Regular readers may remember last year’s epic $200 Bail Out Bag Challenge in which RF gave Nick and Tyler $200 each to assemble a bug-out bag that they could use to survive for 24 hours in the south Texas heat. If nothing else, the video they made is fairly amusing, but from a practical standpoint, we all learned some things from the endeavor that should guide our decision-making process should we decide to make our own bags . . .
Since that time, I’ve given a fair amount of thought to what makes a good bugout bag. Obviously everyone has an opinion as to what should and shouldn’t be in your bag and the contents will likely change depending on where you live, the time of year, where you expect to find yourself, etc. In addition to home-made bags, a number of companies have taken it upon themselves to create ready-made kits full of things that they think you’ll need. Some of these bags are crap and some are well thought out. One that falls into the latter category is the Echo-Sigma Get-Home-Bag.
Echo-Sigma offers a number of ready-made bags along with individual components should you just want to fill out your existing bag with some new components. The ready-made bags range in cost and purpose and include:
The Runner ($125) is a compact and relatively light pack (9 lbs.) that includes critical supplies to keep you mobile.
The Get-Home-Bag ($249) is designed to be stored in your car and provide you with enough gear and supplies to survive for 2-3 days as you make your way back home or another place of safety. This one clocks in at about 16 lbs., much of it due to the 2.5 liters of water that’s included.
The Bug Out Bag ($499) is their premier personal survival kit. It’s a heavy load (33 lbs.), a third of that due to 5 liters of water, but it includes pretty much everything needed to survive on your own for several days.
In addition to the personal kits, Echo-Sigma also offers a nearly 100 lb. Emergency Roll-Away kit that’s designed to provide all of the necessary survival supplies for two people for 3-10 days.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Echo-Sigma kits, so I decided to purchase one of their Get-Home-Bags as I felt that was the ideal intersection of price, weight, and supplies. Depending on who you order the kit from (both Amazon and Brownells carry them, or you can order direct from Echo-Sigma) there are a number of colors available. Black, Coyote Brown, and Red are standard colors. A-TACS and Multi-cam are offered as $40 options. Since I intend this to be an emergency pack, I wanted something visible, so I opted for Red.
The Condor Outdoor Assault pack that Echo-Sigma uses is a good starting point. If you were to go out and procure your own, you would find that this accounts for about $45-$50 of the price, more for the A-TACS and Multicam flavors. The bag has a fairly extensive number of interior and exterior pockets which Echo-Sigma puts to good use arranging all of the gear that’s included.
One of the advantages of ordering directly from Echo-Sigma is the ability to upgrade some of the standard items. You can choose a different ration/water kit, upgrade the included flashlight, upgrade or add another multi-tool or add a full blown knife, folding shovel, and/or tomahawk. To keep things simple, I went with the standard kit. To gauge its value, I’m going to list the approximate price that I found for each component on Amazon.com. You may be able to find these items for less, but we’ll use it as our benchmark.
The kit includes a Condor Outdoor 2.5 liter hydration bladder ($15) that fits into a pocket on the back of the pack. Tools include a Gerber “Vise” Multi-Tool with pliers, knife, screwdrivers, etc. ($13) and an E21 flashlight by Fenix ($31). The Gerber Vise may be one thing worth upgrading as it’s fairly small – about three inches or so and is described as a “keychain” tool.
Survival Gear Includes:
- 50 Feet of Military Grade 550 Paracord ($5 value)
- 10 Extra Large Zip Ties ($1?)
- 1 Coghlan’s Emergency Tube Tent ($10)
- 1 Emergency Poncho ($4)
- 1 Plexiglass Mirror for signaling help ($4)
- 1 Thermal Sleeping Bag Cocoon by Survival Industries ($14)
- 6 Premium AA Alkaline Batteries (guaranteed fresh for 7 years) ($4)
- 1 Pair Leather Work Gloves ($13)
- 2 N95 Rated Respirator Masks ($1)
- 1 Pair of Protective Goggles ($5)
- 2 Hand Warmers by Coghlan’s ($3)
Total cost of items discussed so far $168.00 Echo-Sigma also includes some items with their own brand names on them. The first is their 1-3 day Arid provision pack that includes 2,400 calories of ration bars (6 bars at 400 calories apiece) and 2.5 liters of boxed water with a five year shelf life. ($16).
The next specialty item is a compact first aid kit ($25) which includes about 68 various pieces. When I compare it to other first aid kits available through Amazon, I’d say the price is about what you would pay for a similar kit from other vendors.
The final item is the compact survival kit ($50) which includes:
- 1 Compass
- 1 Emergency Whistle
- 1 Emergency Blanket by Coghlan’s
- 1 BIC Brand Butane Disposable Lighter
- 1 Magnesium Fire Starter with Flint Striker
- 40 Waterproof Matches by Coghlan’s
- 1 Tinder Kit by Coghlan’s with Flint Striker
- 50 Inches Duct Tape
- 1 Bottle of Water Purification Tablets by Coghlan’s
- 2 Chemical Light Sticks by Coghlan’s
- 2 BIC Brand Ball Point Pens
- 1 Pad of Paper
- 1 Set of Earplugs
A search of similar gear turned up Adventure Medical Kit’s more fully-featured Pocket Survival Pack Plus for about the same price, so I’d say the one from Echo-Sigma is maybe about $5- $10 or so heavy in terms of value. Let’s say it’s contents are worth about $40 – $45.
Adding everything up, the total value of the kit comes to $249 – $254, which, oddly enough is exactly what this kit costs. So, while you may not be getting a super bundle deal, you are not getting ripped off either. You should also consider a few other things.
First of all, assembling your own kit takes time. Me, I don’t mind paying someone else a bit to do the legwork. Secondly, if you have to order the pieces from different vendors, you are going to pay multiple shipping and handling charges, which will drive the cost up. Third, for someone who doesn’t know where to start, but wants a well configured kit you can hardly go wrong with one of these.
As with most tactical gear, one needs to consider the mission. The mission of the Get Home Bag is to get you home or to a place of safety where presumably you will have more provisions. It is not intended to be an extended survival bag (although it could function as one assuming you have access to food and water once the included provisions run out).
The kit is designed to help you navigate, signal for help, secure warmth (three different means of starting a fire are included), protect you from the elements (sleeping bag, tube tent), deal with minor medical issues, provide a couple of days provisions, and protect you from semi-hostile atmospheric situations (gloves, goggles, mask). The folks at Echo-Sigma have done a great job of including just the things you need while keeping weight and cost as low as possible. That said, nothing is perfect, so in addition to the contents of this kit, I’d consider adding a few things. First of all, you need a proper knife. As Crocodile Dundee said, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife”
The Cold Steel Bowie Blade Bushman Fixed Blade Knife. 7 inches of razor sharp knife that weighs only 10 oz and costs a mere $24. Sure, you will need to put a light coat of oil on it to guard against rust and it may not be a great every day blade, but in a survival situation, it will add a lot of value without weighing you down.
Next, as I mentioned, I’d opt to upgrade the keychain Gerber tool to a more fully featured one. Unfortunately, Echo-Sigma wants $50 to upgrade to the SOG S44 tool. Given the fact that you can purchase an S44 on Amazon for about $40, I’d be inclined to skip the upgrade through Echo-Sigma, buy the S44 through Amazon, and stick the Gerber dime on my keychain where it belongs.
Finally, If you live in a cold climate (or one that gets cold from time to time) I’d add this:
Fortunately, the Get-Home-Bag has enough space left over to hold these items along with anything else you might want to add (such as maybe a gun and some ammo). It’s compact, fairly light weight given what you get and should be enough get you home.
Ratings (out of five):
Function: * * * *
With a few added accessories, this bag includes pretty much everything you need to get to a place of safety. Unlike some other products, Echo-Sigma didn’t take a “kitchen sink” approach and load you down with lots of useless crap. Every item is well considered for the mission. You have almost everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Ease of Use: * * * * *
You pull this bag out of its box and its loaded and ready to hit the road. No need to take lots of individual pieces out of their own wrappers like some kits have. If I recall correctly, the food and water come in a separate box to protect it and prevent leakage, but it is clear from the empty main compartment of this bag where it needs to be stowed.
Value: * * * *
Sure, you can probably assemble an identical kit for about what it costs to purchase this one, but is that really a bad thing? Why do we always have to associate bundled products with price discounts? Instead, look at it this way – you hired a wilderness consultant to prepare a survival bag for you. Instead of charging you for his services, he negotiated discounts with the equipment makers, bought all of the products, put them together in a bag and charged you what you would have paid had you done all of the legwork yourself. Pretty decent value if you look at it that way.
Overall: * * * *
I’m knocking one star off because I think this bag should have included a couple of critical items by default. A better multi-tool and a knife like the Cold Steel one would have bumped the price up to just under $300, but it would have been worth it. Then again, these omissions are easy to remedy and Echo Sigma was clearly trying to shoot for a $250 price point which seems sensible to me. Add the items I suggested and you end up with a kick ass survival kit.