I was approached by a friend who asked me to look into the various "Complete Bug Out Bags" available on the market today and see which one, in my opinion, was the best compact bag. I looked at, and tested, many "off the shelf" Bug Out Bag/Survival Kits some of which were actually fairly comprehensive but where I found issue with just about all of them was the quality of the gear in them.
Fully 99% of it was cheaply made chinese gear that didn't last more than a few hours and in more than one case broke on its first use. I decided that I would put together a Compact Bug Out Bag that was full of gear that could be depended on should the need arise and that is what this Instructable is about.
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Step 1: The Bag Itself
I wanted a bag that was compact, yet large enough to hold everything I felt would be needed if TSHTF and you had to get out of Dodge in a hurry, a bag that you could carry over a shoulder, by hand, or attached to a tactical vest via MOLLE webbing, and it had to be made so it would stand up to rigorous use.
I went through my inventory of bags (I own and run Vanguard Survival, LLC) and decided I'd build the Compact Bug Out Bag using the Voodoo Tactical Enhanced 3 way Deployment bag. It fit the criteria outlined above to a tee. It was compact,had multiple options for carrying, and is constructed of 1000 denier nylon with a water-resistant lining for many years of rough use.
Step 2: What I Shoved Into the Bag
Now that I had the "bag" part of the Compact Bug Out Bag it was time to decide what to fill it with. I decided early on that we were going to use Mil-Spec gear whenever we could and only US made gear when we couldn't.
I broke the bag down into component parts:
- First Aid
- Tools & Cordage
Step 3: Food
If you ask 100 preppers what they think should be in the food component of a Bug Out Bag you will get 100 different answers, because everyone has an opinion on what "the Best" food source for survival is.
For this kit I went with Mainstay® Survival Rations, by Survivor Industries, because they are lightweight, easy to carry, portion controlled, had a long shelf life, and is Mil-Spec (Coast Guard Approved) for the "primary" 72 hour food source.
I opted for three 1200 calorie packs (only one shown for illustration purposes) instead of the single 3600 calorie pack because if you were able to gather fresh meat for a few days you wouldn't have to worry about spoilage or vermin getting into the remaining portions, cost wise this option worked out to only a few pennies more.
I added a few pieces of "Hard Candy", some coffee, sugar, creamer, soup packets, bouillon cubes, and hot cocoa to round out the "Food" we would carry in the bag.
A Mil-Spec folding stove with fuel tabs was added for heating a quick cup of coffee or cocoa on the go or for heating food when building a fire might not be the best idea.
To argument the food in the bag I added a fishing kit and snare wire to gather fresh meat.
Step 4: Water
I attached a surplus canteen carrier with 1 qt canteen and canteen cup I had lying around to the MOLLE webbing on the bag as a quick access water source and canteen cup so you would have a means of boiling any water you had to.
Inside the bag I added a Mil-Spec 1- liter survival water bag, Chlor-Floc water purification powder (Mil-Issue), and as a backup Coleman water purification tablets and the Chlorine neutralizer tablets.
Step 5: Fire
Where we live high in the Rockies, fire can literally mean the difference between life and death. Even during the summer months we experience lows in the 30's many nights, especially above 9500 feet.
Having a fire not only keeps you warm and prevents, or at least mitigates, hypothermia it gives you a huge psychological boost.
Fire has long kept the "beasties" that prowl the night at bay, provided a sense of comfort in the night, cooked our food, and been a ready source of light on the darkest of nights.
I believe in having primitive fire starting skills but I don't advocate that you rely solely on those skills for fire starting if TSHTF and you really need a fire to stay alive. For that reason I included three means of fire starting in the bag.
- Mil-Issue Storm Matches
- Mil-Issue Firesteel
- Mini Bic® Lighter
- Mil-Issue Tinder Quik®
- UST WetFire® Tinder
By having at least three means of starting a fire you greatly increase your chances of getting a fire going even under the most adverse conditions.
Step 6: Shelter
Having a dry place to sit while you contemplate your next move can do more for your survival than many people can fathom. I thought long and hard about what I would include in the shelter component of the kit before deciding on a four layer approach.
I found a US made tube tent that would hold two people plus gear that could be rolled, folded, and squeezed down small enough to fit snugly in the bag. You could cut the tent into sections if needed for use as a water/weather proofing ground cover or roofing underlayment on a lean-to.
As part two of the three-step "system" I lashed a lightweight Frogg Togg® poncho to the bottom of the bag that could be used to keep dry while moving, a ground cover, or as overhead cover.
Part three of our system was the inclusion of plenty of Mil-Spec Type III 550 cord (pictured in the Tools step of the Instructable) so you could make shelter if needed.
The last part of our "system" was the inclusion of a Mil-Issue "Survival Blanket" so you can keep warm on those nights when a fire might not be such a good idea.
Step 7: First Aid
Since all of us at Vanguard Survival are either EMT's, Paramedics, Combat Medics, or Combat Lifesavers with lots of real world experience in both 911 systems and combat zones around the world the first aid component of the kit got a lot of debate on what should and shouldn't be in it.
After many a lively debate I finally settled on a first aid component that could treat the most common cause of death, next to hypothermia and hyperthermia, you'll encounter in a SHTF situation, trauma.
Since space was an issue I decided that I would add the following to the first aid component so you could quickly stop any bleeding and seal wounds as well as take care of the minor and annoying boo-boo's you always seem to get even on a leisurely day hike.
The First Aid Component consists of:
- 2-Bloodstopper Gauze
- 2- 25 gram Celox® Packets
- Various sized Band-Aids®
- 2" Ace® Bandage
- Waterproof Medical Tape
- "Super Glue"
- 1 Israeli Bandage
- Triple Antibiotic Ointment
- OTC Pain Relievers
- Imodium AD®
- Wound Cleanse® Pads
- 2 Pair Nitrile Gloves
Step 8: Tools and Cordage
This component of our kit includes compasses, multi-tools, knives, and 550 cord among other things that didn't fit in the other components of the kit.
The tools we included in our kit consist of the Gerber Diesel® Multi-Tool, Gerber Bear Grylls® Fixed Blade Survival Knife, a Gerber Applegate/Fairbairn Combat Folder®, and a Military Issue Wire Saw.
We added a Mil-Spec lensatic compass and a Mil-Issue "Button Compass" for navigation (not shown).
For repairing gear we added a repair kit that consists of:
- 180' of 188# test Kevlar thread
- Various sewing needles
- 6 Safety Pins
- Needle Threader
- 6-Heavy-Duty "Zip-Ties
- "25' 100 mph Tape
Cordage consists of 50' of Mil-Spec Type III 550 cord and 25' of Mil-Spec Type 1A Utility Cord.
A pair of work gloves finishes out the Tools and Cordage part of the kit (not shown).
Step 9: Defense
This component is actually a very subjective part of the kit and like bug out bags in general there are as many varying opinions as there are people on this rock, this is simply my take on what would fit in with the purpose of this kit, small and compact.
As the name implies I wanted to have something in the kit that could be used to defend what you had should the need arise but not be so bulky as to defeat the purpose of the kit, so after much debate I settled on .22 caliber for the "defensive" component.
The small size of .22 allows you to carry more of it than say 5.56, (I packed 250 rounds of .22 Hollow Point Ammo into the kit without any trouble), it can be used to help gather small game, and if you place your shots correctly you can most certainly deter if not eliminate any threats to your continued well-being.
With addition of an AR-7, 10-22, or other quality .22 you have a nice little food gathering/defensive set up.
Step 10: Conclusion
While this is by no means the be all, end all of compact Bug Out Bags it is an economical option that is affordable on just about any budget.
It is full of Mil-Spec, Mil Issue, or US made gear that I have torture tested under real world conditions and not the cheaply made Chinese crap most of the "Complete Bug Out Bags" come stocked with.
It fits nicely in the trunk of your car or behind the seat of your pick up. It can be attached to any MOLLE equipped vest or pack if you want, you can just grab it by the handle and go, or toss it over your shoulder with the strap included with the bag.
I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!
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