By Nathan Barton
Nope, nothing to do with the Matrix movie arc. Back in the 1980s, before the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the First Cold War, family members and civilian employees of the US Army in Europe (USAREUR) and US Air Force in Europe (USAFE) had to prepare for a “Noncombatant Evacuation Operation” (NEO). Part of that included a NEO bag for “when the balloon goes up” and Warsaw Pact forces invaded Western Europe, and you had to evacuate to Britain or Ireland. You usually kept it in the trunk of the family car. Today, that is often called a “bugout bag.”
Here are thirteen items that you may not have thought about, but which are useful to have just in case, whether the bag is a backpack or the back of your van or SUV.
1. Coffee filters – even if you don’t drink coffee (no one in my family does), paper filters are really useful and lightweight and small.
2. Safety pins – in several sizes, for repairs to clothing or tents, securing bandages, or hanging things up.
3. Zip ties, twist ties, and electrical wire – all very useful for holding things together when safety pins don’t work. Most multi-tools and Swiss Army knives have a tool for cutting wire.
4. Resealable Zip-Lock ™ plastic bags – in various sizes from 1 ounce to 1 gallon are always useful (keeping things dry or wet, holding small items like those pins, etc.) as is their big brother.
5. Trash bags – also in various sizes: the 13-gallon “kitchen” size and the 40- or 55-gallon “contractors” heavy duty bags are the most useful, for substitute tarps and ground cloths, emergency ponchos, and holding bigger things.
6. Duct tape – not just to secure those big trash bags, but to repair and fix just about anything.
7. Rubber bands – not the tiny little office ones, but the big thick ones like the USPS and UPS use, again to hold things together, and even to hold things on you.
8. Triangular bandages – especially ones in green or brown: they aren’t just bandages, but can be used as bandanas or keffiyah (traditional Afghan head-scarf, sometimes called a Shemagh), and are much more versatile than a stocking cap. Easy enough to make with fabric for almost anyone.
9. Parachute cord – no, not just those fancy bracelets, but the 50- or 100-foot lengths available in every surplus or hardware store, for its strength, elasticity, and toughness. The inner core cord can be used for fishing line or tripwire.
10. Floss – not just for teeth! 25-yards of floss can be used for stitching wounds, repairing clothing, or snares.
11. Tiny little can-openers – much better than that opener on your Swiss Army knife or Multi-tool, a P-38 or its big brother P-51 are tiny and do a better job of opening cans than most traditional openers. And work well in cutting aluminum cans for small metal sheets and other uses.
12. Paper clips in various sizes – like rubber bands and safety pins, they aren’t just for the office or baby’s room: they are heavier pieces of wire in convenient lengths that can be turned into many different things.
13. A Space Blanket ™ – an aluminum-coated mylar blanket, folded into a tiny little plastic bag, are not just for keeping warm, but for things that a heavier and bulkier poly tarp can’t do as well at: capturing water, padding, and blocking off broken windows.
Each of these items probably can find a niche in that zippered tool bag or small “Really Useful Box” ™ that you have all the other “just in case” stuff like that big multi-tool, the flashlights and battery charger with the crank handle, the spare tooth brushes and meds and first aid kit in – in fact, many of these thirteen items can GO in that first-aid kit. In case you need to bug-out, they’ll be very useful indeed.