The evening commute is in full swing. Traffic is bumper to bumper. Suddenly, there is a bright flash in the sky and your car dies. You try to start the car, but it is not working — not even making a sound. Around you, every driver starts stepping out of his vehicle. There has been a coronal mass ejection from the sun that has fried the electrical components in your car’s engine and subsequently knocked out the power grid. More than 10 miles from home, you find yourself with no way to get there other than the two feet below you. No problem! Just pop the trunk, grab your BOB and start heading home. You do have a BOB, right?
What Is A BOB?
BOB stands for “bug out bag.” A BOB is a bag (usually a backpack) that is strategically packed with life-sustaining and/or lifesaving equipment that contains a minimum of a couple of days’ worth of supplies. These bags are also known as a GHB (Get Home Bag or Go To Hell Bag), INCH (I’m Not Coming Home) Bag or GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) Bag. It is not expected that a BOB will provide a solution to every problem and it will not last forever, but it should help get you from point A to point B in an emergency.
Do You Need A Bug Out Bag?
Yes! There is really no other way to put it. Think of it as a form of insurance. Not only can a BOB provide the necessary supplies to make it home or leave a location quickly, but a BOB can provide a means to be comfortable if you get stuck somewhere longer than expected. Most of the components of a BOB can be procured from home or cheaply purchased from the store, making it hard to justify not having one. There is not a vehicle, closet or cubicle that I can think of that does not have room for a small backpack with a few supplies inside.
What Should I Put In My BOB?
Ultimately, what each person needs in their bag will depend on daily activities, local environmental conditions, etc. Consider the areas in which you live, work and travel, along with the type of clothing that you typically wear and how far or how long you may have to travel. These are all factors that can, and should, impact the items that are packed in your kit. One good example is footwear. If a person typically wears heels or dress shoes to work every day, a BOB should have a pair of walking shoes included. The last thing a person wants to do in a difficult situation is walk several miles in footwear that will tear up his feet.
Here are some items to consider including in your BOB:
- Emergency contact card: A card that is laminated or water-resistant that contains the name and contact methods for at least one emergency contact, along with the names of any medications you take and any allergies and/or medical conditions from which you suffer.
- Water: In addition to bottled water, consider including water purification tablets or a filter and drink mix to treat additional water and well as potentially overcome poor-tasting water.
- Food: Include only foods that don’t require special storage or handling and that stay good for extended periods of time. Items like meal-replacement bars, beef jerky, hard candies and MREs are all good examples.
- Fire: The ability to start a fire can provide a way to stay warm, cook food, signal or even discourage visits from wildlife. Keep at least two fire-starting methods in a BOB. My favorite fire-starting tools include lighters, waterproof matches, fire steels and magnifying glasses. It can also be helpful to include a form of tinder, fire starter or fuel tab.
- Light: Don’t get caught in the dark! Include a flashlight, LED light or chemical light sticks.
- Knife and/or multi-tool: A good knife is hard to beat but make sure you follow local laws. Even in some places where knives are less than welcome, a multi-tool is acceptable to possess. A multi-tool also offers additional functions and features that a knife does not.
- Survival blanket: Include at least one Mylar survival blanket or bivvy sack to help maintain body heat.
- Garbage bag or poncho: Pack something to keep you dry when it rains.
- Socks: If you might have to walk anywhere, pack a change of socks. The great thing about socks is that they can be used to clean the junk out of water before filtering it. A pair of socks can even be used as a set of improvised mittens in the cold.
- Gloves: Keep your hands warm and prevent them from getting torn up with a pair of work gloves.
- Watch cap or ski cap: Even during the warmer months of the year temperatures can drop during the hours of darkness. One way to help maintain body heat is by wearing a stocking or fleece cap.
- Whistle: A whistle is a great way to signal for help and can also be used to scare off wildlife.
- First-aid kit: Stuff happens. Keep a basic first-aid kit on hand to deal with cuts and scrapes at a minimum.
- Medications: If you take maintenance medications or suffer from a condition that may require intervention with medication, ensure that at least a week’s worth of meds are kept in your kit.
- Bandana: A bandana can serve many purposes, including serving as a dust mask, bandage or even a tourniquet.
- Toilet paper: Nature will call eventually, and there are not many high-quality alternatives to toilet paper.
- Tape: Waterproof duct tape can be of great assistance when it comes time to fix a piece of broken gear, build a shelter or improvise a solution to a problem. It is easy to carry several feet of duct tape by wrapping it flat on an empty gift card.
- Sewing kit: Make sure that your bag and clothing is always able to be repaired by including a sewing kit.
- Nylon line: Any type of nylon line can be useful for making a shelter or repairing equipment or for use as means of trapping small animals and fish. It can even be used as a replacement shoe lace if one of yours breaks.
- Cash: In the event of a disaster, cash is king. When systems of support are down, most businesses will be unable to accept credit cards or checks as forms of payment. Possessing cash in the form of small bills is a great solution for making purchases during times where other payment methods may not be taken.
This is by no means a complete list, but should be able to serve as a primer for putting together a BOB or emergency kit. While it is not typical to expect that you will find yourself in need of such a kit, there is no worse situation than to be in need and to find yourself lacking these basic items. The best course of action that everyone can take is to assemble a simple BOB and keep it with you in your vehicle, at the office or in the hall closet. This will go a long way in decreasing the chances of finding yourself in the middle of a nightmare and having no means of dealing with the situation.
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