By The Maj
Recently, on a four day float trip with some like minded friends, the discussion around the camp fire turned to “the perfect bugout bag”. As a little background here, I have a group of friends that prep and normally twice per year, we take a trip with nothing but our bugout bags and use the trips to test new gear, practice newly acquired skills, validate our load plans, and, most importantly, learn from each other. The discussion of the bugout bag raged because one guy in our group is a minimalist (which I envy to some extent) and on the other end of the spectrum another guy had the kitchen sink in his bugout bag. Both are adept preppers and I have been friends with them for over twenty years, so I value both of their opinions when it comes to a lot of things. The back and forth between these two became comical to an extent but both continued to make good points for their side of the argument.
I do not think there was a clear winner, especially since I hit the rack well before they were even close to being done and in my personal opinion, prepping is personal in nature to a large extent. While there may be basic tenants that we can all follow or use as a guide in our preparations for TEOTWAWKI but too many factors play into designing the “one size fits all” prepping strategy or plan for it to be even close to feasible. We are all different physically and mentally. We all live in different locations, types of houses, and communities. Some of us have kids or an elderly parent we have to consider in our prepping and some of us only have to plan for ourselves. These are just a few of the factors that make us all different and in turn will make it necessary to develop our own plans. Something that works for me, will not work for you and vice versa. Possessing a particular skill may mean the difference between life and death for you but for me that skill may just be a nice to have skill and my time may have been better served learning a different skill that would provide more added benefit.
For eight hours the next day, I shared a canoe with my minimalist friend and since he had a captive audience, he vented on me why his bugout bag was superior to my kitchen sink friend. At one point, I seriously considered abandoning the canoe and striking out through the swamp in an attempt to find cell service so I could call my wife to come pick me up. I even went as far as studying a topo map to determine the best route out of the mess that I was in but I just sat and listened. I did not respond a lot because I knew my friend just needed to vent but after two hours of almost constant “venting” he finally asked for my opinion. I told him that I really did not have one and could see both sides of the argument and that they were both right in many ways. Naturally, he did not like my response and began to vent again but I cut him off. I proceeded to explain to him that I thought it was wonderful that he could get by and survive with a minimal amount of store bought supplies and that I was jealous in a lot of respects. He was raised in the woods, had seen hard times, and had picked up skills that allowed him to lead a lifestyle that did not require a lot of the frills or “easy buttons”. I also told him that he is old, cannot sling up 90 pounds of gear like my kitchen sink friend, and was oblivious to the use and benefit of most modern electronic devices (he doesn’t even own a cell phone). For the next hour or so, I continued to point out differences between each of my friends and the inherent differences in their prepping strategies as a result of those differences. At one point, I even had my minimalist friend admitting that the Midland Base Camp Radio my kitchen sink friend had brought on the Appalachian Trail hike the previous fall had probably saved us a lot of misery because of the weather reports or how nice the two-way radios a couple of us had were great for keeping the trail canoes informed of trouble spots ahead on the river.
For the remainder of that day’s leg of the trip, my friend and I discussed (and laughed about) things we had learned from our other friends in the group. We discussed a lot of the “easy button” items that our kitchen sink friend had brought on various trips and laughed heartily about the items that were an absolute bust. We talked about the items that worked and we both purchased that we probably never would have known about had we not seen them in action. The list of skills, tips, devices, tools, plans, and ideas continued to grow and grow until we both realized we had learned a more than we thought from just the friends in our small group. Every single person in our small group had added value to both of our prepping strategies and plans, more than I had even realized. What started as a rough morning had turned into a pretty decent day and when we rounded the corner at our rally point, there was our kitchen sink friend starting a fire with one of his “easy button” gadgets. With a smile, my minimalist friend said loud enough for kitchen sink to hear “I sure am glad he keeps a handful of those gadgets in his bag, I’m hungry”.
That night, around the fire, the discussion turned to something else but I did not join in and really do not remember the topic of conversation. I sat there half listening and reflecting on our small group. Around that fire sat a retired soldier turned environmental scientist/civil engineer, a retired soldier turned computer programmer, a biologist and avid hiker, a middle school teacher and master gardener, a cattle farmer and competition rifle shooter, and a minimalist that will always be a minimalist. Each person within the group with different skills, different knowledge, different ideas, different physical and mental makeup, and yet all linked by their love of the outdoors and their common bond of prepping.
As you travel through this prepping world, you are going to find a lot of advice and recommendations. Some of the advice will be applicable and very valuable to you, some of it will be dangerous and down, right wrong. Some people within this world will present their way as the one and only way. Others will have valuable knowledge that they are unwilling to express for fear of being attacked on their views and ideas. No one, has all the answers and very few, if any are fully prepared for TEOTWAWKI. What you have to do is evaluate all of the information that is available to you, determine what works or doesn’t work, and what fits for your own unique situation. Just because something does not work for you or does not fit your situation, do not simply dismiss the person or try to convince them that they are wrong. Do your own research, determine your own path, present your side of the argument and then agree to disagree. Who knows, the next time you run across that person, he/she may have some advice that you find useful.