If there is one thing that I have learned over my survival career, it is the importance of having the right clothing with you for the challenges that you face. As you assemble and modify your bugout bag for the seasons, you will need to consider which clothing items to take. This is actually a very appropriate article for me at the moment. For my next survival challenge in two weeks, I will be hitting the wilderness with just a knife and the clothes on my back. For a challenge such as this, the clothing I select will make a huge impact on my success or failure.
Please understand that every bugout bag is going to be a different size and each person can handle a different amount of weight. I realize that to take all of these items with you would likely be impossible. I also realize that some of these items will likely be worn outside your bag just based on the season. For example, I would assume that during the winter most people would have a heavy winter coat on. That means you have it with you, but it is not taking up space in your bugout bag.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to discuss the importance of every item you may want to pack. Then I will leave it up to you to decide which items to bring and which to leave behind.
When I first started participating in survival challenges, I was using a pair of standard winter hunting gloves. Within the first few hours, I started to wear holes in the gloves as I built my shelter. They quickly soaked through with water from the snow and then began to freeze solid. I knew that standard gloves were not the answer.
Tactical gloves – I always have a pair of fingerless tactical gloves with me in my pack. These protect my hands from the work I do, they are light enough for summer, and give me some warmth in the winter. They allow me dexterity in my fingers for the tying and carving that has to be done.
Leather mittens – One aspect of insulation that most people do not understand is that you must have air in between your skin and the insulation so your body can heat that air. This is why large mittens work better than gloves to heat your hands. For wintertime, these are a must. I often use them in the spring and fall as well as my hands are one of the first parts of my body to get cold at night.
I learned the importance of head gear on my very first survival challenge. It was a bit warm, so I removed my hat to cool off. After a short break I stood up and smacked my head on an overhead branch. I started to bleed heavily and had to rely on my first aid training to stop the bleeding and dress the wound. It could have been much more serious than it was.
The point is that there are several different uses for head gear. It can keep you warm, protect you from the sun, keep bugs away, keep the sweat out of your eyes, and protect you from cuts and scrapes.
Warm skullcap – For winter, spring, and summer I always carry a warm hat. This is most often used at night when temperatures drop and heat escapes from your head. It makes a huge difference in keeping your whole body warm.
Shemagh – This large bandana is great for dozens of uses, but most importantly it can cover my whole head protecting me from sun, cold, wind, sand, and bugs.
Bandana – You will almost always find a bandana rolled up and wrapped around my forehead to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
Ball cap – This shades my eyes from the sun and provides some general protection.
Bug net – This fits over my head and keeps the mosquitoes out of my face when the rest of my body is protected.
Face Mask – During the winter months when frostbite is a concern, this goes in my pack to cover and protect everything that my skullcap does not cover.
Your feet are one of your most valuable assets when in a survival situation. If you twist an ankle, get blisters, or end up with trenchfoot, you may not be able to make it out alive. Your selection of footwear can be a deal-breaker.
Boots – I know not everybody can fit large boots in their pack or wear boots on a daily basis, but I would highly suggest that you do if possible. You need something high-top with ankle support. It is also nice if they are waterproof and thick enough to take a snakebite. I spent more money on my boots than just about any other single piece of survival equipment. I use the same boots year round and they are good in the heat of the summer and also in the coldest winter conditions. Put some time into selecting your boots, especially when looking at the insulation. I went with the highest number of Grams of Thinsulate that I could afford. They have not let me down.
Wool socks – Wool is the only cloth material that can be soaking wet and can still keep you warm. I always like to have at least two pairs of wool socks with me so I can be wearing one and drying out the other. They are also great to reduce blisters and other foot issues.
Boot laces – I consider this to be part of the clothing category, and your laces are much more important than you might think. Standard boot laces only provide one or two uses. However, there are three other types of cordage to consider. 550 Paracord is a great boot lace and breaks down into several interior strands of cordage. You can get 50 feet of cordage out of one boot lace in some cases. Firelaces are flammable laces that come with a ferro rod and striker built in. This is excellent to get a fire going in a jam. Then there are survival laces that have copper wire, flammable cordage, fishing line, and paracord all built into the laces. This gives you several other options for survival tasks.
I always suggest packing one or two base layers for your bug out bag. These shirts and pants are thin enough to go under just about anything and really add to your warmth. You can also strip down to your base layers when it is hot and still have most of your body protected from the sun and from biting insects. They dry out quickly so having a backup set is great to wear one set and dry the other. I like to go a little loose on mine so I have that layer of air in between the cloth and my skin.
Especially in winter weather, the quality of your outer wear will make a huge difference. I like to choose coats and overalls that are made of thick material. It is nice knowing that they will not tear or get snagged on the thorns and briars I often must endure. My outerwear is thick enough to keep me warm in just about any conditions. I also like it to be water resistant in case it rains.
I have gotten to the point that I often bring my thick winter clothing in the spring and fall as well. During the warm days I can remove these layers and I have a cushion on which I can sit and rest. At night I can bundle up, or if the layers are not needed I can use them as a mattress and pillow. These layers are helpful in almost any weather.
Rain gear is another aspect of outerwear that is quite important. I find that my heavy outer layers do fine in the rain, but in the summer I want something lighter. I opt for a small, compact rain suit that will fit over my base layers. A poncho is another option, but it can leave your legs exposed to the rain. It does give you the added advantage of doubling as a potential shelter.
I typically like to have a few extra layers just to give me as many options as possible. Typically I go with one more layer for pants. These are normally just camo cargo pants that are comfortable and baggy. For my top layer I like to have a fleece hoodie and then another light hunting jacket over top. That gives me a total of four layers in the winter to hold heat into my core. The material and quality of those additional layers is not nearly as important as that of your base layers and outer wear. Where I most often complete my survival challenges, the temperature could be 110F or -10F, so having options is always a good thing.
As you can see, you could literally fill a suitcase with all the clothing items you could potentially bring in a SHTF scenario. That obviously does not make sense if you are bugging out and on the move. However, if you are smart about it you can select the items that are most important for your needs for that time of year. Take the time to revise your bag as the weather changes, and you will have what you need when the time comes.