The bug out bag is something that is ingrained into the fabric of the prepping community. Odds are good that most survivalists and preppers either have a bug out bag ready to go or are intimately aware of what one is and how to construct one.
While having the necessary survival gear in a bag is great, what happens when you end up in a situation that you have only the clothes on your back? What happens if you are forced to abandon your bug out bag?
This is where a bug out bag jacket comes into play.
Why Would You Need A Bug Out Bag Jacket?
If we sit down and think about it, any of us could imagine dozens of scenarios that would see us in emergency situations without our bug out bags close at hand.
While a bug out jacket can never replace a bug out bag it can supply survival gear in a piece of clothing that you would normally be wearing.
While it is not practical to have a jacket like this as an everyday carry item it is something that can be stored in a car trunk, in a drawer at the office, or used as a part of a ‘get home bag’.
Multiple considerations need to be taken before putting a bug out jacket together.
One of your primary considerations is where this jacket will be likely to see use. The base contents should remain the same but in an urban environment including a prepaid ‘burner’ cellphone, some cash, a multitool, lockpicking set, handcuff key, etc, would be beneficial whereas if you are going to be bugging out through the wilderness then maybe including a small fishing and trapping kit might be a good idea.
Next, think about the year-round climate in your area. This will determine what style of jacket you will be using for your bug out jacket.
There are several options available, you can get a jacket that is going to be comfortable in the summer months and supplement it with layers in winter months, there are also jackets available that have liners that zip out so you can increase and decrease the insulating properties based on the season.
The option that I chose is to use an old military combat coat that I can wear layers underneath and a poncho or waterproof jacket overtop.
Bug Out Jacket Pockets
The most important thing to take into consideration is the number of the pockets, because that is where all the survival gear is going to be stored.
Pockets should distribute the weight of the gear evenly across your torso and allow the gear to lay against the body as flat as possible.
The jacket that I use has large exterior pockets that contain smaller pockets inside that have Velcro to secure them. I like to use these smaller pockets to store small items that can be hard to find within a larger pocket full of gear.
Another feature of the jacket I’m using is a Velcro inside pocket that is great for stowing a small fire kit.
When it comes to the jacket being waterproof and windproof, it might seem like a good idea to have a waterproof bug out jacket, however, in warmer months the lack of breathability will make it too uncomfortable to bug out in.
It has always been my opinion that using a light waterproof jacket or poncho over top of the bug out jacket is a far better option. You can often find ponchos and light rain jackets that will easily compress down to fit into a pocket.
The contents of your jacket need to be able to provide the necessities of survival until you can reach a bug out location, cache, or your bug out bag. With the equipment in your bug out jacket, you should be able to build a shelter, make a fire, get water, and assist in other survival tasks. It should be feasible to conduct the entire bug out with just the gear in your jacket.
I built a bug out jacket for this article from the jacket that I wear while hunting. The list of items below is in no way meant to be a gospel list of survival items for a bug out jacket but should serve as a starting point in building your jacket.
Recommended Bug Out Jacket Gear
- Shelter kit with an extra survival blanket
- Fire kit
- Small first aid kit
- Ham radio
- Notepad and Pen
- Life Straw
- 55-gallon contractor garbage bag
- Camouflage face paint
Even with all this survival gear, the jacket is comfortable to wear.
The heaviest item with the most bulk is the first aid kit which I consider to be a critical addition during a bug out scenario because treatment of injuries should never be ignored.
As important as the gear in the jacket is how that gear is organized. Anything that you place in interior pockets should be gear that you would not need frequent access to. Items like a shelter kit, contractor bag, fire kits, and emergency blankets are not items that you would need immediate access to and if practical should be placed in interior pockets.
When positioning items in the outside pockets keep in mind where you would naturally reach for those items. The best way to do this is to put the jacket on while empty and place each item in their pocket, then simulate getting the items out to use them. You will find that certain items such as radios are going to be better accessed and used with a certain hand.
If you are bugging out with a firearm think about what you might want to have access to while holding the weapon in your dominant hand, then make sure that you can easily access those items with your non-dominate hand.
You may want to add some pockets to your Bug Out Jacket which can be done easily enough with basic sewing skills. Before you get started there are a few things that you need to consider.
- When making internal pockets position them in such a way that they will not add undue bulk to the pockets on the outside.
- When it comes to pockets on the inside of a jacket, I like to purpose-build them to house specific items. For these images, I have pinned the pocket into place rather than sewing it.
- To build a pocket I pin the fabric in place then test to make sure that the item fits nicely.
- After confirming that the item will fit well in the pocket I sew it completely and add in some Velcro to keep it closed.
- When adding a pocket to the outside of the jacket take your time with the stitching making the stitches as tight as possible and reinforce the starts and stops. Try to use the same material the jacket is made from or a material of similar quality. The pocket will need a flap to secure the contents with some kind of closure devices like a button, snaps, or velcro.
If you are going to build a bug out bag jacket you need to be sure that not only is it going to be comfortable in any season but that all the gear that you have inside is organized appropriately.
It is a good idea to do a couple of practice bug-outs with just the jacket so that you can fine-tune the gear that you decide to carry.
Remember that a bug out jacket is never going to replace a bug out bag or a get home bag and should be considered a supplement to them.
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