Like many of you out there, I have a variety of survival gear. I have duplicates of some things. I have multiples of other things. I have it organized fairly well…it’s in a couple of bags and some boxes in a storage area. I feel well prepared for a basic to mid-level emergency. Problem is, the bags that I have packed are too heavy!

I’m happy with one of the bags I have. It was a thrift store find of an insulated cooler backpack . . . I hadn’t seen these before but when I saw it I knew it would be perfect for a gear bag. It has a large main pocket and a smaller outer pocket that both close with zippers. Because it’s a cooler, it’s lined with waterproof fabric and the outside of it is plastic. And it has wheels. I liked that it was more waterproof than your typical backpack and it rolled, and I didn’t have to pay survival gear bag prices for it.

The other bag is a bowling ball bag that is also a plastic-y material making it more waterproof than typical fabric, but it doesn’t hold as much as the other one. One drawback to using these bags is that they aren’t fully MOLLE’d like “real” survival gear bags. But I like them, I’m using what I have, and I saved money on the deal.

I knew the cooler bag was too heavy. But I moved some things around in that storage room over the weekend and I realized that it were WAY too heavy. What to do?I know that I need to keep them lightweight, so I’m going to start looking for some new bags. Ideally, my husband could take the heaviest bag and our son can take the lightest bag. But SHTF situations are rarely “ideal” and we’re not going to plan for an ideal situation.

Keep it light

When planning your bug-out bag. Be realistic about weight. You might be along. You might be injured. You might have children with you that also need your help. If you have multiple bags, spread your gear out among the bags so that your bag is light enough for you to actually handle and yet also contains your essential stuff.

Pack large, heavy items on the bottom.

Put items on the bottom that you don’t think you’ll need as much, and also anything squishy that can handle being compressed by the weight of things above it.

Keep frequently used items at the top.

Items that I’d keep at hand are fire starting equipment, rain gear (so you’re not digging for it in the, you know, rain), lighting, and one serving of food or snacks and water.


Utilize bags or containers to keep things together. For instance, your fire starting material all in one pouch and your first aid all in one kit.

Review your pack occasionally.

If it’s been months since you packed your bag and stored it away, get it out and go through it. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have something but not being able to find it. Or thinking that you have something but then realizing it’s not there or not what you thought it was. It’s a good idea to continually edit and curate the items in your survival bag anyway. You may discover that you’re lacking something or you find gear that you like better than what you already have.

And, actually use the stuff.

That last point is key. If you get gear, use it. Try it out. Become familiar with it. Think about how you would handle a stressful situation if you were trying to get a fire built or filter water and you were trying to read a label or product instruction manual in the dark, in the rain, in the freezing cold, because you never used it beforehand and didn’t know what to do. Yeah. That’s genuinely a situation to avoid being in.

So repack your gear! And get out there and use it.


Here in the Pacific Northwest, we just had a few days of very springlike weather. The fruit trees started blooming, daffodils poked their heads up and friends and coworkers started gushing about how they could wear t-shirts. And today? Snow. Yeah. The weather does strange things.

We didn’t get a lot of snow, but the temperatures are expected to plummet tonight and possibly coincide with wet roads, leading to black ice. If you’re ever stuck somewhere, like in a broken down car or on a hiking trail, when weather you’re not expecting comes down on you, here are some tips for how to avoid a cold-weather casualty.

Be Prepared
The first tip, and the most important one, is to never underestimate the weather. Don’t go out in just a t-shirt. Pack some extra garb and a blanket in your car. Carry a windbreaker pr jacket with you, no matter how warm you believe it will be.

Gear Up Your Car
My car’s trunk has a military wool blanket in it, a tarp, a folding shovel, a jug of water, and my survival bag. Inside that bag is the following (among others):

  • whistle
  • poncho
  • food
  • fire starting material
  • knife
  • socks
  • hand warmer packets

These are all basic gear that will keep you alive in a snowstorm. Hand warmer packers are .99c or less, so stock up on those and keep them in all of your bags, just so you always have some.

If you live in a snowy place, keep these items on hand:

  • sunglasses (to provide visibility without being snowblinded) – I learned that this is a real thing when I took a trip to Alaska one February a few years ago and did’t take my sunglasses. I didn’t think I’d need them! But I regretted not having them as we drove many miles along highways covered with snow.
  • chapstick – if you’re dehydrated, this will help you avoid dry, cracking lips
  • hat, gloves, scarf, extra pair of wool socks- just keep some backups in your car or bag
  • sunscreen – not what you think of in the snow, but it’s similar to snowblindness in that you actually can get sunburn from too much reflecting UV rays on bright white snow.

Avoid These

Cotton kills! Cotton is not a good choice for clothing of any layer during the winter months. It absorbs moisture and holds on to it, so you can’t dry out or warm up. It also does not hold in heat well, particularly when it is wet. don’t wear flannel, jeans or your Carhartt pants or jackets in the snow.

Avoid exposing your skin. Keep your heat in by covering up your head, hands and feet. Frostbite can happen more quickly than you think when your skin is exposed.




As you long-time readers know, I’m the guy with the gear who actually uses it through my role as a Search and Rescue member. Throughout the year I do video reviews of gear I’ve purchased or been given to test, so watch for those here on this site. Here’s a list of gear I actually like, so if you’re looking for a gift for the gear-head on your list, let these ideas guide you.

Gerber Center-Drive

Gerber’s Centerdrive took the gear world by storm with it’s innovative bit driver design. That placed the bits in the center of the tool when deployed rather than off to one side like traditional multi tools. It has quickly become a favorite of anyone needing serious work done and only wanting one tool to do it. You also get one-hand opening full-size knife and pliers, a file, serrated blade and other essentials. Futhermore, it’s made in the USA.


SOL Traverse Survival Kit

One of the newer survival kits on the market, the SOL Traverse survival kit covers 12 to 24 hour survival needs in one compact package. You get what you need for shelter, fire signaling and water purification. The container also doubles as a digging tool. I carry SOL kits as part of my hiking kit and enjoy having essential items for an unexpected overnight or spat of bad weather all in the top pocket of my pack. The Traverse may not satisfy the hardcore outdoors person, but is ideal for someone looking for the necessities to toss into their pack for day-hikes or short hunts.


Black Rifle Coffee

If you have any sort of social media account, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some ads for the high-octane and good-humored folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. The Veteran-owned premium roasters have a knack for creating media content with no shortage of firepower and absolutely fantastic coffee. I work an overnight shift for my regular job and I am somewhat picky about the coffee I use and how I brew it. My life changed when a coworker brought in some Black Rifle Coffee. The flavor is incredible and of course it’s as strong as you need it to be. The company also sells a variety of mugs, tumblers and brewing gear for your needs whether you’re brewing at home or camping.


Gerber Sharkbelly

I received the Sharkbelly right after my wedding and it has been a wonderful tool. Having just got married a few month ago, my house was chock-full of boxes from gifts and wedding supplies. I spent plenty of time cutting tape and cardboard in order to get everything into the recycling bins. The Sharkbelly’s sheepsfoot blade makes everyday cutting chores a breeze and the 420 HC stainless steel blade keeps a good edge without being too hard to sharpen. It’s also made in the USA, which is a big plus. The Sharkbelly is a great choice for someone needing a lightweight cutting tool for everyday carry or work on the job site.


Readyman Cards

What do you get the person who (supposedly) has everything? Chances are a Readyman card would be the perfect stocking stuffer. Readyman cards cover a variety of tools for someone’s wallet, survival kit, fishing kit, range bag or bugout bag. You can fit cards in your wallet or dissemble them and carry them in a survival tin, pouch or wherever else you want.

I grew up in Florida, where we were all told to prepare for hurricane season. June through September, and sometimes but rarely in May, people in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic States are at risk from hurricanes. My family were not anywhere near “preppers” and we never talked about emergency preparedness. The extent that I can recall from childhood of being prepared is that my Grandmother urged us all to have a suitcase packed that we could grab and go with if we needed to. I never packed a suitcase and I don’t think my mother ever did. And looking back, I’m pretty sure the only thing in my Grandmother’s suitcase was a nightgown and a change of clothes.

Well, now that I’m an adult, I take emergency preparedness much more seriously! Not only do we have supplies at home, each driver in the family (two adults and a 19-year-old) have their own cars with emergency gear bags in each car. We all work in different places across town and live a bit out in the country, so having a car bag is the minimum that I feel we need. I feel good about this, but I also have some random supplies that are in different places.

For instance, in my car’s glove box is a glassbreaker multitool and an LED flashlight. In a cabinet in our laundry room is a crank lantern and two Luci solar lights. These we keep accessible in the house in the event that the power goes out. My partner has medications that we don’t have backups of, that are on our dresser in the bedroom. (Emergency prep lists always tell you to take backups of medications, but insurance doesn’t pay to fill most medications more than once a month, so having extras of expensive meds is not likely for most people anymore.)

I also have sleeping bags in a closet and an envelope with a little cash. In the laundry room is a stash of candles and lighters. Does your bug out bag have a hairbrush and toothbrush and toothpaste in it? I’ve met many people over the years who focused on just the emergency supplies in their bug out bag and not little things like hygiene. If there was an evacuation call or some other emergency where I needed to leave the house quickly and take as much as I could in my car, I might not remember all of these things since they are all in different, separate places. While I could get by without them, if I had these things they would serve as backup gear or extra peace of mind.

Therefore, I recommend that you all take stock of the things you have around the house that might not be in your proper bug out bag but that you would want to have with you in the event of an emergency. Here’s a list of things that I would want to have with me that go beyond my basic bug out bag that I’d like to grab if I have time. What does your list look like? Print your list out and keep it in a handy place where whoever is at home can find it.

Extra lighters from candle closet
Magnifying glass – for fire starting (my kid likes to play with this so it’s in a drawer in the living room)
Glassbreaker multitool from car
Knife from desk
Complete change of clothes, with gloves, hat, jacket, scarf, etc depending on the season
Toothpaste, toothbrushes for everyone
Playing cards – there are some in my bug out bag but why not take another pack?
Notebook and pen/pencil
Phone and charger
Luci lights
Paracord – there is some in my bug out bag, but we also have some extra in the laundry room where the candles and other in-house emergency supplies are
Bug out bags from in the house
Water jugs
Sleeping bags and pillows
Hair comb
Lotion – I like soft hands, ok?
Sunscreen and lip balm – these are in my medicine cabinet but not in my bug out bag
Snacks – jerky, granola, cheese sticks, peanut butter, crackers, cans of soup, etc., that you may have at home that you can grab quickly.
What else?

SHOT Show wrapped up last week and while most of the focus at that show is guns (it stands for Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades), there were a lot of knives. As you can imagine, many different knife makers show their stuff at SHOT Show and it’s a pleasure to walk past a booth and be able to see so many different beautiful and functional knives. The knife maker CRKT is a favorite with our gear tester (you can read Rick’s review of the CRKT Homefront) and we were excited that there are new knives coming out.


The CRKT Pilar is supposed to be available early in the year. Designed by Jespers Voxnaes, it is small and affordable at only $40. I love the shape of the blade. It gives it a low profile and the shape of the blade makes it useful for different tasks without having only a sharp point that can get in the way. Since the designer is Danish, it has that understated, minimalist look that the Danes go for. For me personally, I wish the handle was a little thinner in the back end because my hands are on the small side. But overall, it feels nice in the hand. Blade length is 2.402 inches and a closed length of 3.530 inches. Plain edge on the blade with a satin finish.


The CRKT Hi Jinx Z is coming out sometime later in the year. The availability is yet to be determined so we’re not sure when you’ll be able to get your hands on this knife yet but as soon as we know we’ll keep you posted. Designed by Ken Onion, a Hawaiian man, it’s a simple and elegant knife. It opens with one smooth motion and has a locking liner safety. The blade is 3.293 inches and with a plain edge. Satin finish on the blade and a closed length of 4.721 inches. Weighs only 4.9 ounces and the handle is glass reinforced nylon. A little more than the Pilar at $80, it’s still a very affordable, beauty of a knife. You can sign up on the CRKT website to be notified when it’s in stock.


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