For several years now I’ve written articles about Bug Out Bags also known as Go Bags or Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) Bags. The basic bag stays the same and the contents have to be tailored to suit your specific circumstances and needs. A few weeks ago I was asked a question that made me stop and think – and I thought I’d share both the question and the answer.
The question was two fold:
Do I carry everything my family needs in MY GOOD Bag?
If not, what’s in every other family member’s GOOD Bag?
The answer to the first part of that question was, “No.” It would be physically impossible for me to carry everything in my pack that my entire family (me, my wife and my son at this point) would need if we had to bail out of our house for whatever reason. My son and wife both have GOOD Bags of their own; his, oddly enough, put together before hers. We each share part of the “family burden” and carry our own individual stuff as well. I thought the division and individual kit might be of interest so here we go…
As a way of introducing our basic platforms (for packs) I feel the need to provide this information.
My pack is a BLACKHAWK X-4 Ops Pack. They no longer offer the pack on their website but you can still find them in some retail spots. I will most likely change off due to the limited ability that exists to attach items to the outside of this pack.
My son’s pack is a BLACKHAWK Cyclone hydration pack. Of the three we have I like it the best for versatility and the all-over MOLLE webbing on the outside of the pack.My wife’s pack is a red pack we got with the ASAP Hurricane Survival Kit. It has good organizational capability due to the multiple pockets and MOLLE webbing on the outer surfaces. We had to rig a system for carrying her sleeping bag and in the near future we’ll either be replacing the pack or sewing on carry straps to the bottom. Both mine and my son’s packs from BLACKHAWK have strap attachment points specifically designed for such use on the bottom of the packs.
The Family Burden
The three things we all have in common in our needs are shelter, sustenance and warmth. Emergency shelter is different from convenient shelter. If we’re all leaving in a vehicle then we have a decent size tent we’ll grab along the way. However, if we can’t take the vehicle for whatever reason, or if we run out of gas and find ourselves on foot, we still have emergency shelter supplies in each of our packs. The “emergency shelter” supplies consist of one poncho, three lengths of 550 cord and four aluminum tent stakes each. We can each build our own individual shelter or we can string them together and make a larger “hooch”. If we still have the vehicle but not the tent for whatever reason, we’ve also worked out a method for anchoring our shelter structure to the vehicle allowing us to sleep close to it and use the space under it for storage while we sleep.
Sustenance consists of two things: food and water. Right next to that tent in our storage space are six 5-gallon collapsible water jugs. Given time to fill them and having a vehicle to bail out in we’d have 30 gallons of fresh water with us. When that runs out, or if we can’t take it, then we’re stuck with the hydration systems that are in each pack. Each of our GOOD Bags has a 100 ounce hydration system with an inline filter.For food we have two options again: one if we can take the vehicle; one if we can’t. The “taking the vehicle” option includes a mix of Heater Meals, dehydrated food, food that requires heated water to fix and MREs. If we have to go with only our packs we each have three MREs supplemented by protein and snack bars in our packs. That is probably the first sign of individuality in the bags: what flavor of protein and snack bars we each like is different. The MREs we all prefer are different. So while the shelter and water are virtually the same, food is a preference item (to some extent) and we each have our own preferences. Additionally, we all have different flavors of powdered drink mix that we can add to the water; another indicator of our individuality.
For warmth our approach is again pretty standard. We each have a compressible sleeping bag in stuff sacks lashed onto the bottom of our packs. They are all rated to at least 32F. Each of us also has an emergency “space” blanket in our pack and the vehicle bail out kit includes two heavy blankets. Even in temps down close to zero degrees Fahrenheit, between the sleeping bags, the blankets and snuggling to share body warmth we should be okay.
Now obviously “warmth” also includes the ability to make fire – which you also need to cook over and/or heat up water to prepare food. In each pack is a package of “strike anywhere” matches (about 100 per package) and a package of fire-starter sticks. Additionally we each have a “pill case” full of cotton balls that have been soaked in Vaseline. Finally – as far as fire starting goes – we each have a flint-and-steel “match” in our packs. (Yes, I’m a huge believer in redundancy. I’d rather have more than I need than ever need something I don’t have especially where my family’s comfort or survival is concerned.)
While those items reflect the common needs, we have other supplies in our individual kits that we carry as part of the “family burden”. In my bag I carry the collapsible shovel. It’s a surplus entrenching tool (etool) that I picked up at a gun show for $20 along with it’s plastic/rubber case. The case attaches with Alice clips instead of MOLLE so until I can get the conversion kit, I can’t mount it on the outside without tearing up the pack. SO… it’s inside a pocket of the pack. My son gets to carry spare batteries. Each of us has two sets (two batteries per “set”) of spare batteries in our individual packs for our own flashlights, but my son also carries an additional two sets for each of us. So we each have four spare sets of batteries – a total of twelve sets, but my son is carrying eight of those spare sets. My wife carries the SteriPEN water sterilization device we have and a spare set of batteries for it.
Chopping is a chore we all need to be able to accomplish but a family unit should only need one hatchet or axe. In our case, both my son and I carry “hatchets”: they are tomahawks from K5 Tactical and are carried via MOLLE mount on the left side of our packs. His doubles as a hammer as his has a flat striking surface opposite the cutting edge. Mine can double as a weapon or breaching tool as it has a sharp spike opposite the cutting edge. Both can be used as pry-bars thanks to their design.
First-Aid is another “family burden” item we share. Each of our packs has a basic first – - – aid kit that includes:
- Motrin / ibuprofen
- Antiseptic swabs
- A package of QuickClot gauze
- (4) 2” square gauze pads
- One roll of 2” surgical tape
In my pack the first aid kit also includes:
- A thermometer for taking temperatures
- (12) 6” adhesive bandages
- A scalpel
- A surgical clamp – medium size
- A pair of EMT sheers
Each of us also has – separate from the general first aid supplies – one tourniquet and two pressure bandages in an outer, easy to find and reach, pocket. I would like to get a set of inflatable splints but have not yet made it a priority.
Hunting for food is another “family burden” we feel but have approached on an individual basis. Our outlook is that if any of us can hunt for food to feed ourselves then we are all capable of hunting for food for the family. So, each of us has both hunting and fishing equipment included in our individual GOOD kit. Each of us has a collapsible fishing rod with 100 pound test line and a small collection of tackle. It’s not elaborate but it’s better than a tree branch and some string. The collapsible rods are hooked through MOLLE straps on the packs; the right side on my son’s and my packs, opposite the tomahawks.For hunting mammals we each have a long gun. For self-defense from mammals we each have that long gun and a handgun. Yes, even my 13 year old son has his assigned long gun and handgun. I suspect that we’ll soon be changing his handgun as he goes through his growth spurt and his hands become capable of handling a larger sidearm. For now we have the following weapons:
Me: Winchester .30-.30 lever action rifle
Springfield Armory 1911 .45ACP handgun
Wife: Remington 870 12g shotgun
Glock Model 19 9mm handgun
Son: Marlin Model 25 .22 Magnum bolt gun
Walther P22 .22lr handgun
Yes, we do have to carry an assortment of ammo and we each carry our own. I have considered changing either my handgun or my wife’s handgun so that we’re carrying the same ammo. I’m leaning toward (as much as I hate to say it) switching my handgun to a 9mm gun. Shortly I’ll be receiving a Glock Model 17 9mm and that would probably be the most sensible. I have plenty of magazines for it and they can also be used in the Glock 19.
I used to assign myself the shotgun and my wife the rifle but after more consideration we’ve switched that up for several reasons.
First, she’s more familiar and comfortable with the shotgun.
Second, the shotgun’s Knoxx Spec Ops stock allows for lighter recoil and adjustable length of reach for her strong hand.
Third, she likes the three-point sling I have mounted on the shotgun and has practiced with it.
For my part, I’m quite comfortable with the lever action .30-.30. I’d like to get an optic for it but haven’t prioritized that. I can shoot fine with open sights and it’s not like I’d be doing any long range hunting with it. Anything past 100 yards and I probably wouldn’t consider the shot for hunting. For defense I’d be quite comfortable taking a 300 yard shot with it on a man-size target so it suits my purposes.
Most of the small game hunting would be done by our son with his .22 magnum bolt gun for several reasons.
1) He can carry plenty of ammo for that gun and it weighs much less than ammo for either my rifle or the wife’s shotgun.
2) When he was ten he decided to convert it into a “precision” rifle by mounting a bipod and a scope. He can consistently shoot sub-1/2 MOA groups with it.
3) .22 Magnum is sufficient for plenty of small game.
Amongst our individualized tools I’d include our knives. Each of us has a fixed blade knife that we like as well as a folding lock blade knife. We also each have a multi-tool in our pack.
I actually have two fixed blade knives as does my son. The holster I prefer is mounted on a thigh platform and on that same platform, directly behind the holster, I’ve zip-tied a Cold Steel Recon Tanto. On my pack I’ve mounted my RAT HEST knife. It’s not big, nor does it need to be. If I need to chop or pry I have the Tomahawk mentioned above. The RAT HEST is my “around camp, cutting food and whittling wood” knife. My preferred folder is the Emerson Commander I’ve had for about ten years now. I also habitually have a BLACKHAWK Hawkhook somewhere on my person and a small Redhead pocket knife.
My wife’s fixed blade knife is a Gerber Epic attached to her pack. It’s not large – but all the same observations about my RAT HEST apply to her Gerber Epic. It’s more than sufficient for in-the-camp work. Her folder is the BLACKHAWK Blades 4041 – a lockback tanto style folder with a plain edge.
My son has most recently acquired a KA-BAR Tanto that he almost immediately affixed to his pack. His second fixed blade is a SOG Knives SEAL Pup, also attached to his pack. Inside the utility pouch of the sheath for the SEAL Pup is a Masters of Defense CQD folder – his preferred folder. He usually has some other folding blade in his pocket that isn’t huge and he can carry comfortably.
Beyond that our personal items are what’s in our GOOD Bags. Each of us has two changes of underwear, four pair of socks, a hat, gloves, a light-weight poncho and a hoody. Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc are all items we each have our preferences in and carry individually. Each of us has our own mess kit and set of utensils. We each have a whistle and a mirror – both used as signaling devices.
When you look back over the list of items, both family and individual, it’s easy to see that we all share the same needs. Those of less immediacy we can afford to have and serve our personal preferences in. Those would be the first things sacrificed as circumstances got more challenging and we had to make choices about survival.
The important thing to remember is that each GOOD Bag CAN be individually tailored; it doesn’t HAVE to be. If you’re working in a team unit – whether it’s a family or otherwise – the “family burden” items need to be spread out reasonably. As the largest and strongest member of my family I carry the biggest burden, but each of us carries part of the load.
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