Many people have a somewhat romanticized idea of bugging out. They see themselves camping out under the stars, cooking their freshly caught fried chicken over a campfire. The girl of their dreams is sitting there, waiting to enjoy dinner with them and someone is playing a guitar or maybe a violin in the background.
Unfortunately, reality isn’t that kind. If any of us are forced to bug out, it will be a definite survival situation, with all the problems that entails. Even catching that chicken rabbit will be a problem, let along being able to cook it out there in the wild. While cooking over a campfire does work and can actually work quite well, the first couple of times you try it will probably be a disaster. You’ll end up with burned, inedible whatever, rather than that sumptuous repast you were expecting.
Putting your expensive backpacking cookware directly into the fire is a good way to damage it. Your food will probably be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle as well. While you can cook over a campfire just fine, you need to know how to do it.
Cooking Over a Campfire
There are two basic methods for cooking over a campfire effectively. Actually, there are three, but I don’t think you’re going to be carrying a cast-iron Dutch oven in your bug out bag. The first is to put the pot on a flat rock, right next to the fire. Heat the rock first, by putting coals on it and allowing them to burn for a while. Then scoop them off with a stick or camp shovel, to put your pot on there. The second way is to suspend the pot over the fire.
There are several different ways of suspending a pot over the fire, such as making a tripod to suspend it from or putting a couple of poles into the ground to make something like a spit to hang it off of. But the easiest way to hang a pot over the fire is to cantilever a stick over the fire to hang the pot from.
In order to do this, cut a green stick that’s strong enough to hold the weight of the pot, without bending. You’ll want to have a fork in the stick at the hanging end, to put the wire handle of the pot into. The other end of the stick should lean on one of the rocks around your fire. Place the very end of the stick on the ground and hold it down with another rock. This should leave your stick angling up, with the highest point roughly over the center of your fire.
Using a Backpacking Stove
Your other option is to use a stove. Personally, I prefer this method, although I am rather picky about the type of stove that I’ll use. Stoves that require propane tanks, butane or liquid fuel force you to carry a supply of fuel with you. While that’s fine for a three day backpacking trip, it’s not so great for a bug out. When you run out of fuel, your stove becomes useless.
I prefer carrying a stove that allows me to burn sticks or other fuel that I find. While they might not be as easy to start as a butane stove, they are more reliable over the long haul. This is the actual stove I currently have in my bug out bag, although there are a number of other excellent models out there, such as the Titan from Solo Stove. One I have always been intrigued by and been tempted to buy is the BioLite Campstove. This little wood burning stove not only provides heat to cook your food, but somehow creates electricity to charge your cell phone at the same time.
Although I am not highly in favor of carrying a stove that requires special fuel, I also carry an Esbit stove with me, as a backup. If I happen to be somewhere where I can’t find sticks to burn or all of them are wet, this gives me a sure way of being able to make a cup of coffee or cook my food. Esbit makes a number of models, but this one is the one that I carry.
When I look at some people’s bug out bag lists, I have to wonder how they’re going to carry it all. It’s easy to go overboard on a bug out bag, especially when you consider that you don’t really know how long you’re going to be out in the wilderness. However, every ounce of extra weight you carry is going to eat into your body’s energy reserves and slow you down. If you’re not careful, that extra weight can hinder you, more than help you.
Seasoned backpackers say, “The lighter the pack, the more enjoyable the journey.” However, they’re going out for a week or less at a time; with the expectation of going home at the end of their trip. So, the criteria that apply to them, really can’t apply in the same way to bugging out. Even so, it can work as a starting point.
Looking at several websites for backpackers, it seems that ideal weights for backpacks vary a bit from one person to the next. Obviously, the physical condition and stamina of the individual is a factor that needs to be considered. However, most of these backpacking experts seem to favor a backpack that’s 1/6 of the person’s body weight.
One-sixth of a 150 pound man is 25 pounds. But 1/6 of a 220 pound man is 36 2/3 pounds. The problem here is that the 220 pound man probably isn’t n as good a shape, physically speaking, as the 150 pound man. So, if we go just on body weight, we may be hurting ourselves more than we expect to.
There are a few who advocate 1/4 of the individual’s body weight as a maximum weight. That actually seems more realistic to me for a bug out bag. This isn’t a pleasure trip, but rather bugging out to survive. That’s going to dictate carrying some things that are going to make your weight go up.
It is said that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I think that’s very applicable to the bug out bag. Pack a bag with 1/4 of your body weight and see how far you can walk with it. If you can’t walk several miles, without feeling that you’re going to die, then it’s too much; regardless of your body weight. Try the same thing with a bag packed to 1/6 of your body weight. Then, adjust the weight to find a point that works for you. Make that your target weight.
Okay, so how do you get your bag weight down to the point of your target weight? First of all, realize that some percentage of that weight is food. You’re going to eat about two pounds of food a day. So, if you’re just a couple of pounds over, I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re bag is going to be under your weight limit all too fast.
Look through your bag, asking yourself the question, “Do I really need this?” You’ll probably find some things you’re carrying because someone said you should or because you thought it was a neat gadget. If you don’t really need it, it’s time to get rid of it.
The next thing to do is to look for places where you can combine equipment to save weight. Simple things, like replacing a pair of pants and a pair of shorts with a pair of pants that have removable legs, will save you precious ounces. The best savings for things like this are your heavier items, like tools. A combination hatchet, hammer and crowbar is lighter than having a separate hatchet and hammer.
Finally, look for ways of replacing equipment with lighter weight alternatives. Good backpacking equipment is extremely light; that’s a lot of what you’re paying for. So, take everything out of your pack and weigh each piece individually, preferably on a postage scale. That will tell you your heaviest items. Then go looking for lighter weight items to replace those. You can always sell your old items to someone who isn’t as concerned about weight as you are.
Let’s keep the discussion going. Comment below with how much your bug out bag weighs.
I think that most of us have a somewhat idealized vision of bugging out. We see it more as a way of getting away from it all and enjoying some time communing with nature. When we imagine ourselves on a bug out, we see nice weather, beautiful mountain scenes and a deer in our sights. Nice picture, isn’t it? But then there’s reality.
When the time comes to actually bug out, it’s probably going to be cold, wet and miserable. The highway will turn into a parking lot and we’ll be stuck abandoning our cars to head out on foot. It will be muddy, our flashlight won’t work, and we’ll have trouble finding anywhere at all to camp for the night, let alone an “ideal” campsite, like we saw in our imagination. With all the rain or snow, starting a fire will be an exercise in patience, rather than a demonstration of our survival skills.
Weather has a nasty way of playing tricks on us, especially at times when we need it to be cooperative. So, instead of planning the ideal bug out, we’d be much better off planning on everything going wrong. That way, we’re ready if it does and if the weather is actually nice, we can be pleasantly surprised.
Bugging out in bad weather adds a lot more challenges to our survival scenario. The biggest is trying to keep warm. Since hypothermia is the biggest killer in the wild, keeping warm is something that we can’t ignore. Even being a little bit cold could have drastic consequences, especially if it’s wet out too. Of course, that problem increases at night, simply because it pretty much always gets colder at night.
So, how do you make sure that you can stay warm at night during your bug out?
Start by Staying Dry
The most important single thing you can do to keep warm out in the wild is to keep yourself from getting wet. Water draws heat out from our bodies, just like sweat does. Since most clothing will absorb and hold water, it increases this effect. In fact, most wet clothing will make you lose body heat faster than if you were standing their naked. A wet down coat can make you lose body heat 300 times faster!
Proper selection of clothing will go a long way towards keeping you dry. Your outer layer must be water resistant. That’s even better than being waterproof. Water resistant fabrics will cause the water to bead up and run off, like waterproof ones will. The big difference is that water resistant fabrics will also breathe, keeping the inside of your clothes from getting wet from your sweat.
The old Army rain ponchos were famous for this. You’d put on a rain poncho, because it was raining, and within a half-hour you were soaked under your poncho, from your own sweat. I always wondered what good they did.
You also want to make sure you keep your pack dry. If your pack isn’t waterproof, then you want to make sure that you have a waterproof cover for it or that your rain poncho is big enough to cover it as well. A backpack full of wet clothes and a wet sleeping bag won’t help you keep warm.
Make Camp Early
When traveling through the wild, it’s always a good idea to stop a couple of hours before sundown to make camp. This is even more important when it’s wet and cold out, as the temperature can drop drastically at sundown. If you don’t have your camp ready when the sun falls, you could fall prey to hypothermia before you can get it done.
There’s a lot to preparing a proper camp, starting with finding a good place for it. You’ll have a much easier time finding a good campsite during daylight hours, than you will at night.
The Right Sleeping Equipment
Since you’re probably going to sleep at night, having the right sleeping equipment is extremely important. The most important piece of equipment is your sleeping bag. I’m a firm believer in having a warm sleeping bag. If there’s a choice between two types of bags, for two temperature ranges, I’ll always go with the warmer bag. If I’m too warm, I can always open it a bit; but if it’s not warm enough, there’s not much I can do.
That’s why I like the North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag. It’s rated down to zero degrees, which is colder than I ever expect to experience. So, even if I’m stuck bugging out in the worst of weather, my sleeping bag will be warm enough.
Although the sleeping bag is the most important piece of equipment, it’s not the only one. Sleeping bags tend to crush on the bottom side from your body weight. The Furnace is designed with that in mind, having a special padding on the bottom side to compensate for that; but if your bag doesn’t have something like that, you need something to insulate you from the ground. Otherwise, cold ground could draw off your body heat.
The easiest way to solve that problem is with an inflatable or hard foam sleeping pad, like the ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Self-Inflating Air Pad. That provides extra insulation between your body and the ground, eliminating that problem. Another way is to add a rescue blanket beneath the sleeping bag. If you’re going to do this, don’t use the thin emergency blankets, but rather a heavy-duty one.
You’re also going to need a good backpacking tent to keep the rain off of your sleeping bag. A double walled tent, like the Coleman Holligan 2 will go a long way towards keeping your warmer. The outer tent cover is actually a rain cover, but it also creates an air space between it and the inner cover, helping to keep heat in.
Build Your Fire Right
You’re definitely going to want a fire to help keep you warm on those cold nights. Building a fire in wet weather can be extremely tricky, but you can still do it, if you watch out for a couple of details. First of all, make sure that your fire is sheltered from the rain. Building it under some overhanging tree branches will go a long way towards making sure it doesn’t get doused by the rain. Also, make sure that it’s in a place where it won’t be flooded out. Raise it up off the ground a couple of inches, with a bed of rocks, so that it won’t be washed out.
Placing a large rock or building a pile of rocks behind your fire will help heat your tent, by reflecting the heat from the fire back to you. The fire will heat the rocks, which will then radiate the heat. That heat will go straight out towards you, helping to keep you and your tent warm.
Stack your extra firewood near the fire, so that the heat from the fire can help to dry it out. You’ll also want to cover it, so that the rain can’t fall on it. Dry wood will give you a much better fire, with much less smoke to advertise your position.
Sound off in the comments below on other ways you have used to stay warm while out in the wild.
Picking a backpacking tent to use as a bug out tent can be challenging, especially for those who aren’t experienced backpackers. Many of the subtle differences that will make one tent stand out over another to the seasoned backpacker, may fly right over the heads of the rest of us. One could respond to that by saying “Buy the most expensive and you’ll have the best.” But most of us really can’t afford to buy the most expensive, especially considering that the only time we’d use it is while bugging out.
Most preppers have to strike a balance between cost and features. While we might all want the best, we are practical people. As such, we look for something that will give us the best possible service, for a reasonable price. So, we need to understand what those high prices are buying for us.
In the area of backpacking tents, there are a number of features which can drive up price, but the most glaringly obvious is weight. Two person backpacking tents can range from five to nine pounds. Invariably, the lighter the tent is, the higher its price. So, when you’re looking at a $200 tent, you’re not getting more space; you may not be getting a much more durable tent; mostly, you’re getting a lighter one.
The Coleman Hooligan series of backpacking tents are a great mid-range tradeoff tent series for the average prepper. They make Hooligan tents for two to four people. We’re specifically looking at the two-person one here.
This is what is known as a three-season tent. It’s two layer construction helps keep you comfortable and dry, even in inclement weather. The inner wall is made of mesh to keep insects out. On warm nights, you could remove the outer cover and allow the cool breeze to blow over you, without having to let the mosquitoes in to interrupt your sleep. The outer shell is waterproof, protecting you and keeping you dry.
The floor is also built to keep you dry as well, extending up the sides to keep water from running into the tent. That saves you from having to put a ground sheet under the tent, as well as not having to worry about digging a drainage ditch around it.
The outer shell is zippered, forming a dry vestibule at the entrance. This allows you to take off wet boots and outer garments, before entering into the tent itself. With one half of the vestibule open, the other half continues to provide protection from the wind, so you don’t get cold while you are trying to work your way in to the tent.
This tent design uses one continuous, fiberglass tent pole, which goes over the center of the tent, long-wise. The fiberglass pole is 11mm in diameter and is sectional, with elastic cord to help pull it together. Stakes around the corners and guy lines finish off the assembly. This single pole design is very easy to erect, allowing you to have your tent up and ready for occupancy in ten minutes or less.
The Hooligan isn’t the lightest backpacking tent around, coming in somewhere around the middle of the pack at just over 7 pounds. But to cut a pound out of the weight, you’d have to spend $100 more. That makes this tent a great compromise that will serve you well.
The one area of a bug out bag that seems to garner the most controversy is weapons. That’s kind of funny in a way, because the conflict isn’t so much a disagreement between the liberal anti-gun crowd and the conservative pro-gun crowd, but rather between conservatives discussing what types of weapons you should take with you on a bug out.
The thing is, few liberals even bother putting together a bug out bag, even though Big Brother has told them they should have one. They’re all counting on the government taking care of them, while the conservatives are counting on themselves. So, even if a liberal were to actually put together a bug out bag, you can be pretty much sure that they’ll only put in it what the government tells them to, like good little sheeple.
For the rest of us, deciding on what weapons to carry is a major decision; not so much because we don’t have weapons and want to keep the cost down, but because we have too many weapons and don’t know how to limit ourselves. But limit ourselves we must, or we’re going to be so burdened down, that we won’t be able to walk.
First Weapon – Personal Protection
Bugging out lays several weapons requirements on us, both in the area of personal protection and being able to hunt for our food. So, we want to make sure we get the best possible service out of the weapons we choose. We especially want to make sure that we choose weapons which will serve as many needs as possible.
Since we have to keep ourselves alive, before we can accomplish anything else, the first weapon we need to choose is our personal defensive weapon. For this, I’d recommend choosing some sort of pistol. I personally prefer semi-automatics in this role, as they hold more ammo and the magazines can be changed quickly. Revolvers are nice, but firepower is more important.
This is the weapon you need to be the most familiar with. That’s because when all is said and done, this is the one you are counting on to keep you alive. So, while you want the biggest caliber you can fire, you want to make sure that you limit yourself to what you can fire comfortably. If you feel that a gun is beating up your hand, you’re not going to enjoy shooting it. Scales down a bit to something that you feel comfortable with.
The other consideration here is weight. A pistol hanging off your belt all day can start to feel pretty heavy. You’ve got to tighten your belt more to keep it in place. That can get uncomfortable too. So, rather than getting a piece of artillery that looks like it needs its own wheels, get one that feels more reasonable hanging on your belt.
Second Weapon – Long Range
The second weapon you need to think about is a long-range weapon. Now, when I’m talking long-range, I’m not talking 500 yards. You really don’t need a hunting rifle that will allow you to hit a bighorn sheep on the mountainside opposite you. What you need is something that will work out to 100 yards or so.
There are several ways you can go about this, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages:
- AR-15 – The AR-15 is a very versatile platform. While normally thought of as a military-type firearm, it is also an excellent hunting rifle for mid-range shooting. With the right optics and replaceable magazines, it’s also an excellent firearm to have if you end up in any firefights.
- Hunting Rifle – If all you have is a hunting rifle, then by all means carry it. However, of all the options there are for a long range weapon, a hunting rifle is actually the least versatile. If you have a scope on it, it’s hard to use at close range and if you don’t it’s hard to use at long range.
- Shotgun – After all these years, the shotgun is still the most versatile firearm on the market. You can use it effectively for everything from short range home defense to hunting at shorter ranges. Firing slugs, a shotgun can be used for hunting out to about 75 yards, maybe even 100 yards. In a firefight, firing buckshot, it’s the most devastating gun you’ll have.
- Bow – Don’t discount the idea of using something other than a firearm for your long range weapon. The bow is actually one of the few weapons which has effectively survived the invention and development of the gun. That’s because of the combination of its range and accuracy. There’s one other thing a bow has going for it, that a gun doesn’t, it’s silent.
Of these options, I would carry a shotgun for its versatility. I don’t have any plans on playing sniper, so I don’t need a really long range firearm. However, I do plan on being able to defend my family and put food on the cooking fire. A shotgun gives me the widest range of options for this. I’d also carry several different loads for the shotgun, so that I could take advantage of its versatility.
Third Weapon – A Knife
The knife is the most versatile survival tool there is. In fact, if I had to go out in the wild with only one piece of equipment, I’d pick a good knife. With it, you can do a wide range of things to help you survive. Without it, you’ll have to make something that you can use as a knife.
However, the knife isn’t just limited to being a tool, it’s also a good hand-to-hand weapon. If you get into a fight at that short a range, a knife would probably be even more effective than a pistol. Of course, like the pistol, you’re going to have to practice with the knife and learn how to use it effectively.
Fourth Weapon – A Melee Weapon
This last weapon isn’t an absolute must, but I think it’s a good idea, especially if you carry it like I do. For me, my melee weapon is a staff. My staff is metal capped, with spikes, at both ends. Not only does it serve as a walking stick, but it gives me a weapon that is in my hand all the time while I am walking. If anyone or anything tries to attack me, I’m ready to strike back.
The advantage of a melee weapon over a knife is that of distance. With a knife, you have to be right in their face to use it. A melee weapon gives you an arm’s length more distance. That extra distance can be decisive in giving you a warning of what they are going to do in a fight.
A lot of people like a tomahawk for a melee weapon. This gives them a combination melee and throwing weapon. At the same time, it can serve as a hatchet for cutting wood.
While I like tomahawks, I don’t carry one. I prefer to carry a survival hatchet, which includes a hammer and a pry bar. That’s a more useful tool. But the problem I have with tomahawks isn’t that, it’s that most people don’t carry it in their hands; they have it strapped to their packs. So, it’s not available when they need it. To me, that makes it less useful as a weapon than just about anything else.
The term “bug out bag” is gaining a lot of popularity these days, but there’s still a lot of confusion about what is a bug out bag. Perhaps that confusion comes from the fact that there are many different people, with many different ideas about what a bug out bag can do.
If you compare what the DHS says about a bug out bag on their website, to what you find on most prepping websites, you’ll find that the contents listed are extremely different. That’s because the DHS has a much different idea about bugging out than the average prepper does.
Any bug out bag is about surviving. The basic idea is to have a bag packed, which you can use to help you survive, if you are forced to abandon your home quickly. You might be forced to flee due to a pending natural disaster, a nuclear accident or a zombie invasion. So your bug out bag needs to be prepared in such a way that it can help you to survive any of these situations.
After asking what is a bug out bag there are two major factors in creating any bug out bag.
- The first is the survival skills that the user of that bag has. Packing a backpack full of top notch survival equipment isn’t going to help a city dweller who’s never been out in the woods at night. They won’t know what to do with all that expensive equipment, so it really won’t help them survive.
- The second is the bug out plan that the owner is planning on using.
The DHS idea of a bug out bag was obviously created for people who are going to leave their home and go to a temporary government shelter or a FEMA camp. If you tried to survive out in the wilderness with what they have listed in their kit, you’d last about as long as your food and water did; then you’d be out of luck.
Before starting to create a bug out bag, you need to develop your plan. There are a lot of questions to ask yourself before you’re even ready to start building your bug out bag.
- What are you going to do if you are forced to leave your home?
- Where are you going to go?
- What type of living conditions will you have available to you when you get there?
- Will the supplies you need be available at your bug out, or will you need to bring them with you?
- Is your bug out location going to be to a city, a government shelter, a small town, a prepared bug out retreat or are you going to bug out to the wilderness?
- How are you going to get there?
- What will you do if you can’t use your primary means of transportation?
You’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment and supplies to support your bug out plans. Your answers to each of those questions will determine what goes into your bag.
Now that we have discussed what is a bug out bag you can move on to gathering the right equipment and supplies to support your bug out plans.
Please comment below if you have any questions about bug out bags.