Bugout Bags, or BoBs (Not to be confused with Battery Operated Boyfriends), are getting a lot of discussion recently on many of the forums I frequent. The number one question is, of course, “What should go in them”?
This question is as broad and useless as “What kind of gun should I get for self defense”? Rather than trying to come up with an answer that sorta fits everyone, I think it’s a good idea to try and help illustrate some of the purposes for having a BoB. This approach will allow people from different areas of the country and with different ideas of what constitutes an emergency to better tailor their bag’s contents to their own needs.
The original thought behind the bugout bag was to have a small bag containing basic items that would allow someone to exit a vehicle or dwelling and have enough spare ammo, signaling equipment, and first aid gear to fight his or her way to a friendly location. Bugout bags weren’t intended to be survival kits, medic bags, or rucksacks full of zombie-killing firepower and protein bars. Instead of thinking “rucksack”, think “diaper bag”, and you have an idea of the size of a real bugout bag.
Like any other tactical (or tacticool) equipment, the bugout bag has evolved based on the need of the end user so size, contents, storage location, and purpose has changed. It all depends on what your vision of the next local emergency leads you to build.
If your primary concern is having survival items in the vehicle in case you go off the side of the road on the way to or from elk camp in the mountains, then having a bag containing a couple space blankets or a wool blanket, fire making materials, signaling equipment, hand cranked storm radio, battery powered two way radio, a few bottles of water, and high-calorie snack bars makes much more sense than having a bunch of spare mags, camo face paint, and a machete
If you are more worried about being ready when the 9th Mongolian Zombie Horde comes charging down I-44, then your bag should be stuffed full of mags, frags, and tourniquets, because there will be plenty to eat and drink when all the Hostess and Anhauser-Busch trucks get abandoned.
Personally, my bugout bag focuses more on medical treatment for myself, my family, and those around me. I don’t even call it a bugout bag, I just call it my aid bag. I, however, have more than one “emergency kit” in my vehicle when I’m traveling. I have my aid bag, which also contains a small survival kit; in addition to that bag, I have one bandoleer containing three spare mags for the M4 within reach of the rifle itself, and in the trunk I have three level 3A (Old NIJ standards) vests and a Blackhawk chest rig holding another 12 M4 mags, one spare Glock mag, a can of OC spray, and two Cobra civilian radios.
As you can see, I am well prepared for many issues, but as you can also imagine, trying to cram all of this stuff into one bugout bag would result in a bugout duffel bag. When I’m traveling around town, the aid bag comes along, but the chest rig and vests usually stay home. The vast majority of emergencies I can envision result in mass-casualty events, whether it be an active shooter event at a public place or a multi-car accident on the interstate. I’m not nearly as worried about having emergency rations or water on hand as I am worried about being able to treat a “sucking” chest wound in two or more people.
My suggestion for anyone thinking about putting together a bugout bag is to think realistically about what kind of environment they live in, what the primary uses will be, then what they can reasonably afford to stock it with. I know we all want to be ready for anything that may come our way, but certain tradeoffs and compromises must be made, certain equipment must be purchased with the intent of performing multiple roles, because if not, we will end up with bugout connexes instead of bugout bags.
I will begin making a list of various medical items I have in my aid bag that I have used or seen used in real-world environments that I recommend. I’ll also do the same with various “survival kit” items that I have used camping and will give the reason behind adding or omitting them from my personal kit.
"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
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