‘Bug Out Bags’

Bug out bag – go bag -survival bag – I’ve heard several different terms for a pre-packed bag that one might keep handy in the event they need to up and leave their current situation in a hurry. If you ask the most hard-core prepper, all the different labels have specific meanings, but I’m not that guy – I tend to use all the terms interchangeably, which is probably wrong, but unless we’re having the “clip vs magazine” debate, I try not to get wrapped around the axel about vernacular.

So, what is a “bug out bag?” Simply put, it’s a satchel of some kind that is ready to go at a moment’s notice. I keep one of these kits with me most of the time, and I would encourage others to do the same. They need not be extravagant, although you can certainly sink a lot of money into them. I’ve found over the years that it’s actually pretty easy to rack up a hefty tab when trying to put one of these kits together, even though spending a fortune isn’t necessarily necessary. See what I did there?

Anyway, let’s talk bag packing specifics.

First, let’s discuss the bag itself. My personal recommendation is that you don’t skimp on this item. Invest in a quality bag. Buy once cry once. This thing needs to be sturdy. It’s likely going to get tossed around a lot even if you never use it in an emergency. So, it can’t be a wimpy thing. It also needs to be comfortable to carry because you might be toting this thing a long way. Having your back and shoulders on fire within the first mile of an emergency trek is not good. Contrary to popular belief, size isn’t everything. You don’t have to have the biggest pack, as long as it’ll perform when you need it most.

Although the bag itself is a highly important part of the kit, you should buy it last. Buy everything you need / want to go in the bag first and pile it all up on your wife’s dining table. Look at the size of the pile, marvel at your survival prowess for a moment, and then go buy a bag sized for the contents you selected. Otherwise, you’ll end up overfilling whatever bag you purchase, causing it to resemble a Sumo wrestler in skinny jeans. If you over-stuff the bag, then it won’t be functional.

Some of the items in your bag will, and should, be situationally dependent. Whatever environment you’re in, or that you’re heading into, will determine some of your needs. Urban environment or wilderness? Desert or mountains? Hot climate or cold? Pack your bag accordingly and change it up when circumstances dictate new necessities. The less you know about where you’re going, or where you might end up, the more options you need to prepare for.

When I pack a bug out bag, I pack a bag I can live out of for 48 hours. Professional preppers would tell me that means I’ll die in the 49 th hour, but I don’t usually traverse very far outside a known area. I’m not suggesting you follow my example – it’s just what I choose to do. That said, let’s discuss some items that are necessary, regardless of geographical location, and see what we can… unpack. Oh, how I love a good pun.

1.) Water. Water is heavy. You likely can’t carry much of it over any long distance but without it, you’ll die, like so fast. I generally pack two, 20oz bottles of water. It’s not “enough,” but I could survive off that for two days if I had to. A water filtration device is a good option, especially if you might be away from civilization for a long time, or if you need to hydrate a fellow “bugger outer.” A quality, water filtration straw would be an invaluable piece of kit if you’re near any fresh water source.

2.) Fire. No matter where you are on planet earth, fire and the ability to make fire is crucial for survival. Fire offers warmth, light, and will help you dry out wet clothing. Fire allows you to sterilize things, including water, and allows you to signal other people who might be trying to find you. I recommend having no less than three fire making devices in your bag, and at least two of them need to be waterproof.

3.) Light. I believe in the old adage that “two is one and one is none – but three is better.” When it comes to illuminating devices, you should have multiple. Lights are another thing you shouldn’t buy cheaply. Invest in at least one quality flashlight – bright but not big. A small keychain light could also be useful, as you won’t always need a lot of illumination. Consider making one of your lights a headlamp because it will allow you to work hands-free. A tinted light that won’t ruin your night vision (red or green) would be helpful in certain applications too. Having extra batteries for any battery powered device in your pack is just plain smart. The trade off here is that batteries get heavier the bigger they get. Consider carrying devices that accept smaller batteries, and perhaps use devices that all take the same size batteries. Continuity can make things easier.

4.) A jacket – preferably one that’s hooded and water repellent. Because you might get rained on, duh. A survival poncho or two wouldn’t hurt either. They’re super light, compact, and can also work as a makeshift, temporary shelter if you opt not to pack a whole tarp.

5.) A knife. Nay, two knives – a big hearty one and a small one. The big one is for big jobs like hacking, chopping, and digging – the small one is for more tedious tasks. The role of a quality knife in any survival situation cannot be overstated.

6.) Medical gear! A trauma kit is an absolute must have!

You should consider food items too – particularly stuff that has very high caloric content and that will stay fresh for months at a time – until you remember to go through your bag and rotate the inventory. Wireless battery packs for charging devices like cell phones and GPS units can be game changers. Just don’t forget a charging cable or the battery pack will be worthless. Some heavy-duty twine or 550 cord could prove helpful in an emergency and won’t add much weight to the kit. Cash? Sure, why not? That stuff could come in handy assuming society hasn’t collapsed. A spare magazine, OR TWO for your everyday carry pistol, which should already be on your person, not in your bag – or if you intend to bug out with a rifle because the commies are taking over, some extra ammo for that ol’ girl wouldn’t hurt either. Lastly, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have an extra pair of socks and plenty of band aids. Blisters are real, yo.

Look, I’m not a “survivalist” in the truest sense of the word, but I do have a good understanding of what the human body needs to survive. When packing your bag, pack for conditions that you’re most likely to encounter and make additions using common sense. Just be sure to leave empty space in your pack should you find something along your way that you need to carry with you. Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Treading the fine line between necessity and overkill can be tough. I’m still figuring it out myself. I challenge you to start somewhere, and if nothing else be a little more prepared tomorrow than you are today. Until next week…

Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.


Please submit your questions to Ryan via email at Ryan@9and1tactical.com

(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official, legal advice.)

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