You don’t have to be a Survivalist to want to be prepared for an emergency. It can be as simple as wanting to be ready “just in case.” My grandparents would have been ready, in the car, and down the road in a heart beat. I don’t know how, and I never got the opportunity to ask. But being prepared was always in the background.
At the age of 11, I began my journey into the art of survivalism. One day in September, 1964, I sat in the backseat while my father drove, inching down a highway due to a very bad traffic accident. I recall looking out the window at a horrific scene and thinking “that would never happen to us because my Dad is a great driver.” Three weeks later it was our turn to be in a horrendous traffic accident, and I was the only one who walked out alive. Never say “never”, or that it can’t happen to you – it can.
At present, and in this political climate, there is nothing wrong with having a backup plan, to expect the unexpected, and to have extra supplies on hand. And there is nothing wrong with having a backpack ready to go in case of acts of war, an out of control society, or acts of God. If you leave your survival skills to the expertise of others, during true survival situations you may find yourself without support and used.
You see, under a true survival situation, compassion and welfare go right out the door! Do not expect that anyone is there to help you or you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is time to rely on your skills and knowledge. Should you feel that you are lacking in this area, it’s always wise to do some online studying when possible.
So, are you ready? Let’s get a bag together…just in case.
Get a backpack
It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be lightweight and comfortable. Walking with an uncomfortable pack that’s digging into your shoulders or throwing your back out is a detriment. I purchased a pack at Walmart for $59.99 (Outdoor Gama - 32 liters), walked 600 miles across Spain, and I’d buy it again – it was that great of a pack.
Choose a pack with padded shoulders, and a wide, nicely padded waist belt. Your pack is going to be resting more on your hips than your shoulders. At the end of a day, your shoulders, neck, and back will thank you for all the padding and support.
Do NOT pick out pretty colors. This is not a fashion show. You want something that blends in such as camo, greens, browns, or earth colors. Pink camo is not a consideration except when hiding from deer, so forget Pink, Muddy Girl, or Harvest Orange Camo. You do NOT want to stand out in the crowd.
A 32 liter pack is a good size and not overly large. Weight is everything, and this will give you more than enough room for what you NEED.
A Lesson In Need and Want
There are two things you need during survival – Food and Shelter. That’s it! The fewer things you can take, the better off you’ll be. Keep in mind that you might have to run with this pack on, and oh my! Is that a feat – even when you’re in shape.
When I walked the Camino, friends were trying to be helpful, so they brought me all sorts of items they thought would help my trip. Each of them was described as “Here’s [fill in the blank] and it doesn’t weigh anything!” After two days, I had 26 pounds of items that didn’t weigh anything.
EVERYTHING weighs something. A good rule of thumb is to not carry more than 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, figure 15 pounds and that includes the weight of the pack. Believe me, it’s difficult to accomplish.
This is not a holiday excursion, and so you’ll find a stripped down version predicated on need, not want. And except for item number 14, I have used all these items in various situations, and can attest to their usefulness.
What To Take In A Survival Pack
1. Two additional pair of Carhartt or Smart Wool Socks. (Three pairs total – one to wear, two in the pack). Do not use cotton socks as they will tear the skin off your feet. Cotton socks will also not last. Your feet are your number one priority as they will get you to your destination. Choose merino wool and you’ll be grateful you did.
2. Two pair of wide-band, cotton boy-style underpants, or something similar. (Three pairs total – one to wear, two in the pack). Some would say that’s one pair too many, but I will allow for this splurge. You do not want nylon, and thongs are worthless. If you can’t stand the idea of cotton, don’t wear any – there’s a reason.
3. Packaged food that can be reconstituted with water – at least two meals per day for one week. That’s 14 packs, and it’s going to take up a lot of room. Do not pack any boxes; take packages out of their boxes. 14 packages of food at 6 ounces a piece, is already 5.25 pounds. This will decrease with each day, so you’ll just have to endure at the beginning. The more fit you are, the better you’ll be able to carry the additional weight for the first few days.
4. One spoon.
5. One folding survival knife with several functions. It does not have to be large, and the lighter, the better. It does not have to have the ability of a Swiss Army Knife, but it needs to be very sharp.
6. One small, super lightweight pot. You can cook and eat out of it. If you purchase a D ring, you can connect it to the outside of your pack, leaving room inside for other items. You do not need a lid.
7. A couple of larger D rings, and a extra pair of long shoe strings. You can use these for all sort of needs besides the obvious.
8. Two little packs of Compede (for your feet, but can be used for other things as well).
9. A water bottle and several water-filter straws. Be sure the straws filter out Giardia – very, very important.
10. 2-5 microfiber cloths. These are your washcloths, your toilet paper, your bandages, for some ages – your period pads, and many other uses. Keep them clean and wash the soiled ones each night. They will come in extremely handy if supplies are not available. Clothing and cloths can be attached to the outside of your pack for drying during the day. Let the sun do its job while you’re walking.
11. Optional: For cycling women - I suppose I would splurge and fill one side pocket of my pack with a month’s supply of Tampax. Use only if you can’t get supplies from a charity source, or store along the way. This is also weight that will decrease.
12. One bar of soap. Go for a grapefruit, tea tree, or strong pleasant scent. It will be your body soap (grapefruit scent works as a deodorizer), your shampoo, and laundry/dish soap. Soap is soap. It’ll work.
13. Toothbrush and toothpaste.
14. One small bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen, if you can take it.
15. A few bandages with a Neosporin-type ointment. Don’t take the entire box of bandages and you don’t need an entire first-aid kit. That’s a lot of weight.
16. A bottle of Potassium Iodide. Potassium Iodide blocks the thyroid from absorbing potassium iodine that is found in nuclear explosions. Your thyroid will store the potassium iodine in a nuclear explosion, and ultimately destroy it. At the present time, there are only three brands FDA approved on the market – Iosat by Anbex, Thyrosafe by Recipharm AB, and Thyro Shield by Fleming and Co. You can Google CVS, Walgreens, and/or Walmart to find out the use and side effects of Potassium Iodide. This is not a prescription and can be found online from the companies mentioned. These should be ordered asap as they do run out and you can’t get them at the last minute.
17. Light-weight throw. This is a tough one. Are you leaving in the summer or the winter? Will you be driving, or totally on foot? In the summer, I’d tie one of the lightweight fleece throws to the bottom of my pack - AGAIN, no bright colors. In the winter, I’m going to try for the lightest weight sleeping bag I can find. Naturally, I’ll use this over the thermal jacket I’m wearing. You don’t need a pillow; you can use your pack for that, and I have.
Around your neck, carry a waterproof pouch where you can store a passport (if you have one), your bank card (if you have one), and your cash. Check often to make sure it’s still around your neck and hasn’t fallen off.
What to do with a Smartphone? I’d use it for a few days, and then ditch it – depending on the event. Smartphones can be used to track you, and you don’t want to be tracked. There will be enough people still carrying theirs to hear the news, if you need it. Keep your wits about you - listen well. Trust your gut. Trust little in others.
A Bug-out Bag should be ready to go at all times, so that you’re not wasting valuable time searching for your items and packing. This is a grab and go situation and time could be of the essence. The only thing you should have to stop and fill is your water bottle.
In the days ahead, I will discuss these and additional aspects of surviving on a shoestring. In the meantime, your assignment is to collect the items above. And when you acquire each one, place them in your pack. Then, put your pack on, and adjust the straps so that it feels good while walking about your home.
In the next article, we’ll discuss adjusting your pack, items, and clothes for the journey. Even if you don’t read any further, this will supply you with a bag that works.