Building a Bug Out Bag: 20 Things to Get You Started

Posted: December 10, 2014 in Gear
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IMG_3792Having a well constructed bug out bag (BOB) is a great addition to your preparedness strategy.  Really, it is one of the cornerstones of preparedness.  These are called many things; 72 kit, Go Bag, Get out of Dodge Bag (GOOD), and so forth.  “A rose by another other name…”  Essentially it is a kit that provides you with your basic needs for 72 hours.  If you have to get away quick, aka “bug out” you grab this on the way out the door.  Disasters like hurricanes, fires, floods, civil unrest, etc can happen suddenly.  You want this kit ready to go at a moments notice.

I highly recommend this book Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart.  It is easy to read and more thorough than this post.

Rules of thumb:

  1. Pre-prepared: have this packed and ready, ideally by the door
  2. Portable: Easy to carry.  You may be walking with this thing.  A good packpack works great.  I use an internal frame backpack.
  3. Light-weight: Again you may be carrying this thing for miles, lighter is better.  Try and keep your pack below 25% of your bodyweight.  This is still pretty heavy.  For me this is a 45-50 pound pack.  I wouldn’t want to carry this for 15 miles a day and I have quite a bit of backpacking experience.  If in doubt go with less weight.
  4. Extensive: You want to be prepared for a lot of circumstances and scenarios.  Works against #3.  I would personally rather have a little more weight if it means being more prepared.
  5. Custom: Don’t buy a premade pack.  Buy the right pack for you and fill it up with your needs.  It is a project.  It takes times and effort.  It is not cheap, but your life may depend on it.  Get the best quality you can afford.
  6. Evolve: Your BOB (I shall name you BOB and henceforth you will be known as BOB, and BOB will be your name) should change and evolve as you try new things.  It isn’t just a bag you make, set aside and forget.  Get it out at least once a year and review the contents.  Replace items that expire.  Be one with BOB and he will be one with you.
  7. Everyone: Every adult and teenager needs their own pack.  Children will need to be accounted for in the adult packs.

Essentials: 20 Things to get your started

  1. Pack – I have an REI internal frame backpack.  It holds 65L.  It is my older backpacking rig.  This is a place to spend a bit more money.  Make sure you try them on and get what fits.  They make packs designed for a woman’s body shape as well.  One size does not fit all.  You can easily spend $200-$300 on a pack.  Make sure it has a hip belt.  You want most of the weight on the hips, not the shoulders.  You can use other things to make your BOB but I think a backpack is ideal.
  2. Food – you need 72 hours of food.  Remember that you can survive 3 weeks without food so you don’t need a ton of food.  The longer you go without food your energy levels start to drop.  Mental and physical fatigue set in.  This can be very dangerous in a survival situation and this is why food is essential for your BOB.  You must be awake, alert, and at your best.  I would get one MRE with heater, Survival rations, a freeze dried entree, and assorted snack bars.  This gives you some quick and ready foods.  At least one hot meal (MRE) with no fire.  The survival rations and snack bars are easy and can be eaten on the move.  The FD meal requires fire to heat the water.  Man are these good when you are cold and hungry.
  3. Stove – you need a way to heat water.  You may need this to sterilize water or for cooking.  A backpacking stove works well like the MSR Micro Rocket.  They are dependent on the canisters which is their major drawback.  I like them because they are so simple and reliable.  They don’t work well in very cold temps.  Another more versatile option is a stove that burns liquid fuels like white gas or kerosene, MSR Whisperlite.  I have been using these for years.  They are slightly more complicated and less reliable than the canister stoves but offer added flexibility.  The Esbit Emergency Stove is another great option.  Just light the little fuel cubes and you have a nice little stove.  The military has used these for years.  I like to have one of these in one of the other packs in the family as a backup.
  4. Water – You need 3 liters of water per person, minimum.  More if it is hot and you are working hard.  This is mostly just to drink and prepare food (FD meal).  I like to carry my water in a Nalgene bottle (has measurements), a metal canteen (army canteen works great as well), and a soft collapsable pouch.  They should all be full of water in the pack.
  5. Water purification – I have a Sawyer water filter, Life Straw and Micropur tablets as a back up.
  6. Shelter – a lightweight backpacking tent works well here.  Again, these are pretty pricey.  This shouldn’t weight more than 2-3 pounds per person using it.  Tarps can work as well.  You need one above you and one for ground cover.  You should get backpacking tarps.  Regular old blue tarps from the hardware store are very heavy and bulky, not ideal.  You also need skill and practice with making shelter of a tarps.  Requires cordage, planning, knots, stakes, etc.
  7. Fire – you need multiple ways to make fire.  Water-proof matches, lighter and a striking flint are what I carry.  A cheap Bic lighter will work great.  Using a striking flint is much harder than it looks.  It takes practice.  Practice making fire at home or camping with all of these.  There is an art to making fire and it takes knowledge and practice.  I would also recommend packing some fire starter.  My preferred method is to take cotton balls and soak them with vaseline.  Rub it in really good and smash them down.  Carry a few in ziplock bag.  When needed pull the cotton ball apart and fluff it up again.  The vaseline will cause it to burn for quite a while.  These are cheap, lightweight and reliable fire starters.
  8. Clothes – Hypothermia is the number one outdoor killer.  You need appropriate clothes.  I like at least a long sleeve shirt (wicking – NO COTTON), a fleece for warmth, fleece cap, gloves for all occasions.  It can get cold at night even in the summer.  In the winter you need more clothes.  Layers are always better than a huge bulky jacket.  Layers are actually warmer and more versatile.  You may want to add a heavy fleece or wool sweater.  Wool and synthetic fibers are the best outdoor materials.  Don’t use cotton anything including blue jeans!
  9. Sleeping system – a sleeping bag is probably the simplest option.  They are either synthetic or down.  Down is warmer for the weight, but more expensive.  Synthetics are supposedly a bit warmer if wet.  I can’t say from experience as I try really hard not to get my sleeping bag wet (good shelter).  You need some sort of ground pad, a cheap closed cell foam pad works great.  Inflatable ones work too.  Some experts recommend a heavy wool blanket instead of the sleeping pad as it still works when wet.
  10. Knife – a good knife is an essential part of your bug out bag.  Every bag should have one.  I have tried different configurations.  Currently, I have a Morakniv in each bag.  They are light, cheap and a fixed blade.  I also have at least a folding knife on my person.  A bigger fixed blade knife, like the Becker BK2, would not be a bad idea if you can handle the weight.  A good multi-tool is also hard to deny including.  Check out the multi-tool all-stars post for suggestions.
  11. First Aid Kit – Keep this fairly small and in a waterproof container.  Make your own or customize a premade one.  Adventure Medical Kits make some decent options.
  12. Light – check out the flashlight post for ideas.  I prefer a headlight  (currently this Energizer headlight) and usually have a small back up light.  Carry extra batteries.  Lithium or alkaline, not rechargeable for this application.
  13. Rain gear – A good waterproof, breathable rain jacket is a must.  These can get pricey but are worth it.  At least get a Frogg Toggs poncho if nothing else.  It needs to breath.  Plastic is not a great option, you will get soaked underneath from perspiration.
  14. Gloves – work gloves.  You need gloves to protect your hands from all of the abuse you are going to heap upon them.  Protect your hands and feet!  I like these Mechanix Wear gloves.
  15. Trash bag – get the thickest heaviest-duty trash bags you can.  Typically they are called contractor bags or drum liners.  You can line your pack with this and put everything inside to keep it dry.  This is a great all-purpose item.  It can serve as a ground cloth, shelter, poncho, rain catch, etc.
  16. Duct tape – get good quality tape like Gorilla tape.  The uses are endless.  Wrap it around a pencil, plastic card, or around your Nalgene bottle.
  17. Cordage – I usually carry 550 paracord.  There are other options, just have something.  Again the uses are endless, but it is very helpful for making shelter.  Required if you have a tarp.
  18. Cup – metal so that you can cook and heat water in it.  I have this Toaks titanium cup, super light.  If you are in a group a larger pot is very useful rather than heating things one cup at a time.  Toaks pot and pan would work well.  Make sure to pack things inside the pot and pan which will help protect and keep whatever is inside dry.
  19. Medications – make sure to have a couple weeks of any essential medications (anti-seizure, heart meds, etc) in your bag.
  20. Shoes – You want a good pair of shoes or boots for walking long distances.  You must protect your feet.  These need to be broken in beforehand.  I would just set these beside or tie them to the bag.  Throw them on before you bug out.

The above items should get you started.  These are just suggestions.  Customization is important.  For starters if you just have an old backpack that you put some food, water, a light, a knife, and some extra clothes in you would be better than the majority of the population.  You could probably get this bag together in a day or two.  Then start working on the other things.  Good luck and have fun.  Get to know BOB, he is your friend!

What do you think?  What do you like to have in your bag?

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Comments
  1. Appfamnc says:

    I’ll have to tell my husband about the women’s backpacks, sounds like a great option.

    Liked by 1 person

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