Bug out bag (BOB), survival pack, emergency kit, disaster bag, get home bag, call it what you will, but everyone should have a bag handy for just such an emergency.
God forbid that you should ever need it, but I try to live by the adage, “it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”. I put quotes there because I didn’t make up that saying, but I don’t really know to whom to attribute it, but he’s a smart feller.
Some of the author’s BOB contents
Suffice it to say, it is sound advice, sort of like the boy scouts “be prepared” motto. Suppose that you are driving far out from civilization and your car breaks down and you can’t get any cell phone reception to call for help, what should you do? Well, start walking of course. But now you are exposed to the elements and to various dangers whether it be from ne’er do wells or wild animals. What if? What if?
When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans a lot of people were left literally out in the cold, wet, hungry, and alone. Looters ravaged the stores and homes that were vacated ahead of the storm surge once the water began to rise. The police were overwhelmed, and citizens were pretty much on their own.
A backpack with a few provisions to sustain yourself for at least a few days isn’t expensive and could save your life. But what should you put in the pack?
Well, think about what the basics for survival are: food, water, shelter, and protection. One thing to take into consideration is how much do you think you can carry? That 40 pound bag of dog food doesn’t seem like very much from the car to the house, but try lugging it around on your back all day, it gets heavy. This is especially true if it’s hot or cold out, or you’re trudging through snow, mud, or wilderness.
An adult that is fit will, of course, be able to carry more than a frail older person or a small child, or an adult with, oh, say, back problems. Before any event occurs try carrying the bag on a walk in the park and see how it feels. You don’t even need to put real items in the bag, just put something in it to fill it and have weight to it for a start, just to see what you can manage before you start spending money on real items for the pack.
What’s for dinner
As I stated before, food, water, shelter and protection are the basics, so let’s start there. It is a good ideal to have a tin cup in your BOB for collecting water and cooking meals in.
There are high calorie nutrition bars that taste pretty good, are small, and easily stored for extended periods of time, so these are ideal for your BOB.
Dried packaged foods such as the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) like those used in the military can be put in the pack. They won’t take up too much space, and most have a shelf life of 5 yrs or so. There are several civilian brands available these days so you don’t have to buy military surplus from the Vietnam era.
Nuts have a good amount of protein. Raisins are a good source of fruit and fiber; they are, after all, just dried grapes. A good bag of trail mix covers this. It has various nuts, raisins, seeds, bits of chocolate, and almost everyone likes trail mix.
The simple sugars in the fruit can give you a quick energy boost, while the healthy fats and proteins in the nuts give you a feeling of fullness and supply your brain with amino acids essential to healthy functioning and reasoning skills.
Trail mix is easy to make and can be a crucial necessity in any survival SHTF situation where you may need to be under concealment or hunting conditions are not optimum (un-friendlies or heavy rains).
Another handy food to have in there is some good, quality beef (or deer), or even turkey jerky. Jerky is a lightweight, energy dense food. It can last quite a long time, and you can make your own pemmican like Native Americans and several ancient civilizations were doing for many centuries. It was stored for a harsh winter and used when traveling to new hunting lands without the availability of fresh food.
If you feel like you can handle a forty or fifty pound pack (or more) you can put quite a bit of dried foods in there. Ten or fifteen pounds of it will last a pretty good while.
Nonperishable foods like beans and rice when combined are a complete complex protein that is light to carry, so you can carry several pounds that can go a long way. It only takes a few ounces per person to make a filling and well-rounded meal. You can cook them in your tin cup. Brown rice or steel cut rice retains the fiber rich hull.
Another good thing to have in it is a hundred feet or so of fishing line and several hooks of various sizes, this will take literally no space and can come in very handy. All you need is a bug or speck of corn and you can always catch something to eat if there is a waterway handy. You can use it as a hand line or cut a green branch from a tree.
Have a drink on me
Keep in mind that water is heavy. Rather than trying to carry 5 gallons of water, water filtration straws and purification tablets could come in handy. The water filtering straw is available online at survival and sporting goods stores and sells for around 30 USD or less.
As a matter of fact, these straws can filter 50 gallons of water or more before you need to change the filter and you can carry several spare filters for continued use. If you really have to you could drink straight from a mud puddle with it if necessary.
Here is an example of a water filter straw; this is what I have in my BOB. No matter what brand you choose you should try to get the following features or similar.
It’s ultra-light (just 2 oz. dry) and compact (1 1/4″ diam., 5 1/2″ L.), making it about half the size of a typical filter. You can carry two in the same space as one of the competitors.
- Filter with MiraGuard™ antimicrobial technology removes 99.9% of harmful giardia and cryptosporidium, and other contaminants down to 3 microns
- Filter has finest quality coconut shell carbon that absorbs chemicals and odors, even improving the taste of the water
- Comes with 3 replacement pre-filters to maximize filter life
- Cleans up to 50 gals. of water per filter
- Patented Bite Me™ valve. “
If you have to start from scratch and buy a backpack and can afford it, they sell backpacks with the hydration bag built in that usually holds about a gallon of water.
If you already have a favorite pack you can just buy the hydration bag and wear it under the backpack. So, you’re out the door with a gallon of water to get you started, water purification tablets, and a filtering straw.
This should keep your hydration needs taken care of. Remember though, a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds (36 kg), so between the food and water you are already carrying twenty pounds or better.
A place to lay your head
Now that we have covered food and water, we will take a look at shelter. It’s not likely that you will want to carry a full sized sleeping bag, but it is possible. It doesn’t weigh much, but it can take up quite a bit of space.
The sleeping bag is generally tied to the outside of the pack, however, so it doesn’t actually take up any space inside the pack. If, however, you live in a cold environment, then I would say it is necessary.
Mylar survival blankets
Where I live the weather is usually not too bad for 9 months out of the year, and so I feel that I can get away with minimalism and go with keeping a few of the little Mylar survival blankets in the bag, although I do have a decent sleeping bag that can handle temperatures to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also carry a wool or fleece blanket rolled tight. It takes less room than the sleeping bag and is pretty warm.
Another thing to keep in your BOB in case of cold weather is a couple of pairs of pantyhose. Now I know that the big burly manly men won’t want to wear pantyhose, but they are thin and won’t take up much space as long johns but can be worn like long john underwear if needed. They are so small you can jam a pair in a pill bottle. They actually work pretty well and can be a filter is needed.
Waterproof matches are good to have, but a couple of Bic type lighters are even better. You can get hundreds of lights from them. I also keep a magnesium fire starter stick in there. Magnesium fire starter, you can get one of these for 5-15 USD.
It’s a good idea to keep a little magnifying glass too. But get a plastic one so it doesn’t get broken. In a pinch you can dirt polish the bottom of a soda can (or use a bit of that chocolate if you have any left) and use that to start a fire with the sun too.
Fire starting papers
Keep all fire starting materials in a tightly sealed plastic container along with some dry paper to help get it going. You can also keep some fire starting paper saturated with oil to make sure it can’t get wet, just store it separate and make sure it is sealed tightly so you don’t get oil on anything else. Then if you need to oil your gun or knife to keep it rust proof you can use them for that. It’s a good thing to have a small signal mirror in there too.
Also along with this list of items I will add that you should have a good quality flashlight in there too; as fire, light, and signaling sort of all go together. A small bright flashlight that uses two “AA” batteries and has LED bulbs is good. You could keep some spare batteries in there with it, maybe a four pack.
It may even be a better idea to use a rechargeable flashlight and get one of those small solar chargers. That will probably last longer than batteries.
The flashlight is to help you see in the dark, but to help me see farther I keep a small pair of Bushnell binoculars in the BOB. I also have a night vision monocular in there, because why not?
You could carry an actual tent with you, a small one or two person tent isn’t very big, but it adds weight and bulk. One lightweight option that doesn’t take up much space is a painters “drop cloth”. This is a thin piece of plastic about 10’x10’ or so that can be had for cheap at many locations, The Dollar General stores have them for a dollar.
If you’re really working on the cheap or just really trying to save weight and space a larger, heavy duty trash bag with three strategically placed holes makes for a very handy rain poncho, just be sure to wear a hat with a brim. I love my boonie cap.
These drop cloths make a very handy emergency tent. It doesn’t take up much room and can be used along with a few feed of cord to make a tent if it rains. This plastic can also help make that DYI canoe or a water trap. I would take one or two of these plastic drop cloths even if I were carrying a tent.
Hang in there
I love military Paracord. It’s cheap, easily obtained, strong, and serves many purposes. With a tensile strength of 500 pounds (some even more), and a small diameter of about 3/16”, keeping some of this can come in handy for lashings, tent lines, fishing line (pull a single strand out), snare traps for small game, or even large game really as the 500 pound tensile strength is actually a bit underrated I think.
I know that chain used in the military will handle twice its rating before it breaks, so I would guess they require that of their basic cord too ( although I am only assuming this). It’s always good to have some cord on hand. 100 ft or so of Paracord takes up practically no space at all, and is maybe the size of a baseball if you roll it into a sphere. I would suggest that you spool it and keep it in some type of container like a large pill bottle (vitamin bottle?) to keep it dry.
Cut to the chase
Another thing to have in the pack is a good working knife. You may already carry one in your pocket or on your belt, but keep another one in the BOB anyway.
A good, strong, sharp knife is a necessity. Military bayonets make for a good survival knife and can be had fairly cheap. Bayonets such as an AK 47 bayonet or the U.S military M9 bayonet have a built in wire cutter that is fairly strong, and both blades are strong and durable.
The M9 bayonet, IMO has the better steel and holds a sharper edge, but the AK 47 bayonet can be had much cheaper and is still a good, sturdy knife, I have several.
A 4pack of AK 47 bayonets (pictured above) with frogs and sheathes can be had fairly cheap. I bought a half dozen about a decade ago for 50USD, of course they would cost more now.
Sure, better quality knives can be had, but to equip a family of four with a good, sturdy, military tested survival knife on the cheap you can’t beat these. I keep a ceramic sharpener in the BOB too.
I also have a machete with a saw back blade in my BOB. It really comes in handy for gathering firewood, building shelters, or for warding off an animal (or zombie) attacker without having to expend your ammo. Gerber makes a good one that can be had for about 25USD, but there are many brands and prices available.
I have a Gerber myself and have used it for chopping and sawing wood and it works like it is supposed to. If you can’t afford to buy a machete you can make yourself one out of an old lawnmower blade, but it is a necessity to have one.
I also have a Fiskars hatchet in my BOB (pictured above), it fits in the back pouch along with the machete and takes up hardly any space and is very sharp.
Knives and machetes are tools, but may also be used for protection and defense, but if you are not prevented by law to own a firearm then I would suggest that you get one. I would suggest that you keep a good pistol in at least a 9mm caliber in the bag along with several magazines of ammunition.
It’s worth a shot
Whether you will just have it in the trunk for long drives, or at home in the corner, if all you can manage to do is grab that bag and nothing else, at least then you will still be armed although not ideally.
A good solid rifle
Ideally I would suggest that you buy a good solid rifle such as an AK 47, an SKS or an AR 15 and keep some ammo in the bag, at least 200 rounds (more if you can manage the weight). I’d say at least 10 pounds of ammo, more if you can tolerate it, as much as you can carry comfortably.
The SKS and AK 47 are cheaper to buy, and are actually more powerful and reliable weapons than the AR 15 (more hate mail) and ammunition is plentiful just as it is for the 9mm handgun I suggested. Whatever you decide to buy, buy one. It can be a 12 ga pump if you want it to be, but those are usually really heavy, and the ammo is big and bulky.
Combat proven means experienced
For these reasons and more I prefer the military weapons that are combat proven, they have more range and firepower than a shotgun has, the ammo is cheaper, and you can carry more of it. I’d even prefer a Mosin Nagant bolt action rifle over a shotgun, and those can be had for a couple hundred bucks or slightly more.
This rifle fires the very powerful 7.62x54r, and is also a combat proven weapon. Try to find the carbine version though, as it is about a foot shorter than the full size rifle. If you do decide on a Mosin just make sure that you fire it before you rely on it to be sure it is accurate. I have owned several of these and sometimes they just don’t shoot to the point of aim of the iron sights, but when you do get a good one they are fantastic rifles.
Broken shell extractor
Most of these rifles mentioned have a little cleaning kit with them but it is always a good idea to keep a broken shell extractor with them too, as a gun with a broken casing stuck in the chamber is useless. I actually keep a compact cleaning kit and broken shell extractors in my BOB along with a few tools. Also, it’s always a good idea to keep a pair of earplugs in there too in case you have to actually fire the weapons, no sense in going deaf.
A pair of walkie-talkies, an older cell phone, and some pen and paper should be in any bug out bag. You need all of them because you can never know which ones will work. If you’re dealing with an EMP disaster, paper might be the only way to leave messages.
Ouchies, I got a boo boo
It is always good to have at least a minimal first aid kit with bandages, tape, and sterile wipes. Although a more complete field kit with needles and suture material for stitching wounds is recommended. You can buy a large military surplus field surgeons kit (although not very practical for your BOB), but you do want a substantial, well equipped kit.
I would suggest that you have a snake bite kit and bee sting kit, as well as Benadryl in case you are stung or spider bit. Benadryl also is good for allergies to pollen and mold and the like so it is always handy to have around. It also helps relieve the itching from skin irritants. Topical antibiotics such as Neosporin and hydrocortisone are smart to have, as well as something for poison oak and ivy. GOJO hand cleaner is excellent to remove the oils from exposure to poison ivy and sumac, and costs literally 100th the price of Zanfel.
Another practical thing to have in there are oral antibiotics. These don’t have a very long shelf life and you usually need to get a doctor to prescribe them, but what most people don’t realize is that a lot of pet supply stores sell basic penicillin right on the shelf for fish (Amoxicillin). And yes, it is the exact same stuff that the doctor would give you. You would need to estimate your weight and scale up from the fish sizes.
Buying some of that and replenishing it as it expires is a good idea in case you were to become injured to the point of being concerned about infection. Remember, during the American civil war, infection killed more men than bullets. Most of the infected wounds were probably caused by bullets, but the men survived the gunshot wound only to die from the infection.
Protect your mode of transportation with socks
A couple of pairs of clean, dry, wool socks can be a lifesaver. If you get your feet wet and can’t get them dry you could suffer “jungle rot” and that is never fun. You can wear the dry socks while you are drying your wet socks and shoes over a fire or in the sun, whatever the case may be.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
And I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand going dirty. If you have a little more room, throw a toothbrush and a sample size tube of toothpaste next to a bar of soap in there too. If you are lost or stranded, (or bugged out) for a long time you will be glad you did. If you run out of toothpaste a little charcoal from your fire will do. Wood ash is also a good antiseptic for wounds and bites, but don’t take my word for it, talk to your doctor about ways in which you can help yourself and your family when doctors may not be available.
Most of the body can suffer to go for a bit without washing, like your arms and legs or chest. There are a few spots that can become bothersome, painful, or even unhealthy if left unattended for too long. You know where I am talking about. Yeah, I mean those nooks and crannies.
Longer story short, the more supplies you have, the better off you will be. Carry as much as you can manage without straining yourself or wearing yourself ragged. There is a tradeoff, remember, ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.
Food, water, shelter, and protection are the mainstays for supporting life. Think about what you may need in the area where you live or where you are going and try to get it in or on the bag.