Over the past few years, I have read many articles on various websites concerning “bug out-bags” and “get-home bags.” Those are, in my humble opinion, two different things. But there are two factors that both share, and many people overlook.
The “bug-out bag” should be designed to help you survive for about 72 hours while evacuating from a disaster area. A “get-home bag” includes those essential items you will need to get home in case you are stranded or in the event of an emergency.
Notice a common theme that both of those share? It’s mobility — the ability to move quickly and safely to whatever location you choose. Both should be designed for movement, ala speed. The lighter your load, the faster and further you able to travel. This is CRITICAL if your mode of transportation actively involves your feet!
Everyone’s situation is different, so I cannot tell you every item you should or should not be packing. I can tell you that your bag, regardless of your conditions, should be packed with pace in mind. Ounces = pounds, pounds = pain. The more pain you have, the slower and less effective you become. Weight is the element too often overlooked.
You are more vulnerable while on the move. And I’m not talking about roving bands of marauders that so many people envision. I’m talking about being susceptible to the elements, to fatigue, to stress — being vulnerable to the unknown.
At home (or bug-out location) you are not as exposed. You will hopefully feel safer and more secure in familiar surroundings. The more rapidly you can get there, the better off you will be.
So with all that in mind, look through your bag, and ask yourself “Do I HAVE to have this item to get home? Should I sacrifice swiftness for this piece of equipment? Is this item essential for my journey or could I go ahead and store it at my bug-out location?”
After you decide, “Yup, all this must be in my bag!” you need to put that bag on and travel with it. And I don’t mean around the block. Can you carry it a mile? 5 miles? A full day’s march? Could you run in a full sprint with it on? How easy is it for you to climb/jump/crawl with it on? If you don’t like your answers to those questions, start re-evaluating your bag contents again.
I walk about two miles with my pack 3-4 times a week. After the first few days of packing it around, I quickly re-evaluated what was vital in my bag and what I could do without.
I’ve read/seen people pack things like weeks’ worth of food, camping stove and fuel, tent, sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothing, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, etc. It’s like they are going on an extended camping trip. If you need all of that to safely reach your destination or live for 72 hours, maybe you should consider a different locale?
I pack “lite”. I will sacrifice some comfort for speed during my trek. I’ll give up some luxuries for haste. I don’t have to cook my food to get where I’m going. I can make do with rope and a tarp as opposed to a tent. I’m not bugging out through Afghanistan, so I won’t need to carry 200 rounds of ammo.
The other element I want to stress is the ability to blend into your surroundings. While the milspec, camo-framed backpack you carry may look great and hold a lot, how practical is it? It will certainly draw the eye and get noticed. Nothing stands out more than a guy carrying one of those during an urban crisis. (My pack is a backpack you would see on a high school or college campus, yet heavy duty. Since I live/work in a college town, it blends in.)
Also, how “quiet” is your bag? Hopefully you are not a “one man band” that people can hear coming from a mile away. Make sure your bag is not unnecessarily noisy. I don’t hang anything from the outside of my bag. This helps reduce the possibility of noise and reduces the chance of my bag getting caught on something…like a low hanging tree branch.
YOU should know best what you need. Just make sure that the items you carry are crucial, and are worth their weight in your bag.