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How to Prepare for a (Emergency) Vacation

Tyler Gianesini -

With the shifting climates, there are places around the US seeing a lot more frequent threats from nature than they have in the past century. Hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts. They can be scary things, but many of us are utterly unprepared.

Why? Well, it's tough to want to plan for something that might not happen. We tend to think it will all be fine until it's a bit too late.

I think I have a better idea.

Let's plan a vacation. This might be a vacation that you decide you need after a week of too much stress at work, or it might be a 'vacation' spurred by an earthquake. But if we have to be preparing for something, let's at least be prepared for something fun while we're also making sure we are prepared for when things go wrong.


For your vacation, you may well be able to find an opening in a hotel. That's great. Let's keep that on the table as an option. But if you have an emergency vacation you might need to be prepared to sleep on the side of a highway.

For this, we're going to need a tent. How big of a tent will depend on your family, and the quality you need is going to depend on the average temperature of your locale, but with Amazon or Wal-Mart you don't need to break the bank to find a decent tent. I have one that cost me $3, fits two people, and folds down to a size that can be stored under my driver's seat.

Spending the extra money on a tent that has a rain fly and a footprint will save you some misery if you are at risk for being in a particularly rainy area.

If you are truly taking an emergency vacation and your tent doesn't have a rain fly, remember that you can pull under a bridge or overpass for some protection from the rain.


Sleeping Bags

A mummy-style sleeping bag with down lining will keep you warm when the temperature drops, which is critical in making sure you don't wake up exhausted from shivering and poorly rested.

Jackets and Sweaters

Wool sweaters and rain-proof jackets. You may also want a large warm jacket depending on your climate, but remember that you need a rain resistant option for if you need to set up shelter in a downpour.

Quick Dry Towels

"Oh... I didn't think of that..." Yeah, I know. Worth the money every time, these can be used to dry yourself, your camp chairs, whatever, and then hung to dry.


A wool blanket can help add to your sleeping bag warmth or used beside a small fire to keep your back warm.

Food & Water

While food and water are essential, you likely aren't looking to keep too much packed in your car or home to have for an emergency scenario. That said, try to keep as many of these as you are willing so that when the time comes you don't risk starving.


Dried beans can last years and years if they're in a properly sealed container, and they're cheap. This and canned meats are likely to be your main protein sources on a long unplanned camping trip.


A good source of carbohydrates when you're in the woods, rice can also be stored dry for up to ten years, and it's cheap. Rice is also handy because you can add any other foods you come across into it for flavor and to change things up.

Canned Food

Peaches and pears last well with being stored long term in cans and jars, as well as green veggies. You will need some of the nutrition from these green veggies so try not to think of what you like and grab what's best for you, like spinach and asparagus.
Canned meats can also last for 6-10 years and will be crucial for getting protein as well as other key nutrients that come from meat. Ham, tuna, and chicken all come in canned form. Fair warning... they taste awful.

Salt and Sugar

Salt can help you season and cure food, while sugar can be added to any meal to up the caloric intake if your emergency vacation has you needing higher amounts of energy for hiking or setting up camp.

Peanut Butter

 Jars of peanut butter have good protein and some have added sugar for extra calories as well. They can keep up to five years stored in a cool dark place. Peanut butter needs no preparation, so it's useful before you have a fire to make your beans and rice on.


You need water. You also need water to stay good. You can buy store bought containers, but keep in mind that they shouldn't be stored in the sun, and you'll want at least 3 gallons per person, just for a three day supply. Half a gallon is for drinking, the other half is for hygiene purposes. 

The Essentials


You need a good one. I've had a Leatherman multi-tool since like age 12, and they last FOREVER. Don't go cheap or you're going to wind up with dull blades and useless parts.

Solar USB Charger

Make sure your phone works in case the system is still working. Your phone can be your map, compass, flashlight, and survival guide.


If you get into an emergency scenario it's likely to be somewhat local. You're going to want to be able to drive far enough away from that area that you can gain access to clean water and food, and if everyone is draining dry the gas stations trying to do the same, you may waste a lot of time or not even be able to find a station with fuel remaining. Keeping extra around doesn't hurt and a couple gallons can get you priceless miles in these situations.

Water Container

A cup or canteen.


Your weak city slicker hands will probably want some protection while doing various cool survival tasks, as well as a little warmth.

Toilet Paper

You'll thank yourself.

  • Can Opener
  • Strainer
  • LED Flashlight with spare sealed batteries
  • Cooking Pan & Pot
  • Small Cooler
  • Tongs
  • Soap and Rubbing Alcohol
  • Sponge or Scrubber
  • Lighters and Waterproof Matches
  • Vitamins


  • Alcohol Swabs
  • Bandages - variety helps
  • Gauze
  • Liquid Band Aid and Super Glue (super glue can close cuts in an emergency)
  • Painkillers
  • Antacids
  • Birth Control and Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Emergency Blanket

Wait... I Thought This Was a Vacation?

Alright... I'm sorry about that. I just didn't think you'd get prepared for an emergency unless you thought it was going to be a vacation. I'm sorry for deceiving you. But now that you've got the supplies, you are in fact ready to get out there and take an emergency vacation and get away from it all if you need to.


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