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For years, my bug out bag has languished in a closet, stuffed to the gills with the gear that I “thought” I might need if forced to flee my home following a disruptive event. My bag, as precious as it was, weighed over 40 pounds and the zippers were to the point of bursting. It was full of gear to cover every contingency I could think of.
How did this happen? Quite honestly, it happened gradually over a period of years. It started six years ago with my first B.O.B. That first effort included mostly the basics: fire making supplies, water purification tabs, a couple of knives, TP, a first aid kit, personal items, documents, and cash. At the time, I thought I was set. Of course, I was wrong.
How To Build Your Own Perfect Bug Out Bag
I Already Have a Bug-Out Bag. Why Change?
Over the last six years, my knowledge of preparedness has grown exponentially, and with each new month, a light bulb has gone off and another piece of gear added to the pack. Clearly, it was time for a change.
Why change? My bag had become a mishmash of items, most of which I would never need. The bag was too heavy and even if it was not, in an emergency I could not get to its poorly organized contents easily.
This time I wanted to do it right. Before setting out to reconfigure my bug out bag, I set down some assumptions and goals.
1. First and foremost, my bug out bag needed to address what I felt were the most likely disruptive events to occur in my area. Yes, this would be a subjective risk evaluation but before continuing, I knew it had to be done lest I suffer another 40-pound behemoth backpack.
2. My B.O.B. needed to be road-worthy. It had to get me both away from home and back to home, depending on the circumstances.
3. Since my intent is to hunker down and bug in, this was not going to be a traditional survival bag. Its contents would not need to provide for my survival needs in the wilderness for days on end.
4. On the other hand, if my home became unsafe, I wanted to be able to deploy the contents of my bag while making my way to a secondary location for a few days up to a week.
5. Knowing that becoming sick or injured can prove deadly during an emergency, my primary Bug Out Bag would be supplemented by a separate First Aid Kit (FAK) that could be picked up an toted with me while carrying the B.O.B. on my back. Included in my FAK would be a large assortment of essential oils.
5 The total weight could not exceed 20 pounds.
Once I set down these ground rules, it was easy for me to empty my existing bag and start gathering the goods.
What’s Inside My All-New Bug Out Bag?
The following list represents the items that are currently in my all-new bug out bag. This is a simple list, organized by broad category, with some links if you want to investigate further.
Fire, Warmth & Shelter
Swedish Fire Steel
Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline
Mylar “Space” Blanket
2 Pocket-sized Mylar Blankets
2 Coleman Rain Ponchos
Reusable Hand-warmer Hot Pack
Hygiene & Personal
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Toilet Paper squished flat in a Food Saver bag
30 Day Supply of Prescription Meds
No Rinse Bathing Wipes
Personal wipes (“Butt wipes”)
Choetech 19W Solar Panel
$500 cash in small bills
Copy of passports and other important documents
A Quality Pack Builds the Foundation
Something that did not change is the pack itself. To this day, I really believe in the Rothco Medium Transport Bag. It has plenty of pockets to organize your stuff as well as straps to keep it secure. There is room for a water bladder (although I did not use one) as well as plenty of MOLLE for adding pouches of additional items to the exterior.
What I like most about the Medium Transport Pack is its slim form factor. It is only as wide as my body which means I can pass through narrow passages and hallways without bumping into things. If you are looking for a new pack, please do consider this one. For me, at least, it is perfect. It is tough, sturdy, and just the right size for carrying your bug out gear.
A Word About the FAK (First Aid Kit)
I did include a few bandages in my pack but for the most part, my intent is to tote my Ammo Can First Aid Kit with me. It is in the car during road trips and back in my closet while at home. Definitely, it moves around a lot. And, it gets used. A lot.
Call me clumsy or accident-prone, but the Ammo Can FAK has become the most used prep I own. The fact that it also includes remedies and essential oils increases its usefulness. Want to build one of your own? Read How to Create an Emergency Ammo Can First Aid Kit.
What Is Missing?
Good question. At this point, I have not added clothing, extra socks or underwear. Also missing are hiking boots which will already be on my feet or in the car. Also, items from my EDC and personal weapons and firearms are not included (my OSO Sweet pocket knife, Windstorm Whistle, and Ruger, for example).
All that being said, my B.O.B. has some room to spare. It came in at 17.5 pounds so I have a bit of room before reaching my weight limit. Most likely I will add a few items but, equally likely, I plan to start a second kit that includes the aforementioned clothing, a sleeping bag, and some amusements and comfort items. I never plan to have to go to a shelter but if I am forced to do so, I want a separate bag set up for that purpose alone.
One thing for sure. I am not going to run off and stuff anything and everything into a bag again, willy-nilly style. This time I plan to use my head and not my wallet, if you know what I mean.
The Final Word
I recently wrote about the The Conundrum of Bugging Out and What To Do About It. As I did with that article, I struggled today to present useful and practical information without sounding like a sales pitch for buying more stuff at Amazon or at your local outdoor emporium.
Did I succeed? I hope so. My intent with these two articles has been to provide you with a roadmap for building your own perfect bug out bag with the emphasis on “your own”. There is no laundry list of gear that is perfect nor is there one best “SHTF stockpile”. If that is what you are looking for, you have come to the wrong place.
At Backdoor Survival, I promote common sense, optimism, self-reliance, and a bit of frugality. I would like to believe my readers are like-minded and have the same core values. These are uncertain times and who knows what the future will bring. Let us learn to be safe together.
And that is all I am going to say about that. For now.
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Bargain Bin: Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article.
Rothco Black Medium Transport Pack: This is my favorite pack. I actually own 3 plus one in the large size (Rothco Large Transport Pack) that I intend to use as my specialty pack that will include clothing, a sleeping bag, and additional food items. I don’t think you will be disappointed in your investment in one of these Rothco packs.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultralight 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.
Choetech 19W Solar Panel: This compact, three panel, solar charger will charge two devices at once, including tablets, smartphones, Kindles, and even AA/AAA battery chargers. Value priced at about $50. For more information, read: Charge Your Devices With the Choetech Portable Solar Panel.
Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.
MPOWERD Luci EMRG Inflatable Solar Lantern: This is the original Luci EMRG Solar lantern. I have put mine through its paces and it is one tough cookie. It has weathered both a wind storm and rain storm while hanging outdoors for a month. Lightweight, waterproof and shatterproof, Luci EMRG provides ultra-bright, reliable light to guide your way indoors and out, through blackouts or extreme weather conditions. At $9.99 with free Prime shipping, it is a great value.
Tac Force TF-705BK Tactical Assisted Opening Folding Knife 4.5-Inch Closed: This is a great knife that is currently priced at about $8.00 with free shipping. Not only that, it is ranked as the #1 best seller at Amazon in both the camping and hunting knives categories. The reviews raved about this knife so I bought one, used it, and can recommend it. See The Inexpensive Tac-Force Speedster Outdoor Knife.
Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel: This “Scout” is the one I own. Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version and is my personal favorite.
Grabber Outdoors Original Space Brand All Weather Blanket: I was interested in a re-usable emergency blanket so I purchased one of these based on the excellent reviews. This space blanket is definitely “heavy duty” compared to the cheapies (not that they don’t have their place because they do).
GI P38 & P51 Can Opener Combo Pack: This is one of the army’s greatest tools. They can be used for dozens of jobs: opening cans, cutting a straight edge, cleaning grooves, screwdriver, fingernail cleaner, seam ripper and many, many more practical uses. For a couple of bucks, they are a good deal for very little money.
BaoFeng UV5R Dual-Band Two-Way Radio: I own two of these. Something to keep in mind that if you are just planning to listen, you do not need a license. Still, it is a good idea because it will make understanding the technical aspects of HAM radio a whole lot easier. Price alert! As of this writing, the price of the BaoFeng UV-5R is only $25.35. Special Note: BaoFeng and Pofung radios are one and the same. Some newer units are branded with “Pofung”.
Kaito Voyager V1 Dynamo and Solar Radio: I prefer this smaller, more basic Kaito because it is simple to use.
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