This is the second installment in a three part series of articles dealing with the bug out system. In part one, the EDC or stage 1 of the system was discussed. Stage two of the system consists of the main pack, commonly called the bugout bag or seventy-two-hour bag.
This pack is carried IN ADDITION to your EDC and the system should be packed so that if you have to drop the pack for whatever reason, you still have gear left. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
There are many types of packs available and provided they are built well with quality materials and heavy-duty stitching, most will work. There are however some features that I personally consider a must. These features are;
- a) Quick release shoulder straps
These straps will simply allow you to drop your pack fast. This military feature will also allow you to get your pack off your back using only one hand.
- b) External and removable frame
Most modern civilian and military packs are made with internal frames firmly fixed to the pack. External frame however offers additional flexibility to the pack because the frame can be removed and rigged up to carry firewood, jerry cans and additional equipment. This feature, which is quickly becoming obsolete, is great because the frame can removed from the pack while keeping it packed up and always ready to go.
- c) Heavy-Duty construction
A pack designated for the bugout role will have to be robust, preferably made to a higher standard than the average camping pack. It will be abused a lot more since in emergency situations one might not be able to afford to be gentle with this gear.
- d) Ability to attach other gear to the outside of the pack
This is a very important feature and even though bungee cords can strap gear to most packs, military loops like the MOLLE or the older ALICE style of attachments will increase the packs functionality significantly.
There is probably only one pack which will provide the user with all of these features and at the same time provide a roomy, sturdy, waterproof pack and that is the classic U.S. Military issue ALICE pack. ALICE stands for All-purpose Light-weight Individual Carrying Equipment. It has been the standard issue of the U.S. Military since the early 1970’s.
Pictured above and left are examples of U.S. issue ALLICE packs. They are sturdy, with external and removable frames and will last through anything. Some do find these packs uncomfortable but in my opinion the discomfort is a very small price to pay for the flexibility of this unit.
What one puts into their bugout bag (BOB) has been a source of great debates for a long time. To simplify things let’s start with some basics.
The BOB will be used in one of three situations:
- a) Getting from point A to point B
- b) Sheltering in place and waiting for help to arrive, or
- c) Living out of the pack permanently (or for extended periods of time)
Option c will be very difficult (although not impossible) and will require a significant amount of mental as well as psychological preparation. Living off the land is extremely hard for most modern people. At least basic instruction in survival and bush craft will be necessary and a significant amount of practice afterward will be vital. Having to walk off into the wilderness in the month of January, in temperatures dropping to minus thirty degrees Celsius, with only few short hours of daylight is a daunting task for most. On the other hand if you are one of those people who is willing to give this a try, chances are you don’t need a BOB to begin with. There are people out there who can walk off into the wilderness with only a knife and be fine in any weather. These experts truly need nothing more than a knife…
Therefore, living out of the pack for extended periods of time is not realistic for most of the population. Keep in mind that of you have never lived out of your pack for a month then you don’t know if it’s possible for you. When emergency strikes, that is a terrible time to learn these facts.
Sheltering in place will not require too much sophistication in your gear and in fact, you might not even need a BOB. But you have to be sure you can, in fact, shelter in place. If your home gets flooded/ burned down or somehow unforeseen events force you to abandon your plan, you will have to resort to moving. This brings us to a) getting from point A to B.
The original seventy-two-hour pack, as recommended by the Alberta Government is designed to keep you alive until help arrives. This is because in a major crisis, the first responders may not be able to get to you in the first three days. This model is a good place to start when building a BOB but in most cases needs to be customized.
In addition to the EDC my BOB always contains the following:
- a) At least two additional ways of starting fire. This can include lighters in a waterproof container, additional matches etc.
- b) Spare clothing. One set of socks and underwear and one set of outerwear along with a warm sweater or a jacket. It should be noted that this changes from summer to winter. In the summer months, it is easy to catch hypothermia even if it’s above freezing and having to operate in wet clothing makes any job much harder. Having the ability to change into dry clothes will raise one’s morale and give them the will to carry on. Spring and fall, when temperatures hover near or below freezing, it is more likely to get wet (heavier and more frequent rains, falling through thinner ice, sweating during the day and freezing at night) therefore those are the times when carrying spare clothing is very important. In winter everything is frozen and that includes precipitation so getting wet is much less likely. In negative thirty degrees Celsius, spear clothing can be left out and exchanged for warm layers. It would be advisable to keep spare pair of socks to keep sweating feet dry.
- c) Three days’ worth of food. When it comes to eating during survival emergencies keep in mind that you will eat to live, not live to eat. Some people eat such large amount of food that carrying three days’ worth will simply be too much weight. Canned food is quite heavy and you will also have to carry water which will most likely be the heaviest part of your BOB. Freeze dried foods are best along with protein bars or similar foods. If you have access to military rations, either American MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) or Canadian IMP (Individual Meal Packs) it is ideal to “strip them down” That means you get rid of all of the items in a meal pack that you know you don’t like. If for example you hate a particular desert, get rid of it and only pack the main course. There’s no point in carrying stuff you don’t plan on using. As far as water goes, it is heavy and you might not be able to carry any more than three liters. That means one liter per day for drinking, no other use. If the weather is hot, conserve energy and try to move slowly to minimize sweating.
- d) Shelter is another very important part of your BOB. One tarp or military style poncho will keep the moisture off you but will not keep you warm. If you have a poncho you also have rain gear which can be worn over your pack so as to cover it as well.
- e) Sleeping bag. The first seventy-two hours of any emergency will be the most intense ones. During this time, it is vital to stay as comfortable as possible so that you can rest and conserve energy. Burn outs will happen in the first few days or until the body begins to get used to the new “normal”. If you are moving from one point to the next, and your route takes more than one day, you will have to rest and you need to do it in relative comfort. One of my favorite sleeping systems is the U.S. Military patrol sleeping bag. If you do purchase one it should come in four pieces including a stuff sack, Gore-Tex bivvy bag, a patrol bag and an intermediate cold weather bag. All pieces assembled correctly will give you a rating of – 34 degrees Celsius in a new bag. I have personally slept in one in -27 degrees Celsius very comfortably.
Any additional equipment might include items such as paracord or twine, small hatchet and saw, a pot or stainless steel water bottle to boil water in or heat food, personal hygiene items such as a toothbrush toothpaste and soap. Also consider carrying duct tape or electrical tape and zip ties. Wire for snares as well as some fishing line and fishing hooks can help you provide food if the going gets truly tough.
A small first aid kit should be in your EDC but if you choose to have on in your BOB you can probably add more items that you might not be able to carry with you on your person. Add additional bandages, antibiotics, safety pins and pain killers.
There is no mention of knives or other cutting tools since those must be part of your EDC.
Your pack should be packed with the lightest items closer to the bottom and heavier ones closer to the top. This should be balanced with placing the more often needed items in your pack so that you don’t have to dig for them. If there are several people in your group, consider packing your bags the same way. That way if there is other work to do, one person can be sent to get food from everyone’s pack and if everyone pack it in the same spot it will be easy to find.
The BOB must be packed according to local conditions. In most places in Canada, weather can range from extremely cold to very hot. Your BOB must be build and designed to compensate for these differences. There are many outstanding BOB ideas out there and most of them are valid but keep in mind that a BOB designed for Arizona will probably not work in Northern Alberta in winter.
When emergency happens and you have to “pack up” it would be a very bad time to find out that your BOB is too heavy for you to carry for extended periods of time. Ideally, pack up every once in a while and practice. Walk around your neighborhood and preferably, go hiking in a more challenging terrain so that you get a good idea of what works and what does not.
Remember that your BOB is packed separately from you EDC. This means that if you needed to drop your pack you still have your EDC on you without having to rummage in your pack. Your EDC is your first and last line of defense.