The previous article in this series is “Building Your Gear – 1 of 3, Shopping Skills”.
We talked about shopping skills in the last article, now we will get into deciding what to shop for. The whole idea behind buying gear is to build capability. Granted, many of us would buy the toys for fun but that is a different topic. So today I am going to cover planning your gear. Hopefully this will provide some useful steps that will apply to a wide range applications. By the way, there is no such thing as a perfect kit, bag, or setup. If it will handle every conceivable situation with an optimum set of tools it will be too heavy to carry in your car, let alone on your person. This is why planning is important; it will allow you to examine the various needs and compromises and strike the balance that comes closest to working best for you.
Decide What the Purpose is:
When planning a kit, bag, or other gear application the most important step is to define the purpose. Without a purpose the kit becomes a toy collection rather than a focused toolkit. Don’t get me wrong! I love toys. But when you have a problem to solve you look for a toolkit rather than a toy box. So get your purpose defined up front; is this EDC (Every Day Carry), BOB (Bug Out Bag), First-Aid, GHB (Get Home Bag), Rifle/Shotgun Support, or any of literally endless other applications. I recommend putting the purpose down in writing and then following up with a list of performance requirements to meet that purpose. For example:
Get Home Bag
Purpose: Provide the tools needed to get from work and other common location to home in the event of disaster, unrest, or just the car breaking down late at night.
- Food for 24 hours
- Water for 24 hours
- First aid
- Spare cash
- Easy to carry
- Is not going to get me arrested as a terrorist or gangbanger due to appearance.
- Tools to fix gear, provide for defense, travel at night.
- And so forth… (please note that this list is by no means complete for this application!)
As you can see, the list can also be a bit of brainstorming on the kinds of things that might help accomplish the purpose. This makes it more important that you write it down and keep it handy during the whole process so you don’t lose track of things you’ve thought of. Also note that the list items can be either a requirement or an item you consider essential to have.
Do Some Research
Once you’ve got a purpose and some idea of performance requirements, look around. There are probably examples either on blogs, YouTube, or in other places, that describe what others have done that may (or may not) apply to what you are trying to do. Research is valuable in helping you save money by getting as close to a perfect kit as possible before you start shelling out money. Be sure to spend some time learning from the mistakes of others, you may not have the opportunity to survive the mistake yourself. On a less drastic level, you will save yourself quite a lot of frustration as well. Another thing to do while you’re at this stage is note down prices and sources for the items you’re looking to include.
Plan the Needed Items
Ok, you’ve written things down, surfed the web, and even gone to the range/hiking trail/etc. to test out your friend’s gear. You have a pretty good idea of what you want at this point. It’s time to put this thing together. Sit down with your notes from the steps above, your notes from the testing, and most important; that purpose definition you wrote down. Now you make a list of everything you need to put in that kit. If you think you need it, write it down. This way you won’t forget some important item. Don’t worry, it’s just a list right? Oh H-E-double-hockeysticks! You have a list as long as your arm. You’ll never get it past the finance committee, or even be able to carry it if you have to. This brings is to the next step.
Remove What You Don’t Need
Take your (long) list and start removing items based on the following criteria: Is it critical to the purpose of the kit? If so, it stays, if not you may wish to reconsider it. Once you’ve pared down to the kit you think will do the job but not have extra weight/cost/size/arguments from the spouse take another look at the (shrunken) list. Are there items that can be combined? You have a set of pliers, a knife, a screwdriver set, and a can opener on the list; will a multi-tool do the trick instead? This is the obvious one but think about some others. If you upgrade that $5 rain poncho to the $15 GI version it will not only keep you dryer, it will act as your shelter too. That might just save you $50 on a nylon tarp! Do you really need both a mag holder and a flashlight sheath? Or will that Nylon double mag pouch hold your tac light too? Remember, some combinations work, some do not do so well. Also consider that your kit will not exist in isolation. For example, have you listed a “good quality 3” folder” to be included in the kit when you have carried one on your person every waking minute for the last 10 years. Perhaps the one you already carry can be the same as the one you intended in the kit. After some work and thought you will have a list that is a reasonable first attempt at your kit/bag. Type it up because this will become the initial shopping list and the initial inventory list for the kit.
Prioritize the List
You have your list. You even (wonder of wonders!) have your Family Finance Committee’s approval to buy stuff as funds become available. So what do you buy first? Look down your list and mark the items that you believe are absolutely critical to the function of the kit. I know, you already did that, but this time we’re looking for the things that, if missing, would make the whole thing useless. Once you have those marked you have your initial shopping list. Once you have those items noted, start numbering the rest of the items in order of importance to the functionality of the kit. You will need this to…
Create a Purchase Plan
You want the kit to be “operational” as soon after you start spending money on it as possible. I recommend that you save your pennies until you have enough to get everything on the “critical” section of the list above. That way you have at least the bones of the kit all at one go and it isn’t sitting around only partly useful while you get around to some critical item. Once you have the bones, you can start down the rest of the list as you can afford it.
Remember in the last article when I talked about “making do” with some item that would work until you could get the one you really wanted? This is the ongoing purchase plan for the kit. You can keep that list either in a file (make sure you don’t lose it) or in a Ziploc bag in the kit itself. This is part of the evolution of the kit or bag.
Most of us are never completely happy with any of the kits we build. Life changes, our perspective changes, and our needs change over time. Every once in a while, go through your kit and make sure it is up-to-date with your intent. You may find that you never use some items (a weight saving opportunity!) or that you keep wishing you had a… In short, build something you can use and then evolve it to meet your needs.
Next time I will discuss substitutions, and making do with items you may have.