How to Build a Bug Out Bag (72 hour bag)

Updated on May 24, 2019

My 72 Hour Bags

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Don't hesitate, Build a Bug Out Bag!

Before we learn how to make a bug out bag, we need to learn what a bug out bag is. A "Bug Out Bag" is a bag you plan to utilize in case of an emergency. It is packed with your survival needs. Generally, this bag should be able to support you for a 72 hour period. There are many names for a Bug out Bag which include "72 Hour Bag, Go Bag, Go to Bag, Doomsday Bag" But, it is essentially a survival bag which comprises your survival needs when "Stuff Hits the Fan". A rather popular topic right now, but, with so many crisis’ and scenarios going on in today’s world, it is a good idea to have one as your survival may depend on it.

For this article we will be calling it a Bug Out Bag. The next question you may ask is "Who should have a bug out bag". The answer is simple, everyone that intends to survive an emergency. This means that every person in your family should have their own. Just in case you should get split up, everyone has the means to survival. This could be unfortunate for those with small children; this is because everyone should carry supplies to support them.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what a Bug Out Bag is, we will look at common mistakes in preparing a Bug out Bag. We will do this before we begin to generate our own list. A Bug out Bag is just that, a bag, which means you are going to have to carry it. In other words, pack what you can carry. I know that I am comfortable carrying 30-40lbs for several miles. Although I could pack 100 pounds, I would be very ineffective at moving around. You may have to climb hills, walk through rivers, or pack it in a car. Which means it should stay light and small.

What could I use to make a Bug Out Bag? Well, frankly anything. If you can afford a military pack such as a Ruck Sack. I would purchase one, you can usually find them for cheap around military installations. They are fantastic at distributing weight so that you can hike comfortably. Generally they weigh more and are more durable than civilian hiking equipment. If you are looking for that durability, visit they make great gear that can take a beating. If you want to stay light you can visit which is not just a place for bags, but, for your everyday outdoor and survival needs. One tip I would suggest is buying earthy colors, as you may be forced to blend into your surroundings. A common backpack will work too, but, you will be limited to what you are capable of packing. If you have neither of the two, you can use a suitcase. But, it will be hard to carry, won’t be as durable, and may be “Rolled” through the elements, such as rivers (hopefully a wheel doesn’t jam, how will you move it then). This is why I suggest your bug out bag to have shoulder straps.

Do you have a Bug Out Bag?

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How to Build a Bug Out Bag

We will now begin to generate our list. First we will focus on the most important necessities:
Water: Unfortunately water is heavy. But, luckily for you, your pack will get lighter as you drink. You should bring purified drinking water with you. This is because you may not have access to America’s fragile infrastructure. Now, I would like to say that when you drink water, you are drinking for the next day. So when you are on the move, hiking, you should be sipping water. It would behoove you to stay constantly hydrated incase an emergency ensues.

· There are several ways to carry water, the first and my personal favorite is a CamelBak, otherwise known as a hydration pack. A CamelBak is like a small backpack that can hold several liters of water. The “Backpack” is merely a shell for the bladder that is held inside. You can fill the bladder up from the outside (on specific products). It is great because you can drink the water from a hose, it can then be strapped onto your front shoulder straps. You can strap the Camelbak to your pack, or put it inside. You can also take the bladder out and put it in your Bug Out bag, be careful as something may puncture the pouch.

· Canteens are another great way to carry water too. They are cheap to buy, hold a sufficient amount of water, and their dark color helps keep water cool. All though you should note that your body uses energy to warm the cool water. With this in mind, you should stick to drinking room temperature water.

· Nalgene bottles work similar to canteens, but, are easily accessible. You can attach them with a carabineer to your pack for easy access. You should buy black ones, as they don’t stand out. They hold quite a bit of water as well, with a combination of the three you will stay well hydrated in case of an emergency.

-I don’t suggest water bottles as they take up a lot of space. But, you can use them in the absence of everything else.

How much water should I pack in my Bug Out Bag? You should strive to pack at least 7-8 Liters; an extreme is upwards of 12 liters. But, everyone is different, along with their circumstances. You can use Hydration calculator to gain a more accurate idea of how much water you will need to pack.

Food: If you don’t have the energy to keep moving, you may not move at all, which is why food is also a necessity. Food can weigh a lot too, but, if you are able to purchase “First Strike” MRE’s (Meal Ready To Eat) they contain enough food for a day. Obviously, you would need 3 of them. MRE’s in general taste great, are light, and last up to 5 years in their original form. They also contain water resistant matches, toilet paper, and a laxative gum. To save some space you can remove the “Waste” from them which decreases the size significantly. A case of MRE’s (12) can be purchased for $50.00 - $80.00. Another great idea is to pack tuna and peanut butter as they contain a lot of protein. If you dislike the taste of them, you can resort to protein/energy bars. Canned food will work too; just remember to bring a non-electric can opener. I also suggest packing multi-vitamins, they are small to pack and can give your body the boost it needs to be effective.

More Important Necessities for your Bug Out Bag

Change of clothes: This is very important as you may become wet. This can lead to a rapid loss of heat and may cause illness. You should also pack several socks to change throughout the day, over the ankle, or boot socks work the best; I would shoot to bring at least 6 pairs. Ensure that it is clothing that blends into your environment. If you are located in New York City, it might not be wise to wear camouflage. Same can be said for those near woods, or in a desert.

First Aid Kit: Make sure it contains Gauze, Ace Wrap, Quick Clot, Pressure Bandage, Tourniquet, Permanent Marker (time and date you applied the tourniquet), Hand Sanitizer, Alcohol Pads, Moleskin, Motrin, Pepto Bismal, Tylenol, Sun Screen, Lip Balm, Bug Spray that contains DEET, Prescribed Medication (might be a good idea to pack extra), Allergy Medication, Signal Mirror, Medical Mask, Medical Gloves/ Latex Gloves and lastly a Whistle which should be easily accessible. I have set mine up so I can access it with my teeth if my hands are bound.

*Another item I strongly recommend is Lotrimin Ultra. It is extremely effective at fighting against fungus. Did you know athlete’s foot is a form of Ringworm (A fungus)?

Comfortable Footwear: This isn’t really a part of your Bug out bag per say. But, it is extremely important; you may be walking for countless hours in all types of terrain. You should ensure that you can run efficiently in them, and they will prevent you from twisting your ankle. This being said, over the ankle boots are what I suggest.

Weapon: This can be anything you feel comfortable using. Some people like the versatility and assurance of throwing knives and hatchets. While some may like the simplicity of a gun, but remember it is a mechanical device and can fail. It is good that if you are carrying a concealed firearm that you have a permit to do so, this is to avoid complications with law enforcement. In my ideal world I would have a rifle, a concealed handgun, a utility knife, and lastly a hatchet. But, in the first 3 days of a disaster, those that didn’t prepare will be trying to steal yours, this especially goes for women. It might behoove you to learn how to protect yourself in unarmed combat as well.

Items to bring & Tips to survive

Some other items and tips you may want to consider bringing and following I will list below:

550 Cord: The utensil strength of 550 cord is 550lbs which is a lot for its size. It is extremely versatile as well; you can “dumby” cord items to your bag so you don’t lose them. You can also take out the “Guts” and use it as fishing line (keep in mind that without the guts it does not hold 550lbs of utensil strength).

Fishing line, Lures/hooks, & line weights: You never know how long you will be on your own. Ensure you have the proper tools to clean a fish too.

Bear horn/spray: Last thing you might think of. But, I for one don’t want to compete with a bear for fish.

Duct Tape: Its usefulness is amazing. If you don't believe me Google search "how to make items out of duct tape". In all reality you could make a Duct Tape Bug Out Bag.

Tent: It will keep you out of the elements and some can be packed into a small sack. The size will depend on occupancy. Maybe pack two, two man tents, just in case you get separated. REI sells cheap and small makeshift tents that you can put in all packs as well.

Birth Control: Let’s face it, we are human. Unless you are repopulating the earth, pregnancy will want to be avoided in a survival situation.

Lighter, Matches, and flint: stay warm and effective.

Utility knife: it has multiple functions that can be used which saves space and keeps you thriving.

Hand Crank Emergency Radio: Don’t rely on batteries as they can die. Some even come with flashlights and solar panels.

Poncho: avoiding rain while moving is detrimental to your success.

Space Blanket: They are extremely compact and keep you extremely warm.

IsoMat: They can be strapped to the bottom of your pack. An Isomat will help keep you warm by keeping you off the ground.

Water Purification Kit: You may need to obtain more water, don’t risk getting sick.

Travel Size Toothbrush Kit: Teeth can cause problems. I’m sure we have all seen Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away.

A small pot: big enough for boiling water and small portions of food. To save space you can put things in the pot.

E-Tool: Small and collapsible shovel. E-Tool stands for Entrenchment Tool. You may need to dig a hole to stay out of the wind, otherwise known as a "Ranger Grave". They also make great weapons.

Space bags: They help reduce the amount of air in-between your clothes. They also work at keeping moisture out. I personally use plastic bags to cover everything. Nothing worse than carrying a wet pack, plus you need to protect the content inside. They can also be used to help your pack float in the water.

Sleeping Bag: It will help you stay warm while sleeping, if you don’t intend on packing a tent I suggest buying a bivy sack to place your sleeping back in. They break the wind and are water resistant.

Forms of Identification: This is self-explanatory.

Sewing Kit: Holes in your clothing will allow you to rapidly lose heat in a cold climate.

Shoe/Boot lace: If you have ever been hiking and had your lace break, you know to bring this. At the time I hadn’t thought of bringing extra and paid dearly.

Unscented Baby Wipes: They aren’t just for babies. They can be used as toilet paper, as well as to keep you clean (commonly referred to a baby wipe bath)

Toilet Paper: To wipe things with

Unscented Bar of Soap: Staying clean can help fight infections

Scissors: Don’t bring a razor to shave with, use a scissors if it becomes too long. Scissors can cut many things; if you use a razor you can create open wounds, this can cause infection and sickness.

Small amount of currency: For me I would pack no more than $100.00, this is because a fiat currency may become useless in a survival situation. Most people will end up bartering for their needs, or stealing others.

Walky Talkie: Make sure you are able to wear headphones to eliminate the sound. It is a great way to communicate if you become separated.

Extra Batteries: If you are using electronic equipment that requires them.

Several small flash lights: Let’s face it, they are prone to break and become useless. If you have 3 small flashlights you will be fine.

Knife & Hatchet: Multiple uses.

Extra ammunition: You never know what will happen.

Eating Utensils: Fork, Spoon, knife, perhaps a Spork!

Kermantle Rope: This rope is used by rock climbers, in other words it is amazing.

Compass, & possibly a map: Compass is a good idea so you know which way you’re going. Map of the area might not hurt, but, in a disaster it may become useless.

Carabineer: They work as “Dumby Cord” and strapping items to you and your pack, as well as hiking. They are just as useful as duct tape.

Gas Mask: Speaks for its self.

Bullet Proof Vest/ Plate Carrier: You get used to the added weight of Sappi Plates. But, there are 9 guns for every 10 Americans. When SHTF everyone will be wielding one. Frankly, I don’t want to be shot.

Emergency Transponder: This could be a great addition to your bug out bag as it can send out a beacon to a search and rescue team. Some may be automatic while others are manually sent out. This can help you in the event of an emergency and possibly save your life.

Babies: For those with children plan accordingly. Make sure that all of your family’s bags contain baby supplies. It might benefit you to get a baby carrier, you can then strap little one to your chest. If you’re a mother or father, you should know what to bring so I’m not going to go in-depth.

Book on Edible Berries: It will distinguish what berries are safe to eat versus those that aren’t. If you have seen the movie “Into the wild” you know how important this could be to your health.

Common Sense: Use it accordingly, don’t forget it at home. It would behoove you to learn common safety needs as well. This includes CPR. Knowledge is your most important tool.

Attitude: Having the right frame of mind can be the difference between life and death.

Entertainment: It is more than likely that you will have some down time. You may want to bring an item that will allow you to relax and keep your mind of current events. An example of this may be cards, harmonica, jacks, marbles, or perhaps dominos. But, remember it should be light and easy to carry.

Faraday Cage: What I would like to do with my own Bug Out Bag is to turn it into a Faraday Cage as well. A Faraday Cage will ensure that your electronical devices are protected from electromagnetic pulses (EMP). EMP's can be created by solar flares and nuclear detonations. A small one could be placed inside to house your flashlights, walky talkies and any other electronics of value to you.


Now you know what a Bug Out Bag is, who should have one, and how to pack one. You never know what will happen in your life. But, by reading this article you are one step closer to preparing yourself for the inevitable. It’s not “if”an accident will happen, It’s “when”.

If society ended today, would you be prepared?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


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      • Abhinav Narang profile image

        Abhinav Narang 

        5 years ago from Amritsar, Punjab, India

        Good hub, nice work!!

      • Eric Calderwood profile image

        Eric Calderwood 

        6 years ago from USA

        An excellent list of things to have in a bug out/survival bag. I'm printing this hub out to help me prepare mine. Thanks for doing such a great job!

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        Out of all the packs I've used Billy; it is the Ruck Sack that is the most comfortable. You do sacrifice some space opposed to the new packs they issue to military, but, you make do with the space you have.

        I'll have to look into that foldable mess kit Jon, thanks for the tip.

      • jonmcclusk profile image

        Jonathan McCloskey 

        6 years ago from Cinnaminson, New Jersey

        Interesting and useful Hub, I've been meaning to construct a bug out bag and have been gathering supplies for awhile. I backpack every so often so I've always had a pretty good idea of what was needed.

        In addition to the pot, there's also mess kits you can buy that include; small pot with lid, frying pan, plate/bowl dish, and small drinking cup. The majority of the mess kits also fold into themselves, packing it's contents inside. I find them neat and beneficial while backpacking and perhaps others could use them for bug out bags.

      • Mmargie1966 profile image


        6 years ago from Gainesville, GA

        Great hub...sharing it!

      • DreamerMeg profile image


        6 years ago from Northern Ireland

        Wow! I never even heard of a bug out bag before. Now, I had heard of "being prepared" and had a few tubs of food and water stashed away for taking out to the car, in case of having to be evacuated (flood/fire) but a bug out bag takes it to a whole new level! Voted up.

      • Billy Hicks profile image

        Billy Hicks 

        6 years ago

        Wow, flashbacks to my Army days, lol. Outstanding Hub, and congrats on the HotD!

      • Faceless39 profile image

        Kate P 

        6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

        A great rundown of items to pack in a survival sack. I think everyone should be prepared for the worst; you never know!

        Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        Natashalh, that is a great idea to wrap duct tape around a pen, very creative. I am glad you shared the idea, and concept as saving space can be paramount to an effective bag.

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        As for DzyMsLizzy's comment regarding the whistle; it is all too often that we encounter natural disasters. Most people will be inside a building when they should happen in which case you may be buried under rubble. It is often that you hear of people being "buried alive" and found days later. Being able to access your whistle hands free may save your life and was not intended for a hostage situation.

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        Thank you all for the comments as well as sharing your experiences. I haven't been able to get on the internet all day and it was great to see I made "Hub of the Day".

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        I have a tiny survival kit that is a bit inadequate I suppose. Thank you for this great info! A very useful Hub for sure!

      • Kari Pete profile image

        Kari Pete 

        6 years ago from Oakland, CA

        I'm pretty sure the glacier has melted. Still, I have my "earthquake kit" just in case. One thing you alluded to with birth control and vitamins, but should be made more explicit: if you are on any prescription medications, you need to pack at least three days worth, but you might want to have a week's worth in your pack or on you at all times. This can be a pain, since often you can only get a month supply at a time. Still, it's worth the work to save it up bit by bit so you have it.

      • Hui (蕙) profile image

        Hui (蕙) 

        6 years ago

        All those stuff are important for survival from an emergency. But what if the glacier is coming...

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        6 years ago from Oakley, CA

        Congratulations on HOTD! Well done!

        I don't have a specific "bag," but we are experienced campers, and our camp gear qualifies as survival gear as well. A small Scout or military surplus "mess kit" has a self-contained set of cookware and utensils that nest; I'd take that instead of my camp kitchen pots.

        The only flaws I find are (1) your claim that you can access your whistle with your teeth,"... if my hands are bound." That scenario would probably mean you'd been taken captive, in which case, your bag most likely would have been taken away from you=no whistle; and (2) sleeping bags, mats, tents, etc. are rather bulky items that are not going to fit into a simple, small pack.

        Another idea for self defense is karate or other martial arts lessons--that does not involve carrying a weapon (necessarily), and it cannot be taken away from you.

        Pointing out the tensile strength of rope is a useful bit of information. I never go anywhere without some kind of rope--you never know when it may come in handy.

        Voted up, useful and interesting.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        6 years ago from sunny Florida

        We really all should heed your advice. We never really know when something may happen that will require us to use such preps. Hurricanes are often a reason to use canned goods and bottled water. Here in FL we try to be prepared as we never know when the storm that comes will be devastating.

        Thank you for sharing this info. Congrats on hub of the day.

      • WD Curry 111 profile image

        WD Curry 111 

        6 years ago from Space Coast

        You got hub of the day? Way to go. I can see why! I thought it was a cool idea the first time I saw it. It is entertaining as well as informative.

      • Night Magic profile image

        Night Magic 

        6 years ago from Canada

        Great suggestions. I'm going to be using a few on my next hiking trip. Good job on Hub of The Day. I definitely have to vote this useful & interesting

      • urmilashukla23 profile image


        6 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

        Interesting hub!

        Well deserved hub of the day! Congratulations.

      • tsmog profile image

        Tim Mitchell 

        6 years ago from Escondido, CA

        Great article and highly recommended.This hub is constructed very well providing step by step and why. A two thumbs up article worth looking at for these times today with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and such.

        I live in Southern Calif earthquake land. I keep one and have to go through and update it soon for expiry dates. I think I will make a list and put it in a front pocket too. I'm single but mine will work for 4, since I have elderly neighbors. I have a friend with steel box in his garage for the whole neighborhood, lol, nice guy.

      • Craig Hartranft profile image

        Craig Hartranft 

        6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Interesting, but it's a shame to think that things will get so bad that we will need to bug out to the wilderness ...

      • Natashalh profile image


        6 years ago from Hawaii

        I don't have an adequate bag, but I have a pretty solid survival kit with a lot of the items you mentioned. I'd never thought of an isomat, though. I get cold easily, so that's a really good idea. For my duct tape, I took the 'stick' out of a pen and carefully wrapped the tape around it. I don't have as much tape, but it saves some room (there's just so much dead space in the center of the tape roll!).

        Thanks for the very thorough advice.

      • Civil War Bob profile image

        Civil War Bob 

        6 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

        Good hub, NC4...voted up, useful, interesting. It's great that you got this posted the day AFTER yet another date that was supposed to be the end of the world, according to one HP forum I've followed! My sick my wonders: what happens if in the earthquake, you're on one side of the suddenly open crevasse and your bag's on the other? ;)

      • GoForTheJuggler profile image

        Joshua Patrick 

        6 years ago from Texas

        This is a fantastic Hub of the Day - voted up and keep 'em coming!

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        Thank you! I didn't even think to post a link here, good looking out. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub as I put a lot of effort into it.

      • ripplemaker profile image

        Michelle Simtoco 

        6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

        Bug out bag - so this is what it is. :) I had fun learning new things today.

        Ripplemaker's Special News: Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. Do visit this link to see your nominated hub in the Education and Science category. Don't forget to read and vote okay? Cheers!

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        Precisely, now I thought about putting the bag in the car. But, in the event of a Tornado, do you really want to run out to the car to retrieve your bag? Or perhaps if someone breaks into your car your PI (Personal Identification) is stolen too.

        All in all, you should have the necessities in your vehicle at all times (Water, Food, Blanket exc...) and have your bag easily accessible in your home in case of a sudden evacuation (Wildfire, Flash Flood exc..).

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

        This well thought out information can be helpful in any type of emergency. Having these essentials in the trunk of your car or near the front door can save precious moments in the event of an emergency such as wildfires sweeping through the area or an evacuation due to an oncoming hurricane or tornado.

        Well written, timely and good to know.

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        If this is in reference to the Poll, the question was "If society ended today, would you be prepared". With this being said, society may end, but, life inevitably may continue (use any fallen civilization as an example of this; the fall of Rome).

        Look at when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, society was greatly impacted. People had lost their minds and began looting and raping. Yet, the world continued. Your Bug Out Bag ensures that you have a fighting chance to survive in an emergency.

        "Man is a moral being, only because he lives in society. Let all social life disappear and morality will disappear with it." -Emile Durkheim

      • Dave Mathews profile image

        Dave Mathews 

        6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

        If the end of the world were to come tomorrow, what would be the purpose for the bag, as we'd all be dead??

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        I do enjoy the notion of being self-sufficient. But, a disaster could possibly destroy your home. Perhaps I will write more upon the topic of "Doomsday", yet, this article is about disaster preparedness.

      • WD Curry 111 profile image

        WD Curry 111 

        6 years ago from Space Coast

        Hey NC4life078, we get some serious blows around here. The grid is weak. We are so advanced technologically, yet we deliver electricity the same way they did on day one. Hello? Modular . . . solar, wind, like that. Then you don't lose power or have to run a generator all the time.

        Anyway, one thing, army medic kit. Put one up there.

      • NC4Life078 profile imageAUTHOR

        Nicoli Clause 

        6 years ago from United States of America

        Exactly, one of my favorite quotes is "you can give a man a fish, or you can teach him how". It couldn't be more true in a survival scenario, you plan for 3 days, but, plans often don't happen the way you want them to.

      • WD Curry 111 profile image

        WD Curry 111 

        6 years ago from Space Coast

        Alright, you catch on fast. I see some products up there. I live in Florida, and we keep our 90 day kit. However, the bug out bag is a necessity at any age or time in history. You can stretch it to a week or two if you have to.

        Little hint: separate bank accounts, they like to clean you out if they take off first.

        If worse comes to worse, I'll build a freaking tree house in a big oak.


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