Stocking stuffers! How many of you LOVED getting stocking stuffers at Christmas? My dad took special pride in his stocking stuffers. It really was the highlight. Dump that bad boy out. See what all the usefully little stuff Santa could cram in 24 inches of an old sock. Now, it took me a long time to figure out what he was doing. Mostly, as he was checking out at Wal-Mart with our Christmas presents, he would look over at the junk racks. Anything that was useful, he bought....and some things that weren't. But, the stocking was first to be pilfered and always started Xmas out in a big way.
Now, to be fair, Wal-Mart does a terrific job, especially at Xmas, on making sure that the checkout aisles are filled with good stuff to catch your eyes. On this list are the obvious: batteries, magazines, gum. But, in Wal-Mart, everything is bigger, so you get BIG packs of gum and BIG packs of batteries. Also included are niceties like flashlights, doe urine (the hunters will understand), and Hot-Hands. All the things a little outdoors boy needs.
So, what does this have to do with our bug-out-bag?
Well, if you are like me, all the big items have been bought. All the basic necessities tucked firmly away. Only a few nook and crannies left to stash anything. But, filling these nook and crannies with useful items that catch your eyes and make your brain go "hmmm..wouldn't that be useful if..." could make or break you when the time comes. Don't just think about the pockets on your pack..think about the loops, the latches, anything that could make something useful easy to store and easy get to. These items are not usually things you would every think to put on your list, nor do the lists that appear on Amazon under "build your bug-out-bag". Sometimes you have to think of situations. Sometimes you just have the epiphany.
I can't really take credit for thinking to myself: "self, that would be a good addition to your bag!" In fact, most of the time, it comes to me as I am....you guessed it....checking out at Wal-Mart (or Fred's, in my case...since I go in for $2 weed-eater line and come out $70 poor(er) ).
Let's get to it. What is Crazy Ole Zach shoving in a pack that is already to full?
Item #1..PPE Gear. Well, ironically, I was looking at other people's list, and PPE...personal protection...gear stared right back at me. Or, rather, the lack thereof. I have plenty of good cold weather gear, but that's not what we are talking about. We are talking about chemical suits and gloves, steel toed boots, chemical masks.
Obviously, some of these items won't find their way into the pack. Boots, for example. They are heavy and take up too much space. But, other than that, these other items are compact and easy to come by. And cheap. That leaves the other items. Chemical suit, gloves, and mask never crossed you mind. But they should. All of your preparations are for naught if chemical hazards become a concern. Even if that were a 1% chance, that 1% chance could be lethal at the expense over a few dollars and 2 pounds of gear. Now, initially, I thought about how these items were just dead weight otherwise. But, then I got to thinking....a Tyvex suit repels water just like any other chemical. Sure, it isn't the optimal rain suit, but it works. And a rain suit is a crucial piece of equipment. While it may rarely get to freezing temps here in Alabama, it gets to 33 degrees and rains PLENTY of time. Protecting yourself from exposure is a necessity. Even staying dry in the perfect temperature is crucial. I don't know about you, but I can't sleep when wet. And sleep deprivation because you are soaking wet is not an idea thing when you must keep your wits about you. Now, the use for it's actual consideration are easy to see. Chemical warfare. Biological "issues".
How about a chemical mask. Again, it's a single use item, but easily attaches to an outside loop of your bag. Saving you from a chemical attack is obvious, but did you think about it's use in a smokey environment? Well, folks, if you end up having to use your bag, rest assured that something somewhere will be on fire.
Chemical gloves? Again, it's true use is obvious. But, gloves are a necessity in a work/rebuilding environment. Again, it's not the optimal use of them, but it is a use. You will surely be busting through glass, or chopping wood, or generally using your hands at some point. Also helps you keep those phalanges warm when you otherwise might not have anything.
An item that will ALWAYS be overlooked is safety glasses. Face it, you can't really say that there isn't a point in your everyday life where you shouldn't have a pair of glasses wrapping around your eyes, whether its prescription, sun protection, or plane safety glasses. Even better are a pair that do all 3. The LAST thing you want in the EOTWAWKI (go look it up) is to be blind. Hey, stuff happens randomly every single day. Now imagine that you are in the thick of it. Constantly on the move. Things are burning, blowing up. Bullet casings are flying. It even has a biological protection side to it...but we won't go there. I can't think of a worse thing. So, wearing a pair of safety glasses is an obvious need, even if it's not obvious to you at first. It's light weight. It costs nothing. It protects the part of you that is always the most venerable and perhaps the most important part of your sensory network. Even in it's most basic sense, the need to protect your eyes as you are building or working outside against wood chips and flying branches, protecting your long term vision against the sun.....we see the trend.
So, I think we get the gist of the need for PPE. In the end. It weighs next to nothing. Costs next to nothing. But it can and probably will address an immediate and deadly situation you will find in the EOTWAWKI
Item #2...Hot-Hands. Sure, my dad always bought me a case of them at Xmas. Hot-Hands have one single value...it would seem. Keep your hands and feet warm. It sounds simplistic. But, 20 years of deer hunting has taught me one invaluable truth: The condition you keep your hands and feet in dictate your success. If your mind is constantly on how cold you are, you will not be 100%. Not only does being cold affect your attention span, but it affects your judgement. It's happened to me COUNTLESS times. I am on the tree stand. I get cold. I try to be tough, but eventually I give up. I move. The deer snort and run off and the hunt is over. Now imagine that you are hiding for your life. The last thing you need is to have your judgement impaired over something like cold feet. Spend the $2. Buy a case of them. They weigh next to noting and fit ANYWHERE.
They have secondary uses as well. While the pouch itself is a controlled chemical reaction, you can put the control into your own hands and create a fire, even in a semi-wet environment.
Item #3...Zip-Ties. It's obvious now, isn't it. Many of you probably have already added zip-ties to your bag along with duct tape. But zip-ties have an infinite use and are much easier and less bulky than a roll of tape.
I won't go into all of them...or even a lot of them. But here are a few you probably didn't think of.
1)Securing doors. Let's say you are running through a building trying to evade and escape. You go through a set of double doors with someone right on your heels. In the heat of the moment when you are on the run, you may not have time to search for a locking mechanism on a set of doors. Or it may be one that can be defeated easily. Maybe the assailant bashes the window of the door, reaches in and flicks the look. That's no good. Even 30 seconds of a head start will provide the range you need to escape. A set of heavy duty zip-ties will do the trick. Encircle the two door handles. Pull tight. Even if he has a cutting apparatus, he still has to fish it out. That's all the time you need.
2)Subduing an assailant. Yep. Let's say you got the drop on someone. Zip-ties are easy to handle and require no keys. A good set of zip-ties will prove to be too much for most anyone to break out of. Unlike a set of handcuffs, they obviously have more uses and aren't a dedicated piece of equipment in your pack.
3) Instant tourniquet. Need we say more? Don't need two hands to pull tight. You hope it never comes to it, but nothing can beat zip-ties for an instant tourniquet.
We can see the plethora of other uses for zip-ties for securing...whatever. I just wanted you to see 3 very real...very possible uses that you can use them for. Make them easy to get to. I loop mine through various pull strings and loops on my pack so they are right there anytime I may need them. Of course, I reverse them so they aren't permanently attached....not just because it would make them useless, but the last thing you want is to provide a way for an assailant to grab you. Carry various sizes. I have 3 sizes. The 8 inch length, 12 inch length, and 36 inch length. Each different length has increasing thickness.
SO, let's recap our very diverse and useful set of stocking stuffers.
The PPE list is a set of items that are very specific in their uses, though they can do other things, but commonly are overlooked. Not having them can be just as deadly as any other concerns that you put into your pack, yet probably not thought of.
The Hot-Hands are an item that again satisfies a very specific need, yet a .$50 extra may make all the difference in the world.
Zip-Ties are not thought of as fast as duct tape, in fact, are usually reference as "held together with duct tape and zip-ties". But I believe you should think of them first. A million and 1 uses and they weigh nothing and take up no space.
That's 3 freebies ( or near freebies) for this week. I know it's a diverse set, and maybe even a bit random. But I made it diverse for a reason: To make you see the value in every day items and to make you think to yourself "Do I have a little extra room? Will this make a difference?"