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Alright, time for the bugout bag post. This is going to be a long one because it’s going to be a bit broader than strictly BOBs.
A BOB is typically defined as a pack that will allow you to survive for a minimum of 72 hours without access to infrastructure or resupplying. These are sometimes called 3-day bags, go bags, assault packs, get out of dodge (GOOD) bags, etc.
If you have the money you can get a brand new tacticool pack. They seem really nice, but it’s not necessary to spend that much on a pack. Milsurp and many backpacking packs will work just as well. Make sure they are big enough (=>30L) and have waist straps at minimum.
Having all of the weight of your pack on your shoulders is going to be a lot more fatiguing than distributing most of that weight to your hips. I would recommend choosing a backpack that has a frame or adding a frame to a frameless pack. That way you can strap tools to the frame.
If you buy one of the ALICE style packs, be sure to look carefully at the description. Many of them will come without straps since they are designed to be used with or without a frame. The straps or frame+straps are easy to find, but they’re an added cost to keep in mind.
There are some basic needs that the contents of your pack will need to be able to fill. These are hydration, food, shelter, fire-making, first aid/hygiene, and security. I’ll go over these categories one by one.
Hydration: Clean drinking water is key in any emergency situation. Unfortunately the ONLY clean water found in “the wild” these days is from the source of springs. The simplest filtration tool would be the straw filters. You can stick one end in a mud puddle and drink clean water
The straws are very compact and convenient if you’re on the go, but unfortunately they are not great for filling water bottles or cookware. Thus, there are water pump filters. While they do have the potential of breakage, they can usually filter a lot more water than the straws.
Lifestraw and Sawyer are the best budget options for these, but there are a lot of different options if you want to spend more. There are also filters by Lifestraw that fit into water bottles. Do some research on these devices, but pick up a few of the straw filters immediately.
Other methods of rendering water potable are chemical purification and boiling. The most well known chemical purifier is probably iodine. 5-10 drops per quart, depending on how clean the water is initially. It won’t taste good, but it shouldn’t make you sick.
Another chemical option for water purification is household bleach. Be very careful when doing this to avoid poisoning yourself, refer to the chart for the ratios to use. If you have some bleach right now, put some in your pack and plan on replacing it with something else later.
The most convenient option for chemical purification would be water purification tablets. They’re relatively cheap and easy to pack. (I’m just blurring out the irrelevant info in these screenshots to make it look less cluttered)
The most reliable method for water purification overall is still bringing it to boil. A mess kit or single wall metal canteen is perfect for boiling water. Do not try to boil water in double wall canteens, they will explode. Boil longer than usual if you’re at higher elevations.
You will likely want to carry more than one canteen’s worth of water at once. Nalgene bottles are very popular for their lightness and durability. They also make collapsible water bottles. A camelback style bladder would be a very convenient investment if your pack allows.
Food: The most convenient option to eat while on the go would probably be MREs, they actually don’t taste too bad. I’ve eaten them for meals when I didn’t feel like making something to eat before. They’re pretty heavy compared to other food options, so only include 1-3 of them.
Another great option is freeze dried meals. There’s a lot of different brands to can choose from, and they’re usually available in large chain grocery stores. Just add some hot water and you have a warm meal. If you’re in a tight spot letting cold water soak for a while works too
Emergency rations are a compact option that doesn’t require much prep to eat. I have some, but haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet. I’m sure they don’t taste great, but it’s a full day’s worth of food in a small package.
To eat without a mess, you’ll want at least something like the canteen/cup mess kit and a camping spork. There are some more robust options for backpacking cookware available as well if your pack allows.
Shelter: Tarps are a very versatile option here. Spend a little extra to get a heavier duty tarp instead of the cheapest option at Walmart. Avoid metal grommets if you can since they’re a weak point when making a shelter.
You will also need metal tent stakes and some paracord. Basic 550 paracord should be sufficient, but I discovered this stuff called SurvivorCord that apparently includes fishing line, tinder, and snare wire. I haven’t tried it yet, but it has good reviews.
If you really want a tent, there are some lightweight 1 man tent options. They’re definitely bulkier than the tarp options since they usually require some sort of frame. It’s a quick way of setting up a fully enclosed shelter though.
Your sleeping system will need to be tailored to the season and environment you expect to be bugging out in. Surplus Modular Sleep Systems are an expensive but convenient option. If you choose to go the sleeping bag route, just be sure to get one that’s warm enough for your area.
Some hardcore bushcraft guys choose to only use wool blankets in temperatures all the way down to freezing, you will need at least 2 and a tarp if you want to do this. Wool blankets can also be used to supplement a bag that’s not rated for temperatures as cold as you expect.
I’ll cover some clothing items here very briefly. First, if you’re going to be in cold and wet environments, wool socks are a must. They draw moisture away from your feet, and retain around 70% of their insulation while wet. Good leather boots are a must as well.
Ripstop BDU pants are pretty good, but the jackets would be rather conspicuous. I’d recommend getting a milsurp wool sweater and and a general outdoors jacket for the top to blend in with civillians in fall/winter. You definitely want a poncho, that would be fine to get in camo.
Of course everything related to shelter and clothing needs to be tailored to the locale in which you expect to be bugging out and the season. Hopefully the above will get you thinking along the right lines to put one together that is appropriate for you.
Fire-making: You can never go wrong with throwing a few Bic lighters in your pack. Even if you end up using different firestarters, Bics weigh next to nothing and will be valuable trading items. They’re cheap now, very valuable in a pinch.
Ferro rod firestarters are a very popular option with people who are into bushcraft. There are lots of different options in this area, but most will last for thousands of strikes and they often get a fire going in 1-5 strikes. Watch some Youtube and practice before relying on it.
Magnifying glasses are an option in direct sunlight. Some compasses have magnifying lenses you can use in a pinch. It would be worth doing some research into bushcraft to learn other methods of firestarting without gadgets as well.
It’s a good idea to include some tinder in your firemaking kit. You can mix some cotton balls with vaseline in a ziploc bag to make some cheap wet start tinder. They also make commercial WetFire starter tinder if you want to get it prepackaged for whatever reason.
There are dry options as well. Dryer lint is an excellent option for dry tinder. If you’d prefer something more robust, you can use cotton balls or go with some commercial quick light tinder.
Your first aid kit is another item that will require you to use some critical thinking to assemble something appropriate for you and your region. If you buy a prepackaged first aid kit, be sure to pick one labeled as an outdoor first aid kit and swap out contents as needed.
Some sort of trauma kit may be helpful as well, including at least a tourniquet, an (((Israeli bandage))), and a splint. Learn how to properly apply these before using them in the field on yourself or others. People can lose limbs due to improper use of tourniquets for example.
You know your own region and medical needs better than anyone else, so be sure to draw upon that knowledge when putting this together. Sunscreen if it’s hot and sunny (or snowy and sunny) out. Prescription medications. Insulin+needles for diabetics. Gear for Liftwaffe (lol jokes)
Security: This is going to vary considerably depending on your region and mission. If the biggest opponent you expect to come across are other civilians, a .22 and 9mm would likely be sufficient (and efficient).
If you’re in bear or big cat country, you’ll likely want to go with a larger sidearm. You’ll either want to go with a magnum revolver or a 10mm auto. If you go with a magnum, you may want to look into compatible lever rifles instead of the 10/22.
I know everyone has strong opinions on this topic, so when it comes down to it choose whatever is convenient and appropriate for you to carry. I do plan on addressing battle rifles later in this thread, so AR and AK philes can rest easy for now
Something similar could be rigged up with shotgun shells as the noisemaker if you’re in a pinch too. I’d have the shells pointed at the ground (or remove the shot) since tripwires don’t discriminate.
Consult your local laws and always abide by them as long as there is rule of law, even while you’re out practicing for SHTF. I’m sure some stuff I’ve mentioned so far is illegal in some states and countries.
With that in mind, let’s move on to knives. A survival knife is a must have for your bugout bag. The very cheapest knife you can get away with would be something by Morakniv. They come with secure sheaths and are very highly regarded. (these are actually cheaper in B&M stores)
That about wraps up the bare essentials. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I’ll go over a few optional tools that might be useful. The first would be a camp axe. While building a house won’t be easy with one of these, it will definitely make bushcraft activities easier.
Military entrenching tools are another option. They can typically act as a shovel, a hoe, and an axe, providing quite a bit of versatility in a small package. It would probably be worth tracking down a tried and tested milsurp model as opposed to buying one new.
Some people swear by camp saws, and they will definitely make gathering firewood easier. I just own a generic brand, but I know some are highly regarded so you might want to do further research before picking one out.
A Leatherman is a fantastic investment for any tough situation. Personally, I’d suggest integrating one into your EDC if you haven’t already. If that’s not feasible for one reason or another, then at least get one for your pack. I EDC a Rev right now.
Contractor bags, duct tape, a whistle, and a bandana would be some good miscellaneous additions to your pack. Wrap the duct tape around some lighters instead of just sticking the roll in your pack to save space.
Dry bags are a great thing to have on hand as well. I keep my firestarting kit sealed up in one of these when I’m not using it. Perfect for electronics as well. You can also fill them with water if you need to.
These 18 hours hand warmers are great to pack in cold weather. You can tape them to your abdomen, shove them in your boots and gloves, and you’ll be nice and warm for a while.
Navigation tools are another must have. Learn how to use a map and compass now, because you may not always be able to power or use a GPS. It’s worth getting at least 2 compasses in case one breaks or gets lost. This knowledge and ability will give you an edge over most people.
Another essential tool is a map. You can buy topographic maps from USGS(.)gov, but their site is down for maintenance today. You can find free topo maps from National Geographic that fit to printer paper size. Be sure to protect your maps from getting wet.
A protractor and pace count beads will come in handy with map+compass navigation too, and they weigh next to nothing. You can easily make your own pace count beads if you do a little bit of research. These items will make more sense once you learn how to navigate this way.
All of that being said, a GPS can be very handy, especially when you’re first trying to get out of dodge. You can use these in the meantime to bookmark potential bugout locations. There are countless options here, so I’m just showing a couple of the cheapest.
Flashlights are another essential. I like the Coast HX5 clip style because I can slide it on the brim of a baseball cap. It would probably be worth getting one that’s waterproof if you live in a wet region. I’m not a flashlight expert, so others may have better recommendations.
Tying into the above, try to make sure all of your electronic devices run off roughly the same type of battery and stock plenty. Some AA batteries and a USB power bank would be a good idea. Don’t get cheap batteries, you’ll regret it later.
HAM radios are another essential that I forgot to mention. These will work even when phone lines and the internet are down. You will need a HAM license to operate these to the full extent of their abilities, but it’s worth getting one.
It might be a good idea to have a war bag with your battle rifle, pistol belt, ammo, webbing, blowout kit, body armor, etc.Preferably this includes more than 1 person’s gear. Not every SHTF situation will require this, and it’s impractical to include all of it in a BOB.
Gloves are another essential item, and I’d recommend packing more than one pair. Mechanixgloves are a bit of a meme, but I really like them. Recently discovered these Wells Lamont HydraHyde gloves, and they seem like they would be great for heavier work.