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Packing a Bug Out Bag

Preparation is the key to surviving any type of disaster, and most people have begun to realize the importance of keeping a supply of food and water on hand for emergency situations. Yet, it is important to understand that many survival situations may require you to flee your current surroundings when it is no longer safe to shelter in place. Unfortunately, recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, have made it clear that people are often caught completely unprepared to survive away from their home. For this reason, more people are beginning to recognize the importance of having a bug out bag that can get them through the first few days of any catastrophic emergency situation.

What Is a Bug Out Bag

A bug out bag is simply a survival pack that contains everything you need to survive in either an urban or rural environment. It should be lightweight, portable and stocked with basic equipment that can help you care for all of your basic human needs. Once you flee, it will be up to you to figure out how to build a shelter, find clean drinking water, protect yourself from the environment and prepare food. As you prepare your bug out bag, it is important to keep in mind your current environment and potential disasters you may be facing along with your abilities to use each piece of gear you include. With this understanding, however, my comprehensive list should get you started for surviving any type of situation.

Choosing a Bag

Ask any group of survivalists what type of bag they prefer, and you will get a wide variety of answers. When I first chose my bag, the first problem I ran into was whether to choose comfort over size. Since I realized that I would be needing to grab my bag and go, I chose comfort and figured that I would pack my supplies around what would best fit. I also spent several days trying on different packs and taking them with me on hikes. Remember that in a survival situation, your feet may be your main sources of transportation so choose accordingly. Other than comfort, you may prefer a bag with multiple pockets for organization, and I highly recommend a bag that has some type of weatherproofing. There is nothing worse than discovering that your carefully planned provisions have become soaking wet at the worst possible moment.

What to Pack

There are tons of survivalist checklists out there, and you can even buy ready-made bug out bags. Yet, over several years of trial and error, I have found that these essentials are the basics that every kit should have packed.

  • Water Source-A bug out bag simply cannot fit the gallon of water per day you need to survive. Yet, a basic water filter, collection device and water purifying tablets will make sure you stay hydrated.
  • Shelter Provisions-I always recommend two tarps for every kit. One can be used to build a tent-style shelter, and the other goes on the ground to keep you dry. A strong roll of rope can also provide the basis for securing your tent to trees and other structures for security. If there’s space, a foam roll can add some cushion to rocky terrain, and a sleeping bag is essential if you plan to flee to any area with temperatures that dip into freezing at night.
  • Paracord-Stronger than rope, this can be used for building a shelter, hauling essentials and trapping food.
  • Rain Gear-In a survival situation, staying dry can keep you alive. Choose a rain coat or pancho that can give you a secondary layer of protection from the elements along with your shelter.
  • Clothing-Comfortable hiking shoes are essential along with two pairs of thick socks. You will also need two shirts, two pairs of pants and extra underwear. I always pack one short sleeve shirt and one with long sleeves so I can alternate depending upon the weather. A hat can also come in handy for shading your eyes, and it can double as a way to carry food and other supplies if you have to forage.
  • Food-For a basic bug out bag, you should plan enough food for three days. Backpack foods are usually freeze dried and require only some boiling water to prepare, and they provide the majority of nutrients you need. Energy bars are another critical item that I always pack since they require zero cooking to give you a quick burst of nutrition.
  • Fire-Making Supplies-Ideally, you should have several ways to make a fire. I prefer waterproof matches, a lighter and a firesteel and scraper. Kindling, such as dryer lint, is also lightweight and easy to add to your pack.
  • Light Source-Flashlights, batteries and glow sticks are critical for getting through the night and may serve as a way to alert others to your presence should you be awaiting rescue.
  • First Aid Kit-You can choose to purchase a ready-made kit or prepare your own. However, it is important to make sure you understand how to use each item in your kit, and make sure it covers all potential injuries that could occur in your current environment.
  • Weapons-In a survival situation, you never know what type of danger you may come across, and it’s essential to be prepared to protect yourself or hunt game. Some survivalists would never consider their pack complete without a gun, but at the very least pack a survival knife. Even if all you do is use it to cut food, it will be used.

Once you have your bag prepped, it is important to make sure that you know how and when to use your gear. I make it a point to double check my bag every few months to make sure that the food is still good and my equipment is still in working order. A smaller bag that can be left at work or in your car is also a smart way to know that you always have your survival gear at hand. Finally, keep identifying potential scenarios that could occur and add to your bag as needed. While you hopefully will never need to bug out, you can enjoy the security of knowing that you are fully prepared to fend for yourself.

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