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The Bugout Pack
The bugout pack is an integral part of any survivor's gear. It is very similar to what a backpacker might carry in the wilderness. It is essentially most of the things that you would need should you suddenly be a refugee or victim of a major catastrophe. A bugout pack is generally something that you keep nearby for quick evacuation. Most survivalist keep one in each vehicle and a larger version at home. Others will keep one at work and sometimes cached near or at places they frequent.
I personally tailor my bugout bags to have things that come in useful in day to day life. This includes spare batteries and rechargers for electronic items that I use on a regular basis like a Walkman, a cell phone and an electric shaver.
The pack should have some sort of water container. I prefer to just use one to four one liter bottles of commercial bottled drinking (non carbonated). Food and some basic utensils are another important element of the bugout bag.
It is common for a bugout pack to be stored with or near the basic combat load. Other survivors put a light weapon in the bugout pack and leave the combat load with the main weapons at the retreat or a secure place. It really depends on your personal situation.
You need to keep some food in your bugout pack that will have a long storage life but is still healthy and nourishing. Common candy bars like Snickers have a very long shelf life, but derive most of their calories from fat and to some degree, starch. Commercially available beef jerkey and similar preserved meat is a good choice, and in quality you get what you pay for. Cheaper brands, like SlimJim are laden with salt and fat. This will enhance the flavor of a subsistence diet scrounged in the wilderness, but it is not good at all to live on and salt toxification can make you sick.
The picture here shows four basic good options you have. MREs (left) are a military standard and the US issue MREs are arguably the best in the world. They are engineered to be highly efficient nutrition with the added benefit of minimal food bulk circulating in your system, thus you would only need infrequent visits to a toilet. MREs do, however have a lot of waste packaging that amounts to almost a quarter of the weight of the meal kit. This will include a small minimal survival kit in each meal. Newer versions have a chemical food heater that reacts with water to heat the main entrée, but all of the items can be eaten with little or no preparation. I recommend drinking at least a quart of water when you eat an MRE since the food is so dense your body will drain fluids from other parts of you system to digest the MRE. If you do not replace that water and supplement it with more water taken in with the MRE, you can suffer from dehydration and in extreme cases, blocked intestines (no fun at all and treatment can require a rubber hose inserted in a part of the anatomy designed only as an exit).
Second from the left are some commercially available backpacker meals. They are tasty and nutritious but nearly all of them require preparation and significant amounts of water. They are by far the most efficient food by weight outside of powdered protein drinks. These meals can me hard to find outside of sporting goods stores that specialize in camping and backpacking. They can be found in catalogs and from places like REI and Marin Outdoors. The food is good and usually has a long storage life, but remember that it will require a lot of water and time to prepare. It will also require some sort of cooking implements and dishes you can boil water in. Most backpackers use small but deep stainless steel bowls as both cooking pots and dishes.
On the right are options that you should be able to find at the supermarket. Canned fish is generally healthier and more nutritionally efficient than canned ham, beef or chicken. Tuna is the most common, but other fish and mussels are canned and clams in particular offer a very high protein to weight ratio. The Met-RX bars and their cousins like Powerbars are a personal favorite. The Met-RX bars taste awful regardless of the flavor while Powerbars are more palatable, but they have a shorter shelf life. One reason I favor the Met-RX bars is that people are not tempted to gobble them up like candy. Eating one is something of a chore to force down. It is not necessary to have water with one, but it helps a lot. A related item easily obtained at nearly every Mall in the free world is the kind of protein drinks used by bodybuilders. I am partial to EAS products, but since they refused to advertise on savvysurvivor due to "objectionable material", get whatever you like. Your local GNC store will probably have plenty of choices available.
What foods not to take? Canned chili and pasta are bad news because they usually contain too much salt. Everything your mother told you about that Chef Boyardee being junk food is true. Fresh foods are a no-no for obvious reasons because they can rot in storage. I would also avoid foods in light packaging that might attract mice while your bugout bag is in storage. Chocolate is also questionable because it can melt and cause a mess, but that depends a lot on your environment. Generally speaking, the colder environments can allow more of a fat calorie intake than warmer climates.
There are arguments as to whether a gas mask belongs with the combat load or in the pack, or even if it is a useful piece of equipment anyway. I am undecided on this, but like many of your other disaster preparedness items, it is better to have it when you need it. The strongest argument against the gas mask is that the burden of it will hamper you whether or not you will ever need it. A newer argument against it is that you may be regarded as a terrorist by stupid security or law enforcement personnel who discover it at a checkpoint IE, having foreknowledge and therefore being prepared for a chem/bio attack). The most likely threat you are going to have to deal with is CS gas or a similar irritant gas (like pepper gas) or chemicals released in an industrial accident. That aside, you can decide for yourself how you want to go with it. The upper two masks are military issue, with the one on the right (M17A1) being fairly common on the surplus market. I recommend removing the hood and using it law enforcement style since the hood is irrelevant if you are not going to wear a full protective suit. The lower mask is an industrial safety mask used in the automotive business, especially paint and body shops where they commonly work with harmful fumes. This includes toxic resins, paints and fumes from welding gasses. Combine one of these safety masks with a pair of sealed military goggles or even a diving mask and you have fairly good protection from common gas threats, but not serious poison weapons like nerve gas or blister agents.
It is important to have some clothes in the pack, but you should avoid carrying an entire wardrobe. Consider that if you ever have to grab your bugout bag, you will probably be wearing clothes and have a suitable jacket nearby. You should make sure you have some sort of hat in or near the bag, along with some gloves and at least one camo shirt. I am beginning to favor the idea of camo that is not currently used by the military. There are so many choices available that you can match patterns to your environment or even use patterns that might not immediately be recognizable as camouflage. The shirt pictured here has pattern that loosely resembles a tacky Hawaiian shirt, but in reality is a uniform shirt from a Rhodesian military unit known as the Selous Scouts whose members commonly went in disguise while on patrol.
There are a few different philosophies in selecting a bugout pack system for the modern survivor. In all reality, a rapid evacuation scenario is not going to mean you are obligated to go on foot. Use what wiles and resources you have to obtain a vehicle. This enables you to carry more people and supplies, and enables you to cover more distance in a shorter period of time. Organization within the vehicle often makes the larger packs a more awkward proposition, so many experts recommend a smaller pack for use by those who expect to maintain access and some control over a vehicle through a bugout situation. This is where the "three day" combat packs come in. Used by day hikers and car campers for decades before finding popularity in the military, daypacks offer versatility and portability in part because they fit relatively easily within the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Military versions are usually ruggedized for rough handling, especially for the rather common practice of tossing them onto and off of large trucks and armored vehicles while fully loaded.
Colors and camouflage patterns vary according to personal taste and the local terrain. Interestingly, the "official bugout bag" sold at military PX stores around the world is basic black, although most troops and tactical operators will opt to buy a higher quality and more expensive pack. Contractors and low profile personnel often pick basic black, but Coyote brown is also rapidly gaining popularity among westerners in the Middle East. OD green remains most popular in the US. New "fashion" camo like the Army digital gray/green pattern is useful for the urban environment and is "hip" enough that it does not give off the image of belonging to a sociopath survivalist.