Thursday, March 29, 2018

Building your bug out bag, or rather, get home bag.

One of the most talked about pieces of gear you can have is the so called bug out bag. I prefer to call it a get home bag since that is most likely what it will be used for. The only times you would use it to leave your home is when a major natural disaster is imminent or there is a riot or for some reason it has become unsafe to stay at your home. So what characteristics does a good get home bag consist of?

When choosing a good bag, look for one that is comfortable to wear. It should have padding on the shoulder straps and the portion that lays against your back. The more comfortable the bag is, the easier it will be to walk a long distance without it slowing you down or making you feel uncomfortable. In a stressful situation where you will need your bag, comfort will go a long way. The bag should also be a plain or camouflage color so it doesn't stick out. Avoid bright colors or any bags with reflective material on them.

The size of your bag is the next consideration. The bigger the bag, the more gear you will be able to carry, but that comes at a cost. A heavier bag will slow you down, which is good incentive for you to get physically active so this will not be an issue. Remember that the four fundamentals that humans need to survive is water, food, shelter and a means of self defense. Your bag should contain everything needed to maintain those fundamentals for at least a 24 hour period.

Water in your bag should be rotated out frequently, especially if you keep the bag in your vehicle. Some bottled water does not store long in the high heat of your vehicle and needs to be used quickly and replenished often. You should also have a means of filtering water when your current supply runs out. There are plenty of great options like the Life Straw or Sawyer water filter. Some of these filters will also allow you to refill a bottle with clean water so you don't need to stay by a source of water for long.

Food in your bag should be easy to make and last for an extended period. The Mountain House meals found at Walmart are actually pretty good. They are tasty and easy to make by just adding hot water to them. Keep in mind that some of your water may be needed to cook food. Other easy options to have are trail mix or energy bars if only needed for a short term basis. You will also need a small container to cook your food or boil water in. I use an Esbit brand solid fuel stove that works great. It is compact when stored and easily can boil water in a matter of minutes. It can use solid fuel to heat it, or in a pinch you can use small sticks. Don't forget having a set of eating utensils.

Having a small tarp or tent in your bag will provide you with shelter on a temporary basis. If your bag is only being used to get to your destination within 24 hours, a tarp would be a better option. It takes up less space and easier to put up and take down. Don't forget tie down straps or rope to hang the tarp up and secure it. In some situations you may have to sleep on the ground. Use your tarp or tent in a way that will help keep animals or other unwanted creatures away from you. Your shelter should also protect you from the elements like rain and wind. Although not really considered shelter, a good rain outfit will help keep you dry during inclement weather and should be included.

For self defense, every bag should contain a good knife at the minimum. I prefer a non-folding knife and one that has a full shank, meaning the blade is one whole piece down to the end of the handle. If you are skilled enough, you can survive indefinitely in the woods with just a knife. It can be used to make other tools, shelter and be used for hunting.

Now that we have the basics needed for survival, lets look at other extras that should be in your bag.

You should have at least three ways of making fire. This can include matches, a lighter or a magnesium fire starter. Fire will be used to sterilize water, cook food and provide heat during cold weather. You will also need some kind of kindling to start a fire. One trick is to have a Zip Lock bag full of dryer lint. It's light weight and easy to start a fire with.

Another important item to have in your bag is a first aid kit. The best kits are ones that you build yourself and not getting the so called complete kits at a store. A large Zip Lock bag is excellent for a basic first aid kit. The first aid kit should include band aids, gauze, medical tape and thick pads for heavy bleeding. You will also want a container of antibiotic ointment for minor cuts. You will also want to have a few pairs of latex free gloves. Some people have an allergy to latex, so get latex free items whenever possible. The gloves should be used whenever administering aid to another person. They help protect you and them from any fluid borne illness that either of you may come in contact with. Hand sanitizer should also be in your first aid kit. When used properly, it will help stop the spread of disease and in a survival scenario this will be important. The hand sanitizer should also be used every time after using the restroom (or woods). This way you don't need to tap into your water supply to wash your hands.

A good flashlight should also be in your bag. LED lights are the preferred way to go. They use less power giving a longer battery life and the lights last much longer and don't need to be replaced like ordinary bulbs do. Don't forget about replacement batteries for the flashlight.

A multi-tool would be another item to have in your bag. They provide a quick way of having a pair of pliers, small knife and a screwdriver in one tool.

When assembling the contents of your bag, having everything organized will make retrieving the items needed easier. As mentioned above, Zip Lock bags work well for keeping everything together. I put all my items in them so they are protected from rain, water or anything that might spill in the bag. This will help if you have to cross a stream or stuck out in bad weather, you will know that your gear will be protected.

The last thing that should be placed in your bag is a change of clothes. At least a couple of pairs of socks and underwear for keeping dry. Wet clothes can cause hypothermia, so changing them when wet will help alleviate this problem.

When you get your bag assembled, wear it when going for a walk around your neighborhood. This will help you get used to the weight and is good exercise. Keep it close by at all times, either in your vehicle or home.

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