What to Put in a Bug Out Bag
Having a bug out bag (BOB) and being ready to survive for 72 hours is a must these days. There are terror attacks, conspiracy theories that might not actually be “theories” and flat out emergencies that you should be prepared for. A bug out bag provides security and peace of mind in knowing that you and/or your family are prepared for an emergency situation. However knowing what to put in a bug out bag is very important and can make all of the difference.
Below I’ll lay out what is in my personal 72-hour bug out bag (one of them anyway). Keep in mind, everyone’s bag will be and should be different. The below list of what to put in a bug out bag can be a good starting point for you as you build your BOB.
What to Put in a Bug Out Bag
What You Put in Your Bug Out Bag Makes All the Difference
Obviously before focusing on what to put in a bug out bag, you will need an actual backpack/bag of some sort. You don’t need just any bag either. Remember, this bag might have to endure some extreme and nasty conditions. So finding a sturdy backpack is essential. The last thing you want is your pack coming apart in the rain allowing all of your survival gear to get soaked.
Personally, I have two bug out bags. One of the bags, my Mountaintop 40L, is smaller and lighter and I carry it literally everywhere I go. It may not be “tacticool”, but it’s extremely durable. The other bag I have is a little bigger and one that I keep at the house, the TETON Sports Scout 3400 with an internal frame.
Depending on if you are building a bug out bag for just yourself or a family can impact the size of your bag and the amount of supplies you will need for your bag. Keep that in mind as you read through my list of what to put in a bug out bag.
Before you start randomly packing your bag, you of course need to know what to pack in a bug out bag. Again, this will vary based on you and your situation (family, young children, elderly?)
Once you have a bag, you want to make sure to buy Ziploc plastic bags. This is because you will be packing each section of your bag listed below into a separate Ziploc bag. This will help keep the items organized and dry. *Note, the order of the sections described below is the order in which the sections should be packed in your bag, i.e., clothing would be the first item.
Clothing: Stay Dry and Think About Your Location
In one of your Ziploc bags that will go at the bottom of your bag, will be an extra pair of clothes. If you need more than one Ziploc bag, no worries. Remember to pack clothing that is made of wool, fleece, nylon, etc. Cotton absorbs moisture, and being wet in a survival situation is not good.
As you pack your clothes, consider your environment. If you are in Florida, chances are you don’t need a leather jacket. So use common sense and leave out stuff that you don’t need. As a matter of fact, the first time I put together my bug out bag, I went through it again and eliminated about two pounds of items that I could literally live without.
In my bag I carry the below items. Keep in mind I live in a warm part of the country.
- Two pair of SmartWool socks (Yes, you want wool for hot and cold climates.)
- A beanie hat
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pants
- An Under Armour Dri Fit shirt
- ExOfficio nylon underwear
- A Rothco boonie hat, but I carry it in another section of my bag. (I’ll discuss this later.) A boonie hat is essential to protect yourself from sunburn.
- Leather gloves (From Walmart… You can use these for gathering firewood and other activities that could wear on your hands or injure them.)
Hygiene: Clean Up and Brush Up, Even When SHTF!
In a situation where you have to “bug out”, you will still of course want to take care of yourself. This is not only healthy, but a great morale booster for when the SHTF.
Having the proper hygiene items in your pack can help you stay comfortable and clean in a situation where things are not exactly like they are at home. So don’t leave hygiene products off of your “what to put in a bug out bag” list.
Here is the list of my hygiene items:
- Pre-packed camping toilet tissue
- A Travel toothbrush
- Travel toothpaste
- Coleman soap sheets
- Solo wet wipes
- Gold Bond powder
- Fingernail clippers
First Aid Saves Lives
If you think about potential scenarios like civil unrest, the aftermath of a hurricane, etc., first aid supplies could actually save people’s lives. Below is what I have in my pack. (I also suggest taking a basic first aid course.)
- Adventure medical kit
- 4 Quikclot packages
- Eye drops
- Lip balm
- Elastic Wrap
- *Be sure to consider any prescription medications and pack them in a medicine holder. I actually pack my prescriptions in a holder that I then place in another plastic bag for extra protection against moisture.
Miscellaneous: Money, Maps, Cord, Extras
Remember, you aren’t trying to pack for a month-long vacation. You are putting together a 72-hour survival pack. Think “essentials” when you think what to put in your bug out bag. Having said that, I do like to have “fall-back” items and play it safe.
You will notice below that I have $500 in my bug out bag with $200 in ones. Money may not sound so important to some people who think bugging out is a total break down of society. However, it could be an urban survival situation where there is no power because of a storm etc. I know of a man that was in Detroit when SHTF and the power was out. The credit card machines were down and the only way to buy food (hot dogs) was with small bills.
Here’s my list of miscellaneous items.
- A local map
- $500 with $200 in one-dollar bills (Divide this money up throughout your bag AND on your person. Do NOT keep all of your money in one place.)
- A copy of my driver’s license and passport
- A copy of my medical conditions and prescribed medications
- A list of phone numbers for friends and family
- Aluminum tent stakes
- Extra flashlight
- Extra knife (Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops knife. It’s affordable.)
- Extra batteries
- Mylar blanket
- Duct tape (This can be used for so many tasks. Building shelters, making repairs, first aid, making tripods, tools, and even snow glasses among other things.)
- Waterproof notepad with pencil
- Charged pre-paid phone (These are as cheap as $6.95 and can be activated online. Also check out the goTenna.)
- 3M 8511 Particulate N95 Respirator Mask
- Gas mask (Optional, adds weight and takes up more space.)
Food and Water: Even Taco Bell May be Closed!
What to put in a bug out bag? Well food and water is going to be very important of course, especially water. The body can go a couple of weeks without food, but without water, three days and you are vulture food. Because of this, it’s recommended to carry three methods of collecting and purifying water and/or water itself.
In my bag I carry the following items.
- DATREX emergency drinking water (I only carry three of these as water can get heavy. I wrap them in a Ziploc bag and insert them into another.)
- Potable water tablets (Makes most “questionable” water drinkable.)
- A LifeStraw
- A Nalgene water bottle
- A stainless steel canteen cup (For cooking, purifying water, etc.)
- Tritan spork
- Half kitchen sponge for cleaning
Fire: “Burn Baby Burn!”
As Creek Stewart mentions in his book, “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag“, it’s always a good idea to have three ways to make fire. Fire can mean life and death depending on the conditions and is used for so many different things. So be sure to have three ways to make fire and be sure you know how to use your fire making tools.
My bag includes…
Immediate: Locked n’ Loaded and All That Good Stuff
Immediate items are items that I have readily available… some of them more readily available than others.—Those would include my firearm and my survival knife. I actually keep those on my person. Remember, when SHTF, people may get desperate and having the tools to defend yourself isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. (More on this below.)
Also a survival knife is one of the most important tools of a bug out bag. Do NOT buy a cheap survival knife. You will be using your knife for all sorts of tasks in a survival situation. You will be cutting, batoning, preparing food, rescue signaling, etc. You want a quality, full tang survival knife. Read this article for more info on how to select a good survival knife.
As for other immediate items, I keep the below in an easily accessible location on my bag.—An outer pocket(s). These items are what to put in a bug out bag last.
- Multitool (I use the Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier.)
- Survival radio (The Eton Scorpion 2 Portable Emergency radio is my favorite.)
- Snack bars
- Nalgene bottle filled with water
- Bug repellent
- Boonie hat
- Rescue whistle (Coghlan’s Four Function Whistle is what I carry.)
- Rescue mirror
- Extra magazine and ammo
Outside of the Bag: Shelter and Such
These items will be things like sleeping bags and tents (shelter items) that you tie on to your pack. Although you can learn to make very efficient shelters with your tarp or even your poncho. Doing this will help cut down on the weight of your pack. So go check out some videos on YouTube on how to make tarp shelters. Also, factors like climate in the area where you live should help you determine which type of shelter you will need.
Learn to Use your Bag, Be Ready and Stay Off of the “X”
Okay, great, you know what to put in a bug out bag and your bag is complete. You are read for your city to melt to the ground, or are you?
Unfortunately having a bug out bag is not all you need. You need regular practice with your gear. You need to stay in shape and exercise on a regular basis. After all, carrying a bag for 20 miles when you are out of shape is not going to work out to well.
You also need survival smarts. I suggest reading Cade Courtley’s “SEAL Survival Guide.” Learn how to “stay off of the x” and be the “gray man”.
During desperate times, as we’ve all seen, things can get very ugly. The key is avoiding conflict. You don’t want to be a stand out. You don’t want to be the hero (unless your family is involved)… You want to fly under the radar and survive.