What is a Bug Out Bag? The simple answer to this is that a Bug Out Bag (also called BOB, 72-hour bag, or Get Out of Dodge Bag) is a portable kit which contains items you will need to survive the immediate aftermath of a disaster. However, there is much more to a Bug Out Bag than this. If you are concerned about your own and your family’s safety and survival, take the time to read this article about what a Bug Out Bag is and how to pack one.
Principles Behind the Bug Out Bag
There are all sorts of Bug Out Bag packing lists and tips out there. Please do not blindly follow someone else’s BOB list! What works for one person or family might not be the right solution for you. Rather, you should start building your BOB with these 3 survival principles in mind:
1. You Don’t Know What Type of Disaster Will Occur
What makes a Bug Out Bag unique from other types of disaster kits (such as an earthquake kit or a roadside survival kit) is that the BOB is designed for ALL types of disasters. This makes it very difficult to pack a Bug Out Bag because you don’t know what you will be in for. The best approach is to pack your Bug Out Bag backpack with multi-functional items which help you meet basic survival needs. For more on disasters, read this post about the most likely disasters.
2. Disaster Can Happen Anytime, Anywhere
A lot of people forget about this when packing their Bug Out Bag. They simply pack the BOB and leave it at home, probably packed away in the back of some closet. But what if a disaster strikes while you are at work? For this reason, many people choose to pack multiple Bug Out Bags and keep them stored in easily-accessible places.
3. You Don’t Know Where You Will Have to Flee To
A Bug Out Bag is useless if you don’t have an evacuation plan. If you are new to this, then please read these posts on The First 5 Things to Do After Any Disaster and Making a Disaster Communication Plan. A good disaster plan will always be flexible and include contingency plans. For example, you might plan on fleeing to a cabin you have in the woods somewhere. But what if the roads are blocked off? Your Bug Out Bag better contain everything you need to survive anywhere that you have to flee to. *This is one of the major ways that a Bug Out Bag differs from a wilderness survival bag, since you might be fleeing through an urban environment with your BOB.
What to Put in a Bug Out Bag?
On this website, we’ve got some good Bug Out Bag packing lists. You can check them out here:
Please bear in mind that THERE IS NO PERFECT BOB PACKING LIST! You must calculate in your unique needs. For example, if you have an infant, then your Bug Out Bag packing list is going to look a lot different than that of a single man bugging out alone. If you are bugging out in a group, then you can probably afford to pack more items in your BOB because you can distribute the weight. But then you also have to factor in the possibility that you get separated – meaning that a team member could be left without vital supplies because they were in someone else’s backpack!
I give these examples to show just how much variability there is when packing a Bug Out Bag. Instead of telling you exactly what to pack in your Bug Out Bag here, I will tell you what you need to be thinking about when planning your BOB.
Remember the rule of threes: you can go 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Considering this, you better prioritize water in your Bug Out Bag! The problem is that water is heavy and bulky to carry, so the more water you bring the less room you will have for other items. I personally keep 1 quart of water (per person) in my family’s Bug Out Bag. I also have water purification tablets and a camping water filter.
Your Bug Out Bag is for survival, not for fun! I recommend MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) for your Bug Out Bag because they are very dense, compact, and deliver a lot of calories for the size. Also, they don’t taste very good – which is actually a plus. If you packed something tasty like granola bars, you’d probably eat through them too quickly.
This is a tough consideration for a Bug Out Bag. I’ve got a good amount of wilderness experience, so I just bring a tarp in my BOB (see how to make a survival shelter out of a tarp). There are also many survival uses for a tarp. However, I know that a tarp might not be the best option if I had to bug out in a blizzard, or in an area with a lot of mosquitoes. A tarp is also a poor solution for longer-term survival.
I know some people who pack an ax in their BOB. It can be used to chop wood to fashion a better survival shelter. If you live in a place which has very cold winters, then consider putting a collapsible shovel in your BOB. It will come in very helpful for digging a snow shelter or camouflaged shelter. However, these two items are also very heavy. You have to balance the weight vs. utility of the items!
Protection from the Elements
Your shelter should protect you from the elements while you are inside, but what about while you are fleeing? If you are bugging out in a cold climate, then you better have warm clothes in your Bug Out Bag. It could be raining, so you need to have a rain jacket or poncho, plus waterproof boots (I consider this an essential part of a BOB because wet feet will get blistered and it will be painful to walk).
And what if the sun is beating down? I consider this worse than rain in many ways. Sun burns can be very dangerous, so you better have clothing to protect you, a hat to protect your eyes, and sunblock.
My Bug Out Bag first aid kit looks a lot like my wilderness first aid kit (see the list here). I’ve also got a respirator in there in case of a biological attack, and some fish antibiotics. Remember, you never know what disaster could strike so you have to be prepared for anything!
This is the #1 thing that people forget on their Bug Out Bag packing list. True, in a complete SHTF situation, documents won’t matter. But we aren’t packing for total collapse. We are packing for any disaster! That includes disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks, EMP strikes… Remember what a pain it was after Hurricane Katrina when people didn’t have their vital documents so were denied shelter and healthcare? Read this article to find out what documents to pack for survival.