What’s Missing From Your Bugout Bag Checklist?

James WaltonJames Walton | Nov 15, 2019
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Did you hear the one about the bugout bag in the laundry room?

You know the one, where the owner is coaxed by a YouTube video to go check out their own bugout bag. It was a bag they assembled 2 years ago, at least.

Prompted by the same sort of video they built a bag and stored it on a hook in the laundry room. With that problem “solved” they forgot all about it.

2 years later they unzip the bag and let out the spirit of past preparedness failures!

This tale of woe is one that I suffered personally many years ago. Without a bugout bag checklist, you can never keep track of what’s in your bag over time.

I have since created my own bugout checklist. I have also employed a modular bag system to give me less to manage and keep me more familiar with what’s inside the bags I carry.

Let’s see if we can identify some items that you might be lacking, your bag might be missing and see if we can build some process into that bugout bag checklist.

A Modular System for Bugout Bags

Can we be honest about prepping for a moment? Most people don’t have the money to achieve all the things that survival and prepping blogs put on their plate.

I speak to this from personal experience. Looking at my situation today through the eyes of my 26-year-old self would seem like a fantasy. Prepping takes time and money.

If I can offer you a solution that costs less but has a tremendous effect on your level of preparedness, I feel like that’s my duty because I was seeking those same answers at one point in my own life.

One such “hack” is the use of one bag and a modular system for that bag that allows you to hit a number of needs. Preppers proclaim the need for many bags! The bugout bag is merely one.

  • EDC Bag
  • INCH Bag
  • Get Home Bag
  • Hunting Bag
  • Camping Bag

Using a system of adding or removing a few things from one bag can allow you to turn a hunting bag into a get home bag or any other bag for that matter.

By using this method you can invest in one or two good bags and create a bugout bag checklist among other checklists to turn those two bags into any kind of bag you need.

It’s not as much work as you might thing. Most of the bags above are going to contain similar primary contents and the details will separate the type of bag.


All of your bags are going to feature some type of first aid kit. So a bag with a first aid kit can be the base of your modular system. Most bags are also going to contain things like light, USB power, handkerchief, multitool. These items never leave the base bag.

You might add things like extra socks, a firearm, a change of clothes and shoes and some alternative comms if you are making a Get Home Bag. The base contents never change, just the details.

This system may or may not work for you but it has saved me time and money!

The Simple Stuff

In an article like this, we have to list a few pieces of good gear that you might be missing from your own bugout bag.

Bugout bags tend to be gear laden but, some vital pieces could be left out. I can never know all the things you need in your bag as you could never know all I need in mine.

I think these 6 items are both essential and could be missing from your bugout bag checklist.


The type of shovel you carry has less bearing than on having a tool that can move dirt from one area to another.

I am not inherently a gadget guy but the Konnex ET15 Survival Shovel is my choice for carrying and it has a lot to do with the fact that it packs down small. The Konnex screws together, extending to about 3ft long!

Along with being a great bugout shovel, its got those gadgety features hidden inside the tubular aluminum frame. Things like small saws, Ferro rods, and even a decent compass.

The screw-on, interchangeable tools are mostly redundancy for me. However, the shovel has a longer handle than any other trenching tool on the market and packs down smaller.

When it comes time to dig that first cat hole you will be very happy you added a small shovel to that bugout bag checklist. It can also help with shelter building.

A Game Trap

I won’t go from suburban homesteading prepper to trap line running mountain man overnight. The collapse doesn’t have that kind of power and I don’t have those kinds of skills.

My philosophy on food and water is pretty simple. Its an irons in the fire mentality. I have also called it a Hydra mentality.

I want as many ways to get my hands on food and water as possible. A metal game trap can go a long way if you know what you are after. Not all traps are created equal.

There are three qualities I am looking for in the traps that go into my bag.

  • Multiuse
  • Killing Trap
  • Durable

There is often a lot of talk about snares but snares get wrecked after a couple uses, in most cases.

Instead, look at the powerful steel killing traps like a 110 or 220 conibear. You might even consider the metal DF-4 Deadfall trap by Self Reliance Outfitters.

A Sleep System

What is your sleep system?

Do you plan on building a lean-to and opening up that emergency tent before extending it across some paracord?

Sleep is one of the greatest preps of all! In a WROL, SHTF, TEOTWAWKI type of situation, good sleep could be considered a force multiplier. In other words, good sleep will increase your capability.

When I made the switch to carrying a tarp and hammock, it changed the way I looked at sleep systems. Suddenly, carrying a large tent along with my bag was not something I needed anymore.

My wife can carry an oversized tarp in her bag and I can easily carry hammocks and straps for all of us, in mine. That is a sleep system that I can get behind.

We have not tested out any sleep system in the cold so that is a flaw, but things like fire and wool blankets, as well as a good layering system, could be the answer.

For some bug out bag, sleeping bag options check out Sam’s article “Finding The Best Sleeping Bag For Your Bug Out Bag.”


I have a radical theory that if more people in America knew how to stop others from bleeding to death in a disaster and were equipped to do it, that it would deter the rash of mass shootings in our nation.

Things like QuikClot and tourniquets go a long way in saving people’s lives.

In a bugout situation, a tourniquet could save your life in many ways.

In the fantastic and unlikely scenario, you could find yourself in a firefight and need a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from a gunshot.


You might just drive an ax into your foot because you’re tired but you need more firewood at your BOL. Ax injuries like this happen all the time and people’s lives are saved by tourniquets, all the time!

Add this to your bugout bag list.

Simple Emergency Radio

Most preppers have a simple emergency radio in their home. This could be one of those hand-crank models or something a little more sophisticated.

While you might look at that little radio as insignificant, it’s likely your greatest weapon in gathering intelligence during a disaster!

Most of us depend on our cell phones for news and news updates. This is for good reason! The cell phone is a very effective survival tool despite the way our community often frowns upon it.

If something happens to our phone we need an alternate means of gathering information on the disaster.

Something small and rechargeable is perfect to include on your bugout bag list.

Survival Guide

Do you think there is a bit of ego that goes into all this survival and preparedness?

It’s impossible to know everything about survival, navigation, homesteading and self-sufficiency. I pack books in my bugout bag for just that reason. Preppers Survival Navigation is a small book that I swear by and Dave Canterbury’s Bushcraft First Aid are bugout bag essentials.

Our very own Samantha Biggers sent me a copy of Jim Cobb’s Preppers Home Defense and I think that might make its way into the bag, as well.

Securing your BOL is going to be a big deal when you arrive.

Thumb Drive

Who are you?

Can you prove it?

While a thumb drive can be used to store hundreds of gigs of survival information it can also store all the important information about your property and identity.

I have a collection of thumb drives that really matter. One is just filled with wedding pictures. Do I want to leave that behind in a bugout situation? NOW WAY!

For me to fully understand what a Bugout Thumb Drive should look like I had to sit down and write it all out on paper and then review it. This really helped me and helped complete my bugout bag checklist.

The Bigger Picture

A bugout bag checklist is about a lot more than just stuff. There are important things you need to consider before executing a bugout. I am talking about things that could radically affect your success.

Let’s look at the bugout bag checklist as an assessment of our group as well as an inventory.

Group Assessment Before Leaving

As part of your checklist, you should also include a general assessment of the group before shoving off. It’s impossible for you to know everyone’s aches, pains, frustrations, and situations if you don’t ask.

A group assessment can assure everyone’s shoes and boots, clothes and whatever else are in working order.

Rally Points

Perhaps one of the most important parts of your bugout plan, rally points are your contingency if something goes wrong.

To bugout is to leave your primary shelter for something lesser and the motivation is based on an extreme threat that cannot be avoided. In short, IT’S A RADICAL SITUATION!

On your bug out bag checklist, you should have a list of rally points. If granola bars can go out of date in 2 years, rally points can change, too! Buildings get demolished and landmarks change.

The mental atomic bomb of losing your kids in a department store for 5 minutes is devastating. What if you lose them in the cold woods during a bugout?

Rally points assure you will meet up at the same points throughout your trip.

Comms Check

I laid Carter down upstairs in Mom and Dad’s big bed. He was running a fever. We put on his favorite shows and I gave him a 2-way radio.

It was his bell to ring when he needed something. These radios had been in a blackout kit for a few months. When I put them back in I wasn’t sure of the battery levels but I quickly found out that they were out of power.

No big deal at the time but what if I used those radios in disaster?

A comms check should also be on your bugout bag checklist to assure you are prepared to communicate out there in the cruel world, even if it is only a short distance.


A checklist can be whatever you make it. There is nothing wrong with a straightforward bugout bag checklist that looks more like an inventory sheet.

I have found that every checklist is attached to a process. I have pandemic preps and a quarantine process. My checklist and process should exist together, right? It only makes sense to check that process along with the items on your checklist.

Of course, your situation, your bugout bag, and your preparedness decisions are uniquely yours. This article was not designed to be a line by line gameplan for someone building a bugout bag.

Instead, I offer you some gear and some concepts to mull over along your preparedness journey.



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Updated Nov 15, 2019

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