It pays to be prepared, and one of the things you will need to be prepared is a Bug Out Bag (also called Go Bag). This is what you will grab when you’ve got to GO quickly, and aren’t really sure what circumstances you will encounter.
What is a Bug Out Bag?
Before we get into all of the essentials for your Bug Out Bag checklist, let’s go over what exactly is a Bug Out Bag.
A BOB often gets confused with other types of survival kits. There are a lot of overlaps between some of them, but it is important to note the differences:
- EDC Survival Kit: This is the kit that you should have on you at all times. It will include first aid items, basic tools like a knife and fire starter, cordage, and a personal protection device (like pepper spray). Here is an example of a EDC survival kit which fits in an Altoids can.
- Hunker Down Survival Kit: These are all the items you will need to wait out a disaster for an indefinite period in your home. At least a 30 day stockpile of supplies is recommended.
- Wilderness Survival Kit: These are the supplies and gear you need to stay alive in the wilderness until you are rescued.
- Bug Out Bag: These are the items that you will need to survive for about 72 hours after a disaster. Since it is meant to be the bag you grab during an emergency situation when you’ve got to go and you’ve to go FAST, the Bug Out Bag should be lightweight and easy to carry.
Note that Bug Out Bag items are pretty similar to Wilderness survival kits. One big difference though is that, with Wilderness Survival Kits, you want to be found. With the Bug Out Bag, you want to stay hidden because any stranger could be a possible threat.
Bug Out Bag Checklist
I like to divide my Bug Out Bag checklist into categories based on goal/task. These categories are the essentials you will need to stay alive. Remember, the goal isn’t to be comfortable. The goal is to survive! Feel free to add some comforts to your Bug Out Bag (I’ve got toilet paper in mine, which is definitely a comfort) but still keep it light and easy to carry because this is your GO bag!
Water is your #1 most important item for survival in a disaster situation. Depending on the disaster, the normal sources of water may be completely contaminated – such as after a nuclear attack.
- Water:Your Bug Out Bag water items should include 1-3 quarts of water per person. This is estimating that you will drink 1 quart of water per day.
- Water Bottle: You’ll also need a device for carrying water such as a water bottle or camelback.
- Water Treatment Method: Never drink water without treating it first. I personally like the Sawyer Mini water filter because it is just 2ounces and filters up to 100,000 gallons of water. However, it won’t remove viruses so isn’t suitable for urban sources of water. In our Primal Survivor Members Area, we have a detailed report on how to treat water.
There is a big debate as to whether a tarp or tent is best for your Bug Out Bag. It really comes down to your level of experience. If you don’t have experience sleeping in tarp shelters, then go for a tent.
Choose a tent which has the highest Hydrostatic Head rating you can find while still be lightweight. The rating tells you how well it will withstand water (as well as its ability to withstand snags). Don’t go with anything less than a 2500 rating! The next item on the Bug Out Bag essentials checklist is a sleeping bag for each person.
I also recommend that you get familiar with the many types of survival shelters, and learn how to make a survival shelter out of debris. You never know if your tent is going to get lost or stolen, so this knowledge could save you!
This really varies depending on where you live and your level of skill. For most, “warmth” means bringing a sleeping bag, bivvy bag, and/or emergency blanket.
Pack 3 days worth of food in your Bug Out Bag. Look for items which are high protein and high fat.
This will help you stay fueled and alert during this time. We hold a weekly contest where we giveaway 72-hour gourmet emergency meal kits, you may check it out here.
Also bring 1 lightweight camping pot in your Bug Out Bag. You don’t really need to cook food to survive (though this can make survival much more comfortable), but the pot can be used for multiple other purposes like collecting rain water and boiling water for purification.
Read this post for 50+ Bug Out Bag Food Ideas.
Fire isn’t just about warmth. It will help keep wild animals away. A lit branch can be wielded as a weapon. Fire can be used as a signal. Fire can be used to boil water for drinking and first aid… I keep a couple packs of matches in my Bug Out Bag (sealed in waterproof containers). I also always carry on me a match-less fire starter with me as a backup.
Self Defense Items
Resist the urge to include every weapon you own in your Bug Out Bag. You’ve got to keep things light and all those firearms, crowbars, and clubs are just going to slow you down!
A handgun is fine, but don’t put this in your Bug Out Bag! Have it stored in a secure vault and in a belted holster so you can simply open the vault, put on the holster, and GO.
You may also want to consider pepper spray for your BOB. It is a great non-lethal weapon.
First Aid Kit
As for first aid, stick to the essentials. You don’t need a tourniquet in this kit, but you will need a multi-purpose tool like a leatherman which has small scissors, bandages, antiseptic wipes, and burn gel.
Read this post for a Checklist of First Aid Items for Your Bug Out Bag
You won’t really need much for hygiene, so don’t bring shampoos or even deodorants. Here’s some essentials:
- Baby wipes
- Small bar of soap
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (or tooth powder)
- Feminine hygiene items
When it comes to clothes for your Bug Out Bag, you don’t need more than a spare shirt and pants. Who cares if you are going to be stinky and dirty – you will be alive!
As for the selection of clothes, choose wool items or camping clothes (usually synthetics) because they dry quickly. If you get wet while bugging out, it could quickly lead to hypothermia so you want to have that rain jacket and dry clothes and socks to change into.
A wide-brimmed hat is also good for keeping rain and sun out of your eyes. If you are balding (like me), then the hat will prevent sunburn on your head!
I do keep extra socks in my BOB because keeping your feet dry is so important. I also have my boots right next to my BOB in case SHTF while I’m wearing sneakers or sandals.
Finally, don’t forget to include all of the important documents that you might need in an emergency situation, such as your ID, passport, phone numbers, and photos of family members (in case you get separated). Here is a list of what documents you need for your Bug Out Bag.
Survival Gear and Other Items
- Knife:You absolutely need a survival knife in your Bug Out Bag. It has so many uses ranging from splitting wood to skinning animals. Read how to choose a survival knife and see these top survival knives under $100.
- Paracord: Read the many uses for paracord here.
- Face Mask: You might include a gas mask, but be warned that these are cumbersome, require spare cartridges, and will make you stand out. For most situations, a N95 face mask is probably best.
- Flashlight: I prefer a good headlamp because it can be used hands-free. Many people also include glowsticks, survival candles, and other lighting.
- Emergency Radio: You need this to keep up on what’s happening in the world. Read how to choose an emergency radio.
- Cash: Just because SHTF, it doesn’t mean cash will immediately lose its value. Keep some cash there just in case.
Comfort and Personal Items
I know a lot of hardcore survivalists would say that you shouldn’t include any comfort items, but I’ve got a small kid and we’ve definitely got a small stuffed animal in her Bug Out Bag. A deck of playing cards is a good choice for helping you keep your sanity.
The BOB Checklist
Here’s a recap of everything you’ll need for your Bug Out Bag. Remember, you want to keep it minimal so you can easily flee with the BOB on your back!
- Water bottle
- Water treatment method
- Tent or tarp
- Sleeping bag, bivvy bag, and/or emergency blanket
- Survival food
- Camping stove plus cook set (Optional)
- Fire starter
- First aid kit
- Self-defense weapon
- Hygiene kit
- Change of clothes
- Rain jacket
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Survival knife
- N95 face mask or gas mask
- Lighting (such as headlamp or flashlight)
- Emergency radio
- Comfort and personal items