A bug out bag is your best friend in an emergency situation. Here’s a guide on how to prepare yours!
In this article:
- Backpack Size
- Food and Water Resource
- Camping Gear Alternatives
- Possible Targets for Scavenging
- The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Checklist
Make the Best Bug Out Bag You Can with These Tips
For the best bug out bag backpack, I recommend having an external aluminum frame pack or a larger hiking backpack. School backpacks aren’t quite big enough. A frame pack has the weight of the frame, but you can attach items such as a sleeping bag or a shotgun or rifle. I prefer to carry handguns in a belt holster.
Hiking backpacks can often be found used in larger thrift shops like Value Village or the Goodwill. School backpacks will work in a pinch, but they will be full with some larger items. Also, a normal backpack may not fit all of your bug out bag essentials while remaining comfortable for constant use without needing modifications.
Food and Water Resource
My bug out bag checklist is based on the premise of obtaining food and water en route. Some food and water need to be carried, but a realistic amount to be totally self-sufficient likely requires an additional means of transport. Urban settings have food and water resources if one thinks outside the box. I list the means to cook and boil water on the assumption that food can be obtained in this part of the world fairly easily. Rural or natural settings have many potential sources of calories, and water can usually be found.
Camping Gear Alternatives
Crushed charcoal in a bandana makes a makeshift filter that should remove most undesirable elements not killed by boiling or water purification tabs. I realized that emergency/camping food and fancy means of purifying water are out there, but I prefer to stick to basic methods without parts to break down.
I also lack the funds to buy items such as purifying pump and so I’m forced to look at other means. The fishing kit can be swapped out for a collapsing pole if desired, but a fishing kit gives you the ability to rig up multiple lines for more opportunities for food. You can use an actual pole, but it should be light and compact if you go that route.
Weight is the key issue. I have hunted up steep hillsides in Eastern Washington and the ability to refill water and food on the go would be on the top of my bug out bag checklist if I had to go cross-country on foot.
It’s simply impossible to carry enough water, for more than maybe a day, without breaking your back. I recommend the total load, except for a firearm if carried separately, should not exceed 30-35 pounds. I’d aim for 25-30 pounds, if possible.
Possible Targets for Scavenging
If the items are no longer in use or are not anymore needed by the previous owner, they are fair targets for scavenging. I will not hurt a person for the purpose of gaining an item, but I have no problem acquiring an unused item to ensure my own survival so long as no one else unnecessarily gets hurt. Theft, maybe, but in a survival situation, many rules of ‘civilized’ living no longer apply. Calling it borrowing if it makes you feel better.
I will not purposely hurt others, but I will act to ensure my own survival by whatever actions that require. In the normal world, I am an ethically conservative person who is very professional. These values don’t disappear but rather get modified in the event of a survival situation. Many preppers and survivalists think you have to be the lone wolf or the general store without any middle ground. A good balance lies somewhere in between where a person looks out for his or her own interests while still supporting a community setting when appropriate.
The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Checklist
• Fire Kit
• metal match (flint stick)
• wooden or paper matches
• magnesium bar
How to start a fire with flint:
• Water bottle – metal, preferably steel
• Purification tablets
• Water purification pump, if within budget
• Space blanket
• Tarp – green or brown, fairly easy to find
• 50-100 feet of cordage – heavy twine will work
• Poncho – emergency ones are at every sporting goods store, better ones will cost more
• Wool socks – 2 pairs (one to wear and one to rinse and dry)
• 2-3 bandanas
• Gloves – leather or wool preferred
• Change of underthings
• Carabiners – lightweight, hanging things, can be skipped if not found
• Flagging Tape
• Radio and batteries
• Small LED flashlight and batteries
• LED headlamp and batteries
• Esbit stove and fuel tabs
• Small cook pot (lightweight) and mess kit including a set of silverware
• Handled metal cup
• (Inside cup) Plastic jar or Ziploc bag with tea, bouillion, and salt
• Ziploc bags and folded aluminum foil
• Sierra cup
• Travel rations of choice (rice, jerky, granola, etc.)
• Hunting or larger folding knife
• Road flares (2)
• Fishing kit – hooks, 30-40 feet of line and lead weights in a pill bottle
• Dental floss
• Toilet paper – in a Ziploc bag
• Duct tape
• First Aid kit – basic, include doses of critical meds
• Swiss Army knife with can opener blade
• Small can opener if there’s no Swiss Army knife
• Firearm and ammo
• Rain hat
• Boy Scout manual
• Hiking boots or other sturdy boots
• Sleeping bag – with a carry bag or strapped to frame pack
• Fleece top – pull-over or zipped both works well
• Winter coat with hood
• Extra water bottle
Watch this video about what goes in a bug out bag by Blade HQ:
We covered the basic survival needs of food, water, fire, defense, and shelter, but we prefer to carry knowledge and skills rather than a bunch of high-tech gear. Fancy gear is great, but it costs money and can get heavy quickly. Most gear can be improvised or scavenged if needed. As the first thing you grab in an emergency, this resource can be hugely beneficial if you know what you’re doing. A good packing list is critical to ensuring the quality of your bug out bag and your preparedness as a whole.
Care to share about your best bug out bag practices? Share them with us in the comments section below!
Up Next: My Bug Out Bag Has A Secret…
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
You say that a bandanna with charcoal will filter out what isn’t killed by boiling. But what isn’t killed by boiling?
The bandana filters out chunks and charcoal helps with chemical additives (natural or otherwise). It is not the most efficient method out there, but it does work and is relatively easy to do. A grass, gravel, sand, charcoal filter works on the same principle and you just boil the water afterwards to be really sure. Boiling kills just about anything living, but doesn’t deal with solid materials or chemicals.
How about a list we can print out (without vidioes)
I don’t do the final formatting, but cut and paste into a document will create a printable list.
Under signaling and communication, you mention radio. What you should have mentioned is that the radio is a general coverage scanner with police band coverage. Thus, it is a valuable tool for acquiring intel that is unfiltered by the gubbermint.
Also, under signaling and communication, you failed to mention a flashlight. That is useful for sending text messages up to five miles, if you have one with a momentary on pushbutton switch. Actually, I have done it ten miles (across San Francisco Bay). Reject flashlights that do not have this capability!
What? You don’t know code? You can learn it in one day!
. . . k6yvl
This list was originally put together two years ago when I had an 80 round trip commute that involved I-5 and two major rivers. The bag was designed to get me home, but has grown and been modified for a more general purpose bag. I have since acquired two hand-held CB radios and a CB base unit that I still need to get set up. I also have from Costco a flashlight/radio/signaling device that is hand cranked and may be able to charge a cell phone and I also upgraded to a better LED headlamp that has the capability to work as a flashing signal device. Years ago I tried to learn code, but I would need to learn it again. Good direction to work on.
Ooops… the radio and flashlight… since you don’t know how long you will be homeless, you need extra batteries and a small solar panel to keep them charged. A high end cell phone can also be kept charged, and it has many uses, even if the cell network is down. It is a calculator, a gps, a diary, a clock, a calendar, etc. Mine can even compile and execute programs in C, Lisp, and HP-48 code. If that fails, it is a lure for very large fish!
For head cover, I use an arab kafiyyah. It is useful, depending how you wear it, in heat or cold. Instead of the traditional headband, mine is knitted paracord, of course. A three finger knit compresses the length eightfold. And with a short length of paracord and a few sticks or stones, you can fabricate some really nasty weaponry! (Not that you would ever harm a mutant zombie biker of the apocalypse.)
The radio and flashlight have been rolled into one handheld unit that is hand cranked. I agree that cell phones have a wide range of uses other than making calls. The camera comes to mind for me. I’ll have to look up info on an arab kafiyyah. I don’t claim to know everything, just a little bit about a lot of topics. I’ll also have to look up the three finger knit and yes you can improvise some nasty weapons with some cord and whatever is at hand. I’m more worried about the parent of a hungry child than a mutant zombie biker.
The rule of threes says in any extreme situation you cannot survive for more than:
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
This being the case, being prepared to create shelters and provide safe clean water should top ones preparedness skills and priority. I’d say fire would be the third most important priority.
Supplies needed for sheltering could imclude: quality knife, ax/hatchet, saw, shovel, rope (50-100′ paracord), & tarps/plastic sheeting.
For safe water the best thing to have a bag to bag filter system. 100x better than boiling. You can get a virus filter for unknown contamination, a bacteria filter for high mountain streams, and a cysts & giardia filter for stable water sources like pools and pipe water. Also choose a disposable filter over a filter that requires maintenance. Mostly because you will be under enough stress to worry about cleaning your filter.
I also recommend looking at an Emberlit portable stove. Small and portable and uses natural fire sources.
Finally “one is none, two is one” is important to remember. Have back ups for your most important items like multiple fire starter, light sources and water filtration methods.
Daniel, I would include more tools in a longer range pack, but I considered my less than pristine back and kept the pack under 20 lbs. Weight is the issue for me. I have hauled a 25ish lb pack up a 45 degree hillside. The 9 lbs in difference between my current pack and that pack are huge in terms of long-term endurance, at least for me. I agree that certain items such as tools and water filtration systems are nice to have and I would include them if I could manage more weight. As I told Richard, I originally built my bag to deal with a 80 mile round trip commute that crossed two major rivers and wrote down the original list for a friend with very little budget. Given a larger budget, I would definitely consider more stuff, but even now I have not managed to acquired a water filtration system. You can always find stuff to fill a need, but the skills and knowledge to do so without stuff makes you better able to survive. Not questioning your skills, but I see too many people dropping big bucks on gear and not learning how to use what they have and how to improvise when their gear fails. An Emberlit stove looks interesting. It looks like an improved version of the older folding stoves with the stability of an Esbit stove. Good thing to know about. There is a good book out there about a group of prisoners who escape a Russian prison camp in Siberia and most of them make it to over Himalayas to safety. Their possession make my trimmed down bag look overloaded. You can do a lot with very little if you have to, but having things that make the going easier are nice when you have the option. Gain the skills and then work on making the skills less needed. Fire is the exception for me because I want flame now, but not in three hours. Something to consider on stuff is that most inhabited environments have stuff that can be repurposed and scavenged as you go.
Flashlight and batteries are under the heading “Light”
It might not be for everyone but I find a wrist rocket is very handy.
A wrist rocket could prove quite useful and quiet too. My grandfather could put a beach pebble into a dog’s butt at 30 yards from his back door with his homemade sling shot every time. Only the one’s that tried to do their business in his yard though and only once was required. You could bring down small game with practice.
Squirrels and birds are very eatable 🙂 Also useful for discouraging some of the larger predators as you’ve pointed out. Ammo is plentiful and it is quite. I’m sure someone could figure out the direction the shots are coming from, but the distance might be tricky and no one wants to be hit by a propelled rock. lol
OK – where are the valid video links?? None of the videos in Survival Life Issue 148 work!!
Talk to the management. I’m learning technology and will be finding working links for future articles.
Okay, I just want to say that I am in no way in any way, shape, or form, a survival expert (though I do spend a lot of time outdoors in the very short time frames of when the weather in North-East Oklahoma are decent) , but I just a few questions and statements about the list: #1: I see this item(s) on a lot of bug out gear lists, yet have a hard time understanding it; a fishing kit. Why only carry line and hooks? wouldn’t it make more sense to carry a small or folding pole (or one or two of those yoyo automatic reels). I get the issue is space, but you’d only be making it a heck of a lot harder on yourself if you don’t make that sacrifice. #2: I truly don’t understand the obsession with magnesium fire steels. I get that they’re good for hundreds of strikes, but when you factor in the number of strikes to actually starting a fire, you’d be a lot better off carrying a match book or a Bic lighter, but don’t get me wrong; I carry a fire steel in my camping pack just in case, but people need to start acknowledging how hard it is to actually use them. And #3, which is more just a friendly suggestion; carrying some sort of small, belt mounted pouch on you. all those goodies in you bug out bag don’t mean squat when your pack gets lost (or stolen by various marauders and banditos in the situation arises). #4 (another friendly suggestion): a hi-point 9mm (or any other similar Saturday night special). yeah, I know they’re cheap turds, but a back up pea shooter might just save your life. I personally carry a Walther P-22 when if I legally can when I go camping (a bit higher quality than I hi-point, but still the same basic premise). You don’t have to use it as your main handgun, but a $125 turd you’d probably only have to put a few rounds through could save your life.
I like a person who reads and has questions. The sign of an active mind. #1: Folding poles can break in addition to taking up room. If you like them, go for it. I can find a stick or bar just about anywhere I am or rig up a set of lines and hooks in a stream. I can also use a plastic bottle that you find just about anywhere in the world as debris to cast with and it holds water too. #2: I also carry matches and a lighter in addition to the flint stick that is in my pocket at all times. I know how to start a fire without matches or a lighter, but I’ll take the easier option if I have it. #3: I have a smaller three compartment fanny pack (one main and two side) that I have tailored for hunting and hiking. It is a much lighter stripped down version of my BOB. I could survive out of it if needed and have used it on many occasions to fix a something hot to drink with lunch while out hunting. I don’t rely on one main bag although a majority of the larger items are in it along with spares and extra items. #4: I was robbed and lost all but a .357 revolver. I focused on what it could do and found it quite versatile. We have since replaced or acquired more handguns, but I still feel a .357 is a good all around caliber and ammo is relatively easy to find compared to a .22 or 9mm. If you reload, that issue goes away. .357 is not the end-all, be-all caliber, just mine. People have their own choice of calibers including black powder guns. If it works for you great. Unless I had a good stock pile or a steady supply of ammo, I would not buy a .22 or 9mm handgun since a gun without ammo is basically useless. I realize there is .22 and 9mm out there to be had, but I refuse to pay into the system that is keeping the prices jacked up. That’s just me. A gun you haven’t practiced with regularly is not much good beyond rock distance in my opinion and that requires a regular supply of ammo. I have owned a Hi-Point and in my view they are good guns for what they cost. Heavy, plain, and bulky, but reliable. EDC: I didn’t discuss every day carry in the article, but for me that includes a Swiss army knife, nail clippers with a file, a fire steel, a lighter, and an analog watch so I can find my way. Even without my packed bags, I can start a fire, build shelter, improvise tools and weapons, and find my way home. Not bragging, just being practical. You can always add gear, but skills make the gear useful.
starting a fire with Flint and Steel is extremely difficult if youre not experienced and just plain hard if you are and is a world apart from starting a fire with a magnesium bar. not even close
I can find natural fluff in most places that will take a spark in addition to the options that I carry with me. Is a flint stick perfect, no but it will last much longer than a lighter and doesn’t require a knife to shave like a magnesium bar. I carry three ways to start fire which is led off by a good old lighter. Being able to build a shelter with a Swiss army knife doesn’t mean you have to. Having tools is as important as knowing how to get along without them. But if I have the choice between primitive and a quick fire, I’ll choose a quick fire every time.
you should try dryer lint my boy scout troop has been disqualified because they start fires to easy and destroy the competition. usually start a fire in one strike
Pencil shavings works or teach your scouts how to make carbon cloth.
one thing I’ve found quite useful is Mosquito netting. lightweight, compact and if sleeping in the wilderness ( esp. the south where i live) can act as a slight morale boost knowing you aren’t getting eaten alive all night. just a thought.
You need a list I can print, not video
I think a good addition to dry toilet paper is wet wipes or baby wipes. They’re great for cleaning yourself up and of course, answering nature’s call.
A small bag of hard candy can be a lifesaver. It won’t lump up or get sticky either. Quick energy. etc.
I have 2 Esbit stoves but instead of Esbit hexamine fuel tablets, I use G.I trioxane fuel tabs. I bought a case of them from an army surplus store. They’re cheap and easier to find than Esbit tabs. They’re easier to light, and the flame covers the whole thing in a second, instead of just a corner burning at first. It makes a smaller blue flame, instead of a big yellow flame, in case you don’t want anyone to see it.
Esbit tabs will burn a lot longer, and many people prefer them, but they leave a big piece of residue. Trioxane leaves a black smear on the bottom of the stove that I never tried to clean off. I just keep putting new tabs on the same spot. Try both and see what you like best. I found an Australian site that gives these figures for 5 days use of hexamine, 420 gm, $31. In comparison, 250 gm of kerosene would cost $1, and 400 gm of methylated spirits, which I think means denatured alcohol, would also cost $1. Trioxane isn’t listed.