Bug Out Bag Essentials | What You Need To Know First
What is a “Bug Out Bag?”
A bug out bag, sometimes called BOB, is a bag that contains essential emergency items. The bag is intended to help you and your family survive disaster. For example, what if you had to evacuate due to a natural disaster like an earthquake, tornado or hurricane? Could you survive for the next several days? Could you feed your kids and keep them healthy? If you have a bug out essentials packed right, you most certainly could. Your bug out essentials will matter in a life or death scenario. I have an updated preppers list, please visit that for a wealth of information as well.
If you are new to being a prepper or a survivalist, then this might sound a little confusing or overwhelming. Well, don’t worry, the team at Prep For That is going to help you build an amazing, life-preserving bug out bag. After reading this article, no matter what happens, you are going to be able to survive for the next few days even if society collapses.
Bug Out Bag Essentials Are A Personal Decision
What one person might place on their bug out bag checklist could be vastly different from what another person might list. People are all different. Everyone lives in a different region of the world; some hot and others cold. Some people live in mountainous terrain and others near the Everglades. There are different situations with seasons and bugs and wildlife that must be taken into account. My below list should be considered as a general starting point for a very basic bug out bag contents list.
The first step in compiling a bug out bag essentials list is to take into account your geography, or the geography you might find yourself in when SHTF happens. Many people forget that a good portion of their lives is spent at work. If you need to bug out at work, what will you do? Do you have some bug out bag gear loaded and ready in your car? Or under your office desk? The entire office doesn’t need to know that you are preparing for the potential of doom and gloom, bug out bags for work and office can be more compact.
Building A Bug Out Bag | Stop Stressing, My Friends
Building a bug out bag sounds like quite a chore, but the truth is, it just takes a little planning and a small investment. You can build a cheap bug out bag and I promise, you’ll sleep so much better at night for it. Knowing you’ve taken even a small precaution can often lower your stress level.
First things first, you are going to need a legit bag. You want something that’s got room, compartments and is waterproof and durable. Clearly, backpacks can get rather costly. If you have it to spend, a nice military bag is always great to own and would serve your bug out bag purposes perfectly. However, if you want to cut some costs, Amazon has an affordable option that’s well-reviewed. Past this expense, pending its a needed expense, let’s see if we can build the rest of the bug out bag in an affordable manner. You want to survive, but you also don’t want to be totally broke. I get it.
Here Are Some essentials for a bug out bag.
Identification: If a crisis happens, you might be asked for ID if rescue workers move in. Once the smoke and ash subside, or the waters recede, or the riots find calm, you will need an ID to potentially access bank accounts or your neighborhood. If you don’t always carry your passport, I recommend just keeping it in your Bug Out Bag. Pack this for family members as well.
Money / Cash: If the power grid fails, or a hurricane or earthquake strike, it is unlikely that the ATM machines will be fully functioning. You will need cash. DO NOT JUST GET $100 BILLS. Get smaller ones. Places you need to use cash may not be able to make change. Make sure you get some smaller denominations.
Water: Without water, we can’t survive. You need to keep a water bottle inside of your bag, but unfortunately, water is heavy and you aren’t going to be able to carry a ton of it. You aren’t likely going to be able to carry enough for more than a day’s use (remember, you need clean water not just for drinking).So I recommend you get some purification tablets and place them inside of your bag. Purification Tablets are cheap and light, so you can carry a lot of them. And you might need a lot of them…PFT Recommendation: These are cheap, light and work.
Fire: Fire is essential for warmth. You need fire to cook raw foods. You may even need fire to signal your location to rescue operators. Fire can also help you out when there is no power, which is often the case following a disaster. You need to be able to light a fire. Unfortunately, using two sticks is likely not going to be your best option.
So, you should keep some matches and a lighter in a dry compartment of your bag. Your bag should be waterproof.
PFT Recommendation: Get a waterproof firestarter. It’s affordable and could save your life.
Food: Yeah, surprise, going hungry is not a good survival plan. You are going to need food supplies which can last for at least 4 days, maybe more. Throw in some canned foods – beans, fish, chicken. You want sustenance, in other words, the most bang per can so that you can get in your calories for survival. You can always refer to my prepper food list for more extensive details on the subject, but for our purposes now, just know you need to get appropriate food that fits into your bug out bag.
It is also important to understand that you will be exerting an extreme amount of energy walking and carrying things, maybe even sleeping outdoors. You will need calories for energy. I’d suggest adding in some ready prepped meals. You can get a huge box of these ready prepped that last 5 to 7 years, they come with heater pouches. It is never bad to have them in the house as well. You can also refer to my MRE Meal article for more information.
First Aid Kit: This is clear need. You get injured, you need to be able to fix yourself up. You might step on glass accidentally post-disaster. Lots of things can happen. Hydrogen peroxide, band-aids, gauze, tape, scissors…all essential items.
Here is a good first aid kit on Amazon. You don’t need anything extravagant, just something that could help save you in a bad situation. Not expensive and even has some cold compression pads.
A Knife: At a bare minimum, have a swiss army knife in your bug out bag. Swiss army knives are super useful in all kinds of situations. Here’s an affordable option on Amazon.
Now, I’d also suggest a regular knife to use for cutting meat, or God forbid, self-defense. I’d peruse our best fixed blade knives section and our best survival knives and my best-fixed blade knives section. I’d recommend checking out my Bear Grylls Ultimate PRO Survival Knife review.
Handgun: This is a personal decision, but I will say, if the world around you goes the way of chaos and famine, don’t expect people to be kind to you. You might need something to defend you and your family with. I recommend a Glock 43 with extra magazines. That’s what I have.
Here’s a picture of my Glock 43.
Going beyond what fits in a bug out bag, check out my best SHTF gun article.
GPS Device: You really should have something, not your phone, that can guide you.
Hatchets: This is entirely dependant on what type of bug out you anticipate given the bag. I really don’t recommend these because they weight you down and take away essential room. However, if you do want to go this route, check out my best hatchets list for preppers. If anything, the hatchet is a good thing to have for a home bug out or to store at a potential bug out location.
Premade Affordable Bug Out Bags
AMAZON has a FULLY STOCKED BUG OUT BAG. You might spend a little more, but you won’t have to build it yourself (personally, I love building stuff myself). These are affordable bug out bags that you don’t have to do too much work to create.
Additionally, you should probably realize that when you buy a premade one, you may need to customize it based on your region or use. For example, that Amazon one might not be something that everyone can keep at the office or store in their car. Customization will be a likely additional expenditure for home bug out bags if you go with the Amazon one, but the good news is you will already have a reliable bag with most of the basic bug out bag supplies covered.
Bug Out Vehicles
You might hear of people talking about bug out vehicles. Bugging out isn’t just bound to bags, the truth is, you may need a vehicle that is prepper ready as well. What if you needed to grab friends and family in an emergency bug out situation? Would you have the room and supplies inside of your regular car? Most likely not.
Hey, any vehicle that works and has gas is a good bug out vehicle, but for more of a streamlined experience, you’d need to get more detailed than just that. A true bug out vehicle would likely hold at least four or more persons. It would have enough room for multiple bug out bags and lots of supplies. Most normal cars do not have such capacity.
Another key factor would be that it would be able to endure rough weather. It would need to be an all-terrain bug out vehicle. This has to already have you salivating if you are someone who loves cars and such.
Zombie Bug Out Bag
Ah, the legendary Zombie bug out bag. Zombie apocalypse preparation really is among the many essential for a bug out bag. For many people, the thought of putting together a bug out bag for a zombie apocalypse seems pretty crazy. Shows such as The Walking Dead have certainly inspired a lot more interest in the matter. But being these shows are purely fictional, it almost taints the prepper vertical as being a conspiracy fear-mongering group.
Here’s the thing, shows like The Walking Dead, though clearly fictional, most certainly inspire us to consider real-life situations. Catastrophic pandemics and EMP attacks can most certainly lead to devastating societal fallout. Additionally, tragedies such as Hurrican Katrina and the Thailand Tsunami, as well as volcano eruptions all over the world have shown us that reality can meet fiction.
So while this might feel much to do with fantasy, the reality is only one catastrophe away. If anything, zombie bug out bag interest around the prepper community show that people are considering that our modern lives could collapse at any given moment.
Wildfire Bug Out
This is an area I tend to give a big warning before I discuss. If you are told to evacuate a wildfire, or you realize that a wildfire is heading right for you, get out as fast as possible. The amount of time you have to evacuate a fire is of the essence. Grabbing a bug out bag to evacuate a fire is not a great idea. However, you might want to grab certain bug out bag essentials, for example, a smoke mask for you and your family (if possible). Here is a cheap set of smoke masks on Amazon that is good to have on hand.
I strongly recommend you read my how to survive a wildfire bug out guide. When you are fleeing a wildfire, you want to be light and mobile. However, water and smoke masks and clothes could help you. Again, the main factor is time.
Car Bug Out Bag
As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, you might not be lucky enough to be at home when you need to bug out. But, you might need to get there in short order. If the dollar crashes while you are at work in a downtown office, will you be able to survive so that you can get to your kid’s school and get them? Societal collapses, particularly ones involving banking collapses, could lead to violent scenarios in urban areas. A car bug out bag should be smaller, but potent. Having a concealed weapon is a good idea, but only if you are legally able to and you understand the risks associated with carrying a concealed weapon.
You should have basic supplies that would allow you to get home safely. Maybe most importantly, always make sure your gas tank is filled up. You might be sitting in serious traffic while gas stations are non-functional. We have a great article on how to siphon gas that’s worth a read.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.