When trouble comes and you are required to re-locate, there may not be time to try to find, organize and then pack your emergency gear. Just the stress of an emergency situation alone can keep you from thinking clearly enough to gather and pack all you might need. Getting your gear ready in advance can minimize this problem. Over the years I have developed a system in which I assemble “Field Kits” for my outdoor and emergency equipment and supplies. This allows me to keep my stuff organized and ready for future use. I assemble the kits with items needed and then I inventory the contents and I keep a copy on file as well as a copy in the kit. That way I know what I have in there two years down the road and I also know if any of the contents have a shelf life – they have been dated and a periodic inspection of the list allows you to know if an item (such as Aspirin) should be replaced or not. In the following paragraphs I will share my experience with building and using these kits including the number of years that I have employed each different kit.
I have assembled and used the following special purpose kits as described in the following paragraphs:
Bug Out Bag (BOB): I won’t write much detail about this type of kit because most of you know about these. (If not, do a Google search to get good contents lists etc., ) I use mostly backpacks for this purpose rather than a shoulder bag because I know if I have to carry the kit very far – a backpack is going to be much less fatiguing on my body than carrying the weight in my hands or on one shoulder or the other. I have a BOB backpack for everyone in my household, plus a few smaller spares. One thing I would recommend here though is to have an essentials kit within the larger full kit. For an example, a small pack inside the main compartment or attached to the outside of the large pack. (JWR recommends this.) In my main Emergency Backpack – I have a small but rigid Italian military pack that can be slid right out the top in the case that I am injured and can’t carry the large pack or if I am escaping some danger but have to move fast uphill – I can pull the little pack out and go. The little pack has all the essentials: plastic tarp, fire starters, water, a little food, flashlight, rope, compass, knife and so on. (I made my first “survival kit” as a Boy Scout in the 1970s, but this mentioned pack has been in place since 1993. I have field tested the overall pack.)
Rifle Kit: The rifle kit is a kit made specifically for a certain rifle. It can contain 6-to-12 spare magazines, spare parts, and cleaning kit, gun oil and lubes, and perhaps 140 to 300 rounds of ammunition that that rifle is sighted in for. These are usually made from the common “mini-range bags” that have 6 magazine pouch pockets on the outer sides, and has both handles and a heavy shoulder strap. They can be purchased for as little as $7.95. I buy the black or O.D. green colored bags. (Used these since 1998) [JWR Adds: For these kits (rifle of shotgun accessories) I recommend that you use duffle bag that is big enough to accommodate a full set of web gear–complete with belt, suspenders or vest (LC-1, MOLLE, or perhaps set of the nice Tactical Tailor type suspenders if you have a big budget), magazine pouches, and and canteen for each long gun. IMHO no long gun is truly tactically functional unless you have a proper set of web gear–full of magazines–to go with it.]
Pistol Kit: The pistol kit is similar to the rifle kit – being made specifically for a certain pistol. It can contain 6-to-10 spare magazines, spare parts, and cleaning kit, and perhaps 100 to 300 rounds of ammunition that is known to work well in that pistol. These are made up from the same common 6 magazine pouch “mini-range bags” that have both handles and a heavy shoulder strap. (Used since 1998)
Rifle Range Kits: When heading to the rifle range, I take two kits I have prepared for that purpose. One is a toolbox, which holds most of my gun cleaning supplies and a few tools for adjusting sights, and for small repairs at the range. The second Range Kit is a shoulder bag, which holds all my paper targets, a stapler, and spare staples for mounting targets. It also holds my foam earplugs and my hearing protector headsets, range notepad/log, pens, and so on. Add your rifle, ammo and some lunch and you are ready for a day at the range. (Used since 1990)
Auto Kits: For my vehicles, I maintain multiple kits: (1) Emergency Road Kit in medium large Tupperware tub – jumper cables, flares, mechanics suit, space blanket, flashlight, etc. (2) In another medium large Tupperware tub is my Spare Parts and Repair Kit including hoses, belts, bulbs, fuses, radiator sealant, tire repair plug kit with spark plug adapter hose to fill tires, distributor cap and rotor. And for my 4WD I might include a spare water pump, alternator, starter and fuel pump. (3) A full tool set in a heavy-duty box. (4) Field Tool Kit – in my 1/2 ton 4-wheel drive Suburban I have made an additional long wood box (approximately 70” long, x 8” wide, x 17” high), which has small wheels on one end and a heavy duty cargo handle on the other end. It is tall but narrow and can hold all my field tools which include my high-lift jack, 1 or 2 come-alongs, 2 shovels, an ax, a hatchet, backpacking snow shovel, crowbar, tow strap, and large and small bow saws with extra blades. The top is held on with a window type latch on both hands and once the handle end is released the lid comes right off. You can pull a shovel from out the top or roll the box to the edge of the tailgate and set it on the ground. The wheels allow for you to roll the box all the way to the end of the tailgate before lifting out and you can also roll it across smooth ground for a short distance. This box is stained wood and coated with a sealer to minimize weather effects. (5) The Tire Chains Kit can be kept in a separate kit – a wooden box, plastic crate or in heavy canvas bags. Keep your chain tension devices in with the chains as well. (Parts of this kit used since 1992, but the wooden field box was built and employed in fall of 2005)
Chain Saw Kits: My chainsaw kit is two parts, the first being a chainsaw case with my saw, chain oil, 2-stroke oil, and funnel, spare spark plugs and tools. The second part is another Tupperware tub with pre-mixed fuel can, extra 2-stroke oil, and a large container of chain oil, heavy gloves and hearing protectors. I have not purchased extra chains or bars yet but they are on my purchase list and will be added to one of these two kits in the near future. (Used since 2004) [JWR Adds: I also strongly recommend buying a pair of Kevlar chainsaw safety chaps.]
Financial and Personal Papers Kit: This kit is composed of a medium-small fanny pack, which includes identification, passport, contact information (phone lists, account information), and some pre-1965 90% silver coins for emergency purchases or bartering. Also tucked into this little fanny pack are a “P-38” [key ring type] can opener, a small lightweight Gerber pocketknife, butane lighter and a small flashlight. For those that are so inclined, you can add other items such as precious metals, cash, a small pistol or whatever else will fit and you are willing to legally carry. (Used since 1998)
First Aid Kits: My first aid kits are in many sizes. I have the mini-kits in all the backpacks, and then I have some Auto Size kits in the vehicles, then a field medic’s medium, shoulder carry kit for field use. Then, the mega-kit that has all the extra supplies, field medical books and extra medicines in it. This is a large gym bag sized bag which is red in color. I also have a yellow and purple (magenta) bag of the same size, which holds my chemical masks, extra filters, potassium iodide, gloves, shoe covers, and wipes, etc. for chemical or nuclear emergencies. (I’ve had these kits in place since 1999)
Winter Survival Kit: This kit is added to the vehicles that I am driving during the winter and it is a “per-person” type kit. I include insulated over-pants (or insulated coveralls) with leg zippers, incase you have to do some work outside or walk in the cold weather beyond what you would be comfortable without long johns. A sleeping bag, a heavy wool blanket, a stocking cap, heavy work gloves with liners, a lofty poly-pro pullover, and a heavy coat or parka. Along with the extra clothing here, a sleeping pad, tarp or tent, and some field foods (two MREs, a can or two of mixed nuts, a few power bars, some chocolate bars, a large bottle of Gatorade and a gallon of water) are added to this kit. (Used since 1998)
Communications /Electronics (GPS) kit: This kit is composed of the small size (.30 caliber) ammo cans which are used singularly by themselves or if two cans are used they can be tucked inside a heavy outdoor carry bag with shoulder strap. Inside the ammo cans I keep my FRS radios, a portable CB radio, headsets, operating manuals and fresh extra batteries. I also keep my GPS and 12 VDC auto adapter in the cans when not in use. This kit is carried in my vehicle on camping and hunting expeditions or other field trips. In addition, in the very large size ammo cans (measures approximately 15” x 10” x 25”), I have my spare CB radios, and other electronic equipment [to provide them protection from EMP. The large cans I keep in the garage and they are grounded to an outdoor water pipe since they are stationary. (Used since 1999)
Fire Starting Kit: This kit can be as simple as a small cardboard box, which has enough dry tinder in a heavy duty zip-lock bag to start a fire in bad /wet weather. Included here should be some homemade or commercial fire starters, candles, safety-flares, etc, (I will save the details for another article). I keep my fire starting kit with my camping stuff and pack it in with my gear for the late fall hunting trips. (Used since 1986)
Camp Kitchen Kit: The Camp Kitchen Kit is a ready to go complete kitchen other than the food and it’s all packed into one box. It has stainless eating utensils (silverware) for 10 people. Over several years I found a number of stainless steel pots of slightly different sizes that will all fit together into one stack in my plastic kitchen box with folding lids. I also have a plastic pitcher, which I fill with the silverware, plastic re-usable plates, cups and bowls. I have a small grill to place over rocks, a coffee pot, several large serving spoons, spatulas, and kitchen knives. I have a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, half gallon baggies, and a whole box of strike anywhere matches, a long neck lighter, bar soap, a small bottle of dish soap, wash cloth, hand towel, and steel wool and copper scrub pads. Salt, pepper and other spices are included along with paper towels, coffee filters and about 60 paper plates. All of this fits nicely into my heavy-duty plastic kitchen box. (Used since 1988) I have a second box, which goes on some excursions – this kit has a large Dutch oven with lid, a lid lifting handle, a cast iron skillet and a manual coffee grinder. I keep at least two bags of charcoal (and some lighter fluid) on hand for the Dutch oven. (Used since 2003)
Notes on Kitchen Kits: Medium to large metal cups can be used for coffee, soup or whatever and can be kept warm by placing them on the campfire rocks or on the edge of your cook stove. It’s nice to keep your food and drink hot in cold weather! Some real decent outdoor cookware such as stainless pots and pans, utensils etc, can be purchased for very little money at a thrift store. I once had to buy some of these items when I went on an “emergency field trip” and realized in the rush that I had not gotten any cookware packed. I stopped in a small town and picked up all I needed for less than $3.00. Most of that stuff is now in one of two permanent kits.
Field Food Kit: It is a good thing to always have some fresh camping type foods ready in a box for a quick field trip. This can be the usual soup, chili, canned meats, rice, beans, noodles, MREs, and freeze dried food. Add to this power bars, Gatorade, and whatever else you prefer for quick field meals. (Used since 2003)
Stove and Lantern Kits: I purchased a propane adapter for my Coleman fuel stove and I keep both the adapter and the fuel tank with the stove to burn whichever is available. I can fit at least one propane bottle inside the stove when it is stored. I also keep spare mantles, and generators inside my Coleman stove and lantern boxes along with good quality strike any ware matches. And I store my stove and lanterns with fresh fuel in them so that they are ready to go right out of the box. That way when I arrive at camp in the dark, I can produce some light, or cook some food without having to refill first. I have not had any leakage problems in the 10+ years I have used this practice. Also, I never store (put away after a trip) a lantern with bad mantles, but rather put new replacements on if they need it before storage, but I don’t burn them in until I get into the field. (Used since 1995)
Fishing Kit: Mainly for organization – I keep most of my fishing gear in one large rubberized bag which is camo’d and is designed for holding duck and geese decoys. It has the usual handles and H.D. shoulder strap. I keep my fishing tackle boxes, gill nets, folding fishing rod/reel, and all my spare fishing gear in the bag except for the full size rods. The fishing rods are kept in an overhead rod holder (nice and out of the way). Of course I have some mini fishing kits/nets in my survival kits. (Used since 2004)
Hunting Kit: My Hunting Kit consists of a camouflage bag which holds hunting maps, game regulations, game calls, safety equipment like orange vests/hats, game bags, animal scale, game scents, and other things needed for hunting that are not included in the other kits. (Used since 1987)
Shelter /Camp Kits: In a GI duffle bag with shoulder straps I keep a full size camping tent, all of its poles and stakes, and some rope. I have a dedicated “ground cloth” tarp, which I keep with this duffle bag. In a second very large bag I keep most of my folded tarps of various sizes. I also keep most of my remaining rope in this big bag in two different large zip lock bags. In addition, I have a camp “outhouse kit” which is a regular home toilet seat mounted on an aluminum folding camp chair frame, along with a large tarp setup and more rope. (Used since 1996)
Personal Gear Kit: My Personal Gear Kit is a medium small bag sized to fit on the front seat of my Chevy Suburban. In it I keep the stuff that I want handy there and also things I might put into my pockets when walking into the woods but stuff I don’t want to carry on my person through the evening once back in camp. Things like a GPS, FRS radio, Binoculars, Range finder, gloves, sunglasses and other personal gear that you probably won’t need in camp. This bag keeps my front seat more organized during road trips too. (Used since 2004)
Packing and Storing Your Kits: Remember to inventory your kits as you make them. Keep duplicate contents lists on file, and label your kits well. In addition to my personal color-coding systems, I attach tags or in many cases I just make a label from 1-inch masking tape describing the type of kit and attach it to the box or to the shoulder strap of the kit. I affix the labels to either the end or side of the box, and also on the top of the box so that no matter how it is stored on a shelf – I can see one or both labels and I know what kit that is. If I am not sure what is in the kit – I just have to check the inventory sheet to verify the contents.
As JWR and others have mentioned – it is an excellent exercise to try packing your emergency equipment into your escape vehicle. This will help you learn two things, first – how to pack it most efficiently and second to know how much your vehicle(s), trailer, or whatever you are planning to use will carry. [JWR Adds: It is crucial that you pre-position the majority of your gear at your intended retreat, since you may only have one trip outta Dodge!] For packing your gear into your vehicles, it is good to find containers (boxes, bags) that will pack well together. For the larger kits, I usually use stackable boxes that together are a little shorter than the height of my SUV. Then I pack the smaller and softer gear around them.
Conclusion: Once you have made your kits, test them in the field. Make sure they work, and that they have what you need, but not a bunch of stuff you will never use. Having your equipment “kitted up” and ready to go will help you to be ready when the big event hits. Whether it is a tsunami, an earthquake, an economic collapse or a full scale invasion by foreign troops – you’ll be ready, and this preparation will give you some peace of mind knowing that you are much more ready that the average Joe. Once your done, help a neighbor and a friend build a kit. Be Prepared, – Christian Souljer, Pacific Northwest
JWR Adds: I greatly appreciate you sharing your experience and insights. It goes without saying that it is important to rotate the perishable items in your various kits regularly. In particular: food items, batteries, some first aid supplies, and chemical light sticks.