by David Allen
Most people have at least heard of a bug-out bag, but not many really know what to put in one. Well according to the FEMA website, your bug out bag should be stocked with enough supplies to keep you alive for 72hrs. This is a good place to start because a bug out bag isn’t supposed to be your end-all for survival. A good bug-out bag should be used to get you away from danger or to your bug-out location. We will talk about bug-out locations at a later time.
So what exactly should you put in your bug out bag? This may vary depending on what part of the country you live in and your personal preferences.
First, let’s start off by talking about the bag you are using.
-In this circumstance, it doesn’t matter if you use a military or civilian style pack, but I would recommend something that has some sort of frame, whether internal or external. There are many military-style packs out there that have some sort of internal frame that helps to keep the pack stiff.
-Your pack should have well-padded shoulder straps and a waistband; this will help you keep the load evenly distributed on your back and hips.
-Your pack should be made of durable material. You don’t want it to fall apart after your first trip through the brush.
-You need to be aware of the weight of your pack. Are you ready to carry 50lbs of gear for a long-distance? You can get ready for this by taking your bug out bag on hikes on trails around your area.
Ok, so you have your pack, now what are the bare essentials to put in it?
1. Water: you should have water in your pack as well as a way to purify water. Remember that a gallon of water weighs roughly 8.5lbs so with 3 gallons you are already at around 25lbs. So consider if you have drinkable water available along your escape route and how you will purify it.
2. Food: You want food that isn’t going to go bad and has a pretty high-calorie count. You will burn more calories than normal during a survival situation.
Military MREs are my personal favorite but have gotten pretty expensive over the years. There are plenty of survival (camping) rations out there that will work just fine.
3. Fire starting materials: This is going to include your fire starters (lighter, striker types, or whatever you prefer), kindling such as dryer lint, dried leaves, cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly.
4. Tarp: This should be fairly heavy duty. You can do a lot to stay alive with a tarp. You can also add a poncho in with this, but it needs to be a heavy-duty one. Mylar blankets are also very useful.
5. Cordage: I recommend getting an actual military-grade 550 cord. It is proven to be durable and strong. You can also get a climbing type rope as this can be very useful in many situations. Just make sure you know the breaking strength of your rope or cordage.
6. Knives: Yes I said knives….more than one! I recommend having a
a. folding pocket knife
b. fixed blade knife in a sheath that you can put on your belt
c. a multitool
d. a hatchet
e. a machete
Knives are always useful!
7. Clothing: How much clothing is up to you, but wearing dirty clothes for long periods of time can be bad for your health and morale. It can be a big mental boost to be able to put on a fresh pair of underwear and socks. It’s also vital to have clothing you can change into in the event that your clothing gets wet. I would also recommend that the pants you wear and pack be cargo type pants. They are usually lighter weight and have more storage options than blue jeans. Also in my experience blue jeans will lead to heat rash and chaffing faster than cargo pants. You also need to consider the climate in your area when packing your clothing. Lastly, don’t forget a hat, whatever kind you prefer is fine, but a hat is a valuable asset.
8. First aid kit: This needs to be very well stocked.
b. Gauze pads (these should vary all the way from small pads up to as big as you can get them)
c. Rolled gauze, ace wraps, alcohol wipes, nitrile gloves (non-latex medical safe gloves)
e. Triangle bandages for pressure dressings and splints (clean bandanas work very well for this)
f. Sam splint (this is a moldable splint that you can get at most outdoor stores or on-line)
g. Quick clot (this is for major bleeding that can’t be stopped with pressure or a tourniquet, you can get this at most outdoor stores or on-line)
h. Motrin, Aspirin, Tylenol (for aches, pains, and fever)
i. A waterproof container to keep it all in. The last thing you want is for your first aid supplies to get wet.
Depending on your level of experience and/or medical training you may want to add to this kit.
9. Container for water: I would recommend a camelback as these hold quite a bit of water and are easier to carry. There are plenty of water bottles out there that are designed for outdoor use so they are appropriate as well. Also, look into collapsible containers that can hold several gallons of water then fold collapse into a small package.
10. Folding shovel: These fold up nicely to fit in your pack or to be strapped to the outside without adding a ton of weight. Very useful to dig fire pits or latrines.
11. GPS / Map and Compass: I know that most people use GPS to find their way, and that is a great asset, but these run out of power so a map and compass are a must. You should also add a signal mirror in with this.
12. Duck tape: I know, doesn’t sound like a major survival tool, but duck tape can be used for repairs, waterproofing to a point, and to hold stuff together. Don’t leave home without it!
13. Anti-diarrhea / anti-nausea meds: diarrhea and nausea can dehydrate a person quickly and make it virtually impossible to re-hydrate them without an IV.
14. Bug spray/sunblock: Pretty self-explanatory, but research plants that grow in your area that can be used to replace these when they are gone.
15. Flashlight/glow sticks: These are good to have, but unless you plan on carrying a lot of batteries with you, they won’t last forever.
16. Sleeping bag: Think about weight and bulk when picking this out, but don’t forget that a good sleeping bag can help keep you alive in the cold.
17. Personal hygiene kit: Keeping your teeth and body clean are still important in a survival situation. Don’t forget to pack baby wipes; they are great for many uses….especially going to the bathroom!
So this was my basic list for what should be in a bug-out bag. There are other items that I feel are more of a personal preference than a necessity.
* Hand crank emergency radio
* Hand sanitizer
* Safety whistle
* Fishing lures and line
* Ziploc bags
* Deck of cards
* Survival manual
I would also recommend some sort of firearm for hunting small game and defense against animals and even people. A bow and arrow are great assets as well since arrows generally can be used more than one time and are quiet.
There it is folks, my must-haves for a bug-out bag. Don’t forget that you can tweak this to fit your personal preferences, but I wouldn’t recommend straying too far from this.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on November 3, 2015.
© 2023 The Havok Journal