by BW


Lately it seems that 72 hour/3 day bug out bags are all the rage. You can buy a pre made bag and you can find many articles on building your own. They seem to be the in thing, and while this is, in my opinion, a good thing, there might be limitations and draw backs that are rarely mentioned.


While I have and carry a “bug out bag” or a 72 hour pack in my vehicle, in my case I refer to it as a get home bag, because my significant other and I have long since abandoned the idea of bugging out, planning instead on bugging in on our property:             everything we have and need is here, and most of all, we don’t have anyplace to bug out to! Recently I had lots of time to think and soul search on my bag, its contents and uses, and the security, or false sense there of, which the bag instilled. I realized that with my bag I would probably be better off than many or most, but I still came up short when I thought things through.


A recent trip from Northern Idaho to the great state of Kalifornia, traveling alone, had me driving through four states, and having a little extra time, I took the long way and drove the length of the Colombia River Gorge. Beautiful, green and rugged, bordered by a river on the North, and I mean a river, as in deep, wide and continuous, and mountains and cliffs on the South, with a large city at the Western end.  In many places the canyon walls were far too steep to allow egress. Bridges across the river were few and roads and towns exiting the canyon were fewer still. Tactically great if you are a prepper or survivalist living in the area but it could be a nightmare in the event of a major catastrophe that shut down the roads in the gorge, trapping the travelers. And the weather was rain all the way, 700 miles of it, light to garden hose intense. Traffic was moderate to heavy, as we were coming up on Memorial Day weekend, so all four lanes, 2 in each direction, were in constant use. I mulled over “what ifs” I could be facing: natural disaster, man made disaster, insurrection, you name it, I thought about it. I was then 300+ miles from home, and I realized my 72 hour bag was a “local” unit. By that I mean it was designed and equipped to allow me to get back home if something happened, but I would probably have to be close. It would be far better than nothing, but it is not a wilderness trek pack and I certainly wouldn’t consider it much of a “go bag.” Let me explain:


My bag contained a minimal selection of gear and equipment. It consisted of a small back pack in which  I carried three MRE’s with heaters, three energy bars, a folding stove and two packs of heating tabs, a metal cup, 3 packages of hot cocoa mix, and three homemade breakfast packs(oatmeal, sugar and cinnamon, powdered milk, all vacuum sealed), 2 bottles of water, a water purification pump, camp knife with spoon/fork/opener blades, a multi tool, folding knife, hatchet, packet of “cheapie” rain gear, an 8’x12’ plastic sheet/tarp, 2 large trash bags,  a small first aid kit, a toiletry pack with soap, cloth, foot powder, lip balm, tooth paste and brush, sanitary baby wipes, a roll of tp(monkey butt WILL NOT be allowed) insect repellent, a compass, GPS, sunglasses,  stocking hat and gloves, wool sweater and socks, a led headband light, a hand held led flashlight, 50’ of parachute cord, and a military camo coat. I did not have a sleeping bag or foul weather gear, no spare pants, no boots, and no maps of the area I was in. All of the listed gear weighed less than 20 pounds and there was room to spare. The gloves, hat, sweater, socks and tp were all packed in plastic and vacuum sealed, reducing their bulk by over half. As a retired deputy, I am never without a side arm, usually a 45 Govt or a SIG 40. On this trip, I had the Sig and two spare mags, plus I put a spare box of 50 in the pack. Additionally, I keep a pocket 22 in the truck along with 75 spare rounds, so I was not unarmed, but I did not have a long gun of any type, as traveling into Kalif you never know who or what you will encounter. I also had no fishing equipment, no snares, no gun cleaning kit….but I did have a small pair of binoculars.


As I planned the trip being about a week, I had spare clothing in a suitcase: coats, boots, socks and other items in a suitcase. Not outdoor stuff, but far better than nothing, plus the truck was equipped with a large first aid/trauma kit and a rechargeable flash light. Had there been an “event” that closed the roadway, or an EMP event that disabled cars, and really closed the road, I felt I would have but one choice: Get out, load up and head for home, however far it happened to be. I would have been able to get started, at least, but there would have been numerous people that would have been left high and dry and at the mercy of who and what ever…..I would have been facing a hike, a very long one, along the gorge until I either found a way out of it or until I was able to cross the Columbia River. Defense against “predators” would not have been an issue, there would have been many other targets that would offer easier pickings with less chance of getting shot, but there would always be the chance of getting sniped….there were two large cities between me and home.


Back to the bag: In retrospect, I realize that the “72 hour bag” was just that, something that I carried while traveling ONLY within a set distance of my home, as in close. The farther away from home I was, the more limitations my bug out/get home bag had While it was decent, even good, in the situation I was in it was seriously lacking in items that I would have required.


After making the trip and returning home without incident, I did a self assessment, and proceeded to do the following: I will keep the bug out/get home/72 hour bag, and will use it when I am within a set distance of my house. It is fairly small and compact and easy to conceal in whatever vehicle I am in, and two of them (wife has one also) take up minimal space.  But I also put together another bag, a larger one, which will be used when I am traveling a long distance from home. This is an internal frame military pack and contains duplicates of the items I listed for the Bug Out/Get home bag, but more of items such as food, water and toiletries and spare batteries, plus a portable battery powered radio and clothing suited to a harsh environment: heavy duty denim pants, long sleeve wool shirt, and wool socks.  I included a sleeping bag and pad, fishing equipment and other hardware to help me get food from the land, and by this I mean a slingshot and some marbles, snares and a small steel trap. And what about security as one makes their way back home across what might prove to be hostile and unforgiving terrain, particularly if they are alone? You have to sleep, and it is then that you are at your most vulnerable. A roll of fishing line to be used as part of a simple intrusion system takes up little space.  I have a heat/infra red dispersing “Red Out” brand camouflage blanket that I purchased a number of years ago, which at the time was advertised to be capable of defeating infra red/heat sensing devices. I don’t know if it works, but at the time I bought it, it was supposedly state of the art and tested while a man was laying in the snow…..This is vacuum packed and takes up little space, so it was added to the larger bag. Being able to conceal ones presence might mean the difference between life and death. And maps…..set your GPS when you leave home and “mark it.” Also your destination if you can. This will at least enable you to get bearings and know which way to go. And paper maps, treated for water resistance might be old school but they can show you what cities, roads and rivers are in an area you are unfamiliar with. Plus, and possibly more importantly, they are EMP resistant. In the large pack I also have a folding military shovel, more heat tabs, several candles and a canteen and water purification tabs. Several butane lighters, more matches, first aid items and some snack packs were added and I topped the bag with a pair of hiking boots and decent rain gear. I could have continued to add items, but eventually weight would have become my enemy. The bag was capable of holding well over 100 pounds of gear, but I was not capable of carrying it for any distance, regardless of how useful additional items might have been and how tough I think I am.


The purpose of this article is to impress on people the need to diversify their bags. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security and believe that a 3 day/72 hour bag is the answer to everything all the time. There are good ones and bad ones, but they are, in my opinion limited in their usefulness, and failing to realize this might lead to something that will cost you or a loved one a life. Have separate bags for different scenarios or have one intermediate bag that you will carry always, but which can be added to quickly to increase its usefulness and effectiveness when you change your routine. If you buy a pre made bag, check the contents, evaluate them and add to them as you see the need. No one can sell a one size fits all bag: what might be great for Florida might be lacking in Arizona, etc.  As far as firearms, they are an individual consideration, but don’t be without! A pistol is the obvious choice, but a take down “survival rifle” is also a possible choice for a long gun. A person combining the right equipment with the right mindset is likely to come out of most situations in pretty decent shape, but remember, the most important survival tool, often prepared long before any disaster, is your mind. All the equipment and gear in the world is of little use if a person does not know survival basics.


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  1. Good self-assessment, BW! I keep 2 smaller, “Get Home” bags in my SUV, plus a rucksack with survival / camping items and a Bug Out Bag with food and clothing. People tell me that I am overdoing it. I don’t care. The smaller bags, centered around a Governor pistol and Ruger 10/22 rifle, can be grabbed in a moment. The larger containers are kind of buried in the back. In addition, I also keep a small hand truck, a Rossi Circuit Judge, a Henry AR-7, case of water and box of MREs. I just removed a large first aid bag and bottomless pit sack (blankets, jackets & rope) because I hardly had any room for groceries. I actually purchased the Ford Explorer over the Jeep Grand Cherokee because of the larger cargo space in the back. There is another row of seats back there, folded over to hold all my gear.

  2. Could you provide us a link on the infra-red blanket? Having trouble discerning if I’m looking for the right thing. Or, tell us how to find it? Thank you.

  3. BW-very thought provoking-thanks. I rarely travel but when I do I am always accessing the what ifs-imagine this is a way of life for us preppers as others go merrily along. I carry a small pack but now I will evaluate.I also always carry water and food in my vehicle even for short distances and a small fire extinguisher. Its good to have these at home and in the vehicles.
    All these recent train wrecks I don’t believe are all accidents. Arlene

  4. one thought – 100 miles is a best of three days – level paved roads, no obstacles – to upwards of a week (more than 72 hours) on foot.
    as you say, your get home bag is local – only (maximum 30 mile radius from home). never fool yourself otherwise.

  5. I love the point of this article stressing the importance of having separate bags for separate senarios. I have a great b.o.b. that we keep with us for traveling back and forth between the Northern residence and the Southern residence, and for anytime we’re away from home for few days. I’ve been feeling like I could use a smaller bag to keep in my truck for every day, but I haven’t made one because it feels like duplication. It Is duplication, but your article brought out the importance and necessity of doing this!


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