Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

Family survival: 5 tips for distributing gear

Family survival: 5 tips on distributing gearEver since I posted my article on my personal bug out bag, I’ve gotten quite a few questions on how to pack gear and what people should choose but one of the most common is how to share gear with your partner/kids/wife etc so I figured I’d write something up.

Sorry that I haven’t written in quite a while but I’m knee-deep in planning/writing a novel. It’ll be about a year or two before it’s finished but I think a lot of you will like it. It’s kind of part Brave New World, part Jericho, and a whole lot of awesome. Also, I’ve been knee-deep in organizing my motorcycle for some extended camping trips and travel where I can do some reviews on some of the gear I’ve picked up lately, including a vintage 1960’s Hudson Bay 4-point wool blanket and several other things.

Let’s assume you’re married and have a kid so there are three of you, each with varying skills and abilities. Here are the key points:

1) Have redundant survival capabilities

Just as with the critical things in your individual survival/bug out bag, you need to make sure you have redundant capabilities (not necessarily redundant gear). I go into some detail on this in The ‘Two is one and one is none’ fallacy so you may want to read that one too. Essentially, each bag should be able to allow you to cover all your survival bases but not all gear works in every scenario, so having different ways to do the same thing just may come in handy.

For example, you may be carrying a Trangia alcohol stove in one pack. They’re super portable and pretty capable little stoves (I have one), but they require alcohol (the best I’ve found is Yellow Heet but Everclear can be used in inclosed spaces and for wounds etc – check out this post for more fuel ideas).

If you only had three stoves, you’d be stuck when you ran out of fuel. Instead, in one of the other bags, put something like the Emberlit wood stove (which also rocks). It’s not as convenient as the Trangia for cooking but you can use twigs/branches/cardboard/etc for it, so you’d essentially never run out of fuel and it takes up almost no space and weight.

For the third bag, you could use a Solo Stove or other solution. The nice thing about the Solo Stove is that it can not only use wood/paper like the emberlit, you can drop the trangia down inside it to make it more efficient and hold your pot above it.

Don’t forget that each bag needs to have water and be able to filter water too. I thrown in a Sawyer Mini in each bag but only put the plunger in the main bag.

2) Be able to survive with any one bag

You may have three bags in your plan but that doesn’t mean you’ll have three bags when you find yourself in a survival situation (or if SHTF). It’s all well and good to have a tent on one pack and just a poncho in the other two if you have all three bags but what happens if you lose your main pack or can’t get to it in time for you to have to head out?

After you’ve identified what you want to put in each person’s bag, consider them one at a time. For each bag, would that one bag support the three of you if that bag is the only one you have with you at some point? Obviously, you’ll probably be able to carry more and better equipment in your largest bag but maybe you could put some better equipment in your smallest bag to compensate. You may not be very comfy if all you have is the little bag but it should at least have the basics to keep you alive.

3) Consider each person’s individual skills

In addition to being together and not having all your bags, you also have to consider that you may not have everyone in your group. What happens if you or one of the others are on their own with their bag? That person will have to rely on just what they’re carrying. If that pack only has a Doan magnesium fire starter (my favorite) because you needed to save space and weight in their pack and they don’t know how to use it, they’re kinda out of luck without you. You can’t teach everyone everything on the first day so you’ll have to consider their current abilities.

4) Don’t overload anyone’s pack

The biggest problem I see with people’s packs is they try to compensate for a lack of skill by putting in more gear in their packs “just in case.” If you’re a 200-pound dude and your pack is 60 pounds, you’re not gonna be able to carry that very far or very fast. If you’re an 85-pound girl, you won’t be able to carry it at all.

Just as with skills, look at what they can currently carry and pack for that. Have them start carrying that pack and get in better shape and then adjust their pack as they can carry more. Also have them start learning more skills and practice them, and they won’t need to carry as much.

5) Leverage your EDC kits

Each person should have a few items on them that they carry every day. This system is called your Every Day Carry kit. Your EDC kit may actually change based on where you’re going for the day but you should always have some essentials such as some kind of knife, some way to start a fire, flashlight (this one here is super cheap and very tough), and whatever else you think you may need.

Good EDC example

This lighter sleeve thing I just found is a good example of something that may be good for an EDC kit that would solve a couple of problems. It has really good reviews but I haven’t checked one out yet. Let me know if you get one.

This is all dependent on how much you can carry and where you’re going so I can’t really give you an actual list but here’s a sample of what I carry a lot of days.

By having good EDC kits, you’re better prepared in case one of you are on your own or you’re missing one or more of your packs.


Hopefully this all helps you figure out how to break up your gear between everyone in your group. Just take a look at what what you think you’ll need individually and as a group and consider as many scenarios as you can think of.

Survival business card

Compact EDC survival card

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. Greetings from Toulouse !

    Thanks for the pointers, it’was’actually a topic that bothered me… Did not think it would be that simple ! I made my own stove from an old can. I was first concerned that some of it might melt but what i took for tin might be some other type of metal. The first design I made had several holes punched in it for better ventilation but I soon realised that 1) it didn’t work’so well and that 2) I was therefore restricter to non liquid fuels. The new design is slightly more complex, basically I put two tin cans together. The body is made out of a larger can at the bottom of which I cut a circular opening. I fit a second smaller can open at both end which serves as a sort of fuelling chimney. I sealed it with pine resin and it seem to work for now. I tried to use materials that would be easily accesible in a shtf scenario. And of course our customs being what they are, you gotta be rockeffeller to buy equipment here… Anyhow thanks so much again !

    A plus !

  2. Graywolf, I purchased 5 of the Bic Lighter/tool carriers. You get quality with what you pay for. None of the tools will last for any great length of time. Wish they would replace the screwdriver with a ferro rod. I put one in each carrier pack just for the option of having something if needed outside of my EDC. For a short-term survival item, these will work, but not for months.

  3. I would like to recommend ,depending on age, some small item or items to keep kids busy. Maybe coloring book and small pack of crayons. We have small activity packs for my daughter (light weight and in her bag). You can find them in some stores for about a dollar.

  4. Hi,

    Great points and well written. I have one BOB packed and ready for the family but I’ve loaded it up to the hilt (guess who’ll have to carry when things go south). I really like the idea for packing to the skill level. I’ve got a 10 and 13 yr old and so this article has informed quite a bit. I’m still learning and no expert but your points make a whole lot of sense. Thanks.

  5. Thank you for you advice and this informational site…most are horrible and use no common sense…I appreciate your help

  6. Hey. There GW, loved your article, you hit it right on the head. It took my brother a real life lesson hunting, we all had several packs, set up differently, I’m usually over prepared. We got separated, he had no food in his….luckily he found my trail marker that pointed to our location, all ended well….redundency, is so vital in survival

  7. Wendy Cross says

    Have you ever seen a UFO?

  8. It would be good to go backpacking to test these things out. Every time I go out camping, I learn. I’ve never been backpacking but I have camped off my kayak. doing that was way different than going out of my car. Gone were the cast iron cookware, for example. The tent got smaller, the food got more prepared in advance. The kayak is a stepping stone for me. Eventually, I want to backpack.

  9. kathy meyerdirk says

    you told $39.95 out of my checking account on Sept. 8 I did not give you permission to do that I would like for you to put it back in .

  10. Recently widowed very new to this I am 75 some physical challenges with knees. So just to start. Where &what kind of bob should get. Wish I could get one with lots of stuff u mentioned
    Pls give me some advice & best items I could get

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