You go to sleep and everything as it should be, but when you wake up, it’s a new dawn, a new landscape—a new world.
Disaster can strike at any time—are you prepared? In an emergency survival situation, what you do (and where you go) in those first crucial moments can mean the difference between life and death.
The first 72 hours of any survival situation are the most critical, and it’s important to have the items you need to survive. Are you ready to head out, supplies in hand, at just a moment’s notice? If your current answer is anything less than a resounding yes, it’s time to rethink your strategy—and start packing the perfect emergency kit.
What is a bug out bag?
‘Bugging out’ refers to an individual’s decision to abandon home in response to an unexpected emergency situation—whether that be a natural disaster or one caused by mankind. It’s only natural, then, that the essential supplies you’d need in such a situation would be packed into a ‘bug-out’ bag.
At its core, a bug out bag is a survival kit filled with essentials that can help you get through a variety of emergency scenarios.
Also referred to by its acronym BOB, bug out bags are portable sacks or backpacks that contain the essential items you’d need to survive for at least 72 hours in a SHTF scenario—when “Sh** hits the fan”.
Why should you have a bug out bag?
Disaster can strike at any time, and without proper preparation, you leave yourself and your loved ones vulnerable. There’s no better time than the present to prepare a bug out bag filled with the essentials needed to sustain life, whether you’re facing a natural disaster or chemical warfare.
Preparedness is the key to survival, but a whopping 48 percent of Americans lack emergency supplies for use in the event of a disaster situation. That means virtually half the population won’t be ready when disaster comes knocking.
Preparing a comprehensive, survival-ready bug out bag should be priority number one on every survivalist’s checklist, and we’ve worked with a team of experts to outline some of the most important survival gear, tools, and materials required to weather the storm—whatever that storm may be.
To improve your chances of survival after bugging out, we’ve created a checklist of essentials to help you accomplish your long-term survival strategy.
We’ve split our bug out bag checklist into 12 categories:
The first 4 categories are based on the Survival Rule of 3’s. These are the things the human body needs to survive, no matter the situation, including:
- Air: You can survive for 3 minutes without air.
- Shelter: You can survive for 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment.
- Water: You can survive for 3 days without water.
- Food: You can survive 3 weeks without food.
The remaining 8 categories cover:
- First Aid
- Navigation Tools
- Multi-purpose Tools
Take your time to peruse each category, one by one, and determine which items are must-haves for your bug out bag. As you assess, keep in mind that the ideal bug-out bag should be easy to transport—this may require you to limit your items, so only consider what’s truly necessary in a life-or-death situation.
Bug Out Bag List
You can only survive for three minutes without clean air. Make sure you’re breathing easy with this must-have bug out bag item:
- Air Filtration Mask: Depending on the survival situation at hand, air filtration may be the only way you can access safe-to-breathe oxygen. Use an air filtration mask that filters out particulates to keep you breathing well.
Whether you’re stuck in a storm in the middle of the wilderness or left homeless after a natural disaster, immediate shelter is a necessity.
- Tent: In many emergency situations, shelter may be hard to find. While packing a traditional tent may not be a viable option, a good bug out bag should always include a waterproof survival tent. The best survival tents are made of Mylar, which can retain heat and repel water. Pro-tip: Be sure to stack leaves, grass or anything else from around the campsite against the tent for added protection from the elements.
- Space blanket: These light, metal-coated sheets weigh next to nothing and are designed to retain heat, which makes them a great addition to any bug out bag. Your space blanket may also be used as a rudimentary shelter; attach it to a limb or trunk and tie it with a paracord.
- Sleeping bag: If you can find an extremely lightweight sleeping bag that still provides appropriate warmth, this can be a good addition to your bug out bag.
|Learn how to build a survival shelter when you don't have shelter readily available.|
Few things are as important in an emergency situation as clean drinking water, since having access to fresh, safe water is an essential component of survival. The best bug out bags contain the following:
- Water filtration system: Your bug out bag must offer a filtration system that can help make any water source drinkable.
Learn more about how to filter/purify water in the wild.
- Water bottle/bladder: In order to take water on the go, you need a sturdy water bottle or bladder that keeps it protected from contamination.
Keep in mind that the average person can survive weeks without food—but only three days without water. Don’t find yourself stranded without appropriate hydration, and make sure your bug out bag is complete with the abovementioned items.
When flooding starts or bombs start exploding, you’ll want enough food to last three days at least. These essentials will help you get through those crucial first moments, and give you the energy needed to tackle whatever you encounter.
- Rations: You won’t have endless room in your bug out bag for a feast, and that’s where dense, small packages of rations come in. Datrex emergency rations are calorie-dense, providing enough food to sustain you for three days.
- Fishing kit: If your emergency situation leaves you stranded near a body of water, a small fishing kit could come in handy. String, hook, and bait can be tied to virtually anything, making for an on-the-go fishing solution.
The clothes on your back could be the thing to save you in a survival situation. Make sure you have access to the following items in your bug out bag.
- Cold weather gloves: A sturdy pair of gloves will provide you with better grip, protect your hands from cuts and splinters, offer warmth in low temperatures, and keeps your hands clean to reduce the risk of infection. In the aftermath of a disaster, you may be tasked with moving fallen branches, gathering firewood, or making your way through broken glass, and high-quality gloves will give you the dexterity to accomplish these tasks.
- Waterproof jacket: Make sure you’ve got a jacket that keeps you protected from the elements, especially if inclement weather is a concern in your area.
- Change of clothes: Having at least one change of clothes is essential, especially in wet conditions. Wearing damp clothing is uncomfortable at best, and deadly should hypothermia become an issue while you’re out in the elements.
- Headgear: It’s important to have hats that can provide head warmth. Opt for caps or beanies that can prevent heat from escaping.
|Note: Only carry as much clothing as you absolutely need for survival.|
When disaster forces you out into the elements, it’s important to have sources of warmth on-hand.
- Hand warmers: Hand and/or foot warmers are easy to carry and can provide essential warmth in cold temperatures. Throw hand warmers into your shoes or grip them for temporary relief from freezing conditions.
- Matches/Firestarter: Having access to fire-starters is crucial in an emergency situation. Fire can be used to cook food, provide warmth, and signal for help. Make sure your bug out bag contains matches and a firestarter that can work even when wet.
It’s crucial to have lighting tools when the sun goes down. Navigate to any area from sundown to sunrise using the following bug out bag essentials:
- Chem lights: A chemical grade light stick can last up to 12 hours, and is typically visible from up to a mile away. These sturdy lighting tools have a long shelf life and offer strong output—great for signaling, keeping animals away, and basic illumination.
- Flashlight: No bug out bag is complete without a flashlight. Invest in a sturdy but compact flashlight that provides plenty of illumination.
- Headlamp: If you have room in your bug out bag, consider including headlamp for hands-free lighting.
A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for any disaster scenario. Pack your bug out bag with the following must-haves:
- Anti-bacterial wipes: Bacteria can turn the smallest cut into a life-threatening wound. Be sure the first aid kit in your bug out bag includes anti-bacterial wipes.
- Painkillers: Be sure to pack painkillers that can provide temporary relief in the case of injury. Essentials include ibuprofen and aspirin.
- Gauze pads: If you or someone in your party is wounded or injured while outdoors, tackle open sores with gauze pads to keep the wound clean.
- Sunscreen: Keep your skin protected when shade isn’t available and prevent severe sunburns.
- Medical gloves: Medical gloves can help you keep a wound sterile and clean while bandaging and help prevent cross-contamination.
- Instrument kit: A kit filled with necessary medical instruments can be useful in a myriad of ways. A comprehensive kit should include scissors, forceps, safety pins, and medical tape.
- Bandages and Band-Aids: Keep cuts and wounds covered with bandages and Band-Aids to prevent contamination and reduce the chance of infection.
- Sling: In the event of injury, a sling can be used to support and immobilize that part of the body.
- Burn gel: If you or a member of your party is burned, this gel can provide much-needed relief and soothe the skin.
- Antibiotic ointment: Antibiotic ointments typically contain pain-relief ingredients to soothe cuts, scrapes and burn. These ointments also prevent infection and promote healing.
- Antiseptic wipes: These wipes can be used to clean wounds, help ensure an area is sterile before procedure, and prepare skin for impending cuts.
- First aid instructions: It’s all well and good to have a comprehensive first aid kit, but what about situations in which instructive care is needed? A good bug out bag should include first aid instructions, including CPR tips, and steps required for other basic injury care.
- Tourniquet: This compression device can be a lifesaver. A tourniquet stops the flow of blood through a vein or artery by compressing a limb with tight bandages or cords.
Depending on the survival situation and area, it’s important to keep navigation tools close at hand.
- Map of area: Keep a map of your local area in your bug out bag—if disaster changes the landscape, even what was once familiar places will become challenging to navigate. Also pack maps of nearby states in the case of statewide evacuation.
- Compass: Maintain direction with a sturdy compass. Note: a compass will be useless if you don’t know how to use one, so take the time to learn.
- GPS tracking system: If you can bring extra batteries or a solar charger, a GPS tracking system like the Garmin InReach can be a lifesaver. However, in life-or-death situations, make sure you understand the basics mentioned above (map and compass), especially if your tracking system loses charge or breaks.
These tools can serve a multitude of purposes and may help you tackle any challenges encountered.
- Mini shovel: No bug out bag list is complete without a shovel. Whether you need to dig a fire pit, make a trench, dig for shelter, or use for self-defense, a mini shovel will prove to be invaluable in many disaster situations.
- Axe: An axe or hatchet can be used to build shelter, as a self-defense tool, or for a myriad of other purposes. Opt for a bug out bag that contains a shovel/axe combo for lightweight portability.
- Multi-Tool: Our list of multi-purpose tools couldn’t skip over the multi-tool itself. A survival gear multi-tool should feature mini pliers, wire snips, small knifə, file, a Phillips/flat head screwdriver, bottle opener and a carabiner.
- Paracord: Paracord can be used in a multitude of ways. Use it to fish, hunt, string up a bear bag, secure shelter, and create a snare trap.
|Learn more about the uses of Survival Paracord.|
- Duct Tape: Because of its durability and waterproof characteristics, duct tape can be used to make emergency repairs on your tent, gear, bags, pack, clothing—the list is endless. From stopping leaks to starting fires, duct tape is a must-have piece of bug out gear.
- Crowbar: A small crowbar can be used to break into shelter, hammer things, help you pry up heavy things from the ground, and as a self-defense weapon.
- Folding saw: Some survivalists choose to include a small folding saw in their bug out bag, which can be used to chop wood, build shelter, and clear paths.
If the time comes to defend yourself, you’ll want the right protective gear in your bug out bag.
- Knife: On the top of many survivalist’s bug out bag lists is a sturdy, reliable knifə. Opt for a Tanto blade and make sure it comes with a safety sheath to prevent any accidents.
- Pepper spray: Pepper spray can be a good addition to a bug out bag, especially to ward off wild animals.
|Note: Many of the items included in our bug out gear list can be used for both their intended purpose and as a self-defense weapon—be resourceful to ensure you’re carrying a lighter load.|
Expect the unexpected and prepare for anything with these miscellaneous must-haves.
- Charger: With modern survival gear in your bag, make sure you have a charger that can provide power to a variety of electronics, including smartphones, flashlights, and radios.
- Goggles: Protect your eyes and improve vision clarity with a pair of strong goggles.
- Whistle: A whistle can be used to signal for help or to stay in communication with loved ones and those you may meet out in the wilderness.
- Sewing Kit: A sewing kit might not be at the top of your bug out bag list, but it’s a worthy addition to consider. Should clothing or blankets rip, even the most simple of sewing kits can be used for repair.
- Copies of Important Documents: Make copies of the following documents and seal them in an airtight canister to take with you should emergency evacuation become your reality.
- Passport: If border crossing becomes a necessity, your passport may prove essential.
- Titles and contracts: Keep a copy of important titles and contracts, including motor vehicle titles, loan agreements, deeds, etc.
- Addresses and phone numbers of loved ones: Almost 42% of cell phone owners do not know all their immediate family members phone numbers, so make a tangible list and do your best to memorize the numbers of those closest to you.
- Family disaster and preparedness plan: You might be prepared for a disaster, but is your family? Only 39 percent of people surveyed have developed an emergency plan and discussed it with their household. Take the time to prepare your loved ones for potential disaster and create a plan that can help you all get to safety.
- Emergency Cash: Keep a minimum of $500 with you in your bug out bag to help pay for goods or services should the survival situation require.
- Prescription Drugs: If you take any type of prescription medication, try to keep extra on-hand in your bug out bag in the case of quick evacuation.
- Small Mirror: Reflection is your friend, especially if you need to flag down help. Mirrors can be used to reflect light, serving as a signal to a passerby if required.
The Bug Out Bag Itself
You’ve got the bug out bag essentials—is your bag up to the task of hauling them? A quality bug out bag should feature the following:
- Crafted from thick, durable fabric
- Padded hip straps
- Water-resistant material
- Separate pockets and compartments
- Roll-top construction for expanded storage
- Airtight construction
How Do I Know Which Bug Out Gear Is Right For Me?
Disaster preparedness doesn't need to be complicated, but you’ll find that shopping and collecting gear for a DIY bug out bag can prove to be difficult. In many cases, the DIY approach may prove more expensive than necessary, leaving you with items you don’t really need—and shouldn’t waste your money on. Instead of forcing useless items into a bag that won’t hold up, opt for a pre-packed, top-rated bug out bag.
The SEVENTY2 Survival Backpack from Uncharted Supply Co. contains all of the bug out gear highlighted by the dog head symbol, ensuring you are prepared for anything in the days immediately following a disaster.
When your life is on the line, this survival kit offers the items you’ll want on your side. With the SEVENTY2 in hand, you’re prepared for life off the grid—whatever disaster befalls you.
Take your checklist on the go with our downloadable PDF.
Bug Out Bag Checklist
- Water filtration system
- Paracord (Essential for Bug Out Bags)
- Sleeping bag
- Anti-bacterial wipes
- Gauze pads
- Medical gloves
- Medical instrument kit
- Burn gel
- Antibiotic ointment
- Antiseptic wipes
- First aid instructions
- Mini shovel
- Duct tape
- Folding saw
- Space blanket
- Air filtration mask
- Water carrying solution
- Fishing kit
- Cold weather gloves
- Head gear
- Waterproof jacket
- Change of clothes
- Pepper spray
- Hand warmers
- Matches/fire starter
- Chem lights
- Maps of area
- GPS tracking system
- Sewing kit
- Copies of important documents
- Emergency cash
- Prescription drugs
- Small mirror