Growing up in a family which camped a lot, the family slang for what is now usually called the B.O.B. was “the Git Kit.” As I am now an ossified old coot, I reserve the right to keep calling it just that.
Something I have noticed in most written descriptions of BOBs/Git Kits is a generality of speech bordering on the uselessly vague. No weights, no measures, no manufacturers, no clues! It’s enough to give Horace Kephart’s ghost a ripping case of hives.
With that in mind, I dug into my gear with the goal of providing a more detailed, quantitative analysis of what I have settled on. Herewith are the results:
Geographical area of operations: Western Washington State, specifically the Olympic Peninsula (I reside along the Northern shore, a mile inland from the Strait of Juan de Fuca). However, one can find this sort of terrain and climate West of the Cascades anywhere from Northern California to Southern Alaska.
Climate: Northwestern Coastal Temperate. The Kit is tuned for four-season capability in this climate. It is not tuned for extended stays – especially in winter – in high alpine/glacier country.
Usefulness: The Git Kit can be used indiscriminately (i.e., unmodified) for camping/backpacking, natural disasters, bugging out or in, or being stranded way the heck back on an overgrown forest service road I probably shouldn’t have driven up in the first place. As with any good tool, skill in using it is 90% of the battle, which is why using it for everyday camping and hiking in remote areas is a good thing. And, as my departed Dad was mighty fond of saying, “It’s a poor workman as blames his tools.”
The Beast of Burden: Me. Very nearly 60 years of age, with all the aches and pains and scars of an active physical life, and a titanium hip. Height 6’1”, weight 175 lbs. In middling physical shape, but nothing you might call top-notch.
The Burden: A medium sized (2,950 cu. in.) waterproof internal frame backpack with padded waistband. Beside the main compartment, the pack has 3 exterior elastic mesh pockets and another zippered pocket built into the top flap. I load the main compartment with 4 stuff bags (also waterproof) which contain, respectively, a sleeping bag, additional clothing, food supplies and “hard” survival gear. The bags go in with the heaviest at the bottom of the pack and the lightest at the top. This does wonders for your center of gravity, and minimizes energy used in carrying the load. A ¾ length goretex parka is packed loose at the top of the main compartment. In addition to the exterior pockets, a folding closed cell foam sleeping pad wrapped in an 8’x10’ lightweight tarp/tent is strapped to the back of the pack.
The details of the pack, 4 stuff bags, contents of external pockets, and other external gear are as follows:
The Pack: Gregory “G” Pack, 2,950 cu. inches volume.
Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz.
Bag I – Sleeping bag, North Face Blue Kazoo, 3 season.
Weight with bag: 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Bag II – Additional clothing, consisting of 1 set Merino wool long johns, 2 pair medium weight over the calf (OTC) wool socks, 1 pair silk sock liners, 1 boxer shorts, 1 pair waterproof gaiters, 1 medium heavy long sleeve Polartec overshirt.
Weight with bag: 3 lbs. 2 oz.
Bag III – “Hard” survival gear, consisting of basic first aid kit (to which I added 1 quick-clot compress, 4 alcohol wipes, and a pair of hemostats), 12 salt tabs, 100’ 550 paracord, 2” glass magnifying glass with cover, signaling mirror, whistle, small (4 AAA battery) flashlight, spare AAA batteries, 1 roll supertape, 4 boxes (20 count) waterproof matches, 12 Esbit cubes, magnesium fire starter block, 10 4” splits of Georgia fatwood, fishing kit, sewing kit (with 12’ duct tape wrapped around the Coleman powdered mustard tin it lives in), 6” mill file, small medium grit Arkansas whetstone, space blanket style bivvy sack, spare Ziploc bags, folded square of heavy duty tinfoil. Note: As an example of the multiple uses to which items may be put, I have a couple curved needles in the sewing kit which, combined with monofilament line from the fishing kit and alcohol disinfectant wipes from the first aid kit, create an effective suturing kit.
Weight with bag: 4 lbs. 6 oz.
Bag IV – Food supplies, consisting of 5 one pound (2,400 calories per) foil sealed packages of MainStay food rations, 16 bags double bergamot Earl Grey tea, 16 packets EmergenC, a plastic film can of salt, medium sized tin mug with folding wire handles, spork.
Weight with bag: 5 lbs. 14 oz.
¾ Length Parka – North Face, full hood, Goretex.
Weight: 2 lbs. 1 oz.
Left (side) exterior mesh pocket – 1 liter water bottle, Japanese “trenching tool” in sheath.
Weight (with water): 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Right (side) exterior mesh pocket – 1 liter water bottle. Note: water bottle cap threads fit water filter unit in center mesh pocket.
Weight (with water): 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Center exterior mesh pocket – 58” x 80” Survival tarp/space blanket (groundsheet for tent), Katadyn Miniworks ex pump style water filtration unit, wire tent stakes and guylines, Norlund Hudson bay pattern hatchet with sheath.
Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz.
Top pack flap pocket – A nice area map (USFS/USGS of the entire Olympic Peninsula.), State map (highway), Silva Ranger compass, LED headlamp, toilet kit (TP, soap, toothbrush/paste), Merino wool headsock, pair utility “thermal” gloves, spare glasses in hard case.
Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
Strapped to back of pack – Thermarest folding sleeping pad, 8’X10’ Etowah tarp/tent (these fold into a 2 ½” X 16” X 21” packet which fits neatly within the profile of the pack and doesn’t catch on brush.
Weight: 2 lbs.
Summary – The weight of the entire kit, including rations and water, is just under 34 pounds.
Notes, in no particular order
- Calculated caloric intake is based on 1,200 calories per day, thus giving me 10 days rations. Yes, this is the classic definition of “half rations”, but survival usually doesn’t include living high off the hog. Foraged (wild) food, when available, adds to the daily intake. Drinking water. As fresh water is plentiful in my area of operation, two liters is enough to get me from source to source.
- What I normally wear (or the missing pieces from the list above) – over the calf medium weight wool socks, Boxer shorts, 10” leather work/hiking boots (no moccasin toes – they will surely leak), jeans in summer, wool pants in winter, medium weight wool long sleeve shirt with 2 full sized breast pockets, multipocket vest (either Columbia or Duluth Trading Co.), stout leather belt. What I normally carry is a Benchmark knife (locking folder with 3 ½” blade), Leatherman Wave in sheath on belt, waterproof watch, waterproof notebook and mechanical pencil, cotton bandanna, glasses, cash, wallet, keys, and a Lee Oskar diatonic harmonica in C major. Also an oiled canvas hat with 3” brim.
- What’s with the waterproof bags? Other than a very handy storage/organization system, they give my gear a second layer of protection from the elements. Hypothermia is a stone cold, very quick killer; dry clothing and bedding is a primary antidote for same. The bags also see service for carrying water and foraged food and materials. Last, but not least, they are great compression bags (these are the kayak type bags with the folding rubber strip seal). My spare clothing takes up a lot of volume even when stuffed tight, I kneel and lean down with one knee on the bag to expel most of the air, then roll up and clip the closure, which reduces the stuffed volume by a good third. It is then literally vacuum packed.
- “Cold Camping”, i.e. no stove or fuel. I can build a fire if I want. However, in a survival situation in which two- legged predators may be about, a fire, with its light and smoke and smells of cooking might as well be a brass band announcing your presence. I have no psychological problem with eating cold rations or drinking cold tea (which brews just as well cold as hot – just takes longer – I put a bag in one of the liter bottles before sleep and its good to go in the morning).
- Over the calf socks. Most people wear boot socks which end just under the calf muscles, and whose elastic tops neatly hinder circulation to the ankles and feet at that critical point. Over the calf socks eliminate this problem almost entirely. Your feet will thank you at the end of each day.
- Why the hatchet (18 oz.) and the Japanese “trenching knife” (11 oz.), two relatively heavy items? The short answer is that for me they are both indispensable “third hands.” The hatchet, beyond cutting and splitting wood, is also a weapon and a hammer and a carving tool. It is remarkably versatile for shaping wooden objects, disjointing game (especially if larger game) and constructing semi permanent shelter, just to name a few. The trenching knife is a shovel, a hoe, a pick, a pry bar, and again a weapon. I use it for cat scrapes for defecation, trenching around the tent for rainwater runoff (it can get astonishingly wet in a temperate rainforest) and a dozen other things. From the rock bottom survival side, you would be amazed at how much food and material needs be dug from the ground. Notes: Norlund was an American manufacturer – long out of business – which made axes and hatchets of exceptional quality. I found the hatchet I now own many years ago at a yard sale for the princely sum of 50 cents. I didn’t even know who Norlund was, then, only knew that the hatchet had a fine balance and was forged of really good steel. The Japanese trenching knife (which has a very stout 6 ½” double edged blade with one edge serrated) was a weeding knife given me as a Christmas present one year. It quickly became my #1 “go to” gardening tool. One day I was packing up for a longish camping trip – took a look at said tool – and said “hmmm, I wonder…..”. The rest is history. You can find it under the innocent name of “the gardener’s friend” at japanwoodworker.com.
- Other appendages – Trekking poles, binoculars, firearms. I used to think trekking poles were a bunch of foofaraw until I spent nine months working full time out on the production floor, up stairs and down, etc. etc. with my hip just screaming at me while I waited for the date of the hip replacement operation. I bought a pair of poles out of desperation so I could get around, and they pulled me through. Latterly, I have found that they are a great aid to balance when traversing rough ground, and anecdotally leave me feeling much fresher after a day’s hiking. I bought ones which telescope, so when, for example, faced with going through heavy brush, I collapse them and slip them under the straps which hold the sleeping pad/tarp to the pack. Another nifty use for them is when fording creeks or streams. By the way, a much safer way of fording heavy water is to leave your pack on the bank, tie your 550 line to it, tie a loose loop in the other end of your line and slip it over your arm, then ford the stream using the poles for stability. When you reach the other bank, draw the pack over to you using the line (another reason for that waterproof bag system of mine). Beats falling down midstream and being drowned under the weight/awkwardness of your pack.
- Firearms. I won’t even begin to tangle with the myriad of opinions and gesticulations re firearms. Suffice it to say that I do on occasion carry a Czech-made compact 9mm semiautomatic service pistol in a shoulder rig which also carries two spare magazines on the off side, for a total of 42 rounds available. The shoulder rig fits very nicely under my pack rigging with no interference, awkwardness or chafing, and allows immediate access to both the weapon and spare mags. If I have to ditch the pack, the weapon stays with me. The weight penalty for this is 4 lbs. 6 oz..
- Binoculars. One of my strategic principles is “see or be seen.” Seeing a threat before it sees you, and taking steps to avoid it is a whole lot more survivable than a firefight or some other potentially deadly confrontation. In my opinion, choosing roads (the more traveled the worse) as a primary route for either ingress or egress during a calamity makes you into one big fat target. Learning how to travel well over roadless/trail-less territory, though it is difficult and takes much practice is well worth it. For this reason I carry a pair of 9 x 36 Bushnell “Featherlight” binoculars (1 lb. 10 oz.). You can get much lighter ones these days for a price – I purchased my old pair in 1968, when they were the best and lightest I could afford.
- Sleeping Pad. When I was young and immortal and bulletproof I didn’t need no stinkin’ pad to cushion me from the ground. Now, every knob or stob underneath me, no matter how insignificant seems to have an undivided evil intent to render me crippled by dawn. As I don’t like waking up sore and sleepless, I carry the pad and put up with the weight.
- Georgia Fatwood. The Southern Longleaf Pine has the interesting characteristic of growing in such a manner that some of its wood is completely impregnated with highly flammable pitch or resin. The logs are usually cut into 8” lengths and split into approx. ½” x ¾” splints for kindling. I cut a few splints in half (to 4”) and keep a handful in my kit. For starting a fire in really ugly weather, a piece of fatwood can’t be beat.
- Electronic Gear. I avoid it like the plague. The one thing I do carry is a Casio GZ One Type S cellphone, which is highly water, shock, dust and temperature resistant. Doesn’t change the fact that reception is spotty to nonexistent in most of the back country and some of the main highways where I live.
A final note. The present configuration of my Git Kit came from trial, error, hard knocks, some really awful mistakes, and the wisdom of my elders from a very early age. It is most important to tune the kit to your own capabilities and intentions, and your area of operation: one size does not fit all. Lastly, as Henry D. Thoreau wrote a long, long time ago: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
Disclaimer: I do not represent nor am I an agent for the companies that make or sell anything I have identified by make or model. It is just stuff that works for me.