Bug Out Bags for Kids

Bug Out Bags for Children

Do you have a Separate Bug Out Bag for your kids?During a crisis or disaster situation, one of your most important jobs you will have is to help your child feel as safe and secure as possible. Most people greatly underestimate the physical and emotional toll disasters can have on people, especially on young children.

But there are some things you can do to safeguard their mental health.

Something that I’m a big proponent of, and something that I think helps give children a sense of security, is involving them in your preparedness planning as much as possible. That means talking to them in an age appropriate way about what you expect of them, what they should expect during a disaster, and also involving them in preparedness drills and training.

Preparing a dedicated survival bug out bag for your child.

One great way to make them feel like they have a voice, and a sense of power during times of crisis, is to give them their own dedicated bug out bag.

Having their own child-sized Bug Out Bag, filled with familiar items and comfort foods, can be a real, life saver during an emergency. Just remember that a child’s survival bag is going to be much different than the bags that you have prepared for yourself and your family.

With children, you’re going to forgo most of the traditional survival gear you would think about when preparing an adult bag, and instead, comfort items will become a top priority in selecting items to fill the bag with. Having a backpack filled with comforting and familiar things can help ensure their overall mental health during a crisis or disaster.

Let’s start with the bag itself.

Don’t go crazy here; remember this bag is a supplemental bag for your kids so don’t do crazy buying fancy military bags or hiking backpacks.

For Younger Kids:

We really like Deuter backpacks for kids. They are a solid company that makes adult hiking packs, so you will find that hiking quality construction in their child’s line. Plus, they look like something a younger kid would like to carry.

For Pre-Teens and Teenagers

For pre-teens and teenagers I recommend going with the classic JanSport Student Pack. They are solid bags that will hold up,  plus I don’t like kids walking around looking like they are carrying gear. These discrete bags are awesome; in fact, we even recommended them in our article for people looking for Discreet Bug Out Bags.

What Items should go into a kid’s bug out bag:

Kid carrying a bug out backpack

What goes into the bag really depends on your child’s age and their maturity. While the needs of each child are going to be a little different, there are some things you should consider when building an emergency bag for your kid.

Basic Survival Gear to Pack

While comfort items are the top priority, it is a good idea to give them a couple of survival items. It will not only help them feel important like mom and Dad, but it also introduces them to skills that will keep them safe throughout their lifetime.

A child’s survival gear be lightweight, age-appropriate, and if you can make it fun then that’s always a plus. Heavier items and gear should always be in the adult’s bags. Here are some items that we recommend adding to your kids disaster backpack.

All Ages:

  • Laminated emergency contact list with name, home address, and telephone numbers.
  • Pre-paid cell phone
  • Poncho
  • Extra socks, pair of gloves and knit hat or bandana (depending on your climate)
  • Dust masks
  • Goggles
  • Band aids & wipes
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Canteen or water bottle.

Young Children and Pre-teens:

Flashlights: We like the Dorcy Waterproof Light: It’s colorful, child-friendly, and it lasts for over 8 hours on 3 double AA batteries. Yes, you can find better survival flashlights, but the point here is making it less stressful on your child, so this is a good solid light that also feels like something they can play with.

Emergency Whistle: Clip one to the outside of their bag. First it’s good for scaring off bad guys and animals, but it also will help you find them should they become separated from the family. It’s also another one of those survival items that are also fun in a child’s eyes. We like the Fox 40 Sonik Blast CMG Whistle, it comes in a bunch of colors, kids will think it looks cool, and it’s loud with a sound power of 120 dB!

Teens:

For most teens, I recommend starting to add gear that you would add to your own bag. The only caveat that I would add is to make sure they are trained and know how to use the items you store in their bag. Their first time using a pocket knife shouldn’t be during a disaster!

Here are a couple items that we really like for Teens:

Flashlights: For a teenager, we like the J5 Tactical V1-PRO Flashlight. It’s relatively cheap, takes a single AA battery, and is a good solid light that many adults choose to keep in their bags.

Survival Knife: For a teenager, or even a younger kid who has the maturity and training to use one correctly, we LOVE Moraknives! I bought one for my son, so he could start learning how to use a knife. We recommend the Morakniv Craftline Basic 511 High Carbon Steel Knife. They are extremely affordable, I would trust them as a knife that I carried as an EDC, it has a safety guard which I think all kid knives should have, and it’s an important piece of gear to have and know how to use as they get older.

Comfort Items to Pack

When building a bag for a child, comfort and mental stability are the primary purposes of the bag. Don’t overlook the importance of entertainment and comfort; during a disaster, the last thing you need is a kid who is overly stressed out and anxious.

  • An iPad to play games, read, watch movies, etc.. I’m not usually a fan of kids spending large amounts of time staring at a screen, but during a disaster this will be a welcome distraction. Just make sure you include a portable solar charger in your bag.
  • Stuffed animals
  • A couple small light-weight toys
  • Pack of playing cards, Uno Cards, or travel size games
  • Baseball or small Nerf football
  • Harmonica
  • Hard candy
  • Bubblegum
  • Sugar packets
  • Trail mix
  • Drink mix packets

Remember, a kid’s bug out bag is not meant to be an adult Bag. Its primary purpose is to provide comfort during a stressful situation and give your child a sense of control. With younger children, comfort items are a top priority and will help ensure their overall mental health.

Make sure you customize the bag for your child’s age, personality, and overall fitness level.

Recommended Preparedness Reading for Parents

  • Survival Mom Essentials: How to prepare your family for disasters and survival situations.
  • Preparedness Resource Guide:  If you are new to prepping, this is good place to start. The article covers almost everything you need to know to protect your children and your family.
  • Preparedness for Children: This article will help you introduce the topic of preparedness to your children, and will help make sure they are ready to face disasters.
  • Preparedness at School: If your child goes to public school, they need to know how to respond to disasters when you are not around. This article will help them do just that!
  • Dorm Room Preparedness: Have an older kid who is getting ready to go into college, make sure to go over these tips.
  • Talking to Family about Preparedness: How to talk to your family about prepping for disasters.

51 Comments

    • Cause kids love sugar!…. Anything that can get a small kid to calm down will be a benefit in a SHTF scenario. sugar, candy etc…. can all provide temporary comfort and make things seem a little more normal. I like the idea of the smaller packets because 1. they are easy to carry 2. The kids can open them without help, add it to water or whatever. Now normally I wouldn’t give my kid packets of sugar but during a stressful SHTF situation anything that keeps their mind off the chaos is a win.

      • I agree with putting some kind of treat in the bag, but it can be something healthy…Dr. John’s sells xylitol lollipops and sugar free taffy that have low glycemic index (ie-will not cause sugar crash), will not promote tooth decay and they taste great. Also, Sharkies are gummy sharks made with brown rice syrup, which is a slow-burning sugar, tastes good, and will give them a nice treat. Or think of Clif kids fruit ropes or Z-bars. Healthy and tasty. And the best way to help your kid be calm in a manure vs. impeller scenario is to prepare them ahead of time!

          • Aaron…consider sugar a poison. It ramps up your kids to the point nobody can stand them…and then comes the crying-whinney crash. Vmack is totally correct! And it rots their teeth and sets a kid up for diabetes.

          • I realize this is an old post, but wanted to say, these are bug out bags, not total life rebuilding bunkers. Three days, maybe 5 at most. A little sugar to get the kids through the trauma the first few days will definitely not hurt, and the the comfort it provides is huge. In a SHTF situation, I’m not worried about a temporary supply of sugar my kids are using to “get by”. My 6 year old will get by just fine putting a slug in your head for trying to steal his candy like a freak, then suck on said candy as a reward, all with a pat on the back from me while we hump to our hideout in the woods dragging the next months meals behind. Glad you’re concerned about a few days worth of candy though. One less fool for me to worry about.

          • @vincent..if you are worried about cavities pack a travel toothbrush and toothpaste…when the SHTF cavities are going to be the last thing on your mind…sugar in moderation is the answer..

          • When the SHTF your not going to worry about cavities, its not like there dentist is going to check up on them.

        • Xylitol does far more damage long-term than sugar. Sure, they will have a few less calories, but the way it is processed in their bodies isn’t worth it. Let the body stick to all natural sugar. Let the kid play sports and exercise and it doesn’t really matter if he eats some sugary treats. What you should be worried about is all the artificially flavored garbage they try to sell as snacks. But sugar itself is better than xylitol. Many sugar substitutes cause cancer, and it is proven (look up on google sugar substitute causes cancer).

          Also, as a kid, I can say that chocolate is delicious and definitely would help calm me down.

          • My kids love tic-tacs… a couple pack in their BOB would be perfect for them, since they already have a psychological connection with them as something special from their father.

          • There at some good ideas in the original post and the remarks. Thank you to those who posted helpful ideas.

        • I’m going to make fruit leather, it’ll provide a sweet treat and not an overload of suger, while you can’t tell in the taste.

          • We make homemade fruit leather from the organic strawberries, raspberries and blueberries we grow in our gardens. We also go to a wild patch of dewberries and use those to make yummy leathers, too. Those get dehydrated without any other ingredients and added to our BOBs periodically in very small, vacuum-sealed bags. HOWEVER, my kids are used to eating this way and wouldn’t freak out by not getting drug-like sugar to “calm them down”. :) Homemade, ORGANIC fruit leather ROCKS! :)

      • Ja I like your thinking its not like we will feed our kids bag full of candy and sugar its just a couple of things that will help them calm down a little til u get to the safe zone

      • Thank you so much for this list. I have been looking for some BOB for kids without luck. But thanks to your post I have a better idea of what to pack. P.S. not a 50 pound BOB for my 5 year old.

    • I’m sure it’s a small boost for the kids. Can’t do caffeine. Sugar is used up pretty quickly by anyone under 16 while bone growth is still very active.
      A little bit of sugar water in a bad spot would give them anyone chive good boost

    • I agree with most of the parents here … sugar is the last thing that will calm your kids down, especially if they have Autism or ADHD, like my son. These children tend to be even more sensitive to sugar and high-fructose corn syrup than most. If you are trying to go in stealth mode, sugar will just ramp up your children, and in my son’s case, he would be louder than a coyote. I do agree that for most children, everything in moderation, but if your child has special needs, consider carrying things like a low-sugar applesauce or fruit pouch, banana or apple chips, and other healthy alternatives. Also, protein is a must for my son, so I will have meat sticks and/or jerky in his pack as well. As a parent, you know your children, what is best for them, what ramps them up, and what they simply cannot have (that would be gummy bears for my son). If your child does not start bouncing off the rocks with sugar, then by all means, give them what you feel will help them the most.

  1. Speaking only as a parent who has raised obnoxious children and have more nieces and nephews than I have fingers and toes I just want to throw out there that while candy and sugar are great comfort things for kids, during a stressful situation giving kids sugar is not always the best idea. In my personal experience kids+sugar will magnify the stress everyone is under (well the grown ups anyway, kids that are coming off a sugar rush get tired and cranky and who wants to deal w/ that when things go to hell) I am not saying not to pack it, just watch the intake level which all good parents do don’t they?. Thats just my 2 cents..

    • I totally agree with you Kloathis. The last thing I want on my hands are a couple of kids running wild on a sugar high! I mainly us sugar free treats in their “comfy bags”.

      • I think you’re all still missing the point. Your kid, my kid, nobody’s kid is going to get a gigantic sugar high or titanic sugar crash from a piece of candy, or a pack of sugar on a really shitty day. You’re just trying to give them some form of distraction or reward, not get them all hopped up. I understand your piont, but it’s outside the intended scope of the suggestion.

        • I agree. Nobody’s saying you should let them sit down with a 5 pound BAG of sugar!!!
          I understand that some kids have rather extreme reactions to even a little bit of sugar…so don’t pack sugar for YOUR kid!!! Problem solved.
          Our daughter can eat sugar or soda (both of which we rarely let her have a lot of anyway) right before crawling into bed…no problems!!! This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t pack her fruit snacks rather than sugary candy (mostly because she PREFERS them!) but I get what it’s about.
          Pack for YOUR kid!!!
          I know that ours will generally ignore our sodas…until she’s feeling stressed. Then she’ll outright BEG for it…so we give it to her. A small (like those 8 oz ones) can of soda WILL be include in her B.O.B., because of this fact.
          It’s your choice…..Only you know your kid!

    • Something most people who have never been in a critical incident dont realize is that during a time of crisis, you immediately come back to basics of whats important. For everyone that Ive come across, that is your loved ones….nothing else. So during a normal week, the pet peeves are just that. But during a crisis, the things that seemed to drive you crazy suddenly seem appear moot, small and trivial. Heck at that point, you may even feel a bit guilty for letting those things bother you. So give them sugar….moderation in everything is the key.

  2. This is very good advice, I must admit that I havent thougt about this at all even though I have small children and that they are the most important thing in my life. Thank you! A bug out bag for kids is a great idea!

    • I have “comfy bags” for my grandkids 7 and 4. Each bag contains a small fleece blanket, hat, gloves, rain poncho, crayons, activity book, cards, treats, toothbrush/paste, water bottle, individual drink packets. There may be a little more but that is all I can think of at the moment.

      • Oh, flashlight, whistle, hand sanitizer and instead of glow sticks, I have the ones they can make bracelets/necklaces/headbands or what not with. I leave the clothing items to their parents…lol!

  3. @ dustyr
    The idea of a bug out bag isn’t for those “living in the wrong place”. A disaster can happen anywhere, whether in the city or the country. Even a person living miles from anyone should have one. For example, a house fire in the dead of winter, when help is far away, is not the time to wish you had an emergency shelter.

  4. @ dustyr “bug outs will be short lived
    if you have to bug out, then you are living in the wrong place”

    Not to be mean How old are you? Do you remember Katrina? 7 days for water to the shelter. some where stuck on there roofs for 2-3 weeks.

    The other thing is I live a few milles from The US Chemical Storage and Disposal Location (Mustered Gas Several other Nerv agents. I work with the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) did almost 10 years of Search and Rescue.

    Then there is Earth shakers and Mounten eruptions (I saw MT Saint Helen in person. back in 2005 I5 in Washington state got 6′ yes that is FEET of water over it it was flooded for 2 weeks (the flood only took 15 minutes to reach its peek.) and I shouild also say it was a section of 15 miles long.

    SO YES EVRY one should have a BOB and a EDC

    • Bug out bags are not tiny safe houses! They’re only a means to help you get from one place to another. Everyone should have a bugout bag, regardless of whether or not you’re “living in the wrong place.”

  5. I think a bob is a great thing ! we live 15 miles from town and we have been stuck in snow storms for 4 DAYS with no power and way to get to town . It sucks we always sim to be the last to get dug out . We always have stuff ready and over stock of water , food , flashlights ,ect . But having bags for the kids is great . Im starting now ! also my son has asthma and we have to run the genarater out side with a long cord to run it and it sucks ! He always needs it when theres no heat cause we have to use the fire place . does anyone have a better way ?

    • My daughter and I both have asthma. Some of the things we keep on hand to treat attacks are coffee (the caffeine opens the airways), and several different teas with warming agents examples being ginger,cayenne pepper, and black pepper. The two brands I trust the most are Stash and Yogi.

    • My son has asthma too. I asked his doctor for an inhaler or something to use when out camping or in case of snow storms. He gave us a spacer to use with his inhaler because he’s so young.

  6. Regardless where you live when there is a disaster of ANY kind, the bug out bags suddenly become very valuable – I would rather be safe with a well stocked bag and never need to use it, than scoff at the need of having one … and then wish I had prepared one.

      • The brand is Deuter, but they don’t make that bag anymore. The Deuter Kikki is good for very little kiddos, and the Deuter Junior and Schmusebar are both good replacements for slightly older kids. All three are top loaders with a good cover flap like the one in the picture. Check Amazon.

  7. My nephew had a flash light that didn’t take batteries. It was a long time ago but I remember this item because I thought it was so cool. It had a hand crank on the back that would power up the light. I think this would be an awesome item to add to a child’s bob, or even an adults. :)

    • Or light sticks instead of flashlights at all…and THEY are even waterproof!!!
      Our daughter loves to play with them in the bathtub. ;)

  8. A big out bag is about being prepared! To dusty..do you have a spare tire? Any band-aids in your home, jumper cables?…tbats being prepared….ever been on a school bus .thetes a first aid kit on it…just in case …on a different note a cheap solar sidewalk light has many uses…silar,recharges AA batteries and a kid now has a nightlight

  9. Don’t forget to add a change of clothes to your child’s bug out bag.

    I’d also add a LifeStraw, military canteen / water bottle, chem light, small IFAK. Keep it light, practical and effective.

  10. Do any of you have very young children and what are your bug out plans with them? I have a 10 month old and i’m trying to figure out how to bug out with him. I mean carrying a baby on top of all the gear is a daunting prospect. Even with a husband to help out, what do you include in the baby bag outside of the typical mommy bag?

  11. @Malcularius, you DEFINITELY need a sling. A ring sling is nice, a mei tai wrap is perfect. Both are lightweight, and I used both when our little one was, well, more little. Lol They make daily life MUCH better, and I couldn’t imagine being without one if I had to bug out with a baby!

  12. @Malcularius
    A Mei Tai is my plan for my little one. He’s 2 now, and can carry his own little comfort bag, but in a SHTF scenario, I am planning all my gear around the assumption that I will be wearing my youngest on my person in a Mei Tai (front or back, or even side- it’s completely flexible). I made my own using a couple different patterns I found online, and I keep one in my car at all times, and one in the house. It rolls up to a small blanket size with a shoulder strap. If we have to walk, I’ll put my son on my front, and my pack on my back. DH will clip baby’s bag to his. DH is also carrying the much bigger BOB, since I’ll be carrying DS.
    And we use cloth diapers, so I am only planning to carry 4 diapers (since he’s potty training) with covers, and a small herb jar full of Charlie’s soap for washing.
    I’m still working on a plan for a weapon for me- we’re thinking a thigh holster will be the best option, to make it accessible by me, wherever he’s worn, and inaccessible to DS. HTH

  13. I make a what my nieces and nephews call their treasure bags for trips. Could be long school trip, scouting or family vacation. It’s basically the kind of thing listed above. The thing is if they get used to having one for “normal” trips then taking one in a bug out situation wont be as stressful/traumatic for all involved.Something to think about.

  14. For non motorized options with kids, think mountain bike with child seat & or bike trailer. Another good on foot option could be a good jogger stroller.

  15. another option for really young ones would be the hiking-type child carrier backpacks… similiar to a framed backpack, but with a kid seat. they make weather covers for them, and some have decent storage in addition to just holding your kid.

  16. I put a lanyard in the backpack with a whistle and a little flashlight. A coloring book with crayons. Or a favorite book to read. Tissues, mask, rain cover, plastic trash bag, toilet paper roll, washcloth, balloon, comb, handwarmers, and more. Plus things that you put in.

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