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, should guns and ammo be a part of yours?
But-out bags are really must-have items. 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 the pack include a firearm or ammo?
The biggest mistake people make in crafting their packs is over-estimating their load-carrying ability.
For most of us, our 18th birthday is nothing but a speck in the rear-view mirror. Our clothes have inexplicably shrunk in the laundry. We may have picked up ailments or disabilities along the way that we have to contend with. Carrying sixty or eighty pounds on a five mile hike over even ideal terrain just isn't in the cards.
When in the field, remember that ounces feel like pounds, and pounds equal pain.
Carrying a gun and ammunition in a pack will quickly add a lot of pain to a hike, especially for those in poor physical shape. What's more, the handgun you'll want to have probably should be concealed about your person so it can be readily deployed if needed. Don't bury your gat under your Goretex and other gear.
As for extra ammunition? Like food and water, ammo weights a lot. Unless you expect to have to fight your way through Little Mogadishu on your way home, a sidearm and a reload or two will probably suffice for 99.99% of likely contingencies.
Also worth mentioning: 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 will out-perform your Maglight in both brightness and run-time.
Water is heavy. If you live in regions with plenty of surface water, consider relying on water filtration over carrying your own. Filtration options range from something as easy and accessible as a Sawyer water filter (available at most Walmarts) 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 yourself a hot meal. Yes, dehydrated foods tend to lack calories, but most of us have plenty of adipose tissue to burn, particularly in the short term your bug-out bag provisions are meant to cover.
I've seen my share of these get-home bags over the years. What's more, I've made more than a couple myself. Back when I had more hair and less experience, my first bug-out gear 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. So did I.
Working diligently, I pruned it down to 38 pounds and got it – barely – into a medium A.L.I.C.E. 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'd 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 includes a Camelback-style water system. With a half-gallon of water, it'll still weigh under 15 pounds and it works for me.
Of course, your needs may differ from mine.
Evaluating various bug-out bags can be fun as well. Looking at others' bags can help you identify any "holes" in your own preparation.
Bug-out bag #1: Really? Three-inch magnum buckshot for a pump shotgun to get home? Ignoring the questionable value of a shotgun here, has the person who put this together ever fired a three-inch magnum from a 12 gauge pump? I did, once. Never again. I'd never let my wife shoot them either. By the way, where's the sling for that long gun?
Oh, 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 (!) of 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 jump out. So too do polypropylene long underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
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 are to begin with. Also missing is an Israeli Battle Dressing or similar for boo-boos that need more than a band-aid…not to mention some prescription or non-prescription meds. Shelter: add 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, a rifleman could use that levergun's iron sights out to its effective range sans scope. And schlepping an extra hundred rounds of 9mm ball ammo? Is someone expecting to go plinking on the way home?
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 models usually fail on the first dig). Oh, and I want something besides Clif's bars to eat. But maybe that's just me.
What's in your bug-out bag?