Step 5: What to Bring With You

Remember, the most important thing to save is your life and the lives of your loved ones.  You may loose valuables and items of great sentimental value in a disaster, but if you can escape with your life it is a fair trade.  Think of all the 9/11 families who would trade their homes for the lives of their missing family member.

Captain Dave keeps a bug-out bag in the closet. You can keep one in your garage or on a coat hook, anywhere that is convenient.  A bug-out bag is the first — and possibly only — thing you grab when you’re bailing out. When the fire alarm is going off, for example, grab the kids, the bug-out bags and get out.

Bags, you say? Yes, bags. Each member of the family should have his or her own bug out bag.  The best bug-out bag is a well-made, medium to large back pack.  Unless there is a strong possibility that you will be hiking cross country, Dave does not recommend large backpacking packs with internal or external frames.  A sturdy day pack with padded shoulder straps and a waist belt should be enough. This way, you can look casual without raising suspicions.

Bug-Out-Bag Contents

What should you include in your bug-out bag? Ask 100 people and you’ll get 100 answers, but here’s what Captain Dave suggests:

Must Haves Nice to Have
At least $500 in cash, including plenty of smaller bills for incidentals and change for tolls and vending machines.  Keep in mind that when the power is out, many stores can’t use their cash registers and insist on either exact change or to the closest dollar. Gold or silver coins. (Dimes, quarters and half-dollars and silver dollars minted before 1965 contain 90 percent silver.) A one-ounce gold American Eagle, Maple Leaf or coin may be too big for day-to-day transactions, but smaller gold coins are available.
Spare or duplicate credit cards with plenty of credit available.  Granted, in a grid down situation, you may never get to use it, but if you need to rebuild your life, it’s good to have access to credit. An ATM card, preferably for a large national bank.  In a large regional disaster, your local bank’s data center may be destroyed or disabled.  Also, you can walk into a CitiBank or BankAmerica in any state and get access to your account, which you may not be able to with a local bank or credit union.
Your passport or other ID A duplicate driver license or expired passport.
A spare set of keys, including car, house, safe-house/survival retreat, storage facility, safe deposit box, etc. A list of combination lock combos.
A change of clothes, preferably durable heavy-weight clothes that can stand up to abuse.  A poncho for rain protection. Multiple changes of clothes. 

A season-appropriate jacket and other outerwear, such as gloves and hat

.Clothes suitable for layering (thermals, sweatshirt, etc.).

A pair of old, comfortable, already-broken-in shoes that still have some good miles left in them. Several pairs of extra socks and a pair of outdoor sandals or flip flops
A bivy sack, patrol bag, or other small, lightweight sleeping bag. A couple space blanketsA tarp and bungee cords to rig up a shelter
At least two quarts of water per person, preferably in canteen or water bottle suitable for re-use. Juice boxes or pouches.Two- to three-liter hydration bladders of water with hands-free bite valves
Water purification tablets and a survival straw type of filter Powdered drink mixesSports bottles with built-in water filters

Pump water filters like those used by backpackers

Food: A few MREs or other easily transportable food items that do not require preparation, including some quick snack foods.  Power bars, candy bars, hard candy, gorp, granola, pouches of tuna or chicken, crackers, etc. Food that requires minimal preparation, such as powdered soup mixes, Mountain House or similar pouches of freeze-dried food, etc.A small mess kit and/or canteen cup for cooking in
Prescription or over-the-counter drugs you rely on.  At least a two-week supply.  More is better. Unfilled prescriptions you can take to a pharmacy anywhere to be filled.  Your insurance card.
A spare pare of eyeglasses (perhaps your old prescription) and/or contacts and solutions. A duplicate of your standard ophthalmic eye-wear and/or a few pairs of daily or extended-wear contacts.
A basic first aid kit, including bandages, an ace-type bandage, mole skin, ibuprofen or other analgesic, tiple antibiotic ccream, alcohol pads, etc. A more advanced first aid kit, including splints, sutures, antibiotics, splints, pain killers, a tourniquet, QuikClot, etc.
A phone book or contact list with all important numbers, including friends, family, neighbors, work, school, doctor, insurance, etc. (in case you lose your cell phone) A spare battery and solar charger for your existing phone.
A tactical flashlight with multiple brightness levels Spare batteries and a solar recharger
A portable AM/FM radio and earphone to hear news Extra batteries. A world-band or shortwave radio
A good work knife and a multi tool A large survival or combat knife.

A wire saw or a folding saw

A hatchet or machete (split up between different party members)

A compass and maps A portable GPS
Matches and a lighter A magnesium fire starter, flint and dry tinder.
For those so inclined, a basic pistol, such as a revolver chambered for .357 or a pistol in 9mm or larger, and at least 50 rounds of ammunition. Loaded speed loaders or magazines and a comfortable belt and holster. A rifle and/or shotgun with a sling and extra ammunition.
A flash drive back up of your important computer files, including scans of important documents, family pictures, etc. Cell phone charger A list of key passwords and URLs for cloud and other storage you can access
Solar powered cell phone charger

Remember, your bug-out bag is intended to be the bare minimum required for survival and (hopefully) enough to allow you to reintegrate into society at some point down the road.  It is the bare minimum intended to help you survive for a few days, regardless if that is at a motel off the Interstate or in the country side as you walk away from your abandoned car.

Your bug out bag is NOT the only thing you should take, but it IS the FIRST thing you should grab.  If the house is on fire, you grab your kids and the BOBs on the way out.  If the orange cloud of poisonous gas is being blown your direction, you snatch your BOBs, gas masks and run for the car.  But if you have hours or days of notice, you need to bring more.

If time allows, you should pack your car with a gallon or two of water per person and plenty of food that can be transported without refrigeration and eaten without extensive preparation.  Also pack plenty of weather-appropriate clothing, including multiple pairs of comfortable shoes and lots of socks.  Use normal luggage and keep these items in your car.  If the evacuation goes smoothly, you can unload at the other end.  If you run into extreme problems and have to hoof it, then you can abandon your luggage, keeping only your bug out bag.

If you are in a situation where you may need to evacuate for the long term, load every vehicle you have a driver for to maximum capacity and make good use of any trailers or campers.  You can fit far more into an RV or camper than you can into your car alone, and you will then have the advantage of always having a place to sleep.  Keeping a camper – even a small pop-up – stocked with food, clothing, bedding and personal hygiene materials will give you a head start when you have been ordered to evacuate in four hours.

If you have identified a safe house or have a retreat, but have not pre-positioned all your supplies there, you can keep them loaded onto a trailer.  When the time comes, you can hook up and drive out in minutes, but if you need to stay, you just unload the trailer when you need something.  This is an excellent approach for storing cases of MREs or buckets of wheat, corn or rice, all of which are heavy and would be time consuming to load.  You can also prepare bundles of items – such as camping supplies – and store them on shelves in the garage.  In the event of an emergency evacuation (or a sudden camping trip!), just throw things into the car or trailer and you are ready in a moment’s notice.

Beyond the Bug-Out-Bag

If you are evacuating for an indefinite period and believe that your house and its contents may be destroyed, you should take items in the following categories:

  • Financial instruments and small valuables, including cash, stock certificates, bonds, jewelry and any gold or silver coins.  These are items that are frequently not covered by insurance.
  • Important paperwork, such as recent bank statements, retirement and investment account, insurance records, marriage and birth certificates, mortgages, vehicle titles, etc.  These will make it easier to file claims for lost property, prove your identity, and access your assets.
  • Items of sentimental and personal value such as photo albums, baby books, family Bible, and things left to you by deceased relatives, etc.  In other words, irreplaceable or one-of-a-kind items that you would regret losing for the rest of your life.  These items should provide continuity to your past so that you are not starting out entirely from scratch.
  • Tablets, laptop computers, computer hard drives and back up with digital photos and records, palm pilots, iPods, cell phones, etc., so that you can remain in contact with people and pick up with your life where you left off.
  • Items to increase your comfort while displaced, such as a child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket, your comfortable shoes, your favorite pillow you can’t sleep well without, a favorite game or book, etc.  Also in this category are clothing items and toiletries, so pack a small suitcase and do not forget rain gear and temperature-appropriate outerwear.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags and pillows and a tent.  You may need to sleep in or near your car, or you may have to make do for a while with temporary shelter.  If you don’t have a tent, pack a tarp.
  • Food and water.  You may be in your vehicle for hours or days.  Worse yet, you may actually be living in or out of your vehicles for days or weeks while you find a temporary or semi-permanent home.  If the disaster is localized you don’t need to bring as much as you do if it is likely to have long term effects on most of the country.  It would be nice to be able to feed your family for at least a week.  Food that requires little or no preparation is best.
  • Weapons and ammunition.  Once you load your car with all your valuables, you could be a tempting target for criminals preying on refugees.  See the section on weapons during an evacuation.  Whether or not all the tales of rape and murder during Katrina were true, it is best to be able to defend yourselves.