The Bug Out Bag, or BOB, is infamous among preparedness enthusiasts. It’s that backpack that sits in the corner of many a survivalist’s bedroom that is ready to grab with only a moment’s notice and is chock full of gear to keep said survivalist alive for a minimum of 72 hours. Well, I’m here to tell you that after a five-minute conversation with my wife, I’ve come to the conclusion that you should rethink why you even have your BOB, because it’s probably full of expensive crap that could better serve you elsewhere. So how did my wife completely destroy how I think about my BOB in five minutes? It went like this…
Me: Hey babe, did you pack your BOB yet?
Wife: Ugh. No. Give me the list and I’ll throw some stuff together right now.
Me: Here you go. I’ve broken it down by category and put notes in it so that you know why you’re packing it.
Wife: I don’t have half this crap …and what do I need this stuff for anyways?
Me: In case we have to get out of the house in 60 seconds or less and live out of our backpack for a few days.
Wife: Which will be when?
Me: Well… It could… What if… Crap!
Wife: Not to burst your bubble, but this doesn’t fit into any of our plans. Think about it, hurricane …we’ll have plenty of lead time and we’ll take the car; tornado …we’ll be getting in the tub and putting a mattress over our head …not leaving the house; flood …plenty of lead time; earthquake …hunker down in a closet and pray; EMP, economic collapse, terrorist attack …we’re going to need a lot more than a stupid BOB; house fire …OK, a BOB would be a good idea, but I’d rather have my photo album than a silly tent …it’s not like we don’t have friends and family to crash with!
She was right (I can’t believe I just said that). I had been so obsessed with building the most innovative and self-sustaining BOB to ever grace the planet that I never took the time to think about whether I even needed the thing. I even went as far as putting my gear into a meticulously detailed spreadsheet (download it here). It’s a sweet spreadsheet, isn’t it?
So do I still have a BOB today? I do, but it looks a lot different. The wife even has one now too (1 point Jack). After a lot of thought, I decided to prepare a BOB for the sole purpose of dealing with a house fire or home invasion. This is what I’ve come up with so far…
1. Clothes – You could be naked when you’re forced out of the house …and you don’t want to look like one of those characters from COPS when the emergency personnel arrive. NOTE: Get out of harm’s way BEFORE you get dressed. Streaking across your yard will not be frowned upon if your house is on fire.
2. Boots – Good footwear will be important to have on …especially if the house is burning down around you. Keep yours laced up, but loose enough to slide right into.
3. Fire Extinguisher – This could be a great asset not only for getting out of the house, but also for getting to children (if they aren’t old enough to handle their own fire extinguisher).
4. Wool/Nomex Balaclava – Fire/Smoke protection.
5. Leather/Nomex Gloves – Protection for the hands.
6. Wool/Fire Blanket – A good wool/fire blanket is always handy. Whether it is for treating shock, keeping warm, or dousing the occasional Human Torch wannabe, for $20, it’s worth having.
7. Gas Mask – Statistics say that smoke inhalation will almost always kill you before a fire will, so get the best gas mask you can afford if you don’t think your exit will be immediate (i.e. if you think you’re going to go after the rug rats). I’ve been drooling over the new Avon C50 rig.
8. Flashlight – Obviously, this can help you see in the dark, but it can also be used to signal emergency personnel if you become trapped somewhere (i.e. upper floor).
9. Personal Documents (Originals) – You might want to keep these in your BOB, but a fireproof safe would probably be better.
10. Encrypted Flash Drive – This should have copies of all of your personal identification, insurance information, address books, photos (both personal and for insurance purposes), reference material, etc.
11. Personal Items – These are the things that money can’t replace, such as family heirlooms, photo albums, etc. Obviously, these things should be small. DO NOT load up your BOB with 80lbs of personal crap and get yourself killed trying to carry it all out. Also, pack your necessities before you asses how much space you have for personal items. I personally won’t pack a BOB more than thirty pounds.
12. Laptop – This will be handy to have when putting your life back together.
13. Cell Phone – To call the fire department, cops, friends, etc.
14. Wallet – If you’re like me, you probably don’t put your wallet in the safe every night, so at least put it in, or near, your BOB. We all know what a pain it is to lose your wallet.
15. Money – A wad of cash is always handy.
16. Firearm – A firearm is the only item that I keep on had to combat a home invasion. The reason being is because your security should be a system, and NOT just a stack of weapons by your bed. For example, Door Devils on your exterior doors, motion sensitive lights and cameras on your house, and solid core interior doors go a lot further when it comes to security than a fully loaded Colt .45, AR-15, and riot shotgun in hanging on your bedroom walls (unless your home invaders are zombies of course).
17. Ammunition – A firearm is just a fancy club without ammunition. Two regular size spare magazines loaded with your favorite defense ammunition should do the trick here.
Now that I have introduced you to a pretty comprehensive BOB for dealing with a house fire and home invasion it’s time that I introduce you to “Jack’s Golden Rule of Survival”. This simple, yet effective, the rule is very important to adhere to when dealing with not only the type equipment that I have just suggested but in disaster situations in general. Without further ado, the words I live by are these …“DON’T BE STUPID!” It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many people neglect to follow this basic tenant. NOTE: If you don’t like the word “stupid” for some reason feel free to replace it with any other fitting word like “moron”, “idiot”, “dufus”, or “schmuck”.
An example of how to employ this rule is as follows. One night, you are suddenly awoken by the piercing sound of the smoke detector and the faint smell of smoke. What do you do? Do you grab your stuff and get out, or do you think “I have a gas mask, fire extinguisher, and gloves; I’m going to check it out”. This, my friend, is a great time to ask yourself; “Am I being stupid?”, and hopefully, you’ll answer that question with “Yes” and proceed with your escape.
If you have taken anything away from this article I hope it is an understanding of how important it is to think before you prepare. As my wife pointed out, I kind of glazed over that step when planning my BOB. Don’t you make the same mistake!
For the second installment of this series, I will be going into the times when I feel it IS important to have a traditional 72 hour BOB. You didn’t think I was going let all the thought that I put into my old BOB go to waste, did you? Stay tuned!