Ready to Update Your Bug-Out Bag?
Every once in a while you need to fine-tune your preps. Nobody gets it right the first time and we all end up with less than ideal gear because, as beginners, we often buy things out of impulse, falling prey to seductive advertising. Since our bug out bags are at the core of our survival plan, let’s start with those. What are some of the things we can improve?
Before we talk about all the essential items to add, remove or replace (full list here), we need to talk about the backpack. If it’s already full to the brim with supplies, you may need to consider getting a bigger one. Not to worry, you don’t have to throw this one away, you can repurpose it as a get home bag or as a Bug-Out Bag for your kids.
Keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better. If your bug out location isn’t far away or if you can’t carry that much weight, you should probably stick to a bag that’s easier to carry. Still, if you need a new hiking backpack, make sure it has a strong internal frame, padded shoulder straps and padded hip belts.
OK, moving on to the essentials we mentioned earlier…
To keep the process straightforward, you need to do two things. Number one, you need a laptop because you’re gonna make a list of all the things to add or replace and then research them online. Second, you need to take everything out of the Bug-Out Bag so you can put them back one by one (the ones that are still worth it, at least).
Did you do it? Great! All you have to do now is take each item one by one and ask yourself a few questions.
The first one is:
Do I really need it?
Keeping in mind a Bug-Out Bag’s purpose ends once the bug out itself ends, there’s no need to fill it with items you already have at your bug out retreat. For example, one of the things I blindly threw inside my Bug-Out Bag in the beginning that was considerably heavy was a printed copy of the SAS Survival Guide. Nope, it wasn’t the pocket edition. Now that book sits nicely on the shelf and my Bug-Out Bag is one pound lighter.
Sure, it’s always nice to have things that cover every possible scenario but let’s say you live in the burbs and your BOL is 20 miles away. Do you really need fishing hooks? Can you see yourself camping in the forest or fishing? In some cases, it’s better to keep your supplies split between your home and your bug out location to cover both scenarios (bugging in and bugging out, that is).
The second question you need to ask yourself is:
Do I know how to use this thing?
In case of pre-packed Bug-Out Bag or pre-packed first-aid kits, the buyers rarely know how to actually use the things they bought. They have this feeling of safety after the purchase simply because now they own the thing. But in a real emergency, they’re likely to look at that tourniquet or that multi-tool and scratch their heads because they don’t know how to use it.
Though learning new skills isn’t exactly on topic, since your bag items are already spread across the floor, why not make a list with the ones you need to learn how to use?
OK, moving on. After you decided you need to keep an item, the next questions to ask yourself are:
Is this a high-quality item?
Can I get a lighter/smaller version of it?
You see what we’re doing here, right? On the one hand, we need to make sure these items won’t let us down when we need them most; that could obviously cost us our lives. If you bought one particular item in the beginning, when you didn’t know much about prepping, it’s time to re-evaluate your choice and the way you do that is through research. There’re 2 small steps to take.
Step #1: Write in Google best [item]. For example, best survival knife or best multi-tool.
Step #2: Also write in Google: best [item] site:survivalistboards.com. This instructs Google to only return results from the most popular survival forum.
Step 1 will get you Amazon reviews, blog posts and articles about your chosen item. Step 2 will show you forum discussions by advanced preppers. Thus, you’ll make sure that you’re informed and make the best choice.
Do this for every item and you’ll surely find the best survival items for the best price. For instance, even though there are survival knives out there that cost hundreds of dollars, my “weapon of choice” is a Morakniv Companion with a carbon steel blade that’s only 15 bucks on Amazon.
Ok, back to our second question: can you find items that are lighter than the ones you have? Just because you found the best AM/FM radio, this doesn’t mean you need to get it. You might find something lighter that’s also considered pretty good, the main benefit being that if you do this for every item, you’ll end up with a BOB that’s easy to carry. (Graywolf has an excellent article on the topic of Bug-Out Bag weight, by the way)
The last thing you want to ask yourself while carefully examining each item is:
Is it working the way it should?
For example, are all your lighters working? Try them all one by one. Is your survival knife sharpened? If not, that’s going to be a huge problem. Is your spare cell-phone battery fully loaded and functional? Test it to find out.
Well this is it. I think it’s obvious that inspecting your Bug-Out Bag isn’t as hard as it seemed in the beginning of this article. You can always improve it and adapt it to your changing needs, just make sure you continue to educate yourself on the topic and periodically inspecting it every 6 months to a year.