James Yeager’s Ultimate Family GO Bag

The ultimate GO bag is a prepper’s dream, and there are probably as many opinions about these grab-and-go survival kits as there are preppers who dream of them. Recently we visited with James Yeager of Tactical Response to get his take on what goes into the bugout bags he prepares for his family (grandchildren included) and why. 

“In a crisis it would be nice to be able to stay at home without someone trying to burn your house down to get your stuff,” James says. “But sometimes, for a number of reasons, staying home may not be possible. That’s why each member of my family has a bag with several days of supplies just in case.”

James has served for decades in firearms training, crisis training, in law enforcement and on security details stateside and overseas. When he considers all that can and does happen in crisis situations at home and abroad, he also must consider what he, his wife, his children, and grandchildren would do if faced with those dire circumstances.

The Most Important Part of Any Survival Prep

James stresses three important elements that should accompany any piece of GO bag gear– mindset, tactics, and skill. Without these, the gear you carry can be rendered nearly pointless. Conversely, a person with the right mindset, tactics and skill can often still get along with little to no gear (of course they’d also likely never be caught without at least some gear).

“It’s not about this stuff,” James reminds us. “It’s about what’s going on up here.”

This is why we talk a lot at Warrior Poet Society about training hard and training smart. At the end of the day, it all comes down to:

  • Being aware and realistic about potential threats (mindset) 
  • Realistically envisioning how you would respond in specific scenarios (tactics) 
  • Maintaining a proficiency to respond appropriately and with discipline when it really counts (skill)

Each piece of gear that James recommends here is included in his family’s GO bags along with all the situational know-how required to make it worth the carry weight.

Building the Ultimate Family GO Bag(s)

I admit that when I (John) first began getting into the prepping mindset, my bug out bag was the only one in the house. I guess I thought I would carry everything the family needed in one bag. Now I’ve wised up, and James recommends this, too. The ultimate family GO bag is really several age-appropriate bags, one for each able-bodied member of your family or group. 

While some preppers might enjoy the “ninja” quality of dark-colored gear, James’ GO bag is a high-quality, camouflage backpack filled with a lot of brightly colored pieces of equipment. He says this makes it easier to keep up with essential items and provides highly-visible alternatives for being found in the event of being lost.

The Ultimate GO Bag List

This is not a completely exhaustive list of items you should include based on the circumstances. Though, it at least puts a number of absolute essentials amongst your family/bugout team. This is intended for several days, not long term. Weaponry and other defensive equipment, hunting and trapping gear, bushcraft items, etc. may be required based on your level of skill.

Light. Include multiple reliable sources of light such as the SureFire Stiletto or Tactician, along with multiple sets of lithium batteries. Start with a good headlamp or two. These are not just for cavers, climbers, or ultramarathoners. You’ll know the difference a good headlamp can make when it comes to handsfree night hikes or performing tasks in a dark camp. Add to this several good flashlights. Again, James recommends equipping these light sources with lithium batteries, not the corrodible and leaking alkaline batteries.

Knife. Include several folding knives, a fixed blade such as a Morakniv (which comes in bright colors), and a multi-tool. James says these blades and tools don’t have to be fancy, just functional and durable.

Cord. Brightly-colored 550 paracord is a must-have for a variety applications (building shelter, stringing up bear bags, constructing splints, holding up your pants, etc.). Having a few hundred feet of this will be well worth the weight.

Shelter. The SOL Escape Bivy is James’ bugout sleeping bag of choice because it’s lightweight (6oz), wind and water resistant, breathable, and packs down small. He also recommends an emergency blanket. “Exposure and hypothermia can be big problems in a survival situation,” James says. “I want to make sure my family has the ability to stay warm and dry.”

Water. The ability to filter water and boil water is essential, so having something like a Survival Filter bottle or Lifestraw (James packs both) allows you to make a stream a long-term water source. He also recommends having a single-wall water bottle that will allow you to boil water over a heat source. And of course iodine tablets can also be included as a chemical source to treat water. James also recommends including some tubes of Nuun electrolyte tablets for flavoring and adding nutrients to treated water.

Warmth. In a crisis, a fire can help treat drinking water and cook food, but it can also stave off hypothermia. Having a ferro rod such as those made by Exotac along with waterproof matches and some lighters can ensure that you have a way to produce sparks and flames reliably. Of course you should also include a good, long-burning tinder (cotton ball dipped in vaseline is an affordable option). James also includes a road flare as a foolproof failsafe for starting a fire in drenched conditions. He also recommends pull-start fire starters.  

Food. Lifeboat emergency food or other long shelf life options can stay in your bag for months or years so you may store without spoilage concerns. SPAM is also an economical option.

Medicine. A first-aid kit for basic cuts and scrapes, a trauma kit for more significant injuries and a splint. Insect repellant is a must as well. You could also include benadryl (some preppers recommend the gel capsules, which can be poked with a safety pin to squeeze into the mouth). You might also want to include Epi pens, extra containers of vital medications, etc.

Hygiene. Field hygiene and cleanliness is important for a variety of reasons. It can help cut down on illness of course (washing hands) and also boost morale by providing consistency and normalcy. So include some travel size sani wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shave kit, soap, and shampoo.

Communication. Include battery- or crank-operated shortwave am/fm radio, a spare mobile phone (even one without service can still call 911), emergency whistle, portable charger, etc. Again, batteries should be lithium to avoid leakage. You might also include solar-powered charging units.

Duct Tape. This needs no introduction or explanation.

Train Your GO Bag Know How

Of course no article or video can replace experience and training when it comes to your response in a crisis. You might try spending a night or two outdoors familiarizing yourself with the equipment. This can be a fun family activity and may help train yourself and loved ones in those foundational essentials–mindset, tactics and gear. 

For more blogs on emergency preparedness, tactics, firearms training, and more – check out the WPS Field Guide here.