Most people have some kind of electronics in their bug out bags. It makes sense now when we have power, access to as many batteries as we want, and places like Amazon that can get us all kinds of gadgets in a day or two, but does it make sense to rely on electronics during a major disaster that would cause you to bug out?
Small solar panels, GPS, radios, flashlights, headlamps and more are all good additions to a bug out bag. Having access to modern electronics can make bugging out a lot easier. Bug out bag electronics make sense in a lot of cases.
Electronics give you a real advantage in survival situations, but they also come with certain limitations. Let’s look at different types of devices that could be of use in a bug out bag.
Electronics for Bug Out Bags
Bug out bag electronics is sometimes a pretty hotly contested topic in the preparedness world. They’re kind of a double-edged sword, they can make your life a lot easier, but they can also leave you stranded if they break.
I’m of the opinion that you should use them for as long as you can. It doesn’t make sense to ignore modern conveniences if you have access to them. You’re just shooting yourself in the foot because something bad may happen to your gear. Just make sure that you can do things like using a map and compass for those times when your GPS may not work.
Charging devices are up first because they’re going to keep everything else going. Solar panels, battery packs and extra batteries are a necessity if you plan on keeping all of your electronics running for more than a few days.
When you’re selecting electronics, try to make sure that they have a USB charging cable or run off of AAA or AA batteries. Most portable charging devices only have USB ports on them.
Solar panels are the best way to recharge your devices once they’re dead. You just can’t overstate how amazing it is to be able to harness the power of the sun to create electricity that you can then use to charge batteries, battery packs, phones, and other things.
Being able to hang a small folding solar panel off of your bug out bag while you’re walking means that you can keep charging batteries and other things without ever taking a break. I’d suggest always having your panels out and charging during the day. The only time I’d pack them up is at night or if you’re doing something that could cause them to get broken.
According to letsgosolar.com, solar panels have a lifespan of about 30 years. This is for large solar panels so your portable panel will probably break before you get it to 30 years if you’re carrying it around all the time, but if you can keep it in one piece it’ll last for a long time.
When you’re choosing a solar panel, it’s important to remember that you’re only going to be able to charge devices from them when the sun is out. Overcast skies will make them less effective and you’re obviously out of luck at night. That’s why I like to charge battery packs off of solar panels and then use the battery packs to charge my other electronics.
I personally have a couple of Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panels that I have in my bug out bags.
Battery packs are a necessity in my opinion if you’re going to be using some type of solar panel to charge your electronics. Like I said earlier, I charge my battery packs directly from my solar panels and then charge other devices from them.
By charging battery packs off of your solar panels, you can keep them charging pretty much all day as you walk and still have access to all of your electronic items without having to tether them to a solar panel while you’re trying to use them. It’s just way more convenient. Then at night, you can charge whatever you need so it’s ready to go the next day.
There are a couple of different types of battery packs that you can use. The most common is going to be something like this Anker battery pack. They’re great because they can charge phones somewhere between 4 and 6 times on a single charge and have plenty of power to charge other items over and over.
I personally like the Goal Zero Guide 10 because it not only functions as a battery pack by itself, but it can also charge AA and AAA batteries for other devices. The downside is that it only has about 1/10 of the storage capacity of regular battery packs. A combination of something like the Guide 10 and a large battery pack is probably the best option.
If you have any electronic item on you when you bug out, it’s probably going to be your cell phone. Today’s cell phones are powerful and give you an incredible amount of capability in the palm of your hand.
Cell phone networks are probably going to be overloaded immediately following any kind of large disaster that’s going to cause a bug out, but in the days following the disaster, you should be able to get service again. If you’re in a highly-populated area and this is part of an urban bug out bag the cell outages could last for a long time.
Even if you never regained access to cell networks, the apps that you can load up now to take advantage of in a disaster make your phone invaluable. You can also download huge amounts of .pdfs and e-books and store your entire prepper library on your phone for reference later on.
Lighting is probably the one area that you can’t avoid bug out bag electronics. You can ignore everything else if you want but you need to have some way to see when it’s dark outside and you’re trying to get away from a disaster.
I look at flashlights and headlamps as interchangeable, but I tend to prefer headlamps over flashlights most of the time. They let you keep your hands free so you have the ability to light the area in front of you and not have to fumble with a flashlight.
I’m a big fan of small battery-powered lanterns like the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini.
Being able to light an area with just one light source is nice when you a chance to sit down or rest for the night. They’re less useful when you’re up and moving around, so if you need to just choose one light source, I’d go for a good headlamp.
I always have a Garmin Foretrex 401 or 601 with me when I head out the door.
Any GPS will pretty much do for your bug out bag. Make sure you have the latest updates for maps if your GPS supports them and know how to use it before you need it. Most GPS have at least a small learning curve to them.
I always try to make sure that I have an AM/FM radio that can also get National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) broadcasts in every emergency kit I have. Being able to get updates on whatever disaster you’re fleeing is important.
As you get updates on your radio, you can adjust your plan as needed. Maybe things are worse than you thought and you need to bug out even farther away, maybe the area your bug out location is in has been compromised, or maybe everything has returned to normal and you can go back home. Without a radio, you’ll be in the dark and have to rely on word of mouth for any info you get.
2-way radios really come in two forms. You have the Talkabout style close range radios designed to talk to one another and then you programmable handheld style HAM radios.
Talkabout radios make sense for families that may get separated and still need to communicate with one another while they’re bugging out. There’s a wide range of these radios that range from very basic to much more complex with access to emergency and weather radio stations.
The handheld HAM radio is surprisingly inexpensive and would work well for an individual or a group.
Make sure that you can recharge the batteries for any radio you choose. Most of them have rechargeable batteries that have some kind of propriety charger which would add a lot of weight to your bug out bag and probably wouldn’t work with your charging system. Look for AAA or AA adapters for your radios before you make up your mind.
Most of the time signaling devices are going to be things like whistles and mirrors, but there are also emergency signal strobes that are great for signaling at night. There are a lot of military strobes but it can be difficult to find them in the civilian sector.
This STROBESTIK Emergency Red LED is a good example of what I’m talking about. It only takes a single AA and can run for two days straight on one battery.
It may seem weird to even consider putting a tablet or e-reader in your bug out bag. If you already have a cell phone with you, then you probably don’t need either one, but if you’re not sure if you’ll have a phone, or you just want a dedicated place to store some reference books with your bug out bag, it could be worth it for you.
You can put your entire prepping library on either of these devices and have them stored in your bug out bag. It’s redundant if you already have it stored on your phone, but it’s still an option worth considering.
Don’t forget to pack extra batteries for any electronic optics that you have. Red dots and magnified scopes with illuminated reticles almost always need some kind of battery.
Luckily, the batteries don’t die all that fast in most optics.
Having electronics in your bug out bag means that you need to do some maintenance on them periodically. Keep your batteries charged so they’re ready when you need them and they don’t go completely dead. Letting batteries sit without a charge can damage them and drastically decrease their life.
Having electronics in a BOB also means that you need to protect them from water. Do you have a plan if it’s raining and you need to bug out? I’d suggest at last having a trash bag to store your electronics in if it’s raining. A bug out bag with a waterproof lining is a good option as well.
If you’re worried about an EMP and that’s what you expect to force you to bug out, then you may want to store your critical electronics in some kind of Faraday cage. It’s not a guarantee that your electronics are going to be safe, but it does make it more likely.
I like to leverage any advantage I can get in a disaster situation, and bug out bag electronics are a great way to do that. As long as you’re not completely reliant on electronics there is no reason not to use them to your advantage for as long as you can