Country Living Series

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A question about bug-out bags

A reader just posted a question on an older post we had on assembling our bug-out bags. This reader's circumstances are vastly different than ours (New York City vs. rural Idaho) and his questions are so excellent that I thought I'd put it up as a separate blog post and open the topic for discussion. Please feel free to chime in your thoughts and expertise to help this fellow out.

I like the KISS theory but understand we all pack our kits based on our own perceived needs and personal psychology; I would like some feedback on the following from the medical and military guys if you would be so kind.

The idea of most of these kits is to get you from point A to point B alive over about 72 hours. Given clothing to survive your local weather isn't the human body made to go about 72 hours without food and water? In fact can't you last a very long time without food, and its water that is key to staying functional? So in theory a good kit would be based around practical clothing, a good poncho for rain/snow (I love Snugpak but also have an old school one) and maybe a liner for extra warmth along with water. Everything on top of that starts giving you extra energy and comfort. I pack nothing but good old fashioned gorp for food (that's peanuts (unsalted), M&Ms and raisins for those of you who call it something else) it fills your belly and gives lots of calories for light weight and costs a fraction of those MRE's and requires no prep- just eat a handful and your belly is happy and its all snack food I enjoy so its no real cost to me to cycle the stuff in my kit.

My other question for the real pro's - if the world falls apart good luck to all but I expect civilization to outlive me by a country mile. I live in NYC, my challenge is to find a bridge or ferry to get me off the island I am stuck on if we have another super-storm or terrorist event and my place is no longer viable to hunker down in. Is 72 hours reasonable or is a 7 day light pack better? Gorp is nothing to carry but water is heavy stuff - how much water do the military guys think is essential and what water kit would you pack to resupply with on the go back to grandmother's house? I am looking to move fast on two feet or two wheels in a localized SHTF event but I expect point B to have TV and pizza when I get there ;)

Thanks for all the ideas here and I hope none of you ever need to use them!


  1. While a person can survive for a while without food unless you are used to fasting you become impaired mentally pretty quick. Much sooner than you reach a state of dying but that mental impairment could easily cost you your life as well. Also peanuts and such maybe fine under your normal life as it is right now but if you are bugging out they may not be enough to give you the calories and energy you need.

    As for water. Pack the items needed to make any water you can find potable and drinkable rather than attempting to pack all you might need. Of course any ground water you might find in and around New York may be so far gone it might be impossible to make it safe. I have no experience there I am afraid so you may need to treat the area as a virtual desert until you get away from the pollution.

  2. My best ideas:
    Expect the bridges and ferries to NOT be there or to be so crowded with panicked masses that utilizing them would be next to impossible.
    There are lightweight inflatable kayaks/rafts. With a fold-able compact oar/paddle, this may be your best option for getting off the island. If you are unaccustomed to the strenuous physical effort of paddling a kayak, I suggest practice and lots of it.
    I would also go with a 7 day pack. GORP is great, but toss a few salted peanuts in the mix as your body loses lots of salt with physical effort. Add in some jerky if you can, as well. Higher protein and chewing on it gives you something to do as you paddle away!
    The weight of your water supply can be lessened if you purchase a small but efficient personal portable water filter. There are many models out there, some of which can filter out the majority of chemical, pollutants, etc. Check out Berkey, I think they have a portable model.

  3. This isn't what you're asking but - I think getting over one of the bridges on foot or bike when they're on lock down might be tricky. I walked from midtown to Maspeth on 9/11 AFTER they opened the 59th street in one direction, but I bet in the future every bridge and tunnel will be kept tight locked for a long time. (In the following weeks I also changed my commute from #6 to bicycle to avoid being crushed in a panic.) I hate to say it, because it's my home and I love it and I sometimes miss the energy and the people and the food and the opportunities, but being stuck on an island is scary enough to me to say that if you can stomach the idea, get out of NYC. It's a target and a geographical trap. Besides, Bloomberg's gonna name himself Most Beneficent Unquestionable Supreme Ruler any day now.

    Regards, Sara McD

  4. Check out Mainstay food bars. Long shelf life (5 years), light, not real expensive.
    Click on Ready Made Resources add on sidebar and search for Mainstay.
    For you boaters, exceeds USGC & SOLAS standards.


  5. First of all while you can take a look at routes that you may take to get out. If you can use a bike you will have a lot going for you. Pack water and food. I would say someway to protect yourself but I'm not sure what that would be being that you are where you are. Three main headings, #1 where you are, #2 where are you going and #3 how will you get there. That should take you to what you need.

  6. The pivotal point will be to hang on to one's provisions. Locked and loaded will be pivotal, but I guess NYC is out of luck with that. By the way, great blog, glad I found you!

  7. I've been building, and revising my EDC, BOB, and GHK for over two years now.

    The ideas and notions about these things are spread through the internet. Ideas on prepping and survial spread like old time gossip. It starts with one individual, then his notions get passed around, altered, and embelished, and everyone agrees that you need this, and that, and the other thing. Not to say that all the gagets and gear are bad.

    This said, the answer to your question is to look to history. Disasters are happening, and have happened all the time. There are very few that can occur which are unique. What did those caught up in one before go through? How did those that survived make it through to safety?.

    (An Exercise)
    Lets immagine that you decide to go on a vacation hike/trip from your home, or place of work, to say someplace 50 miles away. For fun, you are not allowed to take any money along. And, just for fun, you can't use any conventional means of crossing to New Jersey.

    Starting with just what you are wearing, what can you add that will make the trip practical, and endurable? And yes, you're allowed to rent small storage lockers, on the Island, and along your route, to serve as cashes.
    Now you take it from there, and try not to get too caught up in what everyone else is parreting you should have along.

  8. An investment in anything that improves your awareness and response time, signaling you to leave the city before things become untenable, will give you a greater return in survivability than most anything you could possibly add to your bag before you go. Now; your bug out bag is part of a plan, geared toward an objective. The bag does not define your plan, so don’t worry about what goes in there at first.

    First: Define your objective, which is to survive once your home becomes unlivable. Where are you going? How will you get there, and how long will you stay? Gear your bag based on how long it will take to accomplish your objective. Pick the worst case scenario that can reasonably be expected to occur, and build your bag with that in mind. You will need to practice your plan ahead of time.

    Second: Understand your operating environment. You need to recon your routes. Take note of the urban features along each route. Use Google Earth to examine all of it. Get physical paper maps that show your intended routes. Take pictures of the route to help your memory for when you’re trying to travel it, and it’s raining and dark and there is smoke. What will that place be like if things get bad? Who inhabits these areas? Is there a point of no return? How much effort did it take to travel the route? If you have never kayaked off the Island, then when that bay becomes a tactical environment should not be your first time. The largest boat evacuation in all of history happened right there at 9-11. If you get into that mix in a kayak once it begins, then you will die. You will need to get over a bridge pronto, and that means on foot, with a backpack. (Remember, worst case?) Use a bicycle though, if possible.

    Third: Logistics. Once across, if you walked instead of biked, then you will need a rally point where you will meet someone with a vehicle that will take you where you need to go. This must be pre-planned, and the rally point must be away from where the traffic jams will be happening, which means more walking for you. Maintain a cache of MRE’s and other essentials somewhere out of the hot zone along your route. This could be at a storage facility or with a trusted friend. Contingencies must exist for the major decision points, such as routes, rally point, methods of communicating with your contacts about your intention to bug out, etc. Gorp turns to garbage quickly when it being handled in hard situations. You will also have a salt overload if you eat too much of it. Get the Mainstay bars as aforementioned. Use a Camelback hydration system capable pack, and take a minimum of 4 Nalgene bottles of water besides. If there is any reason for you to stay at a Red Cross shelter, then you will need a sleeping bag too. One night on a fold out cot with a flimsy blanket will convince you of this. If you end up at someone else’s house other than your plan “a”, then you may need the sleeping bag there anyway.

    Fourth: Gear your bag. Make purchases that support your objectives, with plenty of room for an extended timeline. Look as civilian as you possibly can, avoiding anything camo, or MOLLE web gear etc. Tip: Used to be the MRE’s came with a little bottle of Tabasco sauce. It’s better on pizza, if you can swing that. Good luck to you!

  9. I grew up in NYC, and worked in a field that pretty much required that I live in NYC. However, I did not believe that NYC was long term a safe place to live. This idea came from many things including the Bible, the news, and reading authors like Robert A. Heinlein, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, and Dean Ing. It took time and a change in career but 30 years ago we moved out of NYC.

    Each move we have made since has been towards the sort of place that Dean Ing suggested as his preferred "safe" place to live (small town, but not that far from a large college with its library, and not too far from good medical services).

    As far as a "bug-out", it depends on your physical condition and your living situation. If you can physically walk for 3 or more days to reach a safer location, and have actually tried a "dry run" of such an evacuation, then fine, plan on doing it that way. If you or members of your family can't physically make such a journey, then find alternatives.

    Also realize that emergencies come in many different types. For some you merely need to reach a different location in your vicinity such as high ground. For others you might need to "shelter in place". For others still you are best off living well away from any probable target area. For the latter sorts of emergencies, relocation during a crisis is _not_ your best option and may not even be possible. If at all possible do what we did and "get out of Dodge" far in advance of a potential crisis.

    If you do find yourself needing to relocate during a crisis, travel as light and fast as your situation allows. A single guy in great shape has far more options than a normal guy with a wife and small kids.

    Water as you mention is heavy. You will probably have no choice but to carry some, but the addition of a good portable water filter such as a Sport Berkey and a small bottle of bleach or water purification tablets will allow you to drink water you find on your way.

    I pray you are blessed with wisdom as to what to do.

  10. Stop imagining and start testing. Take a long weekend on the AT through NY and walk for three days on just gorp and the water you are carrying. See if you can do it.

    Then fine tune your BOB. You may be better off with a water filter and less actual water. I know I am. But I also live where water is plentiful, just polluted and undrinkable without a good filter. I also don't do well on just gorp. I do better with some jerky.

    Also, you need a way to get off that island without being dependent on the bridges/ferries being open/running.

  11. Some of us have more than 1 pack. There is the get home from work pack, the 72hr pack, and the 7 day pack. The body will survive 72 hrs without food but may not without water depending on the activity. Also, you are planning on moving on 2 feet for 72 hrs .. you will need fuel for your body and also for your brain. Think, very stressful environment, stress on body, need to move AND think. The brain needs that food. Also, you spoke of warmth. Food keeps you warm.
    Since water is top of the list I would recommend one of these. Sawyer water filter based on dialysis tech or LifeSaver USA. (if your source is NOT salt water)

    -Old Soldier

  12. I know 15' skiffs and I know Long Island Sound. It is sheltered. If two feet or two wheels could get me to a 15' skiff , 15 HP outboard, and three 6 gallon tanks of gas I honestly believe I'd stand an excellent chance of survival. Rural Fisher's Island, NY is within a cruise. Rural Block Island, RI, could be an optional 2nd day destination.

    One Caveat: These destinations are downwind from NYC. Prevailing winds would probably carry radiation particles or toxic substances to these islands.

  13. comfortable foot wear number one. break in two pairs now and keep extra socks in your pack. wear one pair and carry the other.
    decent boots on hand for winter or flood conditions and some of those instant heat packs for hands and boots available at k-mart in the camping dep't. they have an expiry date so keep an eye on that.
    some bacitracin and band-aids for blisters and other injuries. a small cut can be septic and bring you down. medical facilities in the conditions you envision will be swamped so take steps to provide at least minor care for yourself.
    deb harvey