I live in the mountains in Utah, where the weather can be quite unpredictable. Heck, it can be 60 degrees in the morning, and the afternoon can turn into a blizzard.
This is one of the many reasons I carry a bug-out bag — or 72-hour kit — in the back of my car. Because you never know when you might get stranded in your vehicle.
Of course, I don’t just have a bug-out bag in my car. I also have them in my home — one for each member of my family — in case we ever need to evacuate. Here’s a perfect example why…
Have Supplies, Will Travel
In 2016, there was massive flooding in Louisiana that displaced thousands of people, many of whom were completely unprepared.
One Louisiana family — who had assembled bug-out bags — traveled to a nearby school that had been set up as an emergency shelter. They estimated over 500 people were being housed in the school.
Many of these evacuees had gone without food for over 48 hours, but this family had plenty of supplies in their bug-out bags. They were prepared to go for days surviving on their own supplies.
Undoubtedly, if you surveyed 20 people and asked them what they have in their bug-out bags, you’d get 20 different answers.
That being said, there are certain basics everyone should have. There are also several common mistakes people make with their bug-out bags. Here are three biggest ones to avoid.
One of the most common mistakes involves the bag itself. Never go cheap on your bug-out bag. You don’t necessarily have to spend $400 on a hiking backpack, but you should purchase a quality bag that can withstand the elements and won’t tear or fall apart when you need it most.
I suggest looking for bags made out of canvas. Why canvas? Because canvas is woven so tightly during manufacturing that it’s wind and water resistant. In addition to being wind and water resistant, canvas is a sturdy fabric that doesn’t yield to frequent stress or tugs.
Once you’ve chosen a bag and filled it with your gear, test it. Go for a long walk with the bag on your back to ensure you can carry everything and the bag will sustain the weight.
I have a family member who bought a cheap backpack for $50 and loaded it with all his gear. He was slowly carrying it around his house when the zippers came apart and everything fell out. This isn’t something you want to deal with during an emergency.
Also, if you have kids, make sure the bag you’re asking them to carry is light enough. Don’t ask an 8-year-old to put 40 pounds on their back.
Another misstep people make when it comes to filling their bug-out bags is they’ll often run out of water but still have plenty of food left.
The simple truth is we need water before we need food, so you should have plenty of water in your bag and less food. Our bodies are resilient and can go weeks without food.
During a bug-out situation, you will also be under a lot of stress and focused mostly on surviving. Most likely, you’ll have a decreased appetite and will not eat three meals a day — you may just need a few protein bars to sustain yourself.
In addition to carrying water, I also suggest carrying a water filter. My favorite is one that can purify up to 250 gallons of water before the filter needs to be replaced. It’s small, lightweight and takes up very little space in your escape bag. It’s called the SurvFilter. I’ve used it multiple times when I’ve gone backpacking and it’s always worked great.
Finally, another mistake I often see is people using new or untested gear. Just like you tested the bag itself, you need to test each individual piece of gear. In an emergency, you won’t have time to read instructions or Google how to use your new radio. You need to know the basics before a crisis arises, so you can focus on survival.
A good way to test everything, for instance, is to take your bug-out bags on a weekend camping trip and use everything over the course of the trip. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with all of your gear so you’re ready to use it in an emergency.
The lesson here is when you’re putting together your bug-out bag, think about these common mistakes and evaluate any changes you need to make. Since you might have to depend on these items to save your life, you can’t afford any errors.