A Non-Traditional Take on the Bug-Out Bag, Part 2
Guest post by J.E. See Part 1 of his article here.
Most disasters and emergencies send us to the homes of friends, family, or motel/hotel rooms to, “weather the storm.” This might be for a few days, weeks, months, even years. Most of the time we aren’t running into the woods or into the outback to, “camp,” our way back to better times.
Yes, we need to be ready to rough-it in the wilderness, but I would argue that we have an equal or increased need to be “URBAN-ready.”
When a disaster or emergency strikes, most of us will not bug out on foot. Yes, we need to have a plan, and be ready to do so, but the reality is that most of us will bug out via our vehicles, and maybe even catch the first flight outta Dodge. You need to be ready to survive in an urban/suburban setting as well as the backwoods. It’s a survival mistake to gear up for the wilderness, while overlooking the reality and possibility of the need for urban/suburban survival.
A few tips for urban survival
- Rent the cheapest motel room you can find for a whole month, and try to “survive” there with only your bug-out bag. Sure, you can go shopping for groceries, but, ONLY groceries and consumable healthcare products (shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc.) Don’t allow yourself to buy “extras” from the grocery store (like cups, silverware, towels, pillow cases, razors, flashlights, can openers, etc.).
- Most news stories about germs in hotel/motel rooms should send shivers up your spine. Have you read about their germ-infested doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes, in-room phones, and pillows/bedspreads? What do YOU carry in YOUR pack, to help protect your from these situations?
- Personally, my bug out bag includes two of our own pillow cases, plus two down-filled camping/travel pillows. I also have two king-sized top-sheets (one to dress over a bed military-style, and the other as a top-sheet.) Yes, I also have my own (cheap) programmable TV remote. Not so much due to the germs, but because I like knowing where MY BUTTONS are located. (I travel a LOT, and get tired of learning new remotes in each hotel!)
- Take those P38 military-style can openers in your bug out bag, and put them on your keychain, instead. Replace them with a REAL metal hand-crank can opener from Wal-Mart or Target or wherever. After opening just a couple of cans with a P38, you will be WISHING you had a REAL can opener. They aren’t too heavy, or too large, yet they are a DREAM to use in comparison.
- Also, experiment with eating utensils. Initially, I just carried a couple of sets of plastic-ware from fast food joints. Then, I replaced these with a camping-style metal knife/fork/spoon kit, which is still in my bag, but the handles/edges are somewhat sharp and uncomfortable. I’ve recently added four different sized plastic knife/fork kits. Who knows? In the future, maybe I’ll just put two sets of our kitchen flatware into my bag. The reason it’s important to find the right utensils that work for you is because we use these items about three times per day. So, they should be comfortable, durable, and functional. We spend so much money on compasses, GPSs, guns, and other stuff that we will probably NOT use during disasters/bug-outs, but our silverware/flatware will get used several times per day.
Other “urban” stuff that has found its way into my bug out bag:
- AA/AAA collapsible battery charger plus rechargeable batteries
- Small six-foot extension cord with three outlets because there are never enough outlets where you want them in hotel/motel rooms.
- A pair of 3:2-prong plug converters so you can plug three-pronged laptops and such into a two-prong old-school wall outlet.
- Over-the door hooks because usually there are no trees in hotel rooms to hang your stuff from.
- A “real” cooking spatula serving spoon for cooking.
- Two rolls of quarters in my bug out bag. Motel/hotels are too often vending machine-based. Washers, dryers, and drink/snack machines are plentiful, but, change for a buck isn’t always available.
Basically, whatever I bought during my first month of living in a hotel room, ended-up in my bug out bag. It was a VALUABLE lesson.
You and your bag should blend in, no matter where you are
While I’m on the “urban” subject, let me say that I can carry my back on public transportation, past police officers and such without drawing so much as a second-glance. While I, too, like to strap all kinds of gear to the outside of my pack when hiking and such (to make it easily accessible,) that isn’t so urban-friendly. For example, if my machete or pistol, or camping hatchet were attached to the outside of my pack, the cops might want to, “have a word,” with me. Instead, my pack has room for ALL of my gear to fit inside!
Yes, I still have pouches/carriers attached to my shoulder straps, and waist belt, and exterior of my pack to quick-clamp stuff where it belongs, but I still have room to get everything inside my pack, too!
I know many of us focus on camouflage, cover, and concealment, but there are some emergencies/disasters, when you want and need to solicit help from others or to keep yourself safe, especially in urban environments! Thus, I encourage everyone to include at least a pair of high-visibility roadside safety vests with reflective material. This could be the difference between life & death for you and your family during a roadside emergency or such!
Keeping your bug-out bag TSA-friendly
Our packs shouldn’t weigh more than 50 pounds, so we can avoid extra airline fees for overweight baggage, should you find yourself on a flight out of Disaster-ville.
Secondly, I already mentioned the importance of keeping ALL of your gear inside your pack. I can’t tell you how many times a, “sticky fingered,” baggage handler or a TSA agent stole gear from my CHECKED baggage. I lost things like compasses, Leatherman multi-tools, pocket knives, and more!
One time, my bug out bag came out looking like a yard sale on the conveyor belt at the baggage claim area! I don’t think they did this on purpose. Instead, I think they opened my bag to search it, and then didn’t properly re-secure it when they were finished. So, the zippers pulled apart under the weight of my bag, and spilled the contents EVERYWHERE along the conveyor belt.
As you pack your bag, it’s vital that you know what’s in it, and stay up to date with current TSA rules. They change pretty frequently. Some items such as guns and ammo will always need to be packed separately according to the rules and some items will always be banned (fuels). There are other banned items that most of the traveling public is unaware of, such as battery limitations and MREs. MREs are banned because of their heater elements/packs.
Pre-made alcohol stoves and such are also prohibited, but a bottle of Everclear would be considered as a drinking-alcohol, not as a “fuel” alcohol. Anything clearly-labeled as flammable, like bottles of HEAT, are going to be confiscated.
Tips for hassle-free travel
Before heading to the airport, first remove anything from your hand-carried bags that isn’t TSA compliant. You would actually be kind of surprised at how many items canbe packed in checked baggage, such as knives, machetes, wrist-rockets, baseball bats, etc. Then, lock your zippers closed with REAL locks, not those “TSA-friendly” models.
Once you are at the airport, proceed to the ticket counter to check your bag, but tell them you want it to be manually inspected with yourself present because you have had items disappear in the past. They will send you to the “oversize” luggage area where people check their golf clubs, snow skis, musical instruments, etc. The TSA agent will take your bag and put it through the scanner. If it “passes,” then it’s fine for the rest of your trip with no need to be reopened along the route. The manual inspection bypasses the need for TSA-friendly locks and allows you to have more secure luggage.
If, however, your bag is flagged by the scanner, then they will invite you, “behind the red ropes,” for a manual inspection of your bag. They will ask you to unlock it, and then tell you to step back so THEY can unpack and inspect it.) YOU are not allowed to touch your gear during this procedure.
Once they have cleared your contents or removed any unauthorized items, you will then be allowed to repack your bag and re-lock it. Again, it will now be fine until it’s final destination. They will ONLY invite you back behind the ropes if your bag FAILS the scanner. So, be sure to LOCK your zippers BEFORE you check your bags.
TSA is accustomed to people traveling with guns. Hunters, military personnel, police, and many citizens do it all the time. BE AWARE of the TSA rules for checking and declaring firearms, and be aware of the laws related to firearms of the state you are visiting.
If the airlines KNOW that you will be violating state “carry” laws at your destination, they are compelled to inform the authorizes in that state, yet, they are not compelled to notify you of the laws/restrictions of your destination, nor inform you that they informed the authorizes. So, you could be surprised at baggage claim by, “the authorities.” Thus, travelers, be informed and aware.
Reminder: Most of the stuff that the TSA agents prohibit you from carrying as “carry-on,” are actually ALLOWED to be brought aboard as “checked baggage.” I have two EDC (Everyday Carry) kit. The first one is TSA carry-on safe, and the second is not. So, as I check in my bug-out bag, I insert my non-safe EDC kit into it. Once I get to my destination, it’s the first thing I remove from my bag.
False 72-hour bags
I crack up when I see bags that are being advertised as, “72-hour kits,” that also include food/MREs, and water and hydration kits/bags. People, the average person can survive three days without water, and three WEEKS without food. Thus, 72 hour bags don’t need to waste valuable space/weight on food, or water, really. Replace that food and water with other gear such as hunting/fishing supplies, or water treatment/purification gear.
Then again, I don’t feel that we should have 72-hour blinders on when we create bug out bags. We should create a bag/kit that is indefinite. We should carry the means to process/treat water, not carry water itself. We should have the means to hunt/fish/cook, not carry pre-made meals.
Sure, people should feel free to include a few snacks for mental happiness or a few small bottles of caffeinated energy drink for that little extra “pick-me-up”. Even a few packets of drink-mix will help convert boring or terrible-tasting water, into something halfway palatable. But, FULL meals and filled water bladders or bottles are unnecessary additives. If anything, just keep a grab-n-go food bag and canteen by the door. You can always ditch it if necessary, as opposed to rucking it within your pack.
Tiering of bug out bags
An effective plan can also help you reduce the contents of your bug out bags! If you have pre-positioned gear at your retreat location(s) or hidden caches, then that’s LESS gear that you have to carry as you depart.
We have bug out bags for each family member. We also have get-home and emergency gear in each vehicle. The bed box of a pickup truck is a Godsend for preppers!!!!
We also have pre-packed grab-and-go bags:
A. A camping/tent bag. This is a heavy car-hauled bag that includes two tents, inflatable air bed & pump, LED camping lanterns, battery-powered fans, and other items for a large, multi-room, candles/matches, family-oriented tent/site.
B.) A camp-kitchen bag, which includes several multi-fuel stoves, a folding table, collapsible water buckets, fire-cooking gear, more LED lanterns, solar lights, solar chargers, cast iron pots/pans, battery-operated and hand-crank coffee grinders/pots, etc.
C.) An elaborate military-style first aid (trauma) backpack. This sucker is bright red, has a large red cross patch upon it, and has just about EVERYTHING imaginable! (We took the “real” kit, and added a BUNCH MORE gear to it, to include surgical tools/kits, over-the-counter meds, plus extra prescription meds and antibiotics.
D.) Fishing/hunting/trapping bag. With a dozen leg-hold traps, a couple of cans of tuna fish, collapsible fishing rods, small fresh+salt water tackle boxes, land/trout lines + treble hooks, shotgun + shells, filet knives and skinning knives, a Henry .22 survival rifle + ammo, LED headlamps, 12v spotlights, etc.
E.) Food/water kits. These are pre-packed with about three weeks worth of shelf-stable food/supplies for two people. We recheck/resupply these annually.
F.) Tool bags. We have three because putting all the tools into ONE bag, made it too heavy and cumbersome to carry and locate what we needed.
G.) Communications bag. We have handheld HAM radios in our bug-out bags. We also have vehicle-mounted systems in our cars, trucks, boats. This bag includes extra solar panels, battery chargers, backup radios/parts/headsets, small battery-operated TV & DVD player, battery-operated radio/CD player, etc.
Our whole lives are actually color-coded bag-based. We have flight bags, SCUBA/dive bags, ditch bags for boating, a picnic backpack for romantic getaways, swim bag for going to the pool, etc.
I hope the information in these two articles has been helpful. It’s so important that emergency bags/kits are oriented toward multi-user, rather than the somewhat selfish focus on the single-user. It’s also vital to take into consideration that your survival “retreat” may be a friend’s house or apartment or even a hotel in an urban or suburban setting. You can never know beforehand which route or strategy will be most likely to insure your survival. Adaptability of your gear and your mindset is key.
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