Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Gluten Free Emergency...Kit: The Backpack Method

The other day I was reminded by the gals at How Does She? that my 72-hour kits needed some attention. And after the events in Japan a few weeks ago I must admit surviving a disaster has been at the top of my list of to-do items. This is a great post about how Missy organizes her family's 72-hour emergency supplies, which is pretty much the exact same way I have organized mine over the last few years. She has better pictures and more in-depth explanations than I do, but I won't be jealous or even a little bitter about it if it helps even one person out. (If you haven't ever heard of the backpack method, take a minute to read this post, it will answer a lot of questions you may have.) A friend of mine told me she had heard someone speak about this and then shared the information with me. I wish I knew who came up with this system, because it's genius and I want to give them credit. Suffice it to say I did not invent this idea. But I love it nonetheless.

Here's the basic idea: group like items together and take up as little space as possible while making sure everything stays dry. The important thing to remember while you're putting one of these together is EMERGENCY pack. It's not gourmet camping pack or even staying at grandma's pack. It's what will keep me ALIVE until I can get to a shelter with water, heat, and food. It's the bare essentials in case of disaster. When I pulled the packs (old backpacks, a couple of $5 WalMart scores) out of the garage to rotate the emergency food, I realized that one of the most difficult tasks I have undertaken is to have emergency food set aside that is gluten free. I know without a doubt that if, heaven forbid, I am ever involved in a disaster with my family the last thing I will want to do is have diarrhea amongst the rubble because I've had to eat wheat.In my pack (keep in mind I am the adult and I have a few more things than my kids do) I have a grocery bag with clothes (sweat pants, sweatshirt, socks, hat, gloves, underwear) that I could wear if it was cold or warm, cutting off the sleeves and legs of the sweats if need be. I have an emergency item ziploc bag (yes, it all fits!) with bug bite cream, waterproof matches, hot hands, toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, tylenol, band-aids, pen with tape that I could write on, neosporin and a pocketknife. My kids packs have most of the same things I have, including wet wipes and a whistle in case they get lost. They don't have the medicines, though.
I have a few other things in the front pocket and side pockets: emergency candles, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, two silver blankets (thermal? solar? I'm not sure which.), more hot hands, a poncho, water cleaning drops, and some cash. I also have a bigger pack of wipes, since I'm sure I'll be wiping more people off than anyone else. I have some diversions, and my kids have some fun things for them to do in their packs as well as a waterproof poncho. Which reminded me that my pack didn't have a poncho...I'm not sure where my poncho ended up, but I guess I'll have to get another one.
I have three day's survival food for each person in a large ziploc bag, and each meal is contained in its own ziploc bag. Things like hot chocolate mix, hot cider mix, kool aid packs, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, and vienna sausages. (Why vienna sausages, you ask? They are cheap, have a long shelf life, and small.) In years past I have put Zone Fudge Graham bars in my packs, and you can get them at Costco for about 75 cents each. But they don't last long, and need to be replaced in 6 months' time. This year I added some small cans of Spam for one of the days for everyone. The goal is protein and calories, and as long a shelf life as you can find. Everybody gets three hard candies and three sticks of gum. I have five water bottles, and each of my five children has three, because they can't carry any more than that. That's a nice spot on my carpet, by the way.

This is where it gets tricky. After six years of rotating out hard granola bars and expired food, I'm seriously thinking of buying some MREs so that I only have to worry about the food every five years. It's probably cheaper, now that I think about it. But still, I thought, what if I can't find one that I can use? I love these two options from Costco, because the fruit has a two year shelf life and the trail mix at least has M&Ms for fun, but they don't last as long as I thought they would (only about 6 months). I found these at WalMart last night. They last a little longer (about a year) and I would for sure eat all three of these foods. Jack Links beef sticks (this could be questionable, but I checked the label twice and couldn't see anything wheat-related. If anything, I'll carry it for everyone else to eat.), dried cranberries (for vitamin C, fiber, and flavor) and Nature Valley has just come out with an Almond Crunch bar that is gluten free. And there's always this if you want protein and calories. (I have a small peanut butter in my pack also.) My husband's pack has a package of beef jerky that everybody else can eat. I've also got the cups and spoons and some boullion cubes for added meal options. These are also questionable, but I know there are some gluten free varieties out there, I just didn't have any on hand when I made up the packs. These are actually probably due to be thrown away so that will give me an excuse to buy some.

So I did some research to answer my burning question: is there actually an emergency food option that is gluten free? Emergency Essentials actually has two or three that would work for my backpack: Vegetarian Chili, (the nutrition information lists Textured Vegetable Protein, which I have always heard is gluten, but the label only says soy.) Southwestern Style Chicken with Black Beans, (the best option, I think: nothing questionable on ingredients) a Chocolate Shake, and refried beans. Emergency Essentials has all kinds of preparedness items if you are interested in ordering something.

I hope that has jogged your memory into thinking about emergency preparedness, and some of these gluten free options aren't ideal, but they will keep me alive until I can get back to my Namaste spice cake mix and Frosted Corn Flakes.

Happy packing!


  1. thanks for all the info- it's something we need to do, but haven't really gotten started. I don't think I would go with the mre's, though. My daughter had to use those a few times while in school in Florida during hurricane weather- she said they were horrible. Too bad those corn flakes take up so much room- at least they're light! :)

  2. Alpine Aire has freeze dried gluten free meals that would be easy to put in backpacks and they would last for a few years. I also just found out that Augason Farms now has certified gluten free freeze dried fruits, veggies and meals...but they are all in cans so it wouldn't work for 72 hr kits but great to have on hand for longer term food storage. If you go online at it is a better deal then from the Augason website.
    Thanks for the reminder to get out the food from my kits and rotate them. Our gf 72 hr kits include: glutenfreeda instant oatmeal, gf beef jerky, larabars, to go peanut butter cups, tuna in those flat fresh pouches (not a can), fruit cups, gum, hot chocolate, apple cider, dried fruit.

  3. Wow, Lewyville! What a great comment...I'm going to have to get some of these items, if only just for my pack! (I'll be the one who's full and happy while everyone else eats stale granola.)

    And Sheila, thanks for the heads up on the MREs. Who knew they were gross? :)

  4. Remember that the dates on foods are for optimum freshness and taste. If the date has passed it usually does not mean that the food is "bad". It means that is might not taste as good, and might start losing a bit of nutritional value, but it would still sustain life.

  5. Your site is very informative and your articles are wonderful.
    freeze dried food


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