The Bug-Out Bag

A bug-out bag (also known as a B.O.B) is a pre-packed bag with basic emergency supplies that you are able to grab at a moments notice should you need to get out of your house. I like the term “bug-out bag” but it’s also sometimes called a G.O.O.D bag (Get Out of Dodge bag). Whatever you want to call it, it’s a smart idea even if you are not planning on leaving home during an emergency. You just never know.

There is no one right way to pack or equip a bug-out bag, because it depends on your personal situation and family needs. The most important thing you need to decide is what you want the kit to accomplish. Will you need to rely on the kit for outdoor survival, or just for convenience during time at a shelter? Is it intended to provide basic supplies as you head to an existing retreat location (like a cabin)?

Most kits are packed into backpacks for easy carrying, but other sorts of bags are suitable as well. Backpacks with multiple zippered pockets and compartments can make it easier to organize your supplies. The bag should be water-proof, and have padded shoulder straps or handles. Keep some extra carabiners and buckled straps on hand too, so you can attach anything additional to the outside of your bag.

Basic Kit Contents

When making a list of what you want to have in your kit, don’t forget that someone is going to have to carry this thing. A 50-pound bag may or may not be a realistic kit in an emergency. I know I wouldn’t be able to carry that much weight for very long. Seasonal items can be swapped out periodically so you’re not carrying useless items during an emergency.

  • Food and water for at least 3 days
  • Clothing (warm socks, rain gear, gloves, underwear)
  • Shelter options (emergency foil blankets, tarps, portable tents)
  • Complete first aid kit
  • A camping or hunting knife
  • Multi-tool (pliers, screwdriver in one unit)
  • Matches, lighter, or a flint/steel
  • A compass, and a paper map of the area
  • Flashlight
  • Radio (wind-up power won’t require batteries)
  • Cord or rope (at least 25 ft)
  • Roll of duct tape
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen (summer)
  • Hand-warmer packs (winter)
  • Diversions (deck of cards, pocket games)
  • Sturdy work gloves
  • Signaling items (whistle, mirror)
  • Small notebook with pen or pencil
  • Sanitary supplies (hand cleanser, toilet paper, washcloth)

Other options might be a small camp stove with solid fuel tablets, camping mess kit (lightweight bowl, plate, cup, spork), extra water bottles, and garbage bags. Rotate items regularly so you’re never caught out with dead batteries or stale food.

Food should include things like energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, or dehydrated camping meals. Most have meat or dairy but you can usually find a few options that are vegan. Canned food won’t spoil either, but is really heavy and not a great choice for a bug-out bag. Water can be packed in liter bottles, and you should also carry a bottle of purification tablets too. Water can be very bulky to carry, so water purification tablets can let you take advantage of rain or surface water for drinking.

This is a basic bag list, intended mainly for a single person. I’d suggest a complete bug-out bag for each person in your family. Some items don’t really need to be duplicated, such as the radio or camp stove. Children can carry small items in appropriately sized backpacks too.