A Woman’s EDC African Survival Bag – What’s in Yours?

Let me state right off the bat: I am not a prepper. I’m an urban dweller who usually has a stash of ramen noodles, rice, tuna, and the like in my home because I’m half Vietnamese and having extra food stores is what we do. Obviously, I carry everyday and also have guns that work at distance. So far that’s been enough for me.

I admire my operator friends who take the time to put together a full “bug-out bag” complete with food, camping gear, and advanced weaponry. I’m pretty sure that if I tried to carry such an arrangement, I’d make it from central Austin to just past the fancy coffee shops on the East Side before collapsing. Being a big sturdy guy with some extra weight on you really helps in those situations as it turns out. Skinny dancers just can’t compete.

However, about five months ago, I actually ended up needing to create a daily survival bag for the African veldt. The part of the Kalahari I went to is a remote region with no medical care, only a small amount of water, and large wild animals running around everywhere.

The people of that region, the San, live in villages and walk the distances in between. There is very little vehicle transport and even if you do have access to a 4WD vehicle, it’s a very slow crawl, so slow that walking is actually often faster. In order to be out in the veldt for even a day, you need to bring with you whatever you might need if you get stuck out there, which happens because vehicles in that part of the world break down a lot due to the condition of the roads.

So, it turns out that all of that makes for a pretty decent “bug out bag” in and of itself. It all began with the bag, of course, which is one of those ubiquitous 5.11 sling bags.

This bag was suggested by a former friend who’s very paranoid and carries one of these daily even though he never leaves his own neighborhood. Still, it seemed like a good place to start because it’s small enough for a woman to carry and also limits the amount that can be carried, which is a good thing.

Here are some of the contents.

The trauma kit is a Dark Angel that has actually been redone to include things like antibiotic ointment, surgical needles, safety pins, steri-strips, iodine and the like. There is the usual Israeli dressing and tourniquet. I took out the original kit and carried it separately since it’s sealed, but honestly it would be unusual to need anything for a sucking chest wound in the veldt. You’re more likely to encounter bites, cuts, breaks, all of which can be extremely dangerous in such a remote environment.

The compass is a Southern Hemisphere Cammenga (I have both hemispheres). I also have a GPS watch but carried this as a backup. Glasses because of dust (I generally wear contacts) and because a backup pair is always a good idea.

A folding knife is essential because it lives in your pocket. I have the regular type of multi tool, but I’ve found that I tend to use the RealAvid gun tool a lot more, and I’m not sure why. Something about the way it’s set up and the options it provides ends up being a lot more useful than my SOG.

The MPro7 has been used many times on things that aren’t guns to get them moving, and there’s a Lansky ceramic knife sharpener that’s not in this photo that goes everywhere a knife goes. I did take a large standard fixed blade bush knife, but honestly, the Benchmade is what did the real work out there. The mirror is a plastic signal mirror, chosen more for its indestructibility than anything else as there is no such thing as ground-to-air anything out there.

There is also a small, un-pictured old school glass magnifying glass in the mix. And pens. You always end up needing a Sharpie when you’re somewhere remote, for some reason. So I took two.

The flashlight is a cheaper, but very durable Surefire with a Thyrm thumb ring added so it can be carabiner’ed to things. Oh, and lots of carabiners because you can’t have enough.

Interestingly, a two-setting Surefire works a lot better for the veldt than the bright single-setting I’ve used in tactical courses. Too much brightness actually isn’t a good thing out there, as it turns out. It can piss off elephants, which you don’t want to happen for obvious reasons. You can’t call pest control in the veldt when a 13,000 pound animal gets upset and starts tearing up the neighborhood.

Other things a woman needs: a cup. Cups are standard. The water bottle was a LifeStraw with spare straws, not pictured here. This mask is an Airinium, which I used constantly because of ambient dust. And yeah, that’s eyeliner and lippie from Sephora. Because we’re talking about what’s essential.

Let’s not forget the passport and currencies from different countries, all well tucked away in the secret pocket. There was a lot more Namibian money, but I spent it all on alcohol in the airport right before I flew home. The neck knife is a Spartan Enyo that I have set up for holster type carry right now, but I’m going to switch it back to neck carry because I like it better.

Things not pictured that also went with me: water purification tablets, packets of Deep Woods Off towelettes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a small camping towel, and electronics with a solar-rechargeable power cell.

As you may know, I carry my firearm on-body and so it’s not included in the bag. I have never understood carrying a firearm off body, quite frankly, and so the assumption here is that my weapon is accessible apart from the bag, with extra mags also accessible, though I could carry a box or two of extra rounds in the pack.

So that’s the setup that took me for a month in the veldt. What’s yours?

comments

  1. avatar LarryinTX says:

    What a fun read. Thanks! I recommend you look into ZipStitch as a potential replacement for the Steri-strips, I have used the latter several times in the past 40 years, but the new ZipStitch looks to be a superior replacement, the bride and I are putting one in each car and in 3 different stockings thus Xmas, they look to be fabulous.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Oh nice! I’ll def look into that. The trauma kit revision was a hasty consult with a SWAT team doc who’s been hunting in that area of the world, so it was all kinda pulled together at the last minute. thanks a ton for the recommend!

  2. avatar RCC says:

    Pretty much similar to what I carry but passport and two wallets are on me in cargo pants with hidden zip pockets. We

    The pack I use is hunter Camelback backpack for travel / day hunting. Even had bullet loops for 308 in belt strap with zip cover so you don’t lose rounds. Unfortunately the model seems to be discontinued now. 3 litre water bladder plus 40 litre pack in 5 compartments plus mesh side pockets.

    Extra items are:-
    Lighter
    Fire steel plus cotton balls in petroleum jelly.
    Cable ties
    String – several types including 550
    Water purification tablets as well as life straw.
    Space blanket
    Plastic raincoat in case good one is back at camp or motel.
    6 by 4 nylon tarp – handy when no shade
    Duct tape around the water hose.
    Insect repellent
    GPS
    Small binoculars
    Orange rain cover for pack. Also handy when carrying out deer to say I am not a target.

    Has been to about 10 countries so far

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Nice. …One pickpocket wallet and one real wallet? Or different currencies?

      1. avatar RCC says:

        A bit of both-
        One wallet with local money for the day, travel credit card and expired drivers license for ID. If it gets pickpocketed it would be annoying but replaceable.

        Main wallet is in hidden zip pocket with spare credit card and main cash.
        About 5 different currencies for one trip earlier this year.

        I have two pairs of long trousers like this (one was fishing pants and the other climbing so designed not to lose things) and one pair of shorts so no problem so far with pickpockets.

        Forgot two things in backpack “cool bandana” that you wet down for cooling. It’s like a mini evaporative air conditioner. Third world essential small resealable toilet paper.

  3. avatar Michael says:

    Good kit. You don’t have to have a particular country of origin to stock some noodles, beef jerky and multi vitamins, that just shows that you’re paying attention. I always save the little packets of ketchup, mustard mayonnaise, soy and sweet and sour sauce. that come with take-out to add flavor to the Ramen. I feel better if I have a couple of big bandanas, some real GI paracord, gaffers tape and a factory folded poncho. I always carry a second, button type compass that I never carry anyplace except in a pocket. If you can get a pretty good monocular or binos from a camping store on sale, get one. It will pay for itself when you carefully look over your route and spot a declevity between you and your destination hiding in the shadows that you couldn’t get over even with mountain climbing gear. Yes, the long walk around made me a believe in some kind of optics.-30-

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      +1on the optics for non-veldt environments. Out there the grass is over head height and the land is essentially flat, so you are walking more or less blind along narrow footpaths bordered by grass that you cannot see more than 10 or 15 feet into. One learns to be a very good listener out there more than anything else, with “bush eyes” for the occasional clearing.

      I actually tried eating a weeks’ worth of freeze dried camping meals before going to see how that would work. Not the most pleasant experience but it does get the job done!

  4. avatar Jeremy D says:

    So Dan Zimmerman is a half-Vietnamese woman? Who woulda thunk

    1. avatar Jeremy D says:

      Right after this comment the author was updated. Either my browser cookies are messed up or someone fixwd a mistake

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Now that’s funny right there

  5. avatar Michael says:

    Oh yeah, you can use the magnifying glass to start a fire. I always carry a couple of flat, plastic whistles, they’re very inexpensive and don’t stop working if something gums up the little ball. Repeated signals of three, it doesn’t have to be S-O-S, will get the attention of someone much further away than yelling.-30-

  6. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    Elaine D.

    This is a huge, huge subject area….However, you don’t need to be a full blown prepper to have either a Bug-out or ‘Get-Home bag.

    We have one in each of our vehicles. I carry a bit larger bag and equipment than wife does.

    One thing I would suggest if you asked would be to try to stay away from bags/packs that look military. Instead try to have one that looks like everyone else.

    From the Interwebs……”Blending into a crowd is called becoming a gray man. There are people moving around us every day whose physical presence is so non-stimulating that we ignore them. They are for all intents and purposes, invisible to us. The gray man is the one we want to emulate in a disaster.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Thanks Manse. I did think about the bag looking military. I couldn’t find a non- tactical looking one that had the excellent organizational setup that the 5.11 did, so if you have a recommend, would love to get it. I did opt for the grey color as any type of military color would have been too noticeable, for sure.

      1. avatar New Continental Army says:

        Eh, tactical stuff has actually become fairly common place these days, so it’s probably fine.

        1. avatar Elaine D. says:

          New, yeah. No one even noticed. Then again, all things American are pretty foreign to everyone that far out, with the exception of Michael Jackson. You know that someone truly attained global superstar status when even the Kalahari Bushmen know who they are.

  7. avatar RF s a BFBD says:

    No biltong?

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      RF, I ate so much biltong out there that by the time I left I rather eat grass or a porcupine. I’m sure I will get over this by the time I go back. Great stuff, just overkill. There were days when I would have given my left arm for a bar of American chocolate and a latte.

  8. avatar RGP says:

    For an African survival bag, I think I’d want to make my Sako .375 H&H fit in there too. And maybe a couple of grenades.

  9. avatar Daniel says:

    How are you able to carry a pistol on Africa? I was under the impression that gun ownership was restricted to government only?

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Daniel, you are correct about that. There was originally a discussion of bringing a suitable bolt action rifle, which might have been possible, but after a pretty thorough review of all the factors my teammate decided against it. Carrying the pistol with the bag is what I would do here in the States should the need arise. It’s possible to carry certain types of arms in Africa as a visitor, but it’s quite complicated, and not solely because of firearms laws there.

      1. avatar Elaine D. says:

        Daniel: Realized I didn’t completely clarify. Namibian citizens can own certain types of guns. And as a visitor you can bring certain types of guns, but the permitting process is complicated and tied to the safari industry. Since we were there for a non-safari purpose and also involved in a politically complex environment, ultimately the decision was made that we needed to be as off-radar as possible and that bringing a rifle wasn’t worth the potential benefit. One of the things we had to think about was that since we were going to be in a conservancy populated by hunter gatherers, anyone showing up with a rifle was probably going to be asked to shoot game for the pot, and this would have ended up taking up all of our time there!

      2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        So… it’s the usual “this is what I would/should have been carrying”? If you weren’t packing it in africa it’s entirely inappropriate for the article.

        1. avatar Jhon says:

          Lighten up Sally. It’s a good read, even if Elaine didn’t bring the gun.

        2. avatar Elaine D. says:

          Eric, all you have to do is add whatever gun you want to the ensemble. With or without a weapon, whether that be gun knife or whatever, it’s an EDC that was actually field tested and worked in a real environment.

  10. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Fun read. Thanks
    My get home bag has a lot of the same stuff.

    I also have a folding cup, a folding saw, and a fencing tool.

    The fencing tool will snip heavy wire and can be used to snap locks or hinges.

    Throw in matches, lighter, space blanket, a poncho liner (strapped to the outside).

    I will avoid the veldt. Won’t go out of the country anymore unless I can be armed.

    I will stick to woods bumming and the occasional urban foray.

    Less worry in the woods than the urban jungle.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      You’re welcome Specialist. A folding saw would have been useful a time or two, didn’t think of that.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Buy a cheap one.

        They all cut the same and none of them last forever.

        That said – my $8 Walmart special has lasted a couple of years.

      2. avatar bontai joe says:

        I’ve put inexpensive, but good quality drywall plunge saws in my bags. I fashioned cardboard scabbards for them until I get something better. About $7 to $8 in any hardware store or home center or even Walmart https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stanley-6-1-4-in-Jab-Saw-with-Wood-Handle-15-206/100654908 . I’ve spent some lengthy trips in very remote parts of the Philippines. Remote as in no cell phone, no land lines, no road in, no internet, no ATM, and 6 channels of TV if you are rich enough to own a satellite dish and sketchy electric supply. Your bag’s contents are pretty close to mine, except no firearms for me there. I do always carry a space blanket, and a couple of what my hardware store calls “plumber candles” (don’t know why the name). They are white scentless candles about 1 1/2″ dia. by about 3″ long and burn for approx. 8 hours and cost about a dollar each. Sure is handy having a stainless cup, isn’t it? I also have either a monocular or really small binoculars. I wish I had thought of the air mask on my last trip. I’ve got lung problems and the smoke from the ever present trash fires bothered me a lot, so a BIG THANK YOU for that recommendation.

        1. avatar Elaine D. says:

          Absolutely, Bontai. I researched a bunch of different types of air masks before going. After trying out a bunch (including the ones people tend to wear in VN) I really think the Airinium is a cut above. It’s not cheap, but what I like about it is that you can get it in sizes, and it comes with replaceable carbon filters that Velcro into the mask. If you get the right size, the fit is good and it’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and you can throw it in the washer as well as swap out the carbon filter when it becomes crappy. The only thing is that it can become pretty hot if you are exerting yourself heavily or if it’s a hot day. But, I have asthma, so it was invaluable (and actually has been since I got home since there is a lot of construction happening around the house I live in and there are days when dust and fumes are an issue).

          https://www.airinum.com/

          At this point this is going to be standard travel kit for anywhere I go from now on.

  11. avatar SoBe says:

    Thanks for the informative article. When in Egypt, I learned from the locals and bought a few white Egyptian cotton scarves that the locals wear {keffiyeh or kufiya (Arabic: كُوفِيَّة‎ kūfiyyah), also known as a ghutrah (غُترَة), shemagh (شُمَاغ šumāġ), ḥaṭṭah (حَطَّة), mashadah (مَشَدَة), chafiye, dastmal yazdi (Kurdish: دستمال یزدی‎) or cemedanî (Kurdish: جه مه داني‎)}. I can’t remember what the Egyptians called them, the Egyptians understood if I just asked for a “scarf”, but they are the most versatile and I carry them wherever I travel. In the Egyptian desert you wear them as a scarf in the chilly morning, later in the day as a veil or turban in the broiling sun, and as we discovered as a tarp to block out the sun and create some wind. The fabric is very light and thin so they are easy to pack.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      SoBe, yes, keffiyeh are wonderful! Beautiful fabric perfect for the desert. I’ll wear them here, but in places where they have potential associations to political groups, I’ll tend to bring lengths of colorful fabric or Indonesian silk sarongs that don’t have any political meanings.

      1. avatar SoBe says:

        That is also why I found the Egyptian style white ones so useful. They appear politically neutral. No one I have encountered has appeared offended.

  12. avatar jwtaylor says:

    A hat, on my head. A lightweight scarf, around my shoulders or neck. A wallet full of cash in my pocket. A big fucking knife, hidden under a button down shirt. A quart of water, in my hand.
    Everything else I’ve ever needed there could be bought or stolen. Go local.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      @jwtaylor

      Heh. Not where I was. there was one general store that sold tea, sugar, rice, and small packets of canned or powdered soup. We brought in all of our water and a lot of our food, and made arrangements with the one lodge out there to make sure we would get real meals at least once a day. There wasn’t anywhere to buy more than paltry supplies for 300km.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        “one lodge out there to make sure we would get real meals at least once a day”
        So what you meant to say was yes, you could buy what you needed.

        1. avatar Elaine D. says:

          We pre-paid for help with food and brought our own, yes. Beyond that, there was hardly anything you could get – no medicine, no camping or backcountry equipment, no medicines, not even things like pens and string were available. It was pretty random and you could not count on things working either, like the one gas pump in the settlement, the one ATM, or any type of Internet or cell service. If you might need it, better bring it as the trip to supply up was over 300 km of super dangerous gravel/silt road in each direction. Etc.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      When I was in Mexico 20 years ago, I went to the local market and told a guy I needed a knife for a present. He offered small ones and after I walked away he chased me down with a 6 inch ratchet folder. Gave it to my host at the airport. Wouldn’t even consider going to Mexico today.

      While last in Brazil, carried a 4 inch Spyderco. While I was stowing thing at the airport my host told me that i would be in BIG trouble for having that knife. When I told him I had carried it everywhere for the past two weeks, he nearly crapped himself.

      Unless you have some great companions in another country, you can find yourself knee-deep in crap. Sometimes even when you have great companions.

      1. avatar Elaine D. says:

        Specialist: true that. I was with a team of three other women; two Americans who have been to this part of Africa 30 and 48 times, respectively, the third being a South African native who still lives near Cape Town. We also had a connection with another American living out in Tsumkwe who has been there a long time. For sure, would not have attempted something this remote without that team – it was in no way as protected or safe as a safari where you have guides and people invested in keeping you safe from animals, bandits, and the environment.

        I will say this: when you are in a place that has no medical care and no form of law enforcement, you have to reach deep and find ways to work with the most primal kind of fear man knows, and work your way through it or go mad. There is being on your own the way we think of it here, and then there’s being in the true wilderness where humanity is the tiniest and most vulnerable thing out there and the land really belongs to the animals and to the whims of nature. It was a profoundly life changing experience; for sure, I’ll never be the same, in a good way I think.

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Absolutely. I used to think I didn’t take things for granted.

          That is BS of course. Even after hurricane Michael I have things better than many in Mexico and certainly Africa .

          I have lived rural most of my life. When you are in the field in Brazil after dark, you are disconnected in many ways. The folks I was with were super nervous until we got back to sidewalks and bodegas. Brazil teaches me to love the 2A even more.

          Glad your trip was “uneventful”.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Elaine D.,

          I write my following comment in the most sincere and heartfelt concern for your well-being and NOT trying to be a jerk.

          I believe it is extremely dangerous and foolish (again, I apologize and not trying to be a jerk) for four unarmed women from the United States and South Africa to go on a jaunt across remote areas of Africa. For what it is worth, I think it would be extremely dangerous and foolish for four ARMED men from the United States and South Africa to go across remote areas of Africa. Being women, you were prime targets for rape and human trafficking. And being from the U.S., you were prime targets for kidnapping for ransom. And you may have also been a prime target for some political statement or even terrorism since you were from the U.S. And I have not even touched on the animal and insect hazards.

          While you certainly completed your journey unscathed, I believe you were tempting fate. Your trip reminds me of the man who lived unarmed with grizzly bears in Alaska. He told everyone how safe it was and how fine he would be. And it was for several trips/years. Of course eventually one of the grizzly bears killed and ate him.

          Again, I am not trying to be a jerk or anything. I genuinely care for your well being and think you took a much greater risk than you realize.

        3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Elaine D.,

          After I wrote my comment above, I read your reply to strych9 indicating (if I understood it correctly) that you were travelling with a local guide. I was under the impression that you had no local guides which appears to be incorrect.

          I believe that having a local guide is very important and could significantly reduce your risk. On the other hand, your local guide could significantly increase your risk if he/she is corrupt. I have zero knowledge as to how you would (or even if you could) determine whether your guide is a trustworthy asset.

        4. avatar Elaine D. says:

          Uncommon, you’re not being a jerk at all and I truly appreciate your words. Genuine concern from a stranger is such a rare thing these days and I take it in with full appreciation for your generosity.

          This trip has actually been in the making for about 13 years. My dear friend has spent the last 50 years of her life living with the San in Botswana and Namibia for about four months a year until the last couple of years, and this was her last trip because it’s so hard to be out there. She asked me to accompany her as helper and healer since she turned 74 while we were there and needed support with various aspects of the trip. Prior to that, there was about a year and a half of extensive preparation which included taking me out to a remote East Texas environment and leaving me in the woods in the rain to see how I would respond. She screened me extensively for both physical and mental focus and the ability to function under stress and make good decisions in an unfamiliar environment.

          You are completely correct that it was dangerous as hell. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, safe about Africa. And yet it is also the most heartbreakingly beautiful, poignant, and heart-opening place I have ever been. It all goes together. As much as I prepared, nothing could have truly prepared me for what it means to let go of all of your ideas of safety; and then to somehow still find that you are inexplicably, undeniably, impossibly alive just the same.

    3. avatar SoBe says:

      Where I was, you are very likely to find yourself minus at least one body appendage (hopefully just a hand) if you are caught stealing. Not behavior natives anywhere would consider endearing.

      1. avatar Elaine D. says:

        Heh. I was told to expect a certain amount of stealing and petty theft and to bring along extra things that would be left out/around to take care of that. Worked out. But yeah, if you didn’t want it swiped, it pretty much had to be on your body at all times!

  13. avatar MouseGun says:

    My take away; Don’t go to Africa. It’s the Mexico Rule applied to an entire continent.

  14. avatar Anner says:

    For signal mirrors, glass reflects a lot more light than plastic, providing about twice the signaling distance. The downside is that it’s actually glass with a protective coating, so it can be crushed or cracked (in my buddy’s case, by adjusting an ejection seat on top of a survival vest). I wrap my personal signal mirror in other soft items I carry in my BOK anyway, to keep it protected (gloves, 550 cord, athletic tape, etc).

  15. avatar strych9 says:

    Good article. A couple things from my point of view…

    First, I know exactly nothing about carrying in Africa since the times that I have been there I have not carried a gun due to either being too young or to traveling through numerous places that were not gun-friendly. Ending up in a jail in Zimbabwe or a similar place didn’t seem like a good idea to me. Further than saying that you have to know the laws where you’re going I won’t comment on carrying a pistol on the Dark Continent.

    Secondly, I don’t really get the sling pack idea but perhaps it fits a woman better than it does a man or maybe my body style is just wrong for them. Personally I prefer an actual backpack just for the balance it provides and I find them more comfortable. On the smaller end something like a North Face Borealis, for a more medium size something like an Oakley Mechanism and on the larger end something like an Arc’Teryx Miura 50. Larger than that and it’s into the world of frame packs where I’m a big fan of Exo Mountain Gear’s offerings like the K² 2000 or larger (review here: https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2017/11/daniel-zimmerman/gear-review-exo-mountain-gear-k%C2%B2-2000-daypack/ ). Yeah, 2000 in³ is less than 50L but it also depends a lot on what you’re carrying and how.

    Finally, a few questions: The article doesn’t seem to cover fire making or much bushcraft/survival gear. Was such gear also taken along or was it left behind? Did you carry something like a pen-flare launcher?

    In terms of cash and ID, did you carry multiple copies of ID’s and stash currencies in multiple places or did you rely on a single secret stash? Numerous options exist for splitting your money and copies of your ID to maximize the chances that even a smart criminal doesn’t get everything.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Strych9, thanks for those pack recommends – I will look at them for next time. I’m not a super fan of sling packs myself, but the thing that sold me on this one was that the internal organization was so good since I had dozens of little things that needed their own pockets. I would have preferred it in a backpack with a waist strap. That said, this sling pack did compress more easily into a crowded 4×4 full of supplies and hitchhiking villagers due to the one strap and the shape – narrow and tall rather than wide.

      The Nyae Nyae conservancy area is about 6000 km of unfenced, unregulated wild land with about 50 villages in it. Each village keeps a village fire burning, so if you need fire out there and are close to a village, you’re good. The San use the ancient method of starting a fire by spinning a stick in a bundle of dried grasses, something I hoped to learn while I was there but didn’t get to. Because it’s very dry there, you don’t really want to ever start a fire out in the bush unless a native is guiding you. The grasses there are delicate tinder in the winter.

      In general, out in the veldt, you always always want to be with a San person since that is their home turf and they know it backward and forward. As such it isn’t advisable to try to do some kind of Survivorman thing out there. A Westerner won’t really have the knowledge for the most part, and even South Africans who have lived in that part of the world their whole lives generally will not go out into the veldt without a San accompanying them.

      The San guides told me that there was once a guy who came to do a self-imposed survivalist “living with the San for two weeks,” which struck them as odd because that’s how they live every day and to them there’s nothing special about it. The thing that sticks with them the most about the whole thing was that at the end of the two weeks, he asked to be taken to a diner, where he ate six cheeseburgers. They still tell that story with expressions of wonder, since they never need to eat six cheeseburgers.

      This is an old film, but it’s still fairly accurate in terms of life out there, though the ancestral lands have shrunk. The dear friend I went with worked on this film with the Foster brothers.

      The Great Dance – A Hunter’s Story

      https://youtu.be/UisnHp0Oqc4

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        “The San use the ancient method of starting a fire by spinning a stick in a bundle of dried grasses, something I hoped to learn while I was there but didn’t get to. Because it’s very dry there, you don’t really want to ever start a fire out in the bush unless a native is guiding you.”

        The stick method is a good one but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of spinning the stick in grass but rather using the grass as a nest for your coal after you’ve created it with a hand/bow drill. I’ll try to put the link for a “good video” below to see if that’s what you’re talking about.

        Whenever you’re worried about starting a fire in dry conditions, but need to start one, the “Dakota Hole Fire” is the way to go. It also has the added benefit of not throwing out a lot of light when the hole is deeper and offering the possibility of a “smokeless fire”.

        I’ve survived for weeks in the wilderness on these firemaking methods so I assure you that they work. However, a bow drill is better than a hand drill and a “firepiston” is just freaking cool.

        Dakota Hole/Smokeless Fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlPSEfcz718

        Stick Fire/hand drill/Grass nest Method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJxpa9plCfs

        1. avatar Elaine D. says:

          Nice! Thank you for those. I’ve never done any kind of wilderness survival; only camping in Texas which is really pretty benign. Bushcraft of this type is all very new to me.

  16. avatar SoCalJack says:

    I have a Vertx Commuter Sling bag. It’s discrete and has pals webbing if the front zippered flap is stowed. Most of my removable organizers are Velcro hook backed for quick and easy removal so I can easily switch from work to play mode. The best part of this is the ability to quickly swing the pack from back to front for quick access.
    http://everydaycarry.com/posts/30309/edc-sling

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      SoCal, thanks for that recommend – I’ll look at it!

  17. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Nice pack and choices Elaine D.

    I would add at least two different ways to make a fire (such as a lighter and matches or magnesium stick with flint rod) and at least one “fire starter” stick to make fire a real possibility if all the tinder in the area is damp. And add a candle as well. The small amount of heat that the candle radiates could be instrumental for warming cold fingers or possibly even warming a cup of water, tea, or soup. Of course, in a pinch, that candle could help start a campfire in a really desperate situation.

    And you have to have a lot of cordage — perhaps 20 feet of rope, 50 feet of 550 paracord, and 20 feet of thread.

    I would also suggest a very small container (such as an empty chewing tobacco container which is about the size and shape of a hockey puck) with 30 feet of fishing line, hooks, and splitshot (weights). (This weighs nothing and takes up almost no space — and could be invaluable for catching fish if you are stranded for a while.)

    I also suggest a fairly large knife with a thick, fixed blade which you can use to chop/split fairly large wood with the assistance of a sturdy stick (an improvised “baton”). And you should carry two small folding knives with blades that are between two and three inches long. (The small knives basically weigh nothing and take up no space.)

    In addition to your large-ish flashlight, I would also carry a very small LED light that runs for 100+ hours on one or two AAA batteries and is about the size of a pen. If you can manage, carry two such pen-lights. Such pen-lights are not intended to light up an area. What they do, and do very well, is provide just enough light so that you can safely walk on paths at night when your eyes are adapted to the dark. Not only does that dim light enable you to maintain your dark adapted eyesight, it greatly reduces the probability of some human or animal discovering you, especially if you keep it pointed down at the ground.

    Last but not least, pack some salt tablets and/or the seasoning packets from Ramen noodles. Again, they take up zero space, add zero weight, and could be extremely valuable.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Thanks Uncommon. I’m going to add those to my future list. I did have cord with me, but the only time I ever used it was to saw off a length and give some to the natives. I’ll need to buy some more.

      I did have a large sturdy Essie knife, but strangely, I never used it – it just seemed that for most things the smaller one did the trick. A hatchet or saw would have been nice a time or two. I did, however, loan it to villagers a time or two to take care of a task.

      I do have a smaller and more high powered LED light that I originally bought for the trip and then decided was far too bright. Since then I’ve acquired a red filter for it that makes it pretty useful at night. I was thinking about mounting it to my rifle, but I may just keep it for the survival bag. I’ll keep an eye out for smaller, more low powered pen lights. I also did have a Petzl with different settings but never used it as a handheld did the job better and could be powered off quickly if I needed to not be seen.

      A candle would have been sweet indeed! For a lot of reasons, a sense of home and comfort being a primary one when you’re so far from home.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Flashlight comments remind me; Does anyone know of a solar recharger for common batteries? I have some wonderful flashlights using 18650 batteries, and know of some using AA or AAA, but in the kind of places you are talking about, or SHTF, they would eventually run down. Even if it took 3 sunny days to recharge a battery, seems worthwhile to consider. Maybe even a crank generator, but solar seems more likely.

        1. avatar Elaine D. says:

          I would be interested in that too Larry. The solar chargers out there either are super light and don’t charge batteries, or they charge batteries but are far too big and heavy to be in a small pack. I keep searching, there’s a lot more of them on the market than there used to be, but still haven’t found the right thing either. For my electronic devices I use a Powermonkey setup, and just pack lithium AAs since I’m never going to be gone more than three weeks from now on.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Well, how about a little math to at least tell us how large a solar cell would have to be to charge batteries in a reasonable amount of time.

          A rechargeable 1.2 volt NiMH battery hopefully has a capacity of at least 2.5 amp hours when discharged at a slow rate (pulling several milliamps to run an efficient, low intensity LED flashlight). Thus, it has an energy capacity of 3 watt-hours. That means you would have to apply 3 watts for one hour to recharge it. A better model is applying 1 watt for three hours to recharge it.

          Now for the solar panel. The sun generates about 1 kilowatt per square meter at the equator when it is directly overhead. Let’s figure that we can count on 800 watts per square meter — allowing for the sun to be somewhat offset from directly overhead due to season or time of day. Unfortunately, common solar cells that are a good choice for the rigors of backpacking are roughly about 8% efficient. Thus, a one square meter solar cell would only produce about 64 watts of electricity. Of course we only need 1 watt in our hypothetical example to recharge a single AA rechargeable battery. Thus, our solar cell would have to be about 1/64th square meter in area. That equates to 24 square inches. In other words the solar cell would have to be about 12 inches long by two inches wide to be able to recharge a single AA rechargeable NiMH battery in three hours.

          If you wanted to be able recharge two of those AA batteries, then your solar cell would have to be twice as large, about 12 inches long by four inches wide.

          And this theoretical solar cell would only work when the sun gets pretty high up in the sky at local noon.

          If you were willing to allow twice as much charging time, then the solar cell could be about 1/2 the size that I specified. And if the solar cell were 16% efficient instead of 8% efficient, you could reduce the size by 1/2 again. However, I doubt that a person who is travelling in a survival situation would be willing to sit around for 6 hours waiting for flashlight batteries to recharge.

        3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          LarryinTX and Elaine D.,

          So, here is the $64,000 question: if you are in a prolonged hiking or survival situation, do you want to carry along a 12×4 inch solar panel that weighs about 8 ounces so that you can recharge two AA NiMH rechargeable batteries in 3 hours between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. local standard time?

          As for a hand crank recharger, I think you would be flabbergasted at how long you would have to crank and how hard it would be to crank. To give you some idea, most people could only last about 1 minute generating 60 watts with a hand-crank generator. And that generator would be roughly the size of a large soup can and probably weigh at least 6 pounds!

  18. avatar Christ T in KY says:

    Because of the forest fire issue many Californians should have a Go Bag. Your selection Elaine B is a good start. What about under clothes? or any clothing? Water bottle? I would add a zipo lighter.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Christ T, I started every day in layers and gradually peeled or redid them as the day went on and into the evening. The temperature fluctuates a lot out there in the winter – bitterly cold at night and early in the morning, ranging to quite hot in the middle of the day and back again.

      Coming from the States, I had a limit of one 50 lb. bag and one carry on. Trying to take another bag would have cost $200 per each leg of the flights each way. So that 50 lb. limit was it and gear took up most of that weight. So I pretty much spent five weeks in Africa in three sets of yoga leggings, $10 tank tops from Amazon, a pair of hiking boots, and wool long sleeved thermals and hoodies. I’m actually upgrading some of my gear to a set of Virtus Outdoor stuff because it’s more suited to that environment – the thorns tore holes in almost everything that was a soft fabric. There was no laundry out there either, your laundry was a sink or bucket and a tap, so it was important to bring things that could easily be washed by hand and dry quickly to be worn the next day.

  19. avatar RCC says:

    Elaine
    Wool underwear is great for many places. I use long sleeve Icebreaker top for many trips.

    Saws are handy I just take two wire saws as they weight about 40 grams. These plus knives and other things airlines don’t like go in 2 litre dry bag in check in luggage. Then straight back into pack as I leave the airport. I now use a Smiths Pocket Pal for travel as its under an ounce. I have the original but the new one has torch and small compass and fire steel.

    https://www.smithsproducts.com/pocket-pal-knife-sharpener

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      RCC – wow, that’s a nice setup, I wouldn’t have known how to begin to find something like that. Fantastic. Thank you!

      1. avatar RCC says:

        Elaine
        I bought the first one in Anchorage AFTER coming back into town from December snowmobile and dogsled trip.

        eBay now has imitation Pocket Pals for about $3. I have one in each backpack we own so always have one.

        Builders or brick layer string comes in 150 feet lengths for $4. Strong enough for most camp things. Plus people sometimes don’t walk into it if you get the fluorescent colours. (Never underestimate lack of sense) I also have black 550 just in case heavier is needed.

  20. avatar Michael says:

    Cold Steel knives make a variety of “walking sticks” from all different materials and copied from many different cultures. I carry their blackthorn model on a daily basis, (bad back and knee). They also make a longer version, quarterstaff length, more suited for off pavement trecking/hiking. I’ve used these for several years now and while they may seem a little expensive, they are flat out indestructible. I have walked past/through all kinds of ID control/security/weapons prohibited type checkpoints, without any problems at all. Basically, they are just another kind of cane. They fulfil my most necessary requirement. The don’t scare the cattle. They are not seen primarily as “weapons”, ’cause they’re not. They are just what I need to keep people, “politely” at what I consider a “reasonable” distance. -30-

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Michael – yes. There were definitely times when I wished I had a good sturdy cane or walking stick. Particularly in the villages when packs of wild dogs were eyeing my lunch.

  21. avatar Lawbob says:

    Cheap bags are great if they are stored for an emergency. But if you use it a lot, a higher quality bag is worthwhile.

    Elaine: did you carry in Africa, or were you referring to when you were home.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Lawbob, when I’m home. There was a plan to bring a rifle with, but it got ditched at the last minute. The setup was created with the Idea that I might be carrying a self defense rifle at some points, which is why it was so important to keep it small and light. Also, out there, if you encounter an animal, you’re probably going to find yourself sprinting and/or needing to get into a tree, so huge heavy packs aren’t a good idea.

  22. avatar Rock Chucker says:

    Learn to use a sling. It takes a while to master, but it fits in your pocket, ammo is free, and a moderately skilled slinger can deliver deadly force at pistol distances or greater. A gun is obviously better when you can carry one, but a stone age “gun” is legal all over the world and it can be a very effective tool with practice.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      I had not thought of that! I’ve never used a slingshot; what a great idea.

      1. avatar Rock Chucker says:

        Plus it’s a lot of fun to use one if you enjoy the challenge! It’s not unlike golfing in that you have to build muscle memory and tiny variations can cause drastically different results… thus the skill and practice requirements.
        I don’t want to split hairs here, but for the sake of avoiding confusion, there is a fundamental difference between a sling and a slingshot. Slingshots that use a rubber band cannot hurl a one-pound rock a hundred yards. They are definitely easier to use in tight spaces, but if you’re going to be in the wilderness for weeks or months, I wouldn’t rely on a rubber band not breaking. A stone-age sling can be made from any old cordage, and it is more like a medieval catapult than a modern slingshot in how it functions.

        1. avatar Elaine D. says:

          Rock, I guess I don’t know what you are referring to then. Got any good YouTube tutorials or other materials to recommend?

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Elaine D.,

          Here is one video on YouTube which shows how to make a sling and how to use it.

          Obviously, you don’t have to weave your own cordage as the person does in the video — you can just use string or rope. And you can use any strong and flexible material for the pouch that holds the stone.

          Keep in mind that there are huge centrifugal forces on the stone in the pouch. You need some way to insure that your pouch and string do not separate.

  23. avatar MIO says:

    Very nice!

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Thanks, and thanks for reading!

  24. avatar Sparks says:

    I have the same sling pack. A Dickie’s Work Gear 57055 3-inch padded belt (~$10) will fit through the two slots at the bottom of the back panel and transfer the weight off your shoulders and to your hips.

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Sparks – that is EXACTLY what I need to add. Thank you!!

  25. avatar SkyMan77 says:

    Good call packing that towel… The most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker (or jungle dweller) can have…

    “…it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

    1. avatar Elaine D. says:

      Skyman – do you have a preferred one? I actually don’t like mine and am searching for a new one. To b honest sometimes I just forego the towel and take a cotton sarong….

      1. avatar SkyMan77 says:

        That makes sense… I don’t have a preference on what towel (besides being multifunctional), it sounds like you’ve spent a good amount of effort vetting your bugout bag. Thank you for your insight.

        I was making a nerdy reference to a funny Hitchhikers to the Galaxy quote.

        “More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

        Seriously though… Way to go getting out past your comfort zone and exploring in an environment where the choices you make could mean the difference between making it back or not… That takes real courage!!!

        God Bless…

  26. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I don’t have a bug out bag. I have a plan. Two neighbors who are also well armed.

    One of them has picked which houses he’s going to loot first.

    I’ve picked out which of my unarmed neighbors I’m going to eat first.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Seems reasonable. Have they all been advised?

      1. avatar Elaine D. says:

        I was wondering the same thing. Also what seasonings one plans to have available for consuming the neighbors.

        1. avatar Julio says:

          I’m thinking a decent AllSpice (McCormick or similar name brand) or possibly just Old Bay. I sprinkle some on homemade fries from time to time.
          😈

  27. avatar Broke_It says:

    Run out of stupid gun control ideas to shill for Elaine? I see it’s back to droning on and on about how operationally you operate.

  28. avatar Sora says:

    Urban is the first place to run out of food when crap hits the fan and local Walmart can’t get trucks into town.
    Always good to have a stash to eat and something to run out of buildings with.

  29. avatar little horn says:

    nice. down to earth and honest, not douchey.

  30. avatar fteter says:

    Thanks for sharing this. While I don’t expect to visit the veldt anytime soon, you made me think about what I carry in my “Get Home Bag” and what could be improved.

  31. avatar Julio says:

    On a more serious note, I’d like to suggest a device specific to the ladies: the Lady J can be a separate adapter or part of a “hygiene set” so to speak. https://www.sportys.com/pilotshop/lady-j-adapter-for-little-john-pilot-urinal.html?utm_source=google_shopping&m=simple&mrkgcl=596&mrkgadid=3298321377&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Safety+%26+Survival&adpos=1o1&creative=295428069994&device=m&matchtype=&network=g&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2ty5h5-o3wIVzsDICh0Y7AbPEAkYASABEgLKxPD_BwE
    My wife has this when we travel outside of our neighborhood (or while pregnant) in order to prevent contact with a questionable surface).

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