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 3 of a 3 article series covering Bug Out Bags:
Long Trip Home Bag
I hope to never have to use this bag. If I do then things have gone sideways in a bad way. This is my trunk bag designed to get me the 50+ miles from work to home. On foot. Uphill. Both ways.
I don’t cherish the idea of the challenges I’ll face in these. It will take an EMP or complete grid-down collapse with associated blocked roadways to deny me the use of my car. I will need to get on the road immediately to stay ahead of the masses and risks associated with them.
The straightest line home is the highway. I plan to travel as much of it as possible. Once social issues rise up (think three missed meals), I’ll travel secondary roads or trails. This pack is designed to meet the challenges of both routes.
Due to the anticipated length of this trip, I have opted for a full-sized hiking pack. This is a pack that I’ve had for years and logged several multi-day hikes. It’s large, comfortable, and familiar. Fully padded shoulder straps and belt allow me to carry it with relative ease.
The biggest disadvantage is that it one large pouch and limited side pouches. I own the organizational structure. I make liberal use of zip lock bags and other bags to keep things in order.
Heat and Shelter
For fire have a small dedicated kit. Bic lighter, firesteel, and various fire starters. I keep them in a paint can for organization and utility. With a few well-placed knife cuts, I can vent the can and make an improvised hobo stove. For an expedited fire without the smoke I keep a few Esbit tablets that will work well in the paint can.
My old cook kit is also included. It has a small pan and a smaller pot. It is better suited for camping as I don’t think I’ll be making any gourmet trail meals during a bug out.
For shelter, I have a small one-person Eureka tent. This tent is a little heavy but it includes poles and a rain fly. With the poles, I don’t need to support it with trees or even stake it down. I have also added a tarp. I’ll use the tarp as either a ground cloth for the tent or as an expedient shelter.
Finally, there are several drum liner garbage bags. As discussed, they have a myriad of uses. From improvised poncho, ground cloth, to a ground pad when stuffed full of leaves or pine needles.
Augmenting my shelter choices are several changes of clothing. I have one set of shirts and pants. I also have several changes of socks and base layers. I update the clothing seasonally. The primary fall/winter addition is an insulating set of micro-fleece tops and bottoms.
In the winter time I include a winter sleeping bag. In the summer this is swapped out for a lighter bag and extra water.
As with the other bags, I have redundant tools for gathering and making potable water. For storage, I have a Nalgene bottle. I would be better served with a single-walled stainless bottle, but I already had several Nalgene bottles. So I included one here out of ease.
For purification, I use the same tablets as my primary BOB. By including the same brand and type, I minimize the sets of instructions that I need to memorize. This reduces the risk of misuse and therefore getting a waterborne disease.
For filters, I include both a LifeStraw and a Sawyer Mini. The LifeStraw is for quick drinks on the trail. The Sawyer is for processing water in bulk during longer breaks or for an evening.
Due to the longer duration of the bug out bag protein bars must be augmented with other more sustainable meals.
I still keep a stack of bars in the bag however I have added several freeze-dried meals. Not a huge selection as I only anticipate a maximum of 5-7 days on the trail. Likewise building a fire after the second or third day is only a life or death emergency activity.
Health and Sanitation
My health and sanitation kit for this bag again mirrors the other bags in depth and breadth. The only difference is quantity. I have a little extra of the expected consumables. These include extra medications. Extra Ibuprofen and Tylenol for when on the run and Imodium for when I have the… You get the idea.
There is also extra moleskin, topical antibiotics, hydrocortisone, and toilet paper. I have tried to cover the bases for the expected wear and tear on my body when hiking over 50 miles.
Unfortunately, this bag crosses state lines daily. This causes me to have to limit my security options. I am unable to carry any firearms. Even my knife selection is limited. I have chosen to carry a simple fixed blade knife.
I should not need to make a fire of any size so the knife will let me process the necessary wood. Ideally, I would cache other tools with a friend along the way but I haven’t made those in-roads yet.
For this pack, I keep a duplicate of my other bag. That is, a Baofang UV-5R and a roll-up J-Pole antenna. With this setup and the rope, I have in the bag I can hoist the antenna 10’ up in a tree to get a little more distance.
In both bags, I have included a small cheat-sheet of frequencies. This includes FMRS, GMRS, MURS frequencies for monitoring and contact. I also have a list of local repeaters. This is in addition to the “Repeater Book” application on my cell phone. That list is more up to date than my paper list. But in all reality, the repeaters don’t change all that often. Also, my cell phone may not be operational.
The last frequencies on the list are from the Radio Reference website. I have entered each zip code along my bug out route and added the frequencies to my list. These include fire, EMS, police, and several public works frequencies. These can be used for either monitoring or emergency contact. Always good to have both intelligence and another means to contact the outside world.
This is turning into a redundant category. This bag includes rope, headlamp, flashlights, bug spray, and maps. One of my favorite map sources is the Open Railway Map project. This is primarily a railroad map site however it contains significant useful data.
For transportation (walking), it identifies both active and inactive railroads. In our area, several inactive railroads have been converted to rail trails. There is nothing better than bugging out on a long, flat, groomed trail.
Powerlines are also displayed. While not exactly rail-trails, they crisscross the country and often take you through the wilderness. Following a high-tension powerline, you can travel for miles without coming near any houses. The only caution is that you should consult these maps alongside a topographic map to identify cliffs and wet areas.
Finally, these maps include local infrastructure. Houses of worship, grocery stores, hospitals, and state facilities are all listed. If you print out maps make sure to highlight which buildings to avoid and which to seek out.
These bags are the result of a long evolutionary process. They aren’t perfect but they fit my current needs. I am aware of several gaps but none that are critical. As I continue to age, develop skills, and my work/home life changes I will revisit these bags and update them.
Each bag has a specific focus but I have not let them suffer from tunnel vision. Where possible I use them as layers to a more complete solution. Given a situation, I can migrate tools and gear from my work bag to my long trip bag and vice versa.
With all things prepping flexibility is the key to survival and success. That being said, do not let gear substitute for knowledge. Knowledge and skills gained through practice will do more to improve your chances than yet another knife or flashlight. Keep your head full so you can lighten the load on your back.