Are you are a prepper without a bug out plan, or very strong bug-in plan? If so, you're basically wasting your time if an "end of the world as we know it" event happens. This is a pretty strong statement in which some people may not agree. I used to be one of those preppers who simply had a few weapons and a semblance of an idea of how I'd bug out if I had to. However, in the blink of an eye, my mind was changed forever about prepping and bugging out.
The very fact that you're reading this means that you are at least thinking about developing a bug out plan. If you haven't already come this to this conclusion, I urge you to spend a few minutes reading through this short tutorial. At its conclusion you will at least have an idea of what to do if the worst happens, at best you will take our advice and spend some time developing a full blown bug out plan.
It all started when I was at my mom's house for Thanksgiving with most of our family members a few years ago. At sometime during these family events the subject almost always turns to what I do for a living (I own this website and a few others that concentrate on prepping and bugging out).
It almost always begins with someone asking me for a website address to go to or a discount of prepping supplies, and ends up with someone telling me if the SHTF they are most definitely coming to my house. (I haven't the heart to tell them that we won't be there) :-)
However, while having this conversation my cousin said something to me that totally changed my attitude about prepping. First let me tell ya, my cousin is not the sharpest tool in the shed. In fact, bless his heart, he's lacks the common sense God gave a dog. Anyway, he looked at me and in a sarcastic voice said "I don't worry about all that prepping and stuff," which of course left me obligated to tell him that he should at least put a 72 hour bug out plan together for him and his family.
This is when he looked at me and changed my perspective about prepping forever. He said "Why should I spend money on all that prepping crap? If the SHTF I'll just shoot someone and take their shit." When he said this I was taken back for a second because he was deadly serious and had actually given it forethought. He continued "why should I spend thousands on prepping stuff when I can spend a few bucks on ammo and hunt down a prepper?"
Wow! I was speechless. First, because he said "shit" in front of his mother who basically lives at our Church and keeps a bible on her key ring, and second because I could not argue with his logic because it is actually a semi-viable bug out plan, that is if you have a complete lack of morals and a conscious. Then I thought to myself "If my dim cousin came up with this idea, how many other people have come to the same conclusion? Or, how many WILL come to this conclusion should the SHTF?"
Think of the people that live near you; how many of those people do you think have prepared for a disaster? If the food supply was broken and food was scarce, how long would it be before they come to your house asking for your help?
How many would bother asking? Regardless of your ability or willingness to help those around you, it's highly likely that someone like my cousin with his brutal bug out plan is going to eventually try to take your food storage and supplies, perhaps killing you and your family in the process.
Now think outside of your neighborhood to the closest large city. For example, we live in the North Georgia Mountains about 80 miles north of Atlanta. How long do you think it will take for the people in these metropolitan areas to run out of food and start searching for new food sources? The overwhelming majority of these people have less than three days of food stored and no way to feed themselves, other than the local McDonalds or supermarket.
Figure 72 hours for the grocery stores to run out of food, and then maybe a week of looting restaurants and other food sources. Once these other sources are bare they are going to leave the city in search of food. We are talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of displaced people that are roaming and seeking new food sources.
You may be thinking, "I have guns and ammo, and I'm prepared to defend my house," I don't need a bug out plan. This may be true, but are you prepared to defend it against 20, or 30 people who have weapons? It's proven that displaced people move in larger groups when they are traveling.
If a group of 30 people descended on your house, whether they are armed or not, could you take out thirty people before they reached you or your family? Even a well armed family would have a problem taking down a mob of hungry people. These are people with nothing to lose, who have no bug out plan.
What if the shoe was on the other foot? Imagine yourself and your family as part of these displaced people who live in the city. What would you do? First you would get your family out of harm's way by getting them out of the city that will be lawless, looted and dangerous.
How would you travel? Where would you go? You'd probably try to stay off the main highways and travel to small towns and farms in the surrounding area. What would you do once you got there? You would look for food to feed your family, right? What wouldn't you do to feed yourself or family if you found someone or another family that had food?
This is only one reason why you need a bug out plan ... keep reading.
It’s obvious that the main reason for having a Bug out Bag is to grab it and go when something very bad happens – usually a natural or human-made disaster of some kind. What’s not so obvious is the relationship between the type of disaster, your location, and the kind of BOB you have and its contents. This needs some explaining….
As you can quickly reckon, there are many kinds of disaster, for starters: Flood, earthquake, wildfire, hurricane, tornado, volcanic eruption, landslide, avalanche, tsunami, extreme drought, lethal infestation, pandemic, dirty bomb, nuclear attack, EMP attack, biological warfare, economic crash, conventional bombs, and political upheaval. Obviously, they don’t all call for the same response, nor does “one size fits all” apply to bug out bags.
Fortunately, these can’t all happen in any one place (with the exception of a few coastal cities, like Tokyo or Los Angeles). It’s likely only some of these disasters have happened or are even possible in your area.
When developing your bug out profile, start with an assessment of disasters that could happen in your area, ordering them as best you can from most to least likely. Then consider each possible disaster and think of what you would need to survive it. Here’s a thumbnail analysis of some disasters to give you an idea of what to consider:
Flood: Natural Disaster – These days most floods come with warnings and are limited in coverage, mostly in flood plains. If you’re in a location likely to flood, as a rule you’ll have time to grab your BOB and drive, or even walk, to an area of safety – high ground. Flash floods are an exception; they can strike quickly with very little warning. Most floods are not persistent and last at most a few days. That means if you live in a potential flood area, a small to medium size BOB with near-urban gear will be enough if you have a bug out plan of where to go for safety.
Earthquake: Natural Disaster – The worst part of earthquakes are their unpredictability. That and they have such a wide range of impact, from a mild tremor, which disturbs nothing, to a massive quake (say 7.0 or higher on the Richter scale) that devastates whole regions. A small bug out bag fits this is the kind of disaster; it allows quick reaction, moving on foot or with vehicle (if possible) with enough gear to be independent for a short time. Usually earthquakes are life threatening where they occur, but life goes on normally elsewhere. Survival is mostly a matter of getting out of the earthquake zone.
Wildfire: Natural Disaster – Most modern cities don’t burn down (they used to), so wildfire disasters are most likely in wooded or forested areas. Weather conditions may provide a general warning, but specific fires and their path can be difficult to predict. If you’re in a wildfire prone area, then the bug out bag should be equipped with fire related gear such as a thermal barrier and a spade. Survival inside a burn can be very difficult, but safety and relative normality are just outside the burn. Depending on where you’re located, BOBs may need to include wilderness gear for survival.
Hurricane: Natural Disaster – Like most natural disasters, hurricane conditions can be very bad in the affected areas, but everything is more or less normal just outside. Surviving might be a matter of grabbing the BOB and heading out of the path of the hurricane. These days most hurricanes or major tropical storms have ample warning, sometimes days ahead. Unlike some natural disasters, such as wildfire, it is quite possible to survive inside an active hurricane zone and is nothing more complicated than finding a public hurricane shelter. In that case, a BOB is not much more than a personal overnight suitcase.
Extreme drought: Natural Disaster – At what point does a drought become a disaster? Like some human caused disasters, an extreme drought can cause widespread breakdown of economic and social conditions; but it often happens very slowly. So slowly that it’s difficult to pin down when it’s time to grab a bug out bag, or just find a job elsewhere and move.
Pandemic – When a lethal disease begins to affect many people in a wide area, it’s a pandemic. There usually is some warning, but confusion will be the norm. The hard part of bugging out in a pandemic is to know where to go. There are two main options: go where nobody is sick (yet), or go where there is nobody. Either way a bug out bag could mean survival, but if you’re heading away from people then the bag needs to contain survival gear to last a relatively long time – probably days or weeks. If the pandemic is severe enough, it could lead to economic and social breakdown on a regional basis. (Doomsday pandemics not included.)
Dirty bomb – One of the most plausible of terrorist disasters is the use of a dirty bomb, not a nuclear explosion, but a conventional explosion that releases radioactive material. In most cases, there will be no warning. There are two parts to this kind of attack: the original explosion, which often is not particularly big or damaging; and the cloud of toxic radioactive particles that will drift with the winds, sickening people at some distance from the center. Surviving a dirty bomb means getting away from the blast area and from the radioactive cloud. This may not be easy, since wind conditions change. It’s most likely that a dirty bomb will be used in an urban area, so an urban BOB and gear are most appropriate.
Nuclear attack – Whereas the original explosion in a dirty bomb is relatively minor, as we all know, a nuclear blast is one of the most destructive on earth. There may or may not be a short warning. Within a certain radius of ground zero, there is no escaping the initial blast or the immediate area of irradiation. While we suppose nuclear targets will be city centers and high-value military or commercial areas, there’s no guarantee that whatever delivers the bomb will be accurate. That makes a bug out bag an “after the event” piece of equipment. At that point, survival is mostly a matter of moving away from the kill zone and avoiding the social disruption. Head for areas where there are no or few people. A nuclear attack is likely to cause at least temporary economic and social breakdown, so it may be necessary to bug out for a considerable amount of time and to go to a defendable position.
EMP attack – Crippling electronics and electrical systems with a massive shot of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) may seem technically exotic, but it is a possible weapon of terror. If the attack is widespread, for example, knocking out power and electronics in an entire region, then there will be major economic and social consequences. A BOB built for an EMP attack should be large enough to carry gear away from civilization and provide relative independence for at least several days. Near the center of attack, there will probably be no mechanized transportation – their electrical and electronic components will be destroyed. Again, a BOB provides for mobility, on foot if necessary.
Social or political upheaval – Kind of like a drought, it might be difficult to tell if a political situation is merely dangerous or a disaster. When rioting occurs, it may be a question of fight or flight. Much will depend on your location. Urban settings are obviously the most unpredictable and dangerous, so a bug out bag and transportation can get you away from hostilities, if you know where it’s safe to go. The degree of social and economic disruption is also unpredictable, making it difficult to know if the BOB needs to be large and prepared for long-term independence, or the equivalent of a short-term escape bag.
This sampling of disasters illustrates that each creates different survival conditions, and that bug out bags need to be adaptable to those conditions. Considering probably disasters is a big part of your bug out profile, because it may help you choose specialized gear to include in your bug out bag.
Whatever the type of disaster, you’ll quickly recognize that most of the time a BOB is not the final means for survival. Its function is mostly to contain gear for survival while you wait for the emergency to abate, or to get somewhere where safety is likely, for example, off-grid in a hideout. That makes the size and content of the BOB at least somewhat dependent on the type of disaster you’re most likely to encounter, but it also depends where you intend to go during the disaster, and how long it takes to get there. That’s the subject of the next article in this series.
It’s an important question, because it’s a big part of determining your bug out plan and survival strategy. A lot depends on the type of disaster, survival means avoiding it, not running into it. Your location could also influence what kind of bug out bag you maintain (and how many). Here are some points to consider.
How much warning will you have? It doesn’t matter where you start if the disaster strikes too quickly to do anything about it. However, assuming there is time to react; it may be crucial for survival to have already worked out a bug out plan, in your head at least, about what to do in various kinds of disasters.
For example, where is your bug out bag? A bug out bag doesn’t do you any good if you’re at work and it’s twenty miles away at home, or it’s at work when you’re at home. Does that mean you should have two bug out bags, or maybe your bug out plan should be to just keep one in the car? Good question.
In a similar line of thought, what’s the difference between how you react to a disaster that’s already happened, say an earthquake, which usually strikes without any specific warning, and a disaster that’s predicted, such as a hurricane two or three days out? The big difference is that with a predicted disaster, it’s quite likely your biggest problem in your bug out plan will be other people trying to do pretty much what you’re trying to do – get away to safety.
Clogged emergency routes could be one example. With a disaster that’s already happened, the problem is more likely to be physical damage – roads blocked, buildings destroyed, services down, possibly personal injury.
Where you are, your location in relation to a disaster event is a very important part of your bug out plan. It includes where you are starting, where you intend to go, and how you are planning to get there. That’s assuming by “bugging out” you’re actually getting out of Dodge. There are plenty of situations where staying put might be the best survival strategy, in which case, your bug out bag really needs to be a sophisticated and easily portable emergency kit.
For example, in a hurricane, while high winds can do a lot of damage, they’re not what cause most of the fatalities. It’s high water, ocean storm surge or rain-caused flooding, that are the big
killers. That means if you’re located in any kind of flood plain, coastal or inland, bugging out is usually the best way to go. However, if you’re on relatively high ground and not in a flood plain, then staying put and not fighting the chaos of traffic and weather related accidents might be the best approach for your bug out plan.
It’s good to keep in mind that almost all Ultimate bug out Bags are equipped with water filtration systems, first aid kits, and emergencies rations. These are helpful and perhaps essential if you ride out a disaster in your original location. One of the things people sometimes forget in their bug out plan is that most disasters take out general utilities – water, power and communications – sometimes in a large area. Survival, even in an urban setting, might mean having the ability to purify water or treat injuries, among other things.
Of course, the main reason for a bug out bag is…to bug out…assuming that movement is possible. The difficulty of starting out in a disaster situation is one obvious reason for a bug out plan. It’s one thing to grab a BOB and head out the door. It’s another to avoid difficulties, or worse, head directly into more trouble.
Put another way, it’s obviously part of survival to get out of potentially fatal situations, and many of those situations have to do with where you are relative to the disaster, especially one that is already happening. For example, floods and dirty bomb explosions are, in a sense, limited in scope and direction. Floods follow land contours, valleys and such; it’s usually not difficult to figure out which direction to go to avoid a flooded area.
Likewise, a dirty bomb will probably have a small initial explosion, with a cloud of radioactivity that (hopefully) is dispersed by a prevailing wind. Your bug out plan should be to head away from that wind direction, and you’re more likely to stay out of the cloud.
For some locations and disaster events, getting out of dodge is anything but a given. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that starting in an urban environment – any big city – can complicate bugging out. Violent disasters such as bomb explosions, earthquakes, and hurricanes can produce debris, immobilized vehicles, and disrupted pavement blocking even wide city streets, and because of the buildings, ‘drive-arounds’ are often not possible.
Even if movement is possible, then there’s always the threat of traffic snarling your getaway, especially in a panic situation. Your bug out plan needs to anticipate these problems, have alternate routes, and be prepared to abandon moving by vehicle or public transport. Leaving town on foot may be the only way to go, which comes back to the bug out bag. If you have to go on foot very far at all, then a backpack bug out bag is almost a necessity.
In normal times, say waking up in the morning, you can turn on the radio a get a road report. It can tell you where traffic is heavy or backed up, so you can avoid the bottlenecks. Don’t count on that kind of information in a disaster situation, and even if there is information, don’t count on being timely or accurate. In some situations, you may not even know where the disaster will (or has) occurred.
This means, when it comes to bugging out, your bug out plan should be to find your own way out. Know your terrain, which in most cases means having maps, better yet personal knowledge, and have thought about the route(s) you’d take in certain kinds of disaster events. Have alternatives.
In general, your bug out plan starts with your location; what types of disaster events are most likely? Where is your bug out bag, can you get to it immediately regardless of your location and the type of disaster? How does your location relative to a disaster affect your bugging out? Do you have an escape bug out plan for various types of disasters – with alternatives? Answer these questions and you’re well on your way to having a bug out profile.
Bugout Profile: Family Bug Out Plan
This is a common image for bugging out: You hear a warning, some kind of impending disaster. You run to the closet and grab your bugout bag. You head for the car, throw the bugout bag in the back seat, and drive away to your hideout in a nearby forest. Easy peasy. Except your two kids are in school, your wife is shopping at a local mall, and your mother lives in the next town.
If you’re not bugging out all by your lonesome, which is likely to be a majority of people, your bug out plans probably must include other people, notably family. Needless to say, this complicates matters.
Who and how many people are going to bug out with you? Where are they likely to be when an emergency strikes? How will you communicate? Where will you be able to meet up? Do they all need bugout bags, and where will those be? Lots of questions, most with difficult or uncertain answers. It’s called logistics folks, and more isn’t necessarily merrier.
Perhaps the biggest X-Factor in bugging out with multiple people is the time available. If there’s a hurricane warning, you might have hours or even days to get everybody together, load survival gear and drive to safety. If the disaster has already happened, or is only minutes away, then the task is infinitely harder…or it could be impossible.
Most survivalists are, at least in a sense, optimists. We believe that there’s always a chance of survival – which there is – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some very hard decisions to be made and pain to endure. Coordinating multiple people in a disaster situation is, at best, difficult.
If you’re planning to bug out with other people, most cases a family, plans for coordination have to happen before disaster. It’s hard to rehearse something like this, especially for kids, but everyone has to understand that wherever they are and whatever they’re doing, if an emergency is about to happen, their first responsibility is to communicate and locate. They have to get in touch with the person coordinating the evacuation and know how to get to a pick-up location.
This is one sentence to write, an anguishing difficult task for people to execute in moments of panic and confusion. Nevertheless, preparation can make it possible. Emergency plans, personal phones with pre-loaded numbers, pre-arranged pickup locations, caches or easy locations for bugout bags and other gear – there are lots of things you can do to prepare your family (or others) to bug out, but it has to be worked out in advance and better yet, practiced.
One of the specialties of Ultimate Bugout Bags is two-person and family packages. These have the advantage of coordinating food and gear for multiple people in a minimum of space. These bag combinations simplify logistics, because just about everything you need for a family’s survival (for 2, 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 days) is packed into up tofour backpacks. These packages make “grab and go” about as easy as it can be under pressure and the complications of working with multiple people.
Come to think of it, “working with multiple people” is probably the core issue in surviving a major disaster. There are certain advantages to being a lone wolf in a crisis, but for many of us, that’s an impossibility. While decisions are easier for a single operator, in most cases, teams work better in a crisis. Survival in a disaster usually means performing a very large number of tasks, most of them not routine, and having a team to perform them spreads the workload and can use the strengths of individuals.
This is all well-known team rationale, particularly from military experience. The catch, and it’s a mighty big one, is creating a team. A family can be a team, but as parents know, getting kids to work together isn’t automatic (not hardly). While practicing as a team for survival situations is a requirement, it may be difficult to get young people to go along with hours of often difficult or unpleasant effort – based on something that hasn’t happened, and in fact, might never happen. Still a family can make a team, with the right motivation.
You can put together other kinds of bugout teams usually involving people you probably know, such as colleagues from work, school, church or other affiliation. However, there’s a standard caveat – the less well known the people, the more difficult it is to function as a team.
In a panicky disaster situation, how people will react can be hard to predict, and even groups that seem reliable, say a group of colleagues from work, might fall apart because of personality differences, differences in goals, or simply the confusion of a crisis. It’s possible to bug out with multiple people who are not all close acquaintances, but making it all come together is more difficult.
The key point here is that planning for survival with multiple people isn’t a matter of N times what it takes for one person. Bugout bags and their content need to be appropriate for each person, for an obvious example, the needs of a six-year old girl are vastly different from a nineteen-year old male football player. Planning to bug out, with all the details, changes for multiple people and the logistics need to take into account differences in people. In terms of your bugout profile, if you will be bugging out with multiple people, then they are also part of your profile.
Bugout Profile: Wherever you are going, how will you get there?
When disaster strikes, it’s a good bet many people think they can jump into their favorite petroleum fueled vehicle and bug out. Not so fast. Literally, it won’t go so fast. For one thing, assuming the disaster hasn’t wiped out most of the population or totally destroyed the road system, lots of people will be trying to do the same thing – bug out with a vehicle of some kind.
In most areas where population is dense (cities, suburbs) this means one thing, traffic jams. These are the kind of realities that make it important to consider how different modes of transportation would be affected by the most likely disasters in your area.
In a few kinds of disasters, which don’t happen quickly, such as hurricanes, you might have a choice of transport – car, truck, bus, train, plane or even boat. However, most types of disaster won’t give you much, if any, time. In many cases it’s almost a sure thing that public transport (bus, train, and plane) will either be unavailable, disrupted or at best unreliable. In fact, during a pandemic, public transport could well be the worst possible choice.
It’s likely that most people thinking of their survival in a major disaster are counting on their personal car or truck to get them out of trouble. Maybe so; but in how many kinds of disasters will it be difficult or impossible to move anywhere through a city? Most kinds of bombs, EMP attacks, earthquakes and floods are going to make travelling with a vehicle of most any kind almost impossible, at least i
n the affected areas.
The logistics of a vehicle can also become a problem. In most types of a disaster, how easy is it to get to your vehicle? Can you even get it out of the garage or parking lot? These are not fanciful hypothetical questions. The situations can become real and the solutions, if any, need to be understood.
There are some points about transportation that easy to forget. For example, is the vehicle you have easily repaired? You may be in love with your 1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, but how easily can you get spare parts where you’re going? Likewise, what are the fuel capacities; do you have enough for the entire bugout trip? Can it be reliably refilled? These are not trivial questions when the supply chain for fuel is disrupted by a large scale disaster. Maybe you don’t select your personal vehicle with survival in mind (few do), but it helps to be realistic about whatever you have.
Along this line of thinking, people ask if there is an ideal vehicle or mode of transportation? Perhaps the ability to fly (like with wings) would be nice, but no, there is no perfect bugout method for all disaster situations. Some approaches will work better in certain kinds of disasters, and not so well in others. For example, speaking of flying how about flying out of a thunderstorm with an F5 (Simpson Scale) tornado? A tank might be ideal in some disasters, and leave you stuck in a flood in others.
If you have a car, truck or other larger form of transportation, there’s a tendency to want to load it with stuff. Everybody’s got their favorite collections, or piece of furniture – whatever – the problem is that while a vehicle might hold some of this stuff, it won’t help much with survival. It might even hinder it, as people become reluctant to leave things behind. It would be a little like the pioneers along the Oregon Trail, throwing out pianos, cabinets, even clothing as it became obvious they might not make the journey with the extra weight.
The general point is that all vehicles, anything mechanical that requires petroleum fuel for energy, have liabilities in most disaster situations. Whether you get stopped by a blocked street, a faulty ignition system (think of an EMP attack), or run out of gas, it’s the end of the line. It’s no coincidence that most novels, movies and other accounts of emergencies have people abandoning their vehicles.
In all the considerations of what transportation to use for bugging out, the baseline remains – what do you do when further progress is reduced to going on foot? Maybe you’ve reached a trail into the wilderness, or have to negotiate a stretch of urban landscape where the roads are destroyed and covered with fallen buildings; going on foot may be the only option.
While this obviously supports ultimatebugoutbag.com, it’s true that in most emergencies the smart thing to have is a bugout bag that can be carried as a pack. Nothing else provides the same freedom of mobility, especially if longer distances are involved. This is especially true when all other forms of transportation fail, there’s always leg power. Combined with a bugout pack, even the most difficult terrain, including devastated urban terrain, can be negotiated by walking.
As for mode of transportation, you’ll have your preferences. Just do yourself the favor of considering those preferences in the light of disaster survival. As we’ve mentioned in other bugout profile articles, when you bug out, your destination and route to get there are part of the survival plan. So is how you get there, your mode of transportation.
Most disasters don’t cause generalized survival conditions. Their effects, though severe, are usually dangerous (a matter of life or death) for only a few hours, days at most.
It’s mainly disasters that radically change the economic and social environment, which create conditions where survival is difficult for most people and for a long period of time. Sometimes natural causes produce this effect, drought for example, or massive flooding. Mostly, the worst long-term survival disasters are human-caused, for example biological warfare or nuclear attacks.
On the other hand, temporary survival conditions are common for most disasters, man-made or natural. Being able to leave a dangerous area and carry everything you need to preserve life, at least for a few days, is a big reason why bugout bags are growing in popularity.
The questions most people have are not whether a bugout bag is a good idea, but what kind of a bag and how much should it contain. Most of the answer to these questions depends on the type of disaster, how long survival conditions persist, and when people will be able to go home.
Most bugout bags are sold with enough supplies for a certain number of days (2, 5, 7, 14 etc.). Many bags can be customized for climate, geography and type of disaster. What’s key is to know your bugout profile (as we’ve been calling it). In this article, we’re looking at the profile for most likely type of disaster for your area and how long survival conditions pertain, and when you might be able to return home. To help with that profile, here’s a rundown of major disasters:
Flood – There is usually an ebb and flow to floods, mostly over a period of a few days. Returning is usually possible within a week, unless substantial damage has been caused or there is a danger of disease caused by the flood conditions.
Earthquake – At the disaster level, earthquakes are violent and do a great deal of damage. However, the area of damage is usually limited. The life or death period of most earthquakes is a few minutes. Return to an earthquake damaged city is usually rapid, a few days; but return to the most damaged areas could take months.
Wildfire – The destructive part of wildfires is usually very short, a few days at most. Unless caught unaware, people can usually avoid wildfires, so survival is rarely an issue. People are usually allowed back in their homes (or area) within a week or less.
Hurricane – Even slow moving hurricanes are finished in 2-3 days. True survival conditions may persist for 24-36 hours, but rarely longer. There may be flooding and damage that prevents return for several more days, but within a week most people can return home.
Tornado – Just about the briefest and most violent of all natural disasters, tornados are on one location for only seconds and most tornados are on the ground (if at all) for a few minutes. If your location isn’t levelled by a tornado, return is almost immediate. However, where there is damage it can take months for recovery.
Volcanic eruption – Fortunately volcano eruptions are rare, limited in geography, and while not fully predictable, the danger area is fairly obvious. The volcanic ash clouds are the most dangerous elements, and may cause temporary survival conditions for a day or more. Danger from secondary eruptions may keep people from returning home for some time, up to a couple of weeks, but 3-5 days are more usual.
Landslide – Landslides rarely occur on a large scale. Roads, houses and other human property in the path of a landslide are destroyed but unless the weather makes follow-on slides possible, return within a few hours is usual.
Tsunami – Tidal waves caused by off-shore earthquakes are not all that common, but can cause heavy damage across a wide area of shoreline. As a rule, once an earthquake occurs, tsunamis are relatively predictable so there is often time to bug out. Survival is most a matter of grabbing a bugout bag and moving to higher ground, usually for less than a week. Since big tsunami cause flooding and severe damage, it can be days or even months before access to affected areas is permitted.
Extreme drought – In most cases, it has taken years to produce a condition of extreme drought, and it will probably take years to recover – if ever. Bugging out from a region of extreme drought is essentially a permanent condition.
Pandemic – In any one area, most pandemic illnesses are relatively short lived, a few days. Surviving through the initial period of infection requires going where the disease isn’t. As a rule, return with a week or two is possible, providing of course, that the pandemic hasn’t also caused a collapse of social and economic systems.
Dirty bomb – the immediate danger is from the initial explosion (usually limited) and the cloud of radiation it creates. The initial bugout period may be only a few hours. Areas affected by the explosion and radiation drift could take weeks if not months to clean up, but may not cover a large geographical area, nor completely disrupt commerce.
Nuclear attack – The immediate area of a nuclear explosion will be uninhabitable for months, sometimes years. Typically all commercial and social activity is disrupted for months and may never recover. In short, in a true nuclear attack disaster, bugging out may be practically a permanent condition. If the attacks are widespread, then survival conditions are also permanent.
EMP attack – While all electrical and electromechanical devices are inoperable in an area under attack, the damage is physically minimal and most areas will be immediately inhabitable. However, with most machines, vehicles and electronics permanently destroyed, full-recovery from an EMP attack in an affected region could take weeks.
Biological warfare – Whether by terrorism or warfare, the use of biological methods produces a dispersal disaster similar to a pandemic, where some areas are affected worse than others. How long such an attack would persist depends on the type of attack – by water, air, contact – and the virulence of the effect. Like a pandemic, the worst could be over in days, the after-effects could go on for months.
Economic collapse – Recessions and even depressions are mild forms of economic collapse (mild is a relative term, of course). They usually take months or even a year to fully develop and most people react not by bugging out, but by adjusting their expenses (hunkering down). In a general or global economic collapse, where entire systems no longer function, bugging out almost implies leaving for someplace where you can ride out the collapse, including the almost inevitable social collapse. The bugout bag is mainly valuable to provide survival gear to get you where it’s safe.
Political upheaval – When do riots and political upheaval become a matter of life or death? That’s hard to define and predict. Yet it happens. Sometimes it’s a matter of grabbing a bugout bag and leaving an area for a few days, for example when riots are occurring. Other times, it could be a general political change where survival implies going off the grid and becoming untraceable. In this circumstance, like an economic collapse, a bugout bag is primarily useful to help you get to a pre-arranged place of safety for a long-term residence.
However many of the above disasters are relevant to where you live and how you feel about practicing survivalist techniques, the bugout bag remains a kind of constant feature because regardless of the emergency, it provides a margin of survival supplies (food, water, shelter, medicine) that’s good to know you have. Adjusting the bag size (i.e. moving into large packs, in most cases) should fit your profile and the serious potential for one or more disasters to occur.
Building or buying the "Ultimate Bug Out Bag" is relative to each person's situation. This is because bug out bags are designed to save your life and help you escape danger or keep you alive while you head towards safety. The scope of this tutorial will be focused on this principle.
A “Bug Out Bag” or "bob" is a pack that you can carry that contains various items you will need to survive for a short or extended period of time. It should be designed to grab and take with you if you have to leave your current location in the event of a crisis.
The ultimate bug out bag should be personalized to your geographical location and the probability of natural disasters for that region. That being said, we must assume there is no magic formula for building one bug out bag that fits everyone. However, this tutorial will give you a good foundation to build on and some ideas to get you on the right track.
Keep in mind, once you build or buy your bug out bag, you should take it out on routine trial runs so you become familiar with the different tools and instruments it has on-board; this will also help you to optimize space by getting everything set the way you want. There are a number of emergencies that can come up in your life where you may find yourself in a situation that requires you to leave in a moment's notice, knowing how to operate your bug out bag is crucial, especially at night.
You need to have a clear plan or strategy on how the bug out bag will be used. Believe it or not, this one step is the most critical, and the most overlooked step in building or buying a bug out bag.
Will your bug out bag have a specific purpose that facilitates moving from one location to a predetermined bug-out location? Or, will your bug out bag be used for an open-ended mission; meaning if you bug out it may be for days or weeks until you can find a suitable place to become stationary?
The reason this step is so important is because we need to know how much gear to pack in the bug out bag. If you know you are bugging out from point A to point B, you can put a specific list of the items that you know will need in your bag which usually leads to a lighter (and less expensive) bug out bag. All you need to do is account for the time and terrain between point A and point B. The other consideration in a "point A to point B bug out" is if you wanted to pack survival gear for the "point B" location.
Are you bugging out to simply get the hell out of dodge to an non-permanent location? If so, you will need to evaluate how long you intend to stay off-grid. If it is an indefinite amount of time, meaning you may just set up camp in BFE and get cozy for a while, we need to scrutinize a few more variables. Shelter, water sources and filtration as well as food foraging need to be planned in much more detail than with a Point A-B bug out bag.
Either way, not knowing or considering these two strategies will lead you to buying too little or too much stuff and thwarts the whole purpose of a bug out bag, which is preparedness. Knowing your terrain, and approximately how far you want or need to travel on "day one" is key to planning your escape from trouble or seeking safety.
For instance, if you are planning a vehicle bug out bag you will want to consider the terrain where you most often drive to and from. Will you be heading home or will you simply be heading away from danger? If your routes are mainly to and from work, check out the terrain that you will most likely be traveling if the need to bug out arises.Distance, Weight & Terrain
I clumped these all together because they really go hand in hand. The heavier the pack, the slower you will be able to get away from trouble. Depending on your conditioning, it may also dictate how far you can travel in one day, or all together.
Bug out bags that are designed for a point A to point B mission are almost always lighter than those designed for an indefinite missions. This is because on A-B bug-outs you can measure food, water and other variables for a specific time frame.
So how much should the ultimate bug out bag weigh? Twenty pounds is a good weight for a medium sized point A - B bug out bag. Hikers on long trails, like the Appalachian Trail, usually aim for ten to fifteen pounds due to the distance and pace they like to travel.
The Army likes to strap most soldiers down with around forty five pounds of gear. Ten and forty five pounds should be the guide that you measure the weight of your bug out bag. This is because both weights are "doable" depending on the gear you can stand to sacrifice and how much you can stand to carry.
If you are a 140 pound man carrying a 40 lb pack in a mountainous terrain, you better be in good shape and you should know that this combination will slow you down and reduce the amount of distance you can put between yourself and trouble on day one.
You should know this and plan for additional time between the epicenter and your destination. To save weight you can plan food and water caches on your bug out route so that you keep your pack as light as possible.
On the other hand, if you are a minimalist who is heading into the wilderness with an ultralight bug out bag for an indefinite stay, you will be lacking survival gear, and you will probably have to McGyver your way through most situations.
Most minimalist gear is designed to be very light, it may also be light-weight in it's durability, so redundancy needs to be factored. Most bug out bag's, at least the good ones, are designed with redundancy on mission critical items like: fire, water, food, shelter and foraging, which all adds weight. Hikers on pre-blazed trails are usually not very far from other hikers or civilization should trouble arise, survivalist bugging out rarely have that luxury.
It's reasonable to assume that you will be escaping civilization and trying to avoid other people. Minimalist "survival" bug out bags are often owned by true woodsmen / survivalist who can fart in a can and spit on a stick to whip up a campsite and dinner.
So, unless you are Bear Grylls, who magically finds the exact type of material his situation calls for on every episode (sigh), or a special forces guru, you should lean towards a heavier pack that has more gear in it. Just be sure that you can handle that amount of weight in your environment.Shelter & Warmth
You can survive days without water and weeks without food, but you'll not survive the night with hypothermia. Therefore, preparing for your bug out area's climate and terrain, as well as the known predators in this location temporarily takes precedent over finding food and water sources, (you should know where water sources are on a planned bug out.)
So, you will need to have an appropriate shelter strategy to protect you from hypothermia, and a plan to protect you from predators like bears and mountain lions. You need to have redundancy in your shelter preparation strategy. Meaning, a quick set-up shelter (tarp & Bivi bag) to sleep when it's cold, hot, snowing or raining. Think about it. Spending twenty minutes pitching a tent in the freezing rain may be enough to kill you if your core body temp drops too low and you cannot raise it.
You need to be able to find or make a shelter fast, one that's reliable and can protect you from the elements. Also, warmth is extremely important to sleep, and sleep is critical. When you are bugging out, you are trying to put as much distance between yourself and trouble, or you're trying to get to your bug out location as soon as possible. If you are unable to get enough sleep exhaustion will set in and slow you down, cloud your senses and severely affect your ability to survive.
I am going to do, or have already done (depending on when you read this) a section on survival shelters that goes into shelter building and planning. However, for the scope of this tutorial just suffice it to say, shelter is a "biggie" and is usually the most expensive part of your bug out bag. So know your terrain, know your skill set and don't go cheap in this section.Hydration & Water Sources
Obviously, water is your next big concern when planning a bug out bag strategy. This is another area of concern where you need to know the environment and terrain where you will be bugging out to or in.
Carrying water is burdensome to say the least. It's heavy and is quickly used up in hot environments. So the first thing you need to ask when you are devising a bug out strategy is: Does this area have a water source, polluted or otherwise, that can be counted on while bugging out?
If so, you need to plan on using, and be able to find, these sources while bugging out. Then, you need to make sure you have a water filter, and preferably some water purification tablets.
Most of your light or "straw based" filters will filter out 99.9% of the things that make you sick. Filters, used in conjunction with tablets (or drops) allow you to make 100% sure that you do not get any food-borne viruses.
Just remember, dysentery (diarrhea) has killed as many soldiers as all the wars have. When you're "bugging out" even the smallest infection or illness can kill you or get you caught, at the very least slow your progress to dangerous levels.
Water purification tablets allow you to fill your canteen or bladder and keep moving without having to stop and take the time to filter water. We have written several articles on how to find water sources in the wild if you want to take a minute to read up on this very important skill.Food and Foraging
This concern is best answered by the question: "What is the longest amount of time I might have to be in the wilderness?" Most bug out bags that you buy or build will use ration and energy bars to save space and weight. These are needed to provide energy and sustenance during the initial phases of your bug out plan. Beyond that, you will need to plan for food by foraging, trapping, hunting and fishing.
Keep in mind, unless you have already developed these skills (trapping, hunting and fishing) this will be your Achilles heel. No amount of equipment that can be packed into a bug out bag will make you good at these skills. They may "aid" you to better perform these skills, but you will need to have foreknowledge of how to perform these skills before embarking on an extended bug out. We highly recommend you begin training now.
One reason we do not put a ton of food in our bug out bags (anymore) is because we have migrated to foraging tools, i.e. fishing & trapping. If you're bugging out from home you can always take canned goods (which are heavy), dried foods, or pre packaged items that can be prepared easily by adding water.
A lot of people like to have MRE's in their bug out bags, which we at survivalist 101 actually do not recommend unless you will be in a low water source environment like a dessert. You might ask "why in the world would we not recommend MRE's when our government uses these for all of our soldiers?"
The short answer is weight. MREs' are basically canned foods without the can. Instead they use a thick foil (mylar) container to hold the food, that is slightly lighter than the cans most food comes in. Besides nowadays, on long range patrols that are not in dessert environments, armed forces use Mountain House LRP meals instead of MRE's.
Also, freeze dried food packs lighter and taste better than MREs', and that's a simple fact. MRE's do pack better (space-wise) than LRP meals, but they are weight restrictive. You can carry twice the amount of calories, weight wise, with LRP's.
The biggest objection I usually hear from people on this subject is: "You have to have water to prepare freeze dried food, what if you don't have water?" My usual response is, "If you do not have a cup of water to cook a freeze dried meal, food isn't your problem."
Not to mention, just because you cook your food with water doesn't mean the water is "lost." The moisture goes into the food, and then your body, it's not wasted.
Now, as I stated earlier, if you are in a dry desolate location i.e. Afghanistan or Mojave Desert where water is harder to find... MREs' make much more sense. However, by in large, most bug out locations that you plan will have lakes, streams wells or other types of water sources that you can use. This subject is ALWAY'S a hot topic, so do what you think is best for you. You obviously know where I stand on the subject :-)First Aid & Hygiene
First aid is probably the most overlooked section when planning bug out bags. If you're interested in having the "Ultimate Bug Out Bag" don't neglect first aid. If you're buying a bug out bag (from our other places) chances are you are getting a "chinomatic" three dollar first aid kit that amounts to nothing more than a box of band-Aids.
Even the smallest of cuts, or smallest of illnesses can be major problems in the wild. There are far too many considerations for me to list all of the items that one might need to have in their bug out bag first aid kit. However, when you compare the cost of items that go into a bug out bag, first aid is always the cheapest, but it shouldn't be done cheaply. First aid is a section that you really need to put some thought into.
Do you take daily medication? If so, you need to start stockpiling them now by skipping a dose every so often until you have an ample supply built up: (Personally, I make a habit of "losing" a prescription of mine at least once a year so that I can get a replacement from the doctor and keep my bob meds fresh.)
Do you have allergies? They are only going to get worse in the woods. Is your bug out area full of snakes? What about mosquitoes? Did you know that mosquitoes are THE deadliest animal on the planet? They have killed more humans than all of the other animals in the world ... combined. This isn't an exaggeration, Goggle it.
Are you prone to infection? If so, you can buy fish antibiotics that are the exact same as the ones that the doctor prescribes. We used to put these in our bug out bags, but the lawyers put a halt to that, bastards.
As I mentioned earlier, dysentery has killed as many soldiers as war ... a bottle of diarrhea pills will stop you from hemorrhaging fluids and dehydration , which is what really kills you. Other considerations: QuikClot advanced clotting sponge, footcare kit, Potassium Iodide for radiation, a surgical set for deep wounds or minor surgery.
Long story short, you cannot spend too much time planning your first aid kit. I have never been in the field and witnessed someone pull out a first aid kit that didn't wish they had bought the better kit.
Hygiene is also important to your health. All of our bug out bags come with a very well stocked hygiene kit that includes: toothbrush, deodorant, comb, shampoo, razor, washcloth and many more items.
Not only is it healthy to practice good hygiene in the woods, its also important to have the ability to make yourself look presentable should you need to resurface in town for supplies or something. Coming out of the woods looking like a woolly mammoth and smelling like Sasquatch might get you noticed. Attention is the last thing you want when bugging out.Fire Starting and Building
Without fire you're as good as dead. Let me say that again, if you're in the woods for a prolonged amount of time without fire, you will die. Redundancy, Redundancy, Redundancy. You need a way to build a fire under any weather condition that happens in your bug out area. Then you need a back up of that and a backup for that backup. Then, for good measure you should get another backup to account for losing one or more of you fire-building tools.
Practice, Practice, Practice. Having a magnesium fire starter that you do not know how to use is almost useless.
We do not put tinder in our bug out bags, but you should. Having dry tinder is a life saver when trying to start a fire., especially if you have to build a fire in a hurry. The reason we do not put it in our bug out bag's is because there is no-way I am going to pay for something that is free in the woods ... and I wouldn't ask you to either. You need a lighter, magnesium striker, flint striker, waterproof matches and anything else that is light that can help you start a fire.Lighting
The need to Bug Out does not only happen between 9 - 5. It happens when you least expect it, usually at night. For this reason, the ultimate bug out bag needs to be prepared to bug out at night. You need a navigation light, preferably a Headlamp, a camp light, a hand crank or solar charged light that never needs batteries and candles.
The best kinds are the LED ones that just use less batteries, or the little hand-crank ones that don't require batteries. If you carry small ones, you can pack 2 or 3 in the space that one big one would take up. Like the first aid kit, you will never regret buying the better flashlight, especially when it's dark.
We offer solar lighting kits for all of our bug out bags for $99 (they are included on our higher end bobs). I cannot tell you how much peace it gives you to not have battery anxiety. These kits (SunJacks) have a solar panel, a fast-charge battery pack and a USB output for our Fenix UC35 flashlights. Basically, if you make hey while the sun is shinning, you will never find yourself alone in the dark in the middle of the woods. Let me tell ya, that sucks.Shoes and Clothing
This is something that you usually need to add to your bug out bag that is not usually included in ones that you buy. I can't give too much advice on this subject because everyone's bug out environment is different. That being said, you should always have a set of clothes on and another set waiting. If you are in colder climates, long underwear is a must.
Hotter climates should focus on lighter colored clothes. Do not wear shorts (unless you are throwing them in as camp-clothes). Socks, keeping a CLEAN pair of socks, maybe two, is most advisable. The number two injury in World War I & II, right behind gun shots, were feet injuries. Your only mode of transportation in the woods are your feet, which makes them your most important asset. Change socks often, an if possible, wash the sweat and funk out of the ones you take of and let them air-dry on your pack.
If room permits, an extra set of shoes is desirable. I break from tradition on this notion, most will tell you to have a good set of boots and that's all. Sitting next to my bug out bag I have a broken-in set of boots ready and waiting. Tied to the outside of the pack I have a good set of extremely light, well ventilated cross country jogging shoes (Adidas), often called "trainers."
These shoes are light, they dissipate sweat and are designed to be comfortable. If you have a bad blister or foot ailment arise, these shoes may just save your life. They are also great to wear around camp while you let your boots dry out overnight.Bug Out Backpack
If you buy a cheap backpack, it will tear and it will break and it is just that simple. What good are all of Batman's toys if he lacks the utility belt to carry them all? The backpack is the first and foremost tool that you will use. When choosing a backpack size and weight matters. My advice to those who are bugging out, in respect to backpacks, is just the opposite of the hiker ultralight crowd, which is to go heavy.
A heavier pack usually means a thicker and more durable backpack when comparing MOLLE backpacks. The reason survivalists, and the armed forces use thick MOLLE survival packs is for their durability. If your building the ultimate bug out bag, start with a thick pack, that is double stitched, taped seams, good zippers and MOLLE webbing to hang gear from.
There are many out there, we use Condor Outdoor Packs for all of our bug out bags. They are the perfect blend of quality and price. To get a good 3 day assault pack you are looking at $80 - $100 bucks. If you go cheap here, you will regret it as a backpack failure in the bush is catastrophic.
Bugout Profile: What are the weather realities?
Let’s suppose that you live in a northern U.S. city and disaster strikes, say citywide riots, and you need to grab your bug out bag and get (far) away from town. What’s the first thing you need to know is in your bug out bag? Lots of possible answers: Guns, food, medical supplies, but shouldn’t a question come first, where are you and what season is it?
If it’s winter and you’re heading into a northern forest where it’s 20 below zero in a blizzard, that is probably a survival situation in its own right. Does your bug out bag contain the right stuff like shelter or clothing for this situation?
There are very few places you can live, or go, where the climate isn’t an issue for the contents of a bug out bag. Whether it’s hot or cold, wet or dry any location with potentially severe weather conditions needs to be a factor in planning your bugout profile.
While it’s true a bug out bag contains the same basics - food, shelter, water, fuel, medical supplies, and clothing - it’s no stretch of logic that some of the contents should be adapted for different conditions. Weather conditions are obviously important. Adapting shelter and clothing is pretty obvious; if, for example, you’re heading out in winter conditions, you need heavy clothing, layers of it, and a robust emergency shelter (arguably, you should be heading for a permanent structure in winter).
Similar adaptations apply if you’re heading into extreme heat, very wet, or very dry conditions. It’s important to consider the general weather conditions, that is, climate, and also consider current conditions, weather, which should include possible extreme conditions. Extreme weather conditions can be just as much a part of the survival challenge as the initial emergency that drove you out of Dodge in the first place.
We’ve already covered the importance of where you are when disaster strikes, and equally so where you intend to go. Now consider how the weather may vary from where you are to where you’re planning to go.
For example, there are many places in the United States where the climate at the coast is very different from the climate only a couple hundred miles (or less) inland. Much of southern California comes to mind. The same can be said for elevation, here the climate of a valley can be radically different from the climate only a few miles and a few thousand feet higher.
Seasons matter in these scenarios. It isn’t just a cold and snowy winter that’s a problem. Some places winter means rain and cold, which in ways can be harder to survive than freezing. Likewise bone dry summer in many desert locations presents a different survival problem than (possibly) moist conditions in other seasons. The point is that part of your bugout profile is to know the climate of where you’re going and adapt the bug out bag to fit.
Another factor is the duration of the emergency. An emergency that lasts only a few hours, or even a few days most likely won’t involve a major change in weather, but when the emergency lasts weeks or months; that’s a different story. You’re more likely to have a change in seasons and with it a change in weather.
Lots of survival strategies have people hide out in the mountains in summer, when it’s warm and wild food sources are relatively abundant. What happens if it’s necessary to stay in the mountains as winter begins? You can’t always (or often) predict how long a survival emergency will continue, but the possibility of a longer stint is important for a lot of reasons, changes in weather is not the least of them.
How much of the bug out bag should be adapted for weather?
Let’s hope you’re not in a situation where you have to load the bug out bag for radically different weather.
Clothing is obvious, warmer (and often heavier) clothing for cold…etc. What goes on your feet ideally should be adapted for weather, but boots and shoes are mostly bulky and heavy; most bug out bags aren’t going to be able to carry multiple pairs. Socks, that’s a different matter, as socks for cold, or wet or very hot can easily be managed.
Don’t forget about hats and gloves; seasons make a difference for these items. Almost universally packing a bug out bag with appropriate clothing is your responsibility, so while it may be convenient to have a bug out bag already loaded with your clothing, take a moment to consider assembling weather oriented clothing at the time you need to grab the bug out bag and run.
Most people have bug out bags that provide some kind of shelter gear, mostly for emergencies, but it’s a big open question whether some of this gear is appropriate for different seasons. For example, a simple tarp is probably okay for showery weather, but not for a major rainstorm, especially if there’s wind – and winter, fuggedaboutit.
For the most part, emergency food typical of a bug out bag is okay in any weather, but there are some gotchas. Anything with water in it can freeze. In winter, canteens can freeze solid. Experienced people take a thermos in winter, even for plain drinking water (and better with coffee or energy drink). Extreme weather usually ups the requirement for calories, especially cold. Depending on the season, you may need more food.
While food, shelter and clothing are intuitively obvious to adapt for the weather, there are lots of other ways in which weather could affect what you store (and how your store it) in the bug out bag. It’s not practical here to cover all the adaptations of a bug out bag for weather, but what’s suggested is how important it is to think through the implications of weather, especially extreme weather, for what should be included in your bug out bag.
Bugout Profile: What are your personal needs?
Some personal needs, medicine for example, may be critical. Other items, such as a Bible, speak to different needs in a survival situation. The point is not everything you put into your bugout bag is generic survival gear. Some of the gear should relate to your personal needs. This includes your morale, which ultimately can also be part of survival.
There are limits, of course. Personal needs can’t include big or heavy items. If they do, then you need a different plan than using a bugout bag. You can’t take everything, so determining what you really need versus what you want better be rigorous.
How that plays out is likely to be somewhat different for every individual, which is the essence of what is meant by personal needs. Here’s a brief description of categories for personal stuff that might help jog your thinking about what goes into your bugout bag.
Medicines: Is there a line between prescription and non-prescription drugs? Maybe. Anything prescribed by a doctor that involves keeping you alive obviously goes in the bag. A small bottle of aspirin (or similar analgesic), not so much – but then who’s to say that getting rid of a headache can’t help save your life?
People are very different about taking medicine and using over-the-counter products, which are fine, up to the point where they can’t fit into the bugout bag, or crowd out other items that in reality are more important for survival. Most commercial BOBs include a first-aid kit, and those usually contain aspirin or other pain relievers and maybe Kaopectate, but don’t contain decongestants, anti-allergens, or other OTC medicines that some people might consider indispensable.
Small personal items: Glasses are a prime example. If they’re necessary, then at least an extra pair should be in the BOB. There are many other similar items – nail clippers, pen knives, kerchiefs, ear plugs – different items for each person; you know what they are. Just use common sense, survival items versus things nice to have.
Toiletries: The fine points of keeping yourself clean in a survival situation may seem unnecessary, and they often are, but again many people don’t tolerate bad hygiene very well. Besides tooth care items, soaps, and brushes, toiletries also include skin lotions, sun cream, toilet paper and other items that may not be needed for survival, but they might help avoid physical pain and other distractions (diarrhea anyone?). The longer the survival situation lasts, the more important hygiene becomes, and it eventually turns into a health issue.
Items of clothing: Obviously sex and body type means your clothing is to some extent personalized. There may be other items of clothing, gloves for example, which are more important for some people than others. Tolerance for heat or cold varies, so some people need more (or less) items of clothing, depending on the climate.
One principle should guide almost everybody – layering. Since BOBs have limited space, it doesn’t make sense to fill it with big heavy items of clothing, a parka for example. Much better to have multiple layers – undershirt, shirt, sweater, windbreaker – to accomplish the job. Layers are flexible and usually lighter.
Small food items or food prep items: Many people have a favorite candy. It won’t keep you alive, but it might make hours of trail slogging less mind-numbing or as a reward for a tough day. Then there are things such as lactose pills, which some people need more than others. Ditto for vitamins and other food supplements; they’re not exactly medicine, but may be considered necessary by some people.
Don’t forget spices; they’re often a personal choice, but can go a long way toward making MRE’s or other survival food a lot more palatable. Spices also don’t add much weight or space, if you pack them carefully. It’s a cliché, “An army marches on its stomach,” and so do survivalists on the go. Don’t treat those small things that make eating more enjoyable as if they’re trivial. (Of course, this varies among people. Some could care less.)
Less than healthy items: Cigars, cigarettes, pipes, liquor – be honest, in a survival situation, even unhealthy things can help morale – as long as they’re easy to transport.
Entertainment: Deck of cards, small games, small electronics – these may seem trivial in a survival bag, and they are, but the odds of boredom being part of the survival experience are pretty high. Ask any soldier who has served in an active war about that. Again, there are trade-offs, weight and size versus how much they help morale. People will make different choices here, but whatever.
By definition, personal needs for survival mean just that – what you need. When you’re making your bugout bag list, along with your bugout profile, don’t ignore or forget the personal. Sometimes personal items are obviously part of survival, but other times personal items make the survival ordeal (or experience, if you’re lucky) bearable.
Bugout Profile: Assessing your survival skills and ability
A disaster situation, especially one where survival may be at stake, exerts a lot of unusual pressure – on you. If you can grab your bug out bag, throw it in the car and drive to safety in a few hours – great. If not….
As we’ve mentioned several times in other bug out profile articles, there’s a big difference between disasters and emergency situations that temporarily cause people to leave and those that may take weeks or months before a return is possible, if at all. Namely, survival skills.
Put another way, if you live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and because of a hurricane you have to escape to North Florida (say Tallahassee), you grab your BOB, jump in the family vehicle and head north. The only skills you need are the ability to negotiate traffic and have earned enough money to pay the bills in North Florida. However, what if you live in Fort Lauderdale and there is a major political uprising in South Florida and because of the situation all over the U.S. you have to retreat to the nearby Everglades to survive.
As every Floridian knows (and a lot of other people), living in the Everglades on a long-term basis would be…difficult. Getting out of Fort Lauderdale and to a safe place in the ‘Glades may be a survival challenge in itself, but living there with the mud, snakes, alligators and insects is an even greater challenge that requires survival skills.
The skills and abilities for living away from civilization are many and varied. It’s obvious that being fit and healthy really helps, but you need to know your limits, no matter what your condition. The necessary survival skills depends a lot on where you go when you bug out.
Assume a situation more drastic than relocating temporarily to another city, that is, bugging out to a survival situation either more or less in wild nature or in some kind of altered human environment (like after a major earthquake or a bombing attack).
Living “off the grid,” that is, away from settled areas and cut off from electricity, phones, food sources, and all the other things that are provided by “civilization” puts to the test all kinds of skills and abilities, for example:
Orienteering Survival Skills – a fancy word for knowing how to move around without getting lost. Some folks are good at doing this intuitively, but most people need to learn how to read maps, use a compass, and understand ‘the lay of the land.’ In other words, orienteering is a survival skill. It’s obviously useful in wilderness survival, but it’s almost as easy to get lost in an urban environment – especially if a disaster of some kind has altered it substantially.
Hunting Survival Skills – probably self-explanatory for most folks as it’s a way of providing food (among other things). For most people, it takes time, even years, to build up the skill to be a successful hunter – and having to do it in a survival situation may complicate the difficulty. By the way, hunting doesn’t mean exclusively shooting something with a gun – bow and arrow, slingshot and spear can also be very effective – and quiet. These are separate skills in their own right. Also, shooting game is only the beginning, you need the skills for dressing and preparing to eat (or preserve) the game.
Fishing – another obvious option for survival skills, providing that fish are available. Most people who bug out have probably fished, but the question for survival is how to do it with repeated success as a food source. Chances are you won’t have specialized gear; you might not even have a fishing rod. Survival fishing skills can be a delicate balance of improvising and knowing how to catch specific fish in a particular location.
Trapping Survival Skills – everybody knows about hunting and fishing, but trapping, an ancient skill, has gone out of favor. Trapping takes all the observation skills of hunting and then requires the specific skills of how to construct a trap (or set a commercial trap) and place it so that it actually catches something. While almost anyone can ‘get lucky’ with hunting or fishing, trapping has a learning curve; it’s a skill that has to be deliberately acquired.
Food gathering – outside of hunting, fishing and trapping the world provides food of many kinds, mainly plants and some mushrooms. The trick is knowing what to find, where to find it, how to gather it, how to prepare it and how to eat it – safely. Food gathering requires a lot of knowledge and survival skills, especially for observation and preparation, nevertheless, in many survival situations food gathering will be the most reliable and consistent way to provide food.
Improvise construction and repair – these might be called MacGyver survival skills, the ability to use materials at hand to construct things, especially shelter, and to repair things you bring along in the BOB. Knowing your materials is one thing, ingenuity is another. Both are enhanced by lots of experience.
Defense and safety – don’t mistake these as simply a matter of carrying weapons. The skills involved with defense and safety are more complicated than that, for example, detection is a primary skill long before a weapon is drawn. Of course, the skill of knowing how to use a weapon for defense (or offense for that matter) is still very necessary.
Camping/outdoor survival skills for heating, cooking, sheltering, hygiene – anyone who has done extended camping will be familiar with these skills. If they’re not familiar, then as a survival measure it would be a good idea to practice ahead of an emergency. The survival skills are similar to the everyday routines, but doing them in a different environment (whether in nature or in some post-disaster human environment) adds unique complications.
We’ve kind of reserved the “Assess your skills and abilities” for the last because, if you’ve been following the other Bugout Profile articles, this one is all about you. By now you hopefully have a reasonably good idea of what kind of emergencies you might encounter where you live, you’ve checked out routes and means of transporting yourself (and others) to safety, and you’ve taken a good look at the factors that might influence survival such as climate and geography.
Now you need to honestly and resolutely place yourself into the various survival scenarios and ask yourself, “Do I have the ability and skills necessary to survive?”
Keeping in mind that the only blanket answer to that question with a high probability of being accurate, is “maybe,” (disasters have a way of dictating their own requirements), you still should become aware of skills and abilities that could be improved.
For an obvious example, we’ve spent a lot of time in these articles relating the Bugout Profile to the bug out bag. Most BOBs are backpacks, and by definition these are hung on your back and you schlepp them around with the power of your legs.
The heavier the pack, the harder it is to carry over a distance or a long time. So, if you’re not in great shape, then having a BOB that weighs 60 lbs. (for example) is not realistic except for very short distances/times. This could be a crucial assessment of your ability in many survival situations, and fudging the assessment is not a healthy option.
“Guesswork for survival skills and abilities is a fool’s game.” We don’t know who said this first, but ultimately it’s accurate. The only way is to test the skills and abilities in as realistic a situation as possible. Even that is approximate, but actual experience will get you much closer to the truth.
How much time are you willing to put in preparing for survival skills? Acquiring skills and keeping up your abilities, especially physical strength and stamina, take a lot of time. Even professionals find this a difficult question. However, if you consider yourself a survivalist, or are serious about a bug out bag, then developing your bug out profile, learning or improving skills, and accurately assessing your abilities has got to be part of the package – otherwise, lack of honesty, lack of skills, and lack of knowledge can get you killed. How much time is that worth?
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