Bail Out Bags: When You Have To Leave Right Now

Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, the forces of the universe conspire against us, and we are faced with a very desperate situation. Our lives and the lives of those in our care are on the line, and we need to do something about it. We can pay attention to our surroundings and make sure we’re not doing, as legendary firearms trainer John Farnham once said, “stupid things with stupid people at stupid places, at stupid times.” All of that matters very little when you blunder into a situation that requires more than just the concealed carry gear you have on-hand. That’s when a bail out bag comes in mighty handy. 

Bail out bags have their origins in the law enforcement response to active shooter situations or other mass casualty events. Prior to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, the standard police response was to have the first officers on the scene establish a perimeter. They would then wait for the SWAT team or similar response team to arrive, enter the building and neutralize the shooter. At Columbine, however, the gap between the arrival of the first officers on-scene and SWAT arriving gave the perpetrators more time to commit violence inside the school. 

Born Out Of Necessity

Law enforcement changed their active shooter response tactics because of that incident. Now the standard response is for the first officers on the scene to enter the area where the shooter is and engage them as quickly as possible. This means that the average patrol officer needs to bring more with them than just their defensive pistol. They will also need spare ammo, medical supplies and either a shotgun or rifle. 

The mission of quickly stopping an active shooter dictates what’s inside their bail out bags. Law enforcement carries spare ammunition for their rifle or shotgun, more magazines for their pistol and copious amounts of medical gear to help stabilize victims once the threat is over. Their mission is to charge towards the sound of gunfire and stop the threat as quickly as possible, and their gear reflects that mission. 

The Mission Drives The Gear

However, the mission of pursuing an active shooter is not the mission of an armed citizen. Our job is to ensure our safety and the safety of those in our care by breaking contact with a threat as quickly and safely as possible. Chasing after an active shooter may or may not be a part of that mission. Therefore, the gear we have with us should not be the same as the gear law enforcement uses. Rather, it should reflect our primary purpose, protecting ourselves and those around us. 

To that end, I carry a small bail out bag with me wherever I go. The bag is never stuffed into the trunk where it’s hard to access quickly. Rather, it stays with me in the cabin of my car, ready to access in a moment’s notice.

Bail Out Bag Vs. Bug Out Bag 

A bail out bag is different from a bug out bag. I have a bug out bag. It’s a full-size backpack inside of my safe room that’s crammed with all the items my family and I need to thrive and survive if we need to leave our home in a hurry. 

A bail out bag, on the other hand, is much smaller and lighter. It has only the items I need for 24 hours, no matter what happens. The biggest difference between a bug out bag and a bail out bag is speed of access. A bug out bag is for when you have a few hours or days of warning, such as a natural disaster. A bail out bag, on the other hand, should be ready to go with you in just a few seconds. If it takes you a minute to pop the trunk, run around to the back of your vehicle and grab your stuff, you have a bug out bag, not a bail out bag. 

“Tactical messenger bags” seem to be growing in popularity, but I wanted something a bit more stealthy that wouldn’t draw undue attention. The 5.11 COVRT Satchel fits that need nicely. On the outside, it looks like a plain messenger bag. Inside, it can easily hold all my gear, and it hides nicely inside my car, down in one of the rear seat footwells. 

Bail Out Bag List

In one of the outside pockets, I have a water bottle that has an integral charcoal filter to help clear up any questionable water sources I might find. In the other pocket is a Pocket Emergency Wallet from Phlster, which has nitrile gloves, bandages and other trauma gear, wrapped up in a small package. 

There are two internal, zippered pockets in the 5.11 satchel. The smaller of the two is meant for pens, pencils and whatnot, which is what I store there. I also have a pair of trauma shears, some tissues, a multitool and an extra flashlight. 

The interior of the larger pocket is lined with MOLLE straps on one side. This makes it easy for me to store an extra tourniquet where it’s easy to get to, along with a fixed-blade knife and an extra can of pepper spray. Also inside this pocket are a couple of mesh storage bags (we’ll get to those in a bit), along with a steel camping cup. There is also a dozen or so loose rounds of 9mm Federal HST ammunition, a mylar “space blanket,” a pair of work gloves, some duct tape, paracord and a heavy rain poncho. 

Other Bail Out Bag Items 

The red mesh bag is filled with items that complement our modern, connected lifestyle. Here’s where I store all the cables, cords and chargers to keep my phone and other gear up and running. There’s also a spare set of my prescription glasses, extra batteries and larger USB battery for recharging my phone. I also have enough cash squirreled away in this pouch to get me a hotel room for the night if needed. After all, 24 hours away from my car or other support systems doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience. 

The yellow mesh bag is full of outdoor survival basics and first aid gear. I have a small amount of insect repellent in this bag, along with some sunscreen, Ibuprofen, Imodium and allergy pills. For more serious incidents, there is a cravat bandage and some butterfly bandages, along with some adhesive bandages for life’s little boo-boos. Also in the bag are more duct tape, along with a signal mirror, a compass, a whistle, lighter, matches, tinder for firestarting and a can opener. 

What’s NOT Inside This Bag

There is no gun in this bag, and there never will be. Aside from the fact that I don’t believe in storing unsecured guns in my car, my mission isn’t to run to the sound of gunfire. Rather, my mission is to break contact and get to safety. Can I do that with a pistol? Yes, I believe I can, although I pray I never have to find out. If that day should come, though, the gear in this bail out bag will be there if I need it.