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How To Make Your Own Go Bag, In Case of Emergency

by Melanie LaForce

In the Survival Skills for Badass Bitches series, writer Melanie LaForce walks you through everything you need to know to survive the outdoors, tough situations, and/or the forthcoming apocalypse. 

This summer I watched a helicopter, outfitted with a tank and snorkel, suck water out of Lake Gregory to fight a wildfire less than a half mile away. This fire had started in a house in a crowded neighborhood, and made “a run up the mountain,” as they say. Because of the immediate danger to human lives, this particular fire received full attention from the hardworking firefighters, who put out an acre-sized blaze in less than an hour. Still, the damage was devastating. 

I realized I was woefully unprepared. What if that fire had started just a few blocks closer? I wondered to myself. What would happen if we became trapped by fire? This situation has become all too real for folks in wildfire zones, not to mention hurricane, earthquake, tornado, and other natural disaster zones. And then, of course, there are human-made crises to keep in mind as well.

If you enjoy being alarmist, er… prepared, you should have a Go Bag. A Go Bag, or “bug-out bag,” is a packed bag or container with emergency supplies. While Go Bags have been part of survivalist culture for decades, the current apocalypse has driven Go Bags to the mainstream. These are not just overnight bags with some extra clothing and back-up shampoo: Go Bags are made for severe, urgent situations where you may not have access to clean water, electricity, and other necessary services. 

If you’re not part of the 1% who have safety bunkers with three years’ supply of canned beans, tampons, and fresh porn, a Go Bag may bring you some comfort. You can start by putting together a rudimentary Go Bag containing just a few essentials, and add to it over time if you’d like. (Assuming your emergency doesn’t hit, like, today. NO PRESSURE.) If you’re lazy and have the money for it, curated Go Bags, like Judy, start at $45 for what looks like an emergency formal clutch purse and run up to $250 for a large plastic container with emergency supplies for four people up to 72 hours. These are decent quality Go Bags, but you pay a lot more for the curation. It’s significantly cheaper to create one yourself. 

First, you’ll need a waterproof container. If you live in a hurricane or flood zone, look for the word “submersible” in the bag’s description. Unfortunately, this means your Go Bag will likely be made with polyester/plastic, because petroleum-based materials hold up to the natural elements. Patagonia, however, makes a light duffel from recycled plastic. Most outdoor sporting brands have pricey options, however, cheaper versions are available with some creative Googling.

FEMA provides these recommendations for the most bare bones Go Bag:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Here are a few additions that BUST finds critical: 

Multiple masks, ideally with respirator capability. Between the worst wildfire season on record and a global pandemic, stashing one extra dust mask in case of an emergency seems…insufficient. Many people who live in wildfire areas invest in chemical cartridge/gas respirator masks, the most apocalyptic-looking of all PPE. Unfortunately, due to the continued shortage of PPE, we should continue to save the most heavy-duty masks, including N95 particulate masks, for healthcare workers and vulnerable folks. As COVID-19 eventually declines (please, Gods), we hope more protective gear becomes available to the general public for any number of other terrors. In the meantime, find the best fitting masks and keep a few on hand. If you are using cloth masks, cut out vacuum or other filters to use when air quality is dangerous. (And hell yeah, you should be pissed that our healthcare workers STILL DO NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT PPE.) 

A small fire and waterproof container with copies of any critical documents. If you have a government document that verifies your identity, a copy should be in your Go Bag. Some folks keep copies of birth certificates, immigration documents, passports, social security cards, marriage certificates, prescriptions, and vaccine records in their Go Bags.

Several days of necessary medications. Don’t be that ass who stockpiles weed, but have at least three or four days’ worth of any critical meds. 

Period hygiene backups. Menstrual cups are great for this, as they are reusable and take up little room. However, disposable tampons or pads may be more hygienic if access to clean water is scant. 

A treat or two. Okay, obviously this one is not life-or-death necessary. However, compiling (much less needing to use) a Go Bag can trigger fear and anxiety in many folks. It’s terrifying to imagine worst-case scenarios where a Go Bag could be necessary. If you want, you can make it a little more appealing by considering a few bonus items to include. For me, this would definitely be a brown butter dark chocolate bar and mini clit vibrator. Possibly a fifth of bourbon. Certainly I can weather a few apocalyptic days with chocolate and orgasm, right? 

If you have kids, maybe some fruit roll-ups? I can’t really help you there. 

With any luck, this year will bring reduced chaos. Unfortunately, however, there’s nothing to suggest our climate woes will get any better, and natural disasters may continue to increase in both frequency and severity. FEMA even suggests keeping a Go Bag in your car, at work, AND at home, because you never know where you’ll be when disaster strikes. Manifest positivity like hell… but y’all better be ready to flee. 

Art by Gabriella Shery

Gabriella Shery is an illustrator, graphic designer, and comic artist from Brooklyn, New York. You can find her work on Instagram at @gabshery, or on her website at http://gabriellashery.com.

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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