In my last article, we talked about short time (72 hour) bug out bags, aka BOB’s. As promised, in this article, I am going to focus more on a *long term* survival bag. This bag would have everything you need in it to survive in the woods for longer than 72 hours. People often don’t think about surviving if they get lost, they assume just because they have their car or cellphone they can get out of anywhere. This isn’t always the case.
Survival situations are not only “end of the world” theories. While an EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) is a very real possibility, there are many, many other things to consider happening that could lead you into dangerous survival situations where having a pack ready could save your life. Knowing how to survive is important as well, not just having a pack full of gear. Using your Internet and buying books to help you learn survival are some very good ways to learn, but will never be good enough. Practicing and using your skills is key. Be cautious of the books and information you read, as some of them may not work for you. Look at comments and reviews. Many manuals have wrong or incomplete information on survival. I prefer the army survival manual as it covers just about everything. This is a PDF form of the US ARMY manual that you can read/print right from home. Survival Manual.pdf Another great book is Bush-craft- Out door skills and wilderness survival. Bushcraft-Outdoor-Skills-Wilderness-Survival
Just like with your 72 hour bag, considering your families needs are important as to what goes in your pack. However, there are some very basic things that could mean the difference between life and death.
There are 3 important things that you must have in order to survive the elements:
Water, Shelter, and Fire
History has shown that a person can go 3 days without water, but can survive 3 weeks without food. If you can secure your water, shelter and fire, then you can find food. Not having these 3 things to protect you from the elements can kill you a lot faster than a growling belly. Before I continue, I am going to list some of the things *we* keep in our survival bags. These may not be the same things you would keep. I have two children, if you do not have any then you may not need some of the things I have so you would not add them.
- A good sturdy backpack/bag. A bag with wide padded straps are preferable and a padded waist strap to help distribute the weight. You do not want a bag with thin straps that will cut into your shoulders. Expect your pack to weigh at least 20 pounds, but aim for less. (Any advice to make the pack weigh less will be welcome in the comments section.) Many people use military style bags and those are good as well, but can also add extra weight that you may not want to carry. I have been advised to look into a lighter weight, but sturdy back pack, however the choice is yours and it is what your comfortable carrying. Testing your gear is one way to find out what suits you. (Gossamer Gear back pack was recommended to me recently.) A new friend of mine who is very experienced told me that “The more experience you have, the less you need to carry.” I took that to heart and will definitely begin making my pack lighter.
- A Canteen
- A way to filter water. We use a Katadyn, my water micro-filter bottle, and we also have a Katadyn ceramic siphon water filter
- A good flint/magnesium stick for starting fires. We also have waterproof matches and BIC lighters. (Always have at least three ways to start a fire.)
- A Sterno/Coghlan’s folding pocket stove with fuel tabs. However, you can use small bits of wood for this as well if your out of fuel tabs. Tinder- Quick is also excellent. It lights even if its wet.
- Mess kit
- Large medicine bottle with fishing gear in it: 2 small bobbers, hooks, a thread spool with fishing line on it, a few lures and some weights. It all fits compactly in the medicine bottle.
- Edible/poisonous plant cards. Knot tying cards. (Because I am not a pro yet, if you use your skills regularly, then you wouldn’t need these cards which means less weight.)
- Snare wire: This is one way to catch food, however let me let you in on a secret..if you do not train/practice using these then they will be useless to you when you need them. Like with anything else, you need to have the knowledge and understanding of this before you can be successful with it. You can not just place a snare wire somewhere and expect to catch something. Learning to spot tracks, and pathways that certain animals take is key to placement of your snares. Understanding the different sizes needed to catch different size animals is also an important factor. Obviously you wouldn’t use a wire made for rabbits to try and snare a hog. I have learned a lot about snares watching others who do it on a regular basis on you tube and taking their advice.
- Tarp Tent: These are ultra lite at about 3-4 pounds. If your in extreme cold you might opt for something else. If you have a very good sleep system though this should work. I prefer using this but its a little pricy.
- Ponchos to protect from rain. Instead of a heavy duty one, use the lightweight cheaper ones, they are much lighter and easily replaceable if torn. They are also easy to fix with a little piece of duct tape if torn. The lighter the better!
- Duct tape: Not a whole roll, just a small amount to fix minor things that may need fixing. (a rip in a tarp or poncho)
- Tent (Optional, we only use this when camping, it is not part of our bug out bag in the car. In my honest opinion they are to heavy to make part of a bug out bag.)
Sleeping System: This information may seem a little different than what your use to hearing, but after speaking with many different experienced professional hikers this seems to be what most agree upon, so please open you mind. I try to bring my readers the best information I can find through experience and research.
Despite what we may have learned in the past, there are better (warmer) and lighter sleeping systems than a sleeping bag. Don’t get me wrong, a sleeping bag can be useful in the outdoors, but isn’t always efficient. Warmth comes from insulation or being up off the direct ground so carrying the bottom portion of a sleeping bag is essentially carrying dead weight. Sleeping bags also trap moisture, both inside the bag from the camper and outside the bag from the elements. If the bag gets wet then the warmth is greatly degraded defeating the purpose of the sleeping bag. A sleeping bag is an option, just not always the best one depending on the outside elements. Backpackers and hikers seem to lean toward backpacking quilts. According to Light and Ultralight Backpacking, insulation choices range from down to synthetic with synthetic winning out in wetter climates and down tending to be warmer and lighter over all. L&U had this information to offer it’s readers;
Several manufacturers make very good quilts which are also very lightweight. These include Nunatak (http://www.nunatakusa.com/), Jacks R Better (http://www.jacksrbetter.com/), Backpacking Light (http://www.backpackinglight.com/), Feathered Friends (http://www.featheredfriends.com/) and others. If you really like the bundling effect of a sleeping bag, try the Sleeplight offered by Gossamer Gear (http://www.gossamergear.com/cgi-bin/gossamergear/sleeplight.html) which is essentially a sleeping bag without insulation on the bottom. Being a person much taller and wider than others, I decided to go with the Caribou sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering (http://www.westernmountaineering.com/) which is just slightly bigger than the other quilt options listed above, but in some cases, it is lighter. The zipper was removed, saving some ounces, and two elastic straps were sewn on to cinch it to my sleeping pad. It functions extremely well in cold weather as I intended – as a quilt. I should mention some people use a 3/4 length bag or quilt especially if they have warm upper layers as it further reduces unnecessary pack weight.
The second part of a good sleeping system is a ground pad. The purpose of this is to insulate you from the cold ground. A lot of people think you need to have expensive inflatable pads when the cold hard truth is that the foam pads offer a higher thermal resistance than the others. They are also lightweight and easier to carry.
The Third and final part to your sleeping system is a liner for the inside of your system and a bivvy for the outside of it to protect it from the elements. My personal favorite and a favorite of many many campers/hikers, The Sea to Summit reactor extreme Thermalite liner for your sleeping sack.
- A good survival knife and a skinning knife. Small sharpening stone. This is a good guide to follow when choosing a knife.
- A folding saw and shovel. (The shovel is kept in the bag mainly to help if we get stuck and need to dig our vehicle out but is also used to bury waste when we are camping.)
- Lightweight hatchet
- Wind-up (crank) flashlight/am-fm radio.
- Emergency Whistle
- Signal Mirror
- Gun/Ammo (Carried on me, not in my bag.)
- 6-8 hour hand/foot warmers (The kind that heat when they touch air, you can buy them anywhere)
- Maps in Zip lock bags. Our maps have marked meeting points and 3 ways to get there for where ever we go.
- Army survival manual
- Toothpaste/toothbrush/bar of soap and a washrag (usually only one because you can wash and ring it out and re-use)
- Lets not forget deodorant. Many people do, and trust me, I don’t wanna be with ya if you smell like B.O. Just kidding! I know if its a worst case scenario, that is the last thing on your mind, but you’ll be grateful you have it and so will anyone with you. Deodorant is also good to prevent chafing in areas that rub together. The one I have is the little travel size ones you can buy at wal mart.
- Solar shower (You don’t have to have this, it is pure luxury, but it is nice to have a hot shower for camping trips etc..)
Clothing: The general rule of thumb here is to keep your bag prepared for the season. If its summer you won’t need thermal underwear. Dressing in layers.
- 2 pairs of socks. One pair of our socks is a thermal type that will keep your feet warm in up to zero degree weather. It all depends on where you live and where you will be traveling. Cotton socks tend to hold moisture so you might not want cotton.
- A good pair of warm gloves.
- A pair of good boots or hiking shoes
- A pair of long pants.
- One pair thermal underwear/pants and shirt.
- 2 shirts (lightweight)
- 3 bandanas each (I have been asked why 3? The main reason I choose to have 3 is to cut them into strips to mark my way should I go off path to explore while camping. It might seem crazy, but it is the way I prefer to do it.)
- A hat/sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun.
- Mosquito net to cover face and neck. Again, go for something lightweight, noting fancy, just some basic netting will do.
Medical: We build out own first aid kits. Many of the kits you buy pre-made have a bunch of things you wouldn’t really need and not enough of the things you do need the most of. We each have one kit per bag with these items in case we get separated. Note: these are the main items I could think of in our first aid kits, I may have left out a few things but again, build your kit to meet your needs. (When speaking of pills and medication, it is not an entire bottle but around 10 each.)
- Poisonous snake bite extractor.
- Allergy medicine
- Prescription medicine
- Band-Aids (waterproof basic band aids)
- Alcohol pads
- Benadryl Itch Relief stick (2 dollars at walmart)
- epipen (prescription only)
- Instant cold compress
- First aid guide
- burn cream
- K-103 tabs
These next items are not something you HAVE to have, but we do:
- Gatorade packets for energy and electrolytes.
- Vacuum sealed Ramon noodles with beef TVP (Texture vegetable protein, is a high-fiber, high-protein meat substitute. Doesn’t need to be refrigerated, sort of like Bacos) Just need water to cook.
- Vacuum sealed powdered soup. Just need water to cook.
- Vacuum sealed variety of nuts
- Those small sealed bags of tuna/chicken (much lighter than a can) Make sure and rotate these out, you wouldn’t want bad tuna in a survival situation.
- My kids packs are not as heavy with gear, so in their packs we add a few cans of Vienna Sausage since they will eat those and several cans of spam.
- Deck of cards
- We each have a small zip lock baggie filled with dog food because we have dogs.
- Spool of thread and a needle.
- Extra copies of each persons Id’s, social security cards, medical cards and records.
- Extra cash
When it comes to making your fires, it is always best to have (and to learn) 3 different ways to start a fire and most importantly, do not store all of your fire starting supplies in one place. Should you lose your pack, guess what? You would be without fire. We usually carry a fanny pack or messenger style bag. In our fanny/messenger packs, we carry our ammo, ways to start a fire, and a small knife. We also carry a small match container on a lanyard along with our compass. Me personally, as a woman, I also stick a lighter in the upper area of my bra, like many women do with cell phones. Right by the shoulder strap. Whatever works for you is the best.
As I stated before, these bug out bags can be used for emergency survival or to go camping. You may not need all of that gear for a camping trip though :) Having all these supplies and not knowing how to use them is pointless, so practice practice practice!! Once your BOB is completed, start walking daily and carry it with you so you are use to the way it feels. Take weekend trips where you DON’T bring a grill and a chest full of meat to grill out. Bring your basics and see how well you make it. Challenge yourself. These trips are also great to teach your kids the basics in survival should they ever get lost in the woods. They would have a better chance at making it and you would have the comfort knowing that their chances of survival have increased should they ever be in that situation. Lets face the facts here as parents, a lot of our kids go to summer camp or on trips with girl/boy scouts and you never know what might happen out there. We aren’t always there and kids are kids, they don’t always make the best of choices.
After many trials, and wasting a lot of money on things we wouldn’t need, I have found this to be the ideal BOB for our family. Some might say its to much, some might say its perfect or not enough. In the end, its your bag, you will be carrying it, so make it how you want it to be. I hope that this article will give you a great start to building you first bug out bag. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to add those to our comment section at the bottom of the page. I always welcome and look forward to hearing what everyone thinks and you all’s opinions to make things better. Good luck and remember to have fun!!
Keep It Spicy,
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