Thursday, March 3, 2016

What is a Bug-Out Bag, EDC, a Survival Kit & a Never-Coming-Back Bag

I was asked to build a Bug-Out Bag for a friend of mine, a 110lbs (give or take about 10lbs) female who is 5'2" and of slim build. I posted the results below in the images and got some interesting responses from people on a Prepper Forum. Now we can't predict how an event will happen, this is West Virginia so geographic terrain tends to be hills and mountains, with shar contrasts from urban to suburban to rural and wilderness within a matter a miles, so times less then a mile.

One of the things I noticed was that a lot of online preppers don't have a clue, about gear or thinking... Now this is a semantic argument but its an important one.

What is a Bug Out Bag? How is it different then EDC (Every Day Carry) and a Survival Kit? How are those different then a NCB (Never Coming Back or Never Coming Home) Kit? If you don't know there is a difference you aren't a prepper, you are fad hobbiest. If you don't know what the difference is, you are about to find out.

Now I grew up in and around the Survivalist movement & Militia movement of the 90s, I am 36 years old (in June) and by rough estimates that gives me 24 years of experience. I learned real fast as a teenagers what these things were and why they exist...

Lets start with the terms...
Bug Out Bag: A bug-out bag is also called a 72 hour bag. It is an evacuation kit, meaning you are coming back home or are leaving an area and getting home. Since a bug-out bag is only intended to last 72 hours, you are not trying to go for long-term survival. You just need to make it for 3 days, going from point-A to point-B.

Minimum Gear:
1. Water: We all here the 1-Gallon per person per day equation. The reality is that is not realistic. Try humping 3 Gallons of Water just 10 miles. You don't need a gallon of water a day, that is not realistic in a survival situation. There are countless articles on the health benefits of drinking so much water a day... But the "experts" say 7 glasses on average. But what is average? Average male of 5'6" and 150lbs? A gallon a day of water is just a healthy living standard... What it is not is a must live standard... The baseline figure for water intact needed a day is 32oz for a male of roughly 150lbs. check the links below. 32 ounces for 3 days 32 x 3 = 96 ounces of water or 0.75 (3/4) of a Gallon. 

2. Food (Nothing That Needs Cooking Preferred): Ok if you are going Point-A to Point-B, you are gonna burn calories and need food. Actually, you are gonna need something other then calories you are going to need nutrition. Whats the difference, one is units of energy used by the body (calories) and the other is vitamin, minerals, proteins and amino acids that keep your body running. Look your car may run on gas, but it still needs anti-freeze, coolants, oil, lubricated joints and a battery to work. You need more then just calories to function... I love the Mainstay Rations for this reason... However, trail mix, dried fruits, jerky and multi-vitamins are also great.

3. Light: I am not a fan of the we must have light scenario... 1. Not you don't... and 2. Why? Realistically speaking a water purification system, purification tablets or Life Straw is great, but you are better off carrying it on you then trying to survival off the land. Why do you need a flashlight? The idea of a bug out bag is to pace yourself, not break your leg trying to run ahead of the "gold horde" by night. And if you are worried about Mutant Biker Zombies getting you, just remember noise and light discipline means not being heard or seen. How easy is it to spot a light in a dark... anything? But if you must a zipper light, or key chain light is fine.

4. Heat: This is a must, staying warm is serious. So yeah have a lighter or 3 and some storm proof matches. Now some people confuse heat with shelter, shelter blocks the elements. So while I agree you can stay dry with a poncho, it won't keep you warm. You can save room and weight with a space blanket, just drap it over your head and the plastic and Mylar will keep you dry plus reflect body heat back at you...

5. Shelter: The best part about those space blankets is that you can use them to build a lean-to. All that carrying a tent is not practical. You are not going camping.

6. First Aid: I'm not going to give a first aid kit much thought, 1. there isn't much you can do with it without the proper training. 2. If it is serious a broken leg, arm or a fever or serious illness nothing you get over the counter is help and even if you had something for serious pain relief, opiates for example... it will diminish your mental capacity. So being realistic, suck it up cup cake.

7. Maps, Compass and Navigation: Again I find myself in a bit of a WTF? train of thought here. Do you not know where you live? Where your friends and family live? Maps are great and if you are travelling long distance to Aunt Edina in another state that's all good but, why do you need maps and a compass in a bug out bag?

Seriously, I want you to consider something here... Let's play stawman for a second here, let's pretend work is 50 miles from home, you make the commute everyday and now the "shit has hit the fan." But what's the scenario aliens, nuclear war, terrorists or rioting in the street?

We will say rioting, looting and general mayhem. Boss tells you all to go home, your route is blocked by rioters clashing with police. So you go around and you have your handy dandy map... What your map won't tell you is other places riots have broken out, which neighborhoods have put themselves in community lock down (happened in both the LA Riots and During both Hurricane Sandy and Katrina. In the army we had what we called Map recon, which was looking at a map to find areas to cross rivers or get a general fix on terrain. We also had a leaders recon where the platoon sergeant and/or squad leaders went and checked out the area we looked at on the map. Why? Because shit happens... You don't need a compass to drive home, and if you have to bug out you won't need a compass to walk home either.

8. Knives: This I endorse whole heartedly. You need a knife, it's a basic tool and can be used to defend yourself. Multitool knives are good two, hollow handle survival knives are well known to break, full tang knives are your best bet, half tang survival knives are ok...  But a hatchet or camp tomahawk can do basically everything a knife can and a few things like chop wood or can't.

9. Saws: I don't get the need for chopping wood when living out a backpack for 72 hours. Don't much see the need in carrying saws either. Of you need to build a fire, you are not building a bonfire.

10. Guns: Yes... I think a concealed handgun is a good idea. No, you don't need to roll out like Barry Fife meets Rambo. If you need to defend yourself, and this is true in a normal day. You need to be calm and discrete about it. A cheap .38 will do the job you need it to, which is protect you from an attacker. I'd also suggest martial arts or self-defense classes to boost your odds as well.

In closing the more gear you carry the more energy you burn, carrying that stuff with you. You don't want to hike out with 35lbs of gear and only use 5lbs of it. That gets us to the more common sense preppers and the classic survivalist mindset of EDC. Generally, most civilians go to civilian sources of information, like FEMA or 10 Essentials used for hiking. The reality is if you have a bug out bag and need to use it, you are not hiking in the woods on a Boy or Girl Scout Jamboree but are moving to a safe place, either home or a friend or family members. Even if a map tell you a route you have no way to know if the route is passable, safe or needs to be avoided. So you need to think in terms of Point-A to Point-B only for your bug-out bag. Its not hiking and while some elements are similar, remember you are just trying to get home safely...

Every Day Carry: EDC or Every Day Carry is a simple, light weight kit that a person wears on them, everyday. My own EDC is a simple kit, one 20oz Water Bottle, 3 Sweet and Salty Granola bars or a couple packs of peanuts, water purification tablets, 2 Lighters, space blanket, pack of cigarettes, pocket knife (varies in style), 2 gallon zip lock freezer bags, Paracord bracelet and it's all in a jacket or sometimes my trench coat.

If I have to walk home. I can make it, carrying the lightest possible load. I honestly don't need to eat and can afford to burn a few calories. Water is my primary concern, which I have the ability to purify a gallon in a freezer bag with a tablet per and as recorded above, I only need a minimum of 1 gallon for 3 days. A 20oz bottle is enough to get me started, plus the freezer bags can be used to get clean water from green leaf plants.

I have a friend who's EDC consists of a tactical folder, handgun, flashlight, lighter and fero rod, water purification tablets, gallon freezer bag and a life straw. Like myself, if he has to bug out, he is moving light and fast.

Compared either of us, humping our kits that weigh less then 10lbs and someone with a 20 or even 50lbs pack. Also we don't look like people with things worth taking if social order breaks down. I promise you, will need to think fast and have a plan. A BOB or EDC kit without a plan is just gear...

Survival Kit: Survival kits are small gear kits that are intended to be used to boost your odds of survival. These vary between airplane and life raft emergency survival kits, which can be adapted to suit your car. At the basic level you need some shelter, food, water, something for heat and a means to acquire more food, fishing kits and snare wire is often used. A Bug-Out bag is an example of one type of survival kit, so is a EDC kit.

Never Coming Back Kit: Now I have one of these, its also called an INCH (I'm Never Coming Home) bag. Remember when I talked about pioneers and such? Ok... It is a basic set of supplies, gear and tools that will allow you to build your own civilization in the middle of no where. If you look at the California Gold Rush, the Alaskan Gold Rush, the Settlement of the Old West and even the Western expansion from the East Coast colonies, pioneers, trappers and woodsmen carried a lot of supplies by cart, wagon and mule, as well as on their backs.

A Bug Out bag won't be useful to you as a means to evacuate your home, and lets say you do?
Do you have a plan? At the end of the Day all you need for a Bug-Out-Bag is water (a 1 Liter bottle filled with tap water will do), food (such as Emergency Ration Bars, MREs, DIY MREs, jerky, trail mix, peanuts, granola bars or cliff bars) that you can eat cold and don't have to cook, a mylar space blanket or 2 for shelter, some rope or twine for cordage (doesn't have to be paracord and a lot of paracord doesn't meet military specifications) and a means start a fire, matches, lighter etc. Congrats you can Bug-Out... but if you don't have a plan, you just have gear.

Everything should have a use and every use should be part of your plan. Don't pack an inflatable raft if you are not crossing water, don't pack a saw if you live in a desert with no trees. Don't worry about maps and compass if you can read a map and know how to use a compass. Many times, you can just get by with stuff you can carry on you.

Lets look at my EDC, in depth...

1. 20oz Water Bottle: I know there are steel water bottles, but I have cases of bottled water at home. So I generally, bring one of those with me. Nothing special and usually a non-name brand much cheaper.
2. 3 Sweet and Salty Granola bars or a couple packs of peanuts: Nothing major and basically only providing me with only about 170 calories per bar, 510 calories total. But, like I said food isn't a priority for me for 72 hours. It is motivation.
3. Water purification tablets: I don't even carry the whole bottle, just a small resealable baggy with 5 purification tabs and 5 tablets that clear up the task.
4. 2x Lighters: Fire is more important then food, I plan in accordance to what can kill me first... 1. Security against People with ill intentions, 2. Injury 3. Weather exposure, 4 Thirst/Dehydration can kill me in 3 days. 5. Hunger can kill me in 2 weeks. For a 72 hour plan (I plan 3 to 5 days), I'm not going to starve to death.
5. Space blanket: Ok, I don't carry a space blanket. I carry two but you get the idea... The space blanket doubles as shelter from rain, can be used as a poncho, can be used to make a temporary shelter, and I can use it to signal for help.
6. Pack of Cigarettes: Yes, I smoke, well I quit smoking which means I smoke about 3 to 10 cigarettes a day a day. The fact is I can light a cigarette, "hot box it" and use the "cherry" to build a fire from the ember as opposed to wasting fuel from my lighter.
7. Pocket knife (varies in style): Ok, I said I vary the style of the knife I carry... Sometimes I carry a multi-tool, sometimes a good fixed blade hunting knife and sometimes a tactical folder. Why the difference in knives? Knives are tools and they have a specific job. So if I need or feel the need for a certain type of knife I carry it and sometimes... I even carry two.
8. 2 x 1 gallon zip lock freezer bags: Now I know you can spend $10 on a collapsible canteen. These came in a pack of 10 and holds all the water I need for the 3 days minimum to survive on.
9. Paracord bracelet: Ok, this is only "survival gear" I pack. Its a simple paracord bracelet with a compass I don't need, a whistle I probably won't use and ferro-rod for back-up to my lighter. It is cordage for building a survival shelter with my space blanket. My water bottle goes into a pocket, my space blankets, freezer bags, lighters, purification tablets and granola bars go in another pocket of my jacket, coat or hoodie. My knife & cigarettes  is in a pants pocket & I wear the paracord bracelet.

All I need to do... is start walking home. I have a plan & everything I carry has a use. I've hiked with my INCH bag and know I can make 10 miles in about 2 and half hours. Not even pushing myself thats roughly 15 minutes a mile walking (actually far less). With my EDC I can jog a mile or so at (let's say) 8 minutes a mile, how fast are you jogging with a 30lbs BOB. Assuming I have to walk and not driving some of that distance. Even then my 15 minutes a mile compared to your 15 minutes a mile, with less weight means I move with less energy.

The semantics of the argument are simple, know the difference in gear sets to fit your goals. If I am home I rarely travel outside of 50 miles and if I do I have an emergency for my car. If I'm within my 50 mile home range, I can risk the walk and I may only need to get to a friends house a lot closer then my own home.

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