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Camping survival kits

Nadia Maxwell discovers the perfect incentive to pack the tent and go on a weekend family camping jaunt 

As someone who’s lived through the Christchurch earthquakes and as a mother of two small children, I know it’s important to keep our home survival kit up-to-date with supplies. Yet human nature being what it is, it’s another matter altogether getting organised enough to set up a decent survival kit in the first place and then remembering to change the supplies every year.

Then the idea came to me. Combining our family’s need for an up-to-date emergency kit with our Kiwi love of getting away, what if we took an annual camping trip where we used up last year’s supplies and then replenished the kit for the year ahead?

During a recent Southern power cut (yet another reason why our survival kit is looking so dismal – it keeps getting raided) I started thinking when we could use non-perishable food, batteries and gas. The obvious answer was camping. What better way to transform a chore into something much more fun!

If you have trouble getting to sleep and then waking up again in time for work or school, a week of camping might be the fix you need. That’s according to a new study which showed humans’ internal biological clocks tightly synchronise to a natural, mid-summer light-dark cycle, given the chance. USA researchers found that without artificial light, campers’ body clocks quickly shifted back by two hours. Source: Current Biology

In the weeks following my camping epiphany, I became a bit of a survivalist geek. Previously I’d thought all you needed was enough food and water for three days. Turns out there are all kinds of things I’d never considered – tampons for the ladies, nappies for the babies, a stash of pet food for the pooches! Throw the dietary needs of a gluten- and dairy-intolerant toddler into the mix and things get really interesting. 

Buying food for a survival kit when you know you’re actually going to eat it within a year changes your mindset. Our old kit was packed with food we’d never normally eat, such as instant noodles. Now it’s full of organic products, food I recognise and brands I trust.

Previously I’d also overlooked the need to chuck in a few spices. Admittedly in an emergency you take what you can get, but a bulb of garlic, a dash of cumin or a jar of capers (which incidentally last for around three years, honey for even longer) all go a long way towards making simple meals more tasty. 

Fermented foods are another new favourite. A jar of kimchi or sauerkraut can keep for years and is loaded with probiotic goodness.

For our inaugural survival kit camping trip we chose a North Canterbury beach, Gore Bay. Although our existing survival kit supplies needed a bit of stocking up before we hit the road, next year’s camping food is already packed and waiting – we’ll simply replace the survival kit before we set off next summer. 

As we pitched our tent, the kids munched on dates cut in half and glued back together with peanut butter. The only foods expiring within a year are nuts and dried fruit, which I’ll replace every six months. Loaded with nutrition and natural energy boosters, they’re too perfect for camping or emergencies to be left out.

Another realisation was not to underestimate the need for water. The official amount is three litres per person per day, which I’d previously considered a bit excessive, but we easily went through that with teeth brushing and the like. 

Sneaking out of the tent to take in the sunrise over the water 

Meal planning needs to be strategic. We opted for meals that would provide lots of energy and protein but be easy to cook in an emergency. This meant lots of beans and pulses. The meals also needed to be combinations we could easily build on, in order to add flavours and variety. Our first camping dinner was a staple survival-kit meal of beans, corn and beetroot, made more tempting with salad greens grabbed en route from a farmers’ market, and by topping the lot with a homemade salsa. 

The best meal of the trip had to be the breakfast friands cooked over an open fire on the beach. It was a great way to use up tinned fruit that might otherwise be paired with oats. The dish tasted sublime to me – perhaps because I’d woken before anyone else stirred and snuck out of the tent to take in the sunrise over the water. Or maybe it tasted perfect to the kids because they were getting to eat breakfast on the beach in their PJs. Either way they were fantastic camping experiences sure to entice us back again.

Driving home it felt good to know we were returning to a survival kit already replenished for the year ahead. Although what kind of emergency it takes before the dark chocolate is pulled from the kit remains to be seen! 

Nadia Maxwell is a North Canterbury film producer and a working-from-home mum

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