Many years ago when I had just started dating the gal who I would wind up getting married to, she purchased a commercial ’3-day kit’ to keep in her truck. This would have been around 2003 or so. Once she moved to Montana she put together something more elaborate and the previous kit was left stuffed in the truck box. (You know, those diamond-plate lockers that sit in the bed behind the cab of the truck.) That truck box was removed from the truck and left sitting in the yard these last eight or nine years…along with that bag. So it’s gone through almost ten years of freeze/thaw cycles and ten years of summer heat. While re-installing the truck box for an anticipated long road trip we discovered this old kit in the truck box. I thought it might be interesting to see how nearly ten years of neglect has treated it.
Chemlights – The wrappers say they expire in 2007. Seemed to work just fine. This is unsurprising because I have found absolutely no consistency with lightstick longevity. Stored outdoors, going through freeze/thaw/heat cycles and it works fine past its expiry date…then I get some that are stored properly, in a perfect storage environment, and they don’t work. It’s magic, not science.
Candles – Well, technically I suppose the candles would work but they had melted and re-solidified many, many times into something resembling a golf ball with a string hanging out of it.
Water – There were about a dozen of those little lifeboat ration foil packages of water. They held up just fine. ( I have some almost twenty years old and they seem to taste just fine.) My experience has been that these things hold up quite well over time as long as you protect the packaging from punctures. These packages of water will be cycled into exisiting stockpiles.
Toilet paper – Doesnt go bad. Stuffed into a plastic bag it seems to have made the trip with no problems. However, a sealed container of wetwipes-type product did not fare as well, having dried out completely.
MREs – The dried ones…cookies, trail mix, etc….are all fine. I’m reluctant to crack open the entree ones to try out (western beans, jambalaya, chicken with noodles, etc). The foil pouches show no signs of swelling or other signs of failure, but I’m not a huge fan of MRE entrees even when they arent ten years old.
Snack bars – Chewy, oatmeal-n-fruit bars. Still moist and flexible, foil packaging appears to have held up.
Chemical handwarmers – surprisingly, still work.
Waterproof matches in cardboard box – Still work.
Plastic tube tent – Has mostly fused to itself. Might be useful, but, really, even when new these things are of marginal utility.
First aid kit – all the contents appeared usable except for anything that was moist/wet. Foil packets of antiseptic wipe had dried out. No surprise. I find that those types of products in that type of packaging only last a year or so. Some of the bandages that were wrapped in paper were starting to ahve the paper delaminate fron itself. Sterility may have been compromised, but utility wasnt.
The rest of the contents are things that are largely unaffected by time and temperature….sierra cup, sporks, mylar space blanket, that sort of thing. This kit was purchased from Major Surplus so it isn’t (or wasn’t, I suppose) exactly what you might think of as ‘comprehensive’ but it was certainlybetter than nothing. The kits we keep in the vehicle nowadays are far more complete with much better quality materials. True, they take up a bit more space but the tradeoff is quite worth it, in my opinion.
Interestingly, Major is still selling almost the exact same kit. The color of the pack is different, and some of the food components are different, but otherwise its the same one. Forty bucks today, I have no idea what it cost ten years ago. However, they call it a 72-hour kit and I gotta say, if I’m spending three days living offa whats in my backpack I am definitely going to prefer one that I packed myself. But, as I said, for someone who wasn’t into preparedness at the time this was still better than being completely unprepared.