(I call it an "Adventure Bag" because people take the word "Apocalypse" far too seriously :)
For those whose still dont know what I'm talking about it's also called a "go bag", "bug out bag" or a "disaster bag", think of it as an emergency kit designed to be grabbed if you ever have to leave the house in a hurry.
I like to use the Zombie
Anyway... I hope I never need mine, but I live in a part of the country known for the occasional flood, fire and power failure, and I dont care where you live if the house next to yours catches fire and you have to spend a night or two at a hotel or friends place, a go bag is a great comfort.
Before I start I want to point out there there are multiple websites out there covering making a full on "survival kit" and some of the stuff can be hard to come by in Australia (try buying real military MREs in this country) - so I'm focussing on more general stuff - nearly everything I list in my bag can be found by shopping at a supermarket, a large hardware store, or (if you want to keep the costs down even further) a discount store (Crazy Clarks, The Reject Shop, whatever).
My own bag has cost me very little because I did not buy everything for it all at once. I made the list and then purchased things when I saw them discounted or on special.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the list below looks HUGE but it's not, most of the things are quite small and the bag is still quite light.
So here is the list of the items I put into my Zombie Adventure Bag!
- The Bag
Back to school specials are great for getting these, mine was originally $50 discounted to $15. Make sure it has strong seams and easy moving zips, it will need to take a bit of weight. Also side and front pockets are a plus for the smaller items.
Get some of those key ring metal rings or some little carabina spring link camping clips to put onto the zip tabs, that will help you hang things off the bag if needed.
- Clothes (enough for 3 days)
Basically this means underwear, t-shirts, and socks. 3 lots of each. They dont have to be new so just go through the stuff you dont wear any more. Avoid anything with holes or thats about to fall apart. With the t-shirts, it's also worth getting slightly larger ones - they can fit more people and lose clothing is more comfortable to sleep in.
Best to pack clothes in zip lock bags. Fold them neatly and push all the air out before you seal the zip.
In a cold climate clothes should also include something warm like a track suit top and bottoms but I live in Oz and while it rains a lot the weather is pretty temperate most of the time.
- Work Gloves
Hardware store or gardening section of supermarket. Make sure these fit, it's tempting just to buy the first cheap set you see but ill fitting work gloves cause all kinds of trouble - You'll use these if you even have to move something dirty or with sharp edges (like changing a tire, carrying boxes, sorting through debris, etc) - Also good for handling hot things so avoid or rubber or plastic.
- Wet wipes
Any supermarket or petrol station. Just plain handy to have when you want to make yourself semi presentable or clean yourself up after eating, small bag will do fine. Remember the bag is for emergency use not a long term thing.
- Hand Sanitiser
You can get this almost anywhere, you only want a small pocket size bottle of the stuff. In any emergency you're going to be bussled together with other people and being able to sterilise your hands before you eat or attempt to treat any cuts or injuries just makes good sense.
- First Aid Kit
Hardware stores, super markets, petrol stations, camping stores. I have a St John's "Patch n go" kit ($20), it's the only thing I paid full normal price for because you cant afford to skimp on this - its good for minor injuries, cuts, sprains, CPR etc. It also came with a thermal blanket (see below) the uses of a first aid kit should be obvious but unless you really know what you're doing buy one pre-made.
- Latex Gloves
You'll normally find a pair of these in your first aid kit if it's any good, I like to pack a few extra. Available in small packs from chemists but cheaper at supermarkets in cleaning section. Lots of uses from actually protecting your hands, to using them to tie something up, to blowing them up to use as balloons to distract crying children.
Hardware Store. Avoid "clothes line" and dont get cotton, get a good 10 to 15 m of strong (5mm to 8mm) polypropylene rope if you can. Cotten rope takes up water and wet rope is heavy and will shred your hands (also impossible to undo wet knots). Remember not too thin (may as well be string) and not too thick or you have too much to carry.
You may also or alternatively carry a tension strap - this is a strap of nylon material with a clip on one end - great for securing things to trailers (and making splints). Get one with a lashing strength of about 100 kgs.
If you dont get rope make sure you have a decent Cord.
- Cord or String
Super useful, if you have a good rope you may choose to get normal string and leave it at that, I prefer to get a decent utility cord 2 to 3mm thick and about 10 to 20 meters long. I like that thickness cord because it will work quite nicely as shoe or boot lace if needed - normal household string will not.
Being a geek I have a lot of "multi-tools" they are basically a folding pair of pliers with pocket knife attachements. You can get decent quality ones from hardware stores or camping stores for about $10 to $20 (cheaper if you wait for sales). Make sure yours has a knife blade, philips head and flat head screwdriver and is a needle nose pliers.
You can actually spend a lot on one of these ($150 and up if you want) and if you going to use it often I'd say to go the extra yard, but in reality you will probably only need to use it a few times so a cheaper $20 one will suit your needs.
You may also consider a knife here (many people think of it as a tool) but while a big knife sounds good in theory it can also cause problems. Most events forcing someone out of their home will involve emergency service staff or police who may not respond well to you having a 12 inch hunting blade sticking out of your bag. Unless you're planning to butcher something larger than a rabbit a 3 to 4 inch pocketknife blade will be all you need.
Hardware store, super market, gadget shop. I actually pack two in my bag, a battery powered 9 LED torch (super bright and very useful) and a windup torch/radio/phone charger I bought off eBay. The battery torch was $5 (I include spare batteries just in case) and wind ups range from about $1.50 for a supper cheap key ring one (dont bother) to between $5 to $50 dollars for a higher quality one (depending on size and features like solar panels, a radio, water resistance, phone charger etc).
If you get one as a charger make sure you have the right cables packed with it. The output will need to be almost 5v to charge an iPhone or other high end smart phone (and while it can be done you will get tired doing it) so check before you buy if thats what you're going to use it for.
- Duct Tape
Available at the hardware store, supermarket, and discount store. There is almost nothing you cant fix with Duct tape. Rips in clothing, broken shoes, even broken windows (with a little extra plastic).
Make sure it has high adhesive. Make sure it is water proof/resistant. Make sure it is a "cloth tape". Keep it in a zip lock bag to stop it sticking to everything. You'll want at least 10 meters if you cant find a roll that size (or it takes up too much room) then cut a 15 cm (5 - 6 inches) section of cardboard and transfer the tape from the roll to the cardboard. If you are neat you'll find this every bit as useful as the original roll, but much easier to pack.
- Plastic Sheet or Tarp
I got lucky here as we had a new couch delivered and the cushions came in HUGE heavy duty plastic bags. I just lay them flat and rolled them up. If you dont have that kind of luck then plastic drop sheets from the hardware store should be considered.
Make sure the plastic is clear, that way you can use to fix broken windows in a car etc. This can be useful for wrapping things up, with a bit of the cord from your kit you can make an emergency tent, folded double it can be used as a ground sheet to stop you from getting wet if you have to sleep on the ground, etc.
- Thermo Blanket
You'll recognise these, they are the silver foil blankets that paramedics use when people are going into shock. They cost about $5 at camping stores (I got mine in my first aid kit mentioned above).
Keep in mind they will keep in 70% of the heat generated by a human body so they can be surprisingly warm even when it's freezing cold. However they keep in 100% of the moisture. Sleep under one and you WILL wake up soaking wet. It's not just sweat, you're body "breathes" out moisture all the time and these blankets will catch it so be aware - emergency use only.
- Survival Book
You're local book store will have several, your local book discount store will probably have some in from time to time at a much lower price. Make sure it has a good first aid section, covering cuts, sprains, broken bones, burns, insect/snake bites and shock. Other topics like shelter, camp craft, navigation, etc are your next priority - the sections on what plants to eat, hunting trapping etc are less important for the 3 days the kit is meant to cover. Take the time to confirm that it's information is relevant to your hemisphere (US survival books dont always offer the best advice for Australian conditions and visa versa).
I have a copy of the "SAS Survival Guide" (Collins Gem pocket version). It retails for a little over $10 but again discount sales are great and I got mine for $4. It's first aid is great, It's shelter and navigation sections are also well written and easy to understand. It's a tiny book and as useful for something to read as it is as essential reference.
The last bit of advice I would give regarding the book is to read it NOW before you pack it away - you dont have to take notes and become an expert but give it a solid once over, that way when something happens, you'll think "Oh, I remember the book has something about that..."
Note: If you need glasses to read then it's also worth while picking up a bookmark magnifier to make sure you'll be able to read it if your glasses are lost, broken or left behind in the rush.
- Deck of cards
Sounds silly but in any disaster it's easy to get bored. Power gone out? Stuck in an evac shelter waiting for flood waters to go down? Stuck in a car because the road has been closed by bush fire? a deck of cards can be used to entertain 1 or 4 people equally. Waiting can be more painful than any minor injury and in fact reducing the anxiety of a person will reduce the amount of pain they feel from any actual injury they may have.
In a shared evacuation shelter you can even trade them for other items.
Take the time to learn to learn at least one type of solitaire and two or three group games, snap gets boring real quick and teaching each other how to play a card game is a great and engaging diversion.
- Pen/Pencil and Paper
A simple note book and some thing to write with, I prefer a small multi-color pen because you get 4 lots of ink in something really small - in addition I also pack a Sharpie or other waterproof marker.
Keep this in one of the pockets o the bag you can get to easily as it's important to be able to jot down things like emergency numbers, names of people giving you instructions etc. if you are being evacuated or leaving because of a house fire or disaster, it's also a good idea to keep a journal of events and times.
- Glow sticks
Most survival kits recommend flares, but that is rather dated technology now as they have nearly all been replaced with Glow sticks good for about 30 minutes (they still call them flares though). You have 3 options here, you can buy them from a camping store, automotive shop, or you can buy cheap party glow sticks from a discount store (or the party section at the supermarket).
Even if you buy the full-on road flares I would recommend getting some of the cheap party sticks as well, they dont burn as bright but tend to last a bit longer, come in different colours (handy if you have multiple member in your group), and have little straps to hang them around peoples necks or wrists. Expect to pay between $0.50 to $2 for cheap glow sticks and about $2 to $5 for road flares unless you buy them in bulk.
Dont bother packing too many, half a dozen should be plenty in each bag.
- Face masks
Easy to get at a chemist or supermarket. Face masks are a recent addition to kits like this and more to do with recent bird flu and other epidemic scares than anything else, however they still make good sense. During and after a bush fire there are large amounts of ash in the air, and during and after a flood you can find all manner of unpleasant things that have rotted. There are wide range of things you might not want to be breathing even if it's just because you are stuck on trasport and done want to share you cough with others.
Available from a chemist or supermarket, you can get some specialised stuff from camping stores if you prefer. Another alternative is to wait until you have to travel, many hotels offer complimentary toiletreis and unlike the mini bar they dont charge for them. If you do buy them the recent paranoia about air travel security is on your side because now everyone stocks mini bottles below the 150ml limit set by airline security.
Here is the list of things to consider:
- Toothpaste - small tube no bigger than 50ml
- Tooth brush - get one that suites you, soft or hard bristles as you prefer
- Tissues - several small packets
- Soap - the cheap sort that does not make too many bubbles because it needs less water to rinse off
- Toilet paper - dont pack a whole role, cut a square of cardboard about the same width as the roll and transfer on enough for 6 visits then seal in a zip lock bag.
- Shampoo/conditioner - as mentioned just get a set of small travel bottles from the shop or "borrow" them from a hotel.
- Hair band - if you have long hair remember to take a few hair elastics even if you dont normally wear them.
- Comb - quality counts, cheap combs are often sharp and can cut/irritate the scalp so get a good one.
- Nail file - metal if you must, but multiple little cardboard ones are easier and more useful.
- Flannel or hand towel - doesn't need to be big but very useful for keeping clean.
- Anything else - you know your own needs better than anyone else, look over the items you use over the course of a month and include anything you dont consider optional.
Glass, not plastic. You can get these from a chemist, supermarket or discount store, basically all you need to look for is a small makeup mirror. You do want to make sure it has a nice case that will afford it some protection. The reason I say glass is that plastic and metal mirrors do not reflect light as cleanly or clearly.
Most survival kits will point out that a mirror is useful as a tool for signalling but it also lets you see under things and around corners, and of course it's most obvious use is that it lets you see yourself.
Where I mention food down below I suggest food that does not need cutlery, but that isn't going to be the only food you're going to have access to. Having one or two small sets of plastic cutlery in your kit is just very useful if you and they take up next to no space.
This is another of the optional items I find them useful, in past situations it's been handy to not have to share cutlery, in addition a knife, fork, and spoon you use and throw away can be useful for purposes than eating.
- Sewing Kit
Again I think this one is obvious, a missing button be very annoying, as can a hole in your rucksack... You can get small sewing kits at any supermarket, or if you're very cheap again you might find one in the next hotel you stay in. If you want to make your own it's almost as simple, 3 or 4 needles (larger the better) about 5 meters of strong cotton, a few buttons and hand full of safety pins (may already have some in your first aid kit).
Keep your eyes open and you'll see these things for about $2 each at supermarkets, sporting events, and camping stores. A one size fits all emergency Poncho about the size of a wallet. This is perfect because unlike an umbrella it will genuinely keep you dray and can even be used to cover the pack on your back as well.
- A phone (yes you heard me)
You're going to think me crazy but I actually have a landline handset in my kit. When traveling around it is amazing how often you will see a phone socket without a phone in it. My phone was bought at a toy store - it's a tiny thing (not much bigger than a match box) that came with a mini PDA (I threw that away), I got it in a clearance sale for about $5 and it works as a normal landline. Discount stores often stock super cheap handsets and if you have the space it can be useful in an emergency.
This is one of the optional items for the bag, I found one that doesn't take up space so for me it was an easy choice.
- USB Key/docs
Assuming that your kit is intended to cover those events that may drag you from your house a cheap USB key with some scans of important documents on it is a great idea - all you will need is access to a computer and you can pull up your birth certificate, drivers license, etc. Just be careful that this little identity theft kit is secure and does not fall into the wrong hands.
I use an app called TrueCrypt that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux - TrueCrypt creates an encrypted file that mounts like a harddrive. You can not only store the file but versions of the program to suit each operating system all on the one USB stick.
This is an interesting topic. It is possible to buy MRE's (military meals ready to eat) but they are hard to get in Australia and never very cheap. The thing people often try is camping food but I recommend against this because it is nearly always dehydrated and needs water and cooking/preparation.
You want to go for about 1500 calories per day. This is a little low but well above the 1200 minimum that most dieticians recommend. 2000 is closer to a comfortable calorie intake, but remember EMERGENCY, this is only to cover you for 3 days, just enough time to find better resources for longer term survival.
My best advice is to go to a health food store (or health section in a supermarket) and look at the "high protein low carb" food bars. Get the bigger ones with the higher calorie count (remember you are not trying to lose weight), also make sure they are wrapped in mylar (the silvery/foil plastic). Ok, so they dont taste great, but again we are talking emergency conditions here. These are a good ration option for a number of reasons
- They are ready to eat.
- Once opened you dont have to eat it all, the left overs will wait and not go off quickly.
- They are already parcelled into small meal sized chunks.
- They dont require water (but you will get thirsty eating one so have water handy).
- The "high protein - low carb" combo actually makes them likely to surpass an appetite rather than stimulate one like anything with sugar or hollow carbs will do.
- They give slow release of energy so no quick sugar highs followed by the inevitable crash (and no hyper kids).
- They tend to have a long shelf life (always check before buying as you dont know how long they have been in the store).
- 1 for breakfast, 1 for lunch, and 2 for dinner, means you only have to carry 12 bars for 3 days full rations in the absence of any other food.
- It's easy to get picky people (kids) to eat something that looks like a candy bar.
Water is one of those things that can rapidly get expensive. To buy water suitable for long term storage will cost you a lot. It needs to be foil sealed, sterile, and in small portions for rationing. The good stuff has a 5 year shelf live and will set you back $15 to $20 for 3 litres. A much cheaper solution is to simply keep a few unopened bottles of water next to your bag and cycle them regularly (remember even bottled water from the shops has a used by date).
How much water to take is a MUCH more complex question and one that I (like most writers on this topic) will not touch with a barge pole - everyones water needs are different, some people will say 3 litres a day, most days if I drank that much I'd be sick. make sure you have at least that much though (in 3 separate bottles if possible) as it may be a day or so before you can find other sources.
In addition try to make sure you have some water purification tablets (camping store or chemist) to make sure you can trust the water you do find.
This is of course in addition to water, and obviously something to leave out of a kids bag. 2 little minibar bottles of your favourite poison - I suggest scotch, vodka, or brandy. This is something you could use to make something sterile, but the real reason is that being displaced from your home even for a day for any reason can be unsettling and being able to share a few sips of brandy can be a great comfort even if you dont drink much normally.
I've left out things like a compass because for most city dwellers this is never going to be an issue but feel free to through one in if you like.
I've already mentioned zip lock bags, they are very useful for this sort of thing - they keep things separate and make sure small parts dont get lost. They also mean if anything leaks it wont ruin the rest of the bag. Finally they are just very useful in their own right so throw a couple of extras in when your done.
Note: When making up a bag for children you can focus on the clothes, toiletries, food, water, and a torch.
You are now prepared for the Zombie Adventure! ...or the next door neighbours gas leak, whatever happens first.