That’s it, that’s the article.
Well, ok, I mean, you don’t NEED anything. You could just leg it, or take a chance that a train will be running or the roads will be clear, but if you want to have more to rely on than luck, you need a bug-out bag. You shouldn’t take chances with survival when the simple fact that you’re fleeing from your home means your luck has probably gone pretty far south already.
“Bugging Out” (escaping the disaster zone) is a huge part of modern prepping, and for good reason – it’s usually more affordable than preparing your home base, it’s important as an escape from danger, and it’s a much more fun thing to think about and prepare for.
After all, which would you rather spend a few hours planning out – cupboard can organization or a perilous cross-country journey through potentially hostile territory? Obviously the bug-out wins the thinking time, and I’m as guilty of this as everyone else.
When it comes to bug-out bags (the 3-day or so survival kits that will help you make the journey in one piece) it’s definitely possible to escape disaster situations without one – in fact, the majority of people who do escape from a disaster will do so without the help of any survival kit or pack besides what they could throw together in 5 minutes from stuff in their house. However, they will be vulnerable to a whole mess of problems that proper preparation will protect you against!
Preparing ahead of time really hedges your bets when it comes to disaster: those people who escape en masse from the disaster area with no plan and no gear will be relying heavily on their wits, luck, financial clout, physical endurance or outside assistance to make it out safely, and none of those things are reliable enough to bet your life on.
Preparing an emergency bag that you can grab and go speeds up your evacuation time, guarantees that you’ve got supplies to last the journey, and gives you the tactical flexibility to adapt to whatever the journey throws at you. So let’s put one together!
What Should You Look For In A Bug-Out Bag?
When it comes to bug-out bags, only a backpack will do. A shoulder-bag or gym bag might suit for a vehicle-based bug out, but if you had to abandon the car and hike overland with it, it would become unmanageable quickly. Trust me, I’ve tried to hike with a gym bag, and you don’t want to.
You’ll ideally want a 35L-55L backpack with hip straps – smaller bags are suitable for those with excellent survival skills or those travelling in groups, but they generally can’t carry enough to provide you with everything you’ll need on a hard journey. Larger bags (65L or so) tend to stick out too much and if you utilize all that extra space you’ll wind up seriously over-packed and overburdened. Remember, the pack doesn’t have to be enough to set up a new life as a log-cabin frontiersman: it’s a tool to get you from A to B, and that’s all it needs to be. Keep it light.
Hip straps are an absolute must – you can carry much more weight, much more effectively, if it’s balanced on your hips instead of purely held on your shoulders. A bag with shoulder-straps only will make you engage your muscles much more just to carry and balance the weight, which will lead to exhaustion more quickly, so make sure to go for hip straps.
Interior Frame or Exterior Frame?
Personally, I find interior frame backpacks much more comfortable and useful than exterior frame packs. If you’ve had military experience you might prefer exterior frames – it’s purely a matter of personal preference and what fits you best.
Tactical or Technical?
A big debate among preppers UK or otherwise is the technical vs tactical pack dilemma. Should you go for a civilian hiker’s pack or something that looks more militarized?
As you can probably guess from the pictures, a tactical bag is one designed with military deployment or combat use in mind (although most of the ones available online were made purely for the civilian market). As such, they tend to have MOLLE or similar exterior attachment points for extra gear, and lots of small, easily-accessible compartments. They also tend to be available purely in black, desert camo, or green woodland camo colours, which some people find a little too conspicuous for their tastes. Personally, I like their utility and toughness, and don’t much care about the Tactical Look.
A technical bag is one designed for civilian backpackers and hikers, and they tend to be lighter and more colourful than tactical bags. Since they’re designed for civilians, they blend in well in ordinary life and can be more comfortable than military-style packs, so if you don’t want to look prepared, this is the bag to go for. Technical packs normally focus on a few larger compartments, and don’t usually have many opportunities to attach things to the outside, so if you’re into little add-on compartments, you might want to go Tactical – but whether or not that’s a problem is entirely up to your preference.
Obviously a very sturdy, well-made bag that will last hundreds of years is a superior option, but if you can’t afford that, get a cheaper bag, get it packed, and put it somewhere handy so you can grab it in a rush. It’s much better to have the cheap bag than to be caught in the disaster with a load of loose stuff because you never got the expensive bag.
What Should You Pack In It?
I’m writing a Bug-Out Bag Guide at the moment, so I’ll link that here as soon as it’s done, but in short, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got:
- A navigation solution: a map and compass is the best and simplest navigation option, but you need some way of making sure you stay on the right path!
- Documents: your passport/birth certificate, driver’s licence, insurance documents, and anything else you’d need to salvage as much of your life as possible. A thumb drive or hard drive of all your digital documents and photos would be a plus.
- Shelter: a sleeping bag rated for the worst temperatures you’re likely to face, and a tent, tarp or bivvy bag depending on your needs. Don’t forget a sleeping mat!
- Water: a way of carrying water, and a way or purifying it – you’ll never carry enough water for a three-day hike on your back (although you should still make sure you’re carrying plenty of it when you set out). By bringing along a purification option like a Sawyer mini filter or water purification tablets, you can keep replenishing your water supply even if the journey drags on.
- Food: enough calories for 3 days of hiking – don’t expect to gather food along the way! This will be more calories than you’re used to consuming in a day just to account for the walking, the stress, and carrying the bag, so I personally budget for 3600 calories per day.
- Any medications you need: at least enough for the journey, and if possible, you should try to get a month’s supply to help tide you over afterwards until you can get a new prescription or supplier.
- First aid: if you suffer an injury or an illness and can’t treat it, that might be the end of your journey. A first aid kit, especially one that can handle walking-related injuries like severe blisters and hurt ankles/knees, is a must.
- Fire: just as important for survival now as it was when we were living in mammoth-hide tents. Fire lets you cook & purify water, keeps you warm, gives off light, and provides a morale boost like nothing else.
- Some way to dissuade people from bothering you: studies have shown that most people will spontaneously band together and self-organise to help in a disaster, but I’m not going to discount the possibility of a ropey situation out on the road. Your pack should contain something to help dissuade trouble, even if it’s just a chunky walking stick or a multi-purpose bushcraft knife like the Mora Companion.
Later guides I’ll write will go into much more depth about the specifics of what you should pack in your bug-out-bag and why, but really, these basics are all you’ll NEED for the single mission you’ve got: escape to safety.
Additional stuff like a headlamp/torch, a multi-tool, radio (plural for groups), protective gear like gloves/masks etc etc will kit you out to face more diverse obstacles and operate more effectively (at the cost of weight and expense) but we’ll talk about them later.
Got Any Questions? Send Me A Message!
If you’re curious, or just getting started and don’t know where to begin, just send me a message on the contact page of this site. I promise I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!