Sunday, December 16, 2007

72 Hour Kits

Organizations like The Red Cross and FEMA call them 72 hour kits. Survivalists call them BOBs (Bug Out Bags). Whatever you want to call them everyone should have one. The idea behind them is that just in case you need to leave your home RIGHT NOW you won't be leaving empty handed. Also, if you have a kit prepacked and a plan in place you'll waste a lot less time if you need to get out of dodge in a hurry. If a disaster happens that forces you out of your home then it will likely force everyone else out of their homes as well. The farther ahead of everyone else you are the better off you'll be. Just look at the people that spent days stuck in traffic after they were driven out of NOLA by Katrina. The hotels were full and the gas stations were out of gas.

So where should you start? You never know what could happen and you may just end up having to hoof it if something happens to your vehicle. Now imagine if you were trying to get to your grandparents house 150 miles away and you only made it 100 miles before your car broke down in the middle of nowhere. You've got a long walk ahead of you and in the case of an emergency you might not be able to use your cell phone to call a tow truck. Those services may not even be available if things are serious enough. The point that I'm trying to make is that your BOB should be portable. Get yourself a nice, sturdy, comfortable backpack to put all of your stuff in. You can pick up a military style alice pack for less than $20 at most surplus stores. You can get better quality packs at most sporting goods stores or online for less than $100. You can even use a duffel bag or a backpack if you don't want to drop actual money on a BOB project right now. I would recommend getting something with at least 3000 cu in of space and a hydration bladder setup.

Now that you've picked out your pack what should you put in it? If you spend a lot of time in the outdoors then the contents will look pretty familiar to you. The most important things are food, water, fire and shelter. You want to be able to start a fire. You might be able to improvise a shelter given enough time but it's a lot easier just to have one in your pack. A few days worth of food is a must. Also, a means to purify water is important since you won't be able to carry enough for 3 days along with the rest of your gear. Some other things that you want to consider are extra clothing, an efficient way to cook, first aid and some other relatively minor but important items.

Being able to start a fire is probably the most important survival skill that you can have. It allows you to dry wet clothing and gear quickly. It keeps you warm. It allows you to cook food and purify water. A $.50 Bic lighter, available at just about any grocery or big box store, is about an efficient a fire starter as you're going to find. I have 10 year old Bics that still work flawlessly. Just don't put all of your faith in them. Have alternative means to start a fire. Get some strike anywhere matches (hard to find but Ace Hardware always seems to have them in stock) and dip them in wax to waterproof them. Blast matches, Swedish firesteel, magnesium bars and a number of other alternative means are all well and good but if you don't know how to use it before you actually need it then you're probably going to freeze. Tinder is also important. Hexamine tablets are the best firestarters that I've found. You can also use fire starting paste, fire sticks, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly and even small bits of dry wood.

Food and water are next on the list. If you have to utilize your BOB for survival then you're trying to get somewhere. You don't have time to scavenge around for food so you want to have at least a few days worth handy. Energy bars are great. So is trail mix. You won't catch me trying to live on that stuff for any amount of time, though. I like substance. MREs are great. So are freeze dried backpacking meals. I also keep some dried potato flakes, dehydrated milk, beef jerky and instant rice in my BOB so that I can cook a decent meal. They're extremely lightweight, the calorie content for space taken is awesome and even if you can't cook the stuff properly you can still eat it. I also keep a few MRE main meal entrees and spices in there for some variety.

As for water you want to have as much to start off with as you can carry. I have a 3l platypus hydration bladder (bulletproof and no matter how long you store water in it you will absolutely not have to worry about the flavor of the water being affected by the plastic) and a full 32 oz nalgene in my BOB. You need about a gallon of water a day. Water is really heavy. For that reason I also keep a Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter handy. It's lightweight, small and capable of filtering at least several hundred (it's rated for thousands per filter) gallons of water. In case that fails I can boil or use the water purification tablets that I also have. As long as you're not in a desert you should be able to find a water source.

Shelter is another top priority. If it's 5 degrees outside then you're going to want a sleeping bag to sleep in. You can always put several layers of clothing on and curl up under a pile of pine needles but that's just never worked out so well for me. Get yourself a good, lightweight sleeping bag that can be compressed. You'll also want some kind of protection from the elements. Once again a lean to or a small stick shack might work for some people but I'd rather just be able to throw up a small tent. I carry a 12x12 tarp from Sportsmansguide. I also have a military style poncho that I can use for a floor or it can be used as wet weather gear. If you're willing to shell out the bucks you can find some extremely high quality 1-2 person all weather tents online that would fit this role nicely.

So now that you've got the basics covered what else should you add? Stoves are great I've got a small, homemade alcohol stove and a multi fuel backpacking stove. An Esbit stove could also work. I've also got a 1 quart pot that the alcohol stove, stand, wind guard and all of my spices fit inside of. Knives and multi tools are always useful. A basic first aid kit is a must. A flashlight is great to have. Make sure that you get a high quality, high output light and carry spare batteries for it. I've got a folding saw and a hatchet for wood gathering. I've got a .22 revolver with 100 rounds. Maps, waterproof notebooks, pencils and permanent markers are great to have. You'll also want a good compass. I could go on and on all day with things that you could include. As long as you have the basics covered, though, then you'll be fine. I'll put a list of exactly what I have in my BOB next time I do an inventory.


theotherryan said...

There are alot of names for this kit which are almost interchangable. I think knowing how to use most of this stuff is far more important then the stuff itself. Particularly in the areas of shelter, fire and compass/ navigation. A decently trained guy with a tarp, bic lighter and compass will be much more comfortable then an armchair commando with a spiffy tent a zippo and a gps.

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