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Fast Track Prep Tip #2: Develop a Bug-Out Clothing Mindset

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: July 28, 2022
Fast Track Prep Tip #2: Develop a Bug-Out Clothing Mindset

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There has been a lot of interest lately in bug-out clothing.  The primary concern has to do with the basics: what do I need to have in my bug-out-bag for evacuation purposes?  This got me thinking about the clothing I had in my own kit – a bug out bag that I put together two years ago that is seriously in need of updating.  And I do mean seriously!

I am not going to let this one rest.  By a show of virtual hands, how many of you have clothing in your B.O.B.?  Okay, I know that I can’t really see you through the internet but my guess is that the tally is in the 30% range.  I hope I am wrong but after peeking into my own pathetic effort to put aside some bug-out clothing, I think not.

Prepper Clothing

Enough ranting for today.  To get us started in developing a bug-out-clothing mindset, my friend Rob Hanus is back with tips for saving money while setting aside some bug-out clothes – doing both in one full swoop.

Save Money on Your Preps with this Tip

The tip itself is simple: Don’t throw away your old clothes, shoes and linen.

Nowadays, most of us don’t wait until our clothes and shoes are falling apart before we replace them. If these articles of clothing are serviceable or still wearable, save them and put them in one of your packs or as other emergency stash items. Even if they are worn in places or have holes, they can be patched up when needed. In fact, some of the items you store can be used as repair material for the other items.

By saving these items and using in your various preps, you could be saving a lot of money by not having to buy these items new, simply to store them away in a place where you might never need them. Here are some suggestions: socks, shorts and pants, underwear and bras, t-shirts and collared shirts, jackets and coats, gloves, hats, scarves, shoes, boots, sandals, towels and washcloths, sheets, blankets, pillow cases and belts.

Places where you can use these items include: bug out bags, evacuation bags, caches (have you thought about keeping a box of prep items at your parent’s, friend’s or other location?), retreat areas, car kits and home escape bags.

It can be quite the comfortable feeling knowing that you have a change of clothes, or two, and some shoes stored away in your car, retreat or fall back position. And by using old clothes that you were going to throw out anyway, you’ll be saving a bunch of cash, too. There isn’t a pair of old shoes that I have that I wouldn’t prefer over going barefoot.

Even if these items have holes or are on the worn out side, they would be far better than having nothing. Remember, many times, you’ll also have the clothes that you’re wearing when you escape, bug out or evacuate. It’s not likely that you’ll be showing up naked to your cache location (though if you did, you would be comforted by the fact that you had a full compliment of clothes and shoes waiting for you). You can patch the holes and worn areas before you store them, or include patching materials and a sewing kit so you can repair them once you start wearing them again.

I typically opt for the “repair after needing” approach, because it’s more likely that I’ll never need these clothing items and can save time by only repairing them if need to.

There are only two exceptions I can think of for not storing your old clothes. The first is for children, because they will grow out of the sizes you stored. My suggestion here is to buy clothes that are 2 or 3 sizes bigger and store these instead. By storing sizes that are bigger, you’ll have to rotate less often.

You can alleviate some of the cost by going through these clothes once per year and pulling out anything that the child can wear now, or in about 6 months. Replace these with clothes with the size you think they’ll be wearing in two years. Yes, you’ll have to spend money to store these clothes, but you can defray some of that by knowing that they’ll be wearing these in the near future. It’s more work to continually go through these clothes for the kids, but it’s a highly workable solution (in fact, this is what my wife and I do with our children’s clothing and shoes).

The second exception is if you lost or gained a lot of weight, wait until your weight has stabilized before storing your old clothes. You could store multiple sizes, or just store the largest size and tailor as needed. These old clothes don’t have to fit perfectly, either. Obviously, too small won’t work, but too big is still better than nothing.

A special note about pillow cases, sheets and blankets. Pillow cases are one of those items that have multitudes of uses and is overlooked as an important prep item. You can put them in your pack, and when it’s time to sleep, stuff them with clothes or a jacket and you have an instant pillow that takes up no room to carry. They’re also great when used as bags for foraging, carrying supplies, lined with a plastic bag for a water carrier, and on and on.

Likewise, sheets and blankets can be used as repair material, improvised walls, strung up as shade, cleaning patches for weapons, personal cloths and even made into clothes and diapers. So make sure you save these items, too.

It Takes a Community

Something I have learned over the years is that it takes a community of like-minded people to succeed at almost everything in life.  This includes families, co-workers, neighbors, friends and yes, even colleagues in the online world.  It is only by opening up to members of these communities that we can learn and grow, intellectually and spiritually.

As a member of the prepper community, Rob frequently posts original podcasts on his website at the Preparedness Podcast.  He also is the author of an eBook, the Preparedness Capability Checklist which can be purchased from links on his website.  His podcasts are informative and his Prepper News Watch is the best.  You can bet that his book is good as well.

The Final Word

There are a couple of things I am going to suggest that you think about before you go to your closet to find clothing for your bug-out-bag or evacuation kit.

The first is this: make sure your bug-out clothing fits and that the clothes in your kit are items that you enjoy wearing.  If forced to flee, you are going to be stressed.  As bad as things are, you are going to feel better if the clothing on your back is comfortable and enjoyable to wear.  This is a no-brainer.

Second, Rob’s advice is quite valid.  While you want to stow clothing that fits, your bug-out duds do not have to be brand new or even in perfect condition.  Think about that old pair of comfy slippers – they may be shabby but they feel great and you like to wear them.  (No, I am not suggesting that you put slippers in your bug-out bag.)

An old pair of jeans and that tired but loved flannel shirt might be the perfect thing for evacuation purposes. Just don’t forget the belt and suspenders, if you need them.

I am going to have a lot more to say about  bug-out clothing mindset next month.  But until then, do you have some personal clothing tips to share?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin: Preparing for hard times requires so much stuff. Just where do you start? How do you know whether what you have will do the job? I always like to recommend that you start by taking inventory of what you already have on hand. And then? How about these ten items that were the most popular purchases by Backdoor Survival readers back in 2012.

1. Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): This was the #1 item. These thermal blankets provide compact emergency protection in all weather conditions.

2. Streamlight Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight: You know how I love my little flashlight. I have ad mine for over a year and it is still going strong.

3. Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Another inexpensive basic for your bug out bag and your home. Water treatment tabs won’t improve the taste but they will make your water safe to drink.

4. Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife: You can’t beat a Kershaw knife for quality at a reasonable price point. This knife will become your favorite for every day carry. And that includes the ladies, too.

5. Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener: I wrote about this is in the article The Easy Way to Sharpen a Knife Without Spending a Lot of Money. It sharpens everything from pocket knives to kitchen blades.

6. The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way: The book will teach you how to deal with all the likely medical issues you will face in a disaster situation, and shows you strategies to keep your family healthy even in the worse scenarios. You’ll learn skills like performing a physical exam, transporting the injured patient, and even how to suture a wound. This medical reference belongs in every survival library!

7. Emergency Fire Starter: Hugely popular with my readers, this inexpensive magnesium emergency fire starter will do the job.

8. Dorcy 41-1071 LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: This light is awesome. I use mine downstairs as well as on my stairway and when I get up in the middle of the night, they come on automatically. They are quite unobtrusive and give off a ton of light. Runs for a year on 3 D size batteries.

9. Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: If you don’t know about Clara, be sure to read Depression Cooking: A Visit to Clara’s Kitchen.

10. SE 5 in 1 Survival Whistle: Just a tad over two bucks – and the #1 seller in camping signal whistles at Amazon.  This was a favorite for a long time but this one is even cheaper: 3 in 1 Survival Whistle with Compass Thermometer for less than a dollar.


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These are just some of the great holiday items on sale this month at Emergency Essentials.  Click on this link for more:  Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials.


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12 Responses to “Fast Track Prep Tip #2: Develop a Bug-Out Clothing Mindset”

  1. I was watching my local thrift stores for a back pack large enough for my BOB. No luck in the past 2 years. What I did was take my new bag and beat it on the ground, used some fine sand paper to rough up a few places. Definitely does not look new now! I was careful to not compromise the bag in any way. None of my clothing looks new:) I don’t have silk underwear but I do have pantyhose. When I was skiing, I always wore them under my ski pants. Kept me toasty. I put several pair in my BOB. They do not take up any space to speak of and are very light weight.

  2. Good advice. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t updated our BOBs in a couple of years, either. Ours have clothes in them, but we’ve both lost weight since we last packed them.

  3. I had read on another prepper site to have a change of clothes which were ‘old’ when you are out foraging during after collapse. This is as much to blend in so others won’t want to take what you are wearing for self. Makes sense especially if you don’t want them following you back to your nest.
    That said, in the Pacific NW climate, layers are highly important, so if the outer layer gets wet, or you begin to sweat, you can remove that layer to get dry. The other thing is, natural fibers are great unless you’re allergic, then by having worn those favorites, you know which ones will keep you warm.
    I don’t have much silk and am allergic to wool, so here’s my layers. A pair of pantyhose, a pair of old spandex stirrup pants, a cotton pair of pants and lastly, a pair of way old polyester pants. This may make me look old but none weigh much but having worn these camping in cold wet weather, I know this will keep me warm. That’s the bottom half.
    The top half is similar, this time of year, all long sleeved. I keep a few extra grocery plastic bags to act as rainproof headwear OVER my hat/cap. I have boots with liners which can be switched for heavy cotton socks. A pair of those stretch gloves *that you can pick up a dime* under some bulkier ones. These heavier gloves have a ring sewn on them so they can be clipped to carabiners on my pack when off *don’t want them lost.*
    All that is packed in the way of clothing is put into those one-way valve plastic bags to keep them dry. All one needs to do is roll them and the air is out leaving more room in your pack. I understand Julia’s statement about cotton, true UNLESS like me, you have experience in camping in all types of weather. O and don’t forget, buy some moleskin……for blisters or wherever you get skin wanting to possibly blister. I have 2 packages per bag here and have used that much before since there are things we can’t possibly thing about happening but still it’s nice to have something.
    For those who have children in diapers or adults with a need like that. There are websites which have fiber materials to make some selfmade diapers which can be washed and reused. In going through our stuff yesterday, we discovered my daughter’s hiking boots need to be resoled, guess what one of her gifts for Christmas will be. 😉

    • I was pretty much slammed on another site for suggesting that our bug-out-bags include older, worn clothing. Both for comfort and for blending in, I stand by my position on the used clothing matter. So glad that someone agrees!

    • Used clothes, used BOB as well. Nothing which says “Brand new”.

      I think of it as being strongly akin to showing up at the hunting camp in all new clothes with a new gun: Unless your house recently burned down, you are clearly a beginner.

      In good times Beginners are targets of opprobrium. In bad times they may just be targets.

  4. We keep a full set of clothes and footwear in our BOB/GHBs, which are always in our vehicles. They are very light weight, light color synthetics, long sleeve and long legs for walking home or elsewhere in Hawaii. Since extreme cold isn’t a problem, but heat is, our only outerwear are windbreakers, ponchos, and very light synthetic fleece jackets.

    I’ve used one of the shirts once, to change into after spilling coffee all over myself at a swap meet– where I was looking for second hand clothes.

  5. Wool hats. Wool socks. Bandannas. Bandannas can hold up your pants, keep your hair out of your face at the camp fire, can be tied up into a little bag to carry small things like kindling, berries that you know are safe etc., dipped in cold water and wrapped around your neck or head helps with heat. Tons of uses for those. I like a good pair of wellies or gum boots as well, cold wet feet are bad.

  6. Clothing is one place I tend to be prepared. I keep layers and footwear in my car at ALL times. I actually have the opportunity to use it because of my profession. I’m a paramedic, work for one rescue squad and volunteer at a different one. I live in the mountains of western NC, so we have the whole gamut of weather. We are in a tourist area and do searches for lost people on a regular basis. Here’s something I’ve learned, cotton kills. What? Yep it’s not the best option if you’re going to be roughing it at all. Also you want to make sure your shoes are in good repair and comfortable.

  7. I highly recommend a pair of silk long-underwear, top and bottoms. Very very light, very effective, compact, easy to hand wash/dry. They are generally around $25 new, each. For your feet, I recommend a couple pairs of “smart wool” socks. For your hands, I like nitrile-coated gardening gloves. Tough, compact, cheap and actually pretty warm. Last, a silk or micro fleece sleeping bag liner. Again, super light, compact and easy to clean. Combined with an all-weather emergency survival blanket (not the cheap-o mylar ones), you’ll stay dry, comfy and warm without a lot of bulk. I can fit all of the above except the blanket into a space less than a paper lunch sack. The all-weather thermal blanket can go as a rolled tarp on the outside of the BOB.

    • Jinn, I agree. Back in my days of touring on my motorcycle, we always wore silk long johns. In the summer, they kept you cool. In the winter they kept you warm. I still have mine. I don’t know how they do it, but I think there is some magic there.

  8. Don’t overlook thrift stores, there’s much to choose from old jeans to coats and boots. Don’t forget work gloves, your hands will thank you if you have to chop wood or gather biomass for a fire.

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