Regardless of the environment you are in there are four constants that remain the same in any survival scenario. If you are constructing a bug out bag, you are going to want to read on. Without having these four core ingredients covered in your bug out bag, you are going to be in trouble when you actually go to use it.
The four core ingredients to survival tie together loosely with the survival rule of three’s. The rule of three’s is this. You can live for three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food in extreme conditions. If you can remember the rule of three’s, it will help you to keep your priorities of survival in order.
If you look at the rule of three’s, the first need is oxygen. Generally if you don’t have oxygen, you are either in a drowning situation, which you can only avoid by mitigating the risk of exposure to environments where drowning is an issue and/or knowing how to swim well enough to save your life if you fall in the drink. Or you are in an area of with a toxic atmosphere. In which case you need to remove yourself from that environment or be carrying the necessary equipment to breath fresh, clean air in that environment.
But oxygen is actually not one of the four core aspects of survival. We will assume you are in a location with breathable air, and you are not drowning in this scenario.
The next item in the rule of three’s and the first of the four core ingredients to survival, is that you can only survive three hours without shelter in extreme conditions. Granted this will vary with environment, but we are talking about extreme conditions and survival situations. As an example, being stuck outside in the middle of a Canadian winter, where you can commonly come in contact with temperatures as low as -40 Celsius and wind chills even colder than that, shelter is an absolute necessity. If you don’t have shelter, or a way to make shelter in these types of conditions, you won’t last long. When you are dealing with extreme environments, shelter needs to be the first thing you deal with. Even before water.
Next on the list of the rule of three’s and the second of the four core ingredients for survival, is that you can live three days without water. When you are looking for a spot to erect a shelter, your primary consideration needs to be proximity to water. Each of these facets tie into all of the other facets. None of them exist in a vacuum. Flowing water is better than stagnant water, but in a pinch, you might just have to take what you can get. Obviously drinking straight from an unknown water source in the wild is a risk at the best of times. If you want to make survival more difficult, being infected with Giardia or Cryptosporidium from a tainted water source will do that for you. I will touch on water purification briefly further down.
After you have a shelter built and you know where you are getting water from, the next thing you need to be working on is fire. The third of the four core ingredients is actually not listed in the rule of three’s but it ties in to all three of the other core survival ingredients. Fire will warm your shelter. Fire can be used to boil water. Fire can be used to cook and smoke meat, making it safe to eat and allowing it to be stored. It will also keep most predators at bay and it is a great morale booster. There are numerous ways to make fire. It is important that you are comfortable making fire using more than one technique. I won’t go into detail on fire making techniques, but I will give some suggestions further down.
Finally, at the bottom of the list is the last of the four ingredients to survival, food. You can live for three weeks without food. Shelter and water are much more important, especially in the short term, and without fire you can’t make meat products safe to eat. While food will give you a great mental boost, it is not strictly necessary to survive the short term. Once you have firmly established a good shelter, procured a water source and can maintain or consistently start a fire, then you are ready to go look for food. This should be the last priority on your list. Food will do you no good if you die of dehydration or exposure.
So what’s the takeaway? When you are constructing a bug out bag you need to make sure that you have covered these four items. There is no “right” way to do it. You need to figure out what works for you, what you are comfortable with and how much “stuff” you want to carry. But here are a couple of suggestions to get you started.
With regards to shelter, you have two basic options for shelter in your bug out bag. You can carry shelter with you in the form of a tent, tarp or hammock etc. Or you can carry tools to allow you to build a shelter when you get where you are going. Things like a knife, hatchet, folding saw and cordage. Chances are good you have at least a couple of those items on your bug out list already. If you are looking for a good quality, multi-use knife check out a fixed blade hunting knife with gut hook. It makes a great addition to any bug out bag.
When it comes to water, essentially you are left with three options for purification. You can use a water filter, chemical treatment or you can boil your water. Boiling water is the most sure fire, though the most time consuming method for purifying water. In the absence of boiled water, a water filter, or a filter straw is likely the way to go. Especially if you are on the move. A great product to check out and add to your bug out bag is the Clean Sip filter straw. This product allows you to get water quickly without needing to build a fire and wait for the water to boil. This is a top pick for anybody involved in wilderness pursuits.
Making fire, or firecraft as it is sometimes called, is a bit tricky to nail down. There are more methods for making fire than can be listed here. The important thing is to do some research and find out what works for you. A sure fire (pardon the pun) way to make sure you’ll be able to get ignition is to carry some Insta-Fire in your load-out. A fire starter like this is certainly worth looking into and doesn’t weigh or take up much space in your bug out bag.
When it comes to food, you have two options when bugging out. You can carry food with you, or you can hunt and gather food where you’re going. Again this is a very personal thing that is going to be influenced by a number of factors. Hunting and gathering can be effective depending where you are and depending on your skill level. If you choose to carry food, you will want something lightweight and easy to carry. Freeze dried storable food can be a great option. Just break down the larger bulk packages into their individual Mylar pouches and pack as many as you need. It will be much lighter than carrying cans and saves a lot of space.
This is a very brief overview of how to put together a bug out bag. It is by no means a comprehensive guide. It is important that you do your own research and find out what works for you. There are also ready made bug out bags available if you are unsure of where to start, or don’t have time to assemble one yourself.
No matter what is in your kit, the important thing is that you actually have one! Get out there and start putting that bag together!
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