Putting together a “bug out bag” is one of the most talked about topics in the survival and self-reliance world. In fact, there has been a host of books written about the topic, not to mention countless articles and blog posts on:
- What should be included
- How heavy the bag should be
- How many days it should be designed for
- What the ideal bag is to use
However, no one has ever addressed the most important aspect of your “bug out bag” . . . what you should NEVER put in it!
Before I answer that question, though, allow me to address the two main kinds of “bug out bags.”
Most people start with what they call a “72-hour bag.” This is typically designed to get them home from wherever they are. Typically, this bag contains the basics:
- Fire starter
- Small thermal blanket
- Several high-calorie snack bars
- Other assorted “essentials”
Here’s a reality check: you honestly do not need anything besides water to get you through 72 hours. You might also need a rain poncho to help keep you dry, but that’s about it. A person can go three weeks without food, so what’s with the high-calorie snack bars? We have a saying at the school: “Take what you need, but need what you take.”
The next level of “bug out bag” is for a longer term wilderness stay, from a week to several weeks. Consequently, the weight of the bag increases, as people add tents, cooking gear, a stove, fuel, extra clothes, etc. I agree that the weight of this bag will need to increase. However, there are a few things that you can do to minimize the increase in weight and maximize the length of time your “bug out bag” will sustain you in the wilderness.
- Limit your extra clothing to one change. Wear one set and wash the other. (Pro tip: a pair of merino wool long underwear provides extra warmth, as well as an emergency set of clothing if needed.)
- Don’t carry water. Instead, carry a way to purify water. For example, you could bring a pot to boil water. Personally, I like to carry a convenient way to purify water like a UV SteriPen or MSR HyperFlo Pump. Then I use my pot as a backup.
- Do not carry a stove that uses a liquid fuel like alcohol or a propane/butane mix. Instead, carry a wood gasification stove that uses twigs for fuel and burns them so efficiently that all that is left of them is fly-ash.
By making these small but strategic changes, you can extend the effectiveness of your “bug out bag” by months or even longer.
Now, back to my initial question: what should NEVER be in your “bug out bag”?
The answer is . . . instructions!
You should never need instructions on how to use any item in your bag. The reason: you should be using every item in your bag on a regular basis so that you know how to use it, be familiar with how it works, and have confidence that it will work.
Is your “bug out bag” in pristine condition, sitting in a closet? Are some of the items in your bag still in the original packaging? Does everything in your bag work? Would you bet your LIFE on it? Well, unless you take that bag for a weekend campout to test its contents, that’s exactly what you may be doing one day: gambling with your life.
To give you the opportunity to test your skills, as well as the contents of your “bug out bag,” we’ll be offering a “Bug Out Weekend” on Friday, May 15, through Sunday, May 17, 2020. During the weekend, you’ll set up your own individual basecamp using your “bug out bag.” You’ll cook several meals at your basecamp from your supplies and also deal with some minor situations as they arise.
This will not be an intensive “capture the flag” game. The purpose of the weekend is for YOU to evaluate YOUR gear and YOUR skills to determine where YOU need to make changes for the future.
There will also be advanced classroom training during the weekend, in which we’ll teach lock picking (to acquire access to your own personal locks only of course), proper construction of stealth cooking campfires, rocket stove construction, and camouflaging techniques.
So bring your “bug out bag,” a desire to learn, and a positive attitude.
But leave the instructions at home.