Building a Bug Out Bag – Part V, Shelter, Clothing and Protection from the Elements

Building a Bug Out Bag – Part V, Shelter, Clothing and Protection from the Elements

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, in Part III we explored Water preparedness, and in Part IV we explored Food preparedness for your Bug Out Bag.  Today we’ll discuss Shelter, Clothing and Protection from the Elements preparedness considerations for 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 bugout ultralight makes it.

Shelter & Clothing PreparednessShelter & Clothing, & Protection from the Elements:

There are very few environments that a human being won’t require some form of protection from the elements.  Clothing can protect you from cold weather as well as wind, the sun’s rays, flora and fauna.  Additionally, you need certain items to escape the elements while you rest after exerting yourself more than you’re probably used to.  Here are some of your Shelter, Clothing and Protection from the Elements considerations:

Shelter & Bedding:  Whichever shelter and bedding choice(s) you make I encourage you to select Earth toned colors that match your expected surroundings.  Sometimes the best protection of all is the ability to disappear into the background.

  • Tent:  Tents are great shelter.  They are warmer and better bug protection than most of the other options we’ll discuss…but you’ll have to carry more weight and give up some situational awareness.  It’s very hard to see and hear what’s going on outside a tent…from inside a tent and you’ll need to make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings
  • Tarp, Poncho or Plastic Sheeting:  These items can all be fashioned into shelters using the 550 Cord that no Bug Out Bag should be without.  Another cordage option for building your hootch is Bungee Cords as explained in this article.  Tarps and ponchos should have grommets to make building your shelter easier…or add your own with an easy to use Grommet Kit.   Plastic sheeting may not hold a grommet even if you double the plastic over but you can take a small rock, wrap the plastic around it and wrap your cordage around the plastic under the rock.
  • Hammock:  I love these, especially the Hennesy Hammock because they get you up off the ground for sleeping.  I do think a hammock would be harder to hide from observation but I’m getting old enough I’m going to investigate this option further.
  • Vehicle:   Unless you have to abandon your vehicle, it’s likely the best shelter available for you and your family…just be aware of the need for security around your vehicle and try to get as far out of sight of the main thoroughfare as you can without taking a risk of getting stuck.  Remember that your vehicle is hard to hide because it’s designed to be seen and has mirrors, reflectors, lights, chrome and the like all over it.
  • Bedding:  Your bedding choice can account for a disproportionate amount of the weight and space in your Bug Out Bag.  As much as any other item, your choice of bedding is based on your climate which is one of the reasons that you should take out your Bug Out Bag and update it at least twice a year.  Bedding items may be strapped to the outside of your bag but whether you put your bedding inside or outside of your bag make sure that it’s in a waterproof wrap (contractor grade trash bags or waterproof stuff sacks work well).  Remember to dry your bag thoroughly for several days before storing it again in your waterproof bag if possible (not possible if you’re on the move).  I also recommend that you select bedding which will retain insulating properties when it’s wet…this rules out cotton and down filled options.
  • Sleeping Bag:  A sleeping bag is the bulkiest, heaviest but warmest option…however, weights and insulating capabilities vary greatly so do your research if you’re buying one.  Use what you already own if possible.
  • Space or Emergency Blanket:  These lightweight and inexpensive reflective blankets have a place in your Bug Out Bag as a supercharger for warming your primary bedding but shouldn’t be your only bedding option unless you live in a very warm climate.
  • Blankets:  Another option that you probably already have around the house are extra blankets.  These are free but tough to pack down if they’re bulky.  Stay away from cotton…I like wool blankets because they don’t lose their insulating ability if they get wet, but they are heavy and bulky.
  • Poncho Liner:  This is my favorite option for all but the coldest bug out situations.  These run about $35 but might be the best money you put into your Bug Out Bag.  They have tremendous insulating ability, are extremely light weight, can be stuffed down into a very small stuff sack and can be married up with a military poncho to make a lightweight sleeping bag.  I’d rather carry two of these and a couple of ponchos than the much bulkier and heavy tent and intermediate weight sleeping bag.  Carry in a small, waterproof stuff sack.
  • Sleeping Pad:  Sleeping Pads are just a comfort item in warm weather but are an important layer of insulation when it’s cold.  Some sleeping pads are foam, some you inflate, some self inflate.  Sizes and weights vary.

Clothing:  Think layers as you plan your clothing.  Chose earth tones, but not camouflage unless that’s what everyone wears in your region…don’t stand out and make yourself a target!  Add or remove layers as appropriate to keep from overheating or becoming hyperthermic.  Climate appropriate clothing should include the following at a minimum:

  • Change of Clothes:  At least one complete change of clothes (long sleeves and pants only to protect from sun, insects, foliage, etc.).  Avoid cotton in winter as the old adage goes….’cotton kills’ (by accelerating hypothermia when it gets wet).  Additionally, avoid clothing that makes you look too rich, too tactical or stand out…the goal is not to be a target…there’s no telling what type of civil unrest may take place during your bug out.
  • Overgarments:  Seasonally appropriate coats or jackets.  Remember to plan in layers with windproof outer layers and insulating inner layers in cold weather.  Rain gear is also something to consider…I’m partial to military ponchos as previously mentioned.  Ponchos are multi-use…build a poncho hooch, make a sleeping bag (with poncho liner), wear as a poncho or even use it to collect rainwater.  Yes, I know that most military ponchos are camouflage and that breaks my no camouflage rule, but ponchos are worth the risk if you can’t find one that’s a single, earth tone color.
  • Footwear:  As previously mentioned you should have (wear) a good pair of hiking boots and pack at least two extra pairs of socks.  You can wash your socks as you go and hang them on the outside of your pack to dry because you’re going to buy earth tone colors.
  • Gloves:  This is a four season packing item (but the type may vary by season).  At the very least, pack a good pair of lightweight work gloves (I like shooting gloves and Mechanix gloves).  Gloves will help protect your hands from the sun, from heat (while cooking), from blisters while working, from poison oak, etc.  Gloves aren’t just for keeping your hands warm.  Note:  if you plan to travel armed, make sure that you practice weapon handling with your gloves.  Mittens will be required in the coldest climates.
  • Belt:  A belt isn’t just for holding up your pants, you may be hanging knives, multi-tools, holsters or other items from your belt.  Pick the widest belt your pants can handle and make sure it’s sturdy.  My favorite belt is leather on the outside and inside with a layer of kydex sewn into the middle as a stiffener.  Another tough option I like and wear while in uniform is a rigger belt.
  • Eye Protection:  Sunglasses protect from snow blindness and can make you much more comfortable but if you buy the right pair they will protect your eyes from flying objects or firearms chamber explosions as well.  Look for ANSI Z87.1 Certified or the military MIL-V-43511C certified glasses with UVB protection. You should also carry untinted protective glasses as well to protect your eyes when working or moving through the woods at night (I learned this lesson the hard way when a branch scratched my cornea).  A hint on sunglasses etiquette…take them off while talking with strangers you want to like and trust you…but keep them on if wary and on your guard to hide your intentions and the direction of your gaze.  No mirrored or reflective lenses no matter how cool you think it makes you look…anything reflective makes it harder for you to become invisible if you need to be.

Tools & Supplies:  Here are several tools that can help you build or maintain your temporary or emergency shelter and fulfill other necessary tasks.

  • Candle:  An old candle or emergency candle in a can (or that pot you’re carrying but beware of contaminating it with inedible waxes or petroleum products).  A candle in a can will keep a car or tent (remember your tent is probably flammable) remarkably warm.
  • Duct Tape:  My Dad frequently says that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with duct tape.  It can be used to fix a rip in one of your clothes, plastic bags, tarps, or ponchos, it can be used for lashing items together (like fixing a broken tent pole by splinting it with a couple of tent stakes), covering a wound temporarily (protect the wound underneath from contact with the tape), or making a relatively durable carry handle for an item.  Your only limit is your imagination.  Most brands of duct tape can also be used as tinder to help get a fire going from a lighter or a match if you roll a small piece into a straw.  Buy one of the smaller rolls in an Earth tone.  Gorilla Tape is another option…it’s been described as duct tape on steroids.
  • Knife:  There’s no tool more basic or important to man than the knife.  Each family member capable of safely using a knife should have one.  Fixed blade is better than a folding knife but a good folding might suffice if it has a locking blade.  Make sure any fixed blade knife has a tough sheath that the blade won’t penetrate.  A knife doesn’t have to be huge to be useful but size does matter… check your local ordinances to keep it legal though.  Don’t even think of trying to get by with a cheaply made knife or one that opens and doesn’t lock the blade in place.  If you don’t carry your knife every day, move it to your person/body as soon as you put on your Bug Out Bag and keep it there.  If you have to abandon your Bug Out Bag in an emergency this is one item you do not want to leave behind.  As mentioned when we discussed Food preparedness for your Bug Out Bag…this is one of your eating utensils as well.  Keep your knife’s blade sharp…take care of your knife and it will take care of you.  A word of caution… owning a knife doesn’t make you a knife fighter…this isn’t a security item…it’s a tool.  Even if you’ve been trained to fight with a knife, the only guarantee in a knife fight is that everyone will end up getting cut.
  • Multi-Tool:  Several years ago the Army began issuing a multi-tool to every soldier going into a combat zone because they’re so usefull.  There are numerous types, sizes, options and qualities.  Pick one you can wear on your belt from a quality manufacturer (probably not the one they sell in the camping aisle at Wal-mart) like Gerber, SOG, or Leatherman.  This little tool has almost as many uses as your duct tape and should provide you with a backup knife as well.
  • Cordage:  Having a little rope or cord can help you put up a shelter, attach equipment to your Bug Out Bag, or put a ‘dummy cord’ on a piece of key equipment so you don’t accidentally use it.  We’re not mountaineering on our bug out…we just want to keep a little cord handy.  My favorite cordage is paracord, also known as 550 Cord because it’s lightweight, strong and you can pack a lot in a little space.  Keep 20 to 50 feet of the stuff in your bag and add a paracord bracelet to your wrist for some extra cord if you’re so inclined.  You can save money if you make your own paracord bracelet…check out YouTube or follow these easy directions.

Check back tomorrow for Building a Bug Out Bag – Part VI when we’ll discuss Communications preparedness for your Bug Out Bag.

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