A bug-out bag or SHTF kit is key to get you through a disaster. Do you have yours put together? Here are the on-person and vehicle bug-out bag essentials.
As both a rural law enforcement special operations team leader, hunter and outdoor enthusiast, I spend a lot of time in our nation’s wildlands — usually a significant distance away from large crowds and support services found in urban population centers. For these more remote environments where our team does business, it’s a given that I carry a defensive pistol, various long guns and associated accessories given our mission at work. Like many Americans, I also need to be equipped to defend my family and myself from harm in more heavily populated urban environments while off duty, and I carry a concealed compact pistol for these reasons.
Unfortunately in today’s high-tech world where cyber, electrical, cellular and other essential communication systems can fail — making access to law enforcement, trauma care, banking, food and other essential survival services inaccessible — survival supplies above and beyond a firearm are be needed to ride out any storm.
Ready for this unfortunate contingency anytime and anywhere, I have carried my so called “bug-out bag” effectively for more than a decade now. This satchel — I carry a Maxpedition Remora Gearslinger — is one of the most compact packs of its type, and it sits against my right hip constantly when working plain-clothes covert operations and while off duty.
The piece of mind of having everything I need and easy reach at all times is priceless. And while I’ve fortunately never had to deploy my firearm and engage with it from my bag outside of training, the confidence and comfort of being ready and able to do so is reassuring.
Living in California’s Silicon Valley and maneuvering within the moderate to warm year-round temperatures there, carrying and concealing a defensive handgun and essential survival supplies can be challenging, especially when dressed in shorts and a T-shirt most of the time. Fortunately, the Remora is relatively small and light, given all the essentials I’m able to keep within. It’s also the type of bag that works well with casual wear, making it easy to blend into the crowd while discretely hiding in plain sight.
When starting my journey into the law enforcement special operations world 2 decades ago, a Special Forces friend and mentor once mentioned the phrase, “Two is one and one is none.” He was referring to the need to have built-in redundancy for success and carry two of everything essential in your kit needed for duty, battle and survival.
That mantra has stuck with me and my teammates for decades now, ensured mission success and survival many times over … and now it carries over into off-duty life to good effect. As a result, one will see several items duplicated in both my personal carry and vehicle bug-out bags lists in this article.
The Main Bug-Out Bag Essential: Glock 43
The essential items within my Remora Gearslinger starts with my firearm, a compact Glock Model 43 9mm pistol with Trijicon three-dot night sights and a permanently attached Stream light TLR-6 white light and laser combination. The TLR-6 is a featherweight addition to the lightweight G43, and with the laser zeroed at 7 yards and 100 lumens of white light for low-light applications, the compact package is set up for any life-threatening contingency — 24/7.
Coming from a law enforcement agency that’s run Glock Model 22 and 27 .40-caliber pistols since the start of my career in 1992, I favor them for on- and off-duty use. Their reliability and durability through years of training, several gunfights with armed drug cartel members, the adverse conditions we work in routinely (dust, dirt, mud, brush, saltwater, etc.) and their accuracy and lightweight has engendered a 3-decade trust in the Glock system.
While the Glock 43 is a very compact 9mm pistol, it handles and shoots like a much larger handgun. Accurate and fast with little recoil from full-power 9mm loads, the pistol allows quick and accurate follow-up shots.
For ammunition needs, I carry two magazines full of Winchester 147-grain T-series bonded hollow-points, a cartridge that performs well in both penetration and expansion through a multitude of barriers — even from the short-barreled and compact G43. With a two-round extension baseplate on my primary magazine in the pistol and a loaded secondary standard G43 magazine in the Gearslinger, I have a generous 15 rounds of ammunition in the bug-out bag system at all times, with room to add additional magazines as needed. The two-round magazine extender from Cage Industries also extends the pistol’s grip’s length an additional inch, making for a much more solid and comfortable purchase on the handgun for large-handed shooters like myself.
Carrying, deploying and engaging with the G43 from the Gearslinger pack is relatively fast after adequately training with the system. The key to deploying the pistol effectively is keeping the gun pouch within the pack clear of obstructions from the other essential items carried within the pack. The pack’s internal layout is well-thought-out, and with the careful placement of all of your survival items inside, accessing the well-concealed pistol is smooth and efficient.
Below is a list of all the items within my Gearslinger. Keep in mind this list is specific to my needs and serves as a template to build your own specific kit.
Maxpedition Remora Gearslinger Bug-Out Bag List (personal):
- Glock G43 9mm pistol with attached Streamlight TLR-6 light laser combination
- Two Glock 43 magazines (one with Cage Industries two-round baseplate extender), allowing 15 rounds of Winchester 147-grain T-series 9mm ammunition
- CAT tourniquet
- Israeli combat bandage
- One pair of nitryl gloves
- Emergency space blanket
- Power bar/trail mix
- Small notebook
- Writing pen
- $200 in $20 bills
- Two Band-Aids
- Soft earplugs
- Bright Strike AAA battery 100-lumen penlight
- Two extra lithium AAA batteries for Bright Strike penlight
- Two extra lithium CR-1/3N batteries for Streamlight TLR-6 light/laser system
- Swiss Army knife
- Glock tool
- Small Bic lighter (not pictured)
The ‘Iron Buggy’ Bug-Out Essentials
Along with your well-equipped everyday carry bug-out bag is the need for a larger, longer duration survival kit that stays in your vehicle for emergency needs. In the event of civil unrest, environmental disasters, economic collapse or any combination thereof, your vehicle is your Alamo. It serves as an escape vessel and mobile base camp that must be capable of facilitating you and your family’s survival for several days or longer.
For both my agency patrol and personal pick-up trucks, I’ve narrowed down essential carry items that take up relatively little space and can be maintained in most any size vehicle. Below is the list of bug-out survival items I carry in both trucks, in addition to a pack of comprehensive survival essentials. This list is again subjective to my needs and can be used as a guide template to build the ideal vehicle bug-out bag for your vehicle and needs.
Vehicle Bug-Out Bag List:
- 511 Rush 24 multi-cam daypack (other colors available as needed)
- Ozark 5-day insulated cooler (for perishables as needed)
- Energizer jump starter/air compressor/remote power supply combination
- Case of bottled water
- KUIU 30-degree super down sleeping bag
- Five Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)
- Roll of Duct tape
- Comprehensive trauma medicine/first aid kit
- Iridium Satellite phone
- Handheld Garmin GPS unit
- Leatherman MUTT multi-tool
- Two Bic pocket lighters
- Two Bic fireplace lighters
- Chainsaw blade wood-cutting tool and nylon case
- Goal Zero solar panel power supply
- Ultimate Survival Technologies deluxe survival kit
- SteriPEN ultraviolet water purifier and nylon case
- Two extra CR123 lithium batteries for SteriPEN
- Two Surefire LED 300-lumen LED flashlights
- Ten extra CR123 lithium batteries for flashlights
- Two Coast LED headlamps (not pictured)
- Six extra AAA lithium batteries for headlamps
A Lifestyle Adapted
While putting together comprehensive bug-out bags for both personal and vehicle carry is not an inexpensive endeavor, they are the best investments you can make for you and your family’s survival. Just the peace-of-mind of having both kits ready to go for immediate use should the worse-case scenario occur is worth the investment. Like we say on our tactical team, “Train and prepare for the worst but hope for the best.” And this mindset carries over well for your personal survival preparation.
Fortunately, I’ve never had to deploy my G43 from my Remora pack to protect and survive — and I hope that I never have to. But if that dark day comes, I’m prepared and confident to handle any survival challenge to save my life and the lives of others.