What is a bug-out bag? A bug-out bag is backpack you have stocked and ready to go any time you need to bug out / clear the area / get the hell out of dodge, etc. It has everything you need to survive a disaster for the first 3 days. You simply grab your bug-out bag and do your best to get to safety.
The Uniqueness of Your Bug-Out Bag
The first step in making a perfect bug-out bag is making an excellent, comprehensive bug-out bag list. It is not compulsory for everything on our list to be in your bag, but the list will give you the knowledge of the important contents to have in your bag.
Our main aim is to offer you the information you need to at least have the knowhow on where to begin. There is too much information about bug-out bags on websites, being both correct and incorrect. This post will help you find the correct way of starting out.
Since you know yourself and what you need on a daily basis, your bug-out bag list should be very easy to come up with. It should not only be fun and exciting, but it should also put your mind at ease because you know that you are planning in advance to survive any disaster that might come your way. Simply think through your day and write down everything that you need during a typical day. What other items would you need if you were camping? If it were especially cold, hot, or wet outside? Write down everything that you can think of.
It’s difficult to think of everything, though. So, whether you have made a bug-out bag before or this is your first experience, we hope you will learn a thing or two from the points below.
The Perfect Bug-Out Bag
The three major considerations when picking out a bag are size, durability, and functionality.
You’ll want a bag that can fit everything you need, so don’t even try to pick out a bag until you’ve made your bug-out bag list and assembled your supplies. Of course, you’ll try to purchase items that are as small and compact as possible, but you won’t know how large of a bag you’ll need until you gather all your essentials.
You’ll also need a bag that can survive any type of weather conditions. A bag that will soak through or tear easily might not do you much good. You’ll want to pay special attention to the fabric to ensure that it can protect its contents and remain wearable for the duration of the emergency.
Finally, you’ll need a bag that is easy to use. One giant compartment isn’t practical. You don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for something at the bottom of the bag when you need it. A bag with many pockets and compartments will be much more convenient.
Look for our recommendations for specific bug-out bags in a future post.
The Bug-Out Bag Essentials
Here’s everything the average person needs. But like we said, feel free to add your own requirements or nix anything we suggest that doesn’t’ apply to you.
Water, Filtering, and Drinking Materials
A bug-out bag’s most important essentials are related to keeping the body well supplied with water. This is because you can go up to 3 weeks without food, but you can only withstand a lack of water for 72 hours. Water must therefore be present in your bug-out bag, the minimum amount being one liter per day, per person.
Below are water-carrying items that we recommend.
- 3 Liters of Water
- Hard Water Bottle
- Water Purification Tablets, 3 maximum
- Metallic Water Bottle
- Water Filters to Remove Impurities
- Collapsible Water Bottle
It is also highly recommended to have a Lifestraw or two. Life straws are compact, lightweight lifesavers that aid in water filtration. You can use them to filter out 99.9% of microbes and bacteria in water. This means that you do not have to worry about boiling or treating the water that you might find before drinking it. Another wonderful feature of the company that makes Lifestraws is that it helps provide clean water for poorer countries. They do this by ensuring that with every purchase, they offer filtration products.
Food and Food Preparation Materials
Food is also an important must-have in the bug-out bag. The preparedness community urges people to stock off-the-shelf and store bought items that are dehydrated. Contrary to these products, we recommend a variety of foodstuffs. They should be non-perishable and you should combine foods that require water with those that don’t. Since you do not know how scarce water might be in certain types of emergencies, it is important to have more foods that don’t require adding water than those that do.
At the moment, most of the foods we recommend are self-explanatory, but in the future, when we conduct in-depth reviews of the bug-out bags, we will expound on our reasons for selecting the items below. Note that the amount of food you pack in your bug-out bag should be enough to last for three days. Instead of using plastic cookware, we recommend the use of metal utensils and cookware because they are good heat resistors and therefore more durable than the plastic options.
- Metal Cooking Pot
- Portable Stove
- Metal Cup
- Pot Scrubber
- P-38 Can Opener
- Stove Fuel (qty. 16 tablets)
- Energy Bars to provide protein (qty. 6)
- Dehydrated Meals (qty. 3)
When choosing clothing for your bug-out bag, ensure that you pick tolerant clothes that will be able to maintain your body temperature at optimum levels at all times. We have listed a good number of weather-friendly clothes that will help you maintain a constant body temperature.
It is important to select the clothes you will need considering the various climatic conditions in your area. To save space, you should check your bag every six months and trade out your supply of clothes appropriate to the season. Remember to pack clothes for wet conditions or items that will protect you from other types of weather in your area.
Have two sets of clothes for every day. Doing so will help ensure that you will have a dry set of clothes in case you get wet. Wet clothes are very uncomfortable and they can cause dangerous body temperature fluctuations.
- Convertible Pants
- Hiking Socks, preferably wool (qty. 3 pairs)
- Rain Coat
- Medium-weight fleece sweater
- Lightweight long-sleeve shirt
- Working gloves
- Hat w/ flexible brim
Shelter and Bedding
For shelter and bedding, we recommend materials that are lightweight and compact, and can therefore be comfortably carried by a backpacker. These items might seem excessive and extreme for a person with survival experience, but they are completely necessary.
Instead of sleeping in a thicket while using a pile of leaves as a pillow, you will have ability to sleep more comfortably with the items we recommend. This is due to the fact that resting comfortably, both physically and mentally, helps relieve a lot of stress when times are tough. You’ll be thankful for the better sleep when you need to be alert and keep up your endurance in an emergency situation.
It is very important to have several means of starting a fire when you’re relying on your own resources for survival. One method might fail to start a fire, and if you do not have backup, it will be difficult to survive, especially if it’s cold out. The basics below should be included in your bug-out bag. Three are recommended because the probability of all of them failing on you is very low.
- Tinder (qty. 3)
- Source of Ignition (qty. 3)
- Waterproof storage for the heat sources
First Aid Supplies
Unfortunately, most emergency aid kits do not have the capacity to work as a survival kit because the equipment available in them is not meant for use when there is no other medical facility available. First aid is a larger topic for another day, but in this situation, there is one first aid tool that we highly recommend, and it is listed below. Of course, don’t limit yourself to our recommendations. This is your bug-out bag, and you might need items in your area that we haven’t included in our list.
And don’t forget any prescription medications or medicines that you need to take on a regular basis. This is another item in your bug-out bag that you will need to refresh every six months. You don’t want to be in an emergency situation and discover that the prescription medicine you packed in your bug-out bag expired. You need to be in the best condition possible when an emergency strikes, so taking care of any medical conditions you have should be among the highest priorities.
Personal Hygiene Supplies
A lack of personal hygiene leads to bacterial infections which eventually lead to a deterioration in your health. Bugging out is not an exception to the rule to take of yourself. Most people forget some essential personal hygiene materials, so we have listed the most essentials items to pack.
- Toilet Paper designed for traveling (qty. 2)
- Toothbrush and Tooth Paste in the appropriate size for traveling
- Small Pack Towel
- Hygiene/Signal Mirror
- Camp Soap
- Tampons and Pads
Besides weapons, people also fancy purchasing many different types of tools. After all, you never know what you might need. But you cannot pack everything into your bug-out bag. Choose the most important ones that suit the environment you are in and forget the others unless you have extra room. We recommend the following three tools that are a must-have for your bug-out bag.
In this post, we are only mentioning these tools, but they will be detailed in another post later on, so please stay tuned. But for now, the following tools will be necessary in most situations, and they should fit perfectly in your bag.
You can’t see very well in the dark, and you never know when you’re going to keep traveling once darkness falls. Like fire sources, we recommend having multiple sources of Illumination in case you lose one or one or two fail. The batteries are the common denominator and they should never be forgotten. All the items listed below serve the same purpose, even though they have multiple uses.
- Batteries to power various light sources
- Mini LED Keychain Flashlight
- Mini LED Flashlight
- Light Glow Sticks
The following equipment could come in handy when you want to communicate on a bug-out. Though in some scenarios, you might not want to use the items listed below, it would be best to have them in the situations where it’s safe to do so.
- Emergency Radio with Hand Crank
- Cell Phone
- Crank Power Charger
For navigation purposes, it is important to have the following items in your bag because you never know the situation you might find yourself in. They can help you find or buy your way in a variety of conditions.
- $500 Minimum in Small Bills
- Local Area Map
- Gold/Silver Bullion Coins
- Emergency Whistle
- Quarters (qty. 8)
- Small Note Pad and Pencil
Self-defense is a sensitive discussion, and from what we have witnessed and experienced, American preppers focus most on this category.
And, yes, bugging out is essentially a survive-or-die situation. If you find yourself out in the wild, you will need to survive. We hope it never comes to human vs. human conflict, but whatever the threat, you must have some equipment to help defend yourself. Below are some of the most important items we would recommend that you include in your bug-out bag essentials.
If you prefer not to carry a weapon, or if are not authorized to carry one, you will need to have some experience in training, especially If you are the leader of a group of people who expect you to protect and keep them safe.
With time, we plan on writing more posts on the self-defense topic. For now, here are the basics.
These are the items that do not fall under the categories that we mentioned above, but they are also important to include in your bug-out bag if you have the room.
- Cotton Bandana
- N95 Face Mask
- Condoms (non-lubricated)
- 550 Parachute Cord (50′)
- Duct Tape (25’)
- Sewing Kit
- Re-Sealable Bags (qty. 5, various sizes)
- Latex Tubing (3’)
- Face Paint
- 55 Gal. Contractor Garbage Bag (qty. 2)
- Fishing Kit
- Military Surplus Survival/Snare Wire
Customize Your Bug-Out Bags for Each Member of Your Family
We have consulted a good number of experts to make sure we’ve listed the best educational information there is about what you’ll need in an emergency situation. But, we understand that there might be some things on this list that you won’t ever need in your area. There also might be some things that you’ll never use, even if you had a need for them. That’s okay. Customize this list for your environment and ethics.
As much as we recommend items in the above list, we do not consider it final. You know yourself better, and it is equally important for you and your loved ones to decide what items you want to include in your bug-out bags.
Note that your bugging bag is not enough to protect you from death. It only serves to give you the best chances of survival in a bad situation. In order to make maximum use of the items in your bug-out bag, you need to know how to use them. Practice using them regularly in preparation for the actual emergency. Otherwise, your bug-out bag will be useless.
As a final word of advice for this post, we need to emphasize that a bug-out bag is not a family bag. Each person, even small children, should have their own bag with their own items. That way, whoever survives the initial disaster can take their bag and get out. You don’t want your bag filled with another’s belongings or items that you can’t use. And you don’t want to spread your materials too thin by trying to carry everything that your whole family needs in one bag. You won’t be able to fit as much as you will actually need for more than one person. Personalize and pack bug-out bags for each member of your family to give everyone the best chance of survival.
If you keep in mind that emergency preparedness is a way of life and not a hobby, you’ll always be prepared for any situation.