Some call it 72 hour bag, Get Out Of Dodge Bag, Get Back Home Bag or however. Making the perfect bug out bag definitely can mean difference between life and death, and there are many philosophies about what should be in it and what not. This is my take on it. It is a budget / cheap bug out bag and makes sense for me. I have some different products but tried to find most similar I could on Amazon because this is what most people have access to.
First lets start with some considerations before assembling it.
Do you need a bug out bag or survival bag?
A bug out bag is for bugging out and not living forever in woods. Survival bag is more for long term living outdoors. A bug out bag is smaller and light, a survival bag is big and has more stuff in it of course.
My philosophy for bug out bags is, you need to have things with you that gonna bring you to your desired location. Nothing less and nothing more. Traveling light is key here, not traveling comfortable. If you can do both – great, but if you need to choose then choose to travel light, fast and maneuverable. You are maybe gonna be forced to run, jump, duck, use weapon with that bag on your back.
I see long lists of things from people who seem to go on camping trip with their bug out bags. Makes no sense to me. You have survival bag or camping bag if you have no bug out location and plan to live in the woods. But before you head for the hills “to live off land” you better know what you do. Otherwise bugging in is better. Anyway, that is something for another article. But if you have a bug out location, getting there fast is most important.
Choosing the right backpack is matter of what you like, your items you carry and of course it must always matter that you keep low profile. So if you are bugging out from city you do not want to look like you are SWAT team member. Nobody survives because of style as well. If you have bug out bag at office then choose a bag that looks like laptop backpack. If you have bug out bag at home, choose a casual sports backpack in darker colors (and without any reflector).
How long are you bugging out?
You are making your bug out bag for bugging out to a safe location your bug out location and it takes you X days to get there. Depending how many days you gonna be there you gonna carry that many items.
It is great thing to have lot of useful things with you on your way to bug out location, but even better thing is to have some useful things and be able to move fast and efficiently.
Just take your perfect bug out bag and do some testing in real life, in some hard conditions, with bad weather.
Here is what I recommend for basic bug out bags.
I carry trash bags that you can also use inside your backpack to keep things dry and three emergency blankets. Here is higher quality emergency blanket but watch out that it is not too heavy or takes too much space.
I also sleep in shelter in form of a poncho. This is cheap poncho, you look unprepared with it and that is great if you are in city.
Alternative could be to use a tarp of course.
Perfect way to keep yourself clean or take care of small cuts in quick way. Some soap is good to have too. Not brushing teeth for few days, bad breath is least of problems.
Do not think about your way to bug out location as a picnic, or nature trip. It is gonna look more like dangerous escape from war zone, so you need to act like that. Most probably you are going to eat very fast and you need something simple or you are too tired to cook anyway.
You are maybe not gonna be in position to start fire, maybe you are not gonna need it, or maybe it is gonna be too dangerous to start it, but once when you needed you need to be absolutely positive that you can start it safe and quick. A small fire does much for your body and in many situations maybe even more for your mind.
I want to have more ways to start fire because I still remember how important it is.
One night I was stranded out in one ruined building while outside was raining like waterfalls. It was unsafe to travel so I spent night there, hidden behind pile of rubble in something that was months before living room.
I choose only 5-6 square meters where was relatively hidden and start fire. I start it with lighter and some remains of curtain, then I used wood junk from the rooms and apartments to keep it going. It was stinky, my eyes were burning from wet wood and my attempts to “cover” light of the fire with some steel plate without extinguishing it.
I was wet, tired, hungry, and without too many plans for future.
It was spooky and weird to have fire in complete darkness of ruined and half burned apartment where still on wall were pieces of some tiles with different flowers. I did not cook anything on that fire, or boil water for coffee, tea or whatever, I did not have anything.
Only “material” use of that fire was that I dried my socks on it, but it was not too important at that moment, I survived many days with wet socks.
Real use of that fire was that I felt that my strength and will was coming back to me. After some time I felt much better, I had my will again.
Everything is different when you have fire with you. It not only helps your body…
Canteen cup kit, water treatment solution, filter and a hydration reservoir. I also have water bottle to fill up hydration reservoir quickly next to it on shelf. Do not carry too much water but make sure you have everything to make clean water yourself.
6. Tools and more
It’s nice to have smartphone with GPS but also carry a map of the area, compass and make sure you know how to use them.
I carry three lights. A torchlight, nano light and a headlamp. Sometimes it make sense to use strong torchlight, but in other circumstances it make more sense to use small light, without making yourself visible from great distances.
Try to carry FM radio to get some information. If you have space there are good hand crank radios available. To have information in moments of bugging out can be very important. Listen to radio with headphones to conserve energy.
When it comes to types of carrying all of this and how to organize it you must always have things that are very important close to you and in a way separated from your backpack.
That means that you will keep your weapons on your belt or under the jacket, your small survival box, some ammo, flask, means to start fire and some power bars in some small bag on your hip, around your neck or similar.
We all probably carry our pistol as every day carry (EDC). In my case EDC is just gonna be small addition to bug out bag. It usually consists of pistol, extra magazine, lighter, flashlight, folding knife, keys, cell phone, heavy duty scissors and wallet. But keep in mind that how many things you have in your EDC depends on your “moving” distances. Or how far you are from more stuff (in your car, job, home) so I have not much with me all the time.
Clothes in layers makes easy to you to take off something if you feeling too hot, or to take peace of clothes on if getting too cold. Do not forget that by making mistakes in this area can lead to hypothermia or in other cases in heat exhaustion if you losing too much water by sweating without controlling it.
Check for clothes that repel wind, dry quickly, clothes that stay warm even when wet etc. Try polyester (military style pants, shirts etc) wool underwear and some insulation layers with fleece. Have one set of extra clothes in your bug out bag.
Clothes that blend in
You do not want to look different remember that so also when it comes to clothes try to have usual stuff on you, or if you want and have something special just try to cover it with something usual. Remember that looking too different draws attention and that is bad.
If your clothes looks too good or too “new” it makes sense to make it look dirty before you move on. Even today when I buy new sneakers for example I first make them dirty but that is because I live in high crime area.
Your footwear needs to be chosen completely based on nature of your trip, not on other folks ratings. So it make sense to wear for example sneakers in city because of speed and mobility, and when you move to woods to change to something else. Pair of gators in combination with boots make sense.
Remember that you need to wear your new footwear before emergency scenario. Do not make mistake and put your new boots on for the first time when bugging out. Blisters can cripple you and I saw people losing feet because of infected blisters.
Your compass and map you are keeping in your pocket or small waist pack. In that way if you find yourself in situation that you need to loose your backpack you are still gonna be able (hopefully) to finish your trip.
My shelf system
Having your bug out bag always ready somewhere on some shelf makes much sense, but having the things ready for bugging out on shelves and way of quickly assembling your bug out bag is much better idea in my opinion.
Point is to have all things that you gonna need for your three or more day trip to your bug out location ready and sorted on one shelf, so you can easily check it every day.
Another reason is that there is no perfect bug out bag for every situation, so it makes sense to have some stuff available for your BOB so you can quickly choose something and leave something else.
Remember that you can not take everything.
In some situation it is gonna make sense to take gas mask with you maybe and leave something else.
Making bug out bag, and putting it on shelf and then waiting for SHTF can be problem, you have to check stuff that is in your bug out bag, you have to know each item very good, and check it often. It is easy to forget about what you have in your bag when you have assembled it and put aside for some time.
Choosing correct bag type is important too, so it is good to have few different type bags ready for quick packing.
Some more thoughts
Your bug out bag must have things that you KNOW how to use, so it is much better to have butterfly closures that you know how to use than full wound sewing kit without real knowledge about it (and without real need).
If this concept of bug out bag sounds like you are missing lot of things, please consider again the fact that your task with this bag is to reach your bug out location on quickest and safest way, not most comfortable way. Do you want to be slowed down for a bit more comfortable night? I don’t. I also speak in detail about reasons why mobility mattered so much during my time in war in my survival course. Sneakers beat big boots back then.
If you still think to add more things to your bag to make your way easier then think about possibility of hiding some stuff on your way to your bug out location.
It has many benefits. You get to know your way to your bug out location in detail when you search for good hiding places for example.
In setting those secret places with stuff on your way to your bug out location follow few rules:
1. Always use three possible ways to bug out location, and hide stuff there because you never know what way you are gonna use.
2. Hide small stashes at many places, instead more stuff at few places. Reason is again fact that you do not know what circumstances gonna be during bugging out, and what kind of obstacles you gonna have. Just have more choices.
3. Have some system in tracking correct places where you hid the things, it is much easier to forget places than most people think.
It can be GPS device, or simply some photos taken, or some coded message describing correct place. Remember that you may give that info to someone (friend, family member). Get creative, maybe some place only you and your wife know as a starting point.
What you gonna hide depends how long your trip is, and what kind of situation is gonna be but every small thing gonna help in those times.
Canned food, MREs, fuel, aluminum foil, ammo, first aid kits, duct tape…
You can have best equipment available but if YOU did not test it, it does not mean too much. After you assemble everything go on hiking trip and test all, test equipment in rain, in forest during the night time, try to make yourself shelter from trash bag with insulating it with leafs, or whatever else you have for shelter.
Try to find a stash at night or to read compass at night… You may say here “OK what about mosquito repellent, sun lotion, survival manual, tent, solar charger … and lot of other things.”
If you want those, my suggestion would be that you buy ALL things that you like to have with you, assemble it in bug out bag and have two day trip that includes sleeping in woods, running (from someone) trying to hide, trying to get to the bug out location on time etc.
Speed counts more than comfort.
After that take all equipment and sort it again to make it lighter, you will see that suddenly you are going to find some stuff you do not want to have actually (or you find something you missed, but practice is important).
More about bugging out and weapons in next article. Please share some ideas about your bug out bag in comments.