Right in the Go Bag14 Apr 2014
Me: Ernest Shackleton didn’t have a go bag.
Gord: Ernest Shackleton had nothing BUT a go bag.
One doesn’t have to venture very far into the survivalist nut-job neighborhood of the Internet to find the go bag section.
A “go bag” is a pre-packed backpack full of survival essentials that one might need at a moment’s notice. The more nuanced survivalist will differentiate between the “get home bag”, which is intended to get you from your automobile or place of work back home in case of emergency, and the “bug out bag”, a larger set of backpackable gear that will keep you alive when you abandon your residence and strike out for the plague-free zone.
There are a number of reasons I can think of to invest the time and expense to build a go bag.
Natural Disaster. Prepare for an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, or whatever local flavor of disaster your geography may have in store for you.
Societal Breakdown. Some sort of post-apocalyptic scenario, such as nuclear holocaust, pandemic, or civil war forces you to leave your home.
Zombie Apocalypse. There are various flavors of the zombie apocalypse, most of which originate with an escaped weaponized virus. But don’t discount the alien zombie invasion or the supernatural. No matter what the cause, if zombies roam the earth, you’re going to need a go bag.
GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). You need a reason to buy some cool stuff.
I put a go bag together earlier this year. For the sake of argument, let’s assume I was motivated by reason 1. Not reason 4. Couldn’t possibly be reason 4.
Turns out it doesn’t matter. Once you build it, you’re ready for all of the above.
Here’s what is in my bag:
Backpack. 5.11 Rush 12. Don’t trust your life to that feeble freebie you got at Cisco Live. The 5.11 Rush is super sturdy, reasonably priced, and the 12L version is a perfect for get-home or a small go bag.
Knife. Cold Steel Recon 1. This knife scares the shit out of me. I’m afraid to open it, and when it’s open I’m afraid to touch it. In other words, it’s perfect.
Multitool. Leatherman New Wave. The New Wave is my favorite Leatherman tool. Either that or the Leatherman Skeletool. There are lots of good multitools out there. Be sure you get a cutting edge, pliers, screw driver bits. And a bottle opener.
Solar Charger/Light. WakaWaka Power solar charger and light. The WakaWaka will charge your phone, and is also a flashlight and reading light. In all but the worst outcomes you’ll welcome the ability to charge your phone. This device will charge your phone in 2 hours, and give you 10 hours of light.
Another Knife. Spyderco Sage. One thing I don’t want to run out of in the afterworld? Knives. And ammo. But I don’t have a gun, so knives.
Fire Starting Capability. FastFire Emergency Fire Starting Kit. Starting a fire may quickly become the most urgent thing in your life. The FastFire kit has includes a striker, a ferrocerium rod, and a two pieces of tinder that will ignite even when they’re wet. If you’re not in dire conditions, just use matches, or a lighter.
Matches. Stormproof Match Container. See above. For starting a fire in less than urgent conditions.
Lighter. A Bic butane lighter is the “good enough” standard. Assuming you have decent matches and a fire starting kit as backstops, the Bic is fine.
Water Treatment. Pack some water purification tablets. They won’t filter out particulates or make the water taste better, but they will keep you from getting sick.
Water Filtration. The MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter will not only clean up your water supply, but it will filter out protozoa and bacteria such as giardia. This filter isn’t light, but for longer term use it’s preferable to iodine tablets.
Utility Cord. Bluewater 3mm Niteline. Clothes lines, hanging bear bags, zombie restraint, and so on. I always feel better having enough rope. Niteline reflects light for better visibility.
Another Knife. Victorinox Swiss Army Mountaineer. Did I mention knives are a good thing? If you don’t have a mountaineer in your pocket every day, you definitely want one in your go bag. The mountaineer has two blades, scissors, a toothpick, tweezers, a corkscrew, a bottle opener, a can opener, and more. It’s the best balance between utility and size/weight and it’s my favorite Swiss Army knife.
Food. S.O.S. Rations Emergency Food Bar. When they get close to the 5-year expiration date, I’ll bust out these rations for a family survival taste test. I wonder how they work in the sous-vide machine? A few energy bars such as Clif Bars will add variety to the high-calorie rations.
Note Pad. I like Field Notes notebooks. Their regular notebooks are made of normal paper. But the expedition edition uses some sort of magical indestructible synthetic paper. Perfect for the aftertimes.
Pencils. I really like the Palomino California Cedar Pencils. They’re made in the USA and they smell awesome. That will come in handy as your hair falls out due to radiation poisoning.
Waterproof Bags. Aloksak. I keep the Field Notes books in an Aloksak. Aloksak bags are super-duper zip lock bags. They are waterproof and reusable. They won’t last forever, but who does once the zombies come?
Compass and Map. If you need a compass, you’re probably in the deep, deep mud. But it weighs nothing and if you need one, you’re screwed without one (in other words, don’t rely on the compass in your smart phone). I carry an old Suunto. A paper map of the local area may also come in handy.
Survival Blanket. Adventure Medical Kits Sol Survival Blanket. It might get loud. Wait. Cold. Cold. It might get cold. It might also get loud. But the blanket is for cold.
First-Aid Kit. Family First Aid. It is basic common sense to have a first-aid kit in your bag. This kit includes a pair of scissors and and some tweezers. Because splinters suck.
Breath Mints. Altoid Smalls. Because every post-apocalyptic movie I’ve seen has a romance.
Gloves. You absolutely can’t injure your hands in a survival situation. I pack a set of CLC work gloves.
Shoes. If your bag is intended to get you home from wherever your vehicle may be stranded, pack an extra pair of sturdy shoes/boots. Those $600 Santoni’s look great but may not serve you well hiking 40 miles home down a broken freeway.
Rain Gear. Woodland Camouflage Rip-stop Poncho. A rip-stop nylon poncho is very versatile. Together with utility cord it can be used to build a shelter. It will work as a ground cloth or picnic blanket. And it will keep you and your gear dry(ish) in a storm.
If you live in an area where very cold weather is a possibility, pack enough gear to get you through some outdoor travel. Heavy gloves, a hat, and warm socks are the minimum.
One more thing: pack some tampons. Besides the obvious, tampons are useful as bandages and for straining chunky bits out of your water supply.
Hopefully all this preparedness (ie. buying stuff) ends up nothing more than a bunch of gear carefully packed in my trunk for the next 20 years. But when the zombies come, I’m ready.
Here is a list of go bag contents on Amazon.