Survival Book Review: Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag

We talk a lot around here about how we would survive the zombie apocalypse. It’s a lot of fun, and I like to think that talking about surviving zombies helps us start thinking about surviving other sorts of problems. If we can survive zombies, then dealing with a tornado, hurricane, power outage, sudden loss of job, etc. should be a cakewalk, right? The trouble is, most zombie survival discussions center around which weapon would be the most appropriate, and whether zombies would be fast or slow. Fun, yes, but not terribly useful when the power goes out due to non-zombie-related issues.

One of the elements I would like to explore on Bricks of the Dead is survival and preparedness beyond just killing zombies with a variety of household objects. What better place to start that with oft-recommended 72 Hour bad, more often know as the Bug Out Bag (BOB)?

The idea behind the BOB is simple enough: when disaster strikes and you have to leave your home, you have everything you need in your bag for the next three days. The trouble the most people run into is figuring out what, exactly, they need to get through the next three days. Weeding out all the non-essential items, and keeping the necessary stuff portable, durable, and accessible enough to allow you to carry them on your back is quite an undertaking. Thankfully, there are a variety of resources available to get you on the right track, starting with Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, which outlines the whole process from A to Z, and then ties is all back together with helpful appendices and indices.

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag starts with the basics, first by reviewing exactly what a BOB is and why it’s important, and then breaking down all the component parts in individual chapters. There is a chapter dedicated to everything from selecting your bag to portable shelter, from tools to food, and everything in between. It is well laid out and organized in a clear and easy to follow manner.

The advice in the book is straight forward and practical. It’s geared toward the average person, that means you’re not getting a military manual or a basic list of supplies. Every item that the bug suggests is discussed based on a number of factors, include its utility, easy of use, weight, and durability.

The goal of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag is to equip regular people with the stuff they need to get by, not to setup weekend warriors to play soldier. I really liked this approach, mostly because it runs counter to what I am used to reading on the subject. The allows to book to tackle a few items that typically get left out of BOB prepping articles, like bugging out with children and pets.

The book’s author, Creek Stewart of Willow Haven Outdoor, knows his stuff. He became an Eagle Scout at fourteen and taught his first survival course at twenty-one. Since then he’s never really slowed down. I hadn’t heard of him prior to receiving this book, but I am quite impressed with both his knowledge and his ability to break things down for people with little to no experience.

My criticisms of the book are pretty minimal. I wish the photography had been color, just to allow the writer to more clearly illustrate certain items. The black and white photography is good quality, however. My other nitpick is that it recommends BudK as a place to purchase knives and tools. If you don’t know what BudK is, keep it that way. They make garbage, and anyone who might have to rely on a knife or tool would do well to avoid them at all cost.

If you’re interested in getting started with disaster preparedness, and aren’t quite sure where to begin, Build the Perfect But Out Bag is going to save you a lot of time and frustration. Experienced preppers won’t get as much out of the book, but I would imagine there are still some good tips to glean from it. If nothing else, it’s a well organized reference to double-check your current setup against.

Grade: 4.5 zombie heads out of 5

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34 Comments

angelina

Just added this to my survival wish list. I have that exact problem – what is really essential and what is not.

Dave

Figuring out where to start is tough, and it’s easy to make mistakes. For instance, I think I invested in the wrong backpack, which is quite unfortunate, since backpacks tend to be pretty pricey.

Bo

Where you stand depends upon where you sit. Do you want to be found? If so, signaling equipment is of the second most importance, after water. How much water in in your area? If there is abundant water, purification is easier than carrying seven pound-per-gallon water. How’s the weather where you are? Most folks I know rotate their Go Bag clothing with the seasons. Down here in the desert, it still gets cold at night; so I leave a set of filament-weight long underwear in my bag year around. In the winter I dress in layers anyway, and would likely have a wool sweater and a windbreaker, at least. I keep three extra pairs of wool socks, because wet feet are a killer.

Food is pretty far down on the list, for a pure seventy-two hour kit. One can likely live a month without food. Still, I keep high-density “lickie-chewies ” in my bag, things like homemade jerky, raw nuts, and Pro-Bars.

After that, it’s about how much weight you can manage. I don’t keep a sidearm in my GO Bag because I am already wearing it; but I do have to figure that into the total weight. Mine’s a little too heavy for most (around thirty pounds); but I can always jettison things later. I also have a fairly extensive mini first aid in mine (which I think is still up on my blog).

Dave

Awesome information here. I tried to find your FAK on your blog, but I’m not having any luck.

Bo

Well, crap. It’s not there. Guess I never moved it. I’ll try to repost it over the weekend.

Bo

Ah, ye olde seventy-two hour kit, both the hope and the bane of my very existence. How I adore and despise thee…

The seventy-two hour kit itself, and any discussion thereof, should come with a big, fat asterisk: “This is only the beginning. What will you eat on the seventy-third hour?” I love that it’s a bite-sized concept that gets people thinking about preparedness. The average Joe Bagadonuts can likely put together a rudimentary kit from things around the house. To that end it’s as much a learning tool and thought experiment as actual survival tool.

There is a lot to hate about them, too. First and top of the list is how the “official” and officious websites (e.g. the American Red Cross) insist that the cavalry is coming in three days, whether the Red Cross or FEMA, in three days someone is coming to take care of you. That breeds complacency on the part of said Bagadonuts; so it’s easy to become stuck and limited in one’s preparedness.

Another problem I have with most folks’ seventy-two hour kits is nutrition. When you’re amped up, sleep deprived, and possibly exercising more than at any other point since high school, you’ll need high quality calories. The raman noodles and Jolly Ranchers that most idiots recommend for Go Bags just won’t cut it. You’ll need good protein and good fat, not empty carbs. Read up on what folks that hike the Appalachian Trail carry and eat. They’re concerned with weight, and need good food to keep them going.

Finally, consider weight. How much weight to we carry on a given day? How much do most Go Bags weigh? I usually recommend no more than forty pounds including boots, clothes, your cell phone, etc. That is, forty pounds completely dressed and kitted, which means about twenty pounds in the bag, including the bag.

Which brings me to my final two recommendations, your boots and knife. Get a good set of hikers/combat boots, and break them in now (before you need them). I’ll forgive just about anything outside of a blister. That is, if we’re on the trail and you sprain an ankle I’ll carry you out; but if you’re down with a blister, Rotsa ruck . I’m leaving your ass on the trail.

For knives, the bare minimum for a Go Bag (and really a decent knife) is the old Air Force Survival knife. It’s like a mini Ka-Bar, 1095 steel, decent heat treat. It holds an edge well, is easy to resharpen and carry, and will do just about anything. Up from there, the sky’s the limit. My favorite are Swamp Rat Knife Works. There are certainly more expensive knives; but you’ll run into diminishing returns at about that price point.

Dave

I’ve been waiting for this comment all morning, Bo!

As always a ton of good information here. I recently did a bit of a short mock-bug out (I’m working on a write-up) and it’s amazing to me the stuff that I had that was completely useless, the stuff that I didn’t have that I wished I did, and how heavy a “light backpack” starts to get after your energy level starts going down. Just like breaking in those boots now, strapping on your pack and taking it hiking a few times is a damn good idea. Better still, some actual camping right out of the bag.

angelina

How long to hiking boots last? I bought a good pair of steel-toe hiking boots about 10 years ago and only use them when we go camping – about twice a year. They are finally broken in but I worry about the sole drying out and getting brittle.

Dave

I don’t know the answer to the question, but I would say that – in my experience – steel toed boots are not a great idea. From what I’ve read (and some personal experience) you don’t get the same comfort and support out of them because they are built primarily to protect you toes.

angelina

They did take FOREVER to break in but they offer great ankle support and I am prone.

How about cowboy boots? I’m not being silly but they are still in use today so they must be kind of good.

Dave

Never worn cowboy boots myself. I generally wear work boots (Red Wings) and hiking shoes.

Bo

I do not recommend boots with leather soles or tall heels. Cowboy boots are for riding. Pointed toes and tall heels are for stirrups. I don’t ride anymore; so I don’t need them.

As for how long they last, it’s not the years but the miles. I’ve worn the heels off boots in as little as six months,walking six or eight miles urban miles a day. On the other hand, I have a set of just-broken in boots in the closet that are six years old and still good to go.

Steel toes are a niche item. They get hot in a hurry; but when you need them, you need them. I don’t need them.

legomiles

”The raman noodles and Jolly Ranchers that most idiots recommend for Go Bags just won’t cut it. You’ll need good protein and good fat, not empty carbs.”

Also, bring lots of high-energy foods, such as chocolate and nuts.

Bo

Raw nuts are the best, especially cashews and pecans, lots of good fat and protein.

AC

i have another question for a page like this, would a chainsaw that kills zombies kill you?

Dave

Probably. Chainsaws are build for cutting timber. They could certain cut a zombie if pressed into service as a weapon, but it would be extremely dangerous for a number of reasons, such as the spray of potentially infected gore, chance of cutting yourself, weight, noise, running out of fuel, etc.

Chainsaw look cool in movies, but it real life they’re best suited to what they’re designed for: cutting wood.

AC

no argument there. now i can tell all of my friends that chaisaws suck durring the zombie apocolipse

Dave

And then tell them to check out this awesome comic/blog/review site. And to send me money. And to focus on math and science in school, because the US is really behind the rest of the world there.

Greg

I’m completely clueless for this stuff… So I’m going to comment with a completely useless comment…. Did you know that in Belgium a “BOB” is the friend that does not drink at a party and drives you home when you had too many?

angelina

That’s a DD in the states – Designated Driver. Back in the day, the DD got a wrist band that entitles them to free soda all night at night clubs but, alas, clubs are too cheap to do that any more.

Calicade

In my survival class we learned a lot about survival kits, and we had to face a lot of stuff questions when it came down to self preparedness. The main thing that he wanted to teach us though, is to be able to use what you have around you to survive.

Having that out of the way, it’s most recommended to get of self supporting bag or heavy lifting mesh. These will go a long way in surviving and maintaining a lot of energy. I personally have a heavy lifting mesh (I could be wrong on its name, and if I am I apologize) and it is rather nice to have. I’ve got it filled out with different things (2 MRE’s, 3 cans of vienna sausage -because my mother worries about me-, 4 different knives, a nice military canteen, a first aid kit, 4 small things of damp resistant matches, a huge poncho that could also make shift for shelter, and this odd cooking device that I still need to learn how to use, anti biotics, pain medicine, and each MRE has eating essentials and a pack of matches.

When I wear it, it doesn’t feel much more than wearing a normal backpack with probably just 1 or 2 books in it. Then I have my other smaller kits that I could tie to the mesh’s straps. I also wear a Camel pack with it rather comfortably.

Dave

Paracord is great stuff. I’ve been using it to try to learn knotwork. I’ve also tied a ton of stuff down with it. It’s great for quick and dirty fixes.

l3m0nm4n

I am in no way capable of making any sort of survival pack, or even planning one really, but I do know that people have to sleep some time, and I can sneak very well for having great “bulk”. I hope nobody I dislike crosses my path after any sort of major disaster/apocalypse.

Dave

Wait, are you saying you would sneak away, or sneak attack?

brickzedhunter

i dont have a problem i got my plan all planed out on the united states map on my wall maps to where im going and five printed notebooks of the plan for my family. because if something goes down im am not staying home.

Bo

Have a plan to stay home, too. Roads may become impassable. That is, bugging out is not always the best option. Consider all of the possibilities.

Creek Stewart

Dave- Thanks for reviewing the book! Your site is full of great info. All the best- Creek

Dave

Hey Creek! I really enjoyed the book, and appreciate your kind words.

angelina

Finally placed my order today. Can’t wait to get started!

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