Bug Out Bags 101
Go Bags are an essential element of prepping. Part 1 of a 2 part series, this article describes the importance of Go Bags, why you need them, and what you’ll need such as food, water, defensive tools, and other things that just might save your life.
The bug out bag, as the prepping community would call it, simply refers to a backpack or duffel bag equipped with survival gear. Some seasoned preppers would have varying opinions on what should actually go inside the bag but all would agree that there are some basic necessities that should be included. Over the course of the next few issues we will examine the GO Bag and what you should know as a beginner.
We all know at least one of them. You know, the guy that has so much stuff crammed into his bug out bag that he could fend off a small horde of zombies in the apocalyptic invasion. Before we begin though, I think that it is worth discussing why creating a GO bag is not just for the extreme prepper.
We all remember the devastating impact that Hurricane Katrina had on the parishes of Louisiana. The US Government promised the citizens that help was on the way when in fact it took weeks to set up makeshift medical facilities, food and water distribution points and even shelter for those whose homes were completely destroyed. Do you remember people refusing to leave their pets and were found dead clinging to what little they had? It is a well-known fact that even in the places where people were supposed to be safe, outbreaks of cholera and E. coli were rampant and thousands of people became sick from contaminated food and water.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that they would take extreme measures to prevent such an event from recurring. In fact, FEMA on their website now recommends that every American have in his or her possession an emergency bag that can sustain oneself for 72 hours because help may not be available.
The government has gone to great lengths to publish leaflets and handouts for those individuals that may be handicapped, shut-ins or even those with pets to help aid them in creating a list of the things they would need to sustain themselves until help could arrive.
Not as if Katrina was enough for the government to learn its lesson and help Americans prepare for natural disasters, in 2012 the Northeast was devastated with Hurricane Sandy and immediately after that a huge snowstorm that left tens of thousands of people without power, food, and water.
Just as extreme preppers prepare for the collapse of the economic system, oil shortages, nuclear fallout, or whatever extreme reason, you should prepare for those times when nature does its worst. Preparing for a massive earthquake, disruptive ice storms and other harsh weather conditions just simply makes sense. Food, water, and other essential supplies will fly off the shelves and be-come scarce. Massive lines for gasoline will develop and there will be a run on the ATM machines for cash. In some cases fuel may not even be available for you or I but only to the emergency services that are supposed to be saving you from the disaster in the first place. Riots, looting, and other criminal activity will ensue. So what should you need to know about preparing a GO bag for yourself and your loved ones?
The answer is actually quite simple. You should first decide if you are going to “Bug-out” or “Bug-in”. Knowing where you are going to be when a disaster or event strikes and what you intend to do is the first and foremost thing to consider. If there is a natural disaster such as Katrina or Sandy, you simply cannot remain at your current location and “Bug-In” so you will need to grab what you can and get out as quickly and safely as you can to an alternate safe location where you and your family can sustain until help arrives.
Your GO bag should include items such as Food, Water, Medications, Durable Clothing, Important Papers, Money, Fire starting ability, Defense, First-Aid, and some other miscellaneous stuff. So, let’s take a look at what you need in a little more detail.
Most preppers will tell you that they carry tons of ammunition, matches, and other survivalist type gear but what they often do not think about is having to carry all of that stuff while fleeing a particular area with their families in tow. Some will assume that their 4 year old can carry his or her own pack of supplies. This is where extreme “Planning” needs to come into place. You must first assess the situation. Will you be traveling with a family? What are the age groups and handicaps of the members? You may be forced to carry extra provisions for those individuals so consider this as an option. Water is extremely heavy to carry!
Water is the essential element of life. Carrying the recommended daily allowance of water for one person is cumbersome at best; consider having to carry 3 days worth of water for yourself and possibly a loved one. This would be enough weight to make traveling nearly impossible unless you have a means to haul it and you have the fuel and debris free escape route. Consider that you may be hoofing these supplies on foot! So what do you do? There are several options for portable water. Sure you can carry a canteen, camelback or other water containers but eventually they may run out and there will be no source of potable clean water for miles or lines will be so long or clearly demonstrated in past disasters or it simply won’t be provided for you by the government.
You will need some way to provision water for you and your family while still traveling as lightweight as possible. We recommend carrying three pouches of portable drinking water per person per day so that’s 9 pouches of water per person’s bag but after that, find another solution for purification.
The Lifesaver bottle was invented for extreme portability and extreme conditions. This bottle can filter up to 1,500 gallons of pure drinking water from any water source, even those contaminated from E. coli, cryptosporidium without the need to boil, distill, or perform reverse osmosis. The nice thing about this particular filtration system is that it will fit nicely in the backpack and even provide enough water for a small family so not everyone will need to carry water unless they are capable and able to do so.
The Lifesaver bottle can even be used to irrigate wounds and fill other vessels so you can even choose to assist or help others you come across and still maintain your values of helping others in need. Losing one’s moral values during times of disaster is something we would all prefer to avoid. If you would like to learn more about how the Lifesaver bottle can help provide you with fresh clean drinking water for you and your family during times of need, cruise on over to their website www.lifesaversystems.com and have a look for yourself. It’s even endorsed by the United States Military.
The one thing that you must remember is that whatever bag you choose to use, it MUST be durable and capable of comfortably carrying everything you intend on toting because you may be hauling it a long way for a long time.
Food is unfortunately something that you cannot manifest by carrying around a little gadget. Food will be the second essential item in your bag and you should plan well. The first thing that you should consider is that your Go bag may sit dormant for quite some time before it is ever needed (which is another reason to not store water for more than a couple years in pouches). Storing food that could potentially go bad is obviously not wise. When shelves are empty at the grocery and lines are long for free handouts or there is fighting in the streets, it will be much better for you to have prepared to hold out a little longer than recommended. Our water solution allows you to potentially extend beyond the three days self-sustainment level and food should not be left out of this equation. However, hauling around buckets of food provisions is also not the answer to your nutrition woes. You will need to consider an alternative. You must also consider that your gear will have the potential for getting wet or submerged during the process of evacuation.
Companies like Mountain House, Wise, and Emergency Foods all offer long term portable food solutions that consist of flash frozen or dehydrated food which is much lighter to carry and is considered the optimum way to store food for long periods of time. Carrying around a jar of grannies pickled pigs feet is not something I would consider gourmet. Some say carry military grade meals ready to eat (or MREs) and this is also an option for you. The main thing to remember is that you have to carry it and you have to eat it.
MRE pouches are often bulky and encased in thick plastic pouches. Some of the smaller freeze dried solutions mentioned above may be a better solution in the long run due to small packaging and weight but you should always have enough water on hand to rehydrate this food.
The benefit of flash frozen foods are they do not need to be cooked or heated unless you desire. We recommend carrying at least 3 meals per day you plan to be bugging out per person so pack accordingly. Oh, and make sure that you bring a little extra along for those days when you just need a little pick-me-up boost of carbohydrates. You should also consider bringing along a small bottle of supplemental vitamins and take them. You may not be getting the proper nutrients on a daily basis to sustain good health resistance. If you own a pet, please take them into consideration and vacuum seal some dry food if you plan to take them with you or leave them plenty if you don’t.
Up until now, we have discussed water and food for your bag but you should consider some other creature comforts that you may need. Consider that you should bring with you some toiletries (a roll of toilet paper, zip lock bags, trash bags, toothbrush, toothpaste, and whatever personal hygiene items you feel you will need). You should also bring along some form of durable clothing such as Tactical pants or heavy jeans and possibly a jacket depending on weather and season. Remember that dressing in layers is always best.
Remember, the more you pack the heavier it becomes. One way to get clothing, bedding or other shelter equipment into your pack is to vacuum seal the articles so they are space compressed. Do you remember the space saver bags that were advertised? Food Saver bags work equally well when purchased by the roll. They can be cut to any length needed to seal larger articles. Consider sealing up any important documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses, mortgage and titles and even paper currency.
Do you plan to take some irreplaceable family photos? How about sealing those up too? It is highly likely that you will need some form of currency so do not rely on your debit or credit cards to carry you through a disaster. Power may be out or no communications will be available to verify your card purchase. Good old cash, gold or silver is going to be the form of payment.
The need to have the ability to start a fire may be necessary for you to keep warm. Consider packing some BIC style lighters but think about what you would do if they are crushed or broken. Perhaps some waterproof matches or even a magnifying glass, magnesium stick or some other form of survival fire starting device. You will also need some form of tools such as a multi-tool and possibly a good knife. There are so many choices here it is difficult to recommend but a durable full-tang non-foldable knife capable of prying and sawing is recommended.
There may be a situation where you become sick, injured, or have some other form of medical emergency. You should be prepared to deal with mild to moderate issues. As you prepare for your first aid solution, a good place to start is to seek out getting First Aid certified from your local Red Cross now so you are prepared later. You don’t need to pack like a paramedic or EMT but you should carry the essentials in your kit to handle cuts, scrapes, insect bites (include an EPI reaction kit if you are susceptible) and even small sprains. You should also include some form of over the counter pain medication and maybe even consider storing some of your own maintenance medicine and antibiotics if possible. You could always grab those at the last minute on the way out the door. For those of you who are diabetics, you MUST remember to take your insulin and tester kit and think about a way to keep that product chilled or cool (ice packs are good and a small thermal pouch).
You should always consider that you will be gone longer than 3 days when preparing for maintenance medications. Under preparation here could mean the difference between life and death. You should also have a plan if you are a dialysis or other dependent patient! Where will you go and how will you get there are questions that you need to ask yourself and most importantly how long will it take you to get there?
Some other items that you need to consider will be some form of light or illumination. Small headset LED lighting devices work well as does small LED flashlights. Remember, batteries are not always available so think about a crank-up or solar charging light / radio so you can keep in touch with the outside world for news and other pertinent evacuation information. Communications with your family is equally important and you should consider maybe a set of two-way GMRS radios and a solar charger or solar charge battery to keep your cell phone and other devices charged (remember the Sandy victims lining up for hours to charge their cell phones?) Don’t be in that same boat. There are several products that you can use that are small enough to fit in your bag. A simple Google for these devices will yield more options than you care to see. Glow sticks are another source of light that you might consider but get the 12-hour ones so they last longer.
You should also consider personal information as a priority. I know we discussed vacuum sealing documents but what about that “digital” information that keeps us going. Think about making backups of your critical data to removable storage devices like thumb drives and sealing those up in vacuum bags to keep them dry and safe. Look at the TrueCrypt software to encrypt the documents so they are safe if they become lost.
Defense is what I saved for the last item on the list. It is a commonly known fact that in today’s society there are the “Have’s” and the “Have Not’s”. Clearly by reading this article you are not in the latter category. You should know that there will be those who did not prepare as you did and will be looking to take from you what you have.
There may come a time when you must decide if taking another human life to preserve yours or a loved one will be paramount. Some extreme preppers may have varying opinions on which caliber and type of firearm one should carry but this entirely depends on your budget and perhaps what you already own. The key thing to remember for pistols are the larger the caliber the more defensive stopping power you have.
It is important to start building up your ammunition supply now gradually over time than to try and purchase everything at one time, as this could be very costly. If you choose to not pack a firearm, this is your choice but be willing to accept the consequences of becoming a victim.
You should always check with your state laws or obtain your carry conceal permit so you are educated and legally allowed to conceal a pistol or other weapon. You should know what the laws are that regulate when self-defense is justifiable and when it is not. Having said that, you should decide what caliber you feel most comfortable with and your level of defense.
If you carry less lethal devices like mace or tasers, consider that these may or may not be effective, depending upon your circumstances. Most nefarious individuals will not be bringing mace or tasers to rob from you, so you may need to meet force with force. Statistically, suspects that face an armed victim will often seek a weaker and less prepared target.
Stay tuned as we explore more advanced bug out options in future issues.