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154 Bug Out Bag Essentials List

Lightweight, durable, water-resistant, and ready to fulfill all your survival needs. That’s what your bug out bag should be like. But we all know packing a BOB is a balancing act: there are items that are crucial and there are others that are more or less important, depending on your location, climate, age, your medical condition, and on and on.

I initially wanted to write an article that covered just the essentials, but I quickly changed my mind. We’re all in different situations, prepping for different disaster scenarios, so it’s more than worth it to have a survival checklist that you can print out and tick off.

So what I’m going to do is give you a full bug out bag list of all the things you can or should include, leaving it up to you to decide which ones make the cut and which ones don’t.

Tip: stay away from pre-packed BOBs. They are too expensive and miss important items, such as medication, pet care items, and so on. You’ll also end up with a backpack that won’t fit you comfortably (buy your backpack separately).

Not Everything in the List is Mandatory…

Some of them are just alternatives/back-ups for other items. Pick the ones you think you’ll need most and make sure you keep your BOB weight below 35 pounds. Keep in mind your fitness level, your age, sex, how much you’ll have to travel by foot and so on.

Some people would rather have more gear rather than less, so what you could do is have a second, smaller bag, filled with non-essentials. When it hits, you’ll figure out whether you can take both of them with you or not. Even if you realize at some point that you won’t be able to carry that much weight, you can just disregard the smaller bag, maybe even cache it somewhere where you can come back to at some point.

Water

Food and Cooking

  • pop tarts
  • jerky
  • freeze-dried food (lightweight but needs boiling water to cook – Mountain House has the best kind)
  • hard candy
  • energy bars
  • canned tuna
  • a lightweight backpacking cooking stove
  • pot scrubber
  • vitamins (not a whole bottle, maybe just a few pills inside a zipper bag)
  • protein powder (an essential macro-nutrient for you)
  • boullion cubes and other spices (to make your meals taste better, though these are not essential)

What to avoid:

  • MREs – expensive, high in sodium, can cause constipation
  • food canned in mason jars (too heavy)

Shelter, Clothing, and Warmth

  • hiking boots (keep these tied to the outside of your BOB. When you grab your bag, the boots will come along too; assume there is no time to change shoes when SHTF)
  • rain poncho
  • tent
  • tarp
  • sleeping bag
  • pants
  • a pair of shorts (if you’ll be facing warm temperatures)
  • thick wool socks + thin socks
  • (thermal) underwear
  • a small blanket
  • a lightweight emergency blanket
  • gloves (useful for protecting your hands when climbing trees and fences on the run)
  • a change of footwear (in addition to your hiking boots)
  • t-shirts
  • 1-2 bandannas
  • sunglasses
  • a jacket
  • an extra pair of reading glasses

What to avoid:

  • pajamas (too bukly)
  • umbrella (use the poncho or cover your head with a plastic bag)
  • too many clothes

Fire

  • waterproof matches
  • 3-4 lighters
  • fire sticks
  • ferro rod
  • magnesium fire starter
  • tinder sealed in a waterproof zipper bag (such as vaseline cotton balls)
  • aluminum foil
  • fresnel lens

Avoid:

  • regular matches (you risk getting them wet)

Light

  • headlamp
  • battery-powered flashlight
  • hand-crank flashlight
  • solar charger
  • a couple of chemlights
  • 1-2 candles (wrapped up in zipper bags)

Avoid:

  • lanterns (too big, keep them in you car’s trunk or for your INCH bag)

Communications, Electronics, and Positioning

  • ham radio
  • walkie talkie
  • universal USB solar charger
  • paper and a pencil (or a pen)
  • hand-crank AM/FM emergency radio
  • cell-phone with pre-paid calling card (I decided to keep my previous phone in a zipper bag instead of selling it)
  • extra cell-phone battery
  • GPS
  • ear buds
  • emergency whistle
  • signaling mirror
  • a good compass (+ the knowledge to use it)
  • topographic maps

Hygiene and Sanitation

  • toilet paper (inside a zipper bag, else you risk it getting wet if water creeps into your backpack)
  • hand sanitizer
  • wet wipes
  • toothbrush (break off the handle to save space and make your BOB a bit lighter)
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • comb
  • shampoo
  • nail clippers
  • feminine hygiene products
  • tripwire
  • a bar of soap

Tools

Self-Defense, Hunting and Fishing

  • gun and ammo
  • gun cleaning kit (optional if you don’t expect your bug out to take more than a couple of days)
  • body armor
  • pepper or wasp spray (for self defense)
  • insect repellant
  • slingshot
  • machete
  • fishing/hunting vest
  • bow and arrow
  • dog/bear whistle
  • fishing rod/reel and hooks

Medical / First Aid

  • basic first-aid kit
  • suturing kit
  • CPR mask
  • a couple of N95, N99 or N100 respirator masks
  • pain killers
  • styptic powder
  • arm sling (keeps your arm in place when injured)
  • thermometer
  • neosporine
  • anti leg cramp pills
  • hand and body warmers
  • baby powder
  • laxative
  • gauge pads
  • tourniquet
  • knee brace
  • aspirin
  • medical tape
  • scissors
  • respirators
  • benadryl
  • medical gloves
  • trauma shears
  • antibiotics
  • aspercreme
  • abdominal pads
  • potassium iodide (for radiation threats)
  • suture kit
  • Tylenol
  • tweezers
  • band-aids of all shapes and sizes
  • bandages

Other/Misc.

  • duct tape (has lots of uses)
  • mil-spec paracord
  • brass wire
  • IDs and/or copies (passport, bank accounts, birth certificate, credit cards etc.)
  • sunscreen
  • paper clips
  • small elastic bands
  • trash bags (numerous uses)
  • copies of your most important papers and IDs
  • cash (1-200 bucks, just in case you have to buy your way out of an unpleasant situation, don’t forget to keep some change, too, you might need it for vending machines)
  • zipper bags
  • an extra set of keys
  • mosquito net
  • compressed sponge

I would not worry about:

  • condoms (you won’t have time to have fun and who uses them to carry water, anyway?)

Controversial Items

We all have our own ideas on what a bug-out bag should contain and sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree. That’s why I decided to make a separate list of the non-essential items, meaning the ones that may be important for some but not for others. Here it is:

E-Readers

An eBook reader is a unique addition to your bug out bag packing list for several reasons. It uses very little energy and can hold thousands of survival eBooks and manuals. And you don’t need to worry about the Wi-Fi signal giving away your location, you can just turn that off. (You won’t need it, anyway, and it just eats up battery life.)

What you should be worried about is the weight or the fact that an EMP will render it useless, unless you put it in a Faraday cage. Faraday cages themselves are controversial in that everyone seems to know how to build but no one knows whether they will actually work.

A Compact Digital Camera

There are a couple of things you can do with a digital camera. First, you can take photos every mile or so to find your way back if you get lost. Second, you can use the zoom function to take a better look at things/people. Of course, you can also use binoculars for that.

Comfort Items and Foods

Some people will need them, others won’t. Up to you whether you want to carry them but, just in case you want them, here’s a small list:

  • a small bottle of whisky
  • cigarettes
  • chocolate
  • coffee

Final Word

Is there anything not on this bug out bag checklist that you think is missing? Maybe something you yourself have packed to cope with your unique situation, whether it’s a medical issue or something else. Let us know in a comment below.

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About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.

29 comments

  1. Seyed Reza Ahlesaadat

    Hey, can you make a list of the more essential stuff? Because I don’t think anyone can carry all that around. Thanks!

  2. Useful information. Working on putting this together for 3 people.

  3. Help, my BOB is 65 lbs. I keep reading then adding to my BOB. More of my backpacking gear is moving into my BOB. What are the strategies (criteria) for BOB, 72 hour Bag, vehicle Bag?

    More stuff can’t be every answer.

    • Dan F. Sullivan

      Hey Jay,

      You could:

      – remove things that are heavy (extra water, canned food, books)
      – replace some of your gear with lighter alternatives
      – put the rest in your car’s trunk
      – or have a second BOB with the non-essential stuff

      I hope this helps.

    • I had the same problem and still a work in progress. First thing I would recommend is looking at ultra light camping gear that should help a lot, second thing would be have test run and see what you used and start getting rid of non essential items that you thought you needed, and my third suggestion would be invest in learning some bush craft skills and you can probably lighten up your bag some! Hope that helps you and would love to hear how you.are making out Good Luck!

  4. 1) binoculars or monocular
    2) Wet-stone or oil-stone or sharpening tool to keep “alive” your knives and cutting tools.

  5. Try to get all of you critical electronics (radios, lights) using common batteries (AA). Also, lithium batteries are considerably lighter than their alkaline counterparts.

    Make sure that your stainless steel water bottle is SINGLE walled. A double walled (thermos) style could rupture or explode if placed in a fire when trying to boil water or cook.

    Collapsible bowl (rubber or silicon).
    Alcohol or mini wood-gas stove. (Small thermal signature while cooking. A campfire draws a lot of attention).
    ANSI rated safety glasses or goggles.
    Combat gauze. (Kaolin)

    If you plan on carrying any important documents, print them out on Write-in-the-Rain paper. (You may need a laser printer to print on Write-in-the-Rain paper)

    Good article…keep getting the word out…

    • How would a double walled stainless cup or thermos explode? Its a vacuum in between the walls not a gas so what’s there to expand?

      • I don’t know if it would explode, but it certainly is defeating the purpose to try and heat water in the vacuum insulated bottle. The point of the bottle is to insulate the inner contents from the temperature outside. You definitely want a stainless steel (inside and out) non insulated bottle. Kleen Kanteen has some in a variety of sizes. The Backpacker stove referenced in this article requires bottled
        fuel that may not be available in an emergency situation – check out the Firebox stove at http://www.Fireboxstove.com. The stove can be used with a little alcohol burner (lots of DIY projects for these), a backpacking stove that uses gas or with wood . The 5″ Firebox has a “boiler ring” that fits nicely around a 40 oz Klean Kanteen. The titanium G2 3″ Nano version only weighs 6 oz and folds down to 1/4 inch thick.

  6. A hat, with brim, wool, one each, with wool scarf, usable in cold and heat. Other clothing as appropriate

  7. What hand crank chainsaw are you referring to? The smallest chainsaw I know of is what is called a climbing saw used to cut small limbs while climbing a tree with spurs to cut it down. Just seems impractical for a bug out bag.

  8. I’d add 6′ of 1/2″ or 3/4″ hose to use for syphoning gas

  9. Hey Jay, I found the same problem. I had a back surgery in my twenties and now in my sixties it take a lot to tote around a 70 lb. pack. I live in Maine and some of the cold winter weather with wind can make life unpleasant. I work 35 miles from home so my answer to winter is a great heavy duty sled that fits in the trunk that carries several bags of gear. I have pulled it several times with over 100 lbs. of gear. My bags are water proof and the sled has a cover and I use a body safety strap so I can be hands free. For the summer I use a take down deer recovery cart. It has rubber wheels and rated for 250 lbs. It also comes apart and fits in the trunk and can connect to the body harness.

    • Like you I’m in my 60’s with several back surgeries. Seems to me I could do a lot more(skills) with a lot less (gadgets). I agree 1 is none & two is one. A 35 lb pack & a handgun, rifle and ammunition puts me near 50. I tell folks take your pack on a 5 mile 3 day hike in inclement weather. At the end you will know what you can hump & what you NEED. Love your idea, adding a sled for winter!

      • Walk fit orthitic insoles @ walkfit.com.
        Absolutely the best $20 I ever spent in my life ever.
        It takes a painful few days for your feet to get used to the prospect of walking without straining your muscles but after that they just roll… and you can say goodbye to any back, knee of foot pains.

  10. How about cordage?

  11. I have had several heart attacks and surgeries so I can not carry anything heavy. So I allways use a personal shopping cart with good wheels to carry my things when I travel instead of a backpack. It is handy and takes a lot of goodies, even my folding reclining chair for the old man.
    Congratulations for your list it is the best one I have read.
    All the best.

  12. Cute list, but who would take canned tuna over packaged if you are saving space and weight… only complaint!

  13. Here’s a good one… a Buff.
    https://youtu.be/ewVEK-AElDY

  14. It’s a comprehensive list, I figure if 80% of my needs are met I’m doing pretty good. To get anywhere from where I live I would have to cross a desert, so a lot more water is what I would add. But if I left my rural home people from the city would be here in short order.

  15. I would disagree (slightly) on avoiding MREs…they are heavier than freeze-dried, but can be eaten as is or heated (most now contain heaters), don’t need water (except for a very small amount to activate the heater) and if combined with dried fruits (raisins, etc) the constipation problem can be avoided, plus they have become better of late.

  16. This list is way to much so I’m giving it a 2 star rating. You want to keep things simple and use the less is more concept.

    1. Something for shelter if needed. This could be as simple as a rain poncho or light wool blanket.
    2. Something to purify water. Water is everywhere. Carrying it is way to heavy. But making it drinkable is crucial. A pocket purifier is what I suggest.
    3. A way to make fire. This could be as simple as a lighter or as complex as a flint and steel. The only requirement is that it works for you.
    4. A good knife. This will be the most used tool you can carry. Make sure it’s full tang and big enough you can baton with it.
    5. Cordage. As simple as a paracord bracelet or a spool of bank line will be good .

    This is really all you need and should be the basis of any kit. Of course environment matters. In urban areas shelter will be abundant but a good wool blanket will still come in handy. Water will be plentiful but you would still want to purify it. In an urban environment I would substitute a a water bottle with built in filter over the pocket purifier. In a city you might want a more concealable knife but would have to be aware of the laws surrounding its carry.

    The point is to keep it simple. To much will just be a waste.

  17. Where is the absolute essentials list? This is WAAAAAY too much for most people.

  18. Toilet paper Vs Flushable Wipes – Army for 28 Years (Abn/Ranger Infantry/Aviation -160th) Scouting for 15+ – Drop the Toilet Paper (TP) and go with Flushable Wipes. 30- 40 flushable wipes fit in a snack zip lock bag and in your pocket – a few more bags in your backpack or go bag, and a few more in the car. Always accessible. Even in a bag – once wet – TP is useless forever. The worst that can happen to flushable wipes is that they dry out – an ounce of water in the bag (even if the bag has a hole) will re-hydrate them for immediate use. Finally, wipes just do a better job than (even dry/soft) TP.

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