8 Goals for Building a Better Bug-Out Bag

Help your customers build their ideal bug-out bag and be prepared for emergencies.

8 Goals for Building a Better Bug-Out Bag

Natural and man-made disasters can occur at any moment, with little or no notice, possibly leaving people with no access to food, water or shelter. Most important are the first 72 hours following an incident, a span of time that can be more survivable if someone has the right tools and equipment. And if one can manage to survive the first 72 hours, there’s a greater chance of surviving the time that follows. This is where the concept of a 72-hour bag, or “go bag” or “bug-out bag” originates — identifying and carrying in one pack everything needed to survive virtually anywhere for a few days. The bug-out bag, as we’ll call it, is something that a person should have prepared and ready to grab at a moment’s notice, and not only should it be well-stocked, but all the gear in it should be instantly familiar to the user.

As with most disaster planning resources online, many lists and opinions can be found as to what should be in a bug-out bag. In fact, there can be so much information that it might be overwhelming to your customers. To help you and them make an informed decision as to how to create one, here are a handful of survival goals you can put in front of your customers to help them sort it all out. Some might want more in one area than another; in fact, some might want a pre-made bug-out bag. In any case, be ready to listen and discuss their needs and think through how you can help meet those needs.


Goal 1: Stay Nourished

A bug-out bag should include water and food — enough for one person for about three days. The water can be bottled water or some other form of prepackaged water. It may also include a means to filter or purify water. As for food, granola bars or other high-carb packaged foods might be appropriate, but be sure to have your customers consider freeze-dried or other just-add-water packaged foods. People usually think along the lines of meals-ready-to-eat (MRE’s) that the military provides to service members, and these are fine options, but modern freeze-dried food is available in a plethora of food types and flavors, providing very portable and tasty options. These survival-type foods have long shelf lives, some up to 15 years or more, and many can be prepared with cold water if there’s no access to hot water.


Goal 2: Stay Dry and Warm

Although they’re bulky, extra clothes are a must for a bug-out bag. At the least, consider extra socks and a wool or fleece sweater. Additionally, a bug-out bag should have some means of creating a shelter — even as simple as a folded tarp that can be used to create a tent or other cover. As for bedding, put an extra wool blanket in the bag. This can be used as a blanket when sleeping, a shawl when walking, or as a pillow. A rain coat is also a great idea. Worn over a wool shirt or fleece, it can provide significant protection from the elements. A “space blanket” — it looks like aluminum foil folded into a packet about the size of a deck of cards — can provide a dry, warm shelter as well.


Goal 3: Care and Treat

A disaster situation usually means a lack of running water, which means no toilets, showers or sinks. So a bug-out bag should include some basic gear for personal hygiene — a bar of soap, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, etc. Additionally, a bug-out bag should contain a basic first aid kit for the inevitable scratches or bug bites or other cuts or burns that could occur.


Goal 4: Carry the Right Tools

The right tools can vary depending on the geography, climate and many other factors, but it’s hard to beat a full-tang fixed-blade knife and/or a multi-tool. These can actually be carried in a sheath or clipped on a belt, thereby freeing up some space in the bug-out bag while having them more accessible.


Goal 5: Create Heat and Light

Being able to start and maintain a fire provides heat for comfort, heat for cooking and light to be able to see. While some common sense about how fire works (the need for fuel, heat and oxygen and a source of ignition) is of course helpful, be sure to discuss the many options for igniting a fire: a simple lighter, long-burn matches, flint and steel, fire-starting compounds, etc. The other form of light needed for a bug-out bag is a flashlight or two. A simple penlight or small, handheld light is useful, but so is a light that hangs and lights up a general area. Also very useful are disposable keychain flashlights and headlamps that allow for hands-free illumination.


Goal 6: Communicate and Navigate

Mobile phone service might be down during a disaster, but others in the area might be communicating via CB radio, amateur (HAM) radio, or by two-way radios. Do a bit of research to see if there’s a local club that uses these or other alternative means to communicate in an emergency, and be able to explain the gear and other related necessities to your customers. A simple, hand-crank radio may be useful for listening to radio broadcasts, and it never needs batteries. These often include a built-in flashlight. As for navigation, a dedicated GPS device may be useful, but if no electronics are available, then a map and compass may be needed, along with some instruction on how to properly use them.


Goal 7: Protect and Defend

A disaster situation brings with it a host of difficulties, including the possibility that a customer may need to defend himself or herself against wildlife or other humans. Again, the geography and climate will dictate which is more likely, but a typical option for a bug-out bag self-defense tool is a handgun. Your customers are likely already gun owners, so they’ll have their own preferences here, but you might be able to sell them a bug-out bag-specific firearm. Many prefer a revolver for the inherent simplicity — just point and squeeze the trigger — and many prefer a .357 Magnum because it will also fire .38 Special rounds. Other personal defense options include pepper spray (or bear spray for bear), a walking stick, and, of course the fixed-blade knife from goal 4, above.


Goal 8: Carry It Well

This list includes a lot of gear. Some items are bulky, some are heavy. In any case, if your customers are going to pack this much gear on the possibility of having to carry it for three days in a disaster situation, encourage them to pack it in a well-made backpack. A backpack’s two straps will help even out the load on a customer’s back and keep their hands and arms free for other actions, as it is likely they will be on the move. A proper backpack will have adjustable straps (and maybe even a waist strap, for additional stability), several pockets to help keep things organized, and be made of a lightweight but strong material (such as ballistic nylon). Many backpacks have MOLLE webbing and camouflage and other tactical features — these can be helpful. Some customers, however, might want to keep a lower profile during a disaster, and a tactical-looking backpack can give away too much information about the person carrying it. As such, more civilian-style backpacks can be just as strong and useful for a bug-out bag.

Other items may need to be a part of your customer’s bug-out bag — everything from medications to medical devices. In any case, help them develop a survival mindset by systematically working through these goals and reviewing the various ways these goals may be met using gear in your store. Have sample bug-out bags available along with additional resources on how to survive, how to use certain pieces of gear, and how you can be a resource to them before, during and after the purchase and setup of their bug-out bags.



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