What's in your backpack? Photo by: Christopher Nyerges

What's in your backpack?

It pays to peek inside Anthony Hardwick’s pricey survival ‘bug-out’ bag

By Christopher Nyerges 05/14/2009

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Back when I first got interested in survival preparedness, I’d have long discussions with friends about the necessity of always having a pack ready in case you ever had to make a quick evacuation. We discussed all the contents of our survival packs, and considered both short-term and long-term survival needs away from home.

Knives, tools, water, seeds, clothes, fire, shelter, light. We agreed that the ideal survival pack — also referred to as a “bug-out bag” — would be lightweight and not a burden. We would bring these packs on our desert outings and test how well the items did
in field conditions.

We learned that the more you knew, the less you had to carry. The packs that were best were also the heaviest and the biggest. If you could always put your pack in your car and drive away, then weight and bulk wouldn’t be an issue. But the reality of emergencies is that things happen when you don’t expect them, at a moment not of your choosing, when you’re not necessarily ready.

More recently, I have been interested in finding out what people carry in their packs and why they made those choices. Outdoorsman Pascal Baudar recently held an event where everyone showed and talked about the contents of their bug-out bags, and I asked Pasadena resident Anthony Hardwick about his selections.

“One never knows when a natural or manmade disaster will strike,” says Hardwick. “I am trying to be prepared in a variety of ways for the unexpected. A bug-out-bag is one of the easier things a person can put together that takes up little space, has an indefinite shelf life [with some items needing periodic replacement]  and can potentially go a long way in helping one survive a disaster and in being more comfortable in a variety of scenarios.”

Hardwick does a lot of traveling as a professional photographer and has some experience with the unexpected, sometimes staying just a step ahead of unusual events.

“I lived in New York City for 36 years, moving out to Los Angeles on Sept. 1 of 2001, thus just barely being spared the horror of experiencing 9/11 firsthand,” he tells me. “I was vacationing in Ko Phi Phi exactly one year prior to the tsunami, and I was in New Orleans shooting a job less than a month before Katrina hit. I think these events, and my relationship to these locations, are what motivated me to make a survival pack.”

What exactly does he carry?

Hardwick keeps a three-day survival pack, from the Kifaru Co., based in Colorado — makers of tough packs used by military operators as well as hunters. What’s inside?

Hardwick carries a fixed-blade knife in a sheath strapped to the outside of the pack, and a Leatherman Wave multi-tool inside the pack, along with two very compact Mylar-type blankets that have a variety of uses. Including the obvious, these can also be used to signal for help, collect water or waterproof a lean-to.

Hardwick also carries waterproof matches, a disposable lighter, a magnesium bar with striker, a credit-card-sized plastic Fresnel lens, a zip-lock bag filled with mugwort and a two-quart Platypus bladder system for drinking water.

When it comes to clothes and food, Hardwick packs two pairs of underwear and socks, a hat, a fleece skullcap and a pair of lightweight gloves, plus two pairs of sunglasses, two pens, a notepad and a pair of pruning shears. He also packs two heavyweight garbage bags, several zip-lock bags, two freeze-dried meals ready to eat (MREs) and a heavy-duty plastic fork and knife.

Hardwick is also an amateur radio operator, so he packs a handheld radio for emergency communications. He also packs a first-aid kit, a water purifier, a ground tarp, a compact pair of binoculars, 50 feet each of synthetic and leather cord, a roll of electrical tape, a wind and weather meter and a roll of toilet paper.

Depending on the type of emergency, Hardwick says he would also carry one or more firearms.
The total cost: $1,587. In the future, we’ll look at more economical ways to pack an effective survival bug-bag.

Christopher Nyerges is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” and an occasional blogger of current events. He can be contacted via this paper or ChristopherNyerges.com.

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