Bug out bags have become common enough to be considered a normal part of life today. You don’t even need to be a prepper in order to have a bug out bag, as even the federal government is recommending that everyone prepare one and keep it on hand. Yet, with all the talk going around about bug out bags, I have to wonder if the general attitude about them is correct.
Bug out bags are also known as 72 hour bags, because they are supposed to contain everything you need to survive for 72 hours. While that sounds good, what’s to say that you’re only going to need to have enough to survive three days? I don’t know about you, but if I have to resort to survival tactics, I definitely want to be able to survive for more than three days.
Part of the reason that the 72 hour concept has become so widespread is that FEMA has proposed it as the “norm” on their website, where they talk about creating a bug out bag. However, we have to realize that a FEMA bug out bag is only intended to get us out of a danger one and into a government run emergency shelter of one sort or another. Whether this is a temporary shelter or one of the infamous FEMA camps is yet to be seen. Either way, they’re suggesting that we only need three days worth of food before we put ourselves in the hands of the nanny state.
If I’m going to be facing a survival situation, I expect that I’ll be doing so for more than just three days. As I have no intention of putting myself in the hands of FEMA, I will probably need to be able to survive for weeks or even months; perhaps longer.
Based upon a realistic survival scenario, I’ll have to say that 72 hours worth of food and survival supplies aren’t anywhere near enough. While the same survival equipment would be needed to make it through three days or three weeks, anything longer than that might require the addition of a few other pieces of equipment, especially equipment for building a long-term survival shelter.
So, assuming that you’ve already got a pretty good bug out bag, stocked with all that you need to survive in the wilderness for at least a few days, what else do you need to add for long-term survival?
- Tools – I don’t know about you, but there’s no way that I’d want to try to build a long-term survival shelter with a camping hatchet, folding shovel and a wire saw. I’d like to have a few larger tools, like a full-sized axe, shovel and a bow saw for cutting wood.
- Duct Tape – When it comes to versatility in use, it is hard to beat good, old duct tape. With it, you can repair clothing, patch a hole in your emergency blanket, even remove a splinter. The problem is that a roll of duct tape is large and heavy. You can cut down on size and weight by re-rolling the tape onto a pencil. And since you’re already packing a pencil, be sure to include a small notepad. Being able to jot notes to yourself can help keep you from getting lost. You may also feel the need to leave notes for others so they know where you’ve been and where you’re headed.
- Clothing – Most bug out bags are extremely light on clothing, as you can wear the same clothes in most circumstances for a few days without problem. However, for prolonged survival you need at least one complete change of clothing, if not a few.
- Paracord – Paracord is an incredibly useful addition to the bug out bag. For those not familiar with it, paracord is a rope that consists of seven nylon strands covered in a shroud. Paracord is thin enough to use as replacement shoe laces, yet strong enough to support the weight of a full-grown man. It is useful when constructing a shelter or lashing items to your pack. You can also remove the nylon strands individually to use as fishing line or another purpose. This is one item that you won’t find at the dollar store. It is available at many military surplus stores as well as online.
- Coat, hat and gloves – This is another clothing area that the typical bug out bag lacks. The basic idea is that you’ll be wearing the appropriate clothing for whatever season you find yourself bugging out in and not need others. If your bug out is three days, that might be true, but if it’s longer, that won’t work.
- Ziplock Plastic Bags – Having a few extra ziplock plastic bags will come in handy when gathering tinder or scrounging wild foods during your bug out. Along the same lines, if you’re not intimately familiar with the edible plants native to your area, consider purchasing a good-quality guide for your kit.
- Sleeping bags – Bug out bags typically leave out sleeping bags, other than one made of the same aluminized Mylar material that a space blanket is made of. While that might work in a pinch, it wouldn’t be very comfortable for the long-term.
- More food – You can never have too much food with you in a bug out situation.
- More ammunition – Rarely do you see anyone talk about extra ammo in a bug out bag. I guess they assume that the ammo in your weapons and on your chest rig will be enough. But if you’re going to be out in the wild for any prolonged length of time, you’ll need to be able to hunt.
- Water – I live in a rather arid area, so I’d try to carry more water than what I could expect to reasonably carry in my bug out bag. As someone once said, “water is life.”
You’ve probably already spotted the problem with this list; that is, how can you fit all that in your bug out bag? I have to agree with you; but then again, I’d never attempt to fit all this in my bug out bag. I’d use at least another bag, if not two. It just won’t all fit.
Duffel bags work out well for additional bags. While they can’t be carried on the back, they are convenient for packing a variety of different odd-shaped items. It’s important to make sure they’re heavy-duty ones, so that they don’t break down the trail somewhere. They are also fairly easy to carry around, although to be honest with you, there’s no way I’d be planning on carrying them.
So, if I’m not going to carry my additional bags, how am I going to take them with me?
First of all, most people plan on bugging out in a vehicle. I’m no different. However, I really don’t expect to reach my destination in that vehicle. I think that the highways will turn into parking lots and I’ll have to abandon my vehicle at that point. So, up until that point, I have my vehicle to carry my bags; the trick is what to do after that.
The best way to describe that is to build a trailer that you can load the extra bags on and pull along behind you while you are walking. If you look at a bicycle trailer, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. Actually, a bicycle trailer could be used, with the addition of a couple of handles to hold onto. Another thing that could be used is the type of stroller used for taking children with you while jogging.
Either of those options are lightweight, while being designed to carry a reasonable amount of weight. A little modification will make them even easier to work with, especially since you have to take them over rough terrain. Larger wheels, handles and a means to attach to your backpack belt will make them work extremely well.