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Muscatine County ARES - Amateur Radio Emergency Service
Go-Bag Information                                                             ARES ID# 139IAØ1

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Putting the GO in go-bag -  by Robert Ernst.

Every ARES® member should have a go-bag ready for an emergency.

You can't carry everything and everyone has a different opinion about what is important. Unfortunately, you have to guess what kind of emergency you'll be dealing with and which tools will be most helpful.


     "It is better to have the bare essentials always handy than to leave a bulky pack someplace where you can't get to it." 
         — C. Edward Harris (KE4SKY)

     I ain't takin' nothin' that'll slow down my travelin'... 
         — Johnny Cash


My Go Bag

Here is what I have in my go bag, which is very much a work in progress. In fact, I find that it is currently both too heavy and is missing too much. I'm attempting to keep the total weight low, so I know I need to sacrifice many useful items others include in their kits. By keeping it light, I'm aiming at a solution that can be carried some distance. This is an ARES® go bag, so the primary focus is to provide communications.



Ideally, the contents will be adjusted for the season: bug repellent isn't really needed in the winter, for example. Clothing needs are also season dependent. 


Every Day Carry

Minimal equipment always carried. I find my pockets too full as it is, but I'd like to squeeze in some more items.

  • Wallet with ARES® ID, FCC ID

  • Small flashlight on keyring (Photon from Gateway Electronics or

  • Pocket knife

  • Watch

  • Cell phone

  • Palm PDA (Lots of good reference information)

  • Common sense & good attitude (let me know if you find a good supplier for these)

I tried spliting things between a "Basic Deployment Kit" in a lumbar bag and an "Extended Deployment Kit" (or 72 hour kit) in a day pack, but the lumbar bag ended up being too heavy. Currently I have something that is a "Basic Deployment Kit Plus" in a day pack, and a lumbar bag with the radio gear.


Radio Gear

  • 2-Meter HT

  • "Tiger tail" counterpoise and antenna, SMA adapter

  • Extra radio battery pack

  • Repeater directory

  • 2 FRS radios (one to use, one to loan)

  • Soldering torch, fuel (small can) and solder

  • Anderson connectors

  • Extra AA batteries (for 2-meter) and extra AAA batteries (for FRS)

  • VOM multimeter

  • Some basic tools (screwdrivers, needlenose pliers)

  • Pen, paper


Day Pack Kit

  • Compass

  • Map

  • Matches AND lighter

  • Hand sanitizer (can double as a fire starter)

  • First aid kit

  • Whistle

  • Water purification tablets and 1 qt container

  • Clipboard

  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat

  • Leatherman multitool

  • Emergency poncho (doesn't take much space, but flimsy)

  • Emergency "space" blanket (ditto)

  • Chapstick

  • Snacks and water

  • Pen, pencil, sharpie

  • Change for phone

  • Snacks, 1 MRE

  • Throat lozenges

  • Metal cup

  • Drinking water germicidal tablets

  • Prescriptions

  • LED flashlight

  • LED headlamp (Very handy to be able to use both hands. Be sure to get a headlamp that has both white and red LEDs -- the red light attracts fewer bugs.)

  • Alarm clock

  • Backpack

  • 550 parachute cord (the good stuff is apparently the 7 strand MIL-C-5040H Type III)

  • Earplugs


I'd also like to add in, among other things:

  • Appropriate clothing, depending on season

  • Extra AA and AAA Batteries (standardizing on one would be better)

  • Safety goggles, dust mask & work gloves

  • Paper and various message forms

  • Toilet kit

  • Binoculars

  • Bandana

  • Local map

  • Microphones

  • Power supplies, chargers

  • Antennas with mounts

  • SWR bridge (VHF and HF)

  • Portable stove, mess kit with cleaning kit

  • Headphones

  • RF Connectors

  • Patch Cords

  • Candles

  • Electrical and duct tape

  • Shelter (tent and sleeping bag)

  • Foul weather gear

  • 3 day change of clothes

  • 3 day supply of food

  • 3 day supply of water -- 3 gallons of water, which is about 25 pounds!

  • Paperweights, to keep all the forms and other papers from blowing around.

I think I'm going to be forced to a bigger, heavier bag and a faithful Sherpa Guide to carry it.


Car Kit

There is no doubt that having a car opens up a lot of possibilities. Keep in mind that what you put in your car will have to handle baking in the summer sun and freezing in the winter.

  • Mobile radio and mag mount antenna

  • Temporary antenna anchor

  • Painter's pole

  • J-Pole

  • First aid kit, tools, food, water, etc.

  • And at least half a tank of gas in the car


Community Emergency Response Team Kit

I keep my CERT supplies in the car.

  • 5 Gallon plastic bucket (the local team opted for buckets instead of backpacks)

  • Duct tape

  • 10" wrench for shutting off gas

  • Utility knife

  • Flashlight with batteries

  • Colored clothspins for triage

  • Green hard hat and vest

  • Safety goggles

  • 2 pairs of work gloves

  • 5 pairs of latex gloves

  • 5 dust masks

  • Lumber crayon

  • 2 quart baggies (one for the the masks and latex gloves, the other to hold the lumber crayon)

Whatever else you might have in your kit, add one more thing: an inventory of the kit. It reduces searching and makes it easy to restock. You can also record when supplies (food, for example) should be replaced. If nothing else, the back side makes good scratch paper, and it can be used as a firestarter.


Your Go Bag

So you have a go-bag right? If so, great! If not, check out the resources below for some ideas for putting together your go-bag, go-kit, jump-bag, bug-out-bag, emergency kit, call-out gear, emergency activation gear, ready kit, warbox, crash kit, grab-n-go bag:



Homeland Security

Red Cross



  • QST Magazine, July 2003, "What's in Your Call-Out Bag?", Wayne Yoshida (KH6WZ)

CERT - Community Emergency Response Team

Charlie Gallo, EC for Queens County ARES®, New York

Greene County Ohio ARES®

Equipped to Survive

Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net

ARES is a registered trademark of the ARRL.


Copyright © 2004 Robert Ernst. All Rights Reserved.

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