Why you should pack a Survival Flash Drive

When we think of survival scenarios we don’t often think of packing important documents: Drivers License, Handgun Carry Permit, Passport etc. However, I think this is a bad idea, and here’s why you should pack a survival flash drive in your Bug Out Bag.

Karambit Knife

Consider Your Odds

First, the chances of you finding yourself in a regional survival situation, such as Katrina or Haiti, are much greater than an end of the world scenario.

So let’s assume you were in an area-wide situation, had to bug out, and all of your stuff that’s not on your back got destroyed.

Fear the Bureaucrats

BureaucratsSo you made it out, but with all your stuff gone you might not have any of your important documents with you. While that doesn’t really seem important compared to your life, the years worth of red tape and bureaucratic paperwork that we call a government doesn’t care. In fact, at that point you are a non-person.

How do they know you are who you say you are? You have no proof of identification and a terrorist attack just destroyed your city. How do we know you aren’t the terrorist? (After all you had an escape plan prepared)

While this may sound ridiculous, given the nature of our government these days it’s really not that far fetched.

Survival Flash Drive

To prepare for a localized survival scenario in which you will eventually have to re-enter regular society make it much easier on yourself and back-up your most important documents ahead of time.

Waterproof FlashdriveAll you have to do is buy a cheap USB flash drive, (or a waterproof one) scan all of your important documents, and store them on your flash drive in your Bug Out Bag. Bug Out and you’ve brought your all important “life on paper” with you.  You can also keep this USB in a element proof bag like a Loksak Bag.

*Don’t go buy a scanner if you don’t have one, just take the stuff to Kinkos or Office Max and have them scan it all for you.

**Warning: Modern Copy Machine and Scanners have an internal Hard Drive that keep a digital copy of everything they scan. All it takes is one malicious worker at the store to steal your identity. If at all possible find a private copy machine and scanner. (Thanks Josh)

What to put on your Flash Drive

  • PassportDriver’s License
  • Handgun Carry Permit
  • Passport
  • Bank Account Documents
  • Birth Certificate
  • Social Security Card
  • Insurance Information
  • Marriage Certificate
  • All of the above for all Children
  • Important Family Pictures

Be extremely careful keeping up with your Survival Flash drive, back in the regular world that is your identity.

Amazon has a million different ones.  Here is a heavy duty waterproof one. or a simple one by HP

What Else?

I am looking for more ideas, What else would you put on your survival flash drive?

99 thoughts on “Why you should pack a Survival Flash Drive”

    • Melbo, I don't think many people have thought about it because survivalists usually avoid technology because in a lot of situations it will be useless.

      With waterproof flashdrives it just makes sense and is really a lot easier to protect than paper copies.

      Plus I like that it gives me the option to take things that aren't necessary for survival like family pictures.

      Lucas

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  1. I also keep several different survival and field manual on my flash drive. Its probably not a bad idea to keep an updated address book of friends and family for use during an emergency.

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  2. Survivor_1997,

    That's a great idea!

    Some people might argue with the survival field manuals and such because you have got to have something to view them with and when the SHTF that might not be available.

    However, the updated address book and contact information is a great idea!

    Imagine how many people today do not know the phone numbers of people they would need to get to after a local emergency because they are all in their cell phone, which may not be working.

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    • Just a thought, How about using one of those new "Kindles", those electronic/digital book readers for reading manuals and books during TSHTF. If you hook it up to one of those hand crank cellphone chargers you will never have to use batteries.

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      • I have this very setup right now. I've had my kindle since last September and just recently bought the Eton fr160 multipurpose radio thingy. I can confirm that it will charge the kindle and that it gets very boring very quickly. I'd recommend a solar charger as your primary and keep the hand crank as a backup.

        P.S. the kindle screens are easier to crack than you might think and may not survive a lot of jostling around. Mine didn't survive a ride in the back of a van(Amazon's C.S. is excellent btw; I had a replacement in my hands less than two days after it broke, with just a seven minute call). I don't want to lose another one. So, I ordered this memo sized aluminum clipboard.
        http://www.amazon.com/Saunders-Recycled-Antimicro

        After removing the inner flaps, my kindle2 in the Belkin neoprene sleeve fits snugly(a bit of foam glued to the sides would work just as well if you don't have the same sleeve)with just enough room left over for the charging cable. Toss all that in a dry sack and it should survive anything you can throw at it.

        P.P.S. I know this is all crazy excessive, but I seriously love my kindle.

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  3. Reponse from the Sawyer Company regarding clinical studies of their product:

    from here: http://www.sawyerproducts.com/controversy.htm

    "We would like to make you aware of the origins of the controversy regarding the effectiveness of the Extractor Pump® Kit. Several years ago, there was a study conducted which questioned the effectiveness of the Extractor. Unfortunately, the conclusions drawn from the study significantly exceeded the actual data. Let us explain to you what the proper conclusions from the study should have been, what we did learn, and what should not have been over concluded in a subject that is very difficult to study, snake bites.

    In the study, a pig was injected with venom in each thigh. On one thigh they applied the pump for several hours. On the other thigh nothing was done. First they concluded that the swelling on both legs was equal, and therefore, the pump must not have removed venom. Secondly, by leaving the pump on so long the pig developed blood blisters. No necropsy (animal autopsy) was conducted to examine difference in internal damage which may have supported benefits of the pump’s usage.

    Understanding how a body reacts to an invasion, one should expect to see equal swelling. Given the relative large amounts of venom injected at each site, the body would send fluids whether or not the pump removed venom. The body wouldn't send more to one thigh than the other because it had 10%, 20%, 30% … more venom than the other, both sites had a large amount of venom injected and the body fought them both.

    Secondly, leaving the pump on for several hours (we recommend 10 to 15 minutes) should leave a blood blister. Even without an envenomation the pump can give you a heck of a hickey. However at 10 to 15 minutes the pump would remove whatever it is going to get, and any surface damage heals easily compared to structural damage. Ten to 15 minutes is the medical recommendation.

    Lastly, few snake bites actually occur in large muscle mass areas such as a thigh or calf muscle. Most are in the extremities (hand, feet, and ankles) where venom is more easily retrieved."

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  4. You should really consider encrypting the flash drive, or the data. One thing you can do is make a TrueCrypt drive with the software on it, and an encrypted volume file containing your documents.

    Otherwise, if your flash drive is lost or stolen, you've just given someone an identity theft starter kit.

    The great things about TrueCrypt are (a) it's open-source, so it's not dependent on a particular company (and it's also more likely to be secure, which may seem counter-intuitive), (b) it can be self-contained by using both the software and an encrypted volume file on the same drive, and (c) it employs military-grade encryption. Plus it's not too hard to use.

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    • While I totally agree with Brock on encrypting your flash drive, I have taken it a step further. Most (not mine) flash drives are inserted into the usb port and then you have to enter your code to unlock. This makes it vulnerable to hack. With enough time ANYONE can break your code. My flash drive has military grade encryption that must be entered manually by buttons on the outside of the drive. No password=dead drive when plugged in and no way to hack. If the incorrect code is punched in 10 times the drive will destroy all the data it contains. Oh and btw the case is made of titanium and is water proof. And it only cost $125 for a 16gb drive. Check out Aegis SecureKey!

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  5. one thing to bear in mind is even with these copies on your flash drive you might want to store in a water proof case some where in your BOB a paper copy of them it would be a lot better for proof of identity

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    • Good point, I also think that having paper copies makes it easier as far as not losing your thumbdrive, (a daily occurrence in my case).

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  6. It's not a good idea to bring all your personal information to be scanned at Kinkos and saved on their hard drives. All it takes is one scammer who works there to copy all your personal info and spread it / sell it.

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  7. I down loaded several survival manuals and such to a Simpletech back up hard drive 200 gigs. Also all of My wifes family pictures and back woods country cooking stuff. Checking into IPads as the reader.

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  8. The cheapest way to waterproof a USB drive would be to wrap it in Blu-tac (or the Yellow stuff). Even if it claims to be a waterproof drive. Maybe then cram it into an empty kinder surprise 'egg' with some tape around it. You won't need to use the drive while traveling but will be there safe and sound if you need to show any authorities anything.

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  9. certificates and college records!!! You can say your a nurse to get in somewhere but if something happens and the world rights itself you may need to prove you can use the skills that you've been practicing ( I know how crazy this sounds)

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  10. I have a cruzer titaniun plus flashdrive and this thing is tuff as nails, plan to try truecrypt my info
    then I will put it in a water proof match case with some closed cell foam padding then in my bug out bag it will go. I think the match case will work well.

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  11. niffty good idea. However I can't think of one government agency that will look at a picture of any document on a flash drive and accept it as proof. One might have to carry original documents in a waterproof container or even a zip lock bag taped to your back for i.d. in a shtf situation.

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  12. I like the idea of keeping hard copies (or even originals). I do NOT like the idea of having to go to Kinkos et. al. for photocopying needs. One idea I have is to actually use my phone's camera to take pictures of any necessary documents. As long as it's readible, I would think it would be a great way to go. Thoughts?

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  13. Another thing to consider putting on your flash drive is medical records. Easy to do and valuable any time you have to go to an emergency room, quite often it can provide a doctor with pertinent information prior to running a barage of tests!

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  14. I have this a thumb drive with papers, photos and manuals but I store mine inside a lexan water bottle in my bug out bag(if the bottle keeps water in it’ll keep water out too). I found a website where you can download the foxfire books in pdf format free of charge, probably the most practical manuals available in a teotwawki scenario.

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  15. a small usb drive can be put into a balloon. pull the neck open — buy the larger balloon. and then tye the balloon shut.. when you need to access it you will likely have to cut it out but it will be protected.

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  16. another good idea in case of urban survival is putting some linux distribution on the USB… Imagine you get lucky and get access to some PC still 100% working, but it's password-protected. What are you gonna do? Stare at it instead of using it for calling for help? Just plug your USB and reboot, and you are done. Also, copying the same data on a CD or DVD might be a bright idea, too.

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    • that all depends on the boot order that is defined on the PC – if the USB drive is after the C drive in boot order, that will not work. But great idea!! all depends on the PC

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  17. To add on to JP-USMC, VA certificate of eligibility letters and other benefit determination letters for all you veteran bubbas.

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  18. How about medical records, I have all you listed plus medical records and histories for myself and each family member carries there own with contact info of known family members. I also have garmin tracker clips for my seven year old that links to my garminphone if we get seperated I can track her on my phone. As this is a seperate satelite function the cell towers need not be functioning for this to work.

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    • Matthew,

      We have small children and we are very interested in the Garmin tracker clips you mentioned. Where do we find them?

      Thanks,

      Jim

      Reply
  19. Add medical data in case someone needs to treat you but you can't speak. Blood type, allergies, known medical conditions, prior surgeries. You can add a photo to each medical database so that physicians can tell what history belongs to whom easily. Also, DOB, height, weight, etc. with your medical information would be helpful (even if its redundant and captured elsewhere on your data. You can even "encrypt" your data by using a QCode generator (like this one: vhttp://qrcode.kaywa.com/)... hospitals should have the ability to read the QCode while still scrambling the data for the average person's eyes.

    Rather than a flash drive, you might even consider saving all this stuff on your cellphone flash card. My cellphone locks itself after 10 minutes of inactivity…and I always have it with me. I know it'll be going with me in a BO situation, so storing the data there just makes sense.

    Then again, redundancy isn't bad… how about a flash drive *and* your cell phone.

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  20. Who has a scanner these days 🙂

    Use your digital camera. The quality will be just as good in most cases. To get the best picture disable your flash and take pictures of your documents near a light source. I've used this method several times to get 'scans' of documents ect. Always works great.

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  21. Another thing to consider putting on your Thumb Drive is Portable Apps. It is open Source, The full install puts Firefox web browser and Open Office Lite. You can synch your Firefox Bookmarks, it has an e-mail program and hundreds of other apps you can install. I have an app to read PDF’s, a Media player. If you have access to a PC you can do almost anything and you run of yopur own drive, no leaving anything behind on the PC

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  22. I know it saves space, but TIFF formates are preferable to compressed JPEGS for long term storage. They are lossless and more stable.

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  23. One thing that should be mentioned . Make very sure that whatever you name your files , especially graphic files like a scan , that it has the proper name at the end ( . jpg , .tiff , .pdf ) because on a PC , if it does not have that , the comp will not be able to recognize file type and open it . Macs will recognize a graphic file , with or without the file type at the end . You may not remember what type every single file you have is if you do not do this . Pdf is good also because it takes special software to tamper and alter a .pdf if it gets into the wrong hands .

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  24. Yes , they can print from a .pdf , then rescan and alter in Photoshop , but that is a heck of a lot of work to get it right and most likely not worth the effort to most criminals .

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  25. i would put a map one there to so you can tell where ya are if ya have a laptop,etc. i am getting a netbook for my b.o.b

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  26. I also have a complete set of my medical records along with a list of my known illnesses (i.e. hypertension, diabetes, etc.), prescriptions, allergies, emergency contacts, and name of physician stored on my flashdrive. In addition to the one in my bug out bag, I have a second one stored in another location, i.e. bank vault, parents home, trusted family member, bug out location, etc. I have been using a flashdrive from some time now for this very reason. One thing you need to do too, keep all your flashdrives updated, regularly; especially if prescriptions change, new medical conditions arise, you get a new driver's license, etc. Your flashdrive will also hold copies of x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, etc. In an emergency situation, in another state or geographical location, it is nice to have all this information available.

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  27. I have used a Survival Thumb Drive for about three years or so now. I have many items on it including how-to and personal info. All personal info is encrypted. I use truecrypt but it has a major drawback that many don’t talk about. To use truecrypt portable, you have to use a computer with administrator privileges. To get around this you can add an OS to the drive (safest security method) but you may not be able to boot into it due to the target computer is older and does not support usb boot without a kicker cd or the agency you need to show some documents too won’t allow it. I have been trying various other encryption software that will work just as well as truecrypt but without the need for an administrator account. So far, safehouseexplorer is the one I’ve chosen. Not 100% happy with it but it seems to work. At least files that may harm me in the wrong hands will be safe, to a degree. No file is uncrackable but maybe the thief will give up and move on before getting it.
    I would not get crazy and carry a computer with me in a EOTWAWKI situation. There will be plenty of computers to be had since noone will be able to power them. Netbooks are a safe bet for low power use but are only good for so much. Laminated paper copies are great but can get very heavy when inside a BOB with needed gear. Most of us will not bug out in anyway due to the growth of the world. There is only so many places to hide and way too many people trying to find them. Only those living in extreme conditions will last if they are prepared for long term survival with renewable food and water.

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  28. Pictures of anything of value that you own should be on the drive for insurance reasons. Could help with filing any claims. Also I would consider Car title or House titles well any thing with proof of ownership for any big ticket items.

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  29. For us Veterans, a copy of your DD214 and you VA identification card. Possibly any other documentation pertaining to your military service.

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  30. The survival flash drive is ingenious. I never would of even thought of that. Me and my family appreciate that it would take years of red tape and paper work if something happened abroad to get myself, my wife, and our two kids back in the country. Just starting my own BOBs this week and appreciate all of you informative posts.

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  31. I also don't believe any government agency would accept it as proof…..however, realizing that SHTF & people are prepping, I think ANY method of identifying ones self puts them in a better light than verbal bs.

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  32. This site has been inspirational in my wanting to compete in the NEXT best BOB!! Great ideas and I appreciate the unselfish cooperation everyone provides. I did the flash drive subsequent to suggestions but now, after reading this string, I'm thinking of perhaps 1/4" pvc cut to 10" w/end caps to contain the hard copies of documents desirable of identification. This 'stick' could easily fit in a bob & be one of the protective I.D. carriers.

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  33. Ok in light of everything that’s been said I’m seriously considering making sure each of my kids always have a USB on them with medical information and emergency contacts… I would hate to think that they are unable to contact friends/family if we were ever to get separated in an emergency.

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  34. Another "Chuck" here, backing-up what the previous Chuck said. Getting photos of all your documents, either with a cheap digital camera or your phone-cam, and then saving them as JPGs on the flash drive would make more sense than scanning and saving as PDF files. The reason being that every computer made has a built-in JPG reader, but not all have a PDF reader.

    And even if a PDF reader is installed, they are notoriously buggy, especially if different versions of PDF are involved. JPGs are essentially flawless.

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  35. All your medical information. Medications, conditions, etc. I keep a notebook for myself and my husband with 6+ years worth of medical information including copies of lab work, radiology reports, etc. Some pharmacies carry flash drive bracelets for your information. People with medical condiions really need rhis information available

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  36. All your medical information. Medications, conditions, etc. I keep a notebook for myself and my husband with 6+ years worth of medical information including copies of lab work, radiology reports, etc. Some pharmacies carry flash drive bracelets for your information. People with medical condiions really need this information available

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  37. I need lots of medications, so I keep a spreadsheet with my medical insurance # on it, primary Dr.'s name, birthdate, meds name, dosage, instructions, who prescribed, their phone number, and at the bottom of the page a list of my surgeries whether minor or not. Even my sciatic injections (don't do them !!!)
    I also keep a spreadsheet list of all my doctor's with the addresses, specialty, and phone number, right down to my dentist and eye dr.

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  38. Usb drives fail over time.
    Burn a CD or DVD (especially a mini) and use that. DVDs and CDs are considered hard media as they have no moving parts which may fail.
    Put them in a steel case with a soft inner liner and padding to protect it and keep it rigid but small enough to keep away. I’d suggest a small bible with a steel case for example.

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  39. A quick video inventory of your home and document listing the make, model, and serial numbers of your major items for insurance purposes.

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  40. Also all of your high school diplomas and college degree's, certificates, state I D's, family histories, blood types, medical histories(diabetes, allergies,ect.), contact information(family,freinds,addresses, phone #'s ect.), deeds to lands, houses, TAX information(last 5 years) and so on.

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  41. keep a copy of a live OS (like ubuntu) on your USB, so all you need to do is plug it in, boot, and you're up and running, independent of whatever OS and setup is on the machine you're using.

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  42. Medical information: history, allergies, current medical conditions, prescriptions. Especially important if you're rendered unconscious at some point. Medical responders in the "normal zone" can still get important info on you that way when they find it, especially if it's not encrypted. (or you keep it on a separate one that isn't encrypted, and your other information on an encrypted drive.) For me personally, that would be something like letting them know that I'm allergic to penicillin and I will go into anaphylactic shock if I'm exposed to it. Also blood type. There are already specific medical usb accessories being made for people with life-threatening conditions, like this one: http://www.amazon.com/ICE-Medical-12165-USB-Drive

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  43. Prescriptions! Names, Addresses and Phone numbers of all Doctors!
    I have multiple medical conditions and have a ton of prescriptions.
    There is a company that makes flash drives that fit inside a dog tag that's a little thicker than normal (lol of course). Wish I could remember the name, sorry.

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  44. I would wrap your flash drive in insulating material (non conductive) and then insert the whole package into a small faraday cage and then into a waterproof container. Just in case.

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  45. I would need to include a list of my prescription drugs and medical conditions. I don't know if anyone else has already mentioned this but it would be crucial for me b/c I have serious health issues. Thanks for this great idea!

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  46. I prefer laminated paper copies, and all my OG documentation are in a Pelican case. But this does make me consider putting a copy on Google Docs.

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  47. .. I DIDN'T SEE ANY COMMENTS REGARDING MEDICAL INFO.
    A LIST OF THE BLOOD TYPES OF EACH FAMILY MEMBER ..
    NAMING THE MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT COMPROMISE THE –
    PHYSICAL HEALTH ..[diabetes].. AS WELL AS THE PSYCHOLOGICAL;
    IN CASE IRRATIONAL BEHAVIOR DEVELOPS [-that could be misinterpreted]

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  48. I'd like to point out that most Gov't agencies REQUIRE hard copy of items. Copies of birth certificates WITH the notary seal, Real S.S. cards, hard plastic ID.
    This is a great idea for your items that may NOT require government inspection, such as medical records, school transcripts and the like, however ask anyone who has EVER lost their wallet about how hard it is to prove who you are.
    To get a SS card, you need REAL photo ID. copies are not allowed.
    To get ID, you need SS card. (real card, no copies) proof of residency and usually a few other hoops.

    In our BOBs, we ALL have a duplicate ID, its better than not having anything "real". Many states will issue a secondary ID for a nominal fee, and in some states, oddly enough, photo ID is required to GET your drivers license in the case of it being lost.

    The "digital proof" you would be carrying of your identification is added weight that a smart criminal could exploit, but leaves you still "a person without identification" to the govt.

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  49. I recommend adding an inventory of your household items. Maybe a video inventory, too. The people in the High Park Fire in Colorado in 2012 ostensibly were not paid enough for their insurance coverage.

    During one television coverage of this story, a reporter mentioned the people were required to list everything they owned for payment. An insurance representative was with the reporter. This representative said the inventory list was to protect the insured (more or less a quote), I have to admit; I stopped listening after that comment. So, remember to have an inventory list of everything you own.

    A video recording would work as well as photographs. Leave a list with your insurance agent, also.

    Might want to look on Amazon Listmania for a list of items to take to a community shelter during a disaster. Statistically, natural disasters would be a more likely reason to have a bob. I'm just saying statistically. Here is the name of the list on listmania: Natural Disaster Preparedness & Community Shelter Survival Gear pt.1: A list by Greg.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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  50. From here all the visitors can get huge information about the survival flash drive..!! After long since I have got there this valuable information about the Survival Flash Drive what I was looking forward to know. Thanks and inform like this….

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  51. Maybe have this on a separate flash drive but, if you have put years and money into research–like doing lines of genealogy or such, every thirty days update your saved files on a flash, if a fire wipes out your papers, at least the flash drive will let you get kick started again—or for any other research you might be doing. RE researching is heartbreaking.

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  52. My wife and I have done this for our family. In addition to a flash drive, we have confirmed that our tablet (which can be powered by solar) has USB read capability, and the software to read the documents off the drive (which wouldn't require any web service). Therefore, if the bueracrat's resources were "out of service" we could pull documents up on our own device and accomplish our purpose.

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  53. look at walmart(cheaper than Amazon) for good water proof 32 gig flash drives, then go to survival resources.com and buy a set of clear water proof vials $1.98, to put your usb flash drive in (even though it is water proof!)

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  54. With this you may want to think about encryption. A simple, easy, and free solution to this is TrueCrypt. it is a cross platform encryption software. Its very easy to use, plus it protects this date in the event it falls into the wrong hands.

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  55. The camera is great for the casual photographer as it’s packed full of useful features that can make it a lot easier to take simple shot.The Nikon p500 camera is a coolpix camera.It is easy to use.

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  56. quality on camera phones for shooting documents is not as good as a pdf, but would do in an emergency. Goverment or legal agencies might accept a PDF over a texted cell phone picture.

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  57. I am not sure about this. Burocracy can really be a pain in the neck. Is there a uniform case law stating Personally Identifiable Information stored on a data storage device such as flashdrives is as good as the physical counterparts?

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  58. If you don't have a scanner, you don't need to go to kinkos and risk someone getting your personal information off the memory of their machine. Almost everyone owns a digital camera or a good quality phone camera. That is a scanner too. Simply take some clear photos of those documents and put them on the flash drive.

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  59. Anna beat me to it, pofessional documents that may of use during and after the crisis. Lawyers need not apply

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  60. The wife and I are building a library on several flash drives, with 2 young children that still need some form of education you can store several books not only for them but for us also. We each carry “kindles” and solar chargers.

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  61. I would also add any custody / adoption paperwork. That could be critical. And if you were in the military, don't forget your DD214 and/or NGB 22s

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