Introduction: My Bug Out Bag / Gray Man Version
Hey everybody. I just wanted to share with you my bug out bag/survival pack, and its continued evolution. This 'ible is not meant to insult or degrade anyone on what they think is best, or if I think that mine is the best bag out there. No. It is simply meant as a teaching tool, and possibly you can get ideas for your own bag.
It is also an experiment in the "gray man" idea. If you are not familiar with the "gray man" concept, it is roughly the idea that you see someone, but you don't really notice them. They are non-descript, and do not really register in your head. Someone that blends in everywhere where there is a population. Sure, camouflage is amazing stuff. I love camo (as you might know if you checked out my Bug Out Bike 'ible). But if you see a person decked out head to toe in camo clothing, in a crowd of normal people, you would most likely peg that person as a "prepper". This sort of thing can get you killed, should societal collapse happen, and there are riots in the streets.
Anyways, let us kick this thing off, shall we?
Step 1: My Bag(s), and How They Evolve...
To begin, I would like to share a picture of some of the bags I have used.
The top left and the belt under it are what I use now. I'll talk about the contents, and why I have it the way I have it in a little bit. First I will talk about my previous bags I have used, just so you can see how I have gotten to my current set up.
The upper left bag is one I bought from IKEA, because it featured a really unique feature. I will talk about this pack in a later step.
The lower right pack was my first Bug Out Bag. It is a Camelbak H.A.W.G., and is one of my favorite packs I've ever gotten my hands on.
This is sort of a semi-long 'ible, so please, bear with me. It'll be very informative, and I'll do my best to explain everything and not bore you.
Step 2: Camelbak H.A.W.G.
The Camelbak H.A.W.G. is a bag that I bought from a special forces soldier after his time in Afghanistan. He said it served him through 2 tours. I picked it up at a garage sale he was having. Very cool guy. Very humble.
I love this pack because it is built like a tank. I know that it no matter what I do to it, it won't fail me. It has MOLLE webbing, compression straps, comfortable shoulder straps, and a built in waist belt. It does not have an internal frame. The problems with this particular pack is that it only has 1 single main section, which isn't all that spacious for organizing your stuff. The MOLLE covered small pouch on the outside gives you more room, but overall, this is maybe a medium sized backpack. There are no side pockets pockets, unfortunately, just compression straps, which are nice. I can strap on a 1 person tent on one side, and I modified my pack to have a machete on the other side, that I could quickly draw if I had to protect myself. It also has some MOLLE webbing on the bottom if you want to attach a sleeping bag, a rolled up blanket or something like that, with some belts or paracord.
This is one of my favorite packs, but because of its roughly small storage capacity, I decided to retire it. I am going to make it my Get Home Bag, and leave it in my car at all times.
It also doesn't really work as a "gray man" pack, because of how military it looks. Once again, it is like wearing full camouflage in a crowd of people. You're going to stand out. I know a lot of people love the Falcon II pack by Maxpedition. It is a great pack, don't get me wrong. But if you're trying to blend in with a crowd, that pack is one of the worst to wear. It absolutely SCREAMS "come get my stuff!" Not very good to have if you're trying to be incognito, and hide in plain sight.
Step 3: IKEA Backpack
I spotted this particular pack while browsing around IKEA. It had sort of a strange shape, but was built pretty solidly. It always keeps its shape, doesn't sag, and has really comfortable shoulder straps, but does not have a waist strap. This can be problematic if you have to run, or even lean over. It has a zippered side pocket on the left, and the same shaped, non-zippered, elastic pocket on the right side.
There are 3 main pockets, as you can see in the picture, noted by the white zippers. The small section with the 5 "bubbles" on it has little pockets and storage spots for things like pencils and such. This is very much designed with college students in mind. This inside of each section is BRIGHT orange!
The middle zippered section has a section that looks like it could hold 3 laptops, as there is little padded, divided sections. Overall, this has a fair amount of storage capacity for non-bulky items.
The zippered section closest to your body is the "main" section, and it can also hold a laptop. It has lots of padding. There is also a zippered mesh pocket on the inside, which I used to keep my spare clothing in Ziploc bags.
The thing that REALLY makes this particular backpack is the orange zipper, which when unzipped, literally turns your one backpack into TWO backpacks! This can help you if you need to share weight with someone you trust. It also makes this a pretty nice "gray man" pack, as you can stash half of your pack, and have a much thinner profile. Much easier to pass unnoticed in a crowd.
I really enjoy this pack as it is comfortable, and has nice features. It only comes in gray, and has those AWFUL orange insides, and orange zipper. I would spray paint the entire outside with either black, or dark gray. That orange zipper really stands out.
Step 4: My Belt
This is sort of a supplement to my backpack. If I ever had to ditch my pack, I would have backup tools and options available to me.
I have a Voodoo Tactical dump pouch on the bag, with a military issue knife strapped behind it. There are 2 magazine pouches on each side of the dump pouch, which I have a Leatherman multi tool in one side, and a small flashlight in the other. There is also a small outer pocket, in which I carry a small whet stone, extra batteries, a lighter inside a Ziploc bag, some matches, some electrical tape, and some ear plugs.
Inside the main dump pouch (which has a drawstring closure), I have my Altoids survival kit. I'll maybe write up a separate 'ible for this, as it has some pretty unique stuff most people don't think about (such as a lock pick set). I also carry a Ziploc with an extra lighter, some water purification tablets, and some fat wood tinder. I also have a military issue lensatic compass (which I know how to use. Very important to know your tools, not just have them).
I'm confident that I am able to take care of fire, water, food, and shelter with what I have in/on my belt rig, if I somehow lost my main pack. This belt also doesn't sit on my hips, and is closer to my true waist (so it sits up somewhat higher). This allows is to sit under clothes without being bulky, and allows me access to the knife if need be. This helps with the "gray man" concept.
Step 5: My Current Pack, and How It Is Set Up
So here is the meat of this article (thanks for sticking with me so far). This pack was made by Under Armour. I do not know what model it is, but I can tell you, it was built with people who play sports in mind. More specifically, for soccer players. I got this for free from my little sister's best friend. It had her name stitched into the back in white thread. So I blacked that out with a Sharpie. Now, no one can tell it belonged to someone named "Stephany". LOL. I also blacked out the white stitched "UA" logo. Trying to be "gray man" here, remember? trying not to have any visible markings.
I transferred over the sternum strap from my Camelbak to this pack, which helps tremendously in keeping it from shifting unnecessarily. Eventually, I will add my own waist straps to keep it even more secure. On the left shoulder strap, I have a green military whistle. It fits inside a little mesh pocket, nice and secure, and inconspicuous. On the right strap, I have a magazine pouch with a small flashlight.
In the right side pocket I have a pair of broken in, leather work gloves. I also have a black wool cap to keep my melon warm. This would be worn right away in case of a disaster. I also have some hand warmers that I can throw into my pockets if it gets cold. There is also a little folding saw. Much less attention than a machete.
In the left side pocket I have an awesome headlamp that has 2 modes of red LED, or white LED (low, high). This helps preserve night vision and keep you hidden (red light), or navigate someplace very dark (white). There is also a 2 piece gun cleaning kit that I put together. This is a personal choice, and it's not something you need if you do not intend to carry a firearm. I have the bare minimum of brush to clean everything from .22lr, to 12 gauge and in between. I'm not gonna get into the contents. Too boring. But there is an extra can opener, and a a pencil sharpener, which works GREAT for making tinder for fires. There is also a small set of diamond files, for knives both serrated edged, and normal.
You can choose to omit any of these items. I'm using space available, with stuff that I figure I would use often in a disaster scenario (ie: headlamp, work gloves).
Step 6: Three Pockets on the Outside
The very bottom pocket my pack has a custom made fire starting kit. It has a bunch of small waterproof matches, a lighter, some Carmex (can be used as fire extender, or for chapped lips), a bunch of cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly, some Q-tips (also coated in petroleum jelly), a long length of braided jute twine, a tin I have used for years to make char cloth, and a ferro rod. Fire isn't something to mess around with. Redundancy is a very good thing when it comes to fire.
The next pocket up is where this pack was really built for a soccer player. It has a large mesh bag that comes out, with a drawstring bottom. I guess you put a soccer ball, or muddy cleats or smelly uniform in here? Your guess is as good as mine. This net has some good uses to it that I can think of. Also, shoved into this pocket, on the outside of the mesh net, I have something like, 80 feet of paracord, in a tight electrician's weave. It is only about a foot and a half long, maybe 2 feet, but I undo 1 stopper knot, and the entire thing can be pulled out to full length in about 5 seconds. SUPER efficient. If you don't know how to roll up a cord like an electrician, you should definitely learn how. I also have a paracord bracelet I did up like this. Same length of cord as the cobra weave, but no buckles required, and mine is quick release to full length.
The larger pocket on the outside face of the pack carries my small medical kit, a sewing kit (everyone should know how to properly sew on a button, or fix a tear!), a titanium spork, a Sharpie and pencil, an emergency blanket, 3 glowsticks, toilet paper in a Ziploc (you'd be surprised how many people forget how important this stuff is out in the wilderness until they need it and don't have any!), and a small hygiene kit.
So this covers a lot of different items, ideas, and basically just "stuff". You may see items you already have, or some you see and go "that's a good idea! I forgot about that!"
Step 7: Main Body Storage
This is the stuff I have in the main section of the pack. It isn't overloaded, and I have a MASSIVE amount of space for food, water, and any last minute items, or scavenged materials.
First, I have a 100% wool button down shirt with this AMAZING blurry check pattern to it. I bought this at a vintage store, and it was originally made in the 1950's. Although it has some small holes (and I had to replace a cuff button), it is in amazing shape. The holes are less than the size of a dime, and not on any heavy stress sections, like the elbows. This thing is an awesome addition to becoming a "gray man". The check pattern with its muted, earth tones do not draw attention like a red, or purple, yellow or blue check shirt would, or any sort of shirt with a logo, pattern, or other superfluous crap on it. Plus it is incredibly blurry (just look at the full sized picture for 30 seconds), so from a distance, it works like camouflage against the eyes. There are no markings. The fact that it is 100% wool is a bonus, as it will keep you warm even when wet. Plus it is light. I just wish it had side hand pockets (maybe I will add some). I would put this on right away in an emergency, to open up more space in my pack.
The next item is really cool. It is a 5.11 Tactical packable jacket. It is a windbreaker, in a sort of dark drab green color. It literally folds up inside its own pocket for storage, and can act as a pillow. It has elastic around the cuffs, and a Velcro pocket over the right chest area. If trying to become a "gray man" this could work quite well actually, as there are no symbols or insignia on the outside. I could even wear this under, or over my wool check shirt/jacket, and I will be reasonably warm. I wish it had a built in hood zippered away in the collar, but alas, it doesn't. Super light and comfy, and I love how it packs up!
If the first 2 items don't keep me warm, I have a black, tight, workout thermal. It wicks away moisture, and is a nice addition to have. It's super light, takes up almost no room, and can be worn under either of the 2 tops. Even though it is technically an under garment, I still took a Sharpie to the reflective logos.
Up next is a green and black shemagh (pronounced: she-mah-gh). This has so many uses, I can't even list them all. scarf, head wrap, sling, rudimentary water filter, camouflage, etc. This isn't very "gray man" to wear in a crowd, but it is so versatile, it should be the staple of any good Bug Out Bag.
You can also see a black hat in this picture. No logos, and keeps people from seeing your face if you want to remain "gray man" status. I wish it was a medium gray color, but oh well...
Next pic is 2 sets of 100% wool socks in a Ziploc. Your feet are important. Take care of them. Wool socks > cotton socks. There is also 2 spare underwear, a gray work out tank top (in case it gets hot), and a red cotton shirt (can be used for signaling, making char cloth, blending in when red allows...). These are also in a Ziploc, but not pictured.
The next item is an amazing Sawyer mini water filter. This thing is guaranteed for 100,000 gallons of water! If you filter 1 gallon of water a day, this will last you 274 years! It will outlast you! A Lifestraw, even though it is an awesome product, simply can't touch that number. Lifestraw states that it is only good for 1 year. What sounds like a better choice? Don't get me wrong. Lifestraw is awesome. I have one. But its sort of the "last resort" water filter.
I have packed a set of winter gloves, because sometimes I simply need some good, warm gloves! The thumb and index finger melted a little when my girlfriend used one to pick up a hot rock I was preparing for us at the Grand Canyon when it was snowing. Oh well. Duct tape solves everything, right? ;) With black hat, these gloves, and my backpack, and either of my 2 light jackets on (or both), I'm very much "gray man" in colder climates
Lastly, I have an emergency NOAA radio with built in crank, flashlight, and solar charger. Multiple uses make this awesome. I can charge any cellphone, I can light my way without using batteries on my other flashlights, and I have entertainment. Classic Rock for the win!
Lastly, I have a pair of super comfortable, broken in hiking boots by the Keen Shoe company. These things have a full rubber wrapped toe section. These are probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. They are built to outlast doomsday itself, and the brown leather is perfect for becoming a "gray man". Sure beats a pair of red Converse "Chucks", am I right?
Step 8: Conclusion
So there you have it. My "gray man" bug out bag. I hope this has been helpful, and you take away some information that you didn't already know. Maybe you're now figuring out some ideas for yourself on how to become your own "gray man" (or "gray woman"). My pack is functional, but it doesn't have that military, prepper look to it screaming "I have supplies! Come at me bro!" Even a Jansport backpack would be a MUCH better choice than a camo'd out 3 day tactical assault pack!
Other things to understand about becoming a "gray man", is no visible markings. No nose, lip, ear or eye piercings. No visible tattoos. I have a tattoo on my right forearm, so long sleeves are the only thing I can wear if I want to be anonymous. Also, no crazy facial hair guys. No chin goatee like the guy from Anthrax. No handlebar mustaches. No crazy beards. 2-4 day stubble works amazingly well at , but nothing more than 2 weeks, MAX. Also, don't wear cologne. Don't smell like a homeless person either. No scented soaps. Sense of smell is one of the best way to conjure up memories. And you're trying to NOT be memorable. If you have a visible birthmark, then there is nothing you can really do about that. Sorry. If you want to do a field exercise in how to become a "gray man", then go to a public mall, and just people watch. Try to take mental notes about what makes people stand out, and try to find the people who DON'T stand out the most. Take note of how they carry themselves, how they dress, their mannerisms. Everything.
Hope this helps all of you! I would say see you all next time, but you'll all be "gray people"