Semper Paratus is the motto of the US Coast Guard and means Always Prepared. In many ways this should be the motto of everyone who reads this blog. Becoming a prepared individual means thinking outside the box and utilizing all things around you on a daily basis. Last season on Brooklyn Nine Nine we were waiting for a meeting to start and chatting with a colleague of mine and our tactical advisor. My colleague asked our tech advisor “what’s the best survival knife?” Without missing a beat our tech advisor said “the one in your pocket.” I laughed in total agreement.
I’ve been thinking about that statement for quite a while and have been evaluating the things I carry in my EDC and what’s in my 72 Hour Bag. I know some guys who pack 50 pounds of gear into their 72 Hour Bag, they are prepared for every situation. While this isn’t a bad thing I think preparing for a disaster can lead to the Wile E. Coyote syndrome. Everything seems to be going along just fine, then all of a sudden you’re spinning your wheels 1,000′ up over the edge of a cliff.
Sometimes it’s better to stick to the basics. Of the eight I often talk about, four are of vital importance: Fire, Water, Shelter, Food. Once those basics are covered utilize your surroundings for any needs you may have further than that. Going backpacking for an extended period of time can show you just how little you actually need to live. Having experiences where you actually have to put your self to the test allows you to refine your kit.
Another important factor in designing and refining your 72 Hour Bag is knowing the environment you will have to survive in. For me it is Urban Los Angeles. I know the climate, the terrain and the most likely types of disasters. You have to ask yourself as a hedge what are the most likely factors I will have to deal with? Should your pack be laden with 25 pounds of gear you most likely will never have to use? Can you figure out work arounds to these items you exclude from your kit? If you are in an urban environment will the likelihood be that some of these items will be redly available to a skillful person? Or in fact do you really NEED them?
During hurricane Katrina the Coast Guard, because of the slow response from the government, went ahead and performed rescue operations with out orders to do so. Technically this meant the pilots and rescuers were violating the chain of command. But the Coast Guard has always worked on a philosophy of act now and ask for permission later. What this means is they are skirting the law a little. Lesson learned? Well sometimes in a time of crisis we may have to bend the laws a little for survival. What that means to you is an ethical question that only you can answer for yourself, but perhaps some items you may need to survive can be acquired on the go instead of carrying a full 50 pound ruck. Look for substitutions in everyday life which may be plentiful and easily attained in a time of crisis.
I know this flies in the face of what most people think of as Semper Paratus, but indeed an argument can be made for being light, fast & stealthy in a time of crisis. I have always written about classifying your gear into systems and this should be the foundation where you evaluate what your real needs are. Only you can put together your own 72 Hour Bag – every bag is different. Everyone’s needs are diverse. But the basics are the basics: Water, Food, Shelter, Fire. They never change and having the components to fulfill those needs will in the end make you Semper Paratus.