by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Travis Imel is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Travis Imel won the BSOTW. Shown in the picture is his daughter, Tia, an Olympic hopeful.

Today starts the Roanoke airgun show. If all has gone as planned, Mac and I are there, enjoying another show surrounded by airguns and those who love them. Naturally, I’ll have a report for you with pictures, but I imagine several people will beat me to the punch, so you should get good show coverage.

Today, I want to talk about the current fad that favors zombies and apocalyptic scenarios. In short, I want to address the “bugout” bag.

No, zombies aren’t real, and we may still make it through the Mayan calendar, just like we did Y2K. So, why does anyone need a bugout bag? Because zombies, aliens and creeps aren’t the only reasons you might need to bug out (leave the area in a hurry). I once got evacuated from my miltary quarters in Fort Knox when a train carrying a nasty chemical derailed in nearby Muldraugh, Kentucky. I didn’t even know there were tracks in that part of the county before the MPs came by and said we had to leave. Of course, those were the 1970s, so there were no computers or hard drives to grab — just the kids and the money and off we went. But the fact of it stuck with me — emergencies can happen anywhere at any time and for any reason.

Today, when I leave in a hurry I carry a whole load of baggage — computers (which are my livelihood until the whole system collapses and I become a traveling storyteller), medicines, money, guns, etc. What we take depends on the crisis, of course. If it’s a derailed train, we take the minimum. If we are under a terrorist attack, we go armed to the teeth and with extra guns and ammo to trade — that sort of thing.

But the question remains: What do you pack in your bugout bag? If you’ve never considered it, I may be able to offer some thoughts that are valuable — whether you live on a ranch in Wyoming or in downtown Toronto.

The combination tool
The Swiss Army knife was a breakthough in portable tools at the start of the 20th century, and it still is. There are times when I always have a Swiss Champ in my pocket, such as gun shows where small tools and magnifying glasses are put to use all the time. The modern combination tool, typified by Leatherman, is the magnum extension of the Swiss knife. I carry a Leatherman Wave on my hip and have a Gerber Crucial in my pocket. Why? Because often when you need one pair of pliers, you really need two. Get at least one combination tool and put it in your bugout bag!

Swiss Champ Leatherman Wave
The combination tool is a modern extension of the Swiss Army Knife.

Pyramyd Air sells the Schrade Tough Tool, which looks like it has a killer set of pliers. The price is very good for a combo tool — you’d pay twice and even three times that much for other brands. Sure, they’re made in China, but they’re stainless steel and appear to be quite rugged.

A powerful, small flashlight
I’m going to recommend a flashlight that uses AA batteries and not the CR123A batteries that tactical flashlights need. Why? because they’re cheaper, easier to find, they do a good job and if things get bad there will be more AAs than 123s in short order. I have two favorites in this category — a Pelican 1920 and some little Chinese light with no name that I have been using for four years on the same battery! Don’t worry about matching my brands. Get lights that work, then use them so you know that they work. Make sure they go in your bugout bag. I’m never at a show without at least one such light.

Two flashlights
Two non-descript flashlights. The top one takes a couple AAs. The bottom takes one AAA.

You can’t cut everything with a knife. Sometimes you do need scissors. Mine are found in a Gerber Shortcut combination tool. The tool is too small for pliers, so they substituted scissors, in their place.

Gerber Shortcut
Small, but a better pair of scissors than the Swiss Army knife has. Gerber Shortcut, and yes, there are other small tools.

A nice knife
I put this in because I just have to show you this one product. The Walther Tactical folding knife is one serious cutting instrument! I don’t care for serrated blades, but I got a special sharpener for them a couple years ago and the blades I do sharpen will cut through anything faster than plain blades. This Walther is well-made, hefty and can be assigned all the jobs a sheath knife can do, like cleaning large animals. I enjoy the gravity and lever-assist blade opening that’s almost like a switchblade. It also has a skull-buster, whose real purpose is breaking glass, like when you need to get out of a car. (I can hear the chatter now: “Why wouldn’t I just open the door?” That comes from someone who hasn’t yet been there and had to do that.)

Walther Tactical Folder
For 20 bucks, you can’t beat the Walther Tactical folder.

Another knife is always on my person except when I fly, and that’s a WW II camp knife that was issued to soldiers. Yes, I like the nostalgia, but I own several other camp knives, just in case I lose this one. They are too handy and I can’t describe all the reasons I need them, but even Edith knows that knife is always in my pocket. Your pocket is the ultimate bugout bag.

The law
You have to consider the law when you plan your bugout bag. There are places like the United Kingdom, where even small knives are now regulated and cannot be possessed without running afoul of the law. In some situations that cause you to bug out, society will have collapsed and what’s law right now won’t matter anymore. But it does matter now, and even having certain items as insurance against the worst possibility involves breaking the law. I am not advising anyone to break their laws. But I do think you have to think such things through and have a plan — even if you don’t currently have all the equipment to execute it.

Let me illustrate what I’m talking about. Mac talks to a lot of people in his capacity as the lead photographer at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. And he has a very dry sense of humor. Some time ago when national crises were being openly discussed — let’s call it the post-911 timeframe — Mac was having a conversation with a woman at work about disaster preparedness. She was against owning a firearm for any reason, but a firm believer in preparing for the worst. That involved having two years of non-perishable food on hand.

She told Mac she was ready for the next disaster because of this food, and then asked him if he stored food, too. He told her he didn’t have to. He knew where she lived, and he had guns. If disaster struck, he had a ready supply. It was a joke, but only partly so, because every disaster scenario says exactly the same thing. Those who are armed and have the necessary conviction will possess whatever they need. And those who hoard supplies but are not prepared to defend them will become the unwilling storehouses for those who need them. Doubtless there will be many subtleties on this theme, but the end result always comes out the same.

What else?
You need the means to start fires. A cheap butane lighter is perfect for this. A mirror to signal with and to use just as intended is another good thing to have. Make sure it’s an unbreakable one. A solar-powered radio is so cheap to buy and often contains a flashlight. Get one with a hand-crank, because the sun may not shine where you end up.

Obviously you’ll want water purification tablets and a small first-aid kit with you. And since this is Friday, I’m opening the floor for you to recommend everything else!