Questions from the FRONTLINES: An On-Going Willow Haven Q & A Series

I am spending an increasing amount of each morning answering e-mails with questions about a variety of survival related subjects.  Most often, they are from people who have picked up a copy of my book (Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag) and have some follow-up questions.  I find myself always saying, “That’s a really good question,” and I’m sure there are others out there that could benefit from the answer.  Consequently, I have decided to start a post series titled Questions from the FRONTLINES where I list and answer these questions (anonymously of course) in a regular blog post for all to read – and offer feedback of their own.

With that said, many SURVIVAL TOPICS – especially BUGGING OUT are very subjective topics.  Oftentimes, there are no right and wrong answers – rather preferences.  These answers are my personal opinions and some of you may not feel the same way.  This is fine and expected.  Voice your opinions in the comments – tactfully, of course.


Questions from the FRONTLINES

 QUESTION: I am a beginner at creating my BOB and am in the process of obtaining items for my families bags. This is a fundamental question about a crisis and how you prepare… at what point do you have to think about Staying At Home Prepping, an 72-Hour Bug Out Bag (I assume to get to either a shelter or a predetermined location) and an INCH Bag? I am about ready to purchase my primary bag and am trying to determine what size to get, something around 2500-3500 cubic inches for a BOB or something like a Bergen which would be more for an INCH bag. I only want to purchase one bag and one set of equipment for the bag. Do you plan for an BOB Bag and hope you only need it for 72 hours and if it is longer you fend for yourself or do you plan for an INCH bag knowing you might be overkilling it a bit but you can sustain yourself for much longer?

Creek’s ANSWER: First of all, for those of you who have never heard the phrase INCH bag, it means  your I’M NEVER COMING HOME bag and is designed for LONGER than 72 hours.  These are some great questions which I will address in TWO sections:

Section # 1: STAYING AT HOME PREPPING – otherwise known as BUGGING IN

You should always be thinking about this.  Hopefully you will never have to abandon your home.  Ideally, you will be able to stay at home if something crazy (natural or caused by man) does happen.  You must think about how to address the SURVIVAL CORE SIX within your home in the event of a disaster or grid-down scenario.  The CORE SIX are SHELTER, WATER, FIRE, FOOD, FIRST AID( and Hygiene) and SELF DEFENSE.  This includes all kinds of considerations such as heating, food storage, water storage, electricity, home protection and medicines.  It can be a bit overwhelming to think about this if you are just beginning.  Here is how I suggest starting.  First tackle a few critical categories for a 1-week GRID OUT time period.  If you are forced to go COMPLETELY OFF GRID FOR 1 WEEK, make sure:

– You can heat your house for 1 week 
– You have enough water for 1 week (or have a back-up system in place to get it)(i.e. hand well pump)
– You have enough food storage for 1 week
– You have a supply of prescription meds for 1 week
– You have a plan for disposing of waste (human waste & trash waste)

Prepping for 1 WEEK in the small list above covers you for THE VAST MAJORITY of all GRID DOWN Disasters and will really force you to at least get a plan of some sort in place – which is more than 99% of people out there.  It will also force you to really start thinking about preparedness.  However, you wouldn’t be asking about an INCH bag if you didn’t believe something more catastrophic is looming (or at least possible).

Prepping starts to become a lifestyle once you start planning for longer periods of GRID DOWN or INFRASTRUCTURE FAILURE.  You’ll start to consider SYSTEM SOLUTIONS rather than STORAGE SOLUTIONS.  You will begin to think about things like Solar Power (or NO POWER) living, Off-Grid Water System (Water Well with Hand Powered Pump/Rain Harvesting/Fresh Water Spring), Wood Burning Stove (for heat and cooking), Gardening & Canning, Partnerships with others, and Self Defense & Hunting Tools (and training).

Bottom line, BUGGING IN should always be an option and you should be prepared to do so.  It happens to people all the time.  Even harsh winter storms can take out power and trap you inside for a few days.  Many disasters, though, can drive you away from your home.  This transitions us to the next section.

Section # 2: BOB & INCH Bags

My thoughts on INCH bags….hmmmmm….   As a GUY and SURVIVAL INSTRUCTOR, I love the IDEA of an INCH BAG.  However, as a practical survivalist, I know that if you are NEVER COMING HOME or are trying to SURVIVE LONG TERM, you will want more than a Back Pack – I don’t care what you have in it.  My answer to this question is simple.  Focus on a 3-Day BOB (approx 4000 cu. in.) and find a good Bug Out Location (BOL).  I’m a huge proponent of outfitting a BOB to last longer than 3-DAYS, but it just isn’t practical to live out of it long term.  Your BOL is the place to store your long term survival tools.  However, the addition of a few key items in a BOB can really extend your “SURVIVAL TIME-LINE” if necessary.  These revolve primarily around WATER & FOOD.  A good water purification system can keep you in fresh drinking water for months.  Some basic hunting and food prep tools can also help supplement any food items in your pack.  A good fishing kit with frog gig, a .22 pistol, some snares, a decent cook pot and some spices could all drastically improve your food situation – especially when combined with some basic Wild Edible Plant/Root Training (shameless plug).


You can’t prep for everything.  We live in a crazy world that’s getting crazier by the second.  I find it easier to set manageable goals with time limits when it comes to prepping: for example, a BUG OUT BAG for 3-DAYs, Food and Water Storage for 2 weeks at home – it’s very difficult to prep for completely open ended time-lines or vast scenarios.  I hope I’ve answered your questions without raising MORE!


QUESTION: OK so we got and read your bug out book and we are looking to build ours for our family of 5 (two adults 3 children 8,6 and 2 years old) and our two fidos a large mastiff pit mix and a med brittany lab mix. We are lost on what to do for shelter. All backpacking tents are max 4 people, that may hold the 5 of us if none of my children grow. But realistically we are afraid we will need a bigger tent. Any ideas to fit the 5 of us at a reasonable weight for our BOB. We live in XXXXXX,MO and also have the long cold winters and hot long summers with very wet springs and falls. So a 3 or 4 season is needed.

Creek’s ANSWER: You raise a good question. Sometimes, there just doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution for certain scenarios. After some thought, my personal choice if I were in your shoes would be to pack 2 light weight 2-3 man tents – 1 in the main pack and 1 with the 2nd strongest person’s pack. I would practice setting these up so that the doors are next to or close by each other so that it somewhat feels like 2 rooms to the same tent if at all possible. I hate the idea of separating the family in 2 tents but I really think it’s your best option. A larger 5+ man tent is just going to be too bulky for 1 pack.



  1. For someone new to prepping building a Bug Out Bag can seem like a big task. Everybody you read about has been tweaking theirs for months or even years and has a pile of gear built up. It’s hard to know where to start, but if you cover just all of the basics in a survival situation you will still be much better off that 99% of the people.

    We started with one of the kits from and added copies of important papers, extra clothing and an emergency radio too. It takes only a few minutes to pick out a kit that works for your family and have it shipped to you, instead of driving all over town trying to find all the items you need for a good bug out bag. Then spend a day reviewing the contents and adding your extras. Put it in the hallway closed by the door and it’s ready whenever you need it. Total time spent probably 2 hours = Lifetime of Peace of Mind!

  2. Hi Creek,
    I was looking for a recipe for Staghorn Sumac juice, and found your website. I modified your recipe. I used 12 spires (?) and a gallon of filtered water. Weighted them under water for about 1 hour. Then squeezed the water out of them. I filtered the juice thru my Mr. Coffee drip maker and a coffee filter. The lid lifts up and I just poured the juice into the bail. I ended up using 2 filters. Having never made Sumac tea before, I don’t know if its weak or not. But it has a flavor. Any suggestions or thoughts you might have I would appreciate reading. I live in a mobile home park. At the back of my home is a power line. That’s where I got the Sumac. I explored a little bit and also found some grape vines and a crab apple tree. It’s small about the size of a dwarf apple tree. But it does have some crab apples on it. Which I will harvest. That’s all for now. I signed up for your updates. And I have and will be checking out many of the articles etc.
    As far as a BOB, I have things accumulated to put in, but have not yet done so. It’s like you say, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. I’m 67 and remember the 50’s and 60’s cold war. Now more than ever people need to learn about survival and being prepared. Maybe work w/ a group to help keep cost down. Right now I’m on my own. It’s hard to get people even thinking about what might/could happen. Hurricane Irene went thru here last year. We were without power for 5-7 days. Well I’ve said enough for now. Don’t want to wear out my welcome. Take care. Don

  3. Just purchased one of these for a Bugging In scenario. Thought I would share. Hopefully my link works.

  4. I was wondering, what is the best edible plants reference for the Central Washington area? I see a lot of books for the coastal area, but not much for my area. Any help would be appreciated.

  5. Hey Creek, Love the BoB Book…… great info…… i have a small problem. That is that i am a small guy and my bob feels like it weighs a ton, and i wouldnt even concider it complete, 2 questions, how much does your compete bob weigh, and do you know what are the reccomended weight bearing loads a typical person guy/girl should carry? ie: % of body weight one should carry for males and females?

    Thanks so much, God Bless.


  6. Just wanted to make a point more then a question,store that knowledge.Knowledge locked into your mind is a great thing but there is only so much one can learn/know that unless dedicated full time to survival skills you will not know it all.Any articles/posts ect. that you believe could be helpful don’t just bookmark but put on hard disc,even if net down you have any source of power for computer you can access this information.I would also print and have a binder full of things that may be helpful,for many reasons your laptop ect. may not work.A few discs also travel easy,sooner or later you may find a computer you can power up.I would also keep the most important to you survival wise printed(both sides for space saving) and laminated and put in say your map section of bug out bag.In tough times will be a comforting voice and a morale booster knowing you added to your survival knowledge.Having skills and information in your brain pan is best but with so much useful information having a library as it were cannot hurt.I hate to say this only occurred to me last night,am getting a ream of paper and another ink cartridge and doing some printing!Hope this gives you some food for thought,enjoy your day.

  7. Hi Creek, Just wanted to Give MHO on Bugging In and Out Scenarios, Also, a HUGH Question… My Hubby is 78, I am 60, Neither of Us are in Great Shape, so When I became a prepper 3+ Years ago, I soon realized that the Bug-In was probably Most Likely, I live Near the Sierra’s Though, and REALLY wanted to Think of Them as a Possible Use the Truck to Get so Far and then Go from there If needed Bug-Out Plan! So Though I Did NOT have Much Money, as We live on Hubby’s Soc. Sec., I Started Doing all 3 a Bit at a Time…Every time I shopped, I bought Extra Boxes and Cans of Food and Put Them Up, I started a Garden, Dug Out My Old Dehydrator and Bought a 12 Quart Canner, Spent That summer Learning to Can and Dry Food, as well as Bought some BULK Flours, Sugar, Rice and Oxygen Absorbers! I also would Buy 1 Kind of Major Item each Month for My car Kit OR My BOB, Like Crank Radios, Solar Chargers w/ Re-Chargeable Batteries, A Good Hatchet, Etc. I also started Storing Water in Every Bottle that came into the House, EVEN Milk Jugs, as I figure I can water the Garden with Them….I watched Constantly for Items at the Salvation Army and Yard Sales. I Recently Mostly Finished My Medical Kit, Stitches Included! I Now have a Complete Car Kit, 2 BOB’s( a Smaller One For Hubby,) and Enough Food, Water, and Lighting/Cooking to Keep us In House about 6 Months!
    BUT My QUESTION, We have been having a LOT of Forest Fires, and I’m Wondering, IF I was Forced to Bug Out, To the Sierra’s, HOW do I Prepare for THAT? Can You REALLY Survive a Forest Fire? I’ve Of Course LOOKED at Firefighter Stuff, But it is WAY TOO COSTLY For Me to EVER Buy, I KNOW You Could maybe Get to a River and Survive, But Any OTHER Idea’s???

    • Bonnie- Wow – sounds like you’ve been busy. I’ve never been in a forest fire or wild fire and have never seen one besides on television. However, I know quite a bit about fire. One thing I do know is that fire needs ‘fuel’ to burn. The best way to survive a forest fire to if you’re not able to evacuate ahead of time by vehicle is to find a place with as little fuel as possible. A creek or river like you said would be ideal. A rocky slope or shelf. The middle of the road. The less fuel around you the better your chances. You might even consider identifying some places like this along your evacuation route ahead of time so you know where they are at just in case you need to seek them. Hope this helps – good luck out there!

Creek's new survival fiction novel, RUGOSA, now available on!