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Survival Equipment

Five prepper gifts for the homeless during cold weather

Improvising a shelter is a lot easier when you have a tarp or large piece of visqueen.
Five prepper gifts for the homeless during cold weather

Virtually every community has people living on the streets. Want to help them out? Here’s some suggestions for gifts and donations you may already have.

by Leon Pantenburg

I won’t give cash to people soliciting on the streets. But my faith dictates that I not ignore them. I make cash donations to the Salvation Army. (Unlike many high-profile charity organizations, the money you give to the Salvation Army actually goes to the people they purport to help.)

Meals Ready to Eat were developed by the military as an efficient ration.

Meals Ready to Eat were developed by the military as an efficient field ration.

But any street donations I make come from my emergency supplies. If you are a preparedness-type, you probably already have things to donate to the less fortunate. And some of your food preps may need to be rotated.

When it comes to useful prepper items for homeless people, think backpacking. Someone whose sole possessions are in a backpack or shopping carts doesn’t have room for bulky, heavy stuff.

Here are some items I carry in my trunk. They’re part of my emergency kit, but are also regularly rotated as I distribute them as needed.

MREs: Meals Ready to Eat have many things going for them. Developed by the military, they have a shelf life of about five years. MREs are packaged in waterproof plastic containers that can withstand just about anything.

The food is high-calorie, and some versions have meal heaters. You’ll need to rotate your stock anyway, so carrying MREs are a handy, convenient way to stay prepared.

Tarps or large pieces of plastic have a multitude of uses, and they’re cheap. A tarp can be used to bolster a leaky tent fly, provide shelter from the rain, or provide a dry place to sit on wet pavement. An 8-foot by 10-foot sized tarp is a good choice. I generally carry a couple 5x7s because they’re more compact.

A tarp or piece of plastic can improve a tent's efficiency and keep the rain out.

A tarp or piece of plastic can improve a tent’s efficiency and keep the rain out.

Backpacking stoves: Many backpackers have functional stoves they don’t use anymore. That stove, with some fuel, could make a major difference in a homeless person’s life.

Warm Clothing: Warmth is another issue. Cold weather camping is brutal – and often deadly –  for people with inadequate clothing or sleeping bags.

Look in thrift stores or at garage sales for wool clothing. I get military surplus wool uniform pants at the local surplus store for about $10. These are my standard cold weather pants, and you wouldn’t believe how much warmer they are than jeans.

Thrift stores are good places to find wool sweaters, hats and gloves and they are the best choices for cold, damp weather.

Socks, according to local homeless shelter folks, are the most needed and least donated items.

I buy wool socks at Costco, and wear them almost exclusively during cold weather. There are always some extras in the trunk. Nothing makes your feet colder than the standard cotton athletic socks when they’re wet. Wool socks, on the other hand, stay warm when wet. Know your fabrics.

Every preparedness person probably has items they aren’t using or that need to be rotated. The holidays are a good time to share those with people who may really need those things to survive.

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Survival Equipment

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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