Seventy-two hour kits, bug-out bags, and weight (Or, “How to assemble a list of ‘essentials’ so heavy it would give the Terminator a hernia”)

I’ve been reading a lot about seventy-two hour kits again lately. The lists of STUFF recommended by these so-called “authorities” (read: pointy-headed wogs that have never strapped on a pack in their lives) is astounding. There is no consideration given to weight or context. They take a one-size-fits-all approach, ending up with about two-hundred pounds of gear. Worse, these lists are copied-and-pasted throughout the blogosphere. Stop it. Stop copying and pasting without acknowledging reality. You’re going to get someone killed, hopefully just yourself.

Let’s consider weight. Yes, our military men and women routinely deploy with 120-pound rucksacks; and you know what? It’s entirely too much weight for a 20 year-old Ranger, who is so hard you could roller skate on him. If it’s too much weight for men that get paid to exercise, it’s too much weight for your average wheezing cube-dweller. Get realistic. For the last hundred years folks in the know have been advising our military (and armies throughout the world, actually) that forty pounds of gear is the extreme upper limit of what to carry for any extended period of time. Forty pounds, and that’s including your clothes, boots, rifle, and the weight of the pack itself. How much can you really carry?

Get your bag out. Now start as naked as you can get without scaring the dog and cat and step onto the scale. Add forty pounds to that weight. Boots, belts, and everyday-carry gear can really add up, can’t it? Now, go through your pack. Do you really need all of that? I am not going to begin to tell you what to carry, or to make a list for you. I hate pre-made lists. If you’re looking for that, go somewhere else. The internet is replete with asinine lists, with no context or purpose. Do not copy what you have not tested. Consider what you need to survive in the rule of threes. A person can survive:

  • 30 seconds without controlling serious bleeding
  • 3 minutes without oxygen
  • 3 hours without shelter in extreme hot/cold conditions
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Prioritize and build your bag accordingly. It should all add up to about forty pounds (including your rifle), depending upon your physical condition.

Set limits that fit your physical fitness, age, location, companions, budget, and intentions. Where are you going? How are you getting there? This is why I say time and again, “Walking sucks”. Set your gear up in “lines”. Pre-pack everything so that you have it set up from what’s in your pockets, to what is in a pack or LBE, to boxes for the bed of your truck or trunk of your car, to a trailer or roof rack. Have plans for losing, stashing, or giving away all of it. That is, be prepared for going without the line below the one you’re currently using. If you lose your pack, use what is in your LBE. If you lose your LBE, use what is in your pockets. This is not an excuse to add weight to your person. Use what you have. If you don’t have the tool, you are. Use your skills and knowledge to make up the difference. Above all else say “And no more!” once you hit your weight limits, so every single tool is prioritized. Add the “nice-to-haves” to these other layers. Camp stoves, tents, heavy food supplies, extra first aid supplies, water, ammunition, wedding pictures, scrapbooks, whatever, it all goes here, in your car, truck, RV, pack mule, whatever. Keep your immediate-use gear light, handy, and pertinent.

I am not a fan of the “seventy-two hour kit”. First, there is no way of knowing how long you will be on your own in, or in the aftermath of, a disaster. My take is forever, or until the stores open again. You are on your own. No one is coming for you. FEMA and the Red Cross are not your friends. They will disarm you and put you at their mercy, feeding you what they feel like, when they feel like it. The ultimate goal of Survival Club is to live as close to the comfort level you are now for as long as possible. Let some other schmuck stand in line for an MRE and a cot in the corner of the Murderdome. If you are relying upon your “bug-out bag”, know what you’re doing and where you are going, in context.