Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Frugal Preparedness Gifts - More Time Than Money

In the last post, I talked about giving Christmas gifts that were a hands-on experience. You took the time to put needed items together for a particular experience and then either printed instructions on their use or worked with the recipient to show them how learn the skill.

Want other very frugal but valuable gift ideas that might one day help the recipient stay safe? Let's look at some thoughtful gifts that take only YOUR own time and YOUR knowledge to assemble. These should make you feel good to give if you know the recipient should have these emergency preparations but likely will never put forth the effort.

#1.  Maps for emergencies

When a disaster (tornado, flood, rail-car explosion, etc.) happens near your home or across your region, you need to know where to go and the best alternate routes to take to get there. Even if your giftee has a good GPS system, the device is not programmed to consider hazards to avoid, etc.

Let's start with a local map. Most chambers of commerce or some real estate agencies will provide one or two of these for free. Use your local knowledge to mark routes from your giftee's house that do not have to cross railroad tracks or notorious flood-prone areas. Use a different color of highlighter to mark hospitals and buildings that are designated emergency shelters. Say your friend or family member is out shopping on a hot August day and the tornado sirens go off. Would he or she know the nearest safe shelter when there is no time to drive home to the basement?

If your city is large enough to have an emergency management director, call that office to ask if they have maps with public shelters marked already. If not, ask if you can come by and have someone mark up a map with you. (You will be learning valuable information for yourself if you did not already know all of the locations to mark on the map.)

Of course, to mark alternate routes for each major direction, you need to know what larger highway system you want to hook up to. We've all seen the pictures of interstate highways clogged and not moving an inch. Secure a state map and examine reliable but alternate routes to highlight. Do you know where the recipient would choose to go if home was not inhabitable? Mark those spots and routes.

You might place these maps in plastic "sheet protectors" for durability. And perhaps include those in a binder you label as Emergency Info.

#2.  Emergency Contacts
This are sheets you create to provide phone numbers and email addresses for a variety of entities such as all local utility providers, poison control 800 numbers, Red Cross, etc.

If you know family members of the giftee or that person's close friends, you can start a hard copy of numbers to reach those people. Because Murphy's Law tells us just when you need to call Uncle Jake in Idaho, your cell phone is dead and you cannot find his number. (You could still call to say you are on your way for an emergency visit if you can borrow someone else's phone or use a land line once you are at a safe place.)

Put these lists in sheet protectors and add to the binder containing the maps.

#3. Other Emergency Printables
You can find another dozen (at least) helpful sheets to print out from online sources. After all, you have these sheets in YOUR emergency binder, don't you?  Review several versions of a list of documents to include and choose the best to print out for your giftee.

Don't forget things like a "Family Communications Sheet for Kids" from FEMA.

Here's a link to the FEMA site to print that out:

OR, here is a fold-able card from (an excellent source of further info) that has ID, contacts family emergency meet-up info:

If you have more money than time, the next post will provide ideas on survival gear you can afford at almost any level of spending. And how to create a "theme" survival gift.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Survival "Practice Kits" Make Fun Gifts

Random thoughts of Christmas (and birthday) gifts made me think of creating preparedness skill kits for others (or even yourself).

You know plenty of people, I'm sure, who say they have an interest in prepping or learning survival skills, but they never get beyond reading how-to's. Or, maybe you know a young person who would like to learn some bushcraft skills but lives in an urban area. So what if you could hand them the skill-building outdoor experience in a box or bag?

I can explain best, I think, by showing you some examples.

Let's take the idea of learning to find your direction if you are lost in the woods. All that's needed is a day that casts shadows, a couple of tall sticks and a couple of small rocks. You can bundle the sticks and rocks and tie on a tag with instructions. If you are able to perform the exercise with the young person or adult, all the better!

This is the experience of using the sun's shadow moving over a period of 15 minutes to show you an east-west directional line. Use this to orient yourself and check that you are traveling in the right direction if you lose or break your compass (you do carry at least a button compass when you hike, don't you?).  There are tons of examples with photos online and here is a link to one that is nicely done:

There is also the method of using a non-digital (analog) wrist watch. Here is a link to a good example of that:

You can print out an online illustration of this method and include it with the above practice kit or hand-write the instructions. Explain that if the person simply knows the time but has no analog watch, it is easy to create or imagine the positions of the hour hand and the 12. You can also include a small compass with instructions. Use the compass to show that the sun-and-sticks method shows the proper general directions.

Another idea for a practice kit is for fire building (yes, going for the basics here). If the recipient is of age to be truly careful with creating fire and can find an appropriate place to build a small fire, this practice kit could contain several examples of fire starting. Perhaps the easiest one will illustrate.

I am a BIG fan of cotton balls smeared heavily on the outside with petroleum jelly. You stuff several in an old photo film canister or tiny ziploc bag or such. Pull out one cotton ball and fluff it so that some of the drier inside is exposed and air can circulate in it a bit. Tuck it into the tinder bundle. Now, using the regular Bic lighter (or similar) that is part of the "practice kit" you've assembled, simply set it on fire. It will burn for a good while like a small candle. This gives time for the tinder bundle to catch well so the newbie can get the next layer of larger fuel to ignite. You will have put a variety of types of tinder in the kit box so experimentation can take place.

Of course, the fire preparedness kit can feature as many ways to make fire as your time and/or budget allows:  instructions and materials for creating char cloth, a fire steel, magnesium bar, windproof lighter, waterproof matches, etc. You can even include materials to create homemade waterproof matches.

I think these examples show that with some imagination, you can create a bushcraft experience and give it as a gift. Other basics could be filtering water, using a LifeStraw, making solar still, etc. Consider the person's age, interest level, physical environment, etc. Make it FUN and it will be a gift that gets used AND may encourage the recipient to get out and DO more to learn skills.

Soon, I'll have a post with gift ideas for gear purchases or even some free but valuable tools.