Mom and Dad's front yard.
My parents live in the most remote location in the entire northeast, perhaps even the east coast. I’ve jokingly said that in order to get to their house, you take the highway forever north in Maine, get off the highway, then drive another 2.5 - 3 hours through the woods, then you’ll be there. The thing is, it’s not really a joke, it’s pretty much exactly how you get there. Not many people in this country can say they live 3 hours from the nearest highway. Talk about remote.
This area of northern Maine is where my father’s family originates, and the place he and mom have returned to for retirement (although mom is currently at my sister’s house in Florida and will happily remain there until April, thankyouverymuch). They live right on the lake and enjoy all that comes with retired lake living - pontoon boats in the summer and ice fishing in the winter. Perhaps the best part of all is the road that runs right across the frozen lake. This “road” is plowed during the winter, saving them the 30 minutes it takes to drive around the entire lake in non-frozen seasons, in order to get to town. In winter, by driving across the frozen lake, they reach town in less than 5 minutes.
My father is an outdoorsman and their northern retirement was in part about returning to his native French Canadian roots, I'm sure, but it was also about enjoying the vast wilderness of northern Maine. To back track a little, if you’ve been reading here for some time you might recall that just as my parents made the move from Connecticut to Maine, before the boxes were even unpacked (literally), Dad was diagnosed with advanced stage Multiple Myeloma. Not much of a welcome to retirement gift! There is no cure for this type of cancer, but treatments do exist to prolong life. Most important for Dad is the tremendously positive attitude he maintains. What can you do? You can live out each day of your life to the best of your ability, for as long as you can! Cancer or otherwise, it’s a pretty good plan.
One of the tools Dad has acquired so that he may enjoy the Maine woods with his newfound body that tires quickly and quite frankly, is held up by a skeleton that happens to have holes in it (!!), is a ranger. (It looks something like this.) The ranger allows him to drive for hours into the woods, scouting wildlife and enjoying his favorite place on earth. As active as he still is (which is far more than most people I know, including myself), he simply doesn’t have the stamina to explore deep wilderness on foot for a full day the way he did pre-cancer. And so, the ranger is a perfect tool.
The downside to all of this is that riding the ranger finds Dad very far from home... in places with zero cell service... on a mechanical apparatus that could break down... with a body that is rather vulnerable.
You can see where this is going, right?
Enter a daughter who leans toward a prepper mentality (though in a totally reasonable kind of way... surely). Nothing makes me feel less capable than not having a few basic things already in place for potential emergencies, at least for those emergencies that are most likely to come up in my life. Dad routinely takes solo trips into some of the deepest woods in the country; as capable as he is survival-wise, it had us thinking that a survival pack, designed specifically for the ranger and the adventures he takes it on, just might be the most perfect Christmas gift. A gift we hope he never needs.
Many of the items in this pack are things he probably already has on hand but they are divided up among his hunting gear, kept in his truck, or stored throughout the house. The purpose for this pack is to be all-inclusive, and most importantly, to be kept in the ranger at all times. Should the unfortunate happen, be it a mechanical failure or an accident on his part while he’s doing some exploring on foot (not too far from the ranger), he will have everything he needs to (roughly) survive for a few of days if need be, until help finds him.
At first I thought we’d put everything in a tote of some sort, but Adam decided on a small backpack in the event that Dad would attempt to hike out if the ranger breaks down; a backpack can easily be carried and used along the way. Let's take a look at what we've included.
Water is life. With the LifeStraw he can stay safely hydrated from a beaver pond if need be. The collapsible water pouches were included in case the scenario makes sense for him to haul water from said beaver pond to where his temporary shelter is. He can use the LifeStraw from there.
Shelter is also life. I'm pretty sure Dad knows how to bed down by putting a thick layer of pine bows on the forest floor and fashioning overhead protection with sticks, branches, more pine bows, etc., but we're talking about an emergency situation for a guy who is not 20 (don't tell him) and has physical considerations. We went with convenience, and we hope the emergency tent, emergency sleeping bag, and hand/foot warmer combo forever stay in their respective packages.
Basic First Aid Kit - you know I prefer to make my own kit, but again, we were going with convenience for him. No need for him to be out in the wilderness wondering about the mysterious potions and oils I so lovingly included.
Folding Saw - a favorite tool of ours. We have several and they are stashed in various places: cars, backpacks, camping gear, hunting gear, etc. You just never know when you're going to need a good, lightweight folding saw.
5 in 1 Survival Tool - includes compass, whistle, waterproof matchbox, flint, signal mirror. I mostly chose this for the whistle and waterproof matchbox.
Compass - Yes, a second compass. We are compass people and to be honest I'm not sure the 5 in 1 tool is great quality. We wanted Dad to have a backup which is funny because in all likelihood he'll already have another compass pinned to his jacket or something.
Survival Candle - no, it's not for ambiance. But my family would not be surprised if I included it for that reason. Survival candles are great tools if you're having a hard time getting a fire started due to moisture and you need a good flame that can last and not waste precious matches.
And finally, the self explanatory piece de resistance.
But what about food? There are a couple of things that did not make it into the photos, food being among them. We provided Dad with a few MREs which are the most convenient way for him to keep a large amount of calories that require no cooking and are not terribly heavy to carry. At first I thought I would make him up some dehydrated backpacker meals, which would actually be sort of tasty compared to an MRE, but they would require the act of heating water. Perhaps cooking would be possible, but we just don't know.
Additionally, we provided a headlamp with extra batteries. All said and done, there is still plenty of room in the backpack so Dad will be adding his own hat, gloves, extra socks, and maybe an extra coat. I think he's going to include a tarp as well and some rope. Each has 101 uses. Oh, and rain gear. Pant and jacket rain gear saves lives... or at least sanity.
This might all sound kind of dramatic, but the reality is such that living where he lives, and being someone who enjoys exploring the wilderness, you have to be able to take care of yourself, or at least buy yourself some time because emergencies can and will happen. It’s hard for most of us to imagine, living in such civilized places as we do, what it would be like to be hours into the woods (by vehicle, not by foot), with no cell service, and an injury or a broken down vehicle to contend with. Seems a small backpack with a few survival essentials is a practical idea, and I do fancy myself a practical girl.
Maybe you too have a special guy or gal in your life that is always off gallivanting in the wilderness, making the most of their days while ignoring the heck out of their so-called limitations due to a stinkin' cancer diagnosis. In which case, you should totally copy this idea. C'est bon!