Make a Troop One “Go Bag”
What is a “Go Bag”? How about a “bug out” bag? Some even call it an “attack sack”. For our purpose it is a small light day-backpack that has in it the 10 Scout Essentials. I want to encourage all scouts (and adults) to consider making up such a “Go Bag.” Then you are ready for anything!
From time to time our Scouts and Scouters are going to be strongly encouraged to carry a “Go Bag.” This bag rides in the car with the scout and not be mixed up in the luggage of bags and backpacks in the trucks and vans where they cannot get to it. Everything should be in the bag and the bag should easily stay on even when working or unloading. Sometimes you do not need everything in the bag, but that is part of being prepared. If you build this “Go Bag” you will have your water and sun protection and rain gear and insulation layer always in easy reach on your back! In fact, on that dark Friday night when we get to camp you will have your flashlight or headlamp. What does the Boy Scout Handbook list as “The Scout Basic Essentials.” Here is the list from page 264 of the Boy Scout Handbook and a few of my comments in parentheses.
1. Pocketknife (You must have and carry your Totin’ Chip card and be smart about this because some places we may go will not allow you to carry a knife, so always know and obey the rules of where we are. Some like to carry a multi-tool.)
2. First-aid Kit (Everyone should carry a personal first aid kit. All scouts have to make one as a second class requirement and must carry it with them. A well stocked quart-sized freezer bag will be fine. Be ready to take care of your own blisters, small cuts and minor injuries. On a trek someone in the group should have a more substantial first aid kit, but this one is personal. One more essential – every scout should earn first aid merit badge in their first year.)
3. Extra Clothing / Insulation layer (Extra shirt or socks? This will be different for each time out. Should you have a fleece or sweater in your bag? Probably not in August, but from September on …yes. Other lists call this the “Insulation Layer” and remind us to bring the appropriate heavier jacket or wool stocking cap and gloves when it will get cold. October may be warm in Akron, but the mountains of WV may be very chilly to freezing.)
4.Rain Gear (Always assume that it will rain and you don’t want to be working a long way from your tent or car when the rains come. I carry a disposal poncho which costs about a dollar and if it is really threatening then I push in my rain jacket. It is my goal never to use the disposal poncho so it is always there. )
5. Water Bottle and a means to connect it to you. (Essential in both winter and summer. How much depends on whether you are going to be near a resupply or gone all day on a hike. If you have a hydration system such as a camel back a separate bottle is still essential because the hydration pack will empty without notice. Someone in your group on a backcountry trip must have the ability to purify water. Never let your water go below a quart. It is like continuing to drive your car with the gas gauge on empty.)
6. Flashlight (Always have a small flashlight or your headlight with you in this bag. This is true even if leaving in the morning, because you might still have this bag unchanged when dark falls and you have no light to find your light. I wish I had a dollar for every time a scout needed to borrow a flashlight to find their flashlight, or when asked they tell you it is packed in their big bag and it is locked in a car. Don’t forget extra batteries and put in the fresh ones before leaving home. If your light requires three AAA batteries, then take three taped with a long strip of useful tape (part of a repair kit). I recommend standardizing all of your flashlights to AAA OR AA style and not both.)
7. Trail food (If hiking or traveling away from base camp this is a clear essential. The problem is food spoils and melts and all of that. The idea is that you have a way to feed yourself if you get lost or separated. This is a high maintenance item and the worry is it is also an animal attracter so it can’t be in your tent. We will be talking about this in troop meetings coming up, because this changes as the conditions change. You might throw in a couple of well sealed energy bars or jerky and plan not to use them. Reward yourself on Sunday when you get home with your tasty treat and replace fresh on the next campout.)
8. Matches and fire starters (You must have a Fireman Chit card with you to carry these. Making fire starters and carrying them with you is a great safety item and also guaranteed that someone – you – will get the evening fire started. Have more than one. Matches require a waterproof container. Weeks of humidity can make regular matches worthless.)
9. Sun Protection (A small tube of lotion and sun glasses are really important as is a hat. We do not wear an official scout hat with our uniform, but a hat that can live in your Go Bag will be greatly appreciated when the sun is too powerful. Sure a different hat for different times of the year is required. Don’t think just about sun burn, this also helps with glare that can really drag you down. And that hat will help your heat stay in your body too.)
10. Map and Compass (Knowing how to use a compass is a real essential skill. Having a map of the area you are in is also critical on a hike, much less so in the campsite. Someone in your patrol or crew must have the map. If you own and can use a GPS that is great, but when batteries fail you are back to compass skills.)
Other essentials – insect repellent, an emergency whistle, an emergency shelter or a way to improvise one might all be important. Again the 10 essentials is a list, a guideline, of how to be prepared for what Baden Powel said was to be prepared for “just any old thing.” Obviously an essential is the bag you carry all of this in. The smallest bag that will work for you is the best. Do not try to carry much more than this because then the “Go Bag” becomes an “I want to Stop Bag.” This is not a bag you would be carrying back packing, but you would be carrying all of the essentials in your weekend back pack. The men and women who serve us in search and rescue units get a call and within minutes of hanging up they are out the door with their “Bug Out” bag in tow. It is always packed and by the door. Those folks are really prepared. Should scouts be less prepared?