Thursday, April 15, 2021

Discovering and Critiquing the Shed Kit

This past weekend I was cleaning out our shed and made a bit of a discovery. Behind some old paint cans was a Tupperware container filled with emergency gear. I'd apparently found a kit I'd stashed in our shed for some future cataclysmic event. Let's critique it!

The container is of the 4 cup Ziploc variety and here's its contents:

The Good

Let's start with the good. What do I like about this kit?

1. I have to admit this was at least a creative attempt. So creative I forgot about it, but still, an attempt was made.

2. The container was an excellent choice. It's a good size and the contents were in pristine condition despite the shed being a hot and dusty place.

3. I was happy to see the kit consisted mainly of high-value universal items. Regardless of the emergency, a mylar blanket, drum-liner, Bic lighter, tap knife, sharpie, safety-pins and handkerchief are always going to be useful.

4. The candles were an especially good choice. They provide light and heat without requiring batteries and pair well with the Bic. As if to prove the point, the finger-lights were both dead, I assume because the batteries had failed.

5. It's nice to see extra gear getting put use, rather than being stashed away in a drawer.

The Bad

But it's not all sunshine and roses. Let's talk about the short-comings of the kit.

1. It's missing some obvious items. Most notably, where's the key to the house and cash? The most likely emergency I can imagine where I'd have access to the shed but not my house is if I'm locked out. In fairness, I do have a key stashed somewhere else on our property for just this scenario. But still, how could I not have dropped a few bucks into the kit? From a weight and volume perspective, it's hard to beat the problem-solving impact of cash.

2. And speaking of missing items, there's at least two universal items that are obviously missing: rope and duct-tape. I just watched this emergency gear preparedness video, much of which I could quibble with, but he does have a solid point: a 100 yard spool of dental floss would be a cheap and easy way to equip a kit like this with cordage.

3. I'm generally wary of the multi-kit approach to preparedness. In theory, having a car kit, bike kit, hunting kit, travel kit, etc. let's you optimize each for the constraints of the given scenario. In practice, I've found that it's too easy to forget what's in the kit. You end up, like I have, driving around thinking you have jumper cables in your car kit and don't. Or just as problematic, thinking you don't have jumper cables and do.

My preference is to build out a small universal kit, bring it more or less everywhere and augment it as needed. Fore example, I always try to have a Bic lighter, duct tape and heat sheet on me, and then in our car I've added a battery-powered jump starter.

This doesn't work when space is especially tight (I'm looking at you, trail running kit), but generally there are many benefits to this core gear approach.

4. And my biggest critique: what problem was I actually trying to solve here? I'm all for simple joy of kit building, but the first step in the process is understanding what you're actually preparing for. In this case, the kit cost me almost nothing in terms of space, time and money, so there wasn't any real downside to it. And caching items in alternative locations is a clever strategy to experiment with. But to make this a truly effective kit, I'd need to identify when I'd want to deploy it, and practice using the kit in that capacity.

That's one of the primary issues with the gear video I noted above. It's an interesting take on emergency gear, but without specifics of how it's going to be used, there's no real way to know if it hits the mark or not.

Now What?

I've mulled over what I'm going to do with the kit and here's where I've landed: I've removed the cheapy items (like the knock-off Swiss Army knife and non-functional finger lights), added some cash and I've put the kit back in my shed.

Ultimately, it's doing no harm there and has got me thinking about what kind of emergency would benefit from having gear stashed in our shed. And most importantly, it's a sort of gift to my future self who will no doubt be delightfully shocked when, in a few years, I rediscover it.

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