The Bug-Out Bag or Survival Bag may be a ubiquitous and common subject in the survival world but will always be a relevant topic and valuable resource for everyone to consider. They’re easy to put together and relatively inexpensive unless you start getting into advanced gear or an abundance of equipment. You can pack your bag with virtually anything, but the essential elements of survival will always remain the same. Ultimately, the best Survival Bag is the one that keeps you supplied, safe and strong enough to make it through just about anything – no matter what the situation.
Just imagine if you were cast on the show Fear Factor and their crew accidentally left you behind at the peak of Mount Mitchell on the Appalachian trail. What happens then?
Or, that time you visited Marfa, Tx on vacation and woke up alone at an abandoned Desert Alien Abduction Theme Park surrounded by nothing but thirsty cactus and prairie dogs playing ‘Whac-a-Mole’. Your Survival Bag would have come in handy to help begin your epic journey of adventure, escape or pure survival!
You don’t need to be a trained Survivalist, Prepper, Thrill Seeker, or Adrenaline Junkie to stay a step ahead and prepared as possible to overcome an obstacle that may put you or your family in danger.
ONE BAG TO RULE THEM ALL? –
There are endless ways to develop a system that works for you, but typically you’d start with the bag of your choice. Ideally, you'd want the most rugged, well-designed and highest quality bag you can find, but if your options are limited; just remember how it might hold up to what you’ll need the most.
Some basics to consider:
- How will it handle the cold/wet or hot/dry weather?
- What size will you need and what situation/type of bag will it be?
- How much do you want to carry?
- Does it have the storage space or compartments you need?
- Will be comfortable enough to carry? (lumbar support, waist straps, etc.)
Something waterproof, however, is crucial if you have the option. And you may have to choose between a bright or more visible bag so you can be easily spotted in isolation. Conversely, you may need one that’s camouflaged to buy you some time while you shake- and-bake away from the enemy or a hangry predator.
You may notice that the Survival Bag or Bug Out Bag is sometimes discussed as a lone item or ‘one size fits all’ arrangement that should cover everything you need in the worst-case scenario. Well, in the unpredictable case of Bag vs. Life, it isn’t a bad idea to have more than one bag or type of bags ready to go. Keeping bags in different rooms isn’t unheard of – especially if there’s a threat or intense weather damage happening on one side of your home, and you’re caught on the opposite side without your bag.
DUDE, WHERE’S MY BAG? -
If you’re wondering what type of bag is right for you and why they have different names, there's just minor variables that set them apart. To begin with - Bug-Out or Go-Bag wisdom is as simple as “pack light & pack right”.
In terms of function - prepping for an extreme storm outside the city or off the grid is likely going to require a bit more equipment than usual if you’re going to be trekking some distance over rough terrain, so you probably won’t need a water key to open a supply main. Or, if you’re working downtown at the office and a riot breaks out during your Zoom call, you’ll likely need a quick and portable bag to toss in or out of your trunk, so you may not need all that fishing equipment.
This is where the Urban Bug Out Bag shines if you need to survive in a potentially dystopic metropolitan environment, rampant with civil unrest and unruly characters. Things like air quality are important here and having a gas or evacuation mask to handle the many toxins or pollutants that come with the territory of a civil disturbance. And of course, water filtration, self-defense, first aid and communication during riots or ongoing war-time tensions are vital.
Another contender you’ll hear about is the Get Home Bag. The idea behind this set-up is just as important and one of the most daunting to think about, simply because this is your go-to Survival Bag if you’re away from home and there’s a dire emergency where you have no choice but to “Get Home”. The contents here are similar as you’ll want to be sure you have things like identification, medication, money, and credentials that can get you past security gates or permitted by authorities to reach your loved ones.
THE 72hr RULE (To Live By) -
One golden rule however, and good place to start when preparing a worthy Survival Bag is that your completed pack should safely last you about 72 hours or 3 full days. After you’re confident the basics are covered like we’re mentioning today, then it’s time to prioritize and customize accessories that make the most sense based on your location or whatever scenario you may need to prepare for.
One irony about a survival bag situation is that water is heavy. So, if you are lucky enough to be in an area near lakes, streams, ice, or regular rainfall, there are excellent small, lightweight, and portable filtration options like filtered straws and pre-filtered water bottles. It even gets as tiny and effective as chlorine dioxide and germicidal tablets to handle bacteria or sanitize water meant to store long term. However, in some cases, you may be in a desert or drought-stricken environment where water is scarce, and it will take much more patience and experience to stay hydrated and survive.
Storable foods are a Bug-Out blessing thanks to the ease of transport and preparation to heat and rehydrate, and they also can last up to 25 years if stored properly. However, you might be on the move, so this is where you’ll want smaller and lighter low- profile options. Sealed ration bars would be useful here because they’re packed with about 2500 calories, (which can fuel the average person for about three and a half hours of running) and loaded with nutrition, and a high content of sugar & carbs to get your calories up in a survival situation. There are even tiny supplement tablets that keep through almost any conditions but provide you with enough fuel to help you stay in the game.
FIRE (& Light) -
Fires can be a challenge in windy, wet or winter zones so specialized items like Ferro Rods, waterproof matches, and fire-starters are all great choices due to their benefit and size. Plus, newer tech like a plasma lighter or torch would also be great to have on hand. Fire isn’t always an option for light so something weatherproof and bright like a reliable LED flashlight with a long-lasting rechargeable battery would be helpful.
That lends a nod to rechargeable USB power stations that are a huge addition to today’s arsenal of tech forward tools. And, aside from fire being nature’s source of heat for all things which we must cook to eat – hand warmers, space blankets, emergency sleeping bag and poncho, extra clothes and layers to stay warm and dry will keep your body and soul from suffering the effects of the winter or your geography.
TOOLS (& Self-Defense) -
Our last line of defense when we’re out on our own will sometimes be the tools or weapons we hopefully loaded in our bags. Typically, one of the best friends you could ever have in a survival situation is a bushcraft size or sturdy knife that will help you cut tinder and baton wood for fires, build and craft materials for a shelter, and if you’re in a dire situation it’s obviously vital to hunting if your storable foods and rations may have run dry. A strong and capable knife can even make new weapons, and of course, is one of the most valuable and effective self-defense tools on the planet.
A Commando Saw is always helpful too when you need a light and low mass cutting machine. You can fasten it into a bowsaw or use it friction-style like a lasso of razor blades. It can take down large bushes when it might be a little tricky to get your knife wrapped around a massive hedgerow of Honey Locust or a Crown of Thorns that stands in your way.
They say that home is where you make it, so what better way to hunker down when you’re on the move then having a decent shelter to get you out of the elements and recharge your somatic batteries. There are great options for light and durable tarp or lean-to style tents, full-size and enclosed emergency tents, waterproof emergency blankets to keep you dry on wet ground and just the same from falling sky water. Your trusty knife and saw if you have one will come in handy as will some paracord and duct tape. What more could you ask for in the middle of nowhere other than room service and spa treatment?
FIRST AID –
And the gift of healing that keeps on giving is safety and your ability to keep those pesky wounds clean and disinfected. Cuts, bruises and all matter of unmentionables might cause you some discomfort, and you wouldn’t want to get an infection you couldn’t manage if you’re going to need that right hand when you make it home. And aside from a well-balanced First Aid Kit, it would also be useful having a tourniquet and getting some basic training in first aid if you did have to apply severe wound treatment to yourself or a loved one.
In this modern era, we store so much confidential and personal information on our phones that they are easy targets for identity theft and fraud, so before anything does happen, it’s always a good idea to have a solid safeguard to keep your life’s digital documents out of someone else's nefarious hands. This is important to remember as you prepare for a situation where you may have to leave everything behind. And with that said, it’s also wise to keep your passports, ID’s, financial info, or any sensitive documents always protected.
Hopefully in any emergency you have your cell phone or other smart devices with you. This could be a ticket home with service and GPS and backup brick style chargers once again prove their worth if they are fully charged to keep your devices going as long as possible.
Even with today’s technology, we can’t forget about the trusty pair of a map & compass. Compass and map reading skills are a bonus as topography is almost a lost art. Again, hopefully you have your cell phone with you and can use your GPS. Otherwise, there are some amazing GPS beacons and options out there where USB chargers again go hand in hand. We even have the convenience of self-charging, solar-powered brick chargers that will keep going as long as there’s sunlight.
So, perhaps there are some cases where less is truly more because the small things can add up fast. If we’re in real desperation but run out of food and water right away and our packs weigh us down to the point of exhaustion only hours into our journey - we may realize that we didn’t need all the extra bells and whistles after all. But, even though not all of us are trained survivalists or experienced at living off the land and fending for ourselves in the wild; we all still have the same goal in mind - Survival