Perhaps one of the most important elements to your overall disaster, “stuff hits the fan” preparation plan is figuring out what you will take with you in the first critical hours. Thus, the “bug out bag” – a portable collection of your most necessary, most vital items – can literally become a life-or-death investment of your time now, while you have the opportunity to consider your options.
“The subject of bugging out and bug out bags is a popular one and for good reason, disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes , flash floods or other natural disaster, could force survivors to ‘head for the hills’ in search of safer ground,” writes M.D. Creekmore, of The Survival Blog. “We are constantly threatened by a series of potential disasters, both natural and man-made. It seems like we are being threatened from all sides, and sometimes, I admit to feeling like just throwing up my hands in despair and just giving up. It’s easy to give up. But I shake it off and prep harder than before.”
Natalie Rhea, writing for our friends at Survival Life, adds: “Emergency preparedness is no joke, and should not be taken lightly. Whether it be a terrorist attack, natural disaster, civil unrest, or epidemic, everyone should have a plan in place and pre-made kit handy. However, there are many variables to creating a bug out bag, including your location. If you were in an urban setting you would not really need all of the tools you would use in the wilderness, and vice versa.”
As you can see, there is plenty to consider when thinking about what you will need to put into a bug out bag. Let’s go through some of the most common things and items to consider (these can all vary, depending on your unique situation):
⊕ If you’re not the only one bugging out, then you’ll need more than one bag: Ideally, each person bugging out should have their own personalized bag. There are basic items that everyone will need, like food and water, and those supplies cannot all be carried in one bag. Also, individualized bags allow for personalized needs.
⊕ Food: In the ideal situation, you should have enough for three days. Long-term storable food with high calorie count (because you’ll likely be moving around a lot, perhaps in terrain you are not used to negotiating, and you’ll be doing it carrying a bug out bag and other things) that does not need to be reconstituted with water is better.
⊕ Water: Water is heavy so carrying a LOT of water isn’t realistic. But again, you’ll need a good supply of it; a couple of gallons at least (especially if it is hot outside).
⊕ Medications: If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, these should definitely be in your bug out bag. If you can stay ahead a few months’ worth, that would be best, though that is harder to do with prescription medications a) because buying in bulk can be expensive; and b) not all doctors or primary care providers are willing to prescribe that much in advance. Note: This may be an item that you will just have to remember to grab when the time comes to bug out. OTC medications like aspirin/Tylenol/ibuprofen, anti-allergy meds, eye drops, antibiotic creams and so forth can be stockpiled in your bag ahead of time.
⊕ Clothing: One change of clothes (and a couple of changes of underclothes) will suffice. Try to get clothing (blue jeans, military-grade, hunting gear, etc.) that is made to withstand tougher conditions.
⊕ First aid supplies: You don’t have to stock an entire emergency room, and what you stock may depend a lot on whether or not you’ve had prior medical training (and you should get some), but basics like band-aids, small- and medium-sized bandages, medical tape, cold and hot packs and a good pair of medical scissors should be in your bag.
⊕ Personal hygiene: You’re not likely going to have access to a shower if you’re bugging out (and anyway, you won’t have the water to bathe) but some personal hygiene items that can be used by both sexes, as well as sex-specific items, must be in your bag. Handy wipes, deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush, at a minimum, can provide lots of comfort in a pinch.
⊕ Tools: You can’t take your entire tool box but again, some basics will do, like flathead and Phillips screwdrivers; a hammer; a small axe; a wood cutting cord/tool; a razor blade knife; pliers; and a Leatherman’s tool.
⊕ Weapons: Many people don’t like to think about having to defend themselves or their loved ones but when times get bad and the system breaks down, either from man-made or natural disaster (parts of New Orleans were dangerous and chaotic for days following Hurricane Katrina), you could find yourself faced with an imminent danger to your life. Having a personal defense weapon – and preferably a firearm of some sort – is not just about peace of mind, it’s about staying safe. There are no specific recommendations here; get one that you are comfortable with and in which you can become proficient. That may also include a crossbow or a bow and arrow, by the way.
⊕ Entertainment: This may not seem like it is very important, especially in a dire situation, but as humans we crave some form of entertainment. For bug-out purposes, this could be as simple as a deck of cards or a small board game, to some sort of electronic device (though these run on batteries, of course, and you may not have access to a power source for recharging).
⊕ Rechargeable radio: There are small portable radios you can carry that run on solar power or wind-up power. You will want to try to pick up as much information as you can about what is going on around you, areas to avoid, rioting, etc.
⊕ Communications: You will be well off to have a couple of portable walkie-talkie-type radios to communicate with, should you become separated or need to separate for some reason.
As you assemble your bug-out bag, you should know that a wise man once said gear doesn’t win the day, skills do. Take advantage of the time you currently have sign up for low-cost or no-cost training and learn self-defense and other skills you will need to wait out the crisis away from the current comforts of modern life.
This primer is meant for educational purposes; as always, research, research, research – and learn what you can about preparation while you can.