The mentality of a bug out bag – G. Stevens

The greatest motto for any organization was trademarked by the  Boy Scout, which is, ‘Be Prepared.’  I spent a combined total of 32 years in the Marine Corp & the Boy Scouts (BSA). My experience has taught me a thing or two about being prepared. Regardless of all the over-nighters I’ve been on, my education did not come over night.  Correct principles of preparedness are discovered through long and uncomfortable situation and mistakes, and sometimes it’s down right painful.  The painful lessons usually came from my beloved Marine Corps.  The sum of the experience can be restated as a quote from a former platoon sergeant,

“You may love the Marine Corps, but some time she won’t love you back!”

In preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, you will discover that preparedness does not come in a “one size fits all” label. The perfect solution is defined with experience & balance to achieve your specific mission (goals, purpose).

The Bug Out Bag | 4-Key Points

Over the years, I have considered the best balance of critical points to cover. I’ve come up with 4 key points to the bug out bag.  I put them in the order of importance to what I have found through my own experience and time in the field.

Bug Out Bag | Hydration

The three critical principles of hydration are collection, purification & storage.  As your day and activities unfold, hydration will be one of the most important items to continually consider.  An Infamous Marine-ism from an old Gunny of mine states,

“If you don’t need to pee, you’re wrong.  Drink!”

Hydration is second only to personal safety while in the field or just being out and about. An adage of the Israeli Special Forces Instructors is to hydrate every three kilometers. A body in motion needs water, continually!  Those headaches or migraines the morning after camping, hunting, or patrolling is from dehydration; especially if there is any consumption of other types of beverages that are enjoyed after the fermentation process.

Bug out Bag | Prepared to Survive


This is a broad sweeping point that could cover everything from an emergency Mylar blanket to a Bic lighter. Here is a list of the survival items I carry:

3 different methods for starting a fire, I also carry 2 types of catalyst for sustaining the fire
Small Gerber hatchet
Leather-man Tool
Pair of leather palm, light weight, work gloves
‘Head Light’ hands free flash light
1/2 dozen instant hand warmers
550 cord, mil-spec
duct tape, small roll
military lensatic compass
Sun screen
Bug spray
Jet Boil stove
Freeze dried food packages
Combat Application Tourniquet, called a CAT
Note: I may only keep some of the freeze dried food in the bag that I think I’ll need, or just an emergency ration instead of meals for days.  You can live with out food if you have to, but you CAN NOT live with out water for very long.  Some of the meals I may remove for weight consideration, I substitute other items that I will cover in the last section I labeled Personal/Extra Stuff. I have learned that a water proofed bag, with water proofed gear inside, makes for a less miserable experience while in the field.  So I have learned which store bought zip-lock plastic bags work best for water proofing your gear.  About 90% of all my gear in my bag is water proofed to some extent.  My lighters, extra socks, sun screen, and even my bug spray is a plastic baggy.

Bug Out Bag | First Aid

First aid equipment should always be water-proofed, and using ziplock baggies is inexpensive, light-weight & easy. If I go any where, first aid items are always with me:

EMT Sheers (1)
Ace Bandage (1-2)
2 in. Coban wrap, 2+yards in length
Gauze Wrap (5)
individually packaged, then all in their own larger water proof bag
The items below are in their own large water proof bag, some items are grouped together in smaller baggies for ease of use and for organizational purposes.  This is the ziplock bag I carry everywhere, it never leaves my Bag.

Moleskin and Blister bandages
Extra pair of boot laces
Small bottle of Tylenol
Medium mixed bottle of Ibuprofen, Naproxin, and Excedrin
A couple tabs of Sudaphed
Gold Bond body powder (travel size)
Blistex lip balm
Butterfly bandaged
Super Glue (liquid bandage)
Assorted Band-Aids (20)
Alcohol wipes
Eye drops
1/2″ water proof adhesive tape
Folding toothbrush (travel size)
Tooth paste (travel size)
1″ Coban wrap, 2+ yards
Bug Out Bag | Personal/Extra Comforts

G. Stevens: Iraq, 2007

These are items that I would consider optional, for reasons of weight or the dictation of the terrain.  Situation and terain will usually dictate what you have, how much of it you have.  Know that even though I have labeled this fourth and final point as extra gear, I usually roll with everything I have listed.  It’s rare that I’d omit anything from this list:

Wet Wipes; I like the Huggies, 16 count, slim hard case, which also happens to be sold sealed in plastic (water proofed)
Extra socks, water proofed in a plastic bag
Note pad and/or 3X5 cards, plus writing utensils (gel pens don’t freeze as easy, black sharpie markers are great for the field too)
Bandanna and a wash-cloth, sealed in their own baggy together
Long sleeve, Thermal type, under shirt for an extra DRY base layer if needed at night
2, short range, walkie-talkies; with weather reception capability
Extra batteries, for head lamp and walkie-talkies, both take AAA batt (not a coincidence)
20′ of 1″ webbing
5′ dog leash
Appox. 8 carabiners (3 diff sizes and types)
Pelican Case 1010 (this is my camera case, I use our old model digital camera when in the field, Iraq-tested & approved)
3-5 cans of Vienna Sausages (they are small and light weight, perfect poggie-bait)
Boonie hat
Empty and folded plastic Wal~Mart grocery bags, for trash or whatever (light-weight; no bulk)
Black stretchy gloves (Wally World, 2 pair for $1.50. And they are in their own little plastic baggie for water proofing purposes)
Bug Out Bag | Avoiding Gear Bombs & Ensuring A Safe Return

I have been out and about in inclement weather.  It was a crap shoot if I knew the weather was going to turn bad on me, but I always planned for the worst and hoped for the best.  I always had a few essentials that turned the miserable, to tolerable.  Sometimes I’d end up giving my gear to a junior Marine who had not yet learned how fickle Mother Nature could be.

Questions I plan around are below. Safety & returning home are always the end goal.

What items will my family need?
What items will I need?
What is the Terrain?
What types of immediate problems that may occur?
I believe in water proofing as much as possible.  I’ve got a great system for individual water proofing items in baggies.  I have also found that combining a lot of my small first aid items into a larger baggie, for organisational purposes.  I don’t want a gear bomb going off at the wrong time and have to find & collect my gear.  Keep it simple, keep it organized.  My last Marine-ism sums up this thought, and one of the great lessons I learned in the Corp –  It comes from a Master Gunnery Sergeant,

“There is no reason to practice being uncomfortable and miserable, those opportunities present themselves often in the Corps, and at regular intervals.”

I am grateful for the difficulties I have faced, they have taught me and I hope to pay it forward.

Semper Fi – Be Prepared. Out here.

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