An overhead view of essential Bug-Out Bag supplies neatly organized on the floor.

Bug Out Bag Checklist: 60+ Prepper Gear Essentials

If you’re new to the prepping community, the term “bug out bag” may lead to some confusion. Is it a tool for catching critters? A bag full of nets and insect repellant? Or a specialized care package, filled with all the modern creature comforts that you’ll need to survive in the wild?

Don’t worry–a bug out bag has nothing to do with eating worms or catching spiders (unless you want it to!). For most preppers, a bug out bag is an essential part of surviving in an emergency.

What is a Bug Out Bag?

When we go to bed each night, everything seems fine, and after a few hours of sleep, we wake up to a new day and begin living our lives all over again. We are lulled into a familiar routine until one day, we get up, look around in confusion, and realize that something is not quite right.

When disaster strikes (as it often does, at the most unexpected of times) will you be prepared? In those critical moments, the difference between life and certain death is the decision that you make to escape.

That means that the first 72 hours of an emergency situation are the most crucial to your survival. During this period of time, you should ask yourself:

Are you ready to leave your home at a moment’s notice with food, water, and medicine in hand?

Be honest with yourself, because if the answer is no, this guide can help you change that.

Recent history has shown us that even in these modern times, calamity can occur at a moment’s notice. Without preparation, you’ll expose yourself and your loved ones to danger and unnecessary suffering.

To bug-out is to make the calculated decision to abandon your dwelling. This decision is a response to a sudden, unforeseen crisis that has the potential to threaten your life.

When that happens, the supplies that you’ll need should already be packed in an emergency kit that preppers refer to as a bug out bag.

At its core, a bug out bag is your #1 survival tool in a disaster and should be filled with critical necessities. These prepper gear essentials will help you deal with any number of contingencies during the first 72 hours and beyond.

The Bug Out Bag Checklist

If you’re ready to start prepping, this guide will walk you through the process of packing a bug out bag. We have created a detailed checklist to help you make the best of any crisis.

This guide is split into 12 parts. The first four parts are based on the Rule of Threes, the things all human beings need to survive for:

  • Three minutes without air
  • Three hours without shelter under extreme environmental conditions
  • Three days without water
  • Three weeks without food

Take the time to review each of the categories that we have listed below, which have been placed in order of their priority for survival.

Note: Remember that this is a bag that you will need to grab quickly during a life-or-death scenario, so limit the items to what you believe is truly necessary.

Air

Without clean air, you have a three-minute window to survive. To increase your chances, pack an air filtration mask. Filtering particulates may be the only way that you can get clean oxygen to breathe.

Shelter

If you are caught in extreme weather, you’ll need to take shelter immediately.

  • Tents – When natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, occur, finding shelter can be difficult. Pack a Mylar emergency tent, as it can retain heat and repel water, keeping you warm and dry. The Mylar tent folds into a bag small enough to fit in your palm, saving the limited space inside of your emergency kit for other supplies.
  • Space blanket – Emergency aluminized blankets are lightweight and versatile additions to your bug out bag. In addition to keeping you warm (or cool) you can turn them into a makeshift shelter. These blankets fold into the size of a napkin.
  • Sleeping bags – Find the most lightweight sleeping bag that you can; make sure that it provides maximum warmth, and then pack it in your emergency kit.

Water

Safe drinking water is essential if you want to survive a crisis. Keep the following items in your bug out bag to prepare in advance:

  • Portable water filters – These lightweight filters will help you get clean drinking water from unfamiliar sources by filtering out sediments, bacteria, protozoa, and even some viruses.
  • Bottled water/water bottle/bladder – Like many prepper gear essentials, your water bottle(s) should be strong enough to resist puncturing. Stainless steel water bottles are the best for emergency scenarios.

In a normal environment, a person can only go 72 hours without water, so make sure your bag has the appropriate hydration materials, as much as you can carry.

Food

Keep enough food in your bug out bag to last at least three days. Your ready-to-eat food stores will give you the energy that you need to survive in a pinch.

If your emergency occurs in a flooded town or war zone, you may need to start rationing. It may take at least 5 days for relief food to be assembled and distributed in your area.

  • Rationing – There is no room for a feast in a bug out bag. You should only eat your planned ration at every established mealtime. If you are stranded with pets, you’ll need to pack food for cats, dogs, and any other companions that you bring with you.
  • Fishing  In the event that your bug-out location is near a body of water, you might as well get your own food in the wild. Think of packing a fishing kit, a string with a hook, and some bait too.

Clothes

Your clothes protect you from the physical environment. Make sure you carry the appropriate clothing in your bug out bag.

  • Winter gloves – Get protection from frostbite with a pair of warm gloves. Your gloves should offer a firm grip, protecting your hands from injuries and infection. The aftermath of disaster, more often than not, involves cleanup of heavy debris. High quality gloves ensure that you maintain manual dexterity to finish these tasks.
  • Waterproof jacket – Your situation will already be uncomfortable enough, so small victories like staying dry can really help.
  • Change of clothes – Pack at least one change of clothes in case you get wet. Damp clothes speed up hypothermia.
  • Headwear  Beanies are essential for heat retention. Pack them in your emergency kit instead of traditional hats.

Warmth

Just in case you are stranded outside with no viable shelter, you should have the means to generate warmth. When disaster forces you out into the elements, it is important to have sources of warmth on hand.

  • Fire starters – These are an efficient way to start a fire for warmth and for cooking food. Some brands of fire starters work even when they are wet, so make sure that you include them in your bug out kit. Keep some matches as a backup.
  • Hand and leg warmers  These warmers contain chemical components that generate heat, keeping you warm when you are exposed to the cold.

Lighting

Once the sun goes down, you may have to stop your journey if you are on foot. There are three classes of light sources that you should pack in your bug out bag:

  • Headlamps – Headlamps provide hands-free lighting that you can attach around your head. Headlamps can be used in extreme weather conditions and even underwater for a limited period of time. They have a shelf-life of up to a decade.
  • Chemlights – Chemical light sticks will provide light for up to 12 hours. The brightness can be seen from a mile away; this makes them great for signaling.
  • Flashlight – Everyone should keep a strong and compact flashlight in their bug out bag.

First Aid

Medical supplies make up an essential component of the bug out bag. Injuries of all kinds can occur whenever tragedy strikes.

Your bug out bag should have the following items, listed in order of priority:

  • Tourniquet
  • Pressure bandage
  • Z-fold gauze
  • Coban roll
  • Trauma shears
  • Over the counter medication (Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, and Loperamide)
  • Band-aids
  • Chest seals
  • Tweezers
  • Vaseline
  • 2 needles and thread in isopropyl alcohol
  • Silk medical tape
  • 5” x 2” Moleskin
  • 4.5” x 4 yards Gauze Rolls
  • 6 Gauze pads 4” x 4”
  • Plastic cling film
  • Cravat
  • 16 Butterfly bandages 0.5″ x 2.75″
  • 3 safety pins
  • ACE bandage 4” x 5 yards
  • 36” aluminum splint
  • 2 pairs of Gloves
  • Reference guide
  • Saline eye drops
  • 2 ab pads 5” x 9”
  • 28 French Nasopharyngeal airway
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Caffeine Pills
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Miconazole
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics

Start by stocking the items at the top of this First Aid list and work downwards. How far down you go depends on the type of emergencies that you are preparing for; feel free to customize your bug-out medical kit according to your own needs.

Note: Learn how to treat blisters, clean wounds, bandage, and close them up. You can take a certified first aid course to bolster your skills.

Navigation Instruments

In situations that require you to find an alternative route, navigation instruments can be a lifesaver.

  • Maps  Keep a map of the local area and another of the state and neighboring states. Natural disasters tend to remodel landscapes, so you may have to find a Plan B.
  • Compass  Get a compass to help you maintain your course according to a map or GPS. Learn how to use one, otherwise it will be useless.
  • GPS tracking system – Battery and solar-powered GPS systems exist, so bring extra batteries or a solar charger in case the charge runs out.

Multi-Use Tools

These tools are to help you overcome a myriad of challenges you may encounter in the field.

Hatchet and Shovel Combo  This combination was invented so that outdoorsmen and survivalists could carry all of their tools with less weight. Some tools like the Pathway North are a combination of at least five survival tools in one. One shovel contains:

  • Hexagon wrench
  • Window breaker
  • Shovel board
  • Saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Multifunctional knife
  • Hollow tubing for storage

Multi-tool  This useful tool is a combination of various individual functions in one single unit. Some units have as many as 27 tools in one! Your bug-out multi-tool should have the following:

  • Small knife
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Wire snips
  • Carabiner
  • File
  • Bottle opener

Paracord  Use this strong fiber to secure a makeshift shelter. Learn how to hunt, create snare traps, fish, or string up a bear bag with it.

Duct Tape  Some practical uses for duct tape include repairs on tents, equipment, and backpacks, just to mention a few. It also speeds up the process of lighting a fire.

Crowbar  Use your crowbar to roll out heavy objects from your path, break into a shelter, or wield it as a self-defense weapon.

Folding Saw – If you choose to include this item, use it to clear your path, chop firewood, and build a shelter.

Self-Defense

Situations may arise where you need to defend yourself from hostile bystanders or animals. If that happens, you’ll need these prepper gear essentials in your bug out bag:

  • Knife  This is a self-defense staple. However, in many survival situations it ends up being used to cut cans of food and other objects. Opt for knives with a safety sheath.
  • Pepper Spray  Use pepper spray to ward off wild animals and discourage attacks from people.

Note: The fact that you are packing weapons in your go-bag should not make you overconfident. The best kind of self-defense is to avoid confrontation.

Miscellaneous

If you still have some space in your bug out bag, and it’s still foot-portable, add some of these:

  • Universal Charger – A charger is used to power the electronics in your backpacks such as flashlights, radio, and phone.
  • Whistle – A whistle is used to call for help or signal your position to other members of your party.
  • Eyewear – Goggles provide complete protection and can clear your vision.
  • Contacts and addresses of family members – Make a list and practice memorizing all the phone numbers of the people who matter most to you.
  • Digital and physical copies of official documents – Seal the physical copies in waterproof and airtight lamination or canister. This is especially useful if your town/city has to be evacuated.
  • Passport – Keep your passport with you at all times during an emergency. Necessity may dictate that you cross the border.
  • Title deeds and contracts – Keep a copy of all contracts and titles in your name. When normalcy resumes – and in the event that your residence was destroyed – you will still have proof of ownership.
  • Sewing kit –The sewing kit is often overlooked in the go-bag list. It is worth considering, since it can be used to perform crucial repair work.
  • Disaster preparedness for the whole family – You may be ready to handle an emergency, but what about your family? Surviving disaster is easier as a communal effort, since the collective chances of survival are usually higher; share your skills with your loved ones and make a plan for getting to safety when disaster strikes, how to communicate, and where to meet.

The Bug Out Backpack

You have spent a lot of time and resources obtaining your evacuation supplies…but what kind of bag are you planning to use?

Your regular backpack is not good enough for this situation. A bug out bag must have the following:

  • Constructed of a thick, indestructible material
  • Foam padded back and hip straps for comfortable carrying
  • Pockets and several compartments for organizing supplies
  • Splash resistant outer and inner lining
  • Airtight seal
  • Roll-top construction

How Heavy Should the Bug Out Bag Be?

More often than not, people tend to pack a bug out bag that is barely portable when traveling on foot. Why is this so common?

  • People falsely assume that they will haul the bag in a vehicle
  • People tend to overestimate their physical fitness
  • Some people are incapable of prioritizing supplies, so they throw in anything and everything
  • It’s easy to misjudge how difficult it is to carry 50 pounds of weight on our backs for hours

These assumptions may cost you dearly once you are in the middle of a catastrophe. In real life, you will probably be forced to ditch your vehicle due to blocked roads or a breakdown.

The journey that you will take to find a bug-out location will be physically taxing. In the event that you are forced to use alternative routes on foot, you may encounter difficulties: miles of wilderness, floods, injuries, exhaustion, or wild animals, to mention just a few.

Note: The rule of the bug out bag is that it should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight.

To test your endurance while carrying the bug out bag, take a mile-long hike with it on your back. Either keep practicing regularly to build up your endurance or drastically reduce the contents of your backpack!

Mistakes to Avoid While Packing the Bug Out Bag

  • There is no point in packing any type of food that requires extensive cooking to prepare.
  • You already have caffeine pills, so there is no need to pack coffee.
  • You do not have the luxury of worrying about your figure during a survival situation. For example, if you are vegan, or only eat gluten-free products, please recognize that you have to get your supply of protein through whatever means are open to you.
  • Store water in canteens or stainless-steel water bottles. Pouches or juice box containers are susceptible to punctures.
  • Hydration bladders are also susceptible to puncturing and misuse of rations, since it is hard to keep track of water consumption.
  • Anything that you intend to re-use from your bag should not be made of plastic material.
  • Salt supplements do more harm to your health than good. There is enough salt in both the food rations and canned food.
  • Buying cheap pre-assembled gear is as bad as not preparing at all. Investing in expensive gear means that you’re getting superior quality and less weight.
  • Inflatable sleeping bags are susceptible to puncturing and burns.
  • Always use proper footwear while evacuating.
  • There are a hundred lighting sources that are more advanced than glow sticks. Give them up for better lighting sources, such as chemical lights or headlamps.
  • Cranking lights are relics of the past. Technology has innovated rechargeable lights, which are more efficient to use.
  • Please don’t weigh down the bag with multiple cooking kits. This is a life-or-death survival situation, not a cookout.
  • Multiple rounds of ammo are not necessary unless you are part of a militia headed out to war; you are not Rambo.
  • Night vision goggles and diagnostic tools such as blood pressure cuffs will only add unnecessary weight.

Our Complete Bug Out Bag Checklist

  • Air filtration mask
  • Stainless steel water bottles/canteen
  • Food rations
  • Fishing kit
  • Cold weather gloves
  • Multi-tool
  • Portable water filtering system
  • Paracord
  • Emergency tent
  • Space blanket
  • Prescription drugs
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • Painkillers, antacid, anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Band-aids
  • Gauze rolls
  • Gauze pads
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Cravat
  • Coban roll
  • Trauma shears
  • Over the counter medication (Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, and Loperamide)
  • Chest Seals
  • Tweezers
  • Vaseline
  • Needless and thread in Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Silk medical tape
  • Moleskin
  • Gauze rolls
  • Gauze pads
  • Plastic cling film
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Safety pins
  • ACE bandage
  • Aluminum splint
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • First-aid manual
  • Tourniquet
  • Axe and shovel combination tool
  • Folding saw
  • Duct tape
  • Crowbar
  • Space blanket
  • Headgear
  • Hand and foot warmers
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Change of clothes
  • Knife
  • Pepper spray
  • Matches/fire starter
  • Chemical lights
  • Flashlights
  • Headlamp
  • Maps of area
  • Compass
  • GPS tracking system
  • Goggles
  • Whistle
  • Sewing kit
  • Physical and digital copies of important documents
  • Cash
  • Small mirror
  • Universal Charger

What is Your Bug-Out Level?

Level 1

These are emergency kits weighing less than 20 pounds. All level 1 supplies will fit comfortably in a 25L backpack.

This bag is light and packed for mild emergencies, such as minor disruptions from a localized earthquake. It has all the essentials you need to survive away from home for at least 72 hours.

If you have advanced survival skills, a level 1 bug out bag will comfortably help you cope with a more serious crisis.

Level 2

A bug out bag weighing less than 35 pounds and that fits into 44L backpacks. In addition to the level 1 items, it contains equipment that will make you more comfortable (for instance, a solar charger, tent, and blanket).

Level 3

This is the recommended maximum weight of an emergency kit that everyone should carry, for bags whose weight is greater than 35 pounds but less than 45 pounds. These supplies fit into 49 to 60L bags.

This bag caters to an array of emergency scenarios and extended displacement from home. Your preparation is not complete until you have this go-bag in place ready to leave dodge. This bag literally holds your life inside its pockets, so handle it with all the seriousness it deserves.

Conclusion

Being forced out of your home during a disaster can be a traumatizing event, but having the right supplies for yourself and your loved ones will make the transition easier to bear. In the event that you never face a life-or-death situation, the peace of mind that your bug out bag can give you will be worth it.

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