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What Is a Bug Out Bag? And What Should Be in It?

What Is a Bug Out Bag? And What Should Be in It?

When chaos erupts, you’ll want to grab your bug out bag and find a safe place. You do have a bug out bag waiting on standby, right? While you can’t prepare for every possible scenario, some preparation can help you when an unexpected catastrophic situation occurs. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea or looking for a bug out bag checklist, we’re sharing all you need to know.

Let’s get started!

backpack and emergency supplies laid out on table
Be prepared for anything with a bug out bag.

What Is a Bug Out Bag?

A bug out bag (BOB) will house everything you could need for a minimum of 72 hours. The 72-hour requirement typically is because humans usually cannot survive without water. A bug out bag is not for long-term survival. It simply is a portable kit that allows you to get to safety when escaping a disaster.

There are several alternative names for these bags, such as 72-hour kit, grab bag, go bag, and GOOD bag (Get Out of Dodge). Call it whatever you want, but people typically pack these in advance and store them in a closet or the vehicle to make a quick escape in an emergency. 

30 Items We Keep In Our 72 HOUR “BUG OUT” BAGS

Why You Might Need a Bug Out Bag

There are several reasons why you might need to have a bug out bag ready to go. If the last few years have taught us anything, expect the unexpected.

Having one can buy you time to assess the severity of a situation. While everyone else is gathering supplies, you don’t have to be worrying about running to stores and dealing with the potential for mass hysteria.

Because you’re not rushing to the stores, you can focus on finding a safe place. Every minute matters in a situation, and there’s the potential that the safest spots in an emergency could come in short supply. When an emergency hits and chaos erupts, people’s survival instincts kick in.

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A bug out bag can also help if you unexpectedly are forced to shelter in place. If that’s the case, you’ll have to rely on whatever you have on hand for survival. A stocked bug out bag can provide you with three additional days of subsistence in addition to whatever you already have available.

Bug out bag packed in apartment.
Always be prepared in case of emergency with a bug out bag.

How Long Should You Pack Your Bag For?

The minimum requirement of a bug out bag is 72 hours. However, you’ll find some individuals with fully stocked bags that are capable of lasting longer. Typically, the longer your bag can last, the better. 

You have to weigh several options, as the bigger your pack, the less mobility it will provide. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to be incredibly agile and move over uneven or rough terrains where it may not be possible to carry a heavy pack.

Must Have Items for Your Bug Out Bag

Whether you’re looking to create a kit or add items to an existing bag, we’ve got a bug out bag checklist that can help. Let’s look at what you’ll want to ensure is in your bug out bag.

The Bag

The most important thing to a bug out bag is, of course, the bag itself. You’ll want one that’s lightweight but tough enough to handle whatever you throw at it. You’re likely going to want a dual-strap backpack that makes it easy to carry and maneuver while wearing it.

Survival kit overlay
A bug out bag checklist can ensure you have everything you need in case of emergency.

Food and Water

You’re going to need to eat and drink for 72 hours. Having the right items and utensils to make that possible is essential for any kit.

Potable Water in Container

You’ll want to have potable water ready to go already in a container. At a minimum, you’ll want at least half a gallon per day ready to go in a container that is shatterproof and resistant to spills.

Water Filter

If you run out of water, you’ll want to filter any water before drinking it. You want to know how to use your water filter in advance and not figure it out in the middle of an emergency.

Non-Perishable Food

Get food that can last a long time as it will be sitting in your bag for potentially months or years. It’s a good idea to be aware of the expiration dates on your food and replace them as needed.

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Spork

A spork is the Swiss Army Knife of eating utensils. It can serve as a fork, spoon, or knife and allows you to eat practically any food in your bug out bag.

Cooking Pot

You’ll need a cooking pot, whether you have power or not. The best option is a lightweight pan that you can use on a stove or over an open flame.

Camp Stove

Having a camp stove means you won’t have to gather wood or battle starting a fire to prepare meals. Make sure you have a generous fuel supply to run your camp stove. A camp stove without fuel to run it will do you little good.

Heat Source

An emergency could happen in the middle of winter and knock out your ability to create heat. This means you’ll need a few things to keep warm until order and power get restored.

Fire Starter(s)

Starting a fire can be time-consuming and difficult, especially if you don’t have the right supplies. Using a fire starter can help you start a fire to keep you and your loved ones warm with relative ease.

Pro Tip: Don’t know how to start a fire? Use these 5 Best Techniques To Start A Fire Like An Expert.

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Thermal Blanket

A thermal blanket reduces the amount of heat loss and can withstand wind and moisture. They’re also incredibly lightweight and can stow away very compactly in your bug out bag.

Hand Warmers

Hand warmers are individual packets with chemicals that generate heat when mixed. These can typically provide heat for five to eight hours. They provide a tremendous return when it comes to the minimal investment of space in your bug out bag.

Man building a fire in the wilderness.
Being able to build a fire is key to survival success.

Shelter & Sleep

You may not be able to stay in one place throughout the emergency. This means you’ll need to take your shelter and sleeping items with you. Here are a few things you’ll need.

Tent/Bivy

While you may want to stay in your home, it’s not always possible. Having a tent can allow you to easily move from one place to another should the conditions become unstable in terms of safety.

Sleeping Bag

You’ll want to stay as warm as possible throughout the night. Getting a quality sleeping bag can help protect you from the environment at night when the temperatures plunge.

While bulkier than a thermal emergency blanket and not as storable, if you have the room you may enjoy the coziness factor more.

Sleeping Pad

You may have to abandon your expensive memory foam mattress for a while. A sleeping pad may not be nearly as comfortable as your mattress at home, but it beats sleeping on the hard ground.

Clothing

When it comes to clothing, you want to plan for layers. This allows you to adjust your clothing based on the conditions. You also want to ensure that your clothes are waterproof or quickly dry.

Health & Sanitization

Depending on the situation, you may not have access to your medicine cabinet or bathroom at home. You’ll want to make sure you have several essential health and sanitization items in your pack.

First Aid Kit

This doesn’t have to be a huge or exhaustive kit. You’re simply looking for something small and compact that contains all the essentials. Bandages, gauses, and items to treat wounds or pain are essential for a first aid kit.

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Face Mask

You may have a few face masks lying around. However, you don’t want just any face masks in your kit. You may consider getting a certified gas mask that could protect you from any chemicals in the air.

Body Wipes

Body wipes are a necessity for your bug out bag. They can keep you fresh if you’re not home or using limited amounts of water. They’re like massive baby wipes that allow you to wipe your entire body down. It won’t replace a long hot shower, but it’ll do the job in a pinch.

Pro Tip: We like to have these on hand for camping and hiking anyway. Check out the best body wipes on the market and how to pick them for your situation.

Hygiene Items

Make sure you have any other hygiene items that might be necessary for you or your family members. This could include toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. It’s also a good idea to include bars of soap just in case you have access to water for bathing.

Trowel

Like it or not, you may not be able to flush your toilets or have access to an outhouse. A trowel in a bug out bag will allow you to dig a hole and bury your solid waste. Dig the hole first, and then fill it in after you’ve finished using the restroom. Don’t make the common mistake of waiting until after to dig your hole.

First aid kit overlay
Add a well stocked first aid kit to your bug out bag checklist to ensure you are prepared for any type of injury.

Light Source

If you lose power, you’ll be without light for half the day. It’s a good idea to have a handful of light sources and plenty of batteries to keep them running. Solar-powered items are great options when possible too.

Headlamp

A headlamp allows you to wear your light on your head. This will free up both of your hands for any projects you need to get done that may require both hands. 

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Flashlight

Flashlights can produce a tremendous amount of light and last a very long time. You can even find some models that you can power by hand, so you don’t have to depend on batteries or the sun to power them. Don’t leave this out of your bug out bag.

Kids reading in the dark with headlamps
Free up your hands by having a headlamp packed in your bug out bag.

Communication

You should be able to communicate with your loved ones, receive emergency alerts, and use technology to help you. However, remember that cell networks typically get congested during emergencies.

Cell Phone

Your cell phone can be a great resource if the network is functioning correctly. Your cell phone will last a day or so if fully charged. So you may want to turn it off or minimize your usage to conserve your battery.

Radio

A small radio can last a tremendously long time and only requires several batteries. You’ll be able to receive news alerts and other warnings that emergency services broadcast over the airwaves.

Charged Battery Pack

A charged battery pack can help keep your electronics on for a couple of days. A solar-powered battery bank will allow you not to depend on the electrical grid to keep it charged.

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Notebook & Pen

There’s nothing quite like a notebook and pen when all else fails. You can take notes, write down important information, or keep a journal. It may be worth investing in waterproof paper and pencils to avoid any issues should they get wet.

Whistle

A whistle is a great option for getting attention. The sound of a whistle can travel for a considerable distance. It could mean the difference between help finding you or them passing by during their search.

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Signal Mirror

A signal mirror can help you reflect light from the sun up to seven miles to get attention. It takes some practice to use it, but it’s a great resource to keep in your bag.

Batteries

Your flashlights, radio, and other electronics will likely require batteries. Having a generous supply of them is a great idea. Make sure you have multiple sets of any batteries you might need.

Pro Tip: Stay safe on the road with these 13 Most Important RV Safety Devices You Need For Your Camper.

Maps, compass, and binoculars.
Navigate yourself to safety by stocking your bug out bag with maps and a compass.

Important Documents

You likely have a file of important documents that you want to protect. It’s a great idea to have copies saved online, a USB thumb drive, and place the physical copies in a waterproof container. Having these documents can save a tremendous amount of stress after the event if you lose the rest of your belongings. 

Other

There are a handful of random tools and resources that you’ll want to make sure find their way into your pack. Let’s take a look!

Compass

A compass can help you navigate the woods and prevent you from walking in circles. Make sure you familiarize yourself and others in your family with using it. If you need to head in a specific direction, a compass is essential to avoid wasting time or energy.

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Local Maps

Having printed local maps of the area can help you navigate, especially if you need to move. They may be able to help you avoid a sticky situation while you’re on the go.

Paracord

Paracord is a multi-use rope. You can use it for various uses in rendering first-aid, using it as a rescue line if someone is drowning or in quicksand, and you can use it as a sling for throwing a stone or hunting. There are practically infinite possibilities when it comes to its uses.

Multitool

A multitool is small and compact and has a plethora of tools. It allows you to carry pliers, a knife, and even a can opener. The tools on each multitool are different, so make sure you get one that works for you.

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Deck of Cards

If you need a way to pass the time, a deck of cards can be a great option. You can play your favorite games and even create new ones.

Bug out bag overlay product shot.
With each tick off your bug out bag checklist, you get one step closer to peace of mind.

Every Situation Is Unique

You’ll likely include some items to your bug out bag checklist that are unique to your situation. Depending on where you live and the climate, you may need more or less water or have regionally specific items. Talking to others creating their bug out bags is a great option to get ideas for what you should put in yours.

Can You Buy Premade Bug Out Bags?

Yes, you can find premade bug out bags for various sites. Stealth Angel Survival is one company that offers several kits in various sizes. Their kits provide an excellent place for you to start building your bug out bag.

However, we suggest you update your own bug out bag checklist so your personal bag is most useful for your geographical region.

How to build a Bug out Bag (aka B.O.B.)

Always Be Prepared to Bug Out

You never know when a disaster could strike. It’s best to have a plan for when things start getting crazy. If you wait until the chaos starts happening, it’s likely too late. There are some great resources and communities that can help you prepare for a catastrophic event. 

What things are on your bug out bag checklist? Drop a comment below!

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Pamela Williams

Wednesday 2nd of March 2022

An air horn might be a good idea in those instances where a whistle's sound won't travel far or if you're incapacitated in some way that would make blowing hard on a whistle difficult.

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 10th of April 2022

Yes good idea!

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