Planning and Preparing Your Bug-Out Bag by Jeff Hall

“Amateurs discuss tactics; professionals discuss logistics”

On War, Von Clausewitz


      My first question to anyone who asks about a BOB is simple: where do you plan to go? The follow-up questions would include: why are you leaving your base? Will you be welcome at your destination? Given your current fitness level, how long will it take? What/who do you expect to encounter along the way? Do you have alternate routes planned?

   Too many of us think along the lines of “the dam has broken, run for the hills”; grab your BOB and start out. The problems we don’t consider are that the people in the hills don’t want us, folks along the way may try to take advantage of us, and we usually over-estimate our capabilities. We also underestimate the difficulty of moving ourselves and whomever else we’re taking over the distance, and what we need to carry to accomplish the trip.


"The problems we don’t consider are that the people in the hills don’t want us, folks along the way may try to take advantage of us, and we usually over-estimate our capabilities."


   The first question is simple to answer. If you have a true friend or a relative who likes you, discuss this first with them. A nephew and niece brought this up recently with me; I told them to plan out how much food the nine of them, including the kids, will eat for six months. Once that is calculated, figure out how much it weighs and how they would get it all the seventy-five miles from there to here. The result is they bought the needed supplies, including clothing and medications, packed it all into sealed plastic boxes, and stored it in my shop- it all takes the space of a cargo van. So, pre-plan and pre-position your supplies if possible, so you don’t have to try to carry it.

   As to why you’d leave your base, there are lots of reasons- flood, storms, civil unrest, pandemic…any and all are valid. The critical thing is timing- if you wait too long, the roads are jammed, fuel is gone, food and water are gone, etc. If at all possible, leave when you can, not when you must. If you anticipate major problems, go while the going is good. Just think back to the evacuations in Texas and Florida during the fall of 2017, and the ensuing chaos- you don’t want to be part of that.



   Transportation during this move is critical. In an earlier article, I discussed The Vehicle Kit. That should be in your vehicle still, and it’s augmented by the BOB. My plan would be to stay with the vehicle and its contents until I was forced to abandon it. I’d then take whatever supplies I could from the truck to augment the BOB contents, if possible.



Click here to Read "Preparing Your Winter Vehicle Kit" By Jeff Hall



   Most American forget about bicycles. If you’ve been to Asia, you’ve seen 120-pound men pushing bicycles loaded with huge loads down a street. The loads were probably twice the weight of each guy, so rolling the load instead of carrying the load is more efficient. If your car or truck has a way to mount a bike rack, it’s a good option. Buy a reasonable quality mountain bike from an outdoor store and it should work out fine. In addition, all of the outdoor companies sell all sorts of saddle bags and packs that can strap onto a bike- it doubles or triples your carrying capacity.

   For this article, here’s the scenario: you’re single, in decent shape, live close to a city, and Uncle Fred lives 100 miles away; Fred thinks it’d be swell if you came to live after The Apocalypse, so you drove there last year and stored food, medications, clothing, weapons, and ammunition; you took the time en route to note streams and places to shelter if needed. If you have a family, multiply the supplies by the number of people. You’ve seen the writing on the wall- the situation is getting worse, should have left a few days ago, but…time to leave now. You live in the southern parts of the country, its spring, and the weather is good. You pick up your BOB and walk to the carport that comes with the apartment- your Subaru, bike on the rack, is parked there. Unfortunately, the gas tank is open, siphon hose still in it, windows broken and valuables are gone, and they stole your bike. You go back into the apartment, change into hiking boots, tie your sneakers on the back of your ruck, and head out. Let’s discuss what you’re carrying.


As you plan, remember the Rule of Three: three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food, etc.



   First, the pack. The pack you select must have a good suspension system and a wide, padded belt- this takes the weight off the shoulders and puts it on the hips. Older designs, like a Trapper Nelson or A.L.I.C.E system, didn’t have either and really sucked to carry. Modern designs, like the Maxpedition Gyrfalcon backpack, have learned those lessons. The Maxpedition Gyrfalcon backpack has plenty of room for warm-weather gear, lots of pocket space to organize, and room to add additional pockets. Avoid the urge to add too much- nature abhors a vacuum, so if there’s space, you’ll put something in it. Remember, you have to carry everything you’ll need for 3-5 days.


Megan from Sandy, UT hiking Littlewood Cottonwood Canyon in Utah with her Gyrfalcon Backpack, and 12” x 5” Bottle Holder.  "I love the set-up and how comfortable it is to carry!”



   The next thing I want is shelter, having lived in wet climates. If you start your trek in the rain, you’ll be soaked thru, Gortex or not, in a couple of hours. I’d delay my departure until the weather breaks if I could. If I’m into the trek and it looks like rain, start looking for a place to shelter. The shelter you carry should be minimal, but consider that you may be under it for a couple of days.

   I use a lot of gear from Maxpedition and Proforce Equipment, for the simple reason that it’s well made and works. My first Maxpedition Operator Tactical Attache had ten years and a million miles on it, and the replacement is halfway there. Every Proforce item I mention has been personally tested- I spent two February nights sleeping outside, 25 degrees and snowing, in an Ionosphere bivy sack, Snugpack sleeping bag, and ground pad; I’ve slept in or under every shelter I mention. They come with line, line tighteners, and a repair kit, and come in tan, OD green, etc. for a lower profile.

   The lightest, most basic shelter is the Stasha. It’s perfect for this mission, where you want to keep it light and move fast. It packs into a 7x4x3 inch bag and weighs 13 ounces, and will shelter a tall man. There are tents that sleep from one to four IF you don’t mind the weight. 


The Stasha shelter with jungle bag and sleeping pad- not the Hilton, but comfortable.


   The sleeping bag, given the spring temperatures, is the Jungle Bag from Proforce. It weighs 32 ounces and packs into 6x7 inches and is good down to 36 degrees. If you add a 4-ounce silk liner, you’re good to the mid-20’s- it even has a built-in mosquito net.

   I lay it out on a Basecamps air mat with a built-in foot pump, which insulates you from the cold ground and makes it a little more comfortable.


- water -

   Water is next. One gallon of water weighs eight pounds, so you can’t carry enough for the trip. One of the all-time great inventions was the U.S. military canteen and metal canteen cup; the canteen carries the water and you can boil water in the cup. Proforce offered a water bottle that fits into a USGI cup and cover, and mine is on my go bag’s belt; unfortunately, this model was discontinued, but they have others. There are lots of water bags that weigh nothing and give the option of filling en route.

   The filter in the bottle filters out 99.99% of bad stuff. I’ve drunk water from lots of questionable sources, had giardia, used iodine and water purification tablets (they taste horrible), and can swear by this filter system. If you’re traveling light and fast, this is all you need. If you anticipate a need for more water, add the NDUR pump filter, which handles gallons of water. Use the shortest section of pipe you can, but the filter weighs just a few ounces.


Featured products: Maxpedition 32 oz. Nalgene Bottle and Maxpedition Riftcore 23L Backpack


   When it’s time to rest, rest. I can maintain a three mile per hour pace for 8-10 hours IF I stop for ten minutes every hour. I drink a cup of water, eat some beef jerky and a handful of cashews. I also eat some kind of bar with some carbs every second hour This provides the hydration, fat, carbs and calories you’ll need to continue.

   When the day is done, find a place to set up your shelter. The open shelters require something to tie on to, like a wall, fence, trees, etc. An advantage to finding some trees is that they’ll hide you. Once you select a spot, erect the shelter first, so you’ll be protected from the weather. If you use an open shelter, try to set it so that you can see your backtrail- if you picked the spot, others may, too, so it’s nice to see who’s coming for supper. If shelter is a tent, you can pitch it in less-obvious locations. Since you’re traveling light, set up the Stasha as pictured. The lean-to method needs a pole, two feet of p-cord, the Stasha, and two pegs- it takes ten minutes to set up. The A-frames shelter pictured takes a few more minutes to set up but stands up to wind better. Use two plastic garbage bags as a ground cloth, and lay out your mat and sleeping bag. It’s not a Hilton, but it will keep you dry.


Another simple method to rig a shelter.


Parachute cord ties the pole to a tree for the shelter - carry lots of p-cord.


- food -

   With shelter secure, it’s supper time. I use a large Ziplok bag with freeze-dried meals, instant coffee, and oatmeal, energy bars, etc. Each bag has 5,000 calories, more than enough for one day. It takes just a little hot water, and the NDUR stove, canteen cup, and one spork to eat with are all you need. I’d shield the flame from view with the pack so I don’t attract attention.


NDUR stove and canteen cup can provide hot food easily.



   The clothing for the trip should be stuff you usually wear; the boots or shoes should be broken in. An underlayer, outer layer, rain gear, a hat to keep sun or rain off, and maybe a fleece vest. You don’t need ten spare shirts or clean undies every day, just the clothes on your back and what can go over them.



Featured products: Gyrfalcon Backpack and a Maxpedition Large Short Clip Point Fixed Blade Knife


- TOOLs -

   There are a couple of tools to consider. I always have some kind of large field knife. You can dig, chop, or pry with it, cut brush or limbs, etc. I also suggest a small multi-tool or Swiss Army knife for versatility. I’d have a small flashlight and possibly a small lantern, but maintain light discipline- you can see a light for miles.

Have the means to start a fire- I have small plastic bags with tinder, small, dry kindling, matches and a lighter, in every kit I have.


This bag has everything needed to start a fire.


- Maxpedition Gyrfalcon backpack -

The Maxpedition Gyrfalcon backpack is set up to allow quick access to things I may need on the road, The lower, outer pocket has trail food, the inner pocket has lights and tools.


The outer pockets hold trail food, right, and tools left.


   The outer, large center pocket has the first aid kit (marked by the red cross Medic Patch (Large), a couple of large garbage bags and a fleece cap. The large pocket under it has raingear, the stove and fuel, and the upper, outer pocket has fire building gear, in a plastic bag.




   The main inner pocket, which is the full length and width of the pack, contains the shelter, bag, mat and four food bags. It’s the first and last stuff needed on the trip, so fast access isn’t needed. Total weight, including the guns and ammunition, is twenty-nine pounds. If you skip them, you shave off about eight pounds.


The contents of the main pocket on the Gyrfalcon include food and shelter.


- personal protection -

   The final thing to consider is personal protection. Other people you may encounter might not be as prepared as you are, so what you have, they need. If you can, carry at least a quality handgun. Depending on the state of the world, a light rifle is better; I plan to carry both. Seek out quality training (not some crap on youtube) and get good with the firearms


The Gyrfalcon offer outstanding organization: top outer pocket is fire, then first aid, trail food, tools, etc. The things you need quickly are on the outside, longer-term gear inside. The Colt AR and Colt 1911 will keep you safe.


   If guns are not possible, look for some quality training with a walking stick. Any good school will offer private classes in the staff (bo), short staff (jo), or with a cane. If there are no schools near you, go to Grandmaster Mark Shuey has great videos on using the cane as a weapon.

   I know this is a little daunting. Despite the upsurge in the economy, most people’s wages aren’t keeping up. You already have to pay all the normal costs of living, so buying all this gear seems impossible. Buy quality gear, a little at a time, but start now. At a minimum, get the Maxpedition Gyrfalcon backpack, a couple of NDUR water bottles, and the Stasha shelter; scrounge around for the rest at yard sales, buy what food you can, but do it now- tomorrow is too late.




Packs, bags, etc.

Survival gear: Proforce Equipment

Impact weapons, training Cane Masters


The author is a retired Alaska State Trooper, former soldier, outdoorsman, and martial arts grandmaster. He can be reached at