Not long ago, I had a job that required me to travel by air frequently. I am not a huge fan of air travel for a number of reasons. The biggest is that I really hate airport security; it is demeaning, it infringes upon my rights, and it is ineffective. Sorry TSA guys, I know you have a job to do and that none of this is your fault, but it’s just window dressing and part of the plan to desensitize the population to the erosion of freedom. Almost as big of an issue for me is that a lot of the things I like to have on hand are not permitted or just won’t fit within current baggage restrictions. It’s tough to carry your bug-out-bag when you fly.
Being without my gear was troubling. I don’t want to give the impression that I am like Linus with his blanket about my gear, but I am. I started to think I was a little off, until Super Storm Sandy. When Sandy was bearing down on the Northeast, I was working as a fisheries observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The fishing vessel I was deployed on was run into Massachusetts by the storm, and I found myself in a strange town without transportation, shelter or gear, and a major natural disaster less than 24 hours out. That’ll get you thinking about that bug-out bag sitting in your closet back in small town Missouri!
Fortunately, the conditions of my job were such that I was always about half outfitted for a camping trip. Sleeping bag, rain gear, poncho, good outdoor clothes, a couple of knives, first aid kit, and my normal everyday carry stuff, but not what I would consider a good get-home kit. The good news is that I was able to get what was probably the last rental car in Massachusetts, so my big concern became gas as I drove out of the path of Sandy and into the teeth of a winter storm. Fun day! The lesson of the day was that I had to have a plan to get some gear together in a big hurry if I ever got caught out again. So I headed to the place I love to hate: Walmart! I picked this store because it is a given that wherever you happen to be there is always a Walmart, they are laid out similarly so you can find what you need fast, and they all have a very similar stock at similar prices.
For improvised shelter, I found the Outdoor Products Backpacker’s Tarp for $9.97. With paracord, and a $1.97 four pack of tent stakes you have the makings of an adequate shelter. I also grabbed the Ozark Trails cool weather mummy bag, $39.97, very compact, and rated to 40 degrees. I topped it off with a couple of space blankets at $2.97 each; these are great both as emergency blankets and emergency shelter. Total cost for the shelter category $58.
For fire starting, I found a Storm Proof Match kit and extra matches, and a pack of Wet Fire tinder. I also grabbed a 6 pack of cheap lighters. Total cost for the fire category was $15.
For the bug-out bag itself, the best pack at the best price ($48) was the Outdoor Products Gama 8.0 internal frame pack. I then added a 123 piece Outdoor first aid kit, a four pack of toilet paper, 50 feet of paracord, a roll of duct tape, and a bottle of Deep Woods Off. I finished out the load with a machete, a 4.5 inch fixed blade knife, and a Life Gear combo flashlight/lantern (red light that won’t degrade night vision). Total cost $110.
Food is a biggie, and will be the toughest challenge when a disaster is pending. You may have the camping department to yourself, but if you have ever been to a grocery store right before a hurricane or an ice storm I don’t have to tell you how it will be, barely contained mayhem bordering on looting.
The sporting goods section can provide some tools to help you with wild food along the trek. I grabbed a Daisy slingshot and steel ammo for small game hunting for 10 bucks, and an assortment of fishing gear (two spools of monofilament, bobbers, and an Eagle Claw Crappie kit) for $9. To cover cooking when a fire is not an option I grabbed a Sterno Stove kit for $20, and threw in a $4 Hobo Tool for eating.
I made a dash through the grocery side of the store grabbing calorie dense, well-packaged, low prep foods. By selecting things like cliff bars, a big jar of peanut butter, quick oats, tuna lunch kits, peanut M&Ms, Vienna sausages, fruit and applesauce cups, rice and pasta side dishes, Ramen, and Mac & Cheese singles, I was able to put together more than 35,000 calories that would fit in the pack and the budget.
We have all thought about our survival gear a lot. We have tried things, replaced things, and added things over time as we learn more. But if you had to assemble this gear from scratch in an hour or less, on a fairly tight budget, could you do it? The answer is yes, but you have to have a plan. I keep a shopping list with me when traveling, and I strongly suggest this. With a list you can go into autopilot mode and get it done fast no matter what the pressures are.
What would you add or delete from this list? Tell us in the comments section below.