If I only had a … Have you ever caught yourself saying that? I don’t mean when you are sitting in the living room watching a football game and the commercials for the Big Screen TV sale coming up on Black Friday start to play non-stop. No, I mean when you are out away from home or in a situation where you can’t just walk down to the basement or out to the shed to grab that special tool that you need. When you are out hiking in the woods and it starts to rain and you remember you didn’t bring any rain gear. Or when you are in the parking lot late at night staring at a dashboard that should be lit up but isn’t because your car won’t start and you don’t have any jumper cables. Those moments suck and if I find myself in a place like that I start mentally kicking myself in the rear.
Raindrops won’t normally kill you and even though you are soaking wet, you usually make it back to the car. A lot of people have jumper cables if you are in a safe area or have access to a cell phone you are usually fine, but what if the ‘If I only had a’ moment happens when you are completely alone? What if you forget something that could very well save your life and nobody is going to come if you call? Instead of TVs this season, have you thought of giving yourself a little something? How about the gift of survival?
I know, I know. What am I talking about?
I think about situations I could find myself in and what I could use to survive all the time. I guess it is an occupational hazard of someone who calls themselves a Prepper. For instance, I have another long car trip planned next month to visit family that will require us to be on the road for two days. On a normal trip that long you could expect all manner of surprise inconveniences to pop up. On a two-day trip during December you have to throw Mother Nature in there as well so my thoughts have already turned to what I need to pack to ensure that my family and the survival dog are prepared for any situation that occurs while we are over 1000 miles away from home. The same home that has all of my supplies that have been carefully considered, acquired and assembled for ‘anything that happens’.
There are hundreds of things to think about when I start planning what to pack for that trip, but it made me consider basic bug out gear that anyone should have on them whenever they are more than a few hours walk from their home base. This is the survival gear you will need in a crisis situation and a lot of this gear should be considered for your Bug Out Bag if you plan to maximize your chances of survival.
No, I am not talking about fuel that has been treated for your generator or car – I am talking about fuel for your body. The number one priority for any human outside of the extremes of hot and cold are water and food. If you don’t have those two bases covered, you die. Granted, you can go a fairly long time without food, but do you want to when this is so relatively easy to avoid? Hunger causes all sorts of issues with mental clarity but it also weakens you. You need fuel in your tank to power your survival engine, so ensuring you always have some emergency food isn’t just a good idea, it is vitally important.
There are a lot of options out there for emergency food, but we are talking about survival here so at its most basic you need calories. This can be achieved with energy bars, MREs, emergency rations or regular food. The food you choose should be appropriate to where you are going to store it and how you will eat it. For example, If you are stocking your winter car survival kit in anticipation of being stranded you probably wouldn’t want to pack a couple cans of peaches. This might be great for your pantry back home, but emergency food in this situation would ideally be something that you didn’t have to cook, provided a load of calories and could be prepared without any tools. Sure you can open a can without a can opener, but if you are stranded in the winter would you want to do that?
When you consider a bug out bag, Freeze dried food is an excellent option provided you have the extra capacity to heat water. In the car survival example unless you brought along a stove and water to boil, that freeze dried food wouldn’t be worth eating. According to the situation you are planning for, ensure that you have prepared food and water for everyone with you.
Knowledge and the will to survive are probably the most important considerations that impact whether or not someone will make it through a crisis, but tools are very important too. I know some purists out there talk about only needing a good knife and while I agree that a sharp sturdy survival knife is probably the most important survival tool, there are others you should have in your bag that meet other needs. Ideally each item you are lugging around with you has multiple uses.
I just wrote a post about an entrenching tool in your bug out bag and while I personally don’t carry one, a lot of other preppers do and use them for digging, chopping tasks and even defensive weapons. Machetes offer some similar capabilities in the defensive department as well as being useful for cutting and chopping your way through brush. Multi-tools bring tremendous variety to your abilities that you are carrying and can perform a surprising variety of functions.
Light is often overlooked but having a good flashlight or my personal favorite, a headlamp could help you navigate when without light you would be powerless to move quickly in the dark. No, your smartphone is not a good substitute for a flashlight.
When I mentioned food and water above, the only thing that could kill you quicker is really exposure. You can die from extreme cold or heat faster than from being without water, so a plan for shelter can’t be ignored either.
In a bug out situation, the main considerations are something to keep the elements off you and this can be accomplished usually with a tent or even a tarp. Tarps are light, inexpensive and work in a million ways as long as you have something to tie it off to. You could also use a military rain poncho which goes back to the double use aspect. In addition tarps and rain ponchos are quickly set up and taken down. Have you tried repacking a backpacking tent? It isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but you don’t want to take off down the trail only to discover you left your pole bag back at the last spot.
Tarps will protect you from sun and rain but the aren’t the best at keeping you warm. For that a survival bivvy sack is one option that is very light and takes up almost no room. The downside is that these aren’t meant to last a long time and in some cases, a sleeping bag would be a better option. Find out which one is better for your environment, circumstances and adjust accordingly. You don’t want to die from hypothermia.
There are so many other things we could add into a complete bug out bag checklist, but without laying out the whole plan, which you can read more about on our site, here are some other important considerations.
Now you have the gear, you need to make sure it works and more importantly that you know how to use it. You can’t just buy all of this stuff and shove it in a box in the closet. Make these tools part of your life by adding where appropriate to your Every Day Carry. This might not be a smart idea for a machete, but you would be surprised how often some of the other items will come in handy. You don’t want to be that person caught in a survival situation saying, “If I only had a…”
What gear do you have? What would you add to this list?
by Pat Henry
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