Over the last several years the phrase “Bugout bag” has become more mainstream. I find it amusing in some ways, as I have always been “Prepared”. I am an Eagle Scout so preparedness is second nature; however, I have been becoming more prepared for every eventuality in the last several years. More people are getting prepped for disasters, I do believe some of this stems from Katrina and people not having faith in Government Services.
Everyone should have some kind of disaster plan.
We are going to focus on Basic Bugout Bags as the Three Day pack variety.
Three day packs contain at least three days of food, water and supplies to enable you to get from one place to another, such as the office to home, school to home or from a disaster to your shelter, camp or rally point. Every member of your family or survival group should have their own pack, but the contents will all be very similar.
First, you need to choose a pack which will work for you. I wouldn’t necessarily go for the military looking pack, as one does not always want to attract attention. When storing these packs at home or in your vehicle you may not want a military style back pack because this might attract unwanted attention as well. The packs that you and your family should carry should be well-made such as a hiking or mountaineering pack, If these are outside your budget you could make do with a well-made book bag. The things to look for when choosing a backpack are, it should have; both shoulder straps pads and a waist support strap. I say well made as a quality brand like a “Jansport”
or something like that. You would not want one these currently cool looking one shoulder strap bags I see everyone carrying around or some cheap brand which will fail when you least expect it. Remember, this bag will carry all of the gear and the things you and your family will need to survive. The easy way to remember what you need, is to understand the Survival Pyramid:
You need Water, Shelter and Fire.
Every Pack should have the minimums below:
- Water: You should have at least 3 days’ worth and the ability to filter water.
- You need at least one gallon or 128 oz water per day to survive, however, depending on the environment you may require more. You can go as much as three days without water, but again, environmental factors come into play, as well as reaching a point where confusion will set in and you may not be able to care for yourself anymore, much less worry about water. My suggestion is a “Camel Bak” with 100 oz. water or carry canteens which are easily attach to your pack or belt. I do not recommend canteens or older style of bladders which strap around your neck, as this can be used against you or worse you can become hung up on something while evading and strangle yourself.
- Ability to filter water. I am a big fan of Survival Straws made by Aquamira. Each straw can filter up to 30 gallons, but will not filter brackish water. We tested this product in a muddy ditch of water and the water was drinkable. Every person should have at least two, one in their pack and another to be carried on their person.
- Ability to make water safe to drink without boiling. I carried purification tablets since I was kid on any back country adventure. I can recall when I was 14 being on a back country adventure with the Boy Scouts. We happened upon a natural spring and the adults who were in charge of the “Troop” suggested that drinking the water without purification was okay. I was the only kid in the Troop who carried the Iodine water purification tablets. The entire Troop had gotten ill, but because I had the iodine water purification tablets I was the only one who did not get ill from drinking the water. I began purifying all of the water from that point on and using a small bottle of iodine water purification tablets made the difference between the boy scout troop staying and hiking out and the situation becoming life threatening. We were very far from Las Cruces, NM which was the closest town for help. No cell phones were available as this was 1985. Aquamire sells a 50 count tablet bottle for less than $8.00 which will make the water drinkable after about 30 mins. If you have an allergy to Iodine, you will need another method. You should again have at least two bottles, I personally would have three. One for your pack, one on your person and a spare with your canteen.
Ability to make water. Yes you can make water; this is a last result method, as it takes time to do. You will need a piece of plastic, a canteen cup or other item which is safe to collect water and non-porous and you can build a solar still. There are many methods of building a solar still and we will cover how to build all of the different solar stills at a later date.
- You need Fire-starting tools or the know how to make fire. Everyone should have a Magnesium Bar and steel in your pack and on your person. I recommend the “Eastern Sports” Magnesium Bar as they are exactly like the military version. Most of the other versions of these iconic fire starters aren’t as dependable in my opinion. “UCO” makes storm matches in a box or in a water tight container
which I have tested on two different occasions. We submerged a match in water then struck and it burned very well. We soaked another in water, struck it, and threw dirt on top of it; the match continued to burn. Lastly, just for the heck of it, we drove a tractor trailer down an interstate and held a lit match out the window going 65 mph and the flame did not go out. Good enough for me and maybe you too. Every person should have matches in their pack, and on their person. You may be thinking why would I have these items in my pack and on my person? If you get separated from your pack you will need some additional gear in order to survive. If you are stopped by some unsavory sorts and they manage to take your gear, they may overlook these small items or allow you to keep them. There are other homemade remedies for fire starting and some other commercial means as well as craft ways to start fire. I cannot tell you every means in this article, but we will revisit some other methods down the road.
- Shelter can be something you make, something you carry or find. For your Three Day pack, depending on how big, how much weight you can carry and what you believe would be best shelter for you; this can be a tricky consideration. On the very basic side, you need at least 50’ (of REAL) 550 Parachute cord, the 550 means tinsel strength of about 550 lbs. x 3, equaling a break-failure around 1750 lbs. For legal reasons I will state: DO NOT USE 550 Cord for Life Saving, Repelling or holding your own weight. You can use 550 for many uses around the camp site, shelter or rally point, but for now, you can use it to help construct a shelter or the three tier gravity water filter. You should have a small tarp or a rubberized poncho as well. I am also a fan of many lightweight three season tents; I have a very old “A” frame tent with poles which weighs nothing. You can use Army Shelter Halves, however, they are a little heavy and that requires you to carry both halves or you and someone else to carry your shelter. This is not a good combination if you get separated then you only have half a shelter. I like the “Adventure Medical Heat Sheets” as these are small, orange and reusable and will also fit the need for keeping you warm. In my smaller military three day pack, I have Heat Sheets, but I also have an old Military Rubberized poncho. My best friend swears by his Marine Corp Poncho especially with the insulation…although it looks like what I like to call Rip-Start.
- Food!!! What kind? This question is often asked and can lead to much debate. Now, I am not going to cover which is right for you as everyone has different dietary requirements or allergy issues.
- I personally prefer Military MREs, the regular issue MRE is about 3,000 calorie and as now there are at least three different menus, but since the time of C or K Rations soldiers have their favorites and those they absolutely will avoid and would rather eat dirt and slugs. One in the modern MRE is Hot Dogs aka Four Fingers of Death. I have packed Three MREs into my pack, but to make them fit better you will need to strip them down to something more usable and packable. To strip an MRE, open and pull everything out. Take all the cardboard out, put the spoon in your top right pocket of your shirt, on your LBE or in your blouse. As a Marine said once, “a Spoon will save your Life”. Take the condiments pack and put this in your pack. A special note about the fruit drink, do not, do not put this in your canteen or “camel bak”! You will never get the taste out! The suggested way to consume an MRE is to eat on it all day. If you feel your electrolytes are getting out of balance or getting heat stroke or exhaustion. You can place the drink mix under your tongue and drink some water. You will be able to absorb the nutrients into your system under your tongue and the water will help you rehydrate. The MRE is not meant to be eaten all at once and you will need to pace yourself as you may need to make it last a little longer. The other known truth is the MRE is also known as “Meals Refusing to Exit”. There are several people that believe that the gum is a laxative. This is false, the gum does have laxative effects and we do recommend chewing it to help with the movement issue!
- Dehydrated Foods such as “Mountain House” and “Backpackers Pantry”. I have tried most of the menus of each; most pouches are good for at least seven years if stored correctly. For those of you leaving these in the HOT Texas sun or something similar the heat will affect your stored food supplies and should be changed out every 12 to 18 months. As with all Dehydrated Foods you will need water to prepare and may require heat as well to cook fully to enjoy.
Every person should know how to prepare a meal from a pouch and you should at the very least have a military canteen cup and spork, pocket knife to prepare a simple meal with. Remember, these are emergency or camping foods and these foods do not always look very appetizing. What you are thinking of, may not be what you have prepared. This is SURVIVAL and you may not have a choice of what you will be eating. Just because you do not like chicken surprise with noodles does not mean you should not eat. Some food is better than no food.
** Your kids should be able to do everything up to this point without you if they need to.
- Bulk Packaged or Home Packaged Foods. You can pack your own foods from your bulk supply if you would like however with spoilage from non-airtight containers, vermin, or insects you may want to avoid doing so. Other packaged foods are available at any grocery store, such as some tuna in flat mylar containers, crackers and trail mix.
*Special note, you will want to have a bear bag or know how to make one from 550 cord and your pack. If you have to leave your camp or gear for some reason, you do not want a four legged critter eating your food while you are gone.
- A knife is a critical tool you will need. We recommend a fixed blade as well as a pocket knife. Stay away from cheap brands or “Rambo survival style knives.” There are many knives now which are serrated; we do not recommend these as a survival knife because they require special sharpeners in order to keep sharp. The Marine Kabar
is an excellent choice for survival; I have a CRKT and a Large Skinning knife as well as a Spyderco pocket knife. With fixed blade knives where you are located may have restrictions on blade length for carry or possession so be mindful of the law in your area. In Texas, starting September 1, 2013 you may have an automatic knife (switch blade) but other states or locales may have a Switch Blade Law and may or may not include Spring Assisted opening knives as well. For every knife or two you should have a stone and some “3 in 1 Oil”. Every person should know the proper way to sharpen their knife and how to use it. A Knife is not a PRYING TOOL or a screw driver. For pocket knives we tested the “CRKT Drifter” from dropping tip down, body down and beat with a 10 lbs. sledge hammer. While we bent the frame busted the tip off, this knife would still function as a knife even after all the abuse, along with the “Ontario Ready Detachment Knife” (which flies well too) and Marine Corp “Kabar”. I do not recommend the “Swiss Army” pocket knives as they do not lock back, as for one, who nearly lost a thumb using one when it closed suddenly while cutting. With the kids, you as a parent must decide what kind, how big and how mature your child or children will be with a knife or tool.
- You may consider a Pocket tool like a “Leatherman”, “Gerber” or “SOG” as an added item for your pack. We carry the “SOG : EOD” in our packs or person. Again, like the knife, this is a personal choice item and you have to decide how it will be used. I will suggest if you have a group of two or more, each person should have slightly different tools in your group so you will cover all the bases, since the tools are configured differently.
- Extra clothing, you will need at least one change of clothes in your pack. If you are using an ALICE pack (medium or large) I recommend using a large heavy grade trash bag inside a second one and placing your clothes in gallon bags to keep them dry. The second trash bag can be used as a poncho as needed. If you are short on space, you can roll your clothes and it will use less space. I keep ACU (IR) trousers and blouse in my pack as a change along with undergarments and wool blend socks. Unless you have some allergy to wool, use wool or a wool blend. Cotton socks when wet will wick heat away and will not keep you warm and could lead to frostbite or other maladies. Wet or sweaty socks should be changed as soon as it is safe to do so. Wool socks will retain body heat and I have worn the military thin OD green ones for years in both -30 winter (as a liner for thicker socks) and hot-humid summers. Trousers, pants or jeans, I like military clothing for numerous reasons as I have worn them in the outdoors for over 25 years in all camping conditions and have performed well. In areas where you have an increased chance of Lyme disease from Ticks and issues with fleas, the draw string on the legs well help protect you along with using boot bands (blousers) to help keep critters out on your pants.
Now, if this is a situation where it is important not to look like the military, any jeans or shirts will do and you can either use Gaiters or tuck your pant into your socks. Trust me; you will want the BDU pant or gaiters. Depending on the time of year, you may need layering clothes, long johns, more socks, gloves and more which we will cover in more detail in another article. Lastly and most importantly you will want a hat with a bill. You need to keep the sun off your face and give you a little shade. I keep a boonie hat rolled up in my pack and I have treated it with water resistant spray three times and let it dry in the sun and these are great to use in the rain if your poncho isn’t pulled over your head. For your kids, as they grow like weeds, you will need to change out the clothing several times to make sure they have clothes which will fit.
- Hygiene is extremely important, both at home and when on the move. You still need to take care of yourself. You need to wash yourself every 7 days or sooner with a biodegradable soap. You will most defiantly want to make sure that all products which might leak into your pack are in a zip lock style bag. You do not need fancy shampoo or perfumes as you do not want to smell too good for hunting reasons and for attracting attention. You can wash yourself in the creek downstream of your camp and you can wash your clothes as well.
- Medical Kit, as always make sure you have three months of medicines on hand, if you have a medical condition that requires medicines to be kept cold or some other grave issue without medicine, you need to speak with your doctor to be prepared properly. As for a General Kit, I recommend you buy the best kit you can first and know how to use everything in the kit, furthermore, then go to a Medical Supply house and buy additional items. When I buy a kit, I am looking for organization, storage room, the bag itself and quantity, quality of included items. I also, add more 2×2’s. 4×4’s, gauze, waterproof and non-allergy tapes, ACE bandages, Surgical pads, headache relief, anti-acids, anti-diarrhea and other over the counter medicines. You should have a small light to check irises, non-mercury thermometer, two EMT shears (high quality) and a few safety pins. As for trauma bandages the Israeli versions are water proof and vacuum packed. For kits you are going to leave loaded for a long time. Heat is not your friend with medical kits nor is wetness and you should plan on inspecting the kits every six to twelve months and updating the contents. I am aware of Professional Kits with all kinds of gear for Professionally Trained persons, unless you have the training or have someone in your group with the training take great care with those kits. It’s great to have extra stuff on hand at Base Camp, but if you do not know how to use something or know the proper way to use something, you can do more harm than good. Your Three Day Pack should have a kit for you and your knowledge level. If you are part of a larger group, everyone will have an individual first aid kit and someone in the group should have a larger kit to carry as well. Tourniquets have their place and can do harm if misused. The American Red Cross can teach you First Aid through Wilderness First Aid and most community colleges as well as for profit schools can teach you more advanced skills.
- The E-Tool stands for Entrenching Tool, there are only a few configurations of the true E-Tool. Most vets will have the three way folding metal shovel. I carry a WWII E-Tool as it has a pick and shovel and several companies make copies. Everyone should have one on their pack. These are useful in building a shelter, building a trench, and can be used as a defensive and offensive weapon.
- You need a Compass not a GPS device and know how to use it. The military lensatic compass should be carried and a spare. (pics here) You should know how to orientate the compass to a map, how to use a topographical map, do triangulation, gauge relative distance and move from point to point either directly or indirectly. Kids should be able to use a compass to find direction. I personally recommend “Be Expert with Map and Compass” by Bjorn Kjellstrom
. You cannot depend on a GPS device to accurately tell you where you are, remember GPS is a US Military controlled item and they can set GPS to accurate or inaccurate or shut the system down not to mention a Solar Storm can take the GPS satellites offline. Besides, we have all seen/heard stories misusing a GPS to drive off cliffs, into constructions sites or to hike around in circles.
- Signal Mirror, just like the name implies. There are cheapo ones out there and overpriced mirrors as well. As long as it is shiny, durable and can carry light at least mile you can use most anything-even old CDs.
- Flashlights you need two, one in your pack (getting tired of hearing it – I bet) and another on you. Now, I have carried “Maglite’s” all my life and they are dependable, but I have recently switched to an “Extremebeam” for my pack and a higher lumen (brighter) light of around 330 lumens. I carry one in my pack, although I do not like the CR123 batteries-one they are expensive and they do not last a long time. For my person, I have a very old black Maglite (if someone is reading this from Maglite- I miss the old kits with the lenses and Velcro case for the light and extra batteries cir 1986-88) on a long lanyard which is wrapped on my belt.
- Extra batteries are a MUST and if you have room a small solar charger so you can recharge the batteries.
- A green filter for blood and tracking and a red filter for night time. A red light will make lines bleed out on a map at night.
- I am not a fan of Survival Fishing kits, but if you have spent considerable time fishing or spear fishing you may want to have a Fishing kit. My belief is most people have never fished in this manner and it can waste energy.
- Pen and Paper, seems odd, but you may need to leave some a note, communicate or write something down.
- Binoculars a small pair is invaluable, a quality brand should be chosen and water resistant as well.
- Sewing Kit is invaluable for clothing repairs, closing wounds (do not use this method without proper training) and tent repairs. A sewing kit is often overlooked when putting together Three Day Pack, also place two pairs of shoe strings and if you wear glasses you should pack a glasses repair kit with your sewing kit and a couple spools of string.
- 550 Cord in addition to the 50’ you have in your shelter kit in another 50’ to 100’.
- A book, something which can occupy your time and if you need to, you have a source for kindling (sorry Chuck).
- Optional Items include a small weather radio (windup) or a Short Wave Radio. Also, you may want a Walkie-Talkie Radio, but remember direction finding works both ways, you will need batteries and know when to use and not use. Furthermore, the radio work on line of sight and just because the box says “Two to Five miles” does not mean they work this distance and I have seen many which would not work on a flat plain more than two blocks. Extra Clothes, Food, Water… just remember not to exceed 33% of your ability to carry a pack.
Keep in mind the “light weight” pack now, might feel like 1,000 lbs. in about three miles.
CARDIO CARDIO CARDIO!!!!!
Lastly, the most dangerous person you will encounter in a Bugout Situation is: