Build an Awesome Bug Out Bag
What is on My Bug Out Bag List?
Natural disasters seem to be getting worse with each passing year. People face personal disasters every day from losing a job to the death of a loved one. Disasters affect people differently – some are paralyzed with fear just thinking about the possibility of facing one while others are motivated to start preparing for the worst case scenario.
After Hurricane Katrina, people began to realize that even with the government’s best efforts, it is likely that those affected by a major calamity will be unreached for more than 72 hours. This is the reason why the US Department of Homeland Security launched its Ready Campaign which aims to help people prepare for disastrous events. The campaign calls for three basic things, prepare an emergency kit or a BOB, make an evacuation plan for your family, and be informed about emergency situations that may occur in your area.
Your basic kit, aka Bug Out Bag (BOB), is a backpack or duffel bag that contains different supplies that are necessities to survive the first seventy-two hours after a disaster or breakdown strikes. What distinguishes this gear from other preparedness kits is its objective – it is meant to facilitate or assist an individual in safely evacuating the scene of a disaster. The name “bug out bag” probably came from a military directive that soldiers had to follow during the Korean War when they had to “bug out” and take another defensive position to avoid being overrun. Their emergency bag was actually called a “bail-out bag” during that time.
Modern day bug out bags contain supplies that are essential for immediate survival when an emergency strikes. The idea is to assemble all the critical items together and store them in one place where it can be easily accessed and carried out. The supplies should allow a person to survive for at least seventy-two hours. This time frame came from disaster relief and emergency management teams that advised that it might take up to seventy-two hours for assistance to arrive following a disaster. The contents differ from one region to another since a person who lives in an area prone to hurricanes require different BOB supplies from an individual that lives in a place that may be hit by blizzards.
BOBs are also very useful for everyday ‘minor emergencies.’ For example, I carry bug repellant in the BOB I store in my car. One evening we went to the lake with some friends. As the sun began to set the mosquitoes started coming out. We weren’t ready to leave so I want to the car and returned with the bug spray. Problem solved! This sort of thing has happened many times over the past few years.
The Bug Out Bag List – What Should Be In My BOB?
The challenge with packing a BOB is to try to keep to the basics. It’s easy to pack everything just to make sure that every possible scenario is covered but you may end up with a pack that you can hardly lift, much less carry. I store my bag in the trunk of my car and will be the first to admit that it has items I may never need.However, in the event of an emergency, if I need to abandon my car I can decide to leave things behind. I would rather have a few extra items with me than have to kick myself for not having what I need.
You need to remain mobile when disaster strikes and your immediate goal is to keep moving until you reach safer ground. This means that your pack should be lighter than you and should contain only the essentials. The basic contents of a BOB can be divided in several categories.
Packing a Bug-out Bag sounds a lot simpler than actually doing it. Getting one ready involves more than just throwing random items in a bag. The process actually requires serious planning to make sure that you get all the necessary items in.
Having a bug out bag all set up is a definite sign of disaster preparedness. BOB items are considered necessary for survival and while the list differs from one site to another, the materials generally fall into several categories. This grouping is based on essential human needs and ensures that in the event of a catastrophic incident, a person will be able to survive for at least 72 hours. This is the time frame that’s observed by rescue agencies to help out people in a disastrous event and evacuate them to a safer environment.
A bug out bag list is a great reference both for people who are new to bugging out and for experienced preppers. Those who are in the process of preparing their bag will benefit by using this list as a guide to complete the essential items while others can use the list to double check their stocks and compare items to pick better alternatives. In the end, it will boil down to personal choice which is why no two BOBs are exactly the same. Let’s start by breaking down the essentials into categories:
BUG OUT BAG WATER
This supply is top priority because a person can go for several days without food but not without adequate water. The minimal amount is a liter per day for one person. If you have children and older people in your group or live in an arid environment, make sure that you consider this in your computation because you will likely end up carrying the load for them.
Remaining hydrated will help keep you calm and functional even in a stressful environment. You need to remain alert so you can make decisions on what to do and where to go. No one can predict the amount of destruction that can happen in the wake of a calamity and you need to be prepared for anything. Being adequately hydrated will help you maintain a clear head.
If you have other means to transport water, like loading them on a car or a stroller, then make sure that you bring the recommended amount for every person in your group. But if you have to hoof it to get to another location, bring what you can comfortably carry and just pack water purification tablets, filters and extra bottles. Collapsible containers are perfect for this. You can stash them in your BOB and just fill them up when you get to a safe water source.
You can also try other methods of sterilizing water if you have to resort to collecting it from unreliable sources.
- Boiling is an acceptable method of cleaning water. Make sure that you have experience doing this over an open fire to make sure that you can e you that is taken from unreliable sources.
- Purification or salt tablets can easily be stashed together with your first aid items and both are proven effective in killing bacteria and other harmful agents. To make sure that you cover all the bases, include an adequate supply of anti-diarrheals just in case you take in contaminated water.
BUG OUT BAG FOOD
Food comes a close second in the critical list. You need to stock up on food products so you can keep your energy level high while traveling to a safer location. There is a wide selection of items that you can choose from which includes ready to eat goods and products that only require the addition of hot water such as noodles and packaged meals.
As an alternative, you can include meals that can be easily cooked over a campfire. Keep in mind though that in a post calamity scenario, you have to be prepared for the worst. This means that you may not have the time or resource to set up camp, much less build a fire. So make sure that you have an adequate supply of items that can be eaten immediately while you are on the move. These may include:
- Meals, Ready to Eat
- Freeze Dried Backpacking food
- Dried pastas and noodles
- Hard candies, health bars, and dried fruits
The amount of food that you need to bring should be enough for at least three days. To cut down on the supplies that you have to pack, choose double purpose items such as 2 in 1 utensils, food that can be eaten straight from the container, and multipurpose cooking tools. A Swiss knife is a perfect example because it’s often fitted with a knife that you use to prepare your fruits and vegetables plus an opener that you can to use for canned goods.
LIGHT AND FIRE FOR THE BUG OUT BAG
Light sources and the means to start a fire are both considered essentials of a BOB. The possibility that you have to leave your house and travel to a safe area is great so you need to prepare for materials to be able to set up camp. Knowing how to build a fire is critical because you will need it to:
- Keep warm
- Ward off animals
- Light your camp site
- Cook food
- Purify water
A camp fire can provide small comfort when you sit beside it and will allow you to consider what you need to do for the coming days.
If you are traveling, your plans can change from one day to the next because you don’t know what you’ll find on the road. Your daily objective though is to be safe and warm while waiting for a rescue team. Getting rescued can take anywhere from several hours to several days which is why it’s important that you have a number of items that you can use to start a fire. This could mean:
- Several boxes of waterproof matches
- Tinder and an alternate ignition tool (flint and steel)
- Bic lighters
- Vaseline soaked cotton balls
Pack these materials in a waterproof container in case you have to face extreme weather conditions.
Lighting devices such as:
Make sure that you pack spare batteries and bulbs.
BUG OUT SHELTER
You might think that it is too much to consider materials for a makeshift shelter or a foldable tent for your bug out bag but it is worth the effort. In a worst case scenario, having these items can spell the difference between surviving the experience and becoming a casualty. First off, most of the things that are considered must-haves for BOBs are lightweight or compact. They are specifically designed to fit in a small space and can be folded up after use so it won’t take a lot of space in your pack.
Consider a foldable tent, tarp sheets, blankets and sleeping bags for your pack along with a paracord and duct tape. These materials will allow you to build a shelter for the night or on occasions when you have to eat and rest. Getting adequate rest, no matter how difficult is necessary so you can continue on your journey. In addition, if you are experiencing extreme weather conditions, it is necessary for you to have a place to take cover and wait for the storm to die down. I pack a small, two-man backpacking tent. Here is why . . .
If, for some reason, you leave out these things or if you lose them on the way, you can consider alternatives. Follow the route of a survivalist and create your own temporary shelter out of the things that are available to you. Twigs, branches and leaves can be used as roofing materials or as ground cover. Look for a place where the branches of a tree overhang and spread out garbage bags over it. Since not everyone is equipped with the skills to survive the outdoors, it is important that you practice with different materials for shelter so you will know your options.
CLOTHING FOR SURVIVAL
Layering several pieces of clothing is the best way to go in a bug out situation. This way, you are adequately protected in case the weather takes a turn for the worst. This is a particularly challenging task because it requires planning for each member of your family. Make sure that you check the packed items occasionally to make sure that the items you’ve packed still fit. This is especially true for kids who can rapidly grow out of their clothes.
List the pieces for your BOB by considering the layout of the place where you live, the climate and the ages of the people in your group. Some would need more coverage, such as the children and the elderly so prepare additional clothes for this group. Some preppers go the extra mile by preparing packs for the different seasons. This is a great idea but it takes a bit more work because you have to label the bags properly and make sure that you shift them as the seasons change.
Consider at least two changes of clothes for each person in your group. This should include:
- Several pair of underwear
- Jackets or waterproof ponchos
- Several pair of socks
- Long sleeve shirts
- Gloves and a hat
EMERGENCY FIRST AID KIT
A first aid kit is also an important element of a bug out bag. Your best bet is to buy a compact container and choose the items that you’ll put in it. Choosing a pre-packed kit would be easier but you would likely end up with an assortment of bandages in different sizes that you won’t need. Most of these kits are not suited for an extreme scenario so it makes more sense to just personalize your own.
To keep it simple, prepare stocks that would help you manage most minor injuries such as:
- Rolls of gauze bandage
- Medical tape
- Antibiotic creams or ointments
- OTC medicines that include:
- pain relievers
Some additional items that might come in handy would be a thermometer, a small pair of scissors, and a box of alcohol wipes. This kit should be kept in a place where you can simply get it for emergencies. It should be one of the last items that you’ll put in your BOB so that you can retrieve it easily.
The first aid essentials also include hand sanitizers and insect repellants so make sure that you put these in the side pockets of your bag. Additionally, each member of your group can also carry their own set of sanitizer and repellant. You can find my first aid list here.
DEFENSE IN TEOTWAWKI
Choosing the means to defend yourself is not an easy matter but the reality is, you will face dangers of various kinds in the aftermath of a calamity. This includes the threat of wild animals and potentially dangerous people who may want to take your supplies. In any case, make sure that the weapons that you’ll bring are items that you know how to use well. Some sites recommend a combination of both lethal and non lethal weapons and if this makes sense to you, then go ahead and do it.
Some of the lethal and non-lethal options include:
- Pepper spray
- Baseball bat
- Survival knife
- Cane or walking stick
Remember that peace and order is immediately compromised when a calamity occurs so you have to be prepared to defend yourself.
As with all the other supplies for a BOB, weight is also a consideration for defense weapons. Choose something that can be used to defend yourself and can also help hunt for food such as a rifle. A survival knife also serves multiple purposes; it can be used for food preparation and for setting up camp.
There are still a few items that you would need for your bug out bag that does not exactly fall into the listed categories but would be critical for your survival. You need to save space for these items because they can help you overcome a disastrous event and get to a safe environment. These include:
- Communication device. Make sure that you include a cellphone with a crank power charger and a portable radio in your pack. This would allow you to keep in touch with your relatives and remain updated with public advisories about rescue efforts and areas to avoid.
- Important Documents. Prepare a set of personal documents that includes insurance papers, house titles, IDs, and the birth certificates of your family members. You may need them to claim assistance or establish ownership of your properties.
- Money. Keep a couple of hundred worth in small bills and coins to ensure so that you have something if the banks remain close.
- Compass and a maps
You will realize in the end that the items in your bag will be the result of your personal preferences. If there are items that are new to you, read up on how to use and maintain them. It makes no sense to have items that you do not know how to use.
Lastly, consider the amount of items that you can realistically carry when choosing a bag. A large sized pack may seem like a good choice but if you cannot carry it without the help of another person, it would be useless for you. Remember that you are dealing with an uncertain scenario which may require you to abandon vehicles and hoof it so pack wisely.