So I recently uploaded a picture of the stuff I carry on a daily basis, which led to some interesting conversations with others. I figure I would do a write-up on why and what it is that I carry.
It all started back on March.11th 2011, when I was in Tokyo in my workspace about 8 miles (11km) away from where my home is. As you already might know a large earthquake shook the northern part of Japan. The tremors I felt in Tokyo were unlike anything I had experienced before, I remember holding on stuff just hoping it would stop. The aftershocks were even worse, for a whole year Japan felt like a rocking boat. Thats when I started to think, if the next big one hits am I going to be ok? Will I be able to get back to where my family is safely? This is where my journey started as a “get-home-bagger.”
Some background information:
There are numerous websites and youtube channels and videos talking about “the ultimate get-home bag” or “bug out bag” etc etc. Now, what I am about to explain is how my bag is, I don’t think its the “ultimate” bag, I don’t think such a thing even exists. Having gone through multiple iterations of my bag and its contents the current configuration/contents I feel are “good enough” for my situation. So here is an outline of my situations:
1. I live in Tokyo, a highly urbanised metropolitan city with a very advanced public transportation network. Hence I don’t drive, I don’t own a driver’s license. I never was really good at it but thats another long story.
2.Japan is an natural disaster prone area. Everything from earthquakes to massive typhoons to, guerrilla rain storms, heavy snow fall.
3.An active shooter scenario is highly, almost inconceivably unlikely.
4.There is no 4th amendment right equivalent for citizens in Japan. Police routinely can and do question people walking around the city or riding their bike. Why is this important? See item 5.
5.Japan in general but specially in Tokyo where I live has extremely strict restrictions on the transporting of tools and knives. It used to be that you could carry a blade under 6 cm (2.3 inches.) However currently due to a significant increase in burglaries back in the late 90s, Japan has implemented a “Anti-picking” law. (Technically called “Banning the procession of specialised lock opening tools” law ) Under this law, one cannot have any tools that can be used to open or break a lock. Tools include pliers, screw drivers and small knives,scissors,nail clippers,lock picking tools etc, without being able to prove “justifiable” reasons. However there is an caveat here, “justifiable” is often left to the officer questioning you. Metro Police state as an example of a “justifiable” reason as having purchased the item and you are transporting it to another destination, basically anything beyond this and you could be in trouble. There are numerous reports of people having their small blade confiscated, or being detained for long hours or even worse being arrested. So a regular “multitool” is a violations magnet.
6. I am freelancer. I do have a regular workspace where I usually work but my job takes me all over the corners of the Kanto-region (a geographical boundary around Tokyo). So my worst case scenario based on experiences by my friends who had to walk home on 3.11, I am assuming I would have to walk home for up to 18 hours to get home. One of my friends had to walk for 10 hours to get home, so I think planning for 18 hours gives me enough of a safety buffer for planning.
7.I am a certified first responder. As a first responder we were taught,to change our attitude from “don’t get involved” to “get involved” in cases of emergency. So as much I would like to being able to provide everybody I meet during my walk home with support realistically this is impossible. However I could easily imagine providing support to somebody who is heading the same way as I am or a colleague or friend. So I tend to carry enough for 2 people. Myself and my plus one.
8.This is my everyday bag, I could have a seperate “get-home” bag at my workplace but like I mentioned before, as a freelancer I don’t know where I will be at any given moment. So my everyday bag needs to allow me to work and also get home in case shit.
So whats in the bag?
Depending on the situation I will carry my macbook air (13’ inch) or my iPad mini or a stack of notebooks(for translating) with these.
Bag: 5.11 Rush 12 backpack
1. Electronics & misc.gear pouch.
-ethernet to wifi converter
2.Microsoft universal mobile keyboard
3. Vacuum sealed rubber gloves (4 pairs)
6.CPR Mask+Tritium Glow fob
7.Small trash bag
8.Battery case (AA,AAA,AAAA,CR123)
10.Umbrella (carbon spokes)
12. Vargo stainless steel bot. (Coffee,tea,lighters,esbits,pot cramper,titanium mug)
15.Mobile battery (18650 batteries based ([email protected] x4=14000mAh)
16.Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Sling bag
17.Personal Grooming kit
18.Pens (Magforce organizer)
19.Water bottle (klean kanteen)
20.Vacuum sealed toilet paper
21.S.O.L emergency bivy
22.Tarp (Grapper All Weather Tarp) + zip ties
23.550 Paracord (100 feet)
24.3-Tier Medical kit. (First Aid, Wounds, Misc)
Base weight: 7.8 kg / 17.1 pounds
Like I said the electronics+gear pouch might technically be in violation of the law, however I am willing to take that risk. I do use them quite often when I am on site working trying to fix things. But the pouch is in my backpack and none of the tools are “easily accessible” from the outside of the bag. Hopefully this is good enough. I do take this pouch out,when I am going to any government building to work in. Most of my stuff is organised in smaller containers that would allow me to switch bags or dump them based on the situation I am at or will be.
Some explaining to do:
After the 3.11 earthquake, when many started their journey home, people struggled with some basic needs.Food and water were easily accessible given that Tokyo has many convenience stores located throughout the city (6,847 as of March 2015, only counting the major chains).So food and water, not much of an issue, and after 3.11 many vending machines have implemented an emergency mode where in case of a disaster they would automatically change into a free vending mode.
However the cellphone network was throttled by the carriers to allow emergency communications first priority. When a mobile phone has difficulty connecting to a network it would constantly probe and ping for network availability, hence your battery drain is significantly higher when this happens.So people had to stop to get their phone charged. Hence I carry a bit more reserve power in the form of mobile batteries so I can charge my phone and equipment without having to stop for an hour to charge. Remember, my goal is to get home asap. Also I don’t want to wait for somebody else to finish their charging before I can charge my phone. For me, reserve power equals the ability to stay “on-the-go.” and getting closer to my family.
Also because your phone/smartphone will not be able to connect to a network many navigation applications you rely on won’t work. Hence I carry a printed map marked with some important locations for myself and a compass, one compass is inside map pouch for me to plan my route back home and I do have one on my watch too. Many people whom walked home on 3.11 took routes they knew and not necessarily the best route. This caused some massive bottlenecks in major areas where people just ended up cause they didn’t know any better. While there might be comfort in numbers there also is a highly probability of confusion or clouded judgement. You see this with a large group of hikers whom all think somebody must know the way and they all end up getting lost.
Weather , the silent threat you feel but do not see.
Weather conditions, March weather can be nice or cold depending on the year. In 2011 it was a dreadfully cold day, and many people whom only wore their regular work suits or attire had difficulty dealing with the harsh cold night. Many whom waited to get home ended up seeking shelter in train stations hoping that the public transportation system would recover,which in didn’t.As you would expect as a result of ” typical by the book operations”,many train stations closed their shutters based on the “regular” scheduled last train procedures and people were forced out of their shelters. This has been rectified and many stations supposedly will provide shelter in case of a natural disaster.
Japan also has a rain season and typhoon season which can bring massive rain fall and since there is no way of predicting when and what the next natural disaster will be I have to take weather conditions in account. Summer in Japan can be extremely humid and hot, often in the 30 ~ 35 degrees Celsius (90s in Fahrenheit ) with humidity up to 75%. Winters are dry and cold lower digits in Celsius (40s in Fahrenheit).
So every season or when I think the weather is changing I go through my bag to adjust it to the season. For winter seasons, I pack some more heat preserving or generating items like a scarf or some hand warmers etc. For the summer my first aid kit will have some counter dehydration items, like oral hydration powders.
I find it that it usually is a good thing to go over what you have in your bag every 4 months or so take things out or add things you think will be necessary.
The 4 tier medical kit.(technically a 3-Tier system + α)
I carry a “daddy I have a booboo” situation roll on person with me where ever I go. this includes items that I use on a regular basis as a father and some other “not-so-emergent-but-shitty-situation” mitigation items. It contains, eyeglass wipes, some basic medication , bandage , rubber gloves , safety pins etc etc. So this would be tier 1 of the 4 tier kit or technically the + α.
The second tier is my actual first aid kit. This pouch contains most likely used items for minor trauma. Basic bandage, alcohol wipes, rubber gloves, medication, pain killers etc etc. Each type is labeled and stored based on their usage. The reason why everything is organised in an almost OCD way is that, there might be a case where I won’t be able to get to my kit or I have to ask somebody to use my kit on behalf of me while I am doing something else (like administrating CPR to another victim.) This kit is the first line and I need to be able to verbally instruct somebody else to get something out of this kit for me, hence everything is clearly labeled.
The 3rd tier is wounds related, among emergency situations I am most likely to encounter would be wound related. In reality I have been on numerous ambulances accompanying friends or family members with not life-threatening but substantial wounds.
The last tier is where, “oh shit what now” stuff is organised. Anything from hand warmers to tampons and napkins, emergency blankets, N95 graded dust masks. All the stuff that I hope I won’t have to use but I can easily foresee a need for is in this pouch. You would be surprised how often people ask me for female sanitation products, since they know I carry some on me all the time.
All of the main containers, the ones I carry in my backpack have a clear front so that people can see what is in them. Once again just in case I need to tell somebody to grab one of them for me. Its easier to say “The one with the tape and bandage” than “The black one thats not the tactical one with a patch on it.” Remember, you might have to ask somebody to patch you up.
The comfort zone:
Often when you read up on “ultralight” backpacking articles or watch videos, people say “yea I’m sacrificing some comfort here but ..” , granted in a case of emergency, “comfort” is not something you should be worried about. But there is something to be said for comfort related gear. In my case its my coffee pod. This stainless steel pod by Vargo allows me to boil water and make coffee while I’m on route home. My grandfather who was an army veteran from WWII and a heavy smoker often said, “when the situation is bad, have a smoke and rethink your situation.” Having practiced walking home for long distances I often felt like, “man, I just want to sit down and have a nice hot cup of coffee.” Not like a somewhat warm canned coffee from a vending machine but a boiling hot cup of coffee. So I have a coffee kit in my bag. Is this absolutely necessary ? No. Like I said its to comfort me , also I have a vacuum sealed pack of cigarettes.(yes yes its a nasty habit but so is meth or cocaine.)
The purpose of these is for me to calm my nerves and allowing me to reassess the situation I am in.
The search for the “ultimate bag”
Hi my name is Kentaro and I have a bag addiction..
I started out with a regular TUMI-like business bag and since then, a 5.11 Rush 12, Mammut Neon Light, Hazard 4 Sling bag, ZeroPoint Nupuri 35…and now back to the Rush 12.
As I search for the “perfect bag” , I am getting better at organising my stuff too. Realising that the bigger the bag the more unnecessary stuff I ended up carrying. Forcing myself a smaller bag makes me think twice before I pack stuff into the bag. One side note, I used to have (and still do ) a box full of “tacti-cool heavy duty denier pouches” for everything, but during my “technical hiking” backpack phase I learned of ultralight stuff bags and containers. Its surprising how heavy only the containers can get once you start using many of them, and then you realise, “wait all of these pouches are inside my bag, why must they be so rugged?” Since this revelation I have moved on from those heavy denier pouches to lighter ultralight organising pouches.Also I ended up learning how to sew, to make smaller containers for my needs. The current bag and its contents are the 5th iteration of my every-day-get-home bag and most likely will still continue to evolve. Watch out, once I master sewing zippers!
Modding my bag.
Depending on my work engagement,I needed a way to still carry my RUSH 12 in a non-backpack configurations sometimes. So I made a 3 way bag mod. Added a side handle and some carabiners for a shoulder strap for sideways carry. I use the compression straps to cross the bottom shoulder straps on the back when using sideways, and store the upper shoulder straps in the water bladder compartment. This way when I do wear a suit for the job I can carry by bag sideways, looks a bit more “normal” in a business environment. Also I added an internal separator inside the bag with one side covered in hook velcro for easy organisation.
The basic idea behind the bag.
I am a strong believer in “usage should = ease of access”. So the most likely or often used items should be the easiest to access. This is one reason why I ended up switching back to the RUSH 12, because of the ease to access smaller items. The technical backpacks where great for carrying around except it required me to ruffle through my bag each time I needed something. I organise my back from outer to inner,having the items that require constant changing like food or items I am most likely to access like my first-aid kit to be toward the outside of the bag. The items I am less likely to use like a tarp,paracord etc are stored toward the back of the bag(i.e.closer to my back.)
The front pouch section contains my first aid kit and some other items that I use fairly often.
1.Go through your bag regular to adjust your needs based on work,location and season.
2.Vacuum sealing is a great way to minimise space for the not-likely used items.
3.Don’t try to make the “ultimate bag” remember “good enough” is what you are aiming for.
4.Have fun exploring different options. Is there a better way to organise? How much lighter can you make your bag?
5.Practice regularly. I regularly walk home with my bag not only from my usual workplace but from locations I don’t know. I use my map to plan my route and my on-watch compass to guide me. Its amazing on what you can find out not only about your bag but also the city you live in.
6.If you can’t find the perfect match, make one that’s closer to your needs. My goal is to one day build my own bag, thats a long ways ahead but its a goal I am aiming for. Sewing isn’t a sissy hobby I have the scars to prove it.
At the end:
Like I said, this is my personal situation, yours might be similar or vastly different.But so will the emergency situations we encounter. Stay safe and stay cool.
I do carry a lot of stuff on me too, in either my pants pocket or in a pocket of my jacket. As often as I carry my bag everywhere I go, there are times I just have the stuff that’s on me. (like going to near by park with my kids, I wouldn’t carry my get home bag, but I would have some basic stuff in case one of them scrapes a knee or something).
my in-pocket-holster for one of my mobile batteries.
I suffer from a chronic condition known as “low power anxiety”
Stay safe Y’all.
There are many multiple uses for vaseline from preventing cuts during a boxing match to protect the skin from drying up etc etc. But you can also make a cheap and very effective fire starter. Beside the fact that this could be helpful during a SHTF event these make a very good and easy to light fire starter, much better than some of the “shit to start your barbecue grill easier” type of fire starters.
1. Vaseline , petroleum jelly. (make sure its 100% pure and unscented)
2. Empty tea candle aluminium cup.
3. Cotton balls. (for make up or other uses, just make sure its 100% cotton)
1.A bowl to put hot water into where you would place another jar into to melt the vaseline.
2. A jar to melt the vaseline in.
3. Chopsticks or any other device that would allow you to soak the cotton while keeping your hands clean.
1. Melt the vaseline by putting it into the jar and put the jar into an another bowl containing hot water. Now theoretically you could use a pan and melt the vaseline directly , however you have to avoid boiling it and it could cause a mess not to mention we are making fire starters so safety first! (or if you are a redneck, safety third!). By using hot water to melt the vaseline much like you would melt chocolate for baking its safer and easier, it just takes a bit longer but you can wait. – See Figure 1 .
2. Dipp the cotton ball into the melted vaseline. make sure you soak up the vaseline into the cotton ball and not only on the surface of the cotton ball. – See Figure 2.
3.Place the dipped cotton ball into the empty tea candle cup. Theoretically you do not need to do this but it makes handling the cotton balls easier. Remember, use a cup to easily handle balls. (some of you will get the joke) ,After the vaseline has cooled down a bit if you put the container upside down on a flat surface it will even out the the top to give a nice flat top.
How to use them :
1. Just fluff up the middle to create a wick to start the fire. -See Figure 3
2. Once it starts burning a little breeze will not put out the fire – See Figure 4.
After experimenting , I extinguished the pod after the first 5 minutes but the pod only burned a fraction of the top layers , from the results I can say that it will burn for a very long time. Enough to get your barbecue or camp fire going I think , if you can’t get your campfire or barbecue going while the pod burns you need to up your fire starting skills. Next time I’ll try to see if there is enough heat to boil water or actually cook something.
Remember folks SAFETY THIRD! (no not really , safety is always first)
-This post is a part of a series I am writing—
72 hours is often cited as the golden rule in preparedness for disasters. There are numerous blogs,youtube videos posted by users who claim their SHTF bag has enough supplies to cover 72 hours. FEMA and RED CROSS both state on their website to stock up enough supplies to last 72 hours. So as long as you have 72 hours of supplies you and your loved ones will be fine right? Wrong. 72 hours is an average based on numerous variables , also when does the 72 hours start , the moment the disaster such as a tornado or earthquake, tsunami hit ? Or does the countdown start once the initial impact of the disaster has been assessed?
I can only draw from my own experience having been there when the 3.11 earthquake hit norther Japan in 2011, that 72 hours might be enough or it might not be. Let me recap the events of 3.11 before I explain why I believe 72 hours might be enough or might not be.
Recap of the event:
2011/3/11 14:46 Magnitude 9.0 earthquake hits northern Japan.
14:46 Fukushima nuclear plant shuts down.
14:49 Tsumani warning issued
15:55 Tsumani arrives.
05:22 Fukushima reactor becomes uncontrollable
15:36 Reactor 1 explodes
2011 there were 10487 earthquakes that could be felt=28 earthquakes /day
702 earthquakes in 9 months in Tokyo alone.
Death Toll:15,881, Missing:2,688, Injured:6,142 people.
Evacuated: 1,540,000 people (as of May.2013)
As you can see the devastating tsunami that wiped out towns along the northern shore line of Japan arrived one hour after the tsunami warning was issued. So 72 hours from the arrival of the tsunami or 72 hours from the initial earthquake that caused the tsunami?
Neither. Before I start arguing my case let me write out what I think. 72 hours the moment you run out of your current supplies. Unless you are moving away from the disaster’s impact zone as soon as the disaster hits, you will have supplies around for a couple of hours minimum maybe even a couple of days. When the 3.11 earthquake hit people were rushing to the local stores to stock up on food and water and other material. However the stores shelf did not really become empty after the a day and a half since the earthquake and stayed empty for much longer post-first-impact.
Right after a major disaster hits an urban area, the urban area usually has enough implicit surplus to last at least one day or a couple of days depending on the distribution mechanism. Also after the disaster hits, unless you are a super strong minded individual without any family members usually the first step you would take is to establish contact with people you care. If you are in the office you would try to reach home and or relatives to see if they are ok. If you have kids you certainly will try to reach them either by calling them on their cellphone or calling the school to see if they are all right. During the initial post disaster timeframe carriers will throttle their network capacity to allow emergency responders to communicate to each other. In other words your capability to reach somebody your care will be limited as long as you try to use their network (i.e: Cellphones,texting) After the 3.11 earthquake hit I spend a good hour or so trying to reach my family. Once I established contact with them and I knew they were fine I started to asses the situation I was in. Do I head home or do I stay put? I was in my office working , I knew my family was safe so I decided to stay put. Bug-in , in prepped-talk. Technically since I was at work and not at home I’m not sure it would have qualified as bugging-in, I work as a freelance consultant and office is just a fancy word for my work pad which has been dubbed by others as “the bat cave” like Batman’s secret hideout. Its not an office in a high rise, its an old house that has been converted from residential to commercial use. I did have a fridge which at the time of the earthquake was filled with beer and energy drinks.
I decided to hit the nearby convenience store to stock up on some food and snacks since I knew it was going to be a long night. As reports started to come in about the 3.11 earthquake people were forced to make similar decisions like myself. Many of them choose to walk home from their office to their homes, public transportation was shutdown due to safety concerns of the tracks and roads. People started to tweet offering shelter and food/drinks to the evacuates many of them walked for more than several hours to get home. One of my reasons to decide to stay put that day was the fact that by the time I got hold off my family and had assed the situation it was already close to 6pm and I was loosing daylight. I wasn’t sure if the city was going to have electricity at full capacity or not,wether the street light would be working and TV news showed a constant stream of people trying to get home walking on the major roads. I have always avoided crowds since I was a kid and I wasn’t going to change that day. So contrary to many I decided to hunker down. Which proved to be the right decision given the fact that it was early March and night time temperatures became very low and unlike today I would have been way under equipped to survive a cold spring night trying to get home.
I think the next day or the next next day, can’t really remember anymore but I decided to finally go home, during those days I was in constant contact with my family while the city kept rumbling in aftershocks. I remember reports coming in on the television of store shelves becoming empty the city had exhausted its inherent supply. The earthquake had caused significant damage to the distribution system what supplied the city, like any urban city much of the supplies used in the city are produced not inside the city but in other regions within the domestic borders or produced in other countries only to be imported and distributed. Much like a pond drying up if it doesn’t rain enough without the constant flow of daily stuff coming into the city the real dangers of not having supplies comes slowly after the initial disaster impact. This is where I think you should start considering about using your emergency supplies should start, not right after the initial impact but once you realise that the distribution or flow of supplies has been disrupted.
Not all supplies will dry up at the same time, at least thats what I experienced after 3.11. For example water, although I newer lost any access to tap water there were towns and villages where they lost access to municipal water. Losing access to municipal water not only increases stress of dehydration but also you can’t shower nor use the toilet. Municipal water refers to water that is being supplied by the municipal government, obviously if you live close to a river the situation will be different. It usually takes a couple of days before water can be supplied back into towns/villages which loose their water supply by delivering water using water tank trucks. Even then usually the governing body will restrict the water volume assigned to each individual/household far below what you would usually use to live comfortably. Ideally you would not only stock water in either gallon containers or bottles you would have a way to collect/reuse water. At my house I have a water cooler with a water delivery subscription, I started to use this service when the local city government issued an advisory not to drink tap water right after the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the rain that followed was believed to pose a public health crisis by contaminating the water supply. The water cooler is great for daily use, I get access to cold and hot water very conveniently but also I have ordered extra water periodically to stock. With the subscription service I can rotate my water supply constantly making sure that the water is safe for consumption. Water supplies is interesting because in my case although I did not lose access to municipal water, we did have a period post-disaster when we could not consume the water. The toilets worked, we could wash the dishes etc etc, but we couldn’t drink the water or rather we were advised not to drink the water. Its like being adrift in the ocean, there is so much water around you but you just can’t drink it. Once the government issued the warning/advisory about warning against the drinking of the water, bottled water disappeared from the store shelves any consumable liquid like soda, beer, bottled water disappeared. Not right after the disaster but quite some time later.
Understanding when and what might run out is crucial in building your preparation survival plan. Do you enjoy that you have access to those freshly made sandwiches,salads,cut fruits and smoothies at your local grocery stores? These types for “fresh food” will quickly dry up when they are not constantly being replenished by the underlying distribution system that supplies them to your local grocery store. The fresher your food is despite the fact you don’t grow them yourself the higher the likely hood is that you will loose access to those in case of a disaster. Fresh food depends distribution system much like your blood delivers much needed oxygen through out your body.
Another element required for keeping food fresh is electricity,is there a strong likelihood of losing electricity in a disaster scenario?
Food will also go bad quicker during the summer than the winter due to the difference in temperature and humidity depending on where you live.
All of these questions contribute to calculating how much supplies you need. So how much do you need? Do you watch the news? I mean real news, not some made up comedy news nor news where guys are yelling at each other over who has the moral majority on his or her side. A tornado devastates a town, a tsunami wipes out village , a hurricane floods a whole city and earthquake destroys a village in the mountains of China. All these scenarios do happen on a regular basis, although in regards to similarity of disaster scenarios the earthquake in China might look like a good example for me to use as a guide to determine my preparation it actually isn’t. My situation is radically different from a village in the mountains of China, the only thing I have in common is the likelihood of an earthquake. I always try to gauge the governments response capabilities by looking at disasters that happen within the domestic borders were I live. A typhoon wakes out power and causes flooding in a city, how long till power is restored or the flooding has subsided , a landslide takes out the one road to the village how long before water trucks are on the scene delivering water? Observing what the government response is at different crisis points allows you to set a base line of expectations for your preparation needs.
So yes , maybe 72 hours is a good starting point, certainly it is better than 48 or 24 hours however, consider that the 72 hours start once the inherent supplies start to dry up and not everything dries up at once. If you are in a rural area it might take longer for the government to respond or for the distribution to reestablish.