What Should You Keep in a Bug out Bag?

There are many different items that should be in your bug out bag.  First, a bug out bag is a bag with essential supplies and tools to live with when things go bad and you need to get out of dodge.  Many times during a disaster or social collapse the best place for you and your family will be at your home.  What happens when the time comes to leave?  Will you be ready and able to get away from your home quickly?  Some of the reasons to leave your home and find a place to settle are: you have another home built as a refuge, the home you are at is not safe, or your home becomes unlivable.  You will want to have the correct bug out bag contents in case you need to leave quickly. Additionally, you need to be able to live out of the bag for at least 3 days.  When you get to your bug out location there should be other supplies or ways to survive.

The first thing to think about is what kind of bag you will use as your bug out bag.  This really can depend on your own preferences.  You can use a giant bag with everything in it and just throw it in the back of your vehicle, but if your vehicle is not operational this could cause some problems.  I would recommend a bag that you can easily carry if you have to walk or ride a bike.  As the bug out bag contents can be heavy, you will want to use a bag that can hold a lot of weight and can take a beating.  There are many interior frame large hiking backpacks that would work quite well, but they can get expensive.  Another possible option is to have all of your gear and necessities in one large bag, but then ensure that you have a couple of smaller backpacks with you that you can easily bug out with in case a quick exit is necessary.  The bag and how much stuff you will want also depends on how far you have to go and how you plan to get there whether by walking, biking, vehicle, ATV or boat.

The phrase to remember when adding to your bug out bag contents is beans, bullets, and band aids.  Your bug out bag contents should include items that meet the needs of food, water, shelter, clothes, protection, hunting and fishing supplies, personal hygiene, and medical supplies. Your bug out bag contents will be determined by the distance you will be traveling, the size of the bag, your travel method, and what is most important to you.  One other thing to remember is to pack the bag as lightly as possible.  I am not saying to delete important items from the bug out bag, but rather to consider weight when buying your bug out bag contents.  If you have a full size camping stove, but can get by with a small, one burner stove, bring that as it is probably only half the weight or less.

Your bug out bag should be stored in a location that is convenient and easy to get to.  You will also want to store the bug out bag in a location that does not experience extreme temperatures as the contents of the bag will last longer.  As I talked about in the get home bag post, it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get to your bags to use them.  A closet or the location of your survival storage is probably the best place for your bug out bag.

Now we will look at the specific bug out bag contents, including what you should definitely have and what some of the other optional items are.

List of mandatory bug out bag contents:


  • Dehydrated foods are usually quite cheap and light.  This could range from different types of pastas to dried fruits.
  • MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)- This is a full meal in a small package. They can be expensive but can already have the cooking heater included.
  • Canned foods or packaged meats– The cans can be heavy, but there are foods like tuna that now come in light packaging.
  • Beef Jerky is also light, full of protein and salt for balancing electrolytes, but is very expensive.
  • Another great alternative is survival bars also known as survival rations. They’re a thick, cookie-like bar that contain high amounts of fat and protein. They are quite light for the amount of calories stored in them.
  • Any other variety of foods to accommodate all dietary and health needs.
  • A way to cook most of the food.  I would suggest either a homemade alcohol stove or a small camping or backpack stove that uses butane gas.
  • A camping cookware set (one with a metal coffee cup) will be light and allows you to cook food in it.


  • You may want some collapsible water containers.
  • Try to bug out to a location with water as water is quite heavy (about 8 lbs per gallon)
  • Bleach(make sure you use it correctly or you may get sick or worse), water tablets or a camping water purifier for drinking water that may not be safe.
  • Having a plastic sheet and a coffee cup come in handy as you can make a solar still to get water when there is no water source.
  • Gathering rain water can be a great way to get water as well so a funnel may be a good idea to catch water.


  • A large plastic poncho or a tarp can make a great shelter. You will also want 550 paracord or some type of rope to hang the tarp over to make your shelter.
  • Shelter can also be made out of sticks, pine needles, and leaves.  Just make sure you know how to do this and that there will be adequate supplies to build a shelter.
  • There are quite a few light and small tents that can be added to your bug out bag contents.
  • You will also want a sleeping bag.  It really depends on the time of year as to what kind of sleeping bag you will need.


  • Bring as many types of clothes as you need and want to carry.
  • You may want to have a summer and a winter clothes selection that you change out depending on the time of year.
  • Make sure to bring adequate jackets, coats, hats and gloves when it is winter.


  • I would recommend a pistol and a rifle.  A breakdown style .22 and shotgun combination can be a great addition to your bug out bag contents because it is light, is small and is two guns in one.
  • Also don’t forget to pack ammunition.
  • You should have quite a few different types of knives for different purposes.
  • Learning self defense techniques doesn’t weigh anything or take up any space, and will be a beneficial part of your bug out bag.
  • A walking stick can also be beneficial as it can be used as a weapon and to help you bug out.

Hunting and Fishing

  • The guns already in your bug out bag can be used for hunting.
  • A skinning knife will be good for hunting
  • Some small traps would be good to have and they are reusable.
  • A crossbow has reusable ammunition and can be pretty compact.
  • Having a telescoping fishing rod with reel is a must.  They are small and much better than trying to fish with a stick.
  • Remember to have different types of lures, baits, hooks, swivels and sinkers.
  • A can of corn can even work for bait in some areas, plus you can eat it.
  • A range finder would be very valuable to make sure you take advantage of every opportunity possible to get food.

Personal Hygiene

  • Small travel shampoos and soaps are great for your bag as they are cheap or even free if you get them while at a hotel.
  • A solar shower can be very beneficial as it can get water warm and can offer a way for you to clean yourself.
  • Feminine products are important if there are women in your party.
  • Toilet paper is a must, paper towels, tissues and napkins may be a luxury though.
  • Hand sanitizer, even though not as clean as soap and water can be used when no water is present.
  • A razor is a good thing to add to your bug out bag contents and can be used for other things.

Medical supplies

  • An IFAK(Individual First Aid Kit) with stuff for stopping bleeding like Cat Tourniquet, Israeli Bandage and
  • Plenty of bandaids and bandages are a necessity.
  • Any prescription medications you and your family use.
  • Dust masks
  • If you can get them antibiotics are good to have.
  • Advil or a pain killer as well as flu, cold and anti-diarrheal medicines.
  • Alcohol to clean wounds.  Note:  If you have an alcohol stove you already have some in your bug out bag.
  • Neosporin

Other things you will want

  • GPS
  • Shovel and Axe
  • A weather radio, solar or wind up with a usb charger, is good to have to get information regarding a disaster situation.
  • LED Flashlight
  • Fire starters, waterproof strike anywhere matches or lighters are good to have.
  • Compass and map
  • Pen and Paper
  • Wire saw

There are quite a few bug out bag contents that can be added, but remember you may have to carry it all so don’t make it too heavy.  What you will have in your bug out bag depends a lot on where your bug out location is located. It is a good idea to test all the items once a year so you know how they work and that they actually do work.  We always hope that a disaster never happens, but being prepared can put your mind partly at ease.