April 28, 2020
I frequently get asked what I carry in my “Oh Shyte” bag. My reply is, “Tools to make my life more comfortable and to provide what I need to survive in a bad spot”. In truth, what I carry changes depending on where I am and what I'm doing. My primary concerns are shelter, fire, water and food. Here’s a quick look at some of the items I carry, perhaps it will give you some ideas of your own.
I have a small tarp with short tie downs which fits in a small bag. I found it in the camping section at Walmart for a king's ransom of ten dollars. It is 5x7’, light and waterproof nylon. With it I have some titanium nail pegs so I can put it up quickly and stay dry and out of the wind. Yes, I know I can make stakes in the bush, but sometimes things have to be done fast and having a few on hand helps.
On top of the tarp I have four “space blankets”. They can be used as a blanket, tied with a stone and cord for a quickie lean-to shelter, or used as a waterproof ground cloth. Generally I try to carry two high-end space blankets as they are both thicker and tougher. The other two can be the lighter weight as they won't have to take as much abuse. If you line the inside of the tarp with one of the thin “medical use” mylar blankets, it reflects an amazing amount of heat from a small fire. The heavier ones I use are made by Titan while the lighter ones are from Amazon.
$24.98 for a 5 pack
Size: folded 3x5x0.6 inches, unfolded 52x82 inches
Weight: 1.9 ounces
Science Project Emergency Mylar Thermal Blanket
$5.99 for a 5 pack
Size: folded 6.2x4.2x.25, unfolded 52x84 inches
Weight: 1.7 ounces
Available on Amazon
I like the configurability of the Sawyer Mini Filter. By itself it can be used as a straw, a squeeze filter and it will fit on top of a plastic water bottle. The ability to back-flush them to clean the filter gives them an incredibly long life. At 100,000 gallons rated capacity, this little filter will filter a gallon of water a day for 270+ years. Now, I am not sure but that might even outlast me. Taking the filtration down to two microns removes the nasty water borne bugs that will make your trip, or your trek back to the so-called safety of civilization somewhat better.
I use an old trick to extend the times between back-flushing the filter. I use a plastic water bottle and cut the bottom off, then force a bandanna or bit of cotton cloth into the neck. It will remove nearly all of the debris that will choke up a water filter. It leads to less back-flushing and less pressure to push the water through, minimizing potential damage to the filter. Remember though; do not let this filter, or any other, freeze after using as it will ruin them. When caught out in the cold nasty keep the filter next to your body so it doesn't freeze.
Sawyer Mini Filter
Capacity: 100,000 gallons.
Weight: 2 ounces
Water Bottle and Nesting Cup
Normally in my little slice of Heaven I prefer Titanium, and use it regularly. In my bag though, I use an Olicamp stainless cup and a 32-ounce Klean Kanteen bottle. It rides in the car and I would hate to see my Titanium stolen or ruined if it freezes. The cup can be used to brew up some hot tea, or an envelope soup for emergencies. The bottle should be at least 32 ounces. Water can be difficult to find and bad water will dehydrate you. The ability to boil it after filtering will add another layer of protection. Typically, I have another bottle with me for at least a half a gallon capacity.
In my neck of the woods water sources are fairly abundant. Rivers, streams, ponds and wells are never too far away. I tend to keep track of water sources and watch birds to see where they head in the morning and evening. Throughout the Midwest are windmills left over from homesteads which are usually set over a hand dug well and used to pump water for livestock. In the case of a well, a plastic bottle weighted with stones and tied to a line can be used to draw water.
Size: 9.9x3.6 inches
Weight: 9.7 ounces
Capacity: 40 ounces
Olicamp Space Saver Cup
Material: 18/8 stainless steel
Capacity: 16 ounces
My first line of fire starting is the mundane Bic lighter. While I can make fires using primitive methods, I’ll use the easiest way possible in a tight spot to achieve the desired goal. Just like I won't turn my nose up on a steel blade over a stone one, I will not turn my nose up on modern methods. With the Bic I have firesteels. One is from Titan with their Survivor cord braided onto the drilled end. The other is from Firesteel with their soft magnesium rod and super scraper. They both shower a huge amount of sparks onto your choice of tinder. Firesteel has Ferrocerium rods from 3/32-inch to a 1-inch monster of a fire starter which should last well into the next generation. I tend to keep the ⅜-inch thick rods handy. My third method is flint and steel. In my case a Titanium striker and English flint. Titanium throws a white hot spark that will ignite some things that are a bit harder to light.
Size: ⅜x6 inches
Weight: 2.86 ounces
Several times I have nearly been stuck on the way home, so I plan my bag contents for 2 to 3 days. When the situation goes to crap around you and things get overwhelming there are few things like building a fire and having a warm brew (tea) that will calm you down and help you make a proper assessment of the situation. I have used the Titanium Siege Stove for some time. Some people call the type puzzle stoves, as they use stamped flat sheets that lock together when assembled. The result is a light yet strong stove burning any available biomass. The stove and a cup allow you to boil water and pour it in your container as an alternate purification method.
Material: 304 stainless steel
Weight: 16 ounces
Firebox size assembled: H5xW5.5
Titan SurvivorCord is an improvement on the standard 550 cord making it incredibly useful for the survivalist or Bushcrafter. Along with the seven inner lines that make up a true 550 cord, it has a 25-pound monofilament line, a 7-pound test brass alloy wire and a wax impregnated jute cord useful for emergency fire starting. It has a rated breaking strength of 620 pounds making it a bit stronger than average. I carry at least a 100-foot bundle of the SurvivorCord. My plans are to get some more and make a few things for my EDC.
MSRP: $24.95 for 100 ft.
Weight: 13 ounces
My friend David Fortier tells me he is going to follow me into the woods and pick up the knives I drop. Yes, I like blades. I laugh, but I’ll have a spare blade for a friend. One of the knives I carry is the Mora Garberg. This is a full-tang, Scandi grind, razor sharp workhorse of a knife. The other blade kept in my bag is the Helle Viking. This is another Scandi grind knife with a laminated blade. The Helle Viking fits my hand nicely and the handle is barrel shaped with a teardrop cross-section. This locks it into my hand and indexes the edge. I like that because even in the dark I know where the edge is and am less likely to accidentally cut myself. My favorite knives are custom made by a friend at Dwarf Mountain Knives and they are used daily, so will likely be with me. My bag has these two though, just in case. Everybody has met Murphy and he is a rather unpleasant chap, so I tend to have redundancy built into the important bits.
Blade: Triple laminated carbon steel
Blade length: 4.3 inches
Handle: Curly Birch
Handle length: 4.1 inches
Weight: 4 ounces
Material: Sandvik stainless steel 14c28n
Blade length: 4.3 inches
Blade width: .13 inches
Total length: 9 inches
Weight: 9.6 ounces
Light and Power
Solar cells and lithium batteries are what I use to power phone and lights. I carry a couple of lights. One is a small Glo-Toob light. This is a small area light you can hang. It’s not super bright, but it will chase a bit of the dark away to keep you from tripping or allow you to set your shelter up. I use the AAA powered white light powered by rechargeable batteries. The BioLite PowerLight Mini is my other area light. It’s dimmable and USB rechargeable. They both have an excellent run time and will last for years.
I carry two small folding solar cells in my kit for charging. One is a SunJack 5-watt folding solar cell with a 10,000 mAh battery. This cell is compact and can hang from the pack to charge the on-board battery while you are moving. The other is a small folding pocket cell by Pocket Power. It rates in at 6.4 watts and will charge my phone or light pretty handily. The last bit is a small Klarus USB charger. It will charge any rechargeable battery from AAA to 26650 making it very versatile.
SunJack Solar Charger and Powerbank Flashlight
Dimensions: Folded 6.1x3.3x1.8, Unfolded 6.1x.9x13.9 inches
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Input: USB: 5V, 2A (max), solar panel: 0.5A (max), Combined: 2.4A (max)
Output: USB: 5V, 2.1A (max)
Flex Solar Pocket Power
Rated power: 6.4 watt
Output voltage: 5V
Output current: 1.3A
Size: Unfolded 15.6x5.6, folded 3.9x5.5x.6 inches
Weight: 7 ounces
Output: USB 2.0
Available on Amazon
I am one of those people who did not win the genetic lottery for good eyesight so I’ve worn glasses from the age of two. One thing I learned is no matter how much you hate glasses or contacts; being able to see is a must. In a bad event it can mean the difference between life and death. I normally wear contacts but they would quickly be unwearable in the bush. I get my glasses from a small veteran owned custom shop called Tactical Rx. They make custom glasses to meet the specific needs of sportsmen and shooters. Their curved prescription lenses have no distortion, something they pioneered. If you have reached middle age and have a hard time seeing your iron sights they can even cure that. I carry a spare set in my OS bag and I know our Editor and Jim Tarr does as well, they are that good.
Prescription and safety glasses
Price: Varies with options
Drinks and Foods
Tea bags, Arizona tea tubes, flavored protein packs, tuna packs, rice and envelope chicken noodle soup dwell in my kit. For a quick flavored drink I have a few Arizona drink tubes and use a Voss water bottle. The Voss water bottle has a wide mouth, useful for protein packs. For a cold camp I carry tuna packs as they can be eaten cold or cooked with the rice. Granted it isn't what most would consider a meal but if you are foraging it will make things seem better. The last thing I have in the bag is a bottle of Dave's Ghost Pepper Sauce. This, or any hot sauce, can hide a lot of culinary sin. Just remember to rotate your perishables out on a regular basis. I also have a cheap plastic match case full of fish hooks wrapped in monofilament line covered in a layer of duct tape. When camping near a body of water a few baited hooks in the water could easily provide a fish breakfast with little effort.
First off, if you have to take something as a prescription having a few days’ supply handy is only smart. What I carry is over the counter pain relievers and some sinus essential oils. A headache from lack of water, or caffeine, is rather distracting. Having a clear head is a plus. When I travel very far I add anti-diarrheal pills just in case. Cold and sinus pills or allergy relief if you are susceptible to such would be a good idea.
The contents of an Oh Shyte bag are dependent on training and the needs of the individual. This is a glimpse at what I carry. Granted I can get away with a lot less, but a few more tools makes things easier. Hopefully this will give you a few ideas on what to carry in your bag. Be ready, stay alive.