The “bug out bag” is one of the most well known items in preparedness. Whether you literally use it to “grab and go” from your main location, or as a “get home” bag for getting from your car, work, or some other location back to your home, every prepper should be intimately familiar.
As a prepper, it is very likely you already have at least one bug out bag ready to go for yourself. If not, what are you waiting for? The worst case scenario is having yourself all prepped up at home, but being caught away from your preps or forced to abandon your preps by a fast moving crisis. The bug out bag will help hedge against this most unfortunate situation should it occur.
What one keeps in a bug out bag, what kind of bag to use, and how heavy it should be is a topic of frequent discussion in the prepper community. General agreement is to target needs for survival for at least a 72 hour period. This includes some form of shelter, food, water (or at least the means to purify water), means of defense, general tools (think duct tape, Swiss army knife, leatherman, etc), light, firestarters, first aid materials, communications (radio / walkie-talkie), etc. There are some great discussions on bug out bags on The Survival Podcast and on the PrepperRecon podcast.
While it’s great to have your own bug out bag, if you’ve got a family and/or a spouse, it’s important and often overlooked that they also should have their own bug out bags. Let’s discuss why.
Your Bug Out Bag is Designed & Outfitted for You
While it’s tempting to be the “alpha male” and think “I’m going to haul all the bug out gear for my entire family”, it’s just not practical in many situations. Even if you have only a wife, or just a wife and one kid, carrying even just a change of clothes for each person and food for each person is going to be physically impossible. If you try it, you’re bag is going to be absolutely huge and will weigh you down & slow you down – defeating the whole point of bugging out / getting home quickly & safely. Keep in mind also that disaster could occur when you’re not all together. What if you’re at work, the wife is at her work, and the kid is at school?
Your bag has to be geared up particularly for you. While you can share commodity items like food, your clothes won’t fit your spouse or children. Your razors won’t help your wife when she needs a clean bra or a feminine hygiene product. Your thyroid medication won’t help your husband when he needs his blood pressure medication. You’re likely going to want to be using your smart phone often for communication and navigation, so your kid needs her own means of entertainment.
Although the bag is tailored to the individual, a benefit of the entire family being outfitted with their own bag assuming the crew is together is the opportunity for redundancy on tools and commodity items. If each bag has a flashlight, and one of the flashlights fails, it’s not ideal but at least the other members will be able to provide light. To guard against one entire bag being lost or unable to be retrieved, it is wise to spread out light necessity items such as prescription medicine across multiple bags.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Knowing that each member of the family is going to need their own bag means picking a bag that is appropriate for each person. Not too big, not too small, functional for exactly what that person needs to carry.
A heavy duty tactical bag with multiple compartments, extra strong zippers & webbing, and reinforced straps can handle heavy loads and successfully keep different items isolated from one another. This is not something a six year old is going to wear. Nor is it something to use if one plans to be discreet, as the wearer will likely stick out like a sore thumb. This bag can handle the heavy items like tools, ammunition, and tents that will not need to be carried by the children.
A bag more fitting for kids might also function as a second school backpack. It should not
need to be super heavy duty, because the kids will typically be carrying just their own clothes, items for entertainment
(cards, portable gaming devices, etc). In fact, even when packed it should be able to look to the casual observer as the same as a school backpack. A child might even be able to stash such a pack inside their school locker for use as a get home bag should the need arise. In that situation it would also of course be wise to have another similarly packed bag at home.
This pack should still be waterproof, and allow the child to carry water bottles in an external pouch, thus making it very handy to also take to extracurricular activities like sporting events, blend right in, yet still have the resources within arms reach.
A “Fanny” pack bag can also be something extremely useful for children as well as adults to carry. Often they are waterproof, and designed with special compartments to keep often used items like smartphones easily accessible. These aren’t going to be full fledged bug out bags obviously, but in keeping some of your most used gear easily accessible, they help keep that exact same gear from being squished and hard to find amidst the food, clothes, and other items in the full on bag. It’s a good idea to keep something like this near or even fastened to the main bag.
The takeaway message here is that having one bug out bag for the “leader” of the family is not enough. Each individual in the family needs their own pack, optimized and customized for their own needs. If you haven’t reached this goal, make it one of your priorities for this year.
During the year we will be releasing apps that help in constructing and then monitoring bug out bags, reminding you when to rotate perishable items such as food. Stay tuned!