I'm interested in disaster preparedness. I've built multiple bug-out bags, and I have a lot of experience in selecting what to pack.
Don't Hesitate: Build a Bug-Out Bag (BOB)!
Before we learn how to make a bug-out bag, we need to learn what it is. A bug-out bag (BOB) 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, which is why it's sometimes called a 72-hour bag. Other names include go bag, go-to bag, and doomsday bag. For this article, we will be calling it a bug-out bag.
No matter what name you use, it is essentially a survival bag that comprises your survival needs when stuff hits the fan. Making BOBs is a rather popular topic right now, but with so many crises and scenarios going on in today’s world, it is a good idea to have one. Your survival may depend on it.
Who Needs a 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 bag. That way, just in case you get split up, everyone has the means to survive. This could be unfortunate for those with small children; everyone should carry supplies to support them.
How Big Should It Be?
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 30–40 lbs 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 your bag in a car—which means it should stay light and small.
My 72-Hour Bags
What Could I Use to Make a BOB?
Frankly, anything. If you can afford a military pack such as a rucksack, 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.
Stores to Check
If you are looking for that durability, visit www.BlackHawk.com. They make great gear that can take a beating. If you want to stay light, you can visit www.REI.com, which is not just a place for bags. They also sell items for your everyday outdoor and survival needs. One tip I would suggest is buying earth-toned colors, as you may be forced to blend into your surroundings.
Gear You Might Already Have Around the House
A common backpack will work, too, but, you will be limited to what you are capable of packing. If you don't have a rucksack, bag, or backpack, you can use a suitcase. However, it will be hard to carry, it won’t be as durable, and it may need to 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 choosing a bug-out bag with shoulder straps.
Packing List for a BOB
We will now begin to generate our packing list. First, we will focus on the most important necessities:
- First Aid
Water: How Much and How to Carry It
Unfortunately, water is heavy. But, luckily for you, your pack will get lighter as you drink it. You should bring purified drinking water with you. This is because you may not have access to treated water due to America’s fragile infrastructure.
Now, I 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 in case an emergency ensues.
How Much Water Should I Pack?
You should strive to pack at least 7–8 liters. On the extreme end, you could pack upwards of 12 liters. However, everyone is different, along with their circumstances. You can consult a hydration calculator to gain a more accurate idea of how much water you will need to pack.
How Do I Carry It?
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, which 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—but be careful as something may puncture the pouch.
- Canteens are another great way to carry water. They are cheap to buy and hold a sufficient amount of water, and their dark color helps keep water cool. However, you should note that your body uses energy to warm up cool or cold water when you drink it. 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 to your pack with a carabiner for easy access. You should buy black Nalgene bottles so they don’t stand out. They hold quite a bit of water as well. With a combination of a CamelBak, a canteen, and a Nalgene, 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 anything else.
Food: MREs and More
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” MREs (Meal Ready to Eat), they contain enough food for a full meal. Obviously, you would need 3 of them per day.
MREs 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 MREs (12) can be purchased for $50.00–$80.00.
High-Protein Foods and Vitamins
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 don't take up much room and can give your body the boost it needs to be effective.
Clothing and Footwear
Pack a change of clothes. This is very important as you may become wet, which can lead to a rapid loss of heat and may cause illness. Ensure that your clothing blends into your environment. If you are located in New York City, it might not be wise to wear traditional camouflage. The same can be said for those in the desert.
Take Care of Your Feet
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 of socks.
Comfortable footwear isn’t really a part of your bug-out bag per se. 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 your shoes or boots and that they will prevent you from twisting your ankle. This being said, I suggest that you wear boots that cover your ankles.
First Aid and Medication
Make sure your first aid kit contains the following:
- Ace Wrap
- Quick Clot
- Pressure Bandage
- Permanent Marker (for writing the time and date you applied the tourniquet)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Alcohol Pads
- Lip Balm
- Bug Spray with DEET
- Signal Mirror
- Medical Mask
- Medical Gloves or Latex Gloves
Make sure that the whistle is easily accessible. I have set mine up so I can access it with my teeth if my hands are bound.
Medications to Pack
Also include these medications in your first aid kit:
- Pepto Bismal
- Prescribed Medications (it might be a good idea to pack extra)
- Allergy Medication
- Lotrimin Ultra (This is extremely effective at fighting against fungus. Did you know athlete’s foot is a form of ringworm, which is a fungus?)
Weapons: Prepare to Protect Yourself
You can pack any weapon you feel comfortable using. Some people like the versatility and assurance of throwing knives and hatchets. Others may like the simplicity of a gun, but remember that it is a mechanical device and can fail. If you are carrying a concealed firearm, ensure 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. However, in the first 3 days of a disaster, those who didn’t prepare may be trying to steal your weapon, especially if you are a woman. It might behoove you to learn how to protect yourself in unarmed combat as well.
Additional Items to Bring and Survival Tips
- 550 Cord: The tensile strength of 550 cord is 550 lbs, which is a lot for its size. It is extremely versatile as well; you can “dummy” cord items to your bag so you don’t lose them. You can also take out the guts of the cord and use it as fishing line (keep in mind that, without the guts, it does not hold 550 lbs).
- Fishing Line, Lures/Hooks, and Line Weights: You never know how long you will be on your own, and you might need to fish for food. Ensure that you have the proper tools to clean a fish, too.
- Bear Horn/Spray: This is the 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, run a search for "how to make items out of duct tape" on Google. In all reality, you could make a duct tape bug-out bag.
- Lighter, Matches, and Flint: These items help you stay warm and effective.
- Utility Knife: It has multiple functions, which saves space and keeps you thriving.
- E-Tool: This is a 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." These tools also make great weapons.
- Extra Batteries: Bring batteries if you are using electronic equipment that requires them.
- Small Flashlights: Let’s face it: Flashlights are prone to breaking and becoming useless, so bring several. If you have 3 small flashlights, you will be fine.
- Kermantle Rope: This rope is used by rock climbers—in other words, it is amazing.
- Carabiners: They work like dummy cord for strapping/clipping items to you and your pack, as well as when you're hiking. They are just as useful as duct tape.
- Tent: It will keep you out of the elements, and some tents can be packed into a small sack. The size will depend on the occupancy. Maybe pack two 2-man tents, just in case you get separated. REI sells cheap and small makeshift tents that you can put in all packs as well.
- Space Blanket: These blankets are extremely compact and keep you extremely warm.
- Sleeping Mat: This mat can be strapped to the bottom of your pack, and it will help keep you warm by keeping you off the ground.
- Sleeping Bag: A sleeping bag will help you stay warm at night, especially if you don’t intend on packing a tent. I suggest buying a bivy sack to place your sleeping bag in. They are water-resistant and wind-resistant.
- Poncho: Avoiding rain while you're on the move is crucial to your success.
- Sewing Kit: Holes in your clothing will cause 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. On one trip, I hadn’t thought of bringing extra and paid dearly.
Health and Safety Items
- Water Purification Kit: You may need to obtain more water. Always purify it—don’t risk getting sick.
- Travel-Size Toothbrush Kit: Teeth can cause problems, so keep them clean and healthy. (I’m sure we have all seen Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away.)
- Birth Control: Let’s face it: We are human. Unless you are repopulating the earth, you'll want to avoid pregnancy in a survival situation.
- Unscented Baby Wipes: These aren’t just for babies. They can be used as toilet paper and to keep you clean (commonly referred to as a baby wipe bath).
- Toilet Paper: You can wipe more than just yourself with TP.
- Unscented Bar of Soap: Staying clean can help fight infections.
- Scissors: Don’t bring a razor for shaving; use a scissors if your hair becomes too long. If you use a razor, you can create open wounds, which can cause infection and sickness. Scissors are also more multi-purpose and can be used to cut many things.
- Baby Supplies: 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 your 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 here.
- Small Pot: Bring a pot that's big enough for boiling water and small portions of food. To save space in your bag, you can pack other things inside the pot.
- Eating Utensils: Pack a fork, spoon, knife, and perhaps a spork!
- Book on Edible Berries: It's important to have a book to distinguish which berries are safe to eat and which are not. (If you have seen the movie Into the Wild, you know how important this could be to your health.)
Gear for Your Bag
- Space Bags: These help reduce the amount of air in between your clothes. They also help keep moisture out. I personally use plastic bags to cover everything. There's nothing worse than carrying a wet pack; plus, you need to protect the content inside. Space bags can also be used to help your pack float in the water.
- Faraday Cage: What I would like to do with my own BOB is to turn it into a Faraday cage as well. A Faraday cage will ensure that your electronic devices are protected from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). EMPs can be created by solar flares and nuclear detonations. A small Faraday cage could be placed inside your bag to house your flashlights, walkie-talkies, and any other electronics of value to you.
- Forms of Identification: This is self-explanatory.
- 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 from others.
- Entertainment: It is more than likely that you will have some downtime. You may want to bring an item that will allow you to relax and keep your mind off current events. Some examples of this are cards, a harmonica, jacks, marbles, or perhaps dominoes. Remember: It should be lightweight and easy to carry.
Gear for Protection and Defense
- Gas Mask: Speaks for itself.
- Knife and Hatchet: These both have multiple uses.
- Extra Ammunition: You never know what will happen.
- Bulletproof Vest/Plate Carrier: You get used to the added weight of Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates. There are 9 guns for every 10 Americans. When stuff hits the fan, everyone will be wielding a gun. 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 transponders may be automatic, while others require you to send the beacon manually. This can help you in the event of an emergency and possibly save your life.
- Hand-Crank Emergency Radio: Don’t rely solely on batteries as they can die. Some hand-crank radios even come with flashlights and solar panels.
- Walkie-Talkies: These are a great way to communicate if you become separated. Make sure you are able to wear headphones to eliminate the noise.
- Compass and Map: A compass is a good idea so you know which way you’re going. Bringing a map of the area might not hurt, but in a disaster it may become useless.
- Good Attitude: Having the right frame of mind can be the difference between life and death.
- Common Sense: Use it accordingly, and don’t forget it at home.
- Knowledge: It would behoove you to learn about common safety needs, such as CPR. Knowledge is your most important tool.
Now You're Ready
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. 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Abhinav Narang from Amritsar, Punjab, India on November 11, 2013:
Good hub, nice work!!
Eric Calderwood from USA on October 24, 2012:
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!
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 27, 2012:
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.
Jonathan McCloskey from Cinnaminson, New Jersey on July 26, 2012:
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 from Gainesville, GA on July 26, 2012:
Great hub...sharing it!
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on July 25, 2012:
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 on July 25, 2012:
Wow, flashbacks to my Army days, lol. Outstanding Hub, and congrats on the HotD!
Kate P from The North Woods, USA on July 25, 2012:
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.
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 25, 2012:
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.
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 25, 2012:
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.
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 25, 2012:
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".
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 25, 2012:
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 from Oakland, CA on July 25, 2012:
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) on July 25, 2012:
All those stuff are important for survival from an emergency. But what if the glacier is coming...
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 25, 2012:
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.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 25, 2012:
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 from Space Coast on July 25, 2012:
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 from Canada on July 25, 2012:
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
Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on July 25, 2012:
Well deserved hub of the day! Congratulations.
Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on July 25, 2012:
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 from Southeastern Pennsylvania on July 25, 2012:
Interesting, but it's a shame to think that things will get so bad that we will need to bug out to the wilderness ...
Natasha from Hawaii on July 25, 2012:
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 from Glenside, Pennsylvania on July 25, 2012:
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? ;)
Joshua Patrick from Texas on July 25, 2012:
This is a fantastic Hub of the Day - voted up and keep 'em coming!
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 20, 2012:
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.
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on July 20, 2012:
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? https://hubpages.com/community/You-Want-Fries-With... Cheers!
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 19, 2012:
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..).
Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on July 19, 2012:
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.
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 11, 2012:
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 from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on July 11, 2012:
If the end of the world were to come tomorrow, what would be the purpose for the bag, as we'd all be dead??
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 11, 2012:
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 from Space Coast on July 11, 2012:
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.
Nicoli Clause (author) from United States of America on July 10, 2012:
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 from Space Coast on July 10, 2012:
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.