If you keep up with my blog at all, you surely know that I subscribe to a mentality of being prepared for anything and everything I can be, regardless of how unlikely, and that my level of preparedness is limited only by my financial means. Finally, months after I decided to begin building one, I finally purchased a bag with which to begin my Bug Out Bag. As I add contents to my BOB over the next 4-6 months I will post new articles outlining the items I have added.
Update, 9 years later: Queue squiggly sound of a needle falling off a record. I had NO idea what I was talking about when I wrote this. Some points still hold water but the bag choice alone shows what I didn’t know back then. Look for an updated post on what a practical Bug Out Bag / combat ruck should look like.
The bag I purchased is the Leapers UTG Ranger Field Bag on Cheaper Than Dirt. I did a number of hours of research and read all the reviews on multiple sites for every bag I looked at. I was targeting a bag in the 5000-7500 cubic inch range, as I read that 4000-5000 is ideal for a BOB and I intend for this to be a ‘super BOB’. At some point I plan to build a second, 1-person-3-day, backpack BOB which will be a high-speed, low-drag setup with just the bare essentials. This one is meant to contain everything 3 people would need to survive for two weeks, save for the food and water, of which there will be 72 hours worth.
The Ranger Field Bag measures 36x17x12″, giving it about 7350 cubic inches of useable space. The pack has large zipper pouches on both ends of the bag, along with sturdy carry straps. At the top of the bag, underneath the UTG logo, there is a Velcro flap that folds back to reveal a clear ID sleeve, in which you could carry a spare ID in a Bug Out situation. Inside the bag there is a large, clear sleeve at one end for maps and papers. The bag itself is constructed of thick PVC material and has a waterproof inner lining. The construction of the bag is extremely heavy duty and every stress point is reinforced, including where all straps attach to the bag. There are two loop straps which are joined by a Velcro wrap to make a carry handle. The straps are thick, making it easier to carry this way. Best of all, the bag is equipped with two well-padded backpack-style straps, allowing it to be worn on the back. In an on-foot Bug Out scenario, this would be the only practical way of hauling 75-150lbs of gear (depending on how you pack your bag and how light your components are).
Along with my bag, I also bought a 12-meal case of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) from Cheaper Than Dirt. These are MRE’s made to the same spec as military MREs and by the same company, however they are made for the civilian market. I had never tried an MRE before, but had done a lot of research on them and know how well they’re designed to work. An active person in an outdoors Bug Out scenario could survive for weeks or longer on nothing but two MREs and 1 liter of water per day (more water in dryer, hotter climates than mine). For that reason I plan to pack 18 MREs and 15 bottles of bottled water (9L). For reference, MREs are 1lb each and 15 bottles of water weigh 20lbs. I will also eventually procure a compact water purifier pump.
Curious if MREs were any good, I tried one for the first time last night and was very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. Once you read the instructions and you’re sure you know what you’re doing, it’s very easy to heat your meal pack. The meal I tried was a Southern Chicken with Black Beans and Rice pack. The sides were two crackers with peanut butter, a serving pack of peanut M&Ms, an oatmeal cookie, milkshake powder mix (providing a lot of needed fat and requiring only 6oz of water), and lemonade powder mix that was much like Crystal Lite. To make the meal, you tear open the heating bag and insert the meal pack. You then pour in the supplied packet of salt water mix, fold over the top of the bag, and slide it into a supplied cardboard sleeve, which is then set flat. The chemical pack in the heating bag reacts with the water and boils it for 12 minutes, after which you remove the meal pack and it’s ready to eat with the supplied utensil.
The oatmeal cookie was great and the peanut butter and crackers were everything you’d hope they’d be. The lemonade was good and the shake was just mediocre (though I see that as only being there for the nutrients you get from it). The meal was frankly delicious and I couldn’t have asked for more. I plan on purchasing 3 more cases of MREs to complete my BOB and have extras to eat occasionally. My case was manufactured in March 2010 which gives the meals about 4 more years of shelf life if I store them at 70øF. I consider this fine, as I’ll eat some and rotate them out over time.
So far my BOB only consists of a bag and 11 meals, all worth a total of $100. Over the next 6 months I intend to invest another $1000-1500 in my BOB, without any firearms (firearms will have to wait until I move to New Hampshire sometime late in 2012).