Tuesday, May 21, 2013

B.O.B. Lessons learned

Bug out Bags,

B.O.B.’s are one of the most talked about items In preparedness. Everyone has their own version of what is needed. A simple search of the web will provide you with a large number of items for you to pack, you will also find there are almost as many options for type and styles of bags to pack. In this world of information at your fingertips it can sometimes be overwhelming. I remember back in the mid 80’s when putting together my first pack with my father, most of my stuff was “hand me down” or second or third generation gear. My first pack was a military style canvas fanny pack. I was so excited to get my pack going that I could not wait to try it out.

The pack I had was to sustain me during extended search and rescue operations. All the gear was given to me or loaned to me from my father. His belief, as is mine, is use good quality gear regardless if it’s brand name or not. What matters is “Will it hold up and will it work for the job?” He once asked me, “You want your butt hanging over a cliff on a shoestring?” No, you got to use the right tools for the right job. This is one of the things that I find complicates things now. When we went to get a pack or something to go in our pack- there was no online searching for it, there weren’t thousands of advertisements all claiming their knife is so sharp it will cut your from 5 feet away. We drove to a shop and tried to find the best quality for the price. A good rule of thumb is to buy each item knowing it’s a tool to be used. The name on the side will not save you in a bad situation. That said, never pack a tool or item in your bag you have not already used and proven to be worthy of your use and abuse.

So let’s look into the idea of the bug out bag, the idea behind this style bag is that you are buggin’ out leaving where you are for a safer location. Some place that is less dangerous than where you currently are. Now some people have bug out locations and some have bug out vehicles. So the biggest factor in what gear to get and pack is What are you doing? Where are you going? and What do you think is going to cause you to have to bug out? If you think you may have to bug out because of a leak at the nuclear plant, How are you getting away? What is the distance you need to be to reach the safe zone?  

One major thing to consider when making any type of pack is weight, the average experienced hiker travels between 10 to 15 miles per day. So you take your 72 hour pack, three days walking 15 miles you’ve made it 45 miles, has that gotten you to the safe zone? If it hasn’t do you have enough to get you to your safe zone. You need to know where you're going and how long it will take you to get there. Don’t wait till your in an emergency situation to figure out your route. Plan it out and have maps with you. Include alternate routes in case yours is blocked. Three days of walking will wear most people out, most people are not use to packing 40 pounds mile after mile. Once you have arrived at your safe place, are there materials enough to provide for you or are you still going to be operating out of your pack?

Packing a heavy pack for days in a stressful event will take a lot out of you. There are those that will push themselves to the limit too far but when they do stop to rest or sleep they do so for  a lot longer than planned. Stress and fatigue will also cause you to do things that you normally would not do like stopping to tie your shoe and get a drink from your canteen only to realize hours later you left it sitting beside the log you propped your foot upon. When planning your bug out bag plan your trip and be sure to include rest stops and sleeping locations. You need your rest so you don’t make mistakes.

Make sure the gear matches the most probable emergency for your area. Living in Kentucky I don’t normally do hurricane planning, nor do I think i’m ever going to have to worry about a storm surge . If I do, I have bigger problems than my pack not having everything, like finding a very large wooden boat. I do have to worry about flash floods, tornadoes, pandemics and  winter storms. With this in mind, I pack appropriate items or gear to help me deal with the situations I may encounter. For example, I don’t want the winter clothing weighing down my pack in the summer, so I pack accordingly.

One of the most common mistakes people make is to make their bug out bag a camp bag as well. My Dad had many packs, each designed with a specific purpose in mind. He had bags for everything he thought we might need. We had medical bags, low angle rescue, high angle rescue and swift water rescue bags, While it is a great idea to have a bug out weekend camping trip to make sure your bag will work for what you want it to, buggin’ out is not exactly the summer camping trip. Unless you're a “thru hiker” your not going to breaking down camp each morning and heading out for the day again. Most campers set up camp, stay the allotted time then head home a day or two later. With a bug out bag the camping aspects should be very limited. The purpose of bugging out is to get you out of the area, so most of your time should be spent moving as opposed to setting up a camp.

You will want the basics. You need water, fire, shelter and food, everything beyond that is for comfort. No, I’m not knocking comfort. I like the comfort of a fire, the soft glow and the crackle of wood. Just the whiff of wood smoke on any give day transports my mind to a happier place, my body relaxes and some of the stress melts away. For me many wonderful childhood memories are associated with campfires, good company and even better stories.  I am soothed by all of the senses associated with a campfire so I normally have at least 5 different ways to start a fire.

 I also pack a water bladder as well as a water buffalo canteen. While they add a great deal in weight, it’s less time i’m spending in one place to treat and or purify water. If i’m stopped I’m eating or sleeping not working on stuff.

Shelter if I take the time to do more than curl up by a tree, my shelter can be in place in under 5 minutes. Once again, my purpose is to get out of the area so i’m not spending a lot of time to make a big fancy shelter or pitch a tent. Building a lean to or wiki up or debris hut takes time and while they have their place buggin out is not it.

Food, I pack finger foods for the most part. I want to be eating while i’m walking I really don’t want to set up and have to cook each meal. If i’m going to cook one it’s going to be when I’ve stopped to rest and have built a little fire, cooking something quickly like oatmeal or rice. Trail mix and energy bars or jerky are the traveling foods that I keep and are light weight. While it’s not the gourmet meals I like to eat while cooking out on an open flame, these serve the purpose for bugging out to keep my energy levels up while traveling.

So with bug out bags. Where are you going? What is it going to be like on the way there? How long is it going to take?  What do you need to get there? Pick the gear you need to answer those questions and remember knowledge is the best tool, easy to pack and light weight..

Tim Clifton (Tribal Hawk)

SLC-360© 2013

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