After doing some research on the net of what gear everyone considers the “must haves” or “at a minimums,” I began to gather my supplies. It was a frustrating endeavor as there were many different opinions of what is needed. Some sites state that you have to have this particular fire starting tool that is guaranteed to start anything on fire within a few strikes (I chose a lighter instead), while another went nearly so far as to tell me that if I don’t have this booklet of 101 survival skills, I will die cold and lonely, with only the sounds of buzzards being heard as I drift off into eternal damnation…luckily they will provide me the booklet for $20.00…small price to pay for salvation I guess.
I have always been an amateur survivalist, relying on commercials and unrealistic reality shows to guide me in my pursuit of outliving cockroaches after the bombs fall, so gathering the gear took very little time. All I really needed to do was to go out to the garage and dig it all out of boxes, blow the dust off, and do a quick inventory.
The 10 essential items that I took on my first attempted bug out, as recommended by “the experts” is as follows:
1. Multi-tool: I chose a standard Gerber multi-tool. The reason was simply because I had one. Heck, I have a few of them. I believe strongly in multi-tools as long as they have the features you need and not just gadgets for the sake of having gadgets. What good is a multi-tool that has features that are there just so you can say “Check this out! This one has a tooth pick, wine cork, and credit card reader! It rocks!”?
2. Knife: I took my pilot’s knife that is made by K-Bar. I have had this knife for many years and have used it in all climes and places. This is the knife that I had used in Kosovo in 1999 to Afghanistan in 2010. It has been tested over and over and has never failed me. Current television shows always have the host running around with a 20 foot, space shuttle steel made quasi-cleaver that they later throw into sexy packaging, delicately sign their name down the blade, and sell it to the masses for a decent profit. An awe-inspiring knife such as that isn’t needed. The weight and awkwardness of carrying the thing should be enough for anyone to discard it as overkill, though I may change my mind when I am confronted by a herd of pissy grizzly bears….if they even travel in herds. What is needed is a knife that will get the job done. Period. A good quality and durable knife that is made by a reliable manufacturer. One that you can sharpen on the fly and don’t need anything to do it with other than a stone.
3. Water: From my research the standard seems to be 1 gallon per person, per day. With that, I packed 3 gallons of water, carried in 3 camel backs, 2 canteens, and four 1 liter water bottles I purchased from the local gas station.
4. Food: Food is always a tough topic. What to bring? How much to bring? What doesn’t taste like a slow roasted turd? So many decisions. I did research on calories and how many I should be consuming during an event like this. What I learned is calories = pounds and food is heavy. By that math I needed to be sure I made every calorie count and not rely on sugary foods as they are a waste of calories and not worth the weight. I chose to go with Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). I had them and I felt that they were more easily usable for this trek as they could be eaten on the move, eaten cold, and required minimal effort on my part. I did “field strip” the MREs to reduce the amount of space they took up and to discard the portions that I felt were unnecessary or wasteful calories. I made up for the deficiency created by replacing the discarded calories with other foods (granola bars). Jackie does an excellent job describing caloric needs HERE.
5. Light Source: I packed an LED headlamp and 2 palm sized LED flash lights. I like having redundant light sources packed in different locations in the event that one should fail or Yoda infiltrates my pack and steals the flashlight that I know I had packed just so he can sit and marvel at it (the little bastard can pull an X Wing fighter from the bog but a lamp impresses him? Really?). I kept one of the palm sized lights in my cargo pocket to ensure I had a light source within reach.
6. First Aid Kit: I took a decent sized first aid kit that came with many bells and whistles. It had a multitude of bandaids, space blanket, gauze pads, aspirin, tweezers, creams, everything you need to set up your own M.A.S.H. site minus the crappy jokes from Hawkeye and the antics of the cross-dressing Corporal Klinger. What it didn’t have was moleskin. Luckily I noticed that and augmented the kit with it.
7. Water Purification Tablets: I picked these up at a local big box store. I kept them in their original package as the original package had the instructions written on the back in something other than a size 2 font. I also made a cheat sheet of the tablets to ounces of water formula on the back of my map so that I knew how many tablets to add to any of my water containers if the need arose to refill with water from any of the natural local water sources.
8. Extra Clothing: I took along 3 days worth of boot socks. I am a firm believer in changing out socks whenever you can. It is good to keep your feet as dry as possible. I also ensured that they were actual boot socks and not cotton socks. Real boot socks keep your feet dryer, give your piggy wiggies extra protection from blisters, hold their shape and dissipate friction better than cotton, and are more durable. You can never go wrong with extra socks. Neck, feet, hands, and balls; extra socks warm them all. I took along an extra shirt. I went with an Under Armour brand long-sleeved shirt due to the ability of Under Armour to wick away sweat and moisture. Also as night begins to fall and it gets cooler out, it is good to change into a dry shirt for warmth. An added bonus is that in the event that the water purification tablets didn’t work properly I had a backup in case I ran out of toilet paper. It wouldn’t be the first time that I came out of the field with a sleeveless 80’s style midriff man shirt.
I brought a couple of pair of underwear as well. I again took Under Armour type as they help to keep the boys dry and comfortable. I felt the need to bring along extra drawers in the event that I wanted to put on something dry and just in case the water purification tablets didn’t work properly.
Long Johns: I took both top and bottom. It is fall in South Dakota and chilly weather is already upon us.
Light Jacket: Again, with the temperatures reaching the “damn it’s cold” level at night and early morning a light jacket teetered on the “nice to have” and “need” line.
9. Rain Gear: I took a rain top and a rain bottom over a standard poncho. I like the flexibility that an actual rain suit provides in thatI don’t feel like a shambling mound lummoxing down the road.
10. Blanket: What BOB would be complete without your woobie? Military poncho + military poncho liner = Ranger Roll. Simply attach a standard issued poncho liner to a standard issued poncho and you have one of the most awesome blankets you will ever use. Never issued either? Head down to your local Army Surplus and get yours today!
I also felt the need to take along some extras. Things that just seemed to make sense on any trek or bug out. Those items are:
1. Cordage: I took along about 20 feet of paracord. You never know when you will need cordage and life sucks when you don’t have it. I like military type 550 cord. It is durable and flexible in its uses. You can gut it out for the internal strands which you can then use for anything from sewing thread, fishing line, or if you are crafty enough you can braid a couple of strands together for bow string.
2. Gloves: Choosing the right gloves can be as important as choosing the right pair of boots. Gloves should fit snug but comfortable. They should allow for the full flexing and spreading of your fingers and not overly detract from your dexterity. They should protect your fingers and palms from abrasions, blisters, cuts, and the cold. I chose to use Mechanix Gloves as they have reinforced knuckles and fingers, as well as extra padding in the fingers and palms.
3. Compass: I took along a cheap little compass that also had a thermometer on it. You can never go wrong by knowing which direction is North. You can’t always rely on the sun as hazy weather and days that are sad can make it difficult to orient in that manner.
4. Carabiner: One of those items that is nice to have. You never know when you may need one.
5. Toilet paper: Everybody poops and I only had so many shirts with me. Plus it makes great tinder in the event that you have to make a fire.
6. Map and Field Notebook: I went to Google and printed off a map of my route as well as the directions. I then turned that into an art project as I cut it down and reconfigured everything into a more conducive sized document and taped it all together. On the back of it I wrote down important phone numbers, the number of purification tablets needed for each of my water containers, the load plan for my pack, and the forecast for the next 5 days. I then took clear contact paper and applied it as a form of lamination. It worked great.
7. Pistol with extra magazine: I took along a side arm as I was out and away from civilization. There are certain areas in South Dakota where I firmly believe that they recruited the entire cast for the movie “The Hills Have Eyes” from. You must know your state’s firearm laws before you go hiking down the road with a pistol strapped to your leg. South Dakota is an open carry state so this was not an issue for me, but I again warn everyone to know your state’s gun laws before doing this.
8. Trash bags: Keep South Dakota Beautiful!!!
9. Water Proof Bag: I used this to put all my clothes into. Seemed to make sense.
All together this came to 64 pounds of bliss. It almost felt like 64 pounds of feathers, which oddly enough weighs the same as 64 pounds of gear.
I went down my checklist and ensured that I had everything and that I had packed everything. I am not a huge fan of checklists. They have their place and I do use them, but after several years in the military and having worked corrections I have found them to be over used and, at times, cumbersome. If you use checklists keep them clean and concise.
Jackie once read a book where the author was driving home the importance of lists so much that the main character made checklists for everything, and the author ensured that you knew everything on the checklists. He even went above and beyond his belief in the awesomeness of checklists that he even had the main character make a list of all the lists that he needed to make, sacrificing some of the battery life of his laptop in order to make this list of lists. Jackie was so irritated by this that she bitched for days. I felt obligated to make her a list of all the reasons that it pissed her off so much. I have yet to read this book, but I still felt the need to make not just a checklist, but a load plan for my bug out bag. I will go into more detail about load plans in another article.
With the gear packed and the checklist completed I felt that I was ready to step out the door and kick some serious ass. What I found out was that the road you travel for your Bug Out is not always the road to success. I will definitely go into more detail on this epic outing after I compile and sort through all of the data that I accrued.
For Phase 2, click HERE.