Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bug Out Bag

The other day I watched some guy's video presentation of his Bug Out Bag and its contents. We can forgive him his choice of a multi hundred dollar military/civilian backpack with more outside pockets than a billiard table; after all we enthusiasts do tend to get carried away sometimes.

His choice of color (coyote) was good but short of shotgun shells I can't figure out what all the "shotgun loops" would be useful for. And truth be told, all those outside pockets could come in handy.

Any of the military/civilian camouflage patterns in dark green, brown, black or tan or those colors themselves would be as good. (Just stay away from the bright colors like reds, yellows, orange and white.) You'll probably find more of the blend-in and camouflage bags at sporting goods and outdoor stores.

One good thing about the backpack is the fact that it was a hydration pack which lets the wearer drink on the go without stopping to unlimber a canteen.

Water is one of the heaver substances out there weighing in at a tad over eight and a third pounds per US gallon so having all that weight in close to your back not only enables you to carry more water, it keeps the weight in close to your body and leaves room for something else besides a canteen on the belt.

Of course with water being all that heavy you can't carry very much of it without weighing yourself down to the point that mobility is adversely affected. That's were a Katadyn (or similar) water filter comes in. Or you could carry a small amount of household bleach (unscented Clorox) to disinfect as you go.

You'll want a suitably sized backpack for each family member. I've placed a list of links to hydration pack manufacturers at the bottom of this post. (You can find notes on Vehicle Bug Out Bags HERE.)

He chose to pack (without enumerating the contents for viewers) two first aid kits; one of the "Band-Aid variety" for small cuts and abrasions, and the other of the "bandage variety" (including a folding splint) for more serious injuries.

I would suggest that you pack the following two items in your "Band-Aid" level kit because I know from personal experience that both of these products work as advertised.

A bottle of New-Skin liquid bandage which dries rapidly to form a tough protective cover that's antiseptic, flexible, waterproof, and lets your skin breathe. (I've found New-Skin to last lots longer than a Band-Aid particularly on wounds to skin that bends.) Another use for New-Skin is for neutralizing splinters that you just can't seem to get out any other way. A drop of New-Skin on the splinter prevents infection, grabs the splinter preventing it from working its way in deeper and eventually, when the New-Skin finally comes loose days later, pulls the splinter out.

A package of moleskin because bugging out may require a bit of unaccustomed hiking which almost certainly will cause debilitating blisters if not treated immediately. (In my hiking days I'd use the scissors of my Swiss Army knife to cut strips and rectangles of Moleskin to cover sore red areas before they became blisters.)

In your "Bandage Level" first aid kit I highly recommend QuikClot or Celox or some other battlefield proven haemostatic agent for the treatment of deep or severely bleeding wounds.

A metal canteen cup or small pot for cooking and boiling water would be useful too. This brings me to Leather work gloves for use in handling hot things around the campfire as well as handling spiny prickly thorny things.

This brings us to walking boots or shoes, socks, pants, Gore-Tex jacket and a blanket or sleeping bag (in camouflage or a dark dull color) to be stored in a plastic bag to keep dry until needed. One of those large vacuum bags you see advertised on late nite TV would work well here, but any plastic will do.

He had another good idea i.e. packing a wad of small denomination bills in a plastic Baggie for use as long as money is being accepted. He chose small bills because, as he pointed out, there aren't likely to be a lot of people able to make change out there.

If things go from the paper money as legal tender to paper money as fire tinder stage it might be nice to have a few junk silver dimes and silver quarters in there too.

He chose to pack Electrical tape instead of the more versatile Duct tape. I'd choose the Duct tape because, as anyone who's ever compared the stickiness and strength of the two will tell you, Duct tape is stronger and will stick to more stuff. Electrical tape tends to stick to itself better than most other things and it stretches.

The Duct tape you'll find in the store is normally wider (17⁄8 to two or more inches) than Electrical tape which is usually about ¾ of an inch wide. That extra width plus the extra stickiness and strength makes Duct tape useable for more applications (you can always rip Duct tape lengthwise to get narrower pieces) in any situation where you're not repairing electrical wiring.

Please note that duct tape can be used for bandages and holding splints in place as well as dozens of other helpful uses like covering the international orange/reflective white stripes on your kids school backpack that's been pressed into service as a Bug Out Bag because you're on a budget. You'll find silver/gray duct tape at hardware stores and OD (Olive Drab) green and camouflage duct tape at military surplus stores.

In addition to his EDC knife he'd put another folder in the backpack as backup. Of course there was a big sheath knife too. Not a bad idea if you might find yourself needing to cut branches for shelter or fire.

My own choice of EDC knife is a genuine Swiss Army knife in a leather pouch on my belt. I choose a real Leatherman multi-tool for the Bug Out Bag.

Of course we all need fire starters. He chose a magnesium fire starter several BIC disposable lighters. A metal match would also be useful here.

You'll want a hank of 550 cord easily available in sporting and surplus stores. Try to get 50 to 100 feet of the real 550 cord not those cheap imitations. You'll thank yourself for doing so if you ever have to hang off the side of a cliff (been there done that) on a single strand of the stuff.

Two Flashlights; preferably LED flashlights using the same battery and bulbs (cannibalization to make spares) are a good idea in case one goes out when you need it most.

Of course anyone who watches Man Woman Wild, Dual Survival or any of the survival shows knows how to start fires with a nine volt battery and a piece of fine steel wool. So as a backup to your other fire starters why not add a small (many are the size of a pack of cigarettes) portable AM FM radio powered by (of course) a nine volt battery and a piece of fine steel wool in a baggie?

Like most of the other items listed here the cheap radio performs a multiple function i.e. morale booster, communications and fire starter battery holder. Having some idea of what's going on (or at least the official version) keeps you informed no matter where you are and could cheer you up.

The food in the video was just health bars, power bars and candy bars. Nothing wrong with that. This is after all a bag for getting the hell out of Dodge not living out of for months. But remember that the non-canned food you buy in the grocery store, although lighter, is produced and packaged with the expectation that it will be sold and consumed within a few months.

When he mentioned Slim Jims and beef jerky I recalled reading about some of those products found to have mold on them while still hanging on the merchant's rack. I'd eschew Slim Jims and jerky in my Bug Out Bag if it's to be stored unused for a long time; which, hopefully, it will be.

Health and power bars tend to have a lot of grains in them. You might want to stick them in the freezer for two weeks to kill any bug eggs that might develop into larvae while sitting in your backpack waiting for Armageddon.

Then I'd place each bar separately in a baggie evacuating as much air as I could while folding the baggie around the bar and sealing it. Then place several baggied bags in another one repeating the process. Of course the emptied baggies will come in handy if you ever have to eat the contents while on the run.

But why bother?
Why bother rotating (hopefully you'll remember) store bought food that wasn't packaged for long term storage for years while waiting for an emergency you hope will never come when you've got one of natures best all around, and longest lasting, foods right beside those perishables on the grocer's shelf?

Eatable honey has reportedly been found in Egyptian tombs and is as nutritious as any power bar. Additionally, because of honey's antiseptic and antibacterial properties it can be used as a field expedient wound ointment.

Buy a small sealed jar of pure honey and tape the top closed with duct tape. I'd also recommend putting duct tape all around the jar to buffer it during rough handling. I eschew plastic bottles of honey because it's too easy for them to burst when compressed.

The leading hydration pack manufacturers are:

High Sierra


North Face

Outdoor Products


JW (an international traveler) writes:
"I keep a “minimalist” first aid kit in the glove compartment of my car, along with a few gadgets (to cut seat belt straps, break car windows, etc). I keep a full first aid kit and tool box in my trunk.

When I travel, I have a small tool kit that I carry with the obligatory Leatherman, Swiss Army knife, etc., but have a couple of small, lightweight “unique” items. By memory (so not nearly complete):

Dentist mirror
Magnet on a 8” stick
1’ of magnesium ribbon wire (for fire starting)
Matchbox sized piece of “fire starter”
Waterproof matches
Fully charged extra cell phone battery
6’ of thin monel wire
3’ #12 electrical wire and a few assorted connectors
Long needle nosed pliers
Small “interchangeable tip” screw driver/wrench set (including metric sizes)
Eyeglass repair kit
Jeweler’s loupe and small magnifying glass
Small calculator
Small (slightly over matchbook size) book of various pictures to use when no one speaks English (food and car items, hotel/bed, policeman, etc.)
Water purification tablets
Cypro (strong antibiotic)
Pain killers/anti-inflamitory/stomach/muscle-relaxant assorted pills
Antiseptic/anesthetic cream, a few Bandaids
Assorted other doodads that I don’t remember off the top of my head

The kit is about the size of a paperback book in a zip-up “leather” carry case and has proved useful over the years. Many of the “doodads” come from my scratching my head in the middle of nowhere and saying to myself “If I only had a …”

(Cap42 writes:
I wished I had brought mole skin or ducktape on my 24hour hike in Basic. Blisters really suck! I had one on my foot so bad from that hike that when the medic came around the next day and drained it it closed and filled back up over night and he had to cut it open and take the skin off the next day!


(This note is from "KC" a person I know to be a retired Special Ops medic.)

Lot of good ideas there. As far as what medical gear to take, I guess it depends on what it is you’re preparing for (length of time and conditions expected). Not to mention medical experience of the user; an experienced medical professional would want a LOT more than the average citizen (IV fluids and such) ‘cause they’d feel naked without it.

Th[is] link West Marine Medical Kits is to a (much over-priced) website that caters to boaters. For Godsake don’t BUY this stuff, but get ideas on how they packaged medical kits by length of time, number of people, and type of injury. If you’re putting together a kit for aftermath of a disaster (think Katrina), then a 3-5 day kit augmented with field dressing packs and anti-biotic ointment would do. Anything else could be improvised. Add to it as needed for the amount of people you expect to use it.

One of the kit manufacturers on the West Marine site, Adventure Medical Kits lists the exact items contained in their kits.

The medical kit listing for each of the kits on the Adventure Medical Kits web site has a handy, “printer friendly” button to print the list. Nice for use when building your kits to show what’s inside. Don’t forget to add the expiration dates of any meds you put in the kit. [sealed in clear plastic baggies]

If you’re thinking TEOTWAWKI, you can’t pack enough, and what you do pack better be labeled in Chinese and Russian along with English, ‘cause they won’t ignore the opportunity.

Th[is] link is to the downloadable Emergency War Surgery book that has been studied by combat medics for many years. Very useful when combined with some medical training.

[Here's another link from KC's note that might prove helpful to some readers.]

Lastly, this idea came to me as I wrote the above. The electronic “books” (Kindle, Nook, etc) might be a viable way to take an extensive library of “How-to”, survival, medical and reference books with you in your G.O.O.D. BOB kit for TEOTWAWKI scenarios.

Serious. A solar panel charger in your kit could be used for many other things as well as the occasional re-charge of the Kindle/Nook. I think the cost-to-benefit ratio is in its favor.

Hope this helps. Please leave my name out of this; I have enough fame and fortune to deal with!

K (Invest in lead; the other precious metal.) C



JSMI writes:
Are you some kind of delusionary mountain man? The day you try to make it with a bulging “bug-out bag” is the day you’ll become a sitting-duck target for every hungry redneck without one. Good luck hanging from that cliff with your 75 pound backpack.

75 pounds?
Well, let's add it up:
Hydration backpack = Weight: 2 lbs, 6 oz Capacity: 600 cu. in.

"water weighs 8.33 pounds per gallon there is 128 ounces in a gallon 8.33 divided by 128 equals 0.065 pounds per ounce multiply by 100
equals 6.5 pounds
per 100 ounces"

Backpack with full bladder = just under nine (9) pounds.


Katadyn weighs 15 oz

205 piece First Aid Kit = 1.2 pounds (shipping weight)

My bottle of New-Skin and a package of MoleSkin from my medicine cabinet = 1.5 oz. The presenter showed personally assembled first aid kits in clear plastic baggies. I choose to go the same route because it's cheaper than buying a kit and you can tailor the contents to your particular needs and locale. I present the 205 piece kit here because it contains more they the presenter or I pack and it's weight is verifiable.

Paper dollar bills and some junk silver coins = 1 oz.

My two LED flashlights and a Leatherman multi-tool weigh in at exactly one pound.

My magnesium fire starter, the same size but Army issue, weighs in at just under 1.5 oz.

100 feet of 550 paracord = one pound (shipping weight)

Quick Clot = .2 oz.

GI metal canteen cup = 10.1 oz (shipping weight)

About five (5) pounds.


my about a quarter roll of duct tape = about 4 oz.

Cabela's polartec long sleeve shirt, leather gloves pair of pants, boots & boot socks = 4 pounds

Surplus US Army woodland camouflage Gore-Tex parka = 3 pounds.

Surplus wool Army blanket = 4 pounds I also have surplus nylon poncho liners that weigh in at under a pound. (Being a retired military surplus dealer has its advantages) which I'd use for summer evacuations or in addition to the wool blanket in the cold of winter.

About eleven (11) pounds.

So 9 pounds + 5 pounds + 11 pounds = 25 pounds which is a third of 75 pounds and a weight I can easily carry and (dare I say it?) live with.


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