All about Bug Out Bags
The bug-out-bag (also called a go-bag) is a topic that somehow gets so much attention but is probably one of the least properly understood aspects of prepping. As such, I’m sure to leave some things out. There are so many options and ideas that go into the bag and its contents that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in all of the information out there. Not to mention all of the opinions. I obviously have my own opinions on what makes a good bug-out-bag for me, but as long as we’re aware that there is no one, all encompassing bag that will meet all of our needs, then we can have a logical discussion about what we can all put into our own bags so our needs are properly met.
That said, there are two points that I want to make about what I think that a bug-out-bag is not. First, a bug-out-bag is not a 72-hour kit. If you experience a disaster, and you need to provide for yourself and your family while your wait for help to arrive, from whatever source that help may come from, you can use your 72-hour kit to meet those needs. The assumption is that you are going to stay put until help arrives. A bug-out-bag on the other hand, assumes help is not going to arrive, and you and your family have to get out of town, or wherever you’re at. A 72-hour kit should contain the items necessary for three days of your family’s needs. A bug-out-bag should contain the items that will help you obtain your needs for the foreseeable future. Second, going back to the point that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, a bug-out-bag is not backpack purchased from an online reseller that is filled with what someone else has determined you need. This is more of a 72-hour kit, and you should avoid anything that is marketed online as a bug-out-bag.
So, what is a bug-out-bag? In a word, it’s personal. This is because everyone has different needs. These needs will depend on your knowledge, location, whether or not you will be bugging out with family or by yourself, your skill set and your confidence using those skills. For instance, I live in southern Idaho, I have a family, and I’m confident in my skills, such as hunting, fishing and shelter making. I’m not going to burden myself with unnecessary food or shelter, or even water, because I know that I will be able to obtain those things along the way. I know this, because I know where I live. I know what is available to me along the routes that I’ve chosen ahead of time to any destinations that we might be traveling to and where those resources are. This knowledge gives me and my family the confidence we need for our survival, and will help us keep a clear goal of how quickly we need to pace our travel as we use and need those resources, as well as something to look forward to as we reach each point to our final destination. Because I also define a bug-out-bag not as a way to sustain you while you stay in one place, but a tool to help you get from where you are to where you want to be, I really believe that it should be as light as possible. There are no unnecessary items in my bag. That’s why the best things that you can have in your bag will serve multiple functions. Beyond that, there’s no substitute for knowledge. This may be a completely different scenario if you live in, for instance, Phoenix, Arizona. If I lived in Phoenix, I can’t imagine not giving water a higher priority than I do in Idaho. Where you live will also determine what manner of priority you will assign the resources in your bug-out-bag.
Despite the personal considerations that you must take into account, all bug-out-bags should contain what most survivalists and preppers would agree are an essential list of items, or at least some manner to obtain them, or substitute for them. These items include: water, food, shelter, fire, protection, and first-aid. So, I’m going to go through these one at a time, and discuss my solutions for these needs and possibly some other ideas that I’ve come across that might work better for someone else.
Water – Water is life. We’ve all probably heard that phrase before. We need at least 3 ways for purifying water in our bug-out-bags, and no matter our location, or time of year, I would argue that water is really the number one priority. The first and best way to get water is have it before a disaster strikes. In my pack I have a Camelbak water bladder that sits empty, until I need it. But I do have the water to fill that pack stored away already. You cannot ever rely on water out of the tap to be there, or to be clean. My second source, because of where I live, is the numerous access that I have to irrigation canals, ditches, and most obvious, the Snake River that runs nearly right through my backyard. In my bag I carry a water filter that can connect directly to my Camelbak, water purification tablets and a Lifestraw. I also have matches, and a 1-liter stainless steel water bottle to boil water if needed.
Food – Like water, I don’t weigh my pack down with unnecessary food. Food can be obtained along the way. It is good to start out with 3-4 good meals. I prefer a few packages of freeze-dried backpacking meals for each member of your family as well as lightweight granola or energy bars to munch on between meals. This should last a day or so, and will get you started on the right track. It may be a good point to make, that if you’re going to bug out, have a good meal before you leave. Don’t start out on an empty stomach. Other food sources that we have available along the way include fish, squirrels, snakes, and rabbits for small animals, as well as game birds like pheasant, quail and grouse. Useful knowledge and items for setting snares and other traps is great. Bigger game animals like deer, antelope, elk, bear, and moose are around, but you need to make sure that you’re packing the appropriate tools to take down such an animal without getting yourself hurt. A bow is a great tool for this, as well as a rifle of at least .30 caliber. In most states, such as Idaho, a rifle of at least .30 cal. is required for lawful hunting of larger game. Remember that we should obey the law, even if laws are not perceived as b