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Ready or not, here comes the curveball – can you handle it? When disaster strikes, having a well-stocked bug out bag can mean the difference between life and death. But what exactly should you pack in your bug out bag? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate bug out bag list.

Buckle up as we cover all bases – tackling essential survival tools, sustenance, and hydration to ensure you’re prepped for any unexpected event. From newcomers to seasoned veterans in the world of preparedness, we’ve designed this walkthrough to help everyone create an ideal bug out bag customized precisely for their unique situation.

What Is a Bug Out Bag?

A bug out bag is an emergency kit that contains essential survival items to help you evacuate quickly and survive for 72 hours or more during a disaster situation. It’s a crucial part of any prepper’s gear, designed to keep you safe and comfortable until you can reach a more permanent location or until the danger has passed.

I’ve been building and refining my own bug out bags for years, and I can tell you from experience that having a well-stocked bag can make all the difference in a survival situation or common disaster. Whether you’re facing a natural disaster, civil unrest, or any other emergency that forces you to leave your home, a bug out bag can be a lifesaver.

Why You Need a Bug Out Bag

In an emergency, you may have only minutes to grab your essentials and go. That’s where a bug out bag comes in. Having a pre-packed bag with all the necessary survival gear means you can quickly grab it and evacuate without wasting precious time gathering supplies.

Plus, in the aftermath of a disaster, you may be without access to food, water, or shelter for days. A well-equipped bug out bag can keep you fed, hydrated, and protected until help arrives or you can reach a safe location.

Essential Components of a Bug Out Bag

A quality bug out bag should feature thick, durable fabric, water-resistant material, separate pockets and compartments, roll-top construction for expanded storage, and padded hip straps. These features ensure that your bag can withstand harsh conditions and keep your gear organized and easily accessible.

When choosing items for your bag, focus on the essentials: water, food, shelter, first aid, and tools. Consider your personal needs and the environment you’ll be in, and choose gear that is lightweight, versatile, and easy to use.

bug out bag list

Choosing the Right Bag

When choosing a bug out bag, look for a camping or hiking backpack made of durable materials. Avoid bags marketed specifically as “bug out bags,” as they may be overpriced and not as high-quality as a well-made camping/hiking/rucking backpack.

Consider the size of your bag carefully. It should be large enough to hold all your essential gear, but not so large that it becomes cumbersome to carry. A bag with a capacity of 40-50 liters is usually sufficient for a 72-hour kit.

Essential Bug Out Bag Items

Now that you have your bag, it’s time to fill it with essential survival gear. These items will help you stay hydrated, fed, warm, and safe in an emergency situation.

Water and Hydration

Water is the most important resource in a survival situation. Pack water purification tablets, a water filter, and collapsible water containers in your bug out bag to ensure you have clean drinking water in an emergency.

I always carry a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle in my bag, along with a Sawyer Mini water filter and Aquatabs purification tablets. This setup allows me to collect and purify water from any source, ensuring my family can stay hydrated no matter what.

Food and Nutrition

Pack non-perishable, high-calorie foods like energy bars, dried fruits and nuts, and MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) in your bug out bag to sustain you. Look for foods that are lightweight, nutrient-dense, and easy to prepare.

I like to pack a variety of snacks and meals in my bag, including Clif Bars, beef jerky, and freeze-dried meals survival meals. I’ve found Nutrient Survival to be the best resource for these and I’ve got a discount code with them (STRENGTH15). 

Don’t forget you can/should pack a small stove and fuel to heat up your meals, as well as utensils and a lightweight cooking pot.

Shelter and Warmth

Include a lightweight tent or tarp, sleeping bag, and emergency blankets in your bug out bag to provide shelter and protect you from the elements. Choose gear that is compact, lightweight, and rated for the temperatures you expect to encounter.

I always pack a high-quality backpacking tent, like the REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 1, along with a down sleeping bag and a few emergency blankets. This setup keeps my kids and family warm and dry in basically any weather conditions.

First Aid and Hygiene

A well-stocked first aid kit is essential in your bug out bag. Include bandages, antiseptic, pain relievers, prescription medications, and personal hygiene items like toothpaste, soap, and toilet paper.

I recommend assembling your own first aid kit tailored to your specific needs. Be sure to include any prescription medications you take regularly, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers, antihistamines, and anti-diarrheal medication. Don’t forget to pack extra glasses or contacts if you wear them.

I’ve got two go-to places for medical gear where I have also secured a couple discount codes:

Tools and Gear for Your Bug Out Bag

In addition to the essentials, there are a few key tools and gear items that can make a big difference in a survival situation. These items can help you navigate, communicate, start a fire, and repair gear.

Knives and Multi-tools

A reliable survival knife and multi-tool are indispensable in a bug out bag. They can be used for various tasks like cutting, repairing gear, and preparing food.

I always carry a high-quality fixed blade knife, like the Gerber StrongArm, as well as a Leatherman multi-tool. I have carried a pocket knife on me everywhere I go since I was in junior high and these tools have gotten me out of countless jams over the years.

As a side note, that link above goes to Optics Planet and you can use my discount code “STRENGTH” to save 5% off basically everything there.

Lighting and Fire Starting

Pack a flashlight, headlamp, extra batteries, and multiple fire starting methods like matches, a lighter, and a ferrocerium rod in your bug out bag. Being able to start a fire and see in the dark can be crucial in a survival situation.

I recommend packing a high-quality headlamp (I like Fenix Lighting) along with a few reliable lighters and a waterproof container for matches. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries for your flashlight and headlamp.

Cordage and Repair

Include paracord and duct tape in your bug out bag for gear repairs, building shelters, and other survival uses. These versatile items can be used in countless ways to make your life easier in an emergency.

I always pack a few hundred feet of high-quality paracord, as well as a roll of heavy-duty duct tape. I’ve used these items to repair torn tents, build makeshift shelters, and even fashion a splint for a broken arm.

Communication and Navigation

A hand-crank or battery-powered radio, GPS device, and maps of your area are important for staying informed and navigating in an emergency situation. Being able to communicate with the outside world and know where you are can be a lifesaver.

I recommend packing a two-way radio, like the BaoFeng BF-F8HP, along with a GPS device and detailed maps of your area. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries for your devices.

Building a bug out bag can seem overwhelming at first, but by focusing on the essentials and choosing high-quality, reliable gear, you can create a kit that will keep you safe and comfortable in any emergency situation. Remember to tailor your bag to your specific needs and environment, and don’t forget to practice using your gear before you need it.

Key Takeaway: 

A bug out bag is your lifeline in emergencies, packed with essentials to survive 72 hours or more. It’s key to grab and go, saving precious time during disasters. Make sure it includes water purification, food, shelter gear, a first aid kit, and tools like knives and fire starters. Tailor it to your needs and practice using the items inside.

Clothing and Personal Items

When it comes to packing clothing in your bug out bag, the key is versatility. You want items that can be layered and adapted to changing weather conditions. I always include a mix of lightweight, moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a durable, waterproof outer shell. 

Your clothing choices should be tailored to the climate and seasons in your area. For cold weather, pack wool socks, a warm hat, gloves, and a heavy coat. In hot climates, opt for light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers your skin to protect against sun exposure. 

Don’t forget to include a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. 

I once got caught in an unexpected rain/snowstorm during a long-range training day. I was so grateful to have packed a lightweight, waterproof rain jacket in my bag. It kept me dry and comfortable until I could get under some cover. 

Since then, I never leave home without some type of rain gear in my pack.

Footwear and Socks

Your feet are your primary mode of transportation in a bug out situation, so it’s crucial to take care of them. 

Pack a sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes that you’ve already broken in to avoid blisters. Include several pairs of moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and prevent fungal growth. 

I learned the importance of proper footwear the hard way when I developed painful blisters during a hiking trip. Now, I always make sure to pack a few pairs of high-quality, quick-drying socks like merino wool socks. They keep my feet comfortable and blister-free, even on long treks.

Personal Documents and Money

In an emergency situation, you may need to prove your identity or access funds. Make copies of important documents like your driver’s license, passport, and insurance cards to include in your bug out bag. 

Also, pack some cash in small denominations. ATMs and credit card machines may not work during a disaster. I keep a waterproof document bag in my pack with copies of my ID, medical information, and a few hundred dollars in cash. It gives me peace of mind knowing I have these essentials if I need to evacuate quickly.

Customizing Your Bug Out Bag

One size does not fit all when it comes to bug out bags. What works for me might not be the best option for you. It’s important to customize your bag to fit your individual needs and environment. 

Think about any unique requirements you may have, such as medications, dietary restrictions, or medical conditions. If you wear glasses, pack a spare pair and consider including an eyeglass repair kit. If you have allergies, don’t forget to include your EpiPen or other necessary medications. 

If you’re someone with asthma, always make sure to pack extra inhalers and allergy medicine in your bug out bag. 

I also include a small first aid guide that covers how to handle basic emergencies, just in case. I also have young children so I pack some extra baby gear and essentials for children.

Adapting to Your Environment

Your location should play a significant role in shaping your bug out bag contents. If you live in an urban area, you might need items like a pry bar or bolt cutters to navigate through debris. In a rural setting, you may want to focus more on shelter, fire-starting materials, and water purification methods. 

I live in a suburban-ish area with rural terrain not far off so my bug out bag includes a multi-tool with a glass breaker and a small crowbar and I’ve added items like a compact water filtration system and a lightweight camping tarp for shelter.

Managing Your Bug Out Bag Weight

It’s easy to get carried away when packing your bug out bag, but remember, you’ll have to carry it on your back. Aim for a total weight of no more than 20% of your body weight to avoid fatigue and injury. 

To keep my bag’s weight manageable, I focus on multi-purpose items and lightweight, compact gear. For example, I pack a titanium cooking pot that can also be used as a water container and a small multi-tool instead of separate pliers and screwdrivers.

Maintaining and Updating Your Bug Out Bag

Your bug out bag is sort of a set-it-and forget it project, but not a one-and-done project if that makes sense. It requires some maintenance over time and updates to ensure it’s always ready when you need it. 

Set a reminder to inspect your bug out bag at least once a year. Check for expired items, damaged gear, and depleted batteries. Test your equipment to make sure it’s still functioning properly. 

I like to schedule my bag inspections at the beginning and end of daylight saving time. It’s an easy way to remember, and it coincides with rotating my food storage.

Rotating Perishable Items

Food, water, and medications have limited shelf lives. Make sure to rotate these items regularly to keep them fresh. Use the oldest supplies first and replace them with new ones as needed. 

I keep a list of expiration dates for all the perishable items in my bug out bag. Every few months, I’ll pull out anything that’s nearing its expiration and use it up in my daily life. Then, I’ll restock my bag with fresh supplies.

Updating Gear as Needed

As your skills and knowledge grow, your gear needs may change. Don’t be afraid to update your bug out bag contents as you learn more about survival and preparedness. 

When I first started prepping, I packed a lot of cheap, low-quality gear. Some of which I still have to be honest. As I gained more experience and knowledge, I gradually replaced those items with higher-quality, more reliable equipment for my main gear. It’s an ongoing process, but it ensures my bug out bag is always up to the task.

Key Takeaway: 

Packing the right clothes means choosing layers that work for any weather. Remember, your feet are key in a bug out situation, so pick comfy, broken-in shoes and moisture-wicking socks. Don’t skimp on personal docs and cash—they’re vital. Tailor your bag to fit both your needs and environment, keeping weight in mind to avoid getting bogged down. Regularly check and update your gear to stay prepared.

Bug Out Bag Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to packing your bug out bag, there are a few common mistakes that even experienced preppers can make. Trust me, I’ve been there myself and learned the hard way.

One of the biggest issues is overpacking. It’s tempting to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, but that extra weight will slow you down and wear you out faster.

Packing Too Much

Focus on the essentials and multipurpose gear. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a bag that weighs no more than 20% of your body weight. This is relative of course. 40-50lbs is where you should max out.

Another mistake is relying on unfamiliar gear. It’s great to have the latest and greatest survival gadgets, but if you don’t know how to use them effectively, they won’t do you much good in a crisis.

Not Knowing Your Gear

Take the time to practice with each item in your bag, so you can deploy and use them quickly and efficiently. This includes things like starting a fire, purifying water, and setting up shelter.

Which brings me to another common oversight – neglecting to practice your bug out plan. Having a well-stocked bag is great, but if you haven’t rehearsed grabbing it and getting out of dodge, you may find yourself fumbling when it matters most.

Failing to Practice

Regularly practice bugging out, even if it’s just a short hike with your bag. This will help you identify any weaknesses in your kit and build muscle memory.

Lastly, don’t forget the small but crucial items. Things like medications, glasses, or copies of important documents are easily overlooked but can make a world of difference in a survival situation.

Overlooking Essential Items

Make a checklist and double-check your bag regularly to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything vital. A little preparation and attention to detail can go a long way when SHTF.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bug Out Bags

As someone who has been building and refining bug out bags for years, I get a lot of questions from people just starting out. Here are some of the most common ones:

What should I pack in my bug out bag?

While everyone’s needs are a bit different, a good bug out bag list should cover the essentials of shelter, water, food, first aid, and tools. Check out our free comprehensive checklist for a detailed rundown.

How much should I pack in my bug out bag?

Aim for enough supplies to last you 72 hours, but be mindful of weight. A good target is no more than 20% of your body weight. It’s a balancing act between being prepared and being mobile.

Where should I keep my bug out bag?

Keep your bag in an easily accessible location, like a front closet or garage. Make sure everyone in your household knows where it is and how to use the contents.

When should I use my bug out bag?

Your bug out bag is for emergency evacuations, whether due to natural disasters, civil unrest, or other threats. If you need to leave your home quickly and may not be able to return for a few days, that’s when you grab your bag and go.

Remember, bugging out should be a last resort. If it’s safe to stay put, your supplies will usually last longer and you’ll be more comfortable sheltering in place.

Building a bug out bag can seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with the essentials, practice using your gear, and refine your kit over time. The peace of mind that comes with being prepared is well worth the effort.

Key Takeaway: 

Avoid common bug out bag blunders like overpacking and not knowing your gear. Keep it light, practice with what you pack, and don’t skip the essentials. A little prep goes a long way in an emergency.

Wrapping Up the Bug Out Bag List

Building the perfect bug out bag takes time and careful planning, but with our comprehensive bug out bag list, you’re well on your way to being prepared for anything. Remember, a bug out bag is your lifeline in an emergency, so don’t skimp on quality gear.

Take the time to customize your bag to fit your specific needs and environment. And most importantly, practice using your gear and regularly update your supplies. With a well-stocked bug out bag by your side, you can face any survival situation with confidence.

Stay safe out there, and happy prepping!

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