Do Guns and Ammo Belong in Your Bugout or Get-Home Bag?

bugout bag
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Bugout bags provide some basics to survive while getting away from a disaster. Other times they’re used to help facilitate returning home during a disaster, especially if part of the journey has to be completed while on foot (also called a get-home bag). Prepper philosophies vary widely regarding the bags and their contents. We aren’t going to argue here how many extra pairs of socks or skivvies your bugout bag should have. But should guns and ammo be a part of your bugout or get-home bag?

These kits really should include only the must-have items for a SHTF situation in order to preserve and save your life. The old expression “proper planning prevents piss-poor performance” comes immediately to mind. The wise and prudent man or woman won’t make rookie mistakes in crafting his or her pack.

The biggest mistake many, if not most people make when assembling their pack is over-estimating their load-carrying ability.  That, coupled with an inability to discern needs versus wants, leads to extra, sometimes unmanageable bulk and weight.

For most of us, our 18th birthday is nothing but a distant speck in the rear-view mirror. Our clothes have inexplicably shrunken over time. We may have picked up ailments or disabilities along the way that we have to contend with. Some might not be able to complete a five-mile walk on decent terrain in nice weather in a single day. Doing so while carrying fifty pounds?  That’s just not gonna happen.

When in the field, remember that ounces feel like pounds, and pounds equal pain.

Carrying a gun and ammunition in a pack will quickly add pain when bugging out, especially for those in anything but good physical condition. What’s more, your concealed carry handgun should be on your person where it can be readily deployed when absolutely needed. Don’t bury your gat under your Gore-Tex, the first aid kit, and other gear.

As for extra ammunition? Like food and water, ammo weights a lot. Unless you expect to run through Little Mogadishu on your way home, a sidearm and a reload will probably suffice for 99.99% of likely self-defense contingencies.

Also worth mentioning: Long guns strapped to you or your bug-out bag will attract unwanted attention from both good guys and bad.

As for gear in general, seek out lighter weight alternatives to what you might ordinarily pack. For instance, are you considering a Maglite because you have an extra old one laying around? Rethink that. Buy a modern LED flashlight that uses a single, ubiquitous AA battery. It will weigh next to nothing (especially in comparison to that Maglite) and will out-perform your heavy, twenty-year-old light in both brightness and run-time.

If you live in regions with plenty of surface water, consider relying on water filtration over carrying your own beyond a water bottle in a bugout situation. Filtration options range from something as easy and accessible as a Sawyer water filter (available at most Walmarts) to a more traditional hiking water-filtration unit from Katadyn or MSR.

Food can be heavy too. Instead of packing an MRE, consider dehydrated meal pouches (Mountain House), or things like instant oatmeal or similar foods. Instant hot chocolate makes a comfort drink, too. Simply boil water, add it to the foods and you have yourself a hot meal. Yes, dehydrated foods tend to lack calories, but most of us have plenty of adipose tissue to burn, particularly in the short term. That’s what your bugout bag is meant to cover, after all.  

I’ve seen my share of these get-home bags over the years and I’ve made more than a couple myself. Back when I had more hair and less experience, my first prepping attempt barely fit in a large A.L.I.C.E. field pack (which is a 3,800-cubic-inch bag). Upon finishing it, I looked in awe at all the stuff I’d managed to cram inside. “This is great!” I thought to myself proudly. Then I picked it up. That aluminum frame creaked and groaned. So did I.

Working diligently, I pruned it down to 38 pounds and got it — barely — into a medium A.L.I.C.E. pack. From there, it gathered dust. 

Fast forward fifteen years when I couldn’t walk through a Super Walmart buying groceries without needing a nap afterwards. I put that pack on and couldn’t walk 100 yards without needing a break. My legs burned by the time I’d made it back home. Two hundred yards and I was ready for a nap.

So I went to the gym and got into better shape.

About that time I also bought a “hiking” backpack. Yeah, military packs look cool, but I wanted something that was “sheeple” style. I loaded it with 10 pounds of utter essentials, sans a loaded Camelbak-style water system. I’ve since switched to a flat-dark-earth pack that weighs about 15 pounds. Why am I willing to endure the extra pain? In a word: twins. I carry extras that might come in handy if my five-year-olds are with me.  

Of course, your needs can and will differ from mine, depending on your location, climate, etc. Either way, if you’re packing your heater every day as you should (you are, aren’t you?), there’s no reason guns and extra ammo should live in your bugout bag unless you’re living or working on the wrong side of the tracks.

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