In Building a Bug Out Bag Part I we discussed why building a Bug Out Bag is important and what type of bag to select. In Part II we discussed the Transportation Items to consider, and in Part III we explored Water preparedness for your Bug Out Bag. Today we’ll discuss Food preparedness and Food items to consider including when building a Bug Out Bag. Remember, this is your last ditch, carry on your back, walk away from trouble Bug Out Bag…not what you hope you can get to your bug out location if your car, SUV, or EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle makes it.
If you’re forced to bug out on foot you’re going to need lots of calories. Forget the low-fat health food and plan to fuel your body to keep it going. Remember that you’re trying to keep the weight of your bug out bag down as much as possible so choose your food carefully. The goal is to maximize calories while minimizing weight and space.
- Canned Food: Canned Food is an option but I don’t recommend it due to the weight. Additionally, the liquid often packed with many canned foods is susceptible to freezing and rupturing in your pack. The possible exception to avoiding canned food in your Bug Out Bag is if you want to carry one can of food…use it for your first meal and then use the tin can as your pot for boiling water or heating subsequent meals. If you decide to try this make sure that your can of food doesn’t require any cooking as you may not be able to stop or heat your food as you’re bugging out.
- Dehydrated Food: Dehydrated Food is lightweight and available from backpacking stores but generally takes a lot of water and preparation to be edible. One of the nice things about dehydrated foods are that if they are properly prepared they have a look and feel close to what you’re probably used to eating. Beef Jerky, pemmican and dried fruit are dehydrated options that don’t require any preparation and can be eaten on the run. Watch your expiration dates even on dehydrated food.
- Freeze Dried Foods: Freeze Dried Food is similar to Dehydrated Food except that it is more perfectly preserved and packs a bit smaller. You still need to watch your expiration dates.
- Meals, Ready-To-Eat (MRE): MRE’s are a common Bug Out Bag food choice. These are actually civilian copies of military field rations (some are made by the same companies that make the military rations) and can remain edible for up to five years in optimum conditions (the trunk of your car likely isn’t). These meals don’t require any preparation and can be eaten right out of the package but taste better when heated up (there are single use flameless heaters available or you can drop the food pouch in water that you’re boiling to drink or wash with). MRE’s are very filling and some of them actually taste good but they are the heaviest of the options (other than canned food) that we’ll discuss. MRE’s come with their own spoon and an accessory packet that often has a pack of waterproof matches in it.
- Lifeboat Ration: I think that lifeboat rations provide the best option for the bulk of the calories you pack in your Bug Out Bag. They’re calorie dense, don’t take up as much room in your pack, are lightweight, don’t require any preparation and will keep for years. They’re also less expensive (per calorie) than many of your other survival options. They taste fair to good at first but would get very monotonous over three days…we’re looking to survive here though…not eat a four star meal.
- Other Types of Food: Trail mix, protein bars, nuts and hard candies can be added to your Bug Out Bag for extra calories and/or comfort food. There are also a number of new Pouch type foods you’ll find very affordable at your neighborhood grocery. Weigh how durable the packaging/containers are when considering these alternative for your Bug Out Bag.
If you’re packing food that requires cooking or plan on boiling water to make it potable you’ll need some additional items:
- Cookware: You’ll need some type of cooking pot or canteen cup. A pot is more useful than a pan because it can also be used to boil water. Don’t bother carrying both…save the weight. Titanium and aluminum are very lightweight. Titanium is much more durable, but it’s also more expensive. A free option is a tin can with the lid cut off (which you might take off when you eat the contents on your first stop).
- Stove: I carry a stove, but maybe you don’t want to carry one. If you do carry a stove chose a light weight option. Many lightweight stoves can be made or purchased inexpensively. Options include homemade Hobo Stoves or Alcohol Stoves, Esbit Stoves, Wing Stoves, Canteen Cup Stoves (which fits in a canteen cover along with a canteen and canteen cup), Sterno Stoves (use fuel tablets in your sterno can after it’s fuel’s exhausted). More expensive options include Rocket Stoves (a Kelly Kettle is a rocket stove you can boil water in while you cook…a twofer) and Wood Gas Stoves
but these may work better if you’re cooking for several family members and you can scrounge your own fuel once any you’re carrying is exhausted.
- Fuel: If you’re going to carry a stove you should carry at least some fuel even if you can use kindling (in your rocket or wood gas stoves). If nothing else the fuel will help you start a fire if it’s wet. Some fuel options to consider are hexane/trioxane, alcohol, or even sterno. I pack a stove that I can switch to use kindling when my fuel runs out. Don’t forget to practice using your stove system so you’re not trying it out for the first time on a dark night when you’re scared, stressed, and starving. Most backpacking stovess tend to be a lot more expensive than the stoves previously mentioned and don’t weigh any less than many of the options.
- Utensils: Use what you already have…just make sure it’s light weight as ounces lead to pounds. MRE’s come with their own spoon and can be reused…if you don’t mind spending a few dollars, I really like this Spork by Light My Fire (I like a lot of their stuff). One item I’d never build a Bug Out Bag without is a P-51 Can Opener (the big brother to the P38). Even if you aren’t packing canned food you may be able buy or trade for canned food and using a knife as a can opener is a pain. You need to carry a knife as well but we’ll discuss that when we discuss tools under the Shelter foundation.
Fire Starting Items: Being able to start a fire is a key survival skill. Not only is it necessary for some food preparation but it can also be used for protection from the elements, boiling water for purification, communication or even insect relief. Unfortunately, fire draws a lot of attention…so have an option to use fire as surreptitiously as possible…just in case. I recommend carrying at least three methods of starting fire, at least one of which should be kept on your person when bugging out…or even better as an every day carry item. Here are several fire-starting items you can choose from:
- Lighters: Disposable Lighter are cheap, lightweight and easy to use. Store with a rubber band wrapped tightly under the plunger to keep the lighter from having it’s fuel exhausted as it bumps up against items in your kit or pocket (or both). Zippos and Storm Lighters are additional options but are more expensive, heavier and are more likely to lose their fuel during storage…however they won’t explode if handled improperly like disposable lighter. At least one fully fueled lighter should definitely be a part of your kit… or better yet, in your pocket.
- Matches in Waterproof Container: Storm Matches or waterproof matches are best but cost more. Stick matches are a less expensive option, but buy Strike Anywhere Matches (not strike on the box matches). Match Books should be your last choice unless they’re the waterproof type from MRE’s (they come packaged with the meals). Matches are as easy as lighters to use but take up more space and provide less fire starting capability for the weight than a disposable lighter.
- Magnifying Lens or Fresnel Lens: I carry a credit card size Fresnel Lens in my wallet as an emergency fire starter. These aren’t as user friendly as the other fire starting methods and take a bit more time and skill to use…not to mention good tinder and a strong sun. Lenses should only be a backup fire starting method that you can use to save your other fire starting supplies if the conditions are optimal. Eye glasses and optics (like binoculars and monoculars) have lenses that might help you start a fire in a pinch…try it out sometime.
- Fire Starters, Firesteels, Magnesium Fire Starters: These spark and friction devices are great lightweight, reusable fire starters to use as backups for lighters and matches. They generally cost $5 to $15 and will work without the sun’s cooperation. If you choose a magnesium fire starter get one with a firesteel on the side. Learn how to use these by practicing before it’s a survival imperative.
- Tinder: Tinder is an easy to catch fire starting ‘helper.’ There are lot’s of different tinder’s you can buy but save your money and use a candle nub to light scrounged tinder or make your own by impregnating cotton balls with Vaseline and storing them in a zip lock baggie.
Food Procurement Items:
A lot of folks include food procurement items in their Bug Out Bags but remember that the goal is to survive the first 72 hours while you get the heck out of dodge. You can certainly add a .22 caliber firearm, snare wire or a gill net to your Bug Out Bag but consider the weight and if you decide to pack this type of gear…make sure that you have the skill to use it. Some folks include a fishing kit in their Bug Out Bag but will you have the time to fish and do you really want to stand on the edge of the water for all to see if the rule of law is breaking down? If you feel you need to fish, go with the gill net but learn how to use it. Note: food procurement items have potential legal complications if there’s still rule of law. Keep it legal, keep it safe, keep it sane and know that pesky wildlife code!
Check back tomorrow for Building a Bug Out Bag – Part V when we’ll discuss Shelter, Clothing and Protection from the Elements Preparedness for your Bug Out Bag.