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.
So you decided to come to Tokyo. Now what?
here is an old writeup I did for a friend who was coming to Tokyo for the first time , I’ll update it later, maybe with some pics…
To get to Tokyo from the airport, DO NOT TAKE A CAB!!
the airport despite being called Tokyo International Airport
(NARITA) is not located in Tokyo. Its in Chiba. So it would be
like taking a cab from San Jose to San Francisco. You are better
off taking the fast train Narita Express.
Which is very comfortable and will get you to the middle of Tokyo.
Or take a limousine bus ride , also very convenient.
Akihabara, the famous electric / manga/anime city block of Tokyo
Okachimachi , this is where the original black market started after WWII .
Its very Asia, dried squid sold next to the fake Nike shirts etc etc.
Asakusa , a landmark of Tokyo, one of the biggest temples and a vibrant downtown district.
Probably something to do on the weekend.
Akihabara closes down pretty early around 18:00.
The cool part of this is that , all 3 locations are very close and can be covered in half a day or less. You can actually walk from Akihabara to Okachimachi then take the train to Asakusa.
The newest thing would be the new broadcast television tower they just launched.
I personally think its ugly, and the older tower is much prettier.
(also less crowded)
Tokyo tower is also the tower that got destroyed a lot in the old
If you are the “active” type , a quick jog around the imperial place is always cool.
For the history buff,
The controversial Yasukuni Shrine is worth a visit, they also have a
extremely right wing patriotic museum next to it.
Or the Meiji Shrine
If you are interested in cool fashion in Japan a quick
walk around Shibuya(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibuya,_Tokyo)
Which is like a young kids hip district to the Meiji Shrine
which will allow you to see , Harajuku (famous cutting edge fashion
district) and Omotesando a more hipster town. I would recommend doing
this on the weekend because there will a lot of people out and you get
to see the famous cosplayers (costume wearing people) in Harajuku.
If you are the more goth type then a visit to the Aoyama Cemetery is cool. (but please respect the dead)
If you are high society fashion conscious you could hit the 5th avenue
of Tokyo, Ginza.
If the weather is nice a sightseeing trip on the water bus (ferry)
is very cool:
At night , a trip to Roppongi might be fun the infamous nightlife
scene in Tokyo. Not sure if its a couples thing but yea maybe.
The Womb and Club Atom are popular(both in Shibuya).
Myself I’m not a dance club guy so.. but my techno
freak friends seem to like them.
The Ninja Restaurant.
(not great food but hey its a theme restaurant)
one word of advice the name “restaurant” is highly misleading , you want to eat
some food ahead of time and then visit. Their menu is more like snacks and you
can’t order during the showtime. So go eat somewhere before you go. Nevertheless
its a truly Tokyo experience.
I personally would recommend
This restaurant has some great food , and the interior was the
inspiration for the design in Kill Bill where Uma Thurman
fights.You should call ahead to make a reservation.
The Celurian Hotel Bar in Shibuya has an incredible view:
Or the Park Hyatt Hotel Bar (famous from “Lost in Translation”)
An insane dive bar in Roppongi:(its a dive , no really its a dive
but it was popular with the expats . Whatever you do , DO NOT BANG
THE GONG. if you do , you have to buy everybody a drink, and I mean
If you are a Beatles Fan , you might want to check out
Abbey Road. where the a Beatles copy band The Parrots play.
The legend is that they are the only copy band that the
Beatles approved of. ( I personally don’t care about the
Beatles, more of a southern rock guy but..The Japanese
and Australians seem to love the Beatles so..)
If you want some real soul food type stuff
hit up Toribeer in Nakameguro:
its a dive joint that my friend runs, and I’m there
often. They serve lots of different types of cooked
They have an english menu.
Pre study before coming to Tokyo:
-Lost in Translation
-Wild Speed/Tokyo Drift (not really reference material
Jauntful map of Tokyo: https://jauntful.com/elkentaro/gygGrW0Yj