Here’s a topic you don’t hear much about on prepping and survival blogs: clothing. Which types of clothing are best for emergency preparedness, for bugging out or bugging in? What clothing items should you keep in a bug-out bag? These are my thoughts:
Your everyday footwear depends on what you do for a living, style preferences, comfort, etc. But when it comes to prepping, practicality moves to the forefront. A good pair of work boots is eminently useful for disaster preparedness. They should be comfortable for all-day wear and water-proof for dealing with storms and their aftermath.
If you are bugging out, keep a good pair of boots handy, to throw on as you are going out the door. You may need to leave your car during a rainstorm. You might need to park in an area that is covered with dirt and mud. If safe shelter is some distance away, you might be staying overnight in your car or camping out for a night or two. For hunkering down in your home (bugging in), you might need to go out during a storm to close shutters or cover a broken window. You might need to go out after a storm to inspect your property, gather some food from your garden, etc. Boots are practical in all these situations.
Socks and Underwear
You could buy those anti-microbial treated socks that last all day without smelling bad. Or you could get the high-tech socks that wick moisture away. But I would suggest quantity over quality. Choose lots of cheap comfortable socks that you can change multiple times per day, if necessary. In a power outage, you might not be doing laundry for a while. So if you have many pairs of cheap socks, you will have a fresh pair to wear for many days. The same goes for underwear: quantity. For a bug-out bag, socks and underwear don’t take up much room, so stock up. Then if you are bugging out and can’t get a regular shower, you can still be fresh and presentable.
If you are bugging out, you will have a limited selection of clothing with you. You will be in another area, where you might not know anyone. You will be a stranger, an outsider. In this situation, you don’t want to look disheveled, desperate, or destitute. You may need to ask for help from a total stranger, in a situation in which many people are in dire need. So one consideration for clothing is how you will look to other people. You want to look clean, neat, and presentable.
Other people ought not to judge you by your clothing and your looks, but they probably will. It pertains to your survival, at times, to be able to obtain cooperation or assistance from strangers. A good first impression, including the words you choose, your attitude, and your clothing, will help you make the most of this type of situation.
Quantity over quality works for t-shirts also. Having a large number of inexpensive tees is good for bugging out or bugging in. You will have clean clothes, even if you don’t have access to laundry. T-shirts also do not take up much room in a bag or a drawer. If the weather is cool, longsleeve pull-over shirts serve much the same function. They are cheap to buy at Wal-Mart or Target, and you won’t look destitute or desperate if you are away from home for a while. In addition, you might want to choose a couple of button-down shirts for your bug-out bag, that you can throw over a t-shirt, to look more presentable.
Here I’d suggest quality over quantity. A good pair of cotton-blend pants, which don’t wrinkle easily and are comfortable, would be my pick. Your bug-out bag should have at least a couple of pair — rolled, rather than folded, to minimize wrinkles and creases. For bugging in, I’d suggest also keeping old pairs of pants around that you don’t mind getting ruined. You might be doing some home repair after a disaster, some touch-up painting, etc.
Ideally, you should have a waterproof pair of pants to throw over whatever you are wearing, and a waterproof jacket with a hood. And when I say “waterproof”, I mean “hours outdoors in a torrential rainstorm” waterproof. OK, slight exaggeration there. But my experience is that many “waterproof” jackets are only somewhat water-resistant. You want full-on waterproof wear.
This clothing choice is quality over quantity. However, I wouldn’t opt for the expensive Gortex type jacket or coat. Treated rip-stop nylon with taped seams (so the seams don’t leak water) is just as good for about a third of the price. For example, this Trail Model Raincoat from LL Bean would be awesome if you need to be outdoors in a rainstorm. You can get a pair of rain pants with it that is loose enough to throw on without removing your boots or regular pants.
If you live in a region with cold weather, you need to consider the possibility that you might lose power and be without heat for some number of days or weeks. I’ve previously covered the topic of heating your home without power. But for this post, I’d like to point out that you may need to dress warmly indoors or even while sleeping, if you have a power outage in winter and no way to heat your home.
Layering is a good way to use clothing to keep warm. Start with a thermal longsleeve undershirt and underpants. A fleece or wool layer will also be excellent at retaining body heat. And for outdoor wear, you will want to own a real winter Parka — not a jacket, but a coat that reaches well below the waist and has an integral hood. Down is fine, or one of the modern synthetic equivalents. A good winter parka is indispensable in cold winter areas.
Having lived for many years in New England, I can tell you that good winter outerwear is worth spending a few extra dollars on. But I also know that many people who live in cold winter areas don’t own good winter outerwear. They are counting on a home with heat, a heated car in a garage, and a heated workplace. They don’t spend much time outdoors in the winter. If the power goes out, the more fashionable outerwear will not be worth whatever you paid. So, when you are preparing for various types of disasters, any of which might strike in winter and leave you without heat, buy the warmest coat, not the best looking coat.