(Disclaimer: I’ll be putting a bunch of links to items in this series of posts; the links go to the Amazon pages for those items. I’ve got an Amazon Associates account; as such, if you click through the link and purchase the item, the cost to you wont’ change, but I get a percentage. That being said, the items I’m linking to are examples of what I’ve got, not of what I think you should get. Assess for yourself, and get what you feel you need/want/can afford. The links are not an endorsement of the items, nor of Amazon or the individual sellers on Amazon.)
Well, the mother-in-law visit is over, and no one ended up in jail (it was a close thing, for my wife). My favorite quote from the weekend: (spoken with horror in the voice) “You’re not going to do …farming… here, are you?” (Well, I hadn’t really thought about it. Now that you mention it, though, this being a farm and all, it only seems right…) I’ve a sneaking suspicion she won’t be visiting again, though–I’ll let you know next year.
Today, the one you’ve all been waiting for: the Bug-Out-Bag, or “BoB”. This one seems to be uppermost on the mind of most preppers, and I’d say for good reason. I’ve mentioned before that it’s got its own subReddit. It’s the one bag that even I feel everyone should have a version of, and is a complex enough topic that I’ll be dividing this part up. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it–well, that, and I honestly haven’t had time to physically go through the bags this week, so I know I’m forgetting items…)
Where the GHB and the car Go-Bag are designed primarily to help me get home, the BoB has the opposite main function: keep me alive if I have to leave the house for whatever reason–fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, evacuation, or whatever. It tends to be a bit fuller and more complex than the GHB or Go-Bag, mostly since I’ll have to take my “infrastructure” with me: if I’m going home, I’ve got all of my preps there to sustain me; if I’ve got to leave, I’ll have to get by on what I can carry. As such, a lot of attention gets paid to the size, weight, and relative importance of everything that goes into it. Redundancy is good, to a point: if the BoB is too heavy to lift or carry for more than a short way, it’s not going to be all that helpful. My family has helped with this in that we’ve got four bags, one for each human, with things scattered throughout (and backups of vital items in multiple bags).
The foundation for any BoB, but paradoxically probably not the place you should start, is the bag itself. I say you shouldn’t start there because it’s too easy to get entirely the wrong bag–too big, too small, too many pockets, not enough pockets, whatever. Start off using what you’ve got–an old school backpack, or even one of those cloth ‘grocery bags’ you can get at the organic grocer. Upsize as you fill it, keeping comfort and portability in mind. The bags that my wife and I use are the trusty Army-issue large A.L.I.C.E. packs. These have plenty of space for everything, and have a lightweight frame and kidney-pad that make them easy to tote for long distances; they can be a bit pricey (they run in the $50-60 range, typically), but bargains can be found in searching surplus stores and prowling Ebay. The children each have bags, typically from last year’s school backpack. The annual “move” to a new pack gives a handy excuse for revisiting, replacing, renewing, and upgrading the contents as needed. We’re also looking at getting pannier-packs (“saddlebags“) for the dogs; my wife will probably end up making them, as we haven’t found a pack big enough for our dogs. (Our Great Pyr pup, at just over a year old, is over 130 pounds and still growing…)
Having the bag isn’t enough, of course; you have to have things to put in it:
- Clothes. Each bag has a complete change of clothes, plus additional socks and underwear. An extra set of shoes takes space and weight, but is useful. ‘Clothes’ in this case also includes a sweater and sweatshirt/hoodie, a hat, and multiple bandannas (which have several uses, and are well worth the little space they take up).
- Fire-starting gear. These tend to be small, so I recommend multiple redundancies. Matches, lighters, firesteels; I’ve even got flints & striking steels (seriously!).
- Once you have a fire, you need to be able to cook with it. My wife found this small camp stove stand; it’s exceptionally lightweight and small, and can be used with the fuel blocks (each BoB has a pack of these), or flipped over & used on a conventional fire.
- Several mylar emergency blankets.
- Rain gear (ponchos).
- A quality first-aid kit.
- A “go-jug” for some non-perishable foodstuff (more on this later).
- Water filtration and purification means, plus a container to hold the water.
- Some rope or line (usually more 550 cord).
- A flashlight, plus extra batteries (check these regularly). We also have headlamps for use when we need to use our hands.
- The ever-popular knife.
There are also a few “floating” pieces of gear whose location will vary from one pack to the next–they tend to be a little more specialized, or else too expensive or large to have one in each kit. They include:
- A solar battery charger. This one does AAA, AA, C, and D cells, particularly useful if that’s what your flashlights and/or radios take. Speaking of radios, there is also:
- A multi-power-source radio. It runs from grid-power, battery, solar, or a hand-crank, and can charge small electronics (cell phone, possibly an Ipad–I haven’t tried it, personally). It picks up AM/FM as well as NOAA stations.
- Walkie-talkies. We’re scaling up to have one of these per pack, but at the moment we’ve only got a pair. Make sure to set them to the correct channels, so that they’ll receive each other. (You may want to look into an GMRS license, as well–it’s not that expensive, and vastly increases the number of channels available, which might be useful in an emergency by decreasing the amount of traffic on the channel.)
- A small axe. I’ve got this Wetterlings; if you get something a little smaller, it’ll be a little less expensive–but I’ve found that generally, in axes and hatchets, you get what you pay for. (If you can spring for it, I recommend Gransfors Bruks–the quality is superb.)
Those are the main bits; I’ll detail the “go-jug” (and fill in whatever things I can’t remember) in my next post. Are you with me, so far? Any questions on what I’ve got, and why? Feel free to ask; I’ll try to round up those sorts of questions as well next week.