Multiple organizations such as FEMA, the CDC, and the American Red Cross have advised American’s to prepare a 72 hour kit. These kits, often called bug out bags, should contain everything you need to survive for 3 days without resupply. There are plenty of ready made bug out bags you can buy, but many people, us included, think it’s better to build your own so you know exactly what you have and how to use it. Today we’ll be covering the basics of bug out bag gear and helping you put together a comprehensive bug out bag contents list so you and your family can survive in the event of an emergency.
Bug Out Bag Gear List
Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of the gear we think could come in handy in a bug out bag. You definitely don’t need all this gear in your bag, but you should consider adding them to some part of your emergency kit.
It’s probably not surprising that we recommend that you include a multi tool in your bug out bag. Modern multi tools offer tons of useful tools in a very small and portable package. A good quality multi tool allows you to cut things with the knife, break up small branches with a saw, and make small scale repairs with screwdrivers, pliers, and wire cutters plus so much more.
For a bug out bag we think it’s best to focus on the outdoor aspects of multi tools, and for wilderness survival there’s no better multi tool than the Leatherman Signal.
It’s a 4.5 in long full size multi tool offering you 19 different outdoor and general use tools. Some of the standout wilderness specific tools include a ferro rod, diamond coated sharpener for the combo main blade, a robust saw, and an emergency whistle.
It includes a full line up of the most important standard tools like pliers, screwdrivers, and even a hammer. It weighs 7.5 oz and offers a ton of useful features when you’re moving through rough terrain.
In a survival situation you never know what kind of obstacles you’re going to face. You may find yourself needing to clear debris, dig a trench or just needing a good tool to make a cathole. A survival shovel offers some of the best general purpose utility for any bug out tool.
The best modern survival shovels fold down to a fraction of their full size and included extra features like a pickaxe, saw or the ability to be partially folded and used as a hoe. They’re great if you’re unable to find level ground and need to move a bit of earth before setting up your tent.
We’ve previously done a full review on survival shovels, available here, but there was definitely one that stood above the rest.
The SOG Folding Entrenching Tool is based on military issue shovels used by soldiers in the field. It weighs 24.5 oz and is 18.25 in long when fully deployed. It includes a saw tooth edge for cutting wood, and the ability to fold the stainless steel shovel head down for use as a pickaxe.
Once you’re done working with the SOG folding survival shovel it collapses down to about the size of an open hand and fits securely in a nylon carry pouch.
You end up with a very affordable and durable tool that’s easy to fit anywhere in or on your bug out bag.
A folding saw is one of those tools not a lot of people think about when building their bug out bag. That’s a serious mistake in our mind.
A folding saw not only lets you process wood for a fire, it makes clearing debris on the trail or in the road so much easier. You can get through branches and trees up to about 5-6 inches with a quality folding saw. That’s about the largest you’re likely to see in a localized weather event and perfect for breaking up firewood.
We did a full review on folding and multi tool saws, with the Bahco Laplander establishing itself quickly as an excellent contender for best overall folding saw.
It has a 7.1 in long blade with 7 teeth per inch. It uses a push/pull configuration for the teeth that makes it cut through debris faster. It has a corrosion resistant coating that doubles as an anti-stick agent. This makes it glide through wood faster and more efficiently.
It features a comprehensive locking system that keeps the blade safely open or closed. It helps prevent the Laplander from popping open during transit and potentially damaging the rest of your gear.
Overall it’s a very useful tool that doesn’t add a ton of weight to your bag.
If you’re worried about dealing with larger obstacles like full sized trees a pocket chainsaw is a better option than a folding saw. A high-quality pocket chainsaw allows you to cut through tree trunks as large as 8-10 inches in diameter.
They also make it much easier to process large limbs for firewood and weigh less than a folding saw.
We covered pocket chainsaws in a previous review, with the Sportsman Industries 36 in Pocket Chainsaw taking the top spot.
It’s a 36 in long pocket chainsaw with bi directional and self-cleaning teeth. It offers broad and easy to grip hand holds and includes a free ferro rod with every purchase. It’s capable of powering through various sized logs without a problem.
The chain itself is made from high carbon steel and is easy to sharpen with a little practice. Overall it’s a great bug out bag tool at a very reasonable price.
Having a reliable way to start a fire is critical in a disaster or survival situation. The best place to start is with a high-quality windproof lighter running on butane. These are designed to hold their fuel for years and strike up immediately when it counts.
We’ve done a comprehensive review on windproof lighters, including some really cool exotic ones, but there’s one set of tools that we really think you should consider.
The classic Zippo lighter is probably one of the most recognizable tools on the planet. The sturdy metal body, satisfying flick of the lid, and strong flame make it an excellent EDC item, especially considering how many different colors, styles and patterns there are available.
By itself though a Zippo isn’t ideal as a bug out bag lighter. The basic wick style lighter runs on old school liquid lighter fluid and needs to be topped up regularly. By adding in the ZTorch Plus Insert you wind up with a gorgeous Zippo lighter that runs on pressurized butane fuel.
It’s the best of both worlds, a sturdy metal case with a textured grip and a fuel source that can sit in a bug out bag for years and still start up with the first strike. An honorable mention goes out to the ubiquitous BIC mini lighter.
It’s not quite as well-made, reliable or sturdy as the Zippo + ZTorch, but it’s practically free it’s so cheap and available just about anywhere.
A ferro rod is one of those tools most people have seen or even used yet never heard the name of. It’s a small metal rod that’s paired with a striker bar or a pocket knife and shoots off a jet of white hot sparks when struck. These allow you to quickly and reliably ignite a tinder bundle and start a fire.
There are tons of different ferro rod options out there, many of which we review here. Our overall pick was the Exotac NanoStriker Xl.
It’s a lightweight and compact ferro rod with a screw in design. When you’re using the NanoStriker you remove the actual ferro rod from inside the handle and screw it into place.
This allows you to quickly start a fire, then put it back into storage mode. This cuts down on the overall size of the ferro rod and helps protect it from the elements.
There’s an old saying in the preparedness community, “One is none, two is one”. For every truly critical piece of equipment you should always try to have redundancy. One of the best ways to do that with fire starting is though a pack of windproof matches.
There are plenty of manufacturers out there, but only one windproof match that we’d recommend you consider.
The UCO Titan Stormproof matches.
These are very large matches that are coated with an almost excessive amount of accelerant and designed to burn for up to 25 seconds. They’ll light reliably in high wind conditions and come in a waterproof container capable of holding 12 matches.
They’re so over engineered they’ll actually light when wet and continue burning underwater. Throwing a small pack of these in your bug out bag gives you a reliable backup in case your lighter doesn’t work.
Having a lightweight, durable, and reliable source of light in your bug out bag should be high on your list. A high quality flashlight allows you to navigate at night and see what you’re doing during a power outage.
There are tons of great tactical flashlights out there that could fill out your bug out bag list, but in our experience one stands above the rest.
The Surefire Intellibeam Dual Fuel is an LED tactical flashlight capable of providing from 15 to 1,500 lumens depending on conditions. It runs on either two 123a lithium batteries or a single 18650 rechargeable lithium battery.
This allows you to use it as an EDC tool without breaking the bank on batteries while still making sure it’s ready in the event of an emergency. You can cycle through an auto adjust setting or choose a manual click selection.
The body of the Intellibeam is made from aircraft-grade aluminum with a highly textured finish. It’s definitely pricey, but you get a flashlight that will last a lifetime for your money.
There’s nothing like having a source of steady light in a stressful situation. One of the best ways to do this in a bug out bag is with a compact lantern with multiple charging options.
Hand crank and solar powered lanterns have come a long way in just a few years, making them a great choice as part of a bug out bag. They can be charged in the field, and even used to top up your phone or other small devices.
We’ve reviewed a whole bunch of great hand crank lanterns and flashlights before, but for a bug out bag list we recommend the Goal Zero Torch 250.
It’s a 250 lumen flashlight/lantern combo that runs off a 4,400 mAh lithium ion battery. It can be charged through a wall outlet, with a hand crank or through the efficient solar panel built into one side of the Torch.
The lantern is fully adjustable and offers excellent lighting for up to 48 hours. You can also use the USB port built into the Torch 250 to charge up your smartphone. This helps you stay in touch and receive emergency notifications.
If you’ve ever been camping before, you know the value of a quality headlamp. It gives you a reliable source of light while keeping your hands free to focus on a task.
Headlamps are lightweight, inexpensive, and take up almost no space in your bag. If you find yourself traveling at night they’re a lot easier to use than a flashlight you have to hold in place constantly.
Our review on hiking and camping headlamps covered a ton of excellent models, but for use in a bug out bag we think the Petzl e+Lite is the way to go.
It was specially designed for inclusion in emergency kits, with a focus on weight reduction, performance, and long term storage. It weighs barely an ounce and runs on widely available coin cell batteries.
You don’t get a ton of light, about 50 lumens on high, but the runtime is insane. A pair of coin cell batteries give you up to 15h of power. Given its low cost, long storage life, and combination of weight, power, and performance, we think the Petzl e+Lite is the perfect headlamp for a bug out bag.
A good backup solution for providing light if your batteries go dead is an emergency candle or two. These will give you reliable light without requiring power or another source of fuel.
For a bug out bag we recommend you go for a solid candle in a sealed container. This keeps it from leaking out and messing up any other gear and makes it a lot easier to put away.
Our overall review on emergency candles covers a lot of great products, with the Coghlan’s 36 Hour Survival Candle perfectly meeting the bill for a bug out bag candle.
It’s a 6 oz, three wick candle that gives you 12 hours of light per wick. It fits into a snug metal tin and is perfect for packing in a bug out bag.
For a standard 72 hour kit glow sticks are a great value add. They give you a reliable emergency source of light and allow you to signal to others where you’re located at night.
The Cyalume green glow sticks are perfect for use in a bug out bag. They come in packs of 10 and glow brightly for up to 12 hours.
They’re inexpensive, bright, and perfect for signalling at night.
Protein and Energy Bars
With a bug out bag the best kind of food is energy dense and easy to eat. Think things like protein bars, granola or other high-calorie food that doesn’t require cooking.
When you’re packing your bug out bag the SOS Food Labs New Millenium Energy Bars fit the bill perfectly. They’re shelf stable and designed in the same way as lifeboat rations.
Each bar provides you with 400 calories and has a great taste. They help break up the monotony of traditional emergency rations.
They can stand up to a wide range of temperatures and come in a variety of different fruit flavors. Even better, they’re sealed in individual foil serving packs so you only have to use what you need to eat and can leave the rest for later.
Dehydrated and Freeze Dried Food Packets
Hiking and camping food is another great item to include in your bug out bag. Tasty meals are dehydrated or freeze dried and sealed in foil pouches. This gives them a decades long shelf life and a great taste.
They do require boiling water to rehydrate but are overall one of the best foods for a bug out bag.
Mountain House makes a huge variety of different camping and emergency food pouches, including a really nice 14 day emergency supply kit. This lets you quickly get enough food for several days in a variety of different flavors and types.
Entrees include things like beef stroganoff, biscuits and gravy, and rice and chicken. This gives you some really tasty meals that only require a few minutes to cook up.
Military Meals (MRE – Meal, Ready to Eat)
MRE’s, short for Meal, Ready to Eat, are shelf stable meal kits developed by the U.S. Military. Full MRE kits include an entree, a flavored drink pack, sides, candies, and all sorts of goodies designed to provide you with a tasty and nutritious meal.
They come packed ready to eat in foil pouches and cardboard boxes. They’re lightweight, easy to pack, and require no cooking, though many kits include a chemical heating system designed to heat them up.
They’re available in tons of different flavors, recipes, and types. You can either purchase full kits or pick and choose from your favorite entrees, sides, and add ons.
In a survival situation the food you eat may not contain all the nutrients you need for long-term health. If it’s just a two or three day emergency this isn’t a big deal, but if you’re dealing with a major situation it’s important that you address this.
Multivitamins are an easy solution to this problem. They’re designed to provide you with all the minerals, vitamins, and other micronutrients you need to stay healthy and strong.
The Animal Pak multivitamin is a nutrient packed product designed for body builders and other extreme athletes. It includes multiple supplements in single serve packs, making it easy to measure out how many days of vitamins you want to include in your pack.
It offers vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and other essential nutrients at a very lightweight.
Most people know that the human body can only go a few days without water. When you’re preparing your bug out bag you need to make sure that water supply is one of your primary considerations.
We recommend you factor in at least a liter of water per person per day into your calculations. Half a gallon would be even better, but that’s a lot of weight to carry.
Factor in how you’ll carry water, how you’ll get more water, and how much water you start with. One of the best tips we heard was to pack your bug out bag with one or two gallon jugs of purified water.
That way you keep your water bottles or hydration bladder from getting scuzzy or growing anything weird but always have sufficient water for an emergency.
A water bottle is one of the most classic pieces of gear you can carry. It offers a durable way to carry water and is easy to refill just about anywhere.
For a bug out bag you don’t need anything too fancy. You want to go with something that’s made from a durable material like stainless steel, aluminum or sturdy plastic. You also want it to have a fairly wide mouth opening.
This makes it a lot easier to fill from a variety of sources. We recommend you go with the Nalgene Tritan 1L bottle.
It’s an inexpensive water bottle made from BPA-free plastic and is designed to stand up to hard use. The Tritan was built as a hiking bottle. It fits in just about any standard backpack water bottle slot and had a secure screw top lid that’s got an attachment cord you can clip a carabiner to.
Best of all, its 1L/1 quart sizing makes it the perfect tool to ensure that you’re drinking enough water every day. As long as you drain one of these whole bottles you’ll be okay.
Hydration bladders have exploded in popularity among hikers, campers, and extreme sports enthusiasts. They offer a great way to hold a lot of water in a hands free and ergonomic way.
These are rubber or polymer pouches that fit down into your backpack and allow you to drink water through a tube. Most hold 2 or even 3 liters of water and are designed to be tear and puncture resistant.
Our overall favorite is the Platypus Big Zip 3L reservoir. It uses a zip lock style seal along the top of the bladder and makes it easy for you to fill and drain it when necessary.
Filled to the top it offers enough water to survive for 3 days and weighs just 6.5 oz. You can connect and disconnect the drinking straw with ease, allowing you to keep yourself from drinking tomorrows water today.
It’s basically impossible to carry enough water for more than a few days in a single pack. Water’s heavy, and a water filter allows you to replenish your stock even when you aren’t certain how pure the water source is.
Modern day water filters are smaller and lighter than at any time previously. You can get a top of the line filter capable of removing 99.999% of bacteria, protozoans, and other little nasties for a shockingly low amount of money.
We’ve done a comprehensive review on water filters before, with one product really standing head and shoulders above the rest.
The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is an ultra-lightweight and high capacity filter. It weighs just 2 oz yet is rated to filter up to 100,000 gallons of water.
It does this using a hollow fiber membrane filter capable of removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium, and 100% of any microplastics found in water.
This lets you take microbiologically questionable water and quickly squeeze it through the filter for pure drinking water. The whole system weighs just a few ounces and takes up almost no space in your bag.
Water filters are great, and absolutely should be your first choice for backcountry water purification. Like anything though, they can break down. When that happens in a survival scenario it’s important you have a backup.
The best thing to do is carry some water purification tablets as well. They’re feather light and capable of removing microbiological contaminants from your drinking water. We don’t recommend them as a primary water filtration method simply because they often add a somewhat unpleasant taste to your water.
There are several companies making water purification tablets, but for out bug out bag list we recommend Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets with PA Plus.
This is actually a two stage purification process that first purifies your water, then neutralizes the purifying agent to remove the negative taste. They come in a pair of small glass jars each rated to filter 25 liters of water.
If you and your family have to evacuate during a disaster you never know for sure what kind of conditions you’ll find yourself in. Having your own cookware and utensils can go a long way towards improving your comfort.
Hiking and camping sporks weigh practically nothing and offer you the ability to eat any kind of food.
We recommend you check out the Light My Fire Titanium Spork. It’s a full size eating utensil yet weighs less than an ounce. Unlike a lot of camping sporks it actually has a full sized spoon and full sized fork included.
It uses a two sided design to give you the best of both worlds. Because it’s made of titanium it’s incredibly easy to clean, super durable, and can stand up to extremely high temperatures. Overall it’s one of the best yet most affordable camping sporks on the market.
If you plan to do any cooking with your bug out bag it’s essential you bring an effective set of cookware. Modern hiking pots are lightweight, tiny, and incredibly durable.
They offer you a great way to quickly boil water for rehydrating camping rations, brewing coffee or making a bracing cup of tea. They can also be used for more general purpose cooking in a pinch.
For a bug out bag list we recommend the GSI Outdoors Halulite MicrDualist. It offers you a full mess kit for two, including a 1.4 liter pot made from their proprietary Halulite alloy, two folding sporks, and four cups/bowls.
This allows you to quickly boil water over a camping stove or fire then transfer your meal to individual dishes. You can also make yourself a nice cup of tea, coffee or cocoa to help improve morale.
If you find yourself evacuating during cold weather conditions it can be a real problem staying warm. A great solution is a portable hand warmer rated for multiple hours of use.
You can go with a reusable one you can refill or a chemically activated one time use hand warmer.
Our full review covered a lot of great products, but for a bug out bag there are two we’d recommend.
If you live in a very cold climate and have to worry about 24+ hours of exposure the Zippo Hand Warmer and a small bottle of lighter fluid is the way to go. It offers up to 12 hours of warmth on a single fill and is lightweight, highly durable, and extremely warm.
For folks who don’t want to have to worry about carrying fuel, a pack of HotHands Hand Warmers is just the ticket. These are chemically activated hand warmers that react when exposed to air and create a lot of heat.
Each one can work for up to 10 hours, with the first 2 hours providing the most heat. They’re super lightweight and can fit down in just about any pocket, allowing you to carry 10+ hand warmers for the same weight and size of the Zippo.
Camping Blanket and Groundcover
Staying warm is important in a disaster scenario, but we think there are better ways to do so than with a standard blanket. A new segment of the camping blanket market offer ultra lightweight ground cover that keeps you dry and comfortable.
These are made from thin materials like parachute nylon that are waterproof and capable of protecting you from the elements while sitting or lying down.
We’ve done a review on these camping blankets and more traditional wool and down versions, in our experience one product really stood out from the pack.
The Matador Pocket Blanket 2.0 gives you a great way to stay dry while resting during a disaster. It weighs under 4 oz yet offers 63” x 44” of groundcover.
The whole thing packs down into a tiny little pouch that can be stored in a pocket or clipped to the outside of your pack. It has built in metal stakes, making it easy to secure in windy conditions.
One of the essential pieces of gear to include on your bug out bag list is an emergency blanket. These are tiny little blankets made from aluminized mylar capable of reflecting up to 90% of the body’s heat.
They come in packs about the size of a deck of cards and weigh almost nothing, allowing you to carry several backups in your bug out bag. The highly reflective silver backing can also be used as a signalling device.
Our pick for a bug out bag emergency blanket is the Titan Two-Sided Emergency Space Blanket. It was originally developed for space exploration by NASA and provides tons of value in an emergency.
Each blanket is large enough to fully wrap around an adult yet weighs just 1.75 oz. They come in a pack of five, plenty for the whole family.
A hiking hammock is one of the best sleep systems you can pack into your bug out bag. It’s lightweight, keeps you up off the ground, and offers a much more comfortable nights sleep than just a sleep pad on the ground.
Hammock tents take the basic hiking hammock and give you a complete sleep system. They include straps, bug nets, a rain cover, and the hammock itself.
Our full review on hammock tents covered a lot of really nice hiking and camping gear, but not all of it was suitable for a bug out bag. We recommend you check out the ENO Onelink Hammock Shelter System.
It’s made up of an ENO hammock, ProFly rain tarp, Guardian bug net, and Atlas strap system. It comes from one of the most respected names in the outdoor hammock market and unlike some other hammock tents on the market it’s not all of a single piece.
You can set up whatever parts of the hammock tent you need and even remove some pieces from your bug out bag to lighten the load.
If you already own a hiking hammock there’s no need to buy a full hammock tent. A quality hammock tarp and rain fly will give you protection from the elements in your existing hammock.
Our full review on hammock tarps covered many of the best and most popular products on the market, with one standing out noticeably for use in a bug out bag list.
The ENO ProFly Rain Tarp is without a doubt one of the best and most widely used hammock tarps available. It’s made from polyurethane treated 210D ripstop nylon designed to repel moisture and stand up to heavy use.
It weighs just 22 oz and is easy to set up in a variety of different configurations. You can spread it out wide to allow a cross breeze on hot nights or pull it tightly around you to help keep you warm during winter.
A sleeping bag is one of the most basic pieces of camping gear. When you’re planning your bug out bag gear list a sleeping bag is one of the most valuable items you can include.
If you already hike and camp your existing bag will work just fine as a bug out sleeping bag. If not there are a few things you need to look for in a good sleeping bag.
Mummy bags are the way to go, especially if you live in a colder climate. They weigh less and provide more warmth than traditional rectangular bags. You want a bag that fits your environment. Don’t automatically go for a 0°, for most non-winter conditions that’s going to be uncomfortably warm.
The Klymit KSB Down Sleeping bag is a high-quality mummy bag that won’t break the bank. It uses natural down insulation and is rated down to 20°. It’s also designed for hiking use so it’s lightweight, just 2.75 lbs, and incredibly packable.
It offers excellent features like flexible down baffles and an adjustable length to prevent or create air pockets, keeping your body warmer or cooler depending on conditions.
Not sure you want to lug a full sleeping bag around? A thermal bivy is a great compromise for a bug out bag. It’s basically an emergency blanket stitched into a roughly sleeping bag shape.
It fills the same role as a sleeping bag does but at a fraction of the weight and size. They won’t stand up to use for more than a week or so before beginning to show signs of wear, but for a bug out bag they’re perfect.
The Survival Frog Tact Bivy is a great example of a thermal bivy. It’s made using a reflective polyester film and weighs just 4.8 oz. Despite this it’s capable of reflecting up to 90% of the body’s heat back during the night.
It’s blaze orange, perfect for staying visible or signalling during and emergency, and comes with an emergency whistle as well. The whole thing packs down into a small pouch about the size of a can of soup.
Having an effective sleeping pad can be the difference between life or death in a survival situation. Sleeping pads provide comfort, sure, but they also keep your body from contacting the icy cold ground.
You can lose significant amounts of body head to ground contact. Inflatable sleeping pads are best for a bug out bag, as they take up a lot less space than their foam counterparts.
We’ve reviewed a bunch of the best sleeping pads on the market before, with one catching our eye for bug out bag contents.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm is an ultralight inflatable backpacking sleeping pad. It weighs just 15 oz and packs down to a 9” x 4” cylinder when not in use.
It’s insulated to protect against heat loss and inflates to about 2.5 in. This gives you substantial comfort during a disaster, whether you’re sleeping outdoors or in a community shelter.
A tent isn’t an essential item to include in a bug out bag, but it is nice to have if you’ve got space. It offers a portable shelter from the wind and rain, plus the ability to protect your gear from the elements.
For a bug out bag we recommend the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx. It’s a roomy freestanding one-person tent that uses two aluminum poles for support.
It’s easy to set up, made from durable and water resistant materials, and offers a vestibule to store your gear out of the rain. The tent including rain fly weighs just 4 lbs 1 oz and is very reasonably priced.
A quality first aid kit should always be included on your bug out bag list. There are far too many ways to be injured during a disaster, having a good IFAK can save your life.
Your individual first aid kit should pack in the essentials needed to treat the most common types of injuries. We recommend things like sterile gauze, quick clotting powder or sponges, Israeli bandages, and things like tourniquets.
This allows you to treat the most life threatening injuries and can save a life while you wait for first responders to arrive.
We’ve done a full review on IFAK pouches, with one ready made kit perfect for use in a bug out bag.
The Lightning X Outdoor Enthusiast’s IFAK is a densely packed little MOLLE bag that includes the basic trauma gear you’d need in an emergency. It comes standard with things like a tourniquet, trauma shears, an Israeli bandage, and much more.
It gives you the tools to save your life or the life of someone you care about in the event of a sudden traumatic injury.
Trauma shears offer a lot of utility in a disaster scenario. They’re excellent for their intended purpose of course, but the right pair can also be used to cut through wire and other obstacles during your evacuation.
They’re designed to power through things like clothes, seat belts, and other materials during an emergency. EMT’s, nurses, and other first responders all swear by trauma shears.
In our full review we covered lots of excellent trauma shears, with the Leatherman Raptor coming out as the clear winner for overall best.
They’re collapsible trauma shears designed for EMT’s and other first responders. They fold down for easy storage and transport yet offer some of the best performance available.
Like all good Leatherman products the Raptors are true multi tools. They offer six different tools, including trauma shears, a ring cutter, a strap cutter, an oxygen wrench, and a carbide window breaker.
It’s easy to see how these tools would come in hand during a survival situation. You could cut your way free of a wrecked car, break windows to escape from an earthquake damaged building, and much much more.
Basic First Aid Kit
Not everyone is going to have the training to effectively use an IFAK. For a lot of people a basic first aid kit will provide all the medical supplies they’re comfortable using.
These include things like bandages, antiseptics, acetaminophen/ibuprofen, moleskin for blisters, and basic tools like tweezers, safety pins, and tape.
For a bug out bag you want something like the Adventure Ultralight and Watertight Kit. It comes in a waterproof plastic pouch that keeps it safe during storage and includes all the basic supplies you’re likely to need during an emergency.
You can choose between several size kits, each with a little bit more gear requiring a bit more knowledge of first aid.
One thing a lot of people overlook when putting together their bug out bag contents is sunscreen. When you’re evacuating there’s a very real chance you may need to go on foot.
The last thing you want during a physically and mentally stressful situation is to deal with a bad sunburn. Make sure to throw a reasonable sized bottle in your bag and check it regularly.
The type you choose to include will depend heavily on your own skin type and the amount of sun where you live.
Bug spray is another important comfort item to include in your bag. It protects you from mosquitoes and other biting/stinging insects and can help prevent the spread of diseases during a disaster.
Deciding whether or not to carry a weapon during a disaster is a deeply personal decision. A stun gun offers a nonlethal tool you can use to protect yourself and your family in the event of an attack.
The ViperTek Stun Gun is a rechargeable self-defense tool that can help you defend yourself. It delivers a powerful shock to an assailant and gives you a backup LED flashlight.
It can be charged up at any outlet, saving you money over purchasing new batteries.
A tactical pen is one of the best self-defense tools you can carry. It works in your daily life as a quality pen, but acts as a martial arts kubotan-like striking device if you have to defend yourself.
Because it’s a pen you can carry it just about anywhere, including places like disaster shelters that usually don’t allow weapons.
The Benchmade 1100 Series Tactical pen is a great example. They’re available in a range of premium materials like titanium, anodized aluminum, or stainless steel, and include a very high-quality ballpoint pen.
It has an elegant sloping shape that looks nothing like a weapon. Because it’s from Benchmade you know that the craftsmanship is top notch. The pen is extremely lightweight yet has a blunt pointed tip capable of doing significant damage in the event you have to defend yourself.
A high quality pair of gloves is one of the best pieces of personal protective equipment to include on your bug out bag list. They protect your hands from broken glass, debris, and other potential hazards.
They also make it much easier to move wood and work with heavy tools. We’ve previously reviewed tactical gloves, with the Mechanix Wear M-Pact providing the best combination of quality, fit, and value.
These are heavy duty gloves with knuckles and finger guards reinforced with thermoplastic rubber. This helps you protect your fingers and hands from impact damage while working with tools or in a combat scenario.
They’re made with a TrekDry material to keep your hands safe from damage yet still cool and comfortable. Even better, the M-Pact gloves are fully machine washable.
Whether or not to include bear spray in your bug out bag really depends on local conditions. If you live somewhere with a known bear population it’s not a bad idea to include a canister.
Bear spray helps fend off an attacking bear without permanently injuring it. In a review of bear attacks it’s been shown to be even more effective than firearms at protecting people from harm.
In our full review of commercial bear sprays we identified a lot of really nice products. For a bug out bag though, we recommend the Counter Assault spray.
It has the maximum concentration of capsaicin allowed by law and offers an 8 second continuous spray. This is even more impressive considering its 40 foot range of effect.
The Counter Assault comes with an easy to use nylon belt pouch to help you keep it right at hand when it counts.
When preparing your bug out bag you need to be ready for the most likely and most dangerous disasters. In the event of a wildfire or significant weather event a dust mask is a great value add.
It allows you to keep moving even in high dust/ash conditions without risking your lungs. An N95 mask is the standard for emergency preparedness, with the choice of a disposable or multi-use mask up to you.
If you decide to go with a durable mask we recommend the VogMask. It was originally designed for use on the dusty playas of Burning Man and has proven to be an excellent mask.
It can filter out 95% of particles down to the pm 2.5 range, including things like dust, ash, pollution, and pollen. Best of all, it’s available in a vast range of colors, patterns, and sizes. You can find ones that your kids will be delighted to wear.
Keeping in touch with the outside world is critical in a disaster scenario. An emergency radio gives you the ability to listen to AM, FM, and NOAA emergency weather frequencies.
The best emergency radios offer multiple charging methods, include features like flashlights and charging ports, and can be used in wet or rainy conditions.
In our full review of emergency radios we identified a lot of great products. For a bug out bag we recommend the Kaito KA500BU Voyager.
It’s a robust and ruggedly designed emergency radio offering a full range of frequencies. It has a weather alert function that notifies you of important information and can be charged from a wall outlet, through the hand crank on the side or with the included solar panel.
It’s water resistant, includes an LED flashlight, and can be used to charge your smartphone during an emergency.
An emergency whistle is a really useful extra to have in your bug out bag. It allows you to signal for help in an emergency no matter the weather conditions. The really piercing ones can even be used as a self-defense device in an emergency.
We did a full review of various emergency whistles available, with the All Weather Whistles Safety Whistle really standing out.
It’s marketed as the loudest whistle on the market, and produces a piercing tone that can be heard even underwater. The design lets you blow the whistle in all weather conditions.
A signal mirror is a very useful extra to have in case of an emergency. It allows you to get the attention of emergency services personel from a distance using just the light of the sun.
Coghlan’s Survival Signal Mirror is an inexpensive and highly functional signal mirror perfect for use in a bug out bag. It has a mesh targeting hole that allows you to point it exactly at who you wish to signal and measures 2” by 3”.
Walkie Talkie Radios
If you’re traveling in a group walkie talkies can be a great way to keep in touch. They offer localized communications and run off of batteries.
This makes it easy to find each other in the event you get separated or send some members of your group off to check something out.
The Midland GXT1000VP4 is a great set of bug out bag walkie talkies. They’re 50 channel GSMR two-way radios with an effective range of up to 36 miles.
They include access to NOAA emergency weather channels and can be charged via wall outlet, car outlet or with a solar panel system.
Flares are great to include in a car kit or as a signalling device in a bug out bag. They can light under any conditions and make you incredibly visible.
The Orion Locate Handheld flares offer a three minute burn time and are visible at up to five miles distance. They’re not too heavy and pack well, making them perfect as a last ditch signalling device in the event of an emergency.
While this one may seem obvious a cell phone is a great tool to have during an emergency. Modern day smartphones have tons of apps that could be useful in a disaster, including offline GPS, compass apps, emergency guides, and radio receivers.
Another great idea if you have any old phone lying around is to keep them charged up near your bug out bag. They can’t be used to get in touch with friends or family, but they’ll still work to make emergency calls.
Wet Napkins / Baby Wipes
Wet wipes or baby wipes are an excellent extra to include in your bug out bag. They allow you to stay clean and comfortable even when showers aren’t available.
If you have baby wipes lying around they’ll work in a pinch, but we recommend something a little stronger and more effective.
Dude Shower Body Wipes are specially designed for use as workout, hiking, and camping body wipes. They’re hypoallergenic and made from extra thick materials to stand up to serious cleaning.
They can remove dirt, sweat, and help reduce body odor to keep you feeling like a civilized human.
Travel Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Maintaining dental hygiene is an essential part of staying healthy during a disaster. We highly recommend you put a toothbrush and travel container of toothpaste in your bug out bag to help with this.
Floss wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
During a major disaster it’s unlikely you’ll be able to effectively wash your hands. High-strength hand sanitizer kills harmful bacteria on your hands and helps keep you safe.
The Purell Advanced Sanitizer for First Aid Providers is specially formulated for use by medical professionals. It kills 99.99% of common illness causing germs and helps keep you and your family healthy even when hand washing facilities aren’t available.
During a disaster it’s important to try and stay clean and tidy. Having your own soap with you is a great way to make sure any opportunity to bathe doesn’t go unused.
You should do your best to carry a natural soap in case you wind up washing down in a creek or lake. We recommend Dr. Bronners Pure Liquid Castile Soap.
It’s made using natural ingredients and is widely available. You can purchase it in small travel containers or decant a large bottle into a sturdy travel bottle. It does a great job making you feel clean and fresh while still being good for the environment.
A travel towel is one of the best comfort items you can include in your bug out bag. It gives you the ability to dry off and clean up a bit no matter where you are.
Modern travel and camping towels are made from ultralight materials designed to fold down and dry out quickly. The 4Monster Microfiber Towel is one of these.
It’s available in a variety of sizes and colors and comes standard with an EVA polymer carry case. It’s inexpensive, high-quality, and perfect for packing into a bug out bag.
Travel Toilet Paper
No matter where you are or what the situation, toilet paper is always going to be essential. A standard household roll isn’t a good idea in a bug out bag though.
It’s easy for it to get wet and become pretty useless. You need toilet paper that’s compact and comes in a waterproof container.
Coleman makes some great Camper’s Toilet Paper in a compact roll. It’s packaged in a resealable plastic bag and provides you with nearly 200 sheets of premium 2 ply toilet paper.
Vaseline is one of those items that a lot of people wouldn’t think to include on a bug out bag contents list. That completely overlooks the multiple ways it can come in hand.
If you’re bugging out there’s a good chance environmental conditions won’t be ideal. Vaseline is a great thing to have for use on your lips, dry skin, or other injuries.
It also makes a really effective firestarter when applied to leaves, cotton balls, or paper.
A Disaster Plan
There’s a saying in the preparedness community, skills and planning always beat out gear. It doesn’t matter how well equipped you are if you don’t know where to go in the event of a disaster.
Sit down with your family and write out at least a basic emergency plan. It should include things like meet up locations, emergency contact information, and the standard evacuation routes for your region. Don’t forget to include a backup plan in case the primary route is unavailable.
If you have children, it’s essential that they know who they’re supposed to go with in the event of an emergency, and how to get in touch with you or another member of the family.
Cash and ID
In a disaster situation cash is king. We recommend you pack at least a few hundred dollars in small bills in your bug out bag. This gives you ready cash for things like gas, food, hotels or any other expense that comes up.
There’s no guarantee electronic methods of payment will be working during a major disaster.
Another important point that many people forget is identification. Just about everyone carries their driver’s license with them, but what your passport or ccw? In the event of a disaster like a wildfire your home may be damaged or even destroyed.
You don’t want to lose your passport, birth certificates, social security card, and other important documents.
One of the best ways to create a backup is with a scanner and microsd cards. You can create a digital copy of all your most important documents in the event of a major disaster. This makes it a whole lot easier to pick up the pieces afterwards.
One of the most useful pieces of bug out gear you can have is a reliable way to navigate. Paper maps are a great backup, but a modern GPS hiking watch will get you where you need to go a lot easier and faster.
We’ve done a full review on many great GPS and non-GPS hiking watches, but the Garmin Fenix F5 Plus is without a doubt one of the best.
It offers full GPS navigation, including on and off road, topographical maps, and backcountry wayfinding. It doubles as a full fitness tracker and smartwatch. This makes it easy to track your heart rate and other important metrics to see how your body is handling a disaster.
It will run for 13 hours on a single charge in full GPS mode, or up to 20 days when used as a fitness tracker and smartwatch. Best of all, it’s fully waterproof for use in wet and rainy conditions.
It’s never a bad idea to have multiple ways to navigate. By pairing a high quality orienteering compass with up to date maps you can get just about anywhere without issue.
Our full review covered numerous compasses across a range of size, functionality, and design, with the Suunto MC-2 perfectly fitting the bill for a bug out bag compass.
It’s a lightweight mirrored compass offering all the features needed to quickly plot a route. It has a global needle calibrated to work anywhere in the world and is made from durable yet lightweight composite materials.
Paracord, Paracord Survival Kit or Paracord Bracelet
A paracord bracelet is an EDC tool that works well with a bug out bag. It gives you several meters of high-strength paracord right on your wrist.
If you want to take it to the next level you can even get miniature survival kits built right into your bracelet. These aren’t massive, with ones like the Last Man Ultimate Paracord Survival Kit offering just a few key pieces of gear, but they are with you at all times.
If you want to increase your cordage you can get something like the Holtzman’s Survival Paracord Grenade. It contains more than 40 feet of paracord plus over 48 different tools useful in a survival situation.
Binoculares aren’t an essential item for a basic bug out bag, but they can really come in handy. Compact binoculars allow you to see what’s ahead of you and avoid potential hazards well before you come across them.
We’ve done a full review on compact binoculars for hunting, hiking, and exploring, with the Steiner Tactical 10X28 binoculars fitting the bill for a bug out bag.
They’re durable and ergonomically designed binoculars that provide high definition optics. They’re lightweight, easy to adjust and care for, and give you a 266 ft field of view.
If you believe you’ll be in a wilderness area while bugging out snare wire is invaluable. It allows you to set up traps to catch wild game for protein.
It requires a bit of knowledge to get started, but once you know what you’re doing you’ll find them very effective at providing nutrition.
The Thompson Snares Trapping Survival Kit provides you with two complete snares designed for trapping small game. It also includes a basic manual explaining how to set them up and ways to find areas likely to have game.
If your bug out bag includes any hiking or camping food requiring cooking you’re going to need a hiking stove. These are featherlight little stoves designed to run off a variety of different fuels.
The most popular are isobutane stoves that weigh barely an ounce and provide extremely hot jets of flames that can quickly boil water.
We did a full review on various hiking stove options, but recommend the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe for use in a bug out bag.
It’s built for the ultralight hiking market and weighs just 2.9 oz. It includes a lot of premium features, like a push button igniter and broad burner head for the most efficient heat distribution.
It’s capable of boiling 1L of water in just 3 minutes and 18 seconds. This gives you significant run time on a single canister of fuel.
Portable Solar Panel
Being able to power small electronics in an emergency such as flashlights, lanterns, and phones is really nice. The most effective way to do so is with a portable solar panel.
These are high-efficiency folding solar panels that can charge up batteries or devices during the day. They work best under bright sunlight so may not be useful if you’re planning for weather events like major storms or hurricanes.
In our full review of portable solar panels for hiking, we found the BigBlue 5V 28W folding panel to offer the best combination of features, performance, and durability.
It weighs just 21 oz and is less than a foot long and half a food wide in storage mode. It has a built in SmartIC chip that intelligently charges sensitive electronics like a smartphone or tablet.
The actual solar panels are monocrystalline for maximum efficiency and wrapped in a PET polymer to protect them during hard travel.
Spare clothes aren’t usually an immediate survival imperative in the event of a disaster. Depending on where you live this may change. We recommend everyone pack an extra pair of quality hiking socks and underwear for comfort, but those who live in very cold climates may need more.
A good rule of thumb is to leave a warm baselayer, sweater, and possibly a coat near your bug out bag during the winter. That way you’ll be ready to survive outdoors even during winter conditions.
While we don’t recommend you pack a full rod and reel in your bug out bag, a small emergency fishing kit is never a bad idea. It should include the basics like line, hooks, bobbers, weights, and a few small lures or pieces of bait.
We did a full review on emergency fishing kits, with the ASE Compact Survival Fishing Kit really standing out.
If offered the best combination of useful gear and low cost we saw. It includes all the basic things you’d need to catch small to medium fish plus a few very useful extras.
Most bug out bag lists are going to include things like flashlights, radios, and other electronic devices. Make sure you pack extra batteries for this gear with your bug out bag.
As a general rule, never pack any electronic with batteries inside. We’ve seen a lot of really nice gear get ruined by unexpected battery corrosion or damage. Always keep batteries separate from your gear in a sealed container.
Duct tape needs no introduction. It’s incredibly useful for a wide variety of tasks and well worth the extra weight to have on hand.
You can use it to patch your pack, clothes, and gear or to help make emergency repairs to a vehicle or other piece of kit.
For bug out bag contents we recommend the Gorilla Tape To-Go pack. It’s a smaller version of their wildly popular duct tape. The roll gives you 10 feet of extra thick and sticky tape and is much more portable than other brands.
Zip ties are another item that’s very useful to have in your bug out bag. They can be used to attach items to your bag, make emergency repairs or even as an emergency restraint device in case of an attack.
A few zip ties weigh almost nothing and are available at a very affordable price at your local hardware store.
Bandana, Shemagh or other Headwear
It’s hard to overestimate just how useful a quality bandana can be in a disaster situation. A good quality large size bandana can be used as a head cover, a dust mask, to tie gear together, as a water pre filter, and much much more.
They’re dirt cheap, high-quality, and weigh just about nothing. We highly recommend you include several on your bug out bag list just for their general usefulness.
We did a full review on bandanas, shemaghs, and other hiking/tactical head wraps, but for a basic bug out bag we think the classic cotton bandana is the way to go.
Levis makes a really nice cotton bandana. They’re durable, large, and easy to tie to a pack or belt. You can choose from a huge variety of different patterns, including classic western styles or things like camo.
Safety Pins and Sewing Kit
A good mini sewing kit with safety pins is one of those things you don’t often think about until you need it. The ability to quickly patch up rips, tears, and holes in your clothes goes a long way towards keeping you warm and comfortable.
You don’t need anything fancy, just a few sewing needles, some thread, and several safety pins for basic repairs.
A gas mask isn’t an absolute necessity for a bug out bag. Most disasters aren’t going to involve chemical, biological, or nuclear contaminants.
There’s also the fact actually effective gas masks are really expensive. We’re talking multiple hundreds of dollars up to thousands, plus the cost of up to date filters.
If you really want to include one in your preps though, the Avon Full Face Respirator M50 Gas Mask is a great option. It’s reasonably priced and capable of accepting the best quality filters.
It’s built to military specifications and offers effective protection against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.
The last thing we recommend you include in your bug out bag isn’t necessarily going to be something physical. If you’re going to make it out of a disaster you have to have the will to keep going.
Hope is a powerful force.
It pushes you to keep moving even though it’s difficult, and you’re tired, and it would be so easy to give up. Hope will be different things for different people.
For some it might be a religious text, for others a national flag or a picture of their loved ones.
Whatever brings you hope, do your best to include it in your bug out bag.
Build Your Own: Bug Out Bag Content Buyer’s Guide
When choosing between different pieces of bug out gear it’s important you keep a few key considerations in mind. Even the best quality bug out gear might not be the most efficient option for your particular situation.
Too many people take the ‘just in case’ mindset to the limit with a bug out bag. Lighter weight is always better when talking about preparedness.
Remember that there’s a good chance you’ll end up carrying your bug out bag on your back across potentially rough terrain. If you’ve got a 65 lb pack on your back and have never carried it before you’re not going to get far.
For most situations 72 hours worth of food and water will be enough. Pack accordingly.
Quality Over Quantity
The last thing you want to do is buy a huge amount of low quality gear. Wherever possible you should invest in durable gear that does what it’s supposed to do.
It’s always better to have smaller amounts of truly crucial gear of good quality. Things like shelter systems, food, water, and filtration should be your priority. Once you have the basics you can add in other gear and expand your bug out bag accordingly.
In keeping with weight reduction and quality over quantity, pick multi-purpose gear wherever possible. Multi-tools are a great example of this. They can fulfill the role of a knife, tools, camping hammer, and so much more.
Any time you can combine two parts of your bug out bag system together into a single tool you should do so.
Your Personal Health and Fitness
Your own health and fitness will play a major role in how you deal with a disaster. If you’re a twenty something in prime physical health, you’ll be able to carry a lot more gear a lot more effectively than a 65 year old with significant health issues.
If you have a chronic condition that requires frequent medication it’s vital that you prepare for this ahead of time. Diabetics are one group who should pay special attention here. The American Diabetes Association has published an emergency guide for diabetics with a lot of good information.
Physical fitness is probably the biggest determining factor in how well you’ll do in a disaster. The more in shape you are the easier it will be for you to handle the physical strain of survival.
Your Environment and Possible Disasters
The most important thing to consider when building out your bug out bag gear list is the threat environment you face. Someone living in Florida is going to need a lot more hurricane preparedness items than someone living in the American Southwest or Western Europe.
A great place to start is one the FEMA website. They have a ton of resources for Americans that can help you find out what kind of threats your region is likely to face and how to prepare for them.
Dependents and Bug Out Buddies
Strength in numbers absolutely applies when bugging out. If at all possible you should try and coordinate with friends, family, and neighbors. A prepared community is much more resilient to disasters than any one person can hope to be.
If you have a group effort you can make larger purchases of shared goods and save money. You can also buy larger gear that requires multiple people to transport/use but provides significant value.
Think a community generator, large scale emergency water treatment system or something like a neighborhood solar system with battery bank.
If you have a family it falls upon you to plan for their safety. Parents of young children will have to carry all their gear, but as they get older you can begin building bug out bags for them as well.
Your Skill Level
Skills always outweigh equipment. If you’ve got significant experience and understanding of survival skills and techniques you’re going to do better than someone with zero experience and the best gear possible.
The first thing you should do to prepare for an emergency is to improve your skill base. Go hiking, camping, and pursue other outdoor activities that will help you get comfortable with walking long distances with a heavy pack and give you better general outdoor skills.
First aid classes and other emergency preparedness training is also a great idea. This allows you to take care of the people around you much more effectively in the event of an emergency.
What it comes right down to is that there is no perfect bug out bag.
The perfect bug out bag for you is going to be be customized for your local area, with the gear you know how to use and that applies to your situation.
Even within your family different bug out bags will likely have slightly different contents based on personal preference and needs.
As long as you keep your own needs in mind and pack the basics you’ll be more prepared than the vast majority of Americans.