In this video, I’ll detail the two-pack
“gray man” system my wife and I will rely on should we have to abandon our home and
run. In keeping with my commitment to you, I do a lot of homework and plan these projects
carefully, so you have the best-possible starting point for your own projects. If
I do my job, the video will both validate and refute some of your beliefs, and perhaps
present new ideas you’ve never considered.
As always, I’ll be brief as possible, but this
video has a lot to cover, so I apologize for the length. For your patience, I’ve included
two surprises. First, why these desert bags include some SCUBA gear. Second, a shot near the
end that’s so cute your wife will love it. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy…
I think these packs are better planned, and a much better choice, than our original
more “tactical-looking” bug out bags.
In the next few minutes I’ll detail some important
planning principles that make them so.
When I released the original bug out bag video,
I asked for your advice, and did I get a lot of great ideas! Some of the most well-considered and
critical advice addressed the bag’s weight. At just under 40lb, the original bag is close to 20% of
my body weight, falling within the one-sixth to one-third range many backpacking experts
recommend. However, my wife and I are more representative of the demographics of our viewers
– 45-65, and I think the experts probably represent a younger crowd.
For these bags, I set a strict
weight budget of 15% of each of our body weights.
I also got a LOT of suggestions for things that
people really think are important – ranging from the brilliant to the fanciful – but every comment
gave me reason to think, and has been much appreciated. I took your advice to heart, did more
homework and planning, and this is the result…
For the “gray man” version, we
had four key considerations:
First, the bag had to do the job – keep
us alive and healthy for 72 hours in our local environment without outside support, save
additional water should we be in the five-month summer season where daytime temps will be above
100F or 38C.
We live on the edge of the city, and have both urban and wilderness environments
within a mile of our home. In the summer season, water is near non-existent in the desert, so will
likely have be scrounged in the city unless we’re lucky enough to have a monsoon rain.
Second, the bags had to be light enough for us to manage over multi-mile distances,
and allow us to move quickly if necessary. We budgeted 15% of our body weight, and this
tyrannical limit made planning difficult, but really made the bags a success in the end.
weighed and recorded every item, and this was a great help in the agonizing choices of what did,
and did not, make the cut. I also recorded the calorie content of every food item, and planned
both the energy and sodium contributions that will be important for sustaining energy and
replacing salt that will be lost to sweat.
Third, the bags my wife and I will carry
work together, splitting the inventory of what we’ll need, but in such a way that
each bag is reasonably self-sufficient. Should we be separated or need to abandon one
of them, each has what we’ll need to survive.
Finally, in keeping with the “gray man” concept,
the bags should not call unwelcome attention.
So, let’s get to the bags.
Both bags are 5.11 COVRT 18 models that appear much like those you’d see on
a campus or around town. To reduce notice, we chose two different color schemes so they wouldn’t
match. The bags have excellent mesh padding that helps keep your back cool and adds comfort. I’ve
added web waist belts that transfer weight to our hips and keep the packs from bouncing. They’re
both equipped with Camelbak water bladders: 3 liters for my bag, and 2 liters for my wife’s.
On the exterior are gloves and a washcloth, and my bag is equipped with two one-liter
bottles of water, one of which is stainless steel so it can be used for boiling water we scrounge.
The First Aid kit moves to my belt, and we’ll likely clip our radios to the loops on the pack
straps. The radios are inexpensive dual-band HAM radios, for which we’re licensed. For people who
aren’t licensed, a good alternative are Midland FRS radios that need no license, have weather
band, and can also operate on the higher-powered GMRS band if you register online with the FCC.
A GMRS license is around $80 for five years, and covers all the radios for your group.
recommend you get the license and learn good radio etiquette, so you can practice, and also
use the GMRS channels for travel or events.
The Ka-Bar knives are short models with
full-length half tangs and Kydex sheaths. We’ll wear them in the wild, or likely put them
in the packs or conceal them for urban travel. On the back of each sheath are two sail needles,
secured with duct tape. We can use the interior strands from the 550 cord should we need to make
clothing or equipment repairs. The pepper spray could clip on the pack straps or be carried in
Both of us are extensively trained, qualified and permitted for other defense
options, but I’ll skip detailing that equipment in this video. We’ll pocket the whistles
so the bright color doesn’t draw notice.
My EDC includes a quality automatic watch
that’s self-winding so needs no battery and is waterproof. Also, there’s a waterproof butane
lighter, an excellent Kershaw Scrambler folding knife, a Leatherman Sidekick multitool, a
Streamlight flashlight that runs on a single AAA battery, and an Exotech fire rod.
carries a Leatherman Wingman multitool. A viewer commented on my lack of a multitool, so I did
a lot of homework in selecting the best ones, and I’ll cover the evaluation and
selection process in another video.
The bags are carefully planned for fast access to
things that may be quickly needed when travelling, and the contents are grouped logically. The main
compartment is accessed only when stopping to cook or camp, excepting that we take advantage
of the very top space behind the zipper for storing the shemaghs for quick access.
The compartments are loaded by function, so everything needed at one time is kept together,
and we know exactly where to find it. This planning will minimize repacking time, and leave
us less vulnerable to having to abandon unpacked supplies if we’re surprised while stopped.
As I mentioned before, the bags are organized to be mutually-supporting, while each
having enough kit to be used independently.
In the very top compartments are our
monoculars, glasses and headlamps.
Next down is the hygiene compartment. It contains
toilet paper, wipes, disposable toothbrushes, 50 SPF sunblock, sanitizer, and coin towels.
The coin towels can be dropped in a capful of water to make an instant disposable wipe and,
after drying, are a good fire starter.
My wife’s bag also has a P-Style unit so she need not be
pants-down any more than I am. (Google it.) There’s a pack of Aspirins here to remind me to advise
you to pack a week of your daily medications.
Also shown here is my wife’s “girl stuff�
kit from the main compartment. She had a one-pound budget (that’s weight, not currency)
for the kind of things from the travel section at Wal-Mart that she can’t be without.
Below the hygiene compartment on the right side of my wife’s pack is a small compartment
that has boo-boo kit for minor first aid. While I’ll carry a much more robust first
aid kit on my belt, the boo-boo kit gives her the basics if we’re separated.
The kit has:
latex gloves; a QuikClot sponge; salt tablets; blister pads; antiseptic wipes; insect sting pads;
butterfly closures; Band-Aids; a compression wrap; antiseptic ointment; and wound seal clotting
powder. There are also single doses of antihistamine, anti-diarrhea, and pain meds.
There’s a separate video that details the big first aid kit I’ll carry. At just two pounds, it
can cover much more serious injuries. I’ve left a link to the video in the description fbelow.
In the corresponding compartment in my pack, I carry a plastic poncho I can wear
over myself and the pack if it rains.
There’s another small compartment on the left
side where we keep what we need for water, signaling and communications. There are coffee
filters for keeping out larger particles and purification tablets that we can put in the
containers while the water sloshes around. Then signal mirrors and earphone / microphone
combos so we can use the radios quietly. I carry a silcock key – the missing handle for the faucets
on restaurants and commercial buildings, which may be a good source of potable water.
You really can’t
do urban survival without one of these. There’s an excellent video on it in the “Using Survival
Tools” playlist in my channel. My wife has a stand-up water bag that can be filled and carried
in the bottle pocket on the side of her bag.
We both also carry a piece of SCUBA gear �
GloToob dive lights that we can attach to back of the pack so we can be seen on the road at
night, or so we can find each other in the dark, or one can be left behind to provide a reliable
way to find our way back to camp on a dark night. They have high, low and flash function and
run 4-15 hours on a single AAA battery.
The rear compartment has our non-cook
food, LifeStraws and maps. Besides jerky, there are CLIF energy bars and GU energy gels.
Between them, good sources of carbs, protein, electrolytes and caffeine. We’ll have ready access
to food that replaces sweat, and provides energy as we’re travelling. It’s also where I keep
my topo map for the wilderness, and a city street map. Plus, drink mix to add electrolytes
and make poor water taste a little better.
The main compartment has the things
we’ll need when we stop: shelter, fire, cooking and eating equipment, cookable food,
lighting, clothing, sleeping and repair items. The two inside pockets have hot food in one,
fire kits and miscellaneous items in the other.
My main compartment has: a shemagh at the top
for ready access; a tarp; foil; stove and pot; sleep sack; large nylon ties; 60 feet of 550
paracord; towel and soap; change of clothes; cooking spoon / fork; light sticks and a bivy. My
wife’s main compartment has: her “girl stuff” kit; a poncho; shemagh; change of clothes; light
sticks; 50 feet of #36 bank line; sleep sack; Esbit stove and tablets; and a stainless cup.
We both have what’s needed to independently collect and purify water and create fire and shelter.
Here’s a very cool trick I got from Creek Stewart. Set out a shirt, underwear, socks as shown
Fold in the sides, and then place your heavy socks as shown. Then roll it all from top
to bottom, and pull the sock ends over the roll. Now you have a change of clothes that can fit in
a compact space and makes a great travel pillow.
The hot food pocket has: four-serving meal packs;
coffee kits with instant coffee sugar, creamer, salt and pepper; beef bouillon cubes, which are
good for salt; and an extra salt bag for spicing scrounged food should we go beyond our food supply
and for heat injuries; eat’n’tools and can openers.
The miscellaneous items pocket has: our fire
kits; spare radio batteries; nylon ties; spare batteries for all our devices; $100 cash;
button compass; and small entertainment items. The batteries are AA and AAA sizes to cover all
our devices, and are Lithium because that type has the longest shelf life, the longest
run time and lowest weight. In addition, my pack has: duct tape; insect repellent; a
knot guide; knife sharpener; and our important documents scanned on a flash drive.
There were a lot of comments suggesting a power bank to charge phones, but it
simply didn’t make the cut.
If we bail, we’ll simply turn off the phones to save power,
and use them for the reference materials on them, not for communications. We have the radios.
You’ve probably noticed the bags used throughout the video. Some time ago, I ordered 100-packs
of heavy-duty 4-mil zipper bags in a variety of small sizes. They’re extremely useful for
organizing and protecting small items for this, for travel, and for countless other uses.
Here, they not only keep things together, they help prevent loose items from falling
unnoticed and then being left behind. There’s about a one-ounce weight penalty for both packs
– a small price to not lose an important item.
Water is life-or-death here, and practically
absent if we go to the wilderness a mile away. With summer daytime temperatures passing 113F (or
45C), water is not something we can compromise on. Local convention is each person will need
to consume four liters per day, and we simply can’t carry that much weight. Between us, we have 7
liters in the initial load-out, representing 15.5 lb out of our combined total load of 45.8 lb.
This weight will decline as we consume it but, if pressed, I can quickly empty the two water
bottles for an instant 4.4 lb reduction.
We will need to scrounge (and probably purify) water in
nearby urban areas, so we need to have containers to carry and boil it. We also carry LifeStraws so
we can hydrate while collecting water for later use. Your local environment and water availability
will likely lead you to other choices.
My research resulted in a “consensus” weight
allowance of 15% of body weight. For me, this produced a weight budget of 28.5 lb or 13kg, and
my pack weighs 28.3 lb. or 12.8kg. For my wife, 15% is 17.5 lb or 8kg, and her pack is 17.4 lb
or 7.9kg. This is an 11 lb or 5kg reduction in combined weight from the tactical bags. The
outdoor outfitter co-op, REI, categorizes the weight of my bag as “lightweight” and that of my
wife’s as “ultralight”. We’ve done a mile night walk with the bags, and for that short distance, they’re
an easy carry. A real shakedown is in the works.
In the planning process, I weighed absolutely
everything, and this was a real help when I needed to compromise, accounting for both
the weight and the utility of items when I needed to cut down.
When it came to food,
I could evaluate the calories to weight ratio of each item, and choose those with the
best ratio. This really made the hassle of measuring everything well worth the effort.
The food in my pack adds to 5,370 calories, and my wife’s pack carries 4,110 calories,
for a total of just under 9,500– easily enough for 72 hours, and certainly longer if needed.
As a final note, the ground here is very hard and rocky, and everything in the desert bites, stings
scratches or pierces. To get any comfort at all, we’ll add one additional pound to the bags
by fixing a sleeping pad to the exterior.
Finally, here’s the cute part I promised. Our
other family members – two small dogs – carry their own food, taking three pounds off our
loadout. They’re both young, and reasonably fit, so can mange 12-15% of body weight. I can’t help
laughing when I see these shots, but it is pretty practical. The two small packs split about 2.5
lb of dry food, two small toys and a great little lightweight water bowl.
The bowl is actually
a rubber egg poacher that folds flat, and is flexible enough to jam into a corner of the pack.
I’m grateful to every person that took time to comment or advise on the original video, and if
you’re one of those people you should know that your opinion was considered carefully
when building these bags. Some things obviously made the weight cut, and others
were painful to discard, but every idea was a contribution to the planning of these bags.
Frankly, we’re a lot better equipped to bug in, but if the need to grab and
run arises, we’re prepared.
So, what do you think? What ideas would make
this two-bag system even better.
What things would need to be considered in your environment?
I try to respond to every comment, so leave your thoughts below, and please save, Like and
share the video with others that might like it. Don’t forget to subscribe so you see the upcoming
videos and, as always. be prepared and stay safe..