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The Survival Bag

Thursday, 31 May 2012 04:12

Whether you call it a Survival Bag, Bug Out Bag (BOB), Get Home Bag (GHB), FEMA 72 Hour Kit, or by another name, this is your life line in a survival situation. The saying, “Everyone has a rear-end, and they all stink” also applies to a Survival Bag. We can't even agree on what we call this bag. Also, what works for one individual, may not work for another. This is due to several factors, to include finances, experience using certain items, and regional considerations. The following article discusses the items I feel are most important. Also if you look under the attachments, located at the end of the article, you will find a .pdf document of my current layout.  

The Survival Bag

Here enters the mobile kit, generally called a Bug Out Bag (BOB), Get Home Bag (GHB), FEMA 72 hour kit, or whatever you may label this system (I refer to my kit as a Survival Bag). It can be in the form of a backpack, military rucksack, or a Tupperware box in the trunk of your vehicle. The general rule is to have enough food and water for a minimum of three days (72 hours). The important thing is to possess these survival items, and ensure they are in close proximity at all times.While prepping, I recommend taking a tiered approach. Preppers generally lean to areas we feel more comfortable, or that interest us. That is why a lot of preppers first start out purchasing firearms. In contrast, when people ask me where to start, I generally follow the rule of three’s. Three hours without shelter. Three days without water. Three weeks without food. I personally believe ensuring you have potable water is more important than having firearms and ammunition.  These three items (shelter, water, food) should be easily accessible, and if in a moment’s notice are needed, you can quickly pick them up and move out.   

The next area I would recommend is ensuring you have the tools necessary to re-create items in the wild. Look at the following scenarios. I will admit, they are worst case, but shouldn’t we prep for the worst case anyways?

Shelter – Let’s say you purchase a family tent for your alternate form of shelter. During a grid down scenario, you chose to leave your house. Your tent now becomes an important part of your survival. It provides comfort, but more importantly, it should provide protection from the elements. But, what if your tent is damaged, it burns down, or you have to leave it behind. Will you have the necessary items to replace or re-create a shelter using the natural materials around you or from other items in your survival bag?

Water/Food – The area you live in has become unsafe, so you decide to leave the comforts of your home, and the majority of your preps. You pack whatever you can into your mini-van, but realize with the gear you meticulously selected, weapons and ammunition, your spouse, two children, and Fido (your early warning system), you have room for only two months of food and 10 gallons of water. While your food will last a considerable amount of time if properly rationed, your water will be gone in only a few days. Even though you stored 400 gallons of water in your garage, they are now useless. Do you have a means to properly treat or filter water? Do you have redundancies to ensure you can filter water, if your primary filtration equipment is damaged or lost? What if the situation deteriorates and you have to leave your vehicle behind? 

Given the above scenarios, you will need to have items to create a shelter, treat water, and possibly gather food. These three areas again are the core of my prepping/survival system and follow the Rule of Three’s. So besides knowledge, which items or tools would you need in a grid down situation? I am a firm believer that we should learn from other’s experiences. Dave Canterbury (Dual Survival and The Pathfinder School LLC) identifies five key items needed for survival, dubbed the Five C’s of Survivability and include: Cutting, Combustion, Cordage, Covering, and Container. These items are generally the hardest to replace and/or reproduce in a grid down situation.

Cutting – Usually a knife, axe, or machete, which is used to process wood, other natural and manmade materials. We use cutting tools every day, and would likely use them even more in a grid down situation. 

Combustion – A means to start a fire. A fire will be used to boil water to ensure it is safe to drink, cook food, and keep you warm.

Cordage – Provides the ability to lash items together, make animal traps, and many other uses. Cordage is generally hard to replace in a grid down situation, and is relatively cheap to purchase.

Covering – An item used to provide protection from the elements. This could be a tent, tarp, and/or poncho.

Container – A means to store and/or boil water. 

Dave Canterbury’s 5 C’s are the core of his survival system. I would supplement these items with a small medical kit, hunting/fishing kit (applicable to your area), and a form of personal protection. Personal protection is generally a big area of debate. I recommend that you have some form of personal protection, and ensure that you conduct regular training. I personally use firearms, but my needs, beliefs, and training may not be the same as yours. There is no single way of achieving any task, and this also applies to personal protection. Your local and state laws, and more importantly your comfort level of using a specific personal protection device, may limit how you decide to defend yourself.

Survival Bag Minimum Items List

Now before we get into the minimum items that should be included in your Survival Bag, first we should discuss some considerations. The goal of the Survival Bag is to have enough supplies for a minimum of 72 hours. If your Prepper Mindset determines you want to carry a firearm, then you need to check the state and local laws to determine if you can conceal a weapon, or if a permit is required. For instance, I live in a state that authorizes open carry, and issues conceal carry licenses liberally. Even though the state I live in does not care if I open carry, my place of work does not authorize weapons on your person or in your vehicle. They do not even authorize firearms, and other items that could be used as a weapon, on the roads leading to the building. The point here is to understand your local and state laws, and determine which items can be legally carried in your Survival Bag or EDC. The below items are what I recommend as the minimum packing list.  


  1. Three day food supply
  2. Cutting Tool – Knife, small ax, folding saw, and/or machete. I recommend a good quality knife as the minimum item. For starters, I use the Becker BK2 for a knife, a Wetterling's Large Hunter's Axe, a Trail Blazer 18" Takedown Buck Saw, and a Bacho Laplander Folding Saw
  3. Combustion Device– Ferrocerium rod, lighter, and/or waterproof matches.
  4. Combustion Materials - Includes petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls, char cloth, or commercial item.
  5. Shelter – Tent, tarp, hammock, and/or poncho
  6. Covering – Wool blanket or sleeping bag
  7. Cordage – 550 Cord and/or bank line
  8. Light – Preferably a head lamp, but flash light is also acceptable.
  9. Water bottle – Preferably metal so it can be used to boil water, full of water. I use the Klean Kanteen 40 ounce Water Bottle
  10. Water Treatment and Filtration – Preferably a water filter, but chemical tablets can be used. I use the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Filter and Katadyn Vario Multi Flow Filter in my survival bag. 
  11. Cook Pot – A pot small enough to fit in your bag, and can be used to cook food or boil water. I use the Grand Trunk / Zebra Pot
  12. Emergency blanket or sleeping bag– Can be used to reflect body heat or heat from a fire
  13. Tape – Duct tape or electrical tape. If you have room, carry a full roll.
  14. Clothing – Full change of clothes, to include pants, long sleeve shirt, socks, and underwear. Optional, treat your survival clothing with a Permethrin solution to deter insects, ticks, and chiggers.
  15. Wet Weather Gear – Poncho or rain coat
  16. Hygiene Kit – Includes small roll of toilet paper, towel, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
  17. Medical kit – Includes an assortment of band aids, antibiotic ointment, butterfly enclosures, etc.
  18. Medicine pack – Includes Tylenol or other pain/fever reliever, anti-diarrheal pills, allergy pills, etc.
  19. Fishing Kit – Includes small hooks, weights, artificial lures, and line
  20. Hunting / Trapping Kit – Includes snares and/or snare wire, cordage, nails, etc.
  21. Compass
  22. Notebook
  23. Heavy coat (Seasonal)
  24. Snakebite Kit (Optional)

The Survival Bag System

When it comes to Survival Bags, there are many different configurations. I currently use a 5.11 Rush 24 backpack (Coyote), and a Maxpedition Proteus Versipak Butt Pack. I take a tiered approach to how I store my items. My butt pack has suspenders, and I carry it on me at all times when conducting survival training. The butt pack also stores the majority of items I use for everyday tasks. My backpack stores redundant items, my food, and my cook pot. Both make up my individual Survival Bag system. If a larger bag is needed, I also have a Blackhawk SOF Ruck.

If you price out my bags, you will realize that these items can be quite expensive. I am not saying you need to have expensive bags, but these bags have been combat tested, and will last a long time. I used a 5.11 backpack in combat for over two years, and it took the abuse. I would recommend buying quality items, and this extends to the gear located inside the bag. If your current financial situation limits you to a specific quality, I believe having any item, even if it is considered low quality, is better than not having a specific survival item.

Lastly, keep in mind that you should tailor your Survival Bag to seasonal requirements. You will not need a heavy jacket in the summer. In contrast, if you had to leave your home in a true bug out situation, you may want to have your heavy jacket.


The items identified above, should be in your minimum items list. Of course, you can supplement your Survival Bag with many more items. If you identify a required item not on the above list, please post a comment.  Under the attachments, you will find my current Survival Bag Configuration. Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:05
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5 C's of Survivability Dave Canterbury
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