You have ten minutes. Now go!
The phone has rung. The emergency message pinged on your mobile. The radio comes alive and the rolling TV news has only one story. It’s happened, come true, the end of civilisation. Natural disaster. World War III. Alien invasion. A fast spreading equine influenza jumping the species boundary, or just a plain old zombie apocalypse. If you’re lucky it’ll be only one. Either way, you’ve got to evacuate. You have ten minutes. Now go!
Information coming out of ground zero is sketchy, you’re not being told what’s going on. All you know is you’ve got to move. There’s a safe haven, but it’s miles away, you have to leave quick. Maybe you have your own ideas of where it would be best to hide out from the worst. The least you know is you’ve got to get out of the town, away from the cities, heading to the country, the national parks or up the tallest mountain. Anywhere that’s not going to make it easy for any infection to spread, or where a stray bomb or laser bolt is going to crash into your head.
It’s coming. For your best chance of survival you have to be quick.
So what do you take?
I’m not prepared, but still I did the test. I took ten minutes to jump around the house and grab what I could, racing to think what I could carry on my back, hoping there was enough to sustain me for longer than a few days.
I’m downstairs when the call comes. I’m prepared mentally because this is only a test so I don’t spend precious moments locked in search of answers, trying my best to come to terms with what it all means. Still, I take a few seconds. I’m the outdoorsy sort, I go hiking and walking with my friends every year. I’ve wild camped more times than I can count and had to dig a hole for my waste in the wilderness a few times, so this will be easy. Right? A minute’s gone before I’m upstairs pulling old clothes out of the wardrobe to get to my rucksacks. I discard the ninety litre pack I take on three day expeditions. Fully loaded it can carry an awesome amount of stuff, but it slows you down to a causal pace. I won’t be wanting to take in the scenery on this journey, I bet. Speed will be key, I might have to run from people, from things I’ve never met. So I settle for a day pack with half the capacity, but it’s waterproof, and with loads of pockets, a great compromise.
With eight minutes left I’m at the cupboard where I keep my camping gear pulling out a Trangia camping stove. It’s the first thing in my bag. On top I throw in a fire steel, a folding knife, dry bags, woolly hats and gloves, it’s still winter for a few weeks. A small first aid kit goes in too, as well a personal wash kit, some unopened beef jerky from another trip goes on top. I have a low light torch, a spork and a tin mug. I look at the deodorant and shower gel on the shelf next door, but leave as I walk away. I stuff in a sleeping bag and inflatable pillow, shocked the bag is almost full, but still pile in a small emergency kit on top.
I move to the dresser, swinging the pack over my shoulder, the sleeping bag spirals out and I clip it to the side of the bag. Grabbing a technical top and t-shirt, a fleece and quick dry trousers and we’re five minutes gone as I’m racing down the stairs. I try to stuff two large bottles of water in, realising there’s no chance, so I empty the contents of the bag onto the living room floor and run to the hallway cupboard. I tap in the code for the safe and repeat, this time in the right order and pull my passport and the small amount of cash I keep for emergencies. Intended more for a leaking pipe than the end of the world. I lock the door and think what next?
From the larder cupboard I grab packets of Uncle Ben’s rice. They’re pre-cooked, meant for a microwave, but they’re not bad heated on the Trangia and I can eat them cold if I must. I grab small tins of fish, mackerel and sardines, the latter of which I have no idea why they’re in there. I fill my arm with beans and cereal bars, nuts left over from Christmas. Passing by the bathroom, I add paracetamol and antihistamine too. Standing staring over the bag I take a moment, knowing I’m missing something big.
By the time I’ve found the shed keys and unlocked the back door, taking only seconds to look to the sky, pondering on how big the world suddenly seems, I’m unlocking the shed with just over a minute to go. Fighting to climb over everything in the way, a bike, tools and an office chair I have nowhere else to store, I eventually grab hold of a bottle of meths, it’s full and essential as the fuel for the Trangia burner. My eye falls on the tool rack and a claw hammer. Before I know it’s in my hand and I’m swinging it through the air in a way I never have before. It’s heavy, but I have a feeling it could be my new best friend. I pause to look around the shed, grab the small two man tent and panic that I didn’t pack it all inside the bags properly after it was last used. I haven’t got time to look now as the time counts down on my watch. The ten minutes is up and my new life is piled on the living room floor.
I take the extra time, another five minutes, pack everything in tight, discarding the pillow and grabbing my thick ski coat that’s never seen snow. Along with my hiking boots, I have everything at the door. I have to hope it wasn’t a hard deadline and remember I’m one of the lucky ones. I had warning.
So here’s what my kit looks like.
Tangia Camping Stove – This trusted weatherproof camping stove has been in development since the 1940s and I’ve been using them for 24 years for all sorts of camping and family days out. It’s light, weatherproof, fast to put together and to take down too and it’s super quick to boil water in the provided kettle. However, for this situation the big drawback is the fuel. I run mine on methylated spirits, the purple liquid you get from the DIY store for cleaning brushes, and there’s gel available too, but the weight of the fuel is like that of water, so unless you’re cooking raw food or boiling water to make it safe, is it worth the weight and the hunt for a continuous supply? On balance it’s still coming with me, but it will be the first thing to ditch when the fuel runs out.
Fire Steel – Lightweight and able to use in all weathers for lighting the stove and making a traditional fire too.
Folding Knife – Useful for all sorts and kept in my pocket, not knowing what I’m facing when I open the front door.
Dry bags – Keeps your stuff dry, need I say more?
Wooly hats and gloves – It’s January and a few months away from fifteen degrees celsius during the day.
Wash Kit – A compact kit with tooth brush and paste. You want to look after your teeth. I for one don’t fancy self extracting a tooth!
Low light torch – With four colours of light to select from, it’s great for keeping yourself concealed and not damaging your sensitive night vision when you use it. Who knows what’s going to be hunting you down at night?
Clothes – Quick dry trousers, essential in any weather. Layers of technical clothes, the best way to stay warm. Hiking socks are a no brainer for comfort. On second thoughts I’d change into all this, rather than taking up room in my pack. There’s no room for spares, but this is survival, not a blind date.
Four Litres of water – NHS guidelines are for 1.2 litres per day to keep dehydration at bay. That gives me just over three days supply, but I’m expecting a long, arduous journey. It will probably last me two. I’m going to make finding more a priority. If there’s any space I’d do well to fit as much more in as I can.
Sleeping bag – It’s small, lightweight and three season. Should deal with most of what the English weather can throw at me, as long as I have shelter.
Tent – Again, small and portable, weighing just over 2kg / 4.4lbs it gives options for where I can eventually go.
Paracords – With boundless uses in survival situations and lightweight, it’s a must.
Emergency Kit – Contains 21 different items to help you survive, including a fishing line and hook, tinder and a knife, all wrapped in woven paracord.
Passport – You never know. In an emergency I’m sure the rules would be relaxed, but when it all settles down, if it ever does, then it would make resettling so much easier, if there’s anything left. Keep positive. Probably the most important lesson.
Cash – When the world comes down around your shoulders the cash will be of use, but only in the short term. If the shit really hits the fan, its jewellery, precious stones and metals that hold all the bartering value.
Hammer – It’s heavy, but has many uses, including as a weapon, helping to build a shelter or to break into an abandoned supermarket to restock supplies if it really goes down.
Paracetamol – Access to doctors may be limited. Pain could be a new feature of life. Whether it’s a strain from walking, a headache or problems with your teeth, you’ll be glad of bringing plenty of these lightweight tablets with you, plus they’ll be great for bartering if you have spare.
Food – Dense, dry ingredients are best. Even better are those that don’t need water to eat. Tinned goods are next because they’ll last so long, its been shown they’ll last long after their official expiration date, but they’re heavy and too many will weigh you down. Chocolate and sugar dense sweets are great too, but only if you’re taking care of your teeth, access to dentists may be limited, if available at all.
Now take a breath.
Okay, so we have the benefit of not being in a rush, so what else should I have packed and perhaps prepared for in advance?
Gold coins – Gold is easy for anyone to recognise their value. Gold will always be in demand, even when states fail. Buy small denominations, 4 grams half Sovereigns or 8 gram Sovereigns or American Quarter Eagles so you don’t have to pay a higher price for the want of change.
Water – We all know this will be a big issue. If the water is contaminated in a nuclear fallout there’s not a great deal sterilisation and filtering can do, but in every other circumstance a filtration straw will let you filter up to 2,000 litres / 530 gallons direct from the source. It’s a no brainer.
Nails – I’m bringing a hammer so why not long nails too? Gives me options for building shelters.
Hand sanitiser – It won’t last long, but used sparingly it will help stave off stomach bugs, plus it’s flammable.
Batteries – The more the merrier. The torch is useless without them and can help start a fire if needed. Consider candles, but only to be used when inside a shelter, not a tent!
Wind Up Torch – In addition to the standard torch, a great idea would be to have a wind up torch too for when your supply of batteries runs dry.
Emergency Blankets – Only single use, but can keep you warm if you fall into a river, giving you enough chance to recover.
Alcohol – Full of calories and a treat to keep you warm at night. How could I forget!
Vitamins – If food is scarce, these will be a handy top up. Lightweight too. Empty out the paracetamol from their packets and pile them in the vitamin bottle to save space.
I’m sure you’ve all got some great ideas, so why not make your suggestions in the comments!
It’s clear there’s no way this can be done in ten minutes. With another ten maybe you’ll have a chance, but you’ll forget something important. I’m going to pack my bag and leave it that way. You never know when it could save your life!
Now all I have to do is swing it on my back, open the front door and see what’s outside….
In the End…Why not read about what happens to a group of friends whose world collapses around them, forcing them to make difficult decisions just to stay alive. It’s not going to be comfortable, or an easy ride. Find out if they’ve got what it takes to survive when they’re not at the top of the food chain…