George Ure and Gaye Levy, Contributors
Both of us (that’d be Gaye & George) have covered the idea of “survival gear bags” at some length on our own websites in the past at Backdoor Survival and Urban Survival. But a gear bag, like most federal highway projects, never seems to get really done. They seem to be all wrapped up for a while and then – wham – something needs to change.
We can make some generalizations relating to size (a few cubic feet) and weight (light enough to carry) and the need not to fill you bag with useless articles. After all, when someone is in tip-top condition (and has maybe just come off active duty in the sandbox) the idea of only a 60-pound load sounds remarkably tame. But to those of us who are used to watching the military adventures in high def, the reality of hiking around with a weight is really a stretch.
So it goes without saying the size and weight matter. After that, where you live has a lot to do with what kind of gear bag you need.
The first step to any bug-out bag is to figure (and there’s some dart-tossing here) what exactly you would want to have with you if you had to bug-out.
George’s first serious encounter with gear bags was when he was doing serious sailing on his 40-foot offshore capable sailboat. Here, with the ocean only a 3/8th’s in layer of fiberglass away, most of the focus was on bare-bones search and rescue and “keep alive” tools. This included a small fishing gear set-up, a charged up VHF marine radio, two LED flashlights, two MRE’s and several jugs of water. Toss in a flare kit, signaling mirror, Freon-powered horn, and two space blankets and he was set.
Although he never had to bug-out overboard, the main purpose of this bag was to have something around 50-pounds which could keep two people alive in a small RIB boat for a couple of days in a pinch.
Gaye’s first encounter with grab-and=go bags was similar. In her case she was also on the water, only this time in a power boat cruising the inland waters of Puget Sound up north to the Straits of Georgia in Canada. He bug-out bag included many of the same items: a charged-up VHF radio, snack bars, bottled water, flares, extra life preservers, sunblock and a waterproof first aid kit.
Here, lately, our needs are changing. Gaye and Shelly (aka SurvivalWoman and Survival Hubby) have pretty well kitted-out their place. At this point, the only kind of events which could seem likely to drive them out of their home in the San Juan Islands would be events that would be classed as “unthinkable” – things like a nuclear attack on the Seattle area, or that 9.0 (or larger) that gives civil preparedness workers the willies from Portland, Oregon to well north of Vancouver Island. They worry Mount St. Helens (1980) may have been only a foretaste of volcanic and tectonic action to come.
George’s more recent worries in East Texas relate to the drought last year which has killed off millions of trees in what was once the verdant green “Piney Woods” and the Texas Forest Trail Highway. Sure, it looks nice and green, even now, but if you look closely, you can see in the tops of some trees that needles are already falling of the trees that didn’t make it through the recent drought. It’s only a matter of time until they come down, and last year there were forest fires within four miles of George & Elaine’s place.
We have covered the contents of bug-out bags in detail in the past and will expand upon it further another time. Instead, the goal today is to get you to start thinking about gear bags in general; and who better to ask than Kelly Gendrou who runs SurvivalGearBags.com. We had a bunch of questions and as you will see below, Kelly very graciously responded.
Inquisitive Minds Want to Know
We can sort of guess at the answer to the first question but we will ask it anyway. How does a guy get into the grab-and-go and survival gear bags business, anyway?
Pretty simple really, I was getting more and more into preparedness and through my job, I had access to suppliers of most of the gear we offer now. We were also running online stores and doing order fulfillment for our clients. It seemed only natural to launch our own project, in something that I was passionate about.
After drilling into Kelly’s experiences, it turned out that the one area where people seem to have the most trouble is figuring out the right size for a bag. And he’s got some ideas…like sometimes “less is more…”
I like a more compact bag for everyday carry and constantly use my items just being out with the kids. If it were too big, it would end up just sitting in a trunk or in a closet. You might as well get as much use as you can out of the items, even if it is not an ’emergency’.
Keeping your kit modular or having a lot of attachment points can help accomplish this as well. Then you can take your main pack with you for a walk in the woods, while leaving some additional gear back in the car. Other times I leave the main pack in the car and just bring the first aid pouch over to the playground, or to the bench at the range.
Another solution can simply be utilizing compressions straps or some of our bags that have hidden pouches or expansion gussets that zipper away when not in use. In some cases these sections can almost double the size of the bag.
You can keep them nice and compact, and then when needed, you have extra room to store extra layers of clothing or other supplies.
So size is important. You want a bag that will hold all of your gear without being so bulky that you will never want to carry it.
As you may have guessed from our ads for Survival Gear Bags, we really like their products and feel they are top notch. As a resulted we were thrilled to be given an opportunity to create a customized kit for Strategic Living. And when we did, we decided to stock the kit with mostly convenience things. Like the weather radio, for example. After all, we both know from our seafaring days, it is nice to know what the weather’s going to be, so if you need to hole up you can.
Even with some MRE’s and water, Kelly looks at every gear bag as something that has to be highly customized to the needs of the people who might have to use it. So we asked: Beyond the items in these kits, what do you recommend as additional items for someone that is just getting started in putting together a Survival Kit?
People will need to add seasonal clothing items, or just a change of clothes. You never know what you might be wearing at the time of an emergency.
Data is also very, very important. Having a detailed contacts list, important account info, and reference materials/guides can make a huge difference.
Although you will survive 72 hours without food, the situation will be a bit more comfortable with some nourishment.
Medicine or other medical items unique to your situation.
A book or deck of cards. In some situations you may be relatively safe but end up stuck until weather clears or until help arrives.
Of course, knowing some of the basics of how to walk out of trouble, is useful, too. We especially like the “when lost” advice that says simply: “Walk down hill” . . . it’s hard to walk very many miles down most rivers of any size without coming to a bridge or a settlement.
Most people will never have to think through survival strategies of how to walk out of rugged terrain after ditching a plane, or having a boat sink and washing ashore on the coast somewhere. What most of us really need to think about what will be needed if trouble looked you up at the home where you live?
Which got us to asking Kelly what can a person do on a really limited budget . . . and by limited, say $100 bucks . . . to get a grab-and-go kit ready?
Just start going through your house and gathering up any items that help accomplish some of the key areas. A lighter, an old flashlight, some extra batteries, bandages and gauze, an old blanket, toilet paper, wipes, pocket knife, contact lists, poncho or rain coat, rope, a section of duct tape, etc. See where you fall short and then just buy those key additional items.
Even if you end up buying gear to build kits for each car, or for each family member, this can be a good exercise to get started. Think of the possible scenarios that you are preparing for, and what items you might need in those situations. There is really no excuse to not put together at least a minimal kit.
So just what are bright prepper types thinking about, planning for, and buying these days?
Wow, blast boxers. Who’d would have thought.
A Word About Ready-Made Kits
Both of us really appreciate the time Kelly took with us but before signing off. We have a few more comments of our own as it relates to the gear you select for your kit, especially since we are both firm believers that the value proposition is an important consideration when it comes to survival gear.
The ready-made survival kits you find online and in stores with a hundred items for $99 are usually filled with low-quality garbage, or things you can easily add from stuff around your house. That said, those kits might be fine for some people who don’t want to put effort into a custom kit, or only need the items to work once and plan on having it just sit in a drawer or trunk. On the other hand, a quality survival kit should be sturdy and useful in a myriad of situations – large crises or small bumps in the road – and the gear inside should be designed to last.
As far as contents are concerned, choose high-quality items that you can supplement with your own supplies, clothing, food, personal care medications, wipes and other specifics unique to your situation.
The Strategic Living kit we have put together (see below) is just one example of a decent survival kit. We do not claim it to be the end all of all kits out there. If you are interested in a different selection of items, you can build a custom kit on the Survival Gear Bags site – and believe us when we say there is a lot to choose from. Or you can shop around locally or online to put something comparable together. Just keep in mind that if you run around from store to store, you may kill a lot of time and we can pretty much guarantee the cost will be more.
Summing It Up
Spring is a great time of the year to get the grab and go (bug-out) survival kit ready. It is also a good time to make sure your car is stocked up with basics such as a little bit of food and fresh water and to check that the first aid kit is not horribly out of date.
At some point, the winter is going to end (although in the Northwest there are still bets to be made on that) and with it comes more time in the out of doors.
So whether it’s something you could grab and go while “rough-it” camping, something you take with you on outdoor adventures, or in the case of the recent quake in Mexico and last year’s Japan quake, something that truly saves you in a survive or die situation, the need to bone up on your gear and your survival bag is now. After all, the future is not looking a whole lot friendlier here, lately.
The Strategic Living Kit from Survival Gear Bags. Talk about two heads getting together to come up with the ultimate gear bag! We spent a bit of time coming up with a checklist of things we would want with us if we were either stranded (say in a storm), in a wreck (heaven forbid a “ditch the plane” situation), or even in a bug out situation.
The Strategic Living Kit is well priced at $249 discounted from $337 and shipping is free. We think this is a good value.
Of course not everything can fit in a single bag. After all, you still need food, a sleeping bag,and some personal comfort items. No worries. With the help of Kelly at Survival Gear Bags, we have put together the basics and then some. Using some of the advice above, you can add items unique to your situation as time and budget allow.
Introducing Strategic-Living: a practical and useful online magazine providing inspiration and guidance as we make our way through the maze of changes that are coming our way. In collaboration with my friend and colleague, George Ure, Strategic-Living will offer a synthesis of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival with much more detailed tips, tools and strategies for creating a vibrant and sustainable lifestyle wherever your path may take you. Think of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival as your roadmap and Strategic-Living as your detailed guidebook. Here you will find articles and photos, diagrams and how-to’s, and a healthy dose get-out-there and do it with kick-in-the-ass inspiration.