This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Lee F
My wife and I are new to prepping and have been at it for only seven months. I have been very pleasantly surprised with the things I’ve been getting out of this pursuit which I did not expect when I started. Among these things are; closer bonding with my family, less time in front of the TV, a growing sense of purpose and control over my financial affairs and life, but most of all I’ve come to appreciate the wealth of ideas and inspiration provided by my fellow preppers, and prep sites like this one.
By circumstance we are suburban preppers and at this point we’ve improved our ability to sustain ourselves significantly by securing an off-grid permanent water supply, and heat sources for one year. Additionally, we have gone from the “3 days of food in the cupboards” category, to having a rich variety of food stuffs for six people for six months. With only four of us actually in the household, this is another great idea taken from our fellow preppers…”expect company when TSHTF”. We are continuing to increase our food supply toward the next benchmark of one year. Along the way we have had a ton of fun as a family, experimenting with canning, Dutch Oven cooking, building dedicated shelving in the garage for our supplies, our first vegetable garden, and most of all…creating and adjusting our vehicle based bug-out bags.
Another aspect of prepping I’ve come to enjoy is how preparing for what may come includes the need to parallel plan for “bugging in” and “bugging out“. The crux of this planning it seems to me, for most of us, is to expect an “event” to occur when we are away from the house. My best guess is the chances are about 50/50 for the average prepper that they will be away at work, doing errands, visiting, or some such, when then need to put their plan into action occurs. This brings us to the topic of the first and arguably most important preparation element for Doomsday…the everyday carry bag (EDC).
I have spent a fair amount of time researching many sources on this, and experimenting with my own EDC. After much thought toward the actual and practical rationale for an EDC, I humbly offer my opinion that most folks carry around too much stuff in their EDCs. Carrying a bag of any kind everywhere you go is not as natural in our culture for men as it is for women, and this is perhaps why I found doing so to be so bothersome and hard to get used to. I carried a book bag all through college, but it has been a number of years and I found carrying and EDC to be mildly annoying …this got me to thinking…man or woman, you should balance being prepared with being overloaded with stuff which in reality you most likely will never actually need instantly at your finger tips…Cool and necessary stuff to be sure, but much of it is even cooler when it is handy in my vehicle. Less is more they say, especially if carrying a bag everywhere you go is still something you’re getting used to.
The process for me worked out nicely in the end though, and went something like this…The current trend in EDCs seems to be being prepared for multiple contingencies with on the spot solutions for any emergency…I submit you should trim your EDC to only those items needed to get you the four or five hundred yards between you and your vehicle which, more than 99% of the time, is one minute or less from wherever you may be. Fewer items in your EDC doesn’t mean giving them up, it means only keeping them in your vehicle Bug Out Bag (BOB) instead…still available when needed.
The question becomes how many times in the last year have you been more than a minutes’ walk away from your vehicle? Here, one might argue the possibility that something could happen to your vehicle, or prevent you from getting to it…a Tornado slings your car into the next county, or more likely someone breaks into it, or steals it…or what if you’re trapped in a building?…but how likely is it really that you would ever need some of these items and you wouldn’t have a few minutes to get to your vehicle to get them? Sometimes you just have to make an assumption and go with it…I’ve concluded the odds of such a scenario are so small that I am comfortable with the risk, and the benefit is I have to have less in my EDC. This makes for a smaller, less bothersome bag.
The idea here is to think in terms of packing your EDC for two things only, 1.) Tools for overcoming whatever could stand between you and your vehicle, and 2.) Items so necessary if you couldn’t reach your vehicle, you’d be screwed without them. At your vehicle based BOB you can have everything you need for the three days on the road it may take to cover the miles back to your home or your bug-out location…in the mean time, you don’t have to carry anything non-essential with you everywhere you go.
If you are in an office, at a movie, or shopping somewhere, will you really need to change your socks and underwear right then and there? Or could it wait until you get to the parking lot to your car? Will a sudden and immediate need ever arise where you must build a fire in the lobby of a Denny’s using waterproof matches and a magnesium stick?, or could it wait until you’ve cleared that location in your vehicle, and are settling in for the night hours later and down the road?
When I first started carrying my EDC about five months ago it was a full size nap sack and while I liked having all the gear with me, but it wasn’t quite worth the hassle of juggling it every time I was on the move. After embracing the two assumptions above, I settled on the Maxpedition Jumbo Versa Pack. I now use this smaller satchel type bag for a combined purpose of essential EDC items, and everyday items. Even with the essential items I have identified, this bag is still just big enough for me to also include my I-Pad and my 5×9 folio with some work papers I routinely need.
Now I know I’ve been talking about streamlining this whole time, so why am I adding different non-essential items? For one good reason…by combining the two I still have less of a load than I did before, and the bag now serves two purposes (EDC, and stuff I actually need every day at multiple locations). I hate to say it but…A man purse…It is practical for me on two levels now and it makes it even more worth the hassle of carrying it around.
I would also mention you could look at the similar bag offered by 5.11 which swaps the open top bottle side pocket for a second zipper pocket (You can still fit a bottle of water inside the main compartment and it makes the bag even lower profile). My bag is black and this makes it appear to be an ordinary brief case type bag, suitable for business, and it calls no attention to itself when I’m walking around in the community. It is so nondescript in fact that after five months of carrying it with me everywhere; I’ve yet to have one person ask me anything about it…think about that!
So then, an empty (And smaller) EDC bag sits before you…what should go in it?
Based on our two assumptions above, is physical danger a possible barrier between you and your vehicle? Absolutely…In goes the handgun! (Assuming you are not already wearing it on your person).
Could darkness be an impediment? Very possible…in goes the mini LED flashlight.
Stuck in an elevator somewhere? Building collapsed and you’re trapped? A bottle of water and a bag of trail-mix would be handy, as would a whistle, a pocket knife, and a glow stick.
Need news, weather, and sports while riding out a hurricane? A charging cable for your smart phone is at hand. No power to charge your Smartphone? A 4-cell AA battery auxiliary charger is the size of an Altoids tin and will keep you tied to the airwaves for days.
On an unrelated note, if you don’t have a Smartphone yet, get one! The downloadable apps are far too valuable a tool for a prepper to not have. (Not all “events” result in the immediate disabling of cellular and satellite networks). To have the internet at your finger tips, files with libraries of everything from knots to raising rabbits, maps, GPS, built in compasses, and on and on… I especially like the Tune-In radio station app giving access to virtually every radio station on the planet, and you should also look at downloading the 5-0 Radio Police Scanner App with tens of thousands of police and fire frequencies (including those from your immediate vicinity) for you to listen in on 24/7.
So what else should go into the bag? What might occur in your presence that wouldn’t allow time to run to your vehicle, grab what is needed out of your BOB, and return? A medical emergency? Very possible…Here I can go on a final, and short tangent and offer advice to my fellow peppers on first aid. I spent seven years as a Paramedic in some of the meanest streets of America, and I have two pieces of very practical advice which will make you highly effective during medical emergencies if followed. Have the right supplies, and the right training…that’s it. What are the right supplies for your EDC? This will blow your mind…one 4″ roll of Kerlix, and one 4” roll of Coban…That’s it…
These two items are sufficient for all but the most massive traumas, traumas which by definition are more than certain to be fatal in any case. Kerlix is an absorbent gauze roll which can be wrapped around wounds, or shoved whole into larger wounds, where direct pressure is needed to staunch severe bleeding. Coban resembles the commonly known Ace bandage, but it has the unique quality of being a self adhesive (but not sticky to the touch). This allows the roll to be used loosely as a wrap that sticks to itself, or wrapped tightly to maintain any desired level of direct pressure to a wound beneath. I recall on a number of occasions using Coban even as a tourniquet. It can also be easily torn into sections and / or strips for multiple wounds or smaller wraps of small cuts on the extremities.
These two items require no scissors, pins, clips, or gloves to use, and they both will fit in the palm of your hand at the same time…They are in fact the Swiss army knife of first aid. I should clarify here I am not saying a roll of Kerlix and Coban are all the first aid supplies you will ever need, but they are just enough, just in time from an EDC to allow you to get to your car and back with a larger kit if needed. From the EDC perspective it is a most effective balance.
What about first aid training? Like many things in prepping, knowledge seems to be the key to everything. I think all serious peppers do the right things in practicing with weapons, drilling on bug out plans, researching and doing sustainability skill set building like gardening, animal husbandry, learning knots, etc, and medical skills should be no exception. As a minimum I recommend a course through the American Red Cross for first aid training. They have chapters everywhere and offer an inexpensive and effective introduction to the practice. For serious preppers I further recommend a trip to your local community college for enrollment into a Level 1 Emergency Medical Technician course (EMT-1). The beauty of the community college system in America is, without so much as a G.E.D. to one’s name, any adult can go down and pay a reasonable fee to enroll in a one semester long course (about 80 hours, or 4-5 hours per week, of mixed lecture and hands-on training, spread over 16 weeks). You will learn skills that will serve you and others for life…not a bad deal!
So, back then to our now half full EDC…That’s about it for the essentials…a weapon, food, and light…signaling and information gathering…There are some other items I carry which can’t be justified as tools to remove obstacles between my vehicle and myself, but much like you I imagine, I will carry them anyway, just because they come in handy…and because I have the room now! These items include; 2 Kleenex tissue pocket packs, Carmex lip balm, ear buds for the music files on my phone, a small Bic lighter (I know, but they are so small, why not?) a couple crystal light drink mixes, a small digital camera in an equally small padded case, a 3×5 note pad and pen, an extra clip for the gun (because I watch too many movies), a flat of aspirin, a flat of gum picks (I’m starting to get why women carry purses…), two heavy duty 24” zip ties, and a expired gift card half wrapped with 6 feet of duct tape and the other half with 2’ of Paracord (Very compact) and I still have room to spare.
I continue to experiment and I’d be interested in what others have to say on the subject for sure. I’m feeling pretty good about this plank in our strategy and we are focusing now on our Bug-Out Vehicle and Bug-Out Location. We still have a ton of work in front of us, but are enjoying the process itself, and we are learning from our fellow Prepper’s every day. Thanks to you all!
This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:
First Prize) Winner will receive a Nomad – 1 Person Standard Survival Package courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply, a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms, a $150 gift certificate for Remington Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com and a EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves. A total prize value of over $875.
Second Prize) Winner will receive two (2) Rothco Sure Paks With Heater courtesy of Camping Survival, a Wise Food Vegetable bucket courtesy of LPC Survival and a Wonder Junior hand grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $509.
Third Prize) Winner will receive 3 – 27 Variety of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds, 2 – Fruit Pack of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds and 2- First Aid Kit with Sutures in a Waterproof Resealable Bag courtesy of Be Prepared Now. A total prize value of over $215.
Contest ends on March 30 2012.