Monday, May 23, 2011

The Bug Out Bag v The Go Bag (reality, practicality and myth) Part II

The Bug-out-Bag's portability and maneuverability fails (in my opinion) in one immediate regard.

Water.

The recommended amount of water per person per day is a gallon. A gallon of water roughly equals 8lbs. Three gallons=24lbs.

This doesn't take a lot of things into account.For instance the joy of hot Summer conditions and, that the easiest walking routes are covered in black asphalt. Or that traveling off road can mean climbing hills and, hacking through green under growth. Both will require frequent replenishing of fluids.

Cold Winter brings with it an increased weight of gear overall due to heavy clothing and bulk. Toss in food, guns and ammo, and any personal items and it get damn heavy damn fast.

Though there was an interesting article not too long back in National Geographic about African Aid workers purifiying drinking water by laying out disposable water bottles filled with clear but unsafe water on sheet metal. After six+ hours in the sun the UV light killed live protozoa. (post edit and thanks for the reminder anonymous reader).

Adding ammunition into the mix looks something like this:

A fifty round box of .45 acp 230 grn FMJ weighs 2lbs 4.7ounces, a fifty count box of 9mm 115 grn goes 1.61lbs. Three 30 round AK-47 magazines weighs 4lbs.

Bags also have an funny way of getting outdated or deteriorating. One day you open up your pack and discover your magnesium fire-starter has left a lovely grey film on everything (tip: wrap it in with aluminum foil) or the other bane of a survival kit. The gummy black bastardness of electrical tape over time.

Think all of this Bug out bagging is wrong. Go take your 72 hour kit and stay away for 96 hours. Don't head to the woods go to the shittiest neighborhood you can find in the dead heat of summer, locate and abandoned building and lie low. Then by comparison do a 96 hour drill at your domicile. Shut the power off, shut the water off and hunker down for four days. Either way you come away enlightened.

So what about the whole "Go Bag" concept?

The Go Bag was once defined for me by a former spook-turned-instructor in my formative years of Executive Protection as a professionals personal kit that combines daily use along with contents that may only see use during selected occurrences. This rings true for the SOF Operator, the Patrol Officer, the IT guy, right on down to yours truly. If there is one piece of worth while advice I have learned over the years and it may sound stupid don't pack for comfort, pack for use.

The creature comfort feature is what ends up making a bag unbearably heavy.

Case in point. Once before heading over seas with a client in the dead of winter we were spending the night in New York. The Principal a very corporate casual kinda guy (no ties I was told) and given that we were going to be spending three weeks in India taking a parka for one night seemed stupid. So instead I packed the heaviest wool sweater I had. Did we (and I mean him) decide to walk through half of Manhattan's neighborhoods after dinner in 20 degree weather. Yep. Did I buy a stocking cap from a street vendor in China Town. Yep. Was it freezing cold. Yep. Was I happy two weeks down the road in 95 degrees in Mumbai that I didn't have a parka in my bag. Ye....you get the picture.

Bags will evolve and change over the years as need be. And I actually keep somewhere around four to five bags in a ready, to semi-ready, to three-quarters empty state. The bags themselves range in size from small and medium daily carries to larger ones that may see use once a month. All of them have small shaving and first aid kits, cliff bars, spare batteries, spare knives, and an assortment of needs as the size of the bag increases. While they are not always overly tactical, they are always practical....for me and my needs.

Of the bags I consistently operate from the second and very heavily relied upon is a Duluth Trading Company's Cab Commander (in tan). If you don't have one buy one. It's stays loaded and in the 4runner with everything from a spare coffee thermos and water bottle, knife, picks, maps, compasses, rain jacket, food and so on. The nice thing aside from being within arms reach. If I switch vehicles it's as simple as grabbing it and go.

In the winter I keep a very very upscale winter kit (sarcasm) made up of my cold weather hunting gear, a spare sleeping bag, long underwear, jeans, socks, sweaters, etc all nicely packed in a $10 east German surplus duffel bag (see I told you OD was fashionably pre-war-on-terror). Around Christmas this past winter I received a call from a colleague at 4pm on a Friday afternoon regarding a somewhat dubious missing persons case. The weather was bad, we had just dug out three days prior from a massive snow storm and more was on the way. Since my cold weather Go-Bag was already packed and loaded I had very little in the way of prepping needed other than filling my coffee thermos.

I'm not going to fall into the trap of telling you what you MUST have in your kit, but there are a few things I heavily recommend regardless of size. A decent to very good tactical folder, an LED light of some type with one or two sets of spare batteries. A water bottle. I like a stainless one unpainted, because my thought is should I ever end up where its an emergency situation I can boil water in it over a small fire. A substitute is a plastic Nalgene bottle that fits into one of these. I may have ripped on packing 20+ pounds of water but, I didn't say don't carry any.

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever applied to all of my go-kits is simply a bar of soap, a wash cloth and a hand towel. A Steward (which is more applicable than 'flight attendent')I knew who worked aboard a billionaires private jet remarked that "hot soapy water, a nice soft towel and a clean face and new shirt can literally change your mental ability to work a 20+ hour day". He is very very right. I consider just as important as my night scope to be honest.

The inherent value of a go-kit, is that regardless of your profession, it gives you physical resources for the various demands placed on your professional and personal life.

In one of the more infamous cases where I was very thankful to have a "Go Bag" at the ready was several years back. A buddy and I were out on a morning bow-hunt when my phone began a non-stop buzzing. When I finally answered there was a very panicked stricken secretary on the other end asking if I could be at a local private airport to fly out. Thinking these thing always take a couple of hours to get fully prepped I said "sure, when do I leave?" her response "30 minutes", as I looked at my camo laden self I went rather slack jawed momentarily and said "can we do 45?" she confirmed that would work and that the plane would be held for me (my ego was something stupid for the next several days from that statement alone).

Fortunately I was less than three miles from the airport in question. Unfortunately my "go bag" was about 20 miles away so I did what any single (at the time) professional security spook would do. I called my mom (lest you think that I think far too much of myself not to give this woman the credit she deserves).

I walked on the plane inside of 40 minutes unshaven, head to toe in ASAT camo with five corporate executives all in suits. Waiting and smiling.

The end game is this. A kit should be reflection of you, the inside of your head, and the needs of your daily life. I see my bags in the same light that I do the pockets on my pants, (see Rule 8). Preparedness even on a small level makes all the difference. You learn from it. You'll never have every single specific thing you need, but with a good kit you learn to make things happen and adapt to it as they come.

Because real cowboys ride in the rain.

7 comments:

drjim said...

Is the one gallon strictly for drinking, or does it also include personal hygiene?
If you *really* have to bug-out, what's the minimum amount of water you recommend? I carry purification tablets in my little "go kit", along with some zip-locked coffee filters to strain any big pieces out.

Matthew said...

Dr Jim,

That has always been my point of contention with the "water issue" is that it's supposed to be solely for drinking.

I have three empty five gallon water jugs and two full five gallons jugs in storage. If we would ever have to bug out I'm doing my damnest to make sure it's in a vehicle. IF that is the case I'm taking somewhere around 20 gallons with me.

If it's on foot my line of thinking is more 2 gallons, with a purification system and a water bottle to top off. That allows me to be deliberate in my water usage.

When we make drives across country through remote areas I make sure there is always five gallons of water in the back.

drjim said...

That would be my take on it, too.
It don't care if I'm not "springtime fresh" as long as I'm not dehydrated!
For our household of 4 people, we have around 50 gallons stored that I rotate regularly.
Since we have two large dogs, I think we should up that to 75 gallons or so. The problem is keeping it dated and rotated. I'm the only one that does it, and while my wife and stepson might chuckle about it, *IF* we ever need to use it, I'll bet they thank me....

On a Wing and a Whim said...

"The creature comfort feature is what ends up making a bag unbearably heavy."

And bulky, too! I've been fighting this in my camping and my survival gear - finding the balance between minimum extra weight, reasonable survival, comfort, minimum volume, convenience, and practicality is a struggle.

Bruce said...

The Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack is my daily go-bag. It carries what I need, including a netbook, in a compact, well-organized manner.

Geodkyt said...

Carry 2-4 liters of water, and carry (collapsed) containers for at least twice that. Then carry puriication methods -- don't forget something to strain the solids out first (why waste chemicals and/or micro-filter life decontaminating the crap you can pre-filter it through a rag or coffee filter?)

People don't take something simple into account -- like a cheap surplus canteen cup. Or, they load up on exotic shit like a dozen different ways to make fire without matches, and just overlook the utility of a couple of cheap butane lighters and firestarter material. (you can dry out and shield a disposable lighter long enough to touch off vaseline coatded cotton balls and an old GI heattab easier than trying to get wet moss to light off your spark stick). They don't figure out how to communicate with rescue -- if you're bugging out, it's probably a dusaster, not an invasion. Orange material and a hand-fired boating flare to signal the Coasties in their chopper will likely get you to safety faster than another 50 rounds of ammo. A cheap ass FRS radio might be useful, too - if they-re fetching refugees off rooftops or from fire encirclements, they'll be monitoring it.

They don't tailor the kit for their environment. My needs living in Hampton Roads, where I was looking at a primarily "bug out by car, plan on days stuck in traffic" (peninsular geography - limited road choices, pretty much all parallel and equally impacted) situtation, versus my current, "shelter in place as long as possible waiting for narrow wooded roads to get cleared for driving, but be prepared to evac on foot if house goes away due to fire or wind" rural living in an area where ALL the roads are narrow and wooded, and the peninsular geography again restricts road choices. And it's definately different than the BOB one my buddy kept on his LHA stationed helo.

Geodkyt said...

Sorry for the typos -- I'm one handed due to gravity (it's not just a good idea - it's the law) right now.