For someone new to being a survivalist, building your first bug out bag can seem like a big task. Everybody you read about has been tweaking theirs for months or even years and has a pile of gear built up. It’s hard to know where to start, but if you cover all of the basics in a survival situation you will still be much better off than 99% of people.
A Bug Out Bag, also called a BOB, I.N.C.H Bag (I’m Never Coming Home Bag), Get Out of Dodge Bag (GOOD Bag), or 72 Hour Bag is usually designed to get you out of an emergency situation and allow you to survive self-contained for up to 3 days. A lot of people plan their Bug Out Bag to sustain them for much longer than that, but there is always a limit to what you can carry on your back and a 3-day target is a good place to start.
7 Types of Gear For a Bug Out Bag: DIY
Here are the 7 basic types of gear you will need for your Bug Out Bag:
It should go without saying that water is a survival basic for any situation. In a survival situation water quickly becomes the most precious commodity.
1 Liter per day per person is really the bare minimum. So your 3 day Bug Out Bag should have at least 3 liters of water.
To expand your capability or survive longer than a couple of days you will need a water purification system. This can be as simple as boiling water and iodine tablets, or a serious water filter.
Here are some quality recommended products:
- Water Filter Bandana: a pocket handkerchief with a built-in 1-micron filter for in-the-field water treatment or for use as an improvised air contaminate mask
- LifeStraw Personal Filter: portable straw filter to be used anywhere. Recommended!
- Platypus Platy Collapsible Water Bottle: can be used for extra storage
- Backpacking Bucket: make water collection easier with a bucket
For a 3 day Bug Out Bag, backpack meals, emergency bars, and protein shake mix can be sufficient. Backpack meals are freeze-dried meals that you just add boiling water to. They are lightweight and last a long time. The protein shake mix works great because it’s dense-packed with nutrients and just needs water.
Obviously, you will need a longer-term food solution (such as specific survival food kits) in any type of wide-area catastrophe, but for your basic BOB, such category of meals are a good set up.
For a more deep-dive in this topic, check out a list of options for BOB food in this guide.
We recommend the following products:
- Mountain House Freeze Dried Food: different meals packed in small packets. Easy to carry. Just add water.
In summary, make sure to pack a combination of:
- Backpack meals (MREs)
- Emergency bars
- Protein shake mix (mix with water and drink)
Your bug out bag clothes should be similar to what you would pack for a weekend backpacking trip.
- A pair of sturdy survival boots
- A pair of long pants (preferably not blue jeans)
- 2 Pairs of socks (preferably not cotton)
- 2 Shirts (Maybe 1 long sleeve and 1 short sleeve for layering)
- A jacket that is both warm and protection from rain
- Warm long underwear of some kind
- A hat
- A bandana
This list could go on for a while and many people would never dream of leaving their Bug Out Bag without twice that much, but in a pinch that set up could get you by for 3 days.
Be sure to plan for the weather in your area.
If you are going to survive for 3 days you are going to need protection from the elements and a warm dry place to sleep. You need at least:
- Some type of tent or tarp and a way to set it up
- A ground tarp for underneath your shelter to stay dry or a sleeping pad (Never underestimate the importance of this)
- Some type of bedroll, preferably a good sleeping bag.
We highly recommend the tarp below for a BOB:
- 100% WATERPROOF - The Aqua Quest Defender tarp will keep you completely dry, even in extreme...
- EXTREMELY DURABLE - The Defender has a proven record of being incredibly durable and resilient to...
Last update on 2021-02-24 at 13:22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
5. First Aid Kit
Trying to cover everything you need in your Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit is another article entirely to itself, probably several more. I won’t try to cover it in this article because I would surely leave something out.
The ideal thing to do is to build your own First Aid Kit instead of buying one of those prepackaged first aid kits that claim to have 1001 things to get you through any emergency. While some are OK, in my experience these types of kits are usually filled with a lot of stuff you are unlikely to need and not enough of the things you will probably need a lot of.
Plus, building your own first aid kit gives you an intimate knowledge of what it contains and how to use it. How many people buy one of those pre-made set ups and just assume they are prepared because there’s so much crap in it there must be what I need? Bad Idea.
However, what may be a good idea economically is to purchase a pre-made first aid kit and keep the things you need and remove the things you do not need. Then purchase supplemental items and fit it into your kit.
To this end, here are our recommend first aid kits you can buy to then customize:
- MyMedic MyFak First Aid Kit: a high-quality kit to be used for everyday needs. Use code SURVIVALCACHE15 for 15% off at checkout!
- Everlit Survival First Aid Kit
6. Basic Gear
Basic Gear sounds repetitive (what have I been talking about?) but it is my category for the things you absolutely cannot live without but don’t really fit well into another category. Many survivalists will not like this list because it is not exhaustive by any means, but again I will say: It will be enough to get you by for a couple of days.
Rain Gear – at least 2 ways to stay dry in the rain. Poncho and coat are good coupled with your Tent/Shelter. Recommended:
- EverStryke Pro Lighter: cheapest all-rounded lighter (FREE offer).
- EveryStryke Matches: reusable matches that can light 15,000 times. (FREE offer)
- GoFire Fire Starters
Saw – You’re also going to need something to cut your firewood and a survival knife uses too much energy long term, ad we recommend a chainsaw. Recommended:
- Compact Wire Saw: easy-to-carry, affordable, and can cut wood easily (product is FREE, get yours while supplies last).
- Folding Hand Saw
Light – At least 2 survival flashlights and a backup set of batteries for each. Recommended:
- Evatac Pro-XML: 1200 lumens. Compact design. Battery charger included.
- Evatac Taclite: Small footprint for BOB (FREE offer)
- Surefire E2D Defender: top of the line
Survival Knife – The most used and most versatile tool in your Bug Out Bag is your survival knife. Make sure to get a quality knife that can be multi-use. Recommended:
- Compact EDC Knife: affordable all-rounder (FREE offer)
- Gerber Bear Grylls: for beginners
- SOG Knife: All-rounder
We did a detailed hands-on review article on bug out bag knives specifically that you can check out.
Here are some more recommended products for your BOB:
Last update on 2021-02-24 at 16:22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The fact of the matter is you are might be dealing with a “Without Rule of Law” situation, or close to it, and people are likely to do crazy things. Being prepared to defend yourself is part of the survivalist mindset.
Obviously a firearm of some sort is best for this. (Though not in all situations) I will not go into specifics about what type of gun you should bring because that is hotly debated and really a personal choice. Take what is comfortable to you.
Outside of guns your survival knife could be used as weapon if you had to. Also something as simple as a big walking stick, club, or even a multi-purpose survival shovel like this recommended one can be a strong deterrent for bad guys. It’s all about giving yourself options.
More about Survival Weapons:
Which Backpack/Rucksack/Bag To Use?
Now that you have a good understanding of the types of gear, let’s discuss the actual bag itself.
We get asked this question a lot. At the end of the day, the actual backpack (or rucksack) you use does not really matter (to a certain point). If you have a limited budget, it can be a traditional school backpack just to get things started. Again, just putting something together makes you more prepped than 99% of people. School backpacks are good “enough”; think about it, those bags can handle multiple textbooks. Those backpacks can definitely hold your gear.
However, there are specialized backpacks that have various compartments, even concealed ones, and also MOLLE technology. This allows you to carry more in less space.
Our team highly recommends the following backpack:
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Note that most quality backpacks will get the job done but have a specific backpack made for survival purposes has its perks. If you want a detailed deep-dive, check out the survival backpacks article here.
Full List of Recommended Gear for Bug Out Bag
To summarize, here is the ultimate list:
- Personal water filter (LifeStraw, Sawyer)
- Water filter bandana
- Collapsible water bottle
- Backpacking bucket
- Backpack meals (MREs)
- Emergency bars
- Protein shake mix
- Sturdy boots
- Long pants (waterproof)
- 2 pairs of socks (not cotton)
- 2 shirts (1 long sleeve and 1 short sleeve for layering)
- A jacket that is both warm and waterproof
- Warm long underwear
- Ground tarp
- Bedroll, or sleeping bag
- Quality first aid kit (or DIY kit)
- Fire tinder
- Compact saw (or wire saw)
- A small pot and large cup for cooking
- Backpacking stove with fuel (ideal to have)
- Flashlights (2 of them)
- Backup batteries
- Weapon (your choice, knife works)
- Tactical compact shovel
- Backpack (not colorful; something that won’t draw attention)
Ready-To-Go BOBs (non-DIY options)
Once you get these basics covered you can begin to test and refine your bug out bag with other useful gear and prepare it for longer-term survival situations.
Not all of us have the time or expertise to put together a good bag. Make sure to check out the bags below if you just want one ready-to-go or a starter kit to get things going:
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Common Questions about BOBs
These are questions we have been asked over the years by our readers.
Why Put a Shovel in a Bug Out Bag?
A shovel is a great multitool and has a lot of different uses.
It can be used for digging fire pits, disposing of waste, chopping tool, self-defense tool, for digging through soft soil and snow, a throwing weapon, and transporting fire.
A small shovel is so versatile that it should be in everyone’s survival kit or pack.
Should I test my BOB before SHTF?
Yes! So many people buy premade BOBs or put one together and then store it in their homes. They do not test their BOB in real-life situations or just wear it to even know if it’s too heavy.
We put together a detailed look into how to test your bug out bag for SHTF situations.
Apart from gear, what else should be in a BOB?
Good question! We recommend also carrying critical documents in your bag. You never know when you may need them.
Where do I keep my bug out bag?
This is a common question we get. You should keep your BOB along an escape rout or on your person. A more detailed discussion of this topic can be found here.
How to and how much ammo should be in my bag?
You need to consider the weight of the ammo, the amount you think you need, and how to carry it. We did a detailed deep-dive in this article.