Difference Between a Survival Kit and a Bug Out Bag

Survival Kit vs. Bug Out Bag: The Differences Explained

Survivalism revolves around being prepared to handle even the direst emergencies, which can happen with little to no warning. Therefore, when prepping, it’s crucial to have a well-thought-out collection of supplies at your disposal, which you can conveniently pick up and go in case of a crisis. Survival kits and bug-out bags are excellent alternatives for this purpose.

The main difference between a survival kit and a bug out bag is their purpose. Bug out bags are for emergencies where you will need to evacuate and include tools to help you stay alive when lost. Survival kits are primarily designed to be used where they’re stored.

This article will further explain the similarities and differences between bug out bags and survival kits. While the general idea behind survival kits and bug-out bags is similar, their specific functions are vastly different, so keep reading to learn which one would better fit your prepping kit. Spoiler alert: you’ll probably need both.

Are Survival Kits and Bug Out Bags the Same Thing?

Even though I briefly mentioned a critical difference between survival kits and bug out bags to an untrained observer, they might seem similar enough to be interchangeable. 

Survival kits and bug out bags are not the same things. Survival kits can include longer-term supplies designed to help you survive in place. Bug out bags are for extreme emergency scenarios and natural disasters where you must evacuate, and often include include weapons and specialty gear for your area.

The Differences Between Bug Out Bags and Survival Kits

While both types of equipment are excellent additions to a well-stacked survivalist arsenal, they serve two widely different purposes. While the two may include a few similar items, they’re by no means interchangeable.

Ideally, most survivalists should get their hands on both a survival kit and bug-out bag to become as well-prepped as possible. However, if you’re on a budget or looking to build your collection one piece of equipment at a time, I’d recommend starting with the alternative that you think would serve your needs best.

For instance, if you live in a volatile urban area, investing in a bug out bag will inevitably take priority. However, if your circumstances lead you to believe that the chances of having to survive in the wilderness are higher, you might want to look into getting a survival kit first.

Additionally, bug out bags tend to be a bit weightier than their counterparts. Considering you’ll likely have to carry a survival kit around for much longer, it must be as light, comfortable, and convenient as possible.

On the other hand, bug out bags only last for about a week. Therefore, they’re usually a bit heavier than your typical survivalist carry-on, measuring up to 50 lbs (22.7 kg), or even more in some cases.

Moreover, bug out bags and survival kits differ in the locations where they’re usually stored. The former is mainly kept at home in an easily accessible and visible space. At the same time, the latter generally serves best if kept in your car, backpack, or another location where you feel you’re most vulnerable to being left to your own devices.

Last but not least, given that survival kits and bug out bags serve different purposes, they also include different items (or quantities of a specific item). To make this point as clear and concise as possible, I’ve compiled a table to help you better understand what you’ll need to include in each kit.

Survival Kit Bug Out Bag
Food (should be non-perishable) Food (should be non-perishable)
Water (aim for 1 gallon or 3.8 l/person/day for as many days as possible) Water + Filtration
Basic medications + First aid kit First-aid kit
Multi-purpose tool Cutting tools
Batteries Firestarter
Flashlight Self-defense weapon
Maps and compass Solar charger
Emergency blanket Toiletries
Cash Spare clothing
Personal hygiene products Eating and cooking utensils
Radio EPI pen
Spare phone and charger Maps and compass
Copies of your personal documents Copies of your personal documents

The Similarities Between Bug Out Bags and Survival Kits

It’s worth noting that survival kits and bug out bags are still very similar as far as the general idea behind them goes. After all, their function boils down to keeping you safe and alive in a dangerous situation.

Therefore, while they may not be interchangeable (one is better than the other in specific circumstances), they give you a better chance of surviving should you ever find yourself in a crisis.

For example, even though bug out bags might not be as helpful in the wilderness and have time-sensitive supplies, they’ll still come in handy and give you a better chance of survival than if you were to not bring any supplies with you.

Moreover, survival kits and bug out bags are often packaged similarly, so many survivalists may have difficulty visually telling them apart. They’re both packed in lightweight carriers for the utmost convenience. The material they’re packed within needs to be durable and water-resistant to ensure it can withstand even the harshest weather conditions.

Lastly, both kits need to be upgraded periodically, especially when transitioning from one season to another. The items included in a summer survival kit can widely vary from those you’ll need in wintertime.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “Which is better?” because, as I mentioned, survival kits and bug out bags come in handy in different situations. The best addition to your prepping gear will ultimately depend on the resources you’ve already gathered and your most pressing worries.

Survival Kit: Pros and Cons

A survival kit is a collection of items used to keep you safe and alive in a natural environment in case of an emergency.

Even though, with the rise in popularity of post-apocalyptic movies, survival kits have become more of a novelty, the raised awareness around them has led many people to realize the importance of having a backup collection of supplies should you ever find yourself in a difficult situation.

These kits provide you with the self-reliance to get through almost any emergency. By going through the list of items generally included in a survival kit (which you can find in the previous section), you’ll better understand its purpose.

However, even though these kits can be invaluable in a crisis, they can still be somewhat costly and time-consuming to put together. As most of us lead cushiony, safe-feeling lives, many might be wondering whether creating or buying a pricey survival kit is worth it in the long run.

Therefore, in the following sections, I’ll be taking you through all the advantages and disadvantages of these survival supplies to help you decide whether investing in one is the right choice for you or not.

Pros

Here are some of the main benefits of having a survival kit:

  • You’re prepared in an emergency. Being prepared is the whole purpose of the kit in the first place. Even though you may only need to use your backup supplies once in your life, in that instance, your survival kit might be the factor that draws the line between life and death.
  • Survival kits are critical for hikers, campers, and frequent travelers. Getting lost puts you in danger, and with a survival kit, you might be able to find your way through the wilderness without starving, getting hurt, or risking your life.  
  • Cost-effective. While gathering the items to make your own survival kit might set you back a few hundred dollars, the equipment is still relatively cost-effective, especially when compared to other survival kits, like the bug out bag (more on this in a moment). 
  • Beginner-friendly. Starting out your emergency supply collection with a survival kit is an excellent idea if you’re new to survivalism. The equipment is easy to assemble, and its logic is just as straightforward. While packing weapons might be intimidating for a first-time prepper, making a survival kit will help you feel safer and much more at ease.

Cons

Here are some of the main drawbacks of having a survival kit:

  • Inconvenient to store. While bug out bags can always be stored in a designated space in your home and left there, you must keep survival kits in your car or office to ensure you always have access to them. That makes them a bit more inconvenient to store, as trying to stuff some suitcases into your trunk while a 25-pound (11.3 kg) bag covers half the space might be annoying.
  • You’re unprepared for specific scenarios. While survival kits are an excellent collection of supplies that can help get you through most emergencies, they’re still a bit too general for more specific scenarios. For example, unlike bug out bags, survival kits don’t include any tools to help you defend yourself physically should you ever need to.

Survival kits are invaluable to any survivalist’s arsenal, especially if you’re a beginner just starting to get into the practice. However, they don’t account for all possible scenarios and emergencies, so it’s best to use them in conjunction with other types of equipment, such as the bug out bag.

Bug Out Bag: Pros and Cons

You can consider bug out bags the ultimate survivalist package that’s supposed to take you through even the most challenging circumstances. This type of equipment differs from your run-of-the-mill survival kit, as it includes the tools and materials necessary for almost any emergency, which may or may not take place in the wilderness.

It’s safe to say that getting your hands on a bug out bag is a step further in the prepping process, giving you that additional sense of safety and preparedness that the average survival kit can’t.

Bug out bags are that last resort you depend on when everything else has failed and any other source has depleted. Moreover, they’re the survivalist tool you resort to when you or your loved ones face imminent danger.

However, bug out bags aren’t for everyone, and in the “Cons” section following these paragraphs, you’ll learn why. Therefore, keep reading to learn more about these kits’ advantages and disadvantages and whether they’ll make a good investment for you.

Pros

These are some of the main advantages of investing in a bug out bag:

  • It allows you to survive disasters and the most challenging conditions. Bug out bags can help save your life when no other collection of supplies can. While they may not be as usable as the average survival kit, they come in handy when you need them the most.
  • A bug out bag provides physical protection. Unlike many other survival kits, bug out bags account for the possibility of having to physically protect yourself or your loved ones in case of a disaster. With a self-defense weapon at your disposal, you’ll feel much safer when on the move looking for a safe evacuation area.
  • Excellent for experienced survivalists. While beginners might do better with a survival kit, skilled survivalists looking to upgrade their prepping supplies will love to include these highly efficient items and tools in their collection.

Cons

These are some of the main disadvantages of investing in a bug out bag:

  • Expensive. Considering that you’re preparing for an end-of-the-world scenario, you’ll want to have all your bases covered. You’ll generally want to include an EPI pen and other expensive medications, a self-defense weapon, and enough backup communication devices and chargers to keep you connected in any circumstance. As you can imagine, the costs add up.
  • Heavy. As I briefly mentioned in the “Differences” section, bug out bags are notably heavier than their survival kit counterparts. That is due to the same reason referenced in the previous disadvantage. Given that you’ll want to be preparing for any scenario, there’s a broader range of items you’ll have to include in your collection. As a result, a bug out bag might be more challenging to carry around.

Conclusion

Survival kits and bug out bags are excellent additions to any survivalist’s collection. However, they’re not interchangeable. Survival kits are ideal for general or outdoor survival scenarios and include enough supplies to last for a lengthier time frame to allow its user to survive in nature. However, a bug out bag is for more extreme emergencies (that might take place in the wilderness or not).