Keeping vices and entertainment devices as a small part of your go-bag isn't the strangest idea in the world. It has been weeks—weeks—since you saw another human being, weeks since you found a cache of ammunition or clean water, and weeks since you ran out of food. You have a filter for water and a few boxes of ammo, but you can’t eat those, and you’re starving. Lucky for you, today’s the day you come across a stranger—another vagabond in these forsaken times. And he’s got some extra supplies.
The Importance of Vices and Entertainment
Of course, he’s not just going to give them to you. He wants to trade, and that fancy water filter of yours looks mighty useful. He offers you half his food in exchange for the water filter. You flatly deny him; without that filter, you would have been dead days ago. So he asks what else you have. You offer him the ammunition, but he doesn’t need any of that; he is extremely well-armed. So the deal stands food for the water filter. Now you must decide between one life-saving substance and another… if only you had something else, you could trade. If only you had something as good as cash that you could willingly part with.
Well, if you’d packed a small supply of vices and entertainment, you’d be hunky-dory. These are the ultimate survival and trade supplies. Why? In a world where money is meaningless and people are struggling every day to get the bare necessities, having tradable vices and forms of entertainment will be invaluable.
The Importance of Trade
Trade is going to be essential in an extended emergency or apocalypse scenario. If the situation is bad enough, we can count on grocery stores shutting down, electricity going out, gas stations stopping servicing, banks and ATMs running out of cash… The system of commerce we’ve grown so accustomed to will decay before our eyes. It will be up to the people to run the economy, and without money, it will become an economy of trade. Just as it used to be thousands of years ago.
But trade is an art. It seems simple on its surface: exchange one good for another good of equal value. Easy right? When you examine it more closely, though, it becomes very complex – not only does one have to prioritize their goods, not only do they have to make sure they are getting a fair deal, but one must always make sure that they aren’t trading away something their life depends on (as in the hypothetical water filter trade, above). It’s a constant game of inventory triage. So a good trader always keeps valuable items, that aren’t necessarily necessities, on their person in case they need to make an emergency trade.
This is where vices and entertainment come in handy.
The Importance of Vices
What do I mean when I’m talking about vices? I’m talking about cigarettes, cigars, booze, chew, marijuana, painkillers… all of the sinful goodies you can think of! Anything people crave, but don’t necessarily need to survive.
Listen, I know it sounds bizarre but even if you dislike them yourself, having those things for trade is a very useful survival tactic. It’s a matter of utility. It’s a way of getting supplies you might need to survive.
The Importance of Entertainment
Last summer I spent a few weeks in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge filming caribou. We had to travel by bush plane to get around because that wilderness is so vast and empty. I spent most of that time camped out on the arctic tundra – my bush pilot dropped me off with some gear and equipment, supplies, enough to last me a few days. We didn’t anticipate the weather that rolled in after that, though. Massive banks of fog and low clouds made it impossible for the plane to come back to pick me up. What was supposed to be two days, turned into a week.
I tell this story because all I had for entertainment was Edward Abbey’s novel Desert Solitaire and my journal. Beyond that, it was just me and my tiny little outpost on that immeasurable, impenetrable wilderness. And let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen: solitary confinement needs no walls at all. If it hadn’t been for Ed’s book and those blank pages, I might have actually lost my mind out there in that beautiful Alaskan purgatory.
I read Desert Solitaire three times. And I filled out those blank journal pages from top to bottom, margin to margin. If I had had a board game, or a deck of cards, a couple more books, a tablet of some kind (a Kindle or an iPad, Microsoft, whatever…), I could have killed time to no end. Having entertainment in the wilderness or during difficult times is, first and foremost, a measure to protect your own sanity and morale. Having a good story, or a fun game to distract yourself from stress and hardship is medicine for the mind.
And they make great trading materials, too: You won’t starve to death, or die of dehydration without your book or your playing cards. You’ll just go crazy. One has to prioritize these things.
Essential to the Checklist
When you’re packing your Bug Out Bag, or preparing to ditch town in the face of a serious disaster, vices and entertainment won’t be the first things you think to pack. You’ll probably go for food, water, weapons, and ammunition right off the bat. But I guarantee you’ll thank yourself later if you make sure to include vices and entertainment in your “Shit-Hits-the-Fan packing checklist”.
I’d even go so far as to urge you to keep [at least] entertainment supplies in your backpacking backpack and with your camping gear. We’ve all been stuck inside a tent in a rainstorm – and that experience is always more enjoyable when there’s something fun to do. The same goes for traveling abroad – you can make a lot of new friends on trains and in hostels when you have a game to play or to teach to others. Portable chess boards, cribbage boards, and simple decks of cards are all perfect traveling/camping pastimes – I wouldn’t brave the wild, or board a plane, train, or boat without at least one of them.
Survival is a multi-faceted endeavor. It requires a lot of willpower and preparation – and the more creative you can get, the more leverage and greater advantage you give yourself. No matter whether you plan on using them or trading them, vices and entertainment are essential components of any survival (or travel) checklist.
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