BUGOUT SYSTEM-NOT A BUGOUT BAG… Improving your chances by re-thinking the basics

There is a tremendous amount of information everywhere about bugout bags and what they should contain. The bugout bag is designed for a very specific purpose and how it is put together will have a great effect on how will the owner fare in an emergency. This article is based on my personal experiences while deploying my bugout bag as well as on the experience of others. I hope you will find it informative and please don’t forget to leave your comments, good or bad, below.

Many preparedness experts talk about one backpack that is your ultimate “get out of Dodge” package. That is one pack that every member of your group or family will have at the ready. When disaster strikes this pack will get tossed in the back of the car or whatever evacuation method has been previously chosen, and it is supposed to sustain you until either help arrives or you make it to your alternate location.

This is a very good basic concept. In this article however, I will illustrate why it may be of interest to you to expand what your bugout bag is and turn it into a BUGOUT SYSTEM.

WHY COMPLICATE THINGS?

Everyone is familiar with old words of wisdom such as; “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. What this means is that if all your eggs are in one place and you happen to fall while carrying them, they will all brake. Now you have no eggs. How does this apply to the BOS (Bug Out System)?

There is a chance that as you are making progress to your bugout location, you may run into issues…perhaps thieves, wildfires, dangerous wildlife, injuries or other problems which may force you to drop or lose some of your gear. What will happen if you have “all your eggs in one basket”? In other words what will you do if your one pack gets damaged, lost, stolen…fill in the blank…?

The Bug Out System provides for three different stages of bugout gear. This means you have three layers of personal equipment which will help you get through some tough times and thrive.

Keep in mind that the BOS will not be the same every time. It will change depending on the time of the year, possible or inevitable danger or scope of a particular exercise.

My stage one will be carried in a vest, small pack or otherwise on me separate from the rest of my BOS. Shown on this picture clockwise from the left are matches in a waterproof container, wire, water purification filters, water purification device, tampon (great way to start a fire), Gerber Multi-Tool, Flashlight with a carrier, Spare batteries, Knife and a lighter. Usually I would also carry a set of small fishing hooks and a small first aid kit.

THREE LAYER (STAGE) SYSTEM…STAGE 1

The first layer is the gear that I carry with me more or less all the time. This basic layer is called the Every Day Carry (EDC) stage. These basics will always include items such as a multi-tool, flashlight, a way to start a fire, a water purification device, wire, paracord, notepad and pencil and a knife. There are also basic survival items such as fishing hooks, fishing line and a small first aid kit. 

This is not to say that I carry a Lifestraw and fishing hooks everywhere I go. What this means is that if danger was near (sound preparedness plan will always include basic understanding of immediate threat…) I will have these items together and close at hand. The EDC will enable me to get to the remainder of my BOS or will be my last line of defense should I lose everything…more on this later. From the EDC stage, I will always have a multi-tool, a flashlight and a knife.  Should the disaster situation deteriorate to dangerous levels the EDC might include self-defence items such as a firearm and ammunition, bear spray etc.… The EDC part of the BOS is known as Stage 1.

My stage one will also include an ALICE web belt with suspenders, an ammo/utility pouch, additional knife and a small pack (butt pack). On this setup, I also carry three quarts (2.8 Liters) of water.

This part of the stage one includes an ALICE belt with suspenders. There are three one quart canteens and one two quart canteen in the picture. A large poncho serves as rain gear as well as a shelter. There is wire, water purification tablets, additional fixed blade knife (Ka-Bar). The small can by the wire coil is flammable gel which acts as a candle or a small heater. I might have a GPS but I will always have a map and compass. Also included is paracord, bungee cords, bug repellent and one day's worth of rations. and a bandage. Above the MRE rations is a plastic bag containing a compound called Seal-All. This provides me with a simple way of sealing cuts in boots etc as well as a flammable fire starter. Next to the bag is a small white sealed vile containing all weather matches and another tampon.

STAGE 2

Stage 2 will consist of all of the above mentioned equipment plus a pack. The pack I chose for this stage of my BOS is the U.S. Military medium A.L.I.C.E (All-purpose, Light-weight, Individual, Carrying Equipment). The ALICE system is the predecessor to the MOLLE system. It was designed during the Vietnam war and has served the U.S. Military well into the 1990’s. Many U.S. Soldiers have complained about these packs. Common complaints were that the pack doesn’t seem to fit anyone who isn’t exactly 5 feet 9 inches… In the end, the ALICE pack is the only pack that hasn’t come apart on me so far and I love packs with external frames. I personally find the comfort satisfactory even with loads of up to eighty pounds. If I had one complaint about the ALICE, it would be that it is very noisy. The webbing and straps squeak so loud when the pack is loaded that a tactical advantage will probably not be in my favor if required.

Stage two of my BOS contains three days’ worth of rations, two ways of starting fire FAST, sweater, gloves, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and miscellaneous items such as several glow sticks, flares, sewing kit and more paracord.  I also choose to carry spare set of clothes including socks, underwear, and outerwear as well as spare pair of boots. Many experts disagree with me on this point but I have intimate knowledge of what it is like living for several days in soaking clothing, when temperatures hover around zero degrees Celsius. In these instances, the ability to start a fire, put on dry clothing and prepare a warm meal is more amazing than words can describe. In the end it is up to you what you pack but keep in mind the terrain and weather you will be operating in as well as your level of skill and ability.

Stage 2 consist of an ALICE medium pack, Pictured here are the most common items found inside. Spare pair of boots, sleeping bag, hoodie, on top of which is a ziploc bag containing underwear and socks. below the sweater us a rolled up air mattress heavier jacket and three day's worth of rations. to the right of the rations is a pair of Gore-tex socks with a sewing kit. Above the socks is a spare set of outerwear with a shemagh and a pair of gloves.

STAGE 3

Stage three of the BOS will include everything else including your means of escape. Chances are you have some sort of vehicle which will get you out of dodge when the excrement hits the fan. If you are like me, you will have a pickup truck or an SUV as your main means of leaving your distressed location. If this is the case, ensure you can maximize every last piece of space to its full potential.  Do you have extra batteries…? In they go! Extra bandages…? Throw them in! Board games for the kids…? If you can find the room they should be there. In other words, take whatever your mode of transportation can relatively safely handle. Remember that it is always much better to leave your stuff on the side of the road that wishing you brought it.

Keep in mind that if you are using your family van or SUV, you may want to consider maintenance. Extra fuel and perhaps the next oil change might be something to think about when preparing.

STAGE 3

Stage three of the BOS will include everything else including your means of escape. Chances are you have some sort of vehicle which will get you out of dodge when the excrement hits the fan. If you are like me, you will have a pickup truck or an SUV as your main means of leaving your distressed location. If this is the case, ensure you can maximize every last piece of space to its full potential.  Do you have extra batteries…? In they go! Extra bandages…? Throw them in! Board games for the kids…? If you can find the room they should be there. In other words, take whatever your mode of transportation can relatively safely handle. Remember that it is always much better to leave your stuff on the side of the road that wishing you brought it. The above pictures show from left to right a heavy winter camo jacket with some books, duct tape and a power pack on top of a large duffel bag. Warm winter gloves with a towel on top and a military bandage on top of it. A large first aid kit below the towel. Next to the gloves is a length of rope with two packs of military rations below it. Next to the rope are two packs of paracord. Assortment of batteries to the right of the paracord with two balls of twine below them. Below the twine there is a hatchet a flashlight and a flare. To the right of that there are three waterproofed packs of clothing including underwear. Twenty liter jerrycan for water (which is obviously not carried in the duffel bag) and a gas mask (if needed). 

Keep in mind that if you are using your family van or SUV, you may want to consider maintenance. Extra fuel and perhaps the next oil change might be something to think about when preparing.

The above list is not complete and the gear which you haul with you will have to be suitable for you and the emergency you find yourself in. The above are some of the items that you may want to consider packing. Also, items such as toilet paper and batteries should also be found in stage two and one.

The main objective is to have all your gear divided so that if you have to ditch stage three, you still have stage two and one. If you lose stage two you still have something which is better than nothing.

WHEN THE GOING GETS REALLY TOUGH

Sometimes, even the best laid plans will turn sour and things will fall apart. If that happens you might have to ditch your ride. This also means everything that you are not able to carry. Had you simply thrown some canned food into a garbage bag along with two pairs of spare socks, it would be much harder to remain mobile. Since you are prepared however, all you have to do is ruck up and accept the fact that a small fortune is lost.

Now moving on foot, you still have food, water and all other necessities that will help you make your escape plan easier. Should more problems arise and you are forced to drop your rucksack, you still have stage one which is carried independently of Stage 2. At this point you may not have much left but what you do have will make your life thousand times easier than not having it. Your stage one just might be the difference between making your destination or walking aimlessly through suburbia or the countryside hoping for someone or something to find you and help you out.  And in a major catastrophe such as the Luisiana floods of 2005, help might not come soon enough…

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

As mentioned before, the BOS will have to be tailored to your needs based on a) your location, b) personal needs and c) personal abilities.

Your location means that you have to take into consideration the climate and terrain when packing up. For example, you may have to compromise between cold weather clothing and weight. If you plan on moving through a mountainous terrain, climbing gear may be in order. If you live in extreme northern climates you may have to take into considerations very short summers.

Personal needs may include feminine hygiene products, prescription drugs or over the counter medicine. Extra pair of eye glasses or contact lenses may prove to be catastrophic if forgotten.

Your abilities account for a large portion of your ability to survive. You can have all the equipment known to man but if you don’t know how to use it, you won’t make it far. Your ability to move with your BOS is very important as well. It is strongly advisable to “ruck up” at least twice a week and go for a short hike with your kit as part of your exercise routine. Fellow joggers in your local park might give you strange looks at first but they will get used to it.

Turn some hunting/fishing/hiking/camping trips into actual bugouts. Short little weekend excursions will show you your personal limits as well as the limits of your BOS.

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