It might be nice to have a good Bug Out Bag handy.
The term Bug Out Bag is often used by survivalists to describe a survival kit (typically a backpack) that's pre-stocked with essential survival food, water and tools in the event of a disaster where a fast evacuation is called for.
Please note the difference between a "Get Home" Bug Out Bag (smaller, less supplies needed) and a standard Bug Out Bag as it's considered by many today; think of a standard Bug Out Bag more like a backcountry backpack worn by hikers that can carry enough goods to survive for a week or more in the wilderness, and could weigh fully packed anywhere from 60 - 100 pounds).
The focus of this article is on a three-day Get Home Bag, one you'll carry in the trunk of your car or keep in your office or apartment in the city. It's small, light-weight, and will allow you to evacuate an area and not slow you down. The Get Home Bag is made for people who need to get somewhere in a hurry and want to make do with the least amount of supplies as possible.
Having a Get Home Bag means you're ready to flee at a moments notice and won't be empty handed, having food and water and essential survival supplies to last you the next 3 days, at the minimum.
Every item in your Get Home Bag must have an important use -- if it doesn't have an important use, don't bring it. You can quickly pack too much *crap* in your Get Home Bag, some of it you may never actually use, or perhaps don't even need to bring when you can make the tools you need out of items in your environment.
Like a Green Beret. Like Rambo. You get the idea.
That handy folding shovel that weighs 10 pounds -- that's 10 pounds of dead weight on an already over-loaded back pack. You don't need the folding shovel -- learn how to make a shovel out of a sharp rock or tree limb or hub-cap right off a car.
Besides - there's a chance that any series digging is going to break that folding shovel (trust me, I know). About that rock, tree limb or hub-cap -- go practice digging (don't just not pack a shovel) and trying different size rocks with different edges as well as different size branches (break them down to smaller pieces). Get a feel for how these things can be used to dig dirt -- you'll get an idea of what a good rock or tree branch looks like (or hub-cap) and you'll have experience actually knowing how to dig with something other than a shovel.
If you have the time and initiative to put together a Get Home Bag consider the weight of every item and then figure out how to find the lightest or smallest item that will perform the same job. Think like a survivalist.
For example, a hatchet is a nice tool ... but you're not going camping. You can simply break tree limbs, you don't need to chop them down, and you don't need to chop firewood. Instead of a hatchet consider a small folding saw (OF GOOD QUALITY) that backpackers carry. This thing weighs a 1/3 of what the hatchet weighs (plus it makes a lot less noise when it's being used -- if you're concerned about alerting people to your location then you don't want to bring anything that makes noise).
These are just suggestions. If you love your hatchet, hold on to it. I'm just giving examples of where you can really trim down on weight to the bare essentials and make do with improvised tools in your environment.
That's what any Army, Marine, or Navy Special Forces survival training is going to teach you. In fact in Special Forces survival training you're likely going to learn how to create most survival tools from scratch -- even your Get Home Bag. But we don't need to do that just yet. We're starting with an actual backpack -- but if you're a true survivalist you can learn ways of making a "Get Home Bag" or backpack out of materials in your environment (that's another article).
You may not need a camp stove at all. Not one that requires bottled fuel anyway. How good are you with a lighter, wooden matches, and getting a fire started out of damp tinder? Your Get Home Bag should have a few lighters. These things are small, light weight, and it would be smart to have more than one. You don't have to be Bear Grylls and work yourself into a frenzy trying to get wet tinder started with your bare hands. It's a great skill to know but it takes a ton of practice, and then it's still not guaranteed -- especially in a wet climate. We live in the modern age. Make do with some modern tools.
Have a few lighters on hand (again, more than one) and an emergency candle ("emergency" rated candles burn longer than normal candles).
Tools such as these for fire starting are not a luxury as some of the items described above -- these are an absolute necessity. Don't skip this step.
Regarding candle use as a fire-starter, I've discussed this in other articles - placing a lit candle under your damp tinder is a great way to get it to start burning. Be sure to pull the candle away before the heat from the burning tinder melts the top of your candle (so keep the tinder at a distance even if you have to build an elevated platform to start your fire). You can get the next 20-30 fires going with just one good long burning emergency candle.
Now, let's look at water -- water for drinking.
Check out Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle (choose the 40oz size, which is largest). With some light-weight metal wire you can hang it over a fire - you don't need a grill to stand it on (a grill is another item you don't need in your Get Home Bag). (Note: Do not boil water in a Klean Kanteen with an insulated design. Only boil water in the simpler models that specify in the product description (see link) that it's safe to put over a flame. Always take the cap off first. It's plastic and might melt from the high heat, plus the steam from boiling water may cause it to simply break apart. Take the cap off first.)
With a backcountry water filter you won't need to carry as much water in your Get Home Bag, because you can quickly pump water through your filter right out of the stream or lake and fill up your water bottles as they empty.
In addition to your stainless steel water bottle, pack a large empty jug. It's lightweight, and if it's got a lid you can put things in it, such as a rolled up winter jacket. You don't need the jug while you're traveling. Use it when you've stopped traveling, or simply taking a break for a couple days after miles of walking. Don't worry about packing it insider your backpack; you don't have enough space. Instead just tie the handle to your pack and let it hang from the side.
Next, we need to look at food, clothing, shelter, maps, communications, self-defense, light, and first aid.
That's a lot for one small backpack.
Now you understand the challenge to putting together a great Get Home Bag and why items such as weight and quality and necessity are all important to consider when creating a Get Home Bag.
If you're a typical American eating the typical American diet then it's time to learn how to live off a lot less calories.
If you don't learn how to eat a calorie restricted diet now it's going to make a survival situation a lot more traumatic than it has to be. Start teaching yourself how to fast from foods (fasting means to go without food completely). Don't swear off food completely -- begin with a partial fast (which is advised if you're new to fasting). Over time condition yourself to go without food for up to 3 days (that way you'll also know what it feels like and having experienced it you won't be in for such a shock if you ever have to go without food for a lengthy period of time). Remember, humans can go without food for up to 8 weeks. Yes, you'll be skin and bones by the end of those 8 weeks but it's a reminder that you're not going to die of starvation in the early days of survival when you start restricting your calories to make your 72 hour supply of food last a few days longer. Make sense?
Considering this is a Get Home Bag and it's main purpose is to get you out of Dodge in the first 72 hours of a widespread disaster, I'm going to make choosing your survival foods really simple -- Standard trail-mix, natural beef jerky, and shelled sunflower seeds or another nut like almonds or pistachios. Each is lightweight and has a decent shelf-life. Throw a couple Snickers bars in there as a morale booster. Fact is, this will easily get you by for three days, if you have just enough. If you're more health concious, then go for the energy bars. Either way, you're only surviving off this food for a short term; when you pack your Bug Out Bag (for several days in the wilderness) that's when you should pay a lot more attention to nutritional content of food items.
What about packing coffee in your Get Home Bag? If you're a coffee drinker like a whole lot of people nowadays I recommend some caffeine pills. You don't need to bring an entire bottle. Throw 30 pills in a Zip-Loc bag and you'll take up very little space in your Get Home Bag. One thing that's going to happen when you start cutting calories is you may find yourself a bit tired -- especially if you're not used to cutting calories. The caffeine pills will be a boost of energy and another morale booster for your life in the days following disaster.
At most you'll only have two outfits, two sets of underwear, two pairs of socks -- the reason for having two outfits is so that everything can be layered in case of cold temperatures the first few days of a disaster. Finally, you'll have rain gear (pants and jacket) to wear over the top of everything. More on that in a moment.
If you can find a boot that laces up -- such as the style of boots made for Army infantry -- and is also waterproof, go with that.
Depending on the climate of the area you live, if there's rain, mud, sewage (yes, sewage, which can contaminate an area after a disaster strikes), shallow streams, or river banks, you may do a lot better with the waterproof boots (by the way, you'll want to find out how to care for your feet -- there's a danger of "trench foot" taking place when you wear shoes / boots in wet conditions for a lengthy period of time -- trench foot can be avoided, but again you need to know how to take care of your feet).
Essential gear to include: Wool socks, wool cap, waterproof jacket with hood, rugged work gloves, cold weather work gloves, and base layer long underwear (the type made specifically for the cold from materials other than cotton -- cotton is a bad choice for cold weather -- cotton retains moisture, and in the cold that can kill you); also on this list I recommend pants to wear over your base layer long underwear, and then also rain pants to wear as a third layer to combat cold temperatures, chilly nights, and of course rainy weather.
Please note traditional rain pants make loud noises, crinkle, pop, and swish when you wear them. Nowadays manufacturers of hunting gear are making rain pants with a fabric on top so they're a lot quieter -- go with one of these brands.
The good news -- shelter building doesn't have to be that difficult. Not when there are abandoned cars and trucks you can sleep in, or when you can come across shelter-making materials either in an area devastated by a natural disaster, or in the woods, where you can build yourself a simple lean-to out of tree branches, or find a place to bed down under a fallen tree, a stump, or a small cave. What you can have in your Get Home Bag is both a medium sized tarp folded up to take very little space and also 2 or 3 large "contractor" 55 gallon garbage bags -- check your local hardware store. These bags are a lot bigger than household garbage bags, a lot stronger, and make a great instant shelter. If you happen to have dry leaves or grass handy fill the bag and use it as insulation. Crawl inside and bed down for the night. But before you do that, cut a hole in the top of one of the other contractor bags and put it over your head like a poncho. You'll have your feet in one bag, and your torso in the other. Other than your head, the rest of your body will be completely covered. Which only leaves your head... That brings us to...
You can buy mosquito netting cheaply by the yard and then with just some duct tape and scissors cut it into custom lengths for however you need to use it. Let's say you bed down in a car, but it's 90 degrees out and the dead of summer. Role the windows down and tape up mosquito netting so you don't die of heat stroke in the hot car. Or lets say you're in the forest, under a fallen tree, and bedding down in a large garbage bag as described in a previous paragraph. Your head will be exposed so build yourself a custom "mosquito hood" (again out of duct tape -- figure out how, it's not hard) and wear it over your head. You can sleep exposed to the elements without getting bitten by bugs.
Finally, you'll want an up to date map that details actual trails, as well as records elevation changes in the terrain. Fact is, if there are other people who will be making the escape with you, you're going to want to study your maps and choose the easiest trail rather than choosing a trail that may be more popular with mountain climbers. Your goal isn't to climb to the highest peak. Your goal is to get you, your family, your friends safely out of the area as quickly as possible, knowing that many of them may not be cut out for a long hike up and over a steep mountain. If you can find a route that skirts a mountain (rather than climbs it) and makes it's way through a valley it's likely to be a much easier hike, especially if you and your party are carrying gear (and you better be, this is survival).
Which means lets study survival methods used in the Special Forces -- and not just buy the latest camping items and think that because we have the latest gadgets we're going to be just fine. That's setting ourselves up for failure.
Let's talk about communications. In a widespread disaster there's a high probability that internet, land-line phones, and cell phones are all going to be knocked down. We may be able to pick up AM-FM radio signals though and at least get news on just how bad the disaster is and if it's safe to return to an area after -- for example -- a nuclear attack on a U.S. city by terrorists.
An AM-FM radio is good for one thing -- to bring you the news. Specifically look for an emergency radio that's going to carry several weather stations simply because bad weather may be what's in store, especially if major storms are striking and if any sub-zero cold temperatures are coming your way -- you'll want to prepare your shelter for a freezing night in advance, rather than have to suffer through it.
What if the news you're looking for pertains to a nuclear attack on a U.S. city -- the weather stations may tell you what direction the winds are blowing so you know which way not to flee so as to avoid nuclear ash and radiation being carried by any strong winds.
The radio at this link has both a hand-crank and rechargeable battery. That means that you re-charge the battery with the hand-crank and never need electricity or a back-up battery. It is also a two-way radio, which means you can communicate with others on many different frequencies.
What if there's no AM-FM radio to pick up after a disaster? No stations at all. What if everything on traditional radio is down or simply out of range? With that in mind we also need to look at short-wave radio, which is commonly used in maritime communications, international broadcasting, and amateur-radio. These can run off 12 volt power (meaning they can be plugged into your car). After a disaster (or worse, a complete collapse of society) you may be able to receive information from people broadcasting from cities and towns in your area. Typically in a war zone, you'll have government propaganda (should their be a new government that seizes power) as well as people who resist the new authority and broadcast warnings to short-wave radio about events taking place.
Please note that short-wave radio (possibly AM-FM radio) may be too much equipment for your Bug-Out Bag. If you have a cabin, relative's home or friend's home out of the area to flee to in an emergency, hopefully that friend has a short-wave radio for the reasons listed above. Don't worry about packing it in your Bug-Out Bag. You'll have too much equipment. But do know what it is (I mention it now while on the topic of AM-FM radios). In another article I'll discuss two-way radios more indepth so be sure to check back to SecretsofSurvival.com in the coming days.
"The best advice for a Get Home Bag where we are considering the car as a part of the overall gear we can use, is a CB radio. Yes, shortwave and Marine Band have a greater range. CB is limited to 4 watts (or effectively a little more than twice that using single side band technology). However, in terms of 'Get Home' practicality, installing a CB radio in your car is a very simple, affordable thing to do, and can give you more than line-of-sight depending on the time of day/night and the current solar flare cycle. Right now, we are in a peak time of the 11-year solar flare cycle, which means it is possible to 'shoot skip' much further than line of sight at times since the CB operates across 40 channels in the 27 MHz band. This is the upper portion of High Frequency, and for a 12V powered system that is working on channels that truckers and other people on the road are on, this is not necessarily a bad choice for a 'Get Home' plan. Additionally, you can easily invest in a good CB antenna which will boost your practical line of sight.
While HAM (amateur) radio is undeniably a must-have for the post-disaster, serious prepper, CB is a cheap, easy and quick method of 2-way radio communication that can at least be in the car to help you find out what else may be happening on the road, or listen in on conversations that may have been relayed from further away, even."
What if you have to abandon your car due to the condition of the roads? Remove the CB radio from the car, take the antennae, and stash the entire system in your Get Home Bag. You can set it up in another vehicle later in your trip.
Pack Ibuprofen -- Ibuprofen brings down fevers (though not everyone can take it); in the case of illness or infection, it's a band-aid that may buy you a couple more days when antibiotics are needed. Pack multiple size bandages for mid-size cuts to severe lacerations; adhesive tape to keep these bandages in place; also include self-adherent wrap, which may work even better than adhesive tape as it's flexible and allows movement; cloth wrap commonly used for sprains; finally, pack anti-biotic ointment, anti-itch ointment for bites and stings, and include something for wound-cleansing and disinfecting.
Surprisingly things like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and iodine are not the best items to include, they are said to hurt cells when used in cuts and impede healing. See this article in Readers Digest. It turns out that clean water is the best way to cleanse a wound, then apply first-aid ointment such as Neosporin, then your bandage. What if there's no clean water? Go with the rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol -- though not the best choice for wound cleaning as it can damage cells as reported at the link -- will still cleanse the wound of bacteria when no clean water is available. Rubbing alcohol is commonly used in hospitals to clean the skin prior to any needle puncture as well as to sterilize medical equipment and even for tick removal.
First-aid in a disaster can take on many shapes -- for people badly injured you simply won't have most items needed in a Get Home Bag. Instead have a knowledge of emergency medical care for a disaster: Know how to tie a tourniquet to stop the bleeding when an artery has been cut, how to make a make-shift splint or sling for broken limbs, know when an injured person is safe to be moved, and what kind of injury may be too dangerous for moving a person, such as a back-break or broken neck. Learn CPR -- you just might save the life of a loved one -- and of course, don't ignore a stranger who's dying, who also needs CPR performed.
In your Get Home Bag you may want to have both a good knife and a pistol. The knife has multiple uses, other than simple defense. The pistol is a last resort when attackers are closing in and it's the only way out. Learn how to shoot, how to re-load in a hurry, and how to not waste any bullets -- you're ammunition is going to be limited. Make every shot count. I advocate the use of a long-range rifle in survival -- but a long-range rifle isn't going to fit in a mid-size or small backpack that you're using to survive off for a few days, until you can get home where your long term survival supplies or Bug Out Bag is located.
As stated previously above have a specific location on the map that you're fleeing to -- whether it's that cabin in the hills, a relative's home, or a friend's home out of the area. Hopefully you have your friend or relative on the same page and they'll allow you to keep specific survival items there that you can retrieve once you've arrived -- like that long-range rifle, short wave or two way radio, compound bow, cold weather survival gear, extra food, extra water, etc. Everything that is too big for your Get Home Bag can be waiting for you at that second location. That could be an off-road truck or fleet of ATVs (some of you have the money for that); it may also be a Bug Out Bag already packed and ready for an expedition into the wilderness where you are going to attempt to make a homestead or simply continue to an area likely to be considered a safe-zone in a time of disaster.
Don't write off society completely. Stay connected with outlying towns once you've re-located. There you can get more information, more supplies, and even lend a hand on the re-building of local infrastructure.
You're welcome of course to make your Get Home Bag as big and weighed down as you want. But is it a Get Home Bag anymore? It just depends on who you ask. It really doesn't matter anyway. What matters is that we live to see another day and give God thanks for making it possible.
When you're carrying all your survival supplies on your back you're actually preparing for an expedition that may last weeks and months and possibly even years. You're setting off to settle in a new land and to a new way of life: the life of a survivor.