What is a bug out bag and why do I need one?
Bugging out is basically the same as evacuation. Essentially, the difference is that when one has a “bug out bag”, there’s a certain pre-orchestration to the ideal. You don’t have to have everyone in the family running around needlessly, especially at a panic stricken dead-sprint, to get the essentials together for evacuation. It’s dangerous, wasteful, and almost guarantees forgetfulness. “Honey, did you remember the can opener? The matches?” Most excellent wife asks. “I thought you brought them,” Husband responds… Now, if all one forgets from the list of bug out bag essentials is a can opener, the situation is hardly a crisis, but worse things are easily overlooked. They’re especially easy to overlook without any planning at all.
Next, one might just assume that with a little bush-craft or survival know-how, one just needs a few small items in the kit to make his or her way in the world, leaving behind whatever calamity has led to the bug-out. While a Navy SEAL, or some commando might get along just fine through the wilds with no more than a kukri, tinderbox, a few pieces of chewing gum, and his favorite mag-bar, the rest of us are more used to the twenty-first century and having at least a little society around us.
No. You have to develop your own list of essentials and a proper bug-out kit to suit your situation. That point can’t possibly be stressed enough. The ultimate bug out bag is the one that you create that best suits the needs of you and your environment.
Tip: If you can afford it, start out with a tactical bag.
For a regular homeowner, besides having enough food and protective clothing for everyone involved in the bugging out, he or she might seriously consider a modest strongbox to go along and carry the essential papers about the house and property. It’s probably highly advisable to pack in any extra titles to vehicles being left behind in the evacuation as well. These are as essential to be able to return to daily life as about anything else.
Your location has a lot to say about the foods and clothes you’ll need to pack in “the kit” as well. While someone fleeing an epic Nor’easter in Maine would need to have spare coats and blankets for everyone, the family racing up to get clear of a major hurricane from Florida, probably won’t need more than a light blanket or two, and mostly more summer apparel. The kit might also have to change considerably depending on the time of year, at least throughout most of North America.
As for food, one can estimate approximately what a single person would probably eat in a day’s time and multiply by three to be relatively assured for the evacuation trip. In three days, a decent vehicle should be able to get nearly across the entire country. Of course, also keep in mind that when you’ve chosen to bug-out as opposed to “weathering in place”, you’re NOT going to be alone. It’s very likely most of your town is evacuating as well. That’s an important footnote for the food issue, because there may not be many vacancies nearby, forcing you to move on until you find one. Occasionally, this can even lead to camping at rest-areas, in parking lots, at parks and so forth. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and believe me, I’ve been there.
Along with that contingency a few common camping supplies wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Remember, once in the “field”, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. At the same time, if you bring it out to the field, you’ve also got to take care of it and bring it back out of the field with you. The best camping items would likely include the smaller things that bring the most mileage. A small propane or gasoline powered stove would benefit the cooking of meals, as opposed to building a campfire in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. Of course, the magnesium fire starter and striker would help if you live or plan to travel remotely enough that a campfire would be an advantage.
Again, try to create a full course of action so you can plan ahead. Pick up a road map or Atlas and study the thing. You can figure out at least three good directions to travel for almost any contingency, and based on the map, you can develop a checklist of things you’ll probably need to have packed before you head in any particular direction. It’s also advisable to have a destination (or two) in mind before you set out, which is part of the directions you should have chosen.
Some places will inevitably create a greater need for different and certain supplies, so composing a bug out bag checklist is also essential. The basic kit can stand alone, and the strongbox can be readied or stored for its purpose until evacuation is called for. With a checklist developed AND laminated, you can keep it near the “bug-out kit”, so that everything necessary can be double-checked visually. You can be sure everything is present and accounted for before hitting the road.
Finally, it’s highly advised that you keep a little cold, hard cash with your kit. It sounds a little silly, but in the conditions for evacuation, the infrastructure for your debits and credits might not be working when you’d like. Cash always works.
You shouldn’t have to pack much, and you can keep it in the same strongbox as the titles to vehicles, insurance papers and cards, and other important legal documents. Once collected and packed, however, forget about it. Keeping in mind that this isn’t exactly a happy little family outing to spend, spend, spend, one can still pack away a fair stash of cash for the proverbial rainy day, and once it’s stashed and forgotten, you don’t have to miss it, ever. The last place you want to be in an evacuation or “bugging out” is on the side of the road because the one thing you forgot was gas, and the card machine in the station won’t work! Cash also helps replace or replenish in the case that you don’t get to where you’d want to be in three days. Traffic jams happen, and the biggest, fastest freeways in the country can become parking lots for hours.
Last but certainly not least is weaponry. This all comes down to what you are more comfortable using in an emergency situations. For some people this is a gun, for others this could be a knife. Knives are a great companion to a firearm and will also come in handy if you find yourself bugging out in the wilderness. You can also include less-lethal deterrents such as bear pepper spray or a taser.
7. Morale Boosters (optional)
There’s also a word or two to be said about keeping morale, especially if you have kids. A deck of cards is small, easily packed, and can keep even a few adults occupied for hours. If you have kids, you already know them (or should) pretty well, so you probably have a fair idea of a few littler things to bring along, or even a few things that could be secretly bought and packed for that bugging out “rainy day” contingency. Even if you don’t have little children, virtually anyone gets bored and tired and frustrated sitting in the car for hours. Do be careful of this. Morale can turn on the drop of a hat and send even the best planned trip sideways.
Where to keep a bug out bag?
Finally, since the entire intention of a bug-out bag is for the emergency evacuation procedure, it’s best to find a sturdy, central location for the thing. Make sure the whole family, or household, knows where it is and how to get to it. It doesn’t have to break the bank to fill it out and find just the right container(s) to house it until needed. In personal experience “Sterilite” are best. Once you believe it’s truly together to suit you, complete with any and all gear not even mentioned here like pots, pans, water filters, sleeping bags, tents, or even guns if you believe there might be a need, you should take the time to hold a family drill.
Practice makes perfect
Again, since the original kit didn’t have to break your bank to collect, taking the occasion to hold a bug-out drill doesn’t either. You can start with picking a day to call for the bug-out drill just to see to it everyone understands their role in proceedings and you can repeat this without spending a single dollar. Load the car as quickly as possible, drive around the block, and unload. A stopwatch might help shave those seconds down as you coach the wife and kids, but it’s more of an advanced tool. The objective is to keep motions going to an advantage as opposed to everyone running around needlessly and chaotically.
It’s about survival, not beating the local infantry at hitting the field for maneuvers. Once in a while, you can even go “full-on”, and actually pack everyone and everything, double check the list, and head to one of the predetermined destinations for a weekend “bugged out”. Everyone likes a little change of scenery once in a while, and a real trip, even if it isn’t exactly necessary can help find any “bugs” or “loopholes” in the plan thus far.
Like anything else, until you’ve done it, you don’t really know if it’s actually going to work, and you’d rather be camping for a good time when you find out you forgot to pack matches or a tinderbox and fire starter in the kit than when it’s dark, stormy, and you can’t just pop in the family wagon and hit a convenient store a couple miles down the road for that can opener either.
By: Douglas G.