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I’ve been trying to put together the perfect bug-out bag for a long time now. I kept taking things out and replaced them with lighter, smaller alternatives. Some of them ended up back in, because I realised they were better and safer, and my family’s safety comes first. However, I’m still not over trying to shave off as much weight as possible, looking for ways to save space to fit in more crucial items, while keeping it light enough to carry around without breaking my back.
In time, I learned that there are certain techniques you can successfully use to save maximum space while keeping everything necessary.
#1: Fill every inch of space
Take boots for example. If you’ve got a pair of spare boots in your bug-out bag, fill them up with other items, whatever you can get in there. Roll underwear and socks tightly and shove them inside your shoes.
Better yet, you can use them to protect fragile objects. Roll the fragile item in a piece of cloth (that you can use further, such as a bandana or a shemagh). Put it in the boot, make sure it stays fixed and, eventually, if there’s more room, cover everything with a pair of rolled socks, just to make sure it’s fully protected.
#2: Use space bags
In case you don’t know what space bags are or how to use them, here’s a video that shows you every step of the way, as well as what you should and should’t pack in them:
These bags saved me a whole lot of space in our bug-out bags. And I do mean a WHOLE lot. But here’s the problem with them: once you open them, everything in there is going to get back to its regular size. Therefore you won’t be able to pack it back up when you don’t need those clothes anymore, because you’d need a vacuum to reseal the bags.
This is a downside that I’m not happy about, but I decided to use space bags anyway. It’s better to carry around some extra clothing when I’m not using it, then to suffer from cold or wear miserable clothes simply because I have no other change in my bug-out bag.
Now, it’s your choice whether you use space bags or not. I suggest you try them out and see if it’s convenient to you. You can’t really make the decision until you see just how much space you can save.
#3: Load up on freeze-dried foods
There’s a bunch of reasons why you should take (mostly) freeze-dried food with you when you bug-out. Here are the most crucial 3:
– It takes up little space and it’s extremely light-weight
Freeze-dried food loses 98% of its water, so it literally cannot get any lighter than that!
– It lasts up to 30 years
However, you have to take temperature into consideration. If you store it at high temperatures or subject it to brutal temperature changes, it will spoil sooner.
– It offers variety
This is my favourite thing about freeze-dried food: it’s diverse. I can pack the ones my family loves and offer them the meals they’re familiar with, even in stressful times of disaster. This is the kind of comfort that everyone needs when SHTF.
#4: Use multiple-use gear
And when I say multiple-use gear, I’m not referring strictly to those knife + fork + spoon + compass + whistle sort of tools. Those are great if they’re good quality. If they’re cheap, don’t bother to buy them. They won’t save space, just the contrary. They’re absolutely useless, so why carry useless things with you when you could fill that space with items that could actually save your life? My advice is to invest in a good multiple-use tool or not invest at all.
But besides these tools, there are plenty of other items with multiple purposes that can save a lot of space. For example:
– Bandanas or shemaghs (cover your head if it’s too sunny, prop a broken limb, protect your airways from wind and dust, stop the bleeding etc)
– 550 cord (you can make one of those 550 cord bracelets and wear it around your wrist, not in your bug-out bag)
– Potassium permanganate (water purification, wound sterilization, fire starter)
#5: Replace tents with tarps
Warning: I do NOT suggest this method during the cold season!
Replacing a tent with a tarp may be the most clever thing you can do to shave off weight off your bug-out bag. A tarp is a multiple-use item, it’s light-weight, resistant to wind and rain and it’s very easy to carry around.
You can spread it on the ground if it’s wet or muddy. You can make a perfectly secure shelter if you want to protect yourself from rain or sunlight. You can use it as a wind stopper. You can sit down on it to eat with your family. You can also wrap other items in it to prevent them from getting wet. You can make a stretcher so you carry injured people around. Or you can even wrap a tarp around a person, to maintain body heat.
However, replacing tents with tarps is not the best idea during cold season, as tarps do not offer full isolation. That’s why I only recommend tarps in spring and summer.
By Alec Deacon
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