Pet BOB, Part 2: Food & Water

This is Part 2 of a 6-part series on building an emergency BOB (bug-out bag) for you and your animals.

Water

Water is crucial to the survival of all organisms, second only to air.  Dogs and cats need about a half cup of water per five pounds of body weight each day.  Rabbits and rodent pets will drink one to two cups per day; poultry will drink two to four cups per day; and large livestock may drink as much as ten gallons per day.  Humans should drink half a gallon of water a day, and may use up to another half gallon a day for activities such as washing hands and brushing teeth.

A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds.  Carrying three gallons or more for personal use can quickly tax a person’s energy, not to mention water for pets, livestock, or children.  Pets and livestock can drink most unfiltered water, directly from a stream or spring, but such sources may be contaminated with bacteria that can make humans ill.  An excellent alternative to carrying multiple jugs of water is carrying a small, portable water filter and one or two smaller containers for storing or carrying filtered water.  LifeStraw is one of the highest-rated portable water filters and comes in many forms for various uses.  The Flex filter with two-stage carbon filtration removes the broadest variety of water contaminants, but the Mission filter has a three-gallon capacity that can be used for showering.

If you store water in your BOB, make sure to replace it every six months at minimum.

Don’t forget how you are going to dispense water to your pets!  Most animals cannot drink from water bottles the way people can and need a bowl.  Collapsible bowls are easier to pack, but may also blow away if they are not weighted and can grow mildew in seams.  Small, stainless steel bowls are lightweight and easy to clean, but take up more space.  Choose a bowl based on your pets preferences.  Small pets like rabbits can use bottles with the appropriate dispensing attachment; there are dispensers that are designed to work with standard-sized soda bottles, which allow you to convert most 20-ounce, 1-liter, or 2-liter bottles into drinking bottles for these pets.

Food

Food is another important component to survival.  Most livestock can readily survive on forage, but pets and humans are less able.  Be aware of your pet’s food capacity: unless you feed a high-quality dry food, you will need to carry a larger volume of dry food than you would canned food; however, canned food weighs more.  Canned food can substitute for a percentage of the water that a pet needs to consume each day.  Canned food typically has a longer shelf life and will need updated less often in your BOB; additionally, dry food shelf life decreases when its packaging is opened, which is often the case if you are trying to pack only a few days’ worth of food in your BOB.  Dry treats are frequently higher-calorie than regular pet food.  Stress situations like an emergency may cause a pet to reject their regular dry food; canned food and treats can be literal life-savers in this case.  Mixing canned food with dry food can keep pets eating dry food without rapidly depleting the wet food supply.  Carrying a couple of days’ worth of each canned and dry food as well as a new bag of treats is a balanced approach to keeping your pet fed during an emergency.

Although livestock can forage for food or be fed by forage you cut and bring to them, it is a good idea to have a high-calorie option to supplement the forage.  A five-pound bag of grain takes up very little space in a BOB and can keep your livestock happy.  Rodent salt spools can serve to provide trace nutrients without much increase to the weight and volume used in your pack.

Single-serving sized instant oatmeal, dried fruit, nuts, and jerky cover three of the main food groups for humans, and the oatmeal (plain, no added sugar), fruit (without added sugars), and nuts (unsalted and unseasoned) can also supplement pet and livestock feed.  Dehydrated carrots and onions, which can be used to make vegetable broth (which can be combined with dry soup mixes or ramen noodles), and instant mashed potatoes provide light-weight vegetables for your BOB.  Powdered milk can be used to make the oatmeal and provide a small amount of dairy.

Don’t forget containers to serve up your food in, both for you and your pets!  A camping mess kit (like this Stansport one) will cover most of your needs.

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