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For the Practical, not the Extreme: Practical Bug Out Bag at Home

Catherine Stolfi has a Master of Science degree and enjoys sharing experiences related to expanding awareness on particular topics.

Bear Grylls from Man Vs. Wild with his Survival Bag

Bear Grylls from Man Vs. Wild with his Survival Bag

Many people in their homes often have a first aid or emergency kit but its become more popular now to have what’s called a Bug Out Bag. This is a bag that is kept incase of an emergency and is ready to go at anytime. They are meant for 72-hour survival in the traditional army sense but many have the same components that a first aid kit, hiking or even a camping bag would have. I’ve compiled a practical approach to the bug-out bag without breaking the bank and being able to use it interchangeably for the occasional hiking or camping trip.

Firstly, you need a good backpack. There are many different kinds of bags that come in a vast range of prices from as low as $50 to upwards of a few hundred dollars. So, which is the best for you? I’d stick with the 72 hour rule of thumb; a backpack that is used for weekend camping trips should do fine. REI has the widest selection but many sporting good stores now carry such bags. They usually have a wide array of pockets and clip-able areas for hooking on your sleeping bag, water bottle and other various survival gear. Keep the size of your family in mind and ensure you have a big enough bag in the adults backpack for any children items that can't be carried by the children themselves.

A first aid kit is also essential and necessary for your Bug Out Bag. It is also great to have together for an occasional hiking and camping trip and just to have around the home in case of an emergency like the fire or carbon monoxide alarm going off and you need to leave the house quickly. There are plenty available at local drug stores that include bandages, band-aids, healing ointment (such as Neosporin) and bandaging tape among other things. However, it may be helpful to create your own from various components from your local drug store. You will want standard size band-aids as well as larger bandages for scarier unexpected bruises. You’ll need alcohol wipes to clean any cut followed by cut ointment such as Neosporin before placing the band-aid on. Athletic tape and wrap bandages are also handy for any other cuts that may be too large for the band-aids you already had.

Survival accessories are also important components. These are small survival equipment pieces that would be used in a wilderness arena such as a pocketknife, switchblade kit, small mirror, waterproof matches, whistle, tape, rope and small LED flashlight. Depending on the weather you may need foot warmers, warming packs and/or space blankets. Survival gear would be the larger, and more expensive items, needed for outdoor survival such as a compass, binoculars, heavy-duty lamp/flashlight, sleeping bag, outdoor towel, plastic tarps for shelter and/or water collection and a tent. For a practical Bug Out Bag, these items may not be needed and are optional.

Food and water is imperative to survival, with the latter being the most important. Bottled water is used if it can be carried but a water purification system is best in emergency situations especially in the woods; this could be water purifying drops or a bottled filter system. Lightweight cooking supplies can be found at outdoor/camping stores along with fire starting tools such as matches, ferrocerium rods and lighters. Water is also used in bathing and cooking so carry as much as able to in an emergency situation. Also purchase non-perishable food for your trips.

You should always keep extra clothing, dry shoes and dry socks in your Bug Out Bag as well as a hat, rain gear, bug spray and sunscreen. If you’ve watched as many survival shows as I have, you’d know how important trying to keep the clothes you have dry especially in colder temperatures. Even in the summer out in the middle of the forest or desert, it can get rather cold at night depending on the level of shelter you’re in. It’s actually even safer to jump into a frozen lake naked then fully clothed, because once you get out of the water, the wet clothes restrict your body from generating heat again.

Literature is also important when in unfamiliar territory. This includes field guides about plants and animals (in color if possible), a survival guide (army survival guide is popular), various maps, a list of emergency centers and emergency numbers. The Army Survival Guide is a popular guide for survival situations but it may not apply in all climates. Also, most of the printed Army Survival guides I’ve seen are not in color, which might not help when looking at the list of plants that are safe for consumption in the wild. If you’re visiting a national park, the entrance will always have maps of the trails and important key locations throughout the park. Ensure you grab a free copy to store in your Bug Out Bag.

For survival in emergency situations closer to home, visit your local town office and ask for a list of places that are usually designated as shelters in time of emergencies in your town, county and state. Also request a map of your town and/or county to keep with your emergency kit so major highways and roadways can be known for exiting an area if a disaster has struck. Ensure the map you receive also has emergency contacts and addresses for the local police stations and fire stations for your area. Depending on the situation, it may be safer to be in the area of a law official or someone that is professional trained in CPR and other skills.

You should also have a two-way radio to reach out for help if you’re in trouble or a separate radio system to listen in for emergency announcements. Many walkie-talkies already have radio capabilities, can be waterproof and reach emergency lines. The prices for walkie-talkies can range widely as far as price but a good set will be above $50 or $60. The price can go as high as almost $300 because these radios likely have a longer range, more channels and/or a high capacity battery life. The radio (for listening) range, however, won’t change much so these expensive radios are not as important for listening for radio stations with emergency announcements.

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Most important of all, be prepared. It's important to make a list of necessary items for your bag, even if they need to be purchased overtime. Also, it’s important to sit down with your family, especially with younger children, to discuss the plan in case of an emergency. You need to make a decision about where you’d meet if separated or if you’re not together at the time of the emergency. Even though it may be a bit heavy for young children, it’s important to discuss different scenarios and possible emergencies, within reason. For example, what’s the plan if there is a flood, if the power goes out in your neighborhood, if there is a terrorist attack? It’s not a pleasant conversation but an important one.

You can visit the following sites for more information on how to build an emergency kit as well as what to do in case of an emergency.

Red Cross Survival Kit

FEMA Ready – Build a Kit

These websites are also great tools to educate yourself about different types of emergencies and read about scenarios that you might not have thought of that could happen on your block, in your town or on a national or global scale. Emergency kits are not something new but Bug Out Bags can be a fun way to prepare yourself for a situation that is out of your control. Having a good Bug Out Bag isn’t just about being a survivalist. It’s about keeping you and your loved ones safe in case of an emergency and to be prepared for anything that may come. Even if it's never used, your peace of mind from having one is priceless.




Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 11, 2013:

We have hiked and camped in some lonely , beautiful spots. Having the 'right stuff' along makes a huge difference. Thanks for sharing this.

Sending Angels to you this evening :) ps

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2013:

I've been hiking in the backcountry for forty years. I think you have everything covered with this hub. Good job.

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