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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Menopause In A Nutshell

For those women born in the 50s or before, there's a good chance you went through menopause with minimum to no support, accept what a male doctor could tell you (which was usually very little). Luckily, for those in their 40s and facing this transformation, there is the Internet and women who are willing to talk about symptoms, multiple solutions, and support. What a change social media has created.

Still, with all the chatter online, there are still those women who wonder what they'll be experiencing. They'd like to know now and fast, without having to read 20 books on the topic, so here I am. And as far as my credentials - I'm a woman in her 60s who went through it cold turkey. That's all the credentials I need.

This is a journey that's a little different for everyone. Not everyone starts at the same time, ends at the same time, or has identical symptoms, but many of them will be similar. There are those who will have more challenges than others. And there will be a few who will swear they sailed through it like a breeze. Really? Ask the people they lived with.

It is a span of 7 to 10 years that every woman has to walk alone. No one can do it for you. I'm not going to pull any punches. What makes this more challenging than puberty, and other life passages, is that it not only transforms your body, but your mind and emotions as well. There are many things I would do for my friends so that they would not have to endure it, but this is not one. Most women feel that way.

My symptoms started at 45. I don't know why I should remember exactly when, but I do. I think it's because I had no one to talk to. Shoot, even the doctor wouldn't talk to me! And it started with something as simple as formication. No, not fornication - form with an M - formication. I was on a farm, milking twice a day, so the thought of a bug crawling on my ankles wasn't unusual. I'd swat the dumb thing away while I continued milking with the other hand. After about three good swats, I'd finally stop and look for the blasted thing. No. There was nothing there - just the sensation.

It didn't really worry me, though I did wonder if there was something burrowing under my skin. Fear not. It's just estrogen minutely leaving your system. It doesn't last forever and I wish I could recall how long it lasted. I would have to say that it was probably on and off for a year, or until the other symptoms overroad the sensation. Where you'll experience it can be different. My neighbor said it was on her nose, while others reported their arm, knee, or back.

Sometime later, you're going to have your first heart palpitation. And I'm going to talk to you straight. It's not like those flutters you get when you've fallen in love and he rolls up in your driveway. You're going to be in the middle of something, not paying any attention to your body, and suddenly your heart skips a beat - maybe even two. It'll get your attention! Then, it kickstarts itself by slamming into your chest. No, it does not hurt, but it sure scared the bajeebers out of me! It scared Oprah as well who thought she had the beginnings of heart disease. She immediately sought the advice of her doctors and no one would talk about it. It took a long time for her to find someone who would talk to her about normal menopause symptoms, and at that point, she realized that a lot of women were experiencing the same silence. She created a show on the topic in hopes of helping others.

The heart palpitations don't happen all the time, and it won't happen every day. But it will occur. This is where I tell you that it really is a good idea to have it checked out by a physician to make sure you don't have something else occurring. But, I also want you to know that most of us have been through it. Why? Once again, your body is losing more estrogen in your system.

Within time, my electric personality began to develop with mood swings. Actually, they weren't swinging; they were stuck in one mode. This was not necessarily pleasant for those around me. If you're reading this with your lover, boyfriend, husband, or a close male friend, you might want him to read this part as well. There comes a day, when your estrogen level is a bit lower and your testosterone level is a minute bit higher than it's been all your life. No, you're not going to look like a man, but you're going to experience something he has had to deal with since birth - assertiveness, aggression, and anger. He was raised in childhood and his teenage years to control those emotions in a socially acceptable manner. He was guided to use his power and aggression in such a way as to achieve the goals he wanted, influence the people around him, and to hold his own in a debate. You, on the other hand, have just entered his world, with years of being told that "ladies don't act that way". You were expected to stuff your feelings, smile, and be sweet.

Welcome to his world - without the training. When will you notice this? The first time he says something you've deemed as stupid, and you've stuffed that emotion just a wee bit too long. You'll fly with what's really been on your mind for the last 40 years, and you really aren't going to give a hoot how it affects him. In fact, there's a good chance you're probably going to like it at first. But in time, even you will get tired of popping off at everyone.

During one of those episodes, my husband asked if I took my pills that day. Way Wrong Question. I opened another entryway into the attic. He never asked that one again.

I wish I could tell you that that phase will last for a few short weeks, but it's really not going to. It's going to be your attitude for quite some time. Some women never lose it. It's then that you're going to have to decide just how you'll address it. Read up on it. Keep an open mind and consider your options. Try a few choices and see what feels right. Ultimately, you'll choose the route that works for you.

My family had encountered too much cancer, and hormone replacement therapy was then out of the question. I chose the alternative therapy with an herbal supplement and it worked well. Taking the edge off my new explosive personality (and it was) really helped me mentally and emotionally for the rest of the adventure. Dare I say that after the adventure ends, we don't return to stuffing our emotions either. For those gentlemen who fantasize about the good ol' days returning, they're gone. It's part of the package.

With the new personality comes the power surges. The world knows them as hot flashes and everyone accepts them differently. They're going to be your constant companion, so truthfully, try to work with them and not against them. Every time I experienced one, I knew it was one more step away from the incredibly painful periods I'd endured since I was 14. Luckily, the herbal supplement took the edge off of them as well, but not the experience.

Other than HRT, there is no magic pill that makes them go away. Once you are taken off the HRT, you'll still have to address the symptoms, so you have to decide whether you go through it now or later. Time will take them away. They do not last forever and you'll even have one from time to time long after menopause is over.

A sudden change in hormones, and additional mood swings - can we throw in sleeplessness or a change in sleep patterns as well? Even under the most normal of situations, loss of sleep doesn't make for a good day. Chances are, you're still working (in or outside the home), and this doesn't set well. And this factor can last for the rest of your life. You wonder what else could possibly occur, all at the same time. Well, there can be more.

We're going to take a break here, because you'll feel like that from day to day, and we need to address you for a moment. This isn't about anyone else. It's about you and a few things you can do to help feel mentally better. This is where you stop taking care of the entire world every single minute and address the path you are walking. Life is now different. It's not going to the same, but there are positive events ahead, and all this transformation comes to an end.

First, go to town and purchase yourself a nice daily organizer. You can get an inexpensive or expensive one. Either one will work, but make sure you like it. Make it fun because it's going to become your closest friend. Paper will ultimately become your brain, and I'm not ashamed to say that there were days I had to write in when to go to the bathroom. Yes, I did. It's not just your body that's on a journey; your mind is as well. That's what makes this transformation a tremendous challenge, and it always appears that no one around you understands. Use this personal calendar for whatever you need. Write it down, carry it with you, and you'll discover a lifesaver. No one else has to know what's in it.

Second, find a hobby, and/or topics you enjoy. Make yourself some "sacred space" to escape to. Whether it is inside or outside the house doesn't matter. What makes you happy at the present moment? It could even be something as simple as fancy tea in a bone china cup. It's a place for you to turn to when you're feeling like an alien on a strange planet, and you have no support. Again, it doesn't have to be expensive, or even the same focus from year to year. But you will need something that is all yours. Get creative, colorful, and make it positive.

Ok...we've had our break. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. A lot of women out there are coming out of 30 years of lousy periods. Painful, irritating, and many times you're expected to smile through it. Our minds don't comprehend that type of behavior any longer. Our bodily schedules are changing and for some, not always for the better. I was lucky. Over time, they faded away, but the pain did not. In fact, I was wondering if the pain would ever go away. The more "older" women I asked, the more I received the silent treatment. You'd think the children of the 50s invented this rite of passage.

One day, a friend of mine said her mom would talk to me and I was honored to sit down with a woman who would answer my question, "does the pain last forever?" The message was, "first your periods end, and then the pain ends." That's exactly what happened. In other words, I had a few more months of cramping, without spotting. Then, thank you God, the pain left for good.

There are other symptoms that some will endure, but perhaps you won't. Some endure migraines, but fortunately, I only had two. You may not have any. Some endure other physical pain; I did not. You may have a symptom of your own that your friends will not experience. The journey is basically the same, but at times, on different paths.

As women, we were all different and this "ending" holds variables for all of us. Again, research. There are women out there just like you. You'll learn a wealth of knowledge from them but trust your gut instincts. Talk to older women who will share their experiences. Find out what works for you to make your life more comfortable. And know that some of it has to be rode out without escape.

Relationships change. Words are spoken that you can't get back. There are times you feel you're going insane, but you are not. Those around you will grow impatient and ask you when you'll "get over it". You'll snap. You wonder if you can remember anything (see organizer above). And you wonder if it'll ever get better.

It does. It will. It will not last forever. Every year is a bit different. Billions of women have walked before you without support or help, but that does not minimize your journey. Take advantage of reading, researching, and trying something that works for you. There is no escape, so ride with it instead of against it. Find humor. Change your hairstyle. Have a makeover. Find some fun and hang onto the happy moments. It will get better and you'll discover a whole new life afterwards.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Holidays - Make It A DVD Marathon Day!

The older I get, the more honest I get. I suppose that comes from time turning us all more honest and not caring what we sound like. Remember that grandmother that spouted off all sorts of "stuff"? We all eventually turn into her.

So, let's talk about the holidays. There are so many who sit alone on the holidays, and can't wait until January 1st. January 1st is that glorious day that states "It's 12 months until that time rolls around again" and we can just let it go.

If we look at the two back to back holidays in the States, they both scream "Family". I would write "Family and Friends" but so many of our friends go to their families and we're not always a part of that. Therefore, November and December make us feel like aliens from another planet.

We see it on the news. We see it online and in every shop we frequent. We see it on the Christmas cards, and even in the wrappings. Tell me - it makes you feel as if you don't belong, doesn't it? But I'll let you in on a little fact - many of those living with others feel the same way.

This year - 2017 - I'm giving you permission not to celebrate those holidays in the traditional ways. Do you know that if you do nothing but what you want to do that day, the Holiday Police will not visit your home? There are no citations, and no prison sentences.

I recall the year my husband passed away. Christmas was me and three dogs. That was it. People wanted me to put a tree and do all the holiday festivities because they knew it would make me feel better. B...S. Reality was, they wanted to believe I was ok. This made THEM feel better. I believe I did some of that, but what finally occurred was that the dogs and I had a food fight (far more fun) and I had a mess to clean up (it was worth it).

If you wish to do something that's special, do you enjoy movies? Make it a DVD movie marathon day! I've done that for several years. Go out and buy a bunch of DVDs that you've wanted to watch (or rent them), spend several days beforehand buying, cooking, or baking up a storm of things you like (it doesn't have to be traditional), start early on Christmas Day, and have a back to back foodfest and marathon.

Perhaps you just want to decorate for the season but not in the traditional manner. Stay away from red and green and choose colors of your choice. Maybe you like snowmen, white twinkle lights, or purple and white stones. Start a new tradition that's clearly you. I like the old Santas that look like wizards and can be kept up all year. A wizard or two around the house never hurt.

Or maybe you have a green thumb and enjoy the thought of purchasing Christmas Cactus. Most of them are blooming by now and I hand it to anyone who can keep them going. A small table with all those blossoms (and maybe a new tablecloth) can be special enough.

Whatever item that makes it fun for you (blue clocks, new socks, bright lights, 20 candles, etc) use it. Whatever hobby you enjoy (painting, cooking, photography, sewing, woodwork, leatherwork, etc.), choose a special project to start that day and center all activities around it. Throw on a great movie or tunes, and get out the crafts!

It's your day - not society's. There are many, many people out there doing the same thing. We are scattered far and wide, and tucked away creating a day of our own. Go for it! It's your day!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Living Off Demand - Following Nature's Footsteps

I suppose I watched my grandmother more than I thought. but it was interesting. She did things so different than how my parents and I lived - until this past decade.

I watched her as she walked down the garden path to the wash house. It was a great room for playing in (when we got away with it). A block constructed grey room, it housed the washer, a large concrete sink, an open shower, and a toilet area. Lye soap was made there in the summer for the entire year's use, and the block absorbed its scent.

Though the big house had a bathroom installed in the early 50s, the thought of bathing in the house was just something past generations couldn't fathom. So no matter the season, no matter the weather, once a day, the elders took their turn walking down to the wash house to shower.

And it's not that every day was perfect. There were times that it just wasn't going to get warm enough, and the space heater helped warm up those massive blocks ahead of time. Looking back, I realized their schedule for this practice changed with the seasons - it changed with the sun's transit.

When I starting living off the grid, or in the RV, I adopted this ritual, and also realized that past bathing rituals followed the heat of the day. Suddenly, there I was reliving a practice I found strange.

Since the 1950s (or thereabouts), society started living "On Demand." Everything we do is when we want to do it - a major change from days gone by. Off the grid, pass up the opportunity, just once, to make the sun your bathing partner, and a cold bath is awaiting you in the dark!

I know it's a different practice, but remember this story should you ever need it in the future. So many chores can still be accomplished if we only watch the sun and the weather of the day. We may have to bend, but it will ultimately get accomplished if we are flexible and follow the weather's footsteps.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

And Who Is Going To Take Care Of You?

As a genealogist, I learned through searching my own family tree, that caring for the elder members of a family has never been a guarantee.

From searching the Census Records, I discovered that my great-grandmother, Mary Bannister, took care of all the elders. It didn't matter that they lived 3,000 miles away surrounded by other children - some on the same road. The elders were packed up, put on the train, and sent to California to die.

Let's call it what it was, shall we?

She was born in 1879. Her husband, Arthur (my great-grandfather), was born in 1874. She had five siblings in her household and he had seven. Most lived in the towns where their parents lived, yet, they did not have time. So, from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Ohio they came in their latter 70s and early 80s, to try to adapt to a huge house that was not their own.

My Mother, born in 1923, was one out of six girls and two boys. Some lived within walking distance. Some lived with the same town. Yet, it was my mother who drove the 14 miles when they called to say that "Mom needs someone to take care of her." We would pack up, drive to the next town and get her when she was ill.


  • The others did not have room in their homes. Neither did we. She slept in my bed while I slept on the couch.
  • The others had husbands and children to take care of. So did my Mom.
  • They were very busy with their everyday chores. So was my Mom. If she didn't clean it, can it, make it, sew it, construct or create it, we didn't have it. We were not wealthy.


There came a time whereby Grandma naturally asked for my mother because she knew she didn't have to worry about hearing an excuse or "no".

My message today is that this practice didn't start yesterday, and it was practiced long before 1874 as well. As family structures have continued to be altered and broken down over time, and as children are raised more independently (or dependently) with each passing decade, caregiving is deteriorating in our society.

Insurance rarely, if ever, covers for a caregiver, or an institution in which to be hidden away.

I believe that the day of the Golden Girls will appear. In order to survive, we will band together in one home, doing the best we can to take care of each other. Younger generations may think that's great, but it will in many respects be the disabled trying to care for the disabled.

Years ago, I resigned myself to that fate and decided that it was time to learn from the older generations. I was fortunate to have a few homes to clean of women in their 80s and 90s. Oh! What I didn't learn to still achieve those things I would wish to practice if I lived to their age.

Our families will become those of whom we choose and not necessarily born within. Naturally, there will be no guarantees, so what will you do? In the days ahead, I shall share lessons learned from those women born in the 1800s, whom I was privileged enough to meet.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A City Girl's Guide to Bug Out Bags - Part 3 - Are you Homebound?

There is no reason you can not have a bug-out bag if your mobility is limited or you are homebound.

Whether you stay in your home, or have assistance leaving (in case of evacuation), it's important to have a pack ready so that you have your supplies in one place.

Choose a backpack of your choice and comfort. You may wish to have one with a softer feel to it, or one on wheels that you can pull, depending on your physical ability.

Reviewing Part 1, you don't want a heavy pack. What can you lift, pull or manipulate comfortably?

Once chosen, fill it with items by priority - food kits first. (See Part 1). Make it lightweight, nutritious and easy, as electricity may not be available for some time. If you're required to leave, you'll have food for at least a week.

We've all watched the latest hurricane victims and what they're going through obtaining basic living items. Remember, use items offered first by the community, and then use yours second. This will extend your survival.

Reviewing Part 2, we discussed clothing and what you should wear. I would not change it differently for those with special needs. Should you require socks for blood circulation, be sure to have a pair in your pack and wear them when needed.

Do you take medications? Keep additional supplies in your bag, rotating them as needed. You don't want outdated meds in your pack, if and when the time comes. Should additional meds not be a possibility to pack ahead of time, keep a backpack pocket empty just for them. You can collect and literally throw them in the empty pocket before leaving.

Each time you pack a few items that you believe you'll need, place it on a bathroom scale and check the weight. You really don't want a pack any more than about 10-12% of your body weight. And you'll reach that weight quite quickly! It truly is a lesson of need versus want.

All in all, you can still have a bug-out bag ready with all the items a person on the go would use. In fact, it would be highly recommended in case of mandatory evacuation. Grab and go!

A City Girl's Guide to Bug Out Bags - Part 2

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…


If you missed Part 1 - please click here.

You have your pack and you’re happy with it. You have some or all of your items packed in the pockets of your choice, and you’re ready to test it out.

Do NOT wait until the day of leaving to test out your pack or traveling clothes. It’ll be too late to make changes.

If you don’t have a lot of your items yet, fill your empty pack with a book or two, and a few bath towels. This will add a little weight for the walk and give you an idea what it feels like.

Now, Let’s Get Dressed

Just because you enjoy wearing a particular outfit, doesn’t mean it was designed for backpacking. You don’t need backpacking clothes, or fashion brands. You need something that is comfortable for you, for the pack you’re carrying, and sturdy enough to last for awhile.

JeansDon’t go there! After about five miles, you’ll feel like your legs are going to fall off. You’ll sweat buckets, chaff your thighs, and feel like you’re carrying an additional five pounds. They are also heavy. Heavier when wet! Stick to something like a medium weight khaki twill material, like Dockers. Again, choose khaki or brown colors for the trip.

Tank Tops – Nooooo! Feels good on a hot day, and particularly if you don’t have to carry a pack. But you do have to carry a pack and you don’t want those nylon straps scraping the skin off your upper arms or worse, under your arms. Wow! That hurts.

It’s time for a heavier weight t-shirt or long sleeved shirt where the sleeves can be rolled up. You might sweat in it, but it’ll dry and your skin will be safe. Not all shirt material is created equal. You’re going to have to test it out beforehand by wearing it with your pack - for at least 30 minutes.

Let’s Talk About That Underwear – Throw out those nylons undies unless you’re into yeast infections. Sweating in nylon for hours on end isn’t a good thing. Chances are, bathing is going to be limited. You don’t have to like the cotton undies – you just have to protect yourself from further ailments.

Do you need a bra? No. But for some, you might feel better. Just take two (one to wear; one in the pack). Otherwise, it’s just that much more weight.

Remember, when it comes to items carried ask yourself what do I want? Food or this item? Food or that item? You can get along with very little, but you need food and water to survive.

Socks – Your pack is not going to get you to your destination. Walking sticks aren’t going to get you to your destination. Your outfit and brand names aren’t going to get you to where you’re headed. It’s Your Feet! Your feet will become the most important part of your body. Without that, you’re not going anywhere. So let’s pamper them.

Wool sounds terrible in hot weather but the sweat will be shed away from your skin, and wool will give you an extra layer of comfort not afforded by cotton socks. Ask anyone who has walked for miles in cotton socks what it was like, and you’ll see a face of horror. Even cotton blend socks will eventually tear the skin off your feet.

Marino wool socks are great! When backpackers tell you to wear those, they aren’t joking. They cost more, but the mileage you get from them is supreme. With regular use, expect to have them for 3 years or longer. I wore mine for 600 miles and they were barely broke in.

Shoes – You just can’t throw this together at the last minute. BUT, if you do have to throw something together at the last minute, choose running sneakers. They can take a bit more abuse than the others. Again, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars, but when will you be able to purchase another pair of shoes?

Personally, I love Sketchers suede hiking shoes, but that’s a personal choice. Others like the high top leather hiking shoes, but this will always depend on the shape of your foot. Go downtown and try some on. If they don’t feel glorious in the store, you don’t want them.

If you’re on an extreme budget, or didn’t have time to acquire a pair, choose your toughest sneakers and do the best you can. Throw in a tube of crazy glue for mending.

Alright! You have your hiking clothes on, (you can train in sneakers, if you choose), you’ve thrown your pack on your back, tightened your pack’s waist belt to snug, and now it’s time to try it all out.

You can walk around the block a number of times (the more, the better), or go to the park and use their trail walks. This is the time you want to REALLY pay attention to everything that’s happening to your body.

Are you winded within moments? You may be carrying too much stuff beyond the list in the last lesson. THROW IT OUT, unless it’s a medical prescription, or medical requirement. Or perhaps the pack feels comfortable, but you’re just out of shape.

The day you leave, you’ll be combining your physical fitness with stress – one or both have to be under control. Currently, you have the option of walking with your pack every day to build yourself up (which will also make your body look great), or dealing with the results “as is.” It’ll be up to you.

**Remember - No one else is going to carry your pack for you. In survival mode, everyone is out for themselves, and you will become a liability. No one wants a liability.

Does your back or neck hurt? Stop and readjust your straps, or you can readjust them while walking. You should feel an immediate difference as you change them. Everyone who buys a new pack goes through this, so you’re not alone. Eventually, you’ll get it to the point whereby it’s comfortable.

And how much weight are you carrying? Weigh in your pack and adjust appropriately. This isn’t about want; it’s about need.

Truthfully, you will discover that the only things you truly need are food, your water bottle, and the clothes are your back. You’ll need a pair of good shoes, and your money pouch. Beyond that, you’ll endure.

With your test walk out of the way, how did those clothes feel? If you can say, “I’d wear them again”, wash them up and keep them with your Bug Out Bag. You want to be sure you have them when you need them.

If you purchased leather hiking shoes or boots, you’ll want to wear them occasionally to keep them broke in.

Stay Tuned for Part 3!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A City Girl's Guide to Bug Out Bags - Part 1

You don’t have to be a Survivalist to want to be prepared for an emergency.  It can be as simple as wanting to be ready “just in case.” My grandparents would have been ready, in the car, and down the road in a heart beat. I don’t know how, and I never got the opportunity to ask. But being prepared was always in the background.


At the age of 11, I began my journey into the art of survivalism. One day in September, 1964, I sat in the backseat while my father drove, inching down a highway due to a very bad traffic accident. I recall looking out the window at a horrific scene and thinking “that would never happen to us because my Dad is a great driver.” Three weeks later it was our turn to be in a horrendous traffic accident, and I was the only one who walked out alive. Never say “never”, or that it can’t happen to you – it can.

At present, and in this political climate, there is nothing wrong with having a backup plan, to expect the unexpected, and to have extra supplies on hand. And there is nothing wrong with having a backpack ready to go in case of acts of war, an out of control society, or acts of God. If you leave your survival skills to the expertise of others, during true survival situations you may find yourself without support and used.

You see, under a true survival situation, compassion and welfare go right out the door! Do not expect that anyone is there to help you or you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is time to rely on your skills and knowledge. Should you feel that you are lacking in this area, it’s always wise to do some online studying when possible.

So, are you ready? Let’s get a bag together…just in case.

Get a backpack


It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be lightweight and comfortable. Walking with an uncomfortable pack that’s digging into your shoulders or throwing your back out is a detriment. I purchased a pack at Walmart for $59.99 (Outdoor Gama - 32 liters), walked 600 miles across Spain, and I’d buy it again – it was that great of a pack.

Choose a pack with padded shoulders, and a wide, nicely padded waist belt. Your pack is going to be resting more on your hips than your shoulders. At the end of a day, your shoulders, neck, and back will thank you for all the padding and support.

Do NOT pick out pretty colors. This is not a fashion show. You want something that blends in such as camo, greens, browns, or earth colors. Pink camo is not a consideration except when hiding from deer, so forget Pink, Muddy Girl, or Harvest Orange Camo. You do NOT want to stand out in the crowd.

A 32 liter pack is a good size and not overly large. Weight is everything, and this will give you more than enough room for what you NEED.

A Lesson In Need and Want


There are two things you need during survival – Food and Shelter. That’s it! The fewer things you can take, the better off you’ll be. Keep in mind that you might have to run with this pack on, and oh my! Is that a feat – even when you’re in shape.

When I walked the Camino, friends were trying to be helpful, so they brought me all sorts of items they thought would help my trip. Each of them was described as “Here’s [fill in the blank] and it doesn’t weigh anything!” After two days, I had 26 pounds of items that didn’t weigh anything.
EVERYTHING weighs something. A good rule of thumb is to not carry more than 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, figure 15 pounds and that includes the weight of the pack. Believe me, it’s difficult to accomplish.

This is not a holiday excursion, and so you’ll find a stripped down version predicated on need, not want. And except for item number 14, I have used all these items in various situations, and can attest to their usefulness.

What To Take In A Survival Pack


1. Two additional pair of Carhartt or Smart Wool Socks. (Three pairs total – one to wear, two in the pack). Do not use cotton socks as they will tear the skin off your feet. Cotton socks will also not last. Your feet are your number one priority as they will get you to your destination. Choose merino wool and you’ll be grateful you did. 
2. Two pair of wide-band, cotton boy-style underpants, or something similar. (Three pairs total – one to wear, two in the pack). Some would say that’s one pair too many, but I will allow for this splurge. You do not want nylon, and thongs are worthless. If you can’t stand the idea of cotton, don’t wear any – there’s a reason.
3. Packaged food that can be reconstituted with water – at least two meals per day for one week. That’s 14 packs, and it’s going to take up a lot of room. Do not pack any boxes; take packages out of their boxes. 14 packages of food at 6 ounces a piece, is already 5.25 pounds. This will decrease with each day, so you’ll just have to endure at the beginning. The more fit you are, the better you’ll be able to carry the additional weight for the first few days.
4. One spoon.
5. One folding survival knife with several functions. It does not have to be large, and the lighter, the better. It does not have to have the ability of a Swiss Army Knife, but it needs to be very sharp.
6. One small, super lightweight pot. You can cook and eat out of it. If you purchase a D ring, you can connect it to the outside of your pack, leaving room inside for other items. You do not need a lid.
7. A couple of larger D rings, and a extra pair of long shoe strings. You can use these for all sort of needs besides the obvious.
8. Two little packs of Compede (for your feet, but can be used for other things as well).
9. A water bottle and several water-filter straws. Be sure the straws filter out Giardia – very, very important.
10. 2-5 microfiber cloths. These are your washcloths, your toilet paper, your bandages, for some ages – your period pads, and many other uses. Keep them clean and wash the soiled ones each night.  They will come in extremely handy if supplies are not available. Clothing and cloths can be attached to the outside of your pack for drying during the day. Let the sun do its job while you’re walking.
11. Optional: For cycling women - I suppose I would splurge and fill one side pocket of my pack with a month’s supply of Tampax. Use only if you can’t get supplies from a charity source, or store along the way. This is also weight that will decrease.
12. One bar of soap. Go for a grapefruit, tea tree, or strong pleasant scent. It will be your body soap (grapefruit scent works as a deodorizer), your shampoo, and laundry/dish soap. Soap is soap. It’ll work.
13. Toothbrush and toothpaste.
14. One small bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen, if you can take it.
15. A few bandages with a Neosporin-type ointment. Don’t take the entire box of bandages and you don’t need an entire first-aid kit. That’s a lot of weight.
16. A bottle of Potassium Iodide. Potassium Iodide blocks the thyroid from absorbing potassium iodine that is found in nuclear explosions. Your thyroid will store the potassium iodine in a nuclear explosion, and ultimately destroy it. At the present time, there are only three brands FDA approved on the market – Iosat by Anbex, Thyrosafe by Recipharm AB, and Thyro Shield by Fleming and Co. You can Google CVS, Walgreens, and/or Walmart to find out the use and side effects of Potassium Iodide. This is not a prescription and can be found online from the companies mentioned. These should be ordered asap as they do run out and you can’t get them at the last minute.
17. Light-weight throw.  This is a tough one. Are you leaving in the summer or the winter? Will you be driving, or totally on foot? In the summer, I’d tie one of the lightweight fleece throws to the bottom of my pack - AGAIN, no bright colors. In the winter, I’m going to try for the lightest weight sleeping bag I can find. Naturally, I’ll use this over the thermal jacket I’m wearing. You don’t need a pillow; you can use your pack for that, and I have.

Around your neck, carry a waterproof pouch where you can store a passport (if you have one), your bank card (if you have one), and your cash. Check often to make sure it’s still around your neck and hasn’t fallen off.

What to do with a Smartphone? I’d use it for a few days, and then ditch it – depending on the event. Smartphones can be used to track you, and you don’t want to be tracked. There will be enough people still carrying theirs to hear the news, if you need it. Keep your wits about you - listen well. Trust your gut. Trust little in others.

A Bug-out Bag should be ready to go at all times, so that you’re not wasting valuable time searching for your items and packing. This is a grab and go situation and time could be of the essence. The only thing you should have to stop and fill is your water bottle.

In the days ahead, I will discuss these and additional aspects of surviving on a shoestring. In the meantime, your assignment is to collect the items above. And when you acquire each one, place them in your pack. Then, put your pack on, and adjust the straps so that it feels good while walking about your home.


In the nextarticle, we’ll discuss adjusting your pack, items, and clothes for the journey. Even if you don’t read any further, this will supply you with a bag that works.