What you don’t know you need to get out of Dodge
by the Shooting Daily staff
For most of us who take firearm proficiency and personal defense seriously, a bugout bag (BoB) is a steady companion, whether it is stashed in the home or the daily driver. Your BoB was likely developed based on common-sense forecasting and suggestions from various sources and friends who share your appreciation for being prepared to face those worst-case scenarios.
Unfortunately, many folks tend to build their BoBs using only the core essentials for maintaining self-sufficiency for one to three days: water supply, food, basic tools, basic med kit, a weapon, and ammunition. These are fundamental items to include in any BoB, but what is often not taken into account are the more localized needs. For example, a BoB designed for surviving an expansive metropolitan area is not going to look the same as one developed for a rural environment; and one made for a southern Georgia bugout will be somewhat different than one made for hunkering down the Colorado Rockies.
Of course, even a basic BoB is better than none at all no matter where you’re located, but it only makes sense that if you’re going to the effort to make a preparedness kit, you should make sure it meets the needs of your specific environment.
If you’ve never created a BoB before, let’s first run through the must-haves that apply to anyone, everywhere.
THE BUGOUT BASICS
- Water (a small hand-held filtration system is best, purification tables will do in a pinch – Katadyn offers several purifiers that are ideal for backpack carry)
- Defensive weapon and ammunition (chamber commonality between your weapons is a plus)
- Food (dehydrated meals are the way to go, as you can pack more for the weight and volume)
- Knife and multi-tool (don’t skimp on quality here)
- Fire source (whatever type striker system you choose, be sure to include a butane lighter as a backup)
- First-Aid kit (off-the-shelf kits can work, but be sure to go beyond Band-Aids and gauze to include basic pharmaceuticals like aspirin, acetaminophen, anti-diarrheals, and such)
- Emergency shelter (a backpacker tarp and emergency blanket can provide excellent 360-coverage)
- 550 cord (aka paracord – has multiple uses)
- Light and extra batteries
- Change of clothing
- Pack (water-resistant day pack or assault pack to put it all in – Blackhawk makes some great ones)
THE OVERLOOKED BASICS
As we mentioned, the above list contains the absolute essentials for any functional BoB. Naturally, there is room to improve within this list.
MEDICAL – It’s fine to have the supplies to address the common cuts, blisters, and gastrointestinal ailments, but those usually aren’t life-or-death conditions. What about the serious stuff, like obstructed airways, thoracic punctures, gunshot trauma, or severe arterial bleeding? If you want a kit to cover the dire emergencies, include items such as:
- R.A.T.S tourniquet
- chest seal
- blood clotting agent
- Israeli bandage
- basic field suture kit
We like to start our own First-Aid kits with one of the numerous models available from Adventure Medical Kits, and then add the above items from various sources to manage gunshot and knife trauma.
MONEY – Credit cards and electronic funds you’ll have on you regardless, but what about cash? When the grid goes down, cash or precious metals rule. Include as much as you’re comfortable with in your BoB (stow it in a secret pocket if you can). For a precious metals source, check out Universal Coin & Bullion. They are friends of the firearm enthusiast world and know their stuff.
IDENTIFICATION/RECORDS – Can you prove who you are? Can you acquire financial assistance, tap funds, initiate insurance claims, show you own your property? It’s a good idea to have copies of your most important records with you to present to authorities, insurance companies, and financial institutions in case your property is destroyed.
MAPS – We’re not talking digital here, but old-school paper maps. If the communication grid is inoperable, the map app on your phone isn’t going to do you much good. A state and regional map should be stuck to your BoB like white on rice because you never know where you’ll have to head to in a disaster.
WATER (again) – So you can purify water, but how will you store it? How will you boil it? Include a collapsible polyethylene water bladder and a stainless steel cup in your kit. You can boil water in the cup for rehydrating meals or sterilizing water if your purifying system fails.
RAIN GEAR – A poncho, for sure.
CANDLES – Save your batteries. Although you likely won’t use candles to find your way around in the dark, they do offer a much-needed psychological confidence when you’re huddled in camp for the night.
PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE – If you need it during normal life, you’ll need it when you’re in the field.
The above items will provide a solid foundation for any BoB, regardless of where you live. You can always build on this platform by including more items that may be desirable for longer duration disasters, like a wool blanket, bivy tent, sleeping bag, fishing gear, et cetera. It all depends on how far you want to go and how much you are willing to carry with you (especially if you’re down to foot travel). Only you can be the judge.
We mentioned at the start of this article that the ideal BoB for someone living in a particular area may not be perfectly suited for someone living on the other side of the country, or even the next county over. When you build on the basic BoB, you should take into account the environment in which you will be holding up.
If you’re in an area where mosquitoes and black flies terrorize the natives, you’ll want a strong insect repellent as part of your kit. Someone in Washington state may have no need for a bottle of sunscreen, but you better pack a bottle if you’re trying to make it in the desert Southwest. A person in Montana will definitely appreciate a warm sleeping bag in their BoB even during the summer, while someone in Louisiana might make better use of that space by stowing a small cast net.
The point is, an expanded BoB should be customized for your local conditions. How do you best do that? Think about what you would need if you walked out the door right now and were unable to return home for several days. How would you get food? How will you sleep? What type of clothing would you want to wear? What weather and terrain conditions will you encounter as you move from here to there to wherever? Run the scenarios in your head and discover the holes in your kit.
Building a custom bugout bag isn’t difficult. Ensuring you build one that will do the job of keeping you and your family safe does, however, go beyond the well-established basics to include those overlooked items and the local environment. Factor all of these into your equation and you will have the advantage if the worst ever happens.