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8 Golden Rules to Building Your Bug out Bag
1) Comfortable Weight
The general guideline suggests you shouldn’t carry more than 25% of your weight. For example, a 200-lb person shouldn’t carry a bug out bag that weighs more than 50 lb.
However, unless you’re very fit and/or have trained to carry large packs, you should cap the weight at 20% of your body weight, not to exceed 50 lbs.
2) Keep it “Gray”
The gray man theory is simple—you need to make yourself blend into your environment as much as possible. Bugging out of a major city with a huge camouflage backpack is the same as putting a giant target on your back.
3) Bug Out Buddies
In times of emergency, there is strength in numbers. The more people you roll with, the less chance someone will try to rob you.
Having bug out buddies also lets you carry more gear. You really don’t need more than one water filter, tent, or trench shovel in your bug out bag. Disperse these items among your crew to collectively have all the bases covered without adding additional weight.
4) Bug Out Location
Bugging out is all about evacuating a dangerous area to a safe area, right?
If the SHTF in your local area, make sure you have somewhere to go. It doesn’t have to be a cabin in the middle of nowhere, but it should be far enough from the danger zone for the short-term.
If the emergency stops the supply chain altogether, then you need to consider moving to a secluded bug out location. The average Joes of this world will begin evacuating major metropolitan areas, moving into the suburbs and looking for food and supplies on the way.
This is also when your average Joe becomes an alpha predator so it’s best to avoid him.
Keep in mind, the further you need to travel to get to your safe-house, the more food and water you’ll need.
5) Your Environment
The type of gear you’ll need in your bug out bag for evacuating an urban area is different than if you’re already living in a rural area.
6) Your Health
Don’t forget to include things like prescription medications, glasses or contacts, and any other specific healthcare needs in your bug out bag.
7) More Skills = Less Weight
The more experienced you are, the less stuff you’ll need.
8) Quality, not Quantity
A bug out bag is an addition to your life insurance policy. The only thing is life insurance pays out when you die… However, the bug out bag is intended to keep you alive.
When it comes to potentially life-saving items, you don’t want to buy junk. Do your research and buy the best gear that you can afford. This even goes for buying a second hand item in good condition. It’s better to have used quality items than a bunch of new lower quality items that won’t last nearly as long.
The Bug Out Bag List
There’s one last order of business before we begin. Here’s a little more context on what we had in mind when putting the list together:
- This bug out bag list is intended for one person. If you have other people with you that can’t carry their own weight (children, disabled people, etc.) items will need to be added. If your plan is to bug out with a group, some of the items don’t need to be repeated for each person.
- The list breaks the bug out bag into modules. For each module, we’ll go over any changes that would need to be made for different environments. You may or may not need to get items from each and every module. This would all depend on your personal situation. If you have questions on this, shoot us a message in the chat box below and we’d be glad to help.
- If you included everything we list for one person, your bug out bag would be too heavy to carry. This list is intended to break down the different components of your bug out bag, with recommendations to help you personalize the kit.
When it comes to choosing a bug out backpack, there are two schools of thought on the type of backpack that should be used. We will cover them both.
These backpacks are typically crafted from high-grade nylon and are used by military operators.
- Made from tough materials so they are less likely to rip when snagged
- Have many pockets to keep your gear organized
- Some have a compartment for body armor
- Most have MOLLE webbing, making it easy to add attachments
- Usually less comfortable than hiking backpacks
- Need to be disguised to remain “gray”
- Less breathable
PRO TIP #1: If you plan to go with a tactical pack, make sure to get a rain cover. Not only does it keep your gear dry, but it also hides the tactical features of your bug out bag.
PRO TIP #2: Not sure if the pack you bought is up to snuff? Give it a stress test when you receive it. Pull on the zippers, pull open the main compartments, handle it roughly, as though it owes you money. Several bags that we’ve tested started to tear at the seams right then and there. If it rips, send it back to the company for a refund because it’s obviously junk.
The emphasis with this bug out bag is on space and comfort.
- Optimized for weight distribution
- Carry larger amounts of gear over longer distances
- Draws less attention than tactical packs
- Better breathability
- Constructed using thinner nylon that’s prone to damage
- Difficult to neatly organize gear in large compartments
- Price ranges can go up to several hundred dollars
- Gregory Baltoro 65
- Alps OutdoorZ Commander X
PRO TIP: Buy your backpack after you purchase the rest of your gear. You don’t want to end up with a pack that’s too small to carry all of your intended items.
Shelter and Base Camp Module
The contents of this module will be different depending on where you live and how far you need to travel to reach your bug out location. If your plan is to evacuate an urban area and travel to a more remote location, there may be a situation in which you need to camp out in the bush.
However, if bushcraft isn’t your strength, then we recommend a more comfortable setup. After all, you will likely want to avoid having to make a suitable shelter from leaves and branches.
If you’re staying in an urban environment:
You will probably be able to find an indoor shelter in an emergency situation. In this case, keep it simple and light.
- ALPS Mountaineering Compression Sack (1)
- SOL Emergency Blanket (1)
- SOL Sleeping Bivvy (1)
- UST Base Tube Tarp (1)
If you’re evacuating to a rural environment, add these items:
- ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 Tent (1)
- ALPS Mountaineering Ultralight Sleeping Pad (1)
- Esbit Alcohol Stove & Trekking Cook Set (1)
- ALPS Mountaineering Desert Pine Mummy Sleeping Bag (1)
Depending on the size of your group, consider the following shelter systems to accommodate:
- 1 person: Hennessy Hammock Explorer Deluxe (1)
- 1 person: SnugPak Ionosphere Tent (1)
- 3+ people: ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4 Tent (1)
PRO TIP: Tents and sleeping bags are usually on the heavy side, so partner up with a bug out buddy to disburse the load. These items also take up quite a bit of space, so pack everything into a compression sack and strap it to your pack.
First Aid Module
The basic components of a first aid kit are trauma control, essential first aid, and medication. We recommend buying a quality pre-made basic first aid kit as they generally come in a sturdy bag that has room for additional items. As you build your first aid skill set, add more advanced medical equipment like nasopharyngeal airways, combat gauze, tourniquet, and dental fillings.
Basic first aid kit contents:
- Ibuprofen tablets (2)
- Extra-strength non-aspirin tablets (4)
- Aspirin tablets (2)
- Diarrhea medication (6)
- Antibiotic ointment packs (4)
- Alcohol cleansing pads (8)
- Sting-free antiseptic cleansing wipes (12)
- Burn relief pack (1)
- Plastic bandages, 3/4″ x 3″ (50)
- Fabric bandages, 3/4″ x 3″ (10)
- Plastic bandages, 1″ x 3″ (20)
- Elbow & knee plastic bandages, 2″ x 4″ (1)
- Junior plastic bandages, 3/8″ x 1 1/2″ (20)
- Knuckle fabric bandages (8)
- Fingertip fabric bandages (8)
- Spot adhesive bandages, 7/8″ x 1/8″ (12)
- Medium Dressings (3)
- Instant cold compress (1)
- Emergency blanket, 38″ x 60″ (1)
- Butterfly wound closures (5)
- Finger splints, 6″ x 3/4″ (1)
- First aid tape rolls, 1/2″ x 5 yd. (1)
- Trauma pad, 5″ x 9″ (1)
- Sterile eye pad (1)
- Gauze dressing pads, 2″ x 2″ (10)
- Gauze dressing pads, 3″ x 3″ (2)
- Latex-free exam quality vinyl gloves (2)
- Tweezers (1)
- Cotton-tipped applicators, 3″ (10)
- Potassium Iodide Tablets (65 Mg) (20)
- Ammonia Inhalants (10)
- Moleskin (1)
- Sawyer Bite and Sting Kit (1)
- SAM Splint (1)
- Dental First Aid Kit (1)
- Small Israeli Bandage (1)
- Large Israeli Bandage (1)
- Chest Seal (1)
- Nasopharyngeal Airway (correct size for people in your group)
- Tourniquet (1)
- Celox or QuickClot Combat Gauze (1)
- Prescription Medication
PRO TIP #1: Keep your first aid kit in a waterproof bag located in an accessible part of your bug out bag. You may need to use it at a moment’s notice.
PRO TIP #2: Don’t buy a bunch of first aid stuff and expect it to save your life. Take a basic first aid, CPR, or even an EMT-B course. Out of all survival skills that you should learn, this one takes the priority—HANDS DOWN!
Keeping clean is not only important for health. It plays a huge role in keeping up morale. Hence, a lack of emergency hygiene items can lead to infection, sickness, and a whole list of other crappy things you would rather avoid. Here is what we recommend to make sure you stay clean and healthy:
- 5.11 6X6 Pouch (1)
- Toothbrush (1)
- Toothpaste (2)
- Baby wipes (10 pc) (3)
- Kleenex 3ply tissues (10 pc) (2)
- Lightload Towels (2)
- Lip balm (1)
- Bug spray (1)
- Advil (10pc) 200mg (1)
- Bar soap (1)
- Deodorant (1)
- Baby powder (1)
- SPF cream (1)
- Disposable razor (1)
- Tampons (7)
- Nail clippers (1)
- Roll of toilet paper (1)
PRO TIP: Get medicated baby powder. Chafing is almost guaranteed in a bug out situation.
Food and Water Module
The key here is sustenance and packing as many calories into the smallest possible space.
For a bug out bag, the rule of thumb is carrying 72 hours’ worth of food and water. To maintain endurance and energy, add a few packets of powdered electrolyte mix.
You should also have the means to procure food if you are on the move long enough for your rations to run out. Aim to provide about 1,500 calories a day per adult, along with 1 liter of water, including:
- MREs (2)
- Emergency food bars (3600 cal) (18)
- Packets of emergency water (20)
- Wide-mouth stainless steel water bottle (750 mL) (1)
- Pack of water purification tablets (1)
- Survival fishing kit (1)
- Sawyer Filter (1)
- Esbit Cookset with alcohol burner (1)
- Vial of Olive Oil (1)
- Small bag of sugar (1)
- Bag of spices (salt, prepper) (1)
- Packets of instant coffee (5)
- Teabags (5)
- Packets of Electrolyte mix (5)
This is where many people go overboard. Tools make your life easier when you need them, but they weigh a lot and take up space. Hence, aim to add tools that are multi-purpose, including the following:
- Multi-function eating utensil (1)
- Headlamp (1)
- LED flashlight with rechargeable batteries (1)
- Compass (1)
- Roll duct tape (10 yards) (1)
- 6″ glow stick(s) (5)
- 50′ 550 paracord (1)
- Large zip ties (10)
- Schrade Ultimate Survival Knife (1)
- Rechargeable batteries (6)
- 5′ utility straps (2)
- Gerber multi-tool (1)
- All-weather notepad (1)
- Pen (1)
- Assorted sizes of Ziploc bags (3)
- BestGlide Sow/Repair Kit (1)
- Laminated map of local area (1)
- USB key (1)
Basic Environmental Protection Module
Protecting your orifices is imperative in a bug out situation. After 9/11, over 20K people reported respiratory damage ranging from breathing issues to full-blown Mesothelioma. If, on that day, the victims had used something as simple as an N95 mask, a set of goggles, and a pair of earplugs, that number would be dramatically lower.
- Ear plugs (4 sets)
- Mil-Spec Poncho (1)
- Mechanix M-Pact Gloves (1 pair)
- N95 mask (2)
- Heat packs (6)
- Uvex goggles (1)
- Cotton bandana (1)
PRO TIP: These items are also vital for your EDC kit. If you’re looking for an extra level of protection, check out the iEvac escape hood because this escape hood converts CO into CO2. As a result, you will be able to to safely breathe during a fire.
Electronics & Communication Module
In a major emergency, there’s a very good chance your cell phone won’t work. After all, everyone will be trying to make a call at the same time and the satellites can’t handle the bandwidth. At that point, you’ll have to rely on other technologies.
The radio is tried and true. It will let you listen for important updates about road conditions, weather patterns, or even updates on imminent terror threats. You will need the following in your bug out bag for communications:
- Emergency whistle (1)
- Eton FRX2 crank radio (1)
- BaoFeng Dual Band 2-way radio (1)
- Signal mirror (1)
- Baofeng Extended Antenna: Increases usable range of your radio.
- Baofeng Radio Programming Cable: Allows you to easily program your radio with a computer.
- Baofeng Extended Battery: More juice for more talk time.
- Baofeng Battery Eliminator: 12V DC connector to power your battery with your car.
- Baofeng AAA Shell: Allows you to use AAA batteries to run your radio, making it easy to charge when you’re away from home.
Here’s our top list of electronics:
- Nekteck 20W Solar Charger
- Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus: Allows you to charge batteries via USB.
- Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS: Keeps track of waypoints, routes, tracks, and heart rate.
Remember, starting a fire is one of the most important survival needs, so it’s best to be redundant.
Hence, your first resort should always be a lighter, and then the matches, and then a fire-starter. If all else fails and you’ve got a bit of sun, use the Fresnel lens. It’s very effective and weighs close to nothing.
- Disposable lighters (2)
- Magnesium fire starter (1)
- Pack of stormproof matches (25 pc) (1)
- Pack of Quick Fire Tinder (10 pc) (1)
- Tea light candles (2)
- Fresnel lens (1)
In the face of calamity, you don’t want to be walking the streets with a big shotgun in your hands—especially if you live in an urban or suburban area. Depending on the emergency, police or even military will be out patrolling the streets.
If they see you loaded up like Rambo with an AR-15 hanging from your neck, your bug out journey might just end right there.
Be as discreet as possible. If local laws permit, conceal a handgun. Other options are to carry non-lethal weapons, like bear pepper spray and stun guns. Self-defense options include:
- Handgun (1)
- Rounds of ammo (25)
- Bear Pepper spray (1)
- Stun gun (1)
These items are more geared for the urban dweller, although they are applicable to a rural environment for long-term survival.
When cities get locked down, the chain link fencing goes up. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t like to be contained or detained for any reason. The Knipex bolt cutters are really compact and will cut through a chain link fence like a hot knife through butter.
Along with that, the ability to open up a fire hydrant or close a gas main is also important. The Ontario SPAX tool is perfect for this. It works as a gas main wrench, hydrant wrench, pry bar, and axe.
The lock-pick set is an added bonus, but don’t expect to perform like Harry Houdini without training. Start off with some YouTube video’s to learn the basics. Lock picking is a fairly popular hobby so finding a local club to advance your skills should be easy.
- Knipex Bolt Cutters (1)
- Ontario SPAX Tool (1)
- High quality lock-pick set (1)
Since the atomic age began in 1945, humanity has harnessed the power to destroy the world with the push of a single button. Beyond that, nuclear power has become the high-efficiency standard for power production, with plants being built all over the world.
If you live within a 50-mile radius of a plant, it is recommended that you evacuate should a nuclear emergency occur. Furthermore, there is a 50% chance of a Chernobyl-level event happening by 2050. Also, with the threat of terror on the rise, there is always a chance that someone could detonate a dirty bomb. Simply put, they could also use chemicals or biological agents as weapons of war.
As many smart preppers have said, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” In this case, I think they’re right!
- Mestel Gas Mask (1)
- Drop Down Leg Pouch (1)
- Thyrosafe Potassium Iodide Tablets (1)
- Pocket Geiger counter (1)
- Dupont CPF4 Coveralls (1)
- Honeywell Rubber Butyl Boots (1)
- Honeywell Mil-Spec Butyl Gloves (1)
PRO TIP #1: NBC takes up a lot of space, so they don’t need to be part of your primary bug out bag system. If you hear of an active NBC emergency, put this on over your bug out clothing (more details on this below).
Also, if you have a car as your primary bug out vehicle, then you can throw this module in your car to bring to the bug out location.
PRO TIP #2: Putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) is call donning and taking it off is called doffing. Remember, properly going through donning and doffing procedures is just as important as having the equipment in the first place.
PRO TIP #3: Buy an NBC Gas Mask that has the ability to add a drinking module. Taking the mask off every time you get thirsty might not be an option in case of a true emergency.
PRO TIP #4: If you envision using a rifle while wearing your gas mask, you’ll need a mask with a side filter ports to make it easy to lean your cheek on the stock. The Mestel SGE 400/3 is a great option as it has 3 ports, allowing you to add a drinking module and use a rifle, no matter if you’re a righty or a lefty.
To save space, we recommend having a special set of clothes for emergency purposes. Consequently, keep them right next to your bug out bag so you can quickly change and be out of the house at a moment’s notice.
To avoid sun damage, wear light colors and long sleeves. Also, roll them up if things get too hot.
- Nylon underwear (1)
- Under Armour HeatGear base layer undershirt (1)
- Under Armour HeatGear base layer long underwear (1)
- Pair of merino wool socks (1)
- Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot (1)
- Lightweight hiking pants (1)
- Nylon underwear (1)
- Under Armour ColdGear base layer undershirt (1)
- Under Armour ColdGear base layer long underwear (1)
- Pair of merino wool socks (1)
- Pair Gore-Tex hiking boots (1)
- Synthetic sweater/zip up (1)
- Gore-Tex Shell (would replace poncho) (1)
- Waterproof pants (1)
PRO TIP #1: Clothing choices will change depending on the type of climate you live in and the time of year. As the seasons change, make sure to swap out clothing as needed.
PRO TIP #2: Only wear nylon or synthetic clothing for emergency purposes. Cotton retains water and will make you hypothermic should it get wet.
PRO TIP #3: Keep it GRAY! Nothing tactical-looking or flashy. The key here is to blend in with your surroundings and look like a typical person.
Documents and Money
When you leave your house, you don’t know when will come home. Make sure you have copies of all important documents on an encrypted USB flash drive. Although not an exhaustive list, here are some documents to consider saving:
- RTGS Emergency Plan
- Birth certificates
- Ownership deeds
- Drivers licenses
- List of phone numbers and addresses of family, friends, family doctor, insurance company, etc.
- Repair manual for your vehicle
- HAM radio license
Physical copies of the following documents should be added to your waterproof bag:
- Driver’s license
- License to Carry Permit (or CCW)
- Insurance documents
- Pictures of Family
Also, when it comes to money, keep small bills and stash it in several places, both on your person and in your bag. This way, if you get robbed, there may be a hidden stash that was missed. You should have the following in cash:
- $1,000 in the following denominations: 1 $100 bill, 10 $20 bills, 10 $10 bills, 20 5$ bills, 50 1$ bills
- Quarters (4)
Just to recap, here are the most important factors to consider when building a bug out bag:
- Geographic location
- Physical ability
- Skill set
- Group size
- Likely threats for your area
Is there anything you think we missed in this bug out bag list? Let us know in the comments below.
Finally, rather than making costly mistakes when building your BOB you can get help by clicking here.