Bugout Bag 101

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Do you have a bug out bag?

Bugout bag
Bugout bag

A bug out bag is an item that everyone, prepper or not should not only own but have already packed and ready to go. Should there be an emergency or situations start to go to ‘left field’ you may want to leave your home (or place of employment) in a downright hurry. In tense survival situations you may only have a few minutes of time to grab your ‘already prepared’ bug out bag and head out the door.

Some folks just flat out never worry or think about what ‘could’ happen. But if you’re one of those who think about the future, and the what if’s, then you know that there are going to be many situations where bugging out could be a very real possibility. Chance favors the prepared.

If you live or vacation on a coast you should always anticipate the possibility not only of a hurricane but of a tsunami. Let’s face it, even if you aren’t in danger of a hurricane or tsunami there are other disasters ready to strike in which you’d have no choice but to grab what you can and go, as fast as possible.

Some locations are prone to flooding, or landslides. Some locations have earthquakes or volcano eruptions. There could be a medical outbreak or a terror situation.

Time like that is when your prepacked bug out bag would come in the handiest. Such a bag should contain, at the very minimum, the essential items that you’d need to help you get through at least 72 hours.

Bug Out Bag 101 will help you with some important tips as well as mistakes to avoid.

Prepacking your Bug Out Bag

One of the worst mistakes people, and even seasoned preppers, can make is putting off doing things. Thomas Jefferson said: “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” Those words hold true today just as they did in Jefferson’s time. Being a prepper means being prepared, at least as much as possible. This means not putting off acquired a backpack and filling it. Your bug out bag needs to be packed, ready to go and in a predetermined handy location.

An excellent location for your bugout bag (and other other bugout supplies) is your coat closet. The coat closet is typically somewhere near the front door, hardly used, typically filled with junk and ready for a makeover. Do you need all those coats in there? Clear out the excess, find a home for the junk deposited in there over the years, and make that your home’s location for an easy to find, easy to grab, bug out bag location.

In the event of an actual emergency, let’s face it, there will not be time to run around trying to find socks, and filling water bottles. The best time to start was yesterday. The second best time is today.


Filling the Bag

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Before you run out and buy a backpack to use as a bug out bag (A backpack is easier to carry long distances than a tote or duffle bag.) you’ll want to consider what you’ll be putting in it. This will help you determine size and capacity you’ll need. You don’t necessarily want the biggest, just one with ample room for what you’re packing in it.

You’ll need bottles of water, a water filter straw, some non-perishable food, a change of clothing, jacket, poncho as well as other items you ultimately deem important.

When you’ve accumulated all the items you think need, lay them all out and try to figure out how big your bag will need to be to hold it all.
Did you read the book or see the movie Wild? While Wild wasn’t’ a preparedness film per se it did show the adversity that can happen when you get a backpack too big and fill it too full.

Buy the Right Backpack

While you could just grab one of your kid’s school backpacks you’d probably find out that they weren’t intended for the kind of use you’d intend for them. Don’t go with a cheap plastic one obviously, but you might not necessarily need the biggest one either (Think back on Cheryl Strayed in Wild.) Are you in a rainy area or season? If you you’ll want a waterproof model (which is always a good idea…) Do you live in an arid environment? In which case you’d want more room for bottled water. If you reside where there are streams, rivers and lakes just over the next hill you can probably save the water room for something else and instead pack water filtration straws (such as LifeStraw) or other water filtration devices.

Your bag should also be a color of nature so that it blends in somewhat. You wouldn’t want a hunter orange backpack. You aim is to not draw attention to yourself.

You also want to consider aesthetics. You wouldn’t want a high-end fancy-dancy brand name leather bag as you don’t want something that a thief might want or have them wonder what other fancy things you might be carrying. While those bags are probably well made and durable there’s no sense drawing attention to yourself in that manner. Although in the film Joe Vs the Volcano that fancy dancy high end leather luggage ended up saving their lives, but in your case, it’s probably hard to make a life raft out of a leather backpack… …

Can you lift the pack? Can you wear it without tipping over? Does it rest comfortably along your spine? Does the hipbelt (GET one with a hipbelt!) rest over your hipbones. This helps distribute the weight more effectively. The shoulder straps should fit close to your back helping to keep the load more forward. A sternum strap helps pull the shoulder straps inward to allow freer arm movement.

Your bug out bag isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Pick a bug out bag that suits your specific needs, fits you well, is right for your environment and the emergency that you’re preparing for.

Don’t Forget the Fam!
You might think you can haul everything you and your family needs in your bag but in reality it just makes more sense for each member of the family, even the children, to have their own bug out bag. Your child’s bag should also be nondescript, with a change of clothing. Don’t monogram it or have your child’s name embroidered on the outside of the bag. No sense letting strangers know your child’s name. I’d even add some dried food, and a water bottle and filtration device to each childs bag. You can even add a paperback, some small travel games or playing cards. The more prepared you are the better.

• Don’t Overpack
It’s a common mistake to overpack your bag. You really only need the most important items such as those needed if you were going on a rough-it camping trip. You don’t need everything in the house! Get everyone a collapsible cup, buy some extra socks, travel size sunscreen, granola bars… You don’t need the kitchen sink!… Only pack the necessities.

bug out bag
bug out bag

• Get in Better Shape
Some folks fill a bug out bag, stick it in the coat closet or desk drawer at work and don’t give another thought about it. BUT….how far can you walk carrying the weight? How far can you walk without the bag? How far is it from the office to home?

Everyone, preppers included, should work on his/her fitness levels. How long has it been since you went on a long walk? Were you in the military ‘years ago’ and think you can still do it? Have you walked/ran any marathons? It’s harder than you think or remember, especially if you have a family. You have to take into consideration how far they can walk in a day as well.

When emergencies arise, there may not be accessible roadways for your car (if your car still works… remember all the newer cars are subject to EMP pulses.) If possible you’d want to own a vehicle old enough to have an engine with a carburetor. Bicycles will work. Do you have one for every member of your family? And a hand pump?

If you’re out of shape, and face it, most of us are, at least to a degree. Start practicing walking, then walking with the pack on your back. Do pushups, jumping jacks, anything to increase your stamina

• Needles and thread
I’ve sewn my whole life and while I have a couple of different machines at home but that wouldn’t do me much good in a bug out situation. Everyone should have a small sewing kit. Even the military supplies it’s soldiers with sewing kits. Don’t have one? You can even fashion one out of an old Tum’s tin. You need a fine needle, a big needle, different weights of threads and a cutting tool of some kind. Tiny scissors or the knife on your belt.. A fine needle can be used to remove splinters or sew on a button and the big needle (with a large eyehole) is perfect for heavier weight thread, the kind you might need to patch some jeans, or a tear in a tent or sleeping bag.

• Pack and Carry
If you reside in the US where civilians have access to firearms it’s a good idea to pack and carry. Hopefully you’ll never need it but it’s better to have it and not need it and need it and not have it.

If food were to become scarce the prepared person still needs to think about all those people who would rather take it from you than secure their own ahead of hand. There will be panic. You should be prepared. If you don’t have a weapon, go get one. If you’ve never handled a weapon please know that there are lots of places with classes and ranges where you can learn to be comfortable.

In times of panic in the streets you don’t want to be the victim. Taking the time now to prepare yourself (and your family) is just the smart thing to do.

Practice fire starting
Practice fire starting

• TEST it!
Do you have a flint fire starter? Have you EVER made a fire with it? Practice at home on the bbq grill. Did you buy one of those tiny little stoves for your backpack and do you know how to use it? Practice some weekend, cook marshmallows and have fun with it. Did you buy a pop up tent? Can you successfully get it up AND packed back down again? Knowing how everything you have works can make a big difference in feeling secure and avoiding frustration.
bugging out
bugging out

As each of us, and our circumstances are different everyone’s bug out bag will be different. Pack the necessities, some extras, and practice with what you have.

These are just some of the tips you should be aware of when packing a bug out bag. There are no hard and fast rules here. The goal is to pack a bag that is right for you.

While a few items are a MUST HAVE, the rest will depend on what your needs are and the scenario you’re preparing for. 7P’s Proper prepper planning prevents poor performance.

If you haven’t done so already, make a plan and start today.