On my last ramble we covered a couple of more items to consider for an Emergency/Bug Out Kit, mainly food and water; but that still leaves a few more things to consider for our hypothetical stranding in the middle of the Nantahala Gorge, or any other remote area with no cell phone service. Mainly a way to tell where you're going, light, and some form of communication. But where to start, where indeed. Well the most important of these three items would be a form of navigation since if worst came to worst you could always use your camp fire for light. Still, what can you use to help you navigate your way out to civilization?
Of course there's always the time honor method of using the stars or knowing that moss always grows on the north side of trees, but there's a problem there too. First, from personal experience I can tell you that moss does NOT always grow on the north side of trees; it grows on which ever side is the moistest. In our hypothetical situation, since there's a multitude of streams and creeks running into the Nantahala river, that means the the moss is going to be on the side closest to the nearest water source; which is great for finding water but not so good for figuring out which way you need to go. As for using the stars, knowing that you can use the big dipper to find the north star is great, if you can find the big dipper! If you don't know the constellations well, or even if you do but it's an over cast night and you can't see the stars to find the big dipper then sorry but you're screwed! So how do you find your way? Two best answers I can give is either a small portable GPS unit or the old trusty standby of every boy scout since time began, a compass.
Now if you can afford it, it's hard to beat one of today's held held GPS units; and you can find them every where from Cabela's to Amazon and Walmart. And some aren't really all that expensive, Bushnell's for example makes one that lists for $95.99. Others though can run $250.00 or more easily, plus you have to have some way to keep them charged. Most I've seen brag about being able to go 13 hours with continuous use, but if you have to travel for 2 or 3 days to get back to civilization then you're going to have to either carry extra batteries along or use it sparingly. On the other hand, such a device is going to tell you where you are right now with in 30 feet or so and tell you which way to go with out ever needing to pull out a map.
A compass now is still used by boy scouts the world around for a couple of reasons. One, they don't have to be very expensive to be useful (some can be had for as little as $3.00 though most I've seen at that price point tend to fall apart easily), and two, they have no need for batteries or updating of their software. On the other hand, you do have to know about where you are and have some kind of map showing you where you need to go. Still, even that's not that big a deal if you're as intelligent as I'd like to think my readers are. For one, if you're driving any where you should have at least a basic idea of where you are (unless you're hopelessly and completely lost) and maps aren't exactly that expensive or hard to find even if they are less common now than they were even 10 years ago. For that matter, you can pick up a pocket sized atlas showing all of North America for right around $5.00, so you can get a decent compass and a pocket sized atlas that will do you as much good as that $250.00 handheld GPS unit for somewhere between $15.00 and $20.00!
So, with navigation out of the way, we still have to figure out what to do about light and communication. So let's tackle the subject of light next. If you have no intention of traveling after dark, then a good camp fire may be all you need; but you're not going to get a lot of light from a camp fire, and you may find that you have no choice but to do things after darkness has fallen so a good flashlight or camp lantern is definitely something to think about. A camp lantern has the advantage of spreading light over a circular area all the way around itself, but I've yet to see one that puts out a useful amount of light that didn't stand at least 9 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches in diameter; and that means it's going to take up a fair amount of room in your pack. On the other hand I've seen some advertised with built in am/fm radios, which means your camp lantern could possibly double as your form of communications. Still, I've yet to have the chance to test one of these so I can't personally recommend one (or advise against them for that matter). You could also go with a good flashlight instead. You can get a good tactical light that will fit in your pocket and still produce a beam of light bright enough to blind someone looking straight at it, but as with every flashlight the light only falls on the area you're pointing it at. Or you could get yourself something along the lines of the old fashioned Maglites. A 5 cell Maglite like the ones police officers and EMS personnel used to carry are made of aircraft grade aluminum so they don't weigh as much as you'd think, put out almost as much light as some tactical flashlights, and, if you have the training to use it this way, make a good substitute for a baton or martial arts fighting stick such as the escrima stick. Always nice to have a multitasker around when everything goes south on you.
So that pretty much leaves communication to talk about. This I've left for last because of all the things we've talked about, this is in a way the least important item in a good emergency kit. On the other hand, it could easily become as important as any thing else I've rambled on about. Why the disconnect? Mainly because I cannot predict what your situation may actually be. If you're only a day or 2 from civilization on foot, and it's the middle of summer, you can get a weather prediction off your car radio before you start off to get help; plus your cell phone will fulfill every possible communication you might have once you get close enough to civilization. If on the other hand you're looking at the possibility of a 4 or 5 day hike, it's the middle of winter or the local stormy season, or, God forbid, your party has to split up for some reason, then communications suddenly jumps way up as a priority. In either case, it's best to have a small, light am/fm radio along. For one thing, if you can get a radio station on it, then you can keep track of the weather so that you can seek shelter early if a bad storm is on the way. For another, many times being able to hear a station on the radio means that it won't be too long before your cell phone will be usable again. If you are with a large party, or think you might have to split up for some reason, then a couple of cheap walk talkies might be advisable as well. They don't have to be all that expensive, in fact a pair of cheapie from Radio Shack or even Toys 'R Us might be all you need. After all,even if you do have to spit up for some reason, it's never a good idea to split up too far; in which case something that can talk across a quarter mile or so would be more than adequate. It's not like you're in the military and have to be able to communicate with battalion 100 miles away, however I do recommend having them simply because I really do believe in being prepared for the worst.
So there you have the basic necessities of what in my opinion a good emergency kit should have at the minimum. Is this list complete? Oh by no means. For one, if there is any chance you might be out there for more than a day or two, you really should consider personal hygiene options for one. There is a reason after all that the saying that cleanliness is next to Godliness came into being. The cleaner you can keep yourself, the healthier you'll stay and the better you'll find yourself able to do those things that come your way. Think about it a while and I'm sure you'll be able to come up with other things you'd want in your emergency kit. And if for some reason you find that you think you need to start an emergency kit of your own (though I would hope you already have one) or decide after reading these three rambles that the emergency kit you have is looking a little anemic, I have started putting together four different starter kits for those who have been asking for them at the various gun and knife shows I'm a vender at and I'll be adding them to the store here sometime this week. I try to keep my prices reasonable, and if you buy them as a package instead of piecemeal I'll be giving you a great deal on them. On the other hand, each kit must meet my requirements for minimal standards so expect them to cost more than a "K-mart Special" would. Until next time though my friends, I wish you fair weather and that the road may rise up to meet you; and remember, if it's worth doing then do it with attitude!
Hello, and welcome once again to my Demented Ramblings here in my own little corner of cyber space. As those of you who read my rambling on a (somewhat) regular basis (why somewhat? Because for the past year my rambling have not exactly been regular) know, three weeks ago I was musing on what sort of things should be in an emergency kit, a.k.a. a Bug Out kit. So far I had gone over first aid kits, protection from the environment, and ways to get heat and or a fire going, but we still have a whole host of other things to consider. Things such as food, water, light, and communications, just to name a few.
Water may be both the easiest and the hardest at the same time, and that’s at least partly because there are no hard and fast rules about it. Generally, the average adult needs right around 2 liters of water, roughly ½ a gallon, a day; but all sorts of factors can increase that up to close to a gallon a day. For instance, how much energy you expend, what the weather is like, and just how healthy you are in a general sense can make a huge difference is how much you need to drink to stay healthy. So if we go back to our theoretical scenario of being stuck in the Nantahala Gorge, you’re going to need to carry around 3 to 4 gallons of drinking water per person to ensure you have enough to hike your way out. When you consider that a pints a pound the world around, that means you’re going to be carrying between 24 and 32 pounds of water per person when you start your little hike. Considering that trained soldiers typically carry 80 pounds of gear when they go into the field, that’s a hefty amount of water to be carrying! On the other hand, just counting on being able to find water that’s safe to drink is a good way to come down with all kinds of nasty bugs, not to mention a parasite or two. So what to do to insure the water we so desperately need to stay healthy is safe? Well, you could boil it every morning, but that’s going to take either a rather large pot or a lot of small ones; once again increasing the amount of weight you’ll be carrying.
The classic way to handle this are water purification tablets. You just drop one of two into a canteen or bottle of water that you’ve gotten from some source like a creek or river, and they’ll kill and remove right around 98% of all the problem children found in most natural sources of water. Even better, they weigh next to nothing so you can carry a bunch of them without noticing the additional weight. They won’t do a thing for any silt, sand, or dirt that’s in the water though, so I heartily recommend using a clean t-shirt or similar cloth to filter the water as you put it in whatever container you’re using.
Another way to handle the need for water are the newer filters that are on the market. Similar to the filter systems for your home made popular by such companies as Breta, they use a carbon based filtering system to remove any contaminants in the water source. Some are designed to fit in a canteen or water bottle, others are designed to be used like straws that allow you to drink directly from the water source, be it a lake, river, creek, or even a large puddle. The advantage of these types of filters is that they don’t give the water a strange taste like some purification tablets do. The disadvantage is that, especially if you’re using the straw like version, you often cannot take a largish amount of water with you once you’ve left the water source you’ve found. Either method however is vastly preferable to trying to carry enough water for several days with you from the start.
Food is another one that poses it’s own set of problems. It needs to be compact, lightweight, and most of all, it needs to be long lived without the need for refrigeration! The classic answer to this are the armed services Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs for short, and as anyone who’s ever served in the field can tell you, they range in taste from Not Bad to Truly Horrible. Of course there are some new companies out there who’s version of the classic MRE are supposed to be much better, but I’m afraid I cannot give you a first-hand opinion on them. There are also companies who offer various freeze dried items in addition to MRE type meals. Honeyville is one such company, and while I can’t testify to the quality of their versions of MREs, the various items I have tried (such as almond meal, flax meal, and dried fruits) are quite good. Still, no matter how good or lightweight they are, the still contribute their own amount of bulk to the kit to be carried.
Another possibility is to forage off the land as you go. Admittedly, I wouldn’t recommend this method unless you were an expert on plants and their uses since it’s so easy to mistake a plant that’s not only safe to eat, but also quite tasty for a close relative that’s deadly poison. For example, potatoes are in the same family as deadly nightshade, the Borgia family’s favorite poison according to legend; and I can guarantee you don’t want to find Foxglove in your salad unless you have certain heart problems! Still, if you have the knowledge and skill, it is possible to go for months, if not longer without ever having to buy a thing.
My personal choice is a mix of the two though. I know I couldn’t tell the difference between a morel and a toadstool if my life depended on it, but I can hit most things I shoot at so finding fresh meat to round out my travel rations, at least during summer months, isn’t exactly rocket science. Besides, having a gun in an out of the way locale makes sense from a self-defense point of view as well. And so we add a gun to our emergency kit, but which one?
If you happen to be returning from a hunting trip when your car breaks down in our hypothetical emergency off in the back end or nowhere, then you’ll probably have your favorite hunting rifle along with you already; but what if you were not somewhere where having a gun is normal from the general public’s point of view? If you’re a regular reader of my rambles, then you probably have a pistol of some type with you, but hunting with pistols is a whole ‘nother beast all together and not even all rabid hunters are good at it. So what gun should you choose as part of your kit? Truthfully, there are as many answers to that question as there are people to ask it of, and none of them are entirely wrong; so let’s take at look at some of the choices one at a time.
One choice that immediately comes to my mind is the venerable AR7, originally built by Armalite and built today by Henry Repeating Rifles. Originally developed as a “go to hell” gun for Air Force pilots, this .22LR rifle breaks down into 3 main components that store easily in the stock yielding a 16 inch long package that can be easily fitted into a back pack or cramped cockpit of a fighter jet. It’s also surprisingly accurate so adding rabbits and squirrels to the dinner pot won’t be hard for an experienced shot, and it weighs in at only 3 ½ pounds so it won’t add much weight to your pack at all.
Another possible choice is a modern sporting rifle such as an AR15 or an AR10. Modular and tough as nails, these guns will take a licking and keep on ticking with a vengeance worthy of the old Hatfields and McCoys. They also have impressive accuracy and are much lighter than they tend to look; plus they shoot effective hunting rounds for almost anything except maybe Kodiak. Add in the 30 round magazine that’s pretty much standard everywhere except for California, and the need carrying lose rounds for a reload goes way down, which also helps reduce pack weight. Then there’s all the various accessories available ranging from various scopes to night vision and barrel mounted lights.
In the same vein, you might want to consider an AK variant. Even tougher than an AR, though not always as accurate; you could drop a good AK in the mud at the bottom of a river and it would still operate reliably 9 times out of 10. Besides the ammo is reasonably priced and easy to get, which isn’t always true of some others.
Still another possible choice would be a shotgun. With the ability to handle both shot and slugs, a shotgun is even better than a .22LR for taking down squirrels and rabbits and it can also be used to hunt birds of all kinds as well as deer, wild hog, and, in a pinch, bear. A shotgun is also a prime choice for close combat if the need for self defense arises (there’s a reason the military have been using shotguns since WW I after all), and best of all, they tend to be relatively cheap.
The final option I’ll talk about in this ramble would be a pistol caliber carbine, such as the Kaltech Sub2000. This particular rifle folds in half so you could carry it in a backpack easily. Hell, I know one guy who carries his in a tennis racquet case! What’s even better from the point of view of a pistol man such as myself is that it uses the same magazines as a Glock so you can use your magazines interchangeably! Add in that it gives you the option of using the same ammo for both your pistol AND your rifle, and it can definitely be a win/win situation; though this last can be said about any of the pistol caliber carbines. As for those of you who sneer at pistol cartridges being used in a rifle, I suggest you check out the youtube video by Iraqveteran8888 titled “How Far Will A 9mm Kill” before you put your foot too far into your mouth. No, they won’t serve as well as a MSPR like the AR15 or a hunting rifle for taking down large game; but when you’re trying to get to some place where you can call for help, do you really want to take the time to field dress a deer? It will do just fine for rabbits and squirrels just like the AR7, and that’s more than enough to you you through in an emergency.
But for now it looks like I’m running on a bit long again, so let’s end things here for now. Hopefully soon I can wrap this topic up with a ramble about lights, compasses to help you find your way, and communications. In the mean time, if you’d like some more info on guns to consider for your “Bug Out” kit, you might want to watch a couple of Iraqveteran8888’s videos including “Top 5 Wilderness Walk Out Guns” and “5 Ideal guns for Survival Situations”. For now though, I wish you all the best until we meet again here in my little corner of cyberspace; and remember, if it’s worth doing at all, do it with attitude!