Build your bug out bag – Rural escape – Part 2 – The Main Compartment

I’m assuming by this point you have taken the time to research and decide on which pack suits you for a 72 hour BOB ( bug out bag ). If you have not, check out Part 1 of this blog: Build your bug out bag – Rural Escape – Part 1 – The bag.  Now that you physically have a pack that you like, the real difficulty will come with deciding what items and tools actually go into it. Now before you decide to try and jam your whole apartment into this bag, stop and think about what you’re doing. Remember, this bag is for you to live out of for 72 hours in case of a catastrophic event…meaning your wine and slippers DO NOT go with you. To pack in an efficient manner, it is best to designate each compartment of the bag for a specific task, rather then having your equipment all mixed together. For today we will focus on the main compartment and how to pack it. Being the largest portion of the bag, I would call this “Priority Packing“. Your sleeping gear, shelter, extra apparel, fire kit and rations go in here. Now you can pack your BOB however you see fit but there are some considerations you will have to take into account before we get into actual products.

Considerations

First; when “Priority Packing” think about what you will need initially and what could stay in the pack if you had to stop and set up quickly. Think about packing from the bottom up, with what you will need immediately on top and readily accessible. Because of this, your sleeping gear will be on the bottom. You won’t be going to bed before either a fire or a shelter is built. On top of your sleeping bag will be your extra apparel. Now when I say this, I don’t mean your robe or favorite Armani shirt. Socks, underwear, thermal wear and at the very most, an extra pair of pants and a shirt. Next would be your food, consisting of Ready to Eat meals , protein bars etc. Now the last is an ongoing debate and could go either way. Fire before shelter? This will depend on your situation but in my opinion fire mostly comes first. The ability to cook food and keep warm is more important to me then comfort and getting out of the elements. The only time I could see this being reversed is in the case of heavy rain. In that situation I may opt to set up my shelter first, simply to keep the rest of my kit dry but also any semi dry wood in the area I can find until starting a fire is feasible. The fire kit will be covered in another part of this blog, but should be considered for the main compartment. However there are other spots on your pack to store the fire kit where it is readily accessible. That is up to you.

Second; everything weighs something. Don’t think that adding a whole bunch of little things to your pack won’t effect the overall weight in the long run.  I know it sounds silly but I’ve seen it time and time again. People load their bags up with very light weight items they don’t really need, thinking that because their mass is so little that it is insignificant. Wrong. Try again. Everything is significant. So really think about what you’re packing and ask yourself “Can I go without this?”.  You are taking ONLY what you need for 72 hours. Luxuries will only hinder you at this situation.

Third, everything takes up space. This ties into the second point in some ways. Always remember that compact is better. Not because it gives you the opportunity to pack more but it gives you the freedom to have your gear more accessible. This poses a lot of questions when packing, such as; Tarp or tent? How tight do they fold up? How much space do the tent pegs take up? Bungees for the tarp? Neither options are wrong, however this is something you will have to play around with on your own. There are other options as well to save on space, such as packing the majority of your extra clothes inside your sleeping bag. In saying that, it would be beneficial to store an emergency pair of underwear and socks that are accessible outside of the sleeping bag as well. Once compressed, these tips will save you space.

Fourth is water. Now this was mentioned previously in Part 1 of this blog but I decided to add it in again. If you read Part 1 you’ll know we discussed hydration bladders. If you bought a good pack it will have a dedicated compartment for this. You can consider this as a portion of the main bag, as water is 100% a priority and needs to be accessible all the time. This area is usually located in close proximity if not attached to the main compartment.

Lastly; keep everything dry! My suggestion would be to line the main part of your bag with a heavy duty garbage bag, and then dry bag everything. I know it may sound extreme, but everything in your BOB should be dry bagged and labeled. If you doubt me then ask yourself: “What good will getting water on my kit serve?”. Exactly, nothing. Water will only damage your gear. End of story.

Consider the above for a moment and we will go over what we think are the top items and essentials you need for the main compartment of your bug out bag.

Sleeping bags

One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have is a good sleeping bag. It will keep you warm when needed and allow you to have  comfortable rest while sleeping outdoors. If you are constantly moving and exerting yourself, proper rest is extremely important. You will want your sleeping bag to be compact but also have a decent range of temperature capabilities. Typically the colder you get, the larger the bag will be, which can pose a problem when selecting a sleeper as you may not be escaping to extreme cold or hot. I will usually air on the side of a little colder and then layer as needed. Fleece liners can also be added for extra warmth if need be. However, do not think a fleece liner is the be all end all. It will add a few degrees onto your temperature capability but does not replace a cold weather bag. An MSS (military sleep system) is not practical for a bug out bag. It’s simply too big and bulky. If you are one of those people that can pull off using a ruck sack as a BOB then you can probably handle an MSS. For those of you of an average fitness level, go for a smaller compact sleeping bag.

Snugpak Softie 3 Merlin

CHECK PRICES FOR THE SNUGPAK SOFTIE 3 MERLIN HERE!

Snugpak makes a variety of good bags all with various temperature capabilities. The Softie 3 Merlin is a good quality bag that has a temperature rating of 5°C(41°F) to 0°C(32°F) making it effective in fair weather and for when it starts to get cold. As discussed, combined with a fleece liner for added warmth you can push it further. It comes with a compression sack and does shrink down to a size small enough to fit inside your BOB, rather then attaching it to the outside or bottom. All in all a very good bag from a reputable company.

Snugpak Basecamp OPS Sleeping bag

CHECK PRICES ON THE SNUGPAK BASECAMP OPS SLEEPING BAG HERE!

I would call this one step up from the Softie 3 Merlin. It has a temperature capability of -2°C(28°F) to -7°C(19°F), so it is a little warmer and if layered properly can be pushed to lower temperatures. Now even though the temperature difference is quite subtle the bag is significantly bigger then the Merlin. The compression sack can bring the size down quite a bit however you may want to think about attaching this to the outside of your pack in a dry  bag. Depending on your configuration, the size of your bag is and how well you’ve packed you can fit this inside your BOB. A great sleeping bag that will keep you warm in colder weather.

Woobies and Liners

As mentioned, you should have a woobie or liner to accompany your sleeping kit for extra warmth when it’s just a little colder then you anticipated. For those of you who don’t know what a woobie is, it is a blanket poncho liner that can form a waterproof sleeping bag. However, many outdoor enthusiasts use woobies as sleeping bag liners as well. The choice is yours’, there are a ton of quality liners and woobie’s out there, so have a look around and see what works for you.

Snugpak Fleece Sleeping bag liner

CHECK PRICES ON THE SNUGPAK FLEECE SLEEPING BAG LINER HERE!

Since we covered two sleeping bags from Snugpak already, it is worth noting that the company does make a fleece liner for their sleeping bags. There are tons of liners out there but for ease of purchasing, if you go with Snugpak you can simply order their liner with the bag in one order, considering you should have one in your sleeping kit. It is made from polyester fleece and is a side zip opening liner. With this liner you will be able to extend your temperature range by a few degrees no problem. Now with any piece of equipment, please test the capabilities before actually having to use it in an emergency. There is no 100% right answer to how many degrees you can push with a liner.

Rothco G.I Style Poncho Liner

CHECK PRICES ON THE ROTHCO G.I STYLE PONCHO LINER HERE!

Rothco is another good company that has been around since 1953 and produces a wide range of quality tactical and survival equipment. They’re G.I Style Poncho liner is made of 100% Rip Stop Polyester it is a durable woobie that can supplement your sleeping kit nicely. It’s dimensions are 62″ x 82″, when stored in a compression sac this is easily packable in the main compartment of your BOB along with your other essentials. Rothco’s products are widely used by police and military personnel all over North America and definitely worth taking a look at.

Air mattress or sleeping pad

Which ever you decide to purchase, an air mattress or sleeping pad is essential. It will provide a little extra layer of insulation and keep you off the ground. Plus, if you have set up an improvised sleeping platform, your level of insulation will be even greater when applying the sleeping pad. For those of you wondering why, the answer is simple. The ground sucks in heat. Therefore if you lay on it, regardless of how many layers you have between you, to some degree it will still be stealing your precious warmth. So if you have the means and the time, construct a sleeping platform and keep yourself as far from the ground as possible.

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress Regular

CHECK PRICES ON THE THERM-A-REST ZLITE SOL SLEEPING MATTRESS HERE!

This sleeping pad is highly recommended and is used by military personnel all over the world.  It is an accordion style sleeping pad that can be folded up into a compact rectangle for easy transport. Another bonus to this style is that in a emergency it can be refolded and packed away extremely quickly as it involves no deflating or rolling. Depending on your BOB it may fit inside but will more then likely have to be attached to the outside. Having carted this around in the field, we can attest to the fact that while being as durable as they come, it weighs virtually nothing, so you only need to focus on the space it will take up. It is designed with Therm-a-Rest’s own “ThermaCapture” system which essentially reflects radiant heat back into your body. This sleeping pad in our opinion is the top choice on the market today.

ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad

CHECK PRICES ON THE ALPS MOUNTAINEERING COMFORT SERIES AIR PAD HERE!

The ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Air Pad is another excellent choice for a sleeping pad. It is a roll up style and is self inflating. Open it up, flatten it out, open the air valve, and wait for it to inflate. With a brushed suede top this pad is definitely comfortable. When rolled it is not overly large, however like many sleeping pads, it may need to be attached to the outside of your pack. My only complaint is that with self inflating systems is that they take more time to pack up as they must be deflated, rolled and placed in a carrier. That aside, there is nothing wrong with this style of pad, it just depends on your preference. ALPS Mountaineering is a trusted brand and produces all sorts of quality outdoor products.

Tarps and Tents

When bugging out, regardless of sleeping bags and liners you still need something to sleep in that will protect you from the elements. So you’ll need to decide between a tarp style shelter or a tent and there are many pro’s and cons to both. Personally, I prefer the tarp style shelters. It doesn’t have the comfort level of the tent and it may take a little longer to set up, but its versatile and can be set up in many different types of terrain and situations. Not only that, you can set up a fire right next to them to ensure you’re warm throughout the night. They are typically lightweight and can be set up with only bungee cords if need be. With compression sacks they can also be shrunk down to a very compact size for transport. My only real complaint is that unless you want to be sleeping on the ground, you should build a sleeping platform, which requires some practice and time. However that’s all part of the journey and experimenting with different set ups. Tents on the other hand are great as well. You are completely enclosed protecting you from the elements and providing you a higher level of comfort. They can be put up quickly without too much planning. They do have a “floor” to them which does help with insulation as well. The cons being that they can be bulky and require you to carry poles with you to set up, which have weight and take up space. As well you will have to decide on a level of protection from the elements, as not all tents are good in the winter etc. So choose wisely and keep in that mind our recommendations below.

Snugpak Pro Force

CHECK PRICES ON THE SNUGPAK PRO FORCE HERE!

The Snugpak Pro Force all weather shelter is a great choice for those that choose the tarp route. It is a versatile shape that can be set up in a variety of ways and can be transported easily as it is light weight. A huge factor to this tarp is that it is 100% waterproof and can snap together to make a bivvi in tight situations. When unpacked it is 10 feet by 10 feet and can be compressed down to under 10 inches; possibly more. Again, Snugpak maintains its high level of quality with this versatile tarp.

Stansport #T-810 Reinforced Multi-Purpose Tarp

CHECK PRICES ON THE STANSPORT REINFORCED MULTI PURPOSE TARP HERE!

Hell, sometimes your basic generic tarp does the trick just fine. It’s a square, reinforced, waterproof, tough tarp. Need I say more? While you can’t be as creative with it as other higher end or tactical style tarps, they are cheap to purchase, tough and are used for a multitude of jobs. If you want to buy more then one, go for it. One for the floor, attach the other 2 together for more versatility, it’s up to you. Just remember that you will not have the same versatility, so you may be limited in the set up of your sleeping area.

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent

CHECK PRICES ON THE ALPS MOUNTAINEERING LYNX 1-PERSON TENT HERE!

For those of you that have decided to go with a tent for your shelter, this is one of the best on the market today. Again ALPS Mountaineering is a high quality producer of outdoor equipment and this tent does not disappoint. Due to the fact that it is a solo tent it will compress down to a very small size and is totally packable in your BOB. The poles and stakes used in its set up are made of aluminum, making them very light. It is well ventilated and can be outfitted with a rain protection cover, which is essential and is set up in a way that it covers you when you exit the tent. A great solo tent that will fit easily in your BOB.

Snugpak Stratosphere 1 Person Tent

CHECK PRICES ON THE SNUGPAK STRATOSPHERE HERE!

If you are looking for a tent that is lower profile, the Snugpak Stratosphere 1 Person Tent may be what you’re looking for. Again, Snugpak is one of the leading brands in outdoor survival equipment and has a great product line to choose from as they are very tried and tested. A 2 pole style bivvi tent, both the poles and pegs are made of very light weight aluminum making them easy for transport and packing. This tent is 100% waterproof including the groundsheet and has an attached inner mosquito netting which is a huge selling point. Again it is low profile, so entering and exiting will be different then your standard style tent. Check the list of features on this shelter, however all in all, an excellent 1 person tent for someone that may not want to be seen by others.

The Remainder

Once you’ve selected your sleeping and shelter systems, the remaining items you select are pretty up in the air. You’ll need rations, spare clothes and a hydration pack. Some would argue a fire kit would go in the main compartment, however I recommend your fire kit have its own dedicated pouch for quick access. Now I won’t tell you what clothes to pack or what food to eat etc. but here are a few ideas on what else needs to go in your BOB.

Camblebak hydration bladder

CHECK CAMELBAK BLADDER PRICES HERE!

While there are a ton of hydration bladders out there of high quality, Cambelbak has become somewhat of the gold standard and is widely used by military, law enforcement and outdoor enthusiasts. It was the original brand to produce a new hands free hydration system back in the 1980’s. They have a great and fairly extensive product line that includes gear other then bladders as well. The company has been making hydration equipment for a long time now and still maintains it’s high standard of quality. If you are in the market for a bladder I would highly recommend Camelbak. At least give them a browse before making your decision.

Rocky Gore-Tex Waterproof Socks

CHECK ROCKY GORE-TEX WATERPROOF SOCKS HERE!

Get a pair of Gore-Tex socks! Everyone should carry a pair of these in their BOB. If you are out in a wet or damp environment these will keep your feet dry, which is extremely important. Now before thinking that you are just going to put these on and walk for kilometres through water, think again. These are to be worn in or around your camp if it is wet or at the most somewhere close by where you will be easily able to dry your feet. These are not for trekking a long distance. If you decide to walk far with bags on your feet, what will happen? Sure, they will stop water from getting in, but they will stop all moisture from getting out as well. Walking in these will 100% make your feet sweat, and when it can’t escape, the moisture will essentially rot your feet. This is called Trench foot and trust me, you don’t want it. So please keep that in mind when using Gore-Tex socks. Other then that for keeping your feet dry in camp, these are an absolute must have as they weigh essentially nothing and call be rolled up to a compact size.

MRE’s

CHECK MRE PRICES HERE!

MRE’s (Meals ready to eat) are your best bet for food while bugging out. They are lightweight and typically contain around 3600 calories per day. There are tons of brands and flavours out there so this is totally up to you and your preference. However I would recommend buying them in bulk as you will save money in the long run. You can just pack the amount you think you’ll require for 72 hours and use the rest when you go camping. A few companies I would recommend are Mountain House and Happy Yak. Another option is MRE Bars. They are more compact and calorically dense but they are not a meal you can heat up. However, they work great to supplement the meals you have already.

Final Words

There are a ton of configurations for the main compartment depending on the pack you have, and yes there is a lot of information here to take in. However, getting this right could potentially save your life in a crisis. Again, please play around with this stuff; test your configuration and kit and find out if it works for you. Nothing says having a bad day like having an emergency and realizing you overlooked some important aspects. These are just our take on the essentials for your main compartment so hopefully they can assist you in making your decision. If you find something that works better for you, please use it and feel free to let us know the results.

Until next time,

Scotty Mac,

Coming Soon: Build your bug out bag – Rural escape – Part 3 – The Secondary Compartment

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Build your bug out bag – Rural escape – Part 1 – The Bag.

Whether you live in the country or an urban environment, everyone should have a bug out bag (BOB). For those of you who don’t know, a BOB is a pre arranged pack of supplies usually designed for a person to live out of for up to 72 hours in case of an emergency.  These situations could range from evacuation, natural disaster, revolution, the zombie apocalypse (however unlikely) or really anything that would require you to leave your home or dwelling for an extended period of time under duress. The concept behind having a bag that will last you 72 hours, is that in most countries (yours’ could be different) government emergency services or disaster relief could take up to 72 hours to reach you and provide aid. Until that time, you can only rely on yourself. In part 1. of this multi- part blog we will be covering simply the bag itself for either occupying or escaping to a rural environment, features to look for and some of my picks for the top BOB’s on the market. In the coming parts we will get into medical items, tools, utilities, designated compartments and basically all the essentials you’ll require. However, before we do that, l need to inform you of some important factors regarding 72 hour packs.

Considerations

Before building your BOB there are some realizations you need to come to before starting to make the appropriate purchases.

First; a bug out bag is not designed for you to live out of for an extended period of time. It is to keep you alive for 72 hours until disaster relief etc. comes to your aid or until you reach a pre planned semi or fully permanent structure stocked with supplies. Which leads into my second point.

Have a plan! If you think that you’re just going to grab your BOB and play it by ear you may be in for a short trip. Now that being said, there will never be a perfect scenario and things at some point will definitely not go as planned, so if this does happen, have a plan for not having a plan. If you don’t have a place to go, find somewhere to gather your thoughts and ask yourself: What areas are around me? How far are they? Can I walk to them if need be? If I get there will I be found? Can I hide there? How close is it to water? Would I be able to find food? How close is it people or a potential settlement? Catch my drift? Stop, think and figure out a route. A rough plan is better then no plan.

Third. What is your end state? Are you looking to be found? Or are you looking to disappear? Now remember that this blog is based around a rural environment and typically people would choose clothes and a pack of woodland colour or camouflage. But is that always correct? You need to weigh your risks depending on what situation you are in. For example; one would think that if you are looking to be rescued you would have brighter coloured clothing to be potentially seen by aircraft. However, is their civil unrest occurring in your area? So again ask yourself: Would you rather camouflage yourself to avoid being seen by others that may wish to do you harm? Or would you still use bright coloured bags and apparel with the hope of being rescued before someone of ill intent finds you? If help doesn’t come, are you prepared to defend yourself and your possessions? Obviously there are other ways to be seen in the bush besides just your clothes. Fire, tracks, lights etc. are huge factors as well. Just some food for thought to get your mind working. As an aside, in an urban setting your style of bug out bag and kit will differ, which will be covered in another upcoming blog.

Lastly; a BOB is not a rucksack. Depending on the situation you may be required to move quickly on foot and get out of dodge in a hurry and a rucksack is simply too heavy and bulky. I won’t say that you CAN’T use a rucksack as a BOB, however I don’t recommend it; and here’s why. As already mentioned, rucksacks are large and restrict your movement. They also give people the false idea that they can pack their whole house in them. Let me tell you, after over a decade in the military, I’ve worn a lot of rucks and walked many many kilometres. Nothing sucks more then getting halfway through a march and realizing you over packed. You develop lower back, hip and foot problems due to the weight and still have more distance to go to reach safety. Avoid it, trust me. Sure, there are some you out there that are 6’6 fitness freaks that can handle a ruck or heavier pack. That’s fine. Do what works for you; but for most people of average size and fitness, don’t use a rucksack. Best way to test this; grab a backpack you already have, put some weight in it and go walk some trails. That way at least you will get a rough idea of how far you can go with a certain amount of weight.

Features

In this blog I won’t be touching on the individual companies as there are simply too many. Not only the bigger, more well known companies, but there are a ton of smaller independent companies that make excellent quality packs. Before providing you with my top BOB picks. Here are a few features you should look for when picking a good bag.

Molle

Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. This system located on the outside of the bag allows the user too add more pouches and compartments to the pack if they require more space for a specific tool. It allows for a higher level of accessibility and customization should the user need more room.

Hydration Bladder Compartment

CHECK HYDRATION BLADDER PRICES HERE!

Having a specialized compartment for a Hydration bladder is a good feature to keep in mind. When a bladder is full, it can take up space which my be required for other items. Also if you have other tools in your pack with sharp edges or points, it would be ill advised to put your bladder next to them for obvious reasons. If your bladder bursts, everything in your pack is soaked and more importantly; you’re down water and a carrying system. Need I say more? With a designated compartment it is away from your other equipment  and easily accessible if you need to refill.

Waist belt and hip padding

CHECK WAIST BELT PRICES HERE!

This one is somewhat of a double edged sword. I personally do not have the waist belt installed on my BOB however it does have the capability for it. Would I wear it if I was walking a long distance? Absolutely. I would always recommend buying a bag with waist belt capability, even if you choose to not utlize it. If you need to drop your pack in a jam; it’s another clip to undo in a world where seconds count. If you prefer the speed and won’t use the waist belt, take it out and store it. There is no point in having it attached but not done up, it will just get caught on foliage, branches etc. and become an annoyance. However if you plan on walking a long distance with a heavy bag; install it and wear it. It will provide support to your hips and lower back by taking a large amount of weight off of your shoulders, making it much easier to carry.

Wide Shoulder Straps

This one is pretty straight forward. If the shoulder straps are too thin and you’re carrying a lot of weight, they will dig in to your shoulders and become extremely uncomfortable. If you are walking a long distance, putting up with this will become very tiresome and hindering.

Now that you’ve had a chance to digest all of the above material and considerations regarding what to look for in a BOB, I will now give you my top picks on what are in my opinion, some of the best bug out bags for sale today.

Top Picks

Condor 3 Day Assault Pack

CHECK PRICES ON THE CONDOR 3 DAY ASSAULT PACK HERE!

The Condor 3 day assault pack is currently the BOB that I am using and I must say I am impressed. Only recently deciding to set it up for rural escape, I have used this bag for the past 4 years. Whether taking it to the field, camping or just as an EDC (everyday carry),  it has stood up to many a beating. Other then normal wear and tear this pack still has no major damage to it whatsoever. It comes outfitted with Molle front and side pouches, a hydration bladder compartment, wide shoulder straps as well as a waist belt. Four checks in the box right there. It has main and secondary compartments, a front map pocket, two large side pouches and a bottom compartment which I use for first aid. Inside are internal pouches and dividers as well to organize your kit the way you want for better accessibility. While it is a 3 day bag, it does not feel overly large like others sometimes do. All in all an excellent pack for a 72 hour BOB.

5.11 Tactical Rush24 37L

CHECK PRICES ON THE 5.11 RUSH24 HERE!

Another great option for a BOB; over the past few years 5.11 Tactical has really stepped up their game. The Rush24 bag has three of the four essentials for me; The molle front and sides, hydration bladder compatibility and wide shoulder straps. It does not come with a waist belt. I have seen these bags rigged up with them however you may be restricted in which kind of belt you attach, as the specifications for both need to line up, so just keep that in mind. Now while this is designed as a 24 hour pack (which is why the waist belt probably isn’t included) it can easily be packed for 48 and pushed to 72 hours if your packing method is on point.  While the rush series does make a 72 hours version of this bag, I find it enormous. An excellent bag it still is, however at that size I believe it would encourage over packing which as discussed previously can lead to complications. On the other hand it does come with an attached waist belt, so its a decision you will have to weigh on your own. It has a long list of 5.11 specific features as well, and I must say the layout inside of the compartments is excellent. Using mesh pockets as well as sealable vinyl, you should have no problem organizing your kit. A great bag that is built to last. Have a look at both the 24 and the 72 and make your choice as to what size you want, both are good, it all depends on your preference and how efficient you are at packing.

Eberlestock G1 Little Brother Pack

CHECK PRICES ON THE  G1 LITTLE BROTHER HERE!

Designed for military use, this bag is beast and is by far one of the best bug out bags out there. It hits three out of four of the essentials I look for; hydration bladder compartments, wide shoulder straps, and molle. It does have the capability for a waist belt however it is sold as an addition. This pack is loaded with molle on the inside and outside for extra pouches that can be organized however you want depending on your situation. The massive main compartment which can actually hold two bladders if you felt so inclined, is more then large enough to hold all the essentials you require. It is also worth mentioning that the Little Brother Pack is the main bag on Eberlestock’s Skycrane 2 load bearing system which is worth taking a look at if you are looking for something bigger and getting into the realm of rucksacks. As I say with all larger bags; Do not over pack! However if you are looking for a bit larger of a BOB that is tough, tried and tested by military forces and built to last, have a look at the G1 Little Brother.

Last words

Like I said previously, there are simply too many good companies and bags to list them all, these are just my personal picks for the best BOB’s. Having worn a lot of bags throughout my time in the military and travelled very long distances, over rough terrain I can tell you that spending the time to find a good bag is worth it. Just like boots that carry you from point A to point B, the bag is carrying all you need to survive; so getting a quality one counts. That being said, do your research and explore around. If you decide we have similar likes then cool, if not, that’s cool too. Best of luck on your adventure.

Until next time,

Scotty Mac

Coming soon: Part 2 – The main compartment – What to pack.

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I need some tough all purpose boots. Which ones?

So your going out in the woods and you’re going to be out there for a while. What do you wear on your feet? You’re not bringing your slippers or sandals for the beach; you need something tough, with support, that can get you from point A to point B.  The most important rule of entering into the wild, if you’re moving camps a lot is this; TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET! If you don’t have your feet, let me tell you, you got jack shit. You won’t be traversing tough terrain if your getting all kinds of foot problems. If you need exit the area in a hurry; your done. Finished.  So getting a quality pair of boots is a key purchase you do not want to cheap out on.

Considerations

Now we all know that you need different tools for different jobs and seasons. Winter is a whole different ball game of preparation, so lets assume for the moment that you’re dealing with a generally fair, spring to fall climate. However, all climates and temperatures have various factors you need to be aware of when selecting footwear. Tactical boots are a good bet. Having spent over a decade in the military, I’ve worn my fair share of boots and have had a myriad of foot issues. So I’ve had plenty of time for trial and error with regards to knowing what to look for and finding the best boots that work for me.

First thing I would avoid are boots with zippers. Those that know me are aware that I’m not a fan of mechanisms and boots are no exception. Zippers freeze, break and become caked in sand and muck. If you can’t enclose your feet, you are then exposing them to the elements, such as water, cold, dirt, debris, insects, you name it. Laces can quickly be replaced if need be; zippers cannot, and if you’re in an emergency situation, this is no good.

Secondly, make sure your size is correct. Try them on, walk around in them. If you buy them; wear them in your house for a week or two without taking them outside. That way if they become uncomfortable you can still return them. If after that time they are broken in and still feel comfortable, you’re probably in the clear. Remember, you will be wearing socks, as well as possibly a liner system, so plan for that. If your boots are too tight once you head into the wild you are going to experience a wide range of problems. From blisters, loss of circulation, stress on your tendons and joints, dead toenails, corns and many other nasty issues. Constantly dealing with this in a survival situation will be extremely hindering to your progress and painful to say the least. When checking the fit, make sure your toes do not touch the front. If your heel rubs against the back of the boot, try a new pair.

Thirdly, if you’re going to be travelling or staying in the wilderness for an extended period of time your feet are going to wet. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re just going to “keep them dry”. Not going to happen. The key word for this is GORE-TEX. Without getting too scientific here, think about it this way. It’s made of a porous material covered in holes which are microscopic. These are much smaller then a drop of water, stopping moisture from getting in. However, the holes are big enough for vapour to escape from the inside ,making it breathable. So in short, water can’t get in but it can escape. Now for the love of god, please don’t think that if you completely submerge your boot in water your feet won’t get wet. That’s not how it works. Don’t get your feet unnecessarily wet, keep them as dry as possible.

Now that you have taken all that in, let’s get into my top contenders for the best all purpose outdoor boot.

Rocky Boots

Originally founded in 1932 in Nelsonville, Ohio, what today is known as  Rocky Brand is one of the most trusted and tested companies around today. During World War 2 and the Korean war this company supplied soldiers with over a million pairs of footwear and is still used by many militaries today. In 2010 Rocky was awarded Footwear plus magazines’ Plus award for their excellent quality work boots. I have owned and worn many pairs of boots during my time in the military including Rocky for a large portion. I have beat the hell out of them in various climates and they are still going strong today. Any boot released from this company I would hold in high regard.

Rocky S2V Tactical Military Boot

CHECK ROCKY S2V PRICES HERE!

Probably Rockys’ most popular boot and for good reason. This lightweight, rugged boot has a list of features on it like a sports car, and they all work.  Aside from the standard model there are many variations of the S2V that you can pick from depending on your style or what situation you entering. The standard boot comes outfitted with Rocky’s “S2V Sieve” which pushes water out and with the water resistant leather, makes it quite resistant. It does come in a Gore-Tex version as well. With Vibram soles as accompanied by their Air-Port Cushion footbed, these boots are COMFORTABLE. Even after moving over kilometres of rough terrain my feet were still in great shape. The list goes on, however the other styles include Jungle Boot, Steel toed, lightweight and waterproof. All of those are worth looking into and I have absolutely no doubt that you will find a pair that suits your needs. There are also numerous other boots in Rocky’s product line which you should explore as well.

Danner

Also founded in 1932 in Chippewa Falls Wisconsin, Danner was originally a boot marketed for loggers.  After moving to Portland in 1936 this company is still producing hiking, logging, military and law enforcement boots at the highest level of quality. In 1992 Danner received the American Podiatric Medical Associations  seal of acceptance for their own “Airthotic” inserts; a true testament to their brand. In 2010 during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, service men and women required a new service boot for the extreme climate, in which 2 new models of Danner boots were born. All in all Danner remains at the top of the food chain for producing rugged, durable all purpose boots.

Danner Acadia

CHECK PRICES FOR DANNER ACADIAS HERE!

I refer to these as the “Black Cadillac’s” of durable tactical boots. Used very frequently by military, law enforcement, firefighters etc. around North America, the Acadia serves in a variety of important rolls by those we trust. This boot comes in different variations to suit your needs, however an absolutely huge selling point with these comes in the form of a standard issue Gore-Tex liner. That combined with full grain leather, your mind should be at ease with regards to keeping your feet dry. The Vibram Kletterlift Outsole provides excellent traction and protection, as well these boots are a slim fit for extra ankle protection. This boot and brand are one the most reliable in existence today. I highly encourage you to explore the many products that Danner has to offer and make your own decision, however if you do choose to go with the Acadia, it will not disappoint.

Hanwag

Shifting gears away from the United States for a moment, brings us to Hanwag. Originating from Bavaria, with their original headquarters still in operation near Munich, Germany, the creator Hans Wagner started the company in 1921 . Different than the other companies we have explored so far, Hanwags’ were designed for Alpine Skiing and branched into other areas such as climbing and paragliding. In 2009 the company developed its own “IceGrip Sole” that boasts 7 times more traction on icey or slick surfaces. For over 90 years Hanwag has produced top quality boots for the classic outdoorsman. These boots are of such excellent design that many of their models actually remain unchanged from their creation decades prior.

Hanwag Alaska GTX

CHECK PRICES FOR THE HANWAG ALASKA GTX HERE!

Developed in 1996 the design of this boot has not changed since its inception and is one of their top sellers. The Alaska GTX is made for long journeys carrying a heavy pack. First thing I must point out about this boot is that when actually wearing it, it feels like you are almost being pushed forward when you walk.  Which I found very strange, however with a little more research I discovered that the Vinbram Fuora sole was designed to prevent over pronation and supination, which I would assume was it doing its job. The Alaska GTX also has a Gore-Tex liner guaranteeing water protection and breathability as well as a number of other features including the “Air Pulse system” for a greater level of air circulation. I would describe this boot as nothing less than fantastic and designed to withstand some of the toughest terrain and obstacles on Earth.

Final Words

As like most things, there are numerous quality products or brands out there for you to discover. These are simply my top three picks for the best tough, outdoor, all terrain boot. Remember; avoid zippers, ensure your size is correct and the boots fits, keep your feet as dry as possible and of course take care of your feet! If you never experienced multiple blisters, blackened toe nails, joint problems or even the dreaded trench foot (look it up), save yourself the trouble; do your research and make a proper purchase. Before I sign off, I would feel guilty if I didn’t touch on trench foot briefly, since I have actually had it and thankfully caught it in the early stages. While travelling long distances you should always be monitoring your feet and changing your socks regularly however sometimes depending on the situation you may not get to perform this drill as often as you’d like. If this does happen to you and trench foot does begin; stop what you are doing, if it is raining get under cover, remove your boots and socks, allow your feet to dry for as long as necessary and apply foot powder should you have some (you should if you prepared well). Your feet should return to their normal colour and appearance, then ensure your feet are dry, change your socks and allow the moisture in your boots to evaporate as best as possible before continuing on. I can’t stress enough the importance of foot safety. Now that you’ve had time to process all that, do your research, maybe take my advice or make your own decision. It’s entirely up to you.

Stay free,

Scotty Mac,

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I need a survival knife. What should I buy?

Whether you are going camping, hiking, hiding from the zombie horde, bugging out of a shitty situation or escaping the apocalypse; you need a knife. A rugged, sharp, well made blade will serve you well in any sticky situation and is an essential tool for any survivalist or outdoorsman. Don’t believe me? Read a history book. Human beings have been using edged implements since the dawn of time; starting from sharpened rocks and advancing to medieval side arms. Face it, we have been using blades to survive and poke holes in our enemies long before you or I walked earth and will continue to do so long after we’re gone. Still don’t believe me? Good luck to you then.

Folder or Fixed Blade?

When purchasing your perfect survival knife your biggest decision will ultimately be between purchasing folder or a fixed blade. For those of you who don’t know, a folder is a knife in which the blade folds into the handle and opens with a manner of mechanisms including button, spring assisted and gravitational opening ( centrifugal force ). A fixed blade is a knife that is held within a sheath and does not require opening as it is a solid steel piece which is anchored to the handle. But how do you come to that conclusion? Let’s start by examining both styles and get you on your way to picking YOUR ultimate survival bug out knife. Later we will check some specific blades and see if they are to your liking.

The Folder

All tools have specific uses and the folder is no exception. While used by survivalists all over the globe, we tend to see the folding knife utilized more often by military and police for a diverse range of jobs. These professions are primarily rough in nature and require durable tools for their completion, proving that folders can be used for tough, dirty jobs or in the outdoors. Some of which are cutting rope, freeing someone from a seatbelt or self defence. While lightweight and compact, they can be stored easily and carried with no hindrance to movement and an almost non existent addition in weight to your overall load. It can be employed quickly if need be, depending on its position on your body with repetition and practice. For example, having it clipped on a vest would be much more accessible and rapidly deployable then in your pocket. Yes, I know before someone says it; some folders have pocket catches for quick opening. As I mentioned earlier, with practice, properly utilizing a folder can be effective, however under a stressful situation one of the first things to be affected in the human body are your fine motor skills. This type of blade requires it be reached on your person, the lock disabled, the thumb stud or button ( if your country, province or state laws allow for automatic knives) to be located, and the blade to be opened. If you are not on point with your training and your hands are trembling and sweaty, quickly utilizing this kind of knife in a pinch could prove difficult and leave you stumbling like a fool. My second pet peeve about folders is the simple fact that they have a mechanism of opening. Like any mechanism, these can break and once that happens your knife may become essentially useless or impractical for you to be carrying without risk of injury. Take a second to process those points; next we will taking a look at the fixed blade.

Fixed Blade

Used more by survivalists and outdoorsman then military and police ( although some do in fact employ them ), the fixed blade in my opinion is the ideal choice for a survival knife. A quality fixed blade can stand up to the toughest of outdoor jobs, such as hacking small branches or creating kindling for a fire by utilizing the pommel ( the round end of the handle ) as a hammer and of course defending yourself against a larger animal or attacker. They are typically worn in a sheath on a belt but can be attached to a molle plate carrier or vest if you happened to be wearing one. No mechanism of opening, just a solid piece of steel. If you are under duress and need to deploy it as quickly as possible; grasp the handle, remove it from the sheath and your ready to rock. Sound simple enough? It is. However there are still factors that need to be considered. They are significantly larger and less compact then a folding knife, meaning you may find it uncomfortable hanging from a belt ( assuming that is where you are wearing it )or it could get caught on branches and foliage while moving through the brush. The final observation you need to make if you are leaning towards the fixed blade is what kind of tang it has. Let me make this as clear as possible for all you ‘know it all’s’ “FULL TANG IS THE BEST” if you think I’m wrong, punch yourself in the face as hard as you can. That being said just because a knife does not have full tang does not make it a piece of garbage. All it means is that it simply will not be as durable as a full tang; there are still plenty of high quality companies that produce partial tang knives. So please weigh this; a tang can break, just as the mechanism of folder can, however I would be very flabbergasted if a full tang knife broke during use.

Now that we have discussed the pro’s and cons of folders and fixed blades,  their weight, deployment capability, durability and where you would in fact carry your blade, lets move on to a few brands and products that I feel would make good candidates for your survival knife.

Benchmade

What I would consider to the Mac Daddy of folding knives Benchmade was founded in 1979 originally under the name Bali-Song in California  and was primarily producing the more commonly known “butterfly knives” in which the companys’ first design won the Knife of the Year award in 1979 from Blade Magazine. Since then the company moved to Oregon where they continue to produce extremely high quality knives of various types.  They currently use 12 types of high quality steel on their products including Damasteel which is of the highest quality. The company also has an excellent lifetime warranty program called “Life Sharp” in which your knife will have all the worn pieces replaced and blade re sharpened for you at no cost. Benchmade also has an unrivaled amount of customization options for their knives if you have a particular style you want to follow.

Benchmade Bug Out 535

CHECK PRICES ON THE BENCHMADE BUG OUT 535 HERE!

The Benchmade Bug Out 535 is an excellent choice when it comes to potential survival knives. Made from CPM-S30V steel it offers high corrosion resistance which is beneficial if being used in a rugged outdoor setting. It has a drop point style blade and as with all Benchmade knives it’s sharpness is of the highest quality. The locking mechanism is referred to as the AXIS lock and is a product you will only find on bench made products. In the interest being as simple as possible, this lock in my opinion is the easiest to use. It can be operated with one hand and is also completely ambidextrous. All in all an excellent choice for a survival/outdoor knife, or just an every day carry.

Benchmade Griptillian 550-1

CHECK PRICES ON THE BENCHMADE GRIPTILLIAN 550-1 HERE!

Any knife advocate will agree that the Benchmade Griptillian is the crown jewel of the company. The base model itself has been quite possibly their most popular product for years. The 550-1 Griptillian has been upgraded with the G10 handle scales made of resin soaked fibre glass layers for improved grip. The blade is made of CPM-20CV steel which offers superior edge retention as well corrosion resistance. The sheepsfoot style blade is designed for cutting and slicing and is even more durable with the addition of the serrated edge. Rest assured, this knife is a tried and tested excellent survival knife and will not leave the user disappointed.

Fallkniven

Founded in 1984 in Boden Sweden, Fallkniven has been producing several lines of the highest quality survival knives on the planet today. Primarily regarded for designing and supplying outdoor and military knives, the Fallkniven F1 has been the official survival knife of the Swedish Air Force since 1995 and in 2000 the United Stated Naval Air Warfare Center tested and approved the F1 and model S1 for use by air crews of the U.S Marine Corp as well as the U.S Navy.

Fallkniven A1

CHECK PRICES ON THE FALLKNIVEN A1 HERE!

The Fallkniven A1 is what I would consider the gold standard of fixed blade survival knives. In fact, the blade is forged of VG10 steel in which the “G” stands for “gold” meaning “gold standard”. An extremely tough metal with excellent edge retention and rust resistance; it is made for rough outdoor work. The convex grind ( a gently rounded bevel ) provides a stronger edge while not taking away from the blades cutting power. The knife has a full protruding tang which makes for a useful hammer and can be utilized without cracking the Kraton handle. Always be careful when using the pommel as a hammer as become overzealous in your action can damage the bottom side of the handle or potentially yourself. If you are leaning towards a fixed blade, this knife should definitely be considered as a top contender.

Fallkniven F1

CHECK FALLKNIVEN F1 PRICES HERE!

We could not in good conscience discuss Fallkniven without reviewing the blade that started it all; the F1. As mentioned above this knife is still the official blade of Swedish air force pilots; it is perfect for any outdoor or survival situation. While smaller then the A1 it is still forged with the convex grind and can be customized with different types of steel ( 3G, COS or VG10 ) depending on your preference and price range.  The handle is made of Thermonrun which is subtly harder version of Kraton and provides excellent grip, even when wet. Again like it’s counterpart the A1, it made with a protruding full tang which provides the ability to use the knife as a hammer if need be. This is a sure choice for the serious survivalist and is as versatile as they come.

Honourable Mentions

Above are four very viable options for your perfect survival knife from the two companies I personally would purchase from. I highly encourage you to explore more products within those brands as both forge high quality folders and fixed blades. However that being said, I do believe there are other knives out there that require recognition and are of great quality.

TOPS Tom Brown Tracker

CHECK PRICES ON THE TOPS TOM BROWN TRACKER HERE!

The Tom Brown Tracker knife is one of the best survival knives on the market today and was featured in the Hollywood movie “The Hunted”. Made of 1095 High Carbon steel, it has good edge retention and is easy to sharpen. The design is mostly for hacking purposes and with the full tang handle you can ensure it’s durability. It does have a saw back blade which can be useful for creating notches etc. however please do not consider saw back blades a substitute for an actual saw. They absolutely are not; don’t think you’re going to cut down a small trees with your saw back blade. On that note, give this knife some thought, it is worth a look as it is a heavy, rugged, full tang, well designed blade.

KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife

CHECK PRICES ON THE KA-BAR USMC FIGHTING KNIFE HERE!

KA-BAR, originally called Union Cutlery Co. dates back to 1923 in New York and is steeped in history. The company received a hand written letter that same year from a fur trapper who claimed to kill a bear with a knife after his rifle failed to fire. The phrase “kill a bear” was only partly legible resembling “Ka bar” which is where the name of the company originated. The KA-BAR USMC Fighting knife has been in service for 70+ years and has been tried and tested in numerous conflicts and wars throughout that time. The blade is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel which is basically Ka-Bars’ own version of 1095 steel. It is slightly stronger then regular 1095 and can carry an extremely sharp edge. Although using a strong steel, it is forged with a rat tail tang which is very narrow inside the handle. Simply put, it will take normal abuse however it will not stand up to the same punishment as a full tang blade, so be cognisant of that. On the end of course is the hammer pommel which is always a useful tool to have while in the bush. This knife has passed the test of time and has aided service men and women around the world for decades, and should be considered by anyone looking for a top notch survival knife.

Closing Remarks

Choosing a quality knife is one of the most important things you can do when deciding your kit and load out before heading into the wild. It will serve you a long time if you treat it well and practice how to use it. Remember, all these blades require maintenance and upkeep. Just because you have rugged, durable knife doesn’t mean it will never break or rust. They need to be oiled, re-sharpened, cleaned etc. Don’t forget. Whether you choose a folder or a fixed blade, remember it is up to YOU. A lot of the “know it all’s” will tell you your choices are wrong simply because it’s not their choice, or it did not work for them. Do what works for you. If you’re happy with the weight and where its carried and how it’s employed that’s all that counts. There are plenty of other brands as well that supply very high quality knives; these are simply my choices. Hopefully these reviews provided you with some aid on making your decision, and like always figure out what works for YOU.

Until next time,

Scotty Mac

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