The Pros and Cons of MREs

Most preppers and outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with MREs. MRE stands for meal, ready-to-eat, and they are most common as field rations for the military. MREs are meant to feed one individual for one meal. Fortunately, these meals in a bag or box have come a long way since hardtack, cans of Spam, and freeze-dried meat. Modern MREs offer a wide range of foodstuffs and now include heating elements, desserts, and beverage powders. There are even MREs made for cold weather that pack plenty of extra calories when you need them to stay warm.

All of the items included in modern MREs make them extremely popular for preppers and outdoor recreationists alike, including campers and backpackers. You might be wondering, though, if MREs are right for you as part of an emergency preparedness kit. Before you run out and buy cases of MREs to have when disaster strikes, it is helpful to know both the advantages and disadvantages of these.

pros and cons of mresThe Pros:

  • Versatility – Modern-day MREs offer a wide variety of options when it comes to food. MREs from the U.S. military offer a great diversity that was missing even just a few years ago. You can now select those with chicken, beef, or pork as the main dish or vegetarian meals. There are also a large variety of carbohydrates like pasta, rice, oatmeal, and applesauce. MREs come in breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices.

  • Heating Elements – MREs now come with some kind of heating element so that you can have a hot meal even if you don’t have access to a stove, and these heating elements come right in the bag. This makes MREs perfect when you are left without electricity or when you find yourself out in the wildness miles from civilization.

  • Sheer Number of Items – MREs come packed with numerous food items including a main dish, side dishes, desserts, energy bars, beverage flavoring powders, instant coffee, and, of course, the customary salt, pepper, toilet paper, spoon, chewing gum, and Tabasco sauce if you’re lucky. What is included in one MRE differs immensely, and no two are ever exactly alike!

  • Portability – MREs can be easily thrown into a backpack or bug out bag. Once you open a MRE, you have everything you need for a meal.

The Cons:

  • The Amount of Calories – Since MREs were designed for soldiers in combat, one meal contains a large amount of calories. Each MRE contains about 1200 calories and that makes it great for outdoor pursuits but hard on the stomach for more sedentary individuals. An entire MRE should probably not be consumed all in one sitting.

  • Weight – MREs weigh more than freeze-dried meals. It is something to take into consideration if you are thinking about packing them around all day.

  • Cost – MREs are more expensive compared to fresher foods and freeze-dried meals. On average, a single MRE costs around $8 to $10, and a case of twelve can cost around $80 to $100.

  • Availability – MREs are not something that you can find at your local grocery store. Special military supply stores or outdoor stores might carry them but they will probably be limited in quantity and variety. Thanks to the Internet MREs are now available from several online retailers. If you order online, however, you will obviously pay more for shipping.

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Dressing for Unpredictable Weather

The outdoors presents a large variety of physical activities to participate in, everything from hiking, backpacking, snow sports, water sports, hunting, fishing, and more. However, outdoor recreation can be challenging in the fall because of the weather. Fall weather is often unpredictable, changing from sunny skies to rain or wind at the blink of an eye. Temperatures can drop suddenly without any warning, and the days get shorter as winter approaches. There have been many cases of people dying because they were not prepared for sudden changes in weather, like this dad and his two sons in Missouri.

Dressing for unpredictable weather appropriately  is critical when spending time outdoors. The best way to do this is to layer your clothing. That way you can adjust what you are wearing to both your activity level and the weather, and you will be able to simply add or subtract layers. Experts recommend you have three layers of clothing and each perform a different function: a base layer, an insulating layer, and an outer shell layer.

  • The Base Layer – This layer, the one closest to your body, manages moisture. It is the layer that will keep you dry and regulates your body’s temperature by drawing sweat and moisture away from your skin. This is critical in the summer in order to keep you cool and in the winter to keep you from getting too cold. The best base layers are not made from cotton but synthetics like merino wool, polyester, or silk. Examples of base layers include things like a sports bra and thermal underwear in the wintertime.
  • The Insulating Layer – The insulating layer is the next layer that goes on top of the base layer. The Insulating layer does just that; it traps air close to your body and therefore helps you retain heat. The best insulating layers are those made out of wool, goose down, or fleece. Fleece is typically preferred because it is breathable, lightweight, and works even when wet. Insulating layers also come in a wide variety of weights to that you can choose one according to both your activity level and the weather.
  • The Outer Shell – The third and last layer is one that will protect you from the elements. It provides a barrier from the rain, snow, and wind. Most outer shells have some degree of water and wind resistance. Of course, outer shells come in a large variety, everything from waterproof, breathable coats to soft shell jackets that provide some of your insulation too.

As you find yourself outdoors, you can add or remove layers according to the weather. If it is a sunny day and a sudden storm moves in, you can then add your outer shell for extra warmth and protection. If the sun comes out and the temperature warms up, you can then remove your shell and insulating layer. Plus, this layering system works for both your upper body and lower body. It also never hurts to bring extra warm clothing like a hat and gloves just in case. How you dress is a critical component of spending time outside, especially in unpredictable weather.

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First Time At The Shooting Range: What To Expect

There are a lot of things we swore we would never do before we actually became parents. Give in and buy the kids a candy bar at the store, let them play tic-tac-toe with the sugar packets in a restaurant, exclusively breastfeed for an entire year, let them sleep sneak in our beds, own a gun. Did you have to go back and make sure you read that last one right? I would have. I hesitated when I wrote it. However, my job as a mother is to protect my children against anything, and this maternal instinct is stronger than any previous agenda I may have had before I knew what dangers would face my family in today’s world. I have started to hate turning on the news. I can only see so many heart-wrenching stories of school shootings and kidnappings before I feel an overwhelming anxiety every time I kiss my children goodbye. I walk through my son’s school hallways and notice that one of the teachers has covered all of the windows, another keeps her door locked, there are security procedures put in place. In the deepest part of my heart where my biggest fears live, I feel the worry of what if this isn’t enough. Even at the school family movie night I had a fleeting thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for someone with a vindictive mind, and there would be nothing I could do to stop him or her. These thoughts leave me feeling scared, paranoid, and worst of all…helpless.

My First Time at the Shooting Range

what to expect your first time at the shooting rangeOne of the local shooting ranges periodically has a ladies night. Not your typical of a night out with the girls for sure, but I was willing to give it a try. It sounded like a great way to face one of my fears (the gun itself…and what it can do), and see if I was even able to hold-much less shoot-something I was starting to think might protect my family one day.

I was extremely nervous as I drove to the range. The thoughts flying through my head ranged from “this is the beginning of taking control over my fear, this is becoming the only way I can protect my family” to “I can’t believe I am doing this, I shouldn’t be doing this, I never thought that I would do this, this goes against everything I said I would be and do and teach as a mother”. To say I was conflicted is an understatement. To make matters worse, I was early. I hate being early. Not early in bringing the kids to a school or a family function or anything, but early to a get-together. That night I was meeting a friend, and I told her I would be there at 5:30. I glanced at the clock and noticed I was about ten minutes early. I figured I would just sit in my car and play games or dink around on Facebook or whatever, but when I looked up there were three women looking right at me. My windshield faced the huge window of the location. Feeling silly, I got out of my car and slowly walked to the front door, texting my friend on the way in.I stood there fidgeting, trying to look like I knew what I was doing but really having no clue. I kept checking my phone and pretending to look at the surroundings but I felt leftout. I hate ladies nights. My friend texted back that she had just left, and I should sign us in. Not sure what else to do, I headed to the counter.

“So what are you shooting today?” the gentleman asked me.

I replied with a simple “ummmmmm, yes? Can you tell it is my first time?”

He chuckled and said “well, what is your goal in being here?”

Without a hesitation I responded “to protect my kids”. No question, no uncertainty, that was it.

And without a hesitation he responded, “then you want a 9mm.” He handed me three bags of ammunition without asking if I wanted the maximum or not, ran my card, and handed me my receipt.

Feeling slightly more confident, I grabbed my ear and eye gear and walked back to the front. I then glanced at the television and stared at the headline “Dorner shootout: ‘Hundreds of rounds’ fired during gun battle”. I looked down at the nowmenacing-looking bullets in my hand and shuddered. Trying to avoid the television, I walked toward the pink mace and called my husband to pass the time. I finally worked up the courage to walk to the gun display…more effective than the mace and certainly more intimidating. Finally my friend arrived and we chatted until we could get a spot on the range. We talked about what we would do if someone broke in our houses. We talked about why it is important to be familiar with guns in general, the benefits of having and knowing your own gun as well as a gun that may be dropped in chaos. We talked about gun safety around children. We talked about a lot of things I have never thought of before. We finally got our turn and she was confident as she walked to the counter and loaded her gun. I think I may have looked like a deer in headlights. The super sweet guy came over to help us, and she told him I needed a 9mm. I just used my womanly smile and probably looked goofy. Apparently I just assumed the bullets magically loaded themselves. The guy came back over when it became quite obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. My friend said she would load it for me, he said I couldn’t be a cheater and he would show me how (though I am apparently still a cheater because she has a fun little thing that helped me load it!). While he helped me, I kept getting dinged in the head and on my arms by my friend’s shell casings. Something you don’t think about if you don’t typically shoot I guess.

Gun loaded and ready, she showed me what to do with the thing. I put my body in the typical CSI stance and couldn’t decide what to do with my eyes. Do I close one? Look through both? What the heck was I looking for anyway? I was patiently told that if a stranger was in my house in the middle of the night I would probably be using both eyes to try to get a clear view. Duh.

She patiently told me how to load the gun, how to release the magazine, how to do the cool little move where you load the chamber and how NOT to point it at anything but the range and how to check to make sure there weren’t any leftover when I was done. I am even more confident now when I tell my son guns are not toys, and I don’t even really like imaginary ones. Those things deserve some respect for the damage they could do, and how easily they can do it.

I have only been shooting once before in my life. When my dad took me after the Chuck E. Cheese Shooting. He didn’t want me to be afraid to use a gun if I needed to defend myself. He wanted me to know what I was supposed to do with it if I found one. I guess some of his teachings stuck with me. I feel a little proud to say it didn’t take a whole lot of direction for me to get the hang of things, and the biggest direction dealt with how to load/handle the gun. Turns out I am not too bad. Turns out, once she told me what to do, I am a quick learner. Turns out my blogging mommy-buddy is a bad mamba jamba, and by learning from her, I am pretty bad mamba jamba, too! And now (because I don’t own a gun) I do know that if someone has one against me or others and we somehow get it away from them, I know what to do with it. Or kind of. It is like swimming. You know how to jump in, but you don’t really know how to swim without some more practice.

While taking turns, I noticed a few things. The women you “think” you are going to see at a gun range, aren’t really who you see. I saw senior citizens, teenagers, hot twentysomethings, moms, and even a cop’s wife. I also noticed that the older lady next to us kept getting nervous and when she did so she turned towards us, and her gun followed along with her. Yeah….kinda scary.

After we left, my friend and I got some appetizers and a drink, and I finally got to ask some honest questions from someone I know is very educated on the subject. I was surprised by my lack of knowledge. I was surprised to find out some things that disturbed me. I was surprised to find out some things were even more different than I expected.

Since I am not one hundred percent solid on my stance and am still in the education phase of things, I am not really in a position to say what I firmly believe. And either way, what I believe shouldn’t really have an impact on what you want to do. Education and thoughtful discussions are a good way to gather more information to make your own informed decision, yes. But I fully believe that this is a situation in which YOU must make your own decision. Don’t let anyone’s opinions make it for you. If you let anyone else make this decision for you that is your first mistake. Because if you don’t really want it you won’t respect it or learn how to properly use it, and if you want one and don’t get it you may have that regret one day.

My biggest fear of all is my children. God forbid an accident would ever happen. I know there are safeguards against this, but still accidents can happen. I used to think I would never EVER consider having one. My husband used to try to change my mind, then finally gave up. I still may not be, but at least we are having an open conversation about it. When we first talked about it, we hadn’t yet experienced Sandy Hook, the Aurora Theater shooting, and so many break-in and rape news stories we can’t even count. When we first talked, I didn’t have children I would die to protect. When we first talked, I didn’t understand. I didn’t try to listen. And I wasn’t in immediate jeopardy of having someone else make my decision for me. Yet, some of the feelings I had then I still have now.

So, for now, I am going to keep educating myself. I am going to keep learning what to do with something as powerful as a gun. I am going to learn how to respect it, how to use it for good and not evil, and ultimately I will make a decision that is good for MY family.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a risk. I opened my eyes and my ears to a very controversial and very important topic. I educated myself on just one of many ways to protect my children. And even more important, I ignored the fear of judgment that sat in my stomach when I thought about writing this. A fear that I didn’t even realize I would have. Everyone is so heated, opinions are more than viewpoints now. Opposing opinions are breaking up friendships and families, turning allies into adversaries, and creating a fear like I have never seen. I have done nothing to be ashamed of. All I did was learn more about something I knew little about, take the first steps in learning how to protect myself and my family, and taking a risk outside of my comfort zone. I empowered myself just a little bit. And that is worth writing about.

*Our guest author today is Vicki Little. Vicki is a wife and mom to two adorable kids that are the center of her world. You can read more from Vicki on her blog, Living In Moments, where her motto is “Life can change in an instant, stop on a dime, or take your breath away. Don’t miss a moment…

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Preparing for the Outdoors: The Ten Essentials

If you are planning to spend any amount of time outdoors, it is critical that you make sure you are prepared for anything. Recreational activities like camping, hiking, and backpacking are great in order to get out and enjoy nature, and they can be fun for the whole family! However, emergency situations can and do happen in the wilderness, and if you are miles from civilization, the chances of survival largely depend on you and your gear. In order to be prepared for a trip out into the woods, make sure that you are familiar with the Ten Outdoor Essentials.

ten outdoor essentials when preparing for the outdoors

The Ten Outdoor Essentials is a list of items you need in order to enhance your chances of survival if an emergency situation occurs. Ideally, these items need to be brought on every outdoors excursion. After all, being prepared is better than being sorry. However, as you grow more familiar with the list, you can modify it to fit your needs. The Ten Essentials is helpful to approach as a number of different systems. When preparing for the outdoors the Ten Outdoor Essentials are:

  • Navigation – A map is a must have on any hiking or camping adventure. You need to know where you are going and how to find your way back. It is also helpful to take a compass and know how to use it to orient yourself. Topographic maps are extremely useful for backpacking and going off-trail. A GPS can be a helpful tool, although it should not be relied on only. *We have a great post on how to prep a map for your family for you to follow up with.

  • Sun Protection – Sunscreen and sunglasses will protect your skin and eyes from the harmful effects of spending time outdoors. Be sure to reapply sunscreen often and pick one that has a SPF of at least 30.

  • Insulation – Even if you don’t plan to be outside for a long period of time, it is always helpful to bring an extra layer of clothes like an insulating jacket and hat. The weather can change rapidly in the wilderness, and hypothermia is a real threat, even in the summer.

  • Illumination – A headlamp or flashlight can come in handy in just about every situation. Headlamps are preferred because they are lighter, use LEDs, and free up your hands. Just be sure to pack extra batteries. *We love this little tactical flashlight.

  • First Aid Supplies – A good first aid kit should include supplies to treat everything from blisters, scrapes, upset stomachs, bug bites, and aches and pains. You might even want to include a splint and latex gloves for broken bones or other serious injuries. First aid kits come preassembled or you can build your own emergency kit.

  • Fire – If you find yourself stranded in the woods, building a fire could save your life. Invest in some waterproof matches and be sure to include some sort of tinder or firestarter like dryer lint. *Make sure you teach your kids how to start a fire as well.

  • Repair Kit and Tools – Handy if your gear is in need of repair, a knife or multi-tool is a must. They can also be good for food preparation and a variety of other things. A good repair kit also includes sewing needles and thread, patches, adhesive, and safety pins.

  • Nutrition – Be sure to bring extra food so you can give your body the energy it needs. Jerky, energy bars, and dried fruit are all easy-to-carry items. *Dehydrated apples are a tasty choice that you can make inexpensively at home.

  • Hydration – Keep your body hydrated by making sure you have extra water. Bring a water bottle or hydration reservoir in order to have plenty. If you are going to be in the wilderness for an extended period of time, you will also need to find water sources and a way to treat water.

  • Emergency Shelter – Recommended even for day trips, an emergency shelter can keep you warm if you find yourself having to spend the night in the woods. Emergency shelters include space blankets or a bivy sack (Amazon affiliate link).

What are your essential items when preparing for the outdoors? What items did we miss? 

*Notes with additional resources added by Barb.

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