• Carter Caroline

How Outward Bound Prepared Me for the Coronavirus

During my backpacking, rock climbing, and mountaineering trip with Outward Bound California (OBC), I lived out of a backpack full of food, first aid and all, for 30 days. It really showed me how little humans can actually survive on. I definitely didn’t expect to have to apply what I learned on OB to something like the coronavirus, but here we are.

Seeing all of the posts about how to prepare for the worst against the virus genuinely freaked me out, especially with the amount of public panic around it. I get that some “emergency kit” items are important if we have to self-quarantine ourselves, but, when I thought about it, others really just don’t make any sense at all. Here are my thoughts:

Non-perishable Food

Totally get it. Totally necessary.

As for an extra amount of it, maybe not so necessary. As we’ve seen, the quarantine timeline is two weeks for those infected, and even not infected, with COVID-19. I don’t think we’ll, as I’ve heard, literally run out of food in those two weeks or more. A few very important lessons I learned on OB are how little food we can live on each day, what kinds of foods provide us with the nutrients we need and how to ration.

During the 30-day trip, we had two resupplies—one every nine days or so. When we restocked on food, we had to sort it out into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. From there, we rationed each meal for every day and for each of the 10 people on the trip. Only once did we come even remotely close to running out before resupply, but that just forced us to ration better the next time around.

On Outward Bound the students were given the chance to experience complete solitude in a three-day solo. We were each given a small area by a water source to set up our tarps to call home for 72 hours. Our bodies and minds relaxed and recovered from weeks of hiking and climbing all day, every day.

For food, we were each given a small Ziploc bag of trail mix, some Fig Newtons, and a few electrolyte powder packets. We obviously starved, right? Nope. If we were doing some sort of physical activity in those three days, we’d need a little more food to push us through.

Rationalizing any amount of food, even a small amount, is possible. It goes to show that, with the right nutrients, the amount we should be consuming every day is actually much smaller than what we perceive it to be.

First Aid Kit

No brainer.

Baby Supplies

Of course!


Very important.

Bottled Water

Ok, wait. Are we going to run out of water? Will the taps shut off? This one just made me laugh. Even if for some bizarre reason this does happen, we have these amazing things called lakes and rivers that don’t have a shut-off option. Grab a bunch of Nalgene water bottles, a large bottle of iodine drops and you're good to go for a solid few months. I know from experience that iodine drops work in even the nastiest-looking water sources.

Side note: if you’re running out of soap, iodine works just as well, if not better. Simply fill the cap of a Nalgene bottle with water, put two to three drops of iodine in the cap and mix it up. Easy peasy.

Toilet Paper and Paper Towels

As I’ve learned on the trail, toilet paper is not always necessary. For the ladies: to save toilet paper, get a few rags or bandanas. Use one sparingly a few times, and then wash it. Until it dries, use another rag. I had two bandanas for 30 days in the California High Sierras. The sun was so strong that I could tie a bandana to my backpack and it would sanitize and dry it almost instantaneously. If you told me this was possible and completely sanitary before my trip, I would have called you crazy.

For #2, toilet paper is a little more necessary. But, in the case you do run out, there will always be a stick or rock waiting for you right outside your door. There really is such a thing as a naturally smooth stick. I thought it was a myth too!

Now for paper towels, rags are also very acceptable. Let's try to save the planet as we save the planet.

Flashlight and Batteries

Will COVID-19 blow out our power? I guess only time will tell.

To Sum Up

It’s a luxury that most of us have toilet paper and paper towels to use on the daily, clean water that we can drink from clean water sources, more than enough food to eat, warm clothes and a roof over our heads. These extras should really be going to places that desperately need them in times like these, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc.

The same goes for face masks. A Johns Hopkins article confirms that if you don’t actually have the virus or work with those who do, there is no need to wear a mask. They should also be given to people who don’t have the means to get them.

Schools are closing and a lot of kids are celebrating. But the other reality is, schools closing means thousands of children missing meals. If you have extra non-perishables, water bottles, or supplies, consider donating them to recreation centers or locations offering free meals to those who have less or no access to these essential items.

I hope this helped lessen any anxiety or fear you may have and provided some tips and tricks on further preparing for the coronavirus pandemic. These are scary times, but with the right tools and information, you’ll have everything you need to get by.

Til next time,

Her Wilder Heart

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