality and durability justifies the increase in weight, or whether it’s overkill.
Most of those “stuff sacks” just look too flimsy for what I want in a disaster bag. I searched and searched for the perfect little bag or pouch to keep things like electronics and batteries. One day I was walking through Ace Hardware and saw exactly what I was looking for. I liked them so much I noticed they were even cheaper on Amazon. The price fluctuated up and down and I finally bought them when they were about 6 dollars and of course 2 day shipping with the wife’s prime.
These tool pouches are durable and nice and thick. A little heavier than the ultralight stuff sacks, but I use them sparingly.