Yo, Zombie Killers! Before we get into this thingamabob I want to get a little serious. So take a knee and lend me your ear for a moment.
It should be really obvious that in this day and age survival gear is mostly a rich man’s toy, and a poor man’s woe. After tales of hurricane Katrina nobody can really deny that “survival” is biased against the poor. Yes, there is a whole pile of really cheap gear out there that people can buy, but once you get it out and try to use it, well, more often than not it is going to be more harmful to you than helpful. A great example is knives. When you are out in the rain chopping with that $15 BudK special to make some shelter for your kids, and the blade snaps off at the handle you will know exactly what I mean.
The really important thing to remember is that hidden in all that cheap crap are some worthwhile, last forever, decent products that can make a difference. One of the really important goals in my articles is to find that gear and pass on what it is and where to get it. And in doing this, maybe give some people some peace of mind. Economically challenged people DON’T have to just lie down and take it if they don’t want to. Start a “Fight Back” jar and stick $5 or $10 in it a month, all that loose change you were going to use for a pack of cigarettes.
Now, let’s prep for some zombie butt kicking with this week’s:
The Bug-Out Pack
If you read my first article on the Bug-Out Belt you might have heard me talk about water, its importance to you living to see a cure, and how the belt can’t carry any. While I really hate to repeat myself, “You need water, or you are going to die!! Aaaaaggghh!”” While in super extreme survival situations, like your car breaks down in the desert, you can stay alive on just a few swallows of water. But only for about a week or so. Most experts I can find say for “long term, active survival (you are not just going to lay under a tarp as the zombie apocalypse passes by) 2 liters a day of drinking water.
So, our next experiment in “don’t loose or die” revolves around a hydration pack. Yes, I know, these are expensive little bass turds BUT you can get them “new with tags” on eBay for under US-$20. In fact I got mine for $10 + $8 s/h. One trick is to start shopping in late fall or early winter when people have lost interest in running and hiking.
It is important to remember that we are making an absolute base layer here that you never take off unless you know for sure the zombies are headed the other way, or you are in a secure bunker, armed guards, whatever. This is your absolute have-or-die gear. On top of this you will have a go-bag with clothing, and other important but less critical items.
Because you will have a go-bag to supplement this bug-out pack you want to keep it simple as possible. I know, I know, pockets are kewl, and you can add more stuff… NO! No! No,,, That is what the go-bag is for. I chose the Camelbak Thermopack for 2 reasons: There are no pockets to tempt you into overloading yourself, and it is decently insulated so that the water bladder shouldn’t draw much heat from your body. The Thermopack comes in 2 liter and 3 liter versions, and I went with the 2 liter version for a few reasons.
One of which was that I was going to take the water bladder out and put it in my bug-out vest. That was a bad choice though as the bladder is too long and narrow to work in the vest. However, this narrow system is a really good thing as the pack fits very nicely between your shoulders. So, if your go-bag is a backpack you can actually wear it very comfortably on top of the hydration pack.
Do you see what I am doing here? I am splitting things up and making things versatile. If I am running from zombies and need to lose 20 pounds I can drop my go-bag and still have critical supplies on my bug-out pack. If I need to climb a tree to get a better view, I drop my go-bag at the base but I wear my bug-out pack up into the tree… absolutely critical gear is always near. It is light weight and hampers motion as little as possible.
What Is In It?
You may have noticed right off that I don’t have my machete attached to this. No, none of the straps are rigid enough nor in the right place to deal with a heavy tool. Someone in your crew will have to hang one on a belt. In spite of that, the bug-out pack is a better system than the belt. The obvious reason is the water bladder with which survival greatly improves.
One advantage to the bladder is now you are working with a large enough amount that water purification tablets are practical. Crushing them up for one cup at a time is crazy making but dropping one or a half of one into a bladder is simple.
Now as said, I bought mine off eBay so the first thing I did was fill it up and let it hang for a couple days. Doing this will reveal the smallest leak. By the second day the bottom of my pack was a bit damp and I was kind frustrated. The hose connection at the bag was leaking. Before I ran to my laptop and left some blazingly insulting email to the seller I did go search the internet to see if there was a simple solution as I am a fixer-upper type. To my surprise people on forums everywhere talk about their packs leaking here or there and don’t seem to care much. Apparently rich people don’t worry about products that habitually leak. So, the general consensus is that bladders are disposable and if you just stick a one gallon ziplock bag around the bottom of the bladder that should keep you dry enough. I’ve not had time to go to the hardware store but I am betting that there are several solutions for a dollar or two. I will be back with an inexpensive fix to drippy packs.
The two black pouches I have connected I actually found at the Goodwill store, and they are just digital camera cases. One cost me $4 and the other cost me $3. That olive drab pouch cost me $9 at a military surplus (yea, right) store, but is worth the money. It is actually a pistol clip pouch that holds two clips, but I stuck in a folding knife and sharpener instead. Why this pouch cost more is that it is a MOLLE pouch. Since my next article is about a MOLLE vest I think I’ll save the big explanation about what that is for that article, if you don’t know already.
In the picture above you can see that one pouch holds my small med kit and some awesome folding scissors I found on eBay. They are actually post World War II antiques made in West Germany and I managed to score them for $6 including shipping. At $6 they are a steal and I actually use them all the time, but beware, some eBayers are asking $20 or more for them and no, they are not worth that. Notice I added a $2 water proof box I found in the camping isle at Fred Meyer to keep it all dry which fits nicely in the pouch with a pair of med gloves. If I need to stitch up some stranger I’m not risking bad blood.
In the other pouch I have a few things, including a flashlight branded by Columbia. I found the thing on eBay with a bid of 99 cents. Shipping was $4.99 so $6 for the whole thing, what the hell I think, I’ll get it and review it for people, as I cannot find a damn thing about it on the internet. It’s not a bad little light really. I know the flashlight gurus on the net would rip it apart, but most people can’t afford $90 flashlights let alone have them sit in an emergency kit doing nothing. It has 9 leds and runs on 3 aaa batteries. It is slightly brighter than my Fenix E1 at the hotspot, but it casts the light really wide. There is no adjustment to the beam, and unfortunately the base is not flat enough for it to stand up easily. But, I am betting that the batteries last a while, and it would make a good lamp to read by in the tent or get you to the outhouse. $6? Eh, I can do that, but do not pay more than that for it. Some people are trying to get $15 for them, and if you are going to spend that much then there are definitely better flashlights out there.
The other thing you see is the CRKT Guppie. CRKT stands for Columbia River Knife & Tool and Guppie stands for “do not buy this!” When I first got it I admit that I was all giggly over it, but that lasted about 5 minutes. There are several problems with it, from the ridiculously weak magnet to hold a bit in the hex driver, the bit holder that is painfully difficult to get bits out of, the pointless flashlight built into the bit holder, and so on. Now to be fair I will admit that I abhor multitools. I can seldom think of a time I have used one that I didn’t cuss and plead with the Gods to let me use real tools, so maybe I am a bit biased. Except for one crucial point, the knife. This is a folding knife with absolutely no lock on the blade. If there is a tension lock I cannot feel it, and that is down right criminal. If you have used knives much you know that no matter how professional you are, shit happens. You sneeze, someone bumps you, some random hand jerk, just… shit happens. Now when that shit happens while working with a folding knife without a blade lock, what does that knife want to do? Fold up. Where are your fingers? Between the blade and where it wants to go. And in the end hopefully one of your fingers are not on the ground! Maybe I just found one that slipped through inspection, but I’d avoid this thing if I were you.
The thing about multitools is that there are always things to tighten, cut, screw, adjust, and so on in the rest of your gear and so on. So, If anyone has the perfect, light weight, and truly z-pocalypse useful, please feel free to let me know about it, or point to a review you know of.
OK, down in the MOLLE clip pouch I have a CRKT “Yea-go” folding knife. According to the CRKT website Yea-Go is a Navajo phrase meaning “all your might”. This is an “assisted open” knife, so you might want to know the laws in your state about that. Where I live, Oregon, for a long time knives with springs or other assists, like switch blades, were totally illegal. When this changed I have no clue. Anyway, the Yea-go is not a true switch blade by any means.
The assist took me a few tries to get used to before I could get a convincingly smooth opening motion. There is a small thumb pad on the blade that you press down and forward. If you press too straight down or too forward the blade won’t open, which is actually nice as it prevents most “accidental” openings. I like the minimal handle, and one unique feature is the belt clip which you can easily switch sides for left-handers. While I prefer a straight edge, it is good to have one knife with some serration on it. Straight edges are just so much easier to keep sharp and trouble free. I do have to admit that I have not done a serious bush test with this knife, but know that it is more of a kitchen knife than a heavy chopper. It will kill a zombie if you need it to though. In closing, this knife has been discontinued by CRKT, which has it on their site for $80 but because of the “discontinued” status I got mine for $49 at a local store. Keep your eye out on eBay and such as it is a candidate to hit the $20 mark eventually. And, because of this knife I can recommend CRKT as a good “general knife”. I never recommend buying “direct from manufacturer” as someone out there has a great deal, but: http://www.crkt.com/
Water to Run On
If you had to choose between the bug-out belt and the pack, then the pack is the best option because it has the water you need. Some of you might have realized already that if you can do both then you would have one serious rig. It would not be too hard to sew some extra straps that connect the pack to the belt and make it all one unit. Mostly it is about what you can afford, and how much of an edge you want to give you and your crew.
One of the nice things about this pack setup is that the pouches on the front help balance the load more on your hips, allowing you to go farther with less pain in the back later. The belt does this nicely as well, but has one little drawback that I didn’t mention. If you need to go to the bathroom, those pouches like to pull your belt out and fall on the ground, which could lead to a stinky situation.
One major selling point for building your bug-out around a hydro pack is that they come in several sizes. You can set up a smaller 1.5 liter for your 10-year-old daughter, a 2 liter for your 15 year-old son and a 3 liter for yourself. Everyone can carry something and not tire themselves out too much, which will help you all stay un-dead. So, happy zombie hunting!
On a budget? Buy it a piece at a time in this order:
Month 1: hydropack
Month 2: med kit
Month 3: a good knife
Month 4: a small pouch & a $2 survival blanket
Month 5: anything else you want to add…