Yes, Another Post About Bug Out Bags

Today’s post is another entry into Safecastle’s Freedom Awards writing competition. There are great prizes to be had, so check that link out and send your entry.


I think every prepper has posed the question to him – or herself, “If TSHTF, will I hunker down or bug out?” For some, it’s a tough question. For me, it’s simpler—I live alone, roughly 60 miles away from the rest of my family. I’m bugging out, no matter how difficult the circumstances look, because quite frankly there’s not much point to survival if I can’t be there for the people who need me. Which is why I’ve given an awful lot of thought to my bug-out bag, and I feel that there are some concepts regarding the bug-out bag circulating around most survival sites that are liable to make things a lot more difficult on the individual who’s bugging out if a confrontation with other people arises.

First, I want my bug-out bag as light as possible. And I mean light.  My current bag is 20 lbs., and I’m still trying to lighten it. There’s a reason for this. I think we all assume that in a SHTF situation, there will be people around who’ll be willing to kill you for the shirt off your back. Mind, when I’m talking SHTF, I’m talking a Hurricane Katrina, or something similar—maybe even a TEOTWAWKI event. If you encounter these people with a 100-lb. bag on your back, do you really expect to be able to run away if you need to? Do you really expect to have the freedom of movement you’ll need to get away with both your life and your gear intact?

When I was in high school, I used to know a kid who carried all of his books in his backpack, all the time. When I walked by him in the hall, I would gently push his backpack sideways and watch him spin around. It was funny. It wouldn’t be so funny if it was a SHTF situation, and that weight caused him to be ungainly at a time when he needed his agility most.

A bug-out bag needs to be lightweight if you’re realistically thinking that you may face confrontation with people who want what you have. You need to be able to sprint, to crouch—basically to have all or most of the capabilities you would without the bag on your back. That being said, here’s what I carry in my lightweight bug-out bag, bearing in mind that the bag needs to address three main concerns—food, water, and shelter. In all of these cases, I try to address long-term needs as well as short-term needs. I want my lightweight bug-out bag to both weigh fifteen lbs. or so and to keep me alive indefinitely.

As far as food goes, I have a bit packed away—some granola bars, some power bars, etc. But I also carry a collapsible ultra-light fishing rod and reel and a couple of lures. It takes up barely any space, and I’ll be able to try to snag a fish if the opportunity arises. I also pack two rat traps. I once read an account of a guy who got stuck in an ice storm who used rat traps to catch squirrels. He claimed that he ate very well, and it seems like a pretty simple solution. Set the trap out at night, bait it, and go to sleep. That being said, for bait I carry birdseed in two small, airtight plastic containers, and a hunk of cheese that’s likely getting awfully stinky by now (also in an airtight container). So, with minimal equipment, I’ve established the means for acquiring food in both the short-term and the long-term.

As far as shelter goes, I have a hammock, a tarp, some paracord, and a small wool blanket. Simple as that. Between those things, I can set myself up, protected from the elements (barring a serious storm), pretty much anywhere. Sometimes the hammock won’t be a realistic option, but I can always sleep on the ground. I also have about four different lighters and a firesteel scattered throughout my bag, because you need to be able to start a fire where you’re laying up for the night, especially if it’s chilly out.

As far as water goes, I have four bottles of water, a canteen that I keep filled, and a Katadyn Hiker water filter. Between those things and my ability to light a fire, I’ll be able to purify and obtain water long-term, as well as have enough to get me by in the short-term. Even after the filter on the Katadyn is past its prime, it’s still good for filtering out particulate matter before boiling.

The other odds and ends that I carry are a small first aid kit, toiletries, a couple of flashlights with spare batteries, a couple spare pairs of socks and underwear, zip ties, duct tape, a small aluminum mess kit, and of course a dependable knife (a Ka-Bar) and a multi-tool.

That’s really all you need. Survival doesn’t necessarily take a whole lot of equipment, and a lot of bug-out bags seem to be trying really hard to bring too many of the comforts of home along for the ride. You need to get over it. You’re bugging out. It’s going to be hard.

That last thing I want to do, in hopes that I’m not dragging this out too long, is address a couple of pieces of equipment that a lot of people carry that is actually unnecessary.

Propane camp stoves – Absolutely unnecessary, generally heavy, and bulky. You have fire. Fire cooks things. You don’t need this. If you want to cook with a low profile, you can dig a hole and make a small fire of mostly embers and cook over that. The last thing you need if you get into a confrontation is to be lugging a propane tank, however small, around with you.

Cold weather clothes – Why would you pack a jacket in your bag? It’s safe to assume that you’ll be dressed appropriately for the weather on any given day, so if it’s cold then you’ll already be wearing a jacket. Maybe you pack some long johns or something like that, but keeping a separate wardrobe in your bug-out bag is a bit ludicrous.

Lots of food  – Don’t try to stock up a ton of food in your bag. Your bag is either sustainable in the long term or it’s not. Packing a month’s worth of food isn’t going to help except to delay when your food runs out. If you don’t have a plan after that, then you’re screwed anyway. The only exception for this is if you’re packing enough food to get to a secondary location.

And now to wrap up. I wrote this to make the point that if you’re in a SHTF situation that involves rioting and whatnot then you are likely to get into a couple of confrontations. Your abilities may be different than mine. Maybe you can pack 25 or 30 lbs. and still have most of your mobility. That’s fine too. Just make sure that, when your bag is strapped on your back, you can run, jump, climb, or do whatever you need to.

In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have a “shoot anything in my way” mentality. My idea is one of staying low, staying quiet, and doing my best to keep out of people’s way. This bag is really designed for like-minded individuals.

I also would like to point out that I used this bag when I hitchhiked around the US for about six months straight. This bag, supplemented with the occasional meal from a kindly stranger, got me through just fine and in reasonable comfort. Yeah, sometimes I went a day or two without food, but that was about the maximum. This lightweight bag works. Give it a try.

Thanks for reading. Cheers.