I saw a conversation in a preppers group on Facebook the other day that got me thinking about something. The conversation started with someone obviously very new to all this asking probably the most common beginner’s question there is about prepping.
“I’m putting together a bugout bag, what do I need to put in it?”
Over 60 responses later, this group had put together a really impressive collection of weapons, water purification gear, about 20 different fire starting tools, knives, saws…you name it. By the time they were done you could probably take this bag to the moon and survive.
I’ve seen this same conversation a million times before but it didn’t hit me until this one. After about 30 minutes of looking at most of these products on Amazon, my hunch was confirmed. The total combined weight of just HALF of this gear, (along with 3 days of MREs, water and a hiking pack to fit it all in) was well over 90 pounds.
I don’t care who you are, carrying a 90+ pound pack for 72 hours or more on little or no sleep is a pretty tall order. For the majority of us, even attempting to carry this much gear during a major disaster scenario would virtually guarantee a severe injury or worse.
Don’t me wrong, I love gear, and in the right hands it can be the difference between life and death in a survival scenario, but I also think it’s easy to get caught up with buying gear and forgetting what’s really the most important tool to have in a survival scenario; knowledge.
Let’s forget (for the sake of argument)t that realistically, a lot of really bad stuff would have to happen for it to make any sense at all to bug out on foot for most people. If you truly were in the situation though, where your best chance for survival is to put on your pack and hoof it for 3 day to another location, weight is going to be your biggest enemy. Finding ways to carry fewer tools and resources will make your trip safer and faster.
Tips for lightening your pack load
- There are dozens of ways to purify water…and you don’t need all of them in your bugout bag. Practice 1 or 2 water purification methods until you’re able to make even the worst Amazonian river water safe to drink, and leave the rest of the gear at home.
- It might sound crazy, but thousands of years ago, our ancestors really did make fire with nothing more than sticks. They didn’t use specially designed fire-starting materials and enough ferro rods to make a keychain out of. This doesn’t mean we should simply rely on primitive fire-starting, 1 ferro rod and some matches or a lighter would still be a good idea… but if you truly understand how to make a proper fire, you don’t need 10 pounds of fire-starting gear in your pack to do it.
- Hunting tools – I might catch some slack for this one in the comments, but personally, I feel that hunting tools have little to no place in a bugout bag. It’s heavy gear and it’s unnecessary. If your idea of a bugout is living off the land in the woods (along with everyone else who had that idea) be my guest, but a bugout by definition is getting to from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible.Hunting takes attention away from what’s really important…moving. The chances of coming across game animals while travelling is going to be extremely slim anyway, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to carry around an extra 10-20 pounds of gear for the rare chance that you might be able to take a shot at something.
- Ammunition – I think there’s a fine line that we should keep in mind when deciding how much ammunition should be carried in a bugout bag. For most people, the more the better. However, aside from water, ammunition is probably going to be the heaviest gear in your pack.Try to keep something in mind; being prepared to defend yourself for those 72 hours is one thing, carrying enough ammo to raid a small village is another. Less ammo = less weight = getting to safety faster.
- It won’t actually lighten your load, but it sure will feel like it. A proper fitting pack will actually feel much lighter than a pack that is too loose. Make sure your pack is comfortable and fits properly before you have to haul it around on your back for 3 days, it’ll save you a lot of soreness.
Even the most top of the line survival gear will be utterly useless in a disaster without training and practice. Having a solid understanding of things like fire making and water purification, as well as knowing what gear you actually need to do those things effectively will not only make you a better survivalist, but you’ll find that you’ll need a lot less gear as your experience grows. If you ever do have to pick up that pack for the big bugout, your back will surely thank you!