Getting out of town
I would estimate that at least once a week I get an email from someone asking me about what is the best bug-out bag. I have apparently, quite noticeably, avoided posting on this topic because there is a ton of commentary already out there on the subject and it honestly just “depends.” However, after looking through “images” of various bug out bags on the internet, I realized just how poorly prepared and informed most people are. From junk gear to ridiculous “essentials,” I reviewed over 100 images and did not see a single kit I would grade as sufficient (of course a smart person won’t post their kit online). As such, the critical need for good information appears as relevant now as it ever was. So, in an attempt to inform our readers and answer your questions I want to make this discussion relevant. To do so, I must get specific to the unique details of each situation. Therefore, I will speak to kits best suited for urban hubs as well as specialized travel situations like at an airport or taking a cruise, both domestically and abroad, where someone could find themselves trapped during a crisis and needing to escape to survive. Due to the specificity of this series of posts, I believe our readers will find this information to be some of the most valuable and relevant tips and advice out there on the net. Further, the kits and my methodology have been proven over and over across the globe not just in combat, but in real life crises and disasters of every sort. As an intro post on this subject, I will cover the general issues, I see most often, to lay a foundation for follow-on posts detailing location and situation specific kits.
“What is the best bug out bag?” is the first question I normally get. The answer is simple; it is the one you have with you at the time when you need it. In both combat and peacetime operations overseas, I repeatedly witnessed the lesson that if it isn’t on you when you need it, you might as well have trashed it before you left. For this reason, I don’t like to refer to a bug out “bag” because it implies this may be something you don’t have immediately on you and left behind. Instead, I prefer the term bug out kit. However, as we will discuss, I do believe in having various preparedness kits that include bags stowed where they are immediately available.
“What should I pack in my kit?” is the second question I normally get. For starters, always use the highest quality items you can acquire. All too often I review a kit of a client and find that they have used cheap, throwaway type items. Ask yourself, how much money is my life worth. This is the gear you will rely on for survival under the worst case conditions. Can you afford not to have the best possible gear? The second part of the answer is put nothing in it you haven’t first thoroughly tested and become proficient with. In this regard I often find brand new water purifiers, radios, and firearms that have never been used. When I ask the owner about how to operate the system, I usually get a blank stare and a scramble for the directions. This is an automatic failure. Know your gear, use it, and master it. I don’t care how sexy your gear is, if you don’t know how to properly operate it, it is a liability.
Perhaps ironically, the third question I usually get is something in regards to the viability of their bug out plan. This tells me immediately that their planning priorities are out of sync and most likely will be flawed. A deep analysis should be done of your bug out options long before a crisis ensues. This allows time for proper rehearsals, testing, and modification of said plan under controlled conditions. Note, in later posts, I will discuss in extremis escape bug out planning. Further, before you can properly prepare your bug out kit, it is essential to know what you are preparing to do. For example, if you have to go through subterranean tunnels, headlamps, batteries, and respirators are a must. However, if your plan takes you through waterways, you better have a way to waterproof your gear and cross bodies of moving water. Finally, your kit must be fully integrated to support your bug out plan. For example, if you staged your kit on the top floor of a downtown high rise building where your office is located, but you spend the majority of your day on the road making sales visits, it is probably not going to help you in an emergency. Nonetheless, in spite of the seemingly endless variables, there are still basic essentials that a prepared person should never leave home without.
This list of items is not prioritized since I consider all items as must have. A prepared person will not only tailor their wardrobe for functionality, but also in a way that allows them to have all of their essential kit with them at all times. Optimally, “one is none and two is one.” I can’t expect you to incur the added weight in many situations for redundant systems, but you should opt for overlap in your gear and planning as much as possible. To make these posts as useful as possible, I will often reference specific products and gear. I have personally used all of the items I recommend and know that when employed properly, the gear will work as advertised. You may read these specific references as product advertising, but I assure you, I have not received any financial gain and am only speaking from my own experience. These products stand on their own quality and I am simply validating the products work well for the purposes I describe based on my real life use and employment of them. Further, there are many other products that are equally suitable or perhaps, better for your specific needs. You need to test and choose what specific items fit “your” needs best. With this understanding, always have:
- A means of communication (cell phone/CB/SatPhone/etc.): If you use a cell, make sure you have important numbers memorized or written down because in the event your phone is lost or destroyed, you may still be able to find and use another. I find that with phones, I can slip a laminated list of emergency numbers inside the battery compartment or protective case. Make sure you harden your phone so that it is stored in a ruggedized, shock and weatherproof case. OtterBox and Pelican make a rugged line of cases that have performed well under tough environments. With all electronic items, you should have a backup power source or spare batteries. I have used both GOALZERO and Solio commercial products for this purpose successfully. Both are well engineered as lightweight, packable, ruggedized chargers that are suitable for bugging out.
- Water: You cannot last more than a few days without water in the best of conditions. Your plan must provide for redundant sources of potable water. Optimally, you will need one gallon of water per day. However, water is one of the heaviest things you carry so for anyone bugging out on foot, it is reasonable to plan to carry as little as two quarts at a time between water resupply points, but your resupply plan must be sound. Many people have transitioned to hydration packs such as those made by Camelbak, which are excellent for hydration on the move. However, I still carry a couple insulated water bottles/canteens. The wide mouth containers are excellent if you plan on traveling in temperatures that will drop below freezing where the water in the hydration bladder tubes will freeze solid. Wide mouth bottles are also much easier to clean and thanks to insulation, keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Finally, depending on the type of purifier you use, a bottle is far easier to use.
- Purifier: If you don’t carry all the water you need with you, you must have the means to purify it as you go. Failure to properly purify water even once could lead to becoming very ill or contracting crippling…even deadly diseases. In fact, clean water in most of the world is virtually unknown. Fortunately, today, there are a wide variety of purification technologies to choose from. However, it is important to get the right information. In particular, most water “filters” are great for purifying relatively clean water or water only likely to contain bacterial (or larger) contaminates, but do not kill or remove viruses. Chemical treatments have similar virus “or” bacteria drawbacks and are prone to only being effective in a narrow water temperature band. As such, I tailor purification equipment to the available water sources in a client’s bug out plan. Dangerously, some of the worst diseases like Hepatitis and Polio thrive in water polluted with human waste, which is quite common during a disaster or grid down situation and would not be neutralized by typical bacterial purifiers using just a filter such as water purifying straws. Thus, for most applications, I recommended a redundant system of a pot or cup to boil water when stationary and a SteriPen to use on the move to effectively kill the full spectrum of microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, protozoans). The application of a few drops of stabilized oxygen can also serve the same purpose. None of these methods add harmful chemicals or a foul taste to the water. Further, few other methods effectively deal with all microorganisms across a broad water temperature range. In special situations where high levels of industrial contaminants are found throughout the region’s water supplies, I will also recommend a water filter that incorporates a carbon filtration cartridge to pre-filter the water and reduce (not eliminate) chemical contaminates.
- Metal pot or cup and a spoon: Whether you are brewing a cup of coffee or boiling water to reconstitute your meal, you need some type of metal pot or cup and a metal spoon. Further, when all other means of water purification fail, boiling water is still your best method to kill the things in your water that will make you sick. When selecting a pot or cup, try to find one that will “nest” with other gear to save space. Often people will take a very lightweight backpacker’s stove and fuel cartridge and store it inside their pot or store their food in their pot. Remember, you will need to handle your cup or pot over a fire when its boiling hot so have some type of tool to grab the pot, a handle, or leather glove. Having a fitted lid will allow you to boil your water faster, keep out debris and bugs, and prevent spills. Finally, make sure you have a couple of sealable plastic bags with a scrub pad to clean your pot. As for the spoon, it is a do it all tool for cooking. Just make sure it is metal so it won’t melt or break. If you want to shave a couple ounces of weight you can purchase a titanium spoon and pot. Otherwise, I prefer to use stainless steel over aluminum even though it is heavier.
- Food: Depending on your bug out plan, you should plan for a minimum of three days of food without resupply. A good kit will have both quick trail foods you can keep in your pockets such as energy bars and more substantial meals such as a dinner entrees in your pack. I have used bars for as long as I can remember to “take the edge off.” Bars, peanut butter, and trail mix are high energy, easy to carry, and reasonably non-perishable foods that will be your first option if you must stay on the move. However, as soon as you get a chance to stop, you will need to eat a high calorie meal. Freeze dried backpacking meals are some of the lightest, most nutritious, and easiest to prepare (just add boiling water), but are also the most expensive. Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) require no preparation, but are heavier because they already have water added. Both are palatable, but I would not class these meals as “good.” Both options also have long shelf lives, which combine to make them your optimum choices for pre-packed emergency food. However, which type of meal is best really depends on whether your plan allows for building a fire and boiling water or laying low and eating a cold meal from a bag.
- An emergency signaling device (whistle, mirror, high visibility panel, flare, etc.): Most people find a way to totally integrate this into their wardrobe. For example, attach a whistle to all of your jacket zippers and have an article of clothing that is brightly colored.
- Ziploc bags: Carry a few heavy duty freezer bags of various sizes to organize and waterproof your gear. Later, these can be used for many things such as carry water or gathering food.
- A weatherproofed fire starter (lighter, matches, fire steel) with some type of weatherproofed tinder (cotton balls dipped in Vaseline are excellent): This is not a time to prove your woodcraft skills. If you need a fire, you don’t want to mess around. Put one lighter in your pocket. Then have a secondary in a small waterproof case that includes tinder independently sealed. I have found small Pelican cases for water sports excellent in the regard. They are tough, float, and remain watertight. Fire starters are one time where redundancy is a must.
- A navigation aid (preferably a liquid filled compass): I have successfully used many different compasses. Suunto, Brunton, and Silva all make great compasses that can be acquired at a reasonable price. A lensatic model will be far more accurate for someone skilled in orienteering. However, don’t waste your money on super small (swallow size) survival compasses unless you plan on hiding it as a POW. They rarely work well and if it comes down to actually needing to navigate with it beyond finding cardinal directions, you will not be served well. A GPS and or electronic compass are also very nice, but remember they are never as robust; especially, in an EMP type event. Nonetheless, I still use a Casio Pathfinder watch with an electronic compass as a tool for acquiring a rapid and reasonably accurate direction and azimuth. If you have electronic devices, use them while they last because they are excellent navigation tools. However, they burn batteries quick. As with cell phones, you will have to plan on some type of recharger that converts renewable energy like solar or thermal to electricity. Also, be cognizant of the fact that in the wrong hands, your data stored on a GPS device could tip off others to your route and location. For example, if your GPS has a secret bug out location stored on it and you ditch it once the batteries die, but someone else later finds and charges it, expect visitors.
- A laminated map of any areas you will be or plan to travel to in an emergency: At minimum, you should have a road map of your local area obtainable at any gas station. As mentioned above, a stand-alone GPS or one on your phone is wonderful when working, but plan for a system failure during a crisis. Also, as with a GPS, be careful not to label your map in a manner that if it is obtained by others, would compromise your bug out plans. The easiest way to protect your information, if you must label the map, is to tape a piece of clear acetate paper over it and use either a wax pencil or alcohol pen to make your annotations. In the event of a possible compromise, you can separate the acetate paper from the map making the information useless.
- A pocket knife and/or multitool: One has a vast choice of knives and tools to choose from so pick what works for you. I found it best to carry both. For quick access and daily use, I carry a sturdy, lightweight, flip-out folder that can be operated with one hand and clipped inside my pocket for the most common tasks. The blades are between 3-4 inches so are still suitable for self-defense, but are better designed for making short work of packaging, game, and other daily chores like cutting bailing twine. Great knives in this category can be found for less than $60, but don’t buy a cheap knock off made in China. The blades are junk. I also have used multitools made by Leathermen, SOG, and Gerber. They are all great tools and each offer some special features and tools so evaluate each based on your unique needs. Further, if space and weight are at a premium, both Gerber and Leatherman have mini-tools that are well-built, very light, and can fit right in your pocket, but still perform most of the functions of their big brothers. I use them in all of my overseas blow out kits. Again, don’t buy junk. It really pays to get a brand name tool that is quality. I also see a lot of pretty massive bowie knives and exotic fighting knives. Generally speaking, leave them at home. For the weight and size, I can carry a pistol and keep it better concealed. Gil Hibben exotics (no offense Gil, I still love your works of art) normally aren’t truly functional tools. However, if your daily life demands or allows you to wear a sheaf knife strapped to your belt, then by all means opt for a fixed blade survival knife. They are tougher, safer, and generally more capable than any flip out folder. I really like the robustness and simplicity of ESEE, Swamp Rat, Gerber, and Cold Steel fixed blades, but for the price, Mora bushcraft knives from Sweden are exceptionally good survival knives for half what others cost. Mora knives are also extremely light and easy to pack so you can get away with one in your kit without the big weight penalty of others. One last note on knives, I often get asked about the old school Swiss Army Knife. They do many things, but none of them well. They are still great little tools and I still occasionally use them when I must be in a suit and tie or less “scary” knives are required, but they are not as user friendly as new flip out folders, not as capable or durable as modern multitools, and not suitable as a fighting knife.
- A flashlight: Flashlights, like fire starters, are an area where redundancy is key. I highly recommend all your lights use high intensity LEDs. LEDs use far less energy and are far more durable than mono-filament bulbs. For starters, I buy Photo LED keychain lights in bulk. I place them on all of my zippers and key rings and have them in various LED colors for signaling and illumination. An LED headlamp is something I always carry and find indispensable for hands free work at night. I also recommend you carry a pocket size, high intensity “tactical” light. These are designed to be waterproof and take enormous shock. Further, they are now very lightweight, put out over 100 lumens (bright), and double as hand held weapons. I have used Surefire lights for years, and still do on my firearms for their proven reliability, but find they eat batteries quickly and are pricey. More recently, I have switched to carrying a Fenix PD32 tactical light that is great. It puts out a blinding 340 lumens, is smaller than most cigars, and has a power adjustment button that allows me to use the brightness I need without burning extra battery life. For a tight budget, Olight does pretty well in this category too and shouldn’t be cast aside for the more popular brands.
- A warming layer: Even in the middle of the summer or in the desert, always have a warming layer to offset cool nights and rainy chills. Choose a garment made from wool or a poly synthetic material that will still insulate even when wet. Fleece tops with an outer weave that stops wind are excellent. If you can find a jacket style top with a hood, you will get even more thermal retention out of a small garment. Any of your major brands such as Marmot, REI, The North Face, and Mountain Hardware have excellent pullovers and jackets to choose from.
- A rain jacket and pants: The ability to stay dry is not only necessary for comfort, but for survival. Many people that die from hypothermia don’t die in the extreme cold, but rather, die in temperatures between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit after becoming wet. To stay dry, you need both a top and bottom. It is easy to discount rain pants until you actually have to stay out in the pouring rain and walk some distance. With only a top, water will soon be running down your soaked pants and puddling in your boots leaving you chilled with badly blistered feet. Pants don’t take up much space, but are absolutely necessary. Further, when coupled with a warming layer, the rain gear makes an effective light weight coat and windproof pants that are enough to keep you alive in remarkably cold weather. Again, all of your major brands of outdoor apparel make affordable, lightweight, raingear that you can pack into a small corner of your pack.
- Medical kit: At minimum, your medical kit needs to be designed to sustain life at least until higher level treatment can be obtained and should include a few items to allow for disease isolation. If your kit is to sustain more than one person, you should increase the numbers of the items contained. To begin, you need to obtain higher level medical training so that you can correctly and safely use the various medical tools and equipment, which we provide at LMS. With the proper training, the items in this kit will allow you to treat survivable wounds up to and including gunshots and amputations. However, you will need to train any other persons involved in your bug out plan thoroughly to use the medical supplies because it should be obvious that if you are the injured person in need of higher level medical care, you will be in no condition to do it. For treating massive hemorrhaging, carry at least two readily accessible tourniquets, two packages of Celox Gauze, one H-Bandage, a roll of Coban style gauze, and two rolls of ACE wrap. I prefer the SOF-T design for my tourniquets, which is suitable for rapid, one-handed application. For splinting a host of breaks and sprains, carry two SAM Splints with two or three cravat bandages and safety pins. For treating penetrating injuries to the chest, include one HyFin chest seal and two ARS needles for chest decompression will be sufficient. Burns are hard to treat so carry at least one packet of burn gel and a roll of sterile dry gauze. Airways are can be very complex to maintain so carry at least one nasal pharyngeal airway, a sterile scalpel, and a roll of cloth medical tape. For minor cuts and abrasions, carry a tube of anti-microbial cream or ointment and a pack of various size Band-Aids. For blisters add a section of mole skin. You should also have a pair of EMT Shears and a set of tweezers. Make a trauma pill pack (includes powerful antibiotics and pain killers taken immediately after a serious injury) for everyone in your party and then additional medications for diarrhea and nausea, acetaminophen for pain and fever, oral rehydration salts, and ibuprofen for inflammation. For body substance isolation, carry at least one N95 mask and two sets of properly fitting nitrile exam gloves.
- Personal hygiene kit: To stay healthy, you need to keep yourself clean. Your kit should include a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, a small bar of soap, a small washcloth or handkerchief, hand sanitizer, anti-fungal foot powder, lip balm with sunscreen, Glide anti-chafe stick (if you walk a long way and rub the inside of your thighs raw, you will never question adding this again), and nail clippers (this may seem unnecessary too until you deal with an ingrown nail).
- Duct Tape: Don’t leave home without it.
- Cash: During a crisis, the power is often out and banks are closed. This means ATMs and credit card machines will not work. If any money is still being used for transactions, it will likely be cash. During long term power outages, it will only be the people with cash that will be able to buy gas, ice, and other needed supplies until they are sold out. Overseas, it is also cash that can buy your freedom or the emergency airfare out of a collapsing country where the currency has been frozen and is quickly becoming worthless.
- Bug repellent: Some would argue this isn’t essential until they are forced to spend the night outside without a good shelter and get eaten alive by mosquitos, biting flies, and ticks. Good sleep and comfort are essential for long term survival, but only discomforting in the short term. However, more and more mosquitos and ticks in North America are again carrying debilitating and potentially deadly diseases such as West Nile, Malaria, Dengue Fever, Lyme, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which could be devastating in a survival situation if contracted. To reduce your exposure and risk, carry a small bottle of repellent. I find that Eucalyptus Oil serves well as a non-carcinogenic, natural bug repellent. If you must use DEET, use a formula with a concentration of no more than 30 percent. Higher concentrations do not keep bugs away any better and are just more toxic. Be careful of applying DEET to any synthetic or plastic material because it can dissolve it. Further, do not put DEET directly on your skin or body. Apply it by holding the article of clothing away from your body and spraying it and then wash your hands if possible. Ultimately though, your best bet will be dressing appropriately and covering your body.
- Sunscreen: Like bug spray, many people would write this off as unnecessary. If you truly don’t burn or live in an area that gets no sun, then that is valid. However, for the rest of us, a bad burn is not just possible, but crippling if you suddenly find yourself outdoors all day. For most of us, we spend most of our time indoors and our skin is not prepared for the sudden exposure to the elements. Further, for pale skinned people, a very bad sunburn could occur in just 10-15 minutes so application of strong sunblock is critical before we even venture out on a sunny day. To pack your lotion, find a small travel size squeeze bottle to carry a high SPF, waterproof, sun screen.
- A hat: Prevention of problems is of the utmost importance during a crisis. A simple item such as a hat not only provides shade for your eyes and can prevent your face from becoming sunburned, but it also is critical for maintaining body heat during cold weather. It is also handy for protecting your identity in urban environments continuously monitored by surveillance cameras. For a summer bug out kit, one should always have some type of brimmed hat. For colder seasons, a knit or synthetic watch cap is essential for warmth.
- Gloves: Your hands are critical to your survival. Protect them like you protect the rest of your body. It is quite easy to injure your hands in a manner that they could quickly become dangerously infected so take proper precautions. For example, after a major earthquake, medics were constantly treating patients presenting with deep lacerations to their hands. The quake had shattered windows and left broken glass everywhere. Anytime you need to work with your hands you risk cuts, abrasions, bruises, sticks, and blisters. Blisters are very common if you have to use a shovel or axe for any length of time such as digging food or cutting wood. If working on a car engine or rapidly firing a weapon you can also badly burn your hands. Environmental injuries are also possible in the summer from burns and winter from frost bite if you don’t protect your hands. However, almost all of these injuries are preventable by packing a pair of gloves. If you live in hotter environments, you can get away with leather work gloves or Mechanix type gloves. However, for colder environments, you will need to have either mittens or insulated ski type gloves to properly protect your hands.
- Eye protection: Vision is your most important sense and must be protected. Something as simple as a speck of dust can cause immense pain and blindness. Invest in a good pair of glasses that provide ballistic wrap around protection for your eyes. Try to find a pair that provides interchangeable clear and tinted lenses such as Oakley’s SI series so you can adjust them for all lighting conditions.
- Good shoes: Most people don’t buy shoes thinking about what they would buy if this pair was the last pair they could buy. Further, they often don’t get dressed for work planning to have to walk for miles in their shoes across rough terrain. Bugging out in high heels or smooth soled dress shoes is not an option. You will need to either be wearing the shoes you will bug out in or have a pair with you that you can quickly change into. Fortunately, there are plenty of great options for shoes that are made tough, will carry you for miles, and still look sharp. The best options across the board for bugging out tend to be mid-weight hiking boots or heavier backpacking boots made by companies such as Asolo, Salomon, Merrell, Lowa, and Vasque to name just a few. If you are on a tight budget, you can also find a pair of lightly used combat boots, which today are far better than the combat boots issued just ten years ago. Go to your local outdoor store to try on and find the pair that fits you best.
- Clothing: If you go to work daily in a suit, you need to carry a change of clothes with you. Your high dollar, custom tailored, designer suit is virtually worthless beyond inconspicuously leaving your office building if you need to bug out. Find durable clothes that are comfortable enough to walk for miles in while not standing out. By standing out, I mean that unless your plan absolutely requires you to wear woodland camouflage and look like you robbed the local army surplus, stick with conservative clothes such as some cargo pants and a pullover. You can wear colors like khaki, brown, and green if you need to be low profile without drawing attention. Further, even bright colors will soon take on earth tones from dirt and grime if a grid down situation persists. Ultimately, your clothes just need to be functional and should be suitable for the environment you live in.
- Any medications or eye glasses: How many people carry their medications for more than a few days with them? In the event of a crisis forcing you to bug out, you may not be able to get home to gather your medications. If you have allergic reactions leading to anaphylaxis, you must have at least 2 doses of epinephrine and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Further, how many people that wear contacts to work have their glasses with them? After just a day without cleaning your contacts, you run the risk of severe eye pain and infection if you are unable to clean them properly. To seriously prepare to bug out, carry at least three weeks’ worth of medications in your kit and if you wear contacts, have your glasses with you. Even better, if your glasses can double as ballistic protection, this is one less thing you need to put in your kit.
- Passport: If you don’t have one, get one. Preferably, get a second passport from another country. Put the passport(s) in a waterproof container and keep on your person.
- A shelter: No matter where you are going, you should have some means of providing shelter. At minimum, two Mylar space blankets and at least 30 feet of strong braided rope should be in any kit. I recommend two space blankets because they tend to rip at the worst times and are never big enough to cover a full grown man. Given the ability to carry more weight, keep the above and add a tarp. With a little practice and good site selection, a tarp is the lightest, most versatile shelter you can carry. However, if you live in an area with swarms of biting insects and/or lots of rain, it is worth a good night’s sleep and dry gear to carry the additional weight of an ultralight backpacking tent. REI’s Halfdome backpacking tent and Big Agnes entire line of lightweight tents are definitely great ultralight buys.
- An insulated sleep pad: If you are like many, your body is not as young and limber as it used to be. Having some type of sleep pad provides a significant improvement in comfort. Unlike others, I recommend carrying slightly more weight if the comfort factor justifies it; especially, in regards to sleep. When you don’t get good sleep, you feel bad, make bad decisions, are less likely to work well as a team, get sick easier, get chilled easier, and don’t heal as well. Sleep is all too often underrated by “experts” and critical during a crisis. As important as providing better sleep, a sleep pad insulates you from the ground. Even on “warm” nights, body heat conducted to the cooler ground can leave you freezing cold if you lay directly on the ground. On cold nights, it is essential to avoid freezing to death. The cheapest sleep pads are closed cell foam pads, which are durable and insulate well. Ridge Rest makes a proven line of refined closed cell sleep pads. For more money, you can buy a self-inflating, insulated sleep pad. Their major selling point is that they pack smaller and are generally more comfortable; however, they can be punctured and can weigh more than simple foam pads. Therma-a-Rest, Big Agnes, Nemo all make great self-inflating, insulated sleep pads.
- And a sleeping bag: Many experts would simply recommend sleeping in your clothes wrapped in a coat or space blanket. I have done this plenty of times and it sucks. You don’t sleep well and feel like you were beat with baseball bats. As noted above, sleep is vital. If you must travel with the absolute minimum of gear or are skilled at building an improvised camp, this is viable. For example, in urban areas you can layer cardboard for a sleep pad and find plenty of unoccupied structures to act as your ready built shelter. In the forest you can lay bows of pine under a rock ledge to act as your sleep pad and shelter. Otherwise, you can get away with a sleep pad and a light synthetic blanket like the classic military poncho liner. Anyone that has served in the infantry will be able to tell you about the many nights they spent wrapped in nothing more than their poncho and liner. I can attest that this arrangement can become very comfortable and works very well for summer nights in the dessert. However, try this in cold weather or during a rain storm and the fun wears off fast. Under these circumstances, you must modify your bug out kit. You will need a good shelter, a well-insulated sleep pad, and a good sleeping bag. Down bags are going to be your warmest for the weight and pack very well; however, they don’t insulate when wet. For wet environments, a synthetic bag is the better option even if bulkier and heavier. Both are going to add weight, but if your conditions require bugging out during cold and or wet weather, you are going to need the extra warmth. You can find a great bag at any good outfitter such as REI. I have found Marmot, REI, The North Face, Eddie Bauer First Ascent Series, and Mountain Hardware brand bags all to be outstanding.
- Binoculars: A set of small, high quality, ruggedized binoculars or other similar magnifying optic will be extremely valuable. This item is one that many forget or forego, but is vital to identifying problems and threats before they identify you. During a bug out situation, it may be necessary to cross areas that could be quite dangerous, gang infested, or otherwise unknown. Binoculars will allow you to safely observe the area in question from a covered and concealed position until you are confident it is safe to travel or can formulate and alternate movement plan.
- Additional items: Depending on your budget and ability to carry additional items you may decide to carry include a solar rechargeable multi-ban weather radio, hand warmers, night vision devices, a firearm, ammunition, and cleaning kit, bolt cutters, copies of vital personal documents, and gear specific to your bug out plan such as climbing equipment and rope, and river dry bags.
Now that you know what you need in a basic bug out kit, you can design your “bag” around it. Make sure you include in your size estimate any additional items you may need or want to carry. Find a bag that you can comfortably carry the items of your kit all day, but make sure the essential small items such as a cell phone, firestarter, pocket knife, flashlight, compass, cash, warming layer or jacket, food ration, and a water bottle are on your person. For all day carry, make sure your pack has a comfortable waist belt. The waist band is key because it is actually where most of the weight is carried. There is a host of military style or “tactical” bags that suit this purpose well, but I don’t recommend them. They tend to be heavy, uncomfortable, draw unnecessary attention, and instantly scream military. Unless that is the image you intend to present, it is best to buy a quality backpacking pack. Again, going to a store like REI and trying out various packs sized to carry the weight and volume of your gear is critical. A backpack is sized to the individual and outfitters specialize in finding you the best fit. These packs are designed to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and are more than capable of supporting your bug out. REI, Kelty, Gregory, and Osprey are brands that make a variety of excellent packs that will more than suit your purposes.
Where you store your bug out kit is ultimately specific to you, but it must be close by and readily accessible at all times. Another option to constantly transitioning your kit from house to vehicle to place of work is to pack multiple mirrored bug out kits and pre-stage them in key areas. I practice this myself and keep identical bags packed in every vehicle, residence, and place of work I regularly use. This also allows me to move light, react quickly, and not draw a lot of attention. When I deviate from my normal patterns, I make sure I carry my “jump” bag with me so that I never have to remove my pre-staged bags. If you can build your preps to this level, you will be far better prepared in the event of a crisis situation.
Today’s post covered a lot of information. For the beginner, this can be overwhelming. For the seasoned prepper, this information should have helped them refine their plans and gear. If you are serious about preparing your bug out plan and ensuring your kit is ready for the worst, contact us at Last Minute Survival for expert and discrete consulting. We can walk you through building a resilient bug out plan or evaluate your current plan, custom tailor your kit, and teach you the hard survival skills you need to safely evacuate you and your family from any situation.
By Guiles Hendrick
October 12, 2014