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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The mother of all stuff collections...

Now we tackle the "Bug out Bag" (BOB). To read the blogs and most preparedness websites, a BOB is the be all and end all of survival stuff at your finger tips ready to impress all but the most apathetic amongst us. That's not what it is at all. Before we jump in, a few points to keep in mind: A BOB is bigger than your get home kit, it is heavier than your get home kit and it contains more stuff than your get home kit, but it's not all that different. The purpose of a BOB is to make it a quick exercise to leave your home/place of safety and go somewhere else that is safer. You still have to be able to carry this collection of stuff. A BOB is heaviest before you use it. As you consume food, water and other consumables from your BOB it gets lighter. The longer you use it, the lighter it gets, and that's a good thing - the longer you use it the more tired you become. The longer you are living out of a BOB the more grouchy you become because try as we might, we cannot get everything we want to be comfortable into a pack that we can lift.

Your BOB is just what the name suggests. A collection of stuff to support/sustain one person for three days, while travelling to a place of greater safety. If you decide to stay where you are and wait for outside assistance to arrive, you will make use of the stored food and water and other preparations that you have been accumlating over time for just this type of siutation. Your BOB is only to be used when it's time to go. Due to the relative size of a BOB it is tempting to put in a few "comfort items". Be careful. Food and water requirements already make this a pretty heft bag of stuff. This is the second time I have mentioned weight in just two paragraphs, so do not under estimate weight as a function of usefulness. Even though you may be able to drive yourself to wherever you happen to be going, you must still be able to strap on your BOB and walk with it.

Every individual in your home needs to have the contents of their BOB already packed up and ready to go at all times. A BOB is not a storage place for things that you use often as you should never remove an item from the kit to be used temporarily. 9 times out of 10, you wont put it back or replace it. If you run out of socks or band-aids, go to the store and buy some. Leave the stuff in the bag alone! The reason everyone needs their own kit is again related to weight. If a family of four puts all of the stuff required for 72 hours of subsistence living in a bag in the centre of the living room floor, it would take all four of them to lift and maneuver this pile of stuff around - Much more efficient to spread the weight out amongst all of the individuals. You need a BOB for each of your dogs and cats. I assume the higher order companions are going with you and expect to be fed and watered for the next 3 days? Wipe away any notion of turning your pets loose as you head out the front door. You have a responsibility to your family and your pets to conduct yourself with exemplary honour and compassion during times of crisis. If you had planned to act otherwise, your plans need to change right now!

Not every member of your family/group is able to carry the same amount of weight, children and your pets in particular, the adults are going to have to suck it up and carry more than their fair share. Superfluous comfort items aren't looking so good right about now are they? When choosing equipment to be included in a BOB it is important to select items that have more than one use if possible. For example, you can pack a can opener or if you already have a can opener on your knife you don't need to pack another can opener. Many, many useful items that can go into a BOB have multiple uses. A small cooking pot can be a mug. A mug can be a pot. There will be specifics on food later on but for now, when selecting food to pack, make sure everyone in your group is eating the same thing at the same time. Meal preparation is so much easier when the menu is the same all around.

I know your anxious, so let's get on to the stuff...

All of your EDC and get home kit items are coming with you.

You should pack a good quality fixed blade knife with a blade of between 4 - 5 inches in length and a tang the extends the entire length of the handle. A good knife will quickly become your best friend and single most important tool. A multi-tool is not a fixed blade knife. You may pack a multi-tool (I do) but you still need the knife.

Food. I'm going to limit my focus to 3 days worth. Having more than three days worth may be a good idea. I'll leave it up to you to figure out if you want to pack and carry extra food. Meals that just need to be heated up if at all are best. Since you are probably more active while bugging out than you would be at home if all was normal you will need to increase your caloric intake a little bit. Everyone should try to consume 2000-2200 calories a day. Try to select the most nutritious foods that meet portability/preparation requirements that you can but keep in mind, this is just for three days. High calorie fatty foods are good items to choose. Twinkies make great bug out food, but alas a diet of Twinkies does leave you seriously lacking in other departments. Toss in a small bottle of multivitamins to supplement the group for the next few days. Any food that you do select, should be rotated out and replaced with fresh food every 6 to 8 months. Because your BOB contains food, the completed bags need to be easy to get to but should be stored away from heat sources and places with wild temperature/humidity swings. Dry dog food is lighter than canned food. How you choose to feed your pet(s) is up to you. I suggest getting a doggie pack if you have a larger dog and let them carry some of their own stuff. Make sure the dog has on numerous occasions previously carried a load in its pack (see previous post: Walking away from the end of the earth). If anyone has special dietary needs take these into consideration when packing that person's BOB. Babies need formula or little bottles of strained green stuff. Glass is heavy but leaving the food sealed in the jar will prolong its useful life. Pack glass inside a BOB carefully. Like baggage being loaded onto a plane, BOB's tend to get knocked around and dropped a lot.

Water is bulky and heavy. If you are walking down the road wearing your BOB, you can't carry enough water. You would need to refill your water bottles at least a couple of times the first day. If you are driving down the road with your BOB bouncing around in the back seat then here's hoping that you though to store a 5 gallon jug of water next to your BOB and that too is now in the car. Stored water in your vehicle will come up again in tomorrow's post dealing with "stuff in your vehicle". If possible, try to include 4 litres of water in your BOB. Small children will have difficulty with that amount so do the best you can with the help of the stronger members of your group. Always be on the look out for a safe way to refill water containers as your travel. The survivalist in me wants to start talking about water filters and uv light pens for treating water from suspect sources. The prepper in me knows that goes well beyond what a BOB is supposed to be. There is no reason why you can't load your car with a stove, pots and pans, a tent, the portable toilet, oodles of water and cases of food, and if you are heading to the bush those things might even be a good idea, but all of that is well beyond the scope of a 72 hour BOB. We are attempting to provide only what we need for the next three days, not what we want or would like to have. Don't forget your pets. They need water too. You know how much they usually drink, now figure that they will drink least one third to one half more with all the excitement that's going on around them.

Clothing needs to be rotated with greater frequency than the food. As the seasons change, so do the clothes that are kept in a BOB. For three days, you will need three sets of underwear and socks. Three shirts and two pairs of long pants. If you want shorts, you carry them in addition to the long pants. A jacket and or fleece that is appropriate for the season. There should be a pair of work gloves in each BOB. Some of this clothing is already in your get home kit which is now attached to your BOB and you need only add the extra clothing that is now needed. When you head out the door is the time to get rid of the sneakers and put on your walking shoes/boots. If you are wearing them you are in fact carrying them, but it doesn't feel that way. Young children need diapers and a whole host of lotions, powders and tinctures the thought of which makes me cringe - you'll need to provide these items as well. Maybe add some more plastic garbage bags, you think?

A good first aid kit goes in one BOB and a few basic first aid items such as band-aids, iodine, tape blister pads, foot powder goes in everyone else's BOB. Have a look at the blog for other posts that deal with first aid supplies. If you are walking around, you are more likely to injure yourself. Have the supplies and medications you need to treat the usual every day cuts, scrapes, punctures etc. I trust everyone's tetanus shot is up to date? If you are bugging out to an emergency shelter, chances are you are going to encounter some diseases like, colds, flu and stomach bugs. Lots of people crowded together is a recipe for some pretty good misery. Don't rely on the support people to be able to provide basic medical treatment in any sort of timely manner. If you are heading for Uncle John's you may not have to endure the trials of shelter life, but you should still plan on dealing with as much pain and illness as is practical yourself. After all, there is a reason you're bugging out, I suspect there is a mess out there somewhere and you rely on yourself first, others second. If you take prescription medication on a regular basis, you should have an ample supply of that in your BOB. If you are diabetic and require insulin, then you'll need a way to keep it cool, but you already know that.

You need to stay clean while on the move so you will need some soap, tooth paste and a toothbrush. A package of dental floss is always a good multi-use item. Don't forget any necessarily feminine hygiene products that way be needed. You should have a small unbreakable camping mirror. If it's not winter, you can usually air dry before getting hypothermia so a face cloth will suffice for cleaning yourself. If you have contact lenses, you will be needing your lens cleaning stuff. Make sure you have a pair of glasses in case you have problems with your contacts.

Good flashlights and extra batteries. Hand crank flashlights are fine with me as long as they work well and you can see well when they are turned on. In this case we are looking for something a bit more substantial than a clip on l.e.d. like you have in your EDC stuff. That small flashlight will be useful for sure, but it cannot replace a more robust light source. 1 flashlight and spare batteries for every BOB.

One portable radio from your get home kit should suffice for the group but a second back up radio should you break the first one is not a bad idea. Don't forget batteries for the radio if it's not "crankable".

Documentation is next. If you only have one copy of your bug out plan (see the previous post entitled: Question of the week) put it in your BOB. Be able to provide supporting documentation for the entire group with the following information should someone insist on knowing it:

Who you are
Where you live
Your citizenship
Proof of medical coverage (ohip)
Bank branch number and account number
Insurance coverage, life, home owners, vehicle supplemental health care etc
Documentation attesting to your pets having been vaccinated
Sometimes a marriage license comes in handy.
If you are heading to a rural property that you own, a copy of the deed.

Make sure that you have some money with you. A family can burn through several hundred dollars in 3 days if you are shacked up in a motel waiting to go home. At least you wont have to shell out for dinner :-)

Let's talk about bugging out in a vehicle. I mentioned it briefly above but using a vehicle as your method of transportation instead of walking doesn't materially alter your BOB in any way. The use of a vehicle simply means that you can take more stuff with you. More stuff would probably be all of those comfort items that we be neat to have but you couldn't carry on your back. A vehicle means it would be easier to take along a big bag of dog food for Fido. A vehicle would mean more water to drink and bath with. It would mean more food and a means of heating/cooking said food. In the end, however, your BOB remains one bag, that you are able to carry, that holds everything you need for 72 hours. Make a list of all the extra stuff you would like to take when bugging out. Use this list to load the extra supplies into your vehicle if the opportunity to use a vehicle presents itself. You can plan to bug out in a vehicle as your primary plan, just be sure not to leave too late as driving away gets harder as more time elapses.

Let's really make this complicated. Up to now, we have been talking preparation for tough times. Essentially giving yourself the ability to be displaced and have enough stuff to survive for three days without assistance or more supplies (all except the total amount of water that is needed). From a survivalist perspective this simple BOB is inadequate. My BOB is modular. One bag is as described above - it's a backpack with a hydration system, that holds my clothes, food, two litres of water and an empty three litre water bladder. It holds my work gloves and a whole host of electronics running the gamut from a portable radio, a gps, a locator beacon, a weather radio and a two way radio. I have a small esbit stove in there as well as a UV light for purifying water. I can boil water if need be. I have signal flares, bear spray, about six ways to make fire, a spork, metal cup, 9 MRE meals, fishing gear, glow sticks, candles and candle lanterns, several knives, a folding saw, tarps for shelter, ropes and string, beaucoup first aid supplies, toilet paper, bug netting, towel, soap, toothpaste, tooth brush several hats, whistles, a compass, and snare wire. There is more in there but you get the idea. This one bag gives me way more than I need for just three days. It's also a lot heavier than a plain Jane BOB. The second module is a duffel bag that contains all of the stuff that I consider advantageous to have but if I have to leave it behind, I can. In the duffel bag is a more useful stove for cooking and boiling water, more clothes, more food, more candle light, another knife, a machete, hatchet, books, another compass, more garbage bags, more tarps, two hospital wool blankets, more of everything I could think of to fill the bag. The third module is my vehicle kit and get home kit packed together in a tote sized plastic storage bin. When I go, I can draw from all three modules and tailor the one bag I do take as closely as possible to situation I will be heading into. There is no way, I can carry all three modules. If I'm driving, well that's a whole different kettle of fish. I am prepared walk or drive as the situation dictates.

The reason I am going on like this is two fold. First, I want to say more is ok, if having more doesn't take away from your ability to meet the basic requirements of your BOB which is portability. Secondly, a BOB can quickly become a completely different creature if you aren't careful when you put it together. Always keep in mind what your goal is and try really hard to stay within the parameters of the overall plan. If all you want is a BOB, then put one of those together. If you want to be able to walk down the long dark road of the post apocalyptic wastelands and not be wanting for anything critical, then you will have to adjust your thinking accordingly. Often as we read blogs and websites about being prepared, the line between being prepared and being a survivalist gets blurred. You need to be a prepared prepper first, then at some magical moment in time, you will morph into a budding survivalist as you begin to build redundancies into your plans. Multiple ways to cook food at home or on foot. Multiple ways to produce light. Multiple systems for ensuring you can get a drink from even the most stagnant of water sources. Knowing how to set traps and capture food. Dressing animals, tanning of hides. A survivalist knows how inconvenient it is being without a simple spoon, so he will whip out a hooked knife and carve one.

Stay grounded in your preparations. My wife puts up with my idiosyncrasies. I've been doing this for a long time and I show her how what I am doing can be of benefit to her. I'm sure she still thinks I'm slightly touched at times but that's ok. All I have to do apparently is tell her which food is preps and which isn't and she seems to be quite happy. Your mileage may very. If you all of a sudden start bring home bags from MEC and Le Baron day after day and an awesome looking assortment of cutlery is seen about the house, questions might be asked. If you cross that line between prepper and survivalist, it gets hardcore real quick. What a ride, planning to be able to live off grid, knowing how to raise livestock, keep bees, advanced orienteering skills, how to build things from wood such as paddles, log cabins, door locks, plates and bowls, and on and on it goes. It's easy to lose your way when striving to be ready for anything and everything.

This is a prepper's network blog so for the most part the information I present here is intended to guide you towards more self sufficiency and more self reliance. Occasionally some soft survivalist dogma gets thrown in but for the most part we're all preppers here and it is important to be aware of the subtle distinctions. A BOB is really good example of this. As you read about what other people put in their BOB, ask yourself, "is this item intended for the short term application of a BOB or is it an item to allow the user to perform a task for the long term?" By doing this, you will be able to see that a sharpening stone really, doesn't belong in your BOB at all, it does however, have a preeminent place in a survival kit. Try not to confuse the two and you'll be a saner individual for it.

The final item I wish to address - I'm sorry this BOB post isn't a simple, pack all this stuff together in a bag and your done article. I've interpsersed some suggestions with some items that most will forget or not think of. I can't very well tell you what to pack because you are not me and our skill levels and expectations are quite different. You can put together a BOB if you think about what you need your stuff to do for you. Pack only what you absolutely need and keep a list of everything you want. Be prepared to go it with only one pack per person but pray for the option to take and have more. Realize also, that it will need to be a very dire situation indeed to force you to abandon the vast majority of your preps at home.

[What have you done today to prepare?]


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