Heading into the Wilderness with the Essentials of a ‘Bug Out’ Bag


One Tuesday afternoon in late November, my husband locked me out of the house. It was the first day of snow in northern Wisconsin, and it was gray, cold, and sticky flakes littered the woods around our house. It wasn’t the weather I chose for an unsuspecting night in the woods, but in a way, it made me feel at ease with myself and made the experiment realistic.

The week before, I received a package in the mail from a company called Echo Sigma (whose motto is “always ready”) with a backpack or “bug-out bag” containing everything you need to survive for three years. . A day of emergency after the “bug out” of modern life. My mission was for him to live 24 hours a day in it, learning something about survival in the process, or at least learning how to prepare for survival. I didn’t peek inside the bag. I didn’t know what was inside until I entered the forest. I’m not a total masochist, but I wore insulating coveralls and had nothing but a camera and my most capable dog, Pepe. The pack was the size of a high school textbook bag, which seemed very small to hold food, water, shelter, and warmth, but at 18 pounds, it weighed at least comfortably.

As soon as we crossed the wide meadow and entered the trees, it became cold and dark. Pepe rushed forward. It had already started to snow. I found a rock to sit on, took off my pack, unzipped it, and waited to find out my fate.

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The last few years have seen a surge in demand for home survival gear (the kind your suburban neighbor keeps in his garage). “We doubled our sales tenfold during Covid,” Echo Sigma co-owner Chris Reidel told me. , they came to pack up and in one night they started hiring 15 to 20 employees people were getting so scared we had never seen it .”

It was so bad that the bug-out-bag maker ran out of supplies, and Reidel would go to Home Depot at 4:45 every morning and try to buy anything as soon as it opened. At the time I perused the website, clicked on the occasional pop-up ad, and looked at this market with abstract curiosity, a surprising number of survival kits featured zombies as their point of sale . This is probably because zombies address the human fear of being hunted without evoking more terrifying realities such as warfare. However, I had never seen a bug-out bag in person until now.

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Pepe and Echo Sigma bug out bags.

Blair Braverman

Not that I’m a prepper, but here in the Northwoods the line between preparation and paranoia can blur. If, like a summer storm, he loses power for a week at a time, it would be foolish not to think about generators and water storage. When I read the prepper forum, ostensibly as a study of the novel, small game, But come on, there’s a reason I chose this topic — I often see people fantasizing about keeping fish antibiotic stocks from desperate and possibly infected neighbors, and giving it to others. We’ve seen an even split between those who remind us.The most likely crisis is something as mundane as unemployment. The latter recommends paying off debt and getting in shape. The former, stockpile ammunition.

To be honest, the idea of ​​preparation has always been solid and reassuring. As a kid in suburban California, I remember feeling a strong sense of unease that throughout history most humans have dealt with famine, natural disasters, and so on. As an adult, I started dog sledding long distances. This is a pursuit that walks the line between recreation and survival, even in the best of days. During the first few weeks of Covid lockdown, when her friends were panicking for toilet paper, her husband and I received the same package from Amazon.

Come to think of it, it’s not a bad thing to find in your bug out bag. As I thought about the pack, I was overcome with excitement, like opening a long-awaited gift.

A flashlight and multi-tool were strapped to the outside of the pack, presumably for easy access, but the flashlight battery was crammed much deeper inside.I hate multi-tools — I find them cumbersome and prefer fixed-blade knives for almost everything — but it’s myself Having trouble, I put it in my pocket and continued searching.

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Blair Braverman

After all, the main pocket of the pack contained a cardboard box full of metal pouches of drinking water. I know water is important, but when I opened it I confess a rush of despondency. Still determined to rehydrate, I tore off the corner of the water bag and drank. It tasted astonishingly bad, like licking a handful of change.

Small pockets hold a hodgepodge of first aid kits, goggles, off-brand N95 masks, leather gloves, fire starters, light wands, spiral bound survival manuals, foil emergency blankets and folded gloves. It contained an item. It was a piece of plastic about the size of a gas station poncho, optimistically labeled “Tube Tent.”

no food? I searched again and went through everything two more times before realizing the food was actually shoved into a packet of water. MAYDAY emergency food / does not stimulate thirst. Inside was a thick substance cut into squares like graham crackers, and it smelled strongly of apples. With 1,200 calories included in the package, I was able to cover 400 calories per serving throughout the day. That meant I could afford to eat chunks now.

Unfortunately, the pleasant aroma of the food did not match the taste. It was very dry and had a clay-like texture that covered my tongue. Instinctively, I spat my half-chewed mouthful onto the snow. Pepe ate it, sniffed her package more with her nose, gave her another small piece, and then put the rest of her in a bag for her safekeeping. I made it. What can she catch with my little multi-tool? pneumonia?

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Pepe enjoying his meal.

Blair Braverman

By that point my outlook for the night was beginning to look grim. Having spent countless nights in the woods, often alone. fear of — but I also knew that time would pass very slowly if it was cold or uncomfortable, or without the distraction of a phone call. My biggest challenge is insulating myself from the ground. I didn’t have a sleeping pad, so the frozen dirt took heat from my body much faster than the air. For a few minutes I considered building some sort of campfire and leaning situation, but I didn’t trust all this plastic around the flames…it was warm enough to melt the snow on my shoulders and my shirt It was soggy and wet, shelter was the number one priority. It was a tube tent.

The tube (the word “tent” feels too generous) was a translucent orange garbage bag that opened on both sides, with a thin rope running through the middle and tied to a tree. The instructions on the package say to weight the ends with rocks to keep the tube open. There’s a reason people don’t camp with it. It looked like garbage caught in the middle of a blowing trip.

Next step: insulation. If I had a fixed blade or a hatchet I could have cut a pine branch and slept on it, but instead I pulled up a clump of dead grass by hand and shook it dry. Pepe followed him in the grass, snorting like a mouse. She froze when she heard them, leaped up, and caught two by the time I piled up a decent layer of bedding under the tube.

When it got dark, I called Pepe and went inside. It’s getting dark now. The sun didn’t rise for nearly 15 hours, and even if he had slept for 8 hours (very unlikely given the circumstances), he would have been awake for another 7 hours waiting for dawn. increase. I used to want to open a survival instructional book, but I saved it until I realized I needed some entertainment (or some distraction from the cold). I clicked the flashlight, on second thought, cracked the glow stick as well, and bathed both of us in the green light.


Pepe spends the night.

Blair Braverman

The book, titled The Wallace Guidebook to Emergency Medicine and Survival, featured 91 pages of detailed instructions. The words were mostly blurry, like they were printed from a copy of a copy, and strangely, many of the periods in the text had disappeared, leaving only small spaces. Together with the line breaks, it looked like a magazine of poetry or a self-conscious project of found texts. , indeed seems endless. Tell me about it, baby.

The instructions in the book are organized by type of emergency, from car breakdowns to injuries to depression, and include the words “Do not perform surgical procedures unless absolutely necessary (except for surgeons).” )” are scattered throughout. The chapter on curating survival support teams recommends looking for women with multiple children (“This group will probably be the most trustworthy group. They’ve done it all. They’ve I understand the physical pain and the emotional stress.”). One page read: Cherish your life!’” The book ended inexplicably with a “Congratulations!!”

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As the snow slid off the plastic around us, it was a fever dream crouched in a tube with a green glow. But the pages I turned over and over were devoted.

For those who have been there and may still be there.

Those who may still be there – well. Everyone does it.

We’ll tell you what to pack if you’re going to make a bug-out bag: a tarp, blankets, sutures, a good knife, chocolates, lots of chocolates, novels. Something that helps you travel to your loved one’s side, even when you’re asleep. Lying curled up in a rippling plastic tube for a long time that night and the next morning, I’d rather have a warm layer around me than a soft pillow and the flimsy foil emergency blanket in my bag. became. It broke when I opened the package. I wanted a guitar to play. I wanted music in the dark. When the sun finally came up and the black sky turned gray through the trees, I wanted a hot, sweet drink. And when I finally left the forest and headed home, I wanted clean, dry clothes and some soup.

But I don’t want to make my own bag. I like that someone packed it for me. For all its forms, there was something to be said. Like most of our customers, sure, we wanted the bag to be tucked into the top shelf of the closet without opening it and glowing behind our pristine, bombastic sweater every time we turned on the light. Half of the prep projects seemed to prove the fact that we’re all on the brink of survival all the time.that is memento mori to our own vulnerability. Things break, including us. things fall. It’s not delusional to admit that the most stable parts of our lives can be stripped away. And when they are, where do we land?

Preparedness, survivalism, whatever you call it, it’s kind of a promise: we don’t know where we’re going to land, but we’re going to land somewhere. No matter what happens, I will find a way to survive.

I didn’t get much sleep that night, but I remember waking up and Pepe was gone, so I must have been dizzy at some point. She was walking home. They say dogs are loyal, but as I’ve learned they are very happy to ditch you for comfort.

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