What to Pack in a Bug Out Bag

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.

- Need to prepare your family? Get a 72-hour kit today - 

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.

Firestarting. 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.

BUT if you don't want to put all that effort into building a kit, we do have a great supply of 72-hour kits on our site! Check them out!

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

Read Part 1Part 2Part 3.

29 thoughts on “What to Pack in a Bug Out Bag”

  • Bill

    A lot of good information to work from. You need to think about where you live and what is needed there.

  • billie

    Desert is not spelled 'dessert'. Kind of burns your credibility.

  • Colby

    And depending on where you live, or in my opinion no matter where you live, a gun and bullets!

  • Jerry Wilson

    Good post. One thing I would recommend is a rotating emergency supply of any important medications you may need until you can get a new supply. I've also put a 180-VL emergency stove in each family member's bag as well as four pairs of dry socks. The important thing is to pack your bags and don't rob them for your next camp trip!

  • Dave Larsen

    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.

  • Chuck

    Great information as always. My substitution for the screw driver would be a good quality multi-tool. Don't skimp - cheap ones bend and break easily.

    Quick comment - I'm a little tired of people's comments on forums about spelling and credibility. People make mistakes, I'm sure the poster has misspelled something in his or her life at least once. Making a single spelling error in a good, informative post about a bug out bag has absolutely nothing to do with credibility. If you had recommended I include a 5 gallon can of gasoline as part of my bug out bag I might be concerned with your credibility, but making an extremely common spelling error does absolutely nothing to detract from an informative post. Yes, spelling and grammar are important but please people, lighten up on the word credibility.

  • Ken

    Colby ... I agree that no matter where you live you should have a means protecting yourself and loved ones, but it’s not just "gun and bullets". Like everything else in you BOB that requires familiarly ergo; water filtration, portable stoves and fuel types, reading compasses, etc. you should know how to uses it and what size or type is required to provide maximum utility.

    In the case of guns and ammunition you should assess what are you likely to encounter going to and arriving at your final destination. The requirements in an urban area are different from a rural area or you may have to traverse both. We just cannot throw out there “guns and Bullets” as guns are designed to satisfy specific purposes and its incumbent of folk to identify what purpose the gun will be most likely used for i.e. protection from dangerous animals, hunting small game (most folk cant field dress large animals), and unfortunately predator people, etc and be properly trained on the gun chosen. It has to be light weight and the more family members who can use the gun proficiently, the better. In the case of satisfying the most utility requirements food source and protection, I’d recommend something like the Henry Survival or Ruger Takedown .22LR caliber rifles, which are designed for survival. Don’t laugh, they get the job done and most family members over 10 years old can shoot them with proficiency. A good source of water/filtration, food (guns), basic shelter and protection (guns) can extend your survival period by weeks.

    In the Spirit, Old Grizzly Stalker

  • Ken

    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.

  • Tiffany

    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!!!

  • Sue

    The freeze dried pouches last 5 years, not 30.

  • The Ready Store
    The Ready Store July 16, 2012 at 8:00 am


    That has been the case up until recently when Mountain House ran accelerated shelf life tests on their pouches and found that they were getting over 25 years on their pouched foods.

    That isn't to say that all pouches are created equal, the same 3rd party independent test found Wise Foods pouches to have almost 18.25% oxygen as opposed to 0.16% found in Mountain House's pouches (we'll have some future blog posts on this as we get to take a look at the study here soon).

  • R

    Your site never mentions weapons? Why? That is a must or you dead! Period! Anyway good info but don't be afraid to post the other info too.

  • Linda


  • woodyee

    Yep - Go ahead and wear hunter orange; makes the job of finding you and setting you up sooo much easier.

  • Cindi

    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.

  • spockmckoy

    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.

    Do one thing that could save your life.Go out and test your gear.I made a lot of changes to my survival bags.

  • Carole

    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!

  • Passerby

    To the Ready Store: let us know when you get through the study on pouches as it would be easier to store those than go through the process of bagging, vacuum sealing, etc...I must be lazy.

    woodyee: lol! Seriously. I don't want to be found, either.

    spockmckoy: can't argue with you from a certain perspective, but a few of us will be required to be on the run.

    Dave W.: I agree, and I need to do this; we go camping a lot, use a lot of equipment, but it's a want-to situation, not a have-to; good point.

  • NameChuck

    Can we stop telling people that a simple spelling mistake on a blog "burns your credibility". No it doesn't, especially when the rest of the info is good and obviously written from experience. It makes me think the author's human and since he probably writes hundreds of articles a year we probably don't need to be so ridiculously critical.

    Yes we all expect professionally written articles when they are meant for public consumption, but lighten up. I don't suppose anyone else reading these quick, helpful, and informative pieces have ever made mistakes, right...

  • certifiablegirl
    certifiablegirl August 14, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    A slingshot, such as a wrist rocket, is a good addition to your bag as a light weight way to procure food (small game). They can even be modified to use as a bow for arrows (for larger game) & YOUTUBE has many videos on how to accomplish the modification.

  • Jay

    Don't forget items to help pass the time like cards dice and stuff for little ones. Don't forget how u might have to carry little ones besides a jogging stroller. If its a 4pt front harness strap then you are combat ineffective. Most of the time good community relations will help safety in numbers. During super storm memo my neighborhood dug ourselves out to the main road removing 4ft of snow. U can base your neighbor skills on what they know n do. Just bc you r good with a gun does not take away from some1 who is good with electricity or cooking or caregiving. With packs depending where u live a good hatchet or machete is great. I have both my machete is also a tree saw on other side. Shotgun is a must. No skill needed different ammo for hunting n can pack non lethal. Anybody else read article on how to make water balloons that are pepper sray filled balloons.

  • Jay

    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

    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.

  • P F Flyer

    To spockmccoy.
    I also plan to survive in pace.
    I don't have a bug out bag either.
    However, I do have a "get home bag". With my travel, it's the same thing with the same purpose, survive. Only diff is I'm going the other way.
    Yall keep on throwing tips out.
    Live long, etc...

  • David

    You said at the beginning of my email you were selling Ultimate 72-Hour Kits at 40% off. Where? I cannot find the 3-Day kit for 40% off. Can you direct me to that site page or was the offer not legit?

  • Sheila

    Sociology, I agree with you. I do have a bug out bag for tornadoes though, but other than that, I'll remain in place.

Leave a Reply