Back to the Basics: The Bug-Out-Bag

Sometimes, even an experienced prepper needs to start over.  In my own case, I put together a bug-out-bag way back when.  I then dutifully hung it on a hook in the closet near my back door and other than an occasional update of documents and meds, pretty much left it alone.  What a shame, or shall I say how lucky can I get that I did not need to use it.

The reason is a simple one.  Since that date way back when, I have upgraded my gear, added to the basics and well, I simply have become more educated as to what my own particular requirements might be.

With that bit of background information, today I am going to go back to the basics and re-define my own bug-out-bag by merging the old with the new and starting fresh with the items that are included in the new kit I put together a while back ago for Survival Gear Bags.

Getting Started

Before showing you my newly revamped Bug Out Bag, I want to pass on a bit of advice.  When picking the pack itself, keep in mind the size.  It has got to be large enough to carry your stuff but not so large that that it will overwhelm you size-wise.  Equally important is consider how much you can actually carry.  You may have to make some tough decisions in order to keep the overall weight manageable, so be aware upfront that you may need to be a bit ruthless while making selections for your pack.

Okay, enough said.  What are the basics and what is in my own Bug Out Bag?

Bug Out Bag Basics – How to Start?

Since the purpose of a bug out bag is to provide you with essentials to survive for thee days to a week, I am going to start with the priorities of water, first aid, light, warmth and shelter.  These things do not have to be exotic, but they should be there in one form or another.  The other essentials are identification, copies of important documents and any essential prescription medications for all family members.

Cover these things and from there you can move on with the other items you want to have with you if you need to bug-out.  I need to make a point here and that is to be sure to examine the risks you face in your own geographical area so that you can determine the types of events that may require you to flee.

For example, where I live in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, the unthinkable events requiring me to leave my well-stocked little home and all of its survival goodies would be of the catastrophic type such as a nuclear attack in nearby Seattle or that 9.0 (or larger) earthquake that we all know is coming (but hopefully not in my lifetime).

The point here is that your mileage may vary so secure the basics first and move on from there.

Bug Out Bag 2.0

So here it is, all laid out for you.  There are a few things not in the picture such as my all-important duct tape, my FRS radios and my pepper spray.

As you can see, the pack is sized just right for my smaller frame and yet it is carrying a ton of stuff.

Bug Out Bag Items

What’s all included?

A lot more than you think including but not limited to paracord (100 ft. plus bracelet plus key ring plus lanyard), mini-flashlight, batteries, storm whistle, fire starter, knife sharpener, the Kershaw OSO Sweet knife, Swiss army knife, chemical light sticks, cash in small bills, copies of important documents, toiletries, meds, first aid items, rain ponchos, my Berkey sport bottle, a military grade compass, survival blankets, sanitizing wipes, flash drive and more.

Oh – one more thing worth mentioning – a big roll of toilet paper!

Bug Out Bag On a Budget

I do have a recommendation or two if you are just getting started with a limited budget.  Then simply take a run  through your house and gather up any items that help accomplish some of the key areas. (Remember I mentioned water, first aid, light, warmth and shelter?)

You probably have some bottled water or can get some for just a few bucks.  Add a lighter, an old flashlight, some extra batteries, bandages and gauze, an old blanket, toilet paper, wipes, a pocket knife, contact lists, poncho or rain coat, rope, a section of duct tape and you are well on your way.

Then, over time, replace these items with newer things or better quality items that will see you through for the longer term.

Extra Credit – Advice from an Expert

I while back I asked Kelly Gendrou (who runs for some advice on selecting a Bug Out Bag.  Most definitely, he subscribes to the “less is more” theory when it come to Bug Out Bags.

Kelly Survival Gear Bags (1)I like a more compact bag for everyday carry and constantly use my items just being out with the kids. If it were too big, it would end up just sitting in a trunk or in a closet. You might as well get as much use as you can out of the items, even if it is not an “emergency”.

Keeping your kit modular or having a lot of attachment points can help accomplish this as well.  Then you can take your main pack with you for a walk in the woods, while leaving some additional gear back in the car. Other times I leave the main pack in the car and just bring the first aid pouch over to the playground, or to the bench at the range.

Another solution can simply be utilizing compressions straps or some of our bags that have hidden pouches or expansion gussets that zipper away when not in use. In some cases these sections can almost double the size of the bag.

You can keep them nice and compact, and then when needed, you have extra room to store extra layers of clothing or other supplies.

So size is important.  You want a bag that will hold all of your gear without being so bulky that you will never want to carry it.

I also asked him what he recommended as additional items – beyond the basics – for someone that is just getting started in putting together a Bug Out Bag and survival kit.

People will need to add seasonal clothing items, or just a change of clothes. You never know what you might be wearing at the time of an emergency.

Data is also very, very important. Having a detailed contacts list, important account info, and reference materials/guides can make a huge difference.

Although you will survive 72 hours without food, the situation will be a bit more comfortable with some nourishment.

Medicine or other medical items unique to your situation.

A book or deck of cards. In some situations you may be relatively safe but end up stuck until weather clears or until help arrives.

Now interestingly enough, some of the additional items are part of my own basics.  That just proves that everyone has their own set of requirements and needs.  One guys extras are another gals essentials.  Go figure.

The Final Word

Putting together a Bug Out Bag is not optional – it is something you must do.  Start with the basics then think of the possible scenarios that you are preparing for.  From there, think about the items you might need in those situations.  Starting with a minimal kit is okay, really it is.  The important thing is to start.

There is no excuse, really.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bug Out Bag

Bargain Bin:  Putting together a bug-out-bag is not a one-size-fits all proposition.  Still, there are some basic foundation items that belong in every kit.  Sure, you still need to add food, water, personal care items and a whole lot more. But these basics will get you started.

Rothco Medium Transport Pack: What I really like about these Rothco packs is the narrow profile.  As you can see in the picture, it is only as wide as my body.  Sure, it sticks out a bit in back but at least I do not bump in to things.  There are lots of compartments and pouches and it by far, the most comfortable pack I have ever worn.  I actually own 3 Rothco packs, 2 in the medium size and one large.  I keep one pack permanently in my vehicle.

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife:  This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing.

LifeStraw Personal Water FilterThe Amazon Top Ten Most Wanted Survival and Outdoor Items   Backdoor Survival:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.

Flash Drive: I cannot over emphasize the importance of having important documents on a flash drive.  Sure, the power may be out temporarily but for the nominal price and virtually no weight, it is silly not to carry all of your documents and survival reference guides on a flash drive.

Streamlight Nano Light Keychain LED Flashlight:  The little itty bitty flashlight is extremely small and light weight yet it will throw off a decent amount of super-bright light. At just .36 ounces and 1.47 inches long, it will take up a minimum of space in your pocket or bag.  Other alternatives are the Blocklite or even the inexpensive, but super-bright FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree LED Flashlight.

Paracord Survival Bracelet:  Why a Paracord Bracelet? So you always have some of this useful cord on your person!  Or, if you prefer, a paracord lanyard or keychain or even a 100 foot hank of paracord.

Windstorm Safety Whistle: This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.  For the budget minded, there is the 3 in 1 Survival Whistle with Compass Thermometer for about a dollar.

Swedish Firesteel:  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version.  A less expensive alternative is this  Campers Magnesium Fire StarterThe Amazon Top Ten Most Wanted Survival and Outdoor Items   Backdoor Survival.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets:  These come in compressed packets small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet.  You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you.

2 Pack Survival Kit Can Opener, Military, P-51 ModelThe Amazon Top Ten Most Wanted Survival and Outdoor Items   Backdoor Survival:  These can openers makes great addition to any survival, fishing, hiking, or camping pack. They are lightweight and robust and they just work.

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials

The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

Also on sale this month is the Mobile WasherThis is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub. 

These are just two of the items on sale this month at Emergency Essentials.  Click on the link below for more great deals from Emergency Essentials.

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Updated Jun 26, 2019

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13 Responses to “Back to the Basics: The Bug-Out-Bag”

  1. I like to organize my information on Pinterest. Are you planning to add the app?

  2. I am not sure what you mean by “add the app”. You can find me at //

  3. Very useful information. I like the links you added. I carry my bugout bag in my car. I periodically recheck it and make sure that everything is in working order. Kind of like a readiness drill. Now that winter is here – I need to think about the weather changing and adjust for that. Thanks for charing.

    • We throw some boots and warm socks in the car for the winter. You just never know.

  4. We also have “bug-out-bags” in our truck. We have carried such items for about as long as we have been married, which has been 41 years. My husband has always had the need to carry such things as food, water, gear for camping etc, for “just in case” we get stranded.It is not a disgrace to be prepared.
    I now also carry a pack filled with gear to use if I am out and can’t get home, need to leave home or whatever the emergency. I feel that you can’t go wrong if you are prepared. You may not be able to carry the stuff you would like but if you carry the stuff you may need, then you at least have a chance at surviving a lot of disasters

  5. Sharon – I especially like it when you say “You may not be able to carry the stuff you would like but if you carry the stuff you may need, then you at least have a chance at surviving a lot of disasters.” That is very wise when it comes to all of your prepping – get what you need and not necessarily what you like. Gaye

  6. One thing to add when I read the first paragraph where you hung your BOB in the closet near the back door. I’ve found that the second most hours are spent in the bedroom (first being the workplace), thats where IMHO the BOB should be. What if in the middle of the nigh you are awakened by the fire alarm/smoke detector and your means of escape is the bedroom window? I believe the BOB should be within reach of when you are most vulnerable, therefore it should be close to the bed.If your awake in the evening and making dinner and there is a fire you stand a chance of grabbing an extinguisher and putting it out or at least have enough advance warning to get to the BOB. At dark:30 in the night you may not have that chance.

  7. I just bought a military “alice pack and frame”…trouble is, I had no idea how to set it up….after a LOT of looking, a friend on a forum gave me a military site… I know why I had trouble…the set up instructions and drawings were 40 pages long!

  8. “a big roll of toilet paper!” That is funny – better to have three partial rolls in separate zip lock bags. Picture dropping the BIG roll in water or the port-a-potty. How do you say “No” to some other poor soul without making an instant mortal enemy? Put a book of matches in each bag to facilitate burning the evidence and discourage animals from spreading your little pile. Leave no trace is good OPSEC.

  9. I like the idea of pepper spray for defense. Non-lethal and easier to use than a gun.

  10. Instead of spare batteries, carry a spare identical flashlight. There you are in the dark and your flashlight just died, but it’s okay because you have spare batteries. How time critical is what you were doing? What is the chance you may fumble and drop batteries mixing the old with the new? And then…. Would you really be happier just turning on your spare flashlight! The spare flashlight should be identical to facilitate swapping parts if something else goes bad. I carry two headlamps with your choice of white or red LEDs and two 9-LED, 3-AAA battery hand-helds.

  11. The best bug out book that I have found is called, “Realistic Bug Out Bag” by Max Cooper. It blows away all of the other books on the topic.

    It is on at: //

  12. An excellent resource I have found on bug out bags is a book called, “Realistic Bug Out Bag, 2nd Edition: Prepared to Survive” by Max Cooper. This book is huge (620 pages) and covers a very wide range of topics to include 30 scenarios and 10 drills to increase your chances of survival. Well worth checking out. I found it complete and insightful.


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