Matt Jones has a bunch of del.icio.us links today about what constitutes a “go bag” — i.e., the bag you keep for an emergency situation.

Browsing around, I found a couple of links on the subject. Pretty useful if you’re planning on keeping a go bag, and I recommend it. It may sound like retard survivalism, but just remember New Orleans (or San Diego last year).

It reminded me that I need to put one of these together again. I have most of the stuff I need. Here’s my list of stuff I keep in my go bag, usually. It’s not as completist as what these guys talk about, and it should be, but this is really basic stuff.

  • A sharp pocket knife, preferably a Gerber Chameleon II (because your finger goes through the hole and it’s nigh-on impossible to slip and slice your fingers off)
  • A big-ass carabiner
  • An “unbreakable” water bottle with a looped screw-on lid, which hangs from my backpack strap; where I live, in Nevada, you need as much water as you can carry. Mine claims to be heatable above boiling point as well.
  • An LED headlamp and a small LED flashlight; if you’ve got the space, get a Mag-Lite, because you can use them to bash people over the head
  • Three black t-shirts
  • A first aid kit
  • A bicycle lock, which can also be used as a loop or a flail or to hang heavy things from
  • A small roll of heavy-duty “contractor” trash bags, which can be used in any number of ways
  • A small heavy hatchet
  • Cheap plastic lighter to augment my Zippo
  • Trail mix
  • A solar battery charger for cell phones, GPS, etc.
  • Toilet paper

This is by no means a complete go bag, and I should probably go and pick up a large ALICE pack from the surplus store and load it up. I’d probably also include water purification tablets, a wool blanket, heavy-duty socks, MREs (military rations, Meals Ready to Eat or, apparently, Mostly Rat Excreta), and (as one of the linked authors suggests) wax paper and a china crayon-pencil, for waterproof writing. This is a fairly heavy load, but remember, I regularly carry 50 pounds of gear in my bag anyway (laptop, big hardcover books, cameras, cables, etc.) I can carry about 100 pounds of gear for long distances, though I’d prefer not to. Being overweight and a smoker, I don’t move very fast, but I can keep moving all day.

Clothing? Cargo pants, black t-shirts, and — in a real emergency — probably something approximating a Tuareg robe. Which sounds dumb, but again, I live in one of the driest, hottest places on Earth, and in a real emergency I’d rather look like a dorky Jedi than a dead fashion victim.

I wear extremely worn, comfortable combat boots every day as a matter of course, but I’d also pack some flip-flops, just in case. And I have a straw cowboy hat which serves me extremely well in the heat — it’s loose-woven enough to breathe, very light, but it also blocks the sun on my face and neck as well as could be expected. Also useful for batting away insects.

If I lived somewhere cold and wet — or even in the tropics — this would be a much different list, of course. But survival in the Mojave is primarily predicated on keeping hydrated and keeping cool. If I had nothing else, I’d take water with me before anything else.

How about you? What do you recommend as indispensable survival gear?

  1. Hmm – I actually hadn’t thought about this, at all. Looking around though, I found this at REI:
    http://www.rei.com/product/743636 …which seems like a nice compact thing to have in a spare backpack, ready to go. I’d also want a sun hat, sunblock, antibacterial gel, medic alert necklace, antihistamines/painkillers, laminated maps, and laminated photocopies of important documents – passport, birth certificate, emergency contact numbers, etc. Also, a handheld ham radio transceiver. The solar-powered battery charger is a great idea – do you have a particular model that you like?

  2. This is a bit off the subject, but have you recently viewed the new movie or read the book “Into the Wild”? Just curious about your thoughts on the subject.

  3. A big towel. Geeky Douglas Adams references aside, they are very handy, and could do stand-in as part of your Tuareg robe.

    A length of rope.

    A decent leatherman is more versatile than your pocket knife.

    You probably don’t need a torch AND a headlamp. I’d go the headlamp myself, and use the extra space to carry spare batteries.

    Of course history (in the form of people who get stuck in Outer Whoop-Whoop in Australia) suggests that in your climate you’d be better to hole up with plenty of water and wait it out, whatever “it” is. You can’t carry enough water to walk very far when it’s 40+C and zero percent humidity.

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