Why your bug-out bag should be smaller than you think

By Pat McLene

Louisiana flooding
Louisiana flooding

Why we prep

Here’s another reason why you – and your friends and family – should prep:

During the recent flooding in Louisiana, some of the worst ever experienced in that region, local and state law enforcement and relief agencies quickly became overwhelmed. And so the “Cajun Navy,” a loosely associated bunch of local boat owners, stepped in to fill the breach.

You can read a pretty good account of what happened next in this article. By some estimates, volunteers outnumbered authorities by about 20 to 1. Some excerpts:

As soon as the waters of the Amite, Comite and Tickfaw rivers started rising, a massive citizen flotilla from down the street and across the state set to work pulling folks by the hundreds – along with sacks of possessions and frightened pets – from once-dry homes now surrounded by growing lakes.

Initially, authorities in Livingston Parish didn’t want private citizens headed into the water, worried amateur rescuers might end up in trouble themselves, said Layton Ricks, the parish president. But as the calls from stranded residents continued to mount – at one point, Livingston officials said they were about 150 calls behind – parish officials relented.

“Then it was like, do you have vests? Do you have insurance? Are you truly capable of doing this?” Ricks said. “And as it turned out, we couldn’t have done it without those guys. They were a tremendous asset for our people.”

What you won’t read, however, is the government reaction to these citizen-responders. Bet you can take a guess, though:

Cajun Navy may soon have to pay state fees before rescuing Louisiana victims

Yep, the “Cajun Navy,” using their own boats, money, fuel and time to rescue people who were trapped by the flood, may soon be required “… to pay a fee before they are allowed to do any good. ‘Don’t worry. It’s just a small fee,’ legislators explain. ‘Maybe only fifty dollars. That would be worth it to put authority behind the Cajun Navy, wouldn’t it?’

So if “authority” can’t handle the job, the next best thing is to force free citizens into “authority.” Oh, and make them pay for the privilege.

The government’s single, overriding concern is the government: first, last and always. When you have to pay a fee to save someone’s life, the wheels are coming off the train.

And that’s one of the reasons we prep.

So now it’s time to wrap up this series on getting to your “bug-out destination” (BOD). If, like me, you decided that living at your bug-out destination is the best plan of all, you can skip this week’s column. But since most folks haven’t made that decision, let’s briefly cover getting to your bug-out destination by foot.

Now why would you want to do that? Well, of course you don’t. What would normally be a trip of an hour or two in the family sedan could become many days of danger and deprivation, if for some reason your vehicle no longer works or the roads are impassible.

Is prepping the right thing for to do for Christians? Or should we just be trusting in the Lord? Learn about that balance in “Be Thou Prepared” by Carl Gallups – “Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble.”

In most posited national collapse scenarios, there is usually enough time (particularly if you’ve set your “trip wires” and “Go/No Go,” as covered in last week’s column) to beat the rest of the thundering herd out of the city and to your bug-out destination.

But there are a few potential disasters that could be so instantaneous, a vehicular self-evacuation will not be an option. Such an event might be an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, a large-scale nuclear attack, a massive solar flare, a regional earthquake or a volcanic eruption (think Yellowstone). Whatever the cause, your car may no longer be an option. And in such a case, your primary tool of egress becomes your bug-out bag (BOB).

A BOB is a last-ditch, hail-Mary-pass, Indiana Jones lead-lined refrigerator kind of tool. It needs to be lightweight and specifically tailored to meet the conditions between your home and your bug-out destination.

There are a lot of pre-made BOBs for sale on the internet. They usually contain a whole bunch of things you won’t need and can’t afford to be hauling around. Remember this: Weight is king. A BOB is a means to an end. If one of your ends is to build a chicken coup, one of your means is a hammer suitable for driving nails.


So, if you’ve already bought a commercial BOB, empty it out and put the bag on a scale. Now start adding items in the following order:

  • Food. You need three days of this, and it should be high calorie. ER Emergency Ration Food Bars contain 3600 calories, costs about 10 bucks and weighs about 2 pounds.
  • Water. You need lots of water, right? Uh-uh. You need to get a LifeStraw and maybe some water purification tablets and a couple of canteens. Water weighs 8.5 pounds per gallon, and if you’re hoofing it you’ll drink one gallon in a day. Keep a couple of one-quart canteens full (five pounds). You’ve already scouted out water sources on the way to your bug-out destination (you have done that, right?), so that’s where you’ll re-fill your canteens. Don’t count on water taps if the power is out. You’ll be looking for streams, ponds, springs and the like.
  • Fire starters. Include a couple of Bic lighters, some strike-anywhere matches and a fuel/accelerant source like hexamine tablets or homemade fire helpers. Maximum weight: half a pound.
  • Cutting tools. You want to have two cutting tools. One should be a good folding knife, the other a multi-tool like a Leatherman or Gerber. Total weight: One pound.

Bring a hundred feet of paracord, a tube tent, a trap/poncho and a couple of space blankets. Finally, throw in a couple of cotton rags or bandanas, a spare pair of socks, a small flashlight, a basic first aid kit and some paper money.

If you do it right, your entire BOB, including the bag, will weigh less than 15 pounds. If you come in less than that and feel like you could really carry more, add more food to a 15-pound total. Nothing else.

So why all the emphasis on a lightweight bag? First off, it’s not as light as you think (unless you are an experienced and recently practiced backpacker). Secondly, you won’t be needing fish hooks, a windup radio, a signal mirror, a plant identification card set or a solar cell array on your brief journey.

See, your purpose isn’t to hunt or fish or gather edible roots. You won’t be building a cabin or damming a stream. Your greatest chance of survival – of living – is to get from Point A (the city) to Point B (your bug-out destination, where all your fishhooks are waiting for you) as quickly as possible.

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Once you leave your home, your life expectancy drops like a falcon. You now have a 360-degree threat vector. And the odds that some bad guys with rifles have finally gotten over their post-apocalypse confusion/hangover and are hiding behind the hedge or tree ahead of you increases daily.

Until you get to your bug-out destination, you’re a rabbit, not a Rambo. You hide at the first appearance of trouble, and unless you feel really, really secure about the territory you’re traveling in, you do most of your scamper between 4 a.m. and noon.

So what about firearms? Although a lot of mom’s-basement-survivalists are about to blow their next mouthful of Cheerios all over the computer screen, unless you are an experienced and well-practiced soldier/hunter/shooter, you won’t be carrying a rifle. Handgun? Yes, and about 50 rounds max. Any shooting situation you will meet must be one you couldn’t run away from.

A good rifle is heavy. Ammunition is heavy. A scared and inexperienced shooter is more likely to hit a friend or an innocent than an opponent in a firefight. Plus, a person who doesn’t understand a long gun’s use and limitations is less likely to act like a rabbit, because they will wrongly think that they’re a wolf.

So there you go. There’s a lot more that you need to know about that trip from Point A to Point B. This column (as they say in Hollywood) is a treatment, not a script. And everything else is entirely up to you.

What are your realistic chances for getting out of a city alive in most of the commonly discussed SHTF scenarios? Good, if you plan ahead and leave by vehicle before all your trip wires are sprung (now would be best); and fair, even on foot, if you have a plan, have practiced your plan, are fit, know your route (water locations, hideout spots, acceptable detours, friends along the way) and are carrying a lightweight situation-specific BOB.

But in all honesty, if you’re not prepared to make the trip, don’t. You won’t make it. And none of the above preps will ultimately keep you alive without a bug-out destination.

In later columns I’ll cover the concept of bugging-in. But until then, find yourself a bug-out destination, work to get it secured, scout out your route from A to B. And get prepared.

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