Introduction: Emergency / Survival Pack Also Known As the BOB, GOOD, HELP, 3-Day or "Oh Sh*t" Bag

About: My name is Deni. I enjoy DIY projects and figuring out how to tackle projects around my home, and finding creative solutions to things.

As most people are hyper aware of the need for preparedness in the recent aftermath of "Superstorm" Sandy, I was working to prepare my larger emergency bag.  I have a previously published 'ible on a small EDC kit packed into a tin, found here:

I have named my kit a HELP bag, which stands for:

The other acronyms listed in the title (for anyone not already familiar with them:  BOB is for Bug Out Bag, GOOD is Get Out Of Dodge.  The other names are pretty self explanatory. 

I live in an urban environment, and in the southwest.  There are no days where the temperature drops below freezing.  I live in a very moderate climate and so in survival terms, the need for heat and serious shelter from the elements do not rise to the level of "survival" here, and so they are not a major consideration in what I chose to put into my pack.  I have some very lightweight items that will assist me with shelter, but would hardly be considered "durable" for long term use.  I'm looking at it as a very short term solution for the purposes of this particular pack.   I'm not ever going to be at risk of freezing to death or even a serious risk of rain. 

There is nowhere around me that I could hunt for food, so I have zero need for fishing equipment or hunting supplies.  I'll have to muddle through with the items in my pack for food if it comes to that. 

This bag is more or less something to grab if somehow the crap hits the fan somewhere and I need some bare bones survival tools, and is designed to last more or less 3 days, for 2 people. 

In my preparations, my intention is to be able to incorporate each smaller kit into the next larger one, which allows me to not have to duplicate every item multiple times for different packs, but some items are duplicated as each larger pack allows for better, larger or more durable items to be included.

Step 1: The HELP Bag, the Pack Itself

Originally when I started this, I was using a pretty small hydration backpack, and it wasn't until I sat down and started to write this Instructable that I realized that its smaller size was creating problems for me, and so I switched to a "standard" cheap black backpack that offered me nearly double the space in an only slightly larger format. 

There are 4 pockets or compartments in this backpack, a large primary pocket, a somewhat smaller pocket, an "organizer" pocket, and a small mesh zippered compartment on the front.

I chose to add carabiner clip to nearly every zipper pull, in addition to the paracord pulls already in place.  This allows me to keep the zippers clipped together so there is no chance that the pockets could accidentally come open and any contents to fall out, especially if the pockets are bulging full.  (They aren't currently, but I have deliberately left some room, so that some items can be grabbed on the way out the door and have enough room in the pack to put them.

Clipped to the outside of the bag are 2 stainless steel (NOT painted!) water bottles, a flashlight in a holster, and a nifty little carabiner from Disneyland that goes over the top of a regular water bottle, so you can carry it on a belt loop, or on the pack.

Step 2: First Aid

Obviously, a staple in any emergency kit.  My first aid kit is comprised of 2 packs.  A red first aid pouch and a minor surgery kit.

The Minor Surgery Kit Contents:
  • 2 different tweezers
  • 2 scalpels
  • Small Scissors
  • Clamp
  • Suture Kit (Ethilon on a curved needle, just like in the ER)
  • A small LED light that has a flexible neck so it can be positioned easily, and has a magnet base and pocket clip, along with a laser pointer
  • Extra set of button batteries for light
  • Tucked into the side are some steri-strips and wound cleansing items

I found the pouch at a surplus store, and filled it with items I already had.  A great way to keep pointy pokey things wrapped up and in a neat little package!

The First Aid Kit - I found the bag at a local pharmacy for free and loaded it up with items I already had. 

First Aid Pouch Contents:
  • Syringes & Needles
  • Suture Kit
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Glow Sticks
  • Misc. Bandages & Gauze Pads
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • 2 Air Activated Heat Patches
  • 24" Duct Tape Roll
  • Ear Plugs
  • Face Masks
  • Emery Boards
  • Wet Wipes
  • Matches
  • Wisps (for tooth brushing)
  • 2 2"x8" aluminum tape rolls
  • 5 tealights (In pill bottle)
  • Roll of coban (also known as sport's wrap or vet wrap.  It doesn't stick to your skin, but it does stick to itself, which is good for me since I'm actually allergic most kinds of tape against my skin)
  • Sun Block
  • Duracell whistle/compass/mirror/match storage - this was a freebie with a purchase of batteries
  • Clark Teaberry Gum - If you haven't tried this gum, I'd strongly encourage it.  It is the most amazing gum in the world to me, and keeps my mouth moist even under harsh conditions.  I'd had to have surgery on my nose to correct a deviated septum, which left me "mouth breathing" for over a month, and it kept waking me up at night with my lips and tongue so dry that they were splitting.  This little "wonder gum" saved me.  I would chew a piece right before I went to bed, and actually slept with it in my mouth.  It kept my mouth from getting dried out, and let me sleep through the night.  I would swear by it.  YMMV of course, but for me, it's a must!

Step 3: Food & Water

Obviously, you are going to need to have food and water if you want to survive anything, and you don't want to count on being able to easily access potable water or a grocery store.  I'm only putting enough into this particular pack to meet basic needs, not even necessarily the total water recommendations or calorie recommendations, but enough to get us through a the 3-day crisis point safely. 

I have drinking water pouches packed into a large ziplock bag.  I opted for these pouches so that they don't get absorbed into the refrigerator like regular water bottles do.  We wouldn't mistake these for the regular household supply.  There are 20 pouches in this pack.  I believe this is more than enough to ensure that 2 people survive for 3 days, which would give us 3 pouches per day per person, plus a couple extras.  That may not meet the gallon per person per day recommendations, but it is more than enough if that is the ONLY water we can get. 

However, I also have water purification tablets, the 2 stainless steel water bottles (which I can put into/onto a fire to boil water from a tap or other source) and 2 plastic expandable water storage pouches to carry boiled or treated water in, so that I do not have to rely solely upon the emergency water rations, but we could if that was the only option.

For food, I have a full jar of peanut butter, miscellaneous protein or granola bars, dried fruit & nut packs and a bunch of packets of pure sugar and honey. 

I also have a shallow aluminum tray with a grill on top of it.  (I think that was a broiler tray from a toaster oven.  I found it at a yard sale, and it seemed perfect for this kit)  There is also an aluminum cup and 2 extendable toasting forks.  I can use the cup to boil water, or heat food and use the toasting forks to cook any food I can over an open flame without risking burning myself.  They're also able to be washed and re-used.

Inside of the aluminum pan, I have a large slotted spoon and fork for cooking with, and some small forks and spoons to eat with.  I also have sets of plastic utensils in a different bag in the pack.  I haven't  put food into the pack that requires cooking, so these items may be superfluous, but I believe that being prepared for the opportunity to be able to cook is important. 

Step 4: Tools

Having some simple tools available to you in the event of an emergency can really make a difference to how comfortable you'll be, what you can accomplish or what you can MacGyver together for yourself. 

My contents include:
  • Hammer/Pliers combo thing
  • 24" x 8" aluminum tape roll on a wooden dowel
  • 2 18" rolls of green duct tape rolled on a pencil
  • Zip Ties
  • Screwdriver with interchangeable bits
  • Wire roll - This is a long roll of twist-ties.  If I want just the wire, I can take off the plastic from around the wire, but left in the plastic, the wire won't rust either.  This is usually found in the gardening section of any home improvement store.
  • Small Multi-Tool
  • Large Multi-Tool with sheath
  • Sandpaper Sponge
  • Box Cutter & Extra Razor Blades
  • Sewing Kit
  • Small Tape Measure with Level
  • 6 Brass Eye Hooks Screws
  • 6 Medium Size Binder Clips
  • Hand Saw Tool with Sheath
  • Misc. Nails & Screws (not pictured)

The saw tool I got at Home Depot, and it was designed as a dry-wall tool, but it's perfect for this type of kit, since it has a utility knife, a saw, an awl and a convenient sheath with a belt loop. 

The hammer/wrench tool is one of those "guy holiday gift" things that no guy ever really wants, but for this kind of a kit is also very convenient.  Obviously it's not going to do major construction, but just right for pounding in a few nails or something like that.

Step 5: Portable Electronics Charging

Portable electronic devices are these days a necessity, and they are going to need to be charged if you want to use them.  In day-to-day life, I work to make it a habit to keep most of mine charged up as much as possible.  In my car, I can charge anything, and multiples of most things.  So, even off the grid, I can keep most of our stuff charged from the car.  But, for carrying with me, I have a Solio Solar Charger. 

Packed into a Maxpedition Pouch are all of the cables I need (and a few extras for other folks less prepared) to keep my devices able to be used. 

This solar charger isn't going to keep 4 or 5 items charged only from the sun, because it doesn't charge that quickly.  In the pouch I also have some USB AC adapters so that if I find electricity I can take advantage of it.  The solar charger will let me be sure that I can keep at least 1 phone with enough juice to reach out into the world however, and that's it's whole point.

As part of my EDC in every day life, I always have a portable battery charger for my iPhones in my bag, which will give me about 2 charging cycles.  I'm not considering that part of this kit, but it is highly likely I will have at least 1 or 2 of those with me at any given time.

Step 6: Fire

I have a small pouch that contains all of my fire items together.  The only thing I don't have in there is a magnesium/flint.  I suppose I'll get one one of these days, just to satisfy other people who insist that you are not "fire prepared" without one.  But I'm confident enough with these contents that I could make fire easily enough.

  • Straw Fire Starters - Video below with a few helpful hints on making these yourself.  Burn time clocked at a bit over 4 minutes per firestarter
  • 2 Matchboxes in waterproof wrapping  (1 in a small ziplock and 1 wrapped in foil tape)
  • 2 refillable butane lighters  (These are full now, and easily disposable, but if I couldn't get another lighter I could at least look for the butane to keep them going if needed, or I could trade one for a refill)
  • 2 Large Pill Canisters with 7 Tea-Lights in each
  • 2 Glow Lights (OK, these won't help make fire at all, but if you're trying to make one in the dark, a bit of light to see by can be helpful)
  • Hand Saw - In the event that I need to make larger branches or something in to smaller ones to burn them more easily
  • Cork Rectangles - I kind of realize that I'm alone in thinking that putting hot things down on something that doesn't conduct heat is an important thing to remember, but I have it, and why not?  If I have to carry hot things or set hot things down on something, I might a well be able to do that on something safe!

Step 7: Other Items

  • Work Gloves
  • 9x12 Plastic Drop Cloth
  • 4 Flashlights  (2 battery operated & 2 hand crank)
  • Flask with vodka  (ONLY if you are of legal age please!)
  • Notebook & Pens / Pencils / Sharpie
  • Rugged & Waterproof Cell Phone - This phone is not currently on a phone plan, but it does have a GPS chip in it, and it can be used to dial 911.  The battery stays charged pretty well since I leave the phone off, and I never have to worry about it getting wet or damaged.  I've taken this in the shower {Don't Ask!} and into the ocean with me, and it is totally waterproof.  It's a Motorola Quantico, and if you can get your hands on one, I'd sure recommend getting one.  It was also used on a vacation to the Smokey Mountains, and it was the only phone out of 15 people that could get a signal up there, so I'm confident that if there IS a signal to be had, this phone will find it!
  • Wet Wipes
  • Aluminum Box to keep cash/ID/Credit Cards/Important Phone Numbers/Emergency Contact Info  {This was originally a holder for memory cards, but I removed the inserts and it is a perfect size to hold these items now, and in a durable (but NOT waterproof) container}
  • Paperback Novel
  • Extendable Back Scratcher - YES, this is that important for me!
  • 2 Paracord Bracelets with whistles in the clasp
  • Large Knife
  • Pill Box - (I suppose I should have listed this with the first aid, but these are a supply of my prescription meds and stored in a different spot so that I can make sure that they don't get too old to be useful)
  • Tissues
  • Plastic Utensil Packets
  • Lifesavers Peppermints
  • Mylar Sleeping Bag
  • Mylar Emergency Blanket
  • 2 Glow Stick Whistles
  • Regular Glow Stick
  • Poncho
  • Nitrile Gloves  (Black)
  • Black Hair Bands
  • 2 Beaded Chain Necklaces with Split Rings
  • EMERGENCY banner to make you more visible at home, in your car, or where you have placed your shelter
  • Water Treatment Pills with extra lighter & matches in small pouch
  • Feminine Hygiene Supplies (Not Pictured)  Useful for the intended purpose, but also great first aid items!

Step 8: What Else?

Things that are NOT in this particular pack are some changes of clothes or shoes, canned goods and/or cook-able food and comfort items like blankets or pillows. 

I've had to make choices, and because I live in a temperate climate, I opted not to put those things into this pack.  I do have some of those items in a different pack that is designed for my wife to carry, since it is much lighter than this one.  But, if that bag got left behind, or I could only grab one bag for any reason, this is the one to choose, as it has everything we will need for that 3-Day critical time frame.

I would obviously prefer if we can take both of the bags with us, one per person.  That would be the best option, and that's what I'm prepared for.  However this pack is the most critical one to make sure that we have with us.  Even if I spent 3 days in my jammies, I wouldn't be happy about it, but I'd come through on the other side of it intact, even if I was uncomfortable for the 3 days.

The same holds true for "cookable" food.  I have dry soups, instant coffee and other items in the other pack.  Since this pack is actually larger than the one I started with, I'll probably move a few of the water only items into this bag also, or more likely get some additional ones to add in here, as I have a little room to add a few things if I needed to.

I would also most likely toss my Kindle into the bag, since they can be used for about a week while being used before needing to be charged again.  But, I don't let it live in this pack since I do use it day to day.  I put the paperback novel in here in the event that I didn't get to grab the Kindle. 

The other item that does not live in this pack but would be the first extra thing to grab will be my gun & ammunition.  I have a designated space in the bag for this to be dropped in quickly, but I do not have multiples, so this will have to be taken from it's designated place in the house and put into the bag before leaving the house.

I also have a 5-gallon bucket with the appropriate accessories (Lid, heavy duty trash bag liners & TP/Wet Wipes, but I'm still looking for a seat for it.  I can't seem to find one easily right now for some reason.) to be used for bodily waste disposal, which can be grabbed and carried with us if need be.  If not, then we have tissue/wet wipes and will have to find an appropriate spot to address those needs as necessary.

As usual, I welcome your comments and suggestions for anything anyone thinks I may have overlooked.

I have entered this Instructable in the "Be Prepared" contest.  If you have enjoyed reading, please give me a vote!  :-)

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