Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another looks at the Bug Out Bag

A subject that never seems to go out of style in the Prepper movement is Bug Out Bags (BOB). These types of kits are known under many names; Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) Bags, 72 Hours Kits and I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) Bags. What these survival kits have in common is that the kits are intended to be comprehensive survival kits intended to provide you everything you need in a survival or crisis situation. Many discuss the subjects of survival kits like it’s a one size fits all concept; this however not the way that I suggest that you approach the subject. Survival is about adapting to the specific situations and challenges you face and your BOB must reflect this reality.

A Bug Out Bag is only a tool in order to make it easier for you to deal with extraordinary situations; but it is still you that will have to deal with this situation and in order to do this you must have the health and physical fitness, skills and experience, knowledge and will to survive that is required to do so.

The Clothing makes the Prepper

Before we get into the subject of what to put into the BOB lets go into the subjects of clothing. The elements present one of biggest challenges in any survival situation. It normally takes few days to die from dehydration and several weeks to die from starvation but a combination of wind, rain or snow can kill an unprotected person in a matter of hours. Every setting presents its own challenges; the terrain, topography, temperatures and seasonal variations are just some of the aspects that you have to take into consideration.

The first thing I would suggest that you get is hiking boots. There are many type of footwear to choose from but in general I would recommend hiking boots as your primary footwear. There are several types intended for the arctic, jungle and desert. The important aspect is that your footwear can deal with terrain and setting you face. In addition to your boots I suggest that you choose your socks carefully; socks made from merino wool or wool still provides some heat even if they get wet. Wools socks or not; walking around with soaking wet boots can mess up your entire day so make sure that you bring extra socks. Gaiters are an excellent complement that can help keeping water, snow and dirt from getting into your boots in the first place. Having an extra pair of light weight shoes in the pack can be very valuable if you have to dry your boots after a day’s walk. It can also be useful after you established camp; the models from Fivefingers or the Trailglove shoes from Merrell can be worth checking out.

Base Layers
Base layers is the layer of clothing that you have closest to your body; the idea is that your base layer should provide warmth and provide insulation even if it’s wet and dry easily. Normally two major materials is used; synthetic fabrics and merino wool. Synthetic fabrics are often cheaper than merino wool but have the disadvantage that they can melt if subjected to fire or extreme heat. Merino wool is a natural product with several advantages over synthetic fabrics

· Merino wool can in most cases be washed in a washing machine and does not have to be hand washed as regular wool.
· Merino wool does not irritate the skin in the same way as regular wool
· Merino wool does not melt if subjected to fire or heat
· Merino wool does not contract an odor as easily as synthetic fabrics

It is often said that “cotton kills” since it does not provide warmth if it gets wet from rain or perspiration in the same way as base layers made from synthetic fabrics or merino wool. The performance of all base layers is lowered when it gets wet, therefore I suggest that you include at least one extra base layer shirt in your pack; having an extra layer can allow you to change your layers and allow the wet one to dry and it can also be used to regulate your clothing accordingly to the temperature by simply adding an additional layer if needed. I would not recommend cotton as your primary base layer, but if you only have cotton shirts make sure that you bring an extra in order to minimize the problem. In some situations the disadvantage cotton presents can be turned into an advantage by using a base layer made from merino wool or synthetic fabrics as your first layer and then add a second layer made from cotton.. If you have to perform intense physical tasks the cotton layer will absorb the perspiration through the first layer and help keeping the first layer dry.

If you keep you extra clothing in a water proof packs sack you increase the chance it will be dry if you ever need it; this is particularly important if you would fall through thin ice and need to change your clothing immediately.

Mid Layers
Mid layers is intended to provide you with insulation between your base layer and outer shell. Fleece is a light weight synthetic material that is that provides excellent insulation. There are countless brands on the market; a model with a zipper makes it easy to get the jacket on and off as you need it. Two of my personal favorites are the Houdini Power Houdi and the Houdini Power Jacket. There are also other solutions like shirts with either down or synthetic like prima loft that provide extreme insulation during cold weather. These solutions can often be compressed just like a sleeping bag and generally take up very little space in a pack. These solutions are often to warm do wear when you’re on the move but can provide great insulation and extra security when you break for camp or have to stop.

The shell is the outer layer that provides you with a shield against wind and rain. There are many different types of shell jackets; most regular shell jackets are made with some kind of membrane like Gore-Tex, with these shell layers you can often make do without additional rain clothing. These jackets “breath” and let water vapor be transported through the membrane but stop drops of water in the form of rain from reaching your mid and base layers. Regular shell jackets than can often be somewhat uncomfortable to wear and they can sometimes also make noise while moving something than can be a problem while engaging in activities when silence is required like hunting.

Soft shell is another fabric that is softer than regular shell jackets and more comfortable to carry. It does not provide the same amount of protection as a regular shell jacket but is in my experience sufficient for most situations. The main advantage is that soft shell jacket often “breath” better and thereby keeping you drier if you engage in intense physical activities and that it is also a more quite material to move around in. Soft shell and Shell Jackets are the most common outer layers; but there are also other options like extremely densely woven cotton that provides a quite good and resistance to wind and rain and have a much higher breathing than normal shell and soft shell materials. This type of cotton has been used in survival suits for fighter pilots for its ability to keep water for some time but still let some air through.

Rain Clothing and Ponchos can also be an alternative; since they often provide an even better protection than shell jackets in extreme conditions; but since they don’t “breath” very well they will often make you wet from perspiration if used during intense physical activities. If you go for a poncho I suggest that you get a pair of rain trousers as well since a poncho does not provide a full cover for your legs. There are also excellent combination shelters that work both as a Poncho, Tarp and Bivi-Bag; the Fjellduk from Helsport and Bivanorak from Hilleberg are two examples. There is ultra-light rain clothing that has a very low weight; as an example the combination of the Atomic Jacket and Atomic Pants from Montane has a combined weight of only 525 grams.

In cold and wind your hands is one of the most exposed parts of your body. A pair of gloves is important in order to stay warm but also in order to avoid injuries. The Montane Sabertooth Soft shell Gloves is one of my personal favorites that works well in most situations and provides good flexibility if you have to engage in tasks that require some dexterity. Thin leather working gloves is another great option, but if you want gloves that provide even more protection there are gloves especially intended to provide protection from cuts and knives from Hatch and other companies.

Your head
Having a hat or cap is extremely important in cold climates since you will lose much heat otherwise. A cap made from wool works well in most situations but in extreme condition a shell cap like the Lowe Alpin Mountain Cap can be a good alternative. In warm climate a hat or baseball cap can provide protection from the sun. There are many for of multifunction scarfs like the Buff available that can be used as a scarf, balaclava and cap and in many other configurations that can be a good complement to a hat. The Shemag is a larger scarf normally made from cotton that can also be for a number of other uses like a towel.

What’s in your Pockets?

Before we start discussing Bug Out Bags it can be a good idea to Every Day Carry (EDC). EDC is what you normally with you pockets on an everyday basis. Disaster and Crisis Situations can take place when you least expect it and what you have on your person may be all that you will have available.

I suggest that you try to carry a few basic items. A compact Folding Knife or a Swiss Army Knife is a great tool that will do most tasks that you need. The Fällkniven U-4 is one of my personal favorite for EDC, its 22 grams provides an extremely light weight knife and it has an excellent blade steel. Some type of fire starter like BIC lighter is very cheap and works well for most situations. A watch and a compact flashlight can also be good addition.

The Bug Out Bag

The Bag
What kind of bag or back-pack you should choose depends on long number of different factors. In general I would recommend that you for a backpack since it allow you to comfortably carry the equipment you need. It is however possible to use a long number of different alternatives like a Rolling Luggage Bag, Duffel bags or hard case bags like the ones from Pelican.

One of the most common recommendations for a Bug Out Bag is to use a 72 Hours Assault Pack or some type of tactical bag with MOLLE straps, extra Pouches etc like the packs from Maxpedition or Kifaru, These often have many options for arranging your equipment and the option of adding extra pouches. This packs have the advantage of providing excellent options for organizing the equipment; but they can often lack comfort; something that is critical if you ever have to carry the pack for long distances. When you choose your pack I suggest that you prioritize two things; Comfort and Function. It does not matter how your packs look, the important aspect is that it is comfortable to carry and that it provides the function you need from it. Having an Internal or External frame in your pack makes the pack more comfortable to carry, especially if you have to carry a heavy load. Make sure that the shoulder straps and waist belt fits is comfortable and that the size of the bag is the right one for the length of your back. Making sure that the equipment you carry in your pack stays dry is also important; by using waterproof pack sacks or a backpack cover can minimize these types of problems.

If you have to leave your home you might need somewhere to take shelter for the night if you can’t find other accommodations. What type of shelter you should get depends on your situation, your climate and the local terrain.

Tents have the major advantage that they can provide a shelter in almost any location; even if there are no trees or other types of materials that can be used to provide a shelter. A tent can also keep bugs and mosquitoes out and allow you to get the best rest you can. A model with a single pole is normally the lightest model that can found; the more poles a tent have the less sensitive the tent is to extreme weather. A tent is a particularly effective solution if you have to treat a wounded or hypothermic person since it provides excellent shelter from the elements.

Tarps can be a good alternative to improvise different kinds of shelter and they can also be used to provide extra protection over a regular tent. They are often quite cheap and there are light weight models available in most hardware stores. There are also ultra light models of high quality available from Hilleberg and Exped; but these are very expensive compared to a regular tarp.

Hammocks or Hennessy Hammocks can be effective and light weight alternatives; especially in relatively warm climates where you easily find trees and other places to attach the hammock.

A Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Mattress can help you stay warm in cold climates and provide insulation from the ground. A light weight sleeping bag is often enough to keep you alive even in quite cold settings but its recommended that you try to get a bag that is specifically chosen for the temperatures you encounter. Sleeping bags with down as insullation is often very light weight and provides excellent insulation as long as they remain dry. But if a sleeping bag made from down gets wet it loses much of its insulating properties; something that can be fatal. Sleeping bags with synthetic insulation are often heavier and bulkier but on the other hand they provide a somewhat better insulation if they get wet.

Survival Knives
A knife is one of the most important tools you can carry for preparedness. Since its one of the most important tools I suggest that you carry two knives so that you have one extra if you would lose or break one of your knives. I suggest that you use your EDC knife as your backup knife and that you choose a sturdy knife for your BOB. Different types of knives have different strength and weaknesses. A multi-tool like the models from Leatherman is excellent for many types of different tasks but can often be quite heavy. If you engage in outdoor activities and bush craft I would suggest that you go for a fixed blade knife. Some recommended models for EDC;

· The Fällkniven U-2 or U-4
· Benchmade 530
· Gerber Hinderer CLS
· Emerson La Griffe
· Victorinox Climber Swiss Army Knife
· Leatherman Wave Multi Tool

The main advantage with a fixed blade knife is that it does not have any moving parts that can break; even the strongest folding knife will be damaged if you use it repeatedly for splitting firewood or other heavy duty tasks for extended periods of time. Some recommended models:

· The Fällkniven F1 or S1
· ESEE-3 or ESEE-4
· Mora 2000Swedish FireKnife or Mora Bushcraft Survival

If you live in an area where you might end up traveling through forests or similar terrain an axe or folding saw can be an excellent complement to a survival knife if you have to construct shelters or gather fire wood.

During night and low light conditions having some kind of flashlight or headlamp available can be critical if you are trying to signal for help, perform first aid or build a shelter. Modern LED lights can provide much light in combination with a long battery life and they are also much more robust than older incensement bulbs. Some recommended models

· The Fenix LD-12 or LD-22
· 4Sevens Quark Tactical QTA
· ZebraLight H502d Headlamp

Fire Starter
A fire can provide you with many aspects in a survival situation; it can help you prepare food, boil water in order to disinfects it, provide you with heat if you’re cold, light so that you can signal for help and comfort. Matches is one of the easiest way to start a fire, the main disadvantage is that they often don’t work if subjected to water or dirt; therefore make sure that you keep them in a waterproof bag or container. A normal lighter like a BIC lighter last longer than many boxes of matches but have the disadvantage that they can break or stop working if subjected to rain, dirt or snow.A Fire Steel has the main advantage that it works no matter if its subjected to rain, dirt or snow; but it requires practice and that you know what type of tinder that works best in order to be used effectively. Tinder can help you to start a fire more easily; one of the most effective types of tinder is to take cotton balls and soak them in petroleum jelly, another effective but more expensive solution is WetFire from UST.

Pocket Survival Kits
A Pocket Survival Kit is a compact kit containing some basic tools that can be critical to have during a survival situation. A Pocket Survival Kit can help you keeping some extra equipment like a sewing kit, extra fire starter, button compass, a compact blade, fishing kit, snare wire and other essentials organized in your pack. A Pocket Survival Kit can also be carried on your person as a back-up in case you would loose your Bug Out Bag.

· BCB - Combat Survival Kit
· ESEE - Basic Survival Kit
· Pro Survival Kit Company – Master Pro Survival Kit

Water and Water Purification
Water is a critical part in any survival situation, an individual will only survive a few days without water and even small loses in fluid will have a large impact on the physical and mental capacity. How much water you should carry in your Bug Out Bag depends on several factors; if you live in an area where clean water is easy to find it does not make much sense to carry much water in your pack since water is very heavy to carry. But if you live in an area where water is very hard to find and the climate very hot you will have to adapt your Bug Out Bag accordingly.

I also suggest that you add some type of equipment to purify water either by disinfect the water using water purification tablets or filtering the water using a water purification filter. Water borne diseases can cause various forms of illnesses; by taking measures you can reduce the risk of contracting such disease. Water borne diseases can also spread after natural disasters like earthquakes that often break pipes so that waste water and fresh water mix resulting in a situation where water that was previously safe no longer is.

Recommended Water Containers
· Nalgene
· Klean Kanteen
· Camelbak Water Bladder

Recommended Water Purification Filters
· Katadyn Pocket
· MSR MiniWorks EX
· Aquamira Frontier

Food and Cooking
Normally it takes a few weeks for an individual to die from famine if no food of any kind is available. The lack of food is however a problem during a survival situation for a number of reasons; the lack of food reduce a person’s stamina and ability to generate heat making them more vulnerable to hypothermia but also affect the mind and the ability to reason. The psychological reactions to not having any food available can also be severe; after only a few days this often turns into an obsession

I therefore suggest that you try to include some kind of food in your BOB. Freeze dried rations have the main advantage that they take up very little room in your pack and they are also very light; normally a ration has a weight of just over 100 grams. Freeze dried rations often have a shelf life of a couple of years and should be rotated on a regular basis. The main disadvantage is that freeze dried rations require extra water (hot water), they are often expensive and your stomach might not appreciate to eat only freeze dried for over an extended period of time.

Recommended stoves
· Ebsit Pocket Stove
· Soto Micro Regulator Gas Stove
· Primus OmniLite Ti
· Trangia 27-6 UL

First Aid
Physical injuries can easily occur during outdoor activities, in your everyday life and as a result of Man-Made or Natural Disasters. In order to prepare for this learning First Aid and Disaster Medicine is very important. A First Aid Kit can provide a good tool kit that can help you to treat injuries more effectively and by having sterile bandages and other equipment available reduce the risk of infections. I also suggest that you include blister plasters, pain killers and anti-diarrheal tablets in your first aid kit in addition to any prescription medication that you might require.

Normally hygiene is not the most important aspect of making it through short term emergencies; but having the access to soap, a towel, toilet paper and a tooth brush can help you stay clean and reduce the risk of infections especially during long lasting emergencies. In addition to this some basic items for hygiene will help keeping your spirit up something that can be very important.

Bug Out Bags is often discussed as a tool to survive in the wilderness; but for many people living in cities during an evacuation it may be much more important to have some cash and credit card available, a charger for your cell phone or your passport and ID. Having the correct medical insurance and insurance for your property is often very important to handle the economical aftermath of a disaster. There are also almost always personal needs like prescription glasses or specific medication that must be included.

Smart Phones
Modern smart phones are excellent tools that can provide you with the ability to communicate through social networks, e-mail and other digital means but can also provide tools like GPS and map so that you easily find your way around. One the main drawbacks are the capacity of the battery that is often depleted fast using the applications. A cell phone charger can be an excellent thing to have in your pack, but in many situations the electrical grid may be down or unavailable. There are excellent compact lithium-ion power packs on the market that with a capacity of around 3500-5000 ; enough to charge a modern smart phone twice or more. There are also more comprehensive solutions that combine solar charges and massive li-ion batteries like the Powermonkey Extreme. Another drawback is that these phones are sensitive to the elements and must be treated carefully; sometimes just dropping the phone on the ground is enough to break the screen. One way of minimizing this problem is to get a water proof container or a custom fitted case; especially if you use your phone while biking this type of solution can be very helpful since it allows to use navigation functions without having to hold the phone in your hand; some excellent solutions is available through the company UltimateAddons.

In most situations cell phones provides the most effective way to communicate and call for help; but there are also other tools like the SPOT that can send SOS messages using satellites that contain your exact position using GPS. Other more basic tools can include whistles, signal mirrors or strobes that can be used to attract attention.

The Practical Aspect
The Bug Out Bag is often discussed as something that has to be perfect; every single part of equipment has to be the best piece than can be bought for money – or your dead. So how important is it to have the perfect Bug Out Bag? My answer would be that the BOB itself isn’t the most critical component. The most important aspect is YOU. There are situations when a BOB can really make a difference for your chances to survive a disaster, but the majority of natural disasters and man-made disasters don’t call for an evacuation in order to survive.

What type of activities do you normally engage in?
When you build your BOB I would suggest that you try to find equipment that you need for the type of outdoor activities that you normally engage in like hiking, hunting, camping and other activities. One of the most important aspects is that you know your equipment; how to use it, its limitations and strengths so that you can utilize it in the best way.

Building a high quality Bug Out Bag can set you back literary thousands of dollars; there is basically no upper limit for the potential price. If you build a setup only intended to be used during emergencies you might end up with an extremely expensive setup that you will never enjoy or use. The equipment you choose should work just as well for your regular needs as for your need during an emergency.


Having a specific kit for evacuations can be critical for some type of emergencies; but far from all disasters require this capacity in order for people to survive. A Bug Out Bag can provide you with tools during other situations

· Extra warmth in form of a sleeping bag in case the electrical grid goes down
· Light in the form of a flashlight or headlamp in case of black out
· The ability to prepare food if your regular stove stops working
· The ability to store and purify water
· A first aid kit in case of accidents in your home
· Tools in the form of a knife or multi-tool

In the Prepper and Survivalist community many often discuss preparedness in terms of discussing a complete and sudden collapse of modern society; in some cases there are also references to conspiracy theories and fictional literature. I suggest that you primary focus when building a kit is the specific Natural and Man-Made disasters that you may encounter in your specific setting by making a basic Risk Assessment.


[ ] Long sleeve base layer shirt (I recommend Merino Wool)
[ ] Short sleeve base layer shirt
[ ] Change of underwear
[ ] Hat or Watch cap
[ ] Gloves
[ ] Buff, Scarf or Shemag
[ ] Shell Jacket (Waterproof and Wind Proof)
[ ] Warm long sleeve shirt
[ ] Heavy Duty Pants
[ ] Poncho, Rain Clothing, Bivi-Poncho, Bivanorak or Fjellduk
[ ] Hiking Boots
[ ] 2 pair of Extra socks
[ ] Watch with a button compass on the wrist band

[ ] Backpack
[ ] Waterproof Dry Sacks or Waterproof Backpack Cover

[ ] Sleeping bag, Sleeping bag liners helps to extend the lifetime of your sleeping bag
[ ] Sleeping mattress, Hammock or Hennessy Hammock
[ ] Tarp, Tent, Bivanorak, Fjellduk or Bivi-Bag

[ ] Flashlight or/and Headlamp (LED)
[ ] Extra batteries (Lithium)

[ ] Matches in Waterproof Container
[ ] Lighter
[ ] Fire Steel
[ ] Tinder

Survival Knives
[ ] Fixed Blade Knife
[ ] Back Up Knife: examples could be a Folding Knife, Compact Fixed Blade Knife, Multi Tool or Swiss Army Knife
[ ] Sharpener

Pocket Survival Kit
[ ] Matches
[ ] Fire Steel
[ ] Snare Wire
[ ] Wire Saw
[ ] Sewing Kit
[ ] Button Compass
[ ] Safety Pins
[ ] Whistle
[ ] Candle
[ ] Compact LED lamp
[ ] Compact Knife or Razor Blade
[ ] Fishing kit
[ ] Pencil
[ ] Water Purification Tablets
[ ] Painkillers
[ ] Anti Diarrhea Tablets
[ ] Antihistamines
[ ] Antibiotics
[ ] Condom or Alok Sak

[ ] One or Two Water Bottles (Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Camelback or SIGG)
[ ] Water Bladder for your backpack; Camelback, Nalgene or similar system.
[ ] Water Purification Tablets
[ ] Water Purification Filter

[ ] Freeze Dried Rations or Meals Ready to Eat (MRE:s). Minimum 6 meals for 72 hours
[ ] Powerbars, Flapjack, Beef jerky, Trail mix or other snacks
[ ] Tea, Coffee, Sugar and Powdered milk
[ ] Salt and Pepper

[ ] Stove: Multi Fuel Stove, Kelly Kettle, Trangia, Ebsit, Optimus Crux Lite or Jetboil
[ ] Fuel for your Stove
[ ] Cooking Vessels
[ ] Spork (Or Knife, Fork and Spoon)
[ ] Cup and Plate
[ ] Steel Wool, Mop and Washing Up Liquid (I recommend Fairy)
[ ] P-38 Can Opener

[ ] Map
[ ] Waterproof container for map
[ ] Compass
[ ] Cash or Gold/Silver
[ ] Passport and Immunization Record Card
[ ] Notebook and Pen
[ ] Kwikpoint

[ ] Roll of Toilet Paper (in waterproof bag)
[ ] Soap
[ ] Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Dental Floss
[ ] Razor
[ ] Hand Disinfection
[ ] Insect Repellant
[ ] Sun Block or Skin Care Lotion

[ ] 550 Paracord
[ ] First Aid Kit
[ ] Blister Kit
[ ] Sunglasses