Building your Bug Out Bag

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Building your Bug Out Bag

A Bug Out Bag is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for 72 hours when evacuating from a disaster, although some kits are designed to last longer periods. Other names for such a bag are a 72-hour kit, battle box, grab bag, go bag, etc.

The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, an aviation or a boating emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit.

The primary purpose of a bug-out bag is to allow one to evacuate quickly if a disaster should strike. It is therefore prudent to gather into a single place all of the materials and supplies that might be required to do this, such as a bag or a few storage containers. The recommendation that a bug-out bag contain enough supplies for 72 hours arises from advice from organizations responsible for disaster relief and management that it may take them up to 72 hours to reach people affected by a disaster and offer help. The bag's contents may vary according to the region of the user, as someone evacuating from the path of a hurricane may have different supplies from someone who lives in an area prone to blizzards, earthquakes, or wildfires.

In addition to allowing one to survive a disaster evacuation, a bug-out bag may also be used when sheltering in place as a response to emergencies such as blackouts, house fires, earthquakes, floods, tornado's and other severe natural disasters.

Some survivalists also recommend keeping a 'get me home kit' in the car and/or at work. This is a kit to enable a person to get back home from work in an emergency where all transport cars and public transport have broken down. It is designed around personal circumstances where, for example, a walk of 10-15 miles might be required from work to home. The get me home kit can include, for example, enough water to get home, suitable walking shoes, a map (not electronic), enough food for 12 hours, clothing for adverse weather, etc.    


The Bag-

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing the right bug out backpack for you. Primarily, you have to think about your body size and shape, how much you can carry, and how much you need to carry. There are also other considerations. Let’s take a look at each of these and cover some basic guidelines for each. The size of your body, specifically your torso, is a key consideration when choosing a bug out backpack. You could end up carrying this pack for hours at a time so it needs to be as comfortable as possible.

When it comes to the comfort of your bug out backpack, you also need to consider the various straps. Make sure the shoulder straps are wide and the padding is thick. Plain foam padding will not hold up to hours of wearing the pack day-after-day. 


The capacity of your bug out backpack will be limited in part to the size that fits your torso. However, there are still ways to have a high-capacity backpack, even if it is a smaller backpack. First off, get a pack with as large a main compartment as possible. Second, get a pack that has a lot of outer compartments. This will help maximize the capacity of the pack without making it too big to fit your torso.

Having said that, you will need to keep in mind how much you can carry. It is recommended that you carry no more than 20% of your weight.

Choose a backpack that doesn’t stand out. Something colorful will not camouflage well when you have to make your way on foot through the forest. Then again, a camo backpack filled to the brim will stand out if you are in a city crowd trying to make a break for it. There are things you will need to access on a regular basis and you will want easy access to those items. Your pack will have a main compartment, but it should also have additional compartments. The items you don’t need to access on a regular basis need to go in the bottom of your pack. The things you need more often in the top.

Then there are the things you will need access to even when you are walking. Make sure you have adequate compartments for storage so you can easily reach all these.

You bug out backpack could potentially go through a lot of abuse. It needs to be strong. No matter how comfortable and accessible it is, if the straps break or the material rips, it’s money wasted. Spend as much money as you can afford to get one that is high-quality and durable.

Water, Filtration and Treatment-

You won’t be able to rely on finding clean water, keep your reservoir full so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. Make sure to change the water every season, though, and pack at least two methods of purification. Aquamira 1 oz. Water Treatment (Chlorine Dioxide) kills bacteria while enhancing the taste of treated water. Everything you need to treat 30 gallons in the field comes in a compact, lightweight kit and works in virtually every situation. The Aquamira Ultralight Water Filter can be used like a straw to sip directly from puddles, or you can pair it with your hydration tube for inline filtration when you don’t have time for chemical treatment. A few BPA-free water bottles filled and ready are a wise investment and can be used to store treated water on the go.
Non-perishable food-

You need portable, non-perishable foods for your bug-out bag; the types of things you would bring camping or backpacking, like energy bars and high-protein foods like nuts and trail mix. Since you can’t predict how long you might be without food, pack high-caloric options that will give you the energy you need. MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) are great options as well as pre-made Emergency survival food, Freeze-dried emergency food and Meal-replacement shakes. It’s extremely important that you plan ahead of time so you can design the best weight to calorie ratio. If you procrastinate, you will probably end up grabbing canned food or other less weight-optimized bug out bag food on the way out the door.

If you are on a budget where MRE’s or freeze dried food is not an option, you should stock up on food that has a high caloric value to weight ratio, for example: Sardines, Crackers, Tuna pouches, Ramen Noodles, Mashed potato flakes in Ziploc bags, Dry Rice and Dried Beans.

The most popular bug out bag food of choice is Military MREs or Meals Ready to Eat. The most advantageous aspect of using MRE’s as bug out bag food is that they do not need water and fit nicely in the pack. The downside is their weight, taste and cost. Some people like the taste of MRE’s, but if you are a picky eater, it’s almost a guarantee that you will not. Mountain House Propaks are a great option. The upside is the lighter weight per calorie ratio and the taste. These Propaks taste infinitely better than MRE’s. The downside being that you have to have water in order to prepare them.
Cooking supplies-

A mess kit is an important component of your bugout bag. Without a quality metal container you won't be able to boil water to help make it potable. Utensils are also necessary for mixing food and eating it. There are plenty of options for utensils, so find a set that works for your needs. A backpack cooking set is a good place to start when looking for the perfect cookset for your bugout bag, but don't overlook military mess kits. There are many kinds of mess kits, but when building the perfect backpacking cook kit consider the most important factors. Another important factor in selecting the right camp cooking gear is to ensure your mess kit is lightweight for your bugout bag.

First Aid-

While it is highly likely that you may scrape your knee or cut your hands while in a bug out situation these minor injuries probably will not affect your ability to effectively move to safety. They are high likelihood/low impact problems. When planning a bug out first aid kit we will want to address medical emergencies that are of higher impact such as trauma injuries. These will be lower probability but far higher consequence than a knee scrape or simple cut and may be debilitating or life-threatening. Treating trauma injuries should be a focal point of your bug out first aid kit. This will allow you to address the worst of problems and keep you alive and moving when time is critical. You should also include enough medicine to last an extended evacuation period. Medicine for indigestion, stomach ache and nausea.


Shelter, Clothing and Warmth-

Necessary clothing (e.g., socks and underwear). It is generally assumed that during an emergency situation outer wear will be worn for an extended period of time. Weather-appropriate clothing and UV protection should be at the top of your list. Bedding items such as sleeping bags and blankets are another part that requires careful planning. Thick plastic or tarp can keep ground moisture out of bedding and form a tarp tent shelter from dew or rain. Fire-starting tools such as lighters and firestarters are ideal. Standard camping equipment, including sanitation supplies should be carefully selected. Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster but kept for reference.

Tools and Navigation-

Battery or crank-operated radio. Lighting (battery or crank operated flashlight, glow sticks). An external power-pack or small, portable solar charger (to keep the phone charged). Swiss Army Knife, a Multi-tool, Duct tape and rope or paracord, A mini shovel, axe/hatchet, Folding Saw, Super glue, which can also be used to suture wounds, Tarpaulins for shelter and water collection, Signal mirror, Emergency whistle, Aluminum foil and Compass.

Defense from most dangerous animals or people if required.-

Some equipment listed in other sections can also serve as self-protection if required, such as a shovel or hatchet, knife with a sheath, pepper spray, firearms, license, and extra ammunition. Slingshot, pellet gun, blowgun or other small game hunting equipment.



Pet, child, and elderly care needs. Physical cash and change, as electronic banking transactions may not be available during the initial period following an emergency or evacuation. Positive identification documents, plus any medical ID cards if you have them. Those with allergies should have a MedicAlert or similar ID. Copies of medical records for each person in the family. Printed copy of any insurance information such as home and contents insurance, copies of birth certificate, Passport, etc.


We hope you found this article helpful in putting your Bug Out Bag together!