The Winter Bug-Out Bag Guide
Bugging out is something that we hope you really never have to do. But, it’s something you should consider. In one of our previous blog posts, we have looked at what exactly a bug-out bag is, and some of the core gear types you need (you can see the article here).
There is something we are lacking though from that previous article, and it was how to change up your bag depending on the weather, environment etc. Therefore, in this post we are going to specifically look at bugging out in winter and how a winter bug-out bag is different.
Here we go . . .
What’s different about bugging out in winter?
Well obviously is much colder. Therefore, one of the priorities will definitely be clothing. But, shelter, food, water and tools could all have to be changed from your summer bug out bag. We will keep this as simple as possible, but always keep in mind that this bag is designed for winter primarily.
Clean water isn’t necessarily harder to find (it rains more, but if the temperature is low enough water will freeze. Which makes it a little harder to get at but not impossible.
Another thing to think about is hydration itself. In the summer you feel thirstier because it’s hotter. In winter you still sweat, and if you are moving a lot, you will need water, so keep that in mind.
In terms of the gear for a winter bug-out bag, make sure you have an insulated flask/bottle. This will allow you to make tea/coffee when you make camp and keep the liquid warm for a period, or it can stop your water from freezing for an extended period. A very useful bit of kit!
Have you got food that you can eat in any temperature? Some foods will freeze and become inedible, others will be fine.
The key difference though is when it comes to hunting or finding new food. In winter food is less abundant, both in terms of animals, fruits and mushrooms.
It’s not impossible to find food, but it is much harder, therefore it’s advisable to take more food with you, and the food you do take, make sure it’s still edible in very cold conditions!
Now this section is probably going to be the biggest of the lot. So bear with us, as it’s arguably also the most important.
Footwear: We aren’t just talking about normal boots, you want boots designed for the cold, and designed to keep water out. There are a good range of options out there. When choosing one think about your environment. Is the place you going likely to be wet as well as cold? Or is it going to be muddy? Questions like that will aid in your decision.
Also when thinking about footwear. If you are likely to bug-out in snow or ice, you might want to consider some sort of ice grips or traction devices.
The final bits of footwear to consider are gaiters. They are brilliant and overlooked product that helps product your lower legs. They help keep mud and water off your legs. There is nothing worse that soaking and freezing legs/feet, so don’t chance it
A ski mask or balaclava is always a good shout here. They cover the neck, face and head. Sure we wouldn’t recommend that you wear it down the local shopping centre, but out in the countryside it’s a great addition to your bug-out kit.
Goggles: Protect your eyes from wind and sun. This is probably more suited to snowy environments as you get a lot of glare off the snow, but they aren’t a bad shout anyway even if it’s not snowing.
Hat: Get a hat! We aren’t talking about a baseball cap or the like, but a proper winter hat that will also keep your ears warm. Look at the two linked pictures below for some inspiration!
Socks: Firstly take spares. You do not want cold and wet feet. Therefore it’s imperative that you have both warm socks and spare pairs. The awesome thing about the humble pair of socks is their versatility. You can wear them on your feet as intended, but you can also use them as gloves, or a cloth. You can even use them to carry other things. Genius.
Gloves: Simply you need to protect your hands. These are some of the first parts of your body to get affected by severe cold due to the lack of blood flow and how far away from the heart they are. It’s worth considering taking at least two pairs with you. A big think pair and a smaller pair so that you can work but still keep your hands relatively warm. Two options should be sufficient.
Jacket/fleece: Essentially you really need one. Preferably something warm and waterproof. If you rather you can have a thicker fleece with a thinner waterproof coat. Really it all depends on the weather conditions. If it’s raining or snowing you’ll want waterproof kit. If it’s just freezing cold prioritise warmth. Remember though this should be a bug-out bag so always worth having options, that’s if you have the room.
Thermals: This can take the form of long johns, maybe some Under Armour Cold Gear leggings or tops. Either way, these are designed specifically to keep you warm, and they don’t really take up that much room. Definitely worth packing!
There are a few things here that are pretty standard to include in a bug-out bag for all seasons, and that’s a tarp and tent. The main difference though is that your tent should be able to stand up to heavy winds, rain and even heavy snow. Some tents are not strong enough for those sorts of conditions, so thoroughly research your tents’ capabilities.
This is no different to any other bug-out bag or bug-out gear. It’s still important though. You must have enough kit, that a) is in date b) you know how to use it. There is no point having you kit you don’t know how to use.
Knives and Tools
Knives should be no different to any other time. But, there are some other tools you should consider such as a folding shovel. This is perfect for things like heavy snow. Digging a drainage ditch around your tent, of even digging a toilet area. Don’t underestimate the shovel. If this isn’t something you can get in your bag, it’s worth having one in your car anyway!
An axe is always a good shout too. If you’re worried about size though, you should consider something like the Klecker Klax, it’s small and means you don’t have to carry a handle around. Ideal for a bug-out bag!
Other gear to consider
Tinder: In winter it’s much harder to light a fire, so make it as easy as possible for yourself. Waterproof lighters, extra hot tinder such as magnesium shavings. Lighting a fire is survival 101, so learn how to make a fire in any scenario.
Maps: In winter and extreme cold some of your technology may not be working efficiently or at all. Therefore always bring something old school. Maps are a good example of this. Bring a few different map types and know how to read them. If you’re bugging out, and need to get to your set rally or camping point you need to know how to get there using a number of methods!
Flashlights: Like any technology, it can struggle with extremes of temperature. But, no two flashlights are the same. Some brands and some batteries work better at different temperatures. Having more than one flashlight/headtorch which are different brands or use different batteries is sound advice!
Comms: The final thing to consider is communication. This isn’t specially winter related, but it’s always good practice to have a couple of communication methods available. Either for you to reach out to people, or for the people you want to speak to, to be able to reach you. Two way radios are good for this. Having a small actual radio is good for relaxing and staying informed of what’s going on in the world.