On September 11, 2001 I became a prepper, and if you saw the writing on the wall, you did too. I was in High School, and I remember watching as the second plane hit tower two, the third hit the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field. That week I prepared my very first bug out bag, which I still have to this day in the back of my truck.
I hope you all have some basic preps that are easily accessible (and no, living next to a Walmart doesn’t count) but if you are like 99% of the USA at the moment, you are woefully unprepared for what could potentially happen in the near future. With that in mind, I wildly scrivened this article in the hopes that it might inspire you into becoming as prepared as you possibly can be.
When it comes to prepping, the skills are more valuable than the gear, but there are a few things you should probably have. The first item most preppers buy, in my experience, is a good knife. A knife, for all intents and purposes is the most important and versatile prepping tool you can own. I believe in redundancy, so each of my bags has two fixed blade knives, at least one multi tool and a machete (which I carry instead of a hatchet). When you buy a fixed blade knife DO NOT go cheap. Buy a full tang knife with a steel grade that will hold an edge and not break. There are several cool looking knives on eBay and Amazon that are cheap. Just remember that you get what you pay for.
The second item is usually the bag itself. I have three bags for different situations. I keep two bags in my car, and one large bag in my house. In my car I keep a cold weather bag and a warm weather bag. Each bag contains 72 hours of food and water, clothing appropriate for the season, shelter, fishing and hunting tools, and renewable lighting sources (crank flashlights are amazing). Do not get a cheap bag. The last thing you want in your bug out is to have a seam bust. Even if you have thread, duct tape, or other repair options, remember that repair costs time.
Fire starting tools are so important that I keep a Nalgene bottle filled with matchbooks, flints, steels and lighters. Without fire there is no warmth, there is no cooking of food and there is no hardening of wood for tools. I also advise learning how to make a fire without these tools. The bow drill is my favorite. Remember to keep small, controlled fires and observe light discipline. Do not burn wet wood to minimize smoke. Do not pass up the opportunity to gather tinder. My favorite is dryer lint. It is light, compressible and extremely flammable. I keep a ziplock bag of dryer lint in each of my bags.
Let’s talk about food. I know lots of you are probably stockpiling MRE’s, and I do too, but only for a bug in situation. In a bug out situation you are going to want compact, light and non-thirst inducing food. For this I went to the Coast Guard. Datrex and Mayday have some of the best long term storage survival food I have ever come across.
Datrex has a pleasant coconut shortbread flavor and texture which is specifically designed for survival at sea. Each package contains 72 hours’ worth of food for one person (2,400 kcal) and has a shelf life of around five years. The package is light, and measures 3×3 ½ x 3 ½ inches and is 100% air tight in mylar. Datrex also makes emergency drinking water pouches which are a nice compliment to the food. It holds 124 mL of water and you should drink at least 2 per day unless on the move, in which case you should drink more. These are nice for emergencies, but you should find a renewable source of water pronto.
Mayday has pretty much the same exact set up, except the package is bigger, and there is 3,600 kcal per package. The package is slightly heavier, and much bulkier.
Both brands are Coast Guard approved and come with usage directions. It doesn’t matter how much ammo you have. If you can’t feed yourself….. well you get it.
Water is more important than food. Get over it. It is. Rain catchment systems are great for bug in’s (even though some states are outlawing them now) but good luck lugging a huge barrel of water into your truck. I carry as little water as I can get away with practically, but I make sure I have plenty of water purification tools.
There are straws with carbon filters that you can use to drink out of semi clean water; you can boil your water, distill it, or even get those fancy bottles with the UV lights (I don’t trust them). I keep carbon filter straws in each of my bags, as well as a filter pump in each of my bigger bags. Always have purification tablets (and yes, I know they make the water taste awful) but get some crystal light or MIO water sweeteners.
MIO has caffeine in some of them and crystal light has some salts which are essential. SALT WILL KEEP YOU ALIVE. The depletion of salt in your body is called hyponatremia and is not a good situation. Salt tablets are great, but if you forget them at home, you should lick your sweat. Do not, however drink salt water. You will hallucinate.
After fire, food, water, a bag and a good knife the next most important thing is shelter. A tent is great, but it can stick out like a sore thumb and it is heavy and unwieldy. Bivy sacks are great, but they are heavy. Mylar blankets are great but they are noisy AND they stick out like a sore thumb. Bring the mylar blankets anyway, they are light and you can use them to line your clothes in the winter.
I keep a full zip insulated hammock in each of my bags. This eliminates the need for a tent or a sleeping bag. They are OD green and can be camouflaged further with foliage. For rain proofing, just hang a tarp between the trees. Mine is camouflage and is just great at a distance. In a hammock, you have no fear of snakes, most crawling bugs, flowing water or an imprint on the ground, such as the one left by a tent. Each hammock also packs into a bag the size of a grapefruit and weighs practically nothing. The best part is the cost, however. Be prepared to spend under $60 for the whole set up!
The next most important thing, in my humble opinion, is first aid. I keep fully stocked surgical kits in each of my bags. You may not want to go this route. I don’t suggest it if you don’t have an advanced knowledge of medicine. Make sure to keep a tourniquet, bleed stop bandages, vet wrap, band aids, Neosporin or bacitracin, alcohol wipes, gauze, and most importantly iodine wipes. You may also want to include a topical anesthetic like lidocaine gel for bug bites and burns as well.
Learning to hunt and catch food is important as well. Your food supplies should only be used when necessary as they have longer shelf life then the perishables you should be able to gather. Small game is great for two reasons. It is more plentiful, easier to carry and dress and you can catch and kill them using snares, tin can traps or my personal favorite, the slingshot.
I carry a sling shot to conserve ammo and observe noise discipline. Stay away from raccoons though. They carry a worm called Baylisascaris which is an ascarid that is deadly to humans. The egg is the most robust roundworm egg in the genus. It is basically a tiny King Tiger Tank which can survive heat and chemicals. It cutaneously migrates (burrows through the skin) and moves north towards the brain. It will pass the blood brain barrier and IT WILL KILL YOU. Do not eat raccoons.
For larger game I carry a recurve bow that breaks down into three pieces for slick storage. Do not use your ammo on game. It dirties your firearms and breaks noise discipline.
Learn how to smoke or salt your meats for storage with large game.
Fishing is a great way to get food, and as any good prepper or outdoorsman knows, camping out next to a river or lake is really important. I prefer rivers to lakes, as moving water tends to be cleaner, the fish are easier to catch with traps, and there are usually springs feeding them. No matter how clean the water looks, always boil it and filter it first. You do not want a bad case of giardia or cryptosporidium.
I am not going to go into fishing techniques, however the US Army Survival Guide is a great resource for learning rod-less fishing techniques.
A light source is also very important. I have an LED crank flashlight in each of my bags. They even have a USB port on them so you can charge your iPod. As we all know, sanity is really important. The red cross sells a very affordable and tough as nails crank light on Amazon.com.
Now I come to a sensitive subject in the prepping community. Physical health and fitness. If you are overweight you are going to want to lose it. The good news is, you can lose it by hiking every day with your freshly packed bag! I hike 3 miles every day plus 10 miles a day on the weekends. You have to practice. You do not want to be applying your knowledge in the field for the first time during an emergency.
This article is not even close to everything you need to know, and is focused on wilderness bug out situations. The intent of this piece is not to give you a guide, but to educate in certain areas, and to hopefully get you thinking about what you can do in the immediate future to ensure the survival of you, your family and the American way of life.