Constructed Go Bag.
Constructed Go Bag.
by Liam Newton-Harding.
What is a Go Bag? A Go Bag is a backpack or bag containing supplies that are supposed to last you approximately 72 hours in the event of an emergency. Kept by the door this bag allows you to leave your home, town, city or state with some comfort. Generally containing changes of underwear, toiletries, basic first aid and emergency supplies the idea behind the Go Bag is to allow you to reach a place of safety with more than just the clothes on your back while making your life a little bit easier.
Go Bags come in two basic types. The pre-packaged types (with an expectation that you will add items to suit your situation) or the type that you will build up from scratch, tailored to your own wants and needs.
This article will be dealing with the Constructed Go Bag. Built up from the very bag or backpack itself, each item bought separately, even replaced if a lighter, better piece of equipment comes on the market. For me the construction of my Go Bag, and the one for that of my wife, never actually stops. Adding some items, taking away others, the replacement of expired food and batteries, and adding better items when funds become available.
My use and development in purchasing and then creating Go Bags came first with the purchase of an Emergency Tube from my local drugstore. This was a plastic tube, approximately the size of a pencil case, that contained such items as a flashlight, dust mask, thermal blanket, and light sticks. This minimal Go Bag was meant to be kept in a car, in your your every day bag (I now keep a SOL Scout Survival Kit in my shoulder bag at all times) or thrown into another bag you have packed or were packing to deal with an emergency. This then led to the purchase of my first backpack with the idea of building my own, more comprehensive Go Bag. That first backpack was a camping style pack which was replaced, after a few years and a little thought about what was needed for my circumstances, with what is marketed as an Assault or Tactical Pack.
The backpack I settled upon (and I make no promise that at a later date it will not be supplanted by a different style) is the Condor Medium Assault Pack (available from Amazon.com). This is a military style MOLLE (MOdular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) backpack. This means that the pack itself is criss-crossed by many straps to which other forms of pouches, sheaths and packs can be mated. The backpack features three main compartments with a fourth to hold a Camelbak water pouch. There is a capacious main compartment with two smaller compartments of different sizes on the outside of the pack. The Condor Medium Assault Pack features a lumbar support belt (this can be removed) which combined with the shoulders straps, offers comfortable weight distribution. The molded back plate also means that the contents of the pack will not dig into your back as you carry them.
I am a great believer in redundancy in Go Bags. Multiple flashlights, different ways of keeping warm, and protection from the elements. The items are lightweight and take up a minimal amount of space. Doubles can be taken from the Go Bag and carried in pockets. I have taken this to a rather extreme form in my B.D.U. Go Bag System of which the Condor Medium Assault Pack is an integral part.
This Go Bag was built up with a very specific goal in mind. To get me safely and in good health to a destination some one hundred miles from the city in which I reside, on foot. Once at that location I can rest and recuperate, and build up the supplies again and think about the next step.
What should also be included in your Go Gag is a reasonable amount of cash ($10 or $20 bills for preference), copies of important documents (Birth certificate, passport, social security card), copies of ATM, credit cards and medical insurance cards. These items will be able to help you access your funds, prove your identity and help you start any medical or insurance proceedings you need.
Condor Medium Assault Pack.
Using MOLLE straps to directly attach equipment.
Binoculars : This is a heavy duty, military style, pair of binoculars. Waterproof and featuring a built in compass the strap means that they can be easily slung and carried from around your neck.
Red L.E.D. Flasher : Fitted to the back of the Go Bag this is a high visibility, bright L.E.D. Flasher that can alert people to your presence. The fact that it can be removed means that you can place it above or near your position, increasing the range from which it can be spotted.
Signal Light : With a run time of 200 hours this is a single use signal light (the battery can not be replaced). It can be used as a flashlight or as a signal light. The main body houses a small storage area with a signal whistle at the tip.
Light Sticks (12 Hour) : These chemical lights give out light without heat and do not need batteries. Reasonably bright they can not be turned off and are one use only. They are tough, cheap, lightweight, and readily available.
Light Stick Holder : Designed to accommodate most light sticks. This device allows light sticks to be clipped to belts or packs. It also features a twist/turn system that can hide or expose more or less light as needed.
Can Opener : P-51 style can opener. Lightweight and tied off to a lanyard.
Using MOLLE and compression straps to directly attach equipment.
Rope : Climbing style rope rated to 500lbs. For use in constructing shelter, rescue operations or scaling obstacles.
Clip Holster : For carrying either your primary or secondary weapon, this holster is a single point system that grips the body of the weapon, holding it firmly in place.
Using MOLLE and compression straps to directly attach equipment.
Machete : I chose a Gerber Saw Backed Machete because I have always been impressed by Gerber camping and survival products. The blade is full tang (meaning the blade runs into the full length of the handle, creating a stronger tool). The saw back feature works very well as a simple saw and is useful in camping and path clearing situations.
Drag Line (500lb) : Para-cord. Dedicated drag-line already fitted with clips allowing items to be raised or lowered over obstacles.
All Outside Contents.
A view of what is carried on the outside of the Condor Medium Assault Pack.
Information and power.
Radio : Crank handle radio with battery back-up, Staying informed during an emergency is vitally important. This radio is primarily powered by a dynamo hand crank system that does not rely upon batteries (though they can be installed). This radio is able to receive radio stations from farther away and across a broader spectrum than the scanning radios to find information that is relevant and important to you and your family.
Piezoelectric Flashlight : This was just a simple addition. Attached to a lanyard this small, not very powerful light allows me to look inside the backpack without searching for a flashlight.
Batteries : Enough batteries to replace spent batteries for each separate item that needs them within the entire Go Bag and the weapons systems. Make sure you have the right sized batteries for your powered items (batteries do have a shelf life so remember to rotate them out regularly).
Hygiene and First Aid.
First Aid Kit : A more comprehensive first aid kit than those designed to be slipped into a pocket or shoulder bag, this kit allows treatment of more severe injuries. Without proper medical training this is, quite frankly, all you will need or be able to use. Added to this kit are a number of toiletries to make life a little more comfortable.
Toothbrush : Physical and dental health is vitally important during an emergency. It will keep your spirits up and give you a routine. Toothbrushes like this can be purchased from any drug store.
Toothpaste : A supply of your own. No hunting, no sharing. Keep those teeth clean and keep your morning and evening routine.
Towel : A compacted, dehydrated towel. Light and easy to store. This will come in very handy (“There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.”)
Water Purifying Tablets. : Iodine tablets. Yes, they make the water taste funny but they are light and safer to use than bleach and are very useful if you can not boil your water supply.
Strike Anywhere Matches : A second source of fire. The strike anywhere feature of these matches means you simply need a rough surface on which to lite them. The waterproof containers fight against rain, flooding or immersion and feature a small flint upon the base that can be used with a knife blade to start a fire.
Surgical Tools : For the treatment of more severe wounds and injuries. These tools allow you to extract debris or close off wounds (Emergency Suture Kit, available from Amazon.com).
Shelter, comfort, and survival.
Poncho with Grommets : A heavy duty poncho, already fitted with metal grommets to help make a shelter or to offer protection from the elements. Large enough to cover you and your backpack. Snaps down the side allow you to close it up.
Poncho Liner : A quilted blanket that can be tied into the poncho, can also be used as a separate blanket and means you do not need to carry a separate sleeping bag.
Hammock : A lightweight hammock that means you can rest and sleep out of the dirt and the damp. It can also be used as a net to hold and drag items, should you need it.
Para-cord and Drag Line (500lb) : Para-cord. Incredibly useful. Can be used to help make a shelter (combined with the poncho). To tie or repair items.
Emergency Rations : Maritime style emergency rations. Each block contains enough calories for a 72 hour period of reasonable exertion. These generally have a five year shelf life but should be checked on regularly as they can lose their airtight seal.
Thermal Blanket : A light, disposable Mylar blanket for the treatment of shock, for keeping out the elements and for keeping warm by reflecting your own body heat back at you (I pack multiple blankets. They are light and can be purchased cheaply in bulk). Kept at the top of the compartment for easy and quick access.
Disposable Poncho : A light weight plastic disposable poncho that can be used in lieu of a raincoat. Kept at the top of the compartment for easy and quick access.
Underwear : Lightweight, not as good as a full change of clothes, they will however help you keep clean and feel clean.
T-Shirts : Able to be layered for added warmth they will also help you keep clean and feel clean. A great psychological boost during emergencies.
Wet-wipes : Hygiene, health and comfort. Sometimes just being clean gives a huge amount of psychological comfort.
Pain Killers : Separate from the first aid kit(s) these are a true boon. Purchased over the counter, these pills will relieves aches and other pains. Kept within easy reach so you do not have to unpack the entire Go Bag to get a hold of them. Again, they should be replaced regularly as they will lose their potency.
x5 Dust Mask : Easy to use and disposable. Offering limited protection against smoke these are mainly to stop particulates entering your lungs. They can be ordered in bulk and are incredibly light in weight. They come in different styles and the more money you spend the smaller the particle they will block. It is possible to obtain anti-bacterial and anti-viral masks.
Duct Tape : Duct tape, Duck tape, Waterproof tape. There is nothing that this stuff can not do. Repairs, patches, seals. With enough you can build a boat or repair the body of a car (Mythbusters). Handy and strong this item will be a boon to your Go Bag.
A great addition to any Go Bag are Ziplocs. They can be used as extra containers for food or tools, to keep things waterproof or even as emergency booties. Incredibly light and versatile a handful can be stuffed into your Go Bag at any point for what ever might occur.
This list is in no way definitive. This simply works for me and I just wanted to post this as a starting guide to anyone thinking of putting together their own Go Bag(s). There are also many publications out there to help you start or to refresh your own ideas for buying or constructing your Go Bag(s).
Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit by Creek Stewart and Jacqueline Musser.
Build the Perfect Survival Kit by John D. McCann.
The Prepper’s Pocket Guide by Bernie Carr.