Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Get Home Bags and Range Extenders

Yesterdays walk about found me following the railroad tracks for over ten miles.  For me, taking these freestyle walks is part of my weekly “stress management” protocols.  A way to lose myself in order to find myself.  Often I’ll log in upwards of ten miles. Since I never really know where I will end up until I get there! I usually pack a day bag with some water, lunch, a pad, pen and maybe my ipod.  This got me thinking about bugging out or coming home by foot.  What it would really take and how useful get home bags (GHBs) and “range extenders” would be.

 I mentioned in a previous article that survival kits whether they’re BOBs (bug out bags) or GHBs or survival kits, need to be customized to the exact circumstances where they would be used.  For example, in colder climates winter gear may be crucial.  For me in the heat of a South Florida summer it’s a hat, bandana, bug spray, sun block and a ton of water.  With the terrible frequency of heat related injuries in my area, these are not just range extenders but critical survival gear.  Where I walk the risk of getting lost is not a big deal since I’m in the city, but someone in a rural area or a true bug out situation may need a GPS or a map and compass.  If navigation is important, redundancy in this gear may be wise.  GPS smart phone apps are an easy way to back up more serious navigation equipment. Proper route planning with options is very important.  The method I like is the P.A.C.E. method used by the military.  The acronym stands for primary, alternative, contingency and emergency or plans A, B, C and D.  If I where trying to return home during an emergency my first choice would be in my car.  That’s my primary means with public transportation as my alternative. As a contingency, I have other routes which I could take with either.  Walking or if I could acquire a bicycle would be my emergency method.  Additionally, a person anticipating a multi day trek, may also require portable shelter if it wasn’t readily available along the route.  Adequate rest is critical to survival.  Keeping this in mind and adding a few comfort items to your kit is probably very wise.  For me a poncho, ground cloth, and some cordage is perfect.  More than once I’ve made my shade and had lunch at a public park on a beautiful and maybe not so beautiful day.

Once the critical survival gear is taken care of, then we start to add “range extenders.”  Those pieces of gear which help us drive on getting more “range.”  One of my more important range extenders is a small highly portable first aid kit.  Contained in this kit are the usual boo boo items such as band aids, pain meds and alchy wipes but also contains a blister kit and ace bandages.  Since blisters and mechanical injuries can slow you down dramatically it make sense to have such items in a bag designed to increase and improve your ability to move.  Also in my first aid kit I have electrolyte replacement powder.  In my longer walks if the day is particularly hot, I may go through quite a bit of water.  A gallon or more is not unheard of.  With so much water going through me, it is quite possible to get hyponatremia or water poisoning a dangerous even deadly electrolyte imbalance.  Of course, eating food also helps balance your electrolytes but also adds very important calories, your “drive on” fuel.  Depending on my mood, my choices can range from some energy bars and trail mix to true hiking food and a light weight cook kit.   In a true bug out situation those are great choices as is peanut butter.  Peanut butter not only contains lots of carbs and fats providing lots of calories but also contains a lot of protein.  Two spoons fulls of peanut butter contain as much protein as a steak.  Great range extending fuel!

It should go without say that a good pair of shoes and the right clothes are essential but the means with which to repair them is very valuable should any of these items break.  For me a small sewing kit and some duct tape is just about perfect , small and light.  The right bag can also make a huge difference.  My day pack is a shoulder bag which and depending on how much water I carry can weigh twelve pounds or less, usually less.  My true GHB weighs a bit more and is a back pack.  The small school book bag type back pack.  It carries easy.  Blends in well and can be carried on one shoulder when my back gets too hot.  Since that one lives in the back of my car my food sources are a little more heat resistant.  See my previous blog post titled “More Thought on Food Storage” for more info on the food.  I also have two one quart water containers which I normally keep empty.  I keep a gallon of fresh water in my car at all times.  Should I need to use my GHB I would fill the two containers and pre hydrate.  Since the best way to carry water is in you, I’ll drink as much as I can before taking off thereby extending the usefulness of the water I carry as a range extender.  Also in my GHB are binoculars and a small radio with ear phones.  Both will allow me to get valuable intelligence should I be in a true SHTF scenario.  In a civil unrest situation this would be critical.  Avoiding trouble is infinitely preferable than fighting for your life.  

While I could easily write volumes on this subject alone I believe I’ve included some very important ideas for you to ponder.  Let me leave you with one last thought, possibly the most important idea.  While it is very important to have the right gear it is all for nothing if the user does not have the skill to use his equipment correctly or if the user is not in good enough condition to physically endure the task.  Perhaps the greatest range extenders of all is a strong mindset and being in excellent  shape.