If you have never heard of a Bug Out Bag or (BOB), you have come to the right spot. Everyone should have a BOB. So what exactly is a BOB and why do I need it. A BOB (also know as a 72 hour bag) is a bag that is packed and ready to go when you need to get out of your home and to a secure location. It is packed with minimal needs to get your through 3 days. If you don't have one ready, read on to learn what goes inside.
Essential Items to Have in A Bug Out Bag
The American Red Cross and FEMA recommend having a Bug Out Bag. A backpack makes a great BOB. The items you will need are 2-3 days worth of food plus snacks, water and a water container, means of water purification, backpacking cookware, fire, fire kit, waterproof matches, a flint and steel(striker), tinder, backpacking tent or tarp, blankets, knife, a good multi-tool, small hand shovel, 550 paracord, duct tape, sewing kit, wrench or pliers, large heavy-duty contractor garbage bags, binoculars, documents, rain poncho, clothes, personal care items/hygiene, bandana, wet wipes, comb, hunting/fishing gear, self-defense/safety item, first-aid kit, lighting, cell phone (communication/entertainment), radio, travel aids,
This is not going to be the healthiest or yummiest list of food available. A bug-out bag must have everything you need to survive for at least three days; it needs to contain at least 72 hours’ worth of food. Avoid cans, focusing instead on light weight foods which are easy to carry. Personalize this list to your family’s needs and tastes. If someone has special eating guidelines please keep that in mind and plan their meals accordingly. You need to plan for three “meals” and 2 or 3 “snacks” per day. Shoot for as much protein as possible as it helps you feel full longer. A little something sweet is also nice. The “cold” items are easy and quick for eating on the go. The “Hot” food require that you have a bit of time to heat up and would be best eaten when you are settled in your Bug Out location. You will also need some way to eat the food you prepare; a simple mess kit is a good investment as is a good utensil set.
Cold– Eat straight out of the package: Protein Bars, nuts, trail mix, cereal bars, beef jerky, peanut butter on the go pouches/cups, tuna pouches (plain or flavored) SPAM, canned sardines or other canned meats, water soluble meal replacement protein powders, prepackaged serving packs or make your own by measuring the correct amounts of powders into a baggie. Be sure to label everything! It could save a mix up later when you are tired or stressed.
Hot– Hot- you will need a way to heat up these items or boil water to add to them. A variety of camp stoves are available on line or in camping stores. If you anticipate that you may need to camp you will want to be able to have a hot meal at least once a day. Packaged soup, freeze dried meals such as these, and packs of instant oatmeal. Another option is MREs- Meals Ready to Eat, these can be found in some military surplus stores or online. They come in a variety of flavors and contain a complete, calorie dense meal that may be able to be use for a couple of meals or a meal and snack. Don’t forget to pack coffee or tea if that is something you have and will want on a daily basis.
My recommendation is that you pack 3- baggies for each person- one per day. Inside of each baggie should be the days rations. If you prefer you could divide the bags into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If you choose to use MRE’s they come prepackaged. Freeze dried foods come in larger bags and usually contain multiple servings. You could place a different freeze-dried meal in each bag with the idea of preparing the meals together as a family and sharing the larger freeze-dried meals. Keep in mind that the freeze-dried meals require water to rehydrate them. Pace and Prego also have ready-made meals that typically are microwaved but could be heated up using a camp stove. These type meals would not require additional water and would be a good choice for a warm meal. If you do opt for any canned items but sure to include a manual can opener. If you have pets will you will also need pet food and extra water for your pet.
Water or Water Container
Drinking Water- 1 Gallon per person per day is what is needed. Carrying that much will be difficult if not impossible. I suggest you start with at least two 16.9 oz bottles of water. In addition, you will need another container for water collection or for use as a drinking utensil. Any type of reusable water bottle will work. A metal camping cup is also recommended as it can be used right on top of your heating source to heat or boil water and to warm up food. Do not use an insulated stainless water bottle or drinking cup on a fire. They have a double layer and placing them on a fire could cause them to bust or blow! Resalable bags in a variety of sizes are good to have for water storage as well as for other uses. I pack some of my BOB items in these types of bags and keep a few empty ones tucked into my bag as well.
Means of Water Purification
Since carrying fresh water is burdensome, make sure that you have some means of water purification with you. Better yet, pack two means of water purification. I suggest you invest in one or more of the following items: a Lifestraw or Sawyer Water Filter or similar water filtering system, and or purification tablets or drops. NOTE* You can boil water for a minimum of 1 minute but preferably at least 3 minutes to purify it before drinking. Alternatively, you may add two drops of regular (not scented) household bleach per quart or liter of water. Stir it well. Let the mixture stand for a half hour before drinking. Be sure to strain the water first if it is any way cloudy or murky. You can use a coffee filter, or piece of cloth as a strainer.
If any of the food you are taking with you needs to be cooked, you’ll want to have something to prepare it in. Backpacking cookware is made of aluminum or magnesium to make it lightweight. Small Pocket Stove fit neatly inside your bag and give you an easy way to heat food or drink. If you know, without a doubt, that you will be bugging out to a home or shelter, this might not be needed.
Being able to start a fire could be lifesaving. Fires provide heat, light, and a means to heat and cook food. You will want to have more than one method to make fire. The easiest to use is a butane lighter. You can buy them in bulk and have them easily on hand. A really cool option is a Tesla lighter, it starts a fire with an electric arch and is rechargeable. A couple of other options are waterproof matches, a lens, and a flint and steel. Carrying a flint and steel is easy with cool shoe laces, Fire Laces. It will make it easier to start a fire if you have proper tinder. Be sure to package it all in a waterproof container.
Fire Kit- Being able to start a fire could be lifesaving or at least sanity saving in a bug out situation. You should always have more than one way to start a fire. The simplest is a good old Bic type disposable cigarette lighter. It is easy to carry and does not need to have fluid added to it. Be sure to check on it every so often and be sure it still works.
Waterproof matches– they can be purchased on line or in the camping section of your local sporting goods store.
A flint and steel (striker) are fairly simple to use but you might want to practice to be sure you know how to use it.
Tinder (something that burns quickly and easily to get a fire started, cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly, saw dust, dryer lint is also good. I collect my dryer lint and stuff it into the sections of a paper egg carton and drizzle wax over it. I can pull it apart to use as tinder). I also recommend a good carpenters pencil sharpener. You can use it to shred wood to make tinder for your fire. Your fire kit needs to be stored in a water proof container. You can triple bag it in zipper lock plastic bags or a better solution would be a waterproof box which can be purchased in the fishing/ boating section of your local sporting goods store.
Backpacking Tent or Tarp
When you need temporary shelter, a lightweight tent made for backpacking is ideal. If you don’t have a tent, take a tarp with you. You can make some great shelters out of a tarp and some cord. A tarp can also be used to place on the ground to keep you dry or to drape over your car to keep out rain if you want to open windows. If you end up in a shelter, a tent could provide much needed privacy. The TACT Bivvy is a good choice. Para cord is a great addition to any bag. It can be used in a multitude of ways. You can have a roll of it with your or carry as a Patriotic Paracord Bracelet or as part of an mini emergency survival kit.
I suggest packing one small soft blanket for comfort and one Mylar Survival blanket to provide warmth and comfort.
Knife :A knife is probably the most important piece of survival equipment. Make sure you get a good fixed blade knife that will hold an edge. A fixed-blade knife with a full tang is best as it will survive the most severe use.
Hatchet/Axe/Machete/Hammer: A hatchet is great for cutting firewood when you are out in the woods. Get a combination tool with a hammer head on the other side so you can also use it to drive tent pegs into the ground.
A Good Multi Tool: Don’t skip on this. Pay a little more for a good quality tool that can be used for a large variety of jobs.
A Small Hand Shovel: Useful in many ways but number one will be to bury your number two if you have to “go” outside.
A good length of 550 paracord: 25 to 50 feet minimum. Rope is one of those universal survival items; there’s so much you can do with it. Parachute cord, often called paracord or 550 cord, is thin, lightweight and incredibly strong. It is the ideal survival rope. You can now buy shoe strings made out of paracord and paracord that has strings inside that are useful as tinder for fire-starting.
These items will be most useful if you need to use your tent or set up a tarp as a tent.
Duct Tape, because, duct tape! Sewing Kit, for emergency repairs to clothing, bags and bodies if needed. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities- we had several homes burn down here after out last big flood due to gas leaks. This is a must if you are going to shelter in place.
Large Heavy-Duty Contractor Garbage Bags, can be used to carry items, to line your bag to keep it water resistant, or to dispose of waste.
Binoculars are great for keeping tabs on your surroundings.
If at all possible try to find good quality tools that can work for multiple purposes. Don’t go crazy here! The market is flooded with so many really cool gadgets but keep in mind that you might have to carry your pack for large distances and over several days. Keep it light.
Since a bug-out bag is supposed to be for any emergency, make sure it contains copies of important documents such as copies of insurance policies, driver’s licenses, insurance cards and info, passports, birth certificates, and bank account records, marriage license, deeds to cars, home or other property, mortgage info. and whatever other papers you feel are important. This can be done by scanning them and storing the files on a flash drive. That way, you’re not carrying five pounds of paper around with you. If your house sustains damage or made uninhabitable will need all of this info. A copy or scan is better than nothing and could save you a lot of hassle. Believe me when I tell you that just a little water in your home can cause major damage. Having all of your documents backed up, copied and in a safe place will bring immeasurable peace of mind in bad situation.
Rain has a habit of appearing at the worst possible time. A poncho will help keep you from getting soaked to the skin. It can also double as a ground sheet when you are sleeping, or a way to carry extra items you come across that don’t fit in the bag or can even be used to make a shelter!
You will need to pack at least two sets of clothes so that you always have something dry to wear. Getting wet and not having dry clothes is miserable no matter what the temperature outside and in severely cold weather could be life threatening. Again, you need to consider your climate when packing. Update what is in the bag seasonally to assure you have what you need for the current season and to assure that all the clothes fit properly. Plan on layering clothes in colder weather to prevent your bag from getting too bulky. Don’t forget a pair of comfortable shoes that you can easily wear while walking a long distance. Pants with zip off legs are a great choice. Pack what makes sense for your area and keep it updated.
Warmer weather: one short sleeved t-shirt and one lightweight long sleeved shirt (you will be grateful for the cover if bugs are bad and you are outside), 2 pairs of shorts/pants or convertible pants with zip-off legs, several changes of underwear (you can wear your clothes a little longer but need to have extra clean, dry underwear!) a pair of flip-flops or sandals, a good pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots that you can walk in for a long distance, good quality socks at least 3 pair (wool is best for keeping dry), a lightweight comfortable jacket or hoody. Sunglasses are always a must for me as well.
Cold weather: Add the following to your list- a warm fleece pullover, a water proof jacket, long underwear or performance fabric pants and shirt, a good pair of hiking or snow boots.
A few other items you might like to have are a hat, hand warmer, gloves (heavy duty work gloves), rain gear/poncho, bandana (I always have one with me- it serves as a towel, head/mouth cover, is useful for carrying items and more) or Shemagh (basically a big piece of fabric that can be used in a number of ways- very useful!).
Personal Care Items
Personal hygiene is important for maintaining your health and is an essential part of your bag. You need to think of the needs of each person and personalize each bag to its owner.Make up little kits with soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant, hand sanitizer and other items in it to help you keep clean and feel refreshed. Some additional things to include are: a bandana or small wash cloth/hand towel, (you can purchase some really cool ones that start off tiny and “grow” in when they get wet), baby or wet wipes– useful for a small clean up or full body wash if needed, a comb or brush, dry shampoo (makes you feel so much better if you can’t shower), lip balm, mirror, razor, hand sanitizer and or camping soap, facial tissues (small pack), condoms (non lubricated), for the obvious reason and maybe for some more creative survival reasons as well and toilet paper. Not to be forgotten are glasses and contact lenses/ solution. Proper Hygiene is a must in when bugging out. You don’t want to take a chance of getting sick due to simply not taking steps to stay healthy.
Ladies, take note here as you may have needs that a man does not. One item a man is not likely to think of is something for dealing with your monthly cycle. Tampons are easier to carry and take up less space than pads and are a great addition to a first aid kit. Another option is a menstrual cup. This are reusable so only one is needed make sure you have enough of whatever you need to last for 3 days. Also include any other items you just can’t live without. But try not to overdo it! You want your pack to be portable. One other item you may not have thought of is a N95 face mask (this is an important item. I found out the hard way just how much junk is floating around in flood waters. I did not wear a mask when mucking out a friend’s flooded house and was sick for a week afterwards! When in doubt, wear a mask.
Hunting or Fishing Gear
Your survival food will run out eventually. Being able to catch a few fish along the way can make your food last longer. An emergency fishing kit doesn’t need to take up much room or add much weight, but with it, you can feed yourself indefinitely.
Self Defense and Safety
This area is one that must be carefully thought out and considered in great detail. The world is full of predators, both four-legged and two-legged. Disasters seem to make both types come out of the woodwork. Escaping the disaster merely to find yourself killed by a hungry attacker isn’t exactly the ending you’re after. You also need to understand and follow the laws and regulations in the area in which you live. Here in Texas we have the ability to conceal carry a handgun, other areas may have laws prohibiting fire arms. I feel strongly that the first line of defense should be to be aware of your surroundings and do whatever you can to prevent placing yourself in a situation that could be dangerous. Take a self-defense class, learn how to take care of yourself in a variety of situations. A few suggestions for self-defense items include: pepper spray, a “Monkey Fist”, a whistle to signal for help, a personal safety alarm, a handgun, a shotgun, ammunition for your guns, at 25-50 rounds minimum and some sort of self-defense training.
You can find a lot of ready-made kits on the market that can give you a nice starting point and will be adequate with a few simple additions. A basic kit would include a variety of bandages including a few larger sizes, eye cover, gauze, first aid tape, scissors, OTC medications for pain, stomach issues (constipation/ diarrhea), fever reducer, vitamin C packets, tweezers, scissors. A few compression bandages and a first aid guide are also recommended. Be sure to include anything you know your family will need including needed medications. If you are unable to keep them in your bag, at the very least have them in a place that allows you to quickly grab them on the way out the door.
You will want to have a way to see what you are doing. I lived in Houston after Hurricane Ike hit. We were without electricity for weeks! I can’t express enough the need for multiply ways to light your way in the dark of night! Some things to consider are glow sticks, a LED Headlamp, LED flashlights, a mini flashlight to attach to the outside of your bag (this makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for in your bag), a lantern, solar lantern extra batteries (USB batteries are pretty cool!), and candles (water proof matches and a lighter should be in your fire kit). My favorite flashlight is a tactical flashlight. It serves two purposes, light and protection! As a side note, it is legal to carry on a flight. This makes it a great travel companion for a woman traveling alone. My philosophy is the more the merrier when it comes to Illumination as it is possible to have several light weight options that don’t take up too much room in your pack. Let’s face it, sitting in the dark in an unfamiliar setting or even at home can be frightening and just plain depressing.
Cell Phone - Communication/Entertainment
A cell phone is something most of us can’t live without so be sure to keep it charged and ready at all times. In your bug out bag, you should keep some if not all of the following: a charger cable, a backup charger, a crank power charger, a solar power charger pad. It is also a good idea to have a portable battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert. It is also nice to have something for distraction such as a deck of cards, paper and pencil for drawing/writing, small portable travel games, card games, a good book etc.
Depending on the situation you find yourself in, these items might prove quite useful. Don’t leave home without carefully thinking these through first. Cash! As much as you are able to keep on hand in small bills. A minimum would be $100 but more would be better. I recommend you keep the money on your person. Keep the cash in multiple places if possible. Some in your pocket, some in your bag, and some in a hidden money belt etc. Quarters are also good to have but maybe are not as needed now as they would have been a few years ago. Still it doesn’t hurt to have a few dollars in change. Even better would be gold or silver coins. In an economic collapses our currency might not have any value, gold and silver will always be of value. An area map (Yes, a paper map! If cell phone service goes down you may need it), a compass (learn how to use it), if you have to leave home, you’re going to have to find your way to someplace where you can stay and hunker down. You should have both road maps and topographical maps of your area and the area where you are going. In case you have to leave your planned route, a map will make that much easier. You can use the previously mentioned small note pad and pencil listed for entertainment for writing notes and keeping track of important info. You should also have a list of important phone numbers. Family, friends, your insurance agent, your health insurance company, doctors, FEMA, your boss, etc. You will need to decide who you may need to contact in an emergency.
Your bug-out bag should be prepared based upon your personal circumstances and needs. It has to meet your needs, not fit someone else’s idea of a best-case scenario. It’s also important to know how to use everything in your bug-out bag. Before you bother bringing any item along, make sure you can and will use it. Study and learn the skills that may be need to survive in any possible situation.
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.
Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kits are kept. Yes, each member of you family needs one.
Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car along with a kit designed to help you deal with car related emergencies.
Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours an up to 3 days. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case. A “Get Home Bag” may be kept at work or in your vehicle. A mini Survival Kitis also a good idea to keep in your Get Home Bag.
I know this seems a bit overwhelming if you have not begun. So my advice to take this one step at a time. Begin with a bag and a change of clothes. Pack up a few personal items to make an over night stay bearable and than add items a few at a time. You might want to pick on area and concentrate on it. Give your self a time line. Perhaps completing one section a week. You can “shop” your home for many of the items listed. Local sporting goods stores are a good place to look and I have placed a few links in this article. If you break it down into small pieces you will have your bag backed and ready in a matter of weeks.
Essential Items not to be Without: Water, Food, Shelter
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