A Green Beret’s Guide To Action Bags: “Your Go-To-Kit When You Have To Pop Smoke & Depart In a Rapid Manner”
Jeremiah Johnson is a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne) and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).
This Green Beret’s Guide is Part 2 of the ‘Day To Day Stance: Planning Your Personal Posture’ series. You can read Part 1 of this series by clicking here.
Day-to-Day Stance: Planning Your Personal Posture (Part 2)
By Jeremiah Johnson
Today we will cover some approaches to A-bags (or “Bug-out Bags” if you prefer) and specialty bags for your person and vehicle. Hopefully after Part 1 you took a look at your own posture and assessed it for its strengths and for areas you wish to improve upon it. I digress for one second and stress this concept: it is self-assessment that takes priority, and you must be both realistic and objective in assessing all things and actions under your control.
You may be single, may have others who rely on you (children, elderly) to be the “point man,” or your family depends on your function within it (as a dependable “cog” in the family’s “engine,” so to speak). I also invite all of you to participate in the discussion in the comments and share your way, your particular “idiosyncrasies” and leanings for the A-bags. There is no true right or wrong except as weighed by your paradigm and your needs. The needs are as varied as the human race; rarely will the needs of two individuals be identical.
The A-bag is your “action bag,” your go-to kit to grab when you have to pop smoke and depart from the AO in a rapid manner. You can have more than one A-bag and it is advisable, depending on the manner in which you live, your geographical area, and your needs. One can be kept in your vehicle. One should be kept in each vehicle. That is a good minimum standard for you to follow, the more the merrier, as it fits your needs and budget. Do you have an office, a work-locker, and a spot under a counter or in a corner that you can use? Throw a second one there; the more the merrier.
The reason that you want these “second” A-bags for your work/occupation is that you shouldn’t be dragging them back and forth from the vehicles all the time where others can see. If you have a work locker that can be padlocked, then by all means, stash a bag within it. Each bag should be (by your preference, assessment, and capabilities)between 10-20 lbs: not too heavy, yet with enough basics to pull you through an initial event when the SHTF. For those who cannot tote one of these on their backs for physical reasons, I highly recommend one of those little travel dollies for luggage. They are compact and fold up to stash right next to the A-bag.
All of your bags should be standardized if they’re in multiples (such as one in your wife’s car, one in her office, one in your blazer, and one in your employee locker). By standardized, I mean they should be all the same, exact type of carry bag, a small backpack is preferable. The reason is because each bag should hold a diagram and a list of contents by location; anyone should be able to read the diagram and find the equipment as listed upon it. The diagram included should be of the backpack with the compartments clearly drawn on it. All pouches and compartments of the backpack are assigned an identifier (letter, number, etc.), and each compartment has a list of contents.
By standardizing your A-bags, it takes the guesswork away from you and your family about what things are where. The diagram with list is the refresher to that and can be used for others if necessary. Case in point: you and your family know what is in the middle compartment, but what about Cousin Richard who is visiting from Alaska? Cousin Richard is downtown with you, an EMP goes off, and you have a head-on collision with a bus. You tell Cousin Richard about the A-bag in your trunk and then pass out. Richard can then find the diagram and use what is in the bag to help you, or to help him if (God forbid) you buy the farm.
The point is that a trusted but non-immediate family member or a friend will be able to use the bag and its supplies without dumping it all over the place to “explore” for supplies. Everything should be noted on the list and the list should be updated every 6 months or so as you PMCS (preventative maintenance checks and services) your supplies and foodstuffs for accountability and serviceability. I’m going to list for you the contents of my bag and the reasons included/function of the object (if not self-explanatory).
Note: an asterisk (*) denotes an object to be in a Ziploc or plastic bag; more than one asterisk denotes multiple bags being used.
JJ’s A-bag – Contents
(1) 2 ½ oz can sterno in (1) plastic bag
Cooking, heating/boiling water
First Aid: *
(1) Celox kit (box): with 2”x2” gauze, adhesive bandages, Ibuprofen, antiseptic towelettes, and 2 packets of celox [note: this is quick-clot for wounds]
(2) (1) 6”x 6” field dressing
(3) (1) 10-hr hothands hand warmer
Heat, to warm IV bags, or to thaw water
(4) (1) tube Neosporin
(5) (1) roll medical tape
(1) aluminum water bottle
If the water freezes, I can thaw it with fire
(1) white kitchen garbage bag + rubber band
Ground cover or camo. – Winter
(2) chemlights, blue
(1) Bic lighter *
(1) pen and (1) Carpenter’s pencil
Note: pencil is sturdy and very easily sharpened
(3) Energy boost Vitamin C tubes
Note: 1 tube of powder, divide to 4 x RDA
(1) 7 oz bag sunflower seeds
(4) honey and sesame candies
(6) 2 oz beefsteak beef jerky
(1) 4 oz bag pretzels
(1) 15 oz can beefaroni
Note: Cans are heavy; I’ll forage, & eat dried foods
(2) ½ oz fruit chews
(1) pr black socks **
(1) folded up section of newspaper*
For quick fire starter
“Hobo” tool: eating utensils attached
(1) film canister bottle, holding: (1) spool tripwire, and (1) pack of matches
(1) handkerchief (white)
(1) sewing kit: needles, safety pins, 3 small spools, tiny pair of scissors, thimble
(1) lockblade pocketknife
(1) Magnesium fire starter
(1) magnifying glass
(1) bottle water purification tabs
(1) hand crank flashlight
(1) very lightweight sleeping bag in 2 trash bags (waterproofing)
(1) folding saw in sheath
(1) 30’ tape measure
A must have in JJ’s book; all of my bags have ‘em
“….and darling, most of all…”
100 rds – type “A” (for JJ)
10 rds – gauge “B” (for JJ) ****Note: all of this is in plastic bags
20 rds – type “C” (backup for JJ)
25 rds – type “D” (for Mrs. JJ)
The A-bag itself is not obsequious in any regard, and would not “stick out as a sore thumb” in an urban or suburban setting. It weighs 18 lbs and I have waterproofed everything in it. So now we have covered A-bags. Let us talk about specialty bags and what they can be used for.
A specialty bag is just that: a bag that carries equipment for either one particular or multiple specialized functions. The special function doesn’t necessarily need to be a particular task; its specialty can lie in the climactic or geographical need based on season, terrain, time of day, etc. The specialty bag can complement the A-bag in your vehicle and need not be standardized. I will tell you about mine.
JJ’s specialty bag is an army desert camo backpack. It contains the following items:
1. Yak-tracks (these are rubber slip-on harnesses with coils of steel for the bottom of shoes/boots) which are a must have in Montana if you want to run on ice….which means if you want to run anywhere in Montana between October to March.
3. Goggles, tinted (complete 400% UV rating): protect the eyes when -20º F, and especially from snow-glare
4. Poncho (Army issue)
5. Backup piece and “BB”s
6. Fanny pack with small tools (micro and macro screwdrivers, knife, tripwire, fire starting material, matches, lighters, medical scissors, compass)
7. Maps of my immediate area: very detailed (road and topo) that cover my location for a radius of 100 miles.
8. Climbing rope, Swiss seat, ascenders, and d-rings (note: for these, either make sure they’re GI (government issue) or from a good climbing store).
9. (1) roll 100-mph tape, og, (1) roll duct tape, (1) roll HVAC aluminum tape
10. (1) polypro socks, (1) set of long john’s [must haves in Montana until June]
All of this stuff weighs about 12 lbs. Now, keep in mind, this is a general-purpose Specialty bag that adds some items in the summer. I say “adds” because I have a rule you may wish to use that follows the principle of “better too much than not enough.”
JJ’s rule: The mountains are always cold and always have snow. Keep all gear ready to head into the mountains in the wintertime and in the summer just add what you need for the summertime.
Remember: we’re covering A-bags and Specialty bags, NOT your rucksack. We will be covering Rucksacks in Part 3. There are other Specialty bags that, although I won’t give complete contents lists, I’ll give you some examples as well as suggest short lists. These may help enable you to come up with some ideas that meet your needs:
- For those in an urban setting: climbing ropes, ascenders, gloves, rock hammers, pitons, and a Swiss seat. [what if you’re in a five-story building and it’s on fire?] Remember, you also better know how to climb/mountaineer and use your equipment!
- What is your occupation? This will enable you perhaps to be more inconspicuous with your specialty bag (tools wouldn’t look out of place on a construction site, or a maintenance facility, for example)
- Family special needs: Does someone in your family need special medications or clothing? Is there anyone with asthma or COPD? A special bag just for them would expedite things in the event of an emergency, such as inhalers or a small oxygen bottle, or other supplies such as nasal cannulae, bee sting kits, diabetes supplies, and so on.
- A really good medical aid-bag (Army Medic, for example), fully stocked and ready to go with splints, braces, etc.)
So that will cover things for starters. Any suggestions? Fill that comments section and let’s pick up some “cross-chatter” and discuss some good things that you guys and gals have learned. Just remember to not procrastinate if you do not have an A-bag made: you never know when you’re going to need it. Whether you’re being hunted for food by zombies as in “World War Z,” being chased by Homey-the-Clown and thugs with civil rioting, or whether the EMP has struck, a good A-bag and equipment can give you a better chance for success…and survival. Don’t wait to find/scrounge the tools you need. Pack it in yourself and stay ahead of the game.
I look forward to hearing from each of you, and hope you have a nice day!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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