One thing I constantly try to keep in mind is that not everybody is familiar with the great outdoors. Recently I had a conversation with a friend at work who told me he had a bug-out bag full of good gear, but when we talked it became evident that he didn’t have a real solid plan of what to do with it in case he actually needed to bug-out. So I thought I’d write a short guide on what do do with your bug-out kit once you actually have to step outside the door with it.
By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog
1. You can survive three hours without shelter
2. You can survive three days without water
3. You can survive three weeks without food
This means you’ll need shelter, water – carrying some and with a wait to purify it, and food.
Let’s further assume that this bug-out (or camping trip) will last for three days and you want to go off grid where there is no electricity or other people in the area. We’ll also say that you’ve cleared the trouble area and now it’s time to enter the woods and set up camp.
In your pack you should have a shelter of some kind such as a tarp, tent or bivy. You’ll also need water and food, and a way to navigate such as map and compass. Don’t forget a first-aid kit! Add in some basics such as a knife, flashlight, sleeping bag, water filter, mess kit, stove, fuel, etc, and pretty soon you’ll have a pretty heavy pack with lots of gear. (See this post about keeping your pack weight down.)
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
So now it’s time to bug-out. What are the actual first steps you take? As silly as it might sound make sure you’ve got your pack(s) ready to go. When you’re satisfied that all is good go ahead and shoulder it. Make sure it fits properly and the waist and shoulder straps are cinched properly.
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Open the door and start walking.
I know that sounds a little silly, but stay with me.
Now, if this is a full scale event with millions of people trying to get out of Dodge don’t be shy about taking care of yourself. If you have a gun carry it to where you can get to it easily. Very likely that someone who hasn’t done the planning you have might decide that your stuff looks pretty good and they’d like to have it for themselves. A gun is a great way to dissuade them if comes down to it.
In The Woods
Now you’ve reached the patch of wilderness that is your destination. What do do? One of the first things you should have done is look over your map or Google Maps and get a sense of the land. Is there water in that patch of woods? If so are they lakes, streams, or rivers? Any cliffs or mountains? Swamps? Are there roads or trails? What’s out there that might benefit or hinder you? Where’s the nearest road in case you get lost? What’s the azimuth to it? The more information you have about the area you’ll be working in the better off you’ll be.
Now that we have a map and a better understanding of the area it’s time to pick a location for a camp. When I’m camping I typically look for a spot near water, but high enough not to be bothered by rising water if it rains. If possible, talk to people who’ve camped there before and ask them what the land is like and if there’s anything to watch out for.
Next to a lake or river on a high bank is usually a good spot. Spots like these will likely draw in other hikers/campers/refugees as well, so keep that in mind when selecting your camp. If you’re planning on burning wood make sure there’s plenty of dry dead wood in your area that will burn good. Standing dead is your best choice.
Watch out for “widow makers.” A widow maker is a dead tree or branch on or over where you’re setting up that might fall down during a high wind. Nothing will ruin your night like a widow maker crashing through your tent and killing you.
Once you’re happy with your area it’s time to set up your tent. (I’ll assume we’re using a tent in this scenario, although a tarp or poncho would work just as well.)
Clear the area of debris where your tent is going to be. Rocks, roots, pine cones, any of these things can make an overnight feel like a week if it gets under your sleeping mat. Once your tent is set up put the sleeping pad and sleeping bag inside, grab your axe/hatchet/saw and head out to get some firewood.
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As mentioned earlier, standing dead wood is your best bet. If you find wood lying directly on the ground it’s likely to be wet, damp, and/or punky and probably won’t burn very well. Tree’s that are standing, but dead, will offer a great source of firewood once you’ve cut them down. I usually have a small saw and don’t cut anything bigger than four or five inches at the base, which makes dragging and processing the wood a little easier.
After you cut the tree down don’t cut it up yet. I like to leave it at tree length as much as possible and carry it back as one unit, then cut it up when I get back to camp. Make a good stack of wood so you’ll be able to have a fire well into the evening. If you’re depending on the fire to keep you warm gather as much wood as you think you’ll need, then add some more. An all night fire burns a lot of wood!
If I’m doing a long distance hike I’ll primarily take freeze dried foods, which aren’t bad, but then again they rarely make me jump for joy either. But anything tastes good if you’re hungry enough!
At dinner I would advise using a fire to heat your water and food and save your stove fuel for when you really need it. When I’m in the field dinner is usually my biggest meal. I like to eat, hang out around the fire, then go to bed when I get tired.
Breakfast is typically a quick affair where I’ll either something simple like GORP, or heat up water for oatmeal and instant coffee. If you’re not moving you can use a fire to heat your meal. If you’re packing up and getting ready to leave you could probably use your stove to heat the water. This isn’t a hard and fast rule though! If you’d rather have a small fire before you get going go ahead. Just make sure your fire is dead before you leave.
If you’re on the move lunch is another quick meal. When I’m walking I like to stop for lunch somewhere high if possible and enjoy whatever view I can. If you’re trying not to be seen there are all kinds of places where you can drop your pack and get your stove going. My lunches are typically quick and easy to prepare, maybe some Oodles of Noodles and an energy bar, or if I don’t want to cook some GORP or trail mix might do the trick.
When you’re moving from place to place you need to keep accurate track of your location. You can do this by using a GPS unit or a map and compass. Being old school I like the map and compass and I highly suggest that you get a little schooling on them if you don’t already know how. If you’re on a bug-out and the S has really HTF then you don’t want to rely too heavily on anything that uses batteries.
If you’re moving site to site leave yourself a little wiggle room on the amount of time you expect it will take you to get there. I’ve pulled into a site after dark on many occasions and it can suck setting up camp in the dark after a day of hiking a heavy pack through the woods. Do what you have to do. Sometimes being in the woods on a long trip sucks and you just need to suck it up.
Conserving Your Resources
When I talk about conservation I’m thinking more about conserving your supplies as much as possible. Drink from streams with a filter if possible and save the water in your canteen. (But do drink. A lot!) If you’re sitting around the fire at night there’s no need to have your headlamp or flashlight going. Keep them off and save the batteries. If it’s the right time of year you can fish and pick berries to help offset what you eat.
Bathroom Breaks at Camp
When you’re traveling a bathroom is no big deal. Just step off the trail and do your business. Bury everything when you’re done.
If you’re in camp you’ll need to designate a spot for pit stops. I usually like to walk about fifteen steps from camp, but at night you’ll realistically probably only walk a few steps away before you let fly. Unwise, but understandable, especially if it’s cold. Better for everyone if you all have the discipline to go to the prescribed bathroom spot.
Now you have a basic idea of what an off-grid camp out looks like. A bug-out to the wilderness won’t be that different except you’ll probably be more on the alert for other people while you’re out there and will probably want to practice more light and noise security.
Every camp out is different, but they all share the same attributes and in order to get good at it you need to get out there and do it. Practice, practice, practice!
If you’re nervous start by sleeping out in your backyard or at a campground. As you get more confident head out into the wilderness for longer stays.
Talk to people who’ve camped in that area and see what they have to say. Is a gun necessary due to animals? Does it rain a lot? Etc. Ask questions about where they camped and how they made out. Ok, if you have questions or comments sound off below!
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