Now the type of bug out bag I have been addressing is one that you might have to use to travel a great distance and spend the night, depending upon only the gear that you have with you. Each situation is different, and each geographic region and season brings different challenges. In some of the articles I have read, I am amazed at what some people list as “survival” or necessary items, like a heavy, solar charger (remember that you are carrying this on your back!), but they forget to pack other important items, like toilet paper (good for fire starting, as a signaling device, and for bandaging, writing notes, and your behind) or a good water purification system. Some may say toilet paper is not essential; however, if you are in a remote area and come down with dysentery to where you are squatting for hours, trust me, you will be glad you had it and did not have to wipe with stones or leaves, causing you to be susceptible to cuts, which lead to infection in a delicate body area and possibly beyond.
Another point of writing this article is to share how we can thrive with a good bug out bag and not just barely survive. Here is a list of essential/useful items that I bring on most backpacking trips. As every season and situation is different, I hope this mere list will help you with a baseline as to what to bring on multiple-night trips.
Tent, bivy sack, hammock, bug netting, tarp, et cetera. Just make sure it matches your climate and expected situation of use. Please don’t be foolish and buy one and put it into your pack without ever practicing putting it together at home. Putting up a new tent, in the dark, while it’s raining, miles away from your car, only to find out that your new tent did not come with stakes, the seams aren’t sealed (water goes through the stitching), and the tent door zipper is broken, makes for a very memorable night.
- One change of clothing
Allows you to change out of wet clothing or add layers, if cold. If your daily work environment calls for inappropriate shoes (high heels or penny loafers), then make sure to pack shoes that will match your intended use that add adequate foot protection and medial and lateral support.
- Water filter
Tablets work, but having to wait 20+ min before you can drink limits you. Boiling water is time consuming, plus the smoke from the fire may give away your position, it requires fuel, and some places/situations won’t allow for a fire (like while you are in a canoe). Additionally, having to wait for the water to cool down feels like forever in the hot summer heat. A water filter/purifier makes murky water clear, improves the taste, and removes odors and colors as well as some chemicals, like pesticides and sulfide. It is also not reliant on needing a water bottle if it breaks (you could filter right into your mouth). A good filter is the fastest safe method available however I would recommend a metal water bottle for boiling as a backup or iodine tablets in case your filter gets lost or breaks.
- Water bottles
Notice the plural tense used on on the word: “bottles”. Take two, just in case one breaks or if water is sparse and sources are a great distance apart. I recommend a 32-ounce, wide mouth Nalgene bottle. (It is almost unbreakable; however ,I have found out that it will break if it falls off a cliff with frozen water in it, and it won’t survive a tractor running over it either.) I also recommend a similar sized metal bottle, providing the ability to boil water.
I recommend a quality Kukri or large knife for wood processing, shelter making, and defense. Additionally, for finesse tasks, such as bushcraft and food prep, I recommend a smaller knife (3-5 inches).
- Sleeping bag and pad
They go hand in hand with your shelter system. Choose quality! When in doubt, opt for a warmer bag than you expect you’ll need. Being cold in a sleeping bag that is not warm enough is miserable and makes for a long stressful night. If you chose a bag that is too warm, then you can just unzip your bag or use it as a blanket. As for down versus synthetic, that depends on your environment, budget, and type of intended use. As mentioned earlier in the article, don’t forget the pad, as it has many purposes beyond aiding in a comfortable night’s sleep.
Good food uplifts your spirits and makes a trip great. Bad food can get you sick, constipated, or an easy way to run out of toilet paper. Only bring food that you have tried out at home and like. If you get an allergic reaction out in the back country, medical help might not be there. I don’t recommend bringing heavy cans. MRE’s are so highly advertised in the prepping world; however, many don’t realize how heavy they are and how much space they take up. Get dehydrated foods. Backpackers Pantry and Mountain House are a great place to start. You simply boil water, pour it into the package, wait, and eat from the package. It is ideal for stressful, disaster situations. Just remember to check food expiration dates. Eating expired gourmet beef stew is what I think dog food would task like.
- First aid kit
Do not buy a pre-made one that you only open in an emergency. Most pre-made ones are inadequate, so you will need to add to them. Every location and trip brings different risk factors, so your kit needs to constantly change and adapt. Make sure it is in a waterproof container! Wet Band-Aids don’t stick, and wet gauze can become moldy. Benadryl has saved a lot of lives. Make sure to pack it, and don’t forget to check expiration dates on any medications you bring.
- Bring at least two different methods for starting a fire. My favorite combination to bring is a Bic lighter (they work), Magnesium fire starter (works when wet), and a Fresnel lens (get the page size) for sunny days. Cotton balls with petroleum jelly do wonders, and those trick birthday candles that don’t go out are great (and inexpensive) fire starters, too.
It is the best reading material for inspiration, peace, instruction, and when you’re in trouble. Also, it’s the number one selling book of all time in the world.
- Toilet paper
Can be used as fire starter, bandage, for note taking, as emergency feminine pad, or napkins. It can help with chaffing or help wipe debris out of your eyes, as well as to wipe yourself.
- Water-resistant LED Headlamp(Princeton Tec, Black Diamond, and Petzel make good ones.)
- Hiking poles
I used to think they were only for old fogies; however, once I tried them I found that I was able to cross swift rivers and ledges easier. It took much of the load off my back, and my injured knee allowed me to go further in comfort. I have also used a pole to push away snakes, as an improvised tent pole with a tarp, and to fend off wild dogs.
Whether you like it or not, the historical fact is that there are evil people who, especially in a disaster situation, will take advantage of others and steal, murder, and rape. I helped out those effected by Hurricane Katrina two days after it hit the USA and saw firsthand how the military m-4’s had to protect us (volunteer workers) from the pillaging mobs. If you are adequate with a firearm, then I will suggest you safely pack one with you. If you are not familiar with firearms and do not have proper training or are hesitant to use one (and I respect that), then I suggest you carry a can of bear spray. It is very effective against animals (wild dogs and rabid animals) and will turn the burliest of men into a crybaby for three hours or more. As for what type of gun and what caliber, I could only recommend these words of wisdom: Choose a gun that you can handle well and shoot the most accurately, and then practice, practice, practice.
These are the main items I bring. However, the most important thing to bring is a level head. With God and the right mind set, you will be able to handle every situation that comes your way.
Most people in a disaster situation will be in need. If you have a backpack or anything valuable, you will become a target. I believe it is very important to be incognito and not stand out in a world without rule of law (WRL) or disaster situation. Here are some plus and minus thoughts.
- Military/Common bug out bags
+ Have neutral colors with little to no logos. Some are very “plain Jane”.
– These bags scream to military and police that you have a gun or weapons. This look might make you seem like you’re in the military and to not mess with you.
– Many people view these bags as nitch/prepper bags, and thus you have expensive gear inside (gold, electronics, weapons).
- Backpacking bag as a bug out bag
+ Look like plain camping backpacks and not like you’re in the military
– Most come in many colorful colors that stand out. To combat this, you could order a black version, or if they don’t offer one then just take some dye or Sharpie markers and change it to any color you want.
– Many of these bags have more compartments and make items more accessible for quick deployment like for your first aid kit, food, and water.
Please don’t be that guy that has 12 bug out bags and is still not satisfied. Do your homework. A good sight for backpacking reviews is www.backpacker.com. They have in the past, filled backpacks and dragged them from the back of a pickup truck just to test the durability and the stitching quality. Now that was a review! I am very thankful for the Internet, because there are so many reviews online and videos on YouTube that it is easy to make thoughtful decisions on gear.
I have had people ask me, “How much should I spend on this?” I am not going to tell you, the reader, that if you don’t spend this or that much money that your bag is no good, like some advertisers do. Every person is different, and each person has different needs. My first suggestion is to use what bag you have now, for it is better to have something than nothing ready. Or as the Bible says “…for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Ecc 9:4 KJV).
I will emphasis this: Don’t be cheap! You might be trusting your life and your family’s life to this bag. Some prepper stores I visit I do find myself saying, “$300 for what? That small, little bag?” I would agree that there are bug out bags that are astronomically over priced; however, a quick online search should help you to determine if you are getting what you paid for or if it is just a logo that you’re paying for.
I have friends that have said to me “that bag is too expensive”, and then they buy an inferior, less expensive knock-off model only to find their bag is uncomfortable, has poor quality control or falls apart sooner (made in China), and then they buy another bag only to find out that they have spent more money on two poorly-constructed bags than I spent on my nice bag that has a lifetime warranty. I am not suggesting going out and spending $500-8oo. I am saying don’t buy poor quality; you usually do get what you pay for. Just save your money until you can afford to buy what you need. It would be worth it in the end.
Go backpacking or talk to a backpacker. Chances are that the things you need to survive and thrive for two to three days in the wilderness are the same things you don’t want to leave out of your bug out bag. If your bug out bag is too small, like most, then I would suggest upgrading to a bigger one. If you’re interested in backpacking and don’t have a bug out bag and are looking into purchasing one, then I would suggest you save yourself money and just buy (you might already have one) a high quality backpacking backpack. Use it for camping and backpacking, and when not in use, keep all of your gear in it at the ready for an emergency. Just don’t buy the neon yellow ones.