Preparedness While Traveling

Despite new airline luggage restrictions, travelers can still be prepared.

We’re going to a football game on the weekend of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. One side of my brain says there’s no extra danger. The other side of my brain says terrorists love anniversaries. In any case, we’re going to go see some football. Am I going to have some stuff in the car in case something happens? Of course I will; I always do.

Some people get to a point in their preparations where they never want to leave the comfort and safety of home. There’s nothing wrong with this if it works for you, but my wife and I are adventurers. We made a conscious decision that we wouldn’t become prisoners of our preparations. As a result, we travel together whenever we can. That, combined with business travel, means we spend a lot of time with only the items we have on our backs or in our vehicle.

I have traveled a few times a month for business for several years and make four to eight trips a year to Washington, D.C. My list of equipment has constantly evolved.

Due to new airline luggage restrictions, I have pared down my travel gear considerably. I now have the challenge of fitting everything I check into one bag that weighs less than 50 pounds, including my sidearm (when not in Washington), clothes, toiletries, work items and preparedness items.

Here’s what I carry, broken down into the four major survival categories:

Food: It depends on the trip, but I usually carry a few packages of jerky, five to 10 CLIF bars, Hammer Gel, instant oatmeal, breakfast-shake powder, meal-replacement bars or whatever is decently healthy that I can buy in bulk at Costco.

I also carry fiber capsules and meal-replacement capsules. The combination will allow me to function at about 85 percent to 90 percent capacity for a few days without food and without feeling hungry. Best of all, they take up almost no space and weigh very little.

When I combine a little bit of food with the fiber/meal replacement combo, it’s possible for me to carry a week or more of food in a very compact form.

Fire: I keep a few fire-starting tricks with me, including two from the Adventure Medical Kits (AMK) mini survival kit, which fits into my cargo-pocket sized REI first aid kit. (You can get both from REI.)

The two fire starters that are included in this kit are a Fresnel lens and a tiny orange stick with a “spark wheel” like you’d find on a lighter. Most importantly, they include three pieces of braided cotton to use as tinder.

I also carry a BlastMatch. The BlastMatch is a one-handed fire starter that uses a combination of 4 metals to create 1,400 degree sparks. From a pure survival standpoint, it’s not necessary. The little orange “spark wheel” does just as well with the proper tinder, but I honestly just enjoy using the BlastMatch.

Two items I carry that double as accelerants for making fires are ChapStick® and fish oil capsules. Adding either to tinder makes starting fire so much easier that it is almost like cheating.

The laws on matches and lighters in checked and carry-on baggage seem to change so often that I don’t even bother with them.

Water: I carry a Sawyer 2-liter water purifier. It is guaranteed to purify 1 million gallons and is one of the very few mechanical filters that will filter out viruses. It’s truly an impressive purifier. I also carry the Katadyn carbon cartridge to filter the chlorine out of hotel water.

If needed, I can use my bandana or a cotton shirt as a pre-filter.

I also carry a Nalgene bottle so I have something to put the water into besides a tiny hotel glass.

Shelter: My shelter options are very limited due to size and weight restrictions. I carry a Mylar® blanket from the AMK kit, a poncho and a couple of contractor garbage bags. My primary strategy is to pack layered clothes and acquire or create shelter if necessary.

Medical: I carry a simple REI day pack first aid kit along with Super Glue®, electrolyte replenisher, an extra triangle bandage and some beefed up blister gear. I don’t carry any CPR gear and, frankly, I don’t intend to do CPR on anyone other than immediate family while traveling. This kit is to fix myself. If I have to fix anyone else, I’ll use their supplies or supplies that I acquire.

That last point is very important. If I find myself in a mass casualty incident, I’m not going to be using my little pocket first aid and trauma kit on strangers. I would use it on family; but if I’m working on strangers, I’ll use what they have and/or cut and rip off parts of their clothing rather than use the limited supplies I have.

I also carry a bottle of prescription pain medications. I’ve learned the hard way that I have to jam-pack the bottle with cotton balls to keep the pills from dissolving from vibration. (Because I don’t take them and I carry the exact same pills for months and even years at a time, the vibration of airline travel adds up.)

Security/Tools: Some of the other items that I have with me are:

  • A fixed-blade knife. I carry a 4.8-inch partially serrated Gerber LMF II that I have abused enough in the woods and around the house to know I can trust it.
  • A few zip ties of various lengths.
  • A multi-tool.
  • Two lights: a Surefire Backup and a Petzl Zipka.
  • Backup batteries
  • Two pepper sprays: a traditional “jogger” Saber spray and a Kimber Guardian Angel.
  • Pocket/neck knives to the extent that they’re legal where I’m traveling.
  • A belt, boots, a bandana and a few cotton T-shirts.
  • A roll of black electrical tape.
  • Lots of paracord.
  • Magnetic intrusion alarms.
  • A lock pick set.
  • Urban Survival Playing Cards from

I’ll usually throw in a couple of new things to test out each trip, but that’s the core of it. The best part about this setup is that, other than my knife, it’s all small, light and very usable.

I normally fly with a firearm a few times a month and have never had a problem with the Transportation Security Administration. I’ve read about several incidents in which people did have problems with TSA, but my personal experience has been different.

There are times for me, though, when carrying a firearm is not an option: on a plane, on Amtrak, in Washington, D.C., California and other locales that don’t allow concealed or open carry, even at amusement parks. During those times, I’m quite happy that I have solid empty-hands fighting skills. It’s what makes me comfortable and confident in situations where I can’t carry effective self-defense tools and may have to fight to be able to acquire an improvised weapon.

Let me know what preparedness items you carry with you when you travel. How do you deal with the fact that you’re basically choosing to be unprepared hours or days away from your home, family and supplies? What systems do you have in place should a disaster hit your family while you’re gone? As you get more and more prepared, do you tend to spend more time at home or have you figured out how to feel comfortable leaving everything behind?

Tell me by commenting below.

Personal Liberty

David Morris

Since 2008, “Survival Dave” has taught over 10,000 people how to survive long term breakdowns in civil order in urban areas-without having to run away to a fully stocked rural retreat. His students range from lifelong SpecOps operators & paramedics to newlyweds & retirees just waking up to preparedness. They all share a common desire to “be the solution” when disasters happen rather than depending on government to save the day. He is the creator of the Urban Survival Course, the author of the “Urban Survival Guide,” and his Urban Survival Playing Cards were recently featured on Glenn Beck’s Christmas Special as a “must have” gift for 2010.

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