Bug Out Bag

Your First Bug Out Bag

For newbies in survivalist training creating a Bug Out Bag (BOB) for the first time can be somewhat challenging. What you might quickly discover in your research is that many who have Bug Out Bags prepared already spent months or more assembling and tweaking them and have a solid foundation of gear packed. The most obvious question for beginners tends to be where do I start.

With a clear an understanding of survivalist needs and a proper list of gear you can be ahead of the crowd when it comes time to survive a catastrophe. Disasters can be life threatening and unimaginable things can occur in just 72 hours so being prepared for a situation where you must leave your creature comforts behind will mean the difference between whether you survive or perish. Lower on this page I will provide you with guide lines for gear necessary to create your own life sustaining Bug Out Bag.

The primary definition of a bug-out bag is as follows: A portable kit that houses the items one would need to survive self-contained for up to 3 days when evacuating from a disaster; also known as a 72-hour kit, grab bag, battle box, GO Bag, as well as a GOOD Bag (Get Out Of Dodge) bag. Some choose to prepare their Bug Out Bags to sustain them for much longer periods of time.

The emphasis for a Bug Out Bag is typically on evacuation rather than long-term survival discerning it from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supply kit. Bug Out Bags tend to be popular in the subculture of survivalists as well.

The term Bug Out Bag most likely originated from the “bail-out bag” i.e. a military aviator emergency kit. The idea seemed to move into wide usage among other military and law enforcement personnel, although the “bail-out bag” is more likely to include gear for both going into an emergency as well as for evacuating an emergency.

List of must have gear in your first Bug Out Bag

Abraham Maslow, a well known psychologist, studied human behavior for many years and developed an equilateral triangle showing a series of needs that are essential for successful human interaction in one’s home, work and society. At the base of the triangle this list of needs begins with the most basic of human physiological requirements for survival i.e. food, water and sleep.

The list I prepared below meets Maslow’s basic requirements and in it I discuss the most basic types of gear necessary in most Bug Out Bags, as well as my recommendations for items to purchase which withstand hardships and stress when it really counts. Remember that my list is merely a guideline meant to help you get your Bug Out Bag started. When putting a BOB together please also consider any specific life saving items that you or your family may need in an emergency evacuation i.e. medicine.


Water is the most basic requirement for human survival and therefore the most important part of your survival gear and Bug Out Bag. Water quickly becomes a valuable commodity in a disaster situation. It is true that a human can survive with less than a liter of water per day however allowing for a liter per day requires three or more liters of water per person to survive the first three days.

For a period extended beyond three days (72 hours) your Bug Out Bag should also include a water purification system. To prepare for this consider what you would need to boil water or purchase a serious water filtration device. Other items to consider with regards to water:

Read more to discover how to Improve Your Bug Out Bag with Bottled Water


In the short term meaning 72 hours requires no more in food than a few Energy Bars and Backpack Meals. Back pack meals only require boiling water to prepare them as they are freeze dried lightweight complete meals with a long shelf life. Foods found in your pantry that will last and give you the most bang for your buck include: peanut butter, jerky, sardines, granola bars, salt, dried fruit and nuts. Accommodating longer term evacuation situations will require more food but your basic back pack meals are good enough for a standard 72 hour Bug Out Bag.

Bumble Bee Sardines in Oil, 3.75-Ounce Cans (Pack of 24)

Clif Bar Energy Bar, Crunchy Peanut Butter, 2.4-Ounce Bars (Pack of 24)

Mayday 3600 Calorie Food Bars (20 per case)


Consider packing what you might wear on a short term back packing excursion. The following list should help you prepare what you really need:

  • Shoes or Boots
  • A Pair of non cotton Water resistant long pants
  • Two pairs of non cotton socks
  • Two non cotton shirts one long sleeve the other short
  • A water resistant jacket
  • A pair of long underwear
  • A bandana – There is More Than One Use For a Bandana

Although many would prefer to place more in their Bug Out Bags the list above is plenty sufficient for 72 hours. Understand that like a boy or girl scout you must be prepared which includes weather conditions. Therefore, try to have Seasonal Clothing in your BOB as well.


If you are to survive for a period of time out doors you will need some kind of sheltering protection and most definitely a dry place to rest and or sleep. The following list should help you understand the bare essentials for a warm and dry shelter.

First Aid

There are many prepackaged First Aid Kits available to choose from and covering all there is to know about them can be found in another page of this website. I recommend that you make your own kit.

Some prepackaged kits are fine however most include many items you will never use and have too few of the items you might really need. Also, creating your own first aid kit provides you with an intimate understanding of what it contains and how it can be used. It is never a good idea to assume that a pre made first kit will have everything you need because it is chalk full of supplies.

Suggested First Aid Gear: The Sawyer Extractor Pump ® Vacuum for Poisonous Bites.

General Gear

These are items that must be included but that do not fit neatly into a particular category. It is not by any means an exhaustive list but it will certainly cover you for 72 hours.

Fire Starter – You need more than one way to start a fire and I suggest that you have at least three. See my article on Five ways to Start a Fire. In the article I describe how to go about starting a fire and in another article, Five Ways to Tend Your Fire,  I talk about building the fire up and keeping it alive.

Of course you will need to cut firewood and therefore something to cut the wood with and using a knife may be physically challenging after some time therefore Picking the Right Survival Chainsaw might be the best choice for cutting firewood.

Survival Knife – The Survival Knife will be the single most used item in your Bug Out Bag. Here is an article I wrote on the subject: Consider These Before Choosing Your Survival Knife

Rain Gear – You should have more than one way to keep yourself dry. Using a Poncho, your coat and your tent or shelter should be enough.

Cooking – The least you can get by with would be a large cup and a Small Camping Pot to boil water for freeze dried meals and drinking. If you can, using a backpacking stove and fuel are great tools to include.

Light – I recommend that you have two durable Flashlights and spare batteries for each.

Weapons – The last thing you want not to be prepared for in desperate times is self defense. Disasters breed chaos and individuals when desperate act in unpredictable ways. It is very important therefore to be prepared to defend yourself and your family.

In addition to your survival knife a Firearm goes a long way to help you withstand a lawless attack. Also something as simple as a stick, bat or club can be a good deterrent. Personal choice will define what you use. It is ultimately up to you to chose whatever you are comfortable with but you should definitely have options.

More about Survival Weapons

The Survival Shotgun Six Reasons You Need One

Do You Need A Personal Defense Weapon?

Low Cost Provisions: Gun Cleaning and Sewing

Disaster Plan – It is imperative that you include a disaster plan and depending on where you live (climate, elevation) your plan should identify your emergency areas, rallying points, evacuation routes, trail maps, and maps of the area. It is also important that you use a water barrier to laminate and protect the paper your plan resides.

Survival Reference – Your reference books should be studied before hand and kept as part of your BOB during a disaster. Recommended books include: SAS Survival Handbook, When All Hell Breaks Loose, US Army Survival Manual

Camp Axe & Shovel – Fiskars 8-Inch Hatchet #7855, Fiskars Splitting Axe 23.5-Inch #7853, Gerber 45905 Camp Axe – Sheath – Clam, Folding Spade NATO Approved Knife from Gerber Knives

Radio – Radios are great to help keep up on what is going on. Etón FR500 Solarlink (Black) is a Solar Powered Radio with an AM/FM/Shortwave/NOAA radio, a built-in LED flashlight, and cell phone charger. Go here to see how to make a Five Dollar DIY Solar Powered Radio

MultiTool Leatherman 830040 New Wave Multi-Tool with Nylon Sheath; Leatherman 830160 Surge Pocket Multitool with Leather Sheath

Cordage – (wide variety of uses, traps, etc….) *550 Paracord

Cash & Important Documents – It is a good idea to always have some cash in your bag and include as well a copy of all your important documents i.e. SS Card, Drivers license or ID, Fishing Hunting License, Gun License, etc.

CommunicationPortable C.B or Ham Radio

Fishing GearBobbers Hooks, fishing line, small collapsible pole

Duct tape

Solar ChargerBrunton Solarport 4.4 Watt Foldable Solar Charger with Battery Charger Great for recharging AA/AAA batteries for electronics, Brunton 26 Watt Foldable Solar Array Great for powering small electronics

Miscellaneous – Candles, Safety Pins, sewing needles and thread, Playing Cards for entertainment, Wire for snaring.

Again, these are all basic building blocks for you first Bug Out Bag. When these basics are covered you can begin to experiment and hone your GOOD bag with additional gear and prepare it for greater lengths of time for more serious survival situations. Always make sure that your BOB is built to fit your needs.

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