Friday, January 1, 2010

Bug Out Bag

Yes, I'm going to address the "bug out bag", or for those who don't care for such extreme language, the 72 hour kit. In today's economic, social, political, and environmental climate, it pays to do a little thinking beforehand and be prepared for what may/will come. In the wake of a natural disaster do you think the government will have your best interests in mind? Well, if you weren't sleeping when Hurricane Katrina, you know for a fact that until help can arrive, you are on your own.

Now, I'm not going to start a debate over whether FEMA will have gotten its act together, or if the Federal Government will send help to the rich neighborhoods first, or even if the National Guard will run around disarming the public because it is in the "best interest" of everyone. Dude, we already know everything was FUBAR in the wake of one of the most expensive disasters in recorded history. Face it, until law and order are restored in the wake of an emergency, you need to rely on yourself and those closest to you.

I'm pretty big on emergency preparedness, and for most situations, I'm confident I'll weather the storm in one piece. I have food, water, guns, ammo, and the ability to cook and provide electricity for a while until order is [hopefully] restored. I've always been a big proponent of outfitting my home because in most instances, that's where I will be riding out any storm. But what if my house is destroyed in an earthquake, a fire, or some other incident (plane crash, bombing, etc)? The need for a small 72 hour kit, or bug out bag, starts looking pretty good.

Now, I'm not suggesting that I'll be put into a situation where I need to grab, jump out of my window, and run like hell. I'm talking about a kit that will get me through the first critical hours of an emergency, whether I am home, away from home, or somewhere in between.

In my profession, I oftentimes find myself 100 miles from home. That's an hour-and a half drive in a vehicle, but could be an exhausting 3-5 day trip on foot, depending on terrain. You cannot survive 3-5 days without food or supplies. Oh sure, there are convenience stores and restaurants, but in the aftermath of a major disaster, can you really count on those to be a reliable source of food or supplies? I'm not a betting man, so my answer is no.

I think it would be a good idea to clarify something here. Unless you already live in the boondocks, the only thing you would "bug out" to is a traffic jam. The roads around here, if they aren't torn up after an earthquake, would be come parking lots. Should you find the need to "bug out", you're going to be hoofing it out, unless you want to sit in a vehicle idling on a highway with a finite amount of fuel. What you will most likely be doing is holding out until the storm clears, whatever that storm may be. Call it a "hold out bag" then. Or call it whatever you want. I call it smart thinking either way.

So, if I am going to hold out, what do I need a special bag for anyway? I'm going to be holding out in my house, right? Not always. As stated above, I could be miles from home when the the shit hits the fan (SHTF) and may not be able to hold out as I plan on doing. I may have a long walk ahead of me. Or what if my home was destroyed, along with all my year's worth of food and supplies? Where will I hold out now? A vehicle? What if something falls on it, or it is stolen during the almost predictable riots and looting that occur after major disasters? Why do you need a bug out bag? Simply speaking... it's convenient, packed, and ready to go in a moment's notice and will help you get through the first few days in one piece.

I am a backpacker. I go backpacking at least 6-8 times a year, and have become very acquainted with my gear. I know exactly where it stows in my pack and everytime I go on a trip, I learn what works, what doesn't work, what is bulky and heavy and unecessary, and what is light and fast and capable. My pack is stored in a known location in my house, but I keep it unloaded. This allows the gear to remain relaxed when not needed and allows my pack to breathe. It also keeps tension cords taught and straps from stretching and straining against the threads that hold them in place. When I need it, it takes but a few minutes to load up.

But I don't take my pack everywhere with me. I leave it at home because for all intents and purposes, I spend at least half of my day home or close by. But for those times when I'm not close to home, I still need a basic kit, a solo kit if you will. It needs to be something that I have for me and me alone. If the SHTF when I'm 50 miles from home, I need enough gear to get me home in one piece. However, I still don't recommend storing a fully loaded pack, for the reasons listed above. Placing them in a plastic tote in your vehicle is the better idea. The additional benefit of this is that you can inventory your gear and readily inspect every piece on a regular basis (at least 3 times a year) for wear, tear, and damage. I also recommend that your gear in your vehicle be identical to the gear you use in your main bug out bag. My bug out bag is more of a backpacking bag, but the gear I use is tailored for my application. It would make sense to keep identical gear in the vehicle bag just because when tensions are high, you are worn out, and cold, you will at least know exactly how your gear works.

This is the plan for 2010. I know what gear I have that works. I don't have to duplicate much - a stove, knife, good socks, clothing, food, and a first-aid kit. Sleeping bags are sleeping bags. Packs are packs, but I'd recommend either getting an identical one to yours, or getting something you will be comfortable with. My pack is a $250 pack and it is designed for excursions lasting longer than 3 days. I probably wouln't get something like that to just keep in a vehicle. A smaller pack that I break in will suffice.

When I assemble my new modular vehicle kit, I will describe in better detail what is in it.



  1. I have talked to people I know in high risk area about assembling a bug out bag. My sister in particular since she lives spitting distance from the water. How about you guys living in PNW with your risk of tsunami's?

  2. Not so much of a tsunami where I live (Tacoma area), but we are very close to a major shipping port, military installations, and the expected path of a lahar from Mt Rainier goes right through the Orting/Puyallup valley, which is about 3 miles away from us. We live on a hill though. After 4 years in the Puyallup valley - literally in the path of destruction - I decided to excercise prudence and buy a house that won't be hit by low land flood waters, lahars, tsunami's etc. That still doesn't make us safe from earthquakes, social unrest, and the like. But then again, you can't be safe from absolutely everything. You just gotta stack the odds in your favor a bit.