By Kevin Miller
*Editor’s Note: Given how many millions of people are having to “bug out” of the east coast, we’re reposting this for info.
A few years ago our illustrious editor was asked to write a three-part series of articles about what he considered to be the various levels of bags necessary for separate emergency situations. The first was his “Immediate Response” bag which was to be grabbed and used for when you hear something go bump in the night, or when your neighbor needed emergency assistance with that violent ex-boyfriend. Whatever the circumstances, that first level was simple. (we’ll review contents a little further down) His second level was the Bug Out Bag. In it was what you’d need to grab and go if your residence was going to be uninhabitable for several days. He described a content list that would last three days in less than comfortable conditions. His final level was the Battle Bag. It was what he would grab to survive that several days in an environment that might require fighting for survival.
That series of articles got me to thinking and I had to get my fingers moving. The Immediate Response (IR) bag he laid out was quite appropriate for cops. He included:
- A handgun
- A spare magazine
- A knife
- A pair of handcuffs
- A canister of pepper mace (OC Spray)
- A cell phone
Are all of those appropriate to folks who AREN’T police officers though? Let’s think about it…
If someone is breaking into your house I would think you’d want the handgun, spare magazine, knife, pepper mace and phone. I’m not so sure I’d worry about the handcuffs because you’re not arresting anyone. You’re either going to scare them off or deal with them. Either way, when you call the police you probably aren’t going to say, “I’ve got an intruder handcuffed and proned out in my living room.” So I thought about that some more and came to this conclusion: if the police still handcuff violent subjects even after they’ve shot them, it might be a good idea for you to do the same. That said, you need to be VERY aware of the laws regarding such where you live. I personally wouldn’t do it because, well… I’m not arresting anyone who comes in my house. They’re leaving either in a bag, on a gurney, or running hard before I pull a trigger.
The next level on his list was the Bug Out Bag or BOB. Some people refer to this as the Get Outta Dodge bag or GOD Bag. (some add another O – Get Out Of Dodge or GOOD bag) His list for that bag was much more extensive and that’s understandable. Such a bag should include:
- Sleeping comfort
- Fire-making materials
- First-aid supplies
- Navigation tools
Shelter can be anything from a tarp and rope to a poncho or tent. If you’re sure you’re going to have a vehicle to bug out in (and most of us would prefer that), then that vehicle may serve as your bug out shelter. Of course, there’s a major difference between having a 1968 Volkswagon Beetle Bug as your bug out shelter as compared to a 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 long bed with a cap.
Not that long ago I had a friend of mine argue that he didn’t need a Bug Out Bag. His reasoning was that if he had to bug out he was taking his truck. All he had to do was throw everything in the bed and take off. A few questions into our conversation though and he realized that he might not be planning as thoroughly as he should. For instance, I asked what food supplies he was going to throw in. His answer essentially covered every canned food and any dry food he had in his pantry. In no way shape or form had he considered the nutritional value of what he would take.
Next I asked about how much water he’d take and how he’d transport it. His answer was that he usually had a dozen or so bottles of water in his spare refrigerator along with soda and beer. I laughed when I thought about him literally throwing cans of soda and beer into the back of his truck. It would only be so long until one busted and spewed sticky contents everywhere and on everything. When I told him that the usual emergency water mandate was one gallon per person per day he had to reconsider his “dozen or so” bottles of water.
When our conversation was over he realized that if he was planning to use his truck as his Bug Out Vehicle then it needed to stay somewhat prepped and he still needed to have a Bug Out Bag ready to “throw and go”. The B.O.B. needed to have at least some emergency food supplies, emergency water supplies, a change of clothes, etc. He made a more structured plan to carry spare fuel, oil, spare parts, water and emergency shelter materials in the truck. He took to carrying a good sleeping bag in his truck nearly everywhere he went. Eventually a modified version of his B.O.B. went into his truck every time he did. Inside that “modified” B.O.B. was:
- Three MREs
- A half dozen “or so” granola / protein bars
- A 100 ounce hydration system that he kept full of fresh water
- A single change of underwear and socks
- A spare toothbrush and disposable razor w/ requisite toiletries
- A hat
- A pair of gloves
- A flashlight with spare batteries
- A compass
- A water “proof” notebook & pencil
- A simple mess kit (pan, bowl, utensils)
- Fire starting material (Vaseline soaked cotton balls in a waterproof container, flint, steel)
- A basic first-aid kit
One day I saw him getting into his truck and before he got in he threw in the bag. I laughed and he caught me laughing at him. Then he THANKED me for having had that discussion we had about B.O.B.s. As things had worked out, a few months before during the heavy snow season he had come across a vehicle stuck in a ditch and he couldn’t get them pulled out. He ended up stuck himself and together he and the other driver lived out of his B.O.B. until assistance came the next morning. Reality had given him a hard slap in the face.
Now, about that Battle Bag… Our editor seemed to feel that he needed to carry a small armory around with him. He had spare ammo for his handgun, shotgun and rifle. He had about four knives, body armor, etc. Again, he was writing from a police officer’s perspective. He could legally carry all that. What about the “average citizen”?
Several states have now passed laws that prohibit law enforcement officials from seizing weapons during crisis situations or natural disasters. Why they would want to or feel the need to is still beyond me, but I’m glad to see that some legislators seem to have common sense (albeit not much of it at times). My own personal “battle bag” doesn’t exist. I have my B.O.B. (mostly) ready to go, as does each member of my family. Our Bug Out “kits” include a handgun for each of us, at least two spare magazines of ammo for each handgun and a good fixed blade knife.
I don’t much believe that an unloaded gun is worth anything when you need it so we each have a decent, comfortable holster for our handgun. I’m in a position where I can legally carry a handgun concealed, but my wife and son are not. So what would we do? We’d answer that question dependent on circumstances when the time came. If things get ugly enough fast enough I’d encourage them to load their weapons and strap them on. I’d rather explain things to a law enforcement official than report a dead loved one to the same.
Each of us usually has a pocket knife on our person anyway, so the fixed blade knife is more intended for survival usage. Mine is a Mil-Tac M3 (designed by our editor and manufactured by Mil-Tac). My wife has a BlackHawk Nightedge and my son has a Buck Knives Buckmaster. Our pocket knives are all decent quality folders that we carry daily. Each of us also has a flashlight that we carry regularly. My current carry flashlight is the HX-120 from Insight Technologies. My wife carries a SureFire L4 LED and my son carries a SureFire Executive 1E. He and I also have additional flashlights in our B.O.B.s. Mine is a Night-Ops Gladius accompanied by a SureFire Spares Carrier holding six additional batteries. His extra is a Night-Ops Sentinel; an LED light that runs on two AA batteries and he has a half dozen extra AAs in his pack as well.
Now, for all that we carry in packs, if the time comes and things get that ugly, I’ve had friends suggest I consider other options. One suggestion was rolling luggage. Rolling luggage is, in my opinion, fantastic for getting through an airport, or from your car to the house, or your rental car to the hotel room. More often than not when I pull rolling luggage it ends up wobbling so badly I drag it half the time. While that may be due to my own lack of coordination or talent, I simply can’t see trying to move out of an emergency situation quickly while dragging a rolling suitcase behind me.
Another suggested option is a vest instead of a pack. I’d be okay with down-grading to a vest if I could figure out how to put everything I want or need onto it and have it be comfortable. Certainly, having weight distributed around a vest instead of just hanging on shoulder straps would be more comfortable. However, no matter what I try to do I inevitably end up with a pack of some type attached to the back of the vest to hold some of the stuff I want to make sure I have. Given that eventuality I choose to keep my vest limited to fighting items: extra magazines, spare shotgun shells, trauma first aid items (tourniquet and pressure bandages). Everything else can go in that pack and I can put it on over the vest.
The one additional item I’ll note here is a product recently reviewed by our editor: the Vehicle Modular Platform from Spartan Tactical. It’s essentially a modular platform you can mount any pouches on that you want. It can be hung over your car’s seat, worn like a backpack or carried like a duffle bag. If you can get enough pouches to carry everything you want and arrange them in a way you’re happy with, the sheer versatility of this system may prove of value. You can leave it hanging in your vehicle most of the time but be able to grab it and go quickly if necessary.
As with all other systems mentioned, the final value of your Bug Out Bag depends on your dedication to it. The water is only any good if you change it out at regular intervals and keep the storage system clean. The food will only be good if you change it out within the recommendations on the packaging. Even band-aids go bad eventually so you need to go through your kit regularly (at LEAST quarterly) and change out anything that is no longer going to work properly. Plan, pack and prepare properly.
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