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Bug Out Bag Maintenance…

Bug Out Bag Maintenance

Bug Out Bag Maintenance

Yes, it is that time of year, the weather is changing, the winds beginning to deliver a polar chill across most of the country.  For those of use that live in the North, it is time for some bug out bag maintenance to change out our summer gear to winter gear in our bug out bags.  If you are not fervently taking your bug out bag on summer hiking and camping treks, you may want to consider taking a look at your bags more often than the change of the seasons.  Not maintaining your bag can have negative consequences, from the uncomfortable to deadly.  A monthly check of your bag might take fifteen minutes but could offset a dire chain of events that might otherwise occur from missing, worn out, or damaged gear.  We put together a little maintenance guide, that if you follow, you should not have many surprise should you ever have to use your bug out bag for its intended purpose:

  • Water- In addition to a method or methods to filter water, I like to keep a little on hand, just in case I don’t have time to stop or water is scarce.  Once a month I will dump out the old water and rinse the containers. I will then refill them, add a drop of bleach, shake, then let sit for ten minutes or so.  I then dump out, rinse, and refill.  This will ensure you don’t find nasty or moldy water in an emergency.
  • Sleeping Bags- A good lightweight sleeping bag is never meant to sit, rolled up, in a bug out bag.  For most of us, keeping a sleeping bag packed in our bug out bags is a concession we make in the name of expediency.  Good sleeping bags are meant to be loosely kept in storage.  When you change out the water, take your bag out of the pack and give it a good fluff.  Then re-roll or re-stuff it in a different orientation.  We actually lose some of the insulating properties if we keep bags tightly rolled, this will “reset” the bag somewhat.  Also, if you have a winter and summer bag be sure to change it out at the proper intervals.
  • Batteries- We don’t need battery powered devices on a bug out, it can make life easier.  Flashlights, communications, maybe even GPS can help you along the way.  Even though you may carry a method to charge them, keeping batteries fresh or topped off is a best practice.  Checking and topping off the batteries once a month will ensure that you don’t find yourself in the dark.
  • The Bag Itself-  This is a special concern if you use your bag for more than bugging out.  Bags will wear out, and a bag with something like a broken shoulder strap can be worse than no bag at all.  Check all of the stitching and zippers, repair or replace if you see defects.  Re-adjust straps and buckles, if you are on the run and in a hurry
  • Food- If you rely on freeze dried foods or MRE’s you may not have to worry about spoiled food for years, but years can breeze by.  If your choice of sustenance is of the fresher variety, something like trail mix, your window of freshness is much smaller.
  • Overall Contents- One of the side effects of taking your bag out on camping and hiking trips (or making videos) is important items can be taken out and not put back, used up, or just plain go missing.  Once you have your bag in order make a list of the contents.  When you perform your maintenance check be sure all of the items you want to be present are so.  As prepared as I’d like to think I am, I make mistakes.  I found myself with two rainflies and no tent once on a mountain camping trip.  I checked to see if the stuff sack was present but someone had packed them wrong after a previous trip.
  • Make Sure Your Clothes Fit! People…fluctuate.  Imagine a rainstorm has totally soaked what you were wearing.  You get to shelter, reach in your bag to change into warm and dry clothing…only to find out it is two sizes too small.  Make sure your reserve clothing changes with you.
  • Shelter- A tent with an upper mesh top is great in the summer, but may not be the best for winter.  Although you need to have a tent with good ventilation to avoid waking up soaked with condensation, consider changing out your sleeping arrangements to make them season specific.
  • Replenish- If your bag does serve a dual purpose, meaning you use it for camping and hiking as well as just in case, you might let things slide here and there.  You might use a day or two worth of food thinking you will replace it before the next trip.  As we are all well aware, emergencies don’t follow schedules.  Replace supplies as soon as possible, at the very least when you do your monthly bug out bag maintenance.

Avoiding surprises is the name of the game here, missing or under performing gear can be a killer, both out on the trail and in a real bug out situation.  Be sure to check your bag monthly if you don’t use it or after every camping/hiking trip if you do.  Simple preventative maintenance has been proven to avoid all kinds of calamities, not just with a bug out bag, but in everything you do in life.

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