Creating a Go Bag

The devastation and ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina shook my faith in the government’s ability to respond to a major urban catastrophe. Like a lot of Americans, that was my wake up call to get myself and my family prepared to deal with whatever may happen outside of our normal routine.

We have a bug-in/bugout kit in the home that provides for 72 hours of food and water for ourselves and our pets, so I set about creating a “go bag” for my car that would provide with enough supplies at least 72 hours of safety and security no matter where I was in Arizona.

That last part that presents some unique challenges, because the climate in Arizona can vary greatly from place to place. As I write this on a February morning, it’s a warm 79° in the Phoenix area, but in Window Rock in the northeast part of the state, it’s a full 20 degrees cooler. This means I have to prepare for the brutal heat of the Sonoran desert to the cold of high snowy mountains and everything in-between. What doesn’t change, though, is that there’s not a lot of water to be found in our state. More on that later.

My thought process for assembling this stuff was pretty simple: Have something to cover the basics of outdoor survival, (fire, water, shelter, signaling, navigation, food and security), and have at least one backup for each of those needs.

So this is the rig I’ve created to get me home no matter what.

Bags: Galati Gear 30 Inch Rifle Bag (L), Paladin Go Bag (R)

Creating a go bag

The Paladin bag has MOLLE straps galore on it, a fact that I take full advantage of by adding an additional hydration pack, ammo pouch, dump bag and first aid kit to the outside, along with a Gerber Prodigy on the main strap. I love this bag, and it (along with a gallon and a half of water) fits quite nicely into the trunk of my little Civic.

Go bag and water in the trunk of my car

The rifle bag is new and bought specifically for my Kel-Tec SU-16C. It’s small, discrete and makes a dandy sleeping pad if I need to sleep outdoors.

su16c_kit_smI’ve added a sophisticated single point sling anchor fior the SU-16C: It’s a 1/4″x 1-1/4″ hitch pin, and it does the job just great. Attached to that pin is a Blackhawk! Single Point Sling. I love this gun, and I think it makes a perfect bug out gun. It might be too much gun to pop squirrels for food or not enough gun to drop a moose in one shot, but for everything else, it works great. Besides the rifle, the case contains two AR mags full of defensive ammo, a spare battery for Vortex Strikefire Red Dot that’s usually on that rifle and the factory-installed takedown pin for the SU-16C.

Paladin Bag – Outside Pockets

Ok, now we get down to the nitty-gritty. Since I’ve taken these photos, I’ve removed some items and added others and made a note when things have changed.

bag_pockets_smClockwise from Upper Left:
A pair of dust masks (because haboob), Quikclot, pouch for AR Mag/Pistol Mag, dump pouch, flashlight (a $5 light from Lowes that is incredibly bright), spare mag for my Sccy CPX-1, flashlight pouch, Gerber Prodigy knife, scabbard for the Gerber, Frost Cutlery knife (removed), cheap AM/FM radio (removed), button compass, razor blade, water filtration straw. whistle, lighter, Gerber Multitool, tinder, fire sparker, signal mirror, waterproof paper notebook, magnesium strip and flint sparker, moar tinder, Kleenex-brand handtowels, chemlights, burn gel, Ibuprofen, Imodium, Zyrtec, hand sanitizer, moar hand sanitizer (gone), sunscreen (gone), adhesive bandage (gone), alcohol wipe, sunscreen/bug spray, spare batteries.

I had built up this bag bit by bit, so when I finally laid out everything on the table I realized I had a lot of duplicates of duplicates. Two is one and one is none, but five might be overkill, so I pared everything down do just the necessities. And the Kleenex hand towels are pretty cool: They’re the “wipe” part of a moist wipe, so they work just as well when wet but are easier to carry and don’t dry out.

First Aid Pouch

first_aid_smI moved a lot of first aid supplies from the side pockets into this pouch to consolidate everything, so what I have now doesn’t look like this.

Clockwise From Upper Left:
Elastic bandages, tape, abdominal pad, dressing, adhesive bandages, burn gel, oral pain reliever, ibuprofen, smelling salts, safety pins, butterfly strips, alcohol swabs, tape, Gerber Powerframe, Israeli combat bandage, triangular bandage, wrap bandage.

Most of this stuff was cobbled together from a variety of first aid kits. I’m always amazed to see how many of the “survival” first aid kits don’t take dehydration and diarrhea into account with medicinal pills or water purification systems. Living in the desert has taught me that you’ll die of bad water or no water long before you’ll starve to death.

Paladin Bag Side Pockets

side_pockets_smDoes it seem like this bag has a lot of pockets? You’re right, it does!

Clockwise From Upper Left:
Work gloves, heavy-duty aluminum foil, paracord, clear plastic sheeting, pvc tubing, spare batteries, smartphone connection cords.

I am a big believer in the utility of the modern smartphone. In a large disaster scenario, text messages can go through when most other forms of communication are down or overloaded, and there are apps out there for first aid, emergency services frequency scanning and other survival needs. And hey, you can always play Angry Birds on it while you wait for help to arrive…

Center Pocket

Again, some of this stuff has been swapped out with other stuff since I took this photo.

interior_contents_smClockwise From Upper Left:
Spare clothing, sun hat, tarp, emergency rations, chemlights, extra zip-close bags, can openers, Esbit stove, pencils, zip ties, knife sharpener, wire saw, stove fuel, emergency cash, playing cards (because boredom sucks), compass, tissues, coffee (a necessity of life), spare eyeglasses, water purification tablets, duct tape (replaced with smaller roll), cup, trowel, rain poncho, moleskin pads, goggles (because haboob), wind-up AM/FM radio/phone charger, sunscreen, mylar emergency blankets.

I realized while unpacking all this stuff that the roll of duct tape I had in the bag was frickin’ huge, and as much as I love duct tape, it’s just takes up too much room, so it had to go. The Paladin bag also has an interior pocket for a hydration bladder, so between that bladder and the one on the outside, I can easily carry a gallon of drinking water with me wherever I go. That’s not enough for the long-term, but it’s a start. If I were living somewhere that wasn’t so dry and hot, warm clothing and rain gear would be more of a priority for me and I’d probably carry around less water.

Next Steps

To test whether this gear actually works and what I might need to replace, I plan on doing a three-day hike next month with just this gear and some extra water to keep me going. Loaded up, both bags weigh just 26.5 pounds, or about 35 pounds with a gallon of water, so it shouldn’t be that heavy to lug around. I’ll have a report when I complete and/or survive the trip…