Many preppers have put together a bug-out bag, with a collection of ready-to-go resources in case they need to evacuate their home in an emergency or disaster situation. You can assemble your own bug-out bag with a large backpack and whatever supplies you deem useful. Or you can buy one already made. Our advertiser EDS (Emergency Disaster Systems) offers inexpensive survival kits (including 72-hour kits); see the banner ad to the left.
But what about your digital life? If you are reading this post, I’ll go out on a limb and say that you use a computer and spend a fair amount of time online every day. Over time, a computer user accumulates software, files, downloads, bookmarks, etc. If your computer crashes and you lose all that data, it would take weeks or months to get back up to speed. In a bug-out disaster scenario, how do you safeguard your data?
I’m going to suggest some options for a digital bug-out kit. Let’s start with free items and things you may already own.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated many different usernames and passwords for various websites, as well as product keys for software. I can’t remember all that information And it would be unwise to use the same password for everything. You might be in the same situation. One good solution is the free software called PasswordSafe. With one password, you open the Password Safe, and then you can retrieve usernames, passwords, and software activation keys for many sites and products.
However, if your computer crashes or is lost or stolen, you will need a backup copy of your PasswordSafe database. Be sure to keep at least two backup copies off-line (on a USB drive or external hard drive). Add that USB drive with your PasswordSafe program and database to your digital bug-out kit. USB drives are very inexpensive, and you probably already own several.
If you need a USB drive, get a ruggedized model for your digital bug-out kit. The LaCie RuggedKey (USB 3.0) is heat and cold resistant, shockproof, and water resistant. Cost for the 16 GB model right now is around $36 (prices subject to change). I prefer the Corsair Flash Voyager GT (USB 3.0), which is shockproof and waterproof (not merely water resistant). It’s around $36 for the 32 GB model as of this writing.
For data security, you can’t do better than the free and highly-regarded TrueCrypt program. For bugging out, the best way to use TrueCrypt is to make a 1 GB virtual container, then drop your file and data into it. Keep the container (basically just an encrypted folder) on your main desktop or laptop computer. Then periodically update the files, and download the current copy of the container to your USB drive.
Another good free software program is the Kindle Reader Software. You can buy very many different book titles cheaper in Kindle format, then read them on any smart phone, laptop, desktop, tablet, or other device. You cell phone can hold dozens of books with information on prepping, survival, and first aid. When you bug-out, you’ll have a whole prepping library at your fingertips.
If you decide you want to bug-out with your laptop, you might want to invest in a rugged laptop case. The usual laptop bag is soft and not at all waterproof. For about $65 (as of this writing), you can get a Pelican Products HardBack Case that is rated to protect against water and dust. It’s a hard case, so that’s a big improvement over any soft backpack or laptop bag.
Your other option is to bug-out with an external hard drive that contains all of your important files. Right now, you can get an external hard drive with a 500 GB to 1 TB capacity for under $75. (Remember, all prices stated in our posts are as of this writing and not guaranteed.) Here are a few of my top picks:
Transcend 1 TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive – Military Drop Standards. This is a ruggedized external drive. I have a couple of these (older model) for my use. They have lasted for years without a problem.
Another good choice would be the Seagate Backup Plus 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive. Like the Transcend, this is a USB 3.0 drive, which is substantially faster than any USB 2.0 drive. And Seagate is one of the top hard drive brands.
Another top brand is Western Digital. Their My Passport Ultra 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 has hardware encryption and automatic backup to “the cloud” (meaning dropbox.com). My preference is to use TrueCrypt and forgo the cloud backup. Only backup to a server such as dropbox.com or another service if the files are first encrypted.
Finally, if you need the ultimate peace of mind against every computer crash and loss scenario, you might want to consider ShadowProtect Desktop 5. It’s a little pricy at $90, but I’ve found it invaluable to restore a computer hard drive after a crash. It backs up your entire hard drive, and it can restore the entire drive in case of a catastrophic event. I’ve used it to restore my entire system after a hard drive failure. Just remember to back up frequently, and keep multiple backups of your drive on an exterior hard drive.