Increasing uncertainty about the future economic climate in the United States, and the world, has made some aspects of “survivalism” much more popular in recent years. The idea of having a “bug-out bag” or survival kit is now, if not mainstream, much more common among conservatives and libertarians than it once was. The divide, now more than ever, seems to be one not of “haves” and “have-nots,” but of “copers” and “non-copers.” Copers take responsibility for themselves, their safety and their well-being. Sometimes described as “preppers” (because they believe in being prepared), those individuals who believe in stockpiling and storing supplies for future emergencies are assembling and caching survival kits in what must be greater numbers than ever before.

Survival kits and bug-out bags, or BOBs (the latter so named because they sustain the traveler while he or she flees an emergency to a place of greater safety), are not created equal. The contents of your kit will vary based on both the placement of the kit and its intended environment and users. The daunting task before most concerned citizens, then, is just how to apply technology to the problem of emergency preparedness. Stated another way, most people know that there exist a great many pieces of technology, of “kit,” that could potentially be of use to them. How, then, does one select the items one chooses to stockpile for future emergencies?

While the specifics vary within context, every survival kit’s contents can be divided into 10 arbitrary categories. If your kit addresses these categories, it is reasonably complete. The categories are as follows:

  • Signaling
  • Fire
  • Protection
  • Utility
  • Navigation
  • Water
  • Light
  • Line
  • Medical
  • Bandanna

Signaling is the ability to call for help, even if you’re injured. That might be a whistle, on which you blow the SOS Morse code (three short, three long, three short). It might be a mirror used to flash over long distance for help. It could be any of several other devices, all of which are used to contact other human beings for assistance.

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Fire is useful for everything from providing light to boiling water for sanitation to providing warmth. It also has utility purposes, such as for sealing paracord, hardening wooden spear and stake points, etc.

Protection in this context has nothing to with weapons (or condoms). Rather, it is something to protect you from the elements – a pancho, a survival blanket, your clothing, etc. Sheets of plastic or a tarp used to create shelter fall under this category, too.

Utility refers to a means of manipulating your environment – a knife, a multitool, etc. Multitools are great utility items for survival kits because you just can’t anticipate what tasks might confront you. A mutltitool, by design, is a compact, multiple-use implement for dealing with unpredictable needs.

Navigation could be as simple as a map showing street references if you’re in an urban area. It could also be a compass, a GPS system (which, in some emergency situations, may not operate), or some other method of figuring out where you are.

Water is life. You have to have water to survive for any length of time. Because water is so heavy and you require so much of it, however, it’s impractical to carry your full water requirement with you. Rather, your kit should have a means to carry water that you can replenish periodically from found supplies (a canteen, for example) and a means of purifying water (chemical tablets, a metal cup in which to boil water, or a filter bottle). Remember, it isn’t enough to be able to transport water. You have to be able to make that water safe to drink.

Light is critical if you are to continue doing anything at night or in low-light conditions. Most often, the light in your kit will come in the form of a flashlight. If you choose a flashlight that runs on batteries, make sure you have plenty of spares and that you rotate out expired stock.

Line is rope, paracord, or even string. It can be used to make shelter and to do countless other things. Your ability to mold your environment to suit your needs increases vastly when you have a good supply of strong line.

Medical needs are covered by your first aid kit. You should have a quality first-aid kit, the contents of which you are intimately familiar, and you should include, whenever possible, a manual on basic first aid. Such a book can double as entertainment reading when you have down-time (although, granted, it’s pretty dry stuff). Remember that if you have specific, special medication needs, you have to have a good stockpile on hand to get you through an emergency. If you need insulin, for example, you had better have enough to get you through the typical emergency. Most planners recommend supplies for three to five days.

A bandanna is the single most useful “survival” item you can carry. The same can be said of a scarf, a shemaugh, a kefiyah, a towel, or any other square of cloth. A bandanna can act as a filter, a breathing mask, a carrying pouch, a bandage and even a weapon (if you know how). It takes up almost no room, and its weight is negligible. Every survival kit and bug-out bag you build should have a couple of these.

Your bug-out bag or survival kit can contain anything you wish it to contain, based on your personal needs, the environment you anticipate you’ll face and your own preferences. For the kit to even begin to be “complete,” however, it should address these 10 categories in some way. Through trial and error, you can further refine what you carry, eliminating what is useless and carrying duplicates for what is useful.

This is technology at its most fundamental. To survive – and to prepare for survival – in the face of adversity is why, at its root, all technology is developed. Humans are tool-users. The time to stockpile and prepare your tools is before you require them.

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