bug out bag

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

Last Updated on by Alex

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 that is needed. You don’t want to regret forgetting something that’s essential and 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 in which a man could need an object whilst away from home, or even one from civilization. So, we believe that this article is the scenario to many preparedness adventures.

Of course, we understand that every situation is different, therefore we advise you to not worry too much if you can’t take it all, because you’re lacking space. We have found the information, the rest is up to you – follow that gut feeling, it’s always right! Now, when preparing your bug out bag, you need to think about every possible situation.

For example, even if you are a driver, are you 100% sure that you will be able to get ahold of your car? Yeah, we thought so too. What we mean is, 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 very similar to certain emergency kits, however it usually holds a wider range of materials. With this we must also say, that when you are making your bug out bag, make sure you know what everything is used for. By that we mean, 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, lets 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’, 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 simply 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. There are 4 things that 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 above-mentioned necessities, it might be fatal. So, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

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 make sure 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 of options, without forgetting the optimization factor.

  • Air filtration mask – They are not too big, nor too heavy, however they could save your life by filtrating air, and making sure 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!

Water

 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 quick. 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 the 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!

Food

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 a number of different 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 a lot in the need to light a fire and grant you the ability to cook your food.

Shelter

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

  • Sleeping bag – 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 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.
sleeping-bags

Okay, we have touched upon the “basic” essentials that your bug out needs to prepare you for survival in the wilderness. However, even though of prime necessity, they are not the sole essentials of a bug out bag. We are now going to expand the list by going deeper in 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!

Essentials Pro

Now when we call them Essentials Pro, we mean that most of these need some amount of knowledge of how to put them to use. By knowing more, you ensure the wellbeing of you 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 are doubting your skills, purchase a first aid kit that would 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 is a variety of sizes of quality first aid kits, so there is definitely one suitable for you!Or you could simply build one yourself, using the list below.
  • Pain Killers – Ibuprofen, Aspirin, or whichever floats your boat better!
  • Antibacterial wipes – Let’s just say that 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.
  • Tourniquet – 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 you could be insane, so stock some cream!
  • Instrument Kit – Scissors, tape, antiseptic wipes, medical gloves, scalpel, etc. Make sure you take only things which you can use.
  • First Aid Instructions – Most first aid kits come with a set of instructions, so they would be of great help.

Clothing

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 on 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 of conditions – rain, snow, 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 at the same time. 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 trainer but suited for walking.
  • Clothes – Wilderness approved – it can be light and useful at the same time.

Defense

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 for the simplest ones. Every prepper and survivalist relies on a strong, durable knife. Make sure you don’t buy something too heavy and big.

Light/Heat/Warmth

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

ferro rod
  • Lightstick – With a life for around 12 hours and force even bigger, 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 in the 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 cord long enough to be used for fishing, trapping, tying, and many others.
  • Multi-tool – It has a knife, a saw, screwdriver, pliers, file, bottle opener, and others.
  • Folding Saw – Survivalists tend to love folding saws, as they can clear your path, build your house, and assist you on the way.
  • Duct Tape – You probably know its functions; they could be of great assistance.

Miscellaneous

There are bits that 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 address. 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 simply 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 bug out backpack. 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 be providing comfort for your shoulders, which are carrying the weight.
  • Space – A bug out bag 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 size compartments.
  • Safety – The bag should blend in; however, it should also 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 definitely land yourself a durable and quality bug out backpack.

How To Organize A Bug Out 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 just 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.  

Organize

There are many ways you could organize the backpack – for example, you could divide them by need. What does your body need in this moment, 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

Essentialize

By that we mean 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 travelling 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 carry their own bug out bags.

Label

You could label all the separate compartments, or even all the separate products should you believe 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, personalize your load.

We have gone through the steps about how 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 have knowledge of how much space you have. That’s when you will have to make a definitive list of the things that will be going 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 which is new.
  • Prioritize – What’s more important – the fishing pole or the sleeping pad? The answer is probably the sleeping pad.
  • As light as feather – Choose the lighter versions of everything. You will be having a lot of things on your back; you don’t want it to be heavier than you can carry.
  • Durability – With quality, usually comes the promise of durability. When it comes to important gear, opt for ones that have been 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

Water

So, when it comes to storing water there are some very common mistakes, that people then to think are right. Whilst some scientists say that one liter of water is enough to last you through a 24-hour-period, not all environments have been taking into consideration. The body can live with little water, but once the heat comes in 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.

Food

When you’re in the wilderness it can be hard to prep a full course dinner, that’s why you need to compromise on food options for your bug out bag. You need to carefully pick out the best choice for food, ones that would last for longer periods of time. 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 do’s and don’ts of bug out bag food.

Emergency Food

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

Do consider ways of cooking. Can you eat it straightaway 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, as well as 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 the bug out bag, one of those which are powered by natural resources. And whilst, we think it’s a fantastic addition, we insist that you consider everything else on your list and deciding 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 it can also cause pollution.

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

Shelter And Sleeping

Rest is vital when you’re living in the wilderness as you will be using a lot of your energy walking, hiking, swimming. That’s why you need to consider nothing less than high quality materials when it comes to your shelter building and the place you will sleep. There are so many things to consider when thinking about shelter

  • What environment will it be – wet, dry, cold, hot, rocky, 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.

Clothing

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 focusing 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. You need to be 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.

Light

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.

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

Communication

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 the best helper. That doesn’t mean don’t take it, but just ensureyou 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 telephone, unless it’s some good technology, that will survive in any environments.

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 of time. 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 on getting to know your surrounding nature, get to know what grows there. Learn about different natural edibles that can keep your body healthy whilst in the wilderness. Don’t underestimate the amount of fun it can be, living in the wilderness. Whilst 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 path of the plan changes and transforms. So, whether you are getting a map, or a compass, learn to work with them, so that you can 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 you are picking out your gear, consider you 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 out for you, you might find something suitable and reasonably priced.

If you are travelling with your family, don’t assume that 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 point in time. Of course, consider the age and weight of the person, but if you have a child over than 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 absolutely sure there are quality materials in this bag. Sometimes you can spend less by making your own kit and ensure better quality at the same time. This would provide with satisfying results, once you’re outside in the wilderness, instead of creating further, avoidable worry.

Try to avoid stocking you 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 you 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. Whilst 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 you’re 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 and this 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.