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What's In Your 'Go-Bag'?


June 10, 2009
Categories: Safety, Travel Tips

When you’re in trouble in the middle of nowhere, what do you want to have in your “go” bag? Global Rescue experts break down the basics of what you should pack in an emergency preparedness bag.

“The first thing you want to do before you go anywhere is tell someone where you’re going,” Global Rescue security personnel recommends.

It’s always advisable to leave that person with Global Rescue’s phone number in the event of an emergency. You should also have the number programmed into your cell phone or satellite phone.

First and Second Lines of Essentials

When packing for the trip, there is a “first line” and a “second line” of essentials. Global Rescue experts define the “first line” as items carried on your body. Keep a packaged, detailed map, a quality compass — not a cheap one, but one that was really built for navigation — and a GPS, all tethered with a lanyard so you can plot your movements on the map as you go.

You should, of course, also carry some kind of multi-tool. The Red Cross has suggestions for an emergency preparedness bag that you can use at home or take with you.

Addressing Five Basic Needs

The second line is a go bag, which addresses five basic needs: shelter, food and water, warmth, signaling and first aid. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers emergency preparedness bag ideas for different natural disasters, such as flooding and winter weather.

You’ll want something to protect yourself from the rain if you’re lost or immobile in the wilderness. Bring an eight-foot by 10-foot tarp and 50 to 250 feet of parachute line. You might also need it to protect yourself from the wind.

The next thing to put in the go bag is some clothes to keep warm. Leave the cotton at home and bring something that wicks moisture away from the body. Even though you may be traveling in the hot sun during the day, it will be a lot colder at night. A pair of gloves always comes in handy.

Be prepared to start a fire: metal matches or stormproof matches and a small case of cotton balls soaked in Vaseline should do the trick.

Don’t travel anywhere without some access to water. Bring along a canteen or a Naplene bottle, or a Camelbak, etc., along with some iodine tablets to drop into any water you’ve found from natural sources.

For food, make sure you have a day’s worth of rations. Global Rescue staff usually pack a few energy bars.

The next thing to fit in the go bag: signaling devices. Pencil flares are very compact, a small strobe light would be helpful, and definitely bring a whistle.

The Bare Essentials

Finally, a first aid kit. A stripped down kit would include the bare essentials: a Sam splint, some Ace bandages and gauze.

For more complete kits, have a look at wildernessmedical.com or check out our post on what to pack in a first aid kit. And don’t forget to add your Global Rescue card to your go bag in case you need medical evacuation services. If you’ve got a GPS unit with you and cellular or satellite coverage, help is a phone call away.

Click here to learn more about Global Rescue travel memberships.


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