Bug-out bags, sometimes known as "get home bags", provide some basics to survive while evacuating from a disaster. While philosophies vary about the bags and their contents, are guns and/or ammo part of your BOB?
You should have an emergency pack, or bug-out bag or whatever you want to call it. They can save your life. The old expression "proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance" comes to mind. The wise and prudent man (or woman) won't make rookie mistakes in crafting his or her pack.
One big question: Should I put a firearm or firearms in the pack? What about ammunition?
The biggest mistake people make in crafting their packs is over-estimating their load-carrying ability.
Most of us have left our 18th birthday long behind. Our clothes have shrunk in the laundry. Unfortunately, we may have picked up ailments or disabilities to contend with. We cannot carry sixty or eighty pounds for a five mile hike over ideal terrain, much less uneven ground. Be realistic!
Remember, ounces feel like pounds. Pounds equal pain.
Carrying a gun and ammunition in a pack will quickly add a lot of "pain" to hiking, especially for those in poor physical shape. What's more, that handgun probably belongs concealed about your person so it can be readily deployed. Don't bury your Gat under your Goretex and other gear.
As for extra ammunition? Ammunition weighs a lot, like food and water. Unless you expect to fight your way through Little Mogadishu on your way home in an emergency, a sidearm and a reload or two will probably suffice for 99.99999% of contingencies.
Long guns strapped to you or your bug out bag will attract (unwanted) attention, from both good guys and bad.
As for gear in general, seek out lightweight alternatives to what you might ordinarily pack. For instance, are you considering a MagLite because you have an extra old one laying around? Don't even think about it. Buy a modern LED flashlight that uses a single, ubiquitous AA battery. It weighs a lot less than a single D-cell battery and probably out-shines your Maglight in brightness and run-time.
Water is heavy. If you live in regions with plenty of surface water, consider relying on water filtration over carrying (heavy) water. Filtration options range from something as easy and accessible as a Sawyer water filter (available at most Walmarts nationwide) to a more traditional hiking water filtration unit from Katadyn or MSR.
Food can be heavy if you pack military-style MRE-type meals or canned foods. Instead, consider dehydrated meal pouches (Mountain House), or things like instant oatmeal or similar foods. Instant hot chocolate makes a comfort drink, too. Simply boil water, add it to the foods and you have a hot meal. Yes, dehydrated foods lack lots of calories, but most of us have plenty of adipose tissue to burn.
I've seen my share of these get home bags over my years. What's more, I've made more than a couple myself. Back when I had plenty of hair but a lack of life experience, my first bug-out bag barely fit in a large A.L.I.C.E. field pack. Upon finishing it, I looked in awe at all the stuff I'd managed to stuff inside. "This is great!" I thought to myself proudly. Then I picked it up, and that aluminum frame creaked and groaned. I groaned too.
Working diligently, I pruned it down to 38 pounds and got it – barely – into a medium A.L.I.C.E. field pack. From there, it gathered dust. Fast forward twenty years when I couldn't walk through a Super Walmart buying groceries without needing a nap afterwards. I put that pack on and couldn't walk a hundred yards without needing a break. My legs burned by the time I made it back home.
So I went to the gym and got into shape.
I also bought a "hiking" backpack. Yeah, military packs look cool, but I wanted "sheeple" style. I've loaded it with less than ten pounds of stuff. It's got a Camelback-style water system in it, and with a half-gallon of water, it'll still be under 15 pounds. It works for me. Your needs differ from mine.
- The author's pack, right. Another gentleman's pack is pictured on the left. The fellow on the left has two toddlers to look after as well.
Evaluating various bug-out bags can be fun as well. Looking at others' bags can help you identify "holes" in your preparation, and at the same time expose mistakes you don't want to repeat.
Gearmoose has a few located here. These include:
Bug-out bag #1: Really? 3" Magnum buckshot for a pump shotgun to "get home"? Ignoring the questionable value of a shotgun as a long-arm to "get home", has the person who put this together ever fired a 3" Magnum from a pump 12 gauge? I did, once. Never again. I'd never let my wife shoot them either. By the way, where's the sling for the long gun? And a total of 169 rounds of handgun ammo? How do you spell "overkill"? (Answer: O-n-e h-u-n-d-r-e-d-s-i-x-t-y-n-i-n-e)
I like the his and hers flashlights and water bottles (even though smaller flashlight options are available to cut weight. The rope, knife and multi-tool are pretty much standard must-haves. However, carrying a case (12) of MREs on my back doesn't sound like fun.
Lacking: Soap, a towel, work gloves, extra socks and underwear, feminine hygiene, baby wipes, Ziploc bags and a warm hat all come to mind right off. So too does polypropylene long underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush or comb. I see the electronic GPS unit, but I'm not trusting that. You want a real map and a real compass. You can't get anywhere if you don't know where you're at to begin with. Also missing is an Israeli Battle Dressing or similar for boo-boos that need more than a band-aid – and some prescription or non-prescription meds. Shelter: add in some sort of shelter, be it a heavy-duty mylar blanket, a poncho, tarp or similar material to keep precipitation off you.
Bug-out bag #2: A scoped lever-action .357 rifle? Certainly a respectable choice and capable long arm. With a proper sling and some skill sets, a rifleman could use that levergun's iron sights out to its effective range sans the scope. However, carrying an extra hundred rounds of 9mm ball ammo? Is someone expecting to go plinking on the way home? Sounds like a great way to attract the wrong sort of attention!
What's lacking? First and foremost, the vitally important compass and map(s).
That's in addition to all of the aforementioned stuff from the first pack. The radios and the miniature SAS Survival Handbook are great, as is the folding entrenching tool (hopefully made in America, because the Chinese-made ones usually fail on the first dig). Personally, I shy away from Lithium battery flashlights for bug-out purposes as those batteries aren't as easily found as AA-cells. Lastly, I want something besides Clif's bars to eat.
Bug-out bag #3: The first thought that comes to mind on seeing this: bolt cutters? Really?
Pretty much all of the aforementioned shortcomings from the first two packs are missing from this one as well. He (or she) does have baby wipes, which is good. Smaller, single AA-cell flashlights would be much better. They stripped down the MREs to the essentials, but a dozen MRE entrees is still a lot unless this is a pack for four people. Good on them for dropping the long gun, but 131 rounds of 9mm ammo for that pistol is about 100 too many. This is a bug-out pack, not a "fight your way up the cliffs on D-Day" pack.
All photos courtesy Geermoose.com (except for the author's pack).