Bug Out Bag – Essentials, Check List And What To Include

Jeremy Bowyer
Written By Jeremy Bowyer

Jeremy Bower is a generational survivalist and expert outdoorsman.

Whether you are a fan of being prepared for unexpected situations or are planning a 72-hour trip to the wilderness, a bug-out bag should be within your reach. And when it comes to preparing yourself, it can only be done when you’ve got the knowledge about everything needed. You don’t want to regret forgetting something essential that could potentially save your life because you didn’t do your research.

big bug out bag

And since we were once in your position, and to be honest, it could be a very long process to think of every situation you might get in, we took it upon ourselves to find all the answers. Like movie creators, we thought of every possible scenario where a man could need an object while away from home or civilization. So, we believe that this article is the scenario for many preparedness adventures.

Of course, we understand that every situation is different. Therefore, we advise you not to worry too much if you can’t take it all because you lack space. We have found the information, the rest is up to you – follow that gut feeling, it’s always right! When preparing your bug-out bag, you must consider every possible situation.

For example, even if you are a driver, are you 100% sure you will be able to get ahold of your car? Yeah, we thought so too. We mean you can never be too careful, so make sure the bag isn’t too heavy for you!

If you’re still wondering what a bug-out bag is, it’s similar to certain emergency kits. However, it usually holds a wider range of materials. With this, we must also say that when making your bug-out bag, ensure you know what everything is used for. By that, we mean to be sure you have enough survival knowledge because if you don’t, you might put instruments and supplies to the wrong use. Now without further ado, let’s speak about bug-out bag weight.

map orientation

How Much Should My Bug Out Bag Weigh?

We speak from personal experience when we say that most hikers and overall adventurous people truly believe in the strength of their bodies. So, if you are planning a long trip, or if you believe the trip would be unexpected, we advise you to start taking daily care of your body’s fitness. And even though all adventurers and people who love the wilderness believe in their bodily strength, they have all been sorry when they attempted to carry too much for too long.

I mean, 50 pounds on your back for a day is too much, let alone a week or more. So, we thought about the different people we know and the different body types, strengths, and structures and began testing. We tried different weights with different people and came up with the following solution.

If you don’t believe your body is strong enough, as it doesn’t get regular exercise, you should aim for a bug-out bag, which is no more than 20% of your body’s weight.

survival arsenal

If you are strong, getting your daily exercise, and truly believe you can manage, the bug-out bag shouldn’t exceed 30% of your body’s weight.

We understand there might be a lot of things you think you should carry, but don’t forget the word ‘optimization,’ which is your best friend in the wilderness. To be extra prepared, we’d advise you to try seeing how the bag would settle on your back once it’s ready. You can carry it around the house or the neighborhood for 10 minutes and if you feel like it’s too much – get rid of something.

What Are the Essentials Of A Bug Out Bag?

Well, if you are asking this question, let us redirect your thought – what does your body need to survive? That’s the exact job of a bug-out bag – to protect you and ensure your survival under any circumstances. We’re here because we already asked this question and answered it. 4 things are optimal for the humans’ survival:

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Shelter

If you come to a situation where you don’t have the tool to assist you with the necessities mentioned above, it might be fatal. So, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

Clean Air

The human body can hold no longer than three minutes without air. That’s why, when planning for the wild outdoors, you need to have something to assist you if you can’t breathe. You might have to go below water, who knows? Depending on the situation, there are a couple options, without forgetting the optimization factor.

  • Air filtration masks – They are neither too big nor too heavy; however, they could save your life by filtrating air and ensuring your body receives quality oxygen.
  • Oxygen bottle and mask – In some environments, it might be necessary. If you think you might need an oxygen battle on your adventure, don’t neglect it. It might save your life!


 According to scientists, it might take a different amount of time for the body to be affected by dehydration. However, it gets to the mind rather quickly. You know that feeling when you’re thirsty, and all you want is a glass of water? Make sure you can get that to yourself when outdoors, even if you don’t have a glass. The average human body can survive without water is three days. Here are a few essentials that would assist you for longer.

best emergency water filter
  • Water bottle – Make sure you purchase a fine-quality, durable water bottle suitable for adventures. It could last a very long time and assist you on the journey. You’ll have no stress.
  • Water filter – Now, there are certain filters that you can buy to accompany your bottle. That’s how you’ll ensure the water you’re drinking is clean, no matter where it’s poured from.
  • Water purification tablets – If you don’t want to buy a filter and are looking for a lighter option, take some water purification tablets. Take enough amount to ensure you won’t run out.
  • Portable stove – Yeah, we know it sounds insane, but you have no idea how useful a portable stove can be. You can boil water, in the water you can boil bits of nature, suitable for eating, you can even use it for self-protection! It’s not for everyone, so don’t worry if it’s not on your essentials list!


You never know what kind of a situation you could get in and whether you would have access to food or not. That’s why we want you to be prepared, as your body needs food, it needs fuel, to function properly and to its fullest ability. There is food everywhere in nature, so in our opinion, here are the food essentials.

best MRE pack
  • Food Rations/ Ready-To-Eat Food – Ensure you have enough easy-to-make food for your outdoor experience, and you will have less to worry about. There are a variety of suitable options that would fit in any size bug-out bag.
  • Fishing Kit – Yes, however mad this may sound, a fishing kit is a great idea. That doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of weight added, as there are several ways you could catch fish. So, we simply advise you to do some research and acquire this skill.
  • Pot – Some size pot in which you would cook the food if it’s necessary.
  • Lighter or matches – There are so many survival items on the market that would help you greatly in need to light a fire and grant you the ability to cook your food.


Considering that you cannot know the conditions and environment you’ll be in, you must prepare. Depending on your taste, we have chosen a few essentials you can pick from when preparing an outdoor shelter.

  • Sleeping bag or a bivy sack – That’s perhaps the lightest option for shelter, however you must ensure it is a durable and quality bag so that it doesn’t fail you in times of need.
  • Blanket – There are specialized outdoor and emergency blankets which retain heat; therefore, they might be a useful addition to your bug-out bag.
  • Tent – Luckily for us, there are different-sized tents, so you can buy the one best suited to your situation and ensure a level of protection for yourself
  • Sleeping pad – In the case of rough ground, it would protect your body from unnecessary bruises and provide some additional comfort.

Okay, we have touched upon the “basic” essentials that your bug-out needs to prepare you for survival in the wilderness. However, even though they are of prime necessity, they are not the sole essentials of a bug-out bag. We will now expand the list by going deeper into the bag itself! Ensure you buy a bag that allows you to divide and organize things so that you don’t get trapped in a situation and what you need is on the bottom of the bag!

Advanced Essentials

Now when we call them advanced essentials, we mean that most of these need some amount of knowledge of how to put them to use. By knowing more, you ensure the well-being of yourself and everyone around you.

  1. First Aid
  2. Clothing
  3. Defense
  4. Light/Heat/Warmth
  5. Multi-Purpose Tools
  6. Miscellaneous

You can probably understand why they would require extra knowledge for unconditional support.

First Aid

With First Aid, things can get complex, so if you doubt your skills, purchase a first aid kit to assist you with guides. You could also prepare yourself by taking a course and learning the do’s and don’ts in emergencies in the wilderness.

First Aid Kit
  • First Aid Kit – There are various sizes of quality first aid kits, so there is definitely one suitable for you! Or you could build one yourself using the list below.
  • Pain Killers – Ibuprofen, Aspirin, or whichever floats your boat better!
  • Antibacterial wipes – Let’s say some bacteria aren’t your best friend! Buy wipes you could treat your wounds with.
  • Gauze pads – A bite, a cut, a bruise – gauze pads are essential.
  • Bandages and Band-Aids – For little emergencies, wherever you might be.
  • Tourniquets – They stop the blood flowing through veins, and they have saved many lives.
  • Burn-gel and Sunscreen – To avoid burned skin and to assist incidental burns.
  • Antibiotic ointment and Medicine – The cream soothes outside wounds, and the medicine soothes inside wounds or even fever.
  • Itch Relief Cream – The itching after bug bites could be insane, so stock some cream!
  • Instrument Kit – Scissors, tape, antiseptic wipes, medical gloves, scalpel, etc. Make sure you take only things that you can use.
  • First Aid Instructions – Most first aid kits come with instructions that would greatly help.


You probably already know the importance of quality, durable clothing when aiming to survive in the wilderness. That’s why we picked out a few pieces of clothing that we’d advise stocking your bag with. And when you have to bug out, you’ll have some confidence in your well-being.

Leather gloves
  • Waterproof Jacket – There is a huge range of jackets suited to exist in the worst conditions – rain, snow, and wind. Also, jackets can be extremely light and helpful at the same time. They are simply a must-have.
  • Headgear – Whether it’s a cap, a beanie, or anything you like, it should protect from heat and cold simultaneously. Your head must have protection.
  • Gloves – Your fingers need extra protection in cold weather as they are a sensitive part of the body.
  • Walking shoes – Lighter boots or heavier trainers but suited for walking.
  • Tough Pants – tactical or survival pants would work better than your average outfit
  • Clothes – Wilderness approved – they can be light and useful at the same time.


We don’t want to be dramatic, but you cannot foresee what situation might come your way. So, we picked something light and useful that would be extremely helpful, should it have to be.

tactical outfit
  • Pepper spray – It might sound silly, but it can disarm anything in your way.
  • Knife – For more urgent situations and the simplest ones. Every prepper and survivalist relies on a strong, durable knife. Make sure you don’t buy something too heavy and big – like a boot one, for example.


The powerful trio can assist you in walking, cooking, and sleeping, and it will become a good friend on the journey in the wilderness. Let’s see what is necessary for your bug-out bag.

ferro rod
  • Lightstick – With a life of around 12 hours and greater force, they are a helpful and light companion.
  • Flashlight – There are many flashlights specifically manufactured for life in the wilderness. Because they are so needed.
  • Feet warmers – Thicker socks could save you on cold nights.
  • Firestarter – Choose a reliable fire starter, such as a fire rod, a zippo lighter, etc.
  • Matches – An extra pair of matches is small, and some can even be attached to your belt.

Multi-Purpose Tools

Tools that can help you in many ways and assist you in facing challenges with ease.

everyday multi tool
  • Compass – To help guide you on your path, a durable compass could become your best friend. That’s if you get to know it first.
  • Radio – A radio could help you contact nearby officials to assist you in emergencies.
  • Paracord – You can make your own paracord bracelet with a cord long enough to be used for fishing, trapping, tying, and many others.
  • Multi-tool – It has a knife, a saw, a screwdriver, pliers, a file, a bottle opener, and others.
  • Folding Saw – Survivalists love folding saws, as they can clear your path, build your house, and assist you on the way. The alternative could be a pocket chainsaw.
  • Duct Tape – You probably know its functions; they could greatly assist.


Some bits might seem unimportant but would be a useful addition to your bug-out bag.  

emergency packs
  • Whistle – It’s a light must-have.
  • Sewing Kit – For wounds or clothing, consider grabbing a small sewing kit and adding it to your bag.
  • Passport – Don’t forget to take your identification, you never know where life might lead you.
  • Relatives Contact – Make sure you have a list of contacts, such as phone numbers and addresses. It would ensure you have someone to rely on.
  • Mirror – A small mirror could help you see what’s behind you or even on your back.
  • Cash – Put aside some emergency cash, enough to assist you for some time.
  • Personal – Anything small and personal that would remind you in tough times.

That list of things is a good summary of what your bug-out bag should include. However, we have taken it upon ourselves to create three separate bug-out bag propositions for you. We’ve named them Small, Medium, and Large. Classy, right? We think so too.

How To Choose Your Bug Out Backpack

It’s agreeable that choosing the right backpack could be daunting, however, unless you want to buy a ready bug-out bag, you will have to go through the process of choosing a backpack. Firstly, we have to say that the backpack you buy for this purpose isn’t going to be cheap, it isn’t meant to be. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a grand on a bag, but at least 10% of that grand should be put away for a quality one. Let’s see the must-haves of your bug-out backpack.

  • Two straps – They have to be strong and easily adjustable. Also, go for types that would provide comfort for your shoulders, which are carrying the weight.
  • Space – It should be able to withhold at least 20L of materials. So, nothing smaller would be of adequate use for this purpose.
  • Tactics – There are bags specifically created to aid the purpose of survival. And if you want to make the journey easier, you might want to consider one such backpack.
  • Functionality – A bag that allows various-sized products to be carried within, thus various-sized compartments.
  • Safety – The bag should blend in; however, it should keep your body safe. If the backpack is larger than 35L, it should have a secure hip strap to distribute weight evenly.
best survival backpack

These are the most important bits of the bug-out backpack. Follow these leads, and you will land a durable and quality bug-out backpack.

How To Organize Your Bag?

When we had to organize a bug-out bag for the first time, it was such a nightmare we wanted to quit numerous times. No, we don’t mean to scare you, we want to assure you that even though it can be difficult, it’s a cool task, and you will be glad once you get it done. And because we know how hard it can be, we’ve got some advice, from survivalist to survivalist.

Don’t Throw it in a Pile

You want to know where everything is, bugging out can be quite an experience, and you want to be prepared by knowing you have everything you need. Preparedness is not simply buying the things, it’s also thinking through what everything is used for, and it’s not a product, it’s an action. It’s something you will use for a specific goal. That’s why you prepare yourself, so when the goal comes, you know how to reach it quickly and efficiently.  


There are many ways you could organize the backpack – for example, you could divide them by need. What does your body need now, e.g., Air, Fire, Earth, Health, Water? You can personalize your system as you wish; however, make sure you know where everything is and its benefits.

Survival Gear


By that, we mean to take the essentials and seal them in certain bags, perhaps color-coded, so that when the time strikes, your eyes find them quickly. It is really important to know what you would need in certain situations as it could mean as far as saving your life.

Don’t Share The Load

If you are traveling with family and friends, they are people you can trust; however, sharing your essentials or simply moving them around the bags could prove disastrous. You never know what might happen and where you may lose connection to companions. That’s why we advise you to keep bags separate and everyone to carry their own bug-out bags.


You could label all the separate compartments or even all the products should you believe it necessary. It would help you completely; however, it might be distracting to look for a product unless it stands out. Play around with colors, don’t make all things look identical, and personalize your load.

We have gone through the steps to make life easier when stocking your bug-out bag. However, we have to go through something equally as important.

Choosing The Correct Gear

After you have bought your backpack, you will know how much space you have. That’s when you will have to make a definitive list of the things inside this bag. However, we are aware that on the market, there are many expenses, and survival gear can be luxurious. But we must say it is the luxury of survival, as it isn’t the easiest of jobs when you don’t have the readily created comforts of modern society. So, here are the steps to follow when choosing the correct bug-out gear for your bag.

medium survival backpack
  • Measure – Be aware of the amount of space you have so that you don’t end up buying gear you cannot use.
  • Don’t Settle – Don’t settle for little quality gear, you can buy a good product second-hand for the same money you would buy a low-quality product that is new.
  • Prioritize – What’s more important – the fishing pole or the sleeping pad? The answer is probably the sleeping pad.
  • As light as a feather – Choose the lighter versions of everything. You will have a lot of things on your back; you don’t want them to be heavier than you can carry.
  • Durability – With quality usually comes to the promise of durability. When it comes to important gear, opt for ones used by experienced survivalists.
  • Advantage – Only buy things that are necessary and will be to your advantage. If you’re not sure whether you need something or not, you probably don’t need it.
  • Safety – Don’t choose anything that you cannot handle.

Now that you know how to choose your gear, let’s talk about the Do’s and Don’ts of the essentials of a bug-out bag, or in other words

What To Include And What Not To Include In A Bug Out Bag


So, when it comes to storing water, some common mistakes people tend to think are right. While some scientists say that one liter of water is enough to last you through a 24-hour-period, not all environments have been considered. The body can live with little water, but once the heat comes into the picture, it blurs. The most important things to consider when stocking water are:

survival water filter
  • Do I have everything I need to supply clean water?
  • Do I need a filter or tablets? Or should I take both?
  • What will I do if the water is contaminated?
  • What’s the easiest way of carrying water?

Do supply yourself with a durable water bottle, possibly light.

Do consider buying a water filter, once again durable.

Do get water purifying tablets for cleansing water.

Do supply iodine drops for worse scenarios of water contamination.

Don’t choose a water bladder for rougher scenarios, as it can be punctured.

Don’t rely on anything that can cause water contamination, such as juice boxes, soda bottles, and others.


When you’re in the wilderness, it can be hard to prep a full-course dinner, so you must compromise on food options for your bag. You must carefully pick out the best choice for food, ones that would last for longer periods. The food also needs to give your body everything it needs to survive, and it’s not just junk food that would keep you weak. Let’s see the dos and don’ts of bug-out food.

Emergency Food

Do think about space. Is it small enough to fit an amount?

Do consider ways of cooking. Can you eat it straight away, or does it require boiling?

Do opt for choices that would strengthen your body.

Don’t stock too little, you will need enough.

Don’t forget to check the labels.

Don’t choose something too difficult to consume.

Cooking & Eating

Your bug-out bag should include tools to assist you in cooking food and consuming it. However, the choice of whether to use old-school or new-era methods can take a while to solve. For example, you might be wondering whether to put a stove in it, one of those which is powered by natural resources. And while we think it’s a fantastic addition, we insist that you consider everything else on your list and decide whether you have enough space and not too much weight.

open fire cooking

Do consider a portable stove when making your checklist.

Do take a set of utensils with you to ensure ease.

Do take a pot for boiling water, considering your food may need it. And a pot can be used for multiple things.

Don’t rely on low-quality igniting materials, such as one-time matches.

Don’t rely on plastic, as it can not only be broken but can also cause pollution.

Don’t take too many cooking instruments, as they are not essential.

Shelter And Sleeping

Rest is vital when living in the wilderness, as you will use much energy walking, hiking, and swimming. That’s why you need to consider nothing less than high-quality materials for your shelter building and where you will sleep. There are so many things to consider when thinking about shelter

  • What environment will it be – wet, dry, cold, hot, rocky, or even?
  • Is there a possibility of my tent being blown by the wind – it isn’t likely, don’t worry.
  • Is this going to protect me from anything that could harm my body?
bushcraft shelter

Do invest in a sleeping bag or a tent.

Do consider attaching a sleeping pad to your bug-out bag.

Do buy quality materials that will be durable in all environments.

Don’t buy a cheap version of a good product.

Don’t buy anything that would tear easily.

Don’t rely on inflatable materials, as they could pop on rockier ground.


Clothes can be a hard job not only in our daily lives but especially when having to choose specifically for survival in the wilderness. The main goal when choosing the right clothes is to focus on the types of clothes you may need. Unfortunately, they aren’t the smaller addition to a bug-out bag, thus the need for careful consideration when filling the bag.

protection clothes

Do organize them according to climate.

Do invest in appropriate survival clothes made from appropriate materials.

Do rely on quality protection. It would help if you were protected from the cold, as well as the sun.

Don’t take any denim, cotton, or anything easily flammable.

Don’t ignore the importance of sunglasses.

Don’t rely on sandals or any shoe that isn’t sealed.


When deciding on light gear, there are several options you can choose from. You could rely on a headlamp, which you would carry around, or you could go for the old-school flashlight and carry it in the corner pocket. Either way, you need to pick out light gear which would be durable and it would have enough power to light the way in the darkest of nights.

  • Do take a durable flashlight and batteries.
  • Do consider a couple of light sticks.
  • Do consider a camping lantern
  • Don’t rely solely on light sticks.
  • Don’t buy something that isn’t rechargeable.


When it comes to surviving in the wilderness, you will want to think about ways of communication. They need to be durable and easy to use, so your cellphone might not exactly be the best helper. That doesn’t mean don’t take it, but ensure you have something that will last you in any environment.

civil band radio

Do consider radio or walkie-talkie.

Do take a charger.

Don’t forget batteries.

Don’t rely solely on the telephone unless it’s some good technology that will survive in any environment.

Further Tips On Bugging Out In The Wilderness

When you’re making the plan of exit, don’t think about surviving for a certain period. For example, if you’re making the bug-out bag to last you for three days, or a week, you’re already putting a hole in the plan. What we mean by that is that you can’t really forecast the amount of time you’ll have to stay away from home. So, consider all necessities, and don’t take too much food, there is food everywhere in nature.

That’s why we advise you to get to know your surrounding nature and what grows there. Learn about different natural edibles that can keep your body healthy while in the wilderness. Don’t underestimate the amount of fun it can be, living in the wilderness. While you’re learning about the surrounding nature, you will learn much about yourself as well. After all, humans were born on planet Earth, and it has all the resources to keep them alive.

survival bag

We tend to plan a certain exit situation and tend to rely on that plan heavily. Almost all the time, despite the plan, unforeseen circumstances always come up, and the plan’s path changes and transforms. So, whether you are getting a map or a compass, learn to work with them to find the most comfortable place for your survival. There could be hidden valleys or safe caves that could be great for you to bug out at.

When picking out your gear, consider your budget – don’t rely on too little money, but don’t spend all your savings on gadgets that might be too heavy to carry. There are many good quality products, which are at acceptable prices, so don’t necessarily jump on the first good-looking product. Do your research and check out the products we’ve picked for you, you might find something suitable and reasonably priced.

If you are traveling with your family, don’t assume the party will necessarily stick together. If you do so and spread out essentials amongst the bags, you might lose access to something as vital as water. Prep all the bags so that they have everything a party might need to survive at a certain time. Of course, consider the age and weight of the person, but if you have a child over 10 years old, they should have a bug-out bag adapted to them and their needs.

Survival Training

Don’t rely on premade kits unless you are sure there are quality materials in this bag. Sometimes you can spend less by making your own kit and ensuring better quality at the same time. This would provide satisfying results once you’re outside in the wilderness instead of creating further, avoidable worry.

Try to avoid stocking your bug-out bag with things that are not of absolute necessity to your primary survival. We understand if you’re worried about keeping your children entertained, for example. However, you can easily do that in the wilderness without stocking up on board games. If you’re worried that your kid isn’t the naturalist type, you can always take a deck of cards and an additional UNO deck, for example. That should keep your child satisfied until they start being attracted to nature, which is bound to happen.

how to cross rivers

Don’t rely on the idea that you will be able to use your car. While you might get the opportunity to use your car, you don’t know when you might have to ditch it and start walking. That’s why when considering bug-out bag weight, don’t make it too heavy for you to carry. If it’s too heavy, you might have to get rid of essential gear, which is far from ideal.

Overall, take extra care when you are preparing your bug-out bag. Whether you follow the list or simply use it as a template of your own list, make sure that you have stocked your bag with all essentials. Survival is not an easy task when you’re away from civilization. However, it is an extremely fun task if you make it one. You get to learn an incredible amount of things, and after a while, it becomes easier than breathing. Make sure you are protected and healthy if the moment comes when you have to leave home due to a natural disaster or social emergency.