Jan 27 2015
If, as the philosopher Santayana famously asserted, “the longing to be primitive is a disease of culture,” then we have a ready explanation for the popularity of such anachronistic pleasures as cycling and canoeing. After all, these take us back to an earlier time, offering a taste of life as it was lived when most humans still had to depend on their muscles to get around. Of course, this is only a taste, and a rather sanitized and denatured one at that—as we’re reminded every so often, when nature’s caprices disturb our routines and challenge the comfortable certainties of our everyday lives.
I got just such a reminder last week, when a fast-moving storm delivered, first, torrential rain, then a glaze of ice, and lastly, heavy snow, all in the space of a single day. But I was lucky. The power stayed on, and the comfortable tenor of my workaday life continued undisturbed, even as thousands of my less-fortunate neighbors shivered in the dark. Still, I’ve already endured enough winter days without heat or light or running water to be thankful I have a second home sitting only a few feet from my desk, one that isn’t dependent on the local electric grid to maintain its habitability. I’m speaking of my getaway pack. It is, in Colin Fletcher’s memorable phrase, a “home on my back.” So long as I have it with me, I can never be truly, totally homeless.
In fact, any outdoor enthusiast’s closet or garage probably contains everything he (or she) needs to weather all but the most malign of nature’s fancies. If you can camp by a river for two weeks without discomfort, or spend a weekend above treeline on a mountain in winter, you can certainly keep yourself fed and warm in your house long after the lights go out. And if you have a Kindle 3G or a similarly thrifty tablet computer—and if the local cell network stays up—you’ll even be able to read about it in the papers!
Not convinced? Then take a look at this short list of items, all of which can be found in nearly every backcountry enthusiast’s collection of gear:
- Warm clothing
- Propane or alcohol cooker
- Shelf-stable staple foods
- Water-disinfection tablets
- Sleeping bag
- Battery-powered LED lantern
OK. These won’t keep you in the style to which you’ve become accustomed. But they will ensure that you’re adequately warm and reasonably well-fed, whatever the weather. And that’s what really matters, isn’t it? Sure it is! You’ll need to keep your head about you, of course. Using a cooker indoors is fraught with potential hazards to life and property, for instance. Yet anyone who’s managed to melt snow for drinking water in a two-man tent and then gone on to make a pot of stew in a blizzard, and done so without asphyxiating herself or burning down the tent, should be in no danger.
So the next time the weather forecast delivers lugubrious warnings of arctic gales and towering drifts, don’t panic. Just check your gear. Then settle back, secure in the knowledge that however wild the storm, your cold comforts are always at your side.
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