A bug out bag (also called a “ready bag” or “go bag”) is a portable emergency kit that is essential should an emergency strike. In the case of a wildfire, flood, hurricane, or any other variety of emergency, you and your family can evacuate quickly with the necessary supplies and tools for survival.
The bug out bag essentials are designed only to last for a 72 hour time period while you seek shelter and replenishment of supplies.
These bags are meant to be deployed in a hurry. Everything should be ready ahead of time. Your bug out bag should be lightweight and small enough to be carried without too much effort Preparedness is the name of the game. You should be prepared to rely solely on yourself and your bug out bag.
While putting together your bag ask yourself this question: If I was forced to leave home in the case of an emergency, what would I need to survive the first 3-4 days?
Pick your bug out bag
Selecting the type of bag to hold your bug out essentials is an important first step.
You will need something durable, comfortable, big enough to fit all of your survival supplies, but small and lightweight enough for you to carry with ease. A normal backpack you would buy your kid for school will not be durable enough for demanding scenarios.
Take the time to inspect the bag— the compartments, quality, size—and decide if it will withstand the demands of a survival scenario.
Here are our top 3 bug out bag recommendations:
- Blitz 30: Shop on Mystery Ranch - $279.00
- Kelty-Coyote 60-105 Liter Backpack: Shop on Amazon - $142.95
- Condor 3 Day Assault Pack - Shop on Amazon - $99.43
Another thing to consider while looking for the perfect bug out bag is the color. You’ll want something with earthy tones, but not camouflage. You’ll want it to blend in easily; however, if you get a camouflage bag, there is always the possibility of someone mistaking you for military personnel when you are not. Some good colors may include: black, beige, and green.
Everyone's bug out bag will look a little different. A military bug out bag will look different from a father’s bag, and especially to a young man's bag. Your bag may also be different depending on where you live and what environmental challenges you may face. A waterproof bag should be something you are on the lookout for.
It is also a good idea to grab a waist bag or a fanny pack to go with your bug out bag. These are easy to wear and great extra storage. They can allow you quick and easy access to the most important items you may need like identification or money.
Here are our top 3 waist bag recommendations:
- FREETOO Waist Pack: Shop on Amazon - $22.97
- Black Hole Waist Pack: Shop on Patagonia - $69.00
- Ace Fanny Pack: Shop on Dagne Dover - $95.00
What to put in your bag
There are five categories of bug out bag essentials to include in your emergency-readiness pack:
- water purification
- environmental protection
- food supplies
- sleeping gear
- first aid
It’s important to remember if you’re making a bag for every person in your family, you don’t have to put every single item in every single bag. Spread it out. Some items you will only need one of or can be shared. Try to make the bags all as light as possible. Think of only the essentials for your survival bag.
Below you will find each of these categories (+more), plus examples that fall under them.
Humans can go without food for three weeks, but they can only go without water for 72 hours. Water is going to be a much more vital part of your emergency plan than food may be. You’ll want a minimum of three liters of drinking water.
Here are some water-related items to keep in mind:
- Collapsible water bottle
- HydraPak Sky Flask: Shop on Amazon - $24
- Hard water bottle
- Hydro Flask Standard- Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle: Shop on REI - $29.93
- Keith Titanium Ti3060 Canteen Mess Kit: Shop on Amazon - $158.97
- Water filter / purification
- Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System: Shop on REI - $134.95
After water, food should be your number one priority.You’ll want enough food to keep you and your family fed for three days. In terms of durability, we recommend metal cookware and utensils instead of plastic ones.
Here are some food items to keep in mind:
- Beef Jerky
- One-of-Everything Jerky Sampler Box: Shop on People’s Choice Beef Jerky - $84.99
- Protein / energy bars
- Pro Meal Bars 12-Pack: Shop on The Pro Bar - $39.99
- MREs / dehydrated food
- XMRE 1300XT MRE Military Meals: Shop on Amazon - $199.99
- Honey Badger Drop Point Pocket Knife: Shop on Amazon - $37.00
- Snow Peak Titanium Spork: Shop on REI - $9.95
- Metal cooking pot
- Toaks Titanium 750ml Pot: Shop on REI - $26.95
- Metal cup
- Ti-Double 600 Mug: Shop on Snow Peak - $64.95
- Pot scrubber
- Alpine Dish Brush / Scraper: Shop on MSR Gear - $7.95
- Portable stove
- MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove: Shop on REI - $59.95
- Stove fuel
- MSR SuperFuel Quart: Shop on REI - $14.95
Clothing is going to be the category that most depends on your location. You’ll want to be able to layer things strategically for a healthy body temperature at all times. You’ll also want to make sure you always have an extra set of dry clothing. If the clothes you have on become wet, you’re easily susceptible to hypothermia, which can be a very dangerous and life-threatening situation.
Here are some clothing items to keep in mind:
- Lightweight long sleeve
- Zip off pants
- Hiking socks
- Medium weight fleece
- Hat with flex brim
- Working gloves
- Rain poncho
Shelter / Bedding
Being able to get enough rest, or at least some rest, when times are tough is extremely important. When looking for these items, make sure they are all made compact so they are easy to travel with and can fit in your backpack without struggle.
Here are some shelter items to keep in mind:
- Sleeping bag
- REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag: Shop on REI - $399
- Ground pad
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping Pad: Shop on REI - $199.95
- Wool blanket
- USA Made Wool Blanket: Shop on ibex - $225
- Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp: Shop on Moose Jaw - $228.95
- The North Face Wawona 6 Tent: Shop on REI - $500
Also dependent on your location is a reliable heat source; however, no matter where you are, it is likely you may face cool temperatures at night. Try to make sure you have several different ways of creating warmth.
Here are some warmth items to keep in mind:
- Ferrocerium rod
Similar to your heat source, which can also create a source of light for you, this will be vital when it becomes night time. Both of these categories you will want to make sure you have several backups for that you’ll be able to deploy immediately.
Here are some lighting items to keep in mind:
- LED headlamp
- Petzl Actik Core Headlamp: Shop on REI - $79.95
- Mini LED keychain
- Nitecore Tini Keychain Flashlight: Shop on Amazon - $44.95
- Light glow stick
- Cyalume Military Grade Glow Sticks: Shop on Amazon - $15.37
- Mini LED light
- BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern: Shop on REI - $79.95
- Solar lantern / charger
- MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0: Shop on Amazon - $34.95
- Shop at your local grocery store
The importance of first aid speaks for itself. Always make sure you have a first aid or survival kit somewhere in one of your family members' bug out bags. We recommend making your own in addition to buying an already put together kit from the store to make sure it is specifically catered to your needs.
Here are some first aid items to keep in mind:
- First aid kit
- Trauma kit
- Insect repellent
- Mylar survival blanket
Aspects of personal hygiene can often go overlooked because it is such a simple thing, but it can lead to rapid deterioration in health if not taken care of. Don’t let things like bacterial infections affect your survival.
Here are some hygiene items to keep in mind:
- Wet napkins
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- All-purpose camp soap
- Small pack towel
- Travel toilet paper
- Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste
Depending on your survival skills, you may want more or less tools to help you out. Simple tools like a knife are always going to come in handy more often than you think.
Here are some tools to keep in mind:
- Survival knife
- Morakniv Garberg Full Tang Fixed Blade Knife: Shop on Amazon - $99.62
- Leatherman Wave Plus Multi-Tool: Shop on REI - $119.95
- Estwing’s Sportsman's Axe: Shop on Amazon - $44.99
- Navigation and communication tool kit
- GAIA GPS App
For communication aspects of survival, we like to follow the PACE system. This stands for primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency communication. You will want to make sure you have something for each of these categories because you never know what will be available to you and what won't be.
- Primary (cell phone)
- Alternate (wifi/tablet)
- Contingency (Ham radio / license)
- Emergency (crank power charger with signal lights)
Travel aids are items you should absolutely never leave the house without thinking about first. These are the things that will allow you to get going.
Here are some travel aid items to keep in mind:
- $500 minimum in small bills
- Local area map
- Emergency whistle
- Cotton bandage
- Small notepad and pencil
Although this is a controversial topic, it's important to discuss. In the ultimate bug out bag situation, it could come to a survive or die situation. In this case, you want to make sure you have something to defend yourself, whether that be a handgun or pepper spray.
What is a WUSH bag you may ask? In the emergency survival world, this stands for “wake up, stuffs happening”. AKA– a bag that is already put together and easy to find with all of your most important stuff. This would be a great thing to use your fanny pack for. Items that normally would be found in a WUSH bag include:
- Backup battery / charging cables
- House and car key copies
- Copies of important documents (ex. ID’s, home title, etc.)
As you are packing your bug out bags, there are always going to be random items that may not necessarily fit into a specific category. Still, these items are just as important and can be essential to the survival of yourself and your family.
Some miscellaneous items to keep in mind are:
- Parachute cord
- TOUGH-GRID Premium 750lb Paracord: Shop on Amazon - $19.75
- Duct tape
- Surviveware Waterproof Duct Tape: Shop on Amazon - $6.99
- Resealable bags
- Ziplock Bags: Shop at local grocery stores
- N95 face mask
- Shop on Amazon
- Sewing kit
- Singer Kit: Shop on Amazon - $4.82
- Fishing kit
- Streamline Essentials Kit: Shop on DaggerFish Gear - $105.00
Once everything is packed, make sure to pack and unpack it every few months to get rid of any items that may go bad. You’ll want your bug out bag up to date and ready to go whenever you may need it.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when packing your bug out bag. From things like water and shelter to self defense and first aid, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for whatever emergency this world may throw at you. Although there is a lot on this list, it is important to make sure you cater your bag specifically to you, your family, and your environment. Pack only the essentials. Things like water, light, heat, shelter, and food should be at the top of your priority list. Remember, when deciding what food to put in your bug out bag, you’ll want something with a good shelf-life, good variety of flavor, and good protein. Nothing says all of these things quite like beef jerky does. Shop our best sellers and get prepared today.
When disaster strikes, don’t bug out. Grab your bag and hit the road.