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Packing for a Disaster – Pack Like You’re Leaving Today

Careful thought and preparation needs to go into any evacuation plan. Among the most important aspects of a sound plan is your supply checklist. When disaster strikes, you won’t have time to gather the essential supplies and provisions, so it’s not enough just to make a list.  Everything you will need, with consideration for all of the contingencies and alternative modes of transportation (vehicle, biking, walking) needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

One of the most important pieces of equipment to consider is your bug-out bag. Duffle bags and regular backpacks will fall short of your needs if you’re forced to go by foot or bike. A full-frame hiking pack is the recommended type because of its sturdiness and its multiple pockets and features.

Your bug-out bag needs to be chosen based on its features as well as its fit to your body. Carrying a heavy bag for long distances can be debilitating after awhile unless it is physiologically compatible with your body size and type. It’s important that your hips bear the bulk of the weight of a fully loaded bag so that your back is spared unnecessary stress.

It is also recommended that you choose your pack only after thoroughly trying different sizes. It’s best to load them fully when trying them on so you can get an accurate measure, and know how the belts will feel when the pack is attached to your body.

Even though you may be bugging out in your vehicle, it is recommended that you have with you a bike or pedestrian cargo carrier, or some way of towing your supplies long distance should you be forced to walk or bike. Even a wheel barrow or jogging stroller will enable you to tow a fair amount of supplies.

What to Pack

For the most part, the situation will dictate what you can and should take.  There is no way to know ahead of time the nature or extent of the disaster you will face.  It is difficult, therefore, to determine whether you should prepare your pack for a one-day hike to a shelter or a one-week excursion to get to a safe retreat. A safe bet would be to have a three-tiered packing plan that includes contingencies for bug out by vehicle, bicycle and walking.

Everything you might need for any situation ought to be organized in one place so that you can make the necessary packing adjustments within a very short period of time. Bugging out due to an anticipated weather event may allow you a little more time to adjust your packing than if your area comes under in a sudden emergency. Be prepared for either situation.

The contents of your bug-out bag are of great importance because it could be used in any contingency. I recommend your ‘stand by’ preparation be for a 3-day trip.  If, after you evaluate the situation, you find that you need more or less, adjustments can be made quickly.

The core essentials for your bug-out bag should include:

  • A water filter
  • A complete backpack camping kit including a butane stove
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • 6 high calorie MRE-type meals
  • Battery powered emergency radio
  • Solar battery charger
  • A backpacker’s tool kit including a multi-purpose tool
  • Extra thermal underwear and wool linings for shoes and gloves
  • Emergency blankets
  • Sleeping bag and ground cover
  • A poncho
  • Extra pair of hiking boots or shoes
  • A complete medical kit
  • Insect repellent

For biking, add the following:

  • 2 extra tubes per bike
  • Bike tool kit

Essential supplies for your vehicle (stored within close proximity for quick loading):

  • 1 to 2 weeks of food
  • Clothes
  • Document safe, along with a water proof satchel that can carry the documents if walking becomes necessary
  • 7 to 10 gallons of gas
  • 12 to 16 gallons of water
  • Full set of cooking gear, including propane stove
  • Extra propane
  • A cargo carrier that can be used when biking or walking if the vehicle breaks down.

This three-tiered approach to packing for a bug out covers all of your contingencies while providing the most flexibility for situational adjustments. Should a quick evacuation be necessary, it would take less than 20 minutes to load the car. And, as always, I recommend that you practice!  Decide on a moment’s notice to pack up and head out the door, giving yourself just 10 minutes.  Hike down the road or around the countryside for a morning, then stop and have lunch, or maybe even camp out for the night.  I promise you that 12 hours of real-life practice will yield a number of lessons learned.

Please add your own ideas!

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