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Bug Out Bag List and Essentials

Updated: 07/01/2024
Bug Out Bag List

The necessity to leave your home quickly, without time for picking and choosing what to take with you should be considered as a real possibility.

Packing a bug out bag is one thing. Having a good bug out bag list is a great starting point.

Such an event could happen at any time. Having a handy, easy-to-carry survival kit or bug out bag could be your only lifeline in these circumstances.

For many individuals, the idea of compiling and maintaining a bug out bag or survival kit is ludicrous. Many mistakenly assume that a natural disaster or emergency could happen to them. “I don’t live in an earthquake zone and this area hasn’t seen a tornado in a hundred years” you’ve heard folks around your area say.

Be Aware of Potential Disasters

Not only can the whims of Nature cause widespread destruction and death through earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc., but humankind has developed its own methods of mass destruction through warfare, synthetic viruses, toxic chemical spills, reactor melt-downs, and more. Any one or a combination of these life-threatening possible disasters can happen with such sudden and immediate consequences that to survive and protect your loved ones; evacuation is the only option.

Too many people that think this way end up becoming a statistic because of a lack of simple preparation. Ignoring the possibility of a disaster is not only unwise but irresponsible especially if your a parent and have a moral duty to take care of your family.

Being aware of the possible events that could happen is the first step towards surviving any disaster or emergency. Having the sense to realize that the forest fire footage on the evening news could just as easily be your neighborhood is a step in the right direction. A simple backpack can make an excellent bug out bag.

Awareness inevitably leads to preparation or how to be ready in case of a disaster. If you have to leave suddenly, when every second counts towards survivability, the American Red Cross suggests an easy-to-carry bag or backpack with enough food, water and gear to last three to five days while waiting for help to arrive.

When driving a vehicle might not be possible, walking out of the disaster zone could be your only chance. In such a scenario, having only the necessities for life might be all you are able to manage. Your golf clubs and bowling ball should not be high on your priority list.

What Is a Bug Out Bag

The bug out bag’s name stems from the military term “Bail Out Bag”. A piece of kit aviators were issued to use in the event of a crash or being shot down. The name morphed over the years as it was passed down from other military and law enforcement circles and became the now famous Bug Out Bag. Other oft-used names include Personal Emergency Relocation Kits (PERK’s), Go Bags, and Get Out Of Dodge Bags (GOOD’s).

The principal behind this bag is to provide for you and your family all the essential items one would need to escape and survive either a natural disaster or emergency.

Gear in the bug out bag should be tailored to your unique needs. Items such as prescription medication, local maps and clothing tailored to your particular climate and weather should be considered for inclusion.

Many pre-assembled off the shelf bug out bags may not be set up to provide for this, so extra room should be allotted to add these as required.

The bag itself must be sturdy enough to tackle almost anything you throw at it. Many of the bags used in pre-assembled survival kits are severely lacking in the quality department and may not hold up to the demands placed upon it should you find yourself in an adrenaline fueled escape from the clutches of death.

Bug Out Bag Essential List

The real necessities fall into these broad categories:


Humans need up to 2.5 liters a day to survive. A person can go many days without food but not more than three days without water. A pocket water filter and a good canteen are advisable, but 2 liter plastic beverage bottles work fine and it’s not too difficult to rig up a harness or strap to hang a couple of bottles off your shoulder. Remember, water is heavy, over 5 lbs per gallon, so pack it or hang it off your pack. You won’t be able to carry gallon jugs very far.


Food is important for endurance when hiking and replacing lost nutrients due to stress. Also a meal is a great way to restore flagging spirits and regain energy. High energy protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, parched corn, jerky, tea in bags or instant coffee are all light- weight and nourishing if not exactly your idea of a meal.

Your list of priority foods should not be topped by Oreos and potato chips.

Fire Starting

No matter what else your bug out bag contains, a good knife and a means to make a fire are necessary. While the type of knife or knives (a backup can be a lifesaver) is a matter of personal choice, remember that the last thing you need in an emergency survival occurrence is a dull or broken knife. A name brand, full-tang(blade metal extends through the handle) hunting knife with at least a 6 inch blade is all you need.

If you don’t plan on carrying a hatchet or machete you might consider a bigger knife that could be used to chop firewood with. A folding pocket knife, Leatherman multi-tool or Swiss Army knife are good dependable back-ups in case of loss or theft.

Clothes and Bedding

Apparel and sleeping choices are dependent on weather conditions and the prevailing climate you live in.

Hopefully, you have enough sense to put on sturdy shoes or hiking boots, durable trousers, and at least two layers of upper-body apparel. A disaster situation is not the time for high heels or flip-flops. Extra socks are very important when walking is your only option. Take care of your feet, and your feet will take care of you!


To stay dry and reasonably warm, if not comfortable, try space blankets and plastic ponchos. These are lightweight, inexpensive, and come in small enough packages that several take up very little space in your bug out bag.

There are rescue sleeping bags that are space blankets you can crawl into, and there are 2-person rescue tube tents made out of the same heat-reflecting material that can double as a signal mirror for attracting attention. In a survival situation where every ounce of weight you carry must be consciously considered, you probably don’t want to lug around a queen-sized inflatable bed or Grandma’s feather mattress.

Fishing and Hunting Gear

Most of your gear is somewhat dependent on environment, for instance, fish hooks and line might not do you much good in New York City, but could provide a meal or two in a rural area. You should also be aware of the current weather conditions and be dressed appropriately. Always have a heavy jacket or coat handy to your survival kit. In warmer climates, a light jacket or serape, maybe a cape would be all you would need.

Personal Protection

Personal protection is also something to think about. Remember that in a crisis, there will probably be no one to protect you and your loved ones except YOU. There will always be people who will take advantage of a lawless situation to further their own agendas, usually at the expense of those who won’t or aren’t able to defend themselves.

For those folks who don’t want to deal with real weapons for whatever reasons, they should consider purchasing a couple of canisters of pepper spray. Pepper spray will make believers out of rude visitors quickly and is inexpensive. Even better, if it’s possible to get bear deterrent spray, do so, because it is really, really nasty. Something that will stop a charging sow bear will certainly ruin a human attacker’s day.

You want to keep any attackers out of arm’s reach because if they get a hold of you, it is all over. A long stabbing weapon is preferable over a club. In other words, if all you have for a weapon is your 9-iron, don’t try beating on an attacker with it; they’ll just take it away from you and beat the shit out of you with it.

Break off the head, leaving a kind of sharp and jagged end and thrust it like a sword. You can beat on somebody all day long and not incapacitate them, but stab them in the throat with the jagged end of your 9-iron and they will have second thoughts about harassing you.

Weapons should be limited to your ability to carry them and knowledge of their use.

Other Equipment

Other equipment that should be in your survival pack is:

  • A container for cooking or boiling water.
  • Matches or lighter in a waterproof container.
  • A first-aid kit and instructions.
  • A towel, hat, and work gloves.
  • Water purification tablets or tinctures of iodine.
  • A flashlight, batteries, candles.
  • Any necessary medications/prescriptions, vitamins.
  • Para-cord, duct tape, (duct tape is an absolute necessity).
  • Copies of important documents, driver’s license, id card.
  • Money (preferably silver).
  • A map(s).
  • Your phone, maybe a wind-up radio.
  • Garbage bags.
  • Don’t forget toilet paper!

There are surely many more things you can think of to have with you in an emergency, just remember that you might have to carry all of your goodies in your bug out bag out of the danger zone.

In any disaster situation that calls for rapid evacuation into unknown circumstances and with doubtful hope of immediate aid, a prepared bug out bag or survival kit can mean the difference between life in reasonable comfort or confusion, dehydration, extreme discomfort and possibly death.

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