Life can throw a lot of different situations at you in a hurry, situations you might never see coming. With the world in the state it’s in, it can be easy to get scared and start feeling like you need to be prepared for “the worst.” The secret to having some peace of mind is being prepared ahead of time for the unpredictable. Because the very worst that can happen is a disaster in which you are unable to care for yourself or the ones you love. That’s where having a bug out bag comes in handy.
The best bug out bag is ready when you need it and contains everything required for living away from civilization for at least 7-days. A bug out bag assumes that there may come a time when, for whatever reason, you have to leave your home and not return for at least a few days. It also assumes that, should things be so bad that you have to leave your home, you won’t be able to drive down to the local Wal-Mart and stock up on everything you’ll be needing. So it’s important to spend some time ahead of the disaster, assessing your current situation and needs, as well as anticipating your needs down the road.
What Is A Bug Out Bag?
Several types of emergency preparedness kits are commonly referred to as a Bug Out Bag or BOB. Each serves a different, though sometimes similar, purpose in being prepared for whatever might come your way. An everyday carry kit contains emergency items that you keep on your person at all times. These are items that will help you survive emergency situations and daily challenges more easily. A get home bag is designed to do just what the name implies, to get you home. It contains more gear than you would carry on your person every day, and you would typically keep it at your office or in your car. A bug out bag is an emergency kit that provides everything you need to survive for up to a week without any outside contact or resources.
It may help to think of the three types of bags this way: In the event of a disaster, your everyday carry gear gets you from where you are to your get home bag. Your get home bag gets you to your bug out bag. And your bug out bag is designed to keep you safe for an extended period of time.
Identifying Your Needs
Different factors mean different needs. Things to consider when mapping out your bug out bag should include:
Where do you live? Living in a rural or urban environment will influence your needs during a survival situation. If you’re likely to face survival in a disaster-stricken inner city environment, you may require self-defense and demolition tools more than shelter and fire starting materials. However, most people will likely attempt to make it to a wilderness area to wait out whatever situation they’re getting away from.
Where would you go if your home were no longer safe? Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the land and map out various strengths and weaknesses. If you require a map for your chosen area, you’ll want to include one as you pack your bug out bag.
How will you get there? Depending on the type of disaster, there’s the possibility that you’d be on foot. You may need two destinations, one you can reach by car and another by foot. If you were able to “bug out” in your vehicle, all the better, but you want to pack your bug out bag with the thought that you’ll be carrying it a long way. Keeping that in mind will help you to make realistic weight limit decisions. You could always keep an extra bag of “nice to have” items close by to throw in the back of the truck or car if you can drive.
Who depends on you? Few people live in a vacuum. If disaster struck, who would look to you for help? Do you have children in the home? A spouse or partner you need to consider? Keep these people in mind when planning your bug out bag. Involve them in planning and have them, or help them, pack a bug out bag for themselves, as well.
Unique medical needs? Do you, or those you care for, have any unique medical needs that should be considered? Rescue medications like inhalers and Epi-pens should always have a priority place in any emergency preparedness.
Once you’ve identified your needs, along with the people who will need you, make a plan with your family or extended group. Choose an area where you’ll gather should the need arise. Each person should have prepared their own bug out bag and be able to get there independently. For parents with children, consider their age and capability when creating a family disaster plan.
What Should Go In The Best Bug Out Bag?
Water – the human body can only last up to 72 hours without water. You should plan for at least a liter of water, per day, per person. Carrying all that water may not be practical, but you should have at least some packaged water in your bag, as well as ways to sanitize water for future use. Water sanitation tablets or a simple filtration system can be the easiest and lightest to pack.
Food – You’ll want food you can eat now, and ways to get food in the future. Protein bars, MREs or other dehydrated meals, jerky are great. Canned goods may be considered, but they add weight and bulk. There are many pre-packaged emergency foods available commercially. When choosing food, remember to take into account any food allergies or severe sensitivities. One of the last things you want to deal with in the bush is a severe allergic reaction.
Food Preparation – Don’t forget that you’ll have to prepare your food. Be sure to include things like:
Metal pot or something else to cook in
Eating utensils and dishes
Pot scrubber to clean up after
Clothing – This is a variable component, depending on your personality, region, time of year, etc. Layering is the name of the game. Some suggestions:
Lightweight long sleeve shirt
At least one pair of long pants – you might consider “zip off” convertible pants
Hiking boots (on your feet) and an extra pair of shoes, if possible.
Underwear – a change or two, it’s up to you
Good socks – several pairs of moisture-wicking socks
Fleece jacket – medium weight jacket for layering
Hat with brim
Gloves – winter or work gloves
Neck protection – A scarf or gator, for sun or cold
Shelter and Bed
Tarp – must have
Tent – optional
Sleeping Bag – must have
Ground pad – optional
Extra blanket – optional
Fire – You really can never have too many methods for starting a fire. Choose at least three to pack in your bug out bag:
Lighter – get a good one, Zippo type wind-proof is best
Flint and Steel
Magnesium rod and striker
Batteries and steel wool
Tinder – You’ll want to pack several types of tinder, just in case:
Cotton balls coated with Vaseline (keep them in a baggie, or they’ll make a mess)
Commercial fire starters, there are many
First Aid – There are several very good first aid kits available commercially. If you want to put together your own, you’ll need at least:
Bandages with tape
Sunscreen – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all that
Super glue for closing wounds
Medical needs – Inhalers, Epi-pens, blood pressure medications, etc.
All purpose camp soap (dish soap or bar soap, whichever you prefer, or both)
Mirror (hygiene and signaling)
Small towel and a cloth
Toilet paper (you’ll thank us later)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Personal hygiene needs – deodorant, feminine hygiene products, a brush or comb, ponytail holders if you have long hair, etc.
Tools – It’s easy to get carried away when it comes to tools. Because it’s important to keep the overall weight and bulk down, you’ll want to choose combination tools whenever possible:
Survival knife – you may already have one as a part of your everyday carry gear, but make sure you have a backup.
Multi-tool – there are many on the market, get one that gives you the most bang for your buck.
Hatchet or machete – you won’t want to do everything with your knife, so taking something heavier makes sense.
Lighting – Always have at least primary and one backup light source:
Communication – Consider that your cell phone may not work in an emergency. You might want to have a short wave radio, or some other means of communication with you, as well.
Cash – Travel funds. It’s a good idea to have some cash, and perhaps some gold or silver bullion coins, as well.
Local Map – Even if you’re familiar with the area take a map. Not having one could be disastrous.
Compass – you may already have a compass combined with your analog watch. If you do not, include
one in your bug out bag.
Notepad and Pencil – This is a good place to keep important numbers and addresses. Without a cell phone, many of us wouldn’t remember a phone number to call if we got the chance.
Self-defense – The need for a bug out bag implies that you are trying to survive. Take with you the best means of self-defense that you have. Include non-lethal means, in addition to whatever weapon you might choose to carry: whistle, pepper spray, etc. If you carry a gun, take extra ammunition, 25 rounds minimum.
Misc. items – Make choices based on your abilities, lack of ability, carrying capacity, space, etc.:
Paracord – Must have – 50′ is a good start
Bandannas – several cotton bandannas will come in handy for a variety of uses.
Garbage bags – 55 gal contractor bags are best
Resealable bags – four or five, gallon and quart size
Face paint (optional)
How To Choose
The fact is, unless your bug out bag is a camper hooked to a truck, you just can’t take everything. That would be camping and not bugging out at all. So at some point you’ll have to make choices based on space and weight limitations. You’ll need to consider the distance you’ll be traveling, as weight can really add up over miles. Being able to get a pack on your back and walk across the yard is no test of your ability to get from point A to point B with it. Remember, the best bug out bag is the one you have when you need it. Having more than you can safely carry, could force you to make decisions about what to leave behind, while already under stress. That won’t set you up for success.
The weight recommendations for men is up to 20% of their body weight. This is an outside max, and assumes peak physical condition. Ten to 15% is a much more realistic weight goal. Weight recommendations for women is 10% to 15% max.
Everything has weight and takes up space. Refer back to your planning phase; remember to choose those items that you are most likely to need first, and add to it as space and weight allow.
Choosing A Good Pack
Keep a couple of things in mind: a compact bag, packed full, with no extra space, is going to be the easiest to carry. A larger, loosely packed bag, even with equal weight, is more uncomfortable. So choose the smallest bag that will still accommodate the volume and weight that you’re targeting. Remember, too, that the bag itself weighs something. Choosing a light but durable bag will be vital to having the best bug out bag possible.
Assembling Your Bug Out Bag
Packing things flat, or rolled very tightly, will allow you to fit more in less space. Make a list of items along with their weight. Start packing the most important, keeping track of the overall weight as it grows.
Don’t overestimate your ability to carry your pack for hours at a time. This is a costly mistake that may land you without the survival gear you need. Once you’ve carried a too heavy pack as far as you’re able, you’ll have to lighten it beyond the recommended weight in order to finish your trek. That’s lose lose. Proper packing, keeping your weight limit in mind at all times, is a vital part of preparing the best bug out bag possible.
Be Prepared, Not Scared
Once you’ve packed your bug out bag, take it out for a weekend of camping and survival training. Practicing your survival skills in a non-stress environment insures that you’re ready, physically and mentally, when the challenge arises. Skills that are only in your head, may not serve you well in the field. After a weekend of surviving with your bug out bag, unpack, re-evaluate and repack. Did you find that you needed things you didn’t have? Did you have things you didn’t need, or that would have been better traded out for a different item? Preparing for the future, and whatever eventualities it may hold, allows you the peace of mind to relax and enjoy the here and now. If you’re prepared, you
don’t need to be scared.