Maintaining a remote camp
Back around 1980 my parents inherited some land from my grandmother (my dads mom). Shortly after my parents got the land, they moved a 2 bedroom 1 bath trailer house behind my grandmothers house – which had been built around the turn of the 20th century. Mom and dad put a septic system down, setup a water well,,, all the comforts of home, except a home phone. Back in the early 1980 cell phones had not been invented yet. So for maybe 10 years, every time we went to the camp, we lost all contact with the outside world.
I would like to share my past 30 years experience with dealing with camps, and remote locations.
Rodents – This includes mice, rats and squirrels. Not only do they chew holes in the eves of the house, in floors, in the walls, and get into your food stocks, they build nest, piss, and poop everywhere. When you start talking about feces, there is always the chance of diseases.
Squirrels are not too bad about staying in the house, its mostly the mice and rats that like to make themselves at home. What is the difference between a mouse and a rat? About a pound.
If you put rat poison out – sometimes they will get in the walls, die, and start stinking. But for a camp that people do not go to everyday, nobody will be around to smell the stench.
There have been times when I have gone to the camp, and found mice in the toilet – dead. I’am going to guess they jumped into the toilet to get a drink of water, and could not get back out.
When those mice get hungry, they will start chewing into everything they can. This includes peanut butter jars made out of plastic, snacks, chips,,,, anything with a plastic container.
Something of interest, I have kept cases of MREs at the camp and rodents have never gotten into them. Why is it that rodents will chew into a jar of peanut butter, but not an MRE? Maybe because the MREs are double sealed? Maybe because the MREs do not have the smell of food on them from being handled? I dont know exactly, maybe its a combination of several factors?
Food Stockpile -Sometimes my family and I will go to the camp, bring some chili, canned beans, spam,,,,, with plans to either it that weekend, or eat it later on. Well, the canned goods get put in the pantry, forgotten, and expire. We may keep a couple of weeks worth of food up there, and its rarely rotated out. So when we go looking for something to eat, a lot of the cans are expired. This is one of the problems with keeping food stocks at a remote location. If people only go there a few times a year, the canned goods do not get rotated out.
At least one thing with the rodents, they force us to rotate out some of our food stocks. Its like the mouse is saying – “this is going to expire soon, so why not eat it before it expires?” A big chew hole in the side of a plastic jar of peanut butter is a lot more noticeable then a small printed date on the top of the lid.
Every bug out location should have some kind of food stocks, but the problem is keeping the food rotated out. When you have a remote location that may not be visited but a few times a year, food rotation becomes an issue. Its not like the dates can be checked every few weeks.
No frozen foods (or very little) are kept at the camp. There have been times when the freezer stopped working, or the power was out for several days and all of the meat in the freezer spoiled.
Bottled water – Bottled water has no been “that” much an issue. Most of the time, the last person to the camp will make a note of how much water is there, and tell the other family members “whoever goes up there next, be sure to bring some water.” We have a well, but it does not get used enough to keep the water cycled out.
We try to keep a couple of cases of bottled water, a few gallons of bottled water, and a Royal Berkey water filter at the camp.
Water purification and water filters – Even though we have a water well, and we try to bring bottled water, we also try to keep bleach and a Royal Berkey water filter at the camp.
The thing with the Royal Berkey, its made out of stainless steel – so rodents will not be interested in chewing through it.
We also have a nearby natural stream that runs year round. If the water well goes out, or the power goes out, we can assemble the Berkey, fetch some water from the stream, and we can have filtered drinking water in a matter of minutes.
Group Hygiene and Personal Hygiene - this includes bar soap, liquid soap, tooth bushes, tooth paste, towels, linens, sheets, pillow cases and toilet paper.
We try to keep a good supply of bar soap and liquid soap at the camp. Clean hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease. Whether its eating, or wound treatment, clean hands is a must have. Liquid soap is good for washing your hands, and bar soap is good for washing yourself off in a shower or in the creek, river, pond, lake,,, whatever you have access to.
When we go to the camp, we try to bring our own personal hygiene kits. But for those that forget, we try to keep a few combs, shampoo, tooth brushes and tooth paste in stock.
When a family member spends the night at the camp, they will change the sheets on the bed, take them home, wash them and bring them back on the next trip. This also means that we have to have extra sheets in stock.
One thing that we try to keep plenty of, and that is blankets. Whether people are sleeping on the couches, or on an air mattress, they have to have a blanket to cover up with.
Stored blankets and rodents do not mix. Those pesky rats and mice will chew the blankets up to use in their nest. So when you see signs of rodents, its important to get rid of them.
Flashlights and batteries – because batteries go dead – even when their not being used – we have started stocking up on hand crank flashlights. Its difficult for a hand crank flashlight to beat a 3 D cell LED maglight, so we bring flashlights with us when we go to the camp, and take them back home when we leave.
The benefit of a hand crank flashlight – when you get to your remote location, its winter time, freezing cold outside, and you need to go turn the propane tank on, you know that the hand crank flashlight is going to work. Or when you get to the camp and the power is off – you do not have to look for batteries.
We keep a few battery powered flashlights at the camp, but we also have several hand crank flashlights.
Fuel stockpile – storing fuel at the camp is not “that” big of an issue, but then again we do not stockpile hundreds of gallons either. We may have 15 – 20 gallons of gasoline – and that gets run through the ATVs or lawn mower.
Due to the risk of fire, we do not even have kerosene lanterns at the camp. Its just nothing that my family has ever felt that we needed. If the power goes out, we go to bed when the sun goes down; either we go to bed, or we build a camp fire outside.
Propane stove is connected to a 250 gallon propane tank, it can be used when the power goes out, and has a dual function of acting like a heater when the power goes out. Lets say that a winter storm rolls through and knocks the power out. With no electricity the furnace blower can not blow the hot air. So we turn on a couple of the burners on the stove, and it can heat mot of the house.
Microwave only works when the power is on, and its good for hating up quick meals. The power going off is not an issue right now, but you have to plan for a worse case situation.
Wood burning grill is just that – I have a pit on a trailer that can be pulled back and forth from the camp. The fire box is 24 inches in diameter, and 2 feet 6 inches long. The cooking surface is 6 feet 9 inches long and 29 inches across.
I have an old 250 gallon propane tank that is going to be turned into another pit, this one will stay at the camp. That way, regardless of who goes up there, they will have access to a wood burning grill. The cooking surface on the new pit should be about 4 feet long and 22 – 24 inches across.
First aid kits and medical supplies – Instead of stocking bottles of over the counter pain killers, we stock up on boxes of the individual packages. We try to keep a box of Advil – 50 packages of liqui-gels, Tylenol and Tylenol arthritis. The individual packages are more sanitary then everyone sharing a community bottle.
For cleaning wounds, we keep a few bottles of alcohol handy.
Freeze Factor – frozen water lines tend to rupture. So when you turn the water pump on, water goes spraying everywhere. Its no fun trying to fix a broken water line when its raining and freezing cold outside.
When the cold weather rolls around, every time we leave the camp we turn off the water pump, drain the water lines, and open all of the faucets in and outside the house. The open faucets let air escape the water lines and allows the ice to expand a little bit.
If the temps are going to stay below freezing for an extended period of time, someone will make a trip to the camp and pour antifreeze into the toilets. A couple of times the water in the toilet froze and broke the toilet.
Its the little things that are often overlooked – like antifreeze in the toilets. Something so simple can save you a lot of trouble later on.
Hand tools – This is one thing you don’t really have to worry about. Tools do not require special treatment, they do not spoil, they do not have to be rotated out,,,, but they can rust and wooden handles can rot.
I like to break tools into 2 categories – tools for working on stuff, and tools for planting.
Tools for working on stuff – these are your wrenches, ratchets, pipe wrenches and sockets. You never know when you might hav to work on your truck, tractor, ATV, tiller at the camp. So its a wise idea to have plenty of hand tools.
Tools for planting – these are your hoes, rakes, post hole digger,,, anything that can be used to plant a garden.
Teamwork – one of the most important factors in maintaining a remote camp / bug out location is teamwork and communications. When one family member visits the camp, its important for that person to communicate any problems back to the other family members. It helps if one person takes care of all of the communications. Instead of someone having to call all interested parties, tell one person, and everyone else calls that one person.
If there is an issue with something at the camp, the person that finds the issue needs to tell the person in charge of keeping track of everything.
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