by Goldbug, 31, Mile High City
It’s 3 pm and you get a news update on your phone that the bond market has collapsed, and people are in full panic. Or perhaps the CDC has stated a new strain of swine flu is in your area, and quarantine is imminent. Or maybe that earthquake that was never supposed to happen where you live just hit, and there is unimaginable devastation. It’s time to either stay put or bug out. First you have to make a couple quick stops at the grocery store, the hardware store, the sporting goods store, and the big box discount store to pick up all the essentials you’ll need to weather the storm for the next few days. Unfortunately, thousands of your neighbors are doing the same thing. You find the store shelves more barren with each subsequent stop. Wouldn’t it have been great to plan ahead with a 72 hr kit?
You ask “What is a 72 hr kit? And what is it for?”
A 72 hr kit (or bug out bag) is a collection of everyday items that can easily be carried in a backpack, or similar bag, that will prove invaluable should a situation or natural disaster force you to leave your home. Just to stress, this is not a comprehensive survival guide. This won’t cover self defense, gathering food, weapon selection, first aid, etc.
If you happen live in the path of hurricanes, in tornado alley, along a zombie migration route, or anywhere in California, you would be well served to have a 72 hr kit ready to go because you never know when a natural disaster may strike. Now regarding man made events, it is likely only a matter of time before the growing demonstrations and protests around the country get a bit more spirited. In addition to rioting and looting, we could see trucking strikes, road blockades, utility worker strikes, etc. that could compromise the availability of food, gasoline, electricity, water. Terrorist activity is another threat, though often over stated, but none the less exists. Regardless of the source, most companies today practice what is known as “just in time” replenishment. If you’re old enough, you may remember going to any store, and upon not finding the size or color item you were in search of, you would ask a store clerk to “look in the back”, and sure enough he or she would return with the exact item you wanted. Well, those days are gone. There is no ‘back’ anymore in most stores. Grocery stores especially, are dependent on near daily deliveries in order to restock.
Maybe the next bird flu, or swine flu, or nuclear power plant disaster is serious enough to cause evacuations where you live. Should some event take place, wouldn’t it be great to be on your way down the road (albeit a congested road) than frantically picking through empty store shelves and discovering the batteries are no good for the flashlight you can’t find. If you aren’t convinced yet, it’s even rumored one of the new items in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is going to be a 72 hr kit. Okay, so maybe I started that rumor.
Now you say, “That’s a great idea. I want to put one together. What do I need in my 72 hr kit?”
Well, the quick answer is ‘it depends’. You’ll have to consider questions like:
How much money do you want to spend on it?
Who’s traveling with you (children, elderly, pets)?
Where do you live?
What time of year is it?
Do you have medical concerns?
What kind of terrain will you potentially have to travel through?
Would you even know how to use a hatchet or how to start a fire with a steel and flint?
The answers to these questions will determine how you build out your personalized 72 hr kit. For starters, you needn’t spend a lot of money, but it’s a lot cooler if you do. You may have many items lying around. The rest can be found on any number of websites, Craigslist, or local sporting good stores. Let’s start with the bag itself. You’ve probably got an old backpack hiding in a closet or in the basement. If you don’t, or the backpack is a lot smaller than you remember, then you’ll want to get a sturdy pack or bag. I’m partial to backpacks over a duffel bag simply because you can carry it comfortably on your shoulders and thus have your hands free to perform other tasks, like punching zombies. You’ll want something unassuming, and not camouflage or military style either. No need to advertise or attract unwanted attention, remember there may be others who want what you have in your bag.
Secondly, in addition to yourself, you’ll have to think about family members. The best way is for everyone to have their own personalized bag. Imagine, you and a spouse are at work when a disaster occurs, and you work 20 miles away from each other. If you have the family kit in your car, your spouse is SOL if he/she is unable to get to you. It is likely that family members will be unable to rendezvous until later. Everyone should have their own supplies, even kids and don’t forget your pets.
Remember the ‘Rule of 3’
The ‘Rule of 3’ is a simple way to help you prioritize in a bug out situation. It’s easy to remember. In order of importance, an average person can expect to survive the following. Basically, don’t carry a month’s worth of food.
3 hrs of exposure
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
Okay, so 3 hrs without shelter doesn’t seem like much. But believe me, you can lose fine motor skills quickly in cold weather, and you can become overheated and dehydrated outside in Texas anytime between New Years and Christmas. Think about the others that might be with you. Children and the elderly cannot regulate body heat as well as a young healthy adult.
• At least one tarp
• The lightest tent you can afford
• A 50’ hank of paracord or light rope (learn how to tie knots)
• Roll of duct tape
• Lightweight sleeping bag
• Outerwear (lightweight waterproof jacket or poncho)
• Change of clothes (this will take some effort to adjust according to the season)
• Comfortable shoes, you don’t want to walk 3 days in your dress shoes (just keep an old pair of athletic shoes)
• Knife (3” blade)
• Disposable lighter
Navigation and Signaling
Print off some maps with routes to predetermined destinations or rally points. Make sure the routes and rendezvous points are highlighted to avoid confusion. This step is easy and free. Remember, cell phones may not work, and just assuming that your wife knows to go to that one camping spot that you visited 4 years ago isn’t going to work. At a minimum have two destinations. A primary and a secondary just in case the primary happens to be in the path of the disaster.
• Hand crank flashlight or a quality flashlight with LED bulbs w/ extra batteries.
• Hand crank radio
• One whistle
• Toilet paper
• Sanitizing wipes
• Gallon size Ziploc bags qty 10
• Small bar of soap
• Feminine products
First aid lessons are very important. Good ones cost money, but if you can only afford the free lessons, it’s better than nothing. There is a treasure trove of free resources online that you can print out, study, and keep in your bag
• Get an extra 30 day supply of any prescriptions (rotate these as needed to keep fresh)
• Water and shatter proof containers.
• Old pair of glasses or extra sets of contacts with solution
• First Aid kit (get one that has more than just 50 assorted band aids. And don’t be shy, you can supplement with additional items)
• Bug spray or wipes
Food and water
I personally do not carry water in my car when I’m just going to and from work. My commute is about 5 miles one way. Depending on where you store your kit will affect the type of foods you can keep. You won’t know ahead of time if water will be available. These days, there are pretty cool self contained bottles with high efficiency filters (.2 microns). These can cost from $20 to $100, and the filters are all replaceable. But remember this is designed for 72 hrs, not the zombie apocalypse. If the bottle is too expensive, there’s even a straw that you can stick into the dirtiest of water and confidently quench your thirst. Lastly the cheapest and most primitive method is to boil your water, but remember this is the most time and energy intensive. Don’t worry about how long to boil, once it reaches boiling, you’re safe from bacteria and viral contaminants. A word of warning, do not leave foods containing moisture (canned soups, bottled water, etc) in areas that can freeze or exceed 100. The packaging will fail and you will have a mess. On that note, freeze dried foods are popular these days, and actually pretty delicious. In room temperature, the shelf life is often 25+ years. You’ll need water to cook the food. Or if eaten dry, you’ll need water to digest it. Another option is canned food; just make sure you don’t forget a can opener. You also may want some items that require no preparation at all like Power Bars and Clif Bars. It’s a good idea to sample different foods ahead of time to find out what you like.
Some sources that I personally recommend for freeze dried foods are Honeyville Grain, Thrive, and Mountain House.
You’ll want at least one stainless steel vessel to boil water in. Stainless water bottles are perfect for heating water. Just make sure it doesn’t have any paint or rubber gaskets on it. You can also find some used/cheap cooking utensils for camping.
• Water bottle with filter system
• Stainless water bottle
• A total of 9 meals per person (or 12 if you’re like me). Any extra food makes for a good source for barter
• Plastic utensils – You don’t want to be doing dishes with your precious water. Plus it’s more sanitary
Have their own bag with
• stuffed animals.
You’ll want to bring food and a bowl. Don’t forget, animals need to drink clean water too
• A book
• Deck of cards
• Pen and paper
This isn’t a camping trip. Most people will not be traveling with a 72 hr kit. I’d hate to think about what will happen to people – especially women – that find themselves traveling defenseless. I will be carrying firearms, plain and simple. Make sure you adhere to all safety requirements and local laws. If you choose a less than lethal option like a spray or stun gun, make sure it’s not expired and/or it has fresh batteries.
Extras (if you have the space and money)
• Compass (learn how to use it by navigating around your neighborhood)
• Substitute the knife for a multitool and a hatchet w/ hammer. I like the Gerber Machete Jr
• Cooking equipment (collapsible and light)
• In addition to matches and a lighter, buy a Blastmatch (you don’t want to be without a fire source)
• Rechargeable GMRS Radios
• GPS receiver
• Solar Charger w/ different adapters for radios, GPS receiver, cell phones
• Collapsible Shovel
• Items to give away or barter with
• Gas Mask (okay you probably won’t need this, but they are pretty cool looking)
• And anything else you want
Congratulations, you’ve assembled all the items you’ll need for a first class 72 hr kit. Now you just have to make it all fit in your bag.