The following article is not a metaphor for anything. Neither the items that you are being told to collect nor the bag in which you are to put those things are symbolic and do not “represent” anything in your life. If you are not at all concerned about the very real possibility that you may have to get up at a moment’s notice and flee some very real danger, then you can just click the fuck out of this page, compadre.
Fewer Than Sixty Seconds
Maybe you’re alone or maybe you’re in the company of a waitress or a bartender who you allowed to follow you back to your flat after her shift on an otherwise quiet night. You’re either lying soundlessly in the dark or thrashing about in the soft red glow of a neon vacancy sign when suddenly there’s a text or a call or some signal from the street that tells you that you need to get up and get the fuck out of wherever it is that you are—NOW.
You’re disoriented and you may not even know from whom or where the threat is coming, but you can’t allow the answer to either of those questions concern you. Analysis is a luxury upon which you can ill afford to squander your most vital resource: seconds. There’s no time to shave, shower, dress, or brush your teeth. Even putting on your underwear could lead to an acute case of hydrostatic shock. There’s a leg-breaker at the door or a SWAT van barreling down the street. A seven-foot-tall tattooed chicken brandishing a sawed off double-barrel shotgun has come home to roost, and you pray that you have enough ticks of the clock to snatch up exactly one thing, kick open a door, and sprint off into the night.
Packing a Bag for the Worst Night of Your Life
Pick out a new or used bag made from a durable material, like leather or canvas—no fancy designer scribbling or insignias, and for fuck’s sake, no monograms or identifying fabric patterns. Stay away from olive drab or camouflage, as well. “Nondescript” is the watchword when you’re assembling a go bag. As a matter of convenience, whatever you use to hold your kit should be no larger than something you can stuff into the narrow lockers at your typical boxing gym or gun club. Make sure it has a shoulder strap so you can keep your hands free without dropping it to the ground.
Choose The Proper Attire for Being on the Lam
Pack some blue jeans because dungarees are the uniform of the common man. Chinos are a versatile option in some regions. Fold up a t-shirt, a button down shirt, and a light jacket. Coil up a heavy leather belt with a plain buckle, and set them all in a stack. None of your clothing should have garish patterns or logos. Your t-shirt should be of a darker color and free from messaging, particularly ironic jokes. If you think any part of this is supposed to be cute, you might as well eat a fucking gun because you’re not taking it seriously, and this is grave business. You’re not a character from Star Wars or Casablanca—you’re not anything. Your job is to ghost, so maybe you can just check the monkeyshines at the door and parade them out again during less dire times.
The same rule applies to hats, by the way: nothing out of the ordinary. For instance, unless you’re in Paris, France, a jaunty beret is just going to make you the target of derision and ridicule. Nothing on your head should ever indicate a geographical preference for any place other than the one you’re standing in. My advice: wait until you get to a town before you buy a lid sporting the local team brand.
Fedoras may be iconic, but there has been enough hipster douchebaggery surrounding them that they’re a dangerous option at the time of this writing. Bucket hats, on the other hand, don’t take up much space, are often reversible, and you can pick one up at just about any five and dime.
Don’t pack shiny or brand new footwear. New and shiny shoes tend to stand out at a bus station or a dive bar. Take a pair of fast, dull, comfortable shoes; put a pair of socks in each of them; and place them at the bottom of the bag. Let them lie there and don’t even think about them.
Go to the gas station and buy a pair of the most anonymous cheap sunglasses that they sell—black or metal frames.
While you’re at it, pick up a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, even if you don’t smoke. An offered cigarette can go a long way with strangers, and you never know when you’re going to need to burn something down. If they sell liquor, buy a fifth of cheap booze and toss it in your bag with the seal in tact. If not, go to another store.
Toiletries may be a personal choice, but the amount of space you can allocate to them is a matter of weight and spatial economy. Head over to your local drugstore or discount house and purchase travel-sized everything: deodorant, bar soap, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, shaving cream (especially if you have existing facial hair because that needs to be gone), Band Aids™, antibacterial cream, aspirin, et cetera. Shampoo and conditioner should be of the two-in-one variety. In fact, if you can find a three-in-one shampoo-conditioner-body soap combo, you can jettison your bar. You may still want to pack one—in case you need to dress a gunshot wound or make a soap bar sap with a sock or something. You’ll need a couple of disposable razors for altering your look. Also, pick up a pack of hair dye that’s not close to your current or natural color, which unless you’re already lamming it, I certainly hope to fuck are the same. Get some prophylactics—you’re on the run, not becoming a monk. Buy a three pack and ditch the box in the garbage outside the store. Put all of your toiletry items in a small shaving pouch or a plastic Ziploc™ bag to keep it from jingling around too much. If you have a moisturizing regiment or some other girl thing that you do to your face or hair, you’re kind of fucked. You don’t have the space, and besides, everyone’s skin looks like leather in the kinds of places you’ll be going. Embrace the countenance of poverty and dirt.
Make Your Bag an Instrument of Death
You may not need a gun, but you’re going to want a gun. For this kind of thing, I prefer a snub nose revolver: reliable, low maintenance, loud, and effective at short ranges. They can go through a few fights without needing any serious cleaning. Throw it in a side pocket with a handful of bullets. Don’t feel you have to go too crazy with the ammo. This is just for any trouble you might encounter while you’re moving the fuck out. If you’re going to assault a prison or a mountain fortress, you need a different kit altogether. Find a good reliable knife—a sharp dagger, or a folding lock blade—and store it with the gun.
Choosing the Right Currency
Invest a little cash in your bag, and by that, I mean stow money in the inside pocket. US greenbacks are accepted everywhere, but if you’re in an EU country, you might prefer Euros. About $200 is enough for a tank of gas, a couple of nights in a seedy motel, and a few cheap meals. Keep your money in small bills. Your credit and debit cards can be traced, so don’t use them if your pursuers have the juice to track them. Some things to consider when setting up your bankroll:
- Is your departure of a temporary or permanent nature?
- What is the realistic reach of the party who is interested in ending your existence?
- Can you escape using only a single mode of transit? (i.e. car, cab, bus, train, et cetera)
- For the purpose of determining legal jurisdiction, how far is it to the border of the next state or country?
The importance of cash can never be overemphasized. If you are able to keep enough disposable currency on hand, you might, might be able to forgo the bag altogether, but don’t count on it. Some cash substitutes that you might want to consider can include jewelry, prescription narcotics (stay away from contraband), precious metals, and gems. You used to be able to trade pornography, but since the advent of the Internet, the market for skin mags or naked playing cards has been substantially diminished.
Improvise at Your Own Peril
If you don’t see an item listed here and are unsure if it belongs in an emergency go bag, ask yourself if the weight of the item in question is going to make the bullets chasing you fly even a few feet-per-second slower. If the answer is yes, pack two of them.