(Dr. Bones says: Today we have a guest post by Alex Smith, author of the new book “GETTING HOME“. Today, he discusses the Get Home Bag (GHB) and how to select the right bag for your supplies. This is useful information for the survival medic, who may carry a lot of important items to keep his/her people safe in times of trouble.)
Your GHB should stand out as little as possible, but let’s face it – you are going to stand out with a ruck on your back. However, try to minimize your visibility as much as possible:
Avoid tactical bags (MOLLE, military surplus, etc.).
Avoid camouflage patterns.
No military/survival/firearms patches on your GHB.
Instead, opt for a pack that a hiker might wear. Select from quality, brand-name bags with earth tones. Remember it must be relatively comfortable when loaded, and you must be capable of carrying the load.
Before you choose your GHB, consider the following:
How long will it take you to get home? How many miles are you from home? How many miles can you hike (because you will basically be hiking with a pack) in a day? Remember, walking is not hiking; hiking works different muscles and will exhaust you much quicker. Your physical condition will dictate how far you can hike; some may be able to only hike 5 miles, while others might be able to hike 30. Terrain will affect your progress as well. Divide your miles/day into the total distance from home and you will know approximately how long it may take you to get home. The following is a very rough guideline with regards to pack capacity (Note – CI = Cubic Inches / L = Liters):
Will you pack light or pack heavy? Does your physical condition and preferred level of preparedness require you carry a lot or very little? What use is a large pack if you are unable to carry more than what a small pack can carry? Opt for the smaller pack and save several pounds in pack weight.
What is your body type? By body type, we mean torso height, since that is what the GHB will interface with. Measure your torso and determine what pack size will be most comfortable for you (requires help):
Locate your C7 vertebra (the bony protrusion at the top of your back when you lean your head forward).
Locate your iliac crest (the pelvic “shelf”): Have your friend run their hands down your side until they feel your hip bone.
Have them place their hands on top of the hip bone with thumbs pointing inward.
Measure from C7 to the point that your friend’s thumbs “point” to.
Now that you know your torso length, the following are some guidelines for your body type:
Torso Length < 15.5”: Extra Small Pack
Torso Length 16” – 17.5”: Small Pack
Torso Length 18” – 19.5”: Medium Pack
Torso Length > 19.5”: Large Pack
Gender? Take a long look in the mirror and determine what gender you are. Many brands offer packs that are designed specifically to fit the contours of the female body.
Climate: The colder your climate, the larger the pack you will need. Cold weather sleeping gear and clothing take up much more space.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for in pack size, let’s examine several options you have to improve fit and make the pack more comfortable:
Load-lifter Straps: Found at the top of the shoulder straps, load-lifter straps prevent the pack from pulling away from your body, disrupting your balance. When pulled snug, they should form a 45 degree angle with your shoulder straps and the pack itself. The heavier your load, the more important load-lifter straps are.
Sternum Straps: The strap across your chest. Improves stability and balance.
Hip Belt: The strap across your hips. Improves stability and balance.
Pack Frames: Internal (usually lacks ventilation), External (often heavier) and Perimeter (a hybrid that strives to combine the benefits of internal and external) Frames are all designed to direct pack weight towards your hips – one of the body’s largest bone structures supported by some of the body’s largest muscle groups (the upper legs). Hikers and adventurers have debated which frame system is superior, but there is no clear winner. Choose based on what “feels” better to you. The heavier your pack, the more important it is to have a frame.
Pockets/Panels/Compartments/Attachment Points: To easily access your gear, you will need a pack with a variety of storage compartments and attachment options. Imagine choosing an old military-style duffel bag as your GHB and needing a pair of socks located in the bottom. You will have to remove everything from your GHB to get those socks.
Ventilation: Very important in hot humid climates, especially if an internal-frame pack is chosen. In such a scenario, your GHB needs a ventilation system to prevent your back from getting drenched in sweat.
Hydration: Most packs allow you the option of inserting a reservoir (such as a Camelbak). Water is very heavy, but if you live in an arid climate with little access to surface water, you may be forced to carry much of the water you will need for your trip.
Padding: Padding is important, especially if your pack is heavy. Ensure the padding on your hip belt and lumbar pad is sufficient for your needs.
Durability: Your pack could be the most important component of your GHB; buy a quality pack from a respected brand. Be careful if you decide to purchase an ultralight pack. Ultralight packs utilize lighter materials that are often not as durable. Some brands to consider include: Osprey, the North Face, Black Diamond, Kelty and Gregory.
(Dr. Bones says: In his new book, “Getting Home”, Alex Smith also discusses what to load your GHB with. As well, he covers other important topics such as: Every Day Carry, the Daypack, office preps, vehicle preps, caches, and other tips and tactics. “Getting Home” (ebook) is currently 99 cents, but will go up in price soon (probably 3.99); paperback is also available. Consider it as important knowledge to increase your chances of success, even if everything else fails)