Go Bag

What is a Go Bag?  A go bag is a bag or pack that contains what you will need to get out of dodge (G.O.O.D).  Generally speaking, you will need between 3-5 days supplies to get from where you are to where you are going. So, we are going to discuss the difference between necessities, and want for the items in this bag.   Get a decent bag or backpack that you can comfortably carry with 30-50 pounds of gear packed into it.  Personally I prefer a small 3 day hiking backpack, it is compact, designed for carrying large loads in a balanced way, and many 3 day backpacks have built in hydration packs, or the ability to add one, as well as many other features that will save a lot of pain later on.  My friends in the military have a saying that ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.  If you have ever done any backpacking you have a good idea of how small items in your bag can add up to a lot of weight, quickly. In my opinion, it is better to keep the luxury items to a minimum.

I won’t be going into every little item that would be nice to have in your go bag here, but I will go over the basic must have items.  From there it is up to you to decide what items you are willing to carry, remember how quickly weight can accumulate.  First and foremost of anything you will want in your kit is a good knife.  Short of a firearm, your knife is where in my opinion you should spend the most money.  Buy a good brand name don’t go for flash, go for function.  Gerber Kershaw and Benchmade are I believe brands that are good quality, and have a wide variety styles to fit everyone’s needs.  A multi-tool knife is a great way to go if you are only going to be able to afford one knife.

Next, you will need some way to carry water.  Plastic sports bottles are a good way to go for portable water, some backpacks even come with water bottles which clip to the outside of the backpack or have built in hydration packs.  You should have at least two ways to make fire, a Bic lighter, and matches, each in separate locations in your gear, for instance on in the main pocket of your pack, and one in an outside pocket, and both in watertight containers, like zip-close bags.

A small but complete first aid kit, this is an area where you can spend a lot of money on a kit, and get everything you will need to do an emergency appendectomy.  If you are not a doctor, or medic, don’t waste your money buying things you don’t know how to use. Get a first aid kit which has a few Band-Aids, several different sized gauze pads, medical tape, anti-biotic ointment, moleskin for blisters, a large pressure bandage, splinter kit including tweezers, and something to make a sling out of.  Remember the purpose of everything you are carrying is to get you from where you are to where you are going, not be Grizzly Adams and live in the wilderness.  I want to touch on foot care quickly here.  Many people have never heard of moleskin, it is possibly one of the most important items to have in your med kit.  Along with some foot powder.  If your feet have blisters, and you are soaking your socks in blood, you are at a very high risk for infection, which could kill you, or at the very least render you immobile until your foot heals.  Take care of your feet.

One thing that you can acquire (that doesn’t weigh anything!) is medical knowledge. This is a great resource to have because it can earn you money now and still be practical after a disaster. I personally prefer nursing as a profession because they’re the ones that get the work done at doctors offices, so they have the best hands-on knowledge. For example, if you get a degree from a top nursing school and work in a doctor’s office, you will know how to treat common injuries and illnesses and will be an invaluable member of any community – pre- or post-disaster.

Not every medical job has this advantage though, so choose carefully. It may be attractive to be something like a ultrasound technician – they make a great salary. However, if there isn’t a reliable electrical grid, ultrasound machines are useless! Better to be something like a psychiatric nurse practitioner, make a great wage now, and be completely invaluable after a disaster!

Several ways to make light, multiple flashlights with battery replacements again water tight packages.  If your knife is not a multi-tool then a pair of pliers is a wonderful thing to have.  You will want to have 2-3 changes of weather appropriate clothing, 3-4 pairs of socks and under garments.  This does mean that you will need to do some minor maintance to your bag as weather changes in your area, but being sure that your bag is ready is worth the small amount of time you will spend checking it and making sure it is ready to go.  A small sewing kit to repair your clothing as living in the wild can be hard on clothing.

Your weapon system of choice.  This is where the pounds can really add up.  For example, a typical handgun weighs in around 3 lbs.  If that is a semi-automatic handgun, then you will want in my opinion, at least 4 total magazines which are close to a pound a piece.  So just for a handgun and loaded magazines you have added 7 lbs. to your pack.  Add a rifle, such as an AR-15 and you’re really adding the weight, the rifle alone with no optics, or accessories, averages around 7.5 lbs. and 30 round magazines weigh in at a little over a pound each. My personal kit contains 4 loaded pistol and 7 loaded rifle magazines. Once I add my weapon systems to the load, I nearly double the weight of my pack.

A quick aside – if you do own firearms as a weapon of choice, they must be stored in a safe that can withstand an attack from a thief. I prefer to go with safes that are covert – hidden gun storage if you will – check out examples here.

A small cooking pot and by small I mean less than a quart size pot. A great way to get this is an old fashion scouting mess kit, they usually have a frying pan, small pot, a plate/bowl, drinking cup and eating utensils, as well as they are usually only a couple dollars at camping stores, or better yet used at your local thrift store or second hand store.   Add a couple large 55 gallon trash can liners, and you have quite a kit.

Those are the things that will be indispensable.  Here are a few “luxury” items that will make things more livable, and don’t add a lot of weight.  A decent multi-band radio, capable of shortwave, AM, FM, UHF, and NOAA weather is a great thing to have, many of them can be had fairly inexpensively, and many also include a built-in hand crank generator to charge the batteries in the radio.  “Space blankets” are very cheap, and can truly make the difference in cold weather, and in a pinch they can be used for signaling.  A folding shovel is a great thing to have, but a decent one that won’t break the first time you try to use it tend to be heavy.  A folding camp saw and or machete type chopper, sometimes firewood will need to be cut, so it makes life easier.  A good survival book, I highly recommend the SAS survival manual, they publish it in a compact backpack size, and the information it contains is amazing.  I don’t recommend many electronic devices, while they can make life easier, the question of power comes into play, and you must either pack batteries, or have some way to recharge the existing batteries.  Remember ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.  You may end up having to carry your bag on foot for the duration, so keep that in mind when adding non-essentials.  If you are not careful in your selection of gear, your bag can get to be very heavy, 80-90 lbs.  If you are in excellent physical condition, and are used to carrying this kind of load, meaning you do it on a regular basis, then you can carry more, if you are not used to it, a 80 pound pack will wear you out, and possibly injure you to the point where you never reach your destination.

Homesteading and Prepping

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about some of the projects I am working on around the house, and realized how many homesteadish thing I was doing without realizing it.

What is homesteading?  For my working definition, homesteading is anything you can do to make yourself and your household more self sufficient.  For example, my wife found a recipe online for making your own laundry detergent, and dishwasher tablets.  We have been making our own detergent for the past six months, and it works better than any store bought detergent I have ever used, we use less detergent, and it smells great, so we don’t need to use fabric softener, or dryer sheets any more, thus saving a little money.  also the ingredients to make the detergent cost about $35, and that gets enough to make 6 batches of laundry soap that last about 2 months each batch since you only have to use a tablespoon of the mix.

We also raise rabbits for meat, it costs us about $40 a month to care for our rabbits food and water, and various things that they need, and we breed them.  We can get about 8 rabbits per litter,  We usually get 2 litters per month, and on average that gives us 16 rabbits for meat ever 6 weeks.  that is like buying 16 roasting chickens for $40, or $2.50 each.  if we breed more aggressively, we can move that up to 32 every 6 weeks or about 8 per week if we are consistent with our breeding. This lowers our grocery bill, in fact we rarely buy chicken any more since chicken and rabbit are very similar in taste and consistency.

We also have a garden box where we have grown a significant amount of vegetables including corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, and beans.  The soil mix we use has allowed us grow enough to can some of what we have grown, and make pickles from the cucumbers, which grew so numerous and so large we couldn’t eat them fast enough.

As it turns out rabbit poop is the best fertilizer ever, and we have enhanced our garden box greatly using rabbit fertilizer.  We have bagged it up and given it to several of our friends who also have home gardens, and I have been researching that there is actually a market for selling it to other people for fertilizer or compost components.

Another project that I am starting to build is what is called a tractor pen for the rabbits, it is a larger pen with no bottom that gives them space to move around, and you drag it around your yard so the rabbits eat the grass and weeds from the yard which is very healthy for the rabbits, and they poop as they eat, fertilizing the yard and mow it at the same time.

My wife is starting a fodder system which is sprouting wheat grass, and supplementing the rabbits food with the wheat, thus lowering our feed cost, and again it is of nutritional value to the rabbits, giving us larger healthier rabbits which  means more meat from the rabbits.

You can see how several small things can help out with the budget.  This allows us to take some of that money that we save and using it for some of the prepping items that must be purchased.  These are just a few small things that we have done that have saved us a lot of money.  It is always better to have alternatives for all of your preps.  Rain catchment for water, water filtration, alternate food sources, alternative weapon systems such as bows or crossbows.  Always have a back up when you can, because one is none, and two is one.

Train like your life depends on it, it just might.

Training, what does this mean? A lot of different things. Training is doing somehting in a consistent manner to either imporve skill, or physical condition. Training needs to be a constant thing. Either physical training skills training, or what I call tactical training. Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. When you are practicing something, make sure you are practicing it the right way. This goes across the board, when you are working out, make sure you are doing the exercise the right way to make the most of the exercise. If you are building something you obviously want to do ti the right way, so you don’t waste the materials and your time. With any kind of martial training either hand to hand fighting or weapons training if you don’t practice it correctly every time, you will do it wrong under pressure. Now there is no 100% right way to do anything, but there is certainly 100% wrong way to do things, and if you develop wrong habits, you will do that in a time is life situation. When training, always do what works 95% of the time. You will never be able to do something 100% of the time. If you could you would be an android. To my knowledge, there aren’t any of them so work for the 95%.

 

Training philosophy. They say amateurs train to succeed professional train to fail. For our use this means that we continue to train with higher and higher standards until our skills fail us, and then train until we succeed with those higher standards. This is a practice that I have only recentlyl adopted, because it makes a lot of sense. When it comes to a time is life or WROL (without rule of law) situation, we can’t settle for being “ok” at the things we do, we have to be the best that we possibly can.

 

So, how do we apply this. Being a couch potato who gets winded going from the couch to the fridge is not going to serve us if the world goes sideways. We all must do our best to be in the best physical condition we can. Even if we have medical issues, we can all do some physical training to be in the best condition we are capible of being in. Walk to the convenience store instead of driving, get a bike, ride once a day, even if it is around the block. If you are in better shape you have a better chance of surviving when there isn’t a 7-11 down the street to go get yourself something to eat. The better your physical condition, the more efficient use of resources, it processes food better, energy levels are on average higher, if you are in better shape you don’t get sick as often, you fight infection better. All in all there is no down side to being in good shape other than missing the odd episode of Doctor Who now and then.

 

Non-tactical skills, the homesteading skills. If there is a long term breakdown of society, there will be no grocery stores, no pharmacy, no doctors unless you are lucky enough to have one in your prepping group. There is a list of skills a mile long that would be nice to know if the SHTF, but no one can know it all, or be proficient at it all more importantly. When you can go to your local store to pick up some asprin when you have a headache, having a skill set a mile wide and an inch deep, aka jack of all trades, master of none, is all fine and good. When that all goes away, you better be good at what you do, and practicing is the only way to do that. Start a victory garden today, grow herbs both for cooking and for medicine. Learn to build a well pump system, and run your own pipes, rebuild a motor, get good at as much as you can, practice, practice, practice. Running with a group of like minded individuals is great, as long as you have a wide variety of skills to draw upon. Sit down and think about what it takes to run your house for a day, food, cleaning supplies, paper products, heat for cooking, power for the refrigerator, make a list of what you would need to replace all those things, and think of the skills that it would require to get that done. Talk to your prepping group, see who knows what, and who is willing to learn what skills, and get going with it.

 

Tactical skills. These are skills that are security or combat related. Shooting, small unit tactics, evade and escape, martial arts of any kind. While other skills are just as important, tactical skills have a much higher likelyhood of getting you hurt or killed if you don’t know what you are doing, or don’t practice it correctly. Gen. George S. Patton said of training. “A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood.” Train, practice and train some more. If you have a group, train together as much as possible. Learn how each other thinks, learn to work together. A friend of mine from www.everycitizenasoldier.org has a wonderful YouTube channel with excellent training advice in video format that can be found at…

http://www.youtube.com/user/excurrahee?feature=watch

OP-SEC, or protecting what is yours.

OP-SEC, operational security, protecting you and yours.  What ever you want to call it, it is a necessary part of our prepping plans.  Having 2 years of food, and 30,000 rounds of ammo for your shotgun and enough medical supplies to run a small hospital for a year won’t do you any good if you can’t keep it safe from people who want to take if from you.  If you are a fan of the show Doomsday Preppers, and watched this season, episode 3 I believe there was a guy who’s prepping plan was to be a marauder, to come and take the stuff that other preppers have and leave them with nothing.  Luckily this person was an utter idiot, and announced this to the world on national television, and happened to have a felony record and was arrested and put in prison shortly after the episode aired.  Unfortunately, you can count of the fact that for every idiot like him there are 10 who aren’t so stupid and plan to do this with out telling us about it.

We all prep for different reasons, and for different scenarios.  Each one has a different set of rules for security.  Total collapse, civil unrest, pandemic, financial collapse, natural disaster, even alien invasion, each one a valid scenario, each one has it’s own rules for how you need to secure your location, and how far you need to go.  I’m not going to go into a great amount of detail for each scenario, but I will go over the basics, and how they could apply to a couple situations.

I am no expert on tactics or on security, I do have professional experience with physical security having worked in the security field for both private and government physical security.  In short, what I am sharing are my opinions and what I have learned from other sources, and I will include those sources at the end of this article.

The basics of security are these, first and foremost Situational Awareness, be aware of what and who are around you.  One of the biggest take aways I got from James Wesley Rawles, is that prepping is a community activity.  Get to know your neighbors, get to know them well, if they are interested, and willing, get them involved in your prepping plans, and group.  If you involve them early and often, then when the SHTF, everyone is on the same page.  Know the area where you are going to be hold up, know the people around you and the likely lines of drift in a mass migration scenario.  Know the land you are on and the land around you, all of the ways in and out of that area both by vehicle, and by foot.  Geography can be a great force multiplier.  If you are building a retreat from the ground up, take into account the view, both into and out of where you want to build.  The first law of camouflage is that if you can see your target, your target can see you.  Always remember that no matter how bad ass you think you and your group are, math is reality, if you are out numbered, numbers usually win eventually.  Keep in mind emergency bugout, how to get you and the barest essentials out of your retreat and mobile if you absolutely must.

Next is tactical operation.  This is my term for basic modis operendi.  How are you going to operate under the circumstances you find your self in.  In a pandemic situation, you are going to operate differently than you are in a complete WROL (without rule of law) situation.  Have an idea of what is your Area of Operation (AO), and within that AO, what are your responsibilities?  in a complete grid down, total societal collapse, you are not only responsible for keeping your group safe but to a certain extent, you must take on the role of law enforcement.  If you come across a group of looters, or worse rapists, what do you do, what is your moral, ethical obligation?  How do you deal with that if and when the time comes?

Next is Operational capability.  This is one of the hardest to quantify, because it necessitates intense realistic self and group examination.  Can you secure your entire location with the people you have.  How well trained are the people in your group?  How much training have you done together, can you work as a small unit in a fight?  Wishing, and self deception are your enemy here.  Thinking that you are an expert in small unit tactics and can work and fight together as well as a SEAL team because you have all read the “Ranger Handbook” from cover to cover 5 times each, but have never gone out in the field to practice what you read is a sure fire way to get you and your group dead with a quickness.  In a lot of cases, particularly with small groups the biggest problem is numbers.  You just don’t have the numbers to put out a two day scouting patrol, and keep the location secure.  You have to be realistic on what you have the numbers, equipment, and skills and know how to be able to effectively accomplish.  Be realistic and honest with your selves when you are self evaluating  Sometimes it is humbling to realize that you may not be the raging bad ass you thought you were, but at least you will acknowledging a short coming before you are confronted by a situation that you will have to deal with, and be able to respond in an appropriate manner.  Not to mention that acknowledging a weakness allows you to do something about it, train harder or differently to strengthen that weakness.

Ok, so let’s bring all that together into a workable OP-SEC plan for a couple different scenarios.

First scenario, infectious agent pandemic.  Let’s say that the h1n1 virus has mutated and gone crazy.  It’s starting to make the Spanish flu look like the sniffles.  The authorities have set up quarantine zones, and have stopped travel between zones, meaning that you are stuck where you are, and must shelter in place.  This greatly simplifies the job of security in some ways in that you not only don’t have to patrol, but it would be much better to not patrol due to the risk of contagion. Safe food and water are going to be the greatest assets a person can have, and will need to protect.  You will need to keep outsiders from getting into your location for several reasons, one you don’t want them to know what and how much you have, normally a virus or bacterial contagion will burn itself out in a matter of weeks or months.   Having ample food and water for that length of time will make you a target if the have not’s find out you have.  Two, you don’t want to risk contagion, so unless you are ready for this kind of thing and have hazmat airlocks and quarantine facilities in your home, this is something you want to avoid.  This brings up involving prepping with your neighbors, it is a double edge sword, if they are of like mind, and join you in prepping, great, that makes you stronger, but if they are not, they know you are, and they have some idea of what you have and could use that to get special favors from the police forces, or government agencies that are in control of your local area.   So, this makes building security, and access the biggest concern.

Scenario two, Total Economic Collapse.  In this scenario, the economy takes a hit that it can’t recover from, hyper inflation hits, a loaf of bread costs $300, if you can find a store that is still open.  The government has run to their shelters, the military is imposing martial law everywhere they can manage it, you bug out to your retreat ahead of the crash, and are quietly sipping tea when the power grids go down, and chaos erupts in the streets of every city and large town in the country, people are streaming out of major metropolitan areas in droves, like a plague of locusts devouring everything in their path.  Now it just got real.  You have your location, and need to make sure that the golden horde don’t destroy everything you have worked hard to build and secure.  You need to set up observation/listening posts, set up patrols to make sure that you are keeping the wrong people out of your AO, and that what laws you decide to impose in your AO are being followed.  You need to make sure you have a viable means of communications, backups for those means of communications, even if it is smoke signals.  Colored smoke grenades can be had online at many different locations for reasonable prices,and can be seen during the day for miles in the right conditions.  You have to decide how forceful will you be with protecting your AO, how do you respond to government forces, looters, refugees, shoot on sight, don’t shoot unless fired upon, you have more than you could possibly use in a life time, take in as many people as you can to bolster your numbers.  These are all considerations you need to take into account when devising your security plans.

Several of my prepping group are either current, or ex-military, so we tend to take a stance that reflects that training, and philosophy.  Also our religious views are very similar, so moral decisions are usually pretty unanimous.  We are very similar in most of thing important things that make up security,and our prepping philosophy.  One thing that I would recommend for groups that are planning on working together, is to get the card game Conflicted.  This is a great way to find out where everyone in your group stands on things, and gives you the opportunity to discuss it, and find out before it’s too late whether or not everyone is a good match for your group. A good deal of my information came from Survival blog by James Wesley Rawles, or his books “How to Survive the End of theh World as We Know It.” and “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse”.
The website Every Citizen a Soldier for his outstanding array of information and training and informational videos.

As always, keep safe out there, and see you on the other side.