“My legs are so tired. I think you are gonna have to go ahead without me.”
Last weekend my son Carter and I were stalking a local thicket for squirrel and rabbit. It had been a rainy and quiet day but for the sounds of gunshots in the distance.
It was the last day of firearms deer hunting season but we were out with a small pellet gun. Of course, we were wrapped in blaze orange. Our boots were caked with thick clay from the muddy clearing we followed.
Carter wasn’t tired, but he was bored tired and that is a condition that parents need to understand when it comes to planning a bugout of their own.
We have scaled mountains together, fished in far off places and explored campsites all over the state of Virginia. Carter has his own bag and he is at his best is when we have things to look forward to. Many of which come out of that bag like foods and games.
His bag looks very different than my son Jacob’s who is 4 years old. The age of your kids or teens will make their bugout bag look very different. We are going to look at some important items to include when bugout bag building for kids and teens.
What Are You Asking of Your Kids?
Before you consider which bag to start with or what survival gear should go inside, you need to think about the plan. What are you asking of your kids and family with your bugout plan?
The first step in building any bugout plan is to understand whether or not bugging out is possible for you. Be honest here. You might be better suited to invest in bugging in.
- Elderly Parents
- Severe Bodily Injuries
- Community Safety
These are all reasons you might not even consider bugging out. Beyond that, you should look at the distance, terrain and worst-case scenarios of your bugout plan.
Is this a plan that you and your kids are going to be able to execute? Is it going to be too strenuous? Is it going to be too dangerous?
Bugout Bags for Kids (Ages 4-7)
4 years old is about the earliest you should consider a bugout bag of any substance. You might also consider that your 4 year old’s bag is something you will likely have to carry at some point during the bugout.
The most important aspects of a bag at this age are weight and familiarity. For those on the younger side of the scale a bugout bag with some toys, stuffed animals or blankets would likely keep their up their spirits better than one filled with survival gear.
As mentioned earlier, kids eat and they eat more when they are bored and worried. Strange, right? I am sure you have never found yourself eating because of stress or boredom.
At this age be sure these are snacks they can easily access themselves. You won’t want to be bothered and they won’t want to bother you.
- Fruit Snacks
- Survival Bars
- Fruit Leather
- Freeze Dried Fruits
Jacob, my youngest son, suffered from pretty severe eczema when he was a baby. My wife and I had no idea if it would go away or not. We had to use special creams and ointments to give him relief and keep him from getting a serious skin infection.
He would scratch until he bled.
This is just one example of how important personal hygiene issues can become if you are not prepared for them.
- Small Baby Wipes
- Simple Hand Sanitizer
- Hypoallergenic Lotion
- Hair Brush
- Child Specific Hygiene Items
Nothing stops a child in their tracks like being thirsty.
“IM DYING OF THIRST AND DEHYDRATED!”
Things like this can be said an hour after leaving your home. On a serious note, true dehydration will make your bugout much worse than it has to be. Keep it simple.
- Cameback or water bladder compatible with their bag
- Water Bottle they can carry and operate on their own (see our LifeStraw Play review)
Not enough emphasis is put on the sleep system with most bugout bags. A child of any age can carry a hammock. You pocket the straps in your bag and give them the little satchel to hold in their bag.
The Bivvy sack will keep them warm and dry in most cases but its not enough to get them a good night’s sleep.
- Emergency Blanket or Small Wool Blanket
- An Old Pillow Case Cut in Half Widthwise (this can be filled with leaves or clothes and used as a pillow.)
- Bivvy Sack
Ever since our first camping trip, I have secured a whistle on the neck of my son. This is how I find him if he gets lost in the woods without me. It’s not to say he goes running off but you can lose people very easily at twilight, especially little people.
Your 6-year-old will not be carrying lots of gear. They will struggle to carry much of anything. Depending on age, some of the things listed above may need to go in your bugout bag.
However, there are some pieces of gear they can carry.
- N95 Mask
- Tactical Entertainment i.e. books or toys
Bugout Bags for Pre Teens (Ages 8-12)
Carter is now 8 years old and his bag has become increasingly more of a functional bugout bag. He is touching on different gear categories.
My recommendations in this section will come from personal experience. Carter has spent a lot of time with a prepper and an outdoorsman in the woods. He knows his stuff so he may carry some things you might not want your preteen carrying.
Not much changes here from the mentioned foods above. The quantity of food and weight could increase because the carrier’s strength is greater. The only other things I would include might be some camping meals.
Carter often carries all of the food and he gets to pick what we eat. It’s fun and includes some backpacking meals for breakfast and dinner.
We look to Combat One for most of our hygienic needs on the trail. They make an 8 wipe bathing system that uses a colloidal silver solution. The pack is small and light.
- Combat One Wipes
- Small Hand Sanitizer
- Travel Toothbrush and Paste
Understanding water filtration and disease-causing pathogens is important at this age. Kids can take a more active role in things like sanitizing and filtering water.
While Carter doesn’t carry the Katadyn Hiker Pro, he has used it and filled water bladders and bottles. Here are some other options.
- Nalgene Water Bottle
- 1.5L Water Bladder
- Small Cookset with Lidded Container
At this age, there will be a little more preference when it comes to the sleep system. I would recommend sticking with hammocks and tarps as they travel best.
Picking their own campsite and setting it up for the night is a huge learning opportunity.
Basic first aid and dealing with simple wounds and sprains should be something your little survivor can handle. A simple first aid kit will empower them and make them more effective.
- Elastic Bandaids of Various Sizes
- Rolled Gauze
- Bacitracin or Triple Antibiotic Ointment
- Antiseptic Wipes
- Allergy Meds
- Israeli Compression Dressings
- Ace Bandage
- Burn Cream
- Sting and Bite Cream
We store this all in a perforated red organizer bag with a zipper.
The use of real survival gear at this age is important to me. It’s supervised but it’s still important. The big consideration is the weight. You don’t want to overburden this bag with too much gear or they will not be able to keep up.
- Small Folding Knife
- Thick Ferrocerium Rod with Striker
- Gerber Dime Multitool (great if your child is not ready for a blade)
- Ziploc of Dryer Lint (fire starter)
Bugout Bags for Teens (Ages 13+)
There are two types of kids to consider when it comes to building bugout bags for someone in this age range.
1. The child who as spent time camping, hunting, and fishing.
2. The child who has not.
Child number one is going to have strong opinions about the things they would like in their bag and you should listen. Chances are they already have a bag for camping and you might only need to manipulate that bag a little to call it a bugout bag.
Child number two, on the other hand, is going to need some serious help. However, at this age its great fun to build the bag together. Don’t miss out on that opportunity.
If your teenager is averse to your prepping and lecturing you could shroud your efforts and just build a “camping bag” for a future trip.
The only change here is the possible implementation of stove use. At this age, your child should have a cookstove of their own if for nothing else than practice.
- Rocket Stove
- Mess Kit
The skill to filter and sanitize water should be something they own. It’s very common around the world for kids to handle this skill. In fact, it’s necessary to survival in many parts of the world.
With a few pieces of gear, it will be very easy.
- Charcoal and/’or Membrane Filter that can refill containers (Lifestraw, Sawyer, Katadyn, HydroBlu products are all great)
- Water Sanitizing Tablets
- 2L Water Bladder
- Water Bottle
Hygiene is much more important at this age and you need to be sure you can handle both boys’ and girls’ particular needs. I would add a few things things to the above list for preteens.
- Hard Soap
- Shaving Kit
- Preferred Menstruation Needs for Girls
- Nail Clippers
It’s doubtful that it this age you will have kids that are excited about sleeping in a tent with the whole family. I would pack the hammock setup we have mentioned since the beginning of this article. Mimic the preteens setup.
At this point in their life, you should start pressing them on the 10 C’s of survivability or some other collection of important gear that should make up all survival style bags.
The other important age consideration in all of this is firearms and bullet protection. These are BIG CONVERSATIONS so we are not going to recommend anything in that category.
- Fire Starting Gear (Ferro, Flint, and Steel, Lighter, Matches, Dryer Lint)
- Fixed Blade Knife
- Land Navigation (Map and Compass)
- Two Way Radio
- Rain Gear
Bugging Out with Newborns
Without a bulletproof bugout plan and a secure and structurally sound location, bugging out with newborns should be avoided at all costs. Understanding threats in your area and preparing for a deep bug in is likely the better action with a newborn.
More of an emphasis should be put on evacuation long before disasters or foreseeable threats. With things like formula, rest, illness and nutrition high on the list, a bugout could be a serious issue for new parents.
A network of family and friends should be your first option if a change of location is needed in a hurry. If you can build that network in concentric circles from your location outward it will give you the most options.
What to Add to Your Bugout Bag as a Parent
Hungry. They are always hungry!
When kids are on the move or bored or anything else they can be quickly satisfied by a snack. Snacks go a long way. Pack a pocket or portion of your bugout bag with snacks.
Here are a few other great items to include in your bag if you have kids.
Children’s Medicine to fight things like cough and fever
These meds are life savers if you have to bugout when kids aren’t feeling well. Or, if they start feeling bad during the trek. You don’t want your whole operation grounded over a sick child.
Solar Array for Recharging Devices
At some point during your bugout, you are probably going to need a rest. You will likely be collecting intel and considering your next move. If you need time to plan quietly being able to give your kids a device will offer you that quiet time. Be sure you can charge things like Kindles and tablets.
These arrays are not that expensive but can charge devices while you are walking.
While we have built our bugout bags for each of our kids, a new consideration has come to mind. There are many short-range trackers on the market that can be used to find things like keys, phones and such.
We are going to include a tracker in each of our bags, too! If some extenuating circumstance finds us spread out and panting for breath we will have a quick means of locating family even without two-way radios, or whistles.
This is a personal conviction and one we are going to experiment with. Maybe not a must-have for you and yours.
If your bugout includes sourcing water along your bugout, you might want to carry some powdered drink mixes.
Carrying lots of water in bladders and bottles gets heavy in a hurry. If you have plotted out your route and know there is water to be sourced you can use your filters to take advantage of that.
Your kids may not like the taste of filtered creek water or they might think they don’t. The mind can play games on them if they are used to water out of the Brita filter. or the tap.
A simple drink mix can make the water taste like Gatorade or lemon or whatever you want really. Many of these are also packed with electrolytes.
The drink mix is the secret weapon of parents on the trail. When kids get finicky about water taste or source you can change their mind quickly with one of these. We stick with Gatorade because we drink it at home.
The single packs are cheap and pack in bags no problem.
Another notable option is the kid’s version of Emergen-C its not only tasty but fizzy, boots immunity and increases energy with a shot of B Vitamins.
Your operating budget will far outweigh my recommendations. It could be that you cannot even afford the Camelback to store the items in. That doesn’t mean you are to forge on without an answer.
Do the best with what you have.
Did you hold onto last year’s school bag? Maybe an extra bag of yours is laying around.
No, a used schoolbag is not going to be the right color or even have easy organization but its better than you carrying everything.
Above all, this is your child’s bag. No matter if they are 4 or 14 be sure they have some say in this. Building the bag together and listening to their concerns.
Carter carries a Gerber Dime in his bag. He carries it because we watched it on a gear review video together and after that video, he said he wanted it for his bag.
He doesn’t use it a whole lot and it was pricey for something so small. Didn’t bother me though. He was making the bag his own and that is a very important part of building bugout bags for kids and teens.