Traditionally a Bug Out Bag is for the SHTF so that you can grab it, jump into your 4x4, and drive to your cabin in the woods. While the cities are dark and the streets are violent, you are happily living out the rest of your life eating deer and drinking your 25 lbs of coco. Living in Southern Oregon, I expect this is the plan of every one of my neighbors. With 20,820 people out in the woods having a grand old time shooting deer and each other, the deer will last 3 days and the people 6.
However this article is a bit more practical. There are 3 types of emergencies; natural, technological, and human-caused. This is how I plan to be prepared for each situation. I’ll give back ground information on what I have stored in the house first, because I plan on staying home unless it is too dangerous. The more stuff I can keep in the house, the less I need in my bag. My bag has what I won’t use unless I’m in an emergency, or leaving. If you were to go and copy my bag without knowing how to use it, it won’t do you much good, For example the bag has a camp stove and a days’ worth of fuel, but it should easily last me week.
Natural emergencies include blizzards, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis.
Technological emergencies includes power outages, fires and chemical attacks.
Human-Caused is just civil disorder or national emergencies aka war or terrorism.
Note: Orange text is hyperlinked for more information.
Step 1: Choose Your Emergency
Step 1 is to decide what to be prepared for. In my case I choose power outage, snow storms, earthquakes, and civil disorder. For each cause I’d expect different needs and results. I wouldn’t necessarily have extra blankets stored for an earth quake, or munitions for a snow storm. I'll list below what I’d expect for a worse case scenario in each emergency.
Power outage: No appliances, light, or heat (my house is all electric). If a power outage were to last 3 days I’d expect to need a way to cook, and some light. I have a BBQ with a full bottle of propane. Nearby is a lantern and flash light. The BBQ is easy because I already have it.The full propane tank next to it has saved dinner, more than once. I’m not real worried of a power outage, it would mostly be like camping at home. Just remember to eat foods that will expire first, open the freezer and fridge as little as possible, and don’t waste batteries. The water should still be running.
Snow Storm: Power outage in the cold and the inability to drive, is an issue. To avoid frozen pipes, leave the tap water running slowly. (I use electric heaters so my pipes do not freeze) In a storm I will need heat and light. Basically, follow the power outage rules, but the food can go outside to stay cold. For heat I have a Colman Catalytic Heather that runs on Colman fuel. Keep extra fuel on hand.
This would be a good place to insert my plans for fuel. Besides the BBQ (which is listed because it’s easy) I keep everything on Coleman Fuel, AKA white gas. Back in the sixties, cars ran on leaded gas and Coleman fuel was refined unleaded gas. Now days, the unleaded gas for cars is basically Coleman fuel. After my gallon of overpriced Coleman fuel is depleted, I will use unleaded gasoline. I have tested it in the catalytic heater and a Coleman Peak 1 back pack stove, with no problems. In almost any emergency, gasoline will be the most abundant fuel available (well for 6 months until it expires).
Make certain you have the correct batteries for your equipment and that they work. My flash lights and radios all run on AAA or D batteries, and I have extras ( D’s are heavy to carry).
Now we're getting into long term planning. Do I think that an earthquake or civil disorder will likely occur in the next 5 years? Probably not, but possibly, In the next 50 years. Unlike in snow storms, the hooligans will be out in the streets causing all sorts of mischief.
Earthquakes: The last memorable earthquake in Oregon was in 1993. I live in the ring of fire and earthquake zone. An earthquake may cause a power outage and water mains and gas lines can break. My dad was a rescue worker in the LA Quakes and I would not like to see the gas lines in the street breaking causing fires on top of the fallen building. It is one of the few scenarios where I’d expect to be leaving the house, or the city to go to a safe zone or shelter. I’d follow the power outage rules; carry extra water, leave the radio on to hear warnings, and bring the" bug out bag". It should be packed with seasonal clothes and ready to head out the door. I would plan on minimal civil disorder in my area but in larger cities there may be more.
Civil Disorder: Now we're getting into the "what if" territory. I’d expect to plan similar to earthquakes, but it is unpredictable. You should have a safe meeting place planned in advance. It should be quick to get to, maybe a friend’s house. Leaving the house should be last resort. Having a sign posted out front that all trespassers will be shot could make your house the last to be ransacked. The gangs would stay in the city and the country boys would have roads blocked off. Freeways will be jammed with little time to safely get to a secure area. The bag could be your best bet for survival.
In any emergency, arriving to a shelter, safe house or friends with your own supplies, will help and increase your chances of being allowed to stay. No one want to take care of others if they don’t have enough supplies themselves.
Step 2: Bug Out Bag: the Bag
There are a few choices to choose for a bug out bag, an external frame back pack, internal frame back pack, back pack, or duffel bag. External frame bags hold a lot of stuff, have many pockets, compartments and can easily be found for less than $10 at a thrift store. Internal frames are more modern, lighter, and look more like a back pack. Back packs are smaller. Duffel bags are usually carried over one shoulder. A normal backpack or duffel bag will blend in with everyone else.
Picking a pack can be tricky, I chose to save my money and get an old external frame pack. When carrying stuff in a safe environment it will do fine but if there are looters it will look like a big orange sign saying “food and supplies right here” (maybe fixed by covering pack with a trash bag). An internal frame pack could blend in better.
Packs come in different sizes and mine is a junior. Internal frames are sized in liters and I don’t know how to convert. You can buy a pack first and supplies till it's full, or the supplies first and a pack that fits them. I chose the cheap pack first with the plan of upgrading when I know what I really want.
Instead of going out and buying everything at once it’s a lot cheaper to get things used and upgrade as you find better equipment. Backpacking equipment is one of the things that most people only use a little then store for years. Old stuff has worked well for me.
Solar charger - Slow, inefficient and likely unnecessary.
Water filter- Smaller and slower but cheapest model. I plan to use with close by lake.
First aid - Super glue, antibiotic ointment, and tape see HERE for better one.
Snacks- Granola and cereal bars, they go bad faster than anything else.
Local Maps- Can Print from HERE or get from forest service.
Fuel - In a special fuel canister, don’t want it to spill.
Pots and Pans- Stackable
Camp stove- See step 3
Swiss Army Knife- only thing you really need
Dried food- See step 5
Canned food- Not usually recommend for backpacking but you can eat it without cooking (cold canned green beans are yummy not dried pasta).
Flashlights- Have 2 lights that take AAA 1 good, 1 cheap (LEDs don’t have replacement bulbs so I have replacement lights)
Contacts- Extra pack is smaller and cheaper than glasses
change of cloths
Step 3: Camp Stove and Heater
Some modern stoves are labeled as "dual fuel" for Coleman stove and unleaded gas. There are "dual fuel" stoves and lanterns. The best plan for survival equipment would be to use dual fuel for as much as you can. Not only would your equipment be using the same fuel, it is the most popular fuel.
Catalytic heaters should not be used in a closed room because the release monoxide. my house has so many cracks it goes through the floor.
Step 4: Home Reserves
Being a bug in/out bag it’s hard to say oh ya this doesn’t quite fit in the bag but grab it too. However, there is no need to put it in the bag if it’s not coming out of the house. Here is a picture of my hidden stash idea. There used to be a floor heater, now it’s an awesome empty cupboard. The white box is the pancake mix. Remember to circulate food, I keep a container in the kitchen with pancake mix that I take from the box.
Always keep your pantry three layers deep and full. In the event of an emergency, you won't be hungry and you may even be popular.
25 lb of pancake mix- only needs water and heat
25 lb of rice- only needs water and heat
cans of fruit
2 gallons of water
toilet paper- you don't know how much you like it until you don't have it.
Step 5: Dried Food
Dehydrated food is much lighter then canned food but it’s expensive. The pasta sides only need dried milk and water to work (I skip the butter and it still tastes good) and they only cost a dollar. There are conversion charts for dried milk online.
Runner Up in the
Be Prepared Contest