A crisis can occur without much warning. Whether due to a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or tornado, or by a man-made disruption (an EMP strike, terrorist bombing or a demonstration that turns into an out-of-control riot), you might find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time … and hopelessly unprepared.
While it’s true that many people, especially within the last five years, have begun to prepare for such circumstances by stocking food, water and survival gear, the hard truth is that those preps are seldom in their possession during the actual emergency.
… A PURSE—“AS IS” AND WITHOUT ANY CONSCIOUS PREP UPGRADES—CAN SUPPLY A VAST MAJORITY OF SURVIVAL NEEDS USING BOTH THE PURSE, ITSELF, AND THE VALUABLE CONTENTS WITHIN IT … BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW HOW TO UTILIZE THEM.
Yes, some do carry a supply bag in their vehicle’s trunk. Yes, many people have a few necessities on them during everyday travel. But the fact is that on a daily basis, people seldom carry around a pack that’s full of survival gear.
That is, unless you’re a woman with your ever-present purse hanging from your shoulder. Believe it or not, a purse—“as is” and without any conscious prep upgrades—can supply a vast majority of survival needs using both the purse, itself, and the valuable contents within it … but only if you know how to utilize them.Ready to Rock “As Is”
As mentioned above, the general idea of a “bug-out” purse will be centered on a woman’s handbag with no pre-designed, mission-specific upgrades; this means that the examples explored will be using the general goods found in the “average” woman’s purse and not in a purse that has been stocked with items intended for survival. What is interesting, though, is that many everyday items work not only as survival or emergency gear, they are also created from very similar materials as their “survival-intended” counterparts.Using the Bag Itself
Before diving deep into the contents of the handbag, some consideration must be spent on the usefulness of the bag itself. The average purse has two general types of carrying straps—a single long strap for an over-the-shoulder carry or two shorter straps for hanging in the bend of a woman’s elbow. A third style, the short loop handle, is not as prevalent in everyday wear and is more suited for a “night on the town.” As a result, this type of handle will not be included, mainly due to its limited daily use.
The most useful option, the over-the-shoulder strap, often has attachment points that make it removable, depending on the style of purse.
This strap, whether unclipped or torn or cut off, can become a valuable piece of cordage, if needed, that can range anywhere from 3 to 5 feet in length. It can be used as a tourniquet to stop blood flow due to an unexpected injury, help set a broken limb or be used as a sling to keep a person’s arm immobile to rest a sprain, dislocation or fracture. Add a small rock to the midpoint of the strap, and a makeshift hunting sling can be created. It also can double as a weapon, a whip (of sorts) for long-range defense or offense against others out to do you harm.
… WITH ITS NORMALLY GREAT NUMBER OF POCKETS AND ZIPPERED COMPARTMENTS, A PURSE CAN HOLD AND ORGANIZE ALL YOUR SMALLER ITEMS.
The smaller twin straps found on many purses can be used for minor cordage needs, such as tying off finger splints, improvised tie-downs for tarp shelters or even to secure a knife or other sharpened item to a staff to create an improvised spear. Left in place, the strap allows its owner to swing the purse and effectively bludgeon an attacker.
The purse, itself, has an obvious use: to store and carry useful items you find during your travels, whether foraging for wild edibles, carrying bundles of dry tinder or as a stable support for a flimsy water-containment vessel. And, with its normally great number of pockets and zippered compartments, a purse can hold and organize all your smaller items.Stocked and Ready for Survival
The key to utilizing a woman’s handbag for survival needs lies in the user’s ability to recognize comparable substitutes that mirror true survival tools and equipment. Simply put, which items will help you survive?
The four core principles of survival will be taken into consideration to help answer this question. They are, of course, shelter, food, water and fire. Can a purse assist in meeting the needs of the “core four”? The answer is yes, no and maybe—depending on how each individual stocks her purse for a “regular” day.
THIS BAG CAN BECOME YOUR BUG-OUT BAG; AND, BY DOING YOUR HOMEWORK BEFOREHAND, YOU CAN UTILIZE ITS POTENTIAL LIFE-SAVING PROPERTIES TO THEIR MAXIMUM POTENTIAL.
If a woman smokes, she should naturally have either matches or a lighter; both are highly valuable for creating fire and, ultimately, the ability to purify questionable water for drinking.
Plastic disposable water bottles are carried by nearly everyone these days. The odds of a woman having one in her purse are pretty favorable. This serves as fresh drinking water, as well as a vessel for storage and boiling (yes, boiling a plastic bottle hanging over a fire does work if done properly).
A pair of eyeglasses can also be used to start a fire by focusing the sun’s powerful rays into a beam of “hot” light over a mound of dry tinder.
THE MOST USEFUL OPTION, THE OVER-THE-SHOULDER STRAP, OFTEN HAS ATTACHMENT POINTS THAT MAKE IT REMOVABLE, DEPENDING ON THE STYLE OF PURSE.
Hard candies or chewing gum, randomly found at the bottom of a purse, can provide much-needed sugar and a quick burst of energy when over-exerting oneself during a crisis. A bag of cookies, protein bar or a similar small snack is also a great source of fuel for your body. One version or another of this type of quick bite is usually found within a handbag.
Shelter is perhaps the most difficult of the four to produce from the contents of a purse. However, mini-umbrellas and disposable rain ponchos are sometimes carried for inclement weather. These two items will help keep you dry and protected from the wind; and, by doing so, they will reduce the chances of succumbing to hypothermia caused by wet, heat-sapping clothing.Improvised Uses
While some items directly mirror the uses of survival products, there are many articles within a purse that can serve either an entirely different purpose or perform multiple survival functions.
The ever-present tampon or maxi-pad is one example of multiple functionality. The tampon can be used as tinder and, when combined with another multi-use item—hand sanitizer (alcohol-based)—it can become a fire extender. The cotton end of a tampon can be used for a blowgun dart’s fletching, basic filtering material and even as a simple candle wick. The maxi-pad and tampon work well to stop bleeding from open wounds, and the pad is useful for cuts or padding for sore or sensitive feet. It can also double as a face mask, protecting against the blinding effects of sun or snow.
A mirror, found in most makeup compacts, is an excellent signaling device that is perfect for attracting overhead planes, helicopters and even ground personnel to your location.
Lipsticks, many of which are petroleum based, can be used to make fire-starting easier. They can be used for writing bright-colored messages that are hard to miss. Depending on the style, lipstick might also contain sunscreen and can aid in protecting you from dangerous sunlight. If darker shades are available, it can help with camouflage and reduce sunlight reflection from under the eyes.
Finally, a nonlubricated condom can be used for such diverse tasks as water collection and transport, as a waterproof vessel for papers or a weather-resistant cover for small electronics.Compact Survival Kits
A few items that are found within a woman’s handbag can be considered “mini” survival kits. In particular, these items include a cell phone, keychain and a wallet. These three items, alone, can account for dozens upon dozens of applications.
… MANY PEOPLE HAVE A FEW NECESSITIES ON THEM DURING EVERYDAY TRAVEL, BUT THE FACT IS THAT ON A DAILY BASIS, PEOPLE SELDOM CARRY AROUND A PACK THAT’S FULL OF SURVIVAL GEAR.
The cell phone, even when uncharged, has a plethora of uses. Use the glass screen (when broken into pieces) or the sharp and jagged sections of the circuit board as cutting tools. The battery inside can create a spark to “jumpstart” a fire, while its metal casing can aid in reflecting sunlight and signaling for help from above.
The keys on a keychain can act as weapons if danger arises. Hold them in your fist with the sharp ends protruding between your fingers, and poke at whatever might be attacking you. This can work whether you’re out in the wild or being accosted by two-legged predators in a more “civilized” setting. In addition, the metal rings can be used as fasteners, gear-holders or, when bent, to create fishing hooks or spear tips.
There are also several key chains on the market that have their own mini-survival kits encased in useful, braided lengths of paracord. This nearly forgotten item will become invaluable when needed during an emergency situation.
Then, there’s the wallet. A woman’s wallet usually holds more than credit cards, cash and coins. Stashed within most are safety pins, hair clips, photographs and all sorts of business cards or paper clippings. The pins and clips make excellent fishing hooks or ersatz fasteners, while the paper goods, when torn into small bits, offer dry tinder, which is essential to get a fire started in damp or wet conditions.
The final “mini-kit,” which isn’t mentioned above but can be found in some handbags, is a mini sewing kit. Originally intended for “on-the-spot” repairs such as a lost button or split seam, this kit could become an improvised suture kit or be used to repair a hole in your tarp shelter.Thinking Outside the Box
Never underestimate the usefulness of a woman’s handbag. When you find yourself in an emergency situation, natural disaster or an unexpected crisis, your own supplies could be limited—or worse yet, not in your possession.
However, nearly any woman traveling with you will most likely have her purse slung over her shoulder. This bag can become your bug-out bag; and, by doing your homework beforehand, you can utilize its potential life-saving properties to their maximum potential.Hidden Handbag: A Purse’s Deadly Surprise
A purse’s contents don’t have to be limited to everyday items that perform double duty in survival situations. In fact, many stylish purses on the market today include many “surprises” that offer protection against those who want to harm you or others around you.
These bags have concealed, but readily accessible, compartments that house a woman’s pistol-of-choice. The element of surprise is on the woman’s side, because she can quickly draw and fire her weapon before her assailant has a chance to react. The styles are numerous and diverse in order to fulfill the wide array of fashion and function needs. Some come in the form of an everyday purse, while others look like a fanny pack or large tote bag.
No matter what configuration this concealed carrier takes, the simple fact is that an attacker out to do harm to a woman so equipped will find quite the surprise. Instead of the assumed defenseless prey, they’ll find someone able to stop their threat quickly—and, if need be, permanently.
The Well Armed Woman
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April, 2018 print issue of American Survival Guide.