If you are a prepper, there is a very good chance you have a bug out bag.  If not, you at least know what one is.  This is your lifeline if you have to bail and leave you home behind.  It has all the tools you need to survive away from home.  Many survivalists scrutinize over the items in their pack.  They often take pride in finding the best gadgets to pack their bag.  However, one of the biggest weaknesses of survivalists is not testing their gear or their bug out bag.

One of the best ways to accomplish this testing process is to try out your pack on a hiking trip.  Hiking is essentially immersing yourself in the wilderness for an extended period of time.  This is a great time to try out your gear. If you take away the luxuries of a conventional hiking or a camping trip, you are left with survival.  Overnight hiking trips are by far your best chance to test out your pack. In this article I will cover some ways to try out your gear in a controlled and safe environment.

Safety

There are a few ways you can try out your bug out bag and still keep yourself safe.  Stick to these rules to ensure you do not get in over your head.

  • Take a friend. Never venture out to try your bug out bag alone. It is important that you have somebody with you to get help if things go wrong.
  • Let everybody know where you are going. If people have a detailed itinerary of where you will be, it gives you the best chance of rescue in case of emergency.
  • Pick a reasonable route. It is best that you are in the wild, but not pushing yourself to the max.  You can traverse hilly terrain, but you should not be climbing mountains on this trip.
  • Always have a way to call for help. Keep extra batteries for your phone.  Stick to areas with cell phone reception.  As a last resort, have other ways to signal for help.
  • Always have a backup plan. You may want to test out your primitive fire starting skills, but you should still have a lighter.  You may want to test your shelter building, but you should still have a tent or tarp. Have an easy way to get food, water, fire, and shelter in case of emergency.  On these trips, my pack is 50% bug out bag and 50% backup plan.

Testing the Weight

One of the toughest aspects of compiling a bug out bag is finding a balance between thoroughness and weight.  If you bring too much gear, the weight will wear you out.  If you bring too little gear, survival will be difficult.  For most people, roughly 30 pounds is about right. On a long hike, you will quickly find out if the weight of your pack is ideal or not.

Food

Finding food is a great way to test your bug out bag.  While it is not the most important aspect of survival, food can be very important.  Always take a backup supply of food with you, but plan to save it in case you cannot find other food sources.  You can try out your fishing skills with a pocket fishing kit or a pocket fisherman rod.  You can try out trapping with some snares.  You can try hunting with a firearm, bow, or crossbow.  However, you want to have some jerky, MREs, or hardtack ready in case you need it.

One of the best ways to test your gathering skills is to practice collecting wild edibles.  You can pick up and eat various edible plants as you hike.  Do some research on the area in advance so you know which edible plants are around.  Then try a few out so you know what you like and what you do not like.  You will be better prepared if you ever face a real survival scenario.

Water

Water purification is one of the most important aspects of survival.  It is vital that you take a supply of water with you when you hike, but you also want to test your water purification tools.  Take a filter bottle, a straw style filter, and some iodine tablets with you.  Place your camp near water and practice different ways to purify water.  Filter it, boil it, or cleanse it to ensure you can create clean water when you absolutely need it.  If you have to rely on your canteen, be sure to ration the water so it does not run out.

Fire

Testing out your fire gear is always fun on a hiking trip.  However, you can never assume that fire is a given. There are plenty of times when cold or damp conditions could prevent fire from happening.  Always keep a lighter and matches with you as a backup plan.  However, it is great to test ferro rods, fire lenses, bow drills, and fire assistance products in a hiking setting.

It is also important to practice fire safety on these trips.  Clear all debris out of the area, and dig a pit for the fire.  Surround it with large rocks to enclose the embers, and keep a good amount of water on hand.  Ensure there is no dead or dry material nearby that could flare up with a few sparks. When you are done with a fire pit, dump water over it and mix until the steam stops rising up.  You must make sure there is no chance of the fire flaring up again.

Shelter

Building a shelter is one of the best ways to test out your bug out bag. You should have a few different ways to make a shelter with the tools in your bag. While you should have a backup plan like a tent or a tarp, there are plenty of other ways to build a shelter.  Emergency blankets are excellent for providing a waterproof canopy. Cordage can help you use natural materials to build other types of shelters. You can even use a poncho for an easy shelter.

This process is going to force you to use several tools in your pack. Saws or hatchets will need to be used to cut poles from the timber that is available.  Your knife will be needed for finer work such as carving out notches or points and cutting cordage.  You will also be testing out your knot tying skills as you assemble the shelter.

Signaling for Help

A long hike can be a good time to try out supplies you have for signaling.  Send one person ahead on the trail, and have them use a signal mirror to try and get your attention.  Have them use an emergency whistle to see if you can hear it.  When you set up camp, send somebody down the trail and try to signal them with smoke or with hand-made flags. These are all ways that you can make a game out of honing your signaling skills.

Land Navigation

While you will likely be following a trail on your hike, there are still ways to try out your navigation skills.  You should have a compass with you, so this is a great time to use it.  At the beginning of your hike, see which direction is north.  Then periodically try to determine true north without the use of your compass, and then check to see if you are correct.  You can also find a place where the trail makes a hairpin turn and try to cut across off trail.  You will have to use your compass to be sure you maintain the correct direction or you may miss the trail entirely.

First Aid

If you hike like I hike, you are bound to get a few cuts, scrapes, and blisters.  While I normally do not treat these until I get home, you can use the gear in your pack to treat them as they happen.  This allows you to test out the first aid supplies you have in your bug out bag.  Disinfect any cuts or scrapes and apply a bandage.  Treat blisters and hot spots so they do not get any worse.

In Conclusion

A challenging hike can be one of the best ways to test out your bug out bag.  If you think about it, bugging out on foot is nothing more than a long hike with a purpose.  If forces you to use your resources to stay as safe and comfortable as possible.  By trying out the gear in your bug out bag, you become more comfortable with each item and ensure that you have the right items with you.  Often you will have some changes to make once you finish your hike.  Take the time to make these changes and you will be sure to have the right gear when you really need it.

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