by Tony Nester, Survival Instructor
There has been a lot of attention brought to the term Bug-Out Bag on forums and in the media over the years. Just what should go into such a bag and how can you assemble a quality kit yourself?
Essentially, you want a lightweight backpack stowed in your office or vehicle with enough basic gear to let you handle a short-term emergency ranging from 24-72 hours. If it’s lightweight you are more likely to carry it with you as opposed to a cumbersome hockey duffle bag. During recent disasters, some evacuees had to walk forty miles or more out of their city before supplies were available! This is where a 72-hour Bail-Out Kit comes in to play. With this gear you are able to meet the short-term needs of shelter, water, medical, food and self-protection.
For years, I favored a Shoulder Bag (i.e. Courier bag) but now prefer the comfort of a small backpack instead which doesn’t aggravate old neck and shoulder injuries. Remember, that the point here is “bailing out” and you may be on foot for miles in a real evacuation so think what will work for your body type and age. One of my friends, who has had numerous back surgeries, can no longer rely on a shoulder bag or backpack for his bug-out gear. He now uses a carry-on suitcase with wheels and his evacuation route is planned in accordance with his disability.
My current preferred setup is a hydration pack made by Voodoo Tactical as it’s rugged, spacious and comes with a 2.5 liter water bladder. I would avoid the orange packs with “Survival Gear” stamped on it unless you want those less prepared to know that you are a stocked biped survival store.
I have also seen fishing & camera vests turned into decent survival vests that carry a full a compliment of gear but this should be to augment an existing pack. The idea here is to create a survival kit that will sustain you for 24-72 hours as you flee the disaster stricken area.
All of this gear is in addition to what the survival items already stowed in my vehicle. The latter provides another layer of preparation. I also recommend to students of mine, who commute to work, to have an office kit which will provide an essential 3rd layer in case you are ever stranded away from home.
- MSP-3 Voodoo Tactical Hydration Pack w/2.5 liter water bladder
- Black Diamond LED headlamp w/extra batteries
- 32 oz collapsible Nalgene water container
- 3 Firestarters: 1 Bic lighter, REI Stormproof Matches & 1 spark rod
- SOS Rations (3600 calories)
- 12 Nuun Electrolyte tablets
- 1 Bottle Potable Aqua water purification tablets
- 2 dust masks
- Wet Wipes
- Helly Hansen Rain jacket
- Garmin 60 CSx GPS
- Arizona state map and Forest Service maps for my region
- Important phone contacts of family members
- Photos of my kids (hundreds of kids were lost and alone after Katrina)
- 2 spare (prescription) glasses
- Adventure Medical Kits 1st-aid kit (see kit description that follows)
- Grundig handheld AM/FM/Shortwave Radio
- 12 oz enamel cup
- 6 Esbit fuel tabs
- Swedish Mora Knife with 3-7/8″ blade
- Leatherman Wave
- $100 Cash- small bills of $5, 10s, & 20s along with $10 in quarters & change
- Sunscreen stick
- Mini roll of duct tape
- AMK Heatsheet
- 50′ of paracord
- Leather gloves
- Pepper spray and 2 spare Glock mags
Ideally, the weight of the entire pack should not exceed 20 pounds. Bear in mind that this kit is an example of the gear I carry and recommend. Where you live will affect how you prepare. Someone who lives in the arid, triple-digit heat of Phoenix may have a few different items (more water, electrolytes, sunscreen) than someone from Seattle (rain-poncho, fleece sweater, fishing kit).
***Update your bag twice a year so you have items suitable for winter and summer conditions in your area. Consider a family camping trip as a way of playfully introducing (and practicing) survival skills to young kids. You never know when a practice run will no longer be a drill.***
Globetrotter’s Survival Kit
If you are a business traveler and spend a considerable amount of time flying around the country or globe, then consider preparing a stripped down version of the Bail-Out Kit in case you ever have to survive in a disaster-riddled city. Such a kit should be lightweight and contain: cash, passport, relevant maps, small first-aid kit, 6-8 protein bars, LED flashlight, cell phone and charger, Iodine water purification tablets, 32-ounce collapsible water bottle and spare clothes. You may want to add an innocuous multi-tool like a Swiss-Tech 9-in-1 which lacks a blade but has many useful features. This gear can fit in a small daypack but remember to check airline regulations as they are constantly changing.
Grid-Down Medical Kit
Chances are good that trauma and debilitating injury will be present around you in a major disaster. This section is not intended to cover Gutter Medicine or how to deliver a baby on a subway but rather to direct you towards the resources that are out there for the average citizen to learn improvised medical skills. A hundred years ago, everyone possessed such skills but nowadays it’s the Virtual Doctor online who provides the answers.
There are many outstanding workshops available and I highly recommend augmenting your survival skills with at least a 2-day Wilderness First-Aid Course put on by the Wilderness Medicine Institute which runs courses in nearly every major city in North America. You will learn how to stabilize injuries and improvise with what is at hand and these are mighty good things to know for both urban and wilderness settings. If you are a parent, you will be grateful to have such training even if you rarely venture into the wilds!
If nothing else, buy a copy of the book Where There Is No Doctor and study the chapters on hypothermia, heat-stress, and waterborne illness as these are the more common ailments you may have to face.
Finally, purchase one of the better First-Aid kits from Adventure Medical Kits. This will be your first line of defense for handling illness and injury. These kits are far superior to the generic medical kits stuffed with colorful band-aids found at your local pharmacy. To further refine my kit, I’ve added the following items:
First-Aid Kit Components:
- ACE Wrap- hard to find stretchy fabric when you need it.
- PriMed Gauze- simply the best gauze material on the market for dealing with intense bleeding.
- Triangular bandage- myriad uses for tourniquets, slings, headwraps, straining water.
- Benadryl- critical for bug bites & anaphylactic shock. Get the Fast-Melt kids version found at Target.
- Steri Strips- for closing wounds until you can get stitched up by a doctor.
- Irrigation syringe- a must have item for first-aid kits. Great for blasting the nasty germs out of wounds.
- Immodium- for diarrhea.
- Temparin Dental Kit
- Tweezers- get a quality pair with thin, flat-nosed tips for removing splinters.
- Duct tape- for instant band-aids, covering blisters, fixing gear, and a hundred other uses.
- Wet Wipes to aid with hygiene.
- Personal Prescription Medications- a 2-week supply of extras as your pharmacy may be shut down.
Will this make you into a combat medic? Absolutely not but it will equip you to better handle the injuries that are often associated with a disaster and stack the odds in your favor until you can get to a hospital. Remember you are your family’s own First-Responder in the event the grid goes down for an extended period and your city is thrust into a third-world setting.
Your Financial Survival: Essential Documents
Many survival forums are devoted to the must-have Bug-Out Bag items but many people overlook the critical documents that are an essential part of re-establishing yourself after you’ve survived bugging out. These documents become imperative in the event you lose everything else in your home during a disaster. All too often people assemble excellent survival plans and kits only to forget about the documents below during the rush associated with evacuating.
- Birth certificates
- Tax returns
- Marriage license
- Social Security cards
- Children’s immunization records
- Bank statements & passwords
- Property deeds
- Medical insurance
- Will & Trust
- Drug prescriptions
- Pet & vet records
- Insurance policies
- Military discharge papers
- Firearm serial numbers
- Pertinent computer CDs or Flashdrives
Save what you can on a CD or flashdrive and also have hard copies. You may even want to have a back-up CD or Flash- drive stored at a relative’s house. Lastly, do not forget to include your laptop when you bail out.
Copies of the above documents can be stored in a small Tupperware container and located next to your Home Bail-Out Kit or in a safe.
Another tip is to upload all of your critical documents (passport, birth cert, etc…) in PDF form to your webmail account. Then you will have access to it when traveling, especially important if your items get stolen or confiscated when traveling internationally.
For more detailed information on urban survival gear or making your home self-reliant, check out Tony’s books: Bug-Out Gear for Travelers or When the Grid Goes Down. The latter is available in both print and eBook versions.