Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 6, 2016
Discuss this article at the Bugout Table inside the Diner
Wearables and Pocket Prepping
Consider this my first Prepper Fashion article. 🙂
Even before I became aware of Collapse, I always liked to carry around a bunch of stuff I either really DID need to have with me (like my keys & wallet & a lighter since I am a smoker), or stuff I thought might come in handy like a Swiss Army Knife or a small flashlght. Over time more things cropped up that I either needed or wanted to have with me all the time, most critically the Smart Phone! I also like to have my checkbook with me in case my debit cards don't work, and a multi-tool with pliers is a nice addition to the Swiss Army Knife as far as portable tools are concerned. All this STUFF quickly fills up the typical pockes in a pair of jeans, and if that is all the pockets you have you can't possibly carry all this stuff, no matter how miniaturized the individual items are.
Women don't have this problem quite so much, because carrying around a handbag or shoulder bag is de rigeur for women. However, men who carry around such a bag are generally considered to be a bit "light in the sneakers". LOL. My old solution to this problem was the Waistpack, and I have quite a few of those accumulated over the years, including a couple of real nice hand-stitched leather ones I picked up in Brazil a couple of decades ago. These provide enough room for most essential carry-preps, although you will run out of room with them too when you carry around as many prep items as I do all the time. You also suffer the problem with the waistpacks that although you don't generally get pegged as walking on the wild side, you look like a complete GEEK instead. Very few people walk around daily life with a waistpack on, they only wear them when camping or climbing or biking or doing some outdoor activity where they need freedom of movement but also need to carry a decent amount of stuff.
Either Gender can of course carry around a small backpack, and that provides copious room for prep items. Often referred to as a "Bugout Bag" in the prep community, there are numerous articles about what you should have in your bugout bag. A bugout bag also allows you to carry some items that you can't possibly fit in pockets, like a Fast Hatchet or decent size folding Camp Saw.
Both of these devices would have seriously good utility if you were stuck out in the wilderness, but generally speaking for most people this would not be the case, and besides that it's just a lot of bulk to be carrying around all the time when in all likelihood the chances you would really need such an item are quite small. If you are travelling around out in the wilderness though, these are certainly things you want to carry with you. Not in normal every day life though, you have gone off the deep end if you carry these with you all the time when you go to work at Jiffy Lube expecting TEOTWAWKI before you leave work. lol.
The typical carry with you stuff has to be pretty small, but the items should perform important tasks that you could face in the effort to MAKE IT HOME when TSHTF. So what we will look at in this article are items that you can carry with you all the time in your Cargo Outfit without bulking out the pockets too much or looking like a complete geek.
For myself, I always wear a Cargo Vest, which has enough room for all the essentials. However, if I expect to be away from my digs where most of my preps are for a long time or far away (more than half the day or more than 30 miles or so), I wear the Cargo Pants too for the additional pockets there. At least around here on the Last Great Frontier of Alaska I don't look weird dresed this way, although you would look out of place dressed in this manner on Wall Street. lol.
If I am going to be away from the digs for more than a day or more than 30 miles, then I also bring with me the Bugout Bag. However, for this article, we are only concerned with what goes in the pockets for daily jaunts around town, when at any MOMENT here, there could be a 9.0 EARTHQUAKE that might make it difficult to make it home, and when I got there I might just find a big pile of rubble and have close to nothing left but the clothes on my back…AND what is in my POCKETS!
Before going into what is IN the pockets though, lets look at the pockets themselves and the fashion and utility aspects of the clothing itself, beginning with the Cargo Vest. They come in many varieties, with many different pocket configurations. Some have lots of small pockets for things like shotgun shells, they are hunting vests basically. These don't make good prepper vests generally speaking though. You want a couple of large Patch Pockets in front mainly, and a good sized interior breast pocket, If your vest has more than this you can drop some additional ancillary items into the smaller pockets, but to me these vests look too cluttered on the fashion level.
Same is true for the Cargo Pants, it is quite possible to go way overboard with the number of pockets possible, and after a while this gets a bit too nerdy. From my POV, the Cargo Vest should have two large Patch Pockets for tools, a large inside Breast Pocket for your wallet and phone, slash pockets beneath the patch pockets for stuff you need to grab all the time like keys and lighter, and maybe another breast level pocket or two for small items like monofilament fishing line or extra batteries.
Same with the Cargo Pants, often the manufacturers drop a zillion pockets on these things, but mainly you just want the front slash pockets (they should be deep!) the two rear pockets and the two BIG expandable pockets on each thigh. With all those pockets, you are carrying just about a full Bugout Bag of stuff, just distributed out and you dont have to take it off and on, and you can't lose it or forget it somewhere, although anybody who forgets their bugout bag deserves a Darwin Award.
Depending on your environment and the weather, you may need more than one weight in the cargo apparel. If you have hot weather to deal with in the summer, you might want a set of Cargo Shorts for this time of year, or cargo pants that have zip-off bottoms to the legs. For the Vests, in winter you might want to have an insulated version. For most purposes though, 1 medium weight pair of cargo pants and 1 medium weight cargo vest will do. It also makes it simpler since you dont have to go about transfering all the preps from one set to another every time the weather changes some.
For the really Fashion Conscious, there are of course numerous choices in colors and in materials, off-white to tan to brown to black, denim to leather etc. You can mix and match color schemes and accesorize as you please.
OK, now the important part, what goes IN all those pockets? We'll start at the top and work our way down.
WARNING / DISCLAIMER: In the effort to be as complete on possible items to carry, what I am listing will bulk out the pockets SERIOUSLY! However, it is possible to fit everything I list in your Cargo Vest and Pants at once, I checked to make sure. 🙂 You'll have to do some triage and eliminate some stuff though if you want to be reasonable about this. 😀
Inside Breast Pocket:
This is your safest pocket from bumping into things and also quickly accessible, so it holds your most used items on normal days, your smart phone, your wallet and a pen. I need a big pocket because my smart phone is a big one, the Samsung Galaxy Mega. The reason for such a large phone is it doubles as an emergency laptop in combination with my folding bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Smaller phones just don't really have enough screen real estate to be writing much more than text messages, and reading your e-books on them is also tedious since you have to scroll so much. In an emergency situation, your communications are critical, so make sure your battery is fully charged before leaving home, and keep the battery charged with car 12V DC outlets and AC outlets while at the coffee shop etc.
Wallet choice and style is up to the individual, I like a minimalist leather folding wallet with a clear window for my ID, plus a compartment for change if I am working in cash, which is rare normally but in emergencies would be more common. For pens, you can get a fancy one if you like, but i just stick to freebies given out at the credit union. They do the writing job on checks just fine, and I lose them all the time anyhow.
Outside Left Patch Pocket:
Fire: Lighter, Water/Wind Proof matches, magnesium stick, fire starter/tinder. Most of the time you're going to be able to use your lighter for fire starting, but it's good to have the matches and a sparking stick as backups. You also want to have some good dry tinder just in case there is none available. The lighter is a matter of choice from the basic Bic, to old fashion Zippos to new high tech Plasma electric lighters. Stay away from refillable Butane lighters though, I have never had one of them that lasted more than 3 refills before the valve gave out.
Your main flashlight. You probably will have some other diode type lights, for instance my keychain has a diode light on the carabiner, but you want a good powerful light in a blackout situation to get out of a large building that is LIGHTS OUT, and to make it through brush at night on your way home. A light that does both high power to really light things up when necessary and a low power setting to conserve battery power is ideal. My choice for this is the Nebo Red which has a high power setting of an astounding 350 lumens, and settings at 50% and 10%. For most purposes the 10% setting is quite sufficient. It runs on 3 standard AAA batteries, alkaline or rechargeable.
Swiss Army Knife, Leatherman, Hobo Tool
There are many choices on both the SAK and LM of what tools they will include and how small or big they are. This is mostly a matter of personal preference, although the HUGE "kitchen sink" SAK's with every tool in the arsenal on them are a bit ridiculous IMHO, and the ultra tiny ones with just a tiny blade and a nail file are close to useless. The choices in between are myriad these days though, so you just have to decide which one is right for you in terms of tools you think could be useful. My choice is the "Tradesman" model shown above. The same holds true for the LMs. The main tool here is folding pliers, but they also always have a blade with them, usually flat & philips screw drivers and then assorted other stuff depending on model and size. There are many manufacturers with both of these items, in varying quality and price. Here again you decide what is right for you in terms of budget and functionality.
Hobo tools come in different sizes and varieties, some disassemble to separate the knife and fork which is nice, but if you have other knives anyway this isn't necessary. The ones that don't disassemble are more compact. This item is optional, and I don't carry it all the time, but if you want to eat in a "civilized" manner during your stay in the emergency shelter it's nice to have your own set of silverware on board. 🙂
Right Vest Patch Pocket
This pocket is optional in terms of what you want to include and how much you want to load it up. You have to achieve a balance between trying to carry everything you might need versus bulking out the pocket too much. You also want to leave room to stuff things into the pocket during the day, like some throat lozenges if you have a cough or nasal spray and a pack of tissues if you have a stuffy nose, etc.
In my vest, the right pocket has a single blade folding knife, sharpener, a small adjustable wrench, folding scissors,a small roll of Gorilla tape and a wire saw. Although both the SAK and Leatherman have knives included, they are kind of small and not that robust. The Knife is the most important basic tool, so you want a good robust one to use most of the time a knife situation arises. I keep the SAK knife super sharp so you could even shave with it if necessary, but that level of sharpness will disappear quickly if you use it to cut small branches off a sapling etc. A larger more robust single blade folding knife is better to use for the tougher tasks, and you don't need to keep it at such a high level of sharpness, although of course starting out before the emergency you want to have it nice and sharp. Having a knife sharpening stone or device is a good idea if you are going to be using your knives a lot, and you can get small ones that work pretty well and don't take up much room.
Wire saws are incredibly small and powerful tools, and you may want to have more than one since they are cheap and they will break on you, especially if not used properly. The proper way to use them is to make an impromptu Bow Saw out of them. Here's a good instructional video on how to do that:
I also squeeze in an AC & DC USB charger for my phone in this pocket along with a USB cable. It's a crowded pocket! If you dont want it bulking out, you'll want to eliminate some of these items, or shift them to other pockets for a better distribution.
Left Pants Thigh Pocket
Line & Shelter
Monofilament Fishing line and hooks, Piano Wire, Wire ties, Paracord, Space Blanket, Emergency poncho. Monofilament is useful for many more things than just fishing, and 100' of it doesn't take up much room. Piano wire also doesn't take much room, a small 10' roll of the stuff is plenty also for fastening things together. making traps etc. Wire ties are great quick fasteners as well, and you only need a few of those. A 50' bundle of paracord is more bulky, and you might want to substitute instead paracord bracelets worn around your wrists or ankles for this or a paracord belt. They look kind of geeky on your wrists though IMHO. The space blanket can serve as an emergency ground cloth or tent, as well as just wrapping yourself up in it for a little extra warmth and protection from the elements while getting a couple of hours of sleep on the Journey Home. The emergency poncho also can serve as a groundcloth, and in the case of a T-storm that might soak you to the bone is invaluable to have to throw on while you make your way home through the rain.
Right Pants Thigh Pocket
Food or Optional Gear
If you go with just food, you can stuff a nice large bag of Gorp or several High energy bars in this pocket. I generally just stuff a couple of energy bars in other pockets and use this pocket for my bluetooth folding keyboard and mouse for my Samsung Galaxy Mega Phablet. It's not likely you will starve in the 2-3 days of time to make it home, so you don't really need much food on board here. You may want to carry a folding water bag in this pocket also for situations like floods where fresh water may not be available for the trip home. However, you will need somewhere to fill it before the journey, because carrying a whole lot of water all the time just takes up too much space to be doing this in pockets. A better solution here is to have a lightweight hiker hydration backpack, going the full 9 yards here you wear it beneath the vest while empty, and when you fill it for the trip home, you wear it on the outside of the vest. An option would be to Customize your vest and put a water bladder in the back of it, empty most of the time but you fill it in an emergency situation.
Outside of the pockets, you still have ability to carry good preps without bulking up too much or carrying a pack. A Paracord Belt eliminates the need to carry paracord in your pants cargo pocket, freeing up room for some energy bars instead. You can also wear paracord bracelets around your wrists or ankles, although I think the wrist ones are kind of geeky. Around your ankles nobody sees them as long as you are wearing long pants and not cargo shorts in hot weather.
You can also hook a couple of Carabiners around the belt. If they match the color of the belt, they are fairly unobstrusive. Black is a good choice of color for both the belt and the carabiners, it goes with everything on the fashion level. 🙂 Don't use the cheap knock off carabiners they sell at Walmart, get the good high quality ones that climbers use. Also don't succumb to hanging anything off these carabiners while attached to your belt in normal circumstances, that makes you look very geeky.
If you are the type that wants to be ready for the full Zombie Apocalypse, the vest provides good cover for a shoulder holster, or you can wear an ankle holster under the leg of the cargo pants for Concealed Carry. If you are in a Open Carry state and want to flaunt the weapon as a deterrent, you go with a belt holster and play Paladin.
Other less lethal weapons such as nunchucks, throwing stars and brass knuckles can be stored inside the vest by sewing in special loops and pouches to hold them. Pepper spray comes in small enough containers that you can stuff one in a slash pocket on the vest for quick deployment if attacked by a bear or mugger.
If you use a cane or walking stick or carry an Umbrella, you can get both Cane/Umbrella Swords and Cane/Umbrella Rifles. I'm looking into getting one of the Cane Rifles. 🙂 Cripples need defense too! LOL. They are CO2 powered and small caliber shot with muzzle velocity @ 600 fps, so they wouldn't have much stopping power unless the shot was really well placed, but it would be a deterent. Also good for taking out small game like squirrels or rabbits.
The thing you need to remember here is that you are not prepping to survive out in the wilderness, just to make it home or to a safe location like a shelter in a bad situation, like say your car got washed downstream in a flash flood. Many of the items I listed are probably unnecesary for this, like the adjustable wrench or the folding scissors. I just like having those tools for more mundane tasks that sometimes come up in everyday life. Like something on my Ewz comes loose and I need to tighten it up. Or somebody has a bottle of wine for us to share and doesn't have a corkscrew. I almost always have a tool with me to fit the occassion. 🙂
The absolute basics I would not leave the digs without are:
Money: Wallet with ID, Cash, a couple of blank checks, debit card, pen
Communications: Smart Phone
Knife/Tool: Swiss Army Knife
You can of course expand on this in many ways since most of the time you're travelling around in your car, and you can throw your Bugout Backpack in the car but not carry it around with you while shopping etc. You might even have 2 or 3 different bugout bags of various sizes with different contents that are situation dependent in them in the trunk of the car. A bag for an urban situation where you need to abandon the vehicle to make it home; a bag for a wilderness situation you need to abandon the vehicle to make it home; and a long term survival pack where you figure to be stuck away from home for a month or more. The last pack obviously has to be a large camping style pack with tent, sleeping bag etc in it or attached to it. I don't bother with that one, I couldn't haul it around these days anyhow and if I am stuck somewhere more than a week or so, I am likely a dead man. So I don't worry about that or try to prep for that eventuality anymore, but if you are young and healthy you might want to do so.
Finally, remember that prepping of this sort is strictly a temporary measure to make it through short term disruptions. Very few people can survive even a short while with just a knife and axe and such tools, or even less, although there are some people who can do that around. The longer term prepping cannot be done individually in general though, they are COMMUNITY projects and the most important prep of all for that is to DEVELOP YOUR COMMUNITY. Find people of like mind and similar concerns and develop a GROUP plan for emergency situations. Only through cooperation and sharing is long term survival possible for any Homo Sap.
In Part 4 of Bugout Bags, we will look at Bugout Bags through History and how they compare to modern Bugout Bag arrangements. However, I am going to take a break from the Bugout Bag series in next week's Sunday Brunch article to celebrate an important Personal Anniversary Date. So look for the next Bugout Bags article in 2 weeks.
Bugout Safe, and Bugout in STYLE!