The purpose of a bug out bag, as per the all-knowing information resource Wikipedia,
“A bug-out bag is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster, however some kits are designed to last longer periods of time than just 72 hours. The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit.”
Bug out bags are not only used for apocalyptic “end of days” scenarios or the onslaught of zombies; They are used in case of natural disasters, if you are stuck on the side of the road in less than ideal conditions, or just to take with you camping, amongst many other uses. I keep a bug out bag in my car just in case I can’t make it home, am injured, or if I just need to make due with wherever I am stuck.
The major categories for any bug out bag are as follows (in no particular order):
- Water (or water collection/filtration)
- First aid
- Fire starting tools
- Medications (prescription and OTC)
- Compass/Navigational Tools
- Signal needs (audible and visual)
- Firearm and ammunition (if you feel comfortable carrying or are able to carry in your state)
Let’s touch on each of these categories:
- Food is something that can be found, carried, or scavenged. In a bug out bag scenario, I like to carry high calorie/low fat items that can give me energy if needed, such as granola bars, Clif bars, or ration bars. Any of these can work for a short period of time to give you energy.
- For long term food needs, you can carry freeze dried foods, such as Mountain House freeze dried foods. Because they are freeze dried, they take up less space and are also lighter. However, keep in mind that some require hot water to prepare, which we will cover later.
- You can also use a firearm or knife for hunting, if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Obviously do not use these practices if you are stuck on the corner of 1st and Main streets in downtown.
- Water can be collected in a number of different ways. What I normally use is a LifeStraw that I keep in my bug out bag. This little gem allows for the drinking of water from almost any water source by using a multistage filtering process. LifeStraw has also won several international awards for innovation. It is a great product to carry with you almost anywhere and is small enough to fit in a purse or bag.
- Water can also be carried with you in a bladder or container. Just keep in mind that a liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds, so carrying anywhere near the amount that you may need would put a considerable amount of weight that you will need to carry.
- Collecting water requires the treatment against bacteria. Distilling is one option since it boils off most impurities as well as sediments and other chemicals. This requires use of a fire or other means to boil water as well as a collection vessel. This can be time consuming as well as require a large amount of energy. You can also use a water filter with a water collection built in. Our LifeStraw water bottles contain the filter and bottle all in one, which makes for quick and easy water collection and filtering.
- Shelter should get you protected from the elements as well as off the ground. Having a tent is obviously the best option as it is ready-made shelter. However, in a pinch, you can create shelters out of leaves, sticks, or other items. We do carry emergency Mylar blankets that would work as a make-shift one person shelter, if needed. We will also be carrying a number of other items to use as shelter in a pinch, if needed.
Fire Starting Tools
- Fire starting is essential to survival for longer periods in unforgiving environments. A fire keeps you warm, cooks your food, and staves off predators. Magnesium fire starters, ferro rods, storm matches (ones that do not extinguish in wind or rain), or standard lighters work great for starting fires without having to waste valuable time and energy. I keep at least two to three different ways to start a fire in my bag at all times. You can even start a fire with fine steel wool and a battery or use Fritos corn chips as a great alternative to kindling (they ignite and stay lit for a while due to the amount of oil in them).
- As most survivalists will tell you, a knife is one of the most, if not the most, essential tool you can carry in a survival situation. Defense, hunting, building, first aid, and many other tasks makes this an indispensable tool. I always keep one on me at all times, no matter what. I carry the Leatherman Wave, as I have for years, and use it daily. For whatever comes my way, I can feel safe knowing that I have a knife at the ready.
- Always keep at least a day’s worth, if not more, of any medications that you take in your bag or in an EDC kit. You never know when you may be away from home for more than a day.
- I always carry a wool blanket as well as at least one emergency blanket in my car at all times. Wool is a great at keeping you warm no matter whether it is wet or dry, hence the reason Navy pea coats are made of wool. Emergency Mylar blankets work great for keeping you warm without needing to carry anything larger than your wallet. Compact, light, and always ready, Mylar blankets have kept many warm for years. They were used in one or more iterations for the NASA space missions due to the efficiency of radiating warmth from the body back to you.
- Lighting is somewhat self-explanatory for why you need it – without it, you can’t see! There are a variety of ways to produce light – LED Flashlight, incandescent bulb flashlight, lantern, matches, lighter, tritium, smashed up lightning bugs, etc. Whatever the need, I always carry some kind of light on me. Keeping even a small flashlight on your keychain can light your way in most situations, survival or just daily use.
- Knowing where you’ve been and where you are going are essential in a survival situation. Going in circles helps no one and only deflates your self-confidence. Shame is one of the biggest reasons why people give up in the wild. Carrying a compass or navigation tool in your bag is always a good idea. A simple compass to the most sophisticated GPS systems will allow you to make sure you are going the right way. I keep a small GPS unit as well as several compasses in my bag. Orienteering - even in its most basic form - is a great addition to this, if not fundamental, to using a compass. Compasses can also be made from a needle and leaf by “charging” a needle by rubbing it up against wool, natural fibers, or even your own hair to magnetize it. Float the needle on a leaf in a puddle or glass of water and watch it point north.
- When you are out of view, alternative ways of communication or signaling must be used. Carrying a signal mirror and/or a whistle can get the attention of rescuers or others in your team, if there are more than one of you. I carry a whistle in my EDC kit as well as my bug out bag. I also make sure that I have at least one item that is shiny and can reflect a good amount of light to signal, if needed.
- If you are a concealed carry licensed weapon holder, then you should already have this covered. If you are not, carrying a weapon and ammunition is determined by the state you live in and their laws. Personal protection with a firearm is better than a sharpened stick and takes much less work.
“Bug out bags” or “get home bags” are used for much more than just the worst-case scenario or some type of apocalyptic society. Having one is just the smart thing to do for the big and little “just in case” moments.
- Emergency Ration Bar
- Granola Bars
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