Being prepared in a disaster, whether manmade or natural, will help you and your family survive. Having a bug out bag packed that is well-suited to your family and the area where you live is key, and putting one together is not difficult, if you have a comprehensive list to guide you. Here is our list of 62 bug out bag essentials to get you packing:
Since humans can only go without water for 72 hours, this is one of the most important items to consider. It is also heavy, so here are some recommendations to make sure you have enough, without weighing you down completely.
1. Drinking Water (2-3 liters) – It could take some time to find water, so having some in your bug out bag is essential.
2. Water Filter Bottle – A filter bottle can clean impurities out of the water you find, and make it more palatable.
3. Hard Water Bottle – A BPA-free plastic or metal bottle or canteen keeps your water clean and fresh.
4. Water Filters / Purification Systems – Potable water is a challenge in a survival situation, but carrying a small filtration system like Lifestraw will decontaminate up to 264 gallons of water, and weighs less than 4 ounces.
5. Water Purification Tablets – These tablets disinfect contaminated water, making it suitable for drinking.
Lightweight, non-perishable and nutritious foods is your aim when packing a bug out bag. Keep in mind some of these might need water to prepare, so plan well.
6. Protein bars or trail mix are high protein density and lightweight.
7. MREs or other dehydrated meals are easily prepared and light.
8. Jerky of all types; make them simply with a food dehydrator.
9. Tuna or peanut butter pouches are more good protein sources.
10. Instant oatmeal pouches are easy to fix and filling.
11. Meal replacement powder is easy to carry in a Ziploc.
12. Sardines come in small, lightweight tins but offer a good nutritional punch.
Food preparation and utensils
Of course, you will also need some cooking and eating utensils, so we recommend these:
13. Spork – Spoon and fork combo, but be sure to get a sturdy metal one.
14. P-38 Can Opener – This is a small and lightweight metal, military style can opener.
15. Metal Cooking Pot – You need this for heating food and even water. Get one with a handle for easy cooking
16. Metal Cup – More durable and lightweight than other cups, and you can also use it for heating.
17. Dish Scrubber – You need to keep your minimal cooking tools as clean as possible.
18. Hooks – You’ll need some S or J hooks to hang pots over a fire for cooking.
Clothing that you choose for your bug out bag – lightweight but layerable to handle different temperatures. Your selections will depend on the climate in your location, your level of fitness and general preferences, with seasonal change outs as needed. Pack two sets, so you’re never stuck in wet clothing.
19. Pants – Convertible pants are practical for your bug out bag. These are the pants you see which have legs that zip off to become shorts, and they are typically lightweight.
20. Shirts – These should be lightweight and long-sleeved.
21. Underwear – These are lightweight, and we recommend having enough for three or four days
22. Hiking Socks – Having dry socks and feet is key to staying well, so carry at least three pairs.
23. Medium Weight Fleece – Fleece is lightweight and non-bulky, but warm, so it’s the perfect layer when needed.
24. Hat – A brimmed hat is great to keep the elements off of your head, whether it is extreme sun or rain or snow.
25. Working Gloves – These should be sturdy, leather-palmed gloves to use for multiple purposes.
26. Rain Poncho – Another useful item to keep you dry is a lightweight rain poncho.
27. Shemagh – The shemagh is sometimes called an Arab scarf or keffiyeh. It is a square piece of fabric used in different ways; it protects your neck and face from sun, sand or wind. In winter, it protects against snow and stronger winds when wrapped around your head. We recommend the fast-drying wool and cotton blend.
Shelter and bedding
This is generally the area where your bug out bag will get weighed down if you are not careful. Choose the items wisely, always looking for compact and lightweight gear created for backpackers and you should do fine.
28. Small and lightweight tent – Look for a tent specifically made for backpackers, as they are lighter and easier to set up.
29. Sleeping bag – There are lots of lightweight sleeping bags available, and some have inflatable sleeping pads built-in.
30. Tarp – You will want a tarp for a ground pad underneath your tent, and it will come in handy for other purposes as well.
31. Blanket – A wool or fleece blanket is perfect for your bug out bag. They are lightweight and extremely warm.
Heat and fire
Being able to start a fire, both for cooking and for heat when needed, is essential when you bug out. Pack several means of starting a fire in your bug out bag, so that you will be sure that something works when needed. In other words, always have a backup fire starter.
32. Waterproof matches – These come in standard matchboxes or plastic cases.
33. Lighters – There are handy waterproof lighters in sealed cases that actually float if necessary.
34. Fire starters – Made for camping and outdoors, so you know they’ll withstand the elements. They are typically high quality and lightweight, and can start a fire even in rain or snow.
There are lots of first aid kits available on the market, but most are not suitable for a bug out bag. Do yourself a favor and find one made for survival or build your own kit.
35. First Aid Kit – Your first aid kit needs to contain bandages, alcohol pad, iodine pads, sterile gauze, cotton swabs, medical tape, tweezers, safety pins, scissors and anti-sting pads.
36. Insect repellant – Crucial if you’ll be in areas heavily populated by flying insects, or crawling ones that bite.
37. Mylar Survival Blanket – A mylar blanket comes in handy when the temperature plummets, but takes up very little space.
Having enough personal hygiene items to keep you feeling fresh and healthy is important when bugging out, so you should pack these items in your bug out bag.
38. Camp soap – Camp soap is typically liquid and sold in small bottles for easy portability. It works in salt or fresh water and is good for your body, hair, clothes and dishes.
39. Baby wipes – Handy for cleaning up anytime or anyplace.
40. Toilet paper – Pack at least two rolls.
41. Towel – Find a lightweight, thin and absorbent towel to pack. Microfiber works great.
42. Mirror – A mirror is great for hygiene, but can also be useful for signalling.
43. Dental items – A travel size toothbrush and paste, plus a roll of floss should suffice.
44. Other necessities – Items like deodorant and a small hairbrush come to mind, but you may have others important to you.
This is an area where you can go really crazy, but always keep in mind the weight of everything you pack will be on your shoulders. Determine which tools are “must haves” for your situation and leave the rest behind. We’d suggest these tools:
45. Machete/camp knife – Generally serrated on one side for clearing brush or harvesting crops, the other side is typically a large, sharp, straight edge.
46. Survival Knife – We recommend something like the Bowie Knife used by the military, with a fixed tanto blade and nylon handle.
47. Multi-tool – Many varieties of multi-tool exist, some with hammers, saws, multiple blades, Philips and flathead screwdrivers, wire cutters, can openers, pliers and wrenches. Find one that suits your needs and that has good quality and durability.
In a bugout situation, lines of communication may or not be available. However, thinking positively, we think you should have these communication devices with you:
48. Cellphone – Make this a basic phone that holds a charge for a significant time.
49. Crank charger – A crank charger can repower your cellphone, without worrying about electricity or a battery.
50. Emergency radio – Again, this radio should be one that you can power with a hand crank.
Some of these items will be useful for travel, depending on what kind of situation you are dealing with. Think this category through before you leave your home.
51. Compass – A small, mechanical compass is still the best wayfinder available.
52. Maps – Good, old paper maps are handy when you aren’t sure of GPS access.
53. Cash – Always handy to carry cash with you, in small bills, for needs along your journey.
54. Gold or silver – Take along any gold or silver bullion you have.
55. Change – Change is handy if you run across vending machines.
Let there be light
Being able to see where you are going or what you are doing is not overrated. Have multiple sources of illumination if you have room, but forget the camping lanterns; they are too bulky and too heavy for this mission. Here are some suggestions:
56. Headlamp – These are typically LED, so they last, and they have a strap to attach to your head for hands-free use.
57. Tactical flashlight – These flashlights are powerful light sources in a small and lightweight, but extremely sturdy casing.
58. Don’t forget basic light sources like candles, which can also add a little source of heat inside a tent.
59. Batteries – Another important thing to remember is extra batteries for your light sources and other devices you take along.
Lots of items don’t really fit into the above categories, so we’re adding some more here. These are things which prove themselves indispensable for many tasks.
We’re almost done! These are items that didn’t necessarily fit into any of the other categories, but they’re just as important for inclusion in your bug out bag. Chances are some of the items will have you scratching your head, but we assure you, you want these items in your bug out bag.
60. Duct tape – You know that duct tape fixes anything, right?
61. Contractor trash bags – These large and heavy-duty bags will come in handy for many uses, from keeping your gear dry to collecting water or being useful as a ground mat when stuffed with leaves.
62. Binoculars – Being able to see what’s ahead can help you avoid problems, both natural ones and human ones.
One group we have not addressed is self-defense, because it is extremely controversial. However, we do feel you need to be able to defend your family if it comes to that. For that reason, we recommend that you carry pepper spray at a minimum. Of course, if you are comfortable with firearms, then make sure you also have plenty of ammunition.
There you have it – our list of things to consider for your bug out bag. Put together your bug out bag and you’ll be ready for the worst, while always hoping for the best.