The essentials you need ready to go at a moment’s notice. As I’ve said before, I’ve never much thought or paid a whole lot of attention to having a bug out bag (never heard that term, totally okay, it’s a bag of items you have ready to go at a moments notice due to an emergency of some sort).
Then we went through the worst drought in recorded history here in the Pacific Northwest this past summer. Wild fires blazed all around us, literally. Smoke clogged the air and ash dropped from the sky like little flickers of snow.
Friends from all across the state were given evacuation notices. My husband was out of the country and I had to face the thought of what I would do if we were put on evacuation.
I realized I was not ready.
Thankfully, we did not have to evacuate and the good Lord sent the rain that ultimately put the fires out and allowed fire fighters to bring them into containment.
Putting together a bag of essentials to keep inside your home, and putting these 8 Items You Need in Your Car, became a real priority for me.
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Some of these items are cross overs from our 8 Items You Need in Your Car Part 1 in this series (so please jump over there for those first basics), but should be in whatever you leave home with, be it just the bag, or your car and bag.
1. Bag. Each member of the family should have a bag with clothing in it. Depending upon the time of year will determine if you need things like gloves and wool hats. I recommend swapping those out twice a year as the season’s change. This will be important for children as they’re likely be out growing their current size and you can swap out to what fits.
To get started, a regular backpack for your kids will do. In fact, any bag will do and is better than nothing. However, whoever the main person (usually mom or dad) is, will want a bag that’s meant to distribute the load evenly. Back packs with a waist or hip belt or frame work will be your best bet if you’re going to be on foot.
2. Shelter. A waterproof lined coat, space all weather blanket, and/or a wool blanket. You may even do a combination of all the above. A sleeping bag that is rated for cold weather would be great, but a wool blanket will do the same and even if it’s wet, wool still keeps you warm. My husband just invested in this sleeping bag on his week long back country trip, it only weighs 1.54 pounds and rolls up super small, making it a great option for packing.
3. Water. Packing around bottles of water is heavy and takes up a ton of space. You may choose to put one bottle of water in each bag, but I would include a Lifestraw (the Lifestraw water bottle would be ideal) or some water purification tablets.
4. Food. Have something non-perishable that is light and doesn’t require heating is preferred. Beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix or the like are all good options.
5. Important papers. Identification papers such as passports, certified birth certificates, marriage license, last will and testament, things that would be difficult to replace if you can’t get back to your home or your home is destroyed. You probably don’t want these papers sitting in a bag in your child’s room, but have them all together in one place. We keep ours in a fireproof safe and I know they need to be grabbed out in an emergency. You may want to put a few precious photos or the like in there as well.
6. Cell phone or radio. If you’re leaving in an emergency, you need a way to get updates and stay apprised of the situation. Make sure you take a charger for your cell phone for your car or this solar phone charger, light, and radio in one, that allows you to hand crank it or runs off of batteries.
7. Other important items. This is going to vary from person to person, but determine what other items you absolutely need to take with you. For me, it would be my Bible and my laptop. By deciding ahead of time what those items are, you’re more likely to remember to grab them. In fact, I suggest having a list you can quickly read over while you grab your bag.
8. First Aid and Medication. A small first aid kit (this one is ultra-light with a durable case) is a smart thing to have. If you or any of your family is on prescription medication, make sure you have some in your bag. Especially if it’s something like an epi-pen or insulin. My daughter has a blood-clotting disorder and making sure we have her medication with us can literally be life or death.
If you’re on prescription medication you can ask your doctor to write you an small quantity for your bag. If you explain it’s for emergencies, most providers will do it once. Or, if you have refills on your prescription your insurance will usually let you fill it about six days before you run out. This will provide you with a small buffer and allow you to put a week or so supply in your bag.
9. Fire Starter. Depending upon your fuel source, you’ll want to make sure you have not only a way to start a fire, but tinder as well. I take the lint from our dryer (which I rarely have any during half of the year because I am an outdoor clothesline junkie) and keep it in a small plastic bag. Pulled apart cotton balls work well, as well as dry moss or wood shavings. And, bawled up newspaper will work as well.
Strike anywhere matches in a waterproof container and a lighter will work. Two other products that work great, especially in bad weather is this Exotac Fire Striker, we bought it for our son’s birthday and I kind of adore things made in the USA. The other item is an emergency road flare. They burn in pretty much any weather and aren’t too heavy, I learned this trick from our hunter safety instructor who is an avid outdoors man.
Note: We’ll be having a full on fire starting, burning, fuel, etc post soon. I’m waiting for our burn ban to lift so I can video it for you.
10. Calm State of Mind. I know, seems kinda silly to put in a list, but truthfully, this is the most important thing in any situation. If you freak out and start to panic, you won’t think clearly and you’re going to make things way worse. Say a prayer, take a deep breath, and focus on the task at hand, not the what if’s.
This is where I’m always so grateful for memorized scripture. When I start to sink into a muddy pit of panic, Bible verses rise to the surface for me to grab onto.
11. Animal Plan. Now, I realize this isn’t something you can really tangibly pack into your bag, but if you have pets, what’s your plan? Can you take them with you? If it’s a dog, probably so. We happen to have three pigs, a small herd of cattle and chickens. Our cattle are not halter broke and in an emergency need to move quick, I am not going to be able to get them loaded into our small trailer.
If we have advance notice, I can move them. So know what you can to do and have steps to put that into action.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.