What is a Bug Out Bag?
Simply put, a bug out bag contains the essentials you need to live if you are forced to leave your location. This bag will have everything you need plus some additional supplies, space permitting, for a minimum of three days.
What Items do you need to put in your bug out bag?
Water is essential to anyone’s survival so you must have a plan for carrying it, obtaining fresh water along the way and treating is so that you can drink it without catching a disease that will knock you on your butt at the worst possible time.
Water Bottle – I like Nalgene bottles because they carry a lot but are also light weight.
Water Filter – The Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System does an excellent job of converting water that you collect into drinkable water.
Extra Capacity – The Nalgene Wide Mouth Cantene (32-ounce) will allow you to fill up two bottles and will collapse down when it is empty.
I know people who carry tins of tuna, pop tarts or instant noodles in your bug out bag and they work, but they also take up space. I like to add dehydrated meals designed for camping and they cover the two most important areas of food: how long you can store it and how simple is it to prepare/vs. nutritional value.
I love Leap Smoothies. Don’t let the packaging fool you. They have dried powder containing five portions of fruit and five portions of veg in each pouch and are 100% natural, organic and raw. They also last ONE YEAR. All you need is water to add and, one minute later, you have a (good tasting) meal that is drinkable and full of nutrition, protein and energy. Check them out at Leap Smoothies
Clothing & Shelter
Clothes – This is simple: Your bag should have:
- A (good) pair of long pants (these are my choice over shorts as your legs will need protection if you’re in certain environments)
- long sleeve shirt
- change of underwear
- spare pair of socks
- Waterproof poncho
- Strong supporting shoes (preferably with ankle supports for climbing)
VERY IMPORTANT: Please remember that this is not a fashion show. This is to save your life. No one gives a shit what you look like when SHTF!
Shelter – Keep it simple. All this is for is to protect you from the elements. The shelter can be anything from a tent to the simple tarp. Just remember, Tarps are much lighter and give you protection from the elements much like a tent. You’re not going to have your home comforts if you reach a point where you need to use you BOB. This is about life saving, not being comfortable. Sorry to be blunt, but if you choose comfort over survival, you may as well accept you are not going to last long.
Sleeping – You can buy very lightweight and compact sleeping bags, but at around $300-400, not to mention a space filler, I’d recommend Adventure Medical Kits SOL Emergency Bivvy instead of a sleeping bag. They are around $20 and only weigh 4 ounces.
Fire & Light
You can’t go wrong with Bic disposable lighters stored in a waterproof bag. Swedish Firesteel wool is also a great addition to have.
When it comes to having light, I highly, highly recommend headlamps for everyone. The Petzl E91 Tikkina 2 Headlamps are a staple for my family. Each is perfectly bright, will sit on your head and are adjustable.
This section is up to you. I could give you a list of pros and cons for carrying certain weapons and we would argue for days about it. This is a personal choice. When I have to leave in a hurry I have a Springfield XD9 for personal/family defense and an AR15 for hunting/other “encounters”. I also keep a fixed blade knife, lock knife and crowbar handy. Why the crow bar? They not only open doors and lift heavy objects…they can also be non-lethal self defense tools (depending on where you hit someone, of course).
Leave your cell phone. Seriously. Leave it. Your battery will be dead within 24 hours, even with limited use and, most likely, if you have to Bug Out, cell towers will be down anyway. They are just useless lumps of metal. If you’re worried about loved ones wondering how to reach you, then you can leave a voicemail message telling people where you’re heading to that you’ll reach them. Truth is though, your nearest and dearest should know your plan and where to head to if SHTF. If they don’t fix that now.
I recommend a hand-held HAM radio capable of broadcasting and receiving on UHF and VHF and a dual band antenna. That way you have much more range.
I also highly recommend the Baofeng UV-5RA (for about $35). If you get a Slim Jim antenna and bout 75 feet of coax cable (plus adapter to connect it all) you can listen into coms up to 100 miles away.
You can’t go wrong with a Leatherman. Small, lightweight and has almost everything you need for the short amount of time you’re out. Many people forget that “tools’ doesn’t just mean things you can build or take apart things will. It also covers objects to cook/boil water, a good first aid kit and, yup, that essential tool… some paracord.
Boiling water/cooking – The JetBoil Flash. With this you can boil water for your freeze-dried food or to disinfect it. It’s also very small and lightweight.
First Aid Kits- Pick a good kit or make your own. Remember, you won’t be able to This won’t allow you perform surgery (unless your name is John J. Rambo), but it should cover all of the based needed for “mishaps.” Make sure you have Quick Clot and some larger pressure dressing bandages. Tampons and Maxi pads are also EXCELLENT at stopping blood and Tylenol (or similar) for pains and headaches etc.
Here is goes:
- bar of soap
- chap-stick (x3)
- hand sanitizer
This is the part that it up to you. Do you need these things? Again, it’s down to the person. I’ve said this before in this article and will say it again. This is for your survival. Does it take up space? Will you NEED it? And I mean REALLY need it. Did you pack:
- duct tape which you can wrap around your water bottles
- bandannas which have a thousand uses and
- spare batteries for any gear that requires them
- ID to prove who you are so you’re not immediately arrested and all the above doesn’t matter
- Extra ammo
We all have our own essentials and our preferred additions to our Bug Out Bags and I’m sure many of you will have stuff to add to my list (or take out), but if you are going to remember one thing, make sure that its this:
Your Bug Out Bag is not for surviving for weeks. It’s for surviving those first days when SHTF and you need to assess the situation. It may be a false alarm, it may be a small event that was fixed inside 48 hours or it could be something else that requires you making some tough choices and a much, much longer stay than you thought it would be. At least with a list like I’ve added above, you know you (and your family) with be safe while you start planning for the next stage.