Last time we talked about the big three. Food. Water. Shelter. If you missed it go back and check it out here. Without having successfully planned for those three things nothing else matters. So for the sake of the rest of this series we will assume you’ve gotten the basics under control. Today I’m going to go through the basics of a 72 hour bag. Also known as a bug-out bag or a go-bag depending on who you are talking to. We have a 72 hour bag each for any and every emergency. It has the basics for us to survive in most situations for at least 3 days. Whether that is going to a shelter to ride out a storm or making a break for it when the zombies are knocking on our door. For us the term bug-out bag or go-bag is more tactical and is for when SHTF in a more serious way (ie major breakdown of law and order) and contains elements to help us survive long term against the undead and the mobs of hungry survivors. But that’s for another discussion.
Let’s start with the bag. We have two solid, good sized internal frame hiking bags:
The key is to find a bag that can fit everything you need, but won’t become too heavy for you to carry. Hiking or camping bags are great for this purpose because they are designed to fit comfortably for different body types and rugged enough to handle being beat up. I like a lot of pockets because it makes it easier for me to store all the small things and for everything have a place. Bonus points if you have a bag that can fit a water bladder or camel-back type device (always be thinking about those big three). We also have a 72 hour bag for our fur baby. At some point I would like to find one that he could actually wear, because my dog is seriously the size of a small horse he should be able to carry his own weight) but for now I have it in a small sling style bag that I can wear on my front even when wearing my 72 hour bag.
Now what should go in your bag? This is entirely up to you and what you find most important. We each have 3 days worth of meals in our bag, mostly easy to make and consume meals with high calorie/nutrient value. They’re also high in carbs, because in an emergency you’re going to want a little bit of comfort.
- Pasta- one pound each
- Oatmeal packets– 6 each (since they’re small and delicious I threw in an extra one each)
- Peanut butter- high in fat and protein. Survived on peanut butter when I was in basic training)
- Powdered drink mix- great for flavoring bland distilled water and a good sugar boost
- Homemade granola
- Dried fruit
- Salt, pepper, spices.
I’m want to get small propane stoves to add to each bag since we already have a couple small propane tanks. We also had extra silverware that I put in each bag, 1 set each. Some people prefer plastic, but I’d rather have something more durable and I realize that when SHTF there will be enough trash around without me adding to it.
While I’m not a huge fan of plastic baggies I do love them for our 72 hour bags. You have no idea what kinds of elements you’ll be dealing with, having things in their own baggie guarantees that everything stays dry and clean regardless of the conditions. It also makes it easier to keep things grouped together.
We each have a change of clothing in our bags. Comfortable and durable, a pair of jeans, socks, underwear, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt each. Included with what’s on our back that gives us two whole outfits. Throw in an extra pair of socks and extra undies because especially in an emergency situation cleanliness is important.
Next up we each have one bar of soap, one roll of toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. We also have a baggie of travel size shampoo, conditioner and body wash. This is more for trading purposes since we use baking soda and vinegar with no problems. But I figure those people who aren’t used to roughing it will be willing to trade almost anything for some Axe body wash. And even if not, it’s a great morale booster for you to be able to share these comfort items (see I’m not totally devious). I am a big couponer and was able to find these Ban Total Refresh clothes for free at one point and so I threw them in the bags. I hate the heat and sweating, so these will go a long way to making me feel more comfortable.
You may have noticed that our TP is missing the inner cardboard. Well that’s for a great reason! I found a great fire starter that is made from things you would normally throw away. In an emergency it’s really important to have a couple of ways to start a fire. This is incredibly important for comfort, cooking, keeping away animals, etc. All you have to do is take the dryer lint and stuff it into the cardboard tubes you have leftover from toilet paper or paper towels. The lint and cardboard make great fire starters without adding any flammable liquids or combustibles to your pack. So take all those cardboard tubes you’ve got laying around, and putting dryer lint to work for you!!
The firestarters are also great because they are light, you barely even notice them. But it’s also important to have a way to light the fire! I’ve got a bunch of matchboxes for each of us, but didn’t want them floating around in our bags falling our or getting wet. I made these handy holders to keep the matches safe and dry and cute (seriously, don’t underestimate the cute factor). I also found a great deal on BIC lighters so I threw one in each bag as well. In my opinion you can never have to many ways to start a fire. I was also turned on to the idea of potassium permanganate which can be used for soap, antiseptic and a water purifier. If you add sugar to it you apparently get fire! How cool is that? (Thanks Uncle Sean!!)
Just take a small glass canning jar and put you’re matches inside. If you really want to be impressive you can vacuum seal it (I don’t) and then you put either the striker that is on the match box, or a piece of sandpaper on top (I also put an extra striker inside the jars). Ta-Da! I was able to fit 3 boxes of matches in the same amount of space as 1 box and keep them safe!
So we have fire, food, clothing, personal hygiene all taken care. The rest of the bag is filled with odds and ends to make life easier and more comfortable. We each have a bag filled with pens/pencils and a notebook and a deck of cards. This is a great way to stave off boredom, have something to write down what’s happening (future generations will be interested in learning about how the zombie apocalypse came about), play endless games of hangman/tic tac toe, and to leave notes if you have to. We also each have a couple of permanent markers. For us this is important in case we get separated. If we have to leave one of our safe spots for whatever reason, or leave a message, permanent markers give us the ability to leave a sign for the other. There is also a deck of cards and a paperback book. I have my kindle as well, but it’s good to have non-electronic means of entertainment in case you don’t have access to a charger.
There are black trash bags, when packing you’re 72 bag you will realize that multi-purpose items are you’re best friend! Large black trash bags can be used to carry items, clean up trash, keep you dry in the rain, lay on the wet ground to keep your gear dry, go over your bag to keep it dry, fashion a sling, gather dew for drinking water, etc etc etc. We each have a lighter because you can never have too many means to start a fire, headlamps, a good quality flashlight, a mini first aid kit(peroxide, bandages, etc), rope (I also have para-cord on my bag), ear plugs. I have a glow stick as well, because you can never have too many means of lighting, and a pack of batteries. I put in a sponge and a small bottle of dish soap as well, cleanliness can never be stressed enough in an emergency situation!
Don’t wait until you have absolutely everything before you start putting together your 72-hour bag!! It’s better to have some of this stuff than nothing at all if you have to bug out. Our bags are still a work in progress. We add things to it every month as we find things on sale or I finish crafting them. Some of the items I am planning on adding are:
- Cash (small denominations, you don’t know if ATM’s will be working and it’ll always good to have on hand in an emergency)
- Hatchet or bush knife for each of us
- Emergency radio
- Lock pick set
- Small hammock for each
- Winter hat/gloves when the cold season gets here. Always good to have extra pair in your bag
- More ready to eat food items
This bag is what you grab when things go bad, you have to run quick, or even if you have more time. In a situation where the Zombies are shambling up our street we’re each grabbing our bag and our one ancillary thing (for me that’s the first aid kit and emergency binder, for Dustin it’s the go-bag with guns and ammo). As we are getting in our vehicle we throw in our emergency box with camping gear. That gives us a good start for surviving and making it to a shelter or our bug out location.
If we have more notice we each grab our bag, our ancillary item and as much food we put in the car. We’re lucky to be building quite a nice stock of canned items that will go a long way to keeping us well fed when/if things go bad. We each have our own jobs, for me that’s taking care of us (literally, I’ve got more first aid training), finding those small bits of comfort, taking care of finding alternatives to the everyday things we take for granted right now. Dustin’s job is to keep us safe, he’s the better aim (I’m no slouch but Dustin definitely is a better shooter), he’s also got a background in fighting and bouncing and has great situational awareness. I feel very confident when things go bad that we’ll be okay. We make a good team and together we can handle anything.
So that’s a 72 hour bag! What items would you add? What items could you live without? Everyone does their bags differently and it’s important to prioritize what is important for you and your family. But I encourage you, even if it’s just a backpack with a change of clothes and some granola bars everyone has to start somewhere!
Next post we’ll be talking about ancilliary bags. For us that’s our furbaby’s bag, the first aid kit and our go-bag. Also an emergency binder. If you want a great resource for that check out Survival at Home’s post on making a Bug Out Book!