Friday, June 12, 2015


Graywolf: How I built my ultimate 25 pound bug out bag

Here's how I built my ultimate bug out bag, with a list of what I carry in it and why. Under 25 pounds dry weight and has everything I need.. Is your bug out bag full of gear you really need oI decided to completely re-think my bug out bag gear and learned a LOT in the process. I can help you put together the best bug out bag for you.

This will be a first here on Graywolf Survival. I’ve never written a post before on my personal bug out bag gear, or list it out because I honestly never really thought it through from top to bottom before now. It’s completely changed now. For one thing, I carry this pack now instead.

I have written about my go bag before, which is kind of a mini bug out bag but it’s not really what I’d bug out with if I had to leave for an extended period. I used it for short trips and as an addition to my EDC kit. You may be interested in reading those as well.

Keep in mind this is my personal bug out bag list. I say it’s the ultimate bag because it’s better than anything I can come up with for my circumstances, that takes into consideration my budget, my skills (and lack thereof in some cases), my geographic area, my 25-pound dry weight limit I imposed, and what my most likely scenarios for using it are. There is no perfect or ultimate bug out bag that will work for everyone. Also, some of this stuff I chose because I already had it and some of it I paid more than most people are willing to spend.

First, I’ll list all my gear. Then I’ll list why I chose what gear I did. Then I’ll tell you a bit of where I’m coming from with this list. Then some next actions.

Overall Bug Out Bag Kit

I’ve ordered these all by weight. I’ve linked as many of these things as I could  find so you can see the exact model, reviews, price, etc and don’t have to search google for them. There were a couple that I either couldn’t find an exact match to what I have or I just replaced so I tried to mention those below.

The first box is the overall pack. The bags with ‘*’ will be broken down in boxes below that.

Oh, if you’re on a cell phone, turn it sideways because some phones clip the info off the right side of the lists.

Here’s the backpack along with the individual bags, cookset, sleeping bag, and tent:
Bug Out Bag Backpack Bags Sleeping Bag and Tent

Here are all the things that are in the backpack that are not shown in the pic above (except my cup and maps. Oh, and I was apparently wearing my sandals so they’re not in the shot either – just a few inches below):
List Item: Grams,  Pounds, Ounces

Pack, Osprey Atmos 65, Large – Graphite Grey 1716.00 3.78 60.53
Bag, Survival-Tools* 1174.00 2.60 41.62
Bag, Electronic* 1110.00 2.45 39.15
Mtn Hardwear Sleeping Bag / Compression Dry Sack, XS 870.00 1.92 30.69
Bag, Clothing* 828.00 1.83 29.21
Hatchet, Fiskars/Sheath 706.00 1.56 24.90
Cook Set* 682.00 1.50 24.06
Bag, Hygiene-Toiletries* 446.00 0.98 15.73
Bag, Medical* 436.00 0.96 15.38
Rain Jacket/Wind Breaker, lightweight, summer 360.00 0.79 12.70
Knife, SOG Pup with sheath, stone, Doan’s ferro/magn 350.00 0.77 12.35
Emergency Blanket, Large 336.00 0.74 11.85
Sandals, Airwalk 290.00 0.64 10.23
Radio, Ham, Yaesu VX-6R/Clip 254.00 0.56 8.96
Multitool, Gerber 232.00 0.51 8.18
Fuel, Alcohol, Heet, Yellow, 8oz in squeeze container 208.00 0.46 7.34
Slingshot and rounds 152.00 0.34 5.36
Lantern, Solar, Luci inflatable 102.00 0.22 3.60
Cup, titanium, Snow Peak H450 101.00 0.22 3.56
Gloves, white leather 92.00 0.20 3.25
Towel, microfiber, McNett, Medium 92.00 0.20 3.25
Bowls, Fozzils, pair 80.00 0.18 2.82
Flashlight, Fenix LD12 and AA battery 80.00 0.18 2.82
Hat, Boonie Cap 72.00 0.16 2.54
Rope, 750 cord, 25′ 64.00 0.14 2.26
Flashlight, Zebra Light, SC52w L2 and AA battery 62.00 0.14 2.19
Trowel, Orange 52.00 0.11 1.83
Compass, Suunto 46.00 0.10 1.62
Sawyer Mini and straw 44.00 0.10 1.55
Antenna, ham radio, SRH77CA 40.00 0.09 1.41
Goggles, Swimming 40.00 0.09 1.41
Handkerchief, Green, Harley Davidson 32.00 0.07 1.13
Condor Multi-wrap Neck Gaiter 32.00 0.07 1.13
Sunscreen, 1 oz 32.00 0.07 1.13
Spoon, Titanium, long 22.00 0.05 0.78
Earplugs with Case 22.00 0.05 0.78
Spatula, Folding 20.00 0.04 0.71
Finem Tea Steeper 16.00 0.04 0.56
Light, Keychain 12.00 0.03 0.42
Light, Keychain 12.00 0.03 0.42
Fresnel Lens 1.00 0.00 0.04
Total Weight

Survival/Tools Bag
List Item: Grams, Pounds, Ounces

Chainsaw, Hand in Altoids-type Tin Box 180.00 0.40 6.35
Olive Oil and small container 108.00 0.24 3.81
Wrench, Adjustable 100.00 0.22 3.53
Emergency Blanket, Mylar, Pair 86.00 0.19 3.03
Lighter/light, Brunton 78.00 0.17 2.75
Knife, Boker Subcom F 66.00 0.15 2.33
Signal Mirror/pouch 62.00 0.14 2.19
Sawyer Mini and straw 54.00 0.12 1.90
Headlamp, Petzl and case with spare battery 48.00 0.11 1.69
Case, Misc Fishing 42.00 0.09 1.48
Firestarter, Doans Ferro/Magnesium Bar 40.00 0.09 1.41
Bic Lighter, Wrapped in Gorilla Tape 38.00 0.08 1.34
Container, matches, candles, firestarter 38.00 0.08 1.34
Tape Measure, 6′ 36.00 0.08 1.27
Sawyer Mini plunger from kit 30.00 0.07 1.06
Sack, Eagle Creek, Large 28.00 0.06 0.99
Bicycle Inner Tube, 12″ for making Ranger Bands 28.00 0.06 0.99
Rope Tightener, paracord, Nite Ize, Pair 26.00 0.06 0.92
Sawyer Mini Pouch from kit 20.00 0.04 0.71
Scissors, Folding with case 16.00 0.04 0.56
Whistle, Emergency, Wind Storm 14.00 0.03 0.49
Light, Keychain 12.00 0.03 0
Clips, S, Group of three 10.00 0.02 0.35
Misc 10.00 0.02 0.35
Pencil Sharpener, Magnesium 8.00 0.02 0.28
Velcro Roll, Double-Sided, Small 6.00 0.01 0.21

Electronics Bag

List Item: Grams, Pounds, Ounces

Battery, USB, Anker 13000mAh 294.00 0.65 10.37
Cable, AC to 12v female 78.00 0.17 2.75
Charger, AA Battery, Goal Zero and 4 AA Batteries 158.00 0.35 5.57
Charger, Yaesu Ham Radio, DC 90.00 0.20 3.17
Misc Connector Kit and Lumitask USB Light 42.00 0.09 1.48
Filter, red, 1″, flashlight 1.00 0.00 0.04
Light, USB, tiny, Lumitask 1.00 0.00 0.04
Sack, REI, Red 64.00 0.14 2.26
Solar Panel, EnerPlex Kickr IV 302.00 0.67 10.65
USB Cable, Charging, iPhone and USB, slim 32.00 0.07 1.13
USB Charger, Apple, AC 22.00 0.05 0.78
USB Charger, 12v DC 14.00 0.03 0.49
USB Encrypted Thumb Drive 8.00 0.02 0.28

Clothing Bag

List Item: Grams, Pounds, Ounces

Shirt, Polypro, Longsleeve 178.00 0.39 6.28
Pants, Polypro 156.00 0.34 5.50
Socks, White, 2 pair 126.00 0.28 4.44
Sack, SOC, 13’x22″x7.5″ black 116.00 0.26 4.09
Underwear, Boxers 108.00 0.24 3.81
Underwear, Sports 80.00 0.18 2.82
Cap, Watchcap, Black 68.00 0.15 2.40

Cook Set

List Item: Grams, Pounds, Ounces

Solo Stove Wood Burning Backpacking Stove 240.00 0.53 8.47
Sea to Summit Pot/Lid, Titanium 900mL 160.00 0.35 5.64
Stove, Alcohol, Trangia 112.00 0.25 3.95
Seasoning, Salt and aluminum case 44.00 0.10 1.55
Cozy, Pot, Reflectix, Homemade (see below) 42.00 0.09 1.48
Seasoning, Sugar and aluminum case 40.00 0.09 1.41
Seasoning, Blend and aluminum case 34.00 0.07 1.20
Sponge, Scrubbing 10.00 0.02 0.35

Medical Kit

List Item: Grams, Pounds, Ounces

Misc Medical Items 160.00 0.35 5.64
Bandage, Muslin in bag 56.00 0.12 1.98
Tourniquet, Tourni-Kwik 4 (TK4) 44.00 0.10 1.55
Sunscreen, 1 oz 30.00 0.07 1.06
Clotrimazole, 30g 30.00 0.07 1.06
Moleskin 26.00 0.06 0.92
QuikClot Combat Gauze 22.00 0.05 0.78
Sack, Eagle Creek, Medium 18.00 0.04 0.63
Bandages, Compress, 3″x3″,Pair 16.00 0.04 0.56
Neosporine, 0.3oz 16.00 0.04 0.56
Bandage, Gauze, 2″x3.5yds 10.00 0.02 0.35
Mask, N95, flat packing 8.00 0.02 0.28

Hygiene-Toiletries Bag

List Item: Grams, Pounds, Ounces

Aloe Vera, 2oz 79.00 0.17 2.79
Soap, Liquid, Irish Spring, 2.5oz 79.00 0.17 2.79
Hand Sanitizer 64.00 0.14 2.26
Antacid in dispenser 34.00 0.07 1.20
Toilet Paper, Charmin Basic To Go, 210″x4.5″ 30.00 0.07 1.06
Powder, Body, Gold Bond, 1oz 26.00 0.06 0.92
Toothpaste, 0.8oz 26.00 0.06 0.92
Fingernail Clippers 20.00 0.04 0.71
Toilet Paper from MRE (4x) 20.00 0.04 0.71
Chapstick, Pair 18.00 0.04 0.63
Sack, Eagle Creek, Small 14.00 0.03 0.49
Clotrimazole 12.00 0.03 0.42
Dental Floss, 50m 12.00 0.03 0.42
Toothbrush with travel case, cut short 10.00 0.02 0.35
Earplugs, disposable in bag

Why I chose the gear I have
So. Let’s break this down somewhat so I can explain some of the thinking of why I chose what I chose. To make it make sense, I’ll break them down all by usage.

Cargo-carrying gear

Cargo is really where I cut down most of my weight without sacrificing effectiveness. I found a great bag that’s big enough to carry everything I need, with even some extra room left over. With my original bag, attachments to hold what wouldn’t fit, and internal bags to keep things organized, my cargo weight was well over 8 pounds! Essentially, cargo is all the stuff that holds your stuff that isn’t stuff you need to survive. I cut that down by half, saving me four pounds that I could devote to other gear and I actually have more room than I did before. I can now fit everything inside the bag – including the tent – and I still have some room. The tent adds 4.82 pounds but still keeps everything under 30 pounds plus food/water.

I’m using an Osprey Atmos 65 backpack in large, which gives me actually 68 Liters of space. I chose this particular bag because I already have an idea about how much space I need from using my Camelbak BFM for so many years. I originally got a 5.11 Rush 72 backpack to replace it, after MANY people suggested it and read some really great reviews on it. After thinking it all through, it wasn’t going to work. In order to carry the amount of items I wanted, I’d have to add cargo space to the bag and it already weighed quite a bit. Plus, it’s a very military-looking bag, which I’d rather avoid if I could. It also seals up at the top and has a built-in cover for the rain.

I also switched out all my internal bags for ultralight ones. For organization, I got a set of Eagle Creek packing cubes and an REI expandable packing cube. If I didn’t already have the REI bag, I would have gotten another set of the Eagle Creek cubes instead and separated things even more – and the whole set weighs about the same as the one REI bag does.

Cutting tools

One of the most important things to have in a survival kit is a fixed-blade knife. I used to carry a SOG Seal Elite, and I even carried it in Iraq and Afghanistan, but for a bug out bag here at home, I wanted to see if I could cut down the weight and still have a very effective knife. After a LOT of research, I pretty much came back to the same thing but got the SOG Seal Pup instead.

My original SOG Seal was 12.3″ in overall length and weighed 10.3 ounces. The pup weighs 5.4 ounces and is 9.5″ overall. When you consider the smaller sheath size, that saved me almost a quarter pound right there – and it’s a great little knife.

Batoning a knife to build a shelter is a LOT of work so I wanted to get a really good hatchet. It came down to the Estwing E24A Portsman’s Hatchet vs the Fiskars X7 14-inch Hatchet. I went back and forth with this one for a long time. I ended up with the Fiskars because it was over a quarter pound lighter (from what I could find on the web and assuming the sheath weight) and had even more 5-star reviews. I REALLY like the looks of the Estwing but cutting weight is a priority over aesthetics. Barely.

As a backup knife, I have the Gerber Multitool that the Army gave me that I keep in one of the front belt pockets of the backpack and a small Boker Subcom F in my Survival-Tools bag.

Because cutting medium-sized logs is a LOT of work with a hatchet and even more work with a knife and stick, I got a basic replacement chain saw, cut it so it was one length instead of a loop, and put a couple of strong key rings on the ends. I can use it for a very effective hand saw by either sticking a short branch in each end to make handles or tying a length of the 750 cord on each end. If you then tie some fishing line and some kind of weight, you could throw it up and over a branch up in a tree and cut it down without having to climb up. I keep the chain rolled up in a small Altoids-type of tin.

Making fire

I think fire is one of the most important elements of survival so I have a lot of redundancy here.

Slid into the back of my backpack is a sheet-sized Fresnel Lens. It weighs so little that it didn’t come up on my scale and since there’s a flat spot that it fits into nicely, it effectively takes up no weight. It’s a no-brainer to get one of these. Here’s a quick video I did showing how easy it is to start a fire with one of these if you have a sunny day and some dry stuff laying around:
I have an old Brunton lighter that I threw in there because it’s not only a storm-proof lighter, it has an LED light built-in. No idea which model it is.

I have two Doan Magnesium/Ferrocerium Firestarters. Don’t get the cheap stuff, get the Doan one. The Chinese knockoffs just don’t work as well and they’re about the same price. I keep one in my Survival-Tools Bag and one in the sharpening stone pocket of my SOG Seal Pup knife.

I have a very small plastic container that has a couple of tea light candles, a couple of packs of matches, and some Tinder-Quik Fire Tabs that I’ve sealed inside short lengths of a large straw to keep them dry. I didn’t really need this but I threw it in anyway.

In my Survival-Tools bag, I also have a small two-hole magnesium pencil sharpener. It’s great for shaving tinder from twigs and only weighs a quarter ounce. I’m not sure if the magnesium it’s made out of is pure enough to be used to help build a fire but it might.

I carry a roll of toilet paper and a few small packs that came with some MREs I ate in Afghanistan. This stuff is great for starting fires. Also great if you happen to bring a girl camping. You’re like a rockstar if you bring toilet paper. Chicks dig toilet paper.

Filtering/purifiying water

My go-to water filter system right now is the Sawyer Mini. It filters a LOT more water than pretty much everything out there, but to do that, you need to use the plunger it comes with. It can also be adapted to run inline with a Camelbak and it comes with a roll-up water bottle. I keep one Sawyer Mini in one of the front belt pouches and one in the Survival-Tools bag along with a plunger and a roll-up bottle.

I have my cook set detailed below so I won’t go into it here but it can obviously be used to boil water.

I have a Harley handkerchief that they gave me at the local shop on Veteran’s Day last year. It can be used to filter out all the big stuff and to soak up small puddles. You can also brush it on tall dew-covered grass and plants as you walk through and wring it out into your mouth, although that won’t taste too good. Much better than using your socks though.

Shelter/clothing gear

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that I carry a tent, which brings my overall weight to almost 30 pounds plus water/food. I currently have a discontinued K√∂ppen tent but I’m looking at replacing it because it’s not self-standing. Finding something to dig in with tent stakes in the desert isn’t always all that easy.

Here’s my post on the best ultralight bug out bag/backpacking tents. The Hilleberg Nallo GT2 tent is at the top of that list for me. It’s a pound and a half heavier than one I have right now but MUCH better. If I lose the large vestibule and go with the Nallo 2, I’m at about the same weight as I am now. Just not sure exactly which way I wanna go with it.

Why not just a hammock? By the time you get a hammock and tarp, you’re pushing into the weight territory of some of these tents (and over it in some cases), and there aren’t a lot of trees around here to tie up to anyway. Regardless, I can’t sleep in a hammock. I have delicate features.

I have one of the REAL emergency blankets folded into an inner back pocket of the backpack. It’s orange on one side and silver on the other. It can be used as a tarp above (with a reflective cover that puts heat back to you if you need it or away if you don’t) or as a pad below to keep you insulated from the ground. Because it’s orange, you can use it to signal. I originally carried a VS-17 signal panel but it was way not big enough to be used for much other than signaling. I do have a couple of the cheap emergency blankets but those are crap. They’re ok for reflecting heat from the ceiling of a tent or behind you with a fire but don’t think you’re actually going to use them as a blanket for any extended time.

I originally had a SOL Breathable Emergency Bivvy but I absolutely cannot sleep in it. It’s WAY too restricting if you’re broad-shouldered. You could try one and see if it works but if it does, you need to hit the gym bro. I almost packed it regardless because it would have been ok to bring along as a pad I could fill in with leaves etc but that put me over my 25 pounds so I dropped it from the list.

I always carry a Mountain Hardwear Lumina 45 sleeping bag wherever I go. To keep it dry and small, I use an XS Sea to Summit compression dry sack. I’ve had this bag and water-resistant compression sack with me through several deployments and camping trips. It’s very lightweight and packs to about the size of a football. Definitely a nice thing to have.
To hold all my clothes, I currently have a large Sandpiper of California Top Stuff sack. It’s big enough that I can throw a couple other bags in it if I had to go through a river and will hold out water for a short time but it’s not technically waterproof. I’ll be replacing it at some point with a compression dry sack like I use with my sleeping bag. This bag is a fairly heavy addition but I figure it’s worth it to make sure I can keep things dry.

Since I live in the desert so I don’t need a lot of cold-weather gear but it does get pretty nippy at night and can easily get below freezing. As you can see in the Clothing Bag above, I have just some basic Army-issue polypros as a backup. I also carry a lightweight rain jacket because not only will it keep the rain off me, it’s a good wind breaker. Once it gets colder, I’ll throw a fleece or something in there. Just make sure you layer your clothes. Sweating in cold weather makes your clothes wet so even after you cool down to the point where you stop sweating, your clothes continue to sweat for you, and you get hypothermia.

One of the best bang-for-your-buck items to stay warm when it starts to get chilly out is a neck gaiter. I have a thicker one that I’ll also put in the bag when it gets cold. I keep a lightweight one wrapped around my swimming goggles so they don’t get scratched and because I grab both of those if I get caught up in a sandstorm. Full-size goggles are just too big for me to carry around all the time for as little as I’ve worn them. Plus, they’re not as sexy.

Make sure you have a couple pairs of extra socks. That’s important.

I keep a spare pair of underwear (yes Mom, they’re clean) but also a pair of the sports ones that help if your inner thighs start chafing. I thought about swapping my boxers for a thong to save weight and maybe double as a replacement slingshot stretchy thing but I didn’t want to scare away the animals.

I have a lightweight boonie cap to keep the sun off the back of my neck. Definitely important to have if you’re out in the sun all day. No idea where I got the one I have but it has mesh around it. Great for the desert. Not so great for the rain.

The watch cap is definitely nice to keep your ears warm at night and keep in your body heat while you’re sleeping in your sleeping bag.

Sandals are really handy to have if you’re living out of a tent. You can put them on in the middle of the night instead of hassling with boots if you need to go “see a man about a horse” and also for when you’re getting around in the morning with your fire etc before you pack up and head out. Get some strong, lightweight ones though. Some of them won’t hold up very well. The ones I have have been worn through many miles of large gravel walking out to the shower/latrines on FOBs and are still holding up well – and I wear them most days around Phoenix.

I cut a 6′ section of that same Reflectix that I used for the pot cozy/lid, and sealed the edges with aluminum tape. It makes for a great lightweight sleeping pad. I take it camping but it’s not in my bug out kit normally because it’s 11 ounces and I’m trying to stay under 25 pounds. I may end up just keeping it in there anyway at some point but I’m trying to cut down another 10 ounces before I put it in if I can. This is it all folded up nicely n such.
Food preparation gear

The centerpiece of my food prep is a Solo Stove Wood burning Backpacking Stove in addition to a Trangia Alcohol Stove. The Solo Stove will burn sticks, Esbit fuel tablets (providing you lay them on a piece of aluminum foil or metal so they don’t fall through the grate), pine needles, pine cones, and lots of other things. It would be very difficult to run out of fuel with it. Here’s a good video on the combination
The Trangia Alcohol Stove is a great addition to it because the Solo Stove makes it more efficient. The nice thing about the Trangia is that it has a screw-on lid so you can put the flame out and carry it with fuel in it so you don’t have to guess exactly how much fuel you’ll need each time. It burns alchohol so I carry 8 ounces of yellow HEET (which is methanol), carried in one of those cheap squirt bottles you find in the travel size section at the grocery store. Don’t get the red HEET (isopropyl), it’s not nearly as good. There are many fuels you can use with it though. Of note is Everclear, which can be used inside without worrying too much about the fumes, and you can drink it *shudder*
To cook in, I have a Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cook Set that comes with a 900mL pot and a frying pad that kind of works as a half-assed lid. Because it’s titanium, it’s super light and super strong – and it transfers heat extremely well, making it boil water faster. The drawbacks are that it’ll burn your food if you’re not careful and it’s a tad expensive.

Because it transfers heat well, your food/drink will get cold very quickly. To keep this from happening, and to keep from adding a lot of weight to solve it, I made a custom pot cozy top and bottom out of Reflectix. I’ll probably do a post on how these are made at some point but it’s pretty easy.

The cozy and lid only add an ounce and a half to the kit but it will keep your food warm (and actually keep it cooking slowly after you pull it off the heat in case you want to conserve fuel or put your grub down in a pile of snow while you sip on your coffee). It also keeps the stupid haf-assed lid/pan on the pot while it’s in my backpack.

To make sure my food doesn’t burn, I have a lightweight folding spatula. I wish it fit in the cook set but whatever.

To keep as much of the cooking stuff together, I put the Trangia Stove inside the Solo Stove, which then fits inside the pot and lid. I put all that inside the Reflectix cozy/lid. Because that leaves some room (and bangs around inside as you walk), I put the salt, seasoning blend, and sugar (each in a different colored UST 1.0 Aluminum B.A.S.E. Case) on top of the stove and a scrubbing sponge on top of that. It all fits quite nicely. You can see it all in the pic above in the bug out gear list section.

I don’t really want to eat out of the pot I cook in because I may want to heat water while I’m eating or make a second dish or whatever, so I wanted to have a bowl and a cup. I ended up with two Fozzil bowls to solve the bowl conundrum because they pack flat and weigh less than an ounce and a half each. I was going to have just one but I figured I could afford the extra weight and almost zero space in case I was going to share a meal with someone or wanted to have a second bowl for food or to catch water in during rain. They also come in handy if the two of you want to go out picking berries or whatnot.
For a cup, I originally got a Kupilka Cup to carry along. It’s a very good cup, and one that a lot of ultralight campers use. It’s made out of a composite wood/plastic so it’s very sturdy and insulates well. It was just too small for what I wanted, even though it’s only 3 ounces. Instead, I oped for a Snow Peak Titanium H450, double-walled cup. The double walls make it so your drink doesn’t get cold right away but also means you can’t cook with it. A much more popular option is the Snow Peak HotLips Titanium Mug, which you CAN cook in, but it loses heat quickly and you need the little rubber things on it so you don’t burn your lips. Also, the one I got doesn’t have a handle on it (because it doesn’t need one), so it saves a little space. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the new cup in these pics. The cup FINALLY came in. It does work great though. Even though it’s titanium, it doesn’t burn your lips when you’re drinking something hot like a single-walled cup would. Here's a pic:
After going back to a spoon, I really hate sporks. They suck at being a spoon and suck even more at being a fork. Instead, I got a TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon with Polished Bowl. It has a long-enough handle to be able to stir with and eat out of MRE bags without getting stuff all over my hands. It only weighs 3/4 of an ounce.

Being able to make tea is really useful. To do this easily, I carry a medium Finum Brewing Basket inside the H450 cup. It comes with a lid but I don’t carry it. It adds 0.6 ounces of weight but is a real comfort item, plus you can make some healthy teas with it.

Food acquisition

For food acquisition, I have several yards of 40-lb test fishing line. Normally you don’t want it to be so thick but this way I can use it for building a shelter, making a snare trap, or repairing clothing if I need to. I’ve also added some fishing hooks, a couple of bobbers, and a couple of weights in a little case. The disposable ear plugs can also be used as floats. I also have some dental floss that can be used for the same things.

The 750 paracord can also be used to make snares or a fishing net. It’s much stronger (and slightly heavier) than 550 cord. I only have about 25 feet of it but I might double that to another 25-foot section.

I picked up a nice little lightweight slingshot that holds the shot inside the handle. With the ammo, it only weighs 5.36 ounces so I think it was worth taking. I can use small rocks if I need to. I’m gonna have to practice with this one.

In a lot of cases, I’ll just throw in a bag of my own homemade GORP. You can’t beat the calories and protein per pound with that stuff and it tastes great. Much healthier and tastier than most emergency food.

Signal/communications equipment

The most notable item here is the Yaesu VX-6R handheld ham radio and an upgraded antenna. It’s a fantastic little radio and doesn’t care if it gets wet. I’ve had it for several years now so I’ll probably be stepping up to the Yaesu VX-8DR soon because it has some features that the 6R doesn’t.

My emergency blanket has a bright orange side to it, which helps signal rescue craft to your location. The crappy ones could be used as flags so you have movement to attract attention.

I carry a Military Glass Signal Mirror inside a soft bag that came with an old set of earphones. The glass one is MUCH better than a plastic one because it’s sturdier and the reflective coating doesn’t rub off very easily. The cheapo ones don’t work so well after being carried around a while.

I also have a Wind Storm emergency whistle that’s super loud. If you’re trying to let someone know where you are, it’s a LOT more effective to blow a whistle than it is to yell, especially after a few hours.

Lighting gear

I have an awful lot of lights available but most of them weigh almost nothing or they’re built into other things. I could stand to drop some of this weight but it wouldn’t really drop all that much so I’m keeping it for now.

Because flashlights suck for general lighting inside a tent or your camp area, I added the Luci Inflatable Light they sent me to do a review. I wasn’t expecting much but it’s a fantastic little thing. It charges off solar, weighs only 3.6 ounces, and inflates with your mouth.

For my primary light, I carry a Zebra Light ASC52w L2. It’s fantastic. I got the neutral white color (the ‘w’ part of the model). It’s a bit different looking at things at night in true light but I really like it. It’s a touch less bright than the white light but doesn’t distort the colors of what you’re looking at like most flashlights do. It’s still HELLA bright for a AA flashlight.

For a secondary light, I carry a Fenix LD10  that I’ve had for a while – now replaced by a Fenix LD12. It also takes AA.

I also have a Petzl E+LITE Ultra-compact emergency headlamp that comes with a little plastic case. I keep a spare battery inside with it since I can’t recharge that size. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to do stuff with a headlamp so you can keep both hands free. I’m still debating on whether I want to drop this from my kit or my secondary flashlight since I really don’t need both. I hate sucking on a flashlight while I try to get things done though.

As I mentioned before, my old Brunton lighter has an LED light that unscrews from the bottom of it.

In my Power Bag, I have a AA charger from Goal Zero. When it has AA batteries in it, it can be used as a little LED flashlight.

When I was at the Prepper Expo here in Phoenix recently, I picked up a great little Lumitask USB light that’s SUPER bright for how tiny it is. I can plug that into the AA charger or the USB battery and it’s so small it’s pretty much zero weight and zero space (about the size/weight of a paper clip. Unfortunately they’re apparently not for sale yet and the company hasn’t answered my emails asking about them. If you’re reading this Lumitask – Holla!

I have three little Keychain lights that I got in care packages when I was in Afghanistan. They weigh pretty much nothing and are convenient to have in certain areas. I keep one clipped to the inside top of my backpack so I can see inside it to find things without having to get my flashlight, one clipped to the front chest strap, and one inside my Survival-Tools Bag.

I got a Surefire 1″ slip-on red filter a long time ago that fits on the end of most handheld flashlights (like the ones I carry). It doesn’t really weigh anything so I included it in my kit. It’s good for not destroying your night vision or for rooting around your stuff at night in a tent with other people trying to sleep.

The USB battery I  have in my Electronics Bag also has a little LED flashlight built-in.

Medical and hygiene-toiletries

I don’t have anything special in these two bags. Just basic stuff. I do have a medium-sized McNett Microfiber Towel in the backpack though. I’ve tried several brands but this one is the only one I’ve ever tried that actually works. I should have gotten the small though, but with this size I guess I could use it as a a sarong if I needed to.


I keep all my firearms-related stuff in a separate bag so I don’t have those listed here.

The Fiskars Hatchet would make a pretty devastating weapon if I had to fight close-quarters but I’m more comfortable with knife-fighting since I’ve at least been trained in it, which makes my SOG knife my go-to weapon. I suppose I could use my slingshot if I had to but I can’t really think of many instances where that would be realistic. Maybe I should just rethink the thong thing. That would probably work.


I’ve spent a lot of time thinking this one through. Don’t give me that crap about having electronics being a stupid idea because I hear THAT stupid idea from someone every time the topic is brought up. The fact is that 99.9999999% of anything you’d ever use your bug out bag for will allow you to use your electronics so not reaping the benefit of what this stuff can do for you is just plain stupid. If somehow an EMP/CME does wipe out EVERYTHING I have, then I just drop the bag – simple solution. In the meantime, I carry this stuff.

The centerpiece of this system is my Enerplex Kickr IV solar panel. This thing works really well and is very durable. It has loops on it so I can hook it to my bag as I walk around in addition to just laying it out. If it just put out 12v as well as 5v, it’d be perfect.

Instead of charging things directly, I charge them indirectly using an 13000mAh Anker USB battery. This means that I can charge something at night if I want to and if I’m charging something like my iPhone, it won’t stop charging when  cloud comes along (iPhones don’t like to kick back onto charge mode when that happens so it’s really not feasible without a battery with your solar panel).

To run my flashlights, I use rechargeable AA batteries. I charge them with a Goal Zero battery charger, which can double as a small USB battery to run USB things.

I can also charge my USB battery or the AA battery charger with my included 12v power outlet cable that has battery clips on the other end if I plug in my DC USB charger into it. Obviously that means I can charge through a 12v receptacle too. The one I’m using came off an old solar panel but this one is pretty close.

If I have AC available, I have the portable AC-USB charger that came with my iPhone. That lets me charge the USB battery or AA battery charger with AC (as well as charge my iPhone directly).

I have a 12v DC power charger for the ham radio, which can be used with the 12v/cigarette lighter clips. This was a necessary item because I couldn’t recharge the radio with the solar panel or USB battery. The a/c charger was too heavy to add on since i really don’t need it.

I keep an encrypted thumb drive with important documents backed up. I currently have a different model that I’ve put my own encryption on but I’ve ordered the model I linked to. It has 256 bit military encryption.

A bit of background on my system

I’ve lived primarily out of a backpack on missions in Africa, Iraq, Thailand, Afghanistan, Central America, and now live in Phoenix, AZ where I take my backpack camping so I’m quite familiar with what items I’ve used over the years and what I haven’t. I still learn things every time I do this.

After spending hundreds of hours over months of rethinking this, and researching several ultralight backpacking/camping/thru-hiking sources, I’ve actually completely redone my entire system and don’t use my go bag any longer in addition to my bug out bag.

It’s now all in one kit – and not counting food and water, it’s all under 25 pounds. That may not sound like that much of a big deal but when you consider that includes two stoves, a hatchet, a sleeping bag, a slingshot/ammo, and still have room in my pack, it was quite difficult to accomplish. To be as accurate as I could, I got a postal scale and weighed everything individually myself because manufacturer’s weights aren’t always accurate and I’ve modified some things on a couple pieces – and will modify things further later.

My bag isn’t a 72-hour bag. It’s not something that I’ve designed just to get me home if I break down on the road. It’s designed so that I can have some decent quality of living if I had to stay out in the wilderness for an extended period of time but doesn’t weigh so much that hiking around with it over hills and rough terrain would be difficult.

I carried over 100 pounds in Afghanistan including body armor, ammo, etc and it was not very fun. I wanted this bag to be the minimum I could carry and have 80% of what I’d need in almost any scenario within reach. For a full load-out, I’d be adding food, water, weapon, ammo, and maybe even my concealable body armor if it warranted it. That will all certainly push up the total weight but nothing close to deployment load.

There are a lot of ways to measure the weight of your kit. Some people do like I’ve done here and just counted the basic gear minus food and water, because food and water are very mission-dependent. Some people count everything that goes in or on their pack at full capacity, under worst conditions. Some people go “skin-out” and weigh their clothing, EDC Kit, and everything that they’ll carry under worst conditions. There were WAY too many variables with most of these methods, so I chose to go with the simplest: dry weight (what I’m calling it), without food/water, what I’m wearing, etc.

What’s next?

For you:

1. Start with a weight goal limit.
2. Lay out all the stuff you have in your bug out gear.
3. Organize everything by its use. Some things will have multiple uses.
4. List everything in a spreadsheet that you can put a mark on different uses, along with each item’s weight. The categories will depend on exactly what you have and how you want to organize it. Here’s one way to do it:

- Cargo
- Cutting
- Fire
- Water
- Shelter/Clothing
- Food Prep
- Food Acquisition
- Signal/Communication
- Light
- Medical
- Navigation
- Tools/Construction
- Hygiene
- Power
- Offense/Defense

5. Fill in the missing pieces that you need to make sure you have adequate backups.
6. Weigh each and every thing you have in your pack.
7. Look at how far off you are with your weight goal and start removing items.
8. Go back to #2 above; rinse and repeat.

Having a weight goal really helps you focus on what you really need and what you don’t.

What I don’t have shown is a list of emergency numbers, frequencies addresses, account numbers, etc., because that’s now in my wallet. If you don’t have that on you, you should have that in your pack. I also didn’t show a map because I don’t have one for the area around here. If I were going somewhere, I’d get a map first and put it in something waterproof.

About graywolf

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help preppers and others understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.



Posted 12 June 2015

Jade Helm, AI, Holographic Reality Matrix and more. D, Lisa and chatroom audience went in many seemingly connected directions this week.



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