The 28 Essential Items for Your Bug Out Bag
By Jason Wagner
The Bug Out Bag, which is often abbreviated BOB by survival enthusiasts (such an odd word…survival enthusiasts) is beloved for its grab and go characteristics. When it comes to buying the components of a bug out bag, you must first determine what it is that you need to fill it with for it to be useful to you when you’ll need it most, which is the primary focus of this article As is almost always the case with anything, while you’ll definitely want, or should I say you should strive to acquire only the absolute best quality emergency supply components, but just as long as the stuff is durable, rugged and dependable you’ll have done all that could be expected of you.
It most certainly goes without saying this these survivalist items alone won’t carry you, and hell – all the survival supplies in the world won’t carry you through the Armageddon if you don’t have a powerful will, the right knowledge and even luck on your side, but the right emergency supplies will definitely shift the odds in your favor. These 28 items aren’t all that you’ll need to survive, but if you’ve got these you’ve got a good foundation for you to further build upon your bug out bag.
An Internal Framed Backpack: It’s kind of funny that I mention this, but really – without the proper backpack how could you have a proper bug out bag? I don’t think that you could in the void of such an important item. When choosing the exact size, figure what you can comfortably carry and maneuver in and just as importantly, remember this – travelling light is nice, but having what you need is even better. When choosing the exact kind of backpack, I really cannot give any clear-cut suggestions beyond the obvious you get what you pay for and try not to get ripped off…but I can offer something that you may not of already thought of: Instead of getting a really flashy military-esque militiaman backpack, why not get something that’s a bit more incognito – something that’s fairly stealthy, but something that doesn’t scream that you’re a hardened survivalist that may have something worth stealing. Remember that in the apocalypse vagabonds will be abound, so you’ll want to appear as humble as possible.
A Machete…I like the Kukri because not only does it serve as a utility blade, you could pretty much fend off an entire band of raiders with it…well, maybe if they were unarmed – but regardless, it makes a truly fine multi-purpose tool and heavy melee weapon. Like I said, it makes a potent combat implement, but how is it useful as a utility tool? Well, hmm…Wood, for one and of course brushwork, which are both very important aspects to have in mind for your utility blade, and the kukri has got them covered…One thing of note, don’t go gallivanting around thinking that the kukri machete and you will have a good time chopping down giant pine trees…no, that’s not likely to happen, but for something that’s a lethal weapon first (technically…it was a tool first, in Nepal, I mean) and a utility weapon second, it works great. As far as choosing the right kukri, I usually avoid making brand recommendations in my articles, but when I’m so overwhelming pleased with an item, sometimes I cannot help myself – the Ka-Bar Kukri does the job perfectly and the price is right, so consider arming yourself with a no thrills top quality kukri compliments of Ka-Bar.
A Fighting Knife: Ah – the venerable fighting knife is good for, haha – what else? Fighting, but also as a tool…You’ve already got a kukri? Nicely done, I approve of that; my kukri has got to be one of my most prized possessions, but I mean they’re two different kinds of tools. As far as a kukri goes, it’s a ruthless chopping instrument, but a good quality fighting knife with a sturdy pommel makes for a pounding tool that works well for pounding in stakes and nails, and the fighting knife is good for finer slicing (I’d rather you didn’t do any apocalyptic torture) and carving of things ranging from wood all the way to fruit. When used in combat, a good quality fighting knife is both sharp and pointy, but the primary combat emphasis is on thrusts, rather than slashes.
A Sharpening Stone: Arkansas stones and sharpening pucks are both effective and cheap options for sharpening your blade…flat stones work better for straight edged knives and pucks are good for curved blades. You won’t want to waste too much space on sharpening stones, so pick out a stone, and a bottle of sharpening oil if you want and be done with it. If it’s the apocalypse and you’re bugging out you probably care much more just to have a fairly sharp knife than a Japanese blade that’s been sharpened with 15 different water stones.
A Sleeping Bag: The quality of the sleeping bag is of course important, however if you live in a climate where even in the dead of winter it usually doesn’t get too intense then I suppose, if absolutely necessary you could skimp on the quality…To be fair, just because something is expensive doesn’t mean that it’s rated for cold environments and sometimes a light sleeping bag (purposely light) can cost just as much as a heavy one.
A Small Water Purification System: Water purifiers come in so many different sizes, shapes and dongles that I could write an entire article just on them…which I probably will. Hmm, for your BOB I suppose a model that has portability in mind with a ceramic core filter would be the logical choice.
Several Bottles of Water: You never know just how long it’ll be until you find some water that’s relatively clean and appropriate for filtering, so you’ll want these to fall back on until you can find an appropriate…source of water. Other reasons for having a reasonable supply of water in your BOB are innumerable, so just do it!
Food: My recommendation would be food of the MRE or freeze dried type. The merits of freeze dried food, and I’m speaking more towards freeze dried entrees, like the ones that I so often review are that they’re tasty, nutritious, space efficient, lightweight and relatively easy to prepare, but being relatively easy to prepare is one of their low points on account of them even needing preparation. Personally I like stuffing MRE’s in my Bug Out Bag for two predominant reasons – a high amount of calories per ounce of food and a ridiculously easy preparation. MRE’s are ideal for the BOB, but they cost more and as long as you’ve got some kind of food in your BOB, you’re a step ahead of most of the population. Freeze dried and MRE’s are the two primary options, but I’d like to give an honorable shout out to the likes of beef jerky and to a lesser extent snack food – they make excellent BOB food so long as they’re regularly rotated for freshness.
A Battery Powered Lantern: The stronger the better, and one that has a variable output – all the better. Because these only require batteries, which are loaded into them already so no additional space is wasted unless you keep some in reserve, these are perfect for your Bug Out Bag. I’ve got a higher end model that pumps out 240 lumens of light, it takes three D batteries and best of all it has a shatterproof light shade, oh and it’s rugged against even the roughest of environmental conditions, so I do suppose that you acquiring something along the lines of what I’ve got would be a wise move. Many people still like oil lanterns, and if that’s your thing, that’s your thing but I’ve got my preferences, and given my bias I’ll be recommending the battery powered lanterns above the oil lanterns of yesteryear.
A Handgun or .22 Rifle: You’ll notice that both choices are relative lightweights, and that’s basically on purpose – remember you’re bugging out, you’re not going to war so you want to keep the firearm(s) lightweight, and perhaps just as importantly you want to keep the ammo light in weight and compact in space taken. I should clarify on the handgun thing – when I say a handgun I mean something relatively modest like a 9mm. The .22 caliber rifle makes perfect sense because it’s a rifle – and being a rifle it’s accurate and it has a relatively long range with decent stopping power, even when chambered for the .22. Low caliber weapons might not rip a man in half like a .50 caliber anti-materiel rifle would, but they are most certainly capable of killing a man, and then some. Now, how much ammo should you take? The exact amount depends on your weapon of choice, but if you’ve chosen a .22 you should be able to carry a grand payload of ammo without compromising a whole lot of space…so I guess a minimum of 20 rounds if you want to be an extreme featherweight? A final note, make sure you keep that ammo nice and dry otherwise it’ll be about as useful as wet tissue paper against a machete
A Compass: The compass is something that isn’t really used to much anymore since the advent of GPS and smartphones, and as is now the case – smartphones with GPS. I still like the compass because it takes up like no space and if there’s an EMP event it should still work as intended, and you cannot tell me that there isn’t something charming about the compass!
A Good Pair of Work Gloves: You wouldn’t believe how quickly your hands will suffer the blistering effects of lifting wood and a serious lack of hand moisturizers, plus the lack of a working sink to wash them in won’t help. Leather with a cotton lining isn’t a bad choice for its resistance to abrasion, comfort to the wearer and its thermal encasing qualities that will prove especially helpful in colder climates…Speaking of climates, make sure you don’t keep too heavy a pair of gloves if you’re in a hot, or currently hot location. Because of the changing seasons, keep two different pairs of Bug Out Bag gloves so you can swap the gloves in your Bug Out Bag as the temperature increases and decreases.
A Bottle of Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is both a pain killer and NSAID, that’s an abbreviation for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug. Given the relative absence of modern medicine and hygiene, your chances of encountering painful injuries and as a direct result of those injuries – inflammation are designated at the severe level of risk. Deciding on the size of the bottle is up to you, but some things to keep in mind are that the liquid caps work faster, but tend to take up more space, so you’ve got to weigh the benefits of the liquid caps vs the more traditional tablet.
A Wound Dressing: Preferably something designed with copious amounts of blood loss in mind…Such as a battle dressing, or newer technologies like QuickClot based gauze technology. When selecting a wound dressing try to purchase one’s that are enclosed in a sealed, better yet vacuum sealed plastic bag. If you get stabbed or shot and you cannot be transported to a hospital, something that can control the bleeding will be the definitive difference between you living to see tomorrow and you not. Remember, when buying a wound dressing make sure you get one that can treat any conceivable part of your body that’s in need of it…not just your arm, but your torso, too.
EMT Scissors: These are often needed to cut battle dressing’s to size, and they serve the functions of traditional residential scissors should you need them.
Several Pairs of Medical Grade Nitrile Gloves: 6mil+ is the ticket, and unless you want to bring an entire box with you, I suggest that you place the nitrile gloves in a re-sealable plastic bag to keep them sanitary and at the ready. Good quality nitrile gloves are worth it over the cheap ones when dealing with hazardous chemicals, and to the same extent they’re great when dealing with a messy injury, and having a good quality barrier against any foreign contamination is absolutely critical when dealing with an injury that’s not your own.
A Flashlight: Something big, and metal and imposing would be the perfect choice for your Bug Out Bag. A good lantern can mostly supersede the flashlight, but I always derive some level of comfort in knowing that I’ve got a massive flashlight that can focus light for a surprisingly great distance, and best of all if I’m in a CQB (Close Quarters Battle) situation I can swing the metal flashlight forward to defend myself on a whims notice. A police style flashlight is my particular favorite, but many people prefer the ridiculously bright flashlights that basically put the power of Helios in your hand.
A Small Journal and Pen: During the American Civil War nothing entertained a soldier or kept his mind more trained than writing and recording events in his journal. Sure, they could have lice races, but that just didn’t compare. Anyway, when purchasing a journal, buy one that has the outdoors in mind because you’ll be giving your survival journal the one two all day long. If you want to skip the journal, of course that’s fine – it’s your Bug Out Bag, but your morale is important, and if you aren’t interested in writing down your thoughts, then you might want to log events, and if you’re keeping a good track of events that just might keep you alive longer.
A Magnesium Fire Starter: Look, I really do love my Zippo lighter, the filling it up and the crazy flame it can put out – it’s kind of like a mini-flamethrower, but when your life hangs in the balance I don’t want to have to lug around a big can of Zippo lighter fluid, or even a small can of a highly flammable liquid – no, for the apocalypse I’m perfectly content with the compact and effective magnesium fire starter. Many people like the flint and steel, and I count myself among them – it’s great, but from personal experience I’m of the opinion that the magnesium fire starter is basically a low-tech, but higher tech flint and steel; and if the flint and steel does its job admirably, it’s nice to know that you’ve got something that does the job of lighting things on fire better than well.
Packets of Honey: Packets, packets like you’d pick up at a fast food place are good little infusions of carbohydrates and of sweets, which in turn boost your awareness; better yet, a packet of honey takes up little to no space, so why wouldn’t you want to have those little morale boosters on hand?
A Small Survival Book: A book that has zero fluff is of course the way to go – simple medical diagrams, wound treatment advice, what kinds of berries you can and cannot eat – the usual things that help when on the move in the wilderness. If there’s an event so severe that you’ve got to bug out with your Bug Out Bag then you’ll probably need to rely on ink and paper. If you wanted to, there’s nothing to say you cannot just print out your favorite survival articles from the internet (hint) and put them into a nice and rugged binder, and if that binder has got weather resistant page protectors – all the better!
A Bottle of Whiskey or Vodka: Heh, yes you could use these to numb the pain of you having lost, or having potentially losing everything, that’s one reason to keep a small and sturdy bottle of the good stuff on hand, or more practically you could use the strong alcohol to disinfect wounds prior to applying a proper dressing. When selecting the right alcohol, ensure that it is of the highest proof and made of either thick and sturdy glass, or as is more resistant to chipping and outright breakage – metal or plastic containers. If you’re absolutely positive that you won’t need a drink or two, you could just substitute the food grade alcohol in favor of 70% isopropyl alcohol, but again – you won’t be able to drink it and isopropyl alcohol might be less valuable in a trade.
A 10 ounce Bottle of Concentrated Dish Soap: Don’t laugh at my suggestion! A small bottle of the most concentrated dish soap makes perfect sense for one reason – concentration; a good quality dish soap is a deep cleaning detergent and given its concentration it makes for the ideal Bug Out Bag hand and body washing soap. Of course, because it’s so concentrated just make sure that you’ve got plenty of water to rinse the soap off, like an uncorrupted river or something of that sort.
A Small Toolkit: Because you don’t want to stock the most comprehensive toolkit known to man, try to get as small a toolkit as possible, with as versatile a selection of tools and multi-tools as you can. You need a toolkit for those situations wherein you’ll need to do the things that you aren’t expecting, like unscrewing some random objects and such! Philip head screwdrivers, Tourette headed screwdrivers and flathead screwdrivers are essentials for your basic kit, but again, above all else – because we’re talking about a toolkit for your Bug Out Bag don’t go overboard!
A Small Stack of N95 Masks: Assuming things take longer than initially expected to return to normal, you’ll want to have an N95 mask on hand for when you’re scavenging buildings, especially industrial buildings for supplies. Depending on what happened, the buildings may be filled with toxic dust and the like, which the N95 does a reasonably good job (95% filtration) of filtering out.
A Foot or More of Paracord: Paracord, cord or any ropey material for that matter can be used to great effect by those whom are familiar with advanced knot tying techniques, otherwise most anybody could derive some use from these.
Zip-Ties: Think of these as the handcuffs that people whom aren’t policemen use. Assuming that you don’t want to kill everybody who you come across (that’s good) then you’ll want to at least have the option of immobilizing them with a zip tie. Maybe you could even leave them a dull knife that would take a while to cut through the strong plastic, but it would be possible – things like that.
Weatherproof Matches: Yes, yes – I do know that I’ve already given the thumbs up to the magnesium fire starter, but a small box (or container) of weatherproof matches takes up such a small amount of space and they’re just useful to have if you haven’t the time to be scraping away at the magnesium.
Thanks for reading my article, and now that you’ve absorbed the information it is my hope that you’ve now got a better idea of how to enhance your Bug Out Bag, and it’s doubly my hope that you’re well on your way to finishing what amounts to your perfect BOB. Beyond my suggestions, remember that the Bug Out Bag is an individual thing, so if you want two of something that’s great, if you want to skip something that’s fine too; but at the end of the day you need a basic foundation, and, well – good luck out there!