An ‘X Ring’ post on the Bug Out Bag is long overdue. Honestly though, it’s not about the bag! It’s about planning ahead and being prepared, to help you remain calm, cool and collected when disaster strikes.
Call it whatever you want – BOB, Go-Bag, SHTF Bag, GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) Bag, 72 Hour Kit, whatever – the Bug Out Bag is a short-term, transitional solution. Its purpose is to help you get from your home, that you’re leaving unexpectedly & in a hurry, to a safer location.
Right now, how you would handle a Reverse 911 call telling you to leave your home in the next 10 – 45 minutes? Would you be ready? Would you be a little freaked out? What would be the very first thing you’d do?
Let’s face it, most of us are more focused, find things easier, and are generally more thorough when not under the extreme pressures and stresses that accompany a real emergency. That‘s why you think about, and prepare your Bug Out Bag before you need it.
Pay any attention to the news lately and it seems like major, natural, and man-made disasters are occurring more frequently, and with more intensity than ever before. Isn’t it just good sense to plan ahead and be prepared?
Key Bug Out Concepts & Considerations
Rather than jump right to a specific list of items ‘your Bug Out Bag needs’, which is what so many others tend to do, let’s first cover some key concepts and questions to help you identify the right plan, and equipment for your situation. The Bug Out Bag is not a ‘one-size fits all’ solution.
Redundancy! Two is one. One is none.
It’s a key concept in Spec Ops, Survival Training, and the IT World. Things like knives, fire starting tools, flashlights, batteries and water containers are always better in ‘two’s, and sometimes more. 😉 One will undoubtedly get lost, break or otherwise stop working when you need it. If not, then you have a backup, something to lend out, or use for barter. That gives you options and advantages. Two is one. One is none.
What’s your lifestyle?
Are you a swinging-single minimalist with milk crates for furniture and a sleeping bag for regular bedding? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum, with a young family, a petting zoo of pets, and live with your parents and in-laws? Yeah, those Bug Out Bags and plans will be vastly different.
How’s your health? What about those you’re Bugging Out with? What happens to you under stress?
Anyone in your ‘Bug Out Party’ on any special meds? Need that EpiPen or Asthma inhaler? Those better be in your Bug Out Bag! Same for glasses, contacts and related items. Anyone with physical disabilities in your party? What does that mean to your plan, your kit and how you bug out? Do you get the ‘nervous shits’? Do you suffer debilitating migraines? Plan on it happening at the worst possible time. Make sure your Bug Out Bag takes these into account.
Where do you Live? What are you Buggin’ Out From? Where You Buggin’ Out To?
…and this is where my Bug Out Bag post differs from others you’ll see. Many ‘Bug Out Bag’ posts and vids are better guides for packing to hike the Appalachian Trail than they are realistic guides for bugging out of a metropolitan area. Hey, I get it. We’re gear guys. We love cool gear. We love to show it off. We love to get new gear. We wish we could use it more often.
Honestly, for most of us, very little of that awesome camping and wilderness survival stuff will get used in a real Bug Out situation. It might even slow you down.
Chances are good most of you live in one of the 381 US Metropolitan areas. Chances are also good you’re not Bugging Out from an event as widespread and devastating as the Zombie Apocalypse. So, based on where you likely live, and what you’re likely Bugging Out from, you’re NOT Bugging Out into the wilderness, to suddenly start living off the grid like the Alaskan Bush People.
You’re going to somebody’s house, a hotel, or a public shelter for a few days until you can hopefully get back home. You’re going to be with other people – maybe lots of them – in the same situation. Hopefully, though, things are relatively normal at your Bug Out Location, including regular services and operations. Your Bug Out Bag just needs to help you get there, and sustain you when you hit delays, get stuck, or rerouted.
How are you Bugging Out?
This one’s obviously pretty important, and has a major impact on both your plan, and your Bag. Are you Bugging Out on foot, by bicycle, motorcycle, or in a vehicle? Bugging out by vehicle? A simple suitcase might make the perfect Bug Out Bag; it would certainly be inconspicuous. There’s something to be said for things hidden in plain sight.
Protection. Bring it if ya got it!
Everyone has the right to personal protection and self defense. A firearm is just another high-value, extremely versatile asset in a well rounded toolkit. It gives you more advantages and options. Don’t forget ammo. Know the local firearms laws for your bug out location, and for the route you’re taking. Bugging Out isn’t an excuse for skirting the law.
Levels of Systems, and Multiple Types of Kit
You’re Bug Out Bag is probably just one component of a much more comprehensive disaster survival plan. You should have some sort of Every Day Carry Kit (knife, flashlight, combustion device, baby wipes??) and a Basic, Level 1 First Aid Kit that accompany you everywhere. Beyond that, you might also have an Urban Survival Kit (USK) / Get Home Bag, a Shelter In Place / Bug-In Bag, or any combination of these. While there needs to be some level of overlap, these different levels of kit should also complement one another. Your Bug Out Bag should make both your home and vehicle based survival kits more robust, depending upon whether you hit the road, or shelter in place.
Keep it Fresh
It’s pretty easy to make a Bug Out Bag, toss it into the far, back corner of the basement, and forget it, but the Bug Out Bag isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ item. Break it out every few months. Review the contents. Test it. Take it on a day hike. Take it camping. Rotate food items. Update your kits as your experience evolves, your skills improve, and your situation changes.
Take Action. Don’t Wait.
Generally in an emergency situation, the sooner you make a plan and spring into action the better. Being paralyzed by fear won’t get you anywhere. In the case of Bugging Out, the sooner you get moving, the less likely you are to get stuck, and the more distance you can put between you, and whatever it is you’re bugging out from. That’s a real advantage.
Bugging Out is about transitional survival. It’s not about being as comfortable as you are in a normal, non-emergency situation. Nor is it about long term wilderness survival, or living off the grid.
Real-World Experiences – You Never Think It’s Going to Happen!
I lived in Hoboken, NJ from February, 1996 through April, 2005. I was there on September 11, 2001. Thankfully, I wasn’t in the City that day, but I did witness those horrific events first hand. It’s something I’ll never forget. I had friends, though lucky enough to survive, displaced from their homes. In some cases, they were given 30 minutes to get into their apartments, grab necessities, and get out. Some showed up at my apartment, shaken, scared, exhausted and completely covered in dust & debris, with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs and what was in their pockets.
We were out of power for 5 days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, “(unofficially known as “Superstorm Sandy”), the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history,” per Wikipedia. 5 days was nothing compared to many I know. We sheltered in place, which is a topic for another post, but again had friends forced to evacuate, on short notice, and displaced for months, by power outages and flooding.
An Explosive Threat at Local Military Installation
Most recently a suspicious vehicle at a nearby military installation prompted localized evacuations in my area. Right on the knife-edge of the official evacuation zone, every time the phone rang we thought it might be that Reverse 911 call. Sometimes your gut just tells you what to do…
Each one of these events got people, myself included, refocused on the whole Bug Out Bag. While it won’t unfortunately always be enough, it certainly gives you options and advantages. Those are big wins that increase your odds in any kind of emergency or disaster situation.
Think about it! Take a crack at it. Throw something together next time you’re sitting in front of the tube for hours watching the game. This is clearly one of those things where a not perfect solution is still way better than no solution!
We’ll talk about specific recommended kit contents and gear I like another time.
Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!
© 2015 Inside The X Ring.