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A decent bug out bag is a necessary piece of equipment when any kind of s*it hits the fan. But, to build one, you need an excellent bug out bag list first. 

Every one of us faces unpredictable situations occasionally. It’s one of the certainties of life. While most of these situations in everyday life are quite harmless, you can’t say that for unpredictable disasters. In order to increase your chances to keep yourself and your family safe, you need to be prepared.

A bug out bag is helpful to react and evacuate immediately, but putting it together can be challenging. You need to keep it as light as possible to allow mobility, while you still want to take all necessary items to stay safe and sound.

Anyway, this portable kit should be your first safety rope in case of unpredictable and sudden disasters. 

What Exactly Is a Bug Out Bag or Emergency Survival Kit

A bug out bag is a portable bag that contains all necessary items to provide short-term survival (usually around 72 hours).

People who have experienced disastrous accidents highly value these bags. Everything we do to be prepared is significant, but in sudden events, a bug out bag can make a world of difference.

That’s why it has so many different names – BOB, 72-hour kit, PERK (personal emergency relocation kit), grab bag, GOOD (get out of Dodge) bag, and more.

The bottom line is that it should contain only necessary items to provide quick evacuation and short term survival.

Why Do I Need a Bug Out Bag?

If you are an ardent prepper, you already know the answer to this question.

But, if you have decided to prepare for disaster only recently, you may have some second thoughts about it. If you’re already stocking supplies at home and supplying your bug out cottage in the woods, is it really necessary to have a bug out bag, too?

Of course, it is. Having an SHTF plan is very important and preparing for both bug in or bug out scenarios is okay. But things don’t always play according to plans. After all, unpredictable disasters are – unpredictable. 

So, your home may be an unsafe option because of an upcoming biblical flood or raving riots near your neighborhood.

You’ll head to your bug out place, but what if the roads are closed or clogged? Or your car breaks down even if you checked on it regularly?

I can think of dozens of scenarios that won’t allow you to reach your bug out location easily.

That’s where your super-bag comes in. With all the essentials in your backpack, you won’t panic. And you’ll be able to rationally analyze the situation and to figure out the safest way to reach your bug out location or wherever you’re heading.

Basic Tips and Rules for Your Bug Out Bag List

Even the greatest experts differ on what exactly should be on your bug out bag list.

And it’s only natural. Disaster scenarios can vary so much that it is impossible to predict which items will be most useful.

For example, you need quite different supplies if you’re facing riots, hurricanes, blizzards, or wildfires. Also, the climate of your area plays a part as well.

Try to keep it simple. You need only essentials. Every ounce counts and it will slow you down if you have to walk. So, remember, this is a kit for quick evacuation – not for a camping trip.

There’s no such thing as maximum weight but I recommend packing supplies between 10 and 20% of your body weight.

Trained soldiers can handle up to 30%, so if you are really confident about your strength and endurance, this should be your upper limit.

If you travel with your family, each person older than 10 should have their own emergency survival kit with essentials in case you get separated.

I know you are reluctant even to imagine the scenario where you’ll get separated from your 12-year old child, but it is possible. It’s much worse to leave them without a drop of water because you wanted to make it easier on them.

How to Make a Selection

One of the basic rules of survival is the so-called rule of threes

  • You can survive for about 3 minutes without air.
  • Without shelter, you won’t survive more than 3 hours in a harsh environment.
  • You can only survive for 3 days in mild conditions without water.
  • 3 weeks is how much you can go without food if you have enough water.

 That’s where your selection starts.

Your main goal is to try to stay warm and dry. Hydration is necessary for clear thinking, comfort, safety, and performance.

While you can survive without food, don’t underestimate it. A decent calorie intake will keep you strong and sharp.

Items that meet these essential needs should go in each and every bug out bag regardless of specific circumstances. After you’ve taken care of this you can consider other useful categories of items such as:

  • First aid or IFAK kit
  • Heat
  • Clothing
  • Defense
  • Tools
  • Navigation
  • Miscellaneous

Emergency Survival Kit Must-Have Items List

To be honest, there will be more items on this list than in your perfect bug out bag.

As I have already said, the content of your bag will depend on the season, climate, geography, potential threat, and other important factors. So, I have to mention items necessary for different scenarios, while you’ll need only those that fit your specific case.

Before you start packing, you need a bag.

I wouldn’t try to save money on a backpack. You really need a bag that is sturdy, easy to carry, and convenient to organize supplies.

  • High-quality bags are lighter and much easier to carry. So, you should look for a bag made of durable materials.
  • It should have a chest strap and padded hip straps.
  • Lots of pockets and compartments will allow you to arrange supplies and reach for them easily.
  • Also, it should be water-resistant or with an additional rain cover. 


Water must be on the top of the list, but how much should you pack?

It’s an ongoing debate among experts. Water is crucial, but it’s also quite heavy. As a general rule of thumb, you can make it through the day with about 32 oz or 1 liter. In mild weather conditions, that is.

However, in hot weather, you’ll need more. Packing 1.5 or 2 gallons for 72 hours should suffice, but it will be too heavy and water can’t shrink.

So, there’s no easy answer here. My recommendation is to pack 2 water containers, each 1 liter in size. But, combine it with a mini-filtration system and purifying tablets. So, you can search for water along the way and use it safely.

1. Collapsible water bottle. The advantage of this kind of bottle is obvious – it is easier to fit it into the backpack.

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2. Hard water bottle. Besides the collapsible bottle, you should carry another one for multi-use. Plastic is not an option. Stainless steel water containers can be very lightweight and you can use them for boiling as well.

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3. Purification tablets. It is a convenient way to purify water. These tablets deactivate bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms and make water safe for drinking. They don’t remove sediments or chemicals, though.

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4. Water filters. There are many different filtration systems. The smaller, the better as you have to use your space wisely.

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While you can survive without any food, you want to maintain your energy level.

Hunger is an unnecessary distraction. Still, you don’t want to waste too much room or make your bag too heavy. So, your bug out bag list should only include food that is nutritionally rich while not taking too much space.

Standard camping and hiking food offer a wide variety of meals that would fit your needs.

5. Nuts. All kinds of nuts are useful for your mission. They are calorie and nutrient-rich while they don’t take much space.

6. Power bars. Pretty much the same as nuts. 

7. Dehydrated meals. Dehydrated meals are great because they contain maximum calories and nutrients in small and light packs. On the downside, you should rehydrate it, so you need additional water. If your water supplies are running low, it’s safe to eat it dry, though.

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8. Portable stove. Portable stoves that use twigs, leaves, and branches can make your travel much more comfortable. But, I recommend packing such a stove only if you have extra space at the end of your packing. A metal water container can be used for boiling as well.

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9. Fishing kit. This is optional. Hopefully, you won’t have to search for additional food. But if you have some fishing experience, a fishing kit can provide some free and valuable meals.

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Decent sleep is very important to keep you reasonably fresh, both mentally and physically. You will be moving so you only need a shelter for sleeping. This can be tricky and it depends on the season and climate.

10. Sleeping bag or a bivy. This is a must on every bug out bag list. Modern sleeping bags are really lightweight and compact while still offering protection from cold weather.

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11. Mylar blanket. It is a versatile piece of equipment. A space blanket will help you to retain heat. You can also use it to create an improvised shelter or as a sleeping bag liner. And it’s extremely lightweight and ridiculously small when packed.

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12. Tent. This one is optional too. The tent takes a lot of space and adds some weight. Some one-man tents are very lightweight and compact, but I would recommend it only for heavy rain and wind.

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13. Tarp. A waterproof, durable, and compact tarp is probably your best choice for shelter. Plus, it doesn’t take much room, so I recommend you to definitely put it on your bug out bag list.

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 14. First aid kit. This one is obvious. You must have one for any kind of injury.

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15. IFAK. If you’re an ardent prepper then you’ll pack IFAK as well. It requires some medical skills but it can be a life-saver.

16. Hand sanitizers. Keeping your hands clean is important. You don’t want to risk unnecessary infections.

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17. Wet wipes. They can be very useful and versatile. Choose biodegradable kind.

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18. Disposable gloves. They take almost no space and they are necessary to avoid possible contamination.

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19. Personal hygiene items. All-purpose soap, toothbrush, and mini-toothpaste tube don’t take too much space.

Some of these items are usually found in first aid kits or IFAKs but I’ve decided to mention them just in case.


Depending on your training, skills, permits, and potential threats you should have some protection weapons.

20. Pepper spray. It’s a small and effective self-defense device.

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As for firearms, it is a somewhat controversial topic, so it’s up to you. To carry a handgun or other firearms, you should have proper training and license.


You’re not going on a camping trip, so you don’t need a bunch of tools. However, some tools can come in handy. Choose versatile, lightweight, and compact tools.

21. Swiss Army Knife. It is a small, compact, and versatile tool.

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22. Survival hatchet or a tactical tomahawk. This is also optional. While it can be useful as a tool or potential weapon, there’s only so much space in your bug out bag – and on your bug out bag list for that matter.

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23. Lighter. Lighters are cheap and small, but usually not very reliable. So, pack a couple of them. You can back it up with stormproof matches. It is essential to be able to start a fire whether you want to get some warmth or boil water and food.

24. Socks and underwear. While you can’t carry a couple of sets of clothing, spare socks and underwear don’t take too much space. Make sure they are waterproof to save yourself some trouble down the road!

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25. Duct tape. It is another small, but very versatile and useful item. You can use it to repair or attach almost anything. There are more uses of duct tape than you can think of. But when the time comes you will know.

26. Compass and maps. Navigation tools can give you an edge. It is good to know exactly where you are and where you are going.

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27. Emergency radio. If you have some spare space, pack a hand-cranked radio. It doesn’t need electricity and you can get news on how the situation is progressing.

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28. Headlamp. You might need to walk through the night. Even if you don’t, you need a source of light other than fire.

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Final Words

Building a bug out bag can be quite tricky. It’s easy to get carried away and try to pack too many items. The more you think, the more ideas pop up about potentially useful supplies or tools. But, you don’t want to take things that you MIGHT need. You only want to pack what you MUST have to survive for a couple of days until you reach your destination.

So, choose wisely and regularly rotate your supplies to be ready on any given day.