Nonperishable food with a lengthy shelf life is one of the most important items you can have in your bug-out bag. But if you fail to also include a nice variety of cooking utensils, you may have a difficult time eating that food when you need it most.
Pots, pans and plates
First and foremost when it comes to cooking utensils for your bug-out bag are the three P’s: pots, pans and plates. A store-bought mess kit will do just fine. They are usually designed for one, two or four people; and you can find them in a big-box store’s sporting goods department for about $10.
They usually consist of a small frying pan and a plate on the outer shell, a drinking cup or bowl, and a boiling pot and lid. Assuming they inter-stack and lock together into a compact unit, these mess kits are easy to carry, use, clean and pack up again. If you don’t have room for a mess kit in your bag, you can always lash it to the outside. But make sure you have a sturdy pouch for that.
If you consider yourself more of an “upscale” bug-out guy or gal or just want more durability in your mess kit, you can go the stainless steel route. These mountaineering and military mess kits will cost you more money and are heavier to carry. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to spend even $10, you can put a kit together yourself.
Silverware for each person in your party is also an essential. Again, the big-box store sporting goods area should contain interlocking knife/fork/spoon sets. To keep down the weight of your bug-out bag, there might be a temptation to pack plastic or extremely lightweight utensils. Don’t do that. You don’t know how long you’re going to be using these utensils, so pack ones that will stand up to some rough circumstances.
When we’re sitting around the dining room table, we rarely say, “Please pass the aluminum foil.” But if you’re on the run due to a crisis, this is an item that will come in handy. You can use aluminum foil to wrap vegetables, meat or fish when they are cooking over a campfire, as well as to carry cooked food when you start moving again.
Not everyone will want to include a small coffee pot in a bug-out bag, but I can’t imagine living without one. If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to lash a small percolator to the outside of your bag to keep it from banging around or breaking. To really be efficient, you can keep small, clean clothing items inside it when you’re moving.
If you anticipate the possibility of bugging out with others, someone in your party might want to carry a large cooking pot with a lid. You’ll be able to heat up larger quantities of food that way, including stew; and you can keep other items inside it when it’s in your bag. You might want to add a soft, lightweight, folding bucket for carrying water.
Knives, forks and spoons are great for transporting food from your plate to your mouth. But when it comes to getting food from the pot or pan to your plate, items such as spatulas, ladles and meat forks are considerably preferable. You could live without them, but they will make food preparation much more enjoyable.
Most people do not pack a small, portable stove in their bug-out bags. But if you have a party of four or more and can place more than one person’s belongings in one of the bags, you may be able to pack an extra bag for larger items such as this. These single- or two-burner camp stoves can make life outside of your home much easier and can replace a fire if it’s not convenient to safely build one where you are.
Sometimes called “survival stoves” or “mini-folding pocket stoves,” they can really help warm you up in the cold when needed and can boil water without melting a wall of snow if you’re inside a snow cave. They can also serve to dry wet clothing.
There are definitely downsides to these portable stoves, however. In addition to their size and weight, they require fuel, which can be bulky and hazardous and which doesn’t last too long.
While it does not really qualify as a cooking utensil, make sure you have at least one military-grade canteen in your bug-out bag. Some of the better ones also include a matching cup (which can double as a boiling pot), an insulated carrier and a utility belt for transporting them. The canteen should be able to hold at least one quart of water. Don’t skimp on this purchase. The better canteens will be able to keep beverages hot or cold for longer periods of time.
And while you’re at it, make sure you have at least one LifeStraw personal water filter and a small bottle of water purification tablets. There’s nothing that spells disaster for a bug-out experience faster than drinking contaminated water.
In order to keep all of your cooking utensils clean, include an unbreakable, unspillable bottle of dishwashing liquid. You may have to use these items for a while, so keeping them clean and germ-free will be important. This is going to be a survival situation, not a weekend getaway, so you may want to use small portions of this dishwashing soap to clean your face and other body parts.
Another usage for dishwashing liquid is coating the bottom and sides of your cooking pots and pans with a heavy film of dishwashing soap, prior to cooking over an open flame. It will make removing the soot build up a much easier task.
Once you’ve determined which cooking utensils you’ll need and which you’ll be better off leaving behind, pack them in your bug-out bag first. Your other stuff can fit in and around these items. You’ll be glad you decided to include them.