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What Exactly Is A Bug Out Bag 

Named after the “bail-out” bags carried by military aviators, bug-out bags are designed to assist one in the first 72 hours of fleeing a natural disaster. 

It is a long-term survival kit with one core purpose—to get you away from danger as fast and as safely as possible. Other names for it include: get out of dodge bag (GOOD Bag), I’m never coming home bag (INCH Bag), 72-hour kit, go-bag, bailout bag, SHTF bag, personal emergency relocation kit (PERK BAG), and many more.

We believe an excellent bug out bag starts with a great Bug Out Bag List.
Not everything we put on the list will end up going into your bag but atleast you have a good idea where to start.

This article is broken up into sections and below you will find a helpful table of contents, that is designed to help you navigate this ultimate guide. Feel free to read this guide straight through or skip ahead to areas that interest you the most or that which you need the most help with.

This is a lengthy article with tons of helpful information, so I encourage you to set aside some time to dive in, bookmark it for future reference, and also be sure to pick up your own free PDF copy of these Bug Out Bag Essentials List here.

Let’s dive in…

Why Do I Need A Bug Out Bag 

The primary purpose of a bugout bag is to allow one to evacuate quickly if a disaster should strike. It is therefore prudent to gather into a single place all of the materials and supplies that might be required to do this, which we will discuss later in this article.

Some of us might not have experienced large scale emergencies but I bet a large percentage of people reading this have experienced several small scale emergencies such as 2-3 day power outages, ice storms, flooding, severe winter storms and the like.

I’m sure most of us have experienced events like these – OR EVEN LARGER.  
Have you ever tried going to the grocery store to get a few last-minute items right as the 5 o-clock news announces the imminent arrival of a huge winter storm?  


They will clear the shelves over a few inches of snow – imagine what they will do in the wake of a large scale disaster.

People who have been through large scale disasters such as hurricane Katrina will attest to the fact that immediate supplies are quickly depleted and people get downright dangerous when it comes to finding more.

This is why I believe everyone should have a bug out bag, these reasons alone should convince you (if you are on the edge) to start prepping your bug out today, waiting till the last minute or attempting to start gathering supplies when an emergency is already ongoing most often doesn’t work out, it is always better to be prepared. 

How To Pack A Bug Out Bag

It is essential to know how to pack your supplies into your bug out bag in the most efficient way possible, using every inch of space in your bag as efficiently as possible. This can save you time, keep you from hurting yourself and create an efficient, easy-to-use pack.

Packing basics

First things first, you’ll want to divide your content into weights. Separate them into heavy, mid-weight and light items. 

When you’re packing your bag, you’ll want to keep heavy items close to your spine and near your hips. If you have an external frame pack, try and place the heavy items higher up on your pack – closer to your shoulders. 

Also, be conscious of your contents opening up. This may cause damage to other items inside the bag. For example, you don’t want to pack a gas burner above a water supply in case it leaks.

Heavy Items – The Core

Keep heavy items in the middle of your bug out bag. Consider breaking your items down if you have too many heavy items. For example, if you have a tent, you can store the polls, tent and rain-fly separately.

Mid-Weight Items – Packed Around The Core

In order to distribute the weight evenly, pack mid-weight items around the heavy core and remember to keep the weight near you middle section and spine to maintain balance while carrying the pack.

Outside Pockets Full Of Light Items

The top of the pack is for keeping your light items. They can also go inside the outer pockets. Light items you’ll be needing alot – identification, small snacks, navigation material etc should also be kept on your outside pockes for easy access. 

Adjusting the pack After you’ve packed the bag, you’ll want to make sure that it fits OK. Be sure that the pack isn’t too heavy, that you’re not going to tip over and that you’ll be able to use the pack for a long duration.

9 Golden Rules To Building a Bug Out Bag

The 9 golden rules of building a bug out bag are a set of instructions and guidelines that when followed appropriately means you will not only build your bug out bag the best way possible but also in a highly efficient and skilled manner.

You will be way better off than the random joe who just throws in a bunch of stuff in his bag and calls it a bug out bag.

Here they are;

  1. Comfortable weight
  2. Keep it “Gray”
  3. Keep it modular
  4. Bug out buddies
  5. Bug out location
  6. Your Environment
  7. Your Health
  8. More skills = Less weight
  9. Quality not quantity

Comfortable Weight

Generally, your bug out bag isn’t meant to weigh more than 25% of your body weight. That means, if you weight 200 pounds, your bag shouldn’t weigh more than 50 pounds. Follow the rule and your back will forever be grateful.

Keep it “Gray”

This basically means your bug out bag should blend in, it shouldn’t stand out. You don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Your bug out bag should blend in with your environment as much as possible.

Keep It Modular

Staying organized is key to surviving a SHTF event, and the best way to stay organized is by creating a modular bug out bag.

For instance, if you have a bug out vehicle, there may be items you would leave behind as they are of little use without a ride. If you have items you carry with you every day (an EDC kit), you can create a pouch that connects to your bug out bag as to not double up on items for each purpose and still have your kits ready to go.

Bug Out Buddies

In emergency situations, there is always strength in numbers, there is a lower chance of getting robbed if you move in a group. Plus moving group allows you to carry more items collectively so, it’s a good idea to go find a bugout buddy right now.

Bug out location

The general idea behind “bugging out” is being able to leave your current location if an emergency breaks out. It’s basically leaving a dangerous area to a safe area. As such its only logical you have a potential safe area you can flee to. It doesn’t have to be a cabin in the middle of nowhere, but your bug out location should be far enough from the danger zone for the short-term.

Your Environment

The type of gear you’ll need in your bug out bag for evacuating an urban area is different than if you’re already living in a rural area.

Your Health

Don’t forget to include things like glasses, prescription medications, and contacts, and any other specific healthcare needs in your bug out bag.

More skills = Less weight

The more experienced you are, the less stuff you’ll need.

Quality not quantity

A bug out bag is an addition to your life insurance policy. The only thing is life insurance pays out when you die—the bug out bag is intended to keep you alive.

When it comes to potentially life-saving items, you don’t want to buy junk. Do your research and buy the best bug out bag gear that you can afford.

This even goes for buying a secondhand item in good condition. It’s better to have used quality items than a bunch of new, lower-quality items that won’t last nearly as long.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 75 items that make our ultimate bug out bag list.


1. Water Purification and Hydration System

It doesn’t get any more essential than this. No matter who you are or what type of emergency situation to which you imagine yourself needing to respond, you need clean drinking water. While the human body can survive for roughly a week without water, practically speaking, if you are in an emergency situation that requires the use of a bug out bag, you are going to need water a lot sooner than that. You’ll be on the go, exerting yourself, and that means needing to replenish water all the faster.

That said, drinking untreated water can lead to severe bacterial infection, which doesn’t do much for your chances of survival. You’ll thus want to make sure you have the following items on hand:

  1. Bottled water
  2. A water canteen and/or stainless steel bottle
  3. A water filtering device
  4. Water purification tablets
  5. Hydration packs

2. Food Essentials

Right behind water for the most important bug out bag emergency preparedness category is food. Whatever the type of emergency to which you are responding, you are going to need to be healthy and have enough energy to properly act, which means having food on hand. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to packing food for your bug out bag is that meeting different nutritional needs isn’t a dietary trend but an absolute must. Whether we eat gourmet meals, the barest rations, or anything in between, we all need the same basic nutrients to remain healthy.

In addition, you’ll also want to make sure that you pack with speed, portability, and perishability in mind. Whatever you bring along needs to be something you can pack and prepare quickly, take with you without weighing down your bag too much, and count on lasting for months or even years without going bad. 

You’ll also want to make sure to bring along a few food preparation items. It won’t do you much good to bring along a bunch of canned food or food to be cooked if you don’t have a can opener or utensils with which to eat them without scalding your hands.

A properly prepared bug out bag should have enough food and water for at least 72 hours.

Some of the most essential bug out bag foods and food preparation items include:

  1. Freeze dried meals (beef, chicken, noodles, and several other varieties)
  2. Calorie and protein bars
  3. Military-grade rations
  4. Durable eating utensils
  5. Collapsible bowls

3. Clothing for Emergency Contingencies

You might not care about making a fashion statement, but in order to survive whatever life throws your way, you’re going to need to stay warm and clean. What’s more, you’ll also want to make sure that any clothes you bring along are built to last. The last thing you need when dealing with an emergency situation is having your clothes start to wear and split. Baggy clothes that catch or might trip you up and thin clothes that tear easily are both out.

Clothes are one of humanity’s earliest and most universal survival techniques. They help us stay warm and protected against the elements, and your clothing should do the same. 

What’s more, as with survival-minded clothes of the past, they should be adapted to suit your environment. You won’t be able to respond to whatever emergency you imagine yourself in if you are shivering and slowly dying from hypothermia. Thick, warm clothes are a must. 

On the flip side, if you live in or are leaving for a hot climate, you won’t want to suffer overheating and exhaustion as the result of thick black clothes in 100-degree heat. In these situations, lighter, more breathable clothes are a must.

Even the smallest garments can have a huge impact. Poor socks can lead to trench foot and other serious conditions that can arise as the result of survival failures or a lack of proper logistics. Chafed or infected genitalia as a result of not having clean underwear is as potentially embarrassing a survival failure as it is a critically painful and hindering one.

The true bug out bag list should contain at least one set of clothes for any reasonable survival condition.

Some of the most important selections here include the following: 

  1. Tactical pants
  2. Thick, warm, durable, quick-drying undergarments
  3. A few pairs of socks
  4. A light sewing kit with some thread and pins to manage tears
  5. Warm gloves that still allow you full use of your fingers
  6. A beanie or other type of hat to keep your head warm
  7. Ponchos, hoodies, or other rain preparedness attire
  8. Comfortable walking shoes and/or tactical boots

Let’s talk about that last category for a moment. Space will be at a premium in your bug out bag, so you’ll need to be economic with what you pack. That said, you won’t get very far if your feet are killing you because you packed tight, painful shoes, or if they’re so loose that they keep slipping off, or are otherwise ill-suited for the type of terrain you’ll be tackling after you’ve bugged out.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must. Tactical boots can also be important if you’re walking in dense terrain that requires the extra foot protection. Decide if you need and have enough space for the latter.

4. Tents, Mattresses, and Other Shelter and Bedding Necessities 

One thing you absolutely must make space for on your bug out bag list is a tent and associated shelter-making tools and materials. You won’t be very successful in surviving whatever emergency you imagine if you are left exposed to the elements. For as much of an outdoors person as you might imagine yourself, you won’t get very far if you get sick by being foolhardy enough to skip this section and catch cold and disease from sleeping in the mud and rain.

You therefore need the following items:

  1. Portable, durable tents
  2. Tent-pitching equipment
  3. Portable mattresses which can easily be rolled up and stored

Some other choices to consider include the following:

  1. Stretchable rainproof tarps
  2. A survival hammock that can easily be strung up to provide extra sleeping space for companions
  3. Thick warm blankets
  4. Zip ties for holding things in place
  5. Rope
  6. Bug repellent to keep your sleeping situation free of mosquitos, ants, ticks, etc.

5. Heat Sources and Fire Starters

It was one of mankind’s first inventions, and it remains as vital to our survival today. Whatever the emergency with which you are concerning yourself, if you are going to be out in nature for any protracted period of time, you might need to start a fire at some point for food, comfort, or both. On the one hand, knowing how to start a fire yourself is as basic a survival skill as you can learn. On the other hand, sometimes sticks and flint just aren’t cooperative, in which case fire starters can be essential.

You don’t just want to depend on one method to start a fire. If something goes wrong, you could be in big trouble. Preparedness means having contingency plans, and in this case, it means having different ways of starting a fire on hand.

Some of the most important fire-related bug out bag essentials include the following:

  1. Fire starting kits
  2. Waterproof lighters
  3. A box of matches
  4. Flint
  5. Electric fire starters

At least one of these methods should work during your emergency, ensuring that you are not caught without fire as a basic survival necessity and therefore improving your odds of survival and those of everyone with you.

6. First Aid Essentials 

Nothing is more important to your chances of surviving whatever emergency you imagine than making sure you have proper first aid essentials on hand. Throughout the history of warfare, infection, disease, and all manner of first aid maladies have claimed the lives of just as many soldiers as has battle, and more so in some cases. You may not be marching through Waterloo, Gettysburg, trenches on the Western Front or the Beaches of Normandy, but you nevertheless need to be prepared for any injuries that might result from accidents along the way.

Some of the most vital first aid essentials which should be on any bug out bag list are as follows:

  1. A fully-stocked first aid kit (make sure that everything in it is unexpired)
  2. Tourniquet
  3. Basic bandages
  4. Splints
  5. Gauze
  6. Surgical tape
  7. Neosporin
  8. Blood clotting agents
  9. Potassium iodide tablets
  10. Ammonia inhalants
  11. Any prescription medications you take
  12. Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds

7. Hygiene Necessities 

Closely related to first aid is hygiene. You may not care about spritzing yourself in eau de cologne or a waft of perfume, but that’s not what basic hygiene is about. Rather, it is about making sure you don’t catch disease or infect those around you, which in turn means making sure your body and clothes are as clean as possible. That said, while we tend to use washing machines, bottles of disinfectant, and a host of other items to help improve cleanliness around the home today, those are just a bit too big for your bug out bag.

As such, you’ll want to downsize while packing hygiene items for your bug out bag, packing the following items instead:

  1. Wet naps, moist towelettes, and/or hand wipes
  2. Toothbrushes
  3. Dental floss (which can be used for both flossing and jobs requiring light string in a pinch)
  4. Tampons and other women’s health and hygiene necessities
  5. Soap

8. Survival Tools

If you are in a survival-first mindset, there are a few tools that you’ll need to have as part of your bug out bag. These range from basic navigational aids to means of building shelter and fortifying your position to tools with general usefulness qualities. Among the most important survival tools to take with you in your bug out bag include the following:

  1. A compass
  2. A survival whistle
  3. A compact foldable shovel
  4. Pliers
  5. A knife sharpener

9. Assorted Blades

Like fire, knives are not toys and should not be approached as such. They are one of mankind’s oldest and most important survival tools. If you are in an emergency situation, it always pays to have a legal knife or two on hand. Some of the most important blade types that can help with the making of your bug out bag include the following:

  1. Swiss army knives
  2. Foldable knives
  3. Fixed blade knives
  4. Hatchets

10. Light Sources

In the middle of an emergency, you don’t want to be left fumbling around in the dark. You’ll therefore need to pack a few light sources. As with your fire-related necessities, you don’t want to pack just one – have at least one backup in case things go wrong. Good light source options include the following:

  1. Flashlights
  2. Chemical light sticks
  3. LED headlamps
  4. Lanterns

11. Means of Communication and Ways to Power Them

In today’s modern age, cell phones really are a necessity. If there is an emergency, you are going to need to contact your loved ones. What’s more, it never hurts to have a link to the outside world, and cell phones provide that in the most portable fashion. You’ll thus want to bring at least some of the following:

  1. A smartphone that is durable and dependable
  2. An adapter and charger
  3. Walkie talkies
  4. A radio (battery-powered or hand-crank operated)
  5. Batteries (even if you opt for a hand-crank radio, extra batteries are always a good idea)

12. Grab Bag for Your Bug Out Bag

Last but not least, let’s conclude with a few essentials which don’t quite fit into any of the above categories but are nevertheless essential for anyone looking to fill out a fulsome bug out bag list. 

Some final options to consider for your bug out bag include the following:

  1. A notepad and pencil
  2. Duct tape
  3. Basic fishing supplies
  4. Pepper spray
  5. Bandanas
  6. Work gloves
  7. Rechargeable batteries
  8. Hand-sized portable fan

Whenever you travel (for “emergency purposes” or otherwise) it is also always a good idea to have ID, including a driver’s license and/or passport.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. As stated, everyone’s perception of what they imagine an emergency to be is different, which in turn leads to different bug out bags.

That said, there are certain things which every bug out bag should contain. In particular, the first aid, food and water, and fire-related categories are especially important. All of these things constitute basic survival preparedness. If you are really serious about being prepared, you’ll also want to prepare beforehand by taking a first aid class.

As you can tell from some of the items on the list, your bug out bag will also vary depending on your surroundings. Basic survival preparedness is adaptive. Rather than simply packing a few items and thinking yourself smarter and “more prepared” than everyone else, take the time to actually stop and think about the type of emergency for which you are preparing in the first place, and what your surroundings are like.

Are you in an environment where warm clothing is necessary?

Do you think you’ll have to account for mosquitoes and other consequences of being stuck in a humid or tropical environment?

Will you have to deal with excess heat?

The answers to all of these questions and many more will help shape your personal approach to preparedness and, in turn, the nature and contents of your bug out bag. 

As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Do not wait until it’s too late to get food, water, and basic survival supplies which can be literal lifesavers in the event of a natural disaster or other type of emergency. Planning ahead of time is what preparedness is all about.

With the right time, care, and attention to detail, you can make sure that you can help your loved ones and be a pillar of preparedness when it matters most.