There are many of us who’ve taken the important step of creating an emergency “bug-out” bag to have with you in case of disaster or similar catastrophe. It’s common to see people create a bag that’s based on a large backpack, stuffed full of all the gear they think they’ll need for three or more days on their own, then toss that bag into the trunk of their car, ready for use in an emergency.
But is it actually ready for use when it’s in your trunk? Col. Jeff Cooper, one of the founding fathers of the modern concealed-carry movement, stressed the need to have a defensive firearm within arm’s reach at all times, and a bag that’s locked away in your trunk is definitely not within arm’s reach. In addition to this, recent incidents involving unrest indicate there may not be time to bail out of the car, pop the trunk and rummage around for just the right gear for the situation at hand. To borrow from a famous General Patton quotation, an imperfect plan implemented immediately with the gear on-hand will always succeed better than a perfect plan that requires resources you don’t have.
With that in-mind, I gathered up a range of gear that is designed to get me out of immediate danger when I’m in my car and keep me going for a short period after the danger has passed. These items aren’t meant to be used over the long-term. Rather, they are meant to help be get through the first 24-48 hours after a man-made or natural disaster.
When choosing the gear for any kind of “prepping” or survival pack, I base my selections on the wilderness survival Rules of Threes:
You can last three minutes without oxygen (Note: This also includes bleeding out after a traumatic injury like a gunshot wound). You can last three hours in harsh weather without shelter. You can last three days without water. You can last three weeks without food.
I’ve been trying for a years now to compile a small, lightweight 24-hour kit that doesn’t look like I’m headed off to fight overseas somewhere, and I’ve finally settled on the COVRT satchel from 5.11 Tactical to carry all of this gear. It’s built like a tank and doesn’t look like it belongs to someone who drives a tank for a living. This is not an exhaustive list of what’s inside my bailout bag, but rather a breakdown of the more-important gear I carry and why I chose it.
First aid, especially trauma care, is a priority. If your heart isn’t beating, everything else doesn’t matter. I carry a SOF-T tourniquet with me whenever I can, and another one is ready to quickly deploy inside this bag. On the outside of the bag, in one of the side mesh pockets, is a Pocket Emergency Wallet from PHLster holsters that has gloves, Celox bandage, gauze and other trauma-care supplies. I also have a small first-aid kit in the bag for cuts, scrapes and other medical needs.
For water, I have a plastic Berkey bottle with an activated-charcoal filter to clean up the taste of nasty-smelling municipal water and it, along with a coffee filter and a chemical water purifier, can allow you drink just about any available water, potable or not. I also added in a small, stainless-steel camping cup, because needing to heat or boil water is always a thing.
Airborne particulates and smoke can be a health hazard in an urban emergency, so I added in a pair of safety goggles and a filter mask, and I also added in some work gloves, because they’re useful. As I live in Florida, rain (and lots of it) is my primary weather concern here, so shelter-wise, rather than go with an umbrella that requires a free hand and can break in high winds, I added a lightweight plastic rain slicker. To help me stay up and running for a day or so, I also have enough spare cash in the bag sufficient to get a couple of cheap meals and a stay a night in an inexpensive motel, just in case I can’t get home right away.
A fixed-blade knife is really useful in a number of situations, so I carry an inexpensive but effective Mora knife (which has the added advantage of not looking like a “tactical” knife) because they’re decent, and I won’t cry if I lose it. For illumination, I have an inexpensive headlamp and for heavy-duty use, I have a bright, rugged Streamlight ProTac 2L-X that kicks out 500 lumens and is USB-rechargeable. I also added in some moleskin bandages, because if I’m not able to drive, that means I’m probably walking, and there’s a good chance the shoes I’ll have on at the time are not meant for the long haul.
I’m a big fan of the modern smartphone, and because it can serve so many purposes beyond making and receiving phone calls and text messages. I have the cords and chargers I need to keep mine running for days at a time. I also carry a multi-tool and a spare knife, along with extra batteries for every powered device inside the bag.
I don’t like to leave unsecured guns in my car for extended periods of time, so rather than have a gun in this bag, I carry a defensive pistol wherever I can, and have a magazine’s worth of spare ammunition in this bag, just in case it’s needed. While it’s true that a rifle or shotgun in the trunk would give me more firepower, as I see it, a pistol will give me enough of an advantage to break contact and get to safety with any foreseeable threat, and that’s all I need it do to do.
The black side of the 5.11 bag disappears against the black carpet of the passenger footwell in my car, making it inconspicuous and unnoticeable to the casual outside observer. When someone sits in the front seat, the bag goes into the back seat, and if all the seats are full, well, then, it goes in the trunk and we deal with that reality when it happens. After all, the purpose of this “bail out bag” isn’t to enable an extended, days-log firefight, it’s to get me to safety in a situation where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.