What’s a Bug Out Bag?
Most people who have a basic understanding of survival and preparedness understand the need for a good Bug Out Bag. It’s probably one of the most talked about items on survival websites, and is something that has become a bit of an iconic symbol for preppers and survivalists.
If you haven’t heard of the term Bug Out Bag, you may have heard someone refer to it as a Go Bag, 72 Hour Bag, Get Home Bag, Get out of Dodge bag, or some other variation of the name.
What you call it really isn’t important; the basic idea behind a Bug Out Bag (BOB) is pretty simple. At its most basic, a BOB is a pre-packed bag filled with the essential gear and supplies you need to survive during an emergency situation. It’s something that you can grab quickly, should a disaster or emergency situation occur that would require you to leave your location.
What type of gear should you pack in your Bug Out Bag?
There really is no One-Size-Fits-All Bug Out Bag solution. When it comes to packing your bag, a number of things need to be considered; first and foremost, should be planning.
Starting with a good plan is really the only way to get started. In order to know what gear should go into your bag, you need to consider the following couple of things:
- What are the most likely disaster situations you will face? Part of truly being prepared for anything, means knowing exactly what situations you’re preparing for. Before ever buying a single piece of gear for your bag, you need to first figure out what situations you’re actually preparing for. This will give you a good idea of what you need to pack, how long you need to pack for, and how much gear you will need to survive.
- What Threats might you face? Understanding what threats you will face in an emergency situation is a crucial part of the Bug Out Planning Phase. Performing a threat assessment will help you figure out which items you need to pack, and which items you can do without. I highly advise reading our article on Pre-Trip Planning for Backpackers; it’s filled with information that directly relates to planning for a Bug Out Situation.
- What are your Strengths & Weaknesses? One of the things I often recommend for anyone serious about preparedness is to perform a SWOT Analysis. A SWOT Analysis is a simple but effective method of really understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses. By honestly accessing your situation, you will not only get a good idea of what areas you need to train in, but you’ll also get a good idea of what gear will complement your strengths.
Once you’ve thought about the above considerations, you can then start to pack your bag. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, we do have a list of some gear that you may want to consider along with a list of some common Bug Out Bag Gear.
Considerations to think about before packing your BOB:
- Who will be traveling with you? Do they have any special needs or medical conditions that need to be addressed ahead of time? Do they have their own bag filled with gear, and will their gear complement your own gear?
- Do you have a BOB for your kids? During a SHTF situation, it will be important for your kids to feel as safe and secure as possible. Having a custom Bug Out Bag filled with familiar items and comfort foods can help defuse a stressful situation, and give your child a sense of control. With younger children comfort items are a major priority that will help ensure their mental health during a stressful emergency situation.
- Are you actually prepared to Bug Out? It may sound like a silly question, but I don’t think most people realize what it’s really going to take to survive in a real-life bug out situation. It’s one thing to talk about bugging out; it’s another thing to carry your gear 10-15 miles a day in dangerous and unforgiving conditions.
- Do you need more than one bag? Since we have no way to know exactly when and where a disaster will hit, you might want to consider having a bag at home, at your office, and in your vehicle.
- Don’t forget your EDC. Let’s face it; carrying 30 pounds of gear at all times is pretty impractical. Yes, you can have multiple bags stashed at your home, office and even in your vehicle, but no matter how much you prepare there are going to be times when you may not have access to your BOB. That’s why I suggest always having and carrying an EDC Kit.
- Do you have an evacuation plan? Having an emergency evacuation plan is one of the most important steps in preparing a Bug Out Bag. Having a BOB is great, but if you don’t have an evacuation plan and a place to go, what’s the point of having a bag?
THE BIG 4 – Water, Shelter, Food, Protection
Water, food, shelter and protection are the most important things that you can focus on. They are the fundamental building blocks to any good survival bag, and should be the foundation that the rest of your gear is built off of.
While some of the items on this list may be considered optional, this is one survival category that’s definitely a necessity. Simply put, without it you’re dead!
- Gallon of Water per Day: While your exact needs will depend on a number of factors, including your environment, activity level, and overall health, a good rule of thumb is to carry a gallon of water per day per person.
- Water Bottles: Having a way to carry and store water is essential to your survival. I recommend the Klean Kanteen for its ability to carry and boil water right in the bottle.
- Water Filter: In my opinion, a water filter is another essential piece of gear. It helps you cut down on your overall water weight, and gives you the ability to purify even the most disgusting sources of water. There are a number of quality water filters on the market, but so far there’s only one that I trust enough to carry in my bags. I recommend checking out our Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter Review.
Your ability to regulate your internal body temperature, and protect yourself from the elements, is going to be extremely important during any type of survival situation. Shelter is one of those survival necessities that can literally mean the difference between life and death.
The type of shelter you choose will depend on your situation, your environment, and your overall ability to build a shelter from local materials.
- Clothing: Although some people might not consider clothing to be shelter, I believe it’s one of the most important items in this category. In a survival situation, the clothes on your back, combined with what’s in your bag, will be your primary source of shelter and protection. Clothing is your first line of defense against the elements, and is something that should never be overlooked.
- Portable Shelters: Some of the most common items include a small tent, a lightweight tarp, sleeping bags, a Bivy Bag, and even plastic sheeting.
- Insulation: In a survival situation, knowing how to properly insulate yourself and your shelter can mean the difference between life and death.
While food probably won’t become a top priority during a short-term emergency situation, it is something that needs to be considered.
When it comes to choosing the right types of survival foods, keep in mind that your caloric needs are going to be much higher than they are today. When determining what types of food to carry in your bag, consider the energy you will receive from those foods versus the weight that you will be carrying. Pick high-calorie, high-protein foods that will help provide energy while at the same time cut the overall weight of your pack.
Energy bars, trail mix, nuts, and seeds are all things that take up little room in your pack, but deliver an enormous amount of calories, protein, essential fats, and energy producing nutrients.
Check out my article on Backpacking food; most of the items you would take on a backpacking trip will hold up great in a bug out bag. Remember this in not your long-term food supply; the food in your go bag is meant to sustain your during an evacuation.
One important, but often overlooked category is protection. No not that kind of protection, get your mind out of the gutter. The kind of protection I’m talking about is firearms and knives.
The great thing about this category is the items really serve dual purposes. From hunting and protecting yourself from wild animals, to protecting yourself from criminals and anything that wants to do you harm, protection is one of the top 4 things you need to consider carrying.
The Key to Building the Perfect Bug Out Bag is Testing
You can have the best gear that money can buy, but if you fail to train with that gear you might as well call it quits before you ever begin.
I don’t mean to be harsh, actually, yes I do. Your Life Depends on it!
The key to survival is knowledge, testing and training. Please take the time and learn how to use your equipment in a real world setting. Reading about it is one thing, really knowing how to use it during a crisis situation can only be achieved through experience and rigorous training.