Ursus’s take on a baseline for Bug Out Bags
Anyone who spends any time looking into preparedness will soon come across the term Bug Out Bag, Get Out Of Dodge bag, or even a Get Home bag. In most of its definitions the Bug Out Bag (BOB) is based of the 72-hour assault pack idea used by the military and possibly the idea behind the diaper bag for those with children. The BOB is different from the idea of a 72-hour “kit” that FEMA and many other government sites recommend. The 72-hour kit is more of what you might need to shelter in your home or a limited evacuation. Regardless of what you are wanting to prepare for, be it the end of the Mayan calendar or the Zombipocalypse, the basic idea behind the BOB is that it is the one thing you would grab if you could only grab one thing before being forced from your home. What I am going to go over for you is where to start, a foundation for your personal BOB.
The biggest factors in choosing your gear will be weight, durability, and cost. When looking at these factors try to keep in mind a realistic idea of your physical conditioning and limitations. If you have major physical limitations to what you can carry, then it makes little sense to get a huge pack with a frame. If you go as cheap as possible then chances are you will end up with a pile of junk in the middle of a crisis.
Bag selection is the big first step and there are some options to consider. If possible get a pack with a hip belt as it will make carrying easier by distributing the weight, a frame is a must if you are able to haul larger amounts of weight. If you are only able to carry a small pack or messenger bag, opt for one with a well padded strap to save wear and tear on your shoulders. For any bag, try to get one made of fairly rugged material. Military surplus is a good source for your BOB, though something overtly military may draw unwanted attention.
Now that you have picked out your BOB you will want to start to fill it. Food and water are probably make up most of the weight you will be carrying. You can live three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food – but you won’t be happy. Unfortunately due to mass restrictions, we will need to compromise in this area.
Water is a vital to our survival, and it weighs a lot. One gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds, and most sources recommend a minimum of 1 gallon a day minimum. For 72-hours that is 25 pounds of water. I am aware that my recommendation does not cover that amount, but in this area I am looking at bare minimum equipment. For a container I recommend a 32 ounce/1 quart steel water bottle. Many water purification items you can get are based on this amount and you can use the steel container to boil water that you might find. A filtration straw or purification tablets would be a good addition, and if on a budget you can use a few drops of unscented bleach to disinfect the water, so a small bottle would come in handy, just rotate it out every 3-6 months. Boiling is still the safest method for killing the harmful bacteria in water.
Food is another area where a lot of weight can add up quick (in more ways than one as any dieter will tell you). To put it simply Fat=Calories=Energy and if you are in a situation where you need to use your BOB, you will probably be burning a lot of calories. Things you want to keep in mind are foods that have a lot of calories, minimal or no preparation, and that can handle sitting in a bag for months at a time. A good baseline is 2000+ calories a day. Peanut butter is probably the cheapest, most calorie dense, easily transportable food you can take. It has been brought to my attention that an oil and rice mix could be an alternative for those with peanut allergies. Remember this is to get you some place better, not a consistent diet. Laxatives or Imodium may be needed after three days of this diet, and on that note I will mention that the decision to add a half to a full roll of toilet paper with the tube removed is highly recommended.
The next item to consider is shelter. Shelter is not just a tent or a blanket but your clothes as well. It is protection from the elements and the pokey things that are abundant in the environment.
If possible, keep a good pair of broken in hiking or walking shoes tied to your bag. At least one set of good, comfortable work clothes and three sets of underwear/socks would follow that. You could skip the change of clothes if physical limitations require less weight, but the underwear and socks are essential for health and hygiene. Just as a good pair of socks and shoes is essential to maintaining mobility, a good set of gloves protects your tool users. You will want something with leather palms if possible. A simple rain poncho can round this out as they are inexpensive and take minimal room.
For the second half of our shelter equation we would start with a “space” or emergency blanket. These heat reflectors are light, compact, and relatively inexpensive. Make sure to throw in a few good size trash bags as these can be used for things from a ground tarp to a container for collecting leaves for a debris shelter. If you are able to add a blanket, wool will retain its insulating properties when wet.
I am going to address fire at this time as it pertains heavily to shelter. Lighters are great, so are matches, and a ferrocerium rod can be tucked about anywhere. Carry all three as they are small and light. The key to any of these ignition sources is good tinder. Cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly are the tinder of choice for many a budget minded prepper. If at all possible, practice your fire making skills ahead of time. Make sure you are outside, in a safe controlled environment with an extinguisher handy. Your safety is your responsibility, not mine.
Paperwork is a part of our everyday lives and the bug out bag is no different. Since you may be fleeing your home you will want to have copies of important documents and contact info with you either in hardcopy or on a thumb drive. To be brutally honest, considering writing a quick note concerning next of kin for contact should the zombies recruit you would be wise. Another form of paperwork needed is a map, this could be a simple roadmap from a gas station or Google map printouts of possible escape routes, a compass to go with this is highly recommended. After all, it really helps to know where you are running to.
Next up are tools. A knife is man’s most basic tool and every good BOB will have at least one. At the bare minimum a folding knife with about a 3” blade will get you by. A bigger, heavier fixed blade knife can be used to split wood by batoning (hitting the back of the blade to drive it split apart a branch). This ability lets it almost replace a camp axe. A multi tool is a good addition and they can be found relatively cheaply if budget is a concern. If you can’t afford or find a multi tool, try to get a pair of pliers as that is the most used part of the multi tool. A flashlight is next, a hand cranked model can be had fairly cheaply and does not require batteries. A good length of cord of some kind is a must. 550 parachute cord is a favorite for kits, the 550 means it can hold up to 550 pounds.
First aid and hygiene would be next on the list. In my kit I use a small, pre-made travel kit I bought from Wally Mart with deodorant, toothpaste and the like in it. Women will have their own considerations to address as well. First aid should, at minimum, be band aids, antibiotic ointment, and a bottle of the pink stuff. If feasible, a 3-5 day supply of prescription meds would be in the bag. This may not be feasible due to storage and legal concerns. Use your best judgment.
So now you have all this stuff spread over the table, bed, or floor, you will need plenty of Ziploc bags in various sizes. These are the poor man’s stuff sack for gear. Not only will putting your gear in these keep it clean and dry, the bags will have a myriad of uses in the field. Once you have everything bagged, you can pack your BOB. You will want to prioritize your packing by trying to pack often needed items at the top while keeping weight evenly distributed.
Again, this is a minimal baseline for you to build off of. I encourage you to add to this as your taste, budget, and abilities allow. I cannot help but dwell on the irony of so much time invested in this with the hope that it remains unused.