- How To
- Bug Out Bag
“We’ve got to go, grab what you need now!” You have seen this in movies or you have experienced it yourself. So what do you do? You don’t have time to pack things or run around the house or room and grab essentials. No, you grab your bug out bag for your transition to survival and getting out of a mess.
It’s the holy grail of prepper essentials. Everyone’s got it. Whether it sits in the car, or behind the front door of your house, everyone knows where their bug out bag is and what’s in it.
In my own military experience, I found that these bags should consist of enough essentials to allow you to survive for 72 hours in the wild (three days). In this window of time, you should be able to find another good base or shelter or you use said supplies to find more instinctive ways to get the must-have’s like food, water, fire, and shelter.
Essentially the bug out bag is the lotion to smoothen the transition between order and chaos. Rather than just throwing you into the chaos with only the clothes on your back you will have a bag of the most useful tools at your disposal to keep you and the ones around you alive.
The term gets its origins from U.S forces conducting quick displacements during the Korean War. The tactic was to ensure soldiers, mainly infantry, were able to move quickly with only minimal supplies from defensive positions that were overrun. In this sense, they ‘bugged out’. Ever since those young soldiers used quick escape bags future military and enforcement forces have been developing kits based around the concept of a quick escape and 72-hour survival.
Whatever may occur, your bug out bag is there for a reason. You’re leaving your home so you need to think of the bug out bag as the home on your back, but smaller. You need everything you would have in your prepped fortress in a bag that allows you to remain mobile, able to run and sustain yourself for 72 hours and to assist others around you where needed.
To look at what you’re going to need in your bug out bag we need to identify the primary things we need for survival. They are food, water, shelter and on the off-chance, you have a bad encounter or are in a dangerous area, a form of self-defense.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you are an extreme survivalist you could still survive without any of this. There are numerous ways to find food, light fires, get clean drinking water and building a shelter without the use of any tool but your bare hands and a switched-on knowledge mindset. But as I mentioned earlier, the items in your BOB are the lotion to transition. What you prepare now will make it easier for when, and if, you need it.
First, let’s start with the bag itself. There are a number of things to consider when looking at the type of bug out bag you might need. I speak about the finer details of how to choose the right bug out for you in our bug out bag type post, but primarily, you need to to do five things to find the perfect bug out bag for your individual needs. They are:
Having past employment in the military, I lean towards a bug out bag made by 5.11 which is specifically designed to be used in 72-hour situations. It still, to this day, has never failed me. This 72 Hour Rush Pack was designed by ex-special forces staff who customized their own packs for convenience. It is durable and innovative with protective layers, pockets, compartments, strapping and is covered in molle application strapping so you can add things such as a first aid kit and an admin map panel on the outside of it.
You can find alternative options in cheaper backpacks, but you’re going to want something that lasts as you don’t know how long you will be on the move for and under what conditions your bag will be put through. After using the 5.11 pack for a number of years, I recently decided to change that up and go with a 75-liter hiking pack that cost just under $100 that I used on a trip through Asia. I found that it was able to fit more in, and as a hiking pack, it provided more support for me to travel further distances.
If you are looking for your own cheaper pack one of the things you need to look out for and which is a common issue with a lot of backpacks are the shoulder straps and backrests. If you are looking to do this without a purpose-built bag you need to find something with strong shoulder straps. There are options to reinforce your own backpack by using linked zip ties as a supportive method to ensure there are no tears in the bag’s supports when excess weight is applied. The other issue is the part of the pack that rests against the back, to hack your own version of this you can insert a tough rubber lining as support.
The budget of a bug out bag is up to you. You really don’t have to spend too much to have a complete bag. I think primarily you should be spending the bulk of your budget on the bag, the shelter, and a functioning multi-tool. The rest you can pick up variations of at different places, or you may already have it at home.
When I first started making my own bug out bag several years ago, I was inundated with all of the survival gear I could pack into it. What I soon found out is that first: I didn’t have enough space for everything I wanted, and second: I wouldn’t be using a lot of the stuff I chose anyway. Since then, I have learned the important skill of item cutting. It was a process of laying everything out in front of you and lining it up in order of what I needed first (water), and second (food) and third (my pile of copies of insurance details and identification which you can see at the bottom of this guide). At the end of that line, I was able to start cutting away the stuff I didn’t need. Surprisingly, there were a lot of things I didn’t need in my bug out bag.
My biggest recommendation when starting a bug out bag is to do the same; think about everything you need, line it up in rank of importance, then cut away the stuff you don’t need. Visualise the scenario you might be in and what type of emergency situation is causing you to evacuate and then think about what you might need in that circumstance as well. This can actually be quite fun to think about as well, as prepping shouldn’t be a boring task.
To get you motivated to start thinking about what you’re going to need in your bug out bag, whether it be a bug out bag for natural disasters, severe weather, or a SHTF situation, I have made a list of what I keep in my own bug out bag, with some additions at the bottom of each section for other items you might need to add.
Don’t forget that a lot of these items can be bought at your local camping store, Walmart, or on Amazon, so make sure you shop around for the best deals. Prepping shouldn’t be expensive as it can be done on any budget. My advice is to check out catalogs on food, water and outdoors goods as sometimes you might be able to buy almost everything you need much cheaper than what some others would.
Food and water is the most important part of a bug out bag and will take up the majority of the weight and space (the water anyway). Ideally, you should ensure you have a 72-hour supply, which should be enough to get you to a planned bug out destination, such as a friend’s place, family place in another area, or a motel in another city.
There is a lot that can be said for carrying a first-aid kit, and more often than not it will become a resource in an emergency situation. The most important thing to remember is only stock the stuff that you know how to use, otherwise, you are just going to be carrying ineffective items that are taking up excess space in your bug out bag.
Of course, for me, I tend to pack a lot of stuff in my bug out bag and have to be stern by laying everything out and asking myself, ‘do I really need that?’. When it comes to carrying a first-aid kit, it doesn’t have to be big, as there are some simple items you might find useful to carry. I have written a post about a full field first aid kit I put together with first aid essentials that you might be interested in, however, as a bug out first aid kit, there are some contents you might find practical.
First, I have included my hygiene essentials in my small kit, which I keep in an old bathroom bag. These are toiletry items, a toothbrush, mirror, small toothpaste tube and a flat packed heap of toilet paper (quite important).
For first-aid, I have a handy little kit I got online that has tweezers, bandages, band-aids, antiseptic wipes and other basic items you would expect in a basic injury treatment kit. With this, I have my own extras I have found to be useful, such as a medical mouthcap, moleskin tape (good for blisters), tourniquet, suncream and a copy of my medical insurance policy.
As for medicinals, all I keep is some paracetamol, anti-inflammatories, vitamins, anti-diarrheal pills and some antibacterial cream. If you need any prescription medication backups, you should probably have a small ‘just in case’ supply.
So carrying this stuff every day isn’t ideal, I get that. But you are going to want to keep it close for when the sh-t hits the fan. But what about when you are walking around the city, or what would you keep in your side pocket so you’re not reaching into your go bag every single moment you need something?
While some of these items might be already in your bug out bag and may be doubling up, they are here because this is the sort of bag I use when I go to work, or when I am away from the car where I generally leave my bug out bag. Because it is much smaller, I keep this in a Maxpedition Pocket Organizer.
This is what’s in my everyday carry:
When I first started putting together my own bug out bag, I was excited to pack it with what I see now as stuff I really don’t need. Survival gear is always a fun thing, but in reality, you don’t need that much of it. Sure, there are some tools and pieces of equipment that are crucial, and then there’s stuff that are more luxury items. But while the survival gear is the exciting part of bug out bags and emergency situations, in all reality, when we are looking at the practical contents of a bug out bag, there’s some things that seem to get forgotten about.
Like many survival blogs, I have listed many of the items that you would expect to find in a bug out bag list. However, in a practical setting, there is also some boring paperwork and administrative items that are just as important. Administrative paperwork such as insurance, copies of licences and health forms are important in a bug out bag as there are a proof of ownership, identity, and insurance, some of the most common legal issues that you will come across post-disaster. Having this paperwork with you will be a godsend in times of disasters or emergencies where your home and contents may be at risk, damaged, or washed away, so make sure you make copies of all of those documents.
The following is a list of document copies I keep in my bug out bag, and you might want to as well:
I have chosen not to list self-defense items as that deserves another post in its own right. For the purpose and completeness of this post, the survival knife which I referred to before is a back-up method of self-defense. Obviously a knife is not as good as a gun or bow, however, the idea of the bug out bag is to get out of an area as quickly as possible. If you’re fighting your way out, you are not doing a ‘bug out’ per se but a fighting withdrawal.
I have tried to include extra items that I sometimes don’t carry just for the sake of completeness of a whole kit. I am very interested to hear of any other items that any of you might recommend. If you do have something that is a staple addition to a bug out bag or an innovative idea, leave a comment below.
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