A picture’s worth a thousand words, isn’t it? Try to imagine ‘bugging out’ with a lot of the crap that various sources tell you that you must have in order to survive, and soon, you’ll be in worse shape than the troop pictured above, God bless him.
We’ve held off on putting together a DTG specific ‘SHTF Kit’ (aka ‘Bug Out,’ Survival, and other names) because a metric crap ton of information on the subject is already available. However, after reviewing what’s being accepted as ‘conventional wisdom,’ it has become apparent that as we focus on the “Neighborhood Protection Team” and local community aspect of preparedness, it’s time to throw in our two cents. We’ll start at the very foundation of what should be viewed as survival gear in any kit:
Your Boots: If your boots are garbage, you’re not walking far. At all. If they’re good boots, but aren’t fitted well, ditto. If they don’t have good insoles or support, double ditto. This is not the item to go cheap on; this is the item you will want to get the absolute best quality you can afford and have fit like it’s your own skin. DTG is partial to Danner boots, but there are plenty of other quality brands out there. Remember, you get what you pay for, so be a picky shopper. Research is key here. So far, the absolute best Danner we’ve found for long walks with heavy packs is the, ‘Combat Hiker,’ pictured here.
Your Container: Many sources encourage folks to start out with the container, and it should be a heavy gauge bag or a duffle bag of some sort. We couldn’t disagree more, and for several reasons:
- Carrying a full ‘bag’ or duffle, even with shoulder straps, for any distance, is going to get very uncomfortable very quickly. The lower back and trap muscles are going to take a beating, along with the core, presuming the person carrying it isn’t in the best shape or is a younger child, adolescent, or female.
- Carrying a well-made ruck sack (back pack) packed with survival items when performing NPT operations, or leaving one’s Neighborhood Protection Area for a safer location takes its toll, even when the individual carrying it has been practicing and is in good shape.
- It should be proportionately sized for the size and fitness level of the person who’s going to be carrying it. Further, it should be used as a routine PT (Physical Training) tool. Otherwise, you’re looking at being a living example of the picture above, especially if you’re ‘mature.’ A good rule of thumb is to have a pack loaded with no more than a third of the body weight of the person carrying it. That doesn’t sound too bad until you figure that a 180 pound male in decent shape will be carrying 60 pounds in the pack, which doesn’t take into account any other ‘equipment’, which may weigh up to about 30 pounds (more on that later). If you have kids with you, and they weigh 75 pounds, that means a 25 pound pack, maximum (including anything else they may have to carry), because their bones aren’t fully developed yet, and serious skeletal damage can occur if they carry too much. So, think about that when you’re putting your SHTF survival kit together. Look at the picture below. Think that little man or little lady is going to be able to hoist a pack like that, let alone carry it? Something to consider is that preppers have a propensity to over pack, especially when they try to adapt the, ‘two is one and one is none’ mindset, which is not applicable here. In a SHTF kit/pack, especially when you’re moving to a safer location, ‘one is great!’ is the rule with very few exceptions.
- When choosing your pack, try to get a balance between volume, empty pack weight, and durability. No need to spend hundreds of dollars, either, especially for your wife and kids, with the exception of young men from about 16 years and up. There’s a lot of good civilian brand packs out there on eBay that folks are selling that fit the bill nicely. Because of their inherent strength (yes, we’re aware that some women out there can run a lot of men into the ground, but generally speaking, men are better suited physicologically for carrying weight for long distances), men will be carrying the most during a SHTF movement. Because of this, and balanced against the fact that the men will most likely be the primary protectors for the family/group moving, the men’s packs should have some sort of quick release system built into the shoulder, sternum, and waist straps to be able to drop the pack quickly and do whatever is appropriate to protect the family. Here’s an example for family members, and is about half the size of the USMC FILBE (without accessory pouches holds about 5100 cubic inches – well over 6K with accessory pouches) that DTG staff members carry. It’s a Kelty Redwing, 3100 cubic inches/52 Liters. Sells for about $90 on eBay.
Now, with these two items, there’s a third leg of the stool that must be attached before you can even begin to think about walking out, and it’s already been alluded to, but we’ll begin beating the dying horse here anyway. You MUST break in your top quality boots by walking miles and miles and miles in them, finding out where hot spots are, treating your feet for blisters, and then adding gradually increasing weight in your pack on your walks to strengthen your back, core, and legs. It can be done with consistency in not too long a period of time. Example: This year was a mild winter. The DTG Chief Instructor started his ruck walks in mid February with 30 pounds and just 2 miles, just getting his body used to the exercise again. It is now 30 March 2016. Yesterday, he was able to 3.75 miles with 65 pounds at a pace of 13.3 minutes per mile. He’s 60 and weighs 175 pounds. Sure, he was beat at the end of the exercise, but if he has to ‘bug out’ or move to another NPA with his full load of equipment, self-defense carbine and ammo, and pack, he’s going to be able to go quite a ways before he needs to rest, and then, once rested, he’ll be able to keep going. The point being that you’re probably much younger and in better shape (or should be). You can do better and most likely be faster for longer distances. All you have to do is get started on a consistent program. Remember the graphic below:
Your Defense System: Very few resources in the commercial realm tell their readers they should have a defense system included in their SHTF pack/kit. This is a disservice. You need a weapon. If you have the best equipment in the world, with a family that’s in top physical condition, it all comes to nothing if you cannot keep them safe when you’re moving to Point B from Point A. Without a weapon (or several for a family), you’re just preparing to outfit a feral group of marauders when they come to get what you have. This addition also adds to the weight of what you’re carrying, especially when it comes to ammunition. Minimum recommendation for pistol ammo in the ruck is 50 rounds. This doesn’t count the ammo in the 5 magazines you’re carrying on you. Minimum recommendation for the Self Defense Carbine/Rifle is 210 rounds (7 thirty round magazines for an AR) in the ruck, and 7 thirty round magazines on your person (one would be in the carbine/rifle). That adds up. DTG recommends and uses the simple, ugly, reliable Glock 17/19 and AR’s. They’re easily controlled and have enough firepower to mount a sustainable defense. As much as some of us love the .45 and 7.62 NATO rounds, their weight for the same amount of ammunition is about twice that of the 9mm and 5.56 NATO. But, as always, to each his own. Remember, however, training is key here. You must perform dry fire consistently, and hit the range with live fire consistently. Hopefully, wearing what you’d be wearing if you were ‘bugging out.’ Other firearms are good choices, as well, providing the user practices carrying/shooting them and has enough ammunition. Some folks might be thinking that their 30-30 is good enough, and it just may be. However, get yourself a couple hundred rounds and see how the weight affects your pack. Everything is a trade off. Everything.
Next installment we’ll continue to build the kit and talk a bit about clothing and tools.