Bug-Out Bags form a sort of central hub of prepping. A bug-out bag, or BOB, is a self-contained survival stash containing tools, weapons, clothing, shelter material, medical supplies, calories, a way to get clean water, a way to start a fire and many other items essential to human survival when the niceties of civilization give up the ghost.
All of that- pantry, pharmacy, armory and toolbox- ready to go, on your back or at your side, no matter if you are sheltering in place or not.
It is easy to see and treat the BOB as sort of your “master key” of preparation: stocking up a cache at home is always a good idea, but what if you have to leave in a hurry?
Sure, you might be able to evacuate by vehicle loaded with supplies, but what if you can’t or you must ditch your vehicle to continue on by foot? If it turns out you are sheltering place from a tornado or some other disaster, having a pre-packed survival kit to tote into the cellar with you is an advantage.
No matter how you slice it, BOBs are a good idea for everyone. You cannot ever truly predict that you won’t need one for sure, and if it turns out that you don’t you can just use those supplies where you are, no harm done.
Of course this begs the question: if one BOB is good, wouldn’t two be better? Should they be identical in equipage and pack, or optimized for different tasks? Should you keep dual BOBs together, or split your supply points between two locations that you frequent?
All of these are good questions, and in this article we’ll take a look at the concept of packing multiple bug-out bags to cover your survival bases.
The More the Merrier, or at Least More Prepared
To be clear, I will be examining the idea of multiple BOB’s from the perspective of employing 2 or more BOBs per person in your household/group.
I would proffer that a family consisting of two parents and two children able to carry their own luggage would already be making use of multiple bug-out bags by virtue of multiple people requiring their own gear set. I am referring to instead the idea of you, specifically, having two or more BOB’s packed and ready to roll at any given time.
Before you settle on the idea that this is some kind of crazy compulsion be assured that I will be making a case for it in the following sections. I am not, however, suggesting that carrying around two separate packs to be the best idea, or even a feasible one, depending on what you have packed.
To head off so many arguments regarding this subject, remember to keep in mind context. Context is everything, and failing to consider it leads to you becoming a victim of your own informational frame of reference.
While “it works for me” is almost always someone ducking out of a conversation when called to explain their choices while being questioned on it, bear in mind that the requirements that two people have for very similar tasks can be entirely different depending on a host of factors.
More on that to come, let’s get to our premise.
Redundancy is always a life-saver, literally and figuratively. Whenever something must work, it had better include a redundant system, no matter how infallible or well made it is.
Think about something that is seriously indispensible to the operation of a system or a desired outcome, in any activity. Too hard? Here’s a few. What’s the most important part of an airplane? The pilot! The majority of aircraft have two sets of controls to accommodate a pilot and a co-pilot. Makes sense.
Another aeronautic example: parachutes! If you are skydiving, or bailing out of a plane because yours did not come with an extra pilot and the first one broke, your parachute had better work, or that’s it for the late, great Sky King of the Preppers. But let’s just say your chute doesn’t work.
A backup chute is your only Plan B unless you want to count on providence, and if our Maker is not forthcoming with it you’ll be able to talk to him about it personally very soon.
Consider any climber or worker operating at great height. Multiple safety lines, buckles and catches will be employed in the event that a fall should occur it will be arrested with certainty. No building relies on only one exit. No modern car relies on one set of brakes. Firearms incorporate multiple safety systems. I could go on and on. The point is that redundancy saves lives and saves missions.
We have all heard the military expression “two is one and one is none.” That aphorism is preaching about the importance of redundancy. It is for a good reason.
The fact that prepping, itself, as a lifestyle choice is about redundancy, about the means to provide what you need to survive, even thrive, when circumstances conspire to take that away from you. To have light when the power is out. To have food when far from town and when the groceries are empty. To have clean water when the taps are only trickling brown murk. You get the idea.
So is the idea of having two of one of the central preps in most people’s plans so farfetched? I don’t think so. Since it is not a question of reasonableness, the only question is then why and how having redundant BOB’s will help you.
A Hedge against Loss
Lots of things can and will happen when the balloon goes up. Depending on the kind of disaster you are facing, there is a very real chance that your BOB could be destroyed, lost or taken from you. Having a spare will help ameliorate the impact of losing pretty much the keys to your kingdom.
It is not hard to imagine such a scenario. A tornado or hurricane could see your house or shelter blown away, and your BOB in it. A fire could burn it up. A flood could sweep it away.
You could set it down and some miscreant could run off with it, or you might be forced to, literally, drop everything and run for your life. There is no aegis or talisman that guarantees you get to keep your stuff just because you spent so much time and energy packing and preparing it.
A second BOB, identical or not, will afford you at least the chance to re-access vital supplies. Maybe you keep it stashed elsewhere, or maybe you keep it close to your #1 bag (more on that in a minute). The point is it is another self-contained supply point you may be able to reach in the event the first is lost for good.
Some folks say you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Others say you should, and then you watch that basket. Me, I just want to have another egg in case one breaks or goes missing. Two is one and one is none…
Convenience and Flexibility
If you have a BOB, chances are you keep it packed and stashed at home, where most of us do. After all, if disaster strikes, it will always be when we are at home, and definitely not when we are at work or in our car where will be spend most of our lives, right? Right! Hey…
Actually, things might just go bad when you are away from your home and all your fancy supplies you have so meticulously laid in. Since that is the case, it is a good idea to bring your BOB with you, wherever you go, right? Maybe.
Since most BOBs are large and conspicuous, moving them around in suburban or urban environments will draw attention, and not usually the right kinds. Furthermore no automobile is a secure container! Things get stolen from vehicles all the damn time.
Guns, electronics, luggage, mail, you name it. Anything you leave in your vehicle when it is not occupied or watched over by you is at risk, including anything you stash in a fancy vehicle safe.
So instead of keeping a BOB in your vehicle (which you can) why not instead keep one at your workplace? If you have an office or locker solely at your disposal, you can make use of that private storage to keep a second, fully equipped BOB close at hand. That way you can have all your vital supplies ready to use should some emergency, great or small, occur while you are at work.
For those of you that don’t have access to such niceties or whose workplace is a sensitive environment that would make emplacing your gear impossible or hazardous to your continued employment, have you considered paid storage nearby? Self-storage sites often have tiny closet sized rental units for modest prices, more than enough for stashing a BOB and some other supplies.
Instead of hauling your BOB to and fro, you can make things a little easier on yourself by having your gear close to where you usually are. If you do decide to keep a BOB with you in your vehicle, make sure you keep it out of sight so that it will not be an inventive for a thief. In the trunk is best, but mind the ambient temperature of your locale if you have food and perishables inside.
You might be the lone wolf type of prepper, completely unfettered by family, close friends, and anyone else who might possibly slow you down and “hurt” your chances of making it through whatever SHTF crisis has befallen you. You might be, but I don’t believe it.
Everyone knows someone they are on decent terms with, even if they aren’t super friendly. If a neighbor came to you in a serious jam, would you not help them? How about a close friend or a family member?
Lots of tough talk goes around in prepping circles, lots of disparaging talk about those who are ill-prepared, refuse to prepare or don’t think there is any need to prepare.
We make allusions to how toe-curlingly smug we’ll feel when the water is rising and there is no more room for them on the Ark, or how we’ll be sitting pretty, comfy, cozy, armed and fed while the world tears itself apart.
I am as guilty of such locker room rhetoric as anyone, but do you mean that? Really mean that? I hope not. If someone close to you in your family or just in your social sphere came to you, don’t you want to be the savior, the one that helped them when all seemed lost?
You should. And you should want to do it without that coming at the expense of yourself and your immediate family and group. The obvious solution is to have extra set aside just for such an occasion. You might have plenty of stuff to spare, but how will you give it to them? In a grocery bag? In a sack? How about a heavy duty pack that will let them move it all efficiently no matter how they are travelling? Better, yes?
You cannot will someone into the right attitude about prepping, the right state of mind, and the right procedures, but you can be prepared for their material requirements. At least, prepared enough to give them a fighting chance. Better to do that than let them face the long dark alone and ill-equipped. Don’t give into the nihilistic law of the jungle if things get really bad. Be ready to help your fellows; be the example. Save the day.
In another scenario, what will happen if a trusted partner or member of your survival group should run afoul of misadventure and lose their kit? Tough on them, right? Of course not.
Being able to reequip them with needed gear, even if it isn’t their first choices or preference, will go a long way to keeping them in the right place mentally and just as importantly keeping them operating on all cylinders. You might not be the person that needs to make use of your spare.
In any circumstance where you can evacuate or bug out via vehicle, a second BOB makes for a super simple way to add more gear to your vehicle in no time flat.
A packed BOB can be hoisted and hurled into an automobile or strapped down to an ATV or motorcycle far faster than you can free-load loose provisions and gear or attempt to fit more into your primary BOB. Assuming the situation allows you to continue to use of your vehicle, you can depart quickly and get to your destination even better equipped.
Should circumstances arrive where you need to leave off on foot, you will probably be leaving one of your BOB’s behind unless both are very light, but you will have the option to cannibalize some supplies from one to replenish what you have consumed in the other, as well as plus up on the items you determine you’ll need most on your travels based on the situation.
Before you pitch a fit over ditching a perfectly good, packed BOB, remember why you brought it in the first place. You already have one, and it would be the height of folly to overload yourself with too much kit, so much that you cannot make good time and risk exhaustion and injury. You can ditch it with a clean conscience. Waste might be a bad thing, but look at it as an insurance policy: it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
You may also find that, depending on your route, destination and other factors, you can cache your backup-BOB before setting out on foot. In case you need to return, backtrack, or detour you can use the spare as a resupply point. Just because you are not going to carry another intact BOB all over creation does not mean you cannot make good use of it.
If you could not tell from this article, and I know long-time readers of mine will already know from my other pontifications on the subject, I am a big, big fan of redundancy. Anything that I own, that is important, I like having two of everything. If something breaks, fails, is consumed or otherwise used up, I have a spare. No fuss, no muss, no crying. Onward!
I employ this policy for guns, vital equipment, vehicles, you name it. I like two of everything. I would rather have a spare of any one thing than something new that I do not own yet. Even in my material preps, I always lean towards redundancy before broadening my personal readiness into uncovered territory, unless that weak spot is seriously glaring.
For instance, I usually choose to stock more basics than expand my gear into ever more nuanced and unlikely threats. No thanks to Geiger counters and other ephemera; I’d rather have more food, filters, medicine and fuel.
Like anything else, it is executing the fundamentals well that will most often carry the day. If 80% of your problems can be solved by the first 20% of your gear, are you not better off doubling down on that 20%? You can make a case for it, I think.
I would feel better about someone being stocked to the gills with food, potable water, ammo, meds, batteries, fuel for personal fires and vehicles, warm clothing and medical gear than every gadget and goody in the Cabela’s catalog. You cannot eat nylon and metal.
Some people object to the cost of duplicating everything essential when much of what we buy is already expensive enough. I get that. But much of that anxiety, in my experience, comes from a sort of “keeping up with Jones” effect.
There seems to be an unspoken sort of rule that to be “ready” or “prepared” you must have X amount of gear in Y quantities from some big master list handed down from Prepper Olympus or something. Of course, you don’t want to be caught without something vital, but that is rarely the case for these spend-misers.
Again, at worst having duplicate items in your BOB is cheap insurance. That’s at worst. At best, those extras or spares will be vital to obtaining a positive outcome for yourself or for someone you care about. Remember that.
I think I have made a pretty good case for keeping a redundant BOB (or two) setup and handy for your use. Chances are that if you packed it with careful thought and much analysis, will solve 90+% of the problems that you are likely to encounter should SHTF.
Since the smart move is always to prepare against the most probable threats first, considering they are the most likely to befall you, if not the most severe, it makes sense to me to go broad before you go deep.
That is, extend your “basic” coverage from one BOB to two, from one bag at home to one at home and in the office, from ‘X’ number of days worth of supplies in your vehicle load to twice that amount.
This logical progression is eminently reasonable and, in my opinion, provides more positive readiness than a plethora of specialized gear that you are increasingly less likely to use.
Multiple bug-out bags are not a symptom of OCD or overdoing a good thing. Having a second and even a third BOB for your personal use is an excellent example of redundancy in action, and will afford you greater flexibility and insurance against the disaster of BOB loss. Consider starting a duplicate BOB for your own use soon.