What Items Should Be in a Bug Out Bag? -The Essentials List

October 20, 2022 14 min read

person wearing a bug-out bag in a winter mountainous setting

When it comes to post-disaster survival, having a bug-out bag is essential.

According to research by Insure.com, only 25% of Americans have an emergency bag. If you’re not one of them, then you might be hurting your chances of survival once a natural or manmade disaster occurs.

It is not uncommon to hear stories from people who evacuated their homes and only depended on the items they gathered in a few moments and brought with them. Hence, it makes perfect sense to pack all the essentials for your survival to be ready for anything.

However, it might be a challenge to identify which items should go into your bug-out bag. But it’s one decision that you have to correctly make. Otherwise, you might wind up bringing too little, or worse, too many items, which can impede your movement.

So, if you’re wondering which essential items go in your bug-out bag, check out our list below.

What Is a Bug Out Bag?

A bug-out bag is an emergency or survival bag that contains items you could use for at least 72 hours or until you reach your bug-out location. 

The items inside are meant to keep you alive while you’re traveling or getting as far as you can from the crisis or disaster.

Unlike a home survival kit or bug-in bag, a bug-out bag has more supplies and can get a whole lot heavier. However, your bag should not exceed 1/3 of your total weight.

Bug-out bags are often placed inside the car, garage, or workplace. They have to be easily accessible for a hasty escape. 

They are specifically designed for disasters such as a hurricane, tornadoes, earthquakes, bombing, or any form of attack. Hence, it’s sometimes referred to as a doomsday bag.

 

FLEXIT 4.0 flexible flashlight with magnetic base sitting by boots and pack on a rock near the river

How to Choose a Bug Out Bag?

You can easily find a bug-out bag online or in shops that sell survival kits. Thus, it saves you from getting an ordinary backpack and turning it into a makeshift B.O.B.

Most bug-out bags come as a hiking backpack or a tactical backpack. You can choose either bag, just as long as you consider the key features necessary to get the most reliable bug-out bag.

For starters, look for a lightweight bug-out bag. Make sure that the materials are light but durable. Next, make sure that wearing the bag is comfortable. Remember, you might be carrying the said bag for many hours. Moreover, look for a B.O.B. that is both waterproof and fireproof.

What Does a Bug Out Bag Consist of?

After getting your bug-out bag, it’s time to prepare all the items you need. These include your basic survival supplies and tools for shelter, defense, navigation, etc.

Here are the items that make up a bug-out bag:

 

water container sitting on a mossy rocky mountainous setting

1.     Water

It is true that you can stay alive without drinking water for three days, unlike food, where you can survive without eating for weeks. 

But within those times, your body will be too weak to move or carry out even the simplest actions. On the third day, the effects of dehydration can be life-threatening.

Therefore, the first thing you need to secure is enough drinking water. Here’s what you need to consider when it comes to water supplies.

Water Containers: Bringing more than one water container is crucial. It is recommended to secure two 1L containers, preferably made of stainless steel, so that you can keep hot water inside. Also, keep an extra portable container such as a collapsible or foldable water bottle.

Hydration Pack: Some backpacks or bags come with an internal hydration pack. If there’s none, you can buy and install one yourself. However, most survivalists are hesitant to use hydration packs for a bug-out bag.

Sure, they are a hit with hiking bags, but water supplies in B.O.B. are stored for the long term. Hence, hydration packs can be contaminated if you keep water in there for too long.

On the other hand, if you replace the water every six months and clean the straw and whatnot, then, by all means, fill your hydration pack.

Portable Water Filtration System: It is good to bring a portable water filtering device. When your supply is about to get depleted, you can simply purify water from a nearby lake or river, making it drinkable. 

Otherwise, you can subject yourself to contaminated water that could endanger your life.

How Much Water Should Be in a Bug Out Bag?

You will need about 1 gallon per day for at least five days in your bug-out bag. If you can only carry less than that, make sure you have the right tools to collect and generate clean water.

Nevertheless, it is best to secure the recommended amount as water may be limited when you’re on the run.

How Do You Carry Water in a Bug Out Bag?

You can place your water container on the little pouch often found on the side of the bug-out bag. It’s convenient and secure. Also, most water containers and foldable water bottles have a carabiner clip. So you can just hook the clip on your bag.

 

camping food supplies and cooking equipment

2.     Food Supplies and Portable Cooking Tools

When a major crisis breaks out, it’s unlikely that you’ll have plenty of time to go to your pantry and grab some food. Also, bringing large portions of food is impractical for a bug-out bag.

When preparing food supplies for your bag, the first thing you need to understand is that you might not get to bring, let alone eat, the typical food you have every day.

When choosing your food, you have to consider its weight, expiration, spoilage, and the number of calories it has. The ideal food item to bring has to be small, but with high calories, so you can still have enough energy to survive.

Thus, your best option is to secure packets of rations. Survival stores have food packets that are light and calorie-dense, making them a perfect choice for post-disaster survival.

 

camping scene featuring a male cooking over a fire next to his tent. Nighttime near a lake. He's illuminated by a FLi-PRO telescoping light by STKR Concepts

3.     Reliable Light Sources

Your bug-out bag is not complete without a good light source. A portable light is a mainstay in any emergency bag. And in a bug-out bag, it is perpetually crucial.

Although a traditional flashlight is good enough for blackouts and minor emergencies at home, it may not be enough for an emergency brought about by a dangerous crisis. So, your best options are the following portable light devices.

a.     Multi-Use Flashlight

Contemporary emergency flashlights used for outdoor activities are even more portable than they used to be. On top of that, they have more lumens providing sufficient light that can sustain visibility even in the middle of a pitched dark area.

If you’re curious about what lumens are and why they matter in choosing the flashlight for your bug-out bag, just click here to learn more.

STKR's FLEXIT Pocket Light attached to a backpack strap worn by male. Extra close up on just the light.
FLEXIT Pocket Light

While we’re on the subject of the perfect flashlight for your bag, check out STKR Concepts’ FLEXIT Pocket Light. It’s a handy lighting device with red night vision, a center CREE spotlight, and floodlight LEDs producing high visibility in a wider range.

The FLEXIT Pocket light can also be positioned in various ways. It can be hand-held, hung on a branch, stuck on a magnetic object, clipped to a backpack strap, or simply placed on a flat surface. You can also adjust the angle of the head, so you don’t have to move the entire flashlight to get just the right lighting angle.

BAMFF Tactical Flashlight sitting on a bag
B.A.M.F.F. Tactical Flashlight

The B.A.M.F.F. Tactical Flashlight is not the same as any traditional flashlight. The dual-LED flood and spotlight options enhance your visibility. Instead of generating only tunnel vision, it also illuminates your peripheral vision as well.

This tactical flashlight also has six modes. Plus, you can mount it on a rifle if you carry one, improving your defense at night.

b.     Headlamp

Your bug-out bag goes on your back to ensure that your hands are free from any objects if you need to crawl, scale, or hold on top of something. 

At night, if you have to use your hand to hold a flashlight, it might compromise your movement. Hence, it is undeniably helpful to bring with you a headlamp you can comfortably wear.

man hiking up in the mountains wearing an STKR headlamp kneeling down and looking at a map on the ground
FLEXIT Headlamp

Headlamps often produce light just directly ahead giving you tunnel vision, especially if you’re in a broad dark area. 

So, it’s a good thing the FLEXIT Headlamp has halo lighting, which covers even your peripheral vision. That way, you don’t have to awkwardly turn your head every now and then to shift the focal light.

FLEXIT Headlamps are also weather-resistant, have an adjustable spotlight, red night vision, and multiple modes. In addition, they have comfort-fit foams and lightweight materials, which makes them easier to wear for hours at a time.

 

Multi-tool pliers sitting on top of a fishing pole in a wet river rock bed setting

4.     Multipurpose Tools

Surviving in the wild or anywhere far from your home can be a little less hard if you have portable tools in your bug-out bag.

How portable are these tools? They should be primarily pocket-sized. It’s hard to imagine bringing typical garage items in your bag, considering their weight. Hence, you will have to settle with multipurpose tools rolled into one handy device. Here are some examples:

a.     Swiss Army Knife

Even if you’re not familiar with the term Swiss Army Knife, you may have encountered a device that houses all sorts of tools like a knife, screwdriver, scissors, a tiny saw, cork, etc.

These tools may be small, but they do the deed, especially when setting up your shelter, preparing your food, or even foraging for more supplies.

b.     Small Shovel

Bringing a small shovel with you has plenty of benefits. But, it’s not simply for digging the base of your shelter.

You can use your shovel when relieving yourself. For example, you can dig a hole in the ground and deposit your waste. Then, use the same shovel to cover it up afterward. This may sound primitive, but in a post-disaster situation, you just have to do everything you can to survive.

Likewise, you can use it to dig a fire pit or even for self-defense.

 

THE FLEXIT SOLAR BY STKR CONCEPTS LIGHITNG UP A TENT WHILE CAMPING

5.     Shelter

Setting up your shelter is vital for survival. When day turns to night, you will need a secure place to rest safe from potential harm outside. During a disaster that leaves you homeless, having a shelter, even a makeshift one, should be on the upper part of your list.

a.     Tent

A tent is your best option for an outdoor shelter. It’s small, easy to set up, and secure. You can use it during the day or night.

However, a traditional tent may be too heavy or too huge for a bug-out bag.

On the other hand, you can opt for a survival tent or an emergency tent. These tents are less complicated, smaller, and lighter. So, you can simply carry the tent in your bag with ease.

b.     Tarp

A tarp is another item you can use as a makeshift shelter. With some rope between two trees, you can lay the tarp over the horizontal rope and you’re all set against the heat of the sun or the pouring rain.

However, one downside of tarps is that you may not get the needed protection that shelter should provide during the night. Although this depends on how you set up the tarp. Nonetheless, a tarp is still better than nothing.

c.     Ground pad

Even if you’re staying or sleeping in the wilderness, you still deserve a little comfort. That’s why bringing a ground pad is essential. It prevents you from making direct contact with soil which can be quite uncomfortable.

 

tri-folding first aid kit with three main compartments full of first aid accessories

6.     First Aid Kit

You should never forget a first aid kit in your bug-out bag. When you are hastily leaving home due to a disaster, injuries can be inevitable. And in these types of situations, clinics and hospitals may not be easily accessible.

So, your best option is to treat your physical injuries using items from your first aid kit. Therefore, ensuring that your kit is complete is of the utmost importance.

Here are the first aid tools and materials you’ll need:

a.     Bandages

These include adhesive, triangular, and crepe bandages suitable for different types and sizes of wounds.

b.     Gauze pads and Cotton

These are used for dressing the wounds or general cleaning.

c.     Tourniquet

This device is used to restrict blood flow towards the wound. It prevents loss of blood which can put you in critical danger depending on the size of the injury.

d.     Antiseptic Spray

This solution is used to prevent infection in the wound.

e.     Painkillers

Bring over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

f.     Medications

If you are prescribed medications for maintenance or a specific medical condition, make sure to keep some in your bug-out bag.

g.     Anti-bacterial Wipes

This is used to cleanse the wound.

h.     Burn Gel

A burn gel or ointment will soothe parts of your body damaged by heat or fire.

 

 

pair of legs wearing shorts getting sprayed by insect/bug repellant

7.     Personal Effects

Post-disaster survival depends not only on sustaining your food and water, but you also need to make sure that you remain healthy. In doing so, looking after your hygiene is crucial. That’s why you should secure the basic items for hygiene in your bug-out bag.

Now, you may wonder which items suit the situation. After all, hygiene kits for travel are widely available, but their content may be too much for your bag. But, on the other hand, you can do away with these personal effects.

a.     Insect Repellant

There’s a high chance that wherever you end up, insects can be in abundant numbers. Protect yourself from insect bites that can irritate your skin by applying insect repellant lotion or spray.

b.     Camp Soap

Packing a bar of regular soap in your bug-out bag is an unwise decision. You could risk ruining the soap or your other items inside the bag. So, instead of that, use a multipurpose camp soap. This solution can be used not just as a bath soap but also as shampoo.

c.     Travel Size Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Dental health is still vital when you are somewhere around the wild. Hence, it’s a good thing that travel-size toothbrushes and toothpaste are available. And it would be wrong not to pack them in your bug-out bag.

d.     Hand Sanitizer

A small bottle of hand sanitizer will suffice to protect you from infection and possible transmission of diseases.

e.     Wet Wipes and Toilet Paper

Relieving yourself can be a challenge without toilets. Yet, it becomes easier to do even on a makeshift toilet, provided that you have wet wipes and toilet paper. 

However, it may be tricky to pack rolls of toilet paper in your bug-out bag. But you can opt for toilet paper tablets which are more portable and smaller and wet wipes are just handy to have around for many reasons.

f.     Small Towel

A travel-size towel is enough for your bag. Go for a towel made of light material and can dry faster.

 

piles of clothes

8.     Clothing

Extra clothing is crucial to keep you warm, especially in the midst of a storm. Prepare clothing items for both cold and hot weather.

a.     Headgear

Proper headgear will protect you from the adverse effects of the weather. Pack a bucket hat that you can wear on a hot day and a beanie or winter hat in case it’s cold.

b.     Lightweight Clothes

Secure light long sleeves in your bug-out bag. This type of clothing item suits any weather. Plus, it doesn’t add too much weight to your bag.

c.     Waterproof Jacket

A jacket has many purposes in the wild. It can keep you warm or protect you from the excruciating heat of the sun. When choosing a jacket to pack, find one that is not so bulky. Also, make sure that it is waterproof to keep you safe during hurricanes and other crises.

d.     Gloves and Socks

Gloves and socks are important to preserve heat, especially when the weather is too cold. Without these items, your actions and movements can be limited.

 

pile of blankets

9.     Bedding and Blanket

Inside your shelter, there should be appropriate beddings and a reliable blanket. Without these items, you will have to endure the discomfort which can rob you of hours of sleep and rest.

a.     Sleeping bag

A sleeping bag is often physically attached at the bottom or top of your bug-out bag versus getting stuffed inside. Most sleeping bags are lightweight, depending on the size and materials used. For emergencies, find a sleeping bag that can provide comfort without adding too much weight.

b.     Space Blanket

A blanket has plenty of use when it comes to survival. Aside from keeping you warm, your blanket can provide added shade during the day. 

You can also convert it into a bag and store food you collected, such as berries and fruits. Likewise, you can use it to make a hammock or cover your supplies.

 

traditional map and compass

10.     Navigation tools

History would tell you that you might have to go back to essential tools during disasters as technology can become unavailable. That’s especially true when it comes to navigation.

Nowadays, we have become too comfortable using the GPS for directions. But signals may be limited or out of reach when earthquakes, hurricanes, or large-scale attacks occur. Hence, it’s best to secure the following.

a.     Compass

A compass will provide you with direction. It doesn’t need signals or electricity so you can rely on it all the time.

b.     Local map

Whether you’re familiar with your area or not, having a map helps in many situations, especially if it involves going to an evacuation shelter.

 

personal radio walkie talkie

11.     Cellphone and Radio

When packing your bug-out bag, don’t forget to include a cellphone or a radio. Communication is crucial after a disaster. If you don’t have communication devices, you might be camping in the wild longer than you should have.

Getting information from your local government is channeled through radio since televisions are rarely available after a major crisis that led to damages. Hence, radio is the right choice for electronics.

Moreover, as you put your cellphone and radio inside the bag, don’t forget to include the chargers.

 

USB power bank with cables

12.     Power bank and Batteries

Your flashlight, cellphone, and other devices will eventually run out of power. And when that happens, your temporary way of living can be critically disrupted. So, to prevent this loss, make sure to pack a power bank and spare batteries.

It is advisable to include a small solar charger for your power banks as well as they will only last so long before they need a recharge.

 

pov shot looking down at a lap full of tactical equipment including pistol clip watch knife bamff tactical flashlight and more

13.     Defense Tools

One bitter reality of post-disaster survival is that there is a likelihood that other people may harm you.

It could be because they want some of your supplies or simply out of frustration from the problematic situation you are in. Whatever the reason is, you will need to defend yourself. And one way to do that is through defense tools you carry in your bug-out bag.

There are defense tools available in the market, like pepper spray. In some cases, you can use other tools like the shovel, tactical flashlight, or your Swiss Army Knife for protection.

 

hands striking flint and steel together in the darkness creating lots of sparks

14.     Fire Starter

Fire is vital for survival. It keeps you warm, provides additional light, and lets you cook in the wild. 

Although fire starter kits for camping are handy, they can be inadequate, especially for a 72-hour survival in the wild. Thus, consider packing the following fire starters in your bug-out bag.

a.     Matches

Classic matches remain beneficial for survival. Lighting them is easy when you’re in a dry place but can be tricky, mainly in a storm. Hence, it’s better to pack other fire starters along with a box of matches.

b.     Lighter

A lighter is more reliable even in cold weather as it can stay lit as long as you like. The downside, however, is that fuel can be depleted fast.

 

whistle

15.     Miscellaneous Items

When we talk about miscellaneous items, there are objects necessary for multiple purposes that further improve your survival. Of course, these are not just items you wish to bring solely influenced by personal choice. These objects are vital beyond a single function.

a.     Parachute Cord

A paracord can be used in different ways. For example, you can use the cord to tie down your tent or tarp when making a shelter. Use can also turn it into a clothing yarn or tie up some items in your camp or station.

b.     Sewing Kit

A portable sewing kit will save you some trouble especially if your tent, blanket, clothing items are ripped. Likewise, you can use the sewing kit for sutures provided that you miss the necessary tools in your first aid kit.

c.     Whistle

Getting other people’s attention, especially if you’re in danger, can be challenging. But blowing a whistle can make it easier.

d.     Emergency Cash

There’s no doubt that you will need to use some cash for supplies or when you return to your home at some point after the disaster. Make sure you keep a few in your bug-out bag.

e.     Important Documents (Copies)

These include your passport, birth certificate, insurance policy, etc. Any document required for government processes should have a copy. These copies are kept in the bug-out bag.  

In a Nutshell

Choosing items to include in your bug-out bag does not go by personal preference or feelings. Survival is the primary goal of keeping a B.O.B. 

With that, you need to adhere to the recommended list of items to make sure that you pack the right articles within an adequate amount while filtering out unnecessary ones that simply add weight.

If you don’t have a bug-out bag yet, start by creating a checklist based on the aforementioned items. Find the right bag for you and prepare the items carefully. 

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