UPDATE: Never Leave Home Without…

I always intended to write a summary and concluding piece to the list of 10 things you should never leave home without.  Coming a couple of months after the last post was written lends perspective to the exercise.  The intent of this blog was always to validate that the advice given is practical.  If I can’t practice what I preach, then I need to rethink again what it is I am recommending here.  In addition, the perspective of the current “concern” over Influenza A – H1N1 (Swine Flu) and a change in season to Spring adds another valuable reality check.

So, here’s my item-by-item review of the list and how I’ve done with it and how I feel the utility of these items holds up:

Bag (Empty)

There is no question in my mind that an empty bag belongs on the list and at the top of it – alphabetical or not.  I have struggled at times to remember to bring one with me.  Honestly, the larger eco-totes that I recommended – like the Staples eco-easy tote, do not fold down to a size that fits in a pocket.  You really need to have another bag to put an empty one in.

Kiva Keychain Backpack

Kiva Keychain Backpack 1/2 size of Wallet

The bag I mentioned in the original post but had not tried out yet – the Kiva Keychain Backpack – is really an excellent solution.  It packs down to an incredibly small size (about half the size of my wallet) that fits in a (front) pants pocket easily.  I try to carry one of these bags with me all the time in that way.  When expanded, it forms a smallish backpack – certainly large enough to carry several items in an emergency, and the material (like parachute nylon) seems pretty strong and durable.  The only issue I’ve had with it is that if you put some heavier items in it, the adjustable shoulder straps tend to slip, but there is no risk of it opening and the bag dropping as it is a closed loop strap.

Flashlight

Maybe it’s just me, but I still find a reason to need a flashlight on a daily basis and I carry two Photon LED flashlights with me all the time – one on my keys and another on a chain around my neck.  I’ve been using the newer Photon Freedom-style lights, and I like the push button on-off much better than the old style (either hold it down or flick a tiny toggle switch to keep it lighted).

LRI Photon X-Light

LRI Photon X-Light

Honestly, the cheapest X-Light micro (at under $10) is sufficient.  So I repeat my advice to get a bunch of these – and pass them around – attach one to your briefcase, regular backpack, go-bag, etc., give one or two to each family member.  It will help you and them to be Living Prepared.

Glasses/Sunglasses

Never leave home without them.  And if I do, I always end up regretting it.  The other day, I was getting out of my car; it was raining.  I had a hat on, as I always do, with my sunglasses perched on the top, as they usually are when I’m not wearing them.  A man walking his dog was passing by, and he paused as he looked at me to comment, “With the hat and the sunglasses, you are ready for anything.”  Amen.

LifeSecure Safety Glasses

LifeSecure Eye Shields

Mindful of the fear of Influenza A – H1N1 (Swine Flu) many people have, protecting your eyes with glasses (sun or clear) or a eye shield can help prevent you from being infected by particulates spewed into the air by people close by who cough or sneeze in your general direction.  I recently ordered some Eye Shields from LifeSecure Emergency Solutions to keep with my household emergency supplies.

Keys

Keys.  Enough said.  Just try going out without them.

I did figure out that two of the small lock keys actually fit the padlock on the cellar hatch outside the front of my house – so one of those has been returned to my keychain.

Smartphone

Still attached to my hip.  Still without a GPS.  I think the GPS functionality that is available is useful, but expensive (both for a GPS-enabled Blackberry and for the service that gives it functionality), and I can’t justify it at the current time.

Stainless Steel Drink Container

Usually still attached to my hand – with tea in the morning, and increasingly a Klean Kanteen for water in the afternoon as the weather is getting warmer.  (We had a mini-heat wave of several days in the high 80s/low 90s in April in NYC).  It’s honestly hard to bring along sometimes without having a bag (not an empty one) to carry it in.

I’m beginning to think of recommending carrying a “mostly” empty bag with you – which provides a means to carry along those items that otherwise do not fit on your face or in your pockets – such as a drink container.  That solves a lot of problems of bulging pockets – especially in the summertime…

My regular backpack I keep stocked with a number of useful items – such as a couple of pens, a folding knife with serrated blade, some Zyrtec (for allergies), and epi-pen (if the allergies get really bad), a larger LED flashlight.  I put a glass case in it to carry whatever pair of glasses (sun or clear) I am not wearing.  If I go out without this backpack, I still have my 10 items with me.

My biggest problem with my double-walled, vacuum insulated Thermos hot drink container is that it does too good a job at keeping my tea hot.  I like my hot drinks warm, not scalding, and it takes hours for my tea to cool enough such that I can enjoy it.  When I have the opportunity, I leave the top off to let it cool down so I can drink it more quickly.  On the plus side, this has cut down dramatically on my caffeine intake, which is probably a good thing.

Swiss Army Knife / Multi-Tool

I still use this multiple times every day and would be totally lost without it.  Just yesterday I used the scissors to cut a reply form off to return to my daughter’s school, the Phillips head screwdriver to replace a battery in my son’s toy train, the small knife to open a package received in the main from Lands End, and the magnifying glass to read the small print on a label.  Oh yeah, and I used the reamer to make an additional hole in a belt I have (I lost 15 pounds due to the chicken pox and some of my clothes are hanging off of me now!)

One reader recommended a different model – that’s a bit less expensive but still has all of the important survival tools.  For me, I use all of the tools on the Swiss Army Champ – including the tweezers – which I’ve used twice in the last week to remove a splinter from my finger and my daughter’s foot.  I even used the pin within the last week to help open up a bottle of Gorilla Glue that had crusted over.

Vehicle Escape Tool

As noted in the original post, this is something you don’t use on a daily basis, and I’ve never used mine.

I did have the opportunity to demonstrate the functions of the ResQMe that I carry on my keychain to two very nice gentlemen from the TSA at JFK Airport, just before I handed it over to them before getting on a flight to Florida a few weeks ago.  I kind of had to tell them that they should be taking it away from me – both because of the seat-belt cutter blade, which although shielded, could be removed from the casing by breaking it open – thus weaponizing it – as well as for the glass breaker, which, although I am not sure it would break an airplane window pane, I would not want to try.  So I was without a ResQMe while deathly ill from the Chicken Pox in Florida.

I got another one out of my stock and have returned it to my keychain.

Wallet

Again, it goes without saying that you need to carry your wallet with you when you go out.

What I need to report on is how I’ve done with keeping the $100 cash in it and not pilfer it when I run out.  I must report positively that I’ve had great success.  I positively have forgotten that I folded up 5 twenty dollar bills and slid it into a side slot behind the credit cards in my wallet – unless I’m thinking about this post.  The credit cards, ID and proof of insurance are easy to maintain.

Whistle

Again, something I don’t use on a daily basis but am glad to have with me.  Mostly, I wear it on a lanyard underneath a shirt – but if visible, it’s a good conversation starter.  As pictures in the original post, I also use the neck lanyard to carry a Photon LED flashlight and a USB drive – which another reader also suggested carrying.  My SanDisk Cruzer holds a ridiculous 16 GB of data.

Honestly, the neck lanyard can be bulky either on top of or underneath a single layer T-shirt when the weather is hot.  So I have honestly gone out from time to time without it.  It’s an item that can be put in your briefcase, backpack or other bag that you carry things in (or the proposed “almost” empty bag alternative), and it also fits into a pants pocket.  So while I try to wear it habitually – I must admit to forgetting it occasionally.

What’s Missing?

USB Drive:

For the digitally inclined and data dependent, a USB drive – the larger the better, is a good thing to carry with you.  I carry one and will load it up with important files from time to time.  More often, it’s used for exchanging data (photos, files) with someone.  In an emergency situation, if you work with computers at all, having a USB drive with you could be extremely valuable.

My Fox40 Classic Whistle (in cool camo-color), Photon Freedom LED flashlight, and SanDisk Cruzer on neck lanyard

My Fox40 Classic Whistle (in cool camo-color), Photon Freedom LED flashlight, and SanDisk Cruzer on neck lanyard

So if it fits your personal and professional profile, a USB drive is definitely something to consider adding to your list of things to never leave home without.  I do like the SanDisk Cruzer because it contains software to allow you to install and run applications directly off of the drive rather than having to install it on the hard drive of a computer.  So, for example, you can use your Skype account from any computer you can use and plug your drive into, if you have Skype installed on the USB drive.

Hand Sanitizer:

This probably should have been on the original list.  Very useful for cleaning your hands while you are out – especially after riding on public transportation or before eating anything on the go. Also essential to have if you are out with kids.  I usually have a bottle with a pump around the house, but decided to stock up a but because of H1N1.  The 2-oz. bottle size is really convenient for taking with you and I got one for everyone in the family.  The small bottles cost about a dollar at any drugstore and I plan to refill them from the larger (and more economical) bottles I have in the house – especially one big one by the front door so everyone can use it upon entering the house.  When buying Hand Sanitizer, remember to always check the “drug facts” on the bottle to ensure that it contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol.  Any less and it will not be effective as an antiseptic.

Pocket Hand Sanitizer and Tissues

Pocket Hand Sanitizer and Tissues

Pocket Pack of Tissues:

Another item inspired by H1N1, I think this item also belongs on the original list.  Tissues are incredibly useful things, even if you or your kids do not have a cold.  They can be used to wipe up things, or wipe off things that you don’t want to touch with your bare hands as they may be dirty or infected.  (Use hand sanitizer afterward anyways).  You can use tissues to dry or clean off your glasses if they get wet (though a glass cleaning cloth is better and won’t leave link on the lenses).  Like water, or bags, tissues have hundreds of potential uses during times of emergency and normalcy.

Summary and Conclusion:

I feel pretty strongly about the original 10 items on this list… and now I’m up to 13 with the USB drive, hand sanitizer and pocket pack of tissues.  I started out this project by stating that I didn’t like top 10 lists and I wasn’t going to be bound by a number; that it was a starting point and an important attempt to place some limit on a list that if it becomes exhaustive becomes less practical and less achievable.  And making this practical and achievable is a key part of what I am trying to accomplish with this blog.

I am still tracking a few challenges with the list.

Mostly, it’s a lot of stuff to stuff into your pockets (keys, wallet, extra bag, hand sanitizer, tissues, flashlight) – especially in the warm weather – or wear around your neck (USB drive, flashlight, whistle), hang on your belt (smart phone, Swiss army knife), or hold in your hand (stainless steel drink container).

A lot of this can be carried alternatively in a backpack, briefcase or other (not empty) bag that you carry with you.  Many of us do carry such bags when we go out – but not every time.  My concern is having these items on your person is that they are always with you – and never left at home.

Changing the empty bag to a “mostly” empty bag – or empty of everything but these 12 or 13 items – may be a solution – as long as you always take this mostly empty bag with you.  I will report in a couple of months on how I am addressing this challenge, and will reconsider again the list of items never to leave home without.

In conclusion, I hope that these posts have proven useful to your own thinking about how you should be Living Prepared™.  I am not so arrogant as to think that everyone has to follow my advice to the letter.  I hope that you learn from my advice and my experience and make it your own.

Ten Things You Should Never Leave Home Without: #3: Glasses (as in Sunglasses)

My Favorite Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

My Favorite Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

What is it: Protection from the sun (especially) and elements (generally) for your eyes.  My eyes are particularly light sensitive and I wear sunglasses even on overcast days.   To be practical, the frames and lenses should be large enough to cover and protect your eyes from direct sunlight, wind and debris.  Most if not all sunglasses these days provide for total UV protection.

I recommend plastic or other non-metal frames.  Metal frames may be stylish, but they are not practical.  Metal conducts and retains heat (and therefore cold as well), so in hot weather and in direct sun they can heat up such that it is uncomfortable to wear them, and in cold weather, they can similarly become so frigid as to make them unbearable and can make your head ache.

Metal frames also have the tendency to bend out of shape and once bent, thereafter look awkward on ones face.  If you sit on your metal framed sunglasses, you will spend (or should I say waste) hours trying to bend them back into shape, but they will never look right again.  If you sit on your plastic framed sunglasses, they will either break – forcing you to move on to your next pair without delay – or they will survive and still look great on you.

LL Bean Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

2008 LL Bean Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

Personally, I prefer a nice large tortoise-shell frame.   At the beginning of each spring, I’ll buy at least three or four pair – a couple of nice ones and a couple of cheaper ones from a drug store – to last the year.  I’ll keep one in my car (as a backup); one in my bag.  My favorites come from LL Bean.  They are not available right now online so I can’t provide a posting but they should be easy enough to find once spring rolls around and they carry more stock of summer items.  [What am I, nuts – I was wrong – here is the link]

Another kind to consider carrying is glasses with clear lenses.  I carry a pair in my backpack, which is often, though not always with me, admittedly.  They serve the same purpose as sunglasses – they provide 100% UV protection and they shield my eyes from wind and debris, but are more practical to wear on overcast days than sunglasses – in particular during the snow.

Snow is a great example of typical non-toxic airborne debris that is desirable to keep out of your eyes.  Wind-driven snow will drift around, upwards and into your face and eyes – during a significant snowfall, it can be quite difficult to see of the wind is blowing at all from all the snow flying in your eyes.  But a decent pair of glasses with clear lenses will help resolve this problem.  In fact, I am going out right now, in the snow, and will be wearing them.  Very practical.

Lowe's Clear Polarized Lenses

Lowe's Clear Polarized Lenses

I got mine from Lowe’s.  These are professional safety glasses with impact-resistant frames and polycarbonate lenses intended for use in construction site environments to protect the eye from sawdust, wood chips and other pieces of airborne or flying debris.

Cycling and other sport sunglasses often come with interchangeable lenses – including a yellow one for high-contrast and a clear one for low-light use.  These are often also impact resistant and are a great solution if you find ones that you would wear as an everyday pair of sunglasses as they offer full UV-protection and are unusually well-vented to prevent them from fogging up.  (This is admittedly a problem with my favorite LL Bean glasses – though they get the design a little better each year).  Most, however, look like you need to be on a bike or otherwise running to be wearing them.

For those who already wear corrective lenses, photochromatic lenses would be a great choice – the new ones go totally clear in low light conditions – and for those who wear contacts, having a pair of corrective glasses with you is always essential as a backup.

There are some great articles about eyeglasses and sunglasses on the All About Vision web site.

LL Bean and Fossil Glass Cases

LL Bean and Fossil Glass Cases

Having a good glass case to carry with you (or to keep in your briefcase, attaché or backpack) will help protect your glasses when you are not wearing them.  LL Bean sells great cases for only $9.50.   But each pair you buy from them also comes with a case.  These are sturdy and mostly uncrushable, and can also serve a variety of purposes.  I’ve also picked up a few cases from Fossil.  Their outlet stores are a great source for inexpensive but stylish and practical sunglasses, as well as these cases.  The Fossil sport case is $10, not quite as big as the LL Bean case, and does not come with a cleaning cloth, so I think the LL Bean case is the first and best choice here.

Utility on a Daily Basis: Sunglasses serve an important purpose in protecting your eyes from harmful UVB radiation.  And as with your skin, UVB radiation is not absorbed by cloud cover, so you should be protecting your eyes even on a cloudy day.  On sunny days, having sunglasses helps us to see better, cuts down on glare and blinding reflections, especially around water, snow or reflective glass on buildings in urban environments.  When driving, they are almost essential.  For those living in higher altitudes, where UV radiation is stronger, wearing sunglasses on a daily basis should already be habitual.

And keep in mind that conditions change.  Even if it is dark and cloudy and raining when you leave the house in the morning, by the afternoon, it may be sunny and bright, so bring along your sunglasses even on rainy days.

Wearing Clear Lenses during Snow - Park Slope Brooklyn 02-03-09

Wearing Clear Lenses during Snow - Park Slope Brooklyn 02-03-09

In snowy conditions, I have found that glasses with clear lenses have great utility in helping you to see.  Personally, I am not willing to go so far as to advocate that everyone carry both a pair of sunglasses and a pair of glasses with clear lenses them whenever they leave the house, as this list is supposed to be both practical and achievable, but if it works for you to do so, you will be better prepared.  And on snowy days like today, glasses with clear lenses can keep the snow out of your eyes while providing them with 100% UVB protection.

Most of us carry a (non-empty) bag of some sort with us in any event – whether a backpack, attache, purse or briefcase, which is a good spot for your glass case and perhaps extra pair of glasses with clear lenses.  But you’ve always got one spot for your glasses with you at all times – and that’s on your face.

For those who wear corrective glasses, you are already protected, but consider always carrying a backup with you as if your only pair of glasses is lost or damaged, you may find yourself disadvantaged and unable to see.

Personal Report – Is Mark Living Prepared? Absolutely!  Even before committing to Living Prepared™, I rarely if ever went out without a pair of sunglasses.  And now, it has become so habitual that I usually forget I’ve got my glasses perched on the top of the brim of my even-present baseball hat.  This has become almost a fashion statement of mine (not high fashion, mind you, but just a look).

Glasses perched on hat

Glasses on Hat

I’ll often go out without both sunglasses and clear-lensed glasses, but I usually have my sunglasses with me – even at night! – sometimes in a case or solo where the lenses can be scratched easily – in my coat pocket (or on top of my hat!).

You may think this is why I go through 3-4 pairs per year!  But actually, I usually lose a pair or two by leaving them somewhere – or someone sits on them, drops something on them, or otherwise breaks them.  I got into the habit of only buying really cheap ($10 or less) sunglasses from discount stores because I thought that the more I paid for a pair of sunglasses, the sooner I would lose them.  But you do somewhat get what you pay for, and paying $40-50 for a decently put-together pair of sunglasses will serve you well as long as you take care of them as they take care of you.

Peeling tortoiseshell after 10 months of daily wear

Peeling tortoiseshell after 10 months of daily wear

Upon reflection, I now believe that the less I pay for my sunglasses, the more I abuse them, because they are not as valuable and I (at least subconsciously) consider them disposable, and these are the pairs that do not last the year (or even usually the summer).  As it is not always practical to carry a glass case with you, I’d rather have to replace my sunglasses after 3 months due to scratched lenses than to not have them with me when I need them.  So if I know that the glasses are likely to get abused, then I’ll take a cheaper pair with me.

I can attest that my regular pair of LL Bean tortoise shells – the ones where the tortoise shell is now peeling off of them – have been worn almost daily for about 10 months now – and are now (because I’ve had them so long) regularly abused by being put into coat pockets without a case, thrown on the mantle at night, and even put into a backpack or bag on occasion without a case (oh my!) – and the lenses are still in good shape.    I’m probably going to soon retire them from daily use for purely aesthetic reasons though I’ll hang onto them for a backup pair.

Admittedly  during the warm weather months, if I go out at night, I usually do not bring my sunglasses with me – as I rarely if ever (make that never) plan to be out all night anymore – what with two young kids at home – those days are behind me.  I’ll have to report in a couple of months – once it gets warmer here – what practical solutions I find for this.

Criticality after a disaster: After a disaster, you are most likely going to find yourself spending a lot of time outside.  This may be because your house/home is unsafe to enter or unavailable to you altogether due to earthquake, storm or other damage.  You may have to relocate or evacuate.  You may have to drive or ride to safety to another city or locale.  You may go out at night – and something happens – and you can’t get back home, so what you have with you is critical to your preparedness.  I want you to have sunglasses with you to protect your eyes.

Lots of natural and man-made disasters generate large amounts of particulates in the air that is best kept out of your eyes.  Building collapses; earthquakes; industrial accidents; explosions; fires; wildfires; volcanic eruptions; hazardous materials spills; radiological events; tornados; or other air contaminating event – all have the foreseeable potential to release airborne debris into the air.

Izmit Turkey 1999 - Sunglasses Perched on Head

Izmit Turkey 1999 - Sunglasses Perched on Head

Standard sunglasses or clear-lensed sports glasses are no substitute for professional eye protection – safety glasses and goggles – that may be required or recommended in the presence of smoke, ash, noxious fumes or these other hazards.  These have a higher standard of impact resistance than regular eyeglasses and sunglasses and will keep out completely many hazards.  But over-the-counter sunglasses are better than having nothing.

For my personal emergency kit that I use in my work responding to disasters, I carry such equipment, and I think it is also good to have in the home as part of your emergency stores – along with items such as half-face respirators and protective gloves.  I’ll discuss this in future postings on household emergency stores and supplies.  You don’t need to carry this equipment with you whenever you leave home.  I think that if the threat is that real, it would be time to move somewhere less prone to disasters.

In addition, like an empty bag, an empty glass case can be put to a variety of practical purposes in terms of storing, separating and carrying small items following a disaster.   I’m always glad to have a few of these with me when I pack my emergency kit.

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The Living Prepared Scorecard:  Glasses (as in sunglasses)

  • Easily Carried: YES
  • Not too heavy: YES
  • Practical Purpose on a Daily basis: YES
  • Critical Purpose when Disaster Strikes: YES

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So, wear sunglasses. If you do, you will be Living Prepared™.