Ancient Christmas Bugout Wisdom

This week’s newsletter is on the lighter side, and is brought to you by Urban Survival Playing Cards.

The core of it comes from an article written back in 2010 called “Mary and Joseph’s 90 Mile Bugout” that we have added to over the years.  Even though it is light hearted, and a lot of the details are highly contestable (and probably not 100% known) there are some great lessons, so enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas!

Like politics, the desire to prepare to survive crosses religious lines.  We’re fortunate enough to have readers and get feedback from people from all religious persuasions. That being said, I’m a Christian, and Christmas is my 2nd favorite holiday of the year (after Easter.)  In the spirit of the season and preparedness, I was in a conversation about how far Joseph and Mary walked when they made their trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census and Jesus’ birth and what supplies they might have had with them.

I’m not trying to be exact with the numbers and assumptions below.  If you have researched any of this, or have first hand knowledge, please share by commenting below.

As the crow flies, it’s about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Walking, it’s between 80 and 90 miles, depending on which route you take.  Mary could have been one tough cookie and walked 39 weeks into her pregnancy, but I think it’s safe to assume that she rode on a donkey.

A good rule of thumb for a sustained walking/hiking rate of travel with a light load is 3-4 miles per hour.  If Joseph and the donkey kept up 3 mile per hour pace for the whole trip and walked 7 hours a day, it would have taken 3 ½ days.  People had to be more hearty in those times and I have no doubt that Joseph could have made better time, but I’m assuming that he stopped frequently to tend to Mary.

Again, this isn’t a technical account…just trivia…so let’s assume that a donkey uses roughly the same number of calories and water as a person.  If you know a lot about donkeys, please chime in with the facts by commenting below.

On the water side, we can estimate that all 3 consumed at least 16 ounces of water per hour while they were walking and at least another 64 ounces for evening drinking, meals, and hygiene for a total of about 10 gallons.  If they would have carried all of their water and not gathered any, it would have weighed about 85 pounds.  More than likely, they would have had a few water containers and tanked up themselves and their containers repeatedly during the journey.

For food, let’s assume that all 3 of them burned up 1500 calories per day while resting.  In addition, Joseph and the donkey would burn up about 100 calories per mile, or another 9000 calories apiece for a total of 9000×2+1500×3 (2 people+1 donkey)x3 ½ days=18,000+15,750=33,750 calories for the trip.

Flat bread contains about 100 calories per ounce and whole wheat is approximately the same, so if they ate nothing but bread, they would have needed 337 ounces or just over 20 pounds of bread/wheat for the trip there and another 20 pounds for the trip back home.  It’s likely that they could have taken only 20 pounds of bread and enough coinage or oils to buy another 20 pounds in Bethlehem.

They probably didn’t JUST have bread.  Figs have about 80 calories per ounce and fish have 30-50 calories per ounce.  Figs and fish may not have as many calories per ounce, but they do pack more calories into a smaller package.

They didn’t have electronics, so they didn’t need to carry batteries.  They didn’t have guns, so they didn’t need to carry ammo.  They probably had some reed mats, blankets, some extra clothes, a knife or two, a staff or walking stick, cups, cooking materials, something to make fire, cordage, and some leather tools to fix their shoes if necessary.

I have a theory that due to their anti-viral/bacterial/fungal properties that frankincense oil and myrrh could have been worth more than gold at the time, so they could have had a couple vials of them as well.  They probably had a few extra supplies along in case Mary went into labor, but probably nothing too heavy.

If part of your disaster survival plan involves bugging out, you really need to work out similar numbers…

How many miles is it? How much fuel will you need, if you can drive? How long would it take to walk? What’s your pace with no load? What’s your pace with a load? How much does that load weigh? Is there food, water, and materials for shelter along the way, or do you need to self support? If you can’t carry all that you need, should you cache supplies? Are your shoes/clothes rugged enough for the trip? Do you have lightweight repair supplies with multiple uses? (My grandpa used to use Shoe-Goo as a cure all…and he was proven right more times than not 🙂

Similarly, do you have triggers in place so that you know when to leave? Once one of your triggers gets tripped, do you know how quickly you can be on the road?

Every once and awhile, I do what’s called a “10 minute drill.” A 10 minute drill is when you decide that you’re going to leave for an overnight trip (or longer) with only 10 minutes notice. 10 minutes is an INCREDIBLY short time. It’s basically enough time to take bags from your house that you already have packed and put them in your vehicle.

A lot of times, it takes 10 minutes just to herd fully dressed kids from the house to the car.

There’s no time for deciding what to take.

There’s no time for packing.

There’s no time for planning.

10 minutes only gives you enough time to grab and go.

One thing that I didn’t bring with me was important documents. I did open my safe, grab my pre-sorted pile of documents and act like I was putting them in a bag to take, but I put them back in the safe and only had digital versions with me. The reason I went through the motions was to account for it from a time perspective.

I’ve had 10 minute drills take 45 minutes.

Every time I do a 10 minute drill, I forget something. (For me, this is just like camping.) Usually, “forget” isn’t the right word. It’d be more accurate to say that I realize that I used something from my go-bag without replacing it. This time, it was my coat. Fortunately, I had a fleece and insulated coveralls, if needed, to keep warm and both a real poncho and an emergency poncho in case there was rain.

It may interest you to know how my supplies worked out…

I have a small toiletry bag that goes in my checked luggage whenever I travel. It has vitamins, supplements that I take when I start feeling ill, my toiletry items, a couple of knives, multi-tools, and fire starters. I don’t use items out of this kit when I’m home…it’s strictly for travel.

Next, I have my backpack set up for both camping/hiking and as a 72 hour kit. I know that is going to be a “Master of the Obvious” statement for many of you, but it’s worth saying. My backpack is always ready to hit the trail. I store it with enough emergency rations for my wife, me, and our 2 boys for 3 days. When we actually go camping, I pull out the rations and put in more palatable food. That doesn’t mean that the pack is ideally set up ideally for a survival situation, but it does mean that I’ll have the basics of fire, water, shelter, food, minor medical, and limited toiletries taken care of. In addition, rather than having a backpack that I use and a 72 hour kit that just sits in a closet untested, I’m quite familiar and comfortable with my gear.

In my truck, I’ve always got some water, food bars, my car 72 hour kit, my EMT med kit, as well as extra clothes. Most of the items in my backpack are well built. They’re high quality items that stand up to repeated use…in some cases over 10 years and hundreds of nights of use and abuse. Most of the items in my car 72 hour kit are compact, lightweight, and intended for one use or a handful of uses.

What did I do on my 10 minute drill? Drove my truck out in the middle of the woods and camped out overnight. It wasn’t fancy, but it was fun.

Something to keep in mind is that you can break this drill down into it’s component parts to make it easier to do. As an example, if you’ve got kids you might want to plan your first 10 minute drill so that you spend the night at a hotel with an indoor pool rather than adding in the additional complexity of camping. There are several reasons for this, among them being that you’ll be more likely to get your family to buy into doing another 10 minute drill if the first one is fun. Another is that the fewer obstacles you put in the path of doing a 10 minute drill, the more likely it’ll be that you actually do them.

And, with that, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you to each and every one of you for joining me on my mission to make the country more resilient by helping as many individuals as possible become more self-reliant.

So, if you can, take a breather for a few days. Soak in time with your friends and family. Enjoy the moment and try to completely ignore as many problems as you can. And, as you’re enjoying time together, remember to stop and take mental snapshots to lock in as many happy memories as you can.  I like to visualize putting these snapshots in a safe in my mind that I can go back to in the future when I need a pick-me-up.

God bless, stay safe, and have a very Merry Christmas!

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  • Scott

    Reply Reply December 30, 2020

    Great review and advice for the new year Ox, thanks.

    To add stress to the exercise, be in bed and require you and your family to get up and dress to bug out. Next level, set an alarm and actually be asleep, then see if 10 minutes is achievable.

    Another drill for realism, have a ‘bug-out buddy’ that you call and you both have to move and meet at a rally point in a designated maximum time. Next time he calls you.

    Chuck’s advice on lists is a great tool I use, also a master list of everything in a bag to verify contents on an annual basis or for replacement in case of bag loss.

    Blessings and Safety to all, Stay Vigilant

  • BillyBobTexas

    Reply Reply December 26, 2020

    I live in outskirts of Dallas 40 NM from downtown. I don’t have anyplace to go to and don’t know why I’d ever leave my home? Hence, no BOBag. Am I missing something? I don’t think ‘hoards of hoodlums’ will ever get this far outta town? And, my neighbors and I are well prepared for the worst coming down our street. Do I need a BOBag?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 31, 2020

      In short, yes. The main bugout trigger for my current location is wildfire. In past places where I’ve lived, it’s been tornados, rail-car incidents, water treatment plant (chlorine) incidents, earthquakes, etc. For most people, most of the time, predictable natural disasters are much more likely to happen than hoards of hoodlums.

  • Sabel

    Reply Reply December 25, 2020

    My DH has a Get Home Bag that lives in his truck, on the floor behind his seat. He almost always drives that particular vehicle so his bag lives there full time.

    I have a Get Home Bag that moves with me, from the house when I am home to my Jeep when
    I drive It somewhere away from the ranch or to my car when I take that, usually for longer trips and if I want a more comfortable ride or to his truck when we travel together. Since I never know which vehicle I will be in until a decision is made to go somewhere, it doesn’t make sense for it to live in a vehicle. And since I drive the Jeep daily around the ranch, it doesn’t make sense for it to live in the Jeep, getting in the way, taking up cargo space, being accessible to mice and getting dirty. I do have a secondary bag, in case the primary bag gets stolen or destroyed. The contents are not as complete nor as high a quality as the primary bag. I also have a Bug Out Bag that is much larger, heavier, more complete, but that is for drastic measures, since we live at our Bug Out Location on a permanent basis, at least we HOPE it is permanent….

  • Michele

    Reply Reply December 30, 2018

    Why is the car bag less robust than the truck bag? Shouldn’t both be robust? I assume you have two because the “bug out time” won’t always occur when you are home.

    I have a small bag, just starting, with 72 hr food, couple knives, 2 machetes, prescription meds, non prescription meds, lanterns, a folding solar panel, and a survival book. I need to add water straws and a purification set up. I know whete the papers are, and the guns, the gold.

    It’s a start. And it is moved from vehicle to vehicle EVERYTIME we drive.


    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 31, 2018

      That’s a great question and the answer has to do with the unfortunate fact that preparedness is an exercise in compromise. I’ll give you my take on it…

      If you can swing both kits being robust or keep track of switching one all the time, then that’s awesome. Personally, most people I know don’t have their best kit in every vehicle. Here’s why…

      1. “Robust” kits can be expensive, and the more training you get and more gear you develop skill using, the higher the potential cost of your kits. Most people can’t afford the 2x cost of their “best” kit. I have multiple items that cost over $100 apiece in my truck kit. I would definitely want them if I didn’t have them, but I have to play the numbers.
      2. I usually drive my truck and my wife usually drives our SUV. She doesn’t have the training that I have and doesn’t have the bandwidth to get it in the near future. Ideal? No. Reality? Yes.
      3. We oftentimes drive different places at the same time in different cars and the most robust kit stays with the person who’s most equipped to use it.
      4. The reality is that I don’t have the personality type to remember juggle switching kits from car to car depending on which one I’m driving. There are days when I’m lucky to make it to my truck with the right coffee cup. 🙂 So, I try to put systems into place so that I don’t need to remember more than necessary.

  • Chuck Voigtsberger

    Reply Reply December 25, 2018

    When we had to bug out for the Thomas Fire last year it took us a half an hour from the time I realized we had to go until we were pulling out of our driveway. It was a valuable lesson. Two take-aways from that experience: 1. Have a list of what you need to take and where it is located in the house. 2. Pre-pack everything on the list. and make a note of the number of bags and a description of the bag (or other container) that you will be loading.

    A list of what you need/want to take helps cut down on having to remember. Indicating where it is located in the house helps speed up packing. Not everything is kept by the front door, packed all ready to go. Having determined how many bag/boxes you need and which ones for which items enables you to make sure you have loaded everything in your vehicle. We packed my wife’s undergarments but I left the bag sitting by the staging area at the front door. It wasn’t fatal because stores were open where we evacuated to and she was able to buy a whole new wardrobe of undergarments. I also left our meds on the kitchen table because they weren’t on the list and I forgot to snatch them up. Again, it wasn’t fatal because I found a druggist clerk who was extremely helpful and was able to buy refills for our prescriptions. Of course, that was a bit of luck because I have also had dealings with druggist clerks who were, shall we say, less than helpful but not in this emergency evacuation.

    Keep the lists up to date. If you move something, make sure to make that known on the list. Be sure to put everything back in the place indicated on your list.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 26, 2018

      Excellent advice, Chuck. Using stuff from my bag with the intent of replacing it “in just a minute” because “I won’t forget” has been the cause of frustration several times.

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