Some very good recommendations here.
SHTF Kit Planning: What to Have and Why – Part I
A picture’s worth a thousand words, isn’t it? Try to imagine ‘bugging out’ with a lot of the crap that various sources tell you that you must have in order to survive, and soon, you’ll be in worse shape than the troop pictured above, God bless him.
We’ve held off on putting together a DTG specific ‘SHTF Kit’ (aka ‘Bug Out,’ Survival, and other names) because a metric crap ton of information on the subject is already available. However, after reviewing what’s being accepted as ‘conventional wisdom,’ it has become apparent that as we focus on the “Neighborhood Protection Team” and local community aspect of preparedness, it’s time to throw in our two cents. We’ll start at the very foundation of what should be viewed as survival gear in any kit:
Your Boots: If your boots are garbage, you’re not walking far. At all. If they’re good boots, but aren’t fitted well, ditto. If they don’t have good insoles or support, double ditto. This is not the item to go cheap on; this is the item you will want to get the absolute best quality you can afford and have fit like it’s your own skin. DTG is partial to Danner boots, but there are plenty of other quality brands out there. Remember, you get what you pay for, so be a picky shopper. Research is key here. So far, the absolute best Danner we’ve found for long walks with heavy packs is the, ‘Combat Hiker,’ pictured here.
Your Container: Many sources encourage folks to start out with the container, and it should be a heavy gauge bag or a duffle bag of some sort. We couldn’t disagree more, and for several reasons:
- Carrying a full ‘bag’ or duffle, even with shoulder straps, for any distance, is going to get very uncomfortable very quickly. The lower back and trap muscles are going to take a beating, along with the core, presuming the person carrying it isn’t in the best shape or is a younger child, adolescent, or female.
- Carrying a well-made ruck sack (back pack) packed with survival items when performing NPT operations, or leaving one’s Neighborhood Protection Area for a safer location takes its toll, even when the individual carrying it has been practicing and is in good shape.
- It should be proportionately sized for the size and fitness level of the person who’s going to be carrying it. Further, it should be used as a routine PT (Physical Training) tool. Otherwise, you’re looking at being a living example of the picture above, especially if you’re ‘mature.’ A good rule of thumb is to have a pack loaded with no more than a third of the body weight of the person carrying it. That doesn’t sound too bad until you figure that a 180 pound male in decent shape will be carrying 60 pounds in the pack, which doesn’t take into account any other ‘equipment’, which may weigh up to about 30 pounds (more on that later). If you have kids with you, and they weigh 75 pounds, that means a 25 pound pack, maximum (including anything else they may have to carry), because their bones aren’t fully developed yet, and serious skeletal damage can occur if they carry too much. So, think about that when you’re putting your SHTF survival kit together. Look at the picture below. Think that little man or little lady is going to be able to hoist a pack like that, let alone carry it? Something to consider is that preppers have a propensity to over pack, especially when they try to adapt the, ‘two is one and one is none’ mindset, which is not applicable here. In a SHTF kit/pack, especially when you’re moving to a safer location, ‘one is great!’ is the rule with very few exceptions.
- When choosing your pack, try to get a balance between volume, empty pack weight, and durability. No need to spend hundreds of dollars, either, especially for your wife and kids, with the exception of young men from about 16 years and up. There’s a lot of good civilian brand packs out there on eBay that folks are selling that fit the bill nicely. Because of their inherent strength (yes, we’re aware that some women out there can run a lot of men into the ground, but generally speaking, men are better suited physicologically for carrying weight for long distances), men will be carrying the most during a SHTF movement. Because of this, and balanced against the fact that the men will most likely be the primary protectors for the family/group moving, the men’s packs should have some sort of quick release system built into the shoulder, sternum, and waist straps to be able to drop the pack quickly and do whatever is appropriate to protect the family. Here’s an example for family members, and is about half the size of the USMC FILBE (without accessory pouches holds about 5100 cubic inches – well over 6K with accessory pouches) that DTG staff members carry. It’s a Kelty Redwing, 3100 cubic inches/52 Liters. Sells for about $90 on eBay.
Now, with these two items, there’s a third leg of the stool that must be attached before you can even begin to think about walking out, and it’s already been alluded to, but we’ll begin beating the dying horse here anyway. You MUST break in your top quality boots by walking miles and miles and miles in them, finding out where hot spots are, treating your feet for blisters, and then adding gradually increasing weight in your pack on your walks to strengthen your back, core, and legs. It can be done with consistency in not too long a period of time. Example: This year was a mild winter. The DTG Chief Instructor started his ruck walks in mid February with 30 pounds and just 2 miles, just getting his body used to the exercise again. It is now 30 March 2016. Yesterday, he was able to 3.75 miles with 65 pounds at a pace of 13.3 minutes per mile. He’s 60 and weighs 175 pounds. Sure, he was beat at the end of the exercise, but if he has to ‘bug out’ or move to another NPA with his full load of equipment, self-defense carbine and ammo, and pack, he’s going to be able to go quite a ways before he needs to rest, and then, once rested, he’ll be able to keep going. The point being that you’re probably much younger and in better shape (or should be). You can do better and most likely be faster for longer distances. All you have to do is get started on a consistent program. Remember the graphic below:
Your Defense System: Very few resources in the commercial realm tell their readers they should have a defense system included in their SHTF pack/kit. This is a disservice. You need a weapon. If you have the best equipment in the world, with a family that’s in top physical condition, it all comes to nothing if you cannot keep them safe when you’re moving to Point B from Point A. Without a weapon (or several for a family), you’re just preparing to outfit a feral group of marauders when they come to get what you have. This addition also adds to the weight of what you’re carrying, especially when it comes to ammunition. Minimum recommendation for pistol ammo in the ruck is 50 rounds. This doesn’t count the ammo in the 5 magazines you’re carrying on you. Minimum recommendation for the Self Defense Carbine/Rifle is 210 rounds (7 thirty round magazines for an AR) in the ruck, and 7 thirty round magazines on your person (one would be in the carbine/rifle). That adds up. DTG recommends and uses the simple, ugly, reliable Glock 17/19 and AR’s. They’re easily controlled and have enough firepower to mount a sustainable defense. As much as some of us love the .45 and 7.62 NATO rounds, their weight for the same amount of ammunition is about twice that of the 9mm and 5.56 NATO. But, as always, to each his own. Remember, however, training is key here. You must perform dry fire consistently, and hit the range with live fire consistently. Hopefully, wearing what you’d be wearing if you were ‘bugging out.’ Other firearms are good choices, as well, providing the user practices carrying/shooting them and has enough ammunition. Some folks might be thinking that their 30-30 is good enough, and it just may be. However, get yourself a couple hundred rounds and see how the weight affects your pack. Everything is a trade off. Everything.
Next installment we’ll continue to build the kit and talk a bit about clothing and tools.
SHTF Kit Planning: What to Have and Why – Part II
In Part I, here, we began to build the foundation for a SHTF kit at its cornerstone, good boots, and moved on to the pack itself, some pros and cons, and then to personal protection. One thing we didn’t mention, and should have, was socks. Good, quality socks, and at least 6 pair per person. We like a merino wool blend, over the calf style, that wicks and is good for a minimum of 3 seasons. 3 season socks aren’t too heavy, and in winter, so long as you’re walking, your feet will stay comfortable. It’s when you stop that you need the heavier type. That said, we are HUGE ‘Vermont Darn Tough’ fans. The particular model we like is the USMC “Darn Tough” over the calf, extra cushion type (model 1501). They’re getting harder to find, and are expensive, but they’re well worth the cost. YMMV. They have another one, too, for much warmer climates. It’s their ‘tactical’ (everything seems to be ‘tactical’ these days…sigh) mid calf full cushion sock, that’s somewhat light weight. Definitely not a cold weather sock. As with other items we talk about, there definitely are other good brands, this is simply the one we find to be best suited to our particular needs.
As the picture above is meant to illustrate, over-packing is a dangerous habit that many in the preparedness/liberty community seem to be burdened with (pun intended), especially with the demonstrated lack of fitness one can witness at any gun show or preparedness exposition. Thousands of people buying enough junk (literally, because the quality is generally suspect) to fill several large rucks, and having to get a hand cart to take their purchases to their vehicles, building up a sweat loading it in the trunk. These folks can be viewed as ‘resupply points of opportunity’ because when you find them, dead on the road or in the woods, you might be able to recover something of use. Yes, it’s harsh, but the point is that physical fitness is your friend; High Fructose Corn Syrup, processed foods, a couch, and your flat screen are not. Together, those things conspire to rob you of your strength, stamina, and set you up to die of a heart attack within the first half mile of your ‘bug out’ trek. Ignore this at your own peril.
Now, the next category we need to cover is water. You can live longer without food than you can with water, as the body has an amazing ability to convert stored fat into energy when food intake becomes extremely low. Sure, you can’t go on forever, but you can go on, so long as you have water. Water weighs 8 lbs per gallon. That 8 lbs doesn’t take into account the water carrier, either. Depending on what you decide to have, each gallon might weigh 9 lbs; take for example if you have a couple of two quart canteens. These were ‘all the rage’ back in my day, as typically we had a couple of 1 quart hard plastic canteens balancing out our web belts to the outside and a couple more on the ruck sack (if we were lucky). These nice thing about these is they’re flexible, and you can easily nullify any sloshing that you can’t do with a hard canteen or container.
This is also why we’re fans of a hydration bladder except in deep cold (which we mitigate by the way we wear it). The one we’re partial to is by Camelbak, and again, it comes from their military line. It’s the USMC FILBE bladder. Not trying to sound like a surplus store commercial, but many items we use are acquired more
Simply put, this one has baffles, holds 100 ounces, and can have a mini-filter, like the one here by Sawyer, attached, so in worse case scenarios, you can fill your bladder with questionable water and still drink it. We get ours from Great Lake Survival Products, here. You’ll also notice other Sawyer products that would fill the water purification niche. We’ve used and own all them, including the Zero Two Bucket System for our ‘shelter in place’ purification needs, but I digress.
Back to the bladder: Why are baffles important? In a typical hydration bladder, as the water is consumed, it stays at the bottom – the baffles keep the hydration bladder flatter by helping to keep the water distributed throughout. This item also falls into the rare case where two is better than one. One is kept in the ruck, and used first. The other, if you have two, is on the self-defense harness/vest, and is reserved for when you may be leaving your pack in a small over night location and doing some sort of task that you need to be able to move much more quickly than you would carrying your ruck.
So, now we’ve got our locomotion (feet) and hydration taken care of, and we can move on to food. Let’s make it simple: You’re going to be using a lot of carbs and protein while losing fat if you’re going a good long ways on foot carrying your SHTF pack or even a small child on your back. So, you need some high-octane fuel. You don’t know if you can heat your food, you don’t know if you’ll be able to rehydrate it (freeze dried), and you need some easily ingested food that will do the trick. Here’s something to think about: Diversify what you are putting in your pack. Example:
- Six Meal Replacement bars (30/35 gr protein) – These come in all sorts of flavors, and are great for those times you can’t heat food up, stop, or otherwise take the time to prepare a meal. Six of these are basically 3 days worth of food at two of them a day.
- Four ‘mountain house type’ freeze dried entree’s (serves 2) – Of whatever you like. Comfort food. Very light. All it needs is hot water, right? Here’s the reason for the larger ‘serves 2’ sizes: They typically run 200 – 250 calories per serving, have lots of carbs, and some fat, with protein being the lowest major component. You need the carbs and fat, and having, “Beef Stroganoff” or “Chicken and Rice” or “Beef Stew” as a morale builder helps.
- Four ‘field stripped’ MRE type meals – That means just the spoon, entree, side dish, and desert. No excess cardboard, packing, etc.
Now you’ve got food for 7 days in your SHTF kit for yourself. You need to do the same (portion dependent, of course) for the others in your family, depending on their size and strength.
Morale items: Some candy, coffee, tea, cider mix, anything that can make water seem like it’s more than it is. Personally, if they had a powdered IPA mix, I’d have some of that with me….alas, but they haven’t invented that yet.
Right along side food in importance, is hygeine, because what goes in, must come out, right? Ok, you can do the roll of toilet paper in a zip lock bag if you want, just remember that in a ‘normal situation’ in a non-SHTF environment, a woman will use a roll of toilet paper in 5 to 7 days, depending on the roll. So, if you think you’ll take about 2 to 3 weeks to get to your fall back (believe me, it’s going to take you a LOT longer to get there than you think), you need to have that amount of toilet paper for the ladies. Men are different…we use about a roll every 2 to 3 weeks. Different plumbing – different needs. If you’re worried about room, because toilet paper is bulky, here’s an alternative.
There really neat. You put a few drops of water on one of them (which is about the size of a US nickel) and wait a bit. It expands and unfolds, is soft, because it’s barely damp, and is strong enough for cleansing one’s body after voiding waste. Not too awfully expensive, but remember, you get what you pay for. You’re paying for compressed TP. That means ‘room’ and less weight. So, it’s about $12 for 2 packs of 50. 100 butt wipes, if you use one towelette for each ‘incident’. That’s not bad. If you had 3 ‘incidents’ a day, it’d last one person over a month. Putting 2 of those packs in my pack makes me basically self-sufficient regarding hygiene for a good long time. But I’m a man, so YMMV. Check it out, here. Your call, though. Just have enough of whatever you choose to get you to your ‘hidey hole.’ You do NOT want to have to learn the hard way on what grass or leaves you should have wiped your ass with…or not.
Next time, we’ll talk about shelter and associated equipment.
SHTF Kit Planning: What to Have and Why – Part III
Here we are at shelters already. I’m going to cut to the chase and (possibly) tick off a few readers at the ‘get go.’
Forget a tent. Period. It’s too bulky, too heavy, and is not a ‘multiple use’ item. Further, when you’re inside one, you won’t have an advantage of increased warmth (without generating it by a heat source), and you’re blind. Imagine, if you will, the photo above, and you were snug in your tent, not hearing anything….until right before you unzipped the fly and looked out….to see an inquisitive bear (not necessarily a Grizzly, as pictured). Now you’ve got to do something about the bear and all the shit inside your tent from involuntary bodily functions, possibly the bear has run off from all the screams of those in the tent with you, and the ensuing ‘circular firing squad as everyone with a weapon decides to shoot/kill/scare off the intruder.
The mind boggles with the comedy of it all.
Forget the ‘one man bivy tent’ as well. It’s a cocoon. You’re trapped and blind. If you must have a waterproof covering for just yourself, then get over to Wiggy’s and get one of his waterproof sleeping bag covers. They’re on sale at 20% off right now. At least you’re not blind. And they DO work. One caveat: They are truly waterproof, which means your bag will be wet from condensation when you wake up. This isn’t so bad in deep cold, because you can air the bag and literally ‘freeze dry’ the condensation on it, and then turn the bivy bag inside out and do the same. Warm weather requires a bit more airing out to dry it.
So, what’s the ideal SHTF shelter? In the simplest terms, a tarp shelter. It keeps the wind off (which is how you stay warm), let’s you see out at all times, at least in one, and up to 3 directions, depending on your set up, and is fairly cheap, depending on the material you choose. In deep winter with good snow cover, I’ve used a simple 6X8′ white tarp and had my shelter disappear from observation (camouflage is always a good thing). The drawback is that it’s noisy setting up and taking down, because the tarp is a heavy plastic and makes noise when being folded, except in really warm weather. Again, it’s all about the quality and how much you can and how much you choose to spend.
Here’s what I currently use and recommend:
I got mine here though I don’t know if they still stock it or have replaced it with something similar. I do know that I’ve used mine in all 4 seasons and it’s worked out very, very well. Room enough to configure as I need it for whatever I’m training for and I can fit me and 2 other people and rucks inside (tightly, but it works). There are other good ones; this is just what I use. I did add some 24 inch long bungees to the outfit to give me some versatility in setting it up, so I know the ounces I’m adding means I have to sacrifice somewhere else. The color is basic light forest green (kind of OD) that is flat with no shine, even when it’s wet. Blends reasonably well, especially if you site your overnight location somewhere off the beaten path in as much flora and fauna as necessary. Nice sunshade in super bright/hot weather, too.
When you set up your shelter, keep in mind that you want the opening to be pointed at your primary field of observation, and you want your shelter to be sited in an area that doesn’t attract attention and won’t be noticed by anyone passing through. You’ll also want to ensure you are at least slightly elevated (drainage) and about 30 to 50 meters away from any water source. Yes, I digressed again.
What shelter tips do you have?
Next installment: Tools.
Next up from shelters is what we sleep in. Up front, know this is entirely temperature range dependent. What works where I am in summer may be way too much for you if you’re, say, in central Texas or central Utah. But put it on your checklist: A good, quality, sleeping bag. Or at least several good, quality components that can make up a ‘taco’ (improvised sleeping bag). If going the commercially manufactured way, the one we recommend is the Wiggy’s FTRS system. Wiggy’s bags actually repel water away from the fibers and provide more real warmth due to the insulation used than similarly or higher priced bags. Here’s a link to Wiggy’s that explains how and why it works so well. His bags are extremely durable, and get better when they’re laundered. An added benefit is that he runs specials on a routine basis if you’re saving your pennies. His bags also come with a pretty robust stuff sack, which, after a liberal application of Camp Dry or other waterproofing spray, will keep your bag nice and dry, especially if you have it stored inside your ruck. Here’s an anecdotal example of a young man purposely soaking his Wiggy’s bag and sleeping in it in winter:
Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme Thermolite Liner.” Until we actually break down and load the main bag, too, we might throw in a ‘woobie’ (aka, ‘poncho liner’). I’ve been asked why don’t I just use the main bag, and the answer is simple: Layering. In summer I might not use anything but my woobie, or if it’s an unusually cold summer night, I might throw on the Sea to Summit and woobie. I like to have the option. About mid-September though, the main bag goes in the ruck. DIGRESSION WARNING: Another nice thing about Wiggy’s bags is that they can be compressed in the stuff sack or your ruck indefinitely and not ruin the pile (meaning the cold rating). It’s all in the fiber used. That means you can keep your ruck loaded up for use most of the time (personally, I take mine apart a couple times a year to inspect for damage and let the sleeping bag air out (my old school habit). I walk with my ruck already packed regularly, so there’s a better chance of something being out of whack. Deep winter is a subject for its own post, so it won’t be covered here, except to say that you don’t want to have to relocate in winter if at all possible. Make sure you’ve got yourself into the best place you can be with plenty of food, water, and warmth. You don’t want to try to spend the winter in something like this….even from just a hygiene perspective, let alone a comfort and day to day living perspective. Sure…it can be done, but it’s a last resort. Which, by the way, you need to be trained in and practice (consistent pattern here, I know….training, practice, fitness, training, practice, fitness) regularly as these skills are all perishable to one extent or the other. End of digression.We use the FTRSS over bag for 2 to 3 seasons (it’s good down to +35) backed up with a, “
If you’re going the quality component method, there are a great many good products out there. It’s your choice. Something that will help you make a choice is to get some good training in survival, which always includes learning about improvised shelters and insulation. And trust me, staying warm is all about the insulation…with a little bit of wind consciousness thrown in. I’ve made and slept in parachute panel sleeping bags with natural insulation and stayed warm enough to sleep, but remember, if this is your choice, you’re going to spend a LOT of time gathering your insulation material, and if everything’s already wet, you’re SOL for that type of set up. To keep dry if it gets wet after you’re in the bag/shelter, you need a couple of FEET of insulation, give or take, with the rule of thumb being MORE is better when trying to stay warm and dry. Check this example out:
That’s why I prefer the commercially available bags designed to keep me warm and dry. Less time needs to be spent achieving resting state. And know that time spent equates to energy expended, and as you’re moving a good distance to your ‘hidey hole’ or ‘fall back’ or ‘retreat’ or…whatever you’re calling it, there is a chance that you may exhaust yourself, depending on your fitness level, distance, and the quality of food and water you have available to you while you’re en route. A great dramatization of someone ‘evading’ is here. Only the first installment is available currently, but as the presenter is vouched for by someone I trust implicitly, and have known of him for some years now, I suspect that it will stay realistic and demonstrate various skills and scenarios you could possibly face while employing your SHTF kit.
As far as what we’ve put together so far, we’re talking quality equipment (what priority are you putting on your life?) which should be the best you can afford. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s not a ‘knock off’ and can do what it advertises, including anything you see here. If you have a problem with the quality of anything we’ve recommended, please, by all means, let us know, because A: we have no interest in the products other than they work and we own them, and B: we will always go to a superior product, test it, and then either talk about it…or not, depending on the outcome.
So, we’ve got boots, socks, packs, hydration, food, hygiene, shelter, and sleeping covered. Next installment we’ll delve into basic clothing. Hint: It ain’t all about the latest and greatest camouflage pattern adopted by our armed forces, either.
American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE