They come in all shapes and sizes and bearing different names, but they all serve the same purpose- just varying degrees. They are our survival bags, and they bring with them peace of mind. If you don't have a survival bag (aka 'bug out bag' and 'EDC'), you better re-think it, because these useful little bags might just save your life one day soon.
You may never witness an F5 tornado, a major earthquake, a massive solar flare or a tree-tearing hurricane, but life is bound to escort you into a calamity at some point. Even if it already has in the past... especially if it already has in the past. Knowing that you have given yourself the items you need to see you through any of life's little (and big) surprises will build a confidence within you that is worth every penny and minute you spent on the bag.
But what kind of items will you need? Well, it depends a lot on your location and the season and how long of timespan you want to give yourself. There are 2 major types of preparation bags. There is an EDC: Every Day Carry and a traditional BOB: Bug Out Bag. All the others out there are generally just a variation of the two. The difference between these two types are generally size and scope. The EDC is going to be smaller and lighter and as a general rule will buy you 24-48 hours of comfort while stranded. The BOB on the other hand is going to have more supplies to extend your comfort out to 7 days or more, as well as tools that will allow you to make shelter where there previously was only wilderness.
In this article I will break down the basic requirements for an EDC. Keep in mind that these are just the basics; the bare minimum you should consider. Also, take your location and climate in to account while planning. As always with emergency planning, be redundant!
Water: 20-32 ounces. There are many different options for packing water. There are water pouches, flasks, bladders, canteens or a traditional 20oz plastic bottle (BPA free only). The choice is yours of course, but consider the bag size when you're deciding. Each one has it's pros and cons. Whenever possible, try to think up multiple uses for everything you pack. For example, if you chose a metal canteen or flask you could use it to boil new water if your stay was extended.
Food: The average active person burns around 2000 calories a day. You are not expected to carry that much. You will be in survival mode, not daily comforts mode. Pack no less than 800 calories per day though, more if you have room in your bag and budget. Calorie bars are the best option for short term emergency food. Most have important nutrients for energy in them and they leave no guessing as to how many calories they offer. Other options would be granola bars, nuts, dehydrated fruit. Really, anything of nutritional value that is sealed and can keep for a long period of time. With the EDC, size is usually a factor so I would not recommend MREs or large ready-made meals.
Fire: Time to get redundant! Pack no less than 1 lighter. The disposable kind work great and don't require extra fluid for refills, like the Zippo style. They are also more efficient with fuel usage. What they do lack though is reliability. So, if possible, pack several disposable lighters. Next pack waterproof matches. Yes, even though you have lighters, pack matches as well. You never know when an unexpected fall into a mud puddle will kill your lighter option. Waterproof matches are a modern day miracle.
For an EDC, not much more is required as far as fire-starting, but if you wanted to pack a flint striker or similar fire-starter I wouldn't mock you.
Tools: Knife and string-saw. As far as knives for the EDC go, I'm a fan of the Swiss Army style, but any compact knife will serve you well. A string-saw is not necessary but they are small and useful. Coghlan's makes a great one called the Commando Saw.
Warmth: Thermal blankets are a must. If you are unfamiliar with them, they are large thin sheets of plasti-foil that reflect close to 100% of all heat back at it's source. They are inexpensive and take up very little room. They are always displayed as body-wraps, but make fantastic liners for make-shift shelters.
Light. Batteries can corrode and/or die so for a survival bag I only recommend dynamo flashlights. There are several options from crank, shake or squeeze, but none are dependent on anything but the energy you can generate, and all work very well.
First Aid. At the very least pack a small kit with alcohol swabs, Band-Aids, and perhaps some gauze.
Ponchos, 2. Getting wet in a survival situation can lead to a complete breakdown of your spirit and can turn a dangerous situation into a deadly one. Keep yourself dry and your spirits high. Pack 2 ponchos per person you are planning for.
Dental Floss. From stitching up an injury to a ready-made fishing line, dental floss is useful, lightweight, inexpensive and takes up little room. Avoid flavored and scented options. A mint-scented wound will be no easier to tolerate, and fish don't seem to dig it either.
Hazard Bag. The human body has several ways to void itself as needed. The hazard bag is great for all of them. Once again, a trash bag works great.
Whistle. A good way to be found is to be heard. Look for an actual "emergency whistle". They are typically lightweight and durable. More importantly, they are intentionally loud and usually alarm over different frequencies to maximize the range they can be heard at. Adventure Medical makes very good whistles.
Fresh Pair Of Socks. No, I'm not kidding. Morale is the most important thing.
Please keep in mind that these are the basics and may not meet all of the requirements of your climate or family situation. Take your personal life into consideration when packing the bag meant to save it. Once you have found your needs and have the EDC fit for you stowed away in your vehicle or home-away-from-home, you will know the peace of mind that comes from an EDC. Just knowing that you've giving yourself a fighting chance against any unforeseen events makes it all worth it. You'll probably even find yourself spreading the word to your friends and family.
Feel free to leave questions or comments below.