Preparedness blog

What to Pack in a Bug Out Bag

By Jeff and Amy Davis
More from this author

This is part 4 of a 4-part article. (Read part 1part 2part 3)

Previously, we’ve addressed what a bug out bag is, how to choose one, and even how to pack it. Now, we’ll be addressing the most important aspect of bug out bags: What to put in them!

There are a lot of items that you can put inside your 72-hour kit. You’ll want to make sure that you have items that are specific to you and your family. Also have items that are specific to your area. For example, if you live in a desert, a water filter won’t do you much good.

Here are a few ideas of what you might consider including in your bug out bag:


Calorie bars. These bars are full of your daily caloric needs. You can get some 3600 calorie bars for less than $10. They usually have a shelf-life of 5 years.

MRE Projected Storage Life

MREs. The great thing about MREs is that they come in meals. They can also come in self-heating containers. That way, they save you time and preparation. Where you store MREs can also have an effect on their shelf-life. Check out the graph.

Freeze-dried pouches. These are a great solution because they are light-weight. Freeze-dried items have 98 percent of the water sucked out of them so they are light and can stay on the shelf for 30 years. Large temperature changes can also effect the shelf-life of freeze-dried food. So consider putting your bug out bag in a cellar, basement or other cool location.

Plant life. Many people include a plant guide for local vegetation. If worse gets to worse they can eat from local vegetation and know which ones are safe to eat.

Hunting gear. A lot of people plan for longer-term survival by packing guns, snares, bows and arrows, etc.

Cooking and Preparation

Knives. Having a good knife is a great tool to have. It can be used for cooking, hunting, preparation or any number of things. A lot of times hunting knives also come with saw blades

Pot and pan. Some light-weight pots and pans will help you prepare your food. You can also consider purchasing a light-weight camping stove or a Stove In A Can.

Fire-starting. If you have to create your own warmth, it’ll be helpful to have a fire. You can include a road flare, matches, a lighter, magnesium starter or any number of fire starters.

Water containers. If you live in a water-scarce environment, it’ll be important to have some water on hand. Be sure to include containers that won’t puncture easily or leak. A You can also include canned water.

Water filters. If you live in an environment that has rivers, lakes and other nearby water sources, a water filter might be better than hauling bottles around.

Water purifiers. You can include water purification drops or tablets to ensure that the water you drink out in the wild won’t get you sick.

Having a good first-aid kit on hand could save your life. You can read our previous blog posts on things to consider for your first-aid kit.

Light & Communication
Whistle. Many times if you have to get someone’s attention from far away, something like a whistle, blow horn or small megaphone is a great way to call out.

Crank flashlight. Having a flashlight that doesn't depend on batteries is a great way to be prepared at all times.

Radio. A small crank or solar-powered radio will allow you to receive updates and other information during an emergency.

Walkie Talkies. If you’re going as a family, you can include walkie-talkies that are pre-set to a certain channel. This will help you stay in contact even if your family gets separated.

There are a lot of hand crank and solar powered emergency options. Many of the options also include jacks to charge phones or other communication devices.

Warmth and Clothing
Extra clothes. Depending on the situation, you might leave with only the clothes on your back. It’s a smart idea to include at least one extra pair of pants and a shirt. Make sure the clothes are heavy duty in order to protect yourself.

Gloves. Having a good pair of gloves could definitely come in handy if you need to do some hard labor.

Hat. A cap, beanie or hat can keep the sun off the top of your head or keep the heat from escaping.

Emergency blanket. These blankets are a great way to stay warm. Plus, they’re lightweight and fold into small spaces.

What to Pack in a Bug Out BagNavigation

Compass. This is a light and simple way to navigate.

Maps. Maps are a great utility if you know how to use them. Be sure that you know what the maps represent and how to use them efficiently. Be sure to include maps of your area and surrounding areas.

GPS. This is a great option if you have the money. This would also be a great option if you had a GPS that tracked different people. That way, you could easily locate different family members. Remember though that sometimes GPS systems can run slowly or need updating.

Personal Items

Medical records. You’ll want a list of prescription drugs or allergies in case you receive medical treatment at another location.

Identification. Don’t forget to leave without a copy of some identification papers.

Cosmetic Items
Be sure to include travel size toothpaste, a toothbrush, an extra pair of glasses, soap, etc. These things will allow you to stay clean and ward off disease.

After doing some research, we saw a lot of packs that included some unique and potentially helpful items.

Fold-up Shovel. This can be helpful in digging a fire pit or disposing of waste

Cord. Some light-weight cord can be a great replacement for rope. It can also fold together as a wristband or in a small pocket.

Gas mask. This might take up a lot of room, but there are probably some inexpensive alternatives like this one.

Hunters’ vest. Wearing those bright orange vests can call out that you’re a person and that you don’t want to be shot today.

Binoculars. These could come in handy with your hunting or navigation.

Screw driver. If you need to tighten screws on your GPS, compass, walkie talkie or other items, this could definitely come in handy.

Thanks for reading our 4-part series on bug out bags. We hope you enjoyed it!

10 years ago
10 years ago at 10:52 PM
A lot of good information to work from. You need to think about where you live and what is needed there.
10 years ago at 9:56 AM
Desert is not spelled 'dessert'. Kind of burns your credibility.
10 years ago at 9:59 AM
And depending on where you live, or in my opinion no matter where you live, a gun and bullets!
Dave Larsen
9 years ago at 3:15 AM
One thing I've added to mine is a pair of heavy boots since I normally wear light shoes. If you're walking through debris, you'll want some support and protection for your feet and ankles.
9 years ago at 7:32 AM
These are great ideas, but I would also like to comment that a map of your area or a map of your bug out destination is instrumental. In a real SHTF scenerio, do not count on your GPS, as more than likely the Satellite will be down, and or no electric to keep your GPS charged.. its just a thought!!!
9 years ago at 7:49 AM
The freeze dried pouches last 5 years, not 30.
9 years ago at 9:10 AM
9 years ago at 1:24 PM
A backpack makes to a target. Large spray can of "bear quality" pepper spray...and a gun. Scooter that will carry two people. You better have a destination with food and shelter already in place..or you are just finding another place to die.
9 years ago at 6:45 PM
Yep - Go ahead and wear hunter orange; makes the job of finding you and setting you up sooo much easier.
9 years ago at 7:12 PM
Orange is fine for a natural hazard scenario. Or if your in the woods and get lost. When you WANT to be found. A vest does NOT have to be worn in a SHTF scenario.
9 years ago at 8:39 PM
I have to say this; I do not and will not have a bug out bag. I have no place to go better than my own home. It is high, no chance of flood other than by the water company main. There hasn't been any storm of any season that I couldn't/didn't make through in my home {thank God}. All of my tools/food/needs are here. If it all gets destroyed, I'll deal with it then, I'll probably be destroyed too at that point.
Dave W.
9 years ago at 3:11 PM
Do one thing that could save your life.Go out and test your gear.I made a lot of changes to my survival bags.
9 years ago at 10:53 PM
To spockmckoy I hear what you are saying. But I have seen several instances in my area that people were told by fire/police to leave. They had just time to gather and get in their car. These cases had nothing to do with weather. I keep extra glasses, jerky, water, meds and a change of clothes. Being prepared is not just WEATHER!
8 years ago at 2:18 PM
I forgot you should also carry a pint of 100 proof alcohol or higher. Purifies water, increase perishable food items, cleans wound and other surfaces, fire starter, bedtime fuel, fight diseases n colds, etc.
Mommie monster
8 years ago at 7:44 AM
We made bags for all our adult kids and seperated items in zip locs bags which can become ''containers in a pinch'. Squish the air out before zipping closed, and they allow for more to be stuffed in the BOB, plus added organization. We added a rain suit, nails, & duct tape. All of these can be used in various ways other than their intended use.