Survival Gear: Building an Emergency Bug Out Bag

Bug Out Gear

I’m sure you’ve heard the term thrown around a thousand times, but don’t feel bad if you don’t know what it is, it’s actually one of the most common questions we get.

What is a Bug Out Bag (BOB)?

A Bug Out Bag (sometime called a BOB) is a large survival kit that’s filled with gear and equipment specifically designed to be used during an emergency situation where you have to evacuate. The gear is usually stored inside of a backpack, or something that you can quickly grab when disaster strikes.

When seconds count, fumbling around trying to find your emergency gear can be deadly. Having a ready to go Bug Out Bag allows you quickly grab the emergency gear you need, should you be forced to evacuate during a crisis.

How do you Build a Bug Out Bag?

To start, you want to find a tough, durable backpack or bag that will hold up during extreme conditions. This bag should be large enough to carry your essential gear, but shouldn’t be so large that it becomes a burden to carry during a bugout situation.

The bag you choose will largely depend on your unique situation, and what types of emergencies you are planning for, but to get a good idea of what you should be looking for, check out our article on survival backpacks.

What to Put in a Bug Out Bag

Backpack with Bug out Gear

When trying to figure out what equipment or gear needs to be stored in your bag, you need to keep in mind that it should only be filled with the essential tools you need to survive during an evacuation. The main purpose of the bag is to get your from your danger zone, to your bug out location (safety).

How Much Gear Should You Pack?

If you listen to most so-called survival experts, they often suggest that your BOB should contain enough supplies to last for at least seventy-two hours. Don’t listen to them; that number is grossly underestimated! Since most major disasters often disrupt essential services and normal life for far longer than 72 hours, we think it is a good idea to have a Bag that will allow you survive for at least two weeks and if you can afford it then aim for an indefinite period of time.

While it’s true the bag is really meant to help you make it from point A to point B, there is no telling how long that will take, and during a disaster, all plans usually go out the window – so plan accordingly!

Make sure your Bag is built to fit your needs; remember, some people may need items that are not listed on this list. The emergency supplies listed on this page are general guidelines, meant to help start building your bag. When putting your kit together, you need to take into consideration any special needs or items that you or your family might require. Below we discuss some of the things that you may want to include in your Bug Out Bags, as well as some items that will hold up when it really counts.

What Gear should be in your Bug Out Bag?

You bag should be built to fit the needs of yourself, and anyone traveling with you during an emergency. When selecting gear, please keep in mind that our list is only a recommendation of things that are important in most situations. Some people, such as those with disabilities or medical issues,  may need items that are not listed on our bug out gear list.

The emergency supplies listed on this page are general guidelines, meant to help start building your bag. When putting your BOB together, you need to take into consideration any special needs or items that you or your family might require. Below we discuss some of the things that you may want to include in your Bug Out Bags, as well as some items that will hold up when it really counts.

Bug Out Bag List: Essential Gear

A Disaster Plan: The first piece of gear we want to take a look at, is really the first step in building the perfect GO Bag: A Disaster Plan!

Your disaster plan will be the foundation that everything is built upon, and will also be the map you live by when things go bad. Your disaster plan should be in writing, preferably laminate to protect from the elements, and include the location of emergency zones, rallying points, multiple evacuation routes, maps of the area, trail maps, emergency phone numbers and contact information, etc.

Water and Water Filtration Gear: During a disaster, water is going to be on the top of the list of essential gear. A good survival rule of thumb to live by is, 1 Gallon per day per person (or enough to get you by until you find a clean source of water).

That’s why we recommend having these three things: Water, Metal Water Bottles, and a Filtration System. We recommend the following products; they are products we use and products that are actually in our real-life bags.

Water Bottles

Water Purifiers & Filters: (Any of the below items would make a good choice, or check out our full list of recommended water filters)

  • SteriPen Adventurer Opti Mini Pack: A UV water purifier that will kill more than 99.9 percent of harmful microorganisms, including Giardia, bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
  • Katadyn Water Filter: They’re not cheap, but they are built to last and I personally carry one in my own bag. It Filters all microorganisms larger than 0.2 microns and is good for up to 13,000 gallons (50,000 liters)
  • Sawyer Mini Water Filter: We like these, because they are a budget friendly alternative, and cheap enough to store one in all your gear bags. It will removed 99.99999% of all bacteria (salmonella, cholera, and E. coli); removes 99.9999% of all protozoa.

First Aid Kit: Before we recommend the actual kits, I want to start off by saying that you should always look into building your own instead of buying a premade kit. Premade kits rarely have everything you need, so please check out our article on building an emergency medical kit first. If you have to buy one, here are the ones we like:

Clothing: During a disaster, you need to take into consideration the fact that you are going to be put into environments where clothing and shelter become extremely important yo your daily survival. Make sure you have the following:

  • Extra socks, pants, shirts, and clothing for your environment.
  • Gloves, hats and dust masks.
  • Weather Specific gear like rain suits, ponchos, and waterproof shoes.

Knives and Weapons: From self-defense and hunting to the hundreds of survival applications that a good knife can serve, make sure you have protection at the top of your list of considerations. We recommend the following knives and Guns:

Flashlights: We have an entire list of the best survival flashlights, but if you don’t want to read through that here are three that we recommend.  

Emergency Communication Gear: To start, this is an area that shouldn’t be taken likely. We recommend checking out our articles on Ham Radio and take the time to learn how to communicate during grid-down disasters. Once you know the ins and outs, these are the bugout radios that we recommend.

Fire-starting Gear and Cooking Equipment:

A Good Multi-Tool:

Some more Survival Equipment to Consider:

Professional Survival Books:These should be studied well beforehand and kept for reference during a disaster. Recommended books are:

Camp Axe & Shovel

Cordage: (wide variety of uses, traps, etc….) *550 Paracord

CASH & Documents: have some extra cash in your bag, as well as a copy of all your important documents (SS Card, I.D., Fishing/Hunting License, Gun License, etc…)

Multivitamins: Keep your strength up as your diet changes

Extra Medicine: *If needed because of preexisting condition

Navigation Compass, Maps, GPS, etc…. :

Fishing Gear: Bobbers Hooks, fishing line, small collapsible pole

Emergency Food: Stuff that will last and give you the most bang for your buck ( peanut butter, jerky, sardines, granola bars, salt, dried fruit, MRE’s, etc…) Check out our list of recommended survival food.

Shelter: Sleeping bag, tent, tarp, etc….

Extra Batteries: Personally I buy EBL rechargeable batteries on Amazon. They’re cheap, reliable, and I use them in combination with my solar battery chargers.

Solar Charger: Check out our list of recommended chargers and battery packs, they will keep your electronics and batteries fully charged during a grid down emergency.

Signal Devices: Flares, Signaling Mirror, Whistle

Duct tape

Misc: Candles, Safety Pins, sewing needles and thread, Playing Cards for entertainment, Wire for snaring.

Rural VS Urban Bug Out Bags

One final note: The gear you choose should be suited for the unique locations you live in and where you plan to evacuate. If you live in a rural or wilderness location, then your bug out needs are going to be much different than those who live in an urban city. For instance, check out our article on urban survival gear to get a good idea on what I mean.

15 Comments

  1. Hello Scott I’ve since changed the image but the Second Bag you asked about was a Naneu Pro Military Series Briefcase….. I’m Not sure that it’s the best bugout bag, but it might be a good for a smaller bag that you keep in the truck of your vehicle. I liked the look of the bag thats why I used the picture, but I am not 100% sure on how good of a bag it is…….

    You can but them on Amazon the link is below:

    Naneu Pro Military Series Sierra Convertible Briefcase/Messenger SLR +12.1″ Laptop Case – Olive Drab

  2. I include a small, inexpensive digital camera in my Bug out Bag. not a necessity, but a great “nice to have” in emergencies or to capture the moment. I never, and I mean never leave home without my Bug out Bag over my shoulder, and placed im my Jeep. On more than one occasion I have needed the camera.

  3. The kit looks excellent, but I would recommend adding one more item. Quick Steel. It is a 2 part epoxy in a tube, you cut or break off a little bit, roll it together, and in a few minutes, you can “weld” anything that is broken back together. It also is water proof. I have 2 tubes in my bag.

  4. This is just my opinion, but the best Bug Out Bag I have ever used and am still using, is the one from Camelback. It is the the AMBUSH, huge, 2550 cubic inches. I started using during my first tour in Iraq, then used it as a bug out bag. Now I am in Iraq again, and using it for daily combat operations, it is incredble. Holds up to everything. I have used and spent alot of money over the past 20 years on backpacks, and this is the best one I have yet to own. Lots of pockets, tough, and organized. Great 72 hour bug out bag.

  5. Let’s not forget the inexpensive items that have countless uses. I mean zip-top bags, aluminum foil. paracord, and, of course, duct tape. I am talking about the REAL duct tape, not the kind named after waterfowl ( we all know where to find that ) , or the $ 2.99 roll. The 100-MPH tape is the best and is relatively cheap. Put all of that together in a few 30-55 gallon trash bags with a good multi-tool, and you’ve got the start of a good toolkit that takes up very little space in a bug-out-bag.

  6. All of these are great ideas-Definitely MORE than 1-liter per person/per day..3.5 liters weighs about 8 & 1/2 lbs though so weight needs balancing. While I carry a Victorinox “Swiss Army” multi tool-which I LOVE, I also believe that a Fixed Blade should be an essential item. I’ve used the Alice Packs a lot but prefer the SOF Ruck pack from BlackHawk-Pricey(saved for mine awhile) but sturdy as iron. I keep one at home B.O.B. and one in my POV, both packed and ready to bug. Also, just like real duct tape, buy REAL Paracord!!! Walkie-Talkie Radios I bought for $50. for two are awesome also. i have 6 of them so that units that might split stay in commo. Stay Sharp And Be Prepared…

  7. Great list.
    I also added a petzl Tactikka headlight which allows me to have hands free at night.
    Two compasses, aquamira water filter and a emergency whistle.
    I still have a way to go but with great info like this Ill get there.

  8. Don’t forget binoculars, sling shot, zip ties, magnifying glass, sharpening stone, small bible and work gloves!

  9. What brand are the collection of bags in the first image at the top of the page? I don’t see them named anywhere.

    Thanks

  10. The LIGHT MY FIRE messing kit w/ harness is perfect for snapping to the outside of your BOB. Also, to the post a couple above mine, I don’t see how that small bible will help you survive.

  11. Dave C,

    To many people a Bible = faith which in turn = hope. If you do not have hope, why survive? If you had to ask that question, you probably don’t need one. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong or a bad person, just a different point of view.

    I would recommend anything in your personal BOB that gives you inspiration or hope. Maybe a small American flag, pic of loved ones, small bible, etc.

  12. Great ideas, one thing I bought was the Strikeforce {I think that is the name of it} firestarter and I also went to the local army surplus store and bought some trixane fuel tabs also, I’ve had some for over 15 yrs and they still work great. And toilet paper too. I think I’ll pull my BOB out and go through it and see what all I need to add or take out. If I think of anything else I’ll post another comment.

  13. Great info, however I do need to say, that being in Australia, it would also be prudent to have a snake bite kit, as we have 12 of the 20 worlds most deadly snakes in the world, and there are lots of them !, also here too many people living in the coastal cities, I could easily see the ” golden horde” leaving if there is a major collapse such as quake or grid down situ for a length of time.

    My personal choice is a Med ” Alice” pack, also gloves and beanie!, I have also found a RAT 7 is a really good choice for me along with my old timer.

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