Guest post by J.E.
I’m a lifelong camper/backpacker, hunter/fisherman, and was also a U.S. Army foot soldier. I’ve spent MORE than my fair-share of time in the field. Today I’m a travelling consultant, and spend months away from home.
We’ve lived-aboard boats (twice in our lives.) We’ve also full-time RV’ed in with a 5th-wheel in the past. So, we know a thing or two about packing, prepping, water conservation, etc., and I’m always interested in what other people suggest packing, especially for their emergency kits.
I’ve watched lots of YouTube videos and such and double-checked countless “packing lists” for bug out bags, get-home bags, 72-hour kits, ditch bags, and vehicle kits. Most of them are pretty darned close in their contents, but I also feel that all of them are, at the same time, way off base!
The first issue I have with most every video and article on the topic of emergency kits is that they all have a single-user mentality. Sure, each person should have and maintain their own bug-out bag, but there are situations where this isn’t practical or possible.
For us, my wife’s back injuries and surgery would prohibit her from carrying her full load. I’ve always considered myself a natural-born leader, and tried to have some excess gear in my pack to help others. But, this realization about my wife’s physical limitations changed my ENTIRE approach to bug out bags. My plan and goals for working around this are:
1.) Double the volume/capacity of my bug out bag. My first bag was a 30-liter (72-hour) backpack. Now, I want to replace it with something in the 40-60 liter capacity.
2.) I wanted to halve the weight of all my “personal” gear. I can carry a pretty HUGE pack, as long as it’s not too heavy. (wink)
3.) Halve the volume of personal gear. My wife is one of those “more is MORE” kind of gals. (I’m surprised I don’t have to include a pair of her favorite pumps in my BOB, too!) The smaller each item can be, the more items (gear) I should be able to carry, which increases versatility.
Start with the backpack
All of the typical rules apply. I recommend something not too “tactical” to draw unwanted attention in the city, something not too bright to attract unwanted attention in the country.
My goal was weight-saving volume. So, I opted for a frameless pack. (I miss all those pockets of an external-frame pack, however. WHEN is someone going to invent a frameless pack, with plenty of external pockets?).
There are TONS of backpacks out there to choose from. I searched for months to find the “perfect” pack. In my opinion, it doesn’t exist, yet. The closest thing I found, was made by a company named ARC’TERYX. Specifically, their Axious 50 backpack. These folks specialize in mountaineering and climbing packs. This pack is the SAME WEIGHT as my previous 30-liter pack, yet offers essentially twice the volume/capacity!
Note: I didn’t opt to EXACTLY double my capacity. I figure many of the items in my current pack are already multi-user (fire starters, mess kits, etc.) So, I only needed to double-up on a few items, not everything. Also, I believe that most of us will continue packing until our packs are chock full o’ crap. (Remember those high-heeled pumps I’m trying to avoid rucking…)
It’s also a weight issue. ALL of our packs should be under 50lbs of weight so we can carry the darned things, AND so we don’t have to pay extra fees to the airlines when we travel with our packs.
Adding sleeping bags to the mix
My next improvement was our sleeping bags. Again, I researched this pretty heavily. I researched military sleeping bags, cowboy sleep systems for “real” high-country working men, arctic bags, and more.
My research finally ended when I discovered the Marmont Plasma 30 900-fill down sleeping bag. Each bag weighs only slightly more than one pound (1lb, 6oz to be exact.) Plus, they compress to about the size of a small coffee can. So, I can now carry two bags, in less space and less weight than most traditional sleeping bags.
Ditto for our ground pads. Instead of using military-style roll-up pads, or some sort of homemade pad via a reflective windshield sunscreen, we purchased a pair of Thermarest pads. Again, light-weight, and they roll-up to about the size of a water bottle, thus occupying much less space than a military pad or windshield sunscreen.
Many of my “lessons learned” actually came from the videos and blogs of Appalachian Trail “through-hikers.” These people spend weeks/months hiking at various altitudes, through all weather conditions and seasons – with just the gear on their backs.
Finding a tent that meets my goals
A new tent was my next purchase. When I had a solo mentality, I planned a more primitive shelter, such as a poncho/tarp set up as a lean-to. This would be minimally-acceptable for the two of us.
Considering that my plans go beyond just myself, I have purchased a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL4 to my BOB. This tent is rated as a 4-person tent, but everyone who knows tent ratings will tell you to subtract one person from the rating. A 4-person tent is REALLY only suitable for three people.
Our only child is grown and away from home. So, technically speaking, we only need a tent suitable for two people, but I like keeping our gear in the tent. Thus, my desire for the extra space. At 4.5 pounds, with a ground square footage of roughly 50 square feet, this tent weighs less than most 2-person tents on the market, and offers nearly twice the square footage! Plus, it has a roll size of only 6”x20”.
My main point about weight/capacity, is that today’s high-tech products are allowing all of us to do shave pounds and volume of our loads, cutting most of these measurements/weights in HALF from a decade ago! Sure, we could reduce our packs respectively, but, I would encourage preppers to increase their multi-user functionality.
It doesn’t take much to include items for additional people
In addition to our lightweight sleeping bags, I still carry a pair of emergency Mylar safety blankets, too. Thus,I could support two more people, too. In addition to the rain jackets/pants I have packed for the two of us, I also have two old-school ponchos. If nothing else, this extra gear serves as backups to our primary gear.
Sure, single people might argue that they only need to prep for themselves. I would argue that this is pretty short-sighted, and they will respectively die alone, but the next time I see a YouTube video by a married man/father that is “solo”-focused, I think I’m going to scream, “WHERE is the gear to support your spouse/kids?!”