Intro: Modular Go Bag
Ok I know the "Go bag", or whatever you want to call it has been done over and over. And every one has a different take on what they might need. That's great, because the skills of each individual are different just like the surroundings are different. Whatever your skills and locale are, you need water, food, and shelter. Food and shelter needs will vary greatly depending on where you are.
A note on scenarios:
I don't believe the likelihood of a breakdown of society is all that great. Although you would have to be a fool to not see it as possible. And I have been through enough natural disaster types of situations to know that the VAST majority of people will be looking to help other people rather than form a mob and pillage. At least for the first few weeks. If the excrement has actually struck the oscillating wind projector, then of course hunger and desperation will change people.
If a zombie apocalypse has taken over you are far more likely to be one of the ones who has the virus than one of the last survivors.
If the government suddenly turns on the people, they probably already have a plan to keep you where they want you.
I'm not trying to discourage anyone from preparing. But some people seem to be preparing for one single event.
Real life will probably throw you a curve.
Here is the reason I made this and why I feel like my bag is different. I see the other folks with a backpack stuffed with a huge mix of materials. As a person who has spent a lot of time outside in the woods, I can tell you I don't want to be digging into the bag in the dark looking for my fire starter flint. Or whatever.
My bag is really a mix of different other bags. I picked up these camera bags on clearance for a dollar each. Each one has a laminated label. Each one can be carried individually. And each one could be ditched if I somehow decided I didn't need it.
I'm not a "prepper". I probably would be if I had a load of money sitting around. I mean really who doesn't want a bunker stocked full of food and AR-15's?
Unfortunately my wife insists on buying shoes for the kids. And groceries. And paying the electric bill. You know... All those frivolous things chicks like. I don't have anything against folks who have stockpiles, but I simply do not have the resources.
The items in my pack would allow my family and I to survive in what I would consider to be "worst case scenario", which would be in the middle of nowhere, with no modern conveniences. Feel free to add a comment if you feel I have missed anything. I will update the appropriate sections based on comments received or as I update the bag.
Step 1: The Bag
I know there are better bags out there. I picked up this bag off of ebay for around 40 bucks (search keywords "Internal frame Backpack 80L") It holds everything I need it to hold and weighs about 3 pounds empty. Final weight fully loaded is 39.7 pounds.
Yes there are plenty of people out there who say that your go bag should be a pink princess flowery little girls backpack stuffed full of ammunition and weapons so that you can sneak up on unsuspecting folks and not draw attention to yourself as being a a prepper.
I like the "gray man" concept. But I also like all of my stuff. Maybe it will bite me in the end. But I don't see many items I can lose. And in a purely statistical risk assessment (Sorry... its what I do), getting attacked because I am prepared is less of a danger than not preparing.
However, in the spirit of what I have already said regarding people generally being nice during the early days of any bad situation, and that I wanted a bag that would work for when I actually want to simply go hiking with my family, I opted for the coffee color. I actually would have chosen black, but when I ordered mine the black was out of stock. I don't feel that the color hampers me all that much.
I think it is much more important to have a color that you can easily conceal if you needed to stash it for an hour or two which is why I really would not go with bright colors. If you were so inclined and thought that the color would make you a target, it's relatively cheap to pick up a rain cover that is a brighter color and cover the bag with it in that situation (or a trash bag).
I really don't see a way to get around the size of the pack. If you have everything you need in a pack, it's going to be pretty obvious, if the world has fallen apart, to those who would notice such things that a person carrying a pack, regardless of the color, would have something worth carrying and therefore something worth stealing.
If the bag isn't sturdy or if it is overloaded it WILL rip (you don't know how far you will need to go). I also think a frame and back support are very important. This bag with 40 pounds is way more comfortable than a standard bag with 25.
There is no way around this other than to say be smart about where you are and have enough situational awareness to keep yourself and your family out of situations. Prevention is the best form of self defense. Simply because you have the right to go somewhere does not always mean that it is the smartest decision to do so.
My wife and kids carry pretty standard backpacks. They only have a change of clothes, some communication instructions, a whistle, two bottles of water, and a toothbrush.
There is extra room in each of their bags. However the amount of weight I feel comfortable with them being able to carry is not a lot. If I needed to, I could distribute some of the bags in my backpack to them to reduce the weight of mine.
I could also easily grab one of their packs and place necessary items from mine into it if I wanted to look a little less conspicuous and prepared to go and check something out.
I have seen people who have their entire family carrying an entire survival kit. To me, forcing my kids and wife to pretend that they know how to survive in the wild would simply serve, in my opinion to scare them. The reality is that I'm prepared for an event that is, statistically speaking, unlikely to occur. And when I say that what I mean is that in the vast majority of cases when something bad happens I am probably better off staying where I am which is at home, where I know everything about my surroundings, than I am to take a family of 5 out into an unknown environment.
All of the bags are kept in a cabinet in the garage. While they are all backpacks, it is likely that these will be thrown into the trunk and hit the road if need be.
Step 2: A Word About Weapons
You won't see any firearms IN my pack. There is ammo. So yes I have them. But to me these are tools. I can hunt. But I also know that firearms carry other dangers that in many situations, can cause more harm than good. If you come to my house and talk to me, I am very likely to help you. If you are carrying an assault rifle, you'll be stopped a hundred yards or so out until I know your intentions. And even then, I am going to be pretty wary.
When looking at different forums I am a little bit horrified by the fact that so many people feel that everyone will turn into a criminal immediately. Not that bad people won't try to take advantage. I just have a more positive outlook on human nature. Don't mistake that for naivety, I'm a trust but verify type of guy.
And IF you actually use your weapon (gun or otherwise) to harm someone you will have to deal with the consequences of your actions. If society really is gone, there is still the moral issue. More likely this is a temporary situation. You very likely will face legal action. Nothing in my gear is worth either the legal or moral consequences of potentially taking a life. I have recently added pepper spray to my gear. After reading my own thoughts I decided that having a means of deterrence other than a firearm is probably a good idea (remember you can still be charged with assault even for using that).
However if an unarmed person tries to steal your bag and you have it loaded with weapons, you have a responsibility to not turn an unarmed criminal into an armed criminal. You have a tough decision to make (at least it should be tough). When an unarmed person attacks an armed person, it is generally for the purpose of becoming armed. Walking around with a weapon should make you LESS likely to put yourself in harms way, not the opposite.
I don't mean to say that a gun is useless. Clearly I do not believe that. However there are those out there, some of whom will likely comment and tell me what an idiot I am, that will tell you that if you don't keep a 45, an AK47 and several sniper rifles in your go bag that you are just going to be a victim.
If you do not have experience with firearms, please do not let that deter you from preparing the best way that you can. And, as I have mentioned already, especially in the first few weeks of even the worst case scenario most people will be willing to help. So if you have other skills, make yourself useful to a group of people and that will provide some degree of safety. But simply having a weapon will not make you safe in most scenarios.
Few and far between will be the times you might absolutely positively need a firearm. However, it is absolutely positive that you will need to drink water. You will need to protect yourself from the elements. You will most likely need to eat, although this is a less pressing need, and you will likely need some form of basic first aid, even if that is only an aspirin for a headache. So don't sweat it if you do not own a gun and even if you do own a gun it should probably be a gametime decision about whether or not that should go with you in your go bag.
The final and most important (to me) reason that I do not keep a gun in my go bag, is that my bag, like the vast majority of backpacks does not have a lock. Since I have children in the house, my guns stay locked, but accessible, where they cannot reach them. Keeping a loaded Glock in a backpack is, in my opinion, a stupid move particularly if you have children.
I would rather be eaten by the zombies than lose one of my kids or their friends because they got curious.
A firearm is a tool. In the same way that my knife is a tool. My ax is a tool. I do not consider self defense to be a priority in the early days of a survival situation. All of the above mentioned tools might be used for self defense in the unlikely event someone threatens my life or that of my family. However I consider dehydration much more of a threat because I live in the real world.
All of that being said, let's talk for just a moment about which caliber is best. In a hunting or self defense role there have been millions upon millions of pages of information written about which rifle caliber is best (over 36 million according to Google), or if a shotgun is better than any of them, and then which ammunition and gauge you should carry if you have a shotgun. So I'm not going to engage in a debate with people who all have valid points. I will give you my opinion because you are here reading this. In the context that we are discussing here, which is what to carry, the answer lies not in the gun itself, but in the ammunition. Ammunition is heavy. There is no getting around it. If you want to be able to carry the ammunition for the gun that you have a .22 makes the most sense. I have a Ruger 10/22.
A well placed round from this caliber will take down a deer. But the most likely hunting scenario would be probably a squirrel. If you shoot one with most modern assault rifles, you do not have dinner. What you have is a mess. If you are traveling alone or even with a few people, and you kill a deer you will have dinner, as well as an awful lot of wasted meat (not that that would stop me in a survival situation, but it's a consideration).
Personally I would take any long rifle over any handgun in this scenario, in which hunting is far more useful to me than defense (try rabbit or squirrel hunting with most handguns and let me know how it goes). 100 yards is not impossible. The downside is concealment. My Ruger CAN fit inside my pack, as long as I strap a few items to the outside, though doing this renders it useless in an emergency situation.
And since there will ALWAYS be some threat from those that would like to harm others, which one do you think those types of people would be willing to kill you for? The small rifle that can be concealed with relative ease, or the large rifle and ammunition pack that cost thousands of dollars?
In my bag I also have several rounds of .410. This is because I own this gauge already, along with 12 gauges, so I'm not hating on other shotguns or saying the .410 is the best . It is simply a matter of weight as I have mentioned above, and the 410 is quite capable for small game as well as birds. But I will say this emphatically. If my bag is too heavy or if I deem it necessary to get rid of something, the shotgun ammunition will be the first thing dropped at the house. One downside to the .410 is also the availability of new ammo. It's way less common than 12 ga. The upside is that my wife loves to shoot it (it's actually hers). The best gun is the gun you already have and know how to shoot safely.
Ammo is by far the heaviest part of my pack. The ammo weighs in at around 5.5 pounds (almost 14% of my total weight). 100 rounds of .22 weighs about 12 oz.
Step 3: Food and Water
I see a lot of people who keep water in their bags. And don't get me wrong, water is by far the most important consideration. But it is also one of the heaviest things you could carry. You cannot carry enough water to keep yourself alive very long.
You technically need, according to the experts, 1 gallon of water per person per day. Assuming 3 days, and that water weighs 8.3 lbs/gallon, that's almost 25 lbs. But this number is deceiving, because that includes hygiene and cooking. According to the World Health Organization, humans need 2.5 to 3 liters (.7-.8 gallons) per day to survive. Of course factors such as climate, individual size, and activity all factor in.
And since we are talking about SURVIVAL, you will not die (immediately) if you get less than that. You'll be thirsty, and start to dehydrate.
So while carrying some water is a good idea (I carry 2 bottles), the knowledge of how to get water, and then filter and boil (or treat it) that water to be safe is a far better use of your time and energy than to try to carry water. That being said, I keep extra water at home (where weight is not an issue) and in my "Get Home Bag" (I have no plans of stopping until I get home to my family).
I don't personally worry too much about water simply because of where I live. I am in an area that probably has more issues with flooding than we do with drought. If you live in area where water is scarce I would encourage you to think more about the plan for how to find a source of water than how to kill a zombie.
Notice that I said the plan for boiling water, not all of the equipment you need for boiling water. If you choose to put a camp stove in your pack, more power to you. I won't disagree with you. But for me, there are too many other options that I can use that are not difficult in order to boil the water or cook food. There are many Instructables that will show you how to make a simple Hobo stove or alcohol burning stove out of aluminum cans. In the society that we live in, there are always these items around if you look and keep your eyes open. If all else fails I can simply start a fire and cook over it.
Update: I recently bought a .8 micron industrial water filter for 5 dollars that I can filter most of the water I need. I am going to be making an Instructable about how I plan to set it up.
The only food that I have in my pack is several protein bars and a small jar of peanut butter.
Peanut butter serves several purposes for me. First and foremost my kids like it, & I don't hate it. It's packed with energy which would be enough to keep you going for a while. It also will make any traps and snares you set exponentially more successful since squirrels love the stuff. It is one of the few items in my pack that I swap out on a regular basis just to be sure it's fresh. But it does not have to be refrigerated.
I also keep a small amount of salt, pepper and some Folgers Coffee singles. They don't taste like Starbucks but it's better than nothing and certainly better than instant. If you are cold and wet and the world has ended, a nice warm cup of coffee seems like it might be a pretty big luxury for not a lot of weight. The salt/pepper is pretty self explanatory, but if you have had squirrel or rabbit or god knows what else roasted over an open fire, salt sure does help.
I also have a can opener.
Hunting and trapping:
Much like the issue of firearms, there has been a lot written about survival traps and snares. They are harder than they look in general so I would say you should probably get some practice with it. I carry paracord, wire, as well as two rat traps (I painted mine flat black and drilled holes in the corners).
While you may think a rat trap to be cruel or gross, remember that a squirrel is in most cases only slightly larger than a rat and this trap works every time. Which is more than you can say for most snares built by amateurs, of which I would consider myself one. Remember to tie them off (which is the reason for the holes).
The wrist rocket is very effective. Ammo is always around. The thing I like about it is it gives me a way to keep a dog or whatever back without potentially killing it. The power is adjustable. 50 caliber muzzle loading bullets allow this to be a very powerful device. Less lethal... But lethal.
My fishing kit consist of fishing line, a reel, some hooks, a frog gig head, and no poles.
The pole is nice, I have several. Even the collapsible kind. But they take up weight and space and are prone to break. And they are single use items which are relatively easy to make.
The gig head is an extra I bought a few years ago. Placed on a long stick, it could be used to nab almost any small critter.
Fishing line is useful for so many things. So I keep extra.
The reel. I have an Instructable for making a decent fishing pole here. But the reel could be used for fishing or with a magnet to retrieve an item. Or other things if you are smart enough.
Hunting with a gun... If you don't know how, this is not the place to learn. Go take a Hunter's Safety course to start. Seriously.
Step 4: Shelter
I keep enough plastic to make a small shelter. With this and some paracord I can make a reasonably comfortable shelter that will keep me and my crew dry. If you don't know how to do this there are plenty of ways and Instructables already out there. In fact even if you don't have paracord and plastic you can make a pretty decent shelter from what is found in your surroundings in most cases.
The plastic could serve all manner of purposes from capturing rainwater to covering a trap.
I recently acquired a small 2 man tent (kids tent). I don't keep poles for it and that works for me, Here is how. While this would be a tight fit for me and four others, it certainly could be done.
Step 5: Clothing
I'm not packing for a vacation here, so I don't need much. But what I have packed is a pair of khakis, a brown polo shirt, and a good leather belt. Now khakis and a polo shirt may not seem like great outdoors clothing, but the reality is that khakis can be made into camouflage with relative ease.
I can also wash these out, tuck my shirt in, and look downright respectable if needed. Again, I think virtually everything should be dual purpose. I would assume that during the time I have to pick up my pack and go, I would be clothed. Assuming that is the case, that gives me two sets of clothing to wear. I have packed 4 pairs of socks (in a zip lock) and 2 extra pairs of underwear.
I generally wear sturdy shoes but if the situation allows it I would likely put my boots on. I don't consider that a priority.
In the winter months I add long underwear. (Under Armor type) I also assume I will be dressed for the season and therefore already have a coat or have one nearby.
You may be wondering why, since I have a family, I'm only carrying clothing for myself. This is because each of my children have a small backpack that contains information about who to call as well as some clothing, a flashlight, a whistle, two bottles of water, and a toothbrush.
Step 6: Tools
A Leatherman is great. I have 2. If you don't have one, you should. If you have one you should have another.
But I also keep:
A small screwdriver with assorted bits included.
Small adjustable wrench
A few jigsaw blades (metal and wood)
All of these could be useful for many things. In conjunction with the Leatherman there isn't much you can't do.
A note about the Leatherman:
I used to have the one that used replacement jigsaw blades. It was stolen, but if you can, get that model. The saw on the others is great, but I don't use it often, and especially if I have another option. I want it sharp for when I truly NEED it.
Step 7: My Wood/Fire/Signaling/Electronics Bag
This bag is doing triple duty.
It will be one I use a lot I would think. I'll go into each item in the next steps.
Step 8: Electronics
In this day and age electronics are a part of our lives. I realize that there are potential situations that could change all of that, but I personally feel like they are unlikely.
My phone and tablet have both been loaded with reading material, some movies, and maps of the area.
I keep a charger that is windup and this
gives me the ability to charge if I need to. These systems are time consuming and require a lot of effort, but in a situation where you don't have a nice spot to plug it in, it would mean the difference between making a call or not. The one I have I picked up pretty cheaply at Goodwill and it includes a radio and flashlight.
I also have a battery operated charger that runs off of AA batteries.
It is more out of convenience, but I have set all of my family up with electronics that take a common charging cable. So I don't have to carry one for each device.
That being said, I actually do have cables for iPhones even though I use exclusively Android devices. If you are an Apple user, my suggestion would be that you also carry a micro USB cable. If the situation arises that your phone is damaged and someone else has a phone, it seems like a good idea to have a cable that would charge that device and allow you to make an emergency phone call.
I keep several Ziploc with my electronics. These are useful for any variety of situations.
You may notice that my fire starting kit is in a small waterproof container. This container is actually designed for a cell phone and mine will fit in it. I suppose I should buy another one but at some point enough is enough. If I were in a situation where I was going to be deluged with water I might transfer the fire starting equipment into a couple of Ziploc bags and use the case for my phone.
A larger version of this waterproof case currently holds the majority of the ammunition I carry. I said before that ammunition would probably be the first thing I dumped if I had to dump anything (depending on the situation of course). If that were the case that small waterproof case would likely come with me regardless.
Step 9: Fire and Wood
Fire can be started with two sticks. It can also be started with any number of combinations of batteries/steel wool, chemical reactions, the powder from a gun cartridge and probably a thousand other ways that I have never thought of. I have practiced a few of those ways, and while I was successful, I have also decided that none of them seems easier than simply having a lighter with me.
That being said, I also carry matches and a flint steel and magnesium starter.
But it seems silly to be preparing to be on your own, and not take with you the single easiest form of fire starting that exists. Yes, they can fail, so I carry two.
I also have a candle. This serves as a way to light a fire but then keep it going long enough to actually get my tinder to light, without using all the fuel in my lighter. There is also an additional reason to carry a candle, which is that you could use it for light, or in a pinch, heat.
I carry a small hatchet/hammer/pry bar. Don't ask me where I got it. I've had it for years, it was made in China, and I probably picked it up at a yard sale, but I don't remember. But it works great. Update: I looked one up on Amazon. Looks like the same thing for 13 bucks.
A small file keeps it sharp, and will sharpen other items as well.
Also I have a small hand chain saw from Harbor Freight (Update: They apparently don't sell them anymore. Just search for a "rope saw"). There is a lot of wood out there easy to burn, but sawing the dead limb off is easier than chopping with a small hatchet. This will also allow you to reach wood you otherwise would have had to climb for.
Step 10: Signaling
There are very likely to be times when being found is more important than staying hidden.
I keep this air horn and a signal mirror in that bag.
In the "Miscellaneous" section you will see I also have a few whistles.
Step 11: First Aid
My opinion is that my first aid kit should be geared towards bug bites, cuts and infection. Those are the most common types of issues I have had in the past.
A comment was made regarding keeping prescriptions in the pack as well. I have seen a lot of advice to simply "Ask your doctor" for an extra prescription. My doctor wasn't a fan of the idea. It makes sense. They are prescription for a reason. They don't want tons of "extra" meds out there. I suppose it depends on what your conditions are. The best idea I can give you is to keep your medications in one location so they are easy to snag them all at one time. If each member of the family keeps them in a different location for convenience, this is asking for trouble in an emergency.
Trauma kits are certainly useful, whether you prefer Quick Clot, IBD's or whatever. I honestly do plan on adding both items. So don't think that the absence of these indicates that I don't think they are needed.
I have been an EMT (Basic) in the past. Distant past. I've dealt with some serious injuries in the past in an emergency situation.
But I have always known that professionals were on the way. This aspect of taking care of my family scares me more than any other.
The problem I see with many people's kits is that it seems like they are trying to prepare for war. And maybe they are. But I also feel like they may put themselves in bad situations because they feel "prepared". But the presence of a well equipped trauma kit doesn't come close to a guarantee of survival. Especially if you are not close to a good surgical center.
Could I deal with a gunshot wound? Well I have the training in theory. But I never have. And it depends SO much on other factors (where, by what, etc.) The best thing I can do is to avoid those situations at all cost.
The kit I have is just for temporary situations. I have some ability to sew a wound in theory. And gauze to keep a wound clean. And plastic for an occlusive bandage. But I don't want to test it.
Some items in my kit that aren't in a standard kit.
Anti diarrhea meds
Honestly if the world really was breaking down, my plan would be to find someone who has better knowledge than I have and hope that my skills would be useful to them.
Step 12: Miscellaneous
This stuff doesn't have a neat little bag. It either just gets shoved in, placed in an outside pocket, or is on the belt.
I have a few carabiners, my hunting knife, my Leatherman, light sticks, assorted zip ties (good for everything), maps (get them in a rest stop), a compass, pen/paper (you may want to leave a message or just make notes), playing cards (my wife likes cards), bug spray, whistles, and a hard drive (encrypted) that I back my computer up with periodically (so we will still have our family pictures, etc).
The zip ties go in the main compartment. The light sticks and bug spray in a side pocket.
The pen and paper, cards, maps, and hard drive are in zip lock bags in a side pocket.
The rest rides on the outside.
Step 13: Hygiene
I keep a toothbrush, a few bars of soap wrapped in plastic like the ones you get from hotels, deodorant, baby wipes, and a bottle of Everclear. I also have a roll of toilet paper which i neglected to take a picture of (let me know if you really need a pic, I will add it and never invite you over :) ).
As a result of a comment I realized I didn't include sunscreen. For me that is a must have item.
This stuff is pure grain alcohol, 196 proof. That is 98% pure alcohol. it can be used to sterilize, as a fire starter, as the fuel for a tin can alcohol burning stove, or to make you forget about your troubles when you make a mean hooch.