Improvised Apocalypse Survival Part 3: Accessories make the Plan

The only question is when.

I’m really enjoying writing these ‘Apocalypse Survival’ posts, wakeriding, as I am, on the success of Max Brook’s “Zombie Survival Guide” and similar books. Brooks has pretty much put all his chips on ‘zombies’ being the form the future apocalypse takes — but what if it’s mutants, killer bees, rage virus, returning retilians overlords, ancient Mayan curses, flesh eating bacteria or bondage wear wastelanders a la Mad Max? Plans must be adjusted accordingly. Relying on a single source like Brooks for 100% of your post apocalypse planning needs will mean that unless he is right (and I’m not denying that he might be), using ‘Zombie Survival Guide’ as your only contingency plan might result in you fucking your future self!

I’ve already touched on “A good defense involves a strong offense” (weapons: part1) and “A good defense involves a good defense” (armor/fortifications: part 2).  I’m sure plenty more needs to be considered on both of those subjects; I’ve only scratched the surface.  Welcome to part 3, where I talk about your ‘bug out bag.’

Nods to Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One” (excellent book; I’ll give it 5 out of 5 severed heads!) for introducing me to the concept of the ‘Bug Out Bag.’  Whitehead’s protagonist, “Mark Spitz” (post apocalypse, everyone has a nick-name; his is “Mark Spitz” because he doesn’t know how to swim) describes the ‘bug-out bag’ as a small cache of supplies that every survivor stashes somewhere known only to him/herself.  If the shit goes bad and your camp is overrun and it’s every man-woman-child for themselves against the undead, you can snag your bug-out bag when you are heading for the hills — it should contain a few important things to help you survive the next couple of days because, more than likely, when the time comes to bug out, the enemy won’t give you a chance to pack your shit and you will be on your own.

So, what belongs in YOUR bug-out bag? Here’s what’s (hopefully) going in mine without making it too big or heavy — I may have to make some hard choices once I gather all these items and find out my pile is too big to fit in my knapsack:

1) Pry bar: You don’t wanna go crazy with the tools, since they are heavy and clanky and bulky, but I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a small pry bar. It can help you open doors, windows, manhole covers, etc.  Plus, in a pinch, you can bust a skull if you have to.

2) Knife: You didn’t see this one coming?  I’d probably include a lock-blade or sheath knife AND something like a multi-tool.  I would want something with a can-opener on it in case you manage to loot some canned food. There is nothing more depressing than the idea of finding the last can of baked beans left on earth and being too weak with hunger to get it open.

2) Flashlight: OK, so I’m stating the obvious. But make sure it’s in there and has batteries and you can thank me later. I’ve got TWO in my car.  Yeah, I’m that paranoid.

3) First Aid Kit: See flashlight, above. In some cases, like apocalypse via contagion, it might not be much help, but it will at least keep a cut or a sprain from slowing you down too much. And, who knows, maybe if you douse that bite wound in hydrogen peroxide soon enough, you’ll at least get a +2 on your save versus ghoulification.  Worth a try, isn’t it?

4) Water and food: Especially water. If survival means being able to keep moving, clean water is a must.  Something to eat that’s lightweight and small, like granola bars and beef jerky, could help keep you going. Water purification tablets might not be a bad idea. I’m also gonna pack a spoon.

5) Matches/lighter: Yeah, I know that in THEORY one can ‘make fire’ by rubbing sticks together, but when I’m tired, cold and still mourning the death of civilization, I won’t be in the mood to play cave man. Maybe after a few weeks I’ll be ready to go full-on boyscout, but until then I want my instant fire source.

6) Poncho: Keeping yourself dry goes a long way towards keeping yourself warm.  Some warm clothes wouldn’t be bad either, but let’s not go crazy. I’m thinking olive drab or camo pattern instead of safety orange in case the future involves roving bands of cannibals who think I look like food.

7) mini-packs of Kleenex: OK, not a necessity, strictly speaking, but I find nothing interferes with my continued feeling of well being as much as an itchy butt.  If I’m suddenly out in the wild or unexpectedly trekking across the devastation, eventually I am going to have to go number 2. And afterwards, I will want to wipe. Clear your mind and your ass will feel better; clean your ass and your mind will be able to concentrate on more important stuff. Probably wouldn’t mind some toothpaste, floss and a toothbrush, either.

8) Cash-stash: Probably not going to help once the rest of the world figures out that ‘shit and fan have met,’ but, in those early hours, some cash-on-hand might help you bribe your way past checkpoints, convince others to part with needed supplies or make room for just one more on a boat, etc.  Besides, a few dead presidents don’t take up a lot of room and can serve as back-up TP or tinder. Paranoids and Glenn Beckeroids talk about the importance of having gold on hand for emergencies, but unless you think your end of the world scenario involves leprechauns, I wouldn’t bother. I wonder if cramming a few bags of Hanukka gelt into your bag would be worth it? They might look enough like Krugerrands to allow you to ‘pidgeon drop’ some greedy fool out of his bottled water, and, if all else fails, everyone likes chocolate.

9) Bug dope: Time was, they used to make a bug repellant lotion that came in little squeeze bottles.  I bet they still do.  I want at least one of those because I hate mosquitos that much.

10) Map and compass. Post electronic pulse and/or after the aliens have swept satellites from the sky, GPS devices and google maps will be useless… better get used to ‘grandpa’s GPS’ and start raiding the glove compartments of abandoned Monte Carlos and Galaxy 500s during your trek, looking for old fashioned paper maps that will at least let you see where the roads lead.  Of course, you may need to revise your maps as you go along (perhaps replacing some cities with big black blots that mean “crater of radioactive slag”), but that’s half the fun of the brave new world!

11) Gat: I’ve been debating the utility of a small handgun; maybe one of those cheap .380 semi-autos or similar that you could pack in a small dry-bag with a few magazines and a box of ammo vs a 9mm or similar.  This would be a spare weapon that live in the bug-out-bag, so, should I lose everything else, I would still have at least one sidearm.  Also very tempting is the Henry AR7 rifle — a collapsible 22lr rifle that disassembles and packs inside the waterproof plastic stock that doubles as a case for a total weight of 3.5 lbs unloaded. 

12) Rubber gloves, filter mask, hand sanitizer, soap, goggles, etc.: You can’t plan for every contingency, but even if our end time scenario is not a plague, once the world goes to shit and there are bodies in the streets, avoiding infection might not be a bad idea.  Goggles might be overkill — but eye protection of some kind plus a mask might not be amiss if you are dealing with enemies that explode like handgrenades of infected pus once you kill them (and I think a future of ‘exploding pus zombies’ are a distinct possibility).  Gotta keep contagion out of your own eyes, nose and mouth!

13) Transistor radio: Do they even make these any more? Once the grid goes down, cell phones are going to be useless.  If you have a car, you probably will have a radio, but when circumstances force you to hoof it, an old fashioned pocket radio with which you can (hopefully) pick up emergency broadcasts might not be a bad thing to have. Make sure it has an earphone jack and earphone; you don’t want to advertise your location to the infected when you are listening to those emergency broadcasts.

14) Walkie-talkies: How many movies have you seen where someone is in trouble and his/her companions remain blissfully unaware? $14.95 spent at K-Mart and a couple batteries solve this problem. Just remember to switch it off at the right moment so your homies don’t call you “just to say hello” while you are trying to sneak past that wandering monster.

15) Extra batteries. Why isn’t this #1?

16) Duct tape: Emergency repairs and bandages! 

17) Rope: You can always use a small coil of nylon rope.

I suppose there are more things that COULD go in there — fishing line and hooks might not be a bad idea (although, at the rate at which we are killing the oceans, there may be no fish in our future) and a small metal pot to boil water or eat out of, but I think you get the general idea.

What’s going into YOUR bug-out bag?

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