wilderness survival bag items

The Ultimate 3-Day Bug Out Bag Checklist

It pays to be prepared, and one of the things you will need to be prepared is a Bug Out Bag or 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. Or, more specifically, how does the Bug Out Bag checklist differ from survival item checklists?

Each person defines survival kits in different ways, but we can break them down into these categories:

  • Emergency 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). There are a lot of great Everyday Carry (EDC) items which you can keep on you at all times in case SHTF.
  • Bunker Down Survival Kit: These are all the items you will need to wait out a disaster for an indefinite period in your home. Usually 2-3 months of supplies are recommended, such as ample amounts of water and non-perishable foods, and comfort items.
  • Camping/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.

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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. Your Bug Out Bag water items should include 3 quarts of water per person: This is estimating that you will drink 1 quart of water per day. You will want to have this spare water in case water becomes contaminated, such as after a nuclear disaster.

You’ll also need a device for carrying water such as a water bottle or camelback. The water you come across will likely be dirty, you will need a water purification system. I personally like the Sawyer Mini water filter because it is just 2 ounces and filters up to 100,000 gallons of water. You can also stock up on water purification tablets.


I keep a small tent in my Bug Out Bag (again, the point is to SURVIVE, not to be comfortable). Get 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!

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Food Supplies

Pack 3 days worth of instant and freeze-dried meals 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.

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.


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 system called the Everstryke Match.

Safety and Security 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.

In your actual Bug Out Bag, you will want to have a pepper spray and a knife (the knife can serve multiple other purposes aside from defense!).

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.

Spare Change of Clothes, Rain Jacket, and Socks

Don’t bring any more clothes than this.   You don’t need them! 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.

If you’d like to know how to build the ultimate disaster survival kit with nothing but common, everyday items, click here.