Bug Out Bag List [Ultimate Guide]

Supervolcanoes, solar flairs, terrorists, zombies, Boogaflu… oh my!

The idea of “bugging out” is a hotly debated one in the survival, prepper, and gun owner communities.

Bug out bags (3)
Potential Bug Out Bags

While we each have our own reasons for wanting a bug out bag(s)…this list should get you started on the essentials.

Rocky running
Man with the last roll of TP, unknown apocalyptic event, Philadelphia, 1976, colorized

I’ll cover what scenarios require a bug out bag (BOB), different types of BOBs, the actual backpacks, and all the goodies to include.

By the end you’ll have a great understanding (and shopping list) to create your own for your specific situation.

Table of Contents

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What Is “Bugging Out”?

The act of “bugging out” is leaving your home or other location as quickly as possible probably due to an emergency of some kind.

What kind of emergency?

While the tinfoil hat in all of us might want to prepare for zombies, terrorists, or Russians–the reality is that we’re far, far more likely to need a survival or bug out bag due to natural disasters.

What kind though depends on where you live.

California lyfe

These bags are designed to sit waiting for when you need them.

You don’t have time to pack, you don’t have time to grab one more item, you have exactly the amount of time it takes to get your family, your dog and your bag.

What Disaster Do I Prepare for?

This largely depends on where you live. Where I am in the desert of California, tornados are not on my list of things I need to worry about. But wildfires and earthquakes are VERY high on my list!

Not sure what you should prep for?

Check this out:

US Disaster Map

That map should at least give you an idea, I would highly recommend that you poke around the internet for your location and see what else might be in store for you.

What you prep for changes how you prep!

Flood

Flooding rarely comes as a complete surprise. If you are in an area where flooding is a concern, the best thing you can do is be ready to leave when the evacuation notice comes.

Since this normally comes before the flood, your bug out bag can be more orderly. Think of it as being packed for a wet vacation.

hurricane flooding
Water water, everywhere, better have at least a gallon to drink.

There are still some extras that you should consider including in your bags. Communications, ID, money, medications, and more.

Something most other disasters won’t leave you time for is priceless items, family pictures, baby’s first teeth, rare heirloom firearms, and more. Knowing exactly what is important enough for you to take with you will save a lot of time when it comes time to leave.

Earthquake

While infrastructure design has improved over the last several decades, much of our nation’s infrastructure is in poor repair. Freeway interchanges, bridges, and overpasses are highly susceptible to an earthquake.

Plan your bug out route or your route home with this in mind. Even if the freeway you normally take home is still intact, it might be massively overcrowded due to other failures and closed roads.

northridge earthquake
Damage after the 6.7 Northridge quake, 1994, source CNN

This might also force you on foot rather than driving. While this can free you from being reliant on roads, it does mean a radical change to your path.

Dust and other particulates might be in the air due to buildings coming down, a respirator can come in handy!

Wildfire

Two major concerns when it comes to wildfires–speed and breathing.

Fire can move unpredictably and it can move very quickly, the physics behind it is actually really cool but the point is that 15 mph or more is not impossible for fire.

california wildfire
If you look out the window and see this, you should have left already.

Speed in leaving the area is critical and so a well-stocked bag is a must. Don’t waste time trying to find one more item, just have it in the bag!

With fire comes wind, again cool physics come into play, but the result is that wildfires can create winds in excess of 125mph. This throws a lot of ash, dust, and bad stuff into the air and can spread for miles outside of the fire itself.

A great respirator and mask is a prime recommendation.

Hurricane

Hurricanes rarely pop up and surprise you, there are normally at least a few days for a hurricane to develop and then travel to make landfall in the USA.

The best defense against a really bad hurricane is to not be there when it hits. But for more mild ones, it’s not unreasonable to just ride them out–as long as you’re prepared and do so safely.

Bad weather american
As totally badass as this gif is, don’t be this dude when a hurricane comes

Listen to the weather service and follow their recommendations, when they say it’s time to leave then it’s time to leave. When they say that it’s too late to leave… well, I hope you’re already in a safe area.

Keep a go-bag ready, but also keep a stock of supplies on hand for when you’re bugging in.

Make sure you know how and where to go when the time comes to leave. Know the route, know alternate routes, have maps that cover those routes and more.

Keep your vehicle in ready condition. If you’re going to use your day-to-day ride keeping it in good condition is easier–but if you have a dedicated bug-out vehicle, make sure you strictly adhere to a maintenance schedule.

deuce bug out doomsday
Wait, you don’t have a customized deuce and a half bug out truck? Pfft… casual.

Please don’t forget to check your ego at the door. Just because you were born and raised on the coast of Florida doesn’t actually make you immune to a CAT 5 hurricane.

Oh, and make sure you have copies of your insurance paperwork in a safe location outside of the normal areas hit by hurricanes. Physical or digital copies will come in handy once it is time to go home and rebuild.

Tornado

Unlike hurricanes, tornados can come out of nowhere and hit hard when they do.

The only reasonable method of prepping for a tornado is to have a bug-in plan. They come too often and with too little warning to effectively plan and enact a bug-out.

tornado
Oh my

Have your space ready for use at a moment’s notice. Have supplies stored in place and secured safely–just imagine how embarrassing it would be to have a basement set up for a tornado just for you to be done in by a can of soup falling off the top shelf and hitting you in the head. Don’t be that guy!

Read up on the warning signs of a tornado, sign up for your local weather alerts, and have a plan for if you are not at home (or wherever your safe location is) and a tornado hits.

tornado warning signs
Weather.gov is a GREAT resource

Make a plan with your family for communication if you’re in different locations. Where will you meet up after? How will you get in touch? Plan ahead.

24-Hours, 48-Hours, 72-Hours

There are a lot of different kinds of survival or bug out bags. The very broad general categories we’re going to talk about mostly fall into three types.

  • 24-Hour Bag
  • 48-Hour Bag
  • 72-Hour Bag

There are a bunch of names for these bags, Get Home Bag, Bug Out Bag, Leave Home Bag, War Bag, etc. The problem with these names is that there is no real definition behind them.

Bug out bags (3)
Some of my personal Bug Out Bags (top, left to right) 5.11 Range Master, High Peak Internal Frame, MidwayUSA 3-day assault pack, Ruger 10/22 takedown backpack, medical packs, 5.11 MOAB 10

What I call a Bug Out Bag you might call a Get Home Bag. Neither is wrong, but it does cause some communication issues.

We’re keeping it simple and just calling the bag based on the number of hours it is designed for.

This also makes it easy to understand and assess what your bag can and can’t do.

What I Carried USMC Alice Pack (2)
A little old school, but a surplus Alice Pack makes for a great bug out bag.

There are some things to consider with each bag type and we’ll share what our plan is for each type also. This will help you at least get an idea of what to do with each. But again, it’s going to be up to you to choose what is right for you.

24-Hour Bag

Often stored at a secondary location, such as your vacation home, worksite/office, or mother-in-law’s home, etc. this bag is normally just enough to get you from point A to home.

Generally speaking, these bags are meant for one person and to give you everything you might need for around 12- to 24-hours.

Bug out bags (4)
5.11 MOAB 10

You can bug out with it, but you’ll be really limited. Its main goal is to just hold you over long enough to reach a safe location. And that location needs to be fairly close by. It gives up longevity for mobility.

Some questions to ask yourself while building this bag:

  • Where am I storing it?
  • How far from home am I?
  • Can I get home in <24-hours? (keep in mind that depending on the event, roads, bridges, tunnels, etc. might be closed)
  • Will I be alone or with someone?

Personally, I keep my 24-Hour Bag simple and very portable. I built my bag for getting from the office back to home after a massive earthquake that has taken out bridges, roads, and cut communication.

With that in mind, my bag is lightweight and holds stuff I need for about 24-hours of walking.

48-Hour Bag

I normally don’t really consider the 48-Hour Bag to be a real Bug Out bag, for me it falls into a dead zone of time frames. If I need to bug out, I need longer than 48-hours of gear. If I need to just get somewhere safer, I can do it faster than 48-hours.

Your situation might be different though, only you can decide.

Vertx Commuter Bag
Vertx Commuter Bag, simple, understated, enough size to fit what you need for a couple of days.

However, the 48-hour bag is perfect for the weekend or for responding to a situation that you know will have supplies on hand.

Sometimes called a “War Bag” or a “Go Bag” this version of the 48-Hour bag is meant more for the professional than it is the survivor. Basically, this is a bag that you can grab and walk out of the house with to get on a plane/boat/train/camel to go to a location and do your job.

Now if you’re an accountant, you might not have much use for that kind of bag. Tax season rarely involves needing to go across the country.

The accountant
Unless you’re The Accountant… who actually had a very impressive bug out set up!

However, this isn’t just for duty work like police or military. Many firefighters I know keep a Go Bag, oil and gas workers, electricians, and more are often needed in large numbers and far away so keeping a Go Bag can be a handy thing.

My first experience with Go Bags actually goes back to 9/11. While I was only a kid at the time, several members of my family were volunteer police chaplains in Southern California.

The morning of 9/12, over 1,000 chaplains from around the nation started traveling to NYC to assist. More than 75 of those were from my local area and I personally knew most of them.

Almost none of them had Go Bags.

All of them built a Go Bag after they returned home several weeks later.

Many of them used their Go Bag only a few years later when they responded to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Flooded Superdome in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
Flooded Superdome in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

For a Go Bag, I try to keep mine ready for at least 48-hours of self-reliance. This is a great middle-ground between the bare-bones and the overpacking and generally is lightweight and easy to fit in a carry-on size backpack.

What Goes In My Go Bag?

This is highly dependent on you and what it is you do. A firefighter needs different things than an oil and gas repairman.

What do you use daily? What do you use during a workday when Murphy’s Law strikes? Put it in your Go Bag!

Also consider that if you have a Go Bag, will you need to fly with it? And if so, will you have to get past TSA with it? If so, maybe don’t pack that 9″ knife or that Glock 17.

Ka-Bar potbelly on side
Ka-Bar Potbelly, not TSA approved!

72-Hour Bag

This is what most people think of when they think of a survival bag. A bag, or pack, that you can pick up and leave with and be self-sufficient for 48- to 72-hours.

Bug out bags (7)
(left) My High Peak backpack I bought used off eBay 11 years ago. It’s my camping bag and one of my 72-hour bags. It has hundreds of miles of camping and hiking on it and is still going strong.

Personally, I built mine on a 72-hour plan. I assume I’ll be on foot, so I keep it fairly lightweight, and I assume that I might need to defend myself.

Consider your situation while you build a bag. Children, pets, other family members–their ages and ability all are things to consider when building not only your bag, but their bags also.

However, a 72-hour bag is a bit large. FEMA recommends that you have at least 3 days worth of supplies in case of a major disaster and I would tend to agree.

But some of us are just not able to pack that much gear and still walk.

bug out bag
If you’re going out on patrol, it makes sense to carry everything. But make sure you have the physical ability to do it!

If so, maybe a smaller 48-hour bag is more in line with what you can do.

Non-Standard Bags

I would recommend that most bug out bags be built using packs of some kind, but not all of them need to be.

While I wouldn’t recommend keeping all of your gear in packs that are hard to carry on foot, keeping some of it in plastic containers or range bag style bags can make storage a lot easier.

Bug out bags (6)
5.11 Range Master Duffel bag being used to hold some emergency water, MREs, and LifeStraw

This also works well for static bags that you might need in an emergency, even if that emergency doesn’t involve bugging out.

One example of such is my Car Bag.

Bug out bags (1)
“Car Bag” — Trauma Pak, Israeli Bandage, CAT tourniquet, EMT shears, Hokena Road Flares & Thermal Blankets

This is a fairly simple bag that I keep next to my spare tire. Bright red, easy to use, one large compartment. In it, I have medical supplies, shears, and battery-powered road flares.

Survival Bags (The Actual Bag Itself)

There are several great bag manufactures out there and there are a lot more really crappy bag makers.

There are good knock-offs and horrible knock-offs.

Bug out bags (7)
MidwayUSA 3-Day Assault Pack (center), very similar to a half-dozen other bags. Did they copy Midway or did Midway copy them? You be the judge.

And the prices range from “clearly a bad idea” to “oh my god, my first car was less than that”

Look for a bag that is easy to use and really durable. Quality stitching, reinforced areas, and smooth zippers are critical.

Always get a bag at least a little larger than you think you’ll need. These bags have a tendency to grow as you remember things to add and empty space is never a bad thing, but a bursting full bag is terrible.

Sling Bag Storage 2
5.11 LV10 Sling Pack loaded with a Glock 17, a half dozen spare mags, AR-15 mags, light, multitool, and a lot more. Plus room to spare!

As a general guide, there are a few brands I really like:

All of these will serve you well, but I do have some favorites.

5.11

The RUSH series of bags are perfect for a range of Bug Out Bags. The MOAB 10 is my EDC work bag and my Get Home bag while the RUSH72 is one of my 72-hour bags.

Cool Guy 5.11 Picture
John with his 5.11 AMP12

They are well made, durable, and really handy. I highly recommend them.

Mystery Ranch

Super popular with hunters and backpackers, Mystery Ranch has been around making amazing bags for a long time. Most of these are fram-backpacks, either internal or external frames.

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at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

All of them are built like tanks, lightweight, and many of them have special holders for a rifle or bow. If you need a bag that you can hike 50 miles in while carrying everything you need to survive, Mystery Ranch is my go to pick.

Survival Bag Items List

These items are not the end-all, be-all. Some of them you need, some of them you don’t. Depending on what you prep for you might need things not on this list, my point is–this is to get you started.

This is also all of the items we recommend. If you’re building a smaller bag, you won’t need a large portion of this list. Even if you are building a full bug out bag, you’ll want to pick and choose.

Refine, plan, and prepare further after consulting this list!

And… some of these won’t be in stock. That’s the nature of Amazon right now.

Water/Hydration

Canteen

A hard water bottle gives you something to not only hold water in but also to purify water in. I like to have at least two so that I can be purifying water in one and drinking water in another.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I like a standard US Military style canteen. They’re lightweight, hold a decent amount of water, cheap, and there are about 5,000 holders on the market for attaching them to a belt, pack, or anything else.

Nalgene Water Bottle

Alternatively, a Nalgene bottle is my runner-up since they are indestructible and have a much wider mouth. The wide mouth comes in handy for things like refilling, cooking, purification, and more.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

But I’ve spent years trying to find a handy way of carrying my Nalgene and I still have yet to find a method that I actually like. Bottom line–I hate hiking with one, but I often have one clipped to my bag empty for use around camp.

Potable Aqua Water Purification Treatment

The gold standard for treating water.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

There are a lot of options when it comes to what exact model you get, but I use the single bottle kind–these do leave an aftertaste, but it’s simpler and lighter to pack than the two-bottle system that removes the aftertaste.

Embrace the suck or use some drink mix to make the water taste better.

LifeStraw

Perfect for drinking water on the go, the LifeStraw filters out everything bad that might be in your water while you drink it. This means no weird aftertaste but does mean one more thingy to carry.

Lifestraw in use
Lifestraw in use… yum?

LifeStraws filter at least 1,000gal of water each, so getting one per person is an easy way of making sure you’ll have water to drink almost no matter what.

Best Personal Water Filter
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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System

If you plan on using this bag to provide for several people, you’ll need more water.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Sawyer Mini Water Filtration will clean over 100,000gal of water! Working much like the LifeStraw this is easy to handle, quick to filter and makes everything clean and safe.

Food/Food Prep

S.O.S. Emergency Rations

These are… well they will keep you alive and active. And they have a 5-year shelf life. And they taste… okay.

They pack small, last a long time, are lightweight, and carrying enough to feed a family for a week is easy to do. But they don’t taste amazing and they aren’t super filling.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Emergency rations are meant to keep you alive, not to keep you happy. Still, a pack of these should be in every survival bag.

Larabar Mini

Everyone needs to snack, I love these because they taste good, they have a lot of flavor options, they last a long time, and they are surprisingly filling.

I actually keep these in my EDC briefcase just for normal snacking also.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Emergen-C Energy+

Drink mix is critical for a survival bag. It makes water taste better, especially if it tastes weird due to purification, it gives you some extra oomph, and it’s just a nice comfort sometimes to drink something tasty.

There are a lot of options for this kind of thing, but Emergen-C Energy+ fills a lot of roles in one. It makes water taste good, it gives you a vitamin boost (something you’ll likely be running low on), and it gives you a solid dose of caffeine without overwhelming your system.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Caffeine in survival is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps to keep you going. On the other hand, it can make sleeping and downtime harder. And you do need to sleep.

MSR PocketRocket 2

A small stove is nice to have but not critical. Depending on your bag and what you pack for food, it might not be useful.

But if you’re planning on keeping any kind of freeze-dried food in your bag, a backpacking stove is nice.

It also is great for winter conditions where snow might need to be converted to water.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

MSR PocketRocket is a classic in the backpacking community, I’ve used one personally on a lot of trips. Simple, lightweight, and works.

TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon

A spoon or spork is all you really need to eat with. Long handled spoon has the advantage of being perfect for MREs or other meals-in-a-bag, also nice for stirring things in a pot.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Light My Fire Titanium Spork

A spork is a combo of a spoon and a fork, in case you didn’t know. Handy, useful, not a lot more to say.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Oh, and a spork recently landed a starring role in Toy Story 4, good for him!

MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Another item that is dependent on what you pack. Personally, I would keep most of this kit in another camping box for weekend use and only throw the plate/pot into the Survival Bag.

This is the kit I use though, I have nothing bad to say about it and it’s held up well over the trips.

If possible though, I would design my bag around not needing a mass kit of any kind.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

However, if you’re bugging out in a more family-style way then the small amount of normalcy that comes from everyone eating together off of plates might be good for the kids and for morale in general.

Clothing

Merrell Men’s Moab 2

While these are the shoes I would recommend, the reality is that there are a LOT of options and what is best is going to be totally personalized for you.

A great set of shoes is one of the most important things you can put in your bag, so choose wisely. Keep in mind that you might need these to travel over long distance, over bad ground, and very possibly over broken bits of anything and everything.

Hiking shoes give you some ankle protection and support without adding too much weight to the shoe itself.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

While things like combat boots will give you the most protection and support, actually hiking with them is a beast if you’re not conditioned to the extra weight.

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks

If you’ve never treated your feet to great socks, you’ve been missing out in life. A great sock can literally change your life.

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at Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Darn Tough is one of the most respected names when it comes to socks and these are their finest offering for cushion and low weight.

Tru-Spec 24-7 Tactical Softshell Jacket

Like the shoes, there are a LOT of options when it comes to jackets. The Tru-Spec 24-7 is the one I personally use and I really like it.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It’s warm, lightweight, resists water and wind well, and has so far served me very well in the two years or so I’ve used it.

We have a full review of it in the Best Tactical Jackets along with some other great options for you to consider!

5.11 Taclite Cap

Okay–it’s a ballcap. I know. Your favorite baseball team, a random hat you got at that one concert that one time, or this cap from 5.11–all of them will fill this role about as well as the next.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Just make sure it is well built, blocks the sun, and fits your head… like this one does!

Columbia Bora Bora II Booney Hat

More protection than a ballcap, but can be annoying to hike with depending on the bag you have.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I like the booney over a ballcap though since it also gives you the ability to do the classic fly fisherman thing of using the hat to store things like fish hooks, sewing needle, and safety pins in it.

PIG Full Dexterity Tactical (FDT) Alpha Gloves

We cover these gloves in-depth in our Best Shooting Gloves review and I highly recommend you give it a read!

SKD FDT Alpha, Gloves
SKD FDT Alpha

The short story though is that these gloves rock. Superb dexterity, thick padding, tight-fitting, duel-joint fingers, and touch-screen compatible–these gloves are simply awesome.

Almost the entire PPT team uses these gloves and we bought them ourselves, so that should tell you how much we approve of them.

Editor's Choice Shooting Glove
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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5.11 Stryke Pants

Once again, lots of great pants out there and many of them are covered in the Best Tactical Pants. But this is the one I pick.

Well made, strong, lots of pockets, and a price that won’t horrify you–there is a lot to love about the Stryke pants.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Wiley X Saber Glasses

If you’re going to bring sunglasses, bring ones that are rated for more than your average drive around town.

My overall favorite for style, coverage, and protection is the Wiley X Saber.

It covers more angles and exceeds the military MIL-RF-31013 standards for impact resistance, UV protection, and optical clarity.

With stuff in the air, possibly high winds, or you might need to use your weapon–it’s good to have proper eye protection.

Shelter/Bedding

WildVenture Tent Tarp

A good tarp and some rope are all you need to make a great shelter in a hurry. It’s also great for sleeping on, turning into a field stretcher, collecting water, and a whole lot more.

There are two ways you can go with your tarp–easy to see and hard to see. If this is your bag that you want to use in case of natural disaster, then an easy to see shelter might help rescue workers find you.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And in that case, the WildVenture Tent Tarp is a great option for durability, visibility, and ease of use.

Aqua Quest Defender Tarp

On the other hand, if you are planning to use this bag in case of zombies, war, or other apocalyptic situations–maybe having your shelter be easy to see isn’t such a great thing.

In that case, Aqua Quest has great tarps that come in neutral earth colors and camo patterns.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Coleman 0°F Mummy Sleeping Bag

The first question you should ask yourself before picking a sleeping bag is: Do you really need one?

Depending on how long you want to survive using your bug out bag, what the weather might be, and how much weight you want to carry–a sleeping bag might not be a great choice.

However, if it might be very cold, or you want to live out of this bag for a longer period of time, then a sleeping bag can provide much-needed warmth and comfort.

Coleman will always be near the top of our list for great bags on a budget.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

However, this Coleman is rather heavy–not a great idea if you need to pack this a long distance.

Hyke & Byke Quandary Sleeping Bag

If you can expand your budget though, there are better options for sleeping bags–such as the Hyke & Byke Quandary. Rated for 15 degrees Fahrenheit this bag will keep you warm under most conditions.

It also only weighs a little over 3 lbs!

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at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you really want to trim weight, there are options that are in the 1lb range–but you can expect to shell out a huge amount of cash for those.

Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad

Unlike what most people think, a sleeping pad isn’t just for comfort. It’s mostly about keeping you off the ground and helping you to retain warmth. Also, it’s comfier.

Another item that you might not really need but should at least consider is the ground pad/sleeping pad.

I can say though from experience that a ground pad really makes a difference and that I would often choose to pack one even if I didn’t pack a tent and/or sleeping bag.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Plus, it’s really lightweight at only 25oz.

Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Pillow

Back in my day, I used a 99 cent beach ball and a pillowcase as a pillow on backpacking trips. Nowadays though, you can get this thing that actually lasts more than 1 night!

Granted–do you really need it though? Again that will be up to you, but it is super lightweight at only 3.4oz, it is fairly cheap, and a night of good sleep is an amazing thing when you’re dealing with the stress of bugging out.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you have back or neck issues, you might want to seriously consider adding this to your bag since it is more adjustable and contoured than sleeping on your bag or a pile of clothes might be.

ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent

A bugout bag based on natural disasters is likely going to be dealing with inhospitable weather.

Even if your natural disaster is something like a wildfire or volcano, these can change weather patterns and cause some nasty events on top of what you’re already dealing with.

In such cases, a tent might be preferred over just a tarp.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Sure, you can make do with just a tarp and your wits — but a tent is a lot easier and more reliable.

Unimi Sleep Mask

When you sleep might not always be at night in a bug out situation.

Or you might be stuck in a group shelter with gym lights on all the time.

Or maybe your campfire you need for warmth is a little too bright.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

In any case, a sleep mask can be nice. Again, depends on you if you want to spend the money and carry weight.

Heat Source

Zippo Typhoon Matches and Match Kit

There are a lot of “waterproof” matches on the market, but in my experience. most of them don’t work. Zippo Typhoon matches have never let me down though and the small case they come in is outstanding.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The striking surface is protected so it won’t wear off in your bag, the whole case is waterproof and floats, and the matches themselves are coated in an extra thick layer of flammable material to help them burn hot and stay lit.

Zippo Emergency Fire Kit

One problem with matches is that they rely on your ability to find, have, or make dry tinder. This isn’t always possible, especially if you might be using your bag during a storm or after a flood.

This fire kit solves that problem by including dry tinder right in the case–but you only have 5 rolls of tinder material so you’re limited on the number of fires you’ll be able to start.

10
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Still, those 5 should get you through the first 72 hours at the very least.

Bayite 4 Inch Survival Ferrocerium Drilled Flint Fire Starter

Flint and steel–good enough for a caveman, good enough for us!

You won’t run out,  it’s waterproof, it can work while wet, and you can even use it on moist tinder to help dry it out.

10
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

But it does take some practice and know-how. If you haven’t started a campfire before with flint and steel, please take a weekend to go camping and try it out before relying on it in your survival bag.

Emergency Foil Mylar Thermal Blanket

Mylar blankets keep you warm in the cold, keep you cool in the sun, they’re lightweight, cheap, and can work as a reflective surface for signaling.

In short: you need them, period.

10
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

HotHands

If you can spare the weight, having one or two hand warmers can go a long way in making you a bit more comfortable or in extreme situations stave off frostbite.

If you’re in the cold, these are high on the list.

28
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

First Aid

IFAK

The Best IFAKs article has a lot more information and detail, we recommend you take a look before choosing your IFAK. At the bare minimum, you’ll need a tourniquet, Quikclot, sterile bandages, sterile gloves, and EMT shears.

Lifeline 30 Piece First Aid Emergency Kit

A small “boo-boo” kit is nice for the small stuff. Do you need a dedicated kit though?

Not really, a ziplock and some alcohol wipes and BandAids are good enough, but a kit like this is easier to carry and more secure if you have the room.

5
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Repel Insect Repellent

Bug spray isn’t just to keep the bugs away because you don’t want to swat at them–bugs spread disease and if scratched the bites can lead to open wounds that might become infected. And infection is at a higher chance since you’ll likely be dirty.

11
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Especially in a situation where standing water and disease might be running rampant, bug spray moves from being mundane to being life-saving.

Prescription and Non-Prescription Medications

Ibuprofen to keep the aches and pains away and antacids to settle the stomach is high on my list. After that, just make sure you bring whatever it is you might need. Make sure to also replace them regularly–never take expired medication!

If you’re not sure how you can store your prescription medication for a survival bag, consult your doctor.

Hygiene

Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes

Wet wipes keep you clean, can be used to clean off gear, and help just make your life a little nicer while you’re battling the elements.

9
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Get some, you won’t regret it.

Chewtab Toothpaste Tablets

Teeth are important. Keep them clean. These tablets are cinnamon flavored and do an amazing job at covering up or removing bad tastes that might be leftover from purified water or MREs.

23
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Sierra Dawn Campsuds

Keeping things clean keeps you alive. Your dishes, yourself, your wounds, all of these need cleaning. Don’t be gross!

6
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4MONSTER Microfiber Towel

Really any towel works, I just like these ones.

13
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Coleman Toilet Paper

Normally I just take normal TP and remove the cardboard insert, but proper TP is nice also. Plus this stuff is easier on the environment.

6
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Purell Hand Sanitizer

Again, stay clean, stay alive.

15
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Travel Toothbrush

Can’t brush your teeth with just paste. Other options are taking a normal toothbrush and cutting it down, but I like this better.

6
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Tools

Survival Knife

There is a huge list of options, we go over some great ones in our Best Survival Knife article and you should definitely take a look.

Personally, I like the Schrade SCHF9 with a Kukri Point.

41
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I love this knife because it has some meat to it, thick spine for strength, full tang, a grip that doesn’t slip, lanyard loop, and the Kukri point means there is more weight at the tip of the knife–perfect for chopping.

Multitool

Don’t worry–we have an article for Best Multitools also!

Multitool Family Photo
Multitool Family Photo

The problem with a multitool is they are heavy, but the tools might come in handy if you think you’ll need them.

If you’re preparing for a flood and know you might be traveling by small boat then a multitool is a must. If you’re going to be bugging out walking across the desert, is it really needed?

79
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Lighting

Fenix PD25

For a flashlight, you want something that really pumps out the lumens, has a strobe setting for signaling but also has lower settings to conserve battery for when you don’t need to turn night into day.

Editor's Choice (EDC Flashlight)
58
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Fenix PD25 is our pick–make sure to bring extra batteries!

5.11 Response XR1 Headlamp

One downside to flashlights is that you need a spare hand to work it. Headlamp solves that problem!

Choose what you think is best, but the same rules for flashlights apply to headlamps–get something with at least two power settings and bring extra batteries!

I really like the Response XR1 from 5.11, it’s durable, useful, and with a ton of modes to choose from including flood, red light, and multiple power settings for the primary light.

64
at 5.11 Tactical

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It runs off of two CR123 or one 18650 battery, handy to have options in batteries.

Emergency Light Sticks

What is the difference between a light stick and a glow stick? Normally light sticks are brighter and last longer.

These aren’t for making your dance moves look awesome, these are for giving a light source when nothing else will.

13
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Chem lights glow passively for hours making them great for singling, marking an area, or leaving as bread crumbs.

UCO 9-Hour White Candles

Another one of the “is it worth the weight?” items but it is something you should consider. Candles are bright, last for hours, can be used to help light a campfire, provide some warmth if a campfire isn’t possible, and candlelight is comforting. Keeping morale up is important.

26
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Don’t use just any candle though–these are designed for the situation with a high melt point, low soot, and a larger wick than standard.

Communications

Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way Radio

Ham radio is a complex topic , but of course, we have an article to break it down for you.

The short version is that you should learn how to use one, and use it legally before you jump into it.

25
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

You never know when you’ll need to communicate with emergency services, other survivors, or other members of your group.

Fox 40 Sonik Blast

A whistle is great for signaling, getting attention, scaring off wildlife, and annoying your neighbors while you work out.

These are super loud, cheap, and don’t have a pea so they won’t rattle. Perfect!

7
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone

Can you hear me now?

Yes, I can, when you call on a SatPhone. This is a pricey item and one that you really can go without, but if you want the best of the best–a SatPhone can’t be beaten.

Make sure you bring extra minutes.

569
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

TCL LX 4G LTE Prepaid Smartphone

A much more economical option–a prepaid smartphone gives you an option not based on your normal phone. Grab one on a different carrier and you double the chances you’ll have phone access.

Plus, you know it has a battery when you need it. You’ll need minutes though, get data and texting too.

30
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Fun fact: texting takes less reception than phone calls do. Even on zero bars when you can’t make a phone call, you can sometimes get a text out. So get texting too!

Travel

Personal ID and Pictures

You need your ID. Hopefully, you’ll have your wallet and your normal ID with you already–but expired ID is decent for keeping in a survival bag so that you at least have something with your face and your name on it.

Pictures of friends and family isn’t just so you can look at it at night and remember better times.

If you’re separated from loved ones or looking for someone that is injured, a picture to show other people is a lot more effective than a description.

Cash

Maybe you need to buy snacks from a vending machine, maybe you need to bribe a guard, maybe you just want to play some poker after a long day of survival–cash is king.

We recommend $200 at least if you can spare it. Don’t bring two 100-dollar bills though. A mix of 1s, 5s, 10s, and 20s is a lot more useful.

In my opinion, this is a little on the tin foil hat side, but you might want to consider some gold or silver also.

30
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Apace Vision Reflective Vest

If your bag is for when the Russians invade, maybe skip the reflective vest. But think back to any hurricane or wildfire or tornado you’ve watched on the news–visibility is often nil and if emergency services are looking for you then a reflective vest is critical.

20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The nice thing about a vest like this is that it is hyper lightweight and easy to take on and off for when you do and don’t want to be seen.

SUUNTO A-30 Compass

Don’t cheap out on your compass. I know a $5 compass is tempting, but a good compass is worth it. Well made, easy to rotate, magnifier, and glows in the dark.

Take some time and learn how to use a compass though, it’s more complex than “the red arrow points north.”

21
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Suunto M-3 G Compass

If you really want to not take the cheap route, upgrade to the M-3. The differences are a bit subtle and really won’t make a major impact for most people, but if you know what to do with a compass–this has some nice pluses.

51
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

20-degree tilt margin, metric and imperial UTM scale, stronger, more options.

Maps

You have some options here. Topographical maps from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) can be found for most areas, these are great if you can get them since they show a huge amount of information such as terrain, water, hazards, etc.

But they aren’t available for everywhere.

A very general, but very handy, option is the National Geographic Road AtlasIf you don’t want to take that much weight, consider pulling out the relevant pages for your area and putting them in protective plastic or laminating them.

17
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I strongly recommend this especially if you’re in an urban area. You cannot rely on your normal ways of getting from point A to point B and you should assume GPS will be down.

A good map will assist you in navigating around traffic, hazards, downed freeway overpasses, etc.

You… you do know how to read a map… right?

Extras

These are very much in the vein of “Is it worth it?”

Depending on your preparations, what you want to use the bag for, and your capabilities–some of these are great, some of them aren’t. Take a look and think about it.

RAVPower Solar Charger

Recharging your batteries is really nice to have. While you can go for crank rechargers–those take a lot of effort. Try recharging your phone off one and you’re in for one helluva workout.

60
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Solar is passive but unreliable. You can set it on your bag while you walk, but if the sun isn’t out you might be in trouble.

Duct Tape 2×50 Roll

Duct tape is for binding wounds, fixing your pack, fixing your shoes, and a whole lot more. A couple of small rolls are lightweight and very handy.

8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Amazon Batteries

Remember when I said to bring extra batteries? Yeah, DO IT!

Heavy Duty Contractor Bags

Contractor bags, in case you didn’t know, are basically trash bags but a lot stronger.

25
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A whole lot stronger. Great for packing trash, carrying firewood, cutting and using for shelter, lots of options. Bringing 2 or 3 is a strong recommendation.

OUTDOOR Paracord Planet

Rope has proven to be critical to humanity’s survival and advancement for millennium. Paracord is right along with that same line.

11
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Get the strong stuff so you can hoist food to safe levels, build shelter, set traps for game, the list goes on.

3M Particulate Mask

In case of a tornado, dust storm, collapsed buildings, etc. there is going to be particulates in the air. Those can kill you outright or they can help kill you years later. Either way, breathing in bad stuff is bad.

8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If your bag is designed for events like these, a mask is a must.

3M Medium Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator

Much like the other mask but better, lasts longer, filters more, and gives a lot of protection.

20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Playing Cards, waterproof

Morale really is important. A deck of cards is great for that. Waterproof is nice!

5
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Bicycle Dice 10 Pack

Again–morale. Dice is great for all sorts of games and take a fraction of the weight as most options plus are almost indestructible.

3
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Polyhedral 7-Die Dice Set

Nothing like a nice game of D&D or 40k to pass the time while in an emergency shelter.

6
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Self Defense

We could write whole articles just on this section, but I’ll keep this as short as possible.

There is a lot of good arguments to make for a huge range of firearms and less lethal self defense options, almost all of them are reasonable depending on what approach you use.

What works for you and your situation is something you’ll have to decide–for me, I choose to carry lethal and less than lethal tools and to keep all of my choices 100% legal.

Before you make your choice you need to consider what you are going to be defending yourself against.

Red Dawn scenario? Being stuck in a crappy high school gym for 5 days with all of the other evacuees? 4-legged threats while you hike out to your secret bunker? Living off of small game for the next… forever? General civil unrest?

All of these would or could alter what might be the best defense option for you. But here are some recommendations for you to consider.

Less Lethal

SABRE S-1005 Dual Stun Gun

Perfect for if you want a simple and last-ditch tool to defend yourself with. Ergonomic, doubles as a flashlight, and simple to use.

17
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Downside? You need to charge it. So if you’re thinking you’re going to be without a power source for weeks… maybe choose a defense tool of the chemical combustion variety.

Take a look at a full review along with other options in the Best Stun Guns!

SABRE 3-in-1 Pepper Spray

This is one I choose for almost all of my bags. No matter what situation my bag is designed for, some pepper spray isn’t a bad idea.

It’s small, lightweight, easy to use, cheap, and legal everywhere I’ve ever been. Oh, and it has a safety so it doesn’t discharge in your bag. Trust me, that’s important.

Best Pepper Spray
8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Handguns

Beretta M9 / Glock 19 or 17 / Sig Sauer M17

Any of these four pistols are my absolute top recommendations. They are each totally reliable, super durable, accurate, high capacity firearms that will serve you very well.

Newst Generation Glock
628
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Major points to the M9 and M17 if your bag is designed for a Red Dawn type end of the world (think about it, what guns are you going to find laying on the ground? Yeah…)

548
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

New Military Standard
650
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Glock 19 or 17 are great options if one of those is already your EDC. This makes it easy to stock up on magazines and extra parts plus cuts down training time. Plus they are a decent amount less weight than the M9 or M17.

Glock 20

Worried about threats on four-legs? Get a Glock 20. Hands down the best option.

Glock 20 and lots of ammo
Glock 20 with Trijicon RMR

10mm isn’t a super common cartridge, so finding resupplies after the end of the world won’t be easy. It’s also not cheap to train with and requires more training than anything 9mm.

605
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

But for putting down bears, wolves, mountain lions, and more you simply cannot beat 10mm with 15 rounds on tap.

Sig Sauer P365

We live in a post-P365 world. There are a lot of options now in this sub-compact high capacity role, but I still think the P365 is the best option.

Choose the XL, SAS, or normal and you won’t be disappointed. They are small, handy, and can be used as your EDC to help with training.

Most innovative CCW gun [2018]
499
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Personally, I would choose the P365XL with a standard magazine plus two or three 15-round mags.

P365 Upgrades Great Big Magazine!
P365 Upgrades Great Big Magazine!

Rifles

AR-15

This is the only rifle option, but there are dozens of manufactures and hundreds of configurations to choose from.

20. RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster Desert Shooting AR-15
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster Desert Shooting AR-15

First–why the AR-15? Simple, it is by far the most versatile and “uniform” option you will find in the United States. Any end of the world situation you can think of, the AR-15 can be used for it.

A good AR-15 will last you tens of thousands of rounds, be reliable in dust, rain, cold, hot, sand, mud, and be more durable than any of it’s users will be.

No matter what AR-15 you get it should be in 5.56 NATO, have a white light, a sling, an optic, backup iron sights, and extra magazines.

Author’s 11.5” pistol AR with a Rosco Manufacturing barrel.
Ken’s 11.5” duty pistol AR

If you have a secondary location to store supplies, consider some extra complete uppers and ammo for them.

A suppressed .300 BLK upper is great for being quiet. A .22LR dedicated upper means an endless supply of small game. A 6.5 Grendel upper will take deer at further range than .300 BLK or 5.56 NATO.

Please, don’t forget to train with your rifle. Having it means nothing if you can’t hit with it.

1299
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Parting Shots

Holy crap, you read all of that? You made it to the end? Dude, high-five yourself because that was… long.

Chuck Norris Approved

This article was a long time in the making, the idea was approved in late 2018 if we remember right. Even with over a year of research and writing, the collective input of a half-dozen people, more than 8,000 words, and a lot more–we’ve only scratched the surface of this topic.

I strongly recommend that you do additional research, consider everything I’ve said, ask questions, and choose what is right for you.

If you only learn one thing from this article I hope it is this: Gear cannot replace skills. Gear helps, but a $5,000 rifle means nothing if you miss. The best bag loaded with all of the best gear won’t keep you warm if you can’t make a fire.

castaway fire
If you’re this excited by making a camp fire, you didn’t spend enough time learning how to do it!

Enough medical equipment to start your own trauma room won’t save your life if you can’t clean and bind a cut before it gets infected. It doesn’t matter if you have the best kicks if you get lost on your way home because you can’t read a map.

Train, learn, survive.

I might come to regret asking this but: What would you add to a Bug Out Bag that isn’t on this list? How many hours per year of training do you seek out? Any hands-on classes you would recommend? Let us know in the comments! If you want a TON of info on Bugging In, take a look at the Prepping 101 Guide!

Prepping 101 with Allison
Prepping 101 with Allison

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