Bugout Bag? What’s That?
A “Bugout Bag” is some type of container that holds all the items you think you’d need if something happened and you needed to evacuate quickly (bug out.) Most “experts” agree that it should contain enough supplies to sustain you for a minimum of 72 hours, but there must be a balance between being prepared and being mobile. A bugout bag does you no good if it’s so heavy that you can’t move with it!
I wrote “experts” in quotes because so many people have opinions on the optimal loadout for a bugout bag – ranging from desk jockeys who never see wilderness except for on TV, to the hard corps survivalist psychos who are dead certain that the revolution is coming and we’d all better stockpile weapons and ammo for the war. I fall somewhere in between these two extremes. I will say that the following paragraphs describe the optimal loadout for me. If you asked for my advice, I’d recommend a few things that I think everyone should have, but for the most part, you need to assess your situation, your needs, and your abilities when you pack your own bugout bag. It should be tailored to you. For instance, I don’t need any prescription medication, and I’m an ox. That means my bag will be different than that of a 90-pound woman on prescription meds. My vision sucks, so I’ll have glasses and contacts to pack where a guy with 20/20 vision (lucky bastard) won’t have to worry about that.
I want to note that bugout bags aren’t just for militia nut jobs . I keep mine packed so I can travel on a moment’s notice. It’s my compromise. As I get older, I see myself slowing down and getting predictable. I have a 40-hour-per-week job. I’m buying a house. I often spend my Friday or Saturday nights doing laundry and dishes. Whether I like to admit it or not, I’m putting down roots. But I can leave at a moment’s notice when the whim strikes me as long as that bag is packed. I can hit the road and see my brothers or go wherever I want, and I know I have everything I need. It has the added benefit of ensuring I have what I need to survive if an emergency would occur, and one just never knows what might happen in these troubled times. It never hurts to be prepared.
A word on equipment choice:
I’m using a large Army ruck sack (ALICE) and load bearing equipment (LBE.)Before anyone makes fun of me for using Vietnam-era Army gear I want to tell you that, yes, I know there are better packs out there, and yes, I know internal frames are much more comfortable.I’m using Army gear for a number of calculated reasons:
- The gear is durable.
- The gear is cheap (compared to civilian counterparts.)
- I am familiar with the way the gear packs, the way it works, and how it wears on my body. I can find whatever I need, even in pitch dark.
- I don’t like the high, narrow design that most civilian packs have.(I’m broad enough through the shoulders and chest that I’m wider than a full Army pack.If I can fit through a spot, I know the pack will fit too.)
- I’m trying to harden up a little bit, and this gear is good for that.
- I really hate the bright color schemes that seem to dominate the civilian backpack market.
How long can I go?
I’ve broken down the contents into specific lists below, but let me tell you the bottom line now: This rig contains enough food to sustain me for six days of hard marching, or about ten if I’m mostly stationary. It contains 228 ounces (approximately 1.75 gallons) of water, which goes quick when one is marching cross country. However, the rig also contains everything I need to resupply my water, and it contains multiple means to resupply my food when I finish the food I’m carrying. The rig contains the materials I need to make shelter and survive outdoors. It has a well-stocked medical kit. I am completely confident that I could walk into the national forest with nothing but this bag and disappear for at least six weeks, maybe longer.
THE RUCK – OUTSIDE
On the left side I have a
- two-quart canteen
- folding “e-tool” shovel: heavy and bulky, but I kept it because it’s very handy.It can serve as a shovel, a hammer, an ax, a hoe, a rake, and a toilet seat.
- wood saw
From left to right, the three top compartments contain the following:
- 8 green chemical lights – if I’m not being tactical, these are great sources of light that last hours.
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- Cajun seasoning
- Tabasco sauce (spices are one of the few luxuries I allow myself)
- 5 Slimfast Optima bars.
You can find more potent “power” bars, but I think these offer a suitable balance of protein, fiber, and calories, and they taste much better than other brands I’ve tried.
- Katadyn water filter with a charcoal attachment
- microstove: I don’t use the stove much, but it’s nice to have the ability to boil water, and it’s one hell of a fire starter!
The center bottom packet contains
- 5′x7′ tarp
- 8′x10′ tarp.
The smaller tarp is to rain-proof the pack if I need to in a hurry. Combined with the bungee cords I have wound around the base of the ruck frame, I can use the large tarp to set up a shelter in ten minutes or less.
The right bottom pocket contains
- fuel for the microstove
- three 12′ rolls of tubular nylon
- zip ties
- extra cinch straps with quick-release buckles.
The zip ties and straps are handy for attaching other gear to the pack.The tubular nylon can be used to rig rappelling or rescue harnesses, or can do any duty that a strong rope can do, but takes a quarter of the space.
The right side of the ruck has a
- 2 SAW ammo pouches
attached to the side.The top SAW pouch holds a waterproof and shatter-resistant box that I use to protect my cell phone, camera, MP3 player, wallet and extra batteries.The bottom pouch holds another of these boxes, which in turn contains
- extra butane for my lighter
- waterproofed matches
- sewing kit
- water purification tablets
- cleaning supplies for my firearms
The top flap pouch of the ruck sack contains
- toilet paper
- 2 headlamps
- 100 feet of parachute cord
- extra hat
- ziplock bags (quart and gallon-sized)
- trash bags
- topographical US atlas, and any localized maps I may be carrying with me for a specific trip.
THE RUCK – INSIDE
The main compartment is divided into a large internal area and a smaller radio pouch that sits at the top, against the frame-side of the pack. The radio pouch holds
- duct tape
- eye glasses (in an old grenade canister – this also holds a water-proofed thumb drive that contains all of my writing and other crucial data)
- insect repellent
- waterproof compression bag
- camelbak cleaning kit
- 2 MREs
- 1 sealable bag of beef jerky
- 4 loaded 30-round magazines for my AR-15 (I take these out if I’m not taking my AR with me on a trip)
- extra pistol ammo. If I’m carrying my .45, I take 50 rounds of .45 ACP. If I’m taking my Judge, I take an assortment of .410 #6 shot, .410 000 buckshot, and .45 long colt.
The main compartment contains
- heavy duty netting – for fishing and trapping
- an old claymore landmine bag
- boot brush
- anti-bacterial wet wipes
- nail clippers
- shaving cream
- tooth brush
- contact solution
- contact case
- extra contacts
- baby wipes
- mouth wash
- foot powder
- waterproof ruck liner
- 10 MREs (stripped to essential contents)
- 2 bags of beef jerky
- 4 Slimfast bars
- 6 double-chocolate cocoa packets (another indulgence)
- waterproof ruck liner
- desert camo fatigues
- desert camo long-sleeved top
- 2 coolmax t-shirts
- 4 pairs of socks
- neck gator
- skull cap
- in winter – thermal underwear
- waterprooof compression bag
- camp pillow (my final indulgence)
- hammock – rarely used – takes too long to hang, and it kills my back to sleep in it, but it’s better than sleeping in mud or in a tree if the weather or snakes are bad.
- poncho liner
- light fleece sleeping bag (in summer) or a medium weight sleeping bag (in winter)
- combat life saver medic bag – first aid kit on steroids
- Pepto bismol
- Ripped Fuel
- Carmex lip balm
- Anti-bacterial ointment
- Benzocaine swabs
- Lamisil Cream
- Cortizone cream
- NO explode drink powder
- Calamine spray
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol
- Pain patches (non narcotic)
- 70 SPF sunblock
- Purell hand sanitizer
- Anti-bacterial soap bar
- Assorted bandaids and other adhesive bandages
- Snake-bite kit
- Ace bandage
- Latex gloves
- EMT scissors
- Compression bandages
- Medical tape
- Super glue
- Bic lighter
I keep a 100 oz. camel bak on hand that I usually strap on top of the ruck, and I have another compression bag with 12 more stripped MREs that I can grab if I need to. I usually take the camel bak, but I generally don’t take the extra food on non-emergency trips.
The load bearing equipment consists of a belt, suspenders, and an assortment of attachments. I’ve removed the meat-hooks and replaced them with parachute cord tie-downs. The entire rig is adjusted to ride high – almost up to my chest. It looks a little funny, but it keeps the pouches off of my hips. It also keeps the belt from getting pinched between my back and the ruck’s kidney pad. It also gives me a very comfortable place to rest my arms while walking over easy terrain.
On the right side (as you’re wearing it,) from the buckle to the back, I have a
- first-aid pouch
- lensatic compass
- M-16 ammo pouch (sans the grenade pouches)
- ammo for the pistol I’m carrying
- an AR-15 magazine (if I have the rifle with me)
- insect repellent
- hand sanitizer
- Buck camping knife
- a pistol holster
- a canteen carrier.
- steel canteen cup
- one-quart canteen
I usually carry a Taurus Judge, chambered for 3″ magnums. I load it with two .410 #6 shot, two .45 long colt, and one .410 000 buckshot, with the #6 shot lined up first. However, that pistol is in the shop right now so I’m carrying a Ruger P90 .45
One the left side of the belt, from the buckle to the back, I have
- 200-round SAW pouch
- digital camera (unless it’s raining)
- two slimfast bars
- ziplock bag of beef jerky
- M-16 ammo pouch (sans the grenade pouches)
- hobo tool (fork and spoon)
- Leatherman multi-tool
- can opener
- Sharpie Marker
- diamond knife sharpener
- gun oil
- signaling mirror
- signaling whistle
- vaseline (monkeybutt prevention)
- M-16 ammo pouch (sans the grenade pouches)
- water-proof canister that contains LED clip-on light and wind-proof butane lighter
- 20′ parachute cord
- Canteen cover
- 1 one-quart canteen
Sum of the parts
The LBE, with a full load of water and ammo, weighs approximately 20 pounds.
The pack, with a full load of ammo and water (including the camel bak) weighs aproximately 80 pounds.
TOTAL WEIGHT: approximately 100 pounds
On a road or trail I can walk between 3.5 and 4 miles per hour, for about five hours before I need an extended break. (In my glory days I could only go about 8 hours, and I was 60 pounds lighter back then, so I don’t feel so out of shape when I think about it like that!) I can’t make as good time cross-country, but I can navigate bad terrain, even clear-cuts littered with tree tops, stumps, washouts, and sink holes.
I’ve considered a GPS system, but I think I’d rather stick to my compass and map. There’s no substitute for map reading, compass navigation, and terrain association.
The medic bag is heavy and bulky, and I could definitely strip it down some, but I’ll accept it as it is because I’d rather have it and not need it. I don’t cut corners on first-aid.
I have two major omissions:
- I don’t have any wet-weather gear. This is mainly because I sweat so much that it does me little good. Even so, I should have a poncho or rain coat or something.
- I don’t have spare boots. It’s on the list. I just haven’t bought them yet.
I’d like to have some sort of emergency signaling device. A flare gun is too much of a fire hazard. Signal beacons and satellite phones are too expensive. I mean, I’m packing enough light and other equipment that I could rig something in an emergency, but I’d like to know for sure that I’m not going to end up like these guys that walk off into the woods for an afternoon hike and are never found again.
I’d like to get solar battery recharger so I don’t have to worry about powering the few electronics I do carry. I’ve looked at a number of options, and just haven’t decided yet. Ideally, I’d like to get a charger that can power or recharge a laptop, because I have my eyes on a Panasonic Toughbook that would be awesome to take with me to write while I’m on my (non emergency) trips. Along the same lines, I’d like to get one of those flashlighst that don’t require batteries; you charge them up with a crank or other mechanical motion.
I’ve seen a fixed-blade knife that doubles as a spear head. I may buy one and see if they’re worth anything, because a sturdy spear would be very valuable if I ran out of ammo and needed to trap and kill bigger game like a deer or a boar. Along the same lines, I’ve considered getting a good sling shot. I think with some practice I could kill (or at least stun) small game, and I’d have ammo as long as I could get river rocks. I’d just need a spare band in case the main one broke. I don’t know if it would work or not, but it’s a thought.