Many people, once they have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) made and a rough Bug Out Plan choose to stop there in their survival planning. This is a grave mistake that can have catastrophic consequences. Just imagine that you have your Bug Out Kit sitting at home for years before it is needed. Then when a disaster hits and you need to execute your Bug Out Plan, you run out the door to find out that your food rations have expired and flashlight batteries are dead! Managing your disaster planning and Bug Out Bag contents list should be an ongoing process with refinements and adjustments made as you develop along your path of survival preparedness.
How Often Should You Update Your Bug Out Kit?
I recommend reviewing your Bug Out Bag and plan quarterly (4x per year) at minimum for basic elements such as:
Expirations on food items
Some survival rations have useful lives up to 5 years but many are perishable well before then. Make sure you are checking the shelf life of any food items that you are planning on relying on quarterly and replace them before they go bad.
Expirations on medications
Medications have a wide range of lifetimes. If you have any medication in your BOB – antibiotics, insulin, EpiPens, heart medication, or any others make sure you know how long each will be good for and replace as needed.
Expiration for first aid items
many single use first aid items such as creams, antiseptic wipes, bandages, and eyewash/irrigation solutions have a limited shelf life. This is generally around the the sterility of the item and out of date first aid items should not be used to treat wounds. Conduct regular first aid kit inspections and replace out of date items as needed.
Battery charge for electronics
One of the biggest advantages of having solar or hand cranked electronic items such as a radio or flashlight is that you don’t have to worry about the batteries dying at a critical moment. However, if you do have any items in your Bug Out Kit that do require batteries, these should be checked quarterly at minimum to ensure that they have enough charge to power your equipment. An excellent preventative measure against batter drain is to store them in the electronic item (such as a flashlight) with the two positive (+) ends of two batteries facing each other. This prevents any current passing through the dormant circuit and greatly reduces energy seeping from the stored batteries. See the picture below for details.
If you have a firearm and ammunition in your Bug Out Kit, you should plan on test firing a sampling of rounds at minimum twice per year. If you have any misfires, plan on replacing rounds from that batch with newer ones.
When else would you update your Bug Out Kit?
In addition to the above mentioned checks, which should be scheduled to be performed periodically, you should review both your Bug Out Plan and survival gear as your personal situation changes:
When you move from one home to another
Moving to a new locality can effect large changes to your Bug Out Plan. If you moved from a rural area to an urban one, you would want to remove wilderness survival specific items and modify your Bug Out Bag into an urban survival kit or vice versa. If you changed climates you would need to update your spare clothes to suit. Moving from an area with many lakes and rivers to a desert region would merit greater sun protection and removal of fishing gear. These are just a few examples of the many ways that moving to a new locality can warrant a change in your Bug Out Kit. As always, tailor your survival gear to YOUR personal survival situation.
Changes in your bug out party
If your bug out group changes with the addition of a family member or departure of a party member, you will need to re-look at your survival gear and plan to accommodate these changes. If someone has been added that requires special resources such as medical gear or they bring a new skill set such as expertise in hunting or trapping, you would want to modify both your gear and plan to account for and take advantage of these needs or abilities. On the other hand, if your party is reduced through a member moving away you may need to remove items that were included specifically for them or add other gear that will compensate for the loss of their skill set.
Arrival of new threats
The modern world is highly dynamic and the status of external threats is changing constantly. If a new threat were to arrive or an old one suddenly increase in probability, you would want to update your Bug Out Kit and plan to account for such changes. This may be an increased chance of terrorism, severe weather patterns such as El Nino, a strong storm season being predicted, or other reasons such as a new, potentially hazardous industrial facility being constructed nearby.
Keep in mind that your Bug Out Kit and plan should be constantly evolving as new factors and information emerge. There are a great many things that can impact your survival situation and keeping your Bug Out Kit up to date will maximize your chances of survival when disaster strikes. A great practice is to set a reminder in a calendar either on your phone, computer, or in a planning diary to review your Bug Out Bag contents list quarterly at minimum. These reminders will keep you on track and spur you into action!
Lastly, there is no time like the present to take action. Why not review your Bug Out Kit and plan today using our free Bug Out Kit Update Checklist? If you want help in updating your Bug Out Plan, check out our post on how to make one.
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