Bugout Camping: The act of grabbing one's bugout bag and heading off "cold" to camp out.

Being the survival experts that we are, a simple bugout camping trip sounded like a fun way to spend the weekend. After all, we'd been through our BOB's a few times, knew we had our stuff together, and decided that an equipment shakedown was in order. We did our first bugout camp-out last weekend - grabbed our BOB's, hiked off to a site we'd already scouted out earlier in the day, set up the tent, gathered some firewood, cooked dinner over an open campfire (for the first time this spring), then sat back to enjoy the solitude of the wilderness. Well, that is, we sat back to enjoy it after a bit of a shaky start.....

Do's and Don'ts for Bugout Camping

 DON'T cannibalize your bugout gear for household use 

I love my anglehead flashlight. In fact, I loved it so much that I got into the habit of grabbing it off my web gear to use around the house. Actually, I felt the same way about several items of equipment, including my knife. I wasn't the only one..... we spent a lot of extra time gathering up essentials that were obviously AWOL from our BOB's and web gear.

DO make a checklist of BOB essentials and check it every time you use your gear 

Since our move at the end of March, we've had our packs torn apart and back together half a dozen times. Last time I repacked, I was so careful to put everything away in the agreed-upon standardized locations. Well, that is except for one or two little things.....

Fortunately, we didn't get very thirsty this trip, because we'd somehow misplaced the 2-quart canteen. Actually, it was right where it should have been; we just hadn't bothered to label the storage container so we didn't know where to look. We tried looking in any number of places but didn't hit on the right combination...

DON'T leave home without a few Bic lighters in your pockets, in your pack, somewhere in your web gear..... 

Due to the extra time it took to gather up the items we'd taken out of their rightful locations, it was dark by the time we arrived at and set up camp. I gathered firewood by the light from my anglehead while my boyfriend set up the tent. He asked me to light a fire, and I was more than happy to oblige....or I would have been if I had remembered to put that bag containing my matches, lighter, and other fire-starters back into my pack. I managed to laugh my way out of this one, since it was just a drill and his pack had plenty of fire-starting material; under different circumstances, this could have created a serious problem.

DO take your pack out for a stroll to make sure it's comfortable  

I'm still using the Jansport I bought for wilderness backpacking about 20 years ago. It was a top of the line model back then, "short" sized with a wide padded waist belt and a suspension system that makes carrying it quite comfortable. It's got plenty of roomy pockets and leathers for adding straps. While the dark royal blue was fine for backpacking, it wasn't appropriate for current application, so it got a few coats of cammo spray mist to disguise it.

Since it had been just a few months since my last backpacking excursion, checking for comfort wasn't a major concern - add the LBE and suddenly the comfort level dropped a few notches. Something about the positioning of the shoulder straps for the backpack harness didn't ride well with the cross-strap from my LBE. I'm glad to have found out on a short trip rather than a major cross-county (or country) hike. I also found I had a missing bolt from the suspension which made me tend to lean to one side while walking; replacing it made the pack ride more comfortably as well.

DON'T take what the weatherman says as gospel

The weather channel predicted a sunny weekend after several very wet, cold ones in a row. Saturday was absolutely perfect - we camped under the stars, cooked our survivalist kill over the campfire (pseudo-kill, since we figured there was no sense in wasting perfectly good game which could be fruitful and multiplying this time of the year. We brought along some steaks that had been marinating in the fridge and pretended it was squirrel). It was very comfortable when we turned in for the night- clear and cool, with a sky full of stars that seemed within arm's reach from the top of Sugar Hill. We left the tent flaps open and drifted off into that deep sleep that comes with an overdose of fresh air...

Oh, what fools these mortals be.... Sunday morning dawned - or should I say dripped - on us in a miserable state of half rain-half snow as the temperature dropped below 40 F. It was dry inside the tent, but my feet were cold from the damp breeze at the open tent flaps. I might add that next time I'll take a bag liner just in case the weatherman fails me again.....

DO take a quality knife along 

From hacking your way through underbrush or those small eye-poking branches to splitting small logs, a good knife is an invaluable tool. Personally, I would recommend either a Ka-Bar or a T.H. Rinaldi Warhawk. I've witnessed the log-splitting capabilities of both of them and I was very impressed (just make sure the log diameter doesn't exceed the blade length). All you need to do to make an impromptu log-splitter is to stand the log on end, place the blade of the knife on top of the log with the end of the blade extending past the edge, and pound it down through the wood with another small log. Once the knife is buried in the log, pound on the end of the blade, forcing the knife continually downward, until the log splits. This may be a good way to test your knife's durability - after all, a good survival knife can multi-task with ease...

DO seal your tent seams, waterproof your boots & packs, etc. 

This was not a problem for us - we were in good shape for waterproofing. We found a couple of minor wet spots in our packs, which had been outside in the rain all night long, but no major leaks and no major damage to any of the contents. We stripped our packs and applied a fresh coat of 13% silicone spray when we got home. Make sure if you use silicone spray that it's at least 10% silicone; otherwise, you're wasting your time, money, and eventually your patience...

My boots have been waterproof since I removed them from the box on Day One, and I swear by Timberland's waterproofing treatment. My first walk in my current pair started out with a trek through a stream behind the house - dry feet then and still dry three years later, through the mud, the creeks, the swamp, the snow, the rain, you name it! These boots were rugged, can be re-soled, and have been through all four New York seasons without a hitch. While the Thinsulate is a bit "thin" for winter in NY, a good pair of insulated socks makes up the difference. NEVER scrimp on your hiking boots - an army travels on its feet and you'd better treat your army "engines" right.

We had a good time bugout camping, in spite of a few minor problems along the way, so it's easy to forget the reason we started out in the first place: to make all these mistakes so YOU don't have to.

For now it's a training exercise - an exercise I advise you to undertake for yourselves. One day it may not be 'just-for-fun' and running a gear shakedown now is a lot easier than doing it in a life-and-death disaster scenario.

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