If you spend enough time outside, chances are good that you’ve heard of the 10 essentials gear list for survival. A map, compass, spare clothes, matches, and extra clothing are just some of the many things you should always have with you when you head into the backcountry.
The classic ten essentials are critical to survival in adverse backcountry conditions, but what about the other items that don’t make it onto the list? What else might you want when you’re stuck in the woods?
Although you might think you need some fancy gear to survive a night out in a snowstorm, some of the best survival tools can be found right in your home. Our favorite everyday survival tool? Junk food.
Okay, we get it. This might sound a little weird. How could junk food help anyone survive an unexpected night out in the woods or a major storm? Why would you give up space in your survival stash to carry around a bag of chips when you could bring a GPS or some extra matches instead?
It turns out that there are actually quite a few great reasons why you’d want to add junk food to your survival stash. Here are a few:
1. Junk Food Is Calorie Dense
Emergencies never seem to happen during bluebird summer days with no bugs and a shining sun. Instead, they always seem to occur at nighttime in the middle of a record-breaking snowstorm with hurricane-force winds and temperatures so cold even a polar bear would shiver.
This is no coincidence, of course, as these nasty conditions are often the cause of an emergency in the first place. That being said, severe weather and harsh conditions require a lot of energy to deal with – both mentally and physically.
This means that anyone stuck outside in these conditions will need to consume more food to be able to stay alive. Especially in cold, wet, and windy weather, our bodies burn calories at such a rapid rate that it can be difficult to eat enough food to be able to focus on the task at hand.
Enter junk food in all of its calorie-dense, greasy, and sugary glory.
Part of the reason why we’re warned off of eating too much junk food in our daily lives is that it is generally really high in calories and really low in essential vitamins and minerals. When we’re just going about our day-to-day lives, these extra calories are often unnecessary, especially when we can get the same amount of energy from a more nutritious food source.
In an outdoor emergency situation, however, our bodies need all of the calories we can give them much more than they need Vitamin A or magnesium. Thus, high-caloric junk food is great for getting energy into your system quickly in a backcountry survival setting.
2. It Will Keep Everyone Happy
Have you ever seen a child’s face light up with joy when you surprise them with a sugary snack during an exhaustion-induced meltdown? It turns out that adults are much like children when they get exhausted insofar as they are easy to motivate with food when times are hard.
Having a bag of candy, chocolate, or chips can easily and quickly lift a group’s morale during an emergency situation. Plus, if someone is particularly struggling, that handful of m&ms can give them the motivation they need to keep on going until you can find shelter for the night or get back to the car. Thus, junk food can be a great motivator, morale booster, and diversion for when things get tough.
3. Start a Fire
If you’re having trouble getting your fire to start because it’s really wet and windy outside, some junk food might be just what you need. If you don’t have any fire starters and all you can gather is some wet twigs, your fire might need a little help to get going.
That’s where junk food comes in. If you happen to be carrying around a bag of greasy potato chips in this situation, then you’re in luck. The oil and grease on potato chips are particularly easy to light with a match or a lighter and can provide the flame you need to get other smaller pieces of kindling to catch.
If you don’t have potato chips, corn chips and Fritos work well, too. Plus, you’ll only need to use a handful of chips to get your fire started, so you won’t need to completely cut into your food stash to bring the heat.