Bug-Out Security with U.V. - ITS Tactical

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Bug-Out Security with U.V.

By John D. McCann

I was talking to a fellow on the phone the other day about bug-out bags. He indicated that he had read somewhere lately that he should mark his map with three routes to his BOL (Bug-Out Location) and asked what I thought of the idea.

I indicated that, at least in my opinion, that it didn’t sound like a sensible OPSEC (Operational Security) idea. In a bug-out situation there are many conditions that could cause your map to fall into the wrong hands.

It could be lost or even taken by force, to name a few. In the wrong hands, you’ve just revealed where you are going and that place most likely has your supply of food, weapons, ammo and other self-reliance items. Other members of your family might even already be there.

My thoughts were that it’s not a bad idea to have alternate routes to you BOL, predetermined in the event of detours. But you don’t want to advertise them. I believe in running your routes, before you need to use them and memorize those routes. In executive protection, the advance team and drivers always run various routes such as the hospital, airport, etc., so they are familiar with possible detours and become comfortable with the routes. The same should occur with Bug-Out routes. But in the event a family involved and something did happen to the main leader, a map could come in handy. So, upon further thought on the matter, I felt if you really wanted to mark a map, then you should do it covertly.

What I came up with was the use of a fine-point UV (Ultraviolet) marker  to make your markings, then use an UV light to see the markings. I happened to have used this technique for other purposes over the years so I knew it would work in this situation. I also have a couple of different small UV lights that could easily be carried or concealed in a pack.

UV Pen and Lights

This photo shows a fine point UV marker, a Streamlight Stylus with UV LED, and a Micron Freedom with UV LED.


This photo shows a map of an area where a BOL could be. This map already has three routes marked to a location using a UV marker.

BOL Map With UV

This photo shows the marked route using the Micron Freedom with UV LED.

As you can see, this is a great way to make markings without other people being able to see them. This can be used for other OPSEC purposes as well. Let’s say you have some information that you want to carry with you, but don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands. This could be phone numbers, lock combinations, or other personal information. You could write that information in an innocuous location on something that you have on you such as a piece of paper in your wallet. What I like to do is write inside a small book, in a location that I won’t forget. You could use odd pages, or always start on page 12, etc. Use a system you’ll remember.

UV Used In Book UV Off

This is a page from the Emergency Pocket Survival Guide which is very small and thin booklet. It could be carried in almost any survival kit or pack.

UV Used In Book UV On

This photo shows how information could be concealed on a page of an innocuous book.

This could also work for information kept at your home or BOL. Just use any book sitting on your bookshelf and add the information you don’t want people to see with a UV marker.

Anyway, I thought this information might be interesting to people who want to mark their maps with various routes to their BOL without it falling into the wrong hands, or securing other private information. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: John D. McCann  is the owner of Survival Resources, a company that specializes in survival kits, survival kit components, and outdoor skills courses. He has also written two books, Build the Perfect Survival Kit  and  Stay Alive! Survival Skills You Need.

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  • Justin Slobuszewski

    Great article, i have a terrible memory and have always used a code when storing information which is easy to forget if I don’t use it for a long time. I have never though about a UV marker but will absolutely put this idea to good use in the future.

  • Clinton STRYKER Perry

    How long does the writing last

  • Nick Neiberger

    Great post. Only one gripe, it would be awesome if you posted some links on where to buy these products. I look at the Survival Resources page for 10 min, then went elsewhere…

  • In lieu of a UV marker, there are other substances that are visible under UV light: laundry detergents containing optical brighteners, many sun screens, lemon juice, your own body fluids (spit, jizz).

  • awc

    Interesting idea. I would caution that this is not a permanent solution, but rather a temporary one. If the information does fall into the wrong hands chances are they will know to look for this kind of stuff. This will buy you some time, but will not work in the long run.

    Your best option is still to memorize it. However, you could use this as a technique to pre-plan routes in the initial memorization stages. This way you can have a blank map, but if you get lost then a quick shine of the black-light will get you back on track in no time. Once the route is memorized the UV marked map should be destroyed.

  • Icemanlb

    Personally, I feel the markers are way too thick (though they are great for a multitude of purposes). I prefer to use a fountain pen with some Noodler’s Blue Ghost Ink. Fountain pens are great because you can specify the size of the nib. Specifically, I have converted a Platinum Preppy fountain pen into an eyedropper pen (so its holds bottled ink) and filled it with Blue Ghost. I used a Platinum because they are inexpensive pens and can hold a decent amount of ink.

    You can get this stuff anywhere; however, I have had great results with GouletPens.com (both in shipping and customer care)(and some good tutorials). Some links:


  • LogicBob

    Also useful if you and your team of quirky but skilled grifters have to steal a rediculous number of high end cars in less than 48 hours in order to repay a debt and save your brother’s life.

    Does anybody know if that pen discolors in heat or sunlight? When I was a kid, I wrote all over the walls in my bedroom with a highlighter and, at first, you couldn’t see the writing except under a black light, but after a year or so, all the writing turned brownish and became visible. :-/

  • HighlanderJuan

    For small amounts of data and a simple method of storage, this article’s plan is a good one. For oh-my-golly quantities of data, something else may be a bit more suitable for storage.

    I prefer a USB portable hard drive that requires fingerprint and access code to get to the AES 256-bit hardware encrypted stored data. Agreed I need power availability and a computer to access the data, but I can store huge amounts of data and no one can gain access to the data but me. Unless I’m captured with the drive and subsequently tortured, at which point, all bets are off anyway.

  • mike

    Fun fact milk will also show up under a black light. Harder to use but kind of a diy solution

  • GradyPfahl

    Another fun fact: Every species of scorpion will show up under UV light. I live in the South so a small portable UV light would also be quite useful when setting up camp in the dark.

  • Jarrett Green

    What is this  Emergency Pocket Survival Guide you speak of? I found this version? http://books.google.com/books?id=F8NfTx8uuYcC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • The ink should last for a long time if kept out of sunlight, so, if you are marking maps, just make sure it is taken out of its storage when needed. Constant exposure will fade the ink, and the general consensus is that oil base ink lasts longer than alcohol based ones.

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