Bug-Out-Bags are simply a bag, usually a backpack to be easy to carry, designed to have the basic emergency items you may need in case you have to suddenly evacuate your home, or, if you are away from your home, the items you may need to get back home or to another safe place. One of the first things we want to do as a Prepper is to prepare our Bug Out Bag (BOB).
Generally your home is where you are going to have all your water, food and other survival necessities stored. It is usually the place where you are the most protected, so it makes sense to plan to stay in your home if at all possible.
But you are not always going to be home when an emergency or disaster may occur, or there may be instances where you may have to evacuate your home for a safer area.
- What if a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed releasing a cloud of ammonia, and you have been ordered to evacuate?
- Or what if a major gas leak was detected near your home and you were ordered to evacuate?
- Or what if you suddenly found yourself caught up in the middle of a riot situation and had to evacuate your vehicle?
- How about if a wildfire threatened your home?
In cases like these, you wouldn’t have time to run around and grab all the important things you may need. This is where you want some basic survival items in your bug-out-bag, or an emergency bag, already packed that you can quickly grab and head out the door.
I like to break down these emergency kits into five different categories:
- EDC or “Every Day Carry” kits: These are the emergency/survival items you should be carrying with you at all times.
- BOB or “Bug-Out-Bags”: This is an easy to carry bag containing only the essentials you need to last at least 72 hours until you get to a safe location or help arrives.
- Vehicle Emergency Bag: This kit will have items for repairs to your vehicle (fixing flat tire, tow rope if stuck, tools for minor repairs, extra brake fluid, etc.), as well as first aid kits for accidents, survival gear, food, and water should you have to remain with your vehicle for extended time (ie. Stuck in snowstorm, etc.). You should also have what you may need if you have to leave your vehicle to find help (Walking or hiking shoes, coat, etc.)
- “Get-Home Bag”: This is an emergency bag designed to allow you to get back home should a sudden emergency or disaster happen when you are away at work or school, or some other place without access to your vehicle’s emergency bag.
- “INCH” (I’m Not Coming Home) Bag: (Survival Pack/Rucksack) This is a larger bag, often a larger backpack that will allow you to carry more emergency gear and other survival items as well as back-up items for when you will not be able to return home for a longer time (or never returning home). Because it is larger and heavier, you won’t be able to carry it as far or be as maneuverable if you have to evade someone. This is something you would often carry in your vehicle because of the extra size and weight.
What is an EDC Kit?
The “Every Day Carry” are the emergency/survival items you should be carrying with you at all times. Most of us always carry a few items when we leave our home like our:
- wallet or purse, or
- backpack/ briefcase for school or work.
These items probably already carry many EDC items you are likely to need during the day.
The Preppers’ EDC kit often has a few extra items you want to have to be better prepared for emergencies and /or to just make your life easier.
Everyone’s Every Day Carry Kits will be different depending on the threats or challenges you may possibly face.
Be practical with the items you want to consider. I’ve seen EDC kits with fish hooks, fishing line, sinkers, snare wire, and other great things if you’re out in the wilderness. But if you are going out into some wilderness situation, wouldn’t you be better served to carry a daypack, fanny pack, or some other smaller pack you could attach to your belt, or something similar to carry these types of survival items? Would these items be useful in an urban setting that you might be in on a daily basis?
Think about potential threats you could encounter (muggings, terrorism, severe weather, etc.), common situations or problems that occur (needing to open packages, cut a piece of string or rope, bandaging a minor cut, walking in a dark parking lot, etc.) and base your Every Day Carry items on those needs.
You have to consider how much you will actually carry with you at all times. What exactly are you willing to carry in your pocket, purse, or other container that you will have with you at all times? Consider if you are going out in shorts and a t-shirt, what would you still be able to carry? Your EDC kit won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t have it with you when you need it.
First, I like to think of items I use often:
- Folding knife (My RAT II knife is my most used EDC item.)
- Multi-tool (I like a small one for EDC to be able to grip, cut, screw, pry, open cans/bottles, use as a tweezers for slivers, etc.)
- Flashlight (I have a phone app, but also like to carry a small one on my keychain)
Other Survival items you may want to consider:
- Emergency cash (Kept in place other than your purse or wallet. Can be used if purse or wallet is stolen, electricity or computers are down and credit cards are useless.)
- Tactical pen (Something to write with is always handy, but the Tactical pens make a very useful weapon for self-defense and as a glass breaking aid if needing to exit a vehicle quickly after an accident.)
- Paracord: Paracord or 550 cord is a strong but lightweight cord often made into bracelets, belts, necklaces, or keychains to carry every day. (Paracord can be used in many ways: used to splint a broken bone, tying down an emergency shelter, or just to tie things together. Individual threads can be pulled out to be used as sewing thread, fishing line, dental floss, etc.)
- Fire: Fire is and indispensable tools for survival, providing warmth, visible light, morale booster, cooking food, water purification, signaling, warding off predators & insects, etc.
- A disposable lighter is the easiest and cheap. (My multi-tool case that attaches to my belt has enough room for me to slip in a Bic Mini lighter.)
- Ferro rod
- Magnesium fire starter (ie. Aurora Fire Starter)
- Rain gear (Emergency ponchos are small and lightweight)
- Mylar emergency blankets are small, lightweight, and cheap.
- Large plastic trash bags (Can be used as a rain poncho, emergency shelter, etc.)
- A couple of water purifying tablets
- water bottle
- Condoms (Yes, they can make a great container to hold and carry water, especially in put inside a sock to help protect from tearing!)
- Protein or energy bars
- Fishhook and fishing line (dental floss of 550 paracord can also be used for fishing line or to make animal snares)
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol
- Prescription meds
- Packets of antibiotic ointment
- Needles & dental floss (can be used for suturing)
- Conceal and carry is one option
- Pepper sprays (Very handy to help prevent muggings)
- Tactical pens and tactical flashlights (Can be used as weapons)
- Other Items:
- Zip-lock bags (Very handy to carry water, food, and other small items)
- Survival whistle
- Keychain tools
What do I put all this EDC stuff in?
Many of these items you will not want to carry loose in your pockets or purse, so here are a few ideas:
- Altoids tins (The regular size is a bit large for many of my pockets, so I like to use the small size Altoids tins)
- Belt pouch: Several styles are available like the type used to carry a cell phone.
- Money belt: The leather belts designed to hide emergency cash. Not much room, but you can squeeze a few small things in there with your emergency cash.
- Hats: Paracord can be used as hat bands or neck/chin straps, small items like bandaids, fishhooks, etc. can be slipped inside the hatband. Some hats even have built-in flashlights (I love mine when I need two hands, but still need some extra light).
- Keychains: You can attach a ton of items to your keychain.
- Pill bottles: Can carry in pockets or attach to keychains.
Bug-Out-Bag: What Is It?
If you have to evacuate your home, you may not have a lot of time to gather all the things you may need. You will want to prepare what Preppers commonly call a “Bug-out-bag” (BOB) or “Go-bag” or “72 Hour-Bag” with the essentials things you’ll need for up to 72 hours until help arrives or you can get to a safe location.
This bag is designed to have enough items to survive a short time (the 72 hours mentioned above), be light and easy to carry long distances, and to fit your body well to be maneuverable to evade pursuit from those who didn’t prepare and want your stuff. Again, these are basic essential survival items for a short period of time until you can return home or to another safe place.
For longer periods of time, you will want to put together the “INCH” (I’m Not Coming Home) Bag or Main Survival Bag that will contain many more types of survival items as well as more back-up items to make log-term survival more comfortable.
What Kind Of Bag Should I Use?
For a Bug-out-bag, you are going to need a good quality and comfortable backpack. You’ll want to find one that is large enough to hold the essential gear you need, but not so large that you will try to pack too much in it that will cause the weight to get too heavy. These will usually be about 35L capacity or smaller. It is recommended that you keep the weight, fully packed, to 15% of your body weight (20% if you’re in good shape.) Remember, you may need to run and climb with this backpack, and carry it for long distances.
A good fitting waist belt to keep the weight on your hips, instead of your shoulders, and a chest or sternum strap will help to hug the backpack to your body to make it easier to move in. If you do have to run or climb, you don’t want your bug-out-bag flopping around on your back and throwing you off balance.
Having lots of pockets, loops, and straps will help you stay organized with your gear. You want to be able to find and access your needed gear quickly. Getting to the survival gear you need at a moment’s notice may mean the difference between life and death.
Don’t Draw Attention
When choosing your backpack, you want to find one that helps you to “blend in”. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself and look like you’re bugging-out. If others take notice of what you have, they may want to take it from you.
For this reason, you don’t want to have a large pack that looks like you have everything everyone would need. No bright flashy colors, or fancy designs. Even some of the tactical backpacks can draw attention. I like to stay with more earth-tone colors, like khaki, green, or even black. I avoid the camo colors as they seem to draw more attention. Another thing I like to do is to make sure my bag looks used and a little dirty, like it’s something I have been carry work or school items in for months.
I also try to keep from attaching or hanging anything to the outside of the pack as much as possible, as this will also draw unwanted attention.
What goes in a Bug-out-bag?
Here is a basic list of what to consider to put into your bug-out-bag. Remember, each person’s bug-out-bag will differ depending on the time of year, weather conditions, types of emergencies or disaster you are likely to face, and personal preferences and skills.
Remember to pack only what you need. This bug-out-bag is intended to be easy to carry and contain the survival items you need for a short time until you can return home or get to another safe place. We’ll pack an “INCH” bag (discussed later in this chapter) for longer term survival.
Your shelter, sleeping system, and clothing will probably make up the bulk of your weight and space available in your pack. You will have to consider all three of these areas and look at the weather, what you are wearing, and other conditions you may be facing, and what amount of discomfort you can tolerate to determine what you will pack.
- Tent (1-man backpacking tents take up small space, and are light in weight, but can be expensive)
- Sleeping bag or blankets
- Sleeping pad
- Tarp & Paracord or rope
- Container to carry some water
- Water bottles (approx. 2-3 liters)
- Hydration Reservoirs
- Condoms (Yes, non-lubricated condoms can make a great ultra-lite container to hold and carry water, especially in put inside a sock to help protect from tearing!)
- Water filtering kits &/or purification tablets
- Metal cup or container to boil water for purification and/or cooking
- Container to carry some water
- Food to Carry
- Protein bars
- Freeze-dried meals
- Emergency bars
- Cooking & Preparing Your Food
- Stove: Backpacker stove & fuel. This adds some extra bulk and weight, but can be a lifesaver if you are unable to build a fire for cooking or boiling water to purify it.
- Cooking pots/pans. I use just 1 large metal cup or a small camping/hiking pot for boiling water, cooking in, and eating out of.
- Can openers: Mine is on my multi-tool
- Plates, cups
- Finding More Food
- Fishing kit
- Snare wire for trapping
- Food to Carry
- Change of clothing appropriate for the weather.
- Rain gear: To keep the weight down, I just keep a cheap plastic poncho in my bug-out-bag, but have a better rain suit with my INCH Bag.
- Cold weather gear (even summer nights can get cooler) Remember to adjust your bug-out-bag for the current season and weather conditions.
- Walking/hiking shoes or boots: (Avoid sneakers that can get wet.) I don’t put these inside my bag, but simply clip them to the outside. This way I can grab my bag quickly and change into better shoes when I have a chance.
- Extra socks
- Gloves (cold-weather & work gloves)
- Chemical heating pads. I keep a couple hand warmers and foot warmers that are air activated and will provide several hours of heat in my bag.
- First Aid Kit
- First aid kit
- Prescription medicines
- Insect Repellant
- Fire Starting Kit:
Building a fire can be so important to your survival that you will want at least a minimum of 2 ways to start a fire. Remember, Bic lighters and regular matches won’t light when they are wet. Have other backup ways to start you fire.
- Water Proof Matches
- Magnesium or Ferrous Striker
- Tools & Other Items:
- Survival knife: A good fixed blade knife is probably the most import and useful tool to have in your bug-out-bag. It will take much more abuse from chopping, cutting, prying, etc. without breaking than my EDC knife.
- Trowel of foldable shovel
- 550 para cord (rope)
- Flashlight (w/ spare bulb & batteries)
- Emergency radio
- Phone charger (solar or hand-crank)
- All-purpose camp soap
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine hygiene products
- Zip Lock bags
- Plastic contractor trash bags
- Sewing kit
- Duct tape
- Emergency whistle
- Mylar emergency blanket
- Area maps and compass
- Notepad & pencil
- Pepper spray
- Hand gun & ammunition
Once you have put your bug-out-bag together, try it out. Take it out on an overnight campout, or take it on a hunting trip. Actually using it will answer these questions.
What did I forget to pack?
Do I know how to use everything?
What don’t I need that is just extra weight?
Make your adjustment in your bug-out-bag and try it out again. When the time comes and you really need your bug-out-bag for an emergency or disaster situation, you will know you have the survival items you need and be comfortable using them.
INCH” (I’m Not Coming Home) Bag:
(Main Survival Backpack/Rucksack):
If things go really bad and you will not be able to return home soon (think of the recent storms and flooding when many were unable to return to their homes for weeks), or don’t have a safe back-up location to stay, you will want to have more survival items in your bag than what your regular bug-out-bag contains for longer term survival.
Or if worst case scenarios (“SHTF” “Shit Hits The Fan” or “TWEAWKI” “The World Ends As We Know It”) like major terrorist attacks, war, economic collapse, nuclear accident, etc. were to happen and you know you will not be returning to your home, you will need many more items for your survival.
You will pack all the same type of items for survival as you have in your Bug-out-bag with many more additions for your long term survival.
This backpack is obviously going to be much larger and weigh considerably more with all the extra gear you will need. Not only will you need more individual types of survival gear, but you will need more quantity of several items.
When choosing items for your survival packs, keep in mind what you can carry and how far you can carry that weight. Will your selected items hold up under adverse conditions? Can you repair these items if needed? Do these items have more than just one use?
Have I forgotten anything? Probably. I am constantly adding and removing items from my Bug-out-bag and INCH bag as I find other useful items. Also, each time I take out my bags on use them, I find things I would like to add and some things I just never use and could eliminate the weight.
Remember, it’s your bag. Pack what works best for you.
Vehicle Emergency Bags:
Each car or truck you have should have its own emergency bag in it as well as a bug-out-bag for the occupants. You’ll want tools and supplies to fix common vehicle problems or situations you may face while driving when an emergency or disaster happens. Be prepared for things like flat tires, dead battery, low oil or other vehicle fluids, accidents, getting stuck, breakdowns, etc.
Your vehicle is also a great place to keep a rucksack or larger backpack similar to your “Bug-out-bag” but containing more survival items. Here you can add larger or heavier items that will still be very useful for survival/disaster situations.
If you’re unable to get the vehicle moving again, you will still want your regular bug-out-bag handy while waiting for assistance or in case you need to abandon the vehicle and walk for help or to find safety.
Get Home Bag
If you’re not home when a disaster strikes, you’ll want a Get-Me-Home Bag.
A common example may be a sudden snow storm hits and you are unable to travel home. Do you have the supplies with you to wait it out (water, snacks, clothing, medicine, etc.) till the snow plows get out in the next day or two? Or if you are within walking distance, do you have the right shoes or boots, hat, gloves, and coat to brave the weather in?
If you’re at school or at work or some other location away from home, you are probably not dressed properly for survival or have the emergency/survival supplies you need to get back home. Keeping a get-me-home bag stashed under your desk or in your locker may make all the difference in keeping you comfortable or even surviving a disaster.
Tips To Get Started:
- Get your EDC kit together immediately and carry it with you every day!
- Start putting together your Bug-out-bag. Don’t wait until you have the perfect backpack- just use your old school/book/laptop bag and begin filling it with the survival items you need for your situation. You will probably be modifying the bag and contents over and over as you try it out and can afford new items to add or replace.
- Get your Vehicle Emergency Bags together right away. Even if you only have a few basic tools to fix a flat tire or cables to jump start your car, a simple first aid kit, a few snacks, couple water bottles and an extra coat, you will be prepared for the majority if emergencies that are most likely to occur.
- Keep a good pair of walking or hiking shoes, coat, hat, gloves, raincoat or poncho, snacks, and a water bottle in your school locker or at work to start your ”Get-Home” bag.
- If you’re like most of us preppers, your “bug-out-bag will tend to start growing into an “INCH” bag as you keep adding more survival supplies. When that happens, make sure you separate the two to keep your original bug-out-bag from getting too unwieldy.
When this started happening to me, I decided to save up a little extra money to buy a better backpack for my bug-out-bag. I’m using the old one as a temporary “INCH” bag until I can afford a new larger backpack for it.
In other articles I will go into much more detailed preparations on these many different areas of disaster/survival preparedness. The best suggestion I have is to get started with these simple things right away. Just doing these first steps, putting together Your Bug-Out Bag, and Emergency Kits, will get you better prepared than most of the population who think “It’ll never happen to me” or the government agencies “will take care of everything” (Don’t hold your breath!).
Take personal responsibility for you and your families’ well-being in case of disaster!