You know that scene in every movie or TV show where the lead character has to run from someone or something? They turn up at an abandoned storage lot and throw open a the door to an empty garage, all but for one shitty gym bag stuffed with cash, a multitude of passports, a gun and god knows what else. It's a hollywood cliché that every that every episode of storage hunters has you hoping to find, but what would Jason Bourne, James Bond, Jack Bauer or any self respecting hard man conducting espionage and nefarious activities with good intentions and the initials of Justin Bieber really need in their bag, and how would you go about building one if you intended upon being hunted down for a crime you didn't commit in the near future?
First up, your best bet is to forget about the cool stuff for a minute. 'Go-bags' are not just for your run of the mill renegade cop-slash-Canadian pop has been; the name itself simply suggests a bag of essentials prepared in advance should a situation arise when time and evacuation are of the essence. I asked this question on Quora to see if anybody had some great advice and a retired Air Force command pilot made some great suggestions based on his old mobility bags which "had to be crammed with stuff for virtually any climate, since I was considered 'worldwide deployable.' "
In addition to that, Farrier provided some good links for anybody wanting to get something like this together from ready.gov, the CDC and scouting.org. Along with these, NYC.gov holds a solid list even the most average of Canadian pop stars should be aware of, and in the event of an emergency, natural disaster or conspiracy to pin a crime by the intelligence services you were once so loyal to, most everything mentioned in the above should certainly make the bag.
The three essentials of having any chance of survival, being hunted by highly trained operatives you used to call brothers or not; water, food and warmth should make the bag.
- Water. Personally, I'd go with a Lifestraw Go Water Bottle. It's light and can be filled from any freshwater source, no matter how riddled with bacteria and parasites it may be. It beats sucking it through the bottom of your sock Bear Grylls style.
- Food. Be sensible and make sure it'll last. You could need this bag in a week or five years. British Army ration packs can be bought relatively cheap online and you can even buy food that'll survive the trip through the stratosphere if that's what tickles your fancy.
- Warmth: A mylar and emergency blanket are definites and depending upon weather conditions and where you will be seeking shelter, further options should be considered.
If you do have the intention of returning triumphantly in a blaze of glory firing a car into a helicopter carrying your mortal nemesis, you'll be needing a copy of your important documents somewhere safe. Insurance details, birth certificates, deeds, ID, prescriptions etc. You could leave them out of the go bag and make sure they're safely deposited somewhere you can retrieve them, but if you'd feel safer carrying them with you, throw them in the bag, because once you've cleared your name and you're a national hero, you don't want to be spending the next five months filling in paperwork to get your life back together.
Some other essentials are definitely necessary though before we move onto the greyer side of things. If you think I've missed anything glaring or you'd like to add to the list, comment and I'll probably question my entire ability to create lists for missing something so obvious.
- Torch, preferably LED, strong and light, because even JB can't see in the dark.
- First aid kit. Not one you'd take to a festival with some paracetamol, a few plasters and a reel of micropore tape. If it's not capable of stitching up a bullet wound with a bottle of vodka in a motorway service station, it's not good enough for the go-bag.
- Multi-Tool. Again, we're not being stingy here. Opening a tin of beans is not the most difficult task it should be capable of, so make sure it's got a solid blade on it and it's capable of fixing an engine and a computer. Leatherman's came out as a reader voted top six and took 11 from the top twenty spots in Lifehackers most recent poll. Have a look around, but the Wave does a good all round job, and comes in black for when you don't want reflections of moonlight to give away your position and want to look the part.
- Solar charger/Backup battery. There's a fair chance during evacuation and sitting in a stadium for days drinking soup and waiting for the emergency services to allow you back home, you'll get bored and play Angry Birds or Two Dots until your phone dies. Now when your family and friends want to know if you're alive, you can't log into Facebook to let them know you're all good. Invest in a solid solar charger or BioLite and tweet out your survival story 140 characters at a time. If you're actively running from the law, you'll be amazed how much downtime you'll get in the wheel arches of a greyhound crossing the Mexican border; use the time wisely to complete Monument Valley or get your loved ones to safety, using WhatsApp's new encrypted messages.
- A pair of good shoes/boots. If you're already in the profession where trekking for days or being on your feet endlessly is a necessity, you shouldn't need to worry, but if not, it might be worthwhile leaving a pair of comfortable and durable boots with the bag.
- Obvious extras left by sensible people in the comments.
As we err on the side of caution now, I should state that I in no way condone doing any of the following for illegal means. This article, is purely hypothetical and the culmination of many nights lay awake in bed wondering what I, an unfit lazy unemployed white male with a fear of any and all forms of authority; zero experience of violence and a healthy obsession with safety would do in such a hollywood situation. I can state categorically that outlined below is not what I would be preparing for my own go bag. In fact, mine probably consists of everything above only with more blankets. More than likely should I find myself an unwilling intermediary between a rogue national security agency and one of their ex-employees hellbent on taking them down and showing the world their wrongdoings in the process; I would probably find a comfortable and tear absorbent corner of my bedroom until I was taken away to be imprisoned, waterboarded and brutally murdered. That being said, such acts of basic human cowardice do not make for a blockbuster third act and so here's how the pro's would prepare.
(For a bit more background, Adam Savage of mythbusters fame and notable prop-lover has a good breakdown and replica of the burn bag Jason Bourne uses early on in The Bourne Identity.)
First of all, I should clarify the most obvious early omission - money. Cash to probably be more precise. Money is probably the single most powerful thing in the world and more than likely, the reason we are being hunted in the first place. Most movies simply get around JB needing to busk or budget or resort to minor crimes, simply with the use of a their 'go-bag', often filled with cash of various denominations. If you are likely to find yourself in such a situation as this, I'd thoroughly advise planning way in advance. You're going to want to regularly draw out small denominations so as not to raise suspicions, or find a suitable big purchase to cover your tracks.
Cash is certainly king when you're trying to remain anonymous, but you shouldn't really need to vary your currencies too much. Every exchange in the world will change up Euro's and US Dollars, so have a good wad of that to go. Add to that a wad of your home currency if it doesn't correlate with these and maybe a sizable was of British sterling to the mix as well as it tends to be worth more than both the Euro and the Dollar.
Secondly, when it comes to putting together your illicit go-bag, you're going to need a few basics any highly trained ex-asset wouldn't be seen dead with, (because without them, they'd most certainly be dead.)
False identity, weapons and communication with a good guy on the inside/working to help you. Often, it helps if this guy is a plump, neck-bearded MIT graduate living in his parents basement surrounded by more screens of scrolling white-text-on-black-background than one could ever possibly imagine.
- Multiple passports and ID's.
- Weapons other than rolled up magazines and biro's.
- Anonymous bitcoin - when staying shady is the name of the game, untraceable currency is an absolute necessity. Keep a sizable wad of that on a USB stick in your go bag and if you know what you're doing, where to look and what to look for, you've an ace in hand when it comes to avoiding detection. Plus, even more legitimate retailers are accepting it lately, so you might even get some groceries in when your cash runs out. It's not the most reliable currency when it comes to holding value though, so you'll want to keep one eye on the market before you load up Tor and realise what you paid $20,000 for can now barely get you an eighth of weed from hashmaster420. The guys over at Deepdotweb provide a weekly update on the bitcoin economy, along with more information than your bearded basement buddy can give you on an unencrypted phone call.
- Prepaid phones - a staple of the runaway innocent. Purchase in bulk and plant on your hunters in the street. Then when you've reached a safe distance, call them, tell them you like what they're wearing and hang up.
- Prescription drugs, adderall and adrenaline/epinephrine/norepinephrine can probably keep your body and mind going when it really shouldn't be. That being said, if you still need a shot of adrenaline when you're being chased by people intent on killing you, you're probably close to death anyway. Maybe you want some morphine and penicillin in the event you do perform minor surgery on a puncture wound in a gas station restroom and need to recover before the third act starts and hell, maybe even some anthrax or poison of sorts could come in handy.
- Cigarettes - honestly, you won't believe how corrupt some border patrols are. Throw in some cigarettes with your bribe and you'll be in Tashkent by the end of the week. You can generally get foreign multi-packs, which will likely lessen suspicion. Odds are you'll be stressed, and even though we all know smoking is bad for you, you'll look much cooler walking away from an explosion with a Malborough in your mouth.
- Contacts - some for your eyes, depending on your new identities but also for your phone. For better or worse, the dark-net hosts some fucked up services. If you're in need of a fellow JB with a skillset not too dissimilar from your own, you'll more than likely be able to find them on here. Have your basement buddies act as intermediaries for an inevitable meet on opposing metro platforms outside rush hour.
To polish the bag off, I'd probably add a few more bits of tech. It'd be worth perhaps throwing in a raspberry pi, as it could certainly come in handy in a pinch. There are more than a few ways to use it to your advantage, from a secure web server, file storage and wifi hacking to cheap CCTV and all manner of monitoring abilities, a wealth of possibilities are just an SD card switch away. Your next best bet it to keep an up to date secure linux distribution on a portable USB drive in your wallet. I'd probably fork out for a time-lord-bigger-on-the-inside technology like this just incase you need to ditch the bag and hide your gigabytes of innocence in your rectum.
Last, but not least is possibly the most important aspect of the go-bag. The bag itself. Personally, this one is down to you. Jason went drawstring but others have gone full on steel reinforced briefcase. Depending on how you store your bag, be it cemented beneath your own basement, in a swiss safe deposit box, an isolated shipping container or just under your stairs, you'll just need to make sure its good to go. My advice would be to go durable and light, but to leave room for extra's you may acquire or add along the way.