I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about bug out bags, and getting them ready to go. I’ve spent countless hours talking about get home bags, and getting them ready to go. Since moving to Houston, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ‘prepping’ — the act of making sure you can survive in your home for extended time without the world around you being available to you, and getting all that stuff ready to go.
There’s a lot about doing these things that requires trying to anticipate what might actually happen and what you need to respond well to those situations. The best prepping one can do is to have cash on hand, the recent financial meltdowns have taught us that much — you can survive pretty well with money. Then there’s the health aspect, to be in good shape and all that. Then there’s the smart prepping, where you look at what might impact you (hurricanes, tornados, volcanos, earthquakes) and you prep for that. Then there’s the batshit stuff Reddit and blogs like to talk about where an EMP or CME happens and stops civilization as we know it (read also: One Second After), or a scenario where society breaks down — the key prep it seems for these situations is a cabin in the woods and an absurd amount of ammo for your absurd amount of guns.
For most people, the act of thinking about this stuff (raises hand) and buying stuff in anticipation of these events (raises hand again) is really the hobby. But it can be a useful hobby.
So I bring this all up because, as the title of this post says: most people, reddit threads, blogs, and experts (I am skeptical of there being prepping experts writing blog posts) are flat out missing the obvious.
As I said, you should prepare in order of most likely to least likely. To whit, I do not have any ammo here, because that’s the least likely thing to happen (not that it can’t happen, don’t email me). Most likely is loss of job, which as we saw in March can be sudden, indiscriminate, and widespread. Then (for me) weather events, and since I am in Houston I can thankfully ignore the idea of a devastating earthquake striking at any moment (seriously earthquakes are nearly impossible to prepare for) and instead focus on the slow moving but frequent hurricanes which threaten this area (as I write this, two are headed very close to me).
So let’s talk about that. If a hurricane were to force me out of the house, what’s most likely a need of mine? Well first and foremost my plan would be to go to: a hotel; family; camping site; FEMA/Red Cross shelter — in that order (the internet seems adamant that camping is substantially better than shelters, and I do love camping). Now I have not been in a shelter before, but I have done the rest, and I know I don’t need 80% of what people put in bug out bags do live will in those places. Add to that: I am not walking to these places, I am driving, hopefully well in advance.
(Just as an aside, I have been camping and hiking many times and can assure you that I could have done all those activities without a knife. Did having a knife help me? Yes. Would I hike/camp without a knife? No. But it very much can be done.)
The only reason I might have to walk somewhere, is if I don’t leave soon enough, which is why being prepared is a must. It makes it easier/faster to leave. But, I should have gear for getting stuck on a freeway for hours on end as we all know that happens in emergencies.
That said, this is the most likely scenario for many in the face of an emergency: leaving home to go to some other type of shelter, not the fucking forest.
So I then ask: have you ever traveled last minute and forgotten some shit? I have, it sucks. What did you forget? Because that’s the stuff that should be in your bug out bag, not 16 knives, and 4 tarps so you can build a log cabin solo in the middle of the country and 2000 rounds of 5.56 so that you can defend your shelter from bad guys that spawn the moment emergencies hit. No, you should probably have a cellphone charger and a toothbrush, you can thank me later.
In other words, these will probably be more useful than a knife, ammo, armor, or MOLLE:
- Battery backup and charging cable: your cell phone is probably the best survival tool you own. Keeping it charged and working will go a long way to keeping you working. I know, your bug out bag has a premium solar panel in it, but by the time you stay still in the sun long enough to charge your phone, the hotel will have filled all its rooms and you’ll need to trek another 100 miles. Plus battery backups are smaller, and easier to use and transport, and less fragile. Solar chargers are like bottom of the list here.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste: personally I cannot stand my teeth feeling anything less than clean, but also like you don’t want to have teeth problems when you are trying to sort out life problems. Because teeth problems can quickly become life problems.
- Blanket: have you ever been cold? It sucks so much. Have you ever tried sleeping without a blanket? Absurd. I cannot believe that most people don’t pack blankets.
- Cash: hand someone $20 and they will help you a ton. Fuck, hand me $20 and you’ll get my ass to help you a bunch too. Not only that, but proving you can pay, will get you access to things a credit card will not in emergencies.
I know that this is not as cool as the idea of hanging a solar charger off your backpack and building a shelter out of a space blanket in the woods, but sometimes that’s life. And I have geared my primary bug out bag so that I can be comfortable at a hotel, or a shelter, or a KOA campsite. I need some outdoor stuff, but mostly I’d really need a battery charger, blanket, toothbrush, and clean underwear to make it a few days. Oh shit, don’t forget the clean underwear and fresh socks.
Most bug out bags just get it wrong, and will leave you in a hotel staring at your knives and space blankets and trying to sort out how to brush your teeth, charge your phone, and change your underwear with your 4 knives. Now, I am sure you could craft fresh underwear from that space blanket with that knife, but — well actually props if you wear that. That’d be something, it’s not for me though.