When spring turns to summer and fall turns to winter, do you take the time to update your bug-out bag accordingly? You should!
You heard me right: A clever prepper will take the time to modify the loadout of their bug-out bag according to the seasonal conditions they are likely to be facing at any given time of the year.
Omitting this essential step to overall readiness could leave you shortchanged on equipment right when you need it the most.
If you seasonally update and maintain your car and your home, not to mention your wardrobe, why wouldn’t you do the same with your bug-out bag?
Understandably, many preppers spend an awful lot of time and effort picking out just the right bag and getting their loadout just right to cover every possible contingency with the expectation they can basically set it and forget it, knowing it will always be standing by when the fateful day arrives.
That is lowest common denominator planning for lowest common denominator preppers, and I know that doesn’t describe our readers.
Today, I’ll be making a case for seasonally updating your bug-out bag throughout the year as well as providing you with a list of 10 essential inclusions for hot and cold season.
Table of Contents
Seasonal Updates for Ease and Efficiency
You or a prepper you know might be of the “kitchen sink” school of BOB packing, meaning you include everything that you might conceivably need in any setting, any season and any situation.
While it is admirable that one is taking the admonishment of “be prepared” to its logical and practical zenith, there is no free lunch: Hauling everything you might conceivably need under any conditions means you will be toting a tremendous amount of extra weight.
A better question is why one would pack seasonally or situationally specific items and your bug-out bag if you are currently in the season in which they are least likely to be required?
Modifying your bug-out bag’s loadout based on your local climate conditions season to season isn’t just being responsible or adhering to some fastidious tradition of discipline; it is actually pretty damn smart.
By cutting items from the load entirely that you won’t need you’ll be leaning out your BOB, and drastically reducing the amount of weight on your back.
This will definitely make life a little easier for you in the middle of a bad situation but it will also maximize your chances of getting a good outcome because you will optimize what gear and provisions you carry.
Warmer clothes in the winter or extra water and electrolytes in the summer are necessary inclusions that you would be wise to accommodate.
You don’t need to change your bug-out bag’s load every month or maybe even every quarter.
If you do nothing but equip your BOB with a winter and summer seasonal kit and make it a point to change it out on a relevant date, (say, the same time you change the batteries in your smoke detectors or celebrate a seasonal holiday) you’ll be in good shape. Easy as you please!
Seasonal Items for Updating Your BOB Loadout
The following items should be considered default inclusions for the appropriate seasons for folks living in most temperate or subtropical regions.
Obviously, use your head and a generous dollop of common sense: If you live in a place where winter is just a milder form of spring, you won’t need any heavy-duty cold weather gear.
Conversely, if you live somewhere where the seasons are cold, cold, colder and coldest you’ll have little call for warm weather accoutrements.
With that in mind let us get to the list at last!
Winter/Cold Weather Specific Items
Winter Gloves and Mittens
I would reckon that pretty much every prepper keeps a set of sturdy gloves inside their bug-out bag for protecting their hands from sharp debris and rough surfaces in the wild, but omitting to include winter specific gloves and mittens in your seasonal loadout is a major mistake.
Your hands and fingers are disproportionately vulnerable to frostbite compared to the rest of your body, and they will be numbed to the point of uselessness long before that. As you can imagine that will put a major damper on your survival efforts.
You can avoid this unhappy fate by including a sturdy set of winter gloves which will still afford you a modest amount of dexterity while insulating your hands from cold and cold weather precipitation.
You might also consider mittens, either as an alternative or a supplement to your gloves. When it comes to warmth, mittens do have an advantage since they allow the fingers to better share warmth with one another, although they do reduce your dexterity even further.
You can make a good case for both, but what matters is just including a cold weather appropriate set when the season calls for it!
Hand warmers are another “auto-include” for your cold weather bug-out bag.
Before you scoff at these things as a luxury item for sissies who aren’t used to roughing it out in the “real” world reread what I just wrote above: If your hands are so numb you can’t feel anything and can’t maintain your grip, taking care of the work that is so vital to survival is going to get exponentially more difficult!
Also keep in mind that there might be times where you need to temporarily doff your gloves in order to take care of some intricate task requiring high dexterity, such as tying a knot.
In this case, hand warmers that are activated and inside your pockets will allow you to quickly re-warm your hands in between tasks while still making good headway on your work. Do not underestimate the value and the efficacy of hand warmers in a cold weather survival situation.
Make sure you include several sets in your pack and keep an eye on the expiration or best-by date as you rotate them in and out year to year.
The chemical compounds that produce the exothermic reaction don’t last forever even when they are still in their package, and eventually you’ll need to use them or toss them out and get new ones.
Cold Weather Clothing
Exposure is one of the most persistent, common and dangerous killers that anybody can face in a survival situation. Failing to account for exposure to cold weather and a survival situation is going to see you dead in short order.
The very height of ignorance and idiocy is failing to load your bug-out bag with correct cold weather clothing when the season approaches. You cannot merely toss in a coat and some thick socks to your usual clothing allotment and expect to survive.
Properly dressing for cold weather means dressing in layers, like it or not.
This is a subject unto itself that can (and has) resulted in many articles being written on the subject, but generally you want a light, moisture-wicking inner layer, a reasonably fluffy, lofty middle layer and a weatherproof outer shell.
This approach should be applied to all areas of the body, including your feet, neck and head.
Beyond the correct materials and fabric construction, the clothing should be set up in such a way that you can quickly open zippers or panels to vent excess heat in order to prevent sweating and then close them again or put the clothing back on quickly before you get too cold.
If it sounds like work, that’s because it is- that’s what survival is all about.
Snow Goggles or Snow Glasses
Most preppers are already well acquainted with the notion of eye protection, especially in the middle of a bug out or other SHTF event, but special eye protection is called for anytime you live in a place that sees substantial snow accumulation, especially places at higher altitudes.
UV light reflecting off of those pretty, pristine fields of snow can absolutely fry your eyeballs, resulting in a painful, debilitating condition known as snow blindness.
Everything you need to know about the condition is in the name, and aside from dealing with the pain you’ll have a hard time seeing what you are doing and where you are going. That is very literally the last thing you should be dealing with when you are already beleaguered.
Regular sunglasses are fine and will help, but for those of us living or surviving in snow covered environments invest in genuine snow goggles or snow glasses that are designed to radically cut down on the glare caused by snow reflected light.
An insulated bottle, be it a Thermos, Coleman flask or anything similar, is another mandatory inclusion for your cold weather gear.
At the beginning of your journey or after breaking camp, it will carry and keep warm a supply of soup, hot cocoa, coffee or whatever other hot liquid you might desire. This is a tremendous morale boost in cold weather and will also help keep you warm.
But even if you are only carrying water it will serve double-duty by preventing that water from freezing, which will naturally prevent you from drinking it until the water thaws again.
Everyone has their preference when it comes to brand, size and type, but what matters is that you have one included in your winter loadout.
Cold Weather Rations
Believe it or not, you should make it a point to update your carried food supply when changing out your bug out bag’s seasonal equipment.
First, consider that your backpack is not going to be anywhere near as well insulated as your body if you are properly equipped.
Rations with high moisture content will freeze, likely rupturing their packaging and creating a huge mess in your backpack when it invariably warms up later. It will also make the food less palatable and incapable of being eaten until it thaws out.
Good selections for cold weather rations include any snack or entree with low moisture content.
Mixed nuts, dehydrated meats, fruits and vegetables are all good choices as are dehydrated camping or survival meals that can be reliably prepared when you make camp by adding a little bit of water before boiling over a fire.
Something else to keep in mind is that you’ll be using more calories in cold weather, all things being equal, than you would be doing the same activity in warm weather, so you should increase your food payload accordingly, both snacks and meals.
Depending on where you live you might be able to get away without carrying a sleeping bag in mild or warm weather, but that is definitely not going to be the case when you are roughing it during cold weather.
A high quality, properly rated sleeping bag is mandatory and you must account for its bulk and weight when kidding out your winter loadout.
Sleeping bags are generally sold by rating, meaning the temperature at which they can be expected to keep the user warm. The best sleeping bags can be rated all the way down to zero degrees or even below, and if you want them to also be light and durable you’re going to have to spend a pretty penny but this is a necessary investment for the right survival gear.
Sleeping Bag Liner
A necessary piece of secondary gear that should accompany your sleeping bag is a fleece sleeping bag liner.
Everything you need to know about it is right on the tin: this is a warm, fuzzy liner that goes inside your sleeping bag to help keep you even warmer than usual, and it is a great, lightweight way to increase the effectiveness of your chosen sleeping bag.
Headlamps get plenty of mention in all kinds of bug-out bag packing lists and other survival tool centric articles, but they bear special mention for cold weather survival.
Even if you are a handheld flashlight purist, you should at the very least include a quality headlamp as part of your cold weather survival kit.
Why? Easy; wearing heavy, insulated gloves and perhaps mittens on top of those will rob you of a considerable amount of manual dexterity and tactile sensation.
It is an easy thing to fumble operation of most typical flashlights under the circumstances, and easier still to accidentally drop them where they will then usually vanish into the snow.
A headlamp prevents this unhappy occurrence by being a worn piece of gear that is unlikely to be knocked off and lost, and many also feature large, oversized outboard switches that are easy to locate and easy to click even when wearing heavy gloves.
Don’t think of this as a luxury upgrade, as headlamps really shine (pardon the pun) in cold weather situations.
Sunscreen?! For a winter survival kit? Yes, and the reason why I included it here is because it is so often omitted in my observations and travels.
I mentioned just above the importance of including winter and snow appropriate eye protection to prevent UV light from microwaving your retinas.
As it turns out, that same reflected light will make any of your exposed skin look like you just stepped out of a tanning bed set to broil.
Sunburns in winter conditions can be particularly severe, number one, because most people aren’t expecting it on account of the temperature, and number two because your skin is already under assault, likely being dehydrated and growing increasingly damaged from exposure to cold.
Any exposed skin must be protected from sunburn one way or the other, even on overcast days.
Make sure you include an appropriate sun blocking balm or salve as part of your winter preparations.
Summer/Hot Weather-Specific Items
A larger supply of water is an obvious inclusion for any hot weather specific BOB loadout.
When you are making good headway on the move and the temperature is really hot, you could be consuming as much as half a liter of water an hour in an attempt to stay hydrated, potentially more. That is going to burn through your carried water supply really quick.
The only solution is to keep more water on hand for drinking. This is a bit of tricky business when it comes to outfitting your BOB because water is very heavy, weighing a little more than 10 lb a gallon.
You’ll have to balance the absolute necessity of hydration against the load that you are hauling.
As always, you’d be prudent to plan your routes, primary, alternate and others, to take you near reliable sources of water in the world so you can refill your bottles, canteens or bladders.
On that note, if you are lucky enough to have access to many reliable and safe sources of water you might be able to get away with carrying less water up front, with the plan being refilling secondary, empty vessels while you are on the move.
Electrolyte Drink Mix
Water is itself only one part of the hydration puzzle when you are hauling ass (and gear) in hot weather.
As you sweat you’ll also be losing electrolytes, chief among them sodium and potassium with others besides. If you are drinking only water to rehydrate you won’t be topping off with everything you need to maintain peak output and effectiveness.
You can get electrolytes one of two ways, from eating or drinking, and by far the fastest most efficient way to re-up your electrolytes is by drinking.
Everyone is already familiar with sports specific electrolyte drinks, but instead of hauling more liquid you would do well to haul several packets or even a small container of electrolyte drink mix that you can simply add to your canteen or water bottle before shaking.
Don’t let yourself get zapped from electrolyte depletion, which can lead to other dangerous health conditions completely separate from your body’s internal temperature.
Hot Weather Rations
Unlike winter weather, you won’t have to worry about any specific kind of food you are carrying becoming unusable or making a mess because it freezes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take pains to tailor your menu to the challenges brought on by the weather.
First and foremost, make it a point to include more complex carbs, things like nuts, breads and so forth to keep your energy levels up. Salty, and sweet-and-salty trail mixes, snacks and other such items will also help to increase your overall electrolyte levels.
You won’t need quite as much food as you would if you were working in surviving in a cold weather environment, but if you choose to carry less to take advantage of the hot weather in this way you should work even harder to optimize it for the temperature and ambient conditions.
Hot weather and summer seasons demand their own specialized clothing for best results. Any clothing you wear should be moisture wicking, fast drying and preferably light, billowy and breezy to promote cooling.
Take care when choosing fabrics, as many of them have performance curves that will degrade when they are wet. Cotton is popular, cheap and affordable but it will stay wet absolutely forever, making you miserable.
Also consider the fact that perspiration will rapidly soak your clothing even if it is quick-drying, and it is often worthwhile to include several extra sets, so long as you have room and they are lightweight, that you can change into when you stop or make camp and give the others time to dry.
Rotating your clothing in this way will help prevent skin ailments and also keep your morale high.
Make sure that your chosen footwear, too, if not worn habitually, is lightweight, protective and quick drying.
Hot weather and high UV indexes mandate appropriate, arid climate head coverings. Being hot is one thing, but having your brain broiled in your skull by relentless UV bombardment is another thing, and to prevent this you will need a wide brimmed hat or equivalent headgear that can provide protection for your face and neck simultaneously.
The quintessential American cowboy hat or forester’s hat is one good option, but you might be happier and more comfortable with a lightweight piece of fabric worn as a bandana or swaddled around the head and neck like a shemagh.
Everyone has their preference, and once again you can make a case for any of them depending on circumstance.
Remember, you need to keep the sun off your face, off your head and off your neck no matter what. You’re going to be out there for a long time and you can depend on the sun outlasting you if you don’t protect yourself.
One facet of outdoor survival that is a colossal annoyance is the presence of tiny, swarming insects. Bugs.
Almost entirely absent in a cold weather setting, the same cannot be said for warm weather survival, where every kind of insect will be out and about in tremendous profusion, and the deeper you go into the wilderness the more it will seem like every, single last one of them persists on a diet of human blood exclusively.
Though most biting insects, like mosquitoes, pose only a vanishing chance of inflicting a serious, life-changing ailment, the aggravation they cause will build and eventually snowball into a major attitude problem.
Some biting insects like ticks, though, have a much higher likelihood of giving you some nasty disease like Lyme disease.
The bottom line is that almost all of it can be prevented, no matter what you are wearing, by dowsing yourself periodically with a high performance insect repellent containing DEET.
No matter where you are going, insects will be present, and for those of us living in the South or the deep woods they will be a persistent and omnipresent annoyance.
The bivy, or bivouac sack, is a sort of ultra-minimalist tent, consisting of little more than a tubular structure with a tiny annex near the head that is just big enough for you to crawl inside with or without a sleeping bag, and perhaps bring your pack in with you.
They offer an easy and efficient way to get in out of the sun, wind and rain, and will definitely keep mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies off of you.
Compared to a tent, a bivy is much smaller, much lighter and less complicated but also less capable. In mild or warm weather the trade-offs are generally worth it.
A bivy is quick to set up and quick to tear down compared to a tent and this can save you energy and frustration during hot weather when risk of exposure to cold is much less of a concern.
Generally, unless I’m living in an area with high precipitation, I will choose a bivy over a tent in hot weather.
Warm weather brings out more than just insects. Also crawling all over the ground will be snakes, arachnids and a variety of small, ground-bound mammals which can make life at camp annoying, to say nothing of giving you a rude awakening if they come upon you in the night.
A hammock will allow you to prevent this unhappy outcome and also give you another easy option for setting up your sleeping arrangements at camp, so long as you have some sturdy trees nearby.
Most modern hiking and camping hammocks take up very little room, way even less and are simple to set up and tear down in any conditions. When the weather is especially mild, a hammock is a great option and alternative to a bivy or tent.
Make sure you pair it with an appropriate mosquito veil or drape that can be used in conjunction so you won’t be getting sucked dry while you rest.
It is inconceivable that any prepper would go forth without a modern solar charging array in their BOB, and it is even less conceivable they would do so in any place or season that gets copious sunshine.
By relying on a good solar charging system, you won’t have to worry about how long your devices and gadgets will last or what you will do to recharge them.
So long as you have a clear view of unobstructed sky, and the sun is out, you’ll be able to harvest abundant and virtually endless solar energy and convert it to electricity for your power hungry prepping gadgets.
Now your cell phone, GPS and even an increasing number of flashlights and headlamps can be relied upon for the long haul without need of carrying heavy, disposable batteries.
Baby wipes are always a great inclusion in a BOB, but they are an essential inclusion in hot weather.
The more you sweat the grimier you will get, unless you have a convenient, safe natural body of water nearby you won’t have any water to spare for washing when hydration is so critical.
But if you have a pack of baby wipes, you can easily wipe down your face, underarms and other troublesome parts of your body to get surprisingly clean between proper baths.
This is more than just a nicety, though you will feel nice when you get clean, as failing to get all of the dirt, grunge, salt and bacteria off of your skin will facilitate rashes and infections that will start out annoying and eventually become show stopping ailments.
An extra large pack of baby wipes does not weigh much, and you should make sure they are kept in a heavy duty Ziploc freezer bag or some other appropriate container to keep the moisture in.
Adjusting your bug-out bag’s loadout for seasonal climate changes means you will be prepared for the challenges attendant to the temperature and the weather, and you’ll also be more efficient by reducing the amount of unneeded gear that is carried overall.
By having pre-assembled ready to swap summer and winter loadouts as required you will increase your overall level of readiness and be more prepared for the hazards you’ll face when bugging out.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.