Basic Survival Gear – the Go Bag or Bug Out Bag
A Phase One Preparation essential is to have a “Go Bag”. This is a small, light-weight, easy to carry bag that should be on you or readily at hand so if you have to “bug out” when the SHTF, you can do so in seconds, if needed. I am reminded of the movie Heat when Robert De Niro’s character says "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." Our goal here is something similar, what are the critical things that you need in your survival kit?
If you look around your home, a large amount of everything there are things that you have in your life to survive (or live in the style to which you are accustomed). So you can make the point that your home is your survival kit. It provides shelter from the elements, has a supply of water (and hopefully some food), you have a way to cook, it should have a medical kit for at least some basic needs and likely has medicines (prescriptions and some over the counter items), and I assume some security. This addresses the four of the five categories that we have identified (sustenance, shelter, medical, security – omits mobility for now). But it is not very mobile. The question really is what are the essential items that you would want in all circumstances.
► I am not going to include the contents of your wallet (IDs, Cash, Credit Cards) (plus we have another article on What’s in Your Wallet?) or your vehicle as part of your emergency kit because those are usually with you or nearby in most instances.
► Let’s start with two basic items that should always be on hand: a tool and a way to start a fire. I say a tool but the best tool you should choose is a decent knife because you can use that to fashion other wooden weapons, clear brush, build a shelter, dress a deer, etc. Depending on your living environment, you may not be able to walk around with a Crocodile Dundee huge mongo Bowie knife strapped to your belt. In that case a sturdy folding knife with a 3” or more blade would suffice, as you can carry it in your pocket with discretion. Should be able to find a reasonably priced one for around $25. Additionally, you can use the butt of the knife as a hammer if needed. I would add a small whetstone to the list since you want that knife to keep its edge. You might want to add a bigger cutting tool like a machete, a hatchet and a long handled axe to your kit as they will help you do more work more efficiently if you are in an emergency for a longer time. Survco makes a Credit Card Axe that fits in your wallet. It's a good piece of kit have. It can be used as a tool or a weapon. We will talk more about knives later but look at the bottom of the article and you will find some recommended folding knives for your EDC:
Smith & Wession Extreme Ops SWFR2S or the S&W SWAT MB or the Gerber Bear Grylls Scout - all in the low price range. In the mid price range, look at the Kershaw 1660 and in the more expensive range look at the Sypderco Endura4. See bottom of article for links to these products.
For full tang knives, here is a selection of knives that are consistently recommended by several websites around the net:
Gerber: Bear Grylls Ultimate (fine edge), Bear Grylls Ultimate (serrated edge) and the top end Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro
The famous Ka-Bar 1217 USMC Fighting Knife or the Ka-Bar BK7 Becker are both solid knives in the mid price range.
I personally like the Cold Steel Tanto blades such as the Kobun AUS 8A (5.5" blade) or the 13 RTKJ1 (7" blade) but 39LSFCT Leatherneck has bigger fingerguards which can prevent injuring yourself if you are doing heavy work (it looks a lot like the Ka-Bar 1217 with the Tanto blade).
Some more expensive models like the ESEE 6P-B or the Fallkniven A1 also come highly recommended.
► Starting a fire: lots of nifty ways to start a fire but before I impress you with my “Qi” in fire starting, I think I am going to choose a lighter as the next item. Any lighter is fine, the Bic Lighters are cheap so you can buy a dozen and sprinkle them around the house and in your car but make sure you have one in your go bag. Reliable in wind or rain. Lightweight and small. But they can be difficult in colder weather, so you should include a ferro striker rod such as the one made by SurvivorSpark or about $8. With a striker rod you will need some tinder so you can add a magnesium bar with flint, can hang on your key chain and costs under $5. BTW they make great stocking stuffers at Christmas.
Ok, if you have a knife and a lighter and so if you were a contestant on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, you are pretty much ahead of the game but let’s look at some other items that are useful. We need roughly ½ to 1 gallon of water per day (minimum) for replenishment of fluids, more in warmer climates and if your level of activity goes up, one gallon should be sufficient for our purposes here. Since a pint weighs a pound (eight pints to a gallon), it doesn’t make sense to be carrying around more than a day’s worth of water. So the next items on our list are….
► Something to purify water: I remember in Africa they have a nasty worm (Guinea Worm) that if ingested in unfiltered water, burrows through your body down into your feet before exiting. Trust me this is neither pretty or fun and the risk of infection can result in loss of one or both legs. The sad thing is that the worm larvae can be filtered out of the water simply by running it through a cloth (even your t-shirt) so this is very preventable. That is only one example of why potable drinking water is so critical to your health. There are lots of ways to purify or filter water. If fuel is plentiful, you can boil it. Get it to a rolling boil for a minute and then let it cool. You can always treat water with iodine tablets (spoiler alert – tastes terrible) or bleach and we will discuss that more in the other forums but in both these cases you have to wait while the water boils or while the iodine / bleach treats the water. So for your kit, I am going to recommend something like the Life Straw. Everyone in my family got one last Christmas – under $25 each or thereabouts.
► Something to store water: after you have treated the water, you need to store it at least temporarily. So a canteen is a good item to have in your kit. I like the collapsible bladders and you can find those that are integrated into your backpack (like the Camel Back brand) but hard side canteens are fine and durable. I have included a selection of Nalgene (plastic), Stainless (you can heat or boil the water in the bottle), and an insulated metal canteen below, all are BPA Free. Everyone in my family carries one 1-liter Naglene and one Metal canteen. For a twofer, you can head to our products area and check out the LifeSaver 4000UF or 6000UF bottles which purify water and provide storage. Worse case – keep some plastic jugs and bags handy.
► Something to cook with: we can make a fire using our knife to cut kindling and our lighter to start the fire but unless we are cooking meat on a skewer, you might need a pot of some sort. I bought my son a Trangia cooking set for his kit. It is a multi-fuel stove (alcohol or butane). Several pots stack inside of each other for easy carrying, lightweight. If you are looking for something a little more compact - check out the TOAKs products such as the 1100ml pot, the 106mm bowl, and the 550 ml pot which also stack inside each other and you can even place a butane fuel canister inside the 550 ml pot with a BRS Ultralight Burner. Add a folding spork and you are ready to eat!.
► Some food: this is about calories at this point, you need something light but packed with calories. Freeze dried or dehydrated foods will save you the weight of water (but that means you need to have more water to re-hydrate these foods). Military MREs have about 1200 calories each – the average adult male needs about 2500 calories a day depending on level of activity, metabolism, and some environmental factors (female 2000 calories – Source UK National Health Service), so you might be able to get by with two MREs per day. We will discuss MRE and other pre-packaged rations in more depth in another blog. I personally don’t like the MREs since they come with extra packaging and stuff that you might not want or need. Plus after eating military rations for several years, they lose their allure (my personal opinion) and I think they are a little pricy ($8-9 per meal). But on the other hand some of that packaging can be re-used for other purposes so I won’t exclude them. Using our 3-3-3-3-3 approach, your go bag should have food for three days so six MRE or equivalent meals at a minimum per person. See the links below if you want to buy them individually or by the case(s).
Some other options: SOS Rations are Amazon's Choice and their best seller is Grizzly Gear, I included Datrex as the serving size is a little smaller (200 cal versus 400 calories for the first two
[If you want to make your own “MRE” there are plenty of videos available to look at. Bottom line: put some protein in (tuna, chicken or Spam in the foil packs or small cans with the lid that opens unless you want to add a can opener to your equipment list. In that case, I recommend the military P38 or a small Swiss Army knife which comes with the benefit of additional blades and functions), some noodles or rice for your carbs (Ramen noodles for example), you can opt for some crackers, granola bars, or a candy bar for quick energy (or some small packets of peanut butter), and some drink powder (look for something with electrolytes), coffee or tea if you please and some condiments. Look at repackaging it all into a quart ziplock bag for convenience of carrying and packing. Vacuum packing is a good idea to prolong shelf life.]
► Something to get more food with: a few hooks and some fishing line should suffice at this point. You can use your knife to make snares and traps and if you have a gun you can hunt too. I will suggest you look at small net which can serve other purposes too (expanding sack for carrying stuff you scavenge). Below are a selection of self contained kits.
These will fit in your cargo pocket
If you are looking for something a little more compact, try the ReadyMan Wilderness Survival Card or a Paracord Grenade
You can also get a snare kit
► Something to sleep in / provide shelter: A sturdy poncho and a lightweight blanket – I like the old military poncho liner. This will serve as your expedient shelter if needed to keep you out of the rain. I am going to recommend some bungee cords to string it all up or at least some parachute cord (in this case review your knot tying skills in your son’s Boy Scout Manual). I used to stretch a poncho out low to the ground and use pine needles or leaves to “seal” the sides and then crawl inside to sleep. This made a small space that was easier for my body to heat in colder weather. If the weather is nicer and you don’t want to sleep on the ground. Get a small hammock to string between some trees. Of course, you can add a ground pad and a sleeping bag. Just remember, everything you add to the kit adds volume and weight – you may have to carry this it for a while.
or comes in various colors
For two persons breathable (permits moisture to escape)
Hammocks: the first one is all-in-one and comes in various colors (that is important to some people...) the second one is a mlitary style with moquito net and the last one is a (cheaper) simple mesh net type which might also be useful as a fishing net or as a carry all.
► Something for a medical situation: A small medical kit. I am going to limit this to emergency first aid. You don’t need a lot of different sized band aids. for that you just get some gauze and some medical tape and a scissors. You can cut the gauze to the size of any wound. Include a few alcohol or betadine wipes (although with a bottle of alcohol and the gauze you have an instant wipe) to sterilize the wound. To seal cuts since many of you might not want to stich your buddy up (Important Tip – the care giver [that’s you] feels no pain!), pull out the Super Glue – adheres skin instantly. Use gauze to wipe away the blood apply the glue and push together. For massive bleeding, you will need a tourniquet but if you are going use a tourniquest, you should be moving the patient to a medical facility right away. Your backup should be a pressure bandage and your fall back should be Quik Clot to stop bleeding. I also recommend including SAM splints for fractures – they roll up and packs away nicely. Pat O'Neil is a Physician's Assistant and has numerous lessons on First Aid and Medical concerns. I strongly suggest you invest some time in improving your knowledge regarding First Aid, during an emergency is not the time to be learning.
► A weapon: I would say that you should own a pistol, a shotgun, and a rifle. Three different tools for different situations. Pistol or revolver is your self-defense tool in close quarters. You can conceal it on your person and produce it when needed. A shotgun is also an excellent self-defense tool but can also be used to hunt fowl. A rifle is your long range tool for hunting big game. Each weapon might need accessories (holster, extra magazines, shotgun shell belt, scopes and / or slings to mention a few). Consider your weapon as a system and think of everything you need to carry it and put it in action quickly if needed. Ammo weighs a lot so have enough in your kit and you can comfortably carry. We will talk more about weapons in other lessons. If you have never owned a gun before and you do decide to get a gun, you need to learn how to handle your weapon safely and proficiently.
But to recap the contents of your kit
► Your basic tool – a knife (and whetstone), add a machete, hatchet, axe if you like
► Starting a fire – a lighter (and magnesium fire starter)
► Purifying water – a LifeSaver Straw
► Storing water – a canteen
► Cooking – a set of pots and pans
► Three days of food (and a small can opener)
► Some fishing hooks and fishing line (a small fishing net)
► Shelter – poncho and poncho liner (bungee cords, parachute cord, hammock)
► A small medical kit
► A weapon – pistol, shotgun, and/or rifle (and accessories) all the ammo you can comfortably carry
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