Leaving home in a hurry is something most preppers have given some thought to. Your house might be well prepared to let you ride out any crisis, but what if it’s too dangerous to stay in it? That’s why most of us have a bugout bag packed and ready – if we need to go, we can grab the bag on the way out and we’ll have enough essential gear to give us a fighting chance.
Generally, though, we expect to be able to make an organized departure, with enough time to collect more supplies before we lock the door behind us and head for our bugout location. We probably have a list of things to pack up and take with us, either in our head or written down. But what happens if you don’t get the time you expected to have? Will you still be able to collect the stuff on your list?
Not long ago one of our regular readers, left coast chuck, shared a story on the site about how he found himself having to bug out a bit faster than he’d expected. He’d done exactly what most of us do – made a mental list of what to take with him, but assumed that he’d have a bit of time to get it all together. What actually happened was that his home was threatened by a major fire and he suddenly realized that he had no more than ten minutes before he’d have to leave. That’s not a lot of time – and he lost some of it because, faced with an emergency, he found it was difficult to think through what he needed to take. Since then he’s made a list of what to take next time he has to leave in a hurry. We thought that was a great idea, and we decided to put together a few suggestions on what to add to a “bugout NOW” list.
1. Bugout bag
Let’s start with the obvious one. If you already have a bugout bag, it’s safe to assume all the stuff in it was put there for a reason – because it’s useful. Grab it right away; unless it’s absolutely packed it will also give you somewhere to carry the other items you collect. In fact some (maybe most) of the other stuff on the list should already be in your BOB anyway.
The items you grab need to reflect the usual survival priorities, and water is at the top of that pile. That doesn’t always mean you have to take water with you, just that you need to know you can stay supplied with it. In reality, to be sure of having water you probably will need to take it.
The thing is, when you realize you need to be on the move in ten minutes, that’s not the time you want to be filling water containers. If you’re planning to bug out by vehicle, store filled containers in the garage or somewhere close to the vehicle; either use preservatives in the water or refill the containers regularly to make sure the water is always safe to use.
If you have to bug out on foot – either because that’s part of the plan or because your vehicle is disabled – smaller water containers are the way ahead. GI canteens are good, but water bladders have more capacity and are great for staying hydrated on the move. Again, keep them filled and replace the water regularly.
The chances are you have some emergency rations in your bugout bag anyway, but if you have ten minutes, grab what you can from the kitchen as well. Bread, canned goods, candy, snacks – anything that’s easy to eat and high in energy. It’s better to have too much food than not enough.
Some preppers keep a gun in their bugout bag – but it won’t hurt to grab any extra ammo you have. If your designated bugout weapon is a handgun, and you have a long gun in the house, take it and all the ammo you have.
Another thing to think about is what to do with any weapons you’re not taking with you. There are various reasons you might leave some behind. If you have 50 guns and you’re bugging out on foot, you won’t be taking them all. Do you really want to leave most of them behind to arm any looters who find them? If you have guns you don’t use regularly, disable them by removing bolts, firing pins or trigger groups and storing the parts in a locked ammo can. If you have to bug out, take the can with you and throw it in the first river you see.
Empty the medicine cabinet into your bag before you go. Whether you need prescription medication or you just have a big tub of Tylenol in there, you’re better having it with you than leaving it behind.
The same goes for cash – if there’s any in the house, grab it. Even if there’s a total collapse and currency becomes worthless, it’s going to take a while before everyone gets that message. That means that, for anything from a few days to a few months, you’ll be able to buy useful stuff from optimists who think those dollar bills will be valuable again one day.
If you’ve invested in cryptocurrencies, keep a paper copy of your wallet along with your other important documents. You don’t want the network to be rebuilt from backups, but your investment is lost forever because an EMP – or even an unplanned dip in a river – destroyed your wallet.
There are documents you don’t want to lose. Birth and marriage certificates for you and your family are among those you’ll want to save, along with passports, academic and professional certificates, financial documents and the title to your home. Insurance policies are handy, too – if your home is threatened by a fire, it’s nice to know you’ll be able to put in a claim for it later.
It’s always a good idea to make copies of these documents and keep them in your bugout bag. Paper copies in a waterproofed package are durable; it’s worth getting a couple of USB thumb drives and making digital copies, too. They won’t survive an EMP, but if you have to evacuate because of a wildfire they’ll be handy to have.
Of course copies are great, but the originals are better. Keep all your important documents in an envelope. That way, if you have to leave in a hurry, you can just grab the envelope instead of having to hunt for each document.
You’ll probably have clothes in your bugout bag, but if it’s cold out and your coat is hanging by the front door, grab it on your way past. The coat you wear every day in winter is probably better than the one you were happy to pack away for an emergency, so why not make use of it? I have a fleece and a Gore-Tex jacket in my BOB, because they pack up small and, together, give pretty good protection – but given the choice I’d much rather have my big warm parka.
This list is just some basic essentials that you can grab in a few minutes. There are probably some other things you can think of, too – but the time to think of them is now, not when you’re under the pressure of knowing you only have a few minutes to collect as much as you can. Once you have your list of the things you’ll take if you only have ten minutes to get moving, make sure you know where they all are. Where possible, keep them in a centralized location – a closet near the front door is good if you plan to bug out on foot, while the garage is an obvious place for an escape by vehicle. You know your own plans, so you’re the best person to decide how to fit this into them.
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