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15 Essential Items In Any Bug-Out Bag

bug out bagWhen deciding on what to pack in your bug-out bag, you need to decide what it is intended to do. Is it a 72 hour pack designed to keep you alive three days? Is it your get-home pack designed to be used to make your way home if you are caught away in an emergency? Or is it your off into the wilderness kit?

Whatever you intend for your BOB, these things should be considered.

1. Shelter

Shelter in your BOB can be as simple as a large garbage bag to keep the rain off, or as fancy as a tent. Whatever you decide on, you need to have some way of getting out of the weather. Exposure to the elements is one of the most deadly things you will need to survive.

Since shelter is mostly about keeping you warm, I will include hand warmers in this spot. Buy several on closeout after hunting season at all the big box stores. They do, however, expire after a time. I tried using some that were several years old and they barely warmed up at all, so rotate them out after a couple years.

2. Blanket/sleeping Bag

If you have the room, a nice sleeping bag will keep you warm in an emergency. If not, some sort of bed roll tied on the outside of your bag will do. If nothing else, a wool blanket folded up and stuffed in the bag will still keep you warmish even when wet.

3. Fire-making

Fire making is important for survival since it is helpful in so many ways, from keeping you warm to purifying your water. You should shoot for at least three separate methods of starting a fire in your kit.

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These can be things like waterproof lifeboat matches, butane lighters, Zippo type lighters, flint and steel, or a fire piston. Include with these things accelerant such as cotton balls soaked with Vaseline and candles to help get a stubborn fire going.

4. Water filtration

Speaking of purifying your water, you should have a water filter included in your kit. Even one of the personal straw type filters is good. You don’t want to be drinking water of unknown quality in an emergency situation.

5. First aid/medical

You need a decent well-stocked first aid kit. It is worth every penny buying one of the better kits on the market. I have said many times that a lot of the kits on the market are glorified boxes of bandages.

Along with your kit you will need to include any medications you or your family might need. It is a good idea to include this medication in the kit of everyone in your group. That way if someone loses a kit the person needing the meds will still have them available.

6. Knife/multi-tool

Personally I don’t care for multi-tools in general. But when you need a tool they have on them they can be a God-send. The cheap ones are almost worthless except for the most basic tasks, and in that regard I have broken a few just by using the pliers.

Your BOB should have a large sheath knife for heavy cutting chores and a smaller pocket type knife in case you don’t carry one all the time. If you have room, it is a good idea to have a spare pocket knife or two anyway.

7. Light

A nice big Maglite doubles as a light source and a club if you need it. Include an extra set of batteries and a bulb to keep it going when you need it.

A smaller LED light will work well when you don’t need to light up the countryside.

I am not happy with the shake lights I have seen, and the Russian squeeze type lights leave a lot to be desired. I have discovered a squeeze light that charges an internal battery, which in turn lights a set of LEDs. I have seen two models that look like an almost identical design with one being total junk and the other holding up well and putting out quite a bit of light. They are cheap so try a couple different sources to find one that works well.

8. Cordage

As much as I like making natural cordage, in a bug-out situation the last thing on my mind will be sitting around the fire, making it. Sure, I will keep my eyes open for sources as I am going, but a few feet of Para-cord is a much better thing to put into your pack. Several years ago before I discovered Para-cord I always carried a small roll of poly rope.

9. Clothing

Depending on the size of your pack, you should include some spare clothing for your bug out. If you have a lot of room, pack a complete outfit change with extra underwear and several changes of socks. If you have a small pack you should at least include a change of socks.

A good pair of leather work gloves will save your hands from lots of potentially serious problems, and they don’t take up much room.

The pack for anybody who wants to be fully prepared for an unexpected emergency

10. Food

Depending on what you envision your pack getting you through, you may or may not pack food in it. Most people will put in an MRE (or three) or some similar shelf stable food to get them through a couple days.

If your pack is for a long-term bug out, you will need to include provisions for harvesting your own food supply. Adding in some traps and snares should feed you in the wild, but only if you know how to use them.

11. Weapons

Weapons are by and large a personal choice for the person building the BOB. Some people will not feel comfortable with a firearm, while others feel the same way without. You need to decide what type weapon you want to carry with you on your bug out.

If you have a firearm, you need to figure out how you are going to feed it. Ammunition can get heavy if you are carrying several hundred rounds.

If you don’t want a firearm, consider learning to use a quarterstaff. It is a deadly weapon when wielded by someone who knows how to use it, and looks just like a walking stick.

12. Toiletries

Keeping yourself clean in the field is important to keeping yourself healthy in the field. TP, soap, deodorant, toothpaste/brush and moist towelettes are things you should include in your kit.

13. Communications

In any breakdown, you will want to keep up on the most current information available. Since cell service and Internet is easily knocked out or spotty, you should get a portable radio that has short wave receiving capabilities. I have a windup radio that works well.  I use it for listening anytime I am out doors.

A pair of high end walkie talkies, along with spare batteries, can keep you in communication with others in your group.

14. Money/barter items

One thing most people don’t think of including in their BOB is cash money. Money can come in handy when you are in need. Some will suggest adding silver or gold coins since they have “real” value over the fiat money currently being churned out by the Fed.

You may have to buy housing, passage or even bribe your way past a checkpoint; you never know. Take as much as you can afford.

You may be able to barter any of the high value items in your pack if you come across others who are in need. If you have the room to spare you might pack extra sets of basic items such as first-aid kits, fire starters or extra ammo with the sole idea of trading them.

15. E-Reader

An e-reader filled with all sorts of books is something you can pack with you in your BOB. Fill it with survival manuals, tech manuals, the classics and other fiction and you will have hours of education and entertainment.

You should try to make a provision for charging your reader. An inexpensive model without a lighted screen can run for days on a charge, while the higher end multi-media models only last a couple hours.

BOBs are personal bags, full of things each person thinks they need for their survival. Everyone builds them differently and if they are like me the contents tend to change from time to time. Many items can be added to these 15. The choice is up to you.

What’s in your BOB?

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  1. If this were your bug out bag, you would be better of hiding in the attic.

    • Tom, these are always only suggestions and never a set-in-stone menu. My bug-out bag is for a forested area and not like this one much at all. I use the Army manual minimalist approach and plan accordingly. My stint in Nam taught me to carry only what I need to live. The difference in Nam was there was folks trying to kill me and ammo was required. I can only suggest different ways to approach BOB but that should be decided by you for your situation and please don’t condemn someone because their needs may be different than yours…

  2. I have to agree with Thomas… E-Reader?? and no mention of first aid? Are you kidding me? This sounds like it’s been written by someone who’s just guessing. I suggest the author take his “bug out bag” into the field for a few days and see how things work out.

  3. I agree with everything on the list except the e-reader. If you don’t disable the wifi on it, and you get close enough to a wifi signal, you can be located.

    • If you are close enough for you’re e-reader’s wifi to connect most people will see or hear you. I also believe that most people that have used an e-reader for any length of time know to keep the wifi off to save the battery.

  4. A good summary of items to consider and it did remind me that I have everything except the e-reader. Only problem, a few of the less required items are not currently in a BOB!!
    I do agree with the e-reader, if you can afford the extra room and weight of it + recharging capability. I am quite well capable of anything but those items I am not especially skilled at would benefit from lots of documents saved in my Survival folder.

  5. I think many of the respondents have missed the point here all together. These are not the only items in his bag. These are just some things the author feels are essentials. Also most people overthink things.
    Really Lynno? In the immediate aftermath of a disaster do you really think your wi fi signal will matter one fat rats ass? Those signals are going to fill the air everywhere. I rather doubt the NSA or whatever black helicopter conspiracy agency you can think of will be looking for me or even you for that matter.
    I have always thought that an e reader with a small solar charger would be an outstanding addition to a BOB.
    All in all a good list of SOME of the things that we should consider.

  6. The only real problem that I have with this article is the use of the word “essential” in the title.
    In my estimation many of the items listed are luxuries (except for the lack of a cook pot).

    However I take a very minimalist approach with a BOB, so my ideas probably don’t match many peoples. My idea of a BOB is a small bag/backpack/buttpack that has enough of bare essentials in it for me to survive for a few days until I can either reach a better position, or build up a better survival kit.

    This is the basics of what I normally carry in all my vehicles, and have kitted up in my house:

    1) Knife
    2) Fire – I like to carry at least 2 Bic lighters – flint and steel or a fire bow are good things to have
    the ability to use, but why carry it if a better alternative is available?
    3) Basic shelter – I carry two plastic painters tarps and a space blanket. – one tarp for overhead or as
    a poncho the other for ground cover.
    4) A small pot for cooking and sanitizing water
    5) Breakfast bars – usually six or more – two a day for three days, just enough to keep me going
    6) A water container – in the old days I would usually carry a rubber and a sock (for making a
    canteen) but now I usually carry an old plastic drink bottle (or 2) – I live in an area where
    for the majority of the year any water left out will freeze and break the container, so
    except for in the summer or if I’m going on a trip I usually don’t carry any full water

    Other items I might carry in my kit can vary slightly depending on space, weather, and terrain but these basics always stay the same.

    • I agree with you. I do like to toss a few extra things into my first aid kit like chapstick for firestarter fuel. As far as clothing goes that will change depending on where you live.

      Overall this is a good BOB list.

  7. My BoB is locked and loaded. It’s everything I will need. The biggest question… will I be able to get to it if shit hits the fan quick. It’s not like I lug it all around just in case, nor is it next to the desk at work. I can imagine an escape route with a system of caches along the way would be ideal.

  8. An E-reader, Really? What about an EMP hitting while your on the road? You mite as well use it for a dinner plate because it will be the most worthless piece of crap you can put in a B.O.B. not to mention the added weight.

  9. If you want a Great B.O.B. Get yourself a Knife(fixed blade and folder), Multi-tool, Water Purifier(not a water filter), Water bottle, Fire starter, Space blanket, Hat, Gloves, Socks(2 clean pair), First-aid kit(build it yourself), Para-cord (50 feet), Head Lamp & batteries, Firearm & ammo, Compass, Freeze-dried food(3 days worth), and anything else you mite want or need. If your B.O.B. weights more than 25 pounds, go through it and get rid of all non-essentials to bring the weight down. Remember this is just to get you someplace safe/home.

    • Perfect! Just what I am looking for in a pack under 25lbs. Of course, this does NOT include my LBE for magazines and extra shotgun rounds. Thank you!

  10. An E reader really ? wow!

  11. Really? really, REALLY, reeaallyy???
    I’ve just got to get out of publishing and out in the woods. Or maybe I am in the woods on this subject. EXPERIENCE

    • Check it out. In a survival situation your arfin’ gold coins have no real value compared to my Cold Steel Trail Master. Both are metal, but only one is useful for living. With your gold coins you can only afford a bic lighter, of which I have plenty. Money? Ebook? What do you know? Who did you learn this from? A college prof?

      • Your arfin’ cold steel trail master is covered in #6 your bic is covered in #3…I guess you have a comprehension problem…

  12. Most of the basics are there, except as already noted a cook pot and water bottle. I wouldn’t carry an e-reader but I do have one on my mobile phone, which would go with me. I think what many people forget is that not every event which causes you to have to BO is a teotwawki situation; it might be county or state wide rather than national or international and you just need to look after yourself, rather than relying on the government or anyone else, until you get yourself and your dependents to safety. Once you do, then cash or gold etc. come into their own and are a lot more useful than a big knife.

  13. All seemed reasonable except ebook. One has to plan for no access to electricity. Better to print a hard copy and one should educate one self before SHTF.

  14. Wow. You guys are douchebags. This dude made a pretty decent starter list for a bugout kit. There’s no list out there that would be perfect for everyone. You have to tweak it to fit your needs. If you need a mile long list to make a bugout kit you are going to be one of the first down. He outlined the basics and went thru the essentials. Good job on the list man. Great starter for folks trying to get kits made.

  15. Did any of you would-be, want-to-be super patriots catch the, “suggestion” part of this article?

    This whole survival thing is as individual as a person’s personal tastes. There are certain constants, but just because someone carries something that YOU would not doesn’t mean you are any better prepared than they are.

    Perhaps the most disturbing thing I’m seeing EVERYWHERE is everyone being very critical of everyone and everything. THIS is the best indicator of where we’re going, and should give everyone cause for caution. If everyone is going to argue and snipe at each other over something as simple as an article, what will they do when all hell breaks loose?

  16. Our family used the author’s suggestions to guide us in how we assembled our emergency kits. I am not impressed by the over reactions to the e-reader… it is super easy to get a solar charging block for electronic devices… and if there were an EMP that blows them all out, leave them behind. That is simple.

    We have two children, and planning ways to keep them occupied is a key part of this. As a suggestion to others who are interested, we added a small pack that hooks in the MOLLE system and it contains a Rook deck, playing cards, Phase 10, Uno, and then a few activity books, colored pencils, pens… that sort of thing – and yes, space for an ipad, the solar charger, and a batter bank for holding extra charge. This pack added about six pounds, altogether. If that helps keep the kids engaged, I will gladly carry it.

    What I really appreciate is that we were able to build the pack that each family member would use according to their needs, ages, and responsibilities to the group. We have been able to build a solid, practical plan that we are confident will carry us through a major emergency all the way through a real SHTF scenario.

    So, Dear Author, thank you for the effort! It was a great help, thoughtful, and well written.

    • Thanks Lauren!

    • I like the e-reader idea but would pack a tablet instead. A tablet can store more useful information than you could ever dream about carrying in hardcopy, and there are many useful apps one could use in SHTF situation. Manuals on survival, hunting, first aid, as well as detailed maps of the entire U.S., geo coded locations for weapon and food caches, or rally points you designate in case your party becomes separated. You can still navigate by GPS after a cataclysmic event on earth, the satellites will stay in orbit for decades.

      There are several quality lightweight solar chargers than will easily recharge your tablet. If you put a little effort in beforehand, you could pre-load maps and use turn by turn navigation, and download the 50 most useful reference books in a survival situation among many, many other things.

  17. Instead of an e-reader. I would suggest a foldable map of your area,or perhaps a larger map that encompasses the entire country that you live in.That way if shtf you can navigate without the need for electricity or a wifi connection.

  18. The Oncoming Storm

    i can agree with everything on this list, sans the e-reader. that’s an absolute luxury and NOT a survival “essential”. it’s just as easy to carry a map of where you are and where you’re heading plus a survival book or two. they don’t weigh much and don’t require you to carry a power source to recharge them.

    one thing i’d like to add is a garden trowel. not only is it great for the eternally popular dakota fire pit, but as a great “levitical peg” (to dig a hole to poop in and cover over said poop) as well as a world of other uses. if one carries a hori hori (japanese transplanting knife/garden trowel), they also have something of a weapon on them; a dagger and a spear head. so right there you’re carrying two items in one and reducing weight.

  19. I have two bags, one lightweight to get away fast due to flood, wildfire, or similar events. The second bag is for 3 days, it will be left behind if I grab the small one to escape. Everyone’s bag will be different, all of our needs are different. Good Article, Good Knowledge, Thanks.

  20. I like the list and the sugested items, we all live in different areas so our needs will be different. I know that no matter where you live you Will need the basics; fire starters, water filtration methods, sheltet items, first aid, knives,cooking cups/pot, water bottle, cordage and weapons and ammo of choice ect. I believe the guy that wrote this is trying to help people who are getting a bob together, everytime i read and article like this everybody turns this into a pissing contest. really???? instead of criticizing why dont you add to the list or take away in a positive way. help the people that dont know, by your experiences in the bush or war or whatever. I swear somtimes its like listening to a bunch of kids fighting over nothing. If SHTF over half of us aint going to make it anyway. Help each other, this is not a pissing contest where you make sombody else look stupid and yourself feel good.

  21. I feel a item that is commonly missed. In certain situations is a slingshot can provide many benefits such as defending yourself and hunting small game can be deadly in the right hands.

  22. I thought that it was really smart how you mentioned taking a water purifier in your bug out bag. My husband loves to explore and hike and adventure but I don’t know that he knows what to put into a survival bag. Maybe I’ll just have to make him one to ensure that he stays alive and doesn’t get sick.

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