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.