Saturday, May 12, 2018

10 Fixes for Your Bug Out Bag

I've seen a few bug out bags in my time that made me shake my head and think "you gotta be kiddin me".  Here are ten common problems with bug out bags and how to fix them.

  1. The thing weighs a ton.  I know a guy who did the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike with a 65 pound pack.  Needless to say he dropped half the weight for future backpacking trips since that R2R nearly killed him.  If you can't walk ten to twenty miles with your BOB it is TOO HEAVY.  Review and revamp your gear to cover all of your bases without bringing everything but the kitchen sink.
  2. The bag is crap.  A cheap bag is fine for a day trip or week-long vacation via air but a cheap bag won't last long if you will be using and carrying it every day for months.  It pays to buy a quality bag, preferably with a lifetime warranty.  Buy it on sale or clearance to save some money on it.
  3. The gear is crap.  You often get what you pay for.  There are some things I absolutely won't skimp on like good shoes, a good knife, a quality firearm, a sleeping bag that is both ultralight and warm enough for conditions, etc.  While dollar store stuff will work in a pinch, most of the cheap stuff you buy won't work for long-term survival situations.
  4. You have never had to live out of your bug out bag.  Occasionally I will see someone heading off to do the AT or PCT with the "best gear money can buy".  Unfortunately they have never actually used the gear.  Problems generally follow.  To that end, make sure you take your bag and head out for a weekend or a week and see what happens.  This is the best way to see if what you have is actually what you need.
  5. Your BOB has a total of one Nalgene water bottle.  Water is the most important item you can have in a disaster so make sure you have enough vessels to contain the water you need (at least a gallon a day).  Fortunately they now make a variety of folding water bottles and hydration reservoirs that are ultra lightweight and easy to carry.
  6. You have food issues.  Too much food?  Not enough food?  Food that requires an extraordinary amount of fuel to cook?  Food that is expired since it hasn't been rotated in years?  Again, living out of your BOB for a weekend or a week will quickly show you what you need in terms of food, how much you will need (more than you think if you will be much more active than usual), and what kinds are best (high mileage days usually make you crave food that is different than your day to day stuff).
  7. Everything gets wet.  A day hike on a sunny day is bliss.  A multi-day, long-distance backpack trip in the rain sucks.  People don't realize how horrible wet stuff can be until the rain is drenching your pack (and everything in it), your sleeping bag is wet, the humidity is preventing your gear from drying, your feet are wet, and your tent seams are leaking like a sieve.  The fix: figure out how to water proof everything including your pack (a garbage compactor bag works wonders), how to waterproof individual items (dry bags, plastic bags, zip lock bags), and how to ensure your tent seams are adequately sealed (set it up and turn on the sprinkler in the back yard...seal as needed).
  8. You can't find anything in your pack.  There are a few things you need to do to fix this.  One is to compartmentalize items (food in one bag, med stuff in one bag, clothes in one bag, etc).  The second is to practice finding items you need in your pack in the dark (you should be able to identify each kit by touch).  The third thing is to determine if your pack design works for you (some people prefer packs that allow both top and bottom load so you can access gear from both ends of your pack).
  9. You haven't dumped out and restocked your BOB in years.  Just what you don't need when you bug out during an emergency: a flashlight with dead batteries, a radio with batteries so old they have corroded, granola bars so old you could break a tooth on them, pants in a size you haven't worn in a decade, bandaids that are so old they are crunchy.  Be sure to dump your BOB each spring and fall and make sure all items are in working order, fit you, have not expired, etc.
  10. You don't have the right stuff in your BOB.  What's your bug out plan?  Where do you plan to go?  How is your BOB optimized for your bug out plan?  If you plan to head for the nearest community shelter, what will you do with the pistol and long gun you are carrying?  Ditto if you plan to escape by hopping on the first flight you can find (again, firearms are a no-go here).  Do you plan to head for the hills?  How will you get there?  If the roads are impassible and you are taking a motorcycle/bicycle, have you tried this method of transportation while carrying your BOB?  If you need to bug out in the snow, do you have adequate gear for this (everything from YakTrax to mittens)?  Did you remember your prescription meds?  If it is a total disaster in your area you probably won't be able to refill any prescriptions or find life-saving medications.
The bottom line--in order to ensure that your bug out bag actually functions as planned, go out and actually use it in survival conditions.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

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