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With Instructables you can share what you make with the world, and tap into an ever-growing community of creative experts. Fresh off the heels of ITS Muster IV, I’ve taken some of what I learned on building a Bolt Bag and applied it to my home “Bolt Bag,” which generally speaking, I always have with me.
At home, such a bag might be less useful than when away from home, since you would generally have access to everything you have at home. When away from home, your Bolt Bag can provide you with things you may need in order to get home safely; medical supplies, a means of containing water, survival tools, methods to communicate or signal for help and anything else you might want to keep around you all the time. Every individual’s situation is going to be unique; what may be more likely here in the San Francisco Bay Area, may not be likely at all where you live and vice versa. Gear alone won’t save you, but having a functional mind-state, thinking about the situation and relying on your knowledge to be able to use your gear, might just give you the right advantage. One of the most important aspects of developing and populating a Bolt Bag is to assess what dangers you could potentially face and to think through what could go wrong given those circumstances. Also on the list, but lower in priority and likelihood, are things like terror attacks on major landmarks (e.g. If so, who are the players in that unrest and how might large scale actions taken by said groups cause problems for you? The primary purpose of my Bolt Bag is to enable me to get home in the event a potential disaster occurs. If the house collapses, I may be able to salvage some of my equipment and set up camp in the yard or nearby woods. That means making sure I can create a shelter, have a little food, have the means to get drinkable water and can start a fire for warmth. You’ll want to have a planned route to either get back home or to a specific location away from home, in case yours goes belly-up.
You may want to come up with an entirely separate secondary route to your alternate location and even a tertiary route. As for route planning, in the event the disaster happens while you’re away from home, make sure you know where you are. Even if that 977 foot tall tower breaks and falls, it’s still going to be a large, noticeable item on the skyline.
These days, no matter where I am in San Francisco I can easily figure out where I am, where I’m going and how to get there. I used to carry a GPS in my bag, kept my tools all together in a HSGI Taco, put my rolled up change of clothes in a pouch and tethered things together with pull-out MOLLE panels. While walking at a normal pace with the stuff may not make me break a sweat, running with all of it certainly did.
This is really a huge, separate subject on its own and better men than I have written about it. I’m also a little proud of myself though for having amassed such a wide selection of packs with different purposes. Color choice for your pack is largely irrelevant, though you do want to consider your environment and whether or not your bag is going to make you stand out in a crowd. My medical supplies and food are stored in the lower interior pocket of the Bolt Bag so that they can be quickly accessed.
If you’re not familiar with the term “gypsy camp,” it’s a pejorative term for the technique of attaching any and every damned thing to your pack you can think of.
Regardless, the reason you don’t want to set your pack up like that is because you need to be able to get through potential debris, wooded areas or spaces that might be a tight fit and you don’t need your Bolt Bag getting caught on things. One thing to consider with regards to your Bolt Bag is size; the smaller it is, the easier it is to fit it inside a larger pack. I can easily fit my Bolt Bag inside that GR1 with room to spare and as a result, if things go haywire and I need to “bug out” and leave that daily carry stuff behind, I can with relative ease. If in the course of your work or other day-to-day activities, you enter secure premises on a regular basis, you may have to adjust the contents of your Bolt Bag accordingly. Since they were unwilling to hold on to my knife (or knives, as the case may be) and let me have them when I was leaving, I had to come back the next day with a stripped-down pack, free of both knives and everything else I thought security might find objectionable.
You’re always going to be able to streamline and you’re always going to want to add things you hadn’t previously considered. Generally, though it isn’t listed in the bag breakdown above, I also have a 3-liter Source hydration bladder. Hopefully, what I’ve written above will help you think about how you might build your own Bolt Bag.
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However, if your house were to catch on fire, aside from making sure your loved ones (including, in my case, my wife and my awesome-but-slightly-crazy dog) are safe, a Bolt Bag would provide an easy to grab kit to utilize until you can find a safe place to start thinking more long-term. This can be a small backpack-sized kit, or an even smaller bag you can grab from a larger bag if you’re traveling with a larger loadout. There’s a limit to how much equipment you can carry and a limit to your imagination in regards to the countless things that could potentially go wrong.

However, there are some basic principles that can help you decide what to keep in your Bolt Bag. Add in practicing your exit strategy until you’ve got it committed to memory and you’ve just boosted those chances even more.
In the Bay Area, the biggest concerns are earthquakes and associated earthquake problems like tsunamis, mass fires, electrical grid failure and infrastructure collapse. Home is where I keep all of my supplies, so if these things happen when I’m there, I’m already prepared.
I happen to live near an old Nike missile site that sits on top of a tall hill comprised of solid rock. If you live someplace with actual seasons and more importantly, an actual winter, you may want to add things like warm clothing or an emergency blanket to your kit. You might not be able to use Google Maps to pick the route once the disaster happens, so the time to make this plan is now. Do some recon and look around, keeping your eyes peeled for what could go wrong with your proposed route. However, what I’ve found much more useful is the sense of comfort that comes with having thoroughly explored the area where you live. If you live out in the country, you should become familiar with the natural features and terrain. I know this is a perishable skill and we as a culture are slowly losing it by relying too heavily on search engines and mapping software to handle navigation for us. Whether I’m going on vacation, camping or just heading across town to meet up with friends, I often take more stuff than I need.
I ditched all the unnecessary containers for tools and instead started using the pockets my pack had, as well as my dry bag. This is yet another thing to consider in regard to weight; when you think you’re done, take that pack for a run. If you’re ready for the fire hose of information, point your gob at Brian’s Backpacking Blog. For my Bolt Bag, the important thing to me thing was comfort, followed by utility and then reduced size. The GORUCK Bullet is almost pushing it visibility-wise, with the couple rows of MOLLE and the Velcro patch area at the top.
I’ve divided my gear into two main categories, Things That Shouldn’t Get Wet and Things That Can Get Wet and also into a few sub-categories; Medical Stuff, Food and Water, Clothing, Electronics, Tools and Signaling Stuff. All of the items that shouldn’t get wet are items that I would generally be able to stop for a while if I needed them.
I also like that the contents are visible through the mesh when you open the bag, so that if for some reason I can’t talk and need medical care, whoever is helping me can open my pack and see where the medical stuff is without having to dig around for it.
I often carry a GORUCK GR1 as my “daily carry” pack, as it allows me to put my laptop, a soft armor insert and various things I might need in non-emergency situations (aka “life”).
I don’t need to unpack and repack to optimize; I just pull that Bolt Bag out of the main pack and ditch the rest of the stuff, possibly in a cache I might return to later if the situation merits it.
I recently learned the hard way, when heading down to the San Francisco Federal Building to get a list of every place I’ve ever worked for a background investigations packet I needed to complete, that knives are a big no-no when entering a federal building. It allows me to have fresh, drinkable water without taking the pack off and provides a nice cushion on my back.
There may never be a disaster that would facilitate using such a bag and I hope you never encounter one, but if things ever do go haywire, wouldn’t you rather be prepared? Instead of simply asking for your support with donations, we’ve developed a membership to allow our readers to support what we do and allow us to give you back something in return.
You should have clean linen and scissors to quickly cut a bandage to fit, this also gives you scissors which would have countless applications.
Especially in situations where you might have to leave in a hurry and head for safer ground. If I lived near Yellowstone Park, or Finland, I might be more concerned with volcanic eruptions. You also want to keep in mind that simply assembling and having your emergency gear with you at all times is a small part of the battle; you absolutely need to be comfortable using that gear as well. Historically, there was a threat that the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear attack over the San Francisco Bay to maximize damage to buildings by air burst and super heat the waters of the Bay, compounding damage for the entire area.
Once you’ve done this, you can start thinking about what your plan of action in any given situation would be. If the house catches fire, I can still grab my Bolt Bag, my wife, my dog and head out to someplace safe. That’s less of a concern for me here, as it rarely dips below 40 degrees and even then, that’s generally only at night.
I personally prefer to use printed maps and plot out my course to my alternate location from home. Are you crossing bridges that might cease to exist in an emergency? What would a downed tree do to your ability to get to your alternate location? Think of anything that could potentially happen that would render your plan useless and correct as needed.
Not only is this skill crucial to your ability to get home in a disaster, you’ll also learn a lot about where you live by walking in that area.

Those things may not be there when you need them, so make sure you don’t actually need them. Brian has written a lot of useful information here at ITS, like his Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking. I’ve gone through a number of different types of Bolt Bags, but lately find myself using GORUCK’s 10L Bullet Ruck.
For all the things that shouldn’t get wet, I’ve put them in a dry bag made for the USMC day pack. Because of this, it’s not really a problem to have them packed away in a dry bag, further inside the Bolt Bag. The spork is in there because it was roughly the same size as the other things, plus I like keeping the inside lower pocket clean, since it has my medical stuff in it and storing a device that is eventually going to be in my mouth in the same pocket as the med kit stuff seemed like a bad idea. It might also enable you to know which items you can safely leave behind and which items you’re taking with you if things get so bad you need to leave that Bolt Bag behind. I basically have three things attached to the outside of my pack; on one shoulder strap, I have a plastic ITW carabiner, which holds the hose of my hydration bladder out of the way. Building a Bolt Bag is roughly the same as building an AR-15; you’re never really done building it. If you’re going to a new area, you may want to bring an entirely different set of equipment. The benefit of it would be if I needed to move through a wooded or other natural open area with stealth, or if I needed to stash the bag someplace in an area like that, unnoticed for a while. If I lived below sea level in a marshy swamp near a major river, I’d be more concerned with flooding. Only then will you be able to come up with a useful list of equipment you might carry to better facilitate dealing with those potential incidents. I live on a rock that’s significantly higher in elevation than the landfill area between us and the Pacific. Therefore, I want to have the tools I’ll need to provide basic necessities for my family. It’s entirely too easy to miss so much by relying on driving; you have to pay attention to the road and only see things that are visible from that road anyway. While beneficial to all of our lives, they’re also something that you shouldn’t bet your survival on. Travel light and remember that whatever you bring, you could be carrying for an unknown time period. Four pounds may not seem like that much weight, but it’s a sizable percentage of the total and the reduction makes a difference in ease of carry. The wrong time to find out your pack is not run-friendly is when you’re running for your life.
I’m an obsessive pack-collector and over the years, it’s gotten to the point that I’m a little embarrassed about how many I own.
If you’re “bolting,” chances are that other people will be too and some of those people are going to be looking at someone who’s obviously prepared as a potential victim. Once I put all that stuff in there, I can then compress the hell out of it since it has a one-way air valve. I put the clothes in the bottom of the dry bag, then the electronics (including satellite phone), then the pouch filled with small tools on top of that, as that’s generally the order in which I’d need all that equipment. I also have a SAR signaling mirror and a plastic ITW whistle tightly and firmly attached to the MOLLE row on the back, because I want both to be fairly accessible and because I was able to secure them pretty snugly. An Outdoor Research beanie and a waterproof “boonie” hat allow me to adjust to chilly or rainy weather while taking up almost no space.
However, I also live in a house that was built in the early 1900s, so it’s still entirely possible that I may need to leave my house in a hurry. Is the country you live in suffering from, or on the verge of suffering from internal unrest? In San Francisco, I use Sutro Tower, a colossally large radio and television tower built in 1973. It’s visible from almost anywhere in San Francisco and even from Marin County or down in the Peninsula.
My choice is to keep the basics on me and a small bag tucked within a minute or two of my location and my bug out bag in my vehicle and all the rest of my survival gear in bags and boxes at home but stored ready to go within a half hour to an hour. It’s also within a thousand yards of my home, so as long as there isn’t a thick blanket of fog (or smoke), I can always use that as a landmark to guide my progress. I give it that long because I want to be sure my escape is clear and I have all that I need. But if survival is the purpose, if when u pick up that pack u may and likely will never return to that life you need knowledge.

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Comments to “Bug out bag vs go bag list”

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