About once each year I'll do an article / review about Bug Out Bags (or Go Bags) based on whatever new kit I've found in the previous year that has proven valuable. In this case I've been presented with a new challenge: given the winter weather our country has enjoyed lately, what would I change in my Bug Out Bag? I found myself putting together a couple different bags for travel through the sometimes treacherous conditions. So, I figured it would be a good idea to take a look at the bare minimums for venturing out in the winter driving conditions.
Before I get into the blizzard adds, let's take a look at some of the more complete (in my opinion) bags we've built in the past.
Without listing every item shown, let's review this relatively quickly. Starting in the bottom left corner and working our way roughly clockwise, we have:
- food: in this case, four MREs
- extra clothing & an emergency blanket (extra warmth)
- the pack (one shown is a BLACKHAWK! force Five)
- knives and utility tools as well as a sharpening stone to maintain the edges
- a compass
- strike anywhere matches
- extra batteries for the flashlight below
- tissues (nose and other uses)
- small emergency first aid kit
- extra pistol magazines
- poncho (more potential extra shelter or warmth)
- some small aluminum tent stakes
The pack itself is equipped with a hydration system and I wrote with the assumption that it would be filled with fresh clean water prior to bugging out. As complete as this pack may be, however, I wouldn't find it sufficient for venturing out into a driving snow where temperatures are steadily below freezing. Even if you're going out in your vehicle, there are a few things I'd like to add on.
- A shovel. Whether it's a folding shovel, entrenching tool, small spade, or whatever. If you get stuck in the snow or find yourself on little or no traction ice, having a tool to move snow and or chip rough edges into the ice surface is invaluable.
- A sleeping bag. If you're stuck in your vehicle for any time exceeding the gas supply you have to generate heat, you'll need more than the clothing you have or even that emergency "space" blanket to keep warm. A good sleeping bag, properly rated for the expected temperatures, is a good thing to have.
- A signalling flashlight. Yes, you can use any flashlight to signal someone, but such often requires you to be awake to manipulate the light. Some flashlights have a programmed function now where you can set them to flash an SOS in morse code or other similar function. Shown right is the Light Saver Utility light which has a function you can set it to flash, fast or slow, and then fall asleep if it's safe to do so. The light will continue to flash. The Insight Tech Gear HX120 has a similar function. You can set it to flash an SOS. Just make sure it's pointed toward where you expect someone might see it - or straight up.
- A Nalgene canteen. Esepcially if you're going to be stuck in snow, you shouldn't get dehydrated. There is plenty of water all around you; you just have to melt it and make sure it's clean to drink it. Most snow is clean. Just watch out for tainted snow near roadsides or that has been discolored by pets or other animals. Fill the canteen and let it melt. Fill it again. It may take three or four attempts at filling to actually get the canteen full. It may be more challenging to get snow through the small mouth of the canteen as compared to the wider fill port on a hydration bladder, but the canteen is rigid and will be easier to fill in the long run.
- A more complete first aid kit. Accidents and injuries can easily occur as you try to dig yourself out or if you slip on the snow / ice. I recntly cut my hand while clearing ice off a trash can. It's simple enough to have happen, but injuries that are severe enough present larger challenges if you're stuck in a frigid snow-covered (albeit temporary) wasteland. A first aid kit that includes a hemostatic agent, two pressure bandages and a tourniquet may be a good idea.
That doesn't seem like a lot, but when you consider the impact these few items can have on your survival rate if you are out, unexpectedly, in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures, they seem prudent. As always, your comments are appreciated!