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The Ultimate Bug out Bag Checklist

Creating a practical bug out bag list is hard work. With so many opinions on the perfect combination, it’s easy to slip up and buy stuff that you’re never going to use.

For those of you that don’t yet know what a bug out bag is, here’s a simple definition:

It’s a long term survival kit with one core purpose – to get you away from danger as fast and as safely as possible.

This list is for the purposes of creating a 72 hour+ kit to be stored in a location where you spend most of your time. The list includes enough rations to survive for 72 hours, while also providing the tools to gather additional provisions and survive longer.

Bug out bag shopping should be treated like buying a high-quality custom suit. It must fit your needs perfectly.

Before we jump right into the bug out bag list, here are some general tips for getting started…

8 Things to Consider When Building Your Bug out Bag

1) Comfortable Weight

The general guideline suggests you shouldn’t carry more than 25% of your weight, so for example, a 200lb person shouldn’t carry more than a 50lb bag.

However, unless you’re very fit and/or 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 grey man theory is simple, 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. Disperse these items amongst your crew to collectively have all the bases covered without additional weight.

4) Bug Out Location

Bugging out is all about evacuating a dangerous area to a safe area, right?

If TSHTF 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, that’s when 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 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.

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. Only thing is, life insurance pays out when you die…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. Even if it means 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 down 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 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.

Backpack

When it comes to choosing a bug out backpack, there are two schools of thought:

Tactical Backpack –

Advanced Operative Bug Out Bag on a Model

5.11 Rush 24 – The Rush series of packs is the gold standard for tactical backpacks

These backpacks are typically crafted from high grade nylon and are used by military operators.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Usually less comfortable than hiking backpacks
  • Need to be disguised to remain “grey”
  • Less breathable

PRO TIP #1: If you’re gonna go with a tactical pack, make sure to get a rain cover. Not only does it keep your gear dry, but it also covers up the tactical features.

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 there and then. If it rips, send it back to the company for a refund, as it’s obviously junk.

Recommended options:

5.11 Rush 72 Backpack
5.11 Rush 24 Backpack

Hiking Backpack –

Alps Mountaineering Caldera 5500 hiking backpack on white background

Alps Mountaineering Caldera 5500 Hiking Backpack

The emphasis here is space and comfort.

Pros

  • Optimized for weight distribution
  • Carry larger amounts of gear over longer distances
  • Draws less attention than tactical packs
  • Better breathability

Cons

  • 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

Recommended options:

ALPS Mountaineering Caldera 5500 Pack
ALPS Mountaineering Shasta 4200 Internal Frame Pack

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

This would change 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 someplace more remote, there may be a situation where you need to camp out in the bush. But, if bushcraft isn’t your strength we recommend a more comfortable setup, as you’ll likely want to avoid making a suitable shelter from leaves and branches.

If you’re staying in an urban environment –

You’ll likely be able to find an indoor shelter in an emergency situation. In this case, keep it simple and light.

  • (1) SOL Emergency Blanket
  • (1) SOL Sleeping Bivvy
  • (1) Coghlans Tube Tent
  • (1) ALPS Mountaineering Ultralight Sleeping Pad

If you’re evacuating to a rural environment –

Alps Mountaineering Lynx 2 backpacking tent tent on white background

The Alps Mountaineering Lynx 2 Backpacking Tent – Prefect for 2 people with a 4 person option available

  • (1) ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 Tent
  • (1) ALPS Mountaineering Compression Sack
  • (1) ALPS Mountaineering Ultralight Sleeping Pad
  • (1) ALPS Mountaineering Desert Pine Mummy Sleeping Bag
  • (1) Esbit Alcohol Stove & Trekking Cook Set

Other considerations  –

Depending on the size of your group, consider making these changes to the shelter system to accommodate:

  • 1 Person: (1) Henessy Hammock Explorer Deluxe
  • 3+ People: (1) ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4 Tent

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

Opened First Aid Only first aid kit on white background

First Aid Only pre-made first aid kit

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 that comes in a sturdy enclosure and also has room to add additional items.

Basic First Aid Kit Contents

  • (2) Ibuprofen tablets
  • (4) Extra-strength non-aspirin tablets
  • (2) Aspirin tablets
  • (4) Antibiotic ointment packs
  • (8) Alcohol cleansing pads
  • (12) Antiseptic cleansing wipes (sting free)
  • (1) Burn relief pack
  • (50) Plastic bandages, 3/4″ x 3″
  • (10) Fabric bandages, 3/4″ x 3″
  • (20) Plastic bandages, 1″ x 3″
  • (1) Elbow & knee plastic bandages, 2″ x 4″
  • (20) Junior plastic bandages, 3/8″ x 1 1/2″
  • (8) Knuckle fabric bandages
  • (8) Fingertip fabric bandages
  • (12) Spot adhesive bandages, 7/8″ x 1/8″
  • (3) Medium Dressings
  • (1) Instant cold compress
  • (1) Emergency blanket, 38″ x 60″
  • (5) Butterfly wound closures
  • (1) 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
  • (10) Gauze dressing pads, 2″ x 2″
  • (2) Gauze dressing pads, 3″ x 3″
  • (2) Latex-free exam quality vinyl gloves
  • (1) Tweezers
  • (10) Cotton-tipped applicators, 3″

Additional Items:

  • (20) Potassium Iodide Tablets (65 Mg)
  • (10) Ammonia Inhalants
  • (1) Mole Skin
  • (1) Sawyer Bite and Sting Kit
  • (1) Sam Splint
  • (1) Dental First Aid Kit
  • (1) Small Israeli Bandage
  • (1) Large Israeli Bandage
  • (1) Tourniquet
  • (1) Celox or Quick Clot Combat Gauze
  • Prescription Medication if Applicable

PRO TIP #1: Keep your first aid kit in a waterproof bag located in an accessible part of the pack. You may need to use it in a moments notice.

PRO TIP #2: Don’t just 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!

Hygiene Module

Ready To Go Survival Hygiene Kit made with 5.11 pouch, laid out on white background

Ready To Go Survival’s Comprehensive Hygiene Kit

Keeping clean is not only important for health, it plays a big factor in keeping up morale. Lack of hygiene items can lead to infection, sickness, and a whole list of other crappy things that you’d best avoid. Here’s what we recommend to make sure you stay clean and healthy:

  • (1) 5.11 6X6 Pouch
  • (1) Toothbrush
  • (2) Toothpaste
  • (3) Baby Wipes (10 pc)
  • (2) Kleenex 3ply Tissues (10 pc)
  • (2) Lightload Towels
  • (1) Chapstick
  • (1) Bug spray
  • (1) Small Advil (10pc) 200mg
  • (1) Bar Soap
  • (1) Deodorant
  • (1) Baby Powder
  • (1) SPF Cream
  • (1) Disposable Razor
  • (7) Tampons
  • (1) Nail Clipper
  • (1) Small Toilet Paper Roll

PRO TIP: Get a 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 space possible.

For a BOB, 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 once your rations run out.

Aim to provide about 1500 calories a day per adult, along with 1 liter of water.

  • (2) MRE’s
  • (18) Emergency Food Bars (3600 cal)
  • (20) Packets of Emergency Water
  • (1) Wide Mouth Stainless Steel Water Bottle (750 mL)
  • (1) Pack of Water Purification Tablets
  • (1) Survival Fishing Kit
  • (1) Lifestraw Water Filter
  • (1) Esbit Cooktove with Alcohol Burner
  • (1) Small Vial of Olive Oil
  • (1) Small Bag of Sugar
  • (1) Small Bag of Spices (Salt, Prepper)
  • (5) Packets of Instant Coffee
  • (5) Teabags
  • (5) Packets of Electrolyte Mix

Tools Module

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. Aim to add tools that are multi-purpose.

  • (1) Multi-function eating utensil
  • (1) Headlamp
  • (1) LED flashlight with rechargeable batteries
  • (1) Compass
  • (1) Roll Duct Tape (10 yards)
  • (5) 6″ Glowstick(s)
  • (1) 50′ 550 Paracord
  • (10) Large Zip Ties
  • (1) Schrade Ultimate Survival Knife
  • (1) Signal Mirror
  • (6) Rechargeable Batteries
  • (2) 5′ Utility Straps
  • (1) Gerber Multi-Tool
  • (1) All Weather Notepad
  • (1) Pen
  • (3) Assorted size Zip-Loc Bags
  • (1) BestGlide Sow/Repair Kit
  • (1) Map of local area
  • (1) USB Key

Basic Environmental Protection Module

Items from the Ultimate Urban Survival Kit - Mechanix Gloves and Uvex Goggles on brown background

The basics for protecting your offices and hands from injury

Protecting your orifices is imperative in a bug out situation. After 9/11, over 20K people have reported respiratory damage ranging from breathing issues to full blown Mesothelioma. If on that day the victims had something as simple as a N95 mask, a set of goggles, and a pair of earplugs, I think that number would be dramatically lower.

  • (4) Sets of Ear Plugs
  • (1) Mil-spec Poncho
  • (1) Pair Mechanix M-Pact Gloves
  • (2) N95 Mask
  • (6) Heat Packs
  • (1) Uvex Goggles
  • (1) Cotton Bandana

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 which converts CO into CO2, allowing you to safely breathe it out during a fire.

Communication Module

ETON FRX2 Radio and Storm Whistle on brown background

ETON Radio and Storm Emergency Whistle

In a major emergency, there’s a very good chance that your cell phone won’t work. Everyone is trying to make a call at the same time and the satellites just 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 in for important updates about road conditions, weather patterns, or even updates on imminent terror threats.

  • (1) Emergency Whistle
  • (1) Eton FRX2 Crank Radio
  • (1) BaoFeng Dual Band 2 Way Radio

Fire Module

Components from the Ultimate Urban Survival Kit, including Emergency Matches and BIC lighters on brown background

Always carry several tools for starting a fire

Starting a fire is one of the most important survival elements, so it’s best to be redundant.

First resort is always the lighter, then the matches, then the firestarter. 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.

  • (2) Disposable Lighters
  • (1) Magnesium Fire Starter
  • (1) Pack of Storm Proof Matches (25 pc)
  • (1) Pack of Quick Fire Tinder (10 pc)
  • (2) Tea Light Candles
  • (1) Fresnel Lens

Self-Defense Module

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 environment. 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 keep non-lethal weapons like bear pepper spray and stun guns.

  • (1) Handgun
  • (25) Rounds of ammo
  • (1) Bear Pepper Spray
  • (1) Stun Gun

Breaching Module

SP16 Spax Tool and S&W Knife on brown background

Ontario SPAX Tool and a Smith and Wesson Tactical Ops Knife – Both great tools for urban breaching and self defense

These items are more geared for the urban dweller, although 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 these purposes and works as a gas main wrench, hydrant wrench, pry bar, and axe.

The lockpick 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.

  • (1) Knipex Bolt Cutters
  • (1) Ontario SPAX Tool
  • (1) High quality lockpick set

Documents and Money

When leaving your house and not knowing when you’re coming 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:

  • Passports
  • 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
  • Maps

Physical copies of the following documents should be added to your waterproof bag:

  • Passport
  • Drivers license
  • License To Carry Permit (or CCW)
  • Insurance documents
  • Pictures of Family

As for money, keep small bills and stash it in several places…on your person and in your bag. This way, if you get robbed, there may be a hidden stash that was missed.

  • $1000 cash in the following denominations: 1 $100 bill, 10 $20 bills, 10 $10 bills, 20 5$ bills, 50 1$ bills
  • (4) Quarters

NBC Module

Mestel SGE 150 Gas Mask Survival Kit with Filter on white background

NBC Gas Mask with Blackhawk! Omega Elite Dropleg Pouch

Ever since the atomic age began in 1945, humanity 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.

Also, with the threat of terror on the rise, there’s always a chance that someone could detonate a dirty bomb, or 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!

  • (1) NBC Approved Gas Mask
  • (1) Drop Down Leg Pouch
  • (1) Potassium Iodide Tablets
  • (1) Pocket Geiger Counter
  • (1) Full Body Tychem Suit
  • (1) Rubber Boots
  • (1) Mil-spec Butyl Gloves
  • (1) Butyl Overboots

PRO TIP #1: NBC takes up a lot of space, so they don’t need to be part of your primary bug out system. If you hear of an active NBC emergency, put this on over your bug out clothing (more detail on this below).

If you have a car that’s a primary bug out vehicle, then you can throw it 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. Properly going through donning and doffing procedures is just as important as having the equipment in the first place.

Clothing Module

To save space, we recommend having a special set of clothes for emergency purposes. Keep them right next to your bug out bag, so you can quickly change and be out of the house in a moments notice.

Summer Clothing –

To avoid sun damage, wear light colors and long sleeves. Roll them up if things get too hot.

  • (1) Nylon Underwear
  • (1) Underarmour HeatGear base layer undershirt
  • (1) Underarmour HeatGear base layer long underwear
  • (1) Pair of Merino Wool socks
  • (1) Pair Gore-Tex hiking boots
  • (1) Lightweight hiking pants

Winter Clothing –

  • (1) Nylon Underwear
  • (1) Underarmour ColdGear base layer undershirt
  • (1) Underarmour 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

PRO TIP #1: Clothing choices would 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 appropriately.
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.

Conclusion

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

Anything that you think we missed in this bug out bag list? Let us know in the comments below.

P.S. Rather than making costly mistakes when building your BOB, get help by clicking here


2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Bug out Bag Checklist

  1. Nice list. I would add some olive oil, a sponge, tea and coffee inside the cook set. A nice cup of Joe can go a long way in lifting morale.

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