There is no better way to test your bug out bag than through practical camping and training. Working with the scouts has given me many opportunities to do just that. For you it might be hunting, or outdoors opportunities with the family. On each camping trip I make notes on paper so I can make adjustments on return.
For me the core of a bug out bag is a mobile 72 hour kit with basic survival needs for the outdoors. Whenever I go camping with the scouts, which I unfortunately do far more often than with my family, I typically pull out my ammunition and I’m geared to go. This is only because many organized scout camps do not permit firearms. If we are in the woods I keep at least a pistol and two magazines at arm’s reach.
Below are some of the many notes I’ve made following campouts, both good and bad. When you go camping keep a note book and take notes so you can improve your preparedness and skills.
Good camouflage. My basic bag is a Large ALICE pack with external metal frame. I tagged it with some tan and dark green splotches to break up the olive drab color and when I drop it, I’m always impressed with how well it blends in with its surroundings.
Easy access. Every time we go out I get to reevaluate what needs to be most readily accessible and what can be buried at the bottom of my gear. The highest priority items go in the pouches outside the bag or get clipped to the outside.
Opportunity to teach. Many of the things I carry, from camo face paint to a signal mirrors and a lensatic compass, are tools that I can use to teach with on the spot, and I love those opportunities. Sure, the scouts might only use the signal mirror to blind other unsuspecting scouts; but they are learning simple survival skills. In the military we call this hip-pocket training; opportunities to teach that are unplanned and generally unrehearsed. The best way to learn and refresh knowledge is by divulging that info to others.
Multiple environments. I’ve been privileged to test my bag in many biomes; from forest, to sage brush and desert, to rocky mountains far above the tree line. The exposure too many environments has again helped me diversify what I carry.
Fit test. There is plenty of research that has gone in to back packing and what the weight to hiker ratio should be; I just throw in what I think is useful and the weight is what it is. So I focus on personal fitness more than bag recommendations. Every time we climb mountains I can test my endurance; especially driven by ego and not letting the scouts out hike me.
Pace. Going over rough terrain helps me evaluate what kind of pace I can anticipate if I am bugging out from point A to point B. This might be important in evaluating how much food and water to carry, and if you need to geo cache supplies along the route.
Always ready to move. Even at organized camp outs I always take a moment after getting up to pack my bag so that I can grab it in a moment. This has made me very quick and efficient in mornings and lets me conceal my campsite, even if I am not planning on moving that day.
Water proofing. With a gortex liner on my sleep system, I don’t need to pitch a tent, saving time and bag weight. Everything is wrapped in either Ziploc bags or weather proof bags so that the contents have remained dry through adverse weather.
Good camo clothing. Aside from scouting shirts I typically just wear the neutral and camo colored clothing affiliated with my bug out gear. On more than one occasion someone looking for me has stared right at me and not noticed me. And that’s not me trying to be sneaky, just holding still.
Stuff needing improvement:
Cold nights. Our first campout at a high altitude in the early spring made me realize that I either needed a batter sleeping bag, or an additional inner shell. I went with a thin inner shell and haven’t had an issue since. Although I haven’t tried my bag in a winter environment yet. This was cutting a corner to lighten my bag. I’d rather carry a little extra weight and sleep better at night.
More water. While I always carry some water, I have relied too much on purification tablets. I realized quickly that the tablets are only good if I have a water source. Some environments will require carrying much more liquid; even if point B has an abundance an entire lake it doesn’t help you en route.
Bug spray, and sun block. Both hard learned lessons; although long sleeves, long pants, and a hat help with both.
Rotate battery stock. Some of my equipment like a portable radio and Motorola Talkabouts and flash lights require batteries. I’ve gotten to the field only to find that some of the stored batteries are out of juice.
Band aids. I have a great first aid kit…if you get shot or loose a limb. I didn’t originally have anything for minor cuts and scrapes.
Heavy load. My bag is quite heavy because I enjoy having primary and alternate means for many tasks. At some point, however, you have to speculate as to what you can get by with, while not going overboard. You don’t need three special purpose knives when one general purpose knife will serve your needs, you don’t need a machete and a hatchet, etc. It takes a lot of practical field time to figure out what you can and can’t go without backup items.
Toilette paper. If you have MREs, good in calories but bad size and weight even when field stripped, don’t rely on the MRE napkins for your waste. Throw a roll of toilette paper or baby wipes in the ziplock bag and toss it in you BOB. It’s always worth it.
Trail maps. Often we have relied on trail maps to find our destined camping spots. If you know how to use a map and compass this can also be beneficial if/when you get lost. Occasionally we have not had good detailed maps when they could have been useful at a fork in a trail; and nobody likes back tracking.
So what have you found to be good or needing fixes in your camping experiences? Please share below.