Friday, February 3, 2012

Bug Out Bags

If you search for Bug out Bags on the internet you’ll quickly realize there’s a cult-like following for these things. The designs cover the spectrum of woolly-faced mountain men and their wilderness survival gear to gadgetry for clandestine operatives on the run from agencies acting outside the bounds of foreign governments. (And then there are those obsessed with surviving a full scale land invasion of the undead, but I won’t even give a nod to that group as I am a grown man.) Chances are what you need is somewhere in the middle of what the Brawny man and Bourne would pack.

Step 1: Formulate Your Strategy
As a former Boy Scout, the mantra “be prepared” was the capstone of any outing we went on. But before you can be prepared you have to know what you’re preparing for. Bug out bags are intended to support you for 72 hours in a disaster or “get out of Dodge” scenario. So think of the kind of scenarios that are likely to cause you to need something like that. 2011 alone saw flooding, wild fires, and tornado damage on a scale the US hasn’t seen in a long time. Below is a fairly extensive list of the possible scenarios that could affect you:
• Tornado
• House/Wild Fire
• Winter Storm
• Flood
• Earthquake
• Volcano Eruption
• Landslides
• Tsunami
• Earthquake
• Birth of a Child
• Terrorism/CBRN Attack (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear)
• Foreign Army Invasion
FEMA has provided statistical maps for the above disasters that show the probability of these events in your state as well as a more comprehensive emergency preparedness guide here.

Most of the time BoB’s are thought of as being used when you have to leave your house- but if you look at the list, in some of the scenarios it could be unwise or impossible to do that. What I recommend is to have a stash of items in your home that would be more conducive to taking up closet space but that aren’t easy to pack in a “bag.” Items like bottled water, canned foods, and extra blankets would fall into this category. This article will primarily focus on leaving your home, but the same principles apply to staying put- you just get the luxury of having access to more of the things in your house.
Another thing you’ll notice is the differences in survival objectives in the list of scenarios. Getting some essentials out of a burning house and holding off Communists require different tool kits. Financially speaking, start with the first priority on the list and work your way down until you feel like you’ve sufficiently covered your bases. It can be intimidating to look at the bill for how much this will cost you and throw the whole project out. So start with the basics and build your kit over time.

Where are you going to bug out to? Sometimes that’s a plan you’ll need to make up on the fly, but while you’re thinking through each risk, determine where you’ll go (or if you’ll go) and an alternate. If you have a family, make sure they know the plan too.

As I already mentioned, you’ll want a stash of emergency supplies in your house in a convenient location. You’ll need one BoB for each member of your family. Adjust the weight and supplies accordingly if you’re making one for a child. Make sure each family member knows where his or her bag is. You may also consider a smaller (or full size) BoB in your vehicle. Be prepared but be reasonable and stay in your budget.

Step 2: The Essentials
The four priorities for survival are: first aid, shelter, water, and food.

The Bag: There is no right or wrong answer here. Buy something big enough to suit your needs. This 72 Hour Assault Pack would be a good start.

First Aid: The first priority in human survival is take care of your injuries or those around you. Priority goes to hemorrhagic bleeding then airway restoration. Small first aid kits are readily available at sporting good stores, Wal-Mart and the like. If you don’t know what to put in a homemade kit, buy a prepackaged one. Know what’s in your kit and how to use it. A little preparation here can save a life. A pouch like this one can be added to the outside of a tactical style (molle) bag for easy access.

Shelter: You won’t last more than four hours in adverse weather. What you pack for this is highly dependent on your scenario and the season in which you need to use it. A bivy sack can be used as an ultralight tent if weather permits. For cool weather add a mummy bag to stuff in the bivy. Have a set of seasonally appropriate clothing ready in the bag. Being wet greatly speeds the onset of hypothermia. Pack a poncho- I recommend a camouflage one just in case either you or your pack needs to be concealed at any point.

Water: You won’t last more than four days without succumbing to dehydration if you don’t have water. Less than that if you’re in extreme heat or if you’re on the move. You can get dehydrated in the winter too- just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t need water.

Food: You can last up to four weeks without food but your ability to make rational decisions is key to a survival scenario so going without food for four weeks is out of the question.

  • Primary: MRE’s. They’ve come a long way from the Second World War- these military meals ready to eat are the staple for soldiers on the front lines. With an average 1250 calories per meal, they have the energy to keep you on mission. Man up and eat it cold. Don’t waste water on the heating packets for the food. Hang on to the heaters for later if you in cooler weather.
  • Secondary: Energy Bars. Excellent energy/weight ratios. Mess Kit- can be used for heating food and boiling water. And of course a spork.

Step 3: Additional items
Fire: You need a way to stay warm, cook food, and boil water. This is starting to get into longer term survival than 72 hours, but being prepared could mean being ready to be out longer than you anticipated. An inexpensive firesteel will do the trick if you know how to make a fire or so will this more expensive backpacking stove at the cost of space in your bag.

Security: This should be more focused on a mindset rather than a tool set. Pay attention to your surroundings and pack your things in a bag that doesn’t scream “I’m über-prepared for this” even if you really are. If you choose to pack a weapon be sure to know how to use it, and remember that laws don’t cease to exist in a disaster zone. Know your state’s laws.

Personal information: Keep an encrypted flash drive (or a cheaper alternative) with you, containing all your personal data. Copies of your birth certificates, driver’s license, social security card, passport, insurance, deeds, titles, wills- any important documents that are sitting in a safe at your house should be scanned onto an encrypted flash drive. It’s probably also a good idea to have a list of personal contacts and a household inventory saved as well.

Medication: Keep any medication you take- enough for 72 hours in this bag and make sure you keep it up to date.

Money: Cash or traveler’s checks. When you leave your house, split the cash up, so it’s not all in one location.

Gerber Multitool-I've had one of these since I was a kid. Still works perfectly.
• Flashlight- LED flashlights last longer but have back up batteries regardless.
Paracord- Bear Grylls doesn’t go into the woods without it- neither should you.
• Heavy-duty Zip-Ties- MacGyver’s efficiency rating would have increased by 14.6% with these bad boys.
• Duct Tape- buy the real stuff, not the El Cheapo. Save space by wrapping it around a water bottle or an old credit card.
Gloves/Demo Tool- for rescue work or other heavy work.
Signal Mirror- I highly recommend the SAR SESS-C. If you're in the military, ask about adding IR tape when you order.
Compass and/or GPS- Make sure you have good maps of your area and you know what you're doing if you go the compass route.
• Baby wipes- in the Army we take manly camo-wrapped ones out in the field but the kind you buy for your kiddo work just as well to keep you cleanish.

Emergency Radio/Charger
Two-Way Radios

Scenario-Specific Tools:
Terrorism/CBRN: On September 10th, 2001 no one thought hijacked airplanes would crash into towers and kill over 3000 people. If you live in or near a major US city (NYC, LA, DC) this should be a part of your preparedness package. To protect yourself against this kind of threat your kit should have potassium iodide pills (used to protect your thyroid from absorbing radiation), a good respirator, and a solid understanding of how to survive this type of event, all it takes is a little research. (What? You shouldn’t expect me to do all the work for you…)

Babies: Your town won’t go into mass pandemonium and your house will still be there when you get back, but having a baby could still put you out of your house for three days or so. Fortunately, this is relatively predictable , so tailor a BoB for things you’ll need to have for an extended stay at the hospital that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice.

Foreign Army Invasion: Call your buddies over to watch Red Dawn if they have not already done so and prepare for your Wolverine-style resistance.

Wrap Up
The links are a compilation of items that I use or items I would use, if I had the money. Buy quality gear. You don't want to make a bad day worse when it fails to work properly. You'll notice some of these items are standard wares for camping. Use it for both! The more you use your gear, the more confidence you'll have taking it out in a survival scenario. Just be sure its kept in good condition and always placed back in the BoB when you come back from your camping trip. As I mentioned earlier- don't freak out at this list. Buy what you consider to be essential and work up from there as your budget allows.
You can be prepared for an emergency, it just takes a little bit of thought, research, and shopping. Your family will be glad you did.

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