Bug Out Bags come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s spend a few minutes and discuss 3 different bag types and what you should carry in them. We are going to get into the details of what we consider the 3 main bags you should consider, a work bag, a “standard” bug out bag, and a bag designed for a long trip home. As we get into each type, we discuss what you need to plan for heat, shelter, water, food, sanitation, communication, security, and a few miscellaneous items.
This is article 2 of a 3 article series covering Bug Out Bags:
BOB, Just BOB
This is my BOB. It’s packed like a BOB. It looks like a BOB. It screams BOB.
Not only will this bag be the first thing I grab on the way out the door, but it’s also the one I take hiking and on personal trips. It is the most rounded out and equipped to cover the broadest of short-term events in my threat matrix.
For this BOB I have gravitated to a 5.11 Rush 12 pack. It screams Prepper/Military/Survivalist but that’s its goal. I want no mistake that I’m on a mission when this is on my back. There are various schools of thought on this and I have selected this look and feel.
The only feature that this bag is lacking is a spot for a water bottle. Therefore, I keep it in the pack. A bit of a bummer but I have plans to add a molle water bottle pouch in the near future.
Heat and Shelter
One is none and two is one. For fire making, I have multiple options for fire in this pack. These include Bic lighter, tinder, and steel wool. The main source of cooking is an Esbit stove. Esbit is quick to light but it stinks a little. Any fire I make will be on the first day or two of a bug out. After that, I’m avoiding fire, the associated smells, and the attention it may bring.
I do keep a firesteel on the knife in the bag (more on that later). Counting my EDC fire capabilities this gives me five options.
I have three shelter options. The first is a drum liner garbage bag. Like my work-bag, it’ll do in a pinch. As this bag has a bit more freedom from scrutiny, I also include a hammock. Small and light, it gets me off the ground and out of the weather for just a few ounces. Hammocks require properly spaced trees, but I can separate the components and use it as a tarp for a more primitive shelter. Finally, I have an army-style poncho. It can be used as either raingear or a tent.
Over three or five days my need for sleep will be limited. Quick power naps will be better than stopping and making camp. I’m more concerned with getting out of the cold and the wet. This will sap energy and hope quicker than you expect. I want a place to wait out a storm.
As mentioned, I need to add a pouch to hold a water bottle. Ideally, it will be sized to fit a one-liter single-walled stainless bottle. Currently, I pack a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle.
I have added a Sawyer Mini filter. It’s small, filters all the threats in my area, and it’s small. Tucked into a corner of the BOB with the water bladder I can fill the bladder and filter at my convenience. The only maintenance is the occasional back-flush. With the Sawyer, I can produce more clean water than I will need on any bug out.
This bag also includes protein bars but adds a few extras. For three to five days I can make it with minimal food. I’ll be hungry and miserable and my performance will be slightly limited but I’ll live. If the weather conditions are harsh, that’s a different story.
I keep a half dozen or so protein bars as well as a small cook kit. The kit consists of a small pot to go on the Esbit stove and a few food items. Every season I rotate out a few packs of oatmeal, some tea, and bullion as well as electrolyte drink mix. Everything other than the protein bars and oatmeal is a morale booster rather than calories.
I never got into the coffee habit but I do enjoy tea. Even on hikes I’ll stop for a break and make a small mug of tea. It warms and centers me. The electrolyte mix is also to break the monotony of water. In the heat of summer, it replaces vital salts.
I don’t envision more than a week on the trail with this bag therefore I haven’t stocked it full of food. We can all make it a surprisingly long time without food. If you haven’t tried a multi-day fast, you will be surprised at how quickly your hunger fades.
Health and Sanitation
The health and sanitation components are identical to my work bag. Trauma kit and first aid kit complimented a second tourniquet. Hand sanitizer, medications, and a few extra dressings round out the mix.
I do have a spare bandanna that aides in creating improvised splints. One item missing from the kit is a SAM Splint. Orthopedic injuries are a threat to a bug out. Especially if your route takes you off flat and level roads or trails. Several routes for me include off-road travel and a twisted ankle is a risk. Supporting an injured angle is difficult without the proper equipment. A SAM split will go a long way to filling this gap in my BOB preps.
I also carry an SOL thermal blanket. I greatly prefer this brand to the standard Mylar space blanket. I could never use one of those without ripping it to shreds. The SOL brand is rip-stop and can take some pretty good abuse.
Since this bag rarely crosses state lines and does not fly with me, my options are much greater than my work bag. I take advantage of this!
Security starts with a knife. I actually cycle one of three knives through this bag depending on the most recent hike I was on and the skills I practiced.
The knife that is most in circulation is an Ontario Knives Blackbird. Big, comfortable, utilitarian, I truly love this knife. It was sold as second quality blade (not sold as a factory perfect knife). It fits me like a glove and the only imperfection I can see is in the micarta scales. It doesn’t cause me blisters through heavy use so I really don’t care. I’ve hacked, carved, and batoned with this knife and it’s never let me down.
At the other end of the scale is my Bark River Bravo 1. This, for me, is much less utilitarian and more special use. I pull it out when I want to do more detailed work and dish out less abuse. Not that I don’t think it can handle it. It can. But for the price, I will keep treating it a little gently for a while.
Number three in the rotation is a Becker BK-II. That’s right… The manhole cover with an edge. The sharpened pry-bar. The beast. At a quarter-inch thick and weighing in at 16 ounces. I could cut down the largest tree in the forest with this blade. The biggest sacrifice is the weigh. She’s a biggun’.
The next security item in this BOB is my KelTec Sub-2000. It’s the Glock 19 model. Specifically, it uses Glock 19 or larger 9mm Glock magazines. I can use 15 round, 17 round, or 33-round (happy sticks). Coincidently, I carry either a Glock 26 or a 19 most of the time so I negate the need for two sets of magazines.
If you are not familiar with the Sub-2000 it’s a novel pistol caliber carbine that folds in half. At 16.25 inches when folded, it fits perfectly into my BOB. In a few seconds, I can retrieve the Sub-2000, fold it into shooting position, and slap the bolt release.
I carry two spare 15 round magazine in the BOB (one in the Sub-2000 one in a front pouch). My EDC 15 round magazine sits my belt. With 45 rounds I’m covered for most return fire and break contact situations.
The last security element is a can of pepper spray. The can of Sabre Red remains strapped to one of the shoulder pads. Convenient and quick to deploy, this is my non-lethal security tool.
I have included a HAM radio in this bag. I still consider my cell phone a part of my EDC and my primary form of communication. With that in mind, I prefer to have that second layer.
A Baofang UV-5R as earned the position in this bag. It is complemented by an additional antenna. The UV-5R will stretch out much longer than a standard blister-pack walkie talkie. I routinely hit repeaters with this radio 20 miles away.
The antenna that I have included is a roll-up J-Pole (half-wave) from N9TAX. For the weight, size, and cost it can’t be beaten. I’ve hung it up outside my house and hit a repeater over 50 miles away. Granted I live 800 feet up on a hill so the conditions are near perfect.
If you are new or just beginning your journey into HAM radio, I recommend you check out our beginner’s guide to HAM.
Slightly bigger junk drawer for this bag. I have more room and therefore have added more stuff.
Since I may need to improvise a shelter, I have included a length of 550 cord and some Kevlar kite string. Both are strong and durable.
To aid with travels at night I have a duplicate SureFire G2 as well as a headlamp. Both take CR123 batteries, so I include one spare set. I round my light tools with a few glow sticks. I just like them.
Since not all uses of this bag are post-apocalyptic (I take it on all day hikes) I have included a few high visibility straps. Bright yellow and highly reflective. They are there when I need to attract attention to myself.
My map pocket is as full as my work bag, however, it includes a few specialty maps printed out for my bug out routes. A compass also has a home in this pocket. I can make my way from point A to B. I know my pace 100-meter pace count and can box around an obstacle, but that’s about it. I could use a refresher navigation course. That’s the goal for next year.
Social lubricants are also included with this bag. I keep a pack of cigarettes as well as a small flask of bourbon. Both can be used as barter or to cement a temporary bond. The exact situation will dictate whether I want to be near people or not. I can see the advantages of bugging out solo and strength in numbers. Be prepared for both.
Finally, I have a complete set of house and camp keys as well as set of lock picks. Both the house and camp have a variety of padlocks and door locks that I may or may not have on me at any given time. Being able to pick my way into a space is a valuable skill. If you don’t already have that as a part of your personal arsenal, I highly recommend looking into it.
Now that we have basic BOB taken care of, let’s move on to our Long Trip Home Bag.