About two years ago I went on a camping trip with some friends of mine and noticed that one of the campers never left camp without a small pack. When I asked about it he told me it was his “go to hell” bag. The curious look on my face was enough of a question that he expanded on what he meant. Inside that small pack was what he felt he would need to survive an unexpected night out. Now, I’ve done articles like this before centered around basic survival kits or bug out bags. His “go to hell” bag was different. It was bare minimums tailored to his needs. I had no inputs but will report on it because everyone has different perceived needs.
First I should start off with his pack. He had chosen the CamelBak Transformer – a three part hydration system that allowed for customizing the amount of storage you carry based on your need. Since he was using this as his go to hell (as in, everything has gone to hell) bag, he had all three sections full. The 100 ounce hydration bladder was full of fresh water and the rest of his needs were packed according to how fast he wanted to be able to access them. I noticed that my buddy took this pack with him even when we left camp to go less than a 1/2 mile down river to look at some rock formations. When I said something he assured me that, since we could never predict when an emergency situation would occur and in what form, he felt it necessary to have this pack with him any time he ventured away from the security of the camp. Although I felt it might be a tad extreme, I couldn’t fault his logic and had to agree that being prepared was better than the option.
Inside his pack, for shelter, he had a surplus military poncho. I use this same shelter myself so I could appreciate the simplicity of it. Just as I do, he had four small aluminum tent stakes to go with it and a couple lengths of paracord (550 cord). If nothing else, he felt he could keep the rain off his body in a pinch. Since water saps body heat four times faster than air, staying dry in cold conditions can be especially important. The folded and squeezed down poncho was stored in a zip-lock baggy It didn’t take up much space and was at the bottom of the bigger storage section of his pack. He felt that he wouldn’t need to get it out to set up unless he was truly stuck out in the boonies someplace and had reason to go through or use the supplies packed on top of it.
And speaking of retaining body heat, such a small pack can hardly carry a sleeping bag, so I inquired as to what he intended to do for warmth (aside from build a fire – but we’ll get to that). He assured me that he had thought about that too, and that he had an emergency “space” blanket in the pack. These space-saving blankets retain much of the body’s heat and reflect it back to the user around whom it is wrapped. I’ve never seen on REpacked after it’s been taken out and used, but I suppose it could be done of need be. My buddy assured me that he’d never used one either, but he kept it in there just in case. His thought was, as he shared it with me, that even in fairly cold weather he could make a compact shelter out of the poncho and then cocoon himself inside of it in the emergency blanket. He felt that a small space with a double layer of insulation – one to keep moisture out – and both to help keep heat in – would be sufficient to simply survive. That was, after all, why he had packed and continued to carry the bag.
For an overnight food supply he carried two Hoo-Ah Bars (now called Soldier Fuel). These nutrition bars / food supplements have been reviewed before so I won’t delve deeply into them. Suffice to say that a single bar can provide you with enough food to maintain your body functions for at least eight hours and probably as much as triple that. Two of them, in my mind, equated to two days of food instead of a single overnight supply.
The next two items he had in (or on) his pack were a Sog Knives Team Leader 2 (SOG TLII) knife (actually strapped to the side) and a flint & steel fire starter “match”. The fire starter system was accompanied by a 35mm film cannister (hadn’t seen one of those in a while) that was black with a gray lid. Inside the cannister was four cotton balls, each saturated with vaseline.
As we discussed the knife he explained that he had chosen it because it wasn’t TOO big to be carried ALL the time; it had a true saw blade on the spine and the handle fit his hand exceptionally well. In other words, he was comfortable with it and confident it would serve his needs. The only thing he didn’t care for was that it was in a leather sheath and he worried that constant exposure to the elements would eventually break down, mold or mildew the leather. Thanks to its blade material and size, it wasn’t very heavy – and he had gone out of his way to keep the overall go to hell bag weight under 12 pounds. I had never thought about it but as I considered it he seemed pretty close.
That weekend camping trip was enjoyable but what I learned about his outlook and his pack were interesting as well. I hope you enjoyed the discussion as much as I did!
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