The 14 (or 15) C’s of Bug-Out-Bags For Families
What do you need in a bug-out-bag? Well if you go by the suggestions of most people you’re looking for 45 pounds of random crap where most elements are duplicated and those that aren’t are flatly ignored. You’d think these people never had to bug out before. I have had to bug out and when it came time to do so there was no grabbing a bag, it was go or you’re going to die here. We went. Most of us on the walk to high ground had nothing, not even carrying anything. Many of us were actually missing things you’d think we would have had anyway, like both shoes. I was missing a shoe at least.
After a couple years of really paying attention to what I take with me on a hunt and what I needed and didn’t have when I was a child bugging out of a disaster area and what I’d want with me, or more specifically my kids, in the event that a bug out was required. I have family to worry about and a dog which makes things complicated. If you have girls you have special worries. Girls don’t travel as easily as boys do. If a girl needs to go potty it’s not a thing you can do while still walking and remain even a little sanitary. Guys can to a point.
What I came up with ended up being the 14 (or 15) C’s of bugging out. There is some overlap in the categories but you can’t get past that when things are intended to do multiple duties when they can in the interest of saving weight and staying mobile. Here you go: Calories, Cleaning, Catnap, Communications, Combat, Cutting, Chopping, Cures, Comfort (or) Convert, Carrying, Cordage, Cooking, Compass, Combustion.
This is what’s in my bags. I have two bags that I maintain. They’re intended to be used together but if we get separated then one of the bags will do. The 2nd bag is mostly just additional dehydrated food, fuel, cordage and a radio. It can be dropped in a hurry and not hurt the bug-out effort.
Calories: This is made mostly of sardines, small granule pasta, lentils, dehydrated stuff, jerky, granola, water purification, 2x 2-litre water bladders, several MRE heaters as well as some gatorade mix, salt and sugar. There’s even an MRE main course in there. Use what you like but don’t carry excessive water or wet food. That means you’re looking mostly for things you can add cold water to, leave it for a while and then just eat it. You want to avoid too much salty or high sodium foods but that doesn’t mean avoid them entirely. Just watch the intensity. Potato flakes are a really good way of carrying quick-preparing and easy eating energy. It won’t last long though so bring some oil. It’ll taste like ass but a spoon full of vegetable oil with a potato ration will really help prolong your energy. I also keep a collapsible fishing pole and reel and basic fishing tackle in the bag. Fish are highly nutritious and easy enough to catch so there’s no excuse for not having the ability or the tools. Sardines and anchovies make great trail food despite their weight. Highly nurishing, chock full of calories from protein and fat and best of all, low fecal response (means you don’t have to shit much for the amount of sardines you eat).
Cleaning: For me this means tampons and pads, water filters (Katadyn), ethyl alcohol, baby wipes, iodine tablets, iodine neutralizer tablets, metal water bottle, toothbrush, floss, powdered soap (borax), and a teensie dust pan and broom. The second you lose the ability to clean yourself you bring disease into the mix and that will kill your group. Stay clean.
Catnap: You’ll need to sleep sooner or later. I keep a space blanket, compact tent and tarp in there. The tarp can be a tent if it has to as well. It’s not a lot but you don’t really need that much. Wool is heavy and only gets heavier but it has virtues that you may or may not like. Try it out.
Comms: A national weather service radio and an FRS radio are the first things but they’re probably the least important. NWS radios usually have a flashlight in them which is handy. I also maintain a red/blue/white LED headlight. Fireworks are also handy. Smoke bombs, black-cats, and sparklers are handy signaling devices. As well, keep some chalk, a sharpie, a pencil and a ball point pen. I also keep several sheets of Revlar by Relyco which is water-PROOF media much like paper. Finally, a junk CD which makes a super awesome signal mirror is there.
Combat: I keep the stuff in the bag minimal. My family is all sufficiently armed anyway. Still, at least 1 fixed blade knife should be there for this purpose specifically. That means a combat knife. Apart from the blade, keep a gun, a spare magazine and a full box of ammo in there. What kind of gun? Don’t care. I keep a .357magnum revolver and a bunch of spicy .38spl ammo in the bag but I also daily carry a .45ACP Glock and keep 3 mags handy.
Cutting: This is pretty simple, you’ll need a fixed blade skinning type knife, a folding multi-blade jack-knife, and a Leatherman multi-tool. This is stuff that you don’t whittle with. These are long term survival tools.
Chopping: Related to cutting but oh so different in use case that it gets its own column. I keep a Gransfors Bruks hatchet and a Gerber machete in my kit. These are for the big jobs so you don’t use a knife wrong and cut yourself. They’re heavy but sometimes you need some heavy. These aren’t for delicate work but still must be kept in good shape and used correctly.
Cures: Got to have some medical supplies. I keep a few suture kits, a pneumothorax drain tube (chest tube), sulfadimethoxine, cipro, penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, tylenol, asprin, prilosec, quick-clot, nosebleed stopper, bug bite soother, tick remover, scalpel & blades, vascular clamp, opiates, gauze roll, gauze pads, butterfly/finger/regular band-aids and a quick deploy ice-pack in my med kit. Tampons make good bullet-hole plugs as well but they’re in hygiene. I’m not a doctor and I don’t mean to suggest anything in this list. My antibiotic and drug list is based on the medical needs of me and mine. Do your research.
Comfort & Convert: This is stuff to use either for your comfort or for you to convert into whatever else you need via barter. This means photos of loved ones (in case you need to search for them), identification (plastic ID’s help identify the bodies), silver coins, gold, precious gemstones and jewelry, faith items, flip-flops, a couple light sticks, hand warmers, ponchos and spare .22lr ammunition. These are light, valuable and highly trade-able. You also don’t “need” any of them.
Carrying: I have 4 backpacks. 2 are BoB’s, 1 more pack is inside one of the BoB’s and allows a day trip away from camp, and both BoB’s fit inside a 4th pack which is a surplus military external frame expedition pack. I also keep a military surplus load bearing rig, a pair of insulated canteens and a few stuff sacks for holding whatever we might gather on the way.
Cordage: 75-100 feet of 550 paracord is vital. Besides that, a couple sets of boot laces weighs nothing but supplies great and tough cordage. In addition you should keep some 1″ wide nylon strap with a friction clasp/buckle. I also keep 2 small aluminum carabiners and 2 heavy duty steel carabiners. The small ones are great for setting snares, the big ones can be used for handling actually heavy loads. You might consider picture hanging wire for this role too. It makes a great snare.
Cooking: The metal military canteen cup is a life saver. I also keep a metal fork, large metal spoon, P38 can opener, and a folding camp stove. With these things you don’t need much in the way of a proper mess kit but I’d also advise a 7 piece mess kit if you’re toting kids and a wife along. You can make the bulk of your mess kit from wood if that’s an option but you should have something to prepare food in or carry water in or whathaveyou.
Compass: A compass is critical but so is a set of maps. I keep detailed topographic maps of the whole area I live in as well as maps of all areas on the way to our rally points. Do not mark your rally points, that may set up an ambush or robbery. You’ll have to train the family on where they’re headed.
Combustion: Tri-Ox pellets. Little white pellets of unstoppable fire that’ll ignite in almost any conditions. That’s half of the solution. I also keep a magnesium fire starter, 000 steel wool, a 9v battery (replace every 6 months), a bunch of cotton balls, several cans of sterno, a few lighters and waterproof matches. If you run out of fire you’re screwed, so I have several methods of starting fire. This also makes it easier to give a method to everyone in your group.
Those are the 14 c’s of bugging out with kids over about 7 years old. Younger kids bring much more difficult problems. Teenage kids actually help matters in most cases except for the hardest thing to deal with, their appetite for calories. My kids are teens and that has caused me to have that 2nd bag full of food.
One of the handiest things I’ve come across is beer sold in 12 ounce aluminum bottles. These are awesome for boiling water and transporting small amounts of water or just for measuring. They’re fully opaque too so you can actually keep the beer in them.
Finally, drop a pint or 2 or 3 of Everclear or Vodka or Moonshine or another high proof, unflavored, clear alcohol in your bag. You can sterilize with it, drink it, start fire with it or even trade it. What you can’t do is find some for as little as it costs now when the world has already come to an end. Alcohol of the isopropyl type is not as handy.
Put some thought into it. Plan how long you’ll be bugged out before you get to your rally point and then how long you think you can maintain your rally point before bugging out again. I know we can make it 3 days without issue, 7 with rationing of food, 12 with damned near starving level rations. Beyond that, we’ll need to be stabilizing. I also know how far our rally point is and how long we can hold out there.
In the interest of full disclosure, in addition to the pistols in my BoB’s, given the chance I’ll also be bringing my drag bag and a long range rifle as well as the weapon set that the family brings. Barring their participation I’ll have to lug around an AR-15 as well. Each centerfire rifle comes with a 100 round battle pack of ammo. .22LR guns get a 500 round bulk box. I think that’s enough firepower to bring hell down upon us or to rain it down on a hostile force. In any event, taking my rally point will be very costly in men and materials and I hope that the ability to project firepower accurately at extended range will attenuate the need to actually do much of that in a world without rule of law.
Just surviving is not enough. You need to be the master of your death too. It might come about that just walking away from your bug-out location ends up the better option. It might come about that walking away is a pretense to avoid the damage caused by your booby traps when the interlopers enter your “surrendered” camp. The idea is that only you should know and if only you do know then the battle is half won already.
Don’t think that bugging in or out will make it so you can survive long term. You need a plan that deals with that. In all reality you’ll need several plans to deal with long term survival. Most people will not survive long term and that changes the equation as well. Deciding to try is the first step but it’s not a promise of success. If history teaches us anything it’s that refugees don’t get to bring weapons with them. That means that you won’t be able to move with the herd for too long before you have to put your guns down. Most preppers would not want any part of that and they’re the ones that need to think really long term. The rest of us will make it a few weeks, maybe a few months and then we’ll just be more vulture food like the billions of totally unprepared folks around the world.