These 9 Items Should Be in Your Bug Out Bag List!

No matter how much gear and necessities you stash in your off-grid home, you can’t bring them all with you, especially when a disaster or a bad turn of events strikes suddenly. Just imagine, you decided to stay at home during a storm but the storm turned out to be too strong for your safety. Surely, you will be forced to leave immediately. You won’t have much time to pack up, let alone transfer your stuff to the car. You may not even have a car to carry them, or your route can be blocked in a way that you will have to travel by foot. In any case, a bug out bag within reach can spell the difference between life and death. Hence, a bug out bag list should be made to help you stock up on supplies.

What should a bug out bag contain? How will it help you? If you want to prepare a bug out bag, then this article is perfect for you.

What is a Bug-out Bag?

Although we live in the comforts of our off-grid homes. There comes a time when we’ll have to venture outside. We could go hunting, foraging, or just exploring our environment. Therefore, we need to carry some gears with us. We don’t know what awaits us as we venture outdoors. That’s why we need a bug-out bag to have everything you need in case of emergencies. So what is a bug-out bag?

A bug out bag, as its name suggests, is a bag you can grab whenever you need to leave quickly. It contains basic necessities that will help you last for days, whether you are in an apocalyptic landscape or just far from civilization.

An ideal bug out bug should be lightweight because you will likely need to be mobile during a time that you need to leave immediately.  However, make sure that the quality of contents will not be compromised. Don’t take the lightweight part too seriously and empty the bag to a point of uselessness. Aim for a good balance between the two.

Importance of a Bug-out Bag List

Bug out bag list is important for your bug-out bag as a plan B. Please, do not make it a plan A because bugging out is much dangerous than hunkering down unless your safe area is about to be swept away by some natural (or unnatural) force.

There are several turns of events that can force you to abandon your safe zone, like an unexpected disaster, a marching army of invaders, the local army applying scorched Earth and even partisans wreaking havoc. In such cases, you will be forced to move immediately hence needing supplies that will help you last long enough to find safety and opportunity to resupply.

Things to Remember When Putting Together a Bug Out Bag

  1. Stash enough supplies that will help you survive long enough to reach your bug out location. The bug out location can be a friend’s house, a relative’s abode or a government shelter. It will be ideal if you have stashed long term supplies in your bug out location.
  2. Carry not just basic needs but also items that will help you on your way like a compass, a water filter, a poncho, and other stuff.
  3. If feasible, put your important documents near your bug out bag. You do not necessarily have to put them inside. Just put the documents in an easy to access place so you can carry them when bugging out.

What to Put In a Bug out Bag

First of all, you should estimate how long it will take you to reach your bug out destination. As a reference, you can take note that an average healthy person can cover at least 20 miles after 8 hours of comfortably-paced walking. If your destination is 40 miles away, you will likely reach it after two days of walk, rest included. In this case, stash supplies that will last for 2-3 days.

The most important contents of your bug out bag include those that are related to the “Survival Rule of 3’s”.

The Rule of 3 is an informal guideline that is meant to be a reference for how long a person can survive in a hostile environment or situation. It normally includes the following:

  • Usually, you can survive for 3 minutes in icy water
  • You can survive for 3 hours in a harsh environment (desert, polar, etc.) without proper gear or shelter
  • You’ll survive for 3 days without potable water
  • You can survive for 3 weeks without edible food
  • You can survive for 3 minutes without air

I tend to add a few rules of my own:

  • You can survive for 3 minutes during an emergency without proper knowledge
  • During panic mode, you need to calm yourself within 3 minutes or risk making bad decisions.
  • You can survive for 3 minutes of severe bleeding

With these rules in mind, you are now ready to build your own bug out bag.


1) Food

While you can survive approximately three weeks without eating, your stamina will begin to deplete. Your 20 miles per day coverage speed will begin to become smaller. Worse, you won’t have the strength to face whatever emergency pops up in your way. Furthermore, you will not be able to think clearly without food to fuel your grey matter.

Remember to keep a good balance between food quality and weight, otherwise, you will be slowed down or even killed either by the weight or by starvation. You should also choose foods with high carbohydrates, fat, and protein. You can find a good balance of these nutrients by eating high-calorie foods.

The following food items are your options for your bug out bag:

chocolate for your bug out bag
100 g of chocolate provides 546 kcal, making it an ideal entry for your bug out bag
  • Peanut butter– 100g of peanut butter contains 588 calories which are more than twice of the calorie contents of many canned meat products.
  • Beef Jerky- beef jerkies can last for a long time and contains a decent amount of calories. 100g of beef jerky contains 410 calories
  • Chocolate – this one is pretty much a given. 100g of dark chocolate can give you 546 calories which it can give. As an added bonus, chocolates taste good and will help you lighten your mood. Take note, however, that chocolates contain caffeine that can cause anxiety and other psychological strains that can do so much harm while bugging out. Keep that fact in mind and don’t eat too much chocolate.
  • Condensed Milk – 100g of condensed milk (can exclude) contains 321 calories. However, it comes in a can which will occupy much-needed space and will significantly contribute to the weight of the bug out bag. In addition, this syrupy sugar overload is hard to drink by itself because of the texture and the sweetness.
  • Biltong – biltong is a dried cured and cured meat common if Africa. A 100g of biltong contains 325 calories and can last for some time.

In addition to these foods, you can also include simple fishing gears such as a hook, swivel, string, and weight to help you catch small fishes. There are also canned goods that are specifically prepared for preppers. These foods can last for a very long time and provide the energy you will need.

2) Water

This one is a given. You will need to stay hydrated to be at your peak performance. You will still be alive for after three days without water, but by that point, you are surely struggling to stand, let alone walk. If you want to get to your bug out location in time, make sure to have sufficient stash of water to last for your entire trip.

A typical person will need 2 liters of water a day. Since you will have to walk several miles, carrying too much water can become too taxing that the weight will deprive you of hydration more than what such amount of water will provide. Imagine walking for three days with 6 liters of water in your backpack! That will be so tedious, even if you gradually reduce the weight by drinking. All that being said, it will be wise to reduce it to 1 liter a day.  So, if you will travel for three days, bring 3 liters of water instead of 6.

If you know how to forage water or bring a water filter with you, 1 liter of water a day will be more than enough. For water filters, you can choose among several brands, but we always recommend Sawyer.

sawyer water filter is very useful to have in your bug out bag
You can not carry a barrel of water with you, but you can always have a Sawyer water filter in your bug out bag.

Sawyer is widely based on kidney dialysis filters. It effectively filters out microorganisms and anything larger, thanks to microtubes that will filter out anything larger than 0.1 microns or 0.02 micron (depending on the model of the filter).

3) Shelter

After a long day of walking to your bug out location, you can’t just sleep under a tree or on a random bench. Carrying a bunch of stuff that will make you comfy will compromise the weight of your bug out bag so you will have to settle with. You won’t be able to carry a traditional tent with you so you will have to opt for lightweight ones. Sleeping bags are also decent choices. Try to find the lightest one that can still shield you from the weather.

Change of Clothing and Clothing to Protect you from the Weather

Hypothermia will be a nemesis you will never forget if you will have to face it. That is if you even live to remember.

a bug out bag can contain items that help prevent hypothermia
If you have to traverse a cold terrain without proper protection, you may find yourself dying not of hunger, thirst or injury but because of hypothermia

If your clothing is dampened or becomes wet, it can literally give you chills. Wearing a damp cloth for hours can cause pulmonary problems (not necessarily diseases) that can easily deplete your stamina. There are also chances that you will encounter a rough weather condition while bugging out. You’ll need a change of clothes if you get wet unless you want to be inflicted with hypothermia either from the wet clothing or being naked because you have no change of clothes.

Other clothing and gears you can include:

  • Gloves (ideally cold weather ones) – a sturdy glove will help you grip objects and protect your hands from injury. While bugging out various disasters will pop out in your way. Chances are, you will have to do callus inflicting tasks such as gathering firewood, lifting objects that block your way and even scaling an obstacle. A handy glove (no pun intended) will help your hands stay quite protected from wound and injury and protect it from infection. In addition, a cold weather glove will help keep you warm during times of low temperature.
  • Headgear – no. Not a helmet (but really, it is wise to have one if you can afford to carry it.) A simple hat or beanie is enough as long as it will protect you from the cold. You can also add an earmuff to your gear
  • Waterproof jacket – aside from protecting you from the cold, it will be useful for protecting you from inclement weather and inevitable splashes.
  • Poncho – Ideally, you should also have a poncho on the ready. It will help you fend off the rain without occupying one of your limbs. Trust me, you do not want to use an umbrella. Terra Hiker Rain Poncho will be an awesome choice, thanks to its low weight and versatility. This poncho is designed so that it can be used as temporary shelter.

terra hiker poncho for your bug out bag

While it is tempting to add all these stuff to your bug out bag, I will remind you once more that you have to strike a good balance between functionality and lightweight.

4) Lighting

You will be outdoor during your entire trip to your bug out location and the sun will eventually go down. You may even have to travel through places with poor illumination. Hence, you will surely need a light source to avoid accidents on your way, to help set up camp and do other survival stuff.

We strongly recommend the use of headlights since one will provide you with decent lighting without occupying a limb. Who knows when you will need a hand? If not feasible, you can settle for other lighting methods as well.

The following items are good light sources:

  • Glowsticks – most glowsticks can provide 4 hours of illumination. Their main advantage is their capability to provide decent lighting even underwater. Since glowsticks are disposable, you can wholeheartedly throw a stick away to measure the depth of the terrain if you ever need to descend. If you do not have access to a waterproof flashlight, then having a number of glowsticks is a must. An excellent example of glowstick is the Cyalume glowstick. Only 6” long, the Fosco Lightstick provides a sheer amount of light for its size. It has proven itself worthy by serving the military. It can provide 12 hours of light that is bright enough to be seen even from the air.
  • Flashlight – no bug out bag or emergency kit will ever be complete without a flashlight. Flashlights provide illumination through a beam, hence they have longer ranges than glowsticks. With this range, flashlights are excellent tools for surveying the terrain you are about to traverse. The only downside will be the cost of buying a useful yet affordable model. An ideal flashlight is waterproof, has long range and lightweight. One such flashlight is the Olight S1 Mini Baton HCRI Rechargeable. It can project a beam of light for up to 130m or 427ft. With its 600 lumens maximum performance and IPX8 waterproofing, the S1 Mini Baton will surely prove useful while bugging out.
  • Headlights – headlights provide the same benefits as a flashlight, except the fact that you can wield a headlight without occupying a hand. A good industry level headlight is the Cobiz 6000 lumen headlight. Yep, you’re reading it right. This neat headlight can produce an astounding 10000-lumen beam which will prove handy during emergencies. It also has other practical features such as USB charging, splashproofing, and 8-hour battery life.

5) Navigation Tools

The worst thing that can delay your arrival to your bug out location? Getting lost. If you don’t properly track your location, you can find yourself stuck or even going in loops. This will be worsened if you are not familiar with the landmarks and the terrain of the route you will be taking. While it sounds ridiculous if it has not happened to you yet, such an event is far more likely than you think. Why? Because calamities can damage and reshape the terrains, landmark and even wipe them out. That group of three boulders that you use as a milestone that says you are only a couple of miles away from your bug out location? It can disappear in a puff of smoke as disaster damage random things in its wake.

To avoid getting lost, a map and a compass will do. If you want, you can also stash a GPS to make things fancy and more accurate. However, GPS can become unreliable depending on the nature of the disaster.

Your life will be so much easier if you study the map ahead (way before an emergency occurs). That way, you can easily navigate to your destination. In addition, you can also mark flood-prone areas, evacuation routes and places where you can scavenge for supply. Always try to map out at least three routes to your bug out area so that you can easily find your way even if your original route is blocked for whatever reason.

6) Air Filtration Mask

You’ll never know what kind of SHTF event will happen. Some of them can have serious respiratory threats, so it will always be wise to carry a filtration mask around.  Gases may be leaking everywhere, especially in damaged pipelines or wreckages of a town. When passing through such damaged areas, wear an air filtration mask such as the Climax Gas Mask to ensure your safety.

7) Fire Starter

Fire will always be useful. You will need one to indirectly increase your food and water supply. By boiling water or by cooking foods you forage, you have the chance of restocking supply even before you reach your bug out location. In addition, having a campfire provides extra warmth to make you sleep comfortably. Take note, however, that if stealth is a must, then starting a campfire is not a good idea.

Fire will also be useful for as signaling messages. Form a triangle using three torches, as per the international distress code.

The following items will help you start a fire:

  • Tinder – no. Not the dating app. Tinder is a flammable material you can use for kindling a fire. Some preppers prefer to use DIY tinder such as the renowned cotton balls plus petroleum jelly tinder.
  • Ignition Materials – of course, what is a tinder if you won’t be able to light it? And what better way to light it than, well, a lighter!? The following ignition materials will help you during your bug out journey:
  • Lighter – lighters are instant and will most likely last long enough for you to finish your bug out trip. Some lighters project flame that is so hot that neither the wind nor the rain will extinguish the fire. One such lighter is the Saberlight flameless plasma lighter. It uses plasma instead of flame, hence it is windproof and stormproof. It is also rechargeable, so you can rest assured that you won’t need extra juice during your travels.
  • Match – let Tinder say “It’s a match!” Matches are a good substitute to lighters. Some are even better than lighters because they are waterproof. Strike-anywhere matches are perfect. Waterproof ones, like the wind and water resistant Coghlan’s 940BP Waterproof Matches, can be life-saving as well especially when the weather is quite undesirable.
  • Fire-striker – flint-and-steel are great fire starters, albeit a little slower. Their main advantage is the fact that they need no gas and they are not consumable, unlike lighters and matches.
  • Extra Gas – if you use a lighter, having an extra refill gas will help your lighter last longer.

8) First Aid Kit

Even if you know the way to your destination, the altered landscape can pose serious threats. You’ll never know when flying debris will hit you when you will be bitten by an animal, when you will get shot by pursuing soldiers or when will sheer bad luck happen. Worse, hospitals and clinics are likely closed during SHTF so you have to fend for yourself. Therefore, you should have at least the capability to stop the bleeding and take the pain away until you find adequate supplies, medical equipment and, if feasible, medical professionals. This is where a first aid kit comes in.

A decent first aid kit contains the following:

  • First aid instruction – you may have studied the art of first aid long before a disaster occurs but to be sure, having a manual handy is never bad unless it is a 3-inch thick book that will be too heavy.
  • Painkillers – NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory)such as ibuprofen and paracetamol will be your best friend once you are injured.
  • Antiseptic/antibacterial wipes – these wipes are helpful for sterilizing wounds which can otherwise be infected. An infection can whittle you down if not addressed properly.
  • Medical gloves
  • Instruments – include necessary instruments such as scissors, forceps, medical tape, scalpel, etc.
  • Gauze
  • Burn Gel
  • Antibiotic ointments or medications
  • Tourniquet – a simple cloth will do as long as you can use it for a tourniquet and as makeshift sling.

If feasible, you can also add a finger splinter in case you break your fingers.

9) Tools and Miscellaneous Stuff

Various tools will give you convenience. The following tools are awesome to include but not entirely necessary:

  • Multitools
  • Knife – this one is not optional.
  • Mini shovel
  • Crowbar


The very long list above is the answer to the question “what should a bug out bag contain.” It may be inconvenient to put all these stuff together, but these are all the things that you will need to survive days of travel to your bug out location. Remember, there is no such thing as being too careful.

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Written by James Bana


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