Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Building A Bug Out Bag

Bug Out bags used to be an item unfamiliar to most people, nowadays there are any number of sites selling ready-made bug out bags, and lots of others advising what to put in one.

Some of the advice as to what to include seems premised on the idea that the person bugging out is going to have motorized transport or a covered wagon with a yoke of oxen to pull it. There is so much stuff that a person couldn't possibly carry it any distance.

The most likely scenario that I see myself bugging out from is some sort of disaster (natural, financial, social) where the government is going to take charge and help everybody by corralling them in the Super Dome or its equivalent. This is to be avoided at all costs.

In such a situation it would be advisable to head for the woods unless you have a mountain cabin or beach house or something similar, in which case you wouldn't need much of a bug out bag. With this in mind I present my idea as to what I think is necessary, or at least very useful.
A few items in the bag. Note double-sheave pulley blocks, salt and small file.

 My number one priority is fire starting and I have lots of redundancy in that department. My bag has waterproof matches, magnifying glass, magnesium fire starter, Bic multi-purpose lighter, vaseline coated cotton balls and a can of Sterno. The Sterno can be used for starting stubborn material or for cooking on. Sterno is also available in a plastic bottle, but it seems more likely to be punctured in that form and lacks the cooking option.

For a cutting implement I have an Estwing carpenter's hatchet. The reason for this is that it is all steel and is almost indestructible. The carpenter's hatchet has a hammer head on the backside and a nail puller in the blade. The hammer head works much better than using the back side of a conventional hatchet. A machete would also be useful, but I haven't found one that I think is worth buying.
Popeil's Pocket Fisherman

Back in the '70s, Ron Popeil proclaimed it "The fishing invention of the century!" which probably overstated things a bit, but the Pocket Fisherman is almost tailor made for an emergency fishing expedient. Shakespeare makes a telescoping rod called "Travel Mate" which
might be as good or better, but takes up more space. A gill net is also very useful.

I have three leg-hold traps which will provide you with more game than a days worth of hunting. These are suitable for catching possum, raccoon, coyotes, bobcats and other small game. It is very socially unacceptable to have leg-hold traps so they will almost certainly have to be purchased online.

Traps never sleep and they don't make any noise like a gunshot, which could be very important. I think it makes sense to have as many of these as you can reasonably carry.

Everybody has paracord and so do I, but I have included two small double-sheave pulley blocks. These vastly increase a person's pulling power and weigh almost nothing.

Salt, Stanley cooker and cups.
Stanley makes a handy little stainless steel cooker with two plastic nesting cups. The cooker has a top and a folding handle. I don't like plastic, but it won't break which is an advantage over glass and it doesn't conduct heat when you're trying to drink out of it which metal cups do.

An 8 X 10' heavy duty tarp is useful for many things. Larger might be better, but larger means heavier. The standard tarps are pretty well worthless since they tear easily. The HD is twice as heavy, but it's better than twice as good.

A Melitta filter cone with filters found its way into the bag for at least two reasons. The obvious one is that it can be used to make coffee with, but it can also be used to filter (not purify) water to remove sediment, bugs and whatever else won't pass through it.

US Army Survival Manual FM 21-76 should probably be in anybody's bag unless he's Jim Bridger or an Indian Chief.

Almost everybody advises carrying enough water to cross the Sahara desert, but since I'm in Georgia, water is not a problem at all. All I need is a way to purify it. It seems that people forget that water is very heavy and if you carry enough to drink in one or two days, you can't carry anything else. At 8.34 pounds per gallon, it doesn't take many gallons to add up. As far as edibles, I have a few cans of sardines and some MREs, but food is really another thing. This bag is devoted to tools.

A multi-tool is super handy (even if you aren't bugging out) and I have an old Gerber 300, I think it is. It's very good, but I've had it about 15 years and most of Gerber's products have declined drastically in quality, although I don't know that the multi-tools have. Leatherman makes a 'Super Tool 300" that looks good, but I haven't used one. A general rule in almost anything is, don't buy cheap junk. I can never remember an occasion when I was using a tool and wished I'd bought the cheaper one.

Most of the other stuff in the bag is pretty conventional. A military signal mirror, P38 can opener, bottle of Excedrine, hydrogen peroxide, 2 wash rags, a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, which is a laundry soap, but is useful for washing off poison ivy and also seems to help somewhat on bug bites, iodine, honey, dental floss, needles, small file, Repel insect repellant (DEET free), box of salt, 150 feet of MIG wire, 1 sheet of emery cloth, small flashlight, compass, plastic bottle with graduations, small bottle of bleach, slingshot, bottle of DMSO, cheap gloves with plastic coated palms and fingers, comb, tweezers, disposable razor, colloidal silver, 2 carabiners and a small flip open mirror with a standard mirror and a magnifying mirror for getting stuff out of the eye.

There should also be a high quality knife for skinning and dressing fish and game. Lots of modern knives look like something out of a Boris Vallejo painting rather than a useful tool. Avoid "fantasy" junk. The salt is useful for seasoning, preserving game and as a wound disinfectant. Honey can also be used on cuts and wounds as well as sweetening the coffee that you make with your filter cone.

Although I don't have any guns in the bag, it's good to keep in mind that a common caliber is the practical thing to have. Any .22 LR and a .308 Winchester or 30/06 would serve well. Since I'm in Georgia, dangerous game isn't a problem and most game can be killed with a .22 LR, but for deer, hogs and black bear the .30s would be useful.  Lots and lots of people have some firearm that fires .223 Remington, but it's way more than you need for squirrels, coons, possum, rabbit, etc. and not very good for hogs, deer or bear.  You might have a .264 Win. Mag. or a .257 Roberts that you shoot really well, but forget about finding ammo in an ordinary store selling ammo. Also keep in mind that the centerfires attract a whole lot more attention than the rimfires. A shotgun would be nice, but the ammo is bulky and heavy. If you have a bug out partner it might be reasonable for one of you to have a shotgun.

Coleman makes a skillet with a folding handle, but it has a non-stick surface which I don't want and it has very mixed reviews, so I'm leaning toward the much heavier (3 lbs.) 8" cast iron skillet. Coleman also makes an emergency blanket and poncho, both about the size of a cigarette package, but much thinner. Emergency is the key word here. You wouldn't want this to be your primary gear.

If you have pre-selected a place or places to go, it would be a good idea to have a topographical map of the area. It would also be a good idea to go there (assuming it's legal) and camp to familiarize yourself with the area, game and vegetation. The compass and map will come in handy if the battery dies in your Magellan.

This is a project that will never be completely "tuned." If you have any ideas (and why they're good) I'd like to hear them.


  1. Great ideas here! I especially like the pulleys. I have a set of aluminum nesting pots where the lids are also frying pans that has worked well for me. They are teflon coated, but a set of 6 pans probably weighs less than your cast iron skillet. I think you can make/buy some lightweight ripstop nylon and coat it with silicone to make it waterproof. It will end up being much tougher than the cheap tarps, much lighter than the heavy one and likely provide better camouflage. Coating w/ silicone is quite easy, then just install grommets around the edges.

    1. Thanks, I really like the ripstop nylon idea.