Over the past couple of weeks, I have read Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart.  I picked it up at Amazon for about $13.00, and think I made a good buy at the price.

I can hear you asking, “What is a bug out bag?” Well, a Bug Out Bag (Bail out bag, BOB) is nothing but a 72-hour kit, containing most everything that you need to survive the first 72 hours after disaster strikes.  Over the past several years, there have been many instances of disasters of some sort striking all over the USA, from the fires in California, Colorado, Arizona, and the rest of the desert southwest, to tornadoes in the Great Plains, hurricanes on the Gulf coast, and Superstorm Sandy all up the Eastern seaboard.  When these massive dangers strike, it’s almost certain that the local and regional emergency response organizations become overwhelmed for days and weeks at a time.  The purpose of a BOB is to get you through the first couple of days so that you can either reach safety or for the disaster response to get to you and start helping.

Creek’s book is, at the surface, the same as many others on the market: it tells you why you need a kit and what should go into it, and the reason behind the specific contents.  One thing that this book does that I haven’t seen before, is it has a full chapter on self-defense and protection.  While not as common as “everybody knows” there are bad people who do bad things in bad situations.  The majority of people in a disaster are not going to do you harm, there is good reason to be prepared to defend you, your family, and your supplies.  This is usually overlooked in preparedness books, or just given passing mention.  “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag” talks about the self-defense mindset that you need to have when things go pear-shaped.

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag cover image

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, by Creek Stewart

Creek dedicates a chapter each to BOB organization and maintenance, mental and physical preparedness, the “bug out plan,” as well resources and at-home exercises.  The last one was particularly interesting to me because so many preparedness resources leave out the need to practicing your disaster survival skills.  I am a former Boy Scout, so a number of the standard survival skills are familiar to me, but there are several that are out of practice.  Creek recommends practicing the skills (such as fire- and shelter-making) not only in ideal conditions, but also after dark and in the rain, so that you are aware of how things work in all conditions.  Brilliant, if obvious (after the fact) advice.  If you take the step of practicing BOB cooking a few times a year, you have the added benefit of rotating your food, rather than leaving it untouched for years.

Also in the chapter on resources, there is a fairly comprehensive one-stop shopping list that you can use to go from zero to near-complete BOB hero with perfectly serviceable supplies from Wal-Mart. Keep in mind, though, that this supply kit is kind of like insurance: You buy it and hope that you never need it, but if you do need it, you’ll be ever so thankful that you do.  As of the writing of the book, this one-stop-shop list comes in at just over $300 for a single BOB.

The publisher of Building the “Perfect Bug Out Bag” makes a free (sign up for email list) printable BOB inventory list, as well.  While it doesn’t take the place of the book, it is a great starting place for figuring out what you need in your BOB.  The book has (also in the resources chapter) a breakout of one way to plan gear for all members of your party, from adult to youth, to child.  This is in addition to having a comprehensive (but far from complete, there are just too many to stores out there) list of online suppliers that carry the items mentioned in the book.  Yes, you can get your gear from Wal-Mart, but you can also get more durable  supplies from other sources.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your time with any of the  “pre-made” 72-hour kits, because they are under-supplied, both in quality and quantity.  Not only that, you and your family are not cookie cutter shapes: If you are going to have the most success with building Bug Out Bags for yourself and your family, you will almost certainly need to fit the supplies to your situation.  Do you have infants?  If so, you need different supplies than I do, since my kids are all teens or older.

Anyway, the short take is that this is a great primer for anyone wanting to start their own 72-hour kit, either personal or family.  Definitely a two thumbs-up.

Stay safe!