I have gotten a few PM requests asking my thoughts on or what I keep in my “Bug out bag”. Personally I don’t care for the term Bug out bag or I’m Never Coming Home bag or really any of that stupid YouTube, doom’s day preppers, tinfoil hat bullshit. Now having said that; do I have a pre-packed bag that lives in my vehicle or goes with me when I travel? Yes certainly I do, as do many of the guys that I work with. However the purpose of having such a bag is one of convenience and insurance. I have no Walter Mitty fantasies about what life would be like after the end of the world as we know it, or during a total breakdown of law and humanity; sorry guys but I have better things to do then waste my time or energy on such things. However I also try to be pragmatic about life and as one who has done just a little bit of traveling or rather who has been around and has seen both the world and humanity in many different lights. I will share what I generally keep in my “go bag”, along with a pretty fair amount of my operational philosophies. Most of the inclusions are there because of personal experience and the “80% rule; the 80% rule applies to stuff that I know I am going to use 80% of the time; rather than the “What if’s” (what if ‘X’ happens, then I need this item…)
One rather unintentional yet overwhelming theme that you might notice is that although this isn’t a collection of items designed exclusively to go bivouac in the outdoors the capability is there if needed; because I have found myself “indoor” bivouacking in substandard quarters both CONUS and OCONUS on many occasions. Yet at the same time I use many of these items routinely while away from home no matter what the conditions are. So there is a method to my madness…..beyond just my madness! I also employ this as a scalable ensemble, where I generally subtract (but occasionally add) items based on the environment prior to stepping off or if need be, simply ditch or cache unneeded items later.
So why even have a go bag? Well that’s a question that everyone would pretty much have to answer for themselves. For me having a bag packed and ready is just good business, I carry the same bag OCONUS with just some slightly different items METT-TC dependent but the principles are the same. As I’ve already made pretty clear I have no intention of running to the hills or the deep woods to live like Grizzly Adams at the first sign of trouble, or of drifting around a post-apocalyptic wasteland like the dude in the book of Eli. I do however like the ability to exit my burning residence in the middle of the night, while wearing nothing but the Glock that was on the nightstand and not be completely at the mercy or charity of others. (That mental image is free of charge BTW) Or even more probable when I’m somewhere other than home and karma tosses a shaped charge into my plan whatever that might be, I can adjust and drive on to my objective (figuratively or literally).
Who knows, I could get a phone call from a “trusted agent” telling me that a warrant for my arrest has been issued and they are searching my home and office that very moment. In that case it would be nice to have the capability to go to ground and sort some things out before going in blind so to speak. Or the less menacing reason is it provides the freedom of spontaneity to decide to take off for the weekend and head to the woods, or go to that class out of town. No packing, no planning, just go because I can.
So I think of this bag not so much as a survival kit but more of a living kit, because surviving and living are two drastically different propositions. Operationally once I’m into “survival” mode then that probably means that my mission is FUBAR and the E&E plan is in effect, once I’m into those sorts of contingencies I’m moving fast and light. In my everyday life I apply the same logic.
I don’t care for military issued packs for almost any application; whereas the ALICE pack was a good piece of kit in its day, available technologies have far surpassed it; however the current issue MOLLE packs are far from an improvement. Like most things that the military does when it comes to equipment they over engineer in an attempt to make a single item that works for every application, something that by itself is a very tall order; then to make matters worse they contract it out to the lowest bidder for production.
More importantly to me, since I often carry this same pack for OCOUS “globe hopping” excursions, selecting something that screams US Mil is not an option. I personally like to apply this same logic to anything that I would consider carrying during a CONUS civil emergency or if we really want to go down a rabbit trail, we could say while conducting asymmetric warfare operations anywhere. The ability to look the role of the average Joe or “The Gray man” can be quite valuable in that although this ruse may not hold up to an in-depth search or interrogation, it very well may buy a little bit of time to react to a situation before things go critical, and time is by far one of the most precious of strategic commodities.
Personally I prefer a mid-size pack over something MEGA-sized for several factors and not the least of which is the phenomenon of “if you give a guy a pack….he’s probably going to fill it to capacity.” Another thing to consider is space. How much physical space can you afford to dedicate to such an item, if you drive a compact car or have a larger family then this could be a factor; as is how a huge pack can impact travel considerations. Ever wonder why the Eurotrash kids who are spending the summer going from youth hostel to youth hostel without so much as a plan all carry mid-size backpacks?…..It’s because they can easily carry them onto a wide assortment of both public and private modes of transportation. The pack that I am currently using is the Gregory Serrac 45 this is a mid-size 45 liter internal frame pack. There are a couple of things other than the size that I look for in this type of pack.
- “Slick” overall design; I like a pack to be streamlined and slim, and not encumbered with a myriad of pockets, pouches, or bits of webbing on the outside that seem to have a near magical ability to snag on every door frame or tree branch within a meter of the pack. I do however like that this pack has a single long front pocket, providing the ability to mount a hydration system on the front vs. on the inside because it makes it much easier to fill and in the event of a bladder failure all my stuff doesn’t get soaked. Other than that I don’t typically strap a bunch of stuff to the outside of my pack.
- Comfortable carrying system; straps and waist belt that fit and have enough adjustment to wear over bulky winter clothing.
- Compression straps to easily scale the load down when the pack’s full capacity isn’t required.
Listen guys there are a ton of really good choices for packs in this class. Gregory, North Face, REI, and many others all have packs of this type in their product lines with most available in blacks, grays, and other neutral colors. Seriously guys step away from the “Tacticool” look were it appears that the PALS monster threw up all over your gear. I know they seem really versatile and so sexy but honestly it’s tough to make a war ruck not look like anything but a war ruck. On the other hand a neutral color commercial pack becomes camouflaged with a simple lightweight cover.
To complement the pack I keep a heavy duty waterproof Baja or Sea-line type bag in the main compartment. This could just be a carryover habit from years of patrolling in places where it always seemed to be raining. But never the less keeping your stuff dry is critical. Besides the heavenly bliss of dry clothes there are a few other applications that this serves as well; because the bag is completely airtight it can be used as a flotation device, and I have found that even a heavily laden pack will be somewhere around neutral buoyancy provided the majority of the contents are waterproofed. Another use is as a container for collecting and carrying water. There are some that are made of lighter materials like sil-nylon but I personally like the ones that are a bit more rugged.
Another item in the load carriage category is a small packable day pack. I’m talking about a small 15 liter 900 cu” backpack that balls up into itself about the size of a tennis ball. These come in quite handy when the need arises to carry a few items that won’t fit in your pockets but aren’t overly heavy. Basically I like these for times when I don’t want to carry my full pack along with me and they are a far cry better than a “Mexican Suitcase” aka Wal-Mart bag. Think of it like an assault pack when leaving your main ruck in the ORP (Objective Rally Point).
When we look at the classic survival rule of 3’s, you know the one; 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. We can see that shelter sits pretty high on the priority list. It also should be understood that shelter comes in many forms. People often overlook clothing as shelter but in reality I consider my clothing to be my first line and most important form of shelter because it is always on me; unless of course we are again talking about escaping my burning residence in the middle of the night, wearing nothing but my Glock and a big smile….or that Errr “event” on the beach in Thailand.
Our clothing serves several purposes, it protects us, it can conceal us, and something often over looked is that it defines us to others. So keeping that in mind along with the 80% rule when selecting your clothing, perhaps the Crye Combat uniform isn’t the best choice. Sure it protects, and conceals, but if you wear it to the mall it’s going to get you noticed. Again being the gray man is the goal….now some will argue that nobody notices the homeless hobo. But I would counter that, with “YES they do!” “I do”. And second because our clothing defines us, I want to be able to walk into 80% of places and generally fit in.
For example…Late one afternoon, I was at the gym releasing some hate and my wife called; “Honey where are you? We have reservations at the restaurant in 45 minutes”…..Oh CRAP!, I had totally forgot….”I’ll meet you there.” I told her. There was no way that I was going to have time to go home, change, and make it in time. But I also wasn’t going out to dinner with my wife and friends while wearing sweaty under armor, and smelling like something between a dead cat and burnt tires. Simple solution, I ran out to the car opened the trunk and removed the clothing and some soap from my go bag. Then I went back inside, took a quick cold shower and made it to the restaurant, clean, armed, and on time, dressed in the socially acceptable attire of North face convertible trousers and a button up Columbia shirt. Problem solved problem staying solved. However at the same time I could have received a call from one of my mates telling me that he was “in the SH!#” and needed help and again the clothing would have been up to the task.
For the most part I like modern synthetic materials for these types of clothing. They are lightweight, durable, breathable, fast drying and generally wrinkle resistant. Just remember “Cotton Kills”. As an added bit of protection I like to treat them with permethrine (persistent insect repellent) or there is commercial clothing like the Exofficio line that is pre-treated. This can prove invaluable even when you aren’t staying outdoors, I can tell you there are lots of nasty little critters in urban areas as well. For pants I like the convertible cargo pants from North face because I’ve found them to be more durable than many others of the same type, and yet nice enough to wear into most situations. Additionally being able to convert them into shorts is a bonus if I get to go to the beach.
For a shirt I pack a Columbia button up long sleeve shirt. Selected for many of the same reasons as the afore mentioned trousers. As a quick note make sure that both your shirt and trousers complement each other. If you don’t know what I’m talking about ask one of the women in your life to help you out. The goal is to be able to look nice when necessary, and mismatching doesn’t cut it. Also FYI, khaki pants and the same shade of khaki shirt look like a uniform anywhere in the world. I pair all this with a performance fabric t-shirt of a darker neutral color.
I am a strong believer that wearing good footwear can mean the difference between happiness and misery. So I have sitting right on top of my pack ready to don, a pair of Keen Targhee II’s. These are hands down my favorite general purpose boots. Durable, mid-weight, waterproof, and being made of mostly dark oiled leather they can be worn into even a business casual setting in a pinch. Stuffed inside one of the boots is a pair of mid-weight merino wool socks. Inside the pack are 2 more pairs of the same socks.
Don’t forget to accessorize…. a belt is one, although the trousers that I pack do come with a built-in belt type thing it’s never the less, not a belt. I need to have a belt that can hold a holster, spare magazine, multi-tool, etc. and still not scream paramilitary. I go with something nylon and pretty plain…and the Blackhawk riggers belt with last chance tie-in hardware is NOT what I’m talking about. Another accessory is a hat of plain variety; I pack a ball cap because it’s what I like. It keeps sun and rain out of my eyes and if pulled low can help obscure a clear face shot from security cameras. I recommend something plain no logos and in a neutral color……and NO VELCRO!! A good set of Sunglasses with both dark and clear lenses provide eye protection, eye concealment and if you pick the right pair make you look bad ass too (I like Oakley’s). I make sure to keep my glasses in a hard case along with a software cloth pouch. And since eye-pro and ear-pro go together like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, I keep a pair of ear-pro in the case as well. Surefire hear-thru are my flavor of choice.
I also include a shemagh in the pack, not because it’s trendy and cool but because it’s really versatile in many ways; although unless I’m in a place where they are part of the normal dress, I wouldn’t wear it on the street. The last clothing accessory item is the ever faithful cotton bandana; which has a near infinite number of uses including a TQ (see Beating the Reaper on OST…yes shameless book plug).
That covers it for my basic clothing but that still leaves us with inclement weather clothing. Rain gear is probably number one in this category for the simple fact that, while being cold sucks, being cold and wet will kill you in quick order. Additionally rain gear tends to double as a wind breaking layer and thus prevents heat loss thru convection and even evaporation to some extent. I pack a Mountain Hardwear Plasmic shell as my outer layer rain gear. I have really come to like this bit of kit; it’s lightweight, yet tough, breathable and packable, a winning combination. I complement the top with a pair of packable waterproof trousers.
For warmys I again turn to merino wool, with a Smartwool base layer top and bottom. I put merino wool into the “magical” material category because of its natural abilities to wick moisture, dry quickly, retain insulation value when wet, and not reek like a crack head’s ass after a few days of wear. A mid-weight zipper front fleece jacket is included and when all layers are worn in conjunction has proven to be comfortable in moderately cold weather and to keep me alive in very cold weather. A cap and gloves are obviously needed as well. For a cap I have a heavy fleece variant, and gloves some Smartwool liners to place inside of my 5.11 station grip gloves (Ok you caught me…I do have one piece of 5.11 kit, but they don’t look tactical). I typically keep my warm clothes in my bag all the time and simply remove them if I am in a warm environment and need the space.
In more of the classic shelter department I carry a Snugpak Sleeper Lite sleeping bag with an REI bivy cover. This compact combination weighing in at just under 5 lbs. has proven to keep me warm and comfortable in temperatures down into the lower teens and uncomfortably alive much lower. My reasons for going with a sleeping bag verses a blanket or poncho liner is simple…..This isn’t a survival kit and rest is a weapon; so the ability to achieve quality rest almost anywhere without a lot of work is paramount. I’m not just talking about in the woods, but also cheap motel rooms, airports, cargo planes, airplane hangars, etc. all of these areas are made much more comfortable with a sleeping bag.
Because one of the ways that we lose heat is through conduction, I find that an insulating pad is critical in many instances. It’s not just about comfort but rather the fact that using one significantly increases the effectiveness of your sleep system. For example; I recall an occasion where I forgot to pack one when traveling on cargo aircraft. As is customary after takeoff everyone rolled out their sleeping bags and found whatever floor space was available in and around the pallets of cargo or under vehicles; then popped a couple ambin and entered into the “time warp”. I did this the same as always however a couple hours into flight that aluminum floor gets darn cold, resulting in less the restful sleep. Inflatable mats are an option but I have found them easily susceptible to puncture, conversely foam pads while durable are far too bulky for my taste. Solution; I cut an insulation pad out of a Mylar car window shade. It is basically a piece of Mylar bubble wrap type material that I cut to cover from my shoulders to mid thighs. It weighs only ounces and folds up less than 1/2” flat inside of my pack. I don’t worry about the reflective color because I generally place the pad inside of my bivy bag.
Overhead cover from the elements is another thing that even with a good bivy can make the difference between misery and comfort. Although I can’t justify carrying a tent in this pack since it isn’t solely for wilderness use, a versatile shelter is worthwhile. For this I like a mid to lightweight nylon tarp or basha, the one that I have is actually a tent footprint (ground cloth) by Marmot, it is less than a pound and 6x8 feet in size. I like the rust brown color, as it is camouflaged enough in most environments, yet not truly camouflage. Include a couple of light bungee cords, 4 stakes and some 550 and the shelter possibilities are limited only by my imagination. And not just as shelter, but in a group or public living situation this can be rigged to provide some individual space or privacy.
A METT-T item that I include in some AO’s is a lightweight mosquito net. These are pretty much standard in many parts of the developing world where malaria and other insect borne diseases are quite common. Even here at home where insects are more of a nuance then a true threat, this is an item that can make a big difference in the quality of rest.
With water making up greater than 60% of our body composition I shouldn’t need to spend much time relating just how important water is to our health and general well-being. That being said, clean water is a key factor as well. Around the world the two most common vectors for life threatening diseases are insects and water. This is not limited only to rural OCONUS locations either, because our requirement for clean water doesn’t change; it is just sometimes easier or more difficult to obtain. In that regard I keep four 1 liter bottles of water shrink wrapped together next to my pack. Three of the bottles go immediately into the 3 liter platypus bladder in the pack and 1 liter goes immediately into me. It has been my experience that the first few hours of any operation are often among the most hectic, making the preload consumption of water on the outset very beneficial.
For the procurement of water in an urban/suburban environment I look to designated drinking sources first, things like more bottles, water coolers, drinking fountains, etc. Secondary I go for other public fixtures such as sinks, hoses, and indoor or outdoor plumbing fixtures. And then look to exposed sources as tertiary, these are places like ditches, streams, puddles, fountains etc.
Depending on the location all water sources need to be treated or filtered as well the location will often dictate what needs to be done to make the water safe to consume. I maintain several ways to treat or filter water. Boiling is an option and I could do it if I had to, but that takes time and fuel and is generally a pain in the ass to do unless I happen to be cooking. As my primary means I like backpackers type filters the one I have at the moment is an MSR sweet water w/ virus guard, although I have also used the Katadyn hiker with good result. As a more compact option in my Fast Pack (more on the fast pack later) I keep a 1 liter platypus and a frontier filter “straw” these little dudes have some pretty cool features that I have come to appreciate, the ability to quick couple into the end of my hydration system is one, although I try not to but dirty water into my primary bladder, but if I have to this is a nice feature, the second feature that I like is that I can screw the filter onto most standard plastic water or soft drink bottles containers that I have found to never be in short supply of anywhere on earth.
I do need to caution that if you suspect that the water source could be contaminated by viruses (Hepatitis A, Polio, and Coronavirus SARS) or Bacteria (Botulism, Cholera, E. coli, Typhoid, Campylobacter jejuni) it should be treated with a chemical disinfectant to be safe as most filters don’t cover these pathogens. For chemically treating water I use Chlorine Dioxide tablets, although other things like iodine still work they taste like crap and don’t have near the coverage that Chlorine Dioxide has. OCONUS I chemically treat ALL water, even if I filter it to get all the big stuff that tastes bad out it still gets some ChlorDox tablets. The bottom line is that I know if I drink dirty water I will get sick and although the illness may not kill me, the loss of combat effectiveness might.
One of the most basic and yet critical things that we need to be able to do in a modern society is communicate. Now insert any type of drama that you wish and the need increases exponentially. I don’t go all propeller head about commo, I know there are a lot of guys who communicate as a hobby with HAM and HF radios, scanners, etc. but honestly I have no interest in it and have never felt the need to go there. That said if it’s your thing, cool toss it in your pack it may be of benefit. I have found that simple communication is almost universally the best way to go. For me that means phones and short range radios. In the fast pack I keep a prepaid “burner” phone from a different carrier than my normal cell phone; along with it a wall/12v DC charger, earpiece, spare SIM card, and four 30 minute airtime cards. All kept in a waterproof bag. There are several good reasons to include a phone besides just going dark. First and most obvious is if my primary is lost or stolen. Another reason is if perhaps my primary carrier’s network goes down then maybe the burner will work. And I’ll be honest there are times when I need to make contact with or have communication with someone that I don’t want to have my personal number. Nothing necessarily cloak and dagger, just my personal reasons.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has needed to make a long distance call via land line only to find that the phone isn’t able to make LD calls, and yes even in the age of cell phones payphones still exist yet many of them don’t actually take cash especially overseas. So I include a couple of pre-paid phone cards from different companies. Another card that I keep with the phone is a weatherproof card with key phone numbers; of family, true friends, insurance agent and to my attorney. I only caution to be smart about how much info you put on the card. I normally use only first names or initials and if I do put any type of association it is heavily abbreviated. Again this isn’t going to slow down a professional investigator but adds a layer of protection from common criminals.
For short range buddy to buddy or “intra-team” communications small hand held sets are the answer. Again I don’t go full retard on this but rather keep it simple with a couple of Motorola AA FRS radios with ear bud mics and spare Lithium batteries, double AA because I can find alkaline AA’s literally everywhere. Yes I know they have limited range, but work fine for close proximity and are way better than hollering especially vehicle to vehicle. “But they aren’t secure.” echo the nerds and mall ninjas. Yes I know that, so solution; just watch WTF you say! Again I’m talking about the 80% rule here, and if I should find myself in the .00001% category of people who are worried that “the eye of Mordor” is listening to my short range comms then gosh I guess I would just have to do without.
For news from the outside world or actually more commonly for some background music or while OCONUS just to hear the English language; I keep a small AM/FM/SW (Short-wave) radio again with spare lithium AA batteries.
OCONUS a Sat phone can be worth its weight in gold….literally! So I make it a point to always have one when abroad.
Currency & Identification
Like it or not, in today’s modern world proof of identity has unfortunately gone far beyond merely telling someone your name. You better be able to prove it….”Your paper’z pleazze, Herr Schultz” . Two color copies of all my common ID’s, these are things like my Divers license, Passport, CCW, SSN card, and Military ID; are printed front and back on weatherproof paper and kept in a traveler’s money belt. These IDs are officially worth exactly what they are printed on, however experience has shown me that they are far from worthless; copies and a plausible story can buy a lot of time. OCONUS I will still do this however I limit it to my passport (blue one, not the dark red .gov one), and perhaps local driver’s license and any other special authorization documents that I might have. I also keep an encrypted flash drive with essential documents on it, these are ID’s, policies, contracts, account #s, personal/business contacts lists, etc.
Money is what makes the world go round, and as such I make sure to keep some on-hand. In this case I generally keep $1000.00 US cash in 10s, 20s, and 50’s, well hidden in several locations throughout the pack. I shouldn’t have to point out the obvious that cash is king in situations where the power is out or the phone lines are down. Cash is also pretty anonymous and the criminal element doesn’t often take American Express. The amount of cash is very much a personal choice that is different for every person and every situation. I Understand that I’m not going to escape the country and start a new life with a grand but that isn’t my intent. This is a Band-Aid to buy some fuel, or food, or pay for that cheap “no-tell motel”.
Credit cards are another necessity of modern life so I keep one that has no annual fee in the pack. Again in the event that my wallet is lost or stolen I have something until my bank can get it sorted out. Anyone who has ever tried to rent a car or get a hotel room that isn’t rented by the hour, knows you pretty much need to have a credit card. Another item that I include is a cheap nylon “drop wallet” I carry this with just a few dollars cash and no ID’s in it. It is there to simply handover or drop as a distraction prior to my counter attack.
Like our clothing, good personal hygiene is one of those things that define us to other people. It also is a major factor in health. As such some basic hygiene items are pretty important. Just the basics, some anti-bacterial liquid soap, Spray-on Deodorant, tooth brush w/ paste, a razor and head, comb, nail clippers, and wet-wipes. All wrapped up in a micro-fiber towel. This takes up very little space or weight but just the improvement in how I feel when I get to clean up even a little bit after a bad situation is worth it to me. Once you have spent some time emerged in cultures who don’t have hygiene on their to do list you learn to appreciate even something as simple as what my oldest son once called “A shower in a can” as he sprayed himself with deodorant. The bottom line…. If you look and smell like a hobo you will get treated as such. Don’t forget the TP!!! Yeah there are other options to wipe your arse with but why? I strip the tube out of a quarter roll and keep it in a zip lock in the flap of my pack.
Food is fuel for the body and although we all know that we can go a very long time without it. I personally know that my performance both physically and mentally starts to deteriorate when I am hungry, and when I’m really hungry I’m an even bigger a@#hole than normal. So having some food that is fast, light, and well put together is important to me. I keep a 3 day food supply in the pack that I could stretch into 5 or 6 days but that would suck.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that at least 2/3 of my food needs to be able to be consumed without preparation and while on the move. I also like to eat three times a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For breakfast and lunch I pack METRX BIG100 100gm meal replacement bars. I like that these come in a variety of flavors that actually don’t taste like sawdust and sand unlike some others. I have found that each 100gm bar contains roughly 410 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 32 grams of protein along with about 30% daily values for most of the primary vitamins and minerals. Additionally they are large enough in volume that I’m not left feeling unfulfilled especially if I drink a liter of water along with it. No these aren’t paleo but they are put together well enough that I don’t feel like dog shit after eating them.
For dinner I like to have a hot meal if able. MRE’s (field stripped) are a good option in arid environments because they don’t require additional water to prepare, however they weigh a bit more. I tend to lean towards freeze dried in areas where water is easily procured. With freeze dried meals I augment them with a packet of flavored tuna in olive oil this gives some additional calories, fats and protein to the meal and I find that is just makes them more enjoyable.
To feed my caffeine addiction I include a few packets of electrolyte with caffeine beverage powder, and also as a quick morale booster I include some packets of Starbucks instant coffee. The other thing that I guess is technically food is a pack of gum, I’m not normally a gum chewer but there are times while moving in an acrid environment that having some gum to chew makes me feel less parched and generally more pleasant.
This is a very compact food supply all six meal bars, and drink mixes fit perfectly inside of a 32oz Solo cook set along with a spoon and butane lighter. For heating water I have a Vargo Titanium folding stove that works great with hexamine solid fuel tabs, and equally as well with small sticks although with slightly more of a signature. This little stove folds up flat and weighs just 4.5 oz. one of the things that I really like about it is that it has a hinging door on the side to allow the adding of fuel whilst cooking.
The Fast Pack
I suppose that my “fast pack” concept is somewhat like a survival kit as it is pretty much a one stop shop for most of my essential Items, yet it is unlike a survival kit in that I don’t pack it and only use the items in the event of an emergency; I use them all the time. The key is having the discipline to maintain or replace items as required. So my fast pack is a nylon butt pack that has one main zipper compartment and two attached water bottle carriers that can accommodate standard .5 and 1 liter water bottles or even 2 AR magazines. It also fits perfectly into the top pocket of my pack so that it is easily accessible without any digging and thus if need be I can Grab it and Go. As I said this contains most of my essentials and I will just list them in no particular order along with some commentary.
- Silva magnetic compass – because an astrolabe is so 14th century.
- Petzel Tac-tika headlamp - a good head lamp is one of the most useful light sources that one can have. Just think of how many tasks require the use of two hands.
- Bright (120+ luman) handheld light - this is for those times when you just really need to cut thru the darkness.
- Lithium batteries AA, AAA, and CR123. - Why lithium? Simple because they are better; they last longer, are 33% lighter, have a 15 year shelf life, are non-corrosive, and more temperature stable. Slightly more expensive but who cares.
- Multi-tool - Leatherman Wave, I like the wave but have owned Gerbers, and SOGs and they were fine as well.
- Sharpening tool – just a simple diamond rod tool for touch-up
- Notebook & pencil – All-weather paper and yes a wooden pencil because it always works.
- 1 liter platypus bladder – see water section
- Frontier filter “straw” – see water section
- Chlorine dioxide tablets – see water section
- 2 energy bars – Just nice to have some extra “fuel” handy
- BIC lighters – Bic brand butane lighters are fast and easy flame. I like the bright colored ones because they are harder to lose. Two is one and one is none.
- Magnesium fire starter – good to have a back-up
- 6 Hexamine cubes – solid fuel for cooking and as a sure fire ignition source when weather conditions are Shiite.
- 50 gal trash bag – more uses then I can list
- 40 ft 550 cord – also more applications then can be listed.
- 10ft Gorilla Tape (around a flat card) – one word………MacGyver
- Cravat – Another item with countless uses….I keep meaning to write an article on this.
- Cell phone w/ chargers - (prepaid burner from different carrier then regular cell) in a waterproof bag
- Monocular 10 X – I like to be able to survey things from a distance before jumping headlong into it.
- Sewing kit – If you have ever lost a button or gotten a small tear in your clothes this is for that. I also include some heavy nylon thread and a heavy needle for gear repair.
- McNett Patch – This is a supper sticky patch made to repair clothing or equipment, I have used these on several occasions and they work very well.
- Zip ties – I have nothing to say
- Bible in a ziplock – Sometimes if things are really bad, some spiritual lifting up is in order.
- Head net – just a simple little head net that makes sitting still in bug infested areas bearable.
- Insect repellant 100% deet – Flies carry disease….so keep yours up! No but really they do.
- Lock picks – Once you own this skill, it opens a lot of doors to you…
- 2 x handcuff keys - Once you have had to wait for someone to find a pair of bolt cutters to release you from a hotel bed, you will never be without a key again......just sayin!
I carry a pretty in-depth medical kit for the simple fact that I have the ability to utilize it. Mine includes lots of drugs and some a more advanced wound care, and dental options as well. It is important to understand that this isn’t a Trauma kit. It is a Medical kit to treat and manage illness or injuries that would commonly get addressed by your primary care physician or ER doctor. I’m talking about various infections, communicable diseases, wound care etc. I’m not going to get deep into the weeds on what is included (perhaps another article) but basically in this case I would model a medical kit around a wilderness medical kit.
As a totally separate item I do carry a Trauma Kit as well; this being for traumatic injuries (Bleeding, airway issues, fractures etc.) your basic IFAK if you will. The one that I keep tucked into one of the elastic mesh pockets on the bottom of pack, contains the normal items and is shrink wrapped to easily fit into a trouser cargo pocket. I keep a TQ in the small waist belt pocket of the pack and have another with the trauma kit.
- ACE wrap
- 2x chest seals
- 14ga 3” angio cath
- NPA (nasal airway)
- 5’ guerilla tape flat packed
- Combat pill pack
This is the last category on my list and for good reason……Prepare for some heresy.
Weapons really are among the least important categories in this context; remember the 80% rule…..More than 80% of the time a handgun or blade is the tool of choice because it’s there; and carrying a long gun isn’t an option. Where true combat or warfare is a totally different situation but even in that context weapons are still selected based on METT-TC and the right tool for the job.
I honestly laugh at guys who roll with a freaking full infantry basic load “incase” they get into a fire fight….If I just described you…OK cool, do what you want but know that yes I am probably laughing at you. Moving on!
Now having said all that don’t be mistaken, I haven’t turned into a soy eating Croc wearing pacifist, nor do I think you should only carry your 5 shot J-frame. But rather I take a pragmatic view; I carry a TSD Glock with me every day; so I include some items to support it, a couple of spare magazines, holsters, happy stick and 2 boxes of 124gr +P 9mm, and a spare light.
Naturally knives need to be on hand as well, so for offensive blades I select the sleek and sexy TSD Grab & Stab along with the Gang Unit as a concealable option. As a large multi-function utilitarian blade the cold steel Spartan is holding its own.
The bottom line when it comes to weapons is as always METT-TC, as I said earlier I often carry this same pack while deployed and thus may packing list changes slightly, one of those changes is weapons and ammunition. Here at home if I feel like I need a long gun then yeah I will grab a long gun. But I don’t routinely keep one in the car.
Since it doesn’t really fall into any one category I’ll just mention it here at the end.
A 20ft piece of 1” tubular nylon fills soooo many roles it is ridiculous. From climbing to retrains, shelter building, towing, strapping items down, the list could go on for far longer than I have the ambition to type…..Add to it a couple of locking snap-links and you are in business.
That’s it in a nut shell….keep in mind this is what works for me based on my experience. I assure you everyone will have different opinions on what they would pack. The best way to find out what to pack is to get out of your house and use your bag. Go ahead and use all the stuff in it all the time; just make sure to have the self-discipline to put items back and repair or replace as needed.
Stay dangerous my friends....
Sua Sponte is the nom de guerre of an active US Military serviceman who has spent many years in various assignents within the Special Operations comunity. And is the author of two titles availble from One Source Tactical