How to Create a Customizable and Versatile Bug Out Box Loadout for Your Family

What are your plans if you have some time to get ready before you have to bug out? If you’re well prepared then you probably have a list of everything that’s most important for your survival with the location of each item so you can grab everything and get it loaded into your vehicles.

It’s great if you’re at that point! You’re probably well beyond most people when it comes to preparedness, but isn’t there some way to be even more prepared?

That’s where bug out boxes come in. Having as much as you can have prepacked and ready to go will make the frantic time more smooth and greatly decrease the possibility that you’ll forget anything.

Bugging Out with Bug Out Boxes

Bugging out should be planned long before you ever have to even think about doing it. This is where bug out boxes shine, but before we get into that, let’s look at where bug out boxes should fall in your overall bug out plan.

The base of your bug out plan should revolve around your bug out bag. This base level of bugging out is when there is a no-notice disaster that causes you and your family to have to just grab your B.O.B.s and go, no questions asked, and not stopping to grab anything else. You may be leaving in a vehicle, or you may be leaving on foot.

The next step above your immediate, drop everything, and go plan for bugging out should start to involve bug out boxes. If you have an hour to get out of the house, you can get a lot more loaded into your vehicles if your most important items are already loaded into pelican cases or storage totes of some kind. Bug out boxes streamline the whole process and ensure that you’re packing the things that you need most.

If you have several hours, to a few days notice before you have to leave, then bug out boxes will make it much easier to organize things in your vehicle (or vehicles) as you’re loading everything. Bug out boxes are great for everything other than the “get out the door now” style of bug out.

What Should be in a Bug Out Box

The beauty of having preloaded bug out boxes is that you can put anything that you’d like in them as long as you pack them based on the importance of what’s in them. For example, food and water should be high on the list while a pop-up carport or air mattresses would be lower in priority.

The top priority boxes should include those things that are essential for life. Water, food, shelter, and medical. Water should be in its own container but you should think of it as part of these kits if you need to bring water with you.

Everyone’s situation is different so the way that I’ve prioritized things below isn’t cut and dry but it should be pretty universal. When it comes down to it, you’re smart enough to know what’s important for your particular situation. Do what’s right for you!

1st priority bug out box items:

  • Water (desert areas)
  • Water purification items
  • Food
  • Tents and blankets (depending on your situation)
  • Extra medical supplies
  • Documents that can’t be replaced

2nd priority bug out box items:

  • Hygiene items
  • Durable clothing
  • Batteries
  • Hand held radios
  • Bleach
  • Solar power
  • Cooking items (stoves/pots and pans)
  • Matches/lighters
  • Additional ways to catch food
  • Extra defensive firearms and ammo

3rd priority bug out box items:

  • Candles and lighting
  • Air mattresses and bedding
  • Duct tape
  • Glue
  • Sewing kits
  • Laundry detergent
  • Outdoor carport tent
  • Toiletries
  • Shovels
  • Axes
  • Extra tarps
  • Zip ties
  • Plates and utensils

Priority Loading of Bug Out Vehicles

Determining what is most important to load into your vehicle is going to depend on your particular situation. I see two different scenarios being the most prominent for people.

The first scenario is less desirable but it’s probably the most common. In this scenario, you either have a plot of land with no structure on it as your bug out location or you haven’t even chosen a bug out location. In this case, you’re going to need to bring tents, cooking items, and everything else that you may have wanted to store at a bug out location with a building on in.

Because you don’t have much, or any, shelter in place at your bug out location in this scenario, you need to prioritize a higher level of shelter. A carport style tent for cooking and living is a great idea in these situations.

The second scenario is less common, but it’s the best case for bugging out. In this scenario, you have a bug out location that has a home or at least some kind of structure on it. This can be a hunting cabin, a house in a secluded area that you vacation at or just a plot of land with a shed on it. This lets you preposition the supplies you’re going to want when you get there and cuts down on the “must-haves” that you need to take when bugging out.

If you have most of what you need at your bug out location, you can put yourself even farther ahead by bringing more food and may even be able to start prioritizing more comfort style items. This is where all of us should be striving to get to!

As you load your vehicle, you should put the highest priority items in your vehicle first. These are the things that you want to leave in your vehicle at all costs.

Your 2nd priority boxes get loaded on top of your 1st priority items so they can be removed if you need to make space for higher priority items or other people. Your 3rd priority items are loaded on top of the 2nd priority for the same reasons.

Load each person’s bug out bag last! Your bug out bag is the highest priority of all your gear because it can support you all by itself. It gets loaded last so you can grab it and go if you’re forced to leave your vehicle for any reason.

What are the Best Boxes to Use?

The type of boxes that you use is really up to you. I happen to have several Pelican 1560 cases that I use because they’re tough, waterproof, and have wheels which make getting them around really easy. They’re just too expensive for a lot of people and they’re heavy even without anything inside of them.

The good thing is you can use any kind of plastic stackable totes. Even the cheap ones from Walmart will work fine as long as you don’t need to lock them and keep them out of the elements. It really comes down to your budget and personal needs.


Bug out boxes make the perfect companion to your bug out bag and should be a large part of your bug out plan. Having boxes prepacked and ready to go can really ease your mind when everything is going bad.

It also helps when you have things pre-prioritized so you know that you have the most important things loaded and haven’t missed anything.

I definitely think that bug out boxes are important for anyone who doesn’t have a specific bug out location. You don’t have food, water, and shelter in place already so you need to bring all of that stuff with you when you go out the door!