Bug Out: What’s in your bag?

Hers is beautifuls, no?

Oh, I’m flattered.

All the comments, emails, messages and tweets. You really seem to want to know what’s in my Bug Out Bag, don’t you?

I have no idea why any of you want to know what’s in my bag but so many of you have asked that you wore me down and I’m actually going share. However, if we’re going to do this right, I think we should start at the beginning. 

You see, a Bug Out Bag is something to get you through the first 24-72 hours of a real emergency. This is not Doomsday Preppers with over-loaded vehicles and huge masses of underground storage, this is a an emergency bag and, in order to do this properly, there are a few things you should consider. 
Thanks for saving our lives.

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION 

Where ever you are, it’s known for something. 
Maybe you get floods. Perhaps the temperature is always cold. If you’re currently located in Ohio or Kansas, you probably have to deal with tornadoes at some point. If you’re on the east coast of Canada, hurricanes may be of more concern. 
I am currently working in California which, traditionally, has four seasons: Mudslide, Flood, Earthquake and Fire. Knowing this is essential. How else could I pack for an emergency if I don’t know which emergencies I’m packing for? Exactly. 
Kicking your ass a season at a time.

WEATHER AND THE SEASONS

Isn’t Mother Nature beautiful? Yes, she is. But watch out: she can and will kick your ass if you’re not paying attention or prepared. 
I mentioned that California has four seasons (Mudslide, Flood, Earthquake and Fire) and most of them are either damp and cold or hot and dry. As a result, I’ll need to consider packing for the season. This means I’ll repack my bag 2-4 times a year (which gives you the opportunity to change out any water or food items and check the expiration dates on any and all applicable items) to be certain all items are current with what I might need should an emergency happen. 
After all, that fantastic wool hat and scarf aren’t going to seem as wonderful to me as four lightweight cotton bandanas and a comfy spare t-shirt if the temperature’s soaring into the red, is it? Know your weather, and that includes a keen understanding of the seasons where you happen to be.  
Work it out. 
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS IMPORTANT? 
Now it gets a little trickier but if you keep this simple, you won’t get bogged down by any excess. 
Each person over the age of six must have their own bag. That’s a hard and fast rule I don’t like to break. It must be tailored to their needs and light enough for them to be able to carry on their own back for at least a few miles. No bag’s weight should ever exceed 1/3 body weight and the lighter the better, especially for children, seniors and those not in optimum health. 
For example, I am average height and weight. I come in just shy of 130 pounds (9.2 stone) when I am fully dressed with my boots on. No bag I ever carry any real distance should ever exceed 40 pounds. Given the fact that I have had prior back, shoulder, knee and neck injuries (I’ve been an active participant in my life) no bag I carry any distance should ever exceed 25-30 pounds. Note that I took into account my height, weight, age, health and condition. Do the same for each person and each bag. 
So who are you and what’s important to you? That varies for each person and I don’t mean in an esoteric kind of way. That means know yourself, your limitations and your needs. Do you take medication? Then have it in your bag. Dislike firearms? Don’t pack one. Have problems with child-proof caps? Change out the caps or transfer items to other marked containers. 
Raid the house first.

WHAT DO YOU ALREADY HAVE? 

You’ll start to make lists. Obvious things, not so obvious things and things that should have been obvious, as well as a few things you may have never considered. Eventually, the financial bottom line will hit you but don’t panic. This does not have to be expensive. In fact, you’d be surprised how much you can confiscate from around the house, garage or even the car.

Once you make your lists, shop at home first, and be creative and practical. Pragmatism always wins. You may discard many items you thought of as necessities. That’s okay. This is a work in progress. Bear this in mind as I introduce you to the contents of my own bag.

WATER, FIRE, SHELTER, FOOD

You’ll need them. If you don’t have them, you’ll need to know how to make or find them. Either bring it with you or educate yourself but it’s the difference between life or death.

I bring food with me but also know the land well enough to have an excellent idea of what I can and cannot eat. Although I take water with me, I also have access to many resources locally so I also carry treatment tablets. I prefer ready shelters, such as buildings, trees or caves, but I can make several styles of shelters so I don’t tote an actual shelter with me.

Fire I can do under most conditions and I have several ways of making certain it’s possible. Your answers to these issues may differ but you must take them into account and prepare for them just the same.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can focus on the kit.

A CLOSE UP LOOK AT GEN’S KIT 

START WITH THE BAG

This may defy conventional wisdom but hang with me. It’s a well-known fact that you will fill whatever space is allotted to you, so the best thing to do is to get the right bag first. The right bag will distribute its weight evenly across the shoulders and hips, and fit comfortably (filled) on your back for periods of time. It should not pinch, poke, pull, slide or move about too much. That can cause soreness, pain and injury.

This is my chosen bag, a used vintage Swiss Army model from the late seventies, a gift from my brother and something I value greatly. There are many options out there, but I know this bag inside and out, and I am accustomed to using it. It is adjusted to my body perfectly and evenly distributes the weight. 

The view from the back shows that there is elastic banding across my lower back and hip area to support the weight. The straps are a strong, flexible leather and the no-rust buckles are easy to use. Made of canvas and leather, the inside is roomy and open, and has a drawstring.

THE FRONT POUCH 

Myke goes everywhere with me. Because we’re cool like that. 

In the front pouch, I have items I know I will immediately need. They include my brown floppy fishing hat, Kroger’s lip balm, anti-glare glasses and spare keys (not shown). In a baggie, I have printed maps of the area showing various routes to safer places I may want to go by car or on foot and an envelope with small bills for cash on hand. Also, Hawke’s Special Forces Survival Handbook, the waterproof edition

The floppy hat is to keep the elements off my head but can easily double as a water strainer. I can also carry any found food items, such as leaves or berries. The lip balm is to prevent chapping or cracking as infection is a main source of concern in the outdoors. It can also burn as a torch for a few minutes, should I insert a toothpick or part of my shoe lace as a wick, or can be used to keep debris out of scratches and thin cuts incurred on-the-go. 
The anti-glare glasses tone down any glare as clean visuals are essential. Maps of where I live and local routes (more than one) are a necessity as one route may be blocked. You’d be surprised what you forget in an emergency when the unexpected happens and panic can kick in. I put them in a baggie to keep them from getting ruined should they become wet. Which, by the way, is why I carry Hawke’s waterproof edition. If it gets wet, it still functions and I don’t have to remember everything off the top of my head if I am impaired, surprised or adrenaline-charged.

MAIN COMPARTMENT

Baggies are life. You may scoff but I assure you I am most serious. 
They weigh nothing. They keep everything safe and dry. They contain spills. 
They separate and organize. They can carry food and water. 
Baggies are essential and I even use baggies within baggies. 
Know this now and consider yourself warned. 

CLOTHING

Here is a gallon baggie containing rolled, pressed clothing. All items are cotton. A brown hoodie, grey yoga pants and a thin black shirt with Tinkerbell on it. (Shut up.) I also keep a pair of lightweight black trainers with a pair of white cotton socks stuffed into them in my bag. (Not shown in screen shot.) Why? Because I may not be dressed for an emergency when it happens. If I have to go out, especially on foot, I’m going to want something comfortable I can really move in, short term and for longer hauls.

Next you’ll see items on a table. The hat repels water, keeps my head warm, can carry things if need be or strain debris from water. No brim and I can tuck my hair inside. The olive wool scarf is actually a thin tube, which creates warmth and the option to use it several ways, including putting my hands in it. Another thing I like about this scarf: you can also knot one or both ends and use it to carry items. It was purchased as a clearance item at Dave Canterbury’s Pathfinder Store for less than ten bucks and I still consider it a steal.

Two pairs of gloves, one black cotton fingerless and another surgical, no talc. Why? I’m glad you asked. If I put the surgical gloves on first and the black gloves over them, this will allow me more traction in wet or cold weather. I can easily pick up and use items, especially made of metal. This is great when your hands shake from cold or an adrenaline rush when it’s easy to drop things. Think of changing a tire in the freezing rain on a dark night. Yeah, that. It all rolls into the hat and, in the dark, I’ll know exactly what I’m grabbing when I reach into my bag.

WATER

Dehydration kills. 

There are water sources where I am located so I don’t have to tote much of my own, just ways to sanitize it for drinking. This is helpful as it keeps the weight of my backpack down.

Water has weight, a thing you may want to remember when planning and packing. There are quite a few ways to treat water, one of which is by boiling it. However, I also carry treatment tablets with me as you will soon see.

I pack a quart of water I change out each season. I boil tap and put it into a plastic bottle after it cools. Reuse, recycle!


BEHOLD THE TRANGIA 

Did you hear angels sing? Because I did.

I love this thing. I love this thing more than I love the way freshly cut grass smells vaguely like watermelon. I love it more than stew on a chilled Autumn night. I love it more than I love both my baby toes. That’s right, I love this little thing an awful lot. In fact, I cook with it at home outside and a few times in the kitchen. So not kidding. This genuine World War II kit is as functional as the day it was first issued. Handsome and handy, I think he is beautiful (I sniffle as I type this) and I do not know how I would do without.

Munchies!

It’s just a stove, some say. Shush yo mouf and bite your wayward tongue. The Trangia is a piece of art. 

Aside from the burner and the bottle of fuel which fit comfortably into the main pot (which sits in the base and is topped by the lid) I can also fit the following food items and a lighter into the closed, packed Trangia.

Shown are water treatment tablets, two apple cider packets, a packet of chicken soup, two tea bags, a packet of miso soup, a packet of strawberries and creme oatmeal, a blue lighter and a little packet of croutons. Some of these items have a high sodium content. I have a quart of water with me and more local resources available to me for water. Otherwise, I would not advise to use items with such high sodium or sugar content. I also have low blood sugar as well as low blood pressure. Note I took into account my health considerations as well as location and availability.

Portrait of a popular Trangia. 

Here we have the packed Trangia posing with a few friends.

On the right is a package of interlocking utensils, stainless steel, U.S. Military issue, and easy to use and clean. The standard knife-fork-spoon set up, I like that it has its own container and that the items snap-lock into each other.

Yes, that’s a can of Deviled Ham. Why? Because it’s fatty and has protein, things your body will blow through during physical activity. Again, rather high in sodium but I have water with me and resources available locally and on most of my longer routes.

The bottle of 99% alcohol is what I use for fuel. It burns cleanly and lasts relatively well. It’s also in the bottle inside the Trangia. While there are many choices for fuel, I’m partial to this and I’ll share my reasons. Everything I carry must either be so specific I can’t do without it or have multiple uses to justify its placement in the bag. The alcohol can be used as fuel, to clean utensils, hygiene purposes, as an accelerant and for first aid. It can even be used as a mouthwash or to flush out injury. Just don’t swallow it; it will make you ill if you do.

FIRST AID

No first aid kits will be alike because each person is different. When I open up the gallon sized baggie, this is the contents of mine. As you can see, some of the items are packed in their own baggies. If they spill, the mess will be contained and the product will probably still be usable. They will also stay dry if my bag is submerged.

Sneezy, Dopey and Doc pack a first aid kit. 

My kit includes antihistamines and Benadryl, a must-have for someone who has whimsical allergic reactions that happen whenever they please. It also includes an assortment of bandages, cotton rounds, duct tape, a loud whistle, surgical gloves, thin cordage, two sanitary pads, two tampons, dental picks, a toothbrush, hand sanitizer, matches, antibiotic ointment, a knee brace and a piece of aluminium foil.  (I already have tweezers, scissors and the like in a multi-tool, which I will show you later on in the post.)

Bandages are a no-brainer; however, the cotton rounds can be used for medical purposes as well as kindling. Sanitary pads can also be used directly on wounds just like gauze. The tampons can also clean or stop up deeper wounds. American tampons make a great fire starter. Canadian tampons work well too, but tampons from the UK just aren’t as effective. I have no idea why but Mykel Hawke agrees with me so you can quit laughing now.

Surgical gloves have other uses as well. Did you know they can hold water? That’s why I use the kind without talc. Duct tape is useful when dealing with a break or sprain when you must walk on it. You can also fashion a sling or use it to close off bleeding. Dental picks can be used to clean teeth but they make a nice wick as well. Matches are for cauterizing by fire. Hand sanitzer is a must before treating many wounds; however it makes a great accelerant. Antibiotoic ointment is obvious and my knee brace is to provide support to my knee should it be stressed. You always need cordage and it has a multitude of uses.

But what’s up with the foil? It’s shiny and that means I can signal with it. If that whistle (blown in short loud bursts of three, the universal signal for attention) doesn’t work, I may have to signal using the foil. If mechanical injury occurs, I may not have mobility and that piece of foil could save my life. It can also carry embers and, when nestled carefully in cloth to buffer the heat, I could transfer a fire, allowing me to eat or keep warm.

MORE THAN JUST COMFORT

It burns, Precious, it burns. 

Bathroom roll. Toilet tissue. Toilet paper.

Whatever you call it, you’ll want it in your bag for more reasons than just the obvious one. It burns and that could mean the difference between hypothermia or not eating and making it through the night.

Warning: Spring, Fall and even Summer nights may be colder than you think when you’re spending them outdoors. Bear it in mind.

As you can see, I’ve packed with more baggies inside baggies because you want this to stay as clean and dry as possible. Also included are surgical gloves for hygiene purposes, two packs of matches, a red lighter, a baggie of napkins and a package of Micro Inferno. This can start a fire even under the poorest of conditions, it’s waterproof and has no expiration date. Another steal from Dave Canterbury’s store, simply tear it and a tiny spark will start it burning, and that’s invaluable.

WARMER AND SAFER

Take a tip from hunters.

In its own baggie, I have products from Hothands® which are “single use air-activated heat packs ideal for body warmth, available in several styles designed for hands, feet and body.” I even have some for my toes.

Yes it does fit into one baggie.

In another baggie, I have more matches and a lighter. Surprise, this time it’s a purple one.

I also have two Mylar blankets, a Mylar sleeping bag and several plain napkins. I have two large green trash bags, which can be worn as a rain poncho or used for engineering a makeshift shelter. I contain them in a gallon-sized baggie.

I’ve enclosed that baggie and its contents into another gallon baggie with 100 feet of 550 Paracord, a versatile and absolute must-have for every kit. (Non-believers, the photo’s to the right.) With these items I can stay dry and sheltered, and there is fire. Enough said.

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT

Guess which one you don’t point at your face. 

A shemagh scarf is a lot like a big bandana but what I like best about it so far is the idea that I could wear it as a sarong if I had to. It could happen, thank you very much, and yes I pack it in its own baggie so it stays dry.

I choose to carry Bear Spray, which is a lot like pepper spray just far more concentrated and can spray up to 20 feet. That’s 20 feet between me and the bear. Closer than I’d like but it beats the alternative and I’ll take it.

Pro tip: Make sure the Bear Spray’s in the off position before packing it and never aim it at anything you don’t intend to incapacitate. This includes not looking into the nozzle, thus aiming it at yourself.

There’s a bar of soap in there, I promise. 

You can’t have too many bandanas but if you’ve ever had a blister on your heel, you know why socks are important; however, they have a multitude of uses. You can strain debris from water. You can use them to collect food or found items. Or you can use them in conjunction with that bar of soap I have packed in this baggie.

I’ll let you work that one out for yourselves.








A KIT WITHIN A KIT

See that small military issue bag on the right? It sits at the top of my kit, where it’s easy to grab, and the contents of the bag are displayed here for you to see. Bandana, a pair of glasses, a square of aluminium foil, Gorilla tape, and a fire steel with mirror and Micro Inferno units. The Gerber set includes a six inch paraframe knife, an LED flashlight and a multi-tool with scissors instead of pliers. It also comes with its own case that has a loop in case I want to attach it directly to my belt.

By now you already know how handy these things are or it’s obvious to you, so I won’t go into how great these items are to have and why. The bag now weighs between 20-25 pounds. I can carry it distances and even run with it if I have to. Mission accomplished so I’ll wrap it up with…

HELPFUL TIPS 

  • I majored in Tetris which is the equivalent of a Masters in Packing Bags and Boxes. If you didn’t, you may want to enlist the help of someone who is excellent at loading the dishwasher. These are transferable skills. 
  • Justify every item in your kit. If it doesn’t serve at least two purposes or functions and it’s not an obvious absolute, rethink it. Most of my items serve many functions.
  • Duct tape. Minimum two rolls. You’ll thank me later. 
  • Repack your bag each season or at least twice a year. Check for expiration dates and change out food and water. 
  • The idea is to survive until you can reach help. Don’t over pack. The more you know, the less you need. Tailor it to your needs.
  • Don’t make this complicated or expensive. This is about dealing with realistic emergencies. 
  • Because bears love toothpaste I never pack it. If you’ve ever come back to camp and found your site completely wrecked by a bear who had to have the toothpaste you stupidly insisted on bringing with you into the woods, you know what I’m talking about. 
  • Don’t wait for an emergency to happen before you know your routes or how to use each item in your kit. Run drills and practice with your items now. Waiting until an emergency means learning under fire and it’s never worth that gamble. 
  • I can find my bag in the dark. I can identify each item in my kit. I can use almost every item in it in the dark, with my eyes shut or blindfolded. I have also practiced in the cold, in the rain and in the heat. I’ve even done it timed. Know your kit and know it well. 
  • Second opinions work. Ask two people – one who is way better at this than you are and someone who knows nothing about it. The expert will give you harsh critiques and encouragement but consulting the curious and intelligent novice will teach you more about your choices while supposedly educating them. 
Comments are currently moderated but feel free to submit them. Add your own wisdom for others, helpful links or ask questions. I look forward to your responses and, before I forget, go pack a bag. 
Be smart. Be safer. Be prepared. 
Gen Xavier 

A GAGGLE OF GRATITUDE


Dileas, thanks for reading this until you almost lost your voice plodding through my errors and revisions. Considering I write exactly like I talk, this is swell of you. Or are you just used to me now?

Havi, I love that you read to me in little cat voices and, as a novice to this, give me feedback for clarity. May CeilingCat forever bless you.

Cheryl, you knew nothing about this subject but watched me pack my bag for the season and got a pop quiz for all your efforts. You passed with flying colours and, to date, you are the only person who guessed why I pack a spare pair of cotton socks in the same baggie as a bar of soap. You’d make it in prison.

Gen has been voted most likely to marry her Trangia and lives happily ever after in her cozy little home with her laptop, vintage teddy bear and several musical instruments, with the above Bug Out Bag kept handy. You know, just in case. 

10 thoughts on “Bug Out: What’s in your bag?

  1. “Because bears love toothpaste I never pack it. If you've ever come back to camp and found your site completely wrecked by a bear who had to have the toothpaste you stupidly insisted on bringing with you into the woods, you know what I'm talking about.”

    Made me laugh! ~ Shelba

  2. When you do something you do it right. I have a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing this.
    bad kitty

  3. Ted said comments aren't going through today but I wanted to let you know that I really like this article Gen and thank you for helping me pack my bag. (Aaron)

  4. @Matt Hope the photos turned out okay when printed.

    @Shelba No one who loves toothpaste like bears.

    @badkitty Glad it passed muster.

    @Bastardo Guapo A lighter or smaller bag only means less things. You'd follow the same process/considerations when building it. Pro-tip: Don't forget fire stuffs, a lighter's the easiest.

    @Aaron You packed a bag! I'm so pleased to hear it. Let's hope we never need them.

    (What? It cannot be! I see no comments from Carlotta, Shallah, Clare, Ward or Tegan.)

    @Everybody Reading This Now – I can only encourage you to share. It's how we are inspired, and often how we learn. It doesn't matter when you read this, comment. If you have a question, ask it. Share what's in your bag and why. No one brain has all the answers and we're all in this together.

    Be smart. Be safer. Be prepared. Pack a bag.

  5. thanks for sharing, nice job! best advice, go live out of your bag for 24 hrs and you'll figure out exactly whatcha need and don't. 🙂 saludos!

  6. Myke shared your blog on FB, and this is a well thoughtout kit. I can see one glaring deficency, (at least in my mind), and that is something like a ripstop poncho. You can snap up the buttons, and hunker down with a couple hot hands and make a micoclimate to stave off hypothermia, or create shade and help with hyperthermia. Combine with a woobie, and you have a sleeping bag….etc. Granted its 1130 at night, my eyes are blurry, and I may have missed it in your list. Really though, a well thought out and comprehensive BOB.

  7. I've done week ends with the bag several times but this is a good reminder (as it's been a few years) to do it again. Thank you and my best to you and yours, my friend.

  8. Hello, Oso.

    “Myke shared your blog on FB,”

    Believe me, I am so grateful for this, and thanked him profusely!

    Isn't Myke wonderful? I'm a big fan of he and his wife, Ruth. They came into our homes and made nature and survival tangible for so many people. I'm grateful for their contributions and find them to be solid, reliable and entertaining people. Which, by the way, is a tough trio of talents to pull off, especially these days.

    It was so kind of him to share this article so I could benefit from meeting other Hawke fans. Thank you, and all the other Hawke fans, who came over to offer wisdom, tips and support. The day I think I know it all is the day I deserve to have Mother Nature kick my uppity backside, so I welcome the comments of others with an open heart and mind.

    When I say “I don't leave home without Myke” I absolutely mean it. I have room for one book in my pack. My friends and family, who know my interests, have gifted me every book on the market. The only one I wanted for my bag was Hawke's. I hope everyone buys a copy of that book. The life they save may be their own, and I honestly cannot stress that enough.

    ” and this is a well thoughtout kit.”

    Thank you. I did put a lot of thought, effort and energy into building it and trying to help others build their own unique kits. As you probably well know (and I illustrated in the article) each person's kit will be as unique as they are, because everyone's circumstances are different when you take into consideration all the factors.

    “I can see one glaring deficency, (at least in my mind), and that is something like a ripstop poncho. You can snap up the buttons, and hunker down with a couple hot hands and make a micoclimate to stave off hypothermia, or create shade and help with hyperthermia. Combine with a woobie, and you have a sleeping bag….etc.”

    This sounds worthwhile and I'd like to look into it. if you have a link to a specific product you recommend that you've come to rely on through use and practice, please drop me a link and thank you so much for this tip.

    “Granted its 1130 at night, my eyes are blurry, and I may have missed it in your list.:

    Nope, it's not in there. You may be tired and blurry but you missed nothing.

    “Really though, a well thought out and comprehensive BOB.”

    Thank you again for your helpful tips and if you or other Hawke fans have tips, tricks, ideas or wisdom to share, please leave me a comment. I'm repacking my bag as we speak. Survival, Bush and nature fans, please share your wisdom with us by leaving your comments. We are at our best when we share our knowledge and skills.

    Thanks you again, Oso, andmy best to you and yours.

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