Saturday, February 4, 2012

The “Boogie Bag” . . . . . for when it’s time to leave!

(My apologies in advance, an impossibly long post – but there simply were no options to make it shorter.)

An earlier post dealt with the initial moments – essentially the first 3 hours – of a survival event. When something unexpected happens, these first few hours will determine whether you have a future or not – they are life critical.

The typical “72-hour” bags are meant to get you through the next 3 days. However, as I have explained, as long as you are not going to die of exposure, it takes little to survive 72 hours other that a personal commitment that you will live to see another day. These systems are mostly meant to “get you home” – where safety and security can be found.

So let’s take it to the next level – the “Boggie” level. You are cut off from home, you are flushed out of your home by either a natural disaster or the “rule of law” has evaporated and your home is no longer safe. Perhaps you are on an extended trip and you can not physically reach home, you need to pick up from where you currently are and survive. The duration for this type of event could be from a week to months. What do you take, how do you prepare, where do you start.

Well, you start here and now – you have all the time you need. The easiest way to approach this is to view it as an extended wilderness trip. If I head out for a week or two, there are certain “basics” that I need in my system to make sure I survive comfortably. While I have no problem with the rigors of the wilderness, and I have taken short weekend trips with minimalist equipment just to flush out the kinks in some of my thinking, it is never my intent to be uncomfortable during one of these excursions. I intend on being warm, dry and comfortable whether it’s 20 below, 100 above, snow or rain. The only thing that determines the length of time on a trip is the “trip plan” and the amount of food I have brought or can scavenge. The gear I take to make this possible can easily be used for a “72-hour” bag as well, just with less food. Then, should the situation deteriorate, your window can be extended by simply adding food. So, let’s look at what goes into my “Boogie Bag”.

Over the past 30 years or so I have refined my “GearList”. I am currently on version 4 due to this particular post. I have added hyper-links to Amazon to specific
DSCN0500products that are either exactly what I have or are so similar that there is no practical difference. I use everything on the list on one trip or another. You will note two separate lists – a Standard Backpack and a Lightweight List. They are exactly that – the Standard is my typical load-out. The Lightweight is me playing with the edges of comfort vs. weight.

First, some rules of thumb. Your “base weight” – the weight of your pack (including the pack itself) should be between 25-30 pounds. Remember, you are going to carry everything you need with you so high quality, lightweight equipment is essential.

Water weights 2 pounds per Nalgene, you’ll want to carry 3. Food typically costs you 2 pounds per day per day. Finally, clothing. These items will drive up your weight quickly.

Another “typical” guideline is that your final pack weight should be about 25% of your body weight. This will never happen. Shoot for something under 60 pounds, that is much more realistic and will help you to realize just what your true situation is should you ever truly need to grab your “boogie bag” and hit the road.
Let me talk about the different sections in my GearList first, and then I’ll delve into the specifics of each section.


This can generally be considered what you need to make a “home” – a tent, sleeping bag, mattress, a tarp, saw, walking sticks, etc.

Personal Hygiene

Keeping clean in the wilderness is much more important than during your typical day. Small injuries can become seriously infected. A simple cut can take you out of the ball game completely. Keep clean, take it serious.

Repair Kit

These are simple items that can be used to repair gear.

Camp Bag

These are items that are needed around your camp – ropes, fire starting tools, stakes, etc.

What ever you need to cook, flavor and eat a meal.

Navigation / Signaling / Communications

Equipment to get you where you are going, tell you where you are, communicate with the rest of your party or, in the event of the world actually coming to an end, the ability to communicate with others outside of your immediate area.

Knife / Tools

They are simply a required basic of any trip. These two particular items are part of my EDC system.


Clothing should be build for wilderness travel; quick dry pants, wicking shirts – undershirts – and underwear. I would encourage you to stay away from cotton.

Dry Clothing

A dry clothing bag is always kept in reserve; never touch or used unless you have encountered an event where all other clothing is unusable.

Trip Clothing

The clothing you actually wear. Two sets – a travel set that is worn to travel then washed and hung to dry overnight. And a camp set that is worn after camp is setup and you are ready to wind down for the day.

Food Kit

I have provided links to various kinds of foods that I typically use for wilderness trips. I have little patience for the energy bar approach that many 72-hour bags use. With a little forethought, you can easily put good tasting food in your bag. Remember to double portions because of the energy you’re burning in your travels. And don’t forget comfort food – candy and snacks.

Normal Survival Kit

This is the kit my students build during their wilderness survival course. I use a square aluminum tin to store it that can double as a cooking pot. The kit should be self explanatory, I don’t plan on spending time on it in this post.

Pocket Survival Kit

This is a pocket kit my students also build and fit in an Altoids can. Again, it should be self explanatory and I’m not going to spend much time on it either.

So let’s delve into each section in more detail.


This area’s main purpose is to provide you some place dry, comfortable and it give you the ability to get out of the weather if need be. My components consist of a tent, tarp and sleep system with a sleeping bag and Thermarest mattress.

I’ve given you 3 tents I use. One is a Kelty single-person tent. This thing is sP5314026imply b omb proof. I have stayed warm and dry through the worst the rains of the Rockies could throw at me and woke up smiling. It’s advantage is size and weight. But, it is a single-person tent.

The MSR “Missing Link” (now with some new spiffy name I have already forgotten”) is a “single-wall” tent, meaning that there is no rain fly, it has only a single waterproof wall. The advantage here is less weight and more space (this is a 2-person tent albeit a bit tight) but it also keeps water in so the DSCN0037moisture you exhale throughout  the night accumulates on the inside of the tent. Keep the vents open as much as you can and set it up early so it can try again before you climb in for the night.

Finally, the Eureka 4-person “A” frame, this is one of the best tents ever built. If it’s at all possible, this is the tent I will take. The down side – weight, as simple as that. Plus side – ROOM. It’s is fairly P5314027easy to distribute the weight into two bundles, one for you and one for your hiking partner.

As for sleeping systems, I always start with  a summer bag and build from there. By adding a fleece liner/blanket you can add another 10 degrees. And by adding a down comforter can reach 0F easily. Below that takes a bit more special attention. With this system while winter camping, I usually forgo the tent and opt just for a tarp to keep new snow off, or find a nice pine to sleep under.

I believe a tarp is a must, during a long rainy period it’s impossible to just stay in IMG_0074your tent. A tarp gives you flexibility to sit, read, cook – to just enjoy the day, even if it’s rain filled.

I wouldn’t travel without walking sticks anymore. One, they become the tent polls for my MSR shelter. Or they can be the polls to set up the tarp. And, they can keep you from taking a header while on the trail.


I have provided links to everything from a Fuel Tab stove to a MSR Whisperlite International. Lots of choices – that depend on the P4130907length of the trip and availability  of fuel. My preference is the MSR stove. And the International version allows you to burn standard gasoline as well. A Large and Small fuel bottle will easily get you through a week of meals. I always pour from the large to the small bottle and use that on the stove.

There are tons of kitchen kits – I have linked to those similar to mine. Remember, every ounce IMG_0068 counts. I also have the coffee pot double as a carrier for the stove just to help protect it. And, use the wind screen for the stove, it radically cuts the amount of fuel needed to cook a meal. 

Navigation / Signaling / Communications

A good compass and a solid knowledge of how to use it is one of the most important basic skills everyone should know. The one linked to is the one I put around my neck when I head out. It never comes off, even at night. If I make a potty stop in the middle of the night and get turned around, I’m not going to be able to go back to my tent and pick it up to find out which way I’m headed – it’s already too late.

I love the Garmin GPS. This is the current version of the one I use. It can hold every map Garmin Mapquest offers – you simply need to buy this and throw it in your bag.

The Motorola radios are similar to the 10 year old ones I currently have. These can be indispensable in keeping a group together. However, their ranges are vastly inflated. You can dependably expect a couple miles, anything more is just gravy.

The Yeasu 857 and the BuddiPole is your “holy crap – it really hit the fan” cft857_lgcommunications system. I have the desktop version of this radio and it is very reliable. And I love the antenna system. It runs off 12 volts, so you candipole use a car battery to power it. It also has a low-power setting to extend battery life. This system will require you to acquire a new skill set and become a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (Ham). But, I believe it’s worth your time.

Just a couple cautions about communications in general. Everyone can listen in – be careful what you say. If you are in a survival situation, don’t reveal your location, don’t say how many are in your party, don’t reveal your defensive capabilities or how much food you have or what kind of shelter you have. Limit the length of your conversations to less than 30 seconds if possible – it’s not hard to triangulate your position. Just remember – every bad guy that’s out there is listening.

Knife / Tools

The Kershaw and the Juice are part of my EDC. Buy them; put them in your pocket tomorrow! Nuff said.


Going home clothes: If you are out on a practice run or an actual practice trek – throw a complete set of clean clothes in the car, put your stinky, smelly clothes in the trunk and enjoy the drive home.
For travel there are three sets of clothes.

Your “Dry Bag” – these are clothes you have put in a 2-gallon ziplock that you NEVER TOUCH. These are your emergency clothes – you rolled you canoe and everything’s wet – I just came through the rainstorm from hell and everything’s wet – I just fell through the ice and everything’s wet – clothes. Don’t touch’em.

Your travel clothes are those you wear throughout the day. They should be quick dry, wicking and NOT COTTON!!! Lot’s of good options out there. At the end of the day, shuck them, hang them to “air wash” (or if you are near plentiful water – wash them and hang them to dry) and change into your camp clothes. These you will only wear around camp – at night strip them off and sleep in your undies. Then, in the morning, pack these (again in a 2-gallon ziplock just in case) and put your trail clothes back on.

Finally – The Food

Plan a menu, put each day (all three meals) in a 2-gallon ziplock and load up 7 days food in your pack. Each ziplock will weigh around 2 pounds so 7 days is 14 pounds. Another option is to have a separate food pack that attached to your backpack or you can carry on your front. These can be easily hung at night to keep them away from animals. Plan for 2 weeks. You already have a good solid “home” on your back. All you will need to do is resupply food and replace clothing going forward should things remain in the crapper for more than 2 weeks.

You should use your food as well. Either use in on practice treks (otherwise known as vacations) or eat it at home and rotate in new food.

Final thoughts

You have all the time you need today to put a system together – start. You need practice at using it. Just as you go to the range to hone your weapon skills, you need to go to the wilderness to hone your survival skills – plan a trip. Start with an overnight, then a weekend, then a “long weekend’, then a week and finally, take a 2-week trek to really wring things out. Make notes, learn, adjust – you have all the time in the world today.


Reader Steph
en pointed out that weapons needed to be part of the package as well.  Something about the word “ASSUME” comes to mind, my mistake  . . . . .

My load-out would consist of my Glock 17 and all the magazines I have fully topped off (I believe I’m up to a dozen right now).  My holster of choice is a strong side Blackhawk Serpa.  However, a thigh rig would probably work better with a pack that has a large waist belt.  A couple hundred extra rounds would also find their way in the pack keeping in mind they are close to a pound a brick.  Added to this would be my LC9 as a Back Up Gun, concealed a bit deeper than the Glock.

I would never leave home without one of my trusty Ruger .22/45s.  They are small, accurate and can shoot .22 ammo all day long.  I am currently fond of the new CCI Tactical .22 round, they seem to jam less frequently than “standard” .22 ammo.  500+ rounds could easily be carried without much of a weight penalty. 

As for a long gun, I currently have a Panther Arms .308.  Downside – weight, weight, weight . . .  Plus side – a lot of fire power.  Sometime this spring I will be adding an AR in .223 – that would probably replace the .308.  Of course, depending on how the whole boogie process played out, I would take as many of my weapons as I could.

My gear list as a starting point . . . 

Unit  Std. Wt. Wt. Light Wt. Wt.
Camp Wt. Pack (oz.) (lbs.) Pack (oz.) (lbs.)
12x16 Sil Nylon Tarp 19.00
32 Oz. Nalgene Bottle w/"D" ring and Duct Tape 5.50 2 11 2 11
8x10 Silnylon Tarp by Integral Design 13.50 1 13.5 1 13.5
LED Headlamp w/Batteries 4.00 1 4 1 4
Eureka 4-Man Tent 96 0 0
First Aid Kit 19.00 1 19 1 19
Saw, Gerber  3.50 1 3.5 1 3.5
Saw, Bow 17.00
Kelty Single Man Tent 52.00 1 52 0
MSR "Missing Link" Shelter 48.00 0 0
MSR "Missing Link" Shelter Ground Cloth 14.00 0 0
Sleeping Bag, Summer  48.00 1 48 1 48
Sleeping Bag, Fleece 20.00
Survival Blanket (Ground Cloth) 12.00 1 12 1 12
Walking Sticks / Tarp Poles 53.00 0 0
Therma-Rest Mattress, Full 28.00 1 28 1 28
191 11.9375 139 8.6875
Personal Hygene
Chapstick 0.50 1 0.5 1 0.5
Roll Toilet Paper 4.00 1 4 1 4
Small Pack Towel 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
Toothbrush & Holder 1.00 1 1 1 1
Travel Toothpaste 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
Razor 1.00 1 1 1 1
9.5 0.59375 9.5 0.59375
Repair Kit
1/2" Copper Tube Splices 0.50 0 0 0
2-Garbage Bags 3.50 1 3.5 1 3.5
4-Sheets Tin Foil 2.00 1 2 2 4
AA Batteries 0.90 2 1.8 0
AAA Batteries 0.50 0 0
Kit Bag 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
Pack Twisty Ties 0.50 1 0.5 0
Playing Cards 3.00 1 3 0
Spool of Wire 3.00 1 3 1 3
15.3 0.95625 12 0.75
Camp Bag
"D" Ring (150 lb. Load limit) 1.25 5 6.25 2 2.5
1.5 Oz. Bottle of Alcohol 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
1.5 Oz. Bottle of Dish Washing Liquid 1.75 1 1.75 1 1.75
1.5 Oz. Bottle of Fire Starter Gel 1.25 1 1.25 1 1.25
12' Tie-Down Rope (Light Weight) 0.60 6 3.6 6 3.6
24' Rope (Light Weight) 1.50 2 3 2 3
60' Heavy-Duty Nylon String 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
Camp Bag 4.50 1 4.5 1 4.5
Container of Firestarter Tabs 1.00 1 1 1 1
Firestarter Kit 3.00 1 3 1 3
-12 Storm Matches 0
-12 Strike-Anywhgere Matches 0
-Butane Lighter 0
-Firestarter Tabs 0
Golf Ball w/Hole 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
Pen 0.50 1 0.5 1 0.5
Pencil 0.50 1 0.5 1 0.5
Small Notebook 1.50 1 1.5 1 1.5
Titanium Tent Stake w/Ring 0.70 10 7 6 4.2
Waterproof Match Carrier w/ Matches 1.00 1 1 1 1
39.35 2.459375 32.8 2.05
10 Fuel Tabs 5 0 0
Bottel Denatured Alcohol 10 0 1 10
Alcolol Stove w/wind screen 0.5 0 1 0.5
Coffee Pot 11.50 1 11.5 0
Cutting Board 3.00 1 3 0
Fuel Bottle w/Fuel 26.00 1 26 0
Fuel Bottle - 11 OZ
Fuel Tab Stove 0.5 0 0
Mess Kit (pans, cup, bowl) 0.50 1 0.5 0
Lexan Spork 0.50 1 0.5 1 0.5
Sharpie Marker 0.75 1 0.75 0
MSR Cooking Kit 1.00 1 1 0
Silicone Pot Holder 2.00 1 2 0
Dobie Scrubbing Pad 7.00 1 7 1 7
Camp Suds
Spice Kit 6.00 1 6 0
MSR Water Filter
Heat Reflector and Wind Screen
Whisperlite Stove 18.00 1 18 0
76.25 4.765625 18 1.125
Gregory Backpack 6,000 cu in 96 1 96 6 1 96 6
Base Pack Weight 26.7125 19.20625
Navigation / Signaling
Garmin GPSMap 60CSx
Casio Pathfinder PAW2000T Watch
Survival Whistle
Knife / Tools
Kershaw Skyline 1760 Knife
Leatherman Juice CS4
Going Home
Pants/Shorts 1
Shoes 1
Socks 1
T-Shirt 1
Underwear 1
Trip Clothing
Dry Clothing
Pants/Shorts 1
Socks 1
T-Shirt 1
Underwear 1
Daily Clothing
1 Gallon Zip Lock Bags 10
Bandana 1
Boots/Shoes 1
Camp shoes/sandals 1
Fanny Pack 1
Fishing Gear 1
Boonie Hat 1
Long Johns 1
Pants/Shorts 2
Rain Gear - Jacket and pants 1
Smartwool Socks 2
Polypropolene Socks 2
Stocking Cap 1
Stuff Sacks 2
Swim Suit
T-Shirt 2
Underwear 2

Notes:  Updated with Photos and Weapons   2/5/2012


  1. This is an excellent instructional, Bill--there's a lot of this I didn't even think about. Definitely making sure my friend reads this.