Bug-out bag lists are one of the most discussed topics on survival sites. However, many of them only give you the basics necessities. Some sites make it sound like there is one perfect bug-out bag for everybody. If that was the case, somebody would sell that bag pre-packed and would be making a fortune. It does not work that way. Everybody’s needs are going to be a little different.
As you look to pack a bug-out bag, you need to think about a few variables. The first is to cover your four pillars of survival which are food, water, fire, and shelter. Next, consider secondary priorities such as signaling for help and first aid. You also want to cover miscellaneous items that do not fit into any category. These items typically have multiple functions such as duct tape or super glue. This strategy should cover about 85% of your bug out bag list contents with the rest being specific to your situation.
Also consider how long each item will last. Experts say that most bug out scenarios will last somewhere between three days and three weeks. However, you never know how long you will be relying on this pack. If given a choice between an item that will last a week and one that will last indefinitely, always pick the long term option. For example, I will take a ferro rod over a zippo for making fire because it requires no fuel. However, I will also take a zippo over a disposable lighter because it can be refilled with several types of fuel and the disposable cannot.
Make sure you remember that you have to carry all of this on your back. First you need to decide what type of pack is right for you. You may pick a standard backpack, or perhaps a larger pack with an interior frame is best. You do not want a pack with an exterior frame. This is a dead giveaway to other people that you are travelling a long distance and have lots of supplies to steal.
As you decide which items to pack, make sure you keep the weight in mind. Before you purchase any item, look online to see if you can find a version that weighs less or is smaller. You want to try to keep your pack weight at 25 lbs. or less. Constantly reevaluate your pack contents and trim the weight back as much as possible. Also, as time passes companies will come out with items that weigh less. Check from time to time and see if anything needs an upgrade.
What most sites miss is that you should look at items that would be needed because of your specific situation. First, look at who is coming with you and their needs. Does anybody need prescription medication? Does anybody need mechanical assistance such as crutches or a wheelchair? Are there any small children that need diapers, wipes, or formula? Is anybody allergic to anything you may encounter in the wild? Does anybody have any specific diet requirements? These are all factors that should affect your bug-out bag.
You also need to look at your bug out plan and how that should affect your gear. Where do you plan to head? Will you need climbing rope to traverse cliffs? Will you need to wade across a creek and require fast drying clothing? Will you be exposed to the sun all day and need sunscreen? Will you be bombarded by insects and need repellant? Will food or water be scarce? Will extreme cold be a constant concern? Again, these are all variables that drastically affect what you take.
What I intend to do with this article is to give you a bug out bag checklist pdf of all the items that you should consider packing. Then it will be up to you to go through the bug out bag list and make the tough decisions. Yes, that’s right… I am not going to hand you a prefab list so you can go shopping. A good survivalist is involved in these important decisions. They contemplate each item and are familiar with its use. Trust me that I am doing you a favor by getting you involved. Keep in mind that many of these items are an either/or decision. In many cases, one item will replace the other or simply be used as a backup plan.
One more important note is that a pre-fab bug-out bag is not the answer. They do sell these packs, but they completely defeat the point of this article. If you buy one of these bags you will spend way too much money. More importantly, it will not be designed to fit your specific needs. In addition, it is likely you will throw it in a closet and never think about it again until it is time to bug out. This is a recipe for disaster. You need to break out each and every item and get familiar with its use. You need to constantly reevaluate your bag and make changes as needed. This needs to be a fluid process.
Bug Out Bag Checklist
I have broken down the bug out bag list into a couple categories found below:
Food, Cooking, and Hunting/Fishing/Trapping
- Dehydrated food high in protein, carbohydrates, or sugars. This includes jerky, dried fruit, dried beans, nuts, and dry rice.
- MREs. Limit to only a few as they can be heavy and take up space. The smaller and lighter, the better.
- Canned tuna, chicken, vegetables, or fruit. Only pack a few. They are heavy.
- Manual can opener (if you pack canned food)
- Powdered drinks such as lemonade, Kool aid, or protein powder
- Candy that will not melt
- Protein bars. Be cautious about the contents before you buy them.
- Nutrition tablets. You can purchase tabs that provide complete nutrition to replace food, or you can purchase vitamins to supplement food intake.
- Hot sauce or your favorite blend of spices
- Coffee and filters
- Aluminum Foil
- Zipper plastic bags
- Small solar stove
- Lightweight small pot or pan. There are camp cooking kits that are fine.
- Steel wool for cleaning and fire starting
- Small gas or natural fuel camp stove
- Fixed blade full tang knife. I like mine to have a blade between three and seven inches. You can bring a folding knife, but only as a backup.
- Spool of thin copper snare wire
- Trapping bait such as nuts, peanut butter, or apples
- Compact fishing rod. This can be a telescoping rod or a Pocket Fisherman type.
- Fishing kit including line, hooks, sinkers, and lures
- Gill net or throw net
- Hunting grade slingshot
- Bow or crossbow with arrows (would have to be carried separately)
- Firearm, preferably a handgun (with ammo)
- Bottled water (no more than 32 oz. per pack to keep down weight)
- LifeStraw type filter
- Iodine tablets
- Small bottle of bleach for purification
- Metal bottle with filter built into the lid
- Solar shower
- Camel pack
- Steel folding cups
- Ferro rod
- Zippo lighter
- Electric rechargeable lighter
- Windproof match
- Disposable lighters
- Waterproof matches
- Small pencil sharpener (for fine tinder)
- Paper matches
- Bow drill or hand drill kit
- Fire lens
- Potassium Permanganate
- Small amount of lighter fluid or gasoline
- Char cloth
- Dry tinder such as a toilet paper roll filled with dryer lint
- Cotton balls rubbed in petroleum jelly
- Artificial fire aids such as fire cubes or fire sticks
Below are the items related to shelter that you should include in your bug out bag list:
- Large tarp
- Emergency blanket
- Small tent
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Air mattress
- Sheet of clear plastic for super shelter
- Wool blankets or fleece blankets
- Camp axe
- Para cord
- Climbing rope
- Folding saw
- Hammer and nails
- Pry bar
- Folding shovel
- Rain suit or poncho
- Thick warm hat
- Waterproof winter boots
- Cargo pants
- Needle and thread (or sewing kit)
- Thermal underwear
- Snow shoes
- Down jacket and overalls
- Strong belt
- Quick dry shirts
- Wool socks
- Panty hose (reduces friction on feet)
- Changes of socks and underwear
- Heavy winter gloves or mittens
- Open finger tactical gloves (protects hands in warmer weather)
Below are the items related to signalling that you should include in your bug out bag checklist:
- Signal mirror
- Flare gun
- Ground flares
- Rescue whistle
- Laser pointer
- Strobe light
- Ham radio
- Cell phone or two-way radios
- Tactical flashlight
- Electric lantern
- Solar lantern
- Gas lantern
- Hand crank light
- Solar charger or generator
Navigation, Communication, and Power
- Hand crank emergency radio
- Spare batteries or recharge packs
- Hand crank generators
- Topographic map
- Paper and pencil
- Road map
Below are the items related to toiletries that you should include in your bug out bag packing list:
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Straight razor
- Disposable razors
- Shaving cream
- Talcum powder or baby powder
- Hand sanitizer
- Comb or brush
- Nail clippers
- Bandages (large and band aids)
- Medical tape
- Ankle and knee wrap
- Butterfly bandages
- Quick Clot
- Rubbing alcohol
- Prescription medication
- CPR mask
- Filter masks
- Oral antibiotics
- Pain killers
- Arm sling
- Inflatable ankle brace
- hand warmers
- Quick read thermometer
- Rubber gloves
- Sun screen
- Bug spray
- Duct tape
- Paper clips
- Rubber bands
- Safety pins
- Trash bags
- Important documents
- Mosquito netting
- Body armor
- Baby supplies
- Ice axe
- Items for trade (cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, extra coffee, etc.)
As you put together your bug out bag, be selective about what you take. On each item ask yourself “Do I really need this?” or “Is this need already covered with another item?” Think about everybody you will be travelling with and keep their needs in mind. Again, make sure you are comfortable with each item in this bug out bag list and have experience using it. The best gear in the world make no difference if you do not know how to use it.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!