Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bug-out bags

"Any such thing as an uncomplicated bugoutbag? Thanks in advance. A real novice at this.
There are about as many ways to put together a bug-out bag as there are people and potential situations.  It doesn't have to be complicated though.
Start with thinking about what sort of things would cause you to need to bug-out.  Do you live in an area prone to flooding?  Hurricanes?  Wildfires?  What about winter snow and ice storms... if the power went out would you stay home or go somewhere else?
If you had to leave home for one of those situations, would you go to a public shelter, or to the home of friends or relatives, or somewhere else?  The answer to that also affects what you pack.
Some people consider the possibility of civil unrest, collapse, or war.  It could become dangerous to stay where they are.  Your bug-out bag would have to be packed according to whether you had a pre-planned place to go or just fleeing.
Those are all things to think about when you pack.  If you have a preplanned place to go you probably have some supplies already stored there, so you'll just have to pack what you'll need to get there.  If you have no idea where you're going to go, then you'll have to consider the things that will keep you alive for a while, and pack with that in mind.
Some basic items should be in every bag.  The necessities for survival are shelter/warmth, water, and food.  Other things, such as medical supplies, are good to have, but start with those first three.
You're probably trying to keep your pack on the light side to make travel easier.  One of the best clothing items for warmth, which is also lightweight, is a fleece jacket or pull-over.  The downside is that they can be bulky.  If you have the space, a fleece jacket and a wind-breaker jacket give you good layering options.  You can wear one or the other, or both.  Another combination is a down vest, compressed into a ball with a rubber band or tie around it, and a wind-breaker jacket.  Try to avoid one big bulky coat because it doesn't leave enough options for temperatures in between warm and cool.
The cheap and small things to put in your pack that contribute to shelter and warmth are the cheap foil "space blankets" and the cheap plastic rain ponchos, both sold at most discount or box stores for about a dollar each.  You can lay the plastic poncho on the ground to protect you from moisture, and wrap up in the space blanket, or do it the other way around.  Lay the space blanket on the ground to keep your body's warmth from being absorbed by cold ground, and get inside the plastic poncho to keep wind from cooling your body.
If you have a larger pack you might be able to keep a sleeping bag tied to it.  However if you find yourself out in the wild in the cold, don't just sit on the ground and shiver.  Sometime I'll devote a whole post to ways to survive in that situation, but just quickly, let me say that you should try to find a sheltered place and cover yourself with leafed branches or pine branches, bunches of tall grass, or even leaves off the ground.  If there are more than one of you, sit against each other for shared warmth.
When my kids were growing up we camped in the woods one night without shelter.  We huddled in a dip in the ground, with leaves piled over us.  The kids also stuffed leaves inside their shirt and pants for extra warmth.  It was quite comfortable.  We watch the show "I Shouldn't Be Alive" on Animal Planet and I can't believe how many people, who are lost in the wild, just sit on the ground all night waiting for the sun to come up and warm them, and behind them is tall grass and bushes. 
In with warmth and shelter is fire making.  Carry at least two things for starting a fire.  Fire can be used for warmth, cooking, and attracting the help of rescuers; but keep in mind if you DON'T want to be seen or found, that the smoke by day and the glow of the flames by night could be seen.
The easiest fire starters for most people to carry are a cigarette lighter and matches.  There are also flint & steel and magnesium fire starters.  Do your homework now.  One of the things you can do is watch youtube videos on firestarting.  There are techniques you can learn, such as bow drill and hand drill, for starting a fire with only what you find in the woods, but unless you get a chance to practice this in real life, you're taking a chance by assuming you could do it if your life depended on it.
That said, watch the videos anyway and learn the techniques, because if you find yourself in a situation where your life does depend on it, at least you'd have the general idea of what to do.
Water is the next item of need.  There again you have to look at your probable situation of bugging out and decide how much water to carry, and how to plan on filtering if need be.  If all you ever expect is to go straight from your home to a shelter or a friend or relative's house, you won't need as much water.  If you're preparing in case you have to head for the hills, you'll need to plan a bit more. 
The weight of water is going to be a big factor.  You can only carry so much.  Look into options for filtering and purifying water.  This could be as simple as boiling it, or as complicated as running it through a filter and purifier.  By the way, once water reaching the boiling point it's safe.  It doesn't need to boil for 5 minutes.  Boiling kills pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.), but doesn't remove chemicals and other pollutants.
Filtering and purifying are not the same thing.  Filters just remove the debris.  Some commercial filters will remove SOME bacteria and other pollutants, but find out before you buy.  A purifier does just purifies the water so it's safe to drink.  It can still have some debris in it but be safe to drink.
But I don't want to make this complicated so here's the deal.  Carry at least a couple of those small water bottles.  You can buy a filter straw from places like Cabelas, and water purifying pills from sporting goods stores.   If you must filter water in the wild you can make a primitive filter.  If you can find a can or non-glass bottle, that'll work; or you might have to use one of your water bottles.  Take the pocket knife that you packed in your bag (did I mention that?) and poke holes in the bottom of a can or bottle. 
Now find some sand and fill the bottle/can about a third full.  Look around for charred wood, such as from an old campfire or a tree or stump hit by lightening.  If you can't find some, and you're able to make a fire, you can burn some wood until it's good and charred, then pull it out of the fire using another stick.  Crush this "charcoal" and make a layer on top of the sand in the bottle/can, about as thick as the sand.  On top of that, sprinkle some small gravel or stones.  You can put a little bit of grass on top to help catch and filter debris, but the gravel will do it too.
Pour water into the filtering bottle, holding the other bottle below it.  If you have a way to tie them or brace them on rocks or logs so you don't have to hold them, it's a good idea, because it takes a while for the water to run through the charcoal and sand.  But in the end you should have water that is safe to drink. 
If you're ever lost in the wild and don't have a bottle with you, keep your eyes open.  Mankind has left a trail of garbage behind for centuries, and even the most remote place can turn up old cans.  Hopefully you'll be in a place with abundant water.  Finding water in dry or desert areas is a whole other subject.  If you expect to be in an area like that, learn about solar stills, how to find springs, and how to look for pockets or water in rocks or trees.  Staying hydrated by 'drinking' cactus juice is more likely to give you diarrhea.
Moving on to food, at the very least we keep a couple of granola bars in our packs.  A few hard candies can be good for keeping energy levels up while you walk.  If you're expanding to add more food, think 'calories' and 'fat'.  This is the time when you want as much of both as possible.  They'll give you more energy for the size than foods with less of either.  Something with peanut butter or coconut oil, or other fats, plus sugar, is good.  However, if they're in a candy bar like Peanut Butter cups, you run the risk of it melting.  Peanut butter M & M's are a good one to carry.  You can nibble on one or two at a time and stretch them out for hours.
If you have the space and can carry the weight, a jar of peanut butter is good to have.  Change it out twice a year so it doesn't get old and rancid.
In addition to our packs we have 2-gallon plastic buckets with airtight lids from a local bakery.  My husband and I each have one and we call them our "Bug-out buckets".  Inside is a jar of peanut butter, a jar of coconut oil, and a can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk).  These are all high in calories and fat.  Peanut butter has protein and the condensed milk has carbs, in addition to the calories and fat.  We also packed a bunch of odds and ends like hot cocoa mix, hard candies, matches and a lighter, bandaids, small LED flashlight and a set of extra batteries, a pair of socks, an emergency poncho, and a space blanket.  I think there's a few odds and ends like a tube of chapstick and a small comb.
These buckets are pretty lightweight and easy to carry.  Depending on the circumstances we'd grab those in addition to or instead of our packs. 
For the possibility of being in the wild long-term it's a good idea to learn foraging.  Get a good book on edible wild plants for your area and study it.  Go out and look for these plants, harvest and eat them.  Make sure you're picking the right plant.  If you can find a mentor that's the best route to go, or take a class.  You can stretch the food you carry and survive longer.
This is a good thing for everyone to learn.  Once you master the wild plants of your area, study up on the edible wild plants of places you might travel to.  It increases your odds of survival if you get lost or have to flee into any wild area.  Keep a whistle on a string attached to your bag.  It's easier to blow the whistle to attract help than to shout for hours.

Read about, or watch youtube or other videos, on making a survival shelter.  It doesn't take much knowledge to break off and gather branches, the leafier the better, pile them up and get underneath or in among them for warmth or shelter from the wind.  Enough pine branches can shed water too.  Find a fallen tree and lean branches up against it to make a small shelter you can crawl into.  Have another pile handy to pull into the doorway after you get in, to further contain your body heat and keep out wind.  You won't suffocate.  Enough fresh air will filter into your shelter to provide you with oxygen.

If it's winter, dig a hole in the snow, line it with branches and pull more in over you.  Even a snow cave with no branches to put in it will be warmer than the outside air, plus provide protection from the wind. If your car gets stuck in the snow and it looks like it'll be a while before you're rescued, or it's so cold you won't survive even a short stay, rip your seat covers and pull out the stuffing.  Put it inside your clothes for added 'warmth'.  I realize this isn't bug-out bag information but it's still good survival information.

You can make your bug-out bag as complicated as you want. Here's a website that specializes in survival kits and packs, and carries a wide line of things you can put in your bug-out bag: 

But this post is about the uncomplicated bug-out bag; the simplest bag you can put together.  For a simple, uncomplicated bug-out bag that you can assemble with what you have on hand: a layered combo of jackets, a spare pair of socks, a spare pair of underwear, matches and a lighter, a couple of water bottles, a handful (or more) of hard candy (mints, butterscotch, whatever you like), a big bag of peanut or peanut butter M&Ms or trail mix.  That is the basid stuff that will keep you going for a few days.
You can add whatever you want to it.  You can get the space blankets and emergency poncho, and you can put in more food, more clothes, maps, compass, small pair of binoculars, a deck of cards, a book or a kindle/e-reader, whatever you want.  Just don't over-burden yourself and end up struggling to carry the bag.  If you require medicine, try to keep some in the bag and rotate it.  Add things like tylenol, a pair of reading glasses if you need them, nail clippers, and a small bar of soap.
If you have the money and the time, you could buy a spare kindle (or other e-reader) and fill it with books that will help you survive in the wild.  You could get medical books, foraging books, how-to build books, whatever you think you'd need.  Check it from time to time to make sure the battery is charged, and keep the wifi feature turned off unless you're adding more books, to save on battery life.  You can also buy a small solar charger for things like Kindles and cell phones.  They're pretty inexpensive, starting around $15 last time I looked.
These are just some ideas to help you get started.  No one is completely immune from the possibility of having to leave their home, so it's a good idea to toss a few of these things into a bag and have it ready. 

No comments:

Post a Comment