When all to hell breaks, it may take a while for someone to come to your aid. That is why the government suggests having a three-day supply of essentials on hand. For some, that could mean food and water. To others, it could mean a pistol and lots of ammunition. And at least one person wants to make sure he doesn’t run out of alcohol and barbiturates.
A lot can be said about a person by what they put in their bug-out bag for the natural disaster that everyone knows is coming, but few want to think about it. Allison Stewart dives headlong into the world of hardcore disaster preparation with her series Bug-out pockets, a fascinating look at what people have been scribbling away.
It covers the whole gamut and each bag reflects the fears and obsessions of the person who packed it. Some worry about earthquakes or hurricanes, others see more nefarious threats like the total collapse of society. Whatever the threat, everyone covers the basics: food, water, shelter, first aid. But some take the whole thing about survival really seriously. You’ll pack a gas mask, tools, and even some serious firepower. There’s a whole kit for a cat, including play toys and a trowel (presumably used to collect disaster poop), and a woman who’s dying to make sure she has enough batteries. Stewart saw it all. But one guy really surprised her.
“The bag with tequila and phenobarbital is definitely the most surprising bag I’ve ever photographed,” says Stewart. “It’s an extremely escapist approach to leach out.”
Stewart has photographed 30 bags in five states since the project started last year. She started with friends and acquaintances who have bug-out bags. Then she started finding people on Craigslist. It’s been word of mouth ever since – almost everyone she’s talked to about the project knows someone with a bag. She has one too, but it’s a little messy and out of her car where it should be.
She is no stranger to this world. Stewart grew up on the Gulf Coast, where anyone with half a brain is ready for the next hurricane. Hurricane Katrina has shown everyone that there is no one to rely on to respond quickly or effectively. “During Katrina, all confidence in our government’s ability to save us in a crisis was lost,” she says. “FEMA was completely unprepared and incompetent in New Orleans.”
The project is far from over. So if you have a bag you’d like to have photographed, ping Stewart through Ste their website.