> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Bug out bag discussion continued



Bug out bag discussion continued

Continuing from the previous post. Comments generated some good discussion, responses started getting long so I broken them out here.

Contractor-style "Go Bags" - maybe a bad example
I used these as an example of a lighter weight, purpose-driven kit, but may have taken the conversation sideways a bit

For some context, an example from Bubba over at DVM of a go bag (he calls it a red zone bug out bag) he carried as a backup:  http://www.deathvalleymag.com/2010/03/16/civilian-contractors-red-zone-bug-out-bag-part-1/

A man purse with mags and tactical gear isn't something I'd make an across the board recommendation on, especially for a civvy survivalist. In fact, it's tough to make any kind of across the board recommendations. Why?

A really good quote from the DVM article:

It’s all about defining the threat environment you operate in, the problems you will most likely face, and sorting out the tools that are the best fit for you and your mission, as well as what you can reasonably expect to carry.

The contractor go bag is an example of a solution for the problems those guys were facing in Iraq. They were almost exclusively operating out of vehicles in a quasi-urban environment, and were primarily concerned with attacks from heavily armed insurgents, IEDs or a combination of the two. If the bag needed to be employed, it'd need to be grabbed quickly, and would be used to retreat under fire and either get to safety or survive until help showed up.

Your threat environment, the problems you will most likely face, and the problem solving tools that will work for you will likely be different from a contractor in Iraq circa 2009.

Bug out bag or Ruck
These are two terms that are tossed around a lot in the same discussion--I'll define them in terms of capacity and weight and discuss.

Bug out bag (aka patrol pack, go to hell bag, go bag): A typical bug out bag is going to be around assault/3 day pack size. Or similar to the size you'd take on a long day hike or 3-season overnighter.

Less than 3000 cubic inches and 30-ish pounds or less in weight.

Intended to grab and go in an emergency or support short term operations away from a vehicle or base camp. Keep you alive until you can reach safety, get back to camp or help arrives.

Ruck / rucksack: A larger internal or external frame pack intended for heavy loads.

 >3000 cubic inches, 40+ pound loads

I view rucks as more of a special purpose item. These haul the larger quantities of crap you need to set up a comfortable base camp and live longer term in the wilds. These are intentional off-grid operations (e.g., you planned on walking into the woods to spend a week reconning an enemy position) or cold weather ops, where you need a lot of bulky stuff to stay alive.

Due to its size and weight, mobility is hindered while wearing the ruck, more calories are consumed and there's more wear and tear on your body. Thus, a bug out bag is often integrated with the ruck, in case the larger pack needs to be ditched in an emergency or left behind after base camp is established.
Ideally, you would have both a bug out bag and a ruck to work with, or a ruck that can cinched down to a smaller size fairly easily. Options are good. But, they're also costly.

IMO, if you're going to have just one, the bug out bag is the more useful, general purpose of the two.

And, as we've been discussing, you need to consider your environment and the mission at hand--as an example, if you're preparing for the contingency that you might need to walk a hundred miles through the frozen north when it's -40 out, you're going to have a hard time getting away with a smaller, lighter weight pack.

"Civilian" scenarios & loadout

From RH:

Speaking in terms of situations (and I'm hoping somebody will correct me if I'm wrong), I feel like a civilian loadout is going to be much different from a combat one (aside from the obvious). If you're a soldier and SHTF, then doesn't that mean people are shooting at you, or pursuing you? Bottom line, you are in an actively inhospitable environment. Whereas a civilian SHTF scenario is probably not going to be as actively hostile. A car crash, an earthquake, even (the vastly less likely) event of some sort of terror attack--these are all going to be over quickly. Aftermath, yes, absolutely. That's obviously a danger. But I don't see survival gear as being all that important in a civilian bag unless you're in the boondocks. In an urban setting, E&E isn't as important as being able to render aid to yourself or others in the immediate aftermath of an event. Being mobile (as Theother Ryan pointed out, just walking half a mile would take you out of danger) is the second most important factor.

In thinking this through, there's really kind of a split.

In the more common situations you're talking about, a bug out bag isn't really needed. Earthquake...you're going to just bug in. Car crash...more of a personal SHTF, where you'd want some first aid gear, vehicle extraction tools and a cell phone. Bugging out after a large-ish terror attack (say bio attack or chem weapon)...you pretty much just need distance and a bit of time to let authorities clean up the mess. Cash, a CCW, working cell phone and a hotel room 300 miles away get you through most of this stuff.

But in the above situations, you have the luxury of remaining a regular old civilian.

Then, there are collapse scenarios, where there's little/no rule of law, and you may not have the luxury of remaining a regular old civilian. A prepared person might be pressed into a combat/peace keeper role, find themselves specifically targeted by hostile groups, etc.

In my opinion, this is when the bug out bag starts to become more relevant to your immediate survival, the civilian lines start to blur and the contents take on a more tactical lean.

See the crap going on with ISIS right now for an example...a lot of people who were previously 'civilians' have been forced to bug out from their homes and take up the fight against Islamic extremists. Or areas in Mexico, where citizens are taking up arms to secure their towns and fight back against corrupt law enforcement and drug cartels.

Of course, there's blurring of lines and levels in between the two. A slower slide into collapse or quasi-collapse, where there's sort of a rule of law, but crime is rampant. Dudes who bust out the long guns when looting breaks out. That sort of thing.

As before, do your own threat assessments and considerations, though it always pays to have options that you can scale up/down and adjust as necessary.


  1. http://www.totalsurvivalist.com/2014/11/interesting-discussion-on-assault-pack.html

  2. Hey, thanks for the mention! Good points. It's true, in all (or almost all of my preparations), that I'm assuming Rule of Law is still in place. Things do change once you know help isn't coming.

  3. Everyone should have one of these in their individual kits including auto. Every auto accident is someone SHTF incident.


  4. Military & Contractor go bags vs. Civilian bags would be like apples and oranges. There may be some similar items, but in totality, they are for completely different purposes. I have seen situations escalate pretty quickly though in "suburbia" with power outages lasting a few weeks, and the resulting shortages of water, gas, and believe it or not, ice. I saw fist fights, police breaking up fights, regular civilians intervening, etc. It got to the point that there was just no gas for about 3-4 days within 100 miles in any direction, and you were waiting in extremely long lines if you could find it. All the generators were bought up right away too. Many people around here were without power for 10-14 days.

    My family and I bugged in for this situation and were fine. But it did open my eyes up to how much of our BOB/Bushcrafting gear we actually used, even though we never left home (and how crazy people get after just a few days of "1st world problems"). Whether we are bugging in, or bugging out in an urban or rural environment, I'm confident we would probably use much of the same core gear.

    For example, a Grabber Outdoor space blanket/tarp. I keep one in my GHB to use as a weather proof cover to an SOL Bivvy for sleeping outdoors, but it could be used with paracord to set up a tent, it could be used with duct tape to seal up a broken car window after an accident, it could be used as a means of heat reflection or absorption, or it could be used as a temporary fix for a hole in your roof after a bad storm. Simple gear that can aid in multiple situations.

    A solar charging kit for batteries, flashlights, and phones is vital. Making fire to boil water whether drinking, cooking, or bathing...what are you going to do in an urban environment with a hot water tank that doesn't have power for 14 days? The simplicity of an alcohol stove, stainless cup or cookware, and a pack of ramen noodles. How handy paracord is for various tasks. I have a pre-cut piece that is intended to be used to attach between 2 trees for shelter purposes, but we instead attached it between walls in our living room and hung up wet t-shirts. It was hot as hell, but with the t-shirts and a small battery powered camping fan, we weren't too uncomfortable.

    Anyways, I just feel that the majority of the situations that my family and I will face, we will probably be using much of the same gear.

  5. This HPG equipment taxonomy is more oriented towards hiking/backpacking but I find it helpful for breaking down gear into layers and categories. http://www.hillpeoplegear.com/Equipage/tabid/1197/Default.aspx

    1. Agree, and an excellent starting point to work from. See their 'go bag' list:


  6. Personally I think that just about any "go/shtf/bugout/INCH/GHB/ETC bag" would never be complete without a firearm, but in many instances around some of the popular boards, firearms are the number 1 discussed item. I get it, they are kewl, they go bang and without one, you are just another freaking refugee.

    However, the big 4 of survival (Shelter, Water, Fire, Food) usually take a back seat (if even covered at all) to a tacticool shootie-whiz bang including additional clips/magazine/spare ammo etc.

    When it comes to my GHB, I want it to be the jack of all trades and the master of none. I need it to cover a mile wide, but only an inch deep.

    I need shelter, but I can't carry my 20x20 concrete bunker with me, so I opt for a good tarp and a rain poncho.

    I need water (but I can't carry my 200 foot deep well), so I carry a small Camelbak and a Sawyer water filter.

    I need fire, but I can't carry a ton of dry tinder and a blow torch, so I carry lighters and fire starter (and some matches and flint as a backup).

    I need food, but I can't carry 300 cans of freeze dried apricots, peas, beans, rice,corn etc. So I carry several high energy, high calorie food bars and an MRE.

    My Method of Use for my bag is to let me survive and thrive long enough to be able to make a 35 mile hike/trek to my home and BOL.

  7. One thing that is often neglected in the "bugging out discussion" should be the first thing you think about: bugging out to where?

    The idea is that you are bugging out to get somewhere safe--or at least safer. Maybe that's just a few miles away. Maybe it's a friend or relative's house that's out of the danger zone. Or maybe you don't have a specific destination besides "not here." If that's the case better figure something out quick. If things are so bad that you had to leave your house, leave your car, and hit the road on foot--well then things are pretty dang bad. You better get yourself to some semblance of safety ASAP.

    The point is you are trying to get somewhere and do so as quickly and as easily as possible. That is the mission of your bug out bag. And anything that isn't 100% vital to sustaining your journey is just going to slow you down and compromise your mission.

    Remember, it isn't a go to war bag. You might want one of those too. I don't deny the possibility that our currently peaceful and prosperous country could some day be a war zone. Or that everyday citizens might have to take up arms in defense of their lives and freedom. It has happened before and likely will happen again. But when designing a bug out bag we aren't talking about going to war. It is a bag for when EVERYTHING has gone wrong. We had to leave our house, our car, our food storage, our weapons, all our preps--everything--and now we are on foot trying to get somewhere safe. The longer we stay on the road--exposed to whatever danger we are trying to escape--the slimmer our chances of survival. That is not a circumstance from which you can fight a war or mount any kind of resistance. It is a very hopeless circumstance of utter desperation. Your only thought should be to get somewhere safe.

    I see people pack the strangest things in their so called bug out bag. Don't get me wrong, I like a good wilderness survival bag as much as anybody. But your survival saw or your 500 feet or paracord won't help you get to safety any faster.

    One thing I see a lot is food procurement gear. You are trying to travel 50 miles as quickly as possible and you plan on stopping to go deer hunting? Hunting, fishing, trapping--that should be your last concern. If you have to you can go a long time with out food. You can pack some trail mix or cliff bars to keep your energy and morale up, but even those items are luxuries. If you are trying to cover as much ground as possible each day then that means cutting down on the luxuries--drastically. That means survival knives, axes, frying pans, smoke grenades, and that ammo can labeled "BUG OUT AR-15 MAGS."

    People talk about having a multiple tier system. Your first tier should be water. That is the only tier that matters. That's what you'll probably need when waking for 2-3. Really, that is all you NEED. Everything else is gravy. Good stuff to have: cash, a headlamp (so you can cover ground at night), a street map of the area, some spare socks (but not 2 pairs of extra pants and a fur coat), duck tape (that's your FAK btw), maybe a small blanket (woobie or a space blanket; though you should be fully dressed for the weather already so even this one is just a luxury), maybe some snacks, hopefully your important documents (passports and the like), maybe a battery charger for your phone (could be extremely useful--maybe service will be down, but maybe not)--that is really about it. You might be able to think of 2 or 3 things beyond that that would be useful, but any more than that and I say you are doing more harm than good. Leave it behind and bring more water instead.

    Remember the mission--to get somewhere quickly. And to do so before you get yourself killed. That's your BOB's mission. It isn't to an end all be all magical bag that will allow you to survive any situation that could ever happen. It is a last ditch bag to sustain you while you get to safety.

  8. And btw leave the rifle at home--it's just going to weigh you down and draw unwanted attention. If you stayed home or at least have a vehicle then a rifle could be a great asset--but for whatever reason you are bugging out so now it's a huge liability. Your gun should be a capable pistol that is concealed on your person--if trouble happens you won't have time to dig through your bag to get your weapon.

    1. It depends.

      In many scenarios, when the rule of law is still quasi in effect, then yes, a long gun could be a liability. In many others, though, if it's desperate enough that you are forced to retreat to safety on foot, a rifle might be the only thing that gets you to safety.

      Options are key.