7 Essential Bug Out Bag ItemsBeing prepared for unforeseen situations is crucial for survival. The first and most basic step for any type of emergency that requires evacuation is to have a bug out bag on hand- packed with essentials needed to keep you alive for the first 72 hours after a disaster strikes. But, what are those essentials exactly? How to make sure your bug out bag will have everything you might need when the time for bugging out comes? There are no rules set in stone and every bug out bag is a story for itself, but whatever you choose to include in your own bug out bag, these are high-priority things that you should consider packing. Here are 7 essential bug out bag items that I feel everyone should have.


Hydration should be a top priority in case of emergency since the human body cannot last more than 3 days without water. But, carrying a few liters of fresh water might not be that convenient, so you should include a water filtration device, if possible, in case you come across a body of water.  The best strategy is to pack both drinking water and items that will help you gather and purify water of unknown quality.  The main purpose of a bug out bag is to keep you alive for 72 hours, but some thinking ahead can never be wrong. To ensure you’ll stay hydrated and have a backup in case you find non-drinking water, try to include all of these items:

  • Drinking water (at least 3 liters per person)
  • Water filtration system
  • Water purification tablets
  • Sturdy water bottle or canteen

Non-Perishable Foods

Although humans can theoretically last up to 3 weeks without eating, it’s best to pack some high-energy foods to keep you sustained and alert. The longer the shelf life and higher the energy value- the better, but it’s a good idea to pack some basic utensils, in case you need to prepare the food on the spot. Foods that are not filling and that won’t keep you energized are a bad choice, as well as those who can easily go bad. Since you’ll have to pack bare minimum only, it’s a good idea to pack something that will help you catch and/or prepare food when your supply is on the low. To avoid starving, make a combination of non-perishable foods and tools that will help you have the upper hand- choose some of the items from this list in accordance to your own bug out plan:

  • Energy Bars
  • Dried Fruits
  • Jerky
  • Dried Meals
  • Cooking Pot or Skillet
  • Spork and a Knife

First Aid Kit

A bug out bag without a first aid kit isn’t a bug out bag at all. If you’re not prepared for potential medical emergencies and don’t have the essentials to treat injuries at the ready, everything else you packed won’t do you any good. Even the smallest wounds are a disaster waiting to happen- without proper treatment, you’ll risk infection and sometimes life-treating complications that go with it. The best way to make sure you’ll be able to have everything under control if a disaster strikes is to have a good first aid kit handy- this way, no matter the circumstances of the evacuation, you’ll be able to help yourself or your family members to stay alive and well. When it comes to first aid kits, it’s always best to put them together yourself, but make sure you have your basics covered.  Some of the items that are a must-have for first aid kits are:

  • Wound closure strips and adhesive bandages
  • Sterile gauze
  • A suture kit
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Over the counter antibiotics
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Sharp scissors and tweezers
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Although not first aid per se, it’s good to include personal hygiene items along with your first aid kit. Nothing too fancy or over the top- a bar of soap, toothpaste and toothbrush and some toilet paper are the basics. For ladies, include some tampons or maxi pads.


No, you shouldn’t pack your Sunday best in your bug out bag- a change of clothes might be the only thing keeping hypothermia at bay and helping you get through the critical period. The worst thing that could happen is for you to stay in wet clothes or no to have some additional layers to keep you warm and comfortable if the temperature drops. As for clothes you’ll want to have in your bug out bag, choose the materials wisely- durable and heat regulating materials like wool are a perfect choice. Proper footwear will be comfortable for hiking and prolonged periods of time spent on foot, as well as being warm and allowing your feet to breathe. Here are some things you should include if possible:

  • Wool socks
  • A pair of sturdy boots or quality walking shoes
  • Long- sleeved shirt and a baseball cap for sun protection
  • Pair of cargo pants
  • A raincoat
  • Underwear
  • Wool sweater or a fleece jacket


Sure, you might find packing shelter a tad excessive, but having protection from the elements and a safe place to rest and recuperate will significantly increase your chances of survival. The bug our bag is supposed to be designed to help you get through the first 72 hours in case of emergency, so it’s wise to include at least something that can help you create a temporary shelter, in case you don’t find shelter in nature. Sometimes, you won’t be able to even find some materials along the way to help you to quickly create one, so the compact shelter from your bug out bag can literally be a life saver. If you have enough space in your bug out bag, include bedding also- a good night of sleep will help both your mind and body to perform at their peak. For lightweight and practical shelters, choose some of these items:

  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Hammock
  • Sleeping bag
  • Blanket

Basic Survival Tools Kit

The civilization was born when we started making and using tools, so it’s of utmost importance to have some useful ones at the ready, to help increase your chances of success. You should always count on circumstances where you won’t be able to access a power source or use some of the modern tools to help you, so choose the ones that will be useful no matter the conditions you find yourself in. Right tools can be indispensable in time of need. Whether it’s to help you find your way, start a fire or to help you tackle the challenges of the terrain, without proper tools, your bug out bag won’t be of much help.

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Some items you should definitely have in your bug out bag include:

  • Fire-starting items (lighters, tinder, fire striker)
  • Light source (LED lamp or headlamp, glow stick or a LED flashlight)
  • Multi-tool or Swiss knife
  • Compass
  • Small knife
  • Parachute Cord

Items for Self-Defense

If your mind is jumping to a zombie apocalypse scenario, and you think that packing something for your own self-defense might not be necessary in case of more plausible scenarios, you’re sorely mistaken. Having something to defend yourself or your family with is essential to have in emergency situations. You never know when you’ll need to whip out your bug out bag- is it a natural disaster, an economic one or something quite different altogether- the point is, when the time for bugging out comes, all bets are off on how other people will behave. And even if you end up not needing the weapons to protect yourself and your family from other people, chances are you might find them handy for fighting off wild animals (or even hunting food) in the rural areas, or even just for an added sense of security- avoiding trouble is the best strategy, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared to defend yourself.  Either way, you’ll be glad to have something for self-defense in your bug out bag in any of the many plausible scenarios. Depending on the laws and regulations of your country, here are some items for self-defense you might consider packing:

  • Gun
  • Rifle
  • Pepper Spray
  • Machete
  • Taser
  • Ammunition

Some Non-Essential Items to Consider

We’ve listed 7 essential things every bug out bag must have- but it doesn’t mean these are the only items you should have in your bug out bag. Depending on your own personal skill set and surroundings, you might want to include some additional items that could be of tremendous help in unforeseen emergencies, or substitute some of our own suggestions with something more suitable for your own individual bug out plan. For example, if you’re living in an urban area, it wouldn’t hurt to include a gas mask, in case of terrorist attacks and airborne contaminants, or if you’re in area that has a lake or a river, include fish hooks or rods, to help you catch fish and supplement your food. A good bug out bag is created with a concrete bug out plan in mind- the essentials we specified are must-have items, but as for additional items that could be extremely useful to have, it’s all up to you. Nobody knows your surroundings and personal abilities better, so use your own knowledge to your advantage. Being prepared for unexpected situations is the key to survival, and a bug out bag packed with essentials and customized additions is a sure way to be few steps ahead of everyone in case of any kind of emergency. Our list of universally useful non-essential items to pack includes:

  • Hand-cranked radio
  • Map
  • Emergency radio
  • Duct tape
  • Bandana
  • Batteries
  • Binoculars
  • Sewing Kit
  • Whistle
  • Signal Mirror
  • Insect Repellent
  • Portable Stove
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Emergency Preparedness and the Importance of a Bug Out Plan

Bug out bag’s sole purpose is to keep you alive for 72 hours, in case you need to leave everything behind and evacuate your home. In cases of these emergencies, you’ll have to act fast and it’s important to keep your bug out bag somewhere easily accessible at all times. Before you even think about making your own bug out bag, you’ll need to come up with a solid bug out plan to ensure you’ll be prepared for everything and anything. You don’t have to let your imagination run wild to come up with a scenario that would require you to evacuate- natural disasters are an everyday occurrence, and events like earthquakes, tornadoes or tsunamis could happen anytime and force you to fend for yourself. Although the ideal situation would be to hunker down in your own home, sometimes this just isn’t the option, and that’s why it’s essential to come up with a bug out plan that is reliable and easily adapted to different scenarios. When you factor in the possible disasters characteristic for your area, advantages and disadvantages of the terrain and your surroundings, you’ll have everything you need to plan out your bug out plan and bag.

If you really want to up your game, create more than one bug out bag per person. Keep one in your car, your workplace, and your home- this way, you won’t risk finding yourself without your bug out bag when the disaster strikes. And, even if you end up not needing to evacuate, but rather stay at your home, essential survival items you packed will surely be more than useful.

Choosing A Bug Out Bag

When you come up with the list of things you’ll want to include in your bug out bag, it’s time to choose the right one to hold it all safely and securely- that’s why this section is the last one.

Many people make the mistake of choosing the bag itself before the items, and they have a problem with fitting everything in it. If you collect the items before buying the bag, you’ll know exactly how much space you’ll need, how much weight the bag needs to support and is it comfortable when filled to the brim with important gear. Most people choose backpacks as their bug out bags, because it’s much easier to carry weight on your back than in your hand, and backpacks used for hiking are specially designed to withstand big loads and have an ergonomic design that makes them more comfortable to wear. Whichever bag you choose to be your bug out bag, make sure it’s made out of the highest quality materials- the last thing you’ll need is a bug out bag that easily rips and tears or has faulty zippers. Go for bags or backpacks that are durable and resistant to wear and tear they’ll surely have to endure, that are as lightweight as possible, and that will accommodate all the items you choose to pack for emergencies.

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By Chris Wright

My goals with PreppingSurvival.com are to help you prepare your family for every day life as well as the things that pop up like job loss, storm damage, store shortages, etc. The better prepared you are for life, the easier survival becomes. Learn to thrive, not just survive!