12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

young traveler bagpack traveling asia Bug Out Bag List ss

Wondering what supplies you should include on your bug out bag list? This tutorial narrows it down to just 12 items, so you'll be prepared for any survival situation without being weighed down.

12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

A well-prepared bug out bag is an absolute necessity for any great survivalist. But when it comes to your supply list, the possibilities are endless. So how do you narrow it down to just the essentials?

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 12 must-have items that are crucial to any bug out bag list. Don’t let the short list fool you; these items all serve many functions, so your bag stays lightweight while you stay prepared.

Check out the list below, and be sure to leave your own ideas in the comments!

1. Whistle

An excellent tool for signaling for help or warding off danger.

 Whistle | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

We recommend packing one with a built-in compass.

5 in 1 Survival Camouflage Whistle

2. Bandana

Not just for protecting your face!

Bandana | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Pack a few of these in your bag for a quick bandage, makeshift carrying bag, or emergency signaling device (bright colors are best).

3. Knife

Knife | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List
It may seem obvious, but a well-chosen survival knife is crucial in an emergency situation.

Hoffman Richter Talon Fixed Blade Tactical Knife with Bonus Belt...
100 Reviews
Hoffman Richter Talon Fixed Blade Tactical Knife with Bonus Belt...
  • TITANIUM COATED RAZOR SHARP STEEL - Like other Hoffman Richter knives, the Talon uses high-quality 440C Steel, for a perfect balance of edge retention...
  • PIERCING 5.5" LONG FULL TANG TANTO BLADE - This rugged 3/16" thick blade is the ultimate combination of balance & power, with a tanto tip design that...
  • PARACORD LASHING SYSTEM & GROOVED GRIP FOR IMPROVED HANDLING - Secured with aircraft-grade torx bolts, the Talon's beveled handled is designed so...

4. Lighter

I’ve seen lighters that are stormproof and windproof, but no need to get fancy.

Everstryke Match

We recommend packing one that is small and waterproof.

Everstryke Pro

5. Tampons

From fire tinder to first aid, tampons are surprisingly versatile.

Tampons | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Check out this previous article for additional survival uses.

6. Duct Tape

A must-have for survivalists of all skill sets. Duct tape is great for almost everything: repairing shelter, wrapping injuries, adding insulation—you can even create a fishing spear by duct-taping your knife to a long pole.

Duct Tape | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Check out this previous article for more ideas on duct tape innovation.

3 Pack Duct Tape, Tear by Hand Design, Silver, Strong 7.3mil...
419 Reviews
3 Pack Duct Tape, Tear by Hand Design, Silver, Strong 7.3mil...
  • Easily tape anything with our multi-purpose duct tape with strong rubber adhesive and thick 7.3mil design. Our thicker tape prevents crinkling and...
  • Our 3 large 3 roll value pack is perfect for large jobs or a long lastly supply for your tool box with our large 60 yard roll 3 pack (180 total yards)
  • Quickly fix anything around the house with our duct tape with easy tear by hand design with waterproof adhesive that will stick to almost any surface...

7. Tarp

A good-quality tarp makes an excellent emergency shelter.

Tarp | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Not only is a tarp more lightweight than any other type of shelter, but it can also endure extreme weather conditions. (Pro tip: Opt for a tarp with grommet holes for even more versatility.)

Stansport Light-Duty Rip-Stop Tarp 10' x 12' - Brown (U-1012)
4,390 Reviews
Stansport Light-Duty Rip-Stop Tarp 10' x 12' - Brown (U-1012)
  • Multi-purpose for a variety of uses
  • Durable rip-stop polyethylene laminated on both sides, Double reinforced corners
  • Heavy duty rust resistant grommets, Rope reinforced edges, 3.5 ml thickness, 8 x 8 weave construction

8. Hammock

Hammocks are lightweight and super durable, plus they're also surprisingly comfortable.

 Hammock | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Check out these hammock reviews to choose the one that's best for you.

9. Garbage Bag

Garbage bags are not only inexpensive, but they're also incredibly durable.

Garbage Bag | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Pack a few in your bag for a makeshift fly screen, backup shelter, or bandage protection, and check out this list for even more ideas.

10. Zip Tie

Don't be fooled by their small size; these zip ties pack a lot of punch. Use them to create makeshift hand restraints, trail markers, and weapons.

Zip Tie | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

And be sure to check out this previous article to learn how to escape a zip tie restraint.

Zip Ties, 500 Pcs Adjustable Durable Self locking Black Nylon Zip...
3,715 Reviews
Zip Ties, 500 Pcs Adjustable Durable Self locking Black Nylon Zip...
  • 【Strong and Durable】 Nylon Zip Ties field tested to support up to 60 pounds of weight with a patented Ratchet-Lock head and strong teeth for...
  • 【Premium Quality】 Made of industrial strength 6/6 nylon, Laishuo cable ties can be very flexible with high temperature resistance.
  • 【Self-locking Design】 With cable zip, cables can be tied tightly. Wire ties designed for indoor use with rounded edges for easy handling and to...

11. Paracord

An absolute necessity for great preppers.

Paracord | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

Paracord is not only extremely versatile, but it can also withstand much more weight than rope.

fishing pod kit

12. Multitool

Multitool | 12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

The multitool is small and discreet, but it's also extremely powerful. The Hoffman Richter HR100 mini-tool is the ideal tool for any survival situation – it's like carrying an entire tool kit in your pocket.


Check out the video below to see how it's done – and be sure to leave your own bug-out bag survival tips in the comments!

12 Essential Items for Bug Out Bag

Want more ideas for your bug out bag? Check out the posts below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 9, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

10 Responses to :
12 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag List

  1. Linda Hansen says:

    You really need a more complete multi-tool. I have the mini HR, but I also have a full size HR and a full size Leatherman. You didn’t include a flashlight (or other light) which I consider an absolute essential. You can use the hammock to store your supplies up out of the reach of many pests. If I used a hammock to sleep I’d have a broken back. I also think a wire saw is an essential. Uses are many-fold.

  2. Duane Crandall says:

    I used zip ties to hook my transmission linkage together. really pulled me and my Jeep out of a tight spot. (Also TP is great in an emergency)
    Prep with glee my friends!

  3. Rev Idaho Spud says:

    I think a light is in order. The COB LED technology lights (like a ‘Lil Larry) are awesome, small,bright and energy conversant. The new CREE LED technology flashlights are reaching 3000 lumens, are also small, bright, lite and some are rechargeable. For me a minimum of two knives. A multi tool is fine but I also want a 4″-6″ blade for self defense, battening wood etc. More than one way to make fire is also in my bag. A good quality firesteel (not Harbor Freight) and 3-4 books of matches in a zip lock baggy. None of these weigh a lot and they don’t take up much room. The added tools I have mentioned so far altogether weigh under a pound. 2-4 Mylar space blankets are no more than an ounce.

    An issue for me is your hammock. 2 items: 1. Keep in mind that in a hammock air (possibly cold) surrounds your whole body. If you’re cold you aren’t going to sleep well. Mylar sleeping bags would help in that situation in the hammock. 2. When I was young (er) and that’s a while back I didn’t find hammocks to be especially comfortable. Maybe for an hour nap, but 5 hours during a night would be torture plus, you have to be in a wooded area for them to work well anyway. I would opt for on the ground sleeping in any case but now the issue becomes padding, mat and or a bag?

    These items destroy the compactness of your emergency bag but in reality I think your hammock is a waste of space. The reason is emergencies do not arise with convenience. No trees or too cold and the hammock is not going to be a fun option to depend on.

    The solution may be to unthink your “micro” bag approach and get a larger size bag that can hold a mat and a bag (wool blanket) as well as your tarp. With what you have now if your emergency lasts less than 5 hours (no mention of water filtration) you’ll be fine. If the emergency is 1-5 days, better have some nutrition calculated in your planning some way.

  4. Diane says:

    Ok. I have seen several ideas for a BOB and a hammock is out of the question for me. One trick I used when camping on the ground in Yosemite when I was just 11 was gather pine needles to make a mattress of sorts. It was pretty comfortable. It will keep you off the ground.
    Here is another idea: Whatever happened to the idea of general backpacking? I have done that and you can use the basic principles of backpacking to outfit a good BOB. A good rule of thumb is to lay out the items you want to have in your pack on the floor and see what else you might include that would come in handy, such as the zip ties and paracord. There are a lot of things that can be added that don’t weigh much such as a needle and thread. You never know when you will need to patch up a tear in clothing. These are just a few ideas to think about.

  5. PaulWVa says:

    Light-sticks are a must for any emergency kit. They’re light, small, cheap and can light up your tent, car or campsite. They use no batteries, give off no heat or fumes and last for hours. I have them stashed in my truck, in my BOB and I keep a couple in my EDC bag. There are lots of colors and brightness levels and you can by them in bulk. Pick up 10 or 12 and see fast you find places to stash them.

  6. Lisa L. Dean says:

    Why why why do you always leave out the pencil sharpener!!!!!
    Doesn’t have to be big nor fancy. But they make great tinder makers. I bought a big bunch of them on amazon for little to nothing and back 3 in all my fire kits. Green birch works amazing as tinder.

  7. maud says:

    where i am from flooding is the most likely scenario. Why dont i see anyone prepping a water-filter or any of that kind? For me it is essential number three, right after firestarter and silver-foil blanket.

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