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We love stories and movies about a lone survivor. A single man in the apocalypse, roaming the ruined world on a dual-sport bike. Maybe there’s a canine sidekick. He is always getting into adventures, and while he’s not a bad guy, he’ll often do bad things for the right reasons. He’s the stoic badass underdog it seems every American man wishes he could be.
But you know what he rarely has? Children. In the few stories where there are children, they’re always at a useful age and can largely act independently. I don’t blame publishers for this. There’s not a whole lot of badass gun-fighting action going on when you’re changing diapers or cooing them to sleep, and it’s hard to keep a baby alive on a dual-sport.
So, what does our swashbuckling hero do when he has an infant? This is something that I’ve had to figure out for myself.
Even a quick trip to the grocery store, something that was so cavalierly performed as a bachelor, has turned into an affair that requires more time, thought, and consideration than ever before. A venture anywhere now requires logistics and safety checking akin to a pilot going through a preflight checklist. There is a little human with you who cannot survive on its own, likely made from half of your DNA, for whom you are responsible. Now imagine it’s a disaster scenario — the potential complications ramp up very quickly, and your learning curve gets considerably steeper.
If you are not currently a parent or never intend to be one, you can still get something out of this article. You may find yourself among friends or family members with infants or small children when the worst happens. Plus, condoms could break — if you can find any in a post-apocalyptic world.
The innocent victims of any large-scale disaster or mass movement of people are infants, and it isn’t their fault. You can’t verbally reason with them or have a discussion because they can’t even control their bowels, let alone understand language. They’re needy, complicated, and entirely unprepared for any situation — hell, many of them can’t even fall asleep by themselves. To make matters worse, parents and caregivers of small children can be easy targets for predators.
The raw fact of the matter is that many children die. Sometimes it’s just a bad roll of the dice, but all too often it’s due to a failure of preparation by the guardians. We prepare because we don’t want to rely on outside agencies to see us through. We prepare because historically it gives us a higher chance of survival. So, let’s go through some of the lessons learned, often by examining the failures of others.
Right after buying canned ravioli and terrible ramen noodles, one of the first things people try to square away when they start seriously considering prepping is their bug-out bag (BOB). If you’re a parent, the good news is that you probably already have at least the skeletal architecture of a BOB for your kid — you just call it something else: the diaper bag.
In fact, just adding some additional items (many of which you may already have in there) and weatherproofing can make it a complete baby BOB, when combined with the contents of your own.
In my house, the major sticking point for the baby BOB was exactly what kind of bag to use. I wanted something that was tough and modular, and so many of the dedicated baby bags are cheap to the point of being disposable. The ability to carry it independently or as an add-on to my own bug-out bag for easy carrying was mandatory. I ended up with an assault pack from Tactical Tailor. Originally designed to be worn on the back or attached to a plate carrier, the shoulder straps can be stowed internally and there are provisions to attach it to another pack via Fastex clips.
Weatherproofing is important. Even if you have a waterproof bag, packing like components together in Ziplocs or similar not only keeps water out, but helps organize the bag.
Ultimately, you may end up with several bags of different sizes. A larger one for a vehicle where space and weight is less of a concern, and an essentials bag if you have to ruck it.
Infants, being so small, are far more subject to the environmental changes than adults are, so clothing has to be well thought out. It doesn’t have to be cute (though my wife disagrees), but it absolutely does have to be utilitarian. Warm clothes for cold weather, and light clothes for hot weather. Children grow rapidly, so while for your own personal BOB you may have a set of X clothes for summer and Y clothes for winter, it’s more complex with a baby. Instead of swapping clothes out seasonally, you have to do it every couple of months. Thrift store clothing is perfectly suitable for this application and buying a size up is advisable.
Baby clothes are small, and even smaller if you use a vacuum sealer. This is good, as even the newest parents learn that babies can soil their clothing rapidly.
Blankets and warming layers are often needed even in hot weather. What isn’t used for physical warmth can double as a sunshade. If your kiddo is uncomfortable, you’ll definitely hear about it, and so will others around you.
Like clothing, diapers come in different sizes as your kiddo grows. As such, they need to be changed out regularly. Even if you use cloth diapers at home, you’re probably going to want some disposables in the diaper bag. My infant BOB is full of nighttime diapers. While they are marginally more expensive, they’ll keep the baby drier for a longer period of time. You don’t want have to worry about storing soiled diapers or about cleaning until you have to.
Depending on how long of a scenario you’re planning for, at some point you may have to worry about cleaning. In a pinch, just about anything absorbent will work as an impromptu diaper or wipe. I have wet wipes and cloth wipes. You may want to include a biodegradable soap or powdered sanitizer for longer-term prepping.
Specific medical and grooming needs are up to you. A fever reducer, teething medication, nail clippers, and other such items fall into this category. As an example, I have one of those disgusting Snotsucker nasal aspirators in there. She gets stuffed up? I snake the snot right out. The joys of parenting.
Having water — and the ability to make potable water — is essential in any disaster, but it’s of even higher importance if you are traveling with an infant. Babies easily become victims of dehydration through dysentery; diarrhea is the top killer of children in developing nations. Though when you’re changing a diaper it may seem like there’s an endless supply of liquids in there, it actually doesn’t take much to put a baby at risk.
Even if your infant is exclusively breast fed (my wife calls it “EBF”), you’re still going to need a lot of water. Why? Well if momma gets dehydrated, she can lose her breast milk. Very quickly you could have both a hungry baby and a sick companion. Not exactly the trouble you want when you’ve already left home due to an emerging disaster. For the situation that my wife’s milk dries up, or if she isn’t there because she’s succumbed to injury or been carried off by a zombie biker hoard, I keep a supply of premixed formula in the bag. There are single-serving powdered options you may wish to consider as well.
TV commercials and ads in baby magazines would have us all believe that your little monster needs specially formulated colored goop that comes in a squeeze bag or glass bottle with a side of rice cereal. This is nonsense. With little exception, your baby can eat the same things you do, provided they’re smashed or masticated small enough. If push comes to shove, I’ll chew a piece of meat or other food first like a momma bird.
If you’re in a car, this is a no-brainer. The real trouble starts when you have to ruck it. Sure, you can just carry the baby. And your arms will get tired. And you won’t be able to negotiate many obstacles. And you’ll never have your hands free.
There are dedicated baby framed backpacks out there, mostly catering to the outdoors crowd. I found a few problems with these: First, the amount of gear you can carry in addition to the infant is dismal. Good luck getting anything more than what you’d need for a simple day hike. Secondly, with the baby on your back, you can’t wear an additional backpack. Nor can you monitor them. And you’re going to get puke all over your head at some point. Ask me how I know this.
I found carrying the baby on a front carrier or using baby wrapping to be the best method. Your hands are free, you can wear a backpack, you can still access your weapons (concealed or otherwise, though your carry configuration may have to be modded), you can monitor your child, and you can keep him or her warm and protected from the environment.
My go-to is a KinderPack. The ride height is comfortable, makes for great visibility, and it’s easy to take your infant in and out.
If you look at pictures of tribal women in National Geographic, it looks like they just obtained some cloth and went to town. And sure, you can do that, but your results won’t be as secure or safe. What can look so haphazard is actually carefully crafted. Believe it or not, there is a whole quasi-cultist subculture of baby wearing in the United States. They have forums, meet-ups, Facebook groups, and potlucks, all centering around physically wearing your baby. This is a resource you should pursue for your prepping. Even toddlers and beyond can be carried safely when they’re tired if you have the right gear; think of it like a piggyback ride where you don’t have to use your hands.
The catch-22 of having an infant: When it’s more important than ever that you don’t attract attention to yourself, you have a ticking time bomb of noise. Your baby will cry and scream. You can’t blame them, it’s the only surefire communication tool they have. But invariably there are times you need to be extra quiet. You’ll probably know the best way to keep your baby happy, but warm and fed makes for the quietest baby.
Pacifiers can go a long way, just be sure to dummy cord them to your rig, lest they be lost. While a favorite toy is ideal, you probably can’t keep that in the BOB for prep purposes, so try to keep a favored toy in there. My daughter will want the mutant dragonfly-bee thing named Hamilton, but Elephonte Bellafonte the elephant is in the bag.
Depending on the age of your child, a nice thick lollipop may also work. You don’t want something they’ll choke on, just something to work on when needed. Additionally I keep a teething ring in the bag.
Having a team makes everything easier. [Editor’s Note: For more on group survival, see “It Takes a Village” in Issue 7 of OG.] Since this isn’t a pulpy survival novel set in the 1980s, your most likely team member will be a spouse or roommate — and not a bunch of experts at a Rawles ranch. The chance of survival with just you and an infant decreases exponentially the longer you’re away from civilization. The ability to take turns caring for an infant while another provides security is a force multiplier, and it only increases with capable and supply-flushed people. But…
The idea that you can live off the land and out of your pack forever is pure fantasy. If you haven’t figured it out by now, the chain of logistical needs for an infant is long. You’ll have to seek civilization sooner rather than later if you have an infant. You don’t need to last indefinitely, but you want enough to get out of Dodge and get somewhere else on your own terms.
Improvised Wrap: From a pillowcase with duct tape to a torso carry with a beach towel, a quick Internet search will yield a plethora of improvised baby carriers. Knowledge on how to safely and securely carry your baby or small child in an improvised carrier could save their life in an emergency. The example shown here was crafted from three cotton T-shirts.
Soft Structured Carrier: Typically made of canvas, a soft structured carrier (SSC) is a durable pack built to withstand heavy use. The buckles and straps are easy to adjust for multiple wearers, and the ergonomic support makes these carriers comfortable for both you and your child. This is the author’s preferred carry option. Shown here is a KinderPack (www.mykinderpack.com).
Ring Sling: The ring sling is great for situations in which you need to get the baby quickly up and wrapped. With the ring sling you can carry from newborn to toddler age, however, extended wear with a heavier baby can quickly become uncomfortable. The example shown is from Cassiope Woven (www.cassiopewoven.com).
Woven Wrap: Although it carries a steep learning curve, a woven wrap is the most versatile baby carrier. It can be used to comfortably carry babies from infant to preschool age, and can even carry an injured adult in a pinch. A wrap can also be used as a blanket or a hammock. This is the author’s wife’s preference. Shown here is from Oscha Slings (www.oschaslings.com).
Dave Merrill is an Eagle Scout, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and avid outdoorsman. Spending time in the backwoods canoeing and backpacking sparked his initial interest in survivalism at a young age. This attraction was hammered into enthusiasm by witnessing the effects of catastrophe first hand in developing nations. Dave is also a moderator on the forum for Zombie Squad (www.zombiehunters.org), a multinational nongovernmental organization focused on promoting personal preparation for disasters. And, yes, he’s well aware the zombie theme has worn out its campy welcome.