Monday, January 29, 2018

Rhi (finally) Builds Her Bug Out Bag

When I first started writing for Blue Collar Prepping, I wasn't much of a prepper; I was a hobbyist re-enacter who happened to have a set of skills that meshed well with the other authors here. I honestly didn't know much about what folks consider prepping these days, other than things I'd grown up with as "common sense readiness for tornado season."

My Bug Out Bag at that time... wasn't. Not really. It was simply a really large day bag with spare clothes, a toiletries kit, a basic first aid kit, and a couple of granola bars. Oh, and a notebook with important paperwork, phone numbers, that sort of thing.

As I've read the posts, both here and on our Facebook group, written by my fellow writers here, it finally dawned on me that I needed to stop putzing around and actually put together a BOB / GHB (Get Home Bag) that was more than a slightly bad joke. It has taken me a while, due to various excuses - mostly money - but I finally managed to start getting serious about it today (Jan 4th) during my Post- Holiday Shopping.

The Bag Itself 
My original Bug Out Bag
Now when I say that my old BOB was a big day bag, what I mean is that it was really more of an oversized purse/girly gym bag that got preempted for the duration of tornado season here in Oklahoma. It finally gets to go back to being a designer Gym Bag. Yay!

What I replaced it with is an Ozark Trails Montpelier Adventure Pack, bought at Walmart for $49.97. The Montpelier is a rigid frame, 45L capacity backpack in rip-stop nylon with adjustable shoulder and waist straps. It has a large interior pocket that's perfect for the 2L hydration pack I bought to go with it (sold separately, but on the shelves right next to the pack).

While this backpack is considered a rigid frame, it is not an exterior metal frame; it has a pair of removable metal bars  inside that lay along either side of the spine to help maintain alignment.
The "new" Backpack

I've found that while the 45L capacity is good for a start, I've already run into the problem of space vs. weight vs. necessity for survival and/or comfort. I'm going to have to eventually  upgrade to something closer to a 70L capacity, which is something I've been eyeballing.

Word to the wise: if you can afford a larger capacity backpack, and have the strength to carry it loaded, get the larger size. You will spend less time trying to decide what you can live without as far as essential gear goes in the long run, and you'll spend a lot less time and money constantly upgrading your pack. Also consider making sure that any pack you buy can accommodate MOLLE gear hung from the outside, which will increase your capacity in much more affordable monetary chunks.

Inside the Bag
It's already stuffed to the gills. Everything inside the bag, however, is useful in one or more ways. I'm still tinkering with how I want things to go inside, and how many of certain items I really feel I need to carry. After all, this isn't a bag intended to see me through months out in the wilds; tts main purpose is immediate survival for 2 or 3 days at most.

Let's start with the basics of what I've got tossed in there.

  • I've gone with minimal clothing because this is for short term use. 
  •  I opted not to add an extra pair of jeans because of the space allocation they take up, even when folded well. I'm not likely to be wearing a dress or skirt at any given time that I'm more than 5 miles from home, so whatever pants I have on will do for the 2 or 3 days I'm living out of the bag. 
  • 2 extra shirts, however, hit my personal "critical" list as a morale issue. Hiking makes you sweat, and having to wear a sweaty, nasty, smelly shirt for several days in a row can do serious things to your motivation to keep going. 
  • The same went for packing underpants and socks, both for basic hygiene/comfort, and the socks so they can be changed if they happen to get wet, to prevent foot issues.
  • Something that we women have to think about, but you male types don't, is foundation garments for our torso as well. That's right, an extra bra. 
 For you ladies who read the blog, consider taking an old bra that still fits but "needs replacing" and tossing it into your BOB; having a change when you're going to be living rough for a few days is on the same order as extra socks, underpants, and shirts. Its both a hygiene and morale issue, getting out of sweat soaked clothing.

A small packet of ultra-thin day liners for your underpants can help stretch the use of those as well, before you want to just burn them and have done with it.

First Aid
While all of us know that having a first aid kit can be good, if you're as accident-prone as I am, it becomes critical to have a seriously comprehensive kit. I started with an $8 basic kit by Equate (Wal-Mart store brand), then added "personal touches" to the basic kit:
  • a tube of antibiotic ointment
  • bug bite itch relief pen
  • extra gloves
  • extra butterfly closures
  • a small pair of scissors
  • a small bottle of Merthiolate for wound cleaning
  • a white wash cloth that I boiled to sterilize and then sealed into a plastic baggie
  • 7 day's worth of each of the 3 medications that I'm on for my Lupus, Fibro and Arthritis
  • a package of cotton swabs pre-impregnated with Iodine, again for wound cleaning. These were found at the Geek portion of, and I managed to snag them for $1 for a set of 30 individually packaged swabs.
After additions, the cost came out to about $15, and there is no room left in the case to add more "extra" stuff. I do want to find and purchase a good field surgery kit and probably a suturing kit as well, but both of those are on the "want" list rather than the "must have now" list.

Fire Starting
I may have gone a bit overboard here, but I doubt it.

Schrodinger's Tin
with Tinder & Lighter
I started with a miniature cookie tin (you know, the Schrodinger's Tin that is both cookies and sewing gear until you open it?) filled with wood shavings (from a whittling project the HusBeast is working on) and a Bic disposable lighter. I also added 2 packs of strike anywhere waterproof matches (4 pack for $3).

Waterproof vs Tin for size comparison
Then I started looking at other possibilities, and added a waterproof case containing a Magnesium Bar, Flint and Striker, spare Bic lighter, and paraffin impregnated cotton "tinder" pieces. Somewhere in the bag is my trusty old Zippo lighter, and a small can of extra fuel, extra wicks, and extra flints, in a plastic baggie.
  • Magnesium bar with shaver was $9 on sale, $11 normally. 
  • Waterproof Fire Starting Kit was $10 with the flint, striker, and paraffin tinder. 
  • The 5 pack of Bic lighters, 2 of which went into the bag, $3.95. 
  • The small cookie tin was purchased during the Christmas Season, and I got several (filled with cookies that didn't last long) for $1 each. 
  • I can't remember what that Zippo cost me almost 20 years ago, and I always keep spare flints, wicks, and fuel around for it. It also wasn't a new purchase.
Contents of Waterproof Set
Total spent on fire starting equipment: $25 worth of peace of mind. Can you tell I absolutely want to be able to start a fire for warmth, comfort, protection, and light, regardless of the circumstances or weather conditions?

I've kept this a lot simpler than either my first aid or fire starting portions: a 2 liter hydration bladder fits into the inner pocket of my backpack perfectly, and to that I added a Sawyer Mini filtration system which includes a small mylar bag that holds about 6 ounces of water. 

There are outside pockets on either side of my bag and each currently holds a 16 ounce disposable water bottle. These will be kept after they're empty for refilling, if I ever find myself having to use my bag in an actual emergency. I also put a small bottle of water purification tablets in the bottom of the bag, as a back up to the Sawyer.
  • The hydration pack = $10, and a good buy at that price. 
  • The Sawyer Mini kit = $20, so not what I personally consider "cheap" but still well worth the price. 
  • Iodine tablets for water purification = $4 and a good price as a back up, since there were 2 bottles in the package. 
Total for keeping myself hydrated: $35. 

These items fall into both the "necessary" and "creature comfort" categories, mostly because while I have both the knowledge and skill set to build myself a temporary shelter when it comes down to it, I may not have the time and energy searching out materials and building. 
  • A mylar space blanket style A-frame emergency tent, with center tent rope included. It weighs less than an ounce; folded, it takes up about the same amount of space as one of the emergency space blankets. I consider it a good middle ground between building a shelter and carrying a backpacker's tent, since it weighs so little and only cost me $5.
  • A simple mylar space blanket at $2 is great for warmth and for insulation between myself and the ground or air. 
  • I also added a space blanket Emergency Sleeping Bag/Bivy Bag for $15 which takes up about the same amount of room as the tent or the blanket itself. Think of it as 2 space blankets that have been sewn together to form a bag, and you have the basic idea. Layers are a wonderful thing to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, and I'm big on staying as comfortable as possible. 
  • One thing that I decided to include from my already existing camping gear was an inflatable pillow and its pillow case, which came as part of a camping bedding set intended for use with a queen air mattress. 
  • I've also tossed in a small but extremely comfortable fleece throw blanket from Wal-Mart for $2.50
Total for emergency shelter, so I don't have to stop and build one every night: $23 all told, and well worth it to me to maintain some semblance of "camping trip" rather than "fight for my life."

There were only a few purchases made in this category that was strictly for the bag. 
  • A small folding emergency stove with fuel tabs ($5). This will likely get upgraded in the relatively near future to one of the Solo Stoves that the guys here all rave about. This small one was "better one than none" as an alternative. 
  • Ozark Trail 5-Piece nesting Mess Kit, $6.75, and used the extra space inside to store a pair of small can openers ($1.50 at Academy Sports - you never know what you'll find in a survival situation) a Swiss army/multi tool style eating utensil set I inherited from my granddad, and a folding corkscrew.
To that I added from my kitchen:
  • A package of 8 servings of Folgers instant coffee ($3.85) because I'm as mean as a momma bear without my coffee. 
  • A half dozen single cup size servings of coffee creamer in individual packets - don't laugh, I need it with my coffee to feel human.
  • One dozen Honey Stix. These are typically sold as candy, and are basically thin straws filled with honey and sealed at both ends. They take up less room and less weight than putting in a baggie of sugar for my coffee, can also be eaten as quick energy to boot, and generally can be found in groceries or other stores for $1 for 4 to 6 of them.
What got tossed in for food was simple: "add boiling water" stuff or things that don't need to be cooked at all. While the space taken by two Ramen cups is much higher than by the little packets, they can be dealt with by simply pouring hot water into the container rather than dirtying a pot. The same goes for the mac & cheese cup and the two soups that I decided to include. They are all things that I know I will eat and enjoy, because I normally keep them around for quick meals when I don't feel like cooking. 

To those I added four single-serving packets of tuna in various flavors as well as individual packets of Ritz Crackers to eat with the tuna. The tuna packets are $1 each, store flat, and are a good source of protein. There are also packets of cooked chicken that are available in a similar packaging and price range. 

Finally, I tossed in several packages of filled crackers (crackers with peanut butter or cheese in between them) that come in packs of six crackers for snacking. While they probably aren't the most nutritionally dense or wisest choice, they're inexpensive when you're simply snitching them out of your home cupboard, and an 8 pack can be had for $1.98 in various flavors from the grocery. They can also be eaten on the go without having to stop and heat water.

Total spent on keeping myself fed: under $20 if you don't count what I snitched from my own pantry, and probably $28 if you do count that stuff. While I know that I could empty most of that space by purchasing one or two high calorie MREs. this list is composed of things I know that I'll eat and I know that I like. That can go a long way towards keeping me motivated, so to me the space used is worth it.

Update: Ultimately what I've decided to do is to move all of the food (except 2-3 packs of filled crackers) into a separate day pack drawstring closure bag that I got for free at the State Fair. This has freed up an enormous amount of space in the backpack proper, and can be easily hung from any of a number of secure points on the backpack. Moving the food over to the spare bag as a test also clued me in to something I hadn't realized: my food stocks, while important and light weight individually, actually comprised almost half the overall weight of my pack! I may have to completely rethink what and how much food I intend to carry.

Miscellaenous Extras
  • 4 tent stakes, salvaged from a dead tent years ago, and kept as part of my collection of such. They'll come in handy for staking down the corners of the emergency tent so I don't have to look for rocks.
  • 2 more of the "Schrodinger's Tins" - one of them with fishing line, hooks, etc; and the other with sewing supplies - because being able to supplement food is important, and being able to repair clothing and shelter is more than handy. 
  • Mini fishing rod and reel which fits well into one of the side pockets with a water bottle (Wal-Mart, $10, 2 years ago.)
  • Toiletries kit - it has for the most part the standard stuff in travel sizes, but I added a package of baby wipes to it because I've learned after years of camping on "primitive" sites with my RenFaire group that if there is no water available other than what you're carrying with you, they can make you feel so much better. I also included a small can of Dry Shampoo, for cases without water available, for the same reason.
Travel Size for the Win!

  • Mini denture repair kit and mini glasses repair kit. Found both at the Dollar Store, they're about the size and weight of a space blanket, and they are incredibly handy.
  • A trio of mini LED flashlights, kept in various pockets so that at least one of them will be easily accessible, along with a spare pair of batteries for each. 
  • Also 1 LED headlamp, for hands free.
  • A small can of Deep Woods Off bug spray, and a small tube of sun screen - trust me, they'll get used.
  • 1 pair Ozark Trails compact binoculars.
  • Two emergency foul weather ponchos.
  • Crocheted warm hat and a spare pair of gloves.
  • My multi tool and my Swiss army knife. While both of these get used frequently here at home, they are now placed back in one of the outside zipper pockets of the backpack when not in use, so that they'll be with me in a grab-n-go situation.
  • To Help Composting
  • Small folding camp toilet, bags for same, and an 8 pack of dry enzyme packets to help with composting, along with a roll of toilet paper. (Because having to use leaves SUCKS.) The Enzyme packs were found at WinCo grocery while they were doing a promotion on Emergency Preparedness Supplies, for $12.
  • Portable 14W solar charger to keep my tablet and phone charged. If the phone is charged, I can call for rescue when I have signal; if it's not, its nothing but a doorstop. My tablet contains nearly 200 books on various survival skills and techniques, as well as just plain reading material. This also helps with the various scanned important papers and phone numbers that are currently stored on a thumb drive that lives in the bottom of the bag and can be read by my tablet.

The Lowdown
While needs are going to vary (as always), you can get a good idea from my bag compared to the bags set up by other writers here at BCP as to where you might consider starting when building your own.

I spent more money on initial outlay to rebuild my GHB/BOB than a lot of folks would simply because there was so much gear I didn't already have that I considered crucial. All told, I spent about $300 getting everything together, almost from scratch, all at once. No doubt, some of it could have been done differently or more inexpensively had I waited and shopped sales, but patience has never been my strong suit!

Go at your own pace, spend what you're comfortable with, and consider how much you can realistically carry so you don't do yourself in physically.

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