Your bug out bag is more than just something that sits in the back of your closet or the trunk of your car to give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling when you go to sleep at night or watch the horror that is the evening news. You know it will save your life one day and you’ve gone above and beyond to do your research, get the best gear, and make sure you’ve got all the necessities and then some. But what so many experienced preppers overlook is that a bug out bag not only needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, it also needs to be regularly checked and updated. Food can go bad, leather can dry out, and guns need to be cleaned and fired. Here’s your guide to all the little things that can go bad in your bug out bag and how and when to keep them updated and ready to go.
First things first, if you’re not hitting the range with your firearm regularly, then you’re probably not cleaning your gun as often as you should be. The natural buildup of lint and dirt is inevitable. Every few weeks you should break it down, clean it out and lube it up, and after every trip to the range as well. Your gun also needs a deep clean once a year in addition to regular field-stripping. If you’re unfamiliar with the inner workings of your specific firearm, head to your local gunsmith for a serious clean and, if you’re lucky, a tutorial.
Medications and Their Expirations
Antibiotics are a prepper’s best friend for one simple reason: they save lives. From a sinus infection to an infected wound, your likelihood of needing antibiotics in an emergency situation is high, and taking an expired antibiotic could make the problem worse, not better. Antibiotics begin to lose their potency after a year generally, and even one exposure to extreme heat (like leaving your bug out bag in the car) can render the lifesaving pills useless. Your best bet is to store all meds in airtight containers at room temp or lower. Taking expired antibiotics may not only be ineffective but can cause whatever bacteria you’re trying to kill to mutate and become stronger, so it’s not a risk the smart prepper is willing to take. Make sure you’re stocked up on meds both at home and at the office and practice grabbing them from their cool, dry location when you do your bug out dry runs.
(I have a bit of a problem with the above paragraph, see the following link Shelf Life of Prescription Medications.)
Food for Thought
Another survival essential that can easily go bad and leave you stranded is your food supply. Extreme temps, prolonged exposure to sunlight and even humidity can render your food storage inedible. MREs are your best bet because they are portable and have the longest shelf life.
MREinfo.com has a great comparison study of civilian MREs and their variety, taste, extras (like instant coffee with cream and sugar!) and even the quality and shape of the included spoon. MREs last an average of one month when stored at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and five years when stored at 50 degrees as per the MRE shelf life time and temperature chart, last updated in 2010. Hopefully your MREs have a Time and Temperature Indicator so as long as the inner circle is not darker than the outer circle and the pack isn’t punctured or swollen, you’re good to chow down. Although, some MREs age better than others. Experts warn against cheese spreads and non-dried fruits that are older than six years. But that 11-year-old maple nut cake? Still tasty!
Equipment is Everything
Last but certainly not least, your pack and your boots are the only ways you’re going to get out of town alive, so they both deserve regular upkeep and attention. Your pack should ideally be only 25 percent of your body weight and the more you can practice your bug out plan and take long hikes with your pack, the better prepared you’ll be to not only carry it for extended distances but repair any injuries or fortify any weaknesses in the straps, frame or zippers. The same go for your boots. They need to be worn in and worn regularly because a bad blister can mean the end of your travel day. They also need to be replaced every few years.