Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bug Out Bag - Small Tools and Equipment

I love this part. I'm going to talk about nifty little bits of gear that you might want to keep in your 72-hour kit, or "bug out bag." Note that I'm only going to list the bare essentials because realistically, you don't need a whole lot of "gear" to survive. You'd be amazing at just what you can live without.

First off, get a survival book. Read it, and then stow it away in your kit. I chose to buy the pocket-sized SAS Survival Guide, ISBN: 0060849827. It's a little larger than a standard deck of cards, but has a vast array of information in it, like how to spot edible plants, accident survival, shelter building, survival in various climates, etc.  Let's face it.  If you are not humping it in the bush every day, then you might forget a few things, so having a handy reference in the field is a good thing.

Good Knife
I spoke about this in the introduction, but it is important enough for me to repeat here. I'm just going to reiterate some of the important parts. Invest in a knife you will use often. Don't buy some exotic thing that you will toss in your bag and forget about. Purchase a good lockback knife in the $40-$60 price range. Kershaw is my favorite knife maker in this range. You don't need an overly expensive knife. You need a good knife. More money does not always mean better. Better does not always mean more money. Of course, many have their preferences, but my way of looking at it is this: If it works, then it is better. A good, inexpensive knife in your pocket that you use and abuse on a daily basis is better than an awesome expensive knife left in your nightstand drawer. Don't be timid with your knife either. USE IT! Learn its strengths and weaknesses. Experiment with different types and find what works best for you. I go through a good knife about every 2-3 years because as good as they are, I beat the piss out of them. I have my knife that I like a lot and will be replacing it with the same kind when mine finally gets destroyed. Keep your blade sharp. I recommend getting a simple two-part knife sharpener that has a coarse carbide end for sharpening and a fine ceramic end for honing. The sharpener doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Mine only cost me $4.00 and it keeps my blade sharp enough to do some serious cutting with.

You should carry a small section of cordage. This could be simple nylon rope, or my preferred para-cord.  While you won't be hanging from this cord any time soon, it is strong enough to lash gear to your pack, or secure a tarp so it won't blow away in the wind, or keep your gear secure. I would probably carry about 20 feet of the stuff minimum, but not to exceed 50 feet. I also carry bootlaces that get wrapped around plastic knife sheaths or axe handles. If you need the cordage, you can use it, but until it is needed, it makes a great handle for things. One thing a friend did was buy an all metal knife and he wrapped para-cord around the handle very tightly. This way, he had his cordage, but it wasn't in the way when not needed. I've seen para-cord wrapped around gun fore ends, axe handles, walking sticks, you name it.

Why not a tent? Tents weigh more. Plus, a tent is about 10 times as expensive as a tarp. With a tarp, you can make many types of shelters. From an a-frame tent to a simple lean-to against a tree or car bumper, a tarp can make quick shelter out of anything. It is also easy to setup and tear down because you don't have poles to pack. Simply fold the tarp down, roll it up, and wrap with para-cord for storage.

Fire Starter
You will probably want to invest in a good flint. You will also want some waterproof matches for lighting your camp stove (talked about above). You will also want to keep small parafin wax fire starters to help you get a fire going if you need it. Fire does more than keep you warm. It lifts your spirits and can be used for cooking food and making water safe to drink. It can also keep predators at bay as well as be used to signal rescue. Just be sure to put it out completely before you leave and DO NOT attempt to light a fire if you smell gas.

You would do well to invest in a good leatherman style multi-tool. You never know when you will need a good set of pliers, a screwdriver, file, or small saw. I carry a Leatherman Wave with me on my backwoods adventures. It can be used to make repairs to your gear or adjustments to things like compass declination screws, rifle scopes, or just making repairs to your glasses.  I also use the saw to notch wood so it will fit together to make my shelter strong without needing very much cordage.

Map and Compass
At the very least, you should carry a map of the area you are in. That's obvious. But you need a compass too. If you find yourself in an area that is unfamiliar to you, a compass will help you quickly locate magnetic north, and will help you orientate your map. If you do not know how to do this, pick up a Boy Scout Handbook and start reading. A compass can be used for a buttload of navigational strategies, such as following a bearing, or being used to make sure you are traveling in a straight line (and not in circles). This is especially important in wilderness survival. Now, in urban settings, this doesn't seem as important because you will have roadsigns to help tell you where to go.  But, if you believe that for what it is, then you have been deceived. The signs give directions that the road takes to get to the destination, and the distance IT takes. However, you don't need to stick to main roads when you are on foot. However, if you were walking near I-5, then you'd probably want to stay close because it is a well known landmark.

Flashlight or Headlamp
Have you ever tried to do something in pitch black darkness? It sucks, huh? Put a good aluminum flashlight in your pack with spare batteries and bulbs. An LED 3-watt Maglite works well. I have small ones that take 3 double-A batteries and they are nice and bright. They have carry cases too, and don't weigh much. I also have a head lamp that I use for backpacking at night. It frees up your hands and allows you to look directly at what you want to see. This can come in handy if you are doing stuff like tying a knot, erecting shelter, cooking, reading, or even for going for a weapon to use in self defense.

Mess Kit
Essentially, it's a pot that fits in another pot and has a fork, spoon, and knife in it. You will need one if you intend to boil water and prepare food.

Survival Kit
Huh? It's called a Survival Kit in a Can, or SKIC for short.

It fits into a sardine sized can and should be in every 72 hour kit. It has all the really small things like thread, needles, fish hook, etc. Some of the stuff may be redundant to my list, but the stuff I listed separately needs to be in its own case. For instance, there are matches in the SKIC. The waterproof matches I suggest should go in their own waterproof match case. This way, you may use your matches without breaking the seal on your SKIC. Your first aid kit will be separate too, but some things are included in the SKIC. Think of SKIC as a last ditch survival aid. You probably won't use most of the stuff in there unless you are really desperate. But that's what it is for. At less than $10 in most places, it's a good idea to keep one in any vehicle, pack, or kit you have.

That's it?
Not quite. Bring toilet paper. Yes, you will be squatting when you are out surviving, and you don't want to run around wiping your backside with whatever you can find. T.P. will help keep you sanitary and healthy. Also, you can buy small packages of baby wipes, which are amazing! The wipes can be used on any part of your body. From cleaning your hands to washing your face, to just removing some of the "funk" that occurs from going days without showers, baby wipes are worth the extra weight in gold. Your nose will thank you too.

Of course, you can assemble more or less gear into your pack, based on your preferences.  There is no 1-way to do it - just a way to do it.  Find what works for you and figure out what gear you can live without and what gear you must have.


1 comment:

  1. I like your suggestions, they are very practical!