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When last we visited the bug-out bag …

… I was still living in the flatlands. The contents and setup of the bag were premised on the scenario that a flood, earthquake, or tsunami would drive me and the dogs into the nearby hills. We wouldn’t have to go far, but we might have to stay out there quite a while.

The only nearby buildings big enough to serve as shelters were all either in or across the zone of most likely damage. The neighbors, mostly poor and unprepared, might be liabilities. Camping solo was in the cards.

That was then.

Two and a half years ago I started the long, slow move into this place. In the hills. Quite sheltered. Good neighbors. Smart people. The neighbors here have pantries, guns, and in several cases, generators and garages full of useful tools. These are neighbors who make a point of getting to know each other, of gathering for parties where the conversation sometimes edges toward politics and preparedness — not deeply, but enough to indicate that a number of us are on the same track.

The much more likely scenario here: bug in.

Of course you know the old saw about the best-laid plans. A fire or a landslide could still put any of us on the run (and it creeps me out a bit that the houses on both sides have had fires in the last four years and one of those was also hit twice by landslides in the last decade).

Still. Bugging in seems likely. And no reasonable scenario would put me in the cold, wet hills for days. Time to revisit the bag. Of course I’ve tended it a bit since moving here. Changing the water container and replacing the food. Little duties like that. I haven’t re-evaluated it, though. Been too busy. So it’s time.

But … ulp.


That’s a lotta stuff! And what you’re seeing in the photo doesn’t even include the big white tarp I already pulled out to carry in Old Blue, the sleeping bag (also Old Blue), and the gallon-sized water container currently bleaching in the sink.

Old Blue has its own bug-out kit, very recently tended. But this one’s more comprehensive. I’m looking at the bags and bags of medicines, water filtration equipment, fire starters, toiletries, maps, winter clothes, pet food, cooking and eating gear, emergency lighting, signaling equipment, and … OMG, just a LOTTA STUFF.

I think I’ll go eat lunch and deal with this later.


  1. LarryA
    LarryA January 16, 2016 2:31 pm

    Lesson from my father:

    A survival kit* is designed to keep you safe, warm, hydrated, and fed when SHTF. Unfortunately, you won’t know what kind of S will hit what kind of F until it does. So pack a kit that will serve during any reasonable situation.

    Once you’re in the situation, however, you’ll have a much better understanding about what’s happening, and you can plan what supplies and equipment you need to get through it. Then you can dump what you don’t.

    * “Survival kit” = 1970s BUB.

  2. Claire
    Claire January 16, 2016 2:33 pm

    Hey, LarryA. That’s good. You were lucky to have such a father.

    You mean I can just shove all that STUFF back into the bag and get on with my life?

    Of course, that would be too easy …

  3. Fred
    Fred January 16, 2016 3:36 pm

    I know the author is not but, If you’re new to the idea and don’t know where to start I have a suggestion. The single most important thing in any scenario is you. Know yourself, what you tend to do when you feel scared. Be Honest! Is it fight, flight or hide? All three are legitimate forms of defense but we must understand what it is, we will most likely do when faced with life or death. If one prepares to go solo in the woods but has always tended to get low and hunker down than that person will be ill prepared, likewise if you tend to rabbit but make plans for a basement hideaway. Of course smart money is ready to stay or go, on foot and by vehicle, and also to live mobile or fixed utilizing the vehicle. Speaking of money, have cash handy, both hard (silver) and paper. If new to the idea then start with the mirror and drop the tough guy or girly girl act, be honest.

  4. Claire
    Claire January 16, 2016 4:29 pm

    Good points, Fred. It might be great in theory to prep for every eventuality, but that can get grim if you plan to carry your preps on your back and you aren’t Superman.

    Considering both the most likely scenarios and your own skills, temperament, and surroundings gives a good place to start. You’re certainly right. We shouldn’t plan like expert backwoods survivalists when we barely like to take long walks or shouldn’t pack a lot of high tech gear if we can barely turn on our home computer. Etc.

  5. Jorge
    Jorge January 16, 2016 5:07 pm

    My situation does not apply to you. With that out of the way.

    I am mostly bugging in. My bugout scenario is volcanoes (2 within 65 km, 1 active). So if I have to go I am going as far as I can as fast as I can. My BOB is basic but I make sure my car always has at least 1/2 tank of gas and I have several cans of gasoline on hand that I can use to top up the tank and take along if necessary. In a bugout situation I am counting on existing infrastructure where ever I get to. I expect things such as ATMs to be working.

    My nightmare scenario is a total economic collapse coupled with a serious volcanic eruption. In that case I am in real trouble. I am not (yet) equipped to deal with disasters on two fronts.

  6. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal January 16, 2016 6:29 pm

    My basic BOB is in my clothes/pockets. I carry way too much stuff, and I know this. But I’m willing to deal with the extra weight (and I’ve carried all this stuff, with adjustments, for decades) and it doesn’t bother me, and I like being prepared.

    I keep my “real” BOB in the vehicle. It also contains way too much, and would be too heavy to carry any distance in a situation where I ended up on foot, but my thought has always been to put in everything I think I might need, and ditch what I don’t depending on the circumstances of the bug out situation.

    Then, my house is my “bug in kit”- or as I call it my “hunker down kit”. Again, I try to think of what I might need in any situation and keep that on hand, where I can get to it. It has never yet failed me- but I do sometimes get the opportunity to learn a little more.

    I also have some stuff at the house that could be a little harder to get to, but it’s not stuff that would be as vital, and even after the recent blizzard I could have gotten to it if there had been a need.

    Did I say I like being prepared? Actually, I love it.

  7. LarryArnold
    LarryArnold January 16, 2016 7:14 pm

    We shouldn’t plan like expert backwoods survivalists when we barely like to take long walks or shouldn’t pack a lot of high tech gear if we can barely turn on our home computer.
    None of the stuff in your BUB is “survival gear” until you know how to use it.

  8. MJR
    MJR January 16, 2016 7:20 pm

    The renew and review the bug in/out stuff I do in late fall (November) and in the spring (April). For me the contents reflect my skill set. I’m into bush crafting so my gear reflects that. One thing I did change a few years ago was to replace my brew up gear with a Kelly Kettle. With this a person can have boiled water with in 5 minutes.

    In addition to the BOB in my car there is a pair of tow ropes, a come-along and snow chains for the front tires of my front wheel drive.

    There have been two instances where this gear has come in handy. In each case it was a couple of hours before sunup in one I was stopped because of heavy snow squalls in the other it was during a heavy freezing rain where the road was like a rink.. In each case the come-along and the chain proved more than their worth.

    Claire I would suggest the addition of a come-along and tow rope plus tire chains. These can come in handy no matter the season on or off-road. One other thing I have mentionded to you in the past is to pick up a used golf cart at a garage sale. This can be used to carry your gear and with a simple cargo strap you can eeasily ddrag it off road.

  9. Claire
    Claire January 16, 2016 7:40 pm

    “One other thing I have mentionded to you in the past is to pick up a used golf cart at a garage sale. This can be used to carry your gear and with a simple cargo strap you can eeasily ddrag it off road.”

    My BoB has been bungeed onto a garage-sale golf-bag wheelie since you suggested that. These days I think I’m more likely to end up tossing it in the car than running on foot with it, but that was a good idea.

    I also have the come-along and tow rope in the car, though not the chains. Not much need for chains around here, though I suppose they could be useful in mud as well as snow.

  10. MJR
    MJR January 16, 2016 11:00 pm

    Claire the chains are great if you have any surface where you can’t get good traction. I have had to use them several times. On Ice and snow they work great as for mud, your guess is a good as mine. You could end up really getting stuck but if that is your only option… :^)

    BTW are you saying you don’t get snow in the North Wet?

    Another thing you could add to the car bag are a set of 4 tarp hooks and a length of PVC pipe to hang them on trees. You simply thread the rope through the ring then put the hook onto the end of the pipe and hang the hook on a tree branch. When all 4 hooks are up simply raise the tarp. It is a simple fast shelter when you are in the car. Here is what they look like:

    Being cheap I am I made 4 by taking 18 inch steel rebar and getting my brother-in-law to weld 1″ metal rings around 3 inches from one end then I bent the rod into a hook with a table vice and a 4′ length of iron pipe. They work great for car camping. but not so good to carry as they are heavy.

  11. Village Idiot
    Village Idiot January 17, 2016 4:29 am

    Random thoughts that occurred to me, in no particular order:

    You’ve got a BOB (Bail Out Bag), build a BIB (Bail In Box). Amazon sells the Plano Marine storage boxes in 56 and 108 qt sizes, not airtight but they have gasketed lids so they’re water “resistant.” Multiple smaller is better than one big.

    Modular is good. Having everything in one bag or box sucks because whatever it is you want will always be on the bottom. Don’t be afraid to duplicate some stuff – matches and tinder, or simple first aid supplies, for example – in each modular container.

    Build a fire barrier between you and your neighbors; bare dirt works best, a band of grass kept mowed short is a good substitute.

    RE: fires, landslides – have a close by “escape-to” location selected? Easy path to it? Do close (eg. “trusted”) neighbors know to look for you there ?

    Between-house backup comms with trusted neighbors? FRMS might work.

    UPS for keeping FRMS radios up in power outage and battery backups (rechargers) for recharging cell phones.

    Daily cell charging schedule?

    Chains are good (eg., “reinforced” – my favorite is Weed V-Bar) on the drive wheels can make a skillfully-driven 2WD pickup the equal of a 4X4 with road tires, and chains do work well in mud. Pro tip: ASAP after buying them, put them on to test the fit. Practice installing them several times. Pro tip 2: a tire-width 3 ft strip of plywood with 2X6 blocks attached makes a handy installation tool. Space the blocks to match your chains, lay the cross chains in the gaps, drive up on them.

    Booster cables? Long enough to reach the battery from a “booster car” at your rear bumper?

    Keep a large doormat or three on the floor of your trunk. I like the thick tire-link anti-fatigue mats (search that on Amazon); they keep stuff off the trunk floor if water gets in and it’s something to lie on instead of mud if you have to do roadside repairs. Buy used, I’ve never seen one worn out from walking on it.

    Do a “bug-in” weekend. Friday before sunset power down everything but the fridge & freezer and work with your kit. Don’t neglect outdoor tasks. Take notes on what worked, didn’t work. Correct and retry (see: OODA).

    Add frame mounted front & rear tow hooks to your car – both sides – if it doesn’t already have them (many foreign cars come with tie down anchors used during overseas shipping, these can be used in a pinch). Keep at least one 20-30 ft tow strap in the car. Pro tip: If you have the space, having a D-ring tow adapter for a trailer hitch in the car helps when someone stops and volunteers to help pull you out. They’re very common for 2-inch hitch receivers, get the 1 1/4 inch version (more commonly used hitch size on cars, usually imports) so it fits both sizes (carry multiple size hitch locking pins for it).

    Got spare hoses, belts and bulbs for the car?

    Roof – tarps, bundle of 1X2s, 5 lb box of 3 inch roofing nails.

    Windows -plastic sheeting, more 1X2s, 8d and 10d box nails (box nails are smaller diameter than common nails, less chance of splitting wood. I’m assuming you already have boxes of 12d and 16d common nails).

    Hand saws? (Crosscut and rip).

    Bungee cords and tarp hooks to support your tarp as shelter. Bungees take up less space than plastic or metal hangers.

    Permanent or semi-permanent outdoor cooking shelter? (During the non-SHTF times call it “a gazebo” or “patio shade cover”). Cheap cast iron stove or one made from a 15-gallon steel drum works. Remember, though, wood burns, dirt and concrete don’t so pay attention to the flooring material.

    Spare prescription eyelgasses if you use them. Good safety glasses if you don’t (safety glasses that go over prescription glasses are a Good Thing – Amazon sellls “Allen Company Over Prescription Shooting Glasses”). Keep them in protective cases (search “Viewtainer” on Amazon, the 2 3/4 X 8 inch works well).

    Headlamps. I like Petzl, excellent but they’re spendy. Get several (car, BOB / BIB, tool box, side of fridge, etc.) keep spare batteries handy.

    Larger size (about 2″ – 2 1/2″ tall) votive candles are handy, fit on coffee saucers, and can also be used in most candle lanterns. Locally a box of 50 2-inchers is $14.95.

    RE: Bail-In – Neighborhood defensible? What would it take to control access to your neighborhood? Would blocking the street cause intruders to find other paths?

    Public utilities replace poles with some frequency; the below ground portions may have some rot, but lengths cut from the above ground portions and inserted in appropriately-located deep holes can block “impromptu” vehicle access.

    Any roadblock requires armed overwatch or it will be defeated.

    If you did have to bail-out, do you have a means of carrying spare gas? Consider a roof basket for Ol’ Blue.

    Got any spare wheels and tires (beyond what’s in the trunk)? Wheels don’t have to be new, just round and defect-free, and used but servicable tires are fine.

    Tire patch kit and a means of re-inflating? Bicycle pumps work.

    Got a box/bucket of caltrops? Have a fast way to clear them off roadways after use so you can pass?

  12. Claire
    Claire January 17, 2016 6:40 am

    MJR — “BTW are you saying you don’t get snow in the North Wet?” — Yup. Of course the mountains and the harsh places east of the mountains get snow. West of the mountains, we may get snow anywhere from zero to five times a year, but generally if it’s snowing at dawn it’ll have melted by noon.

    Village Idiot — Many good suggestions. You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought. People will need to run those ideas through their own budgets and skills of course (but there’s nothing new in that). Interesting, the philosophical differences on bug-out equipment, from Kent’s carrying his bug-out gear in his pockets (and everywhere else) to your special equipment.

  13. Claire
    Claire January 17, 2016 6:46 am

    BTW, in addition to the car kit and bug-out bag, I also have an EDC-level kit. Unlike Kent, I don’t keep most of it in my pockets (though some). I haul it in a Maxpedition jumbo pack.

    Maxpedition jumbo pack

    The EDC kit goes everywhere with me and contains a great flashlight, nuts and dried fruit, a small first-aid kit, folding knife, several tools, self-defense items, and other things handy if get caught away from home or car in an emergency.

  14. jed
    jed January 17, 2016 10:12 am

    Lots of good suggestions here. I’ve been think about a “matryoshka doll” approach, where I have a large kit, within which (or attached to) is an easily-extractable smaller kit I can grab and go with, if I need to abandon the larger kit. Within that would also be the “minimal” kit. Probably, it wouldn’t get arranged quite as each inside the larger thing, but if I have just 2 things (duffel bags or storage bins) to just throw in the car if I have to leave quickly, I think that makes it easier. The flip side is those 2 things are heavier.

    I like the Skyhook idea, but I’d want something lighter. Also, the pictured example looks like it’d hold water.

  15. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty January 17, 2016 2:03 pm

    I have a bag of spare clothing and a few other emergency items in the car, but don’t go much of anywhere either. And don’t plan to. Can’t imagine any reason for me to leave here in a SHTF situation. And I’ve given it a lot of thought.

    At my age, and with poor physical strength and stamina, I wouldn’t last long on the road, no matter what kind of “bag” I had. I couldn’t carry much anyway.

    What I have done is to collect a good amount of basic supplies and equipment here. For example, I have a full field hospital packed into several good sports bags and backpacks. These go with me when I travel, along with lots of other things. But they were designed mostly to use right here.

    I could treat anything from simple to moderately complex wounds, deliver a baby, stabilize broken bones and so forth. I can do simple sutures and treat burns. My home could easily become a treatment center in a community emergency that overwhelmed the local hospital with the more serious injuries. If I could have access to a few ordinary pharmaceuticals and some other “prescription only” items, I could do a lot more. But we deal with what we have and can get…

  16. Village Idiot
    Village Idiot January 17, 2016 6:40 pm

    Claire – RE: “Special Equipment” – I carry a “man purse” which is a plain (and well worn, so it’s innocuous) OD small medic’s bag: 1 SOFFT tourniquet, 1 Israeli pressure bandage, 3 oz bottle alcohol, small roll adhesive tape, 2 inch Ace bandage, 4 each 4X4 pads, black Sharpie marker, 5 each 3X5 cards, two lottery pencils, small prescription pill bottle with 8 safety pins, a few straight pins, 1 sewing needle and 10 feet of thread, and two shortened 6d box nails, 1 each triangular bandage, 1 each mylar space blanket (in the package they’re amazingly compact), medium prescription pill bottle containing assorted Band-Aids, a few Batadine swabs and antiseptic cream packets, another medium pill bottle with two pair tightly rolled Nitrile gloves, a small bottle of Advil, Rite In The Rain pocket notebook with RITR pen, Maglite AA LED flashlight, 2 spare AA batteries, 1 each tightly rolled 30 gallon trash bag (aka “rain suit”), 2 tightly rolled quart freezer bags (can be filled with water or used for ice pack), 4 each coiled 12 inch wire ties, 1 each inexpensive small lock blade folding knife, 25 ft 550 cord, large Acme Thunderer whistle on a 550 cord neck strap, small compass, spare old pair of prescription eyeglasses.

    Pockets: Surefire LED Exec 2 light, Leatherman Wingman, Swiss Army Climber II knife (it has tweezer, toothpick, scissors, etc.), Benchmade assisted opening knife, 550 cord wrist band. Each of my keyrings (I carry two – car keyring which also has house and work keys and a spare keyring that has duplicates (the two rings are always in different pockets) both have Streamlight Nano lights on both.
    The medic’s bag has two small outside pockets, one contains my burner phone and charger (my smart phone always goes in a pocket – one charger works for both), the Band-Aid bottle and the folded 3X5 cards and lottery pencils go in the other so I don’t have to open the bag for small boo-boos or to record/provide phone #/address, etc. I don’t carry a small caliber “accessory” in the bag because I always have one in a larger caliber on me, and that would preclude leaving the bag unattended or tossing the bag to someone to use in an emergency.

    No one has ever commented on the bag, whether I’ve carried it or it’s hanging on the coat hook in my office. It looks like something lunch might be carried in. I’ve thought about putting some sort of “LunchMate” or “Lunch to Go” logo on it to help disguise it but have never gotten around to it. I’d guess a real insulated lunch container would probably work just as well and be just as innocuous.

    As for fish hooks, signalling mirrors, blankets and divining rods, that sort of thing is in the car.

    So, Kent isn’t the only one walking around with pockets (and more) full of stuff. And, yes, I have put a fair amount of thought into this stuff.

  17. LarryA
    LarryA January 18, 2016 12:03 am

    VI, my “possibles bag” is a bit more stylish, and hangs on me instead of the coat hook. OTOH it doesn’t have as serious a med kit.

    But then we do renaissance faires and such, so I have an excuse.

    And I’m probably the only one around with no fishing gear in any of my kits. I don’t like eating fish, I hate fishing for them, and I suck at catching them. Even if I didn’t, there aren’t any around here except in our one river. If you’re close enough to the Guadalupe to get your line wet, you can see someone’s house.

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