There isn’t a one size fits all solution to bug-out bags! The good thing is that it’s still possible to put together a list of bug-out bag items you need to have, followed by a list of situational items so you can tailor the list to your needs.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already decided to build a bug-out bag.
If you’re still on the fence about putting together a bug-out bag, these are a few reasons that you should build one:
- It forms the basic loadout for any emergency that requires you to leave your home.
- If you ever have to leave your home in just a few minutes, then a bug-out bag will make it much easier, and you’ll know that you have at least the minimum amount of things to survive.
- All the items in a bug-out bag can just as easily be used during a bug-in situation as they can while bugging out.
When adding items to your bug-out bag list, you need to remember that bag’s purpose.
This is probably the essential part of this article. If you understand what a bug-out bag is for, you don’t need a list made by someone else; you can logically approach the subject and come up with what you need.
Always try to understand a problem and then learn how to fix that problem! Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Don’t just blindly follow checklists.
In this case, a bug-out bag is supposed to be the kit you grab when you are forced out of your home. It should contain everything you need to get to your bug-out location safely, so if you need to leave at a moment’s notice, you can grab it and go.
Pack it like you have to walk from home to your bug-out location. Keep it light and keep it minimal!
It also forms the base of any other bug-out plan loadout that you may have.
Bare Minimum That Needs to be on Every List
These are the things that must be on a bug-out bag list at a minimum:
- The backpack itself
- Water and a water filter
- Food to keep you going
- Shelter to protect you from the environment
- Personal first aid kit
This doesn’t make the ideal bug-out bag, but it does make it capable of doing what we need a bug-out bag to do.
You can get our downloadable bug-out bag list PDF here.
The backpack you choose should be big enough to hold everything you need without being overly large. We tend to keep adding items until we fill whatever bag we have.
Just think about a backpack that you carry regularly. How much is in there that you never use and have no intention of ever using but still carry with you every day…
- The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is a good overall backpack with 55 liters of storage. It’s especially good if you live in a more rural environment.
We need to drink several liters of water every day to stay hydrated. Without water, we can die in just a couple of days.
I like having 2 liters of water in bug-out bags and then adding in a light water filter like a LifeStraw so I can just grab more water on the go. This keeps the weight of my bug-out bag down and gives me a way to have clean drinking water while bugging out.
If you live in an area that doesn’t have natural water sources around, you will need to carry a lot more water! You should plan your bug-out route to take you past any water sources you know.
If this isn’t an option, you’re going to have to bring a lot of water and deal with the weight, or bring less water and be aware that you’re going to be dehydrated. I suggest always carrying more water and dealing with the weight.
Food is much less important than water. I put one or two ER Bars in my bug-out bag and add a couple of PowerBars or Clif Bars, and that’s about it. I understand that I will be hungry if I only have time to grab my bug-out bag and hit the road. I’m okay with that.
Like I said before, your bug-out bag should keep you alive from your home to your bug-out location. It isn’t there to keep you full and comfortable. Comfort items belong in an add-on kit that you can throw in your car if you have time and can drive, not on your bug-out bag list.
The amount of shelter you need will heavily depend on where you live and the current season. You’ll need to add more when it’s cold out than if you’re in a warm area.
Keep in mind that your clothing is also part of your shelter.
First Aid Kit
You need a first aid kit to treat any cuts, scrapes, or wounds you may pick up while bugging out. Small cuts can easily get infected, and any bleeding wound needs immediate attention.
Make sure that you add any prescription drugs that you need as well.
Other Items to add to Your Bug Out Bag List
It would be best to be careful as you start looking at other items to put on your bug-out bag list. This is where we can add a lot of weight if we’re not very selective in the gear we choose.
Just because something is discussed below doesn’t mean you should add it to your list. These are ideas and thoughts to get you thinking so you can create a list that works for you.
Only add things that you need. If it doesn’t make getting from point A to point B faster, easier, or safer, it doesn’t belong!
The amount of clothing you need to put in your bug-out bag is minimal. When you’re determining what to pack, try to keep it light and non-bulky. You only need enough to protect yourself from the weather.
Pack a couple of extra socks so you can keep your feet dry, a couple of changes of underwear, and a multi-function piece of headgear, like a shemagh, is always helpful.
Lightweight rain gear is another good thing to have. I like to go super cheap and bring a couple of heavy-duty trash bags. They can keep your gear dry and keep you dry by tearing a hole in your arms and head.
Well, broken-in boots or sneakers are the final piece of clothing that I’d recommend.
A flashlight or headlamp is practically a necessity. A headlamp allows you to use your light source with both hands free.
Adding a hands-free light of some kind makes a lot of sense.
The PETZL – TACTIKKA + Headlamp gives you 350 lumens in a small package.
Hygiene is essential; adding some toothpaste, a toothbrush, baby wipes, and any feminine hygiene products you may need won’t add much weight.
- Adding a female urination device from GoGirl can make going to the bathroom during a bug-out much easier for women.
Weapons are often a big point of contention when putting together a bug-out bag list. I believe that you should either have an AR-15 or AK-47 for every adult that’s bugging out.
Certain laws and the area that you’re in can make this tough. I completely get that. Make sure you’re armed as well as you can be in those cases.
Don’t completely overlook extra protective gear. Glasses, gloves, and a dust mask can make sense, depending on where you are.
You’re probably not going to stop to build a fire while bugging out. It just doesn’t make sense in most cases. You can add some Bic lighters to your list, but there really isn’t a reason to go overboard here.
550 cord is the standard for cordage in a bug-out bag. You should be good with 25 or 50 feet if you add it.
- I prefer SurvivorCord XT over the traditional 550 cord.
Knife / Axe
If you always carry a knife, you’re probably fine not having one in your bug-out bag. If you don’t, then I’d suggest adding a multitool of some kind.
I like having a small hatchet because they’re lightweight and offer a lot of utility if you’re forced into a situation where you must stop before you get to your bug-out area.
Maps of the areas you expect to travel through should be in your bug-out bag. I’d suggest marking your primary and secondary driving and walking routes and marking potential areas of interest and danger on your map at a minimum.
A compass and GPS can also make your life a lot easier.
Keep several denominations of small bills in your bug-out bag. It’ll let you make purchases when change isn’t available.
Adding some photo ID doesn’t add a lot of weight and could save you if you need to interact with police or even try to get into some kind of government aid camp if it came down to that.
Packing your bug-out bag full of electronics can make it extremely heavy.
At a minimum, you should probably have your cell phone and a way to recharge it. For me, that means a small solar panel and a battery pack.
- The Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit is one of my favorite ways to recharge batteries and cell phones.
A signal mirror is one of the best ways to show someone where you are in a wide-open area or signaling aircraft. It’s not great in areas without a long line of sight.
Emergency whistles can be used in just about any area, but they can’t be used at the same distances as a signal mirror. I like to have one of each.
Special Considerations for an Urban B.O.B. List
Urban bug-out bag lists should be built around a backpack that won’t draw attention to you while walking through the streets. Drawing attention to yourself can cause you to be the target of rioters or other people feeling the stress of the event that caused you to bug out.
Remember that you’re more likely to interact with law enforcement and government officials than if you live in the countryside. Picture IDs can make those types of interactions go a lot more smoothly.
Choose knives and any firearms based on the current laws in your area. When things go bad, law enforcement is likely to be more restrictive, not less. Don’t plan on being able to carry anything you want just because some disaster has happened to make your bug out.
Special Considerations for a Rural B.O.B. List
Rural bug-out bag lists should focus on items that will let you stay out of sight if you need to and are more focused on wilderness survival. A camo pattern backpack that works in your area is a good idea.
Unless there’s a good reason not to carry a rifle, you should have one when you bug out. This is especially true for rural bug-outs!
How heavy should a B.O.B. be?
Try to keep the items on your bug-out bag list as close to 25 lbs as possible.
I find that to be the weight that most people are still relatively comfortable with. Adding more weight will wear on you if you’re forced to walk for several days in a row.
If you can handle 25 lbs without a problem, then feel free to add as much weight as possible. I suggest you carry it around for a weekend and see how it goes. Even if you find the weight okay, you’ll find other things to change to make it more comfortable to carry.
Building a bug-out bag is essential for being prepared in an emergency that requires you to leave your home. It is necessary to understand the purpose of a bug-out bag and pack it with the bare minimum of essential items, such as a backpack, water, water filter, food, shelter, and a personal first aid kit.
While it is essential to have these basic items, it is also important to tailor the bag to your specific needs and to consider adding additional situational items. It is also crucial to remember to keep the bag light and minimal to make it easier to carry and to ensure that it can effectively serve its purpose.