In romantic suspense, danger can show up any moment. Whether or not your characters are prepared can be a key part of building tension and driving the plot. I’m currently developing a new idea that puts the hero and heroine on the run and cuts them off from their normal support systems. So how do they survive the conflict? Imagine having to run out of your house without your wallet or phone.
Many people with a mind for planning create a bug out bag that contains essentials for survival in different situations. This bag is usually placed in an easy to access spot so it can be grabbed quickly if the need arises. I won’t tell you if my characters have one, or what might be in it - that’s part of the excitement of discovery - but we can look at what common items are put in bug out bags.
The first consideration is the bag itself. It needs to be small enough that it isn’t too intrusive to your normal life, but big enough to hold what you need. Ease of carry is very important, especially if you’re on the run. A briefcase design would occupy your hands, so something with a strap would be better. Duffle bags are usually cavernous enough to contain gear, but organization can be difficult. A backpack seems to be an ideal bug out bag, especially if it is durable or even waterproof.
With the bag settled on, think about what day to day needs you have. Prescriptions? Contact lenses? A spare pair of glasses are good to have, as well as small supply of meds. Think about it like airline traveling. If your checked bags were lost, what items couldn’t you live without? People usually put these items in their carry on, which is a good analog for the bug out bag.
After the daily necessities, a stash of cash can be very helpful. That way, anything that isn’t packed can be obtained. A spare credit card is good to have as well, but if we’re thinking romantic suspense, cash is better because it can’t be tracked.
But you might not be able to get to a store, so extra gear should be in the bag. A first aid kit is a must. A lighter, or other fire-making supplies can help, even in urban settings - think defrosting a lock or creating a small signal. Duct tape has a ton of uses, from clothing repair to shelter building. If the situation includes things like temporary shelters, then a flashlight is essential. There are flashlights with crank generators or solar panels to store energy, so you don’t have to worry about batteries running out. Rope or cordage are other items that give a lot of use for the space they take up.
Ultra-thin mylar blankets or sleeping tubes pack small and can keep you alive overnight. This might not seem too important in an urban environment, but your characters might not be able to find safe haven in any house, and might need to spend significant time in the elements. Unfortunately, under a mylar blanket isn’t the sexiest place for the hero and heroine to express their physical attraction. That might have to wait until they use their cash to get a hotel room.
If the danger situation spans a few days, a change of clothes - at least socks and underwear - can help avoid morale robbing discomfort. Depending on the kind of person packing the go bag, as well as the kind of person chasing them, a simple disguise could be helpful as well. Hair dye, even a hat, can go a long way to creating visual camouflage.
Sometimes a life or death situation can depend on the battery level of a phone. Portable battery packs are cheap and easy to come by, and have a place in the go bag. Some of them even have built in flashlights or radios to extend their usefulness.
One of the largest considerations in a go bag is a weapon. If we’re talking fiction, it’s easier to place a gun in the bag for the characters. But in the real world, the consequences of a firearm are very different, and might cause more problems than they solve. In a matter of surviving within nature, a good, solid knife is a tool that can serve in many ways. The knife also doubles as a silent, discreet weapon as well.
A go bag is as personal as the person carrying it, and the contents can reveal a lot about the characters in your story. So what’s in your go bag?