BUG OUT BAG: The Essential Multi-Budget Set Up To Be Prepared

What is in a 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.

For the prepping and survival world, the term bug out bag comes from the military defensive tactic of bugging out or to grab the essentials and get out of an area as quickly as possible.

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.

What a ‘Bug Out’ Bag is and what it means

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.

The type of bug out bag you should be using

First, let’s start with the bag itself. In the military, I learnt through trial and error that equipment made by 5.11 is reliable for my uses. It still, to this day, has never failed me. One item I have always relied upon is my 72 Hour Rush Pack. It was designed by ex-special forces staff who customised their own packs for convenience. The result of those customizations is the 5.11 pack. 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. 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.

The things to have in your bug out bag

For the different budgets out there I will list the essentials first and the more expensive additions after that.

Bags, water bottles, and holders:


  • Zip-lock bags (typical sandwich bags. These can be found in your supermarket. They are useful for packing in medical essentials and anything you want to keep waterproof. They also make a great waterproof case for your smartphone and you can still use it with the phone in the bag)
  • Waterproof Document Holder and map holder (you can write on these and keep your map dry from the rain)
  • Plastic garbage bags (just bin bags in a roll)
  • Water bottles (enough for 72 hours)


Camping essentials for your bug out bag:


  • Emergency foil blanket (this gives insulation to your own sleeping bag and can help others)
  • Small rollup bivvy bag (depending on the climate, you could get away with just this, or line it with the foil blanket above)
  • Waterproof matches
  • An ECOPRO Warm Sleeping bag (small rollup, not a bulky one, you may have to get something for colder temperatures depending on your climate)
  • Aluminium foil (from your nearest supermarket)
  • Folding cup (I put this in the essentials because you need a cup and these are cheap – there are also stainless steel versions )
  • Cotton balls with petroleum jelly (you can make this yourself, you can also store these in the cardboard tubing that comes with toilet roles. They are a great firestarter)


  • Jetboil gas burner (Look at getting one of these. They can heat an MRE in a minute and boil water very quickly. This type also has a spark lighter so you just push start to ignite the cooker. Make sure you have at least one extra gas bottle or use a large one)
  • Personal tent (alpine tents like this Mountaineering Lynx are the way to go as they are meant to be carried over long distances and are easy to set up)
  • Eclypse II hammock (If you are in a tropical more warmer area this is the way to go. Especially areas where bugs can be a problem and in jungle environments. You want to be sleeping above the forest/jungle floor)
  • Sleeping mat (anything to keep yourself insulated between yourself and the ground)
  • Insect repellent – if you need it
  • Cyalume glow sticks

Bug out bag tools:


  • SOG Baton Q2 Urban Multi-Tool: fixed blade, screwdriver, LED flashlight (keep on person)
  • Survival knife: you want to be investing in a good one so either a Ka-Bar Becker BK2 or an ESPEE
  • Duct tape – from the supermarket
  • Gloves – I have always used Mechanix Tactical Wear gloves – they serve their purpose very well
  • Dust mask – a disposable surgical mask – you should be investing as soon as possible into the additional respirator below
  • Gas mask – should be military grade. Do not rely on a cheap airsoft mask. I recommend an SGE 400 
  • Multi-function tool – this doesn’t have to be flash, just anything durable with plyers and a can-opener
  • Sewing kit – you can make this yourself
  • Flintstick – you can get a multi flint stick for cheap with a compass and whistle
  • Rubber bands


  • This is a 3M replacement to the dust mask and is still very affordable
  • Rope – Tough Grid nylon paracord is the most ideal and it is pretty cheap
  • Pry bar – from the hardware store
  • Magnifying glass – if all else fails you can use this in the day to start a fire
  • FiveJoy Military Multitool Shovel – these are just great. I always carried a compact shovel in the military, however, these take tactical to the next level with multiple different tools in one shovel.



  • A watch: in the miltary, I used a G-Shock RANGEMAN and I still wear it to this day. These are solar powered and temperature tracking
  • Chargers for all of your items – whatever you have, buy an extra one (iphone chargers, Samsung cables)
  • A faraday bag which acts as a protectant against any EMP wave or RFID technology


  • Garmin Foretex Hiking GPS (These work right up to the very meter as to a location or grid reference you are traveling to. They are definitely worth the money if you are planning on being on foot)
  • Anker solar panel (you can roll this out and easily attach it to your go-bag to start charging any electronics while you’re on the move during the day)
  • Power Bank Solar Charger

Food and water:



Medical and personal hygiene: (Full Field First-Aid Kit Here) 

Bug out bag Medication:

  • An extra supply of any prescription medication you use
  • Antibiotic (general – something like Keflex)
  • Paracetamol
  • Anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen)
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Vitamins
  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Antibiotic and antibacterial cream

Navigation and communication:



Protective equipment and clothing:


  • Ripstop Rain poncho (large enough to cover you with your bag on)
  • Tactical trainers or boots –  My favorites are Garmont T8s and are a popular option for law enforcement and emergency services
  • Wool hiking socks (zip locked bag) – easy to find
  • Gloves – mentioned before – I recommend Mechanix Wear tactical gloves
  • Spare shirt and socks (rolled up and in a zip lock bag)
  • A pair of durable hiking pants. Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pant is another item used widely by law enforcement


  • thermals – if you need them in your weather
  • Face mask 
  • Glasses (ballistic with interchangeable clear lenses and dark lenses) ESS are the higher range ones, I have also used Wiley-X Sabers and they are cheaper and quite durable for shooting glasses
  • Ear plugs – you can get simple disposables or you can go for the Surefire Sonic Defenders. These only limit impact sounds so gunshots won’t leave a ringing and you are still able to hear minor sounds like breaking sticks and soft speaking

The every day carry go bag

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.

every day carry organiser

This is what’s in my every day carry bag:

Personal documents and finances

This is often something that is regularly forgotten in many bug out bags but is just as important as most survival goods because it is proof of ownership, identity, and insurance. Having this paperwork with you will be a godsend in times of disasters or emergencies where your home and contents may be at risk, 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:

  • Cash
  • A credit card or card to a transaction account with a safe amount of money in it
  • Copy of house keys
  • Copy of car keysRush pack interior
  • Copy of:
  • Driver license
  • Passport
  • Will
  • Medical prescriptions
  • Birth certificate
  • Medical insurance card
  • Medicare card
  • Immunization papers
  • Stocks and bonds list
  • Travel insurance
  • Home and contents insurance
  • Vehicle insurance
  • A USB with a backup of your computer
  • Recent photos of family members and pet for identification

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.

If you are interested in learning more about survival, prepping and self-sufficiency in the modern age then stay connected with The Prepping Guide through my Sunday Six Newsletter where I send out six points of information, updates, and discounts for the world of preparedness.

BUG OUT BAG: The Essential Multi-Budget Set Up To Be Prepared
BUG OUT BAG: The Essential Multi-Budget Set Up To Be Prepared


  1. Eric

    August 13, 2017 at 8:01 am

    An alternative method of getting maps is from the National Geographic map website. They are downloadable as PDF files for free.


    • Ben Brown

      August 13, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Great source. Cheers for that!

  2. Julio Maysonet

    October 18, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Thank You for sharing.

    I have a few items from this list in my bob already. I have the J5 flashlight which I like alot and the sleeping bag for use in spring, summer and fall.

    • Ben Brown

      October 18, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Hi Julio, great work with the gear. It’s good to see you are getting some outdoor use with it.

      I have met some preppers that purchase the contents for their bugout bag and then a year later they’ve still got the price tag and wrapping on it. As well as bugging out when the SHTF, this is really handy stuff to use outdoors as leisure and roaming the wilderness.

      • Julio Maysonet

        October 19, 2017 at 1:09 am

        Thank you for the reply Ben,

        Sorry for giving the wrong impression but I am a new to prepping. I have the J5 that I use around the house almost daily but I haven’t used the ecoopro sleeping bag yet. I plan on using it soon.

  3. Darlene

    February 11, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    any tips for the disabled

    • Ben Brown

      February 12, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Hi Darlene, this depends on the disability. For me (while not necessarily a disability, more a limitation on choice) I can only eat gluten-free foods, so it makes the freeze-dried food a bit selective at times.

      • Darlene

        February 12, 2018 at 4:33 pm

        My husband is partially paralyzed on his left side mostly has to depend on his motorized wheelchair for long distances I worry that we would not be able to get to proper help neither of us drive thank you for the advise

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