We’ve categorised this as prepping, but in reality, a bug out bag would be equally at home in survival. Whether you are prepping for the end of the world, or just assembling a 2-3 day pack for hiking emergencies, this will suit all.
So what is “bugging out”?
Bugging out refers to leaving your home to a safe place. The classic tool to allow this is the bug out bag. The bug out bag contains everything you need to pack up and get out, quickly. But what do you pack? How many days supplies should it contain? Is everything I have in my bag necessary?
Then there is the bug out bag itself. How big should it be? Will I be able to carry it?
There are so many decisions to make when deciding what to include in your bug out bag; it pays to take some time to plan it properly.
The bug out bag contains everything you are going to need to keep you going for a few days. Your bag should also have the kit available to enable a more sustained existence if necessary. You can break the required items in your bug out bag into twelve categories. What you choose to pack from each will depend on your circumstances.
- Water, hydration & filtration
- Food & food preparation
- Shelter & bedding
- Safety & first aid
- Cooking & heating
- Hygiene and sanitisation
- General, sustaining tools
- Security, protection & hunting
- Comfort & personal items
Three days is about your body’s limit when it comes to hydration. After three days, you will be so weak, that you may be unable to go and find water. At this point, you could be looking at the end of the road. In your bag, at the very minimum, there should be enough water to last for the first day, preferably two. If packing for a lightweight trip, your water supply should be roughly 1 litre, per person, per day.
The water supply needs to be sustainable. Pond, stream, lake and river water can’t be drunk straight off, so they will need to be filtered before it is safe for human consumption. A water filter, such as a LifeStraw would be ideal. The LifeStraw will remove bacteria and solids from the water, making it safe to drink. LifeStraws and other filter devices of this type won’t deal with urine or seawater to make them drinkable.
When it comes to having a clean, sustainable source of water available for bugging out, nothing takes a higher priority. Drinking water is vital for survival, don’t skimp.
Under the category of water, hydration & filtration, consider the following items:
- Packable water bottle/metal bottle/canteen
- Water filter/purification system
- Water purification tablets
- A few days supply of water
Food & Food Preparation
Having satisfied your thirst, you are going to need to eat. Travelling is not possible without calories, so your bug out bag should contain enough food to last you for a few days. Your bug out bag should also provide the means to cook wild food if you collect it.
Some ideas for cooking items to add to your bug out bag:
- Energy bars/sweets (for calories)
- Dehydrated food/meals
- Knife & fork/spork
- Can opener (can be part of multi-tool)
- Metal cup/cooking pot (must be sturdy)
- A source of ignition, to light a fire for cooking
- Fuel, if you are taking a stove
Parts of the world go from one extreme to another when it comes to the weather. Conditions can change very quickly, sometimes within minutes, so you must prepare for this. Don’t overlook the obvious, like thick comfortable socks. You are going to be walking for a long time, and your feet need to cope with this.
Waterproof layers are a must as well. If your pack and clothes get soaked through, it could mean the end if temperatures drop and you have no way to get dry. When a combination of wet and cold attack, hypothermia is never far behind. (Read more about the symptoms and treatment of hypothermia)
When walking with your bug out bag, you will be sweating. When you stop and make camp you will be cold and possibly wet, so you need enough clothing layers to cope with this.
Suggested clothing inclusions:
- Long sleeve top/shirt
- Trousers & shorts
- Underwear, with spares
- Lightweight, camp socks.
- Heavy duty woollen socks
- Mid layers, such as a fleece
- Hat, for rain and sun protection
- Heavy duty gloves
- Waterproof overclothes
Consider the length of trip you intend to make from your starting point to your final location. In every case, whether it is a long one or not, you must have shelter if inclement weather arrives.
The key to reliable shelter building is waterproof first, warm second. Most of all waterproof. We cannot stress this enough. Being cold is dangerous, being cold and wet is deadly. One of the best things you can pack in every bug out bag is a tarp. Whatever else happens, this will keep you dry. Tarps are lightweight and easy to put up. Weight is important because you will have to carry everything in your bug out bag.
In addition to a tarp, a waterproof and preferably insulated bottom layer for your bedding is also a good idea. Your body loses heat to the ground quickly without adequate insulation. Therefore we consider a bottom sleeping layer essential.
Finally, something insulated for sleeping. A lightweight, well-insulated sleeping bag is ideal.
In addition to the essentials, you might also consider:
- Insulated blanket
- Woolen blanket
First aid is an obvious addition to your bug out bag. You may well be alone and will need the ability to treat minor ailments as you move. Because you are travelling light, you aren’t going to be able to take a whole emergency room with you. So our advice is to pack carefully.
Personal medication becomes especially relevant when prepping your bug out bag, especially if it’s essential for your health? If it’s needed daily, you must make sure you have enough to last. We recommend taking at least twice the amount you think you will need. Almost all survival situations end up not going to plan, so prepare for this.
There are lots of excellent first aid kits ready to go. Some preppers will use these or you could build your own.
Some items you might find useful additions to bug out bag first aid kit:
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Petroleum Jelly
- Personal medications
Cooking & Heating
Because of the importance of fire to survival, we recommend multiple forms of heat provision. Maybe you are a great natural fire starter. Are you still good in the pouring rain? You need fire to sterilise water, to cook food and to keep warm. Most of all though, you need it for moral support. There is no lifter of spirit greater than producing fire. It is good for the soul when you need a pick me up.
In addition to your cooking stove, we suggest:
- Char cloth
- Waterproof matches
- Ferrous rod
- Waterproof storage box for the above
Hygiene & Sanitisation
There are a lot of ways to sanitise yourself naturally when faced with a survival situation, which we will look at in more depth in another article. For your bug out bag, you should ensure you have at least a few things on this list. Some of the items on the list you may consider essential, with others, a luxury to keep your spirits up if you have room.
Most noteworthy in the list of hygiene items below are the dental floss and toilet paper. First of all toilet paper. Because we take it for granted, just take a moment to think what it’s like in your household when you have none available. There is a lot to be said for being able to walk for a long time, without having a grimy backside (blunt, but to the point). Dental floss is also great due to its versatility. Dental floss has strength beyond its thickness and has multiple uses aside from keeping your teeth and gums fresh.
Because of the range of products available for this category, we’ll just give some guidelines as to things you could include:
- Baby wipes/wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand soap
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Dental floss
First of all, there is no definitive list of the tools required for a bug out bag. Your requirements will vary hugely. A lot depends upon your geographical location, your length of trip and the other items you are taking. For example, there is no point packing a fishing kit (line and hook), if you are bugging out across the desert. Think carefully about the items in the list below. Lots of them will add weight to your pack, so consider if you are going to need them.
- Duct tape
- Freezer/sealable bags
- Sewing kit
- Fishing kit
- Snare wire
- Sharpening stone
The most important item of all in the list above is the knife. A knife allows you to eat, build and stay safe. Every bug out bag should contain a knife if it contains nothing else.
Seeing in the dark doesn’t require preppers education. If it’s dark, you will need to see. Much as it seems obvious, read through the list below as backup devices and spare batteries may well be on your want list:
- Wind up torch
- Solar charger
The grid may be down, so consider how you will communicate if it is. If you are in a group, two-way radios will provide local communication if one of you needs to leave the group and find food or water. Furthermore, other people may be trying these generic frequencies hoping for assistance.
Communication devices you may consider:
- Emergency whistle
- Mobile phone
- Satellite phone
- HAM radio
- Two-way radios
There are so many country-specific and local regulations it is impossible to write a concise article, which covers everything. Defending yourself will be necessary under certain circumstances, and hunting for food in others.
If the grid is down, and the law has broken down, that may not be relevant. However, we have a moral duty to be diligent with our words until it does.
Items you may consider, dependent on circumstances:
- Firearms – Rifle/Shotgun
Comfort & Personal Items
Finally, something to keep you sane. Survival is as much of the mind as of the body, and it’s physical needs. Find something that will make you feel better, whatever happens. Mental entertainment may be an iPod with your favourite music on, or it may be something simple like a photo of loved ones. Whatever it is and whatever you have in your bag, make sure you have something that isn’t considered essential, just for yourself.
It will make all the difference.
The below list of bug out bag tips are just things to bear in mind when planning and preparing.
- Ensure you know what is going to be in your bug out bag before you buy the actual bag. Nothing will be worse than spending money on a bag that doesn’t then fit everything you want to take with you.
- Pack enough in your bug out bag, but don’t pack more than you need. You will have to carry this bag, and the distance you have to carry it for may be great.
- With regards to the above statement, ensure that you are in good shape to make the trip. There is little point preparing the bag if you haven’t got your body ready.
- If you are travelling with young children, remember to prioritise their needs first. They are more vulnerable than you. Do they need nappies/diapers? Have they any dietary requirements? Do they have allergies?
- When buying your bug out bag, choose a bag with lots of compartments as opposed to one open space. Sections will ensure you can get organised and won’t be rummaging around for things if you need to get to them in a hurry.
- Don’t rush when prepping your bug out bag. Take your time, plan your routes and needs, then buy, then pack.
- Remember you need skills when surviving/bugging out. Kit in the bag is great, and of course essential. However, knowledge in the head is always better.
- Test your kit. It wouldn’t be much fun if you had to grab your bag, bug out and then find some of your gear doesn’t work.
Finally, remember that this bag will be your life blood for days/weeks [or longer]. Make is personal, efficient and ready.