Every prepper who has been getting ready for any length of time probably has a bug out bag, that one piece of survival gear that we all know and love. And furthermore any prepper who owns a BOB has probably been tinkering with it, adjusting it and filling it with all the many survival items that they anticipate needing when The Big One™ finally occurs.
If that sounds like you, you don’t need me to tell you just how expensive it can get tracking down and acquiring just the right piece of kit to round out your survival load.
A fully packed BOB can easily cost upwards of several hundred dollars if you are buying brand new, middle-tier gear, and a top of the line pack appropriately loaded with the best kit that money can buy can run you several thousand dollars.
It is easy to fall prey to “geardo” syndrome and also to go too far in the opposite direction of being a penny-miser with bottom of the barrel crap supplies. But there is one way to ensure you get highly functional gear that will do the job while also saving yourself a chunk of change: DIY your own BOB supplies and gear.
Much of the time it is easier than you think, and we have rounded up 15 of the best gear projects that will make perfect inclusions in your BOB.
Candles have long been a fixture of human habitation throughout the ages, and even today candles are greatly loved for the gentle light and ambience they can provide along with nice scents most of the time.
But these primitive tech made luxury goods still serve an invaluable purpose in times of power outage and other trouble for furnishing a completely self-contained, reliable, portable source of light and heat.
Including a bog-standard candle in your bug-out bag might seem like a recipe for disaster, as most wax candles will simply not survive the rough handling attendant with being packed in and carried around in a BOB.
But, as it turns out, there is more than one way to create a candle, and you aren’t forced to use wax necessarily. The video above will provide you with multiple methods for producing effective, controllable candles using various fuels and containers.
These can make great additions to your survival repertoire, and provide you with convenient, fuel-efficient light and heat sources while you are out in the field. Commit all of these methods to memory, and you’ll never want for a candle again!
2) Tarp Shelter
Most preppers understand the intrinsic value of including a tent or a bivy in their BOB’s complement, but even these highly modern and effective shelter systems have some drawbacks.
Namely, both will add a significant amount of bulk to your load even if they don’t weigh very much, and setting up either that is reliant on specialized hardware like frame systems means you’ll be in a bind if you lose or break any given component.
However, you can get the functionality of a bivy or a dedicated tent so long as you know how to properly set up a sturdy, multi-purpose tarp to your advantage. Compared to a tent or bivy a tarp is a shelter and survival multi-tool, able to perform many roles for less bulk than a comparable dedicated shelter.
With just a little bit of paracord and some other small, multi-use hardware items you’ll be able to establish a tarp shelter in a variety of ways with minimal effort after just a little bit of practice. The video above will show you how.
3) Beef Jerky
Let me tell you something. Maybe I’m tipping my financial hand, here, but I want to one day be so rich that I am no longer worried about beef jerky prices. It seems like we have to pay increasingly outlandish sums of money for a paltry amount of dried beef scraps, and I am tired of it, because I love beef jerky and I always have some in my BOB.
Despite its price, beef jerky is an excellent survival food because it is completely stable, long lasting, reasonably tasty and provides much needed and sometimes difficult to get protein in a survival situation.
It is a love-it-or-hate-it item, culinarily, but no one can deny its efficacy as a ration. Too bad then that you’ll need to take out a second mortgage just to afford it these days!
Actually, it turns out you don’t have to once you learn how to make your own incredibly superior beef jerky in your very own home, and you don’t even need to necessarily buy one of those fancy overpriced food dehydrators to do it.
Trust me, once you try Alton Brown’s recipe here you will never, ever consider going back to the store-bought stuff and both your palette and your wallet will thank you.
Speaking of survival rations, increasingly common but nutritious and effective fare like dehydrated emergency or camping meals, along with military MRE’s, are trusty standbys for prepping but are once again becoming increasingly expensive on a per calorie basis. Stability and longevity are important considerations but you are paying a humongous premium on these items, no question about it.
Once again, we can look to the old ways for an equally effective solution that will save us a boatload of cash. Pemmican is an ancient survival food employed by American Indians as nutritious, long lasting and versatile foodstuff that would keep them fed, hale and hardy over long journeys. There is definitely a trick to making pemmican, but it only consists of dried and ground meat, animal fat and occasionally additives like berries.
A chunk of pelican will definitely keep you going and, if it is made correctly, you can get well more than a year’s worth of shelf life out of it. Learn to make this stuff now and learn to make it well, and it is likely to become a mainstay ration in your BOB.
5) Pace Counter
Any camper, hiker or prepper who has taken it upon themselves to really get out into wild and remote places understands with some certainty how vital navigation gear is in a survival situation.
Getting lost is never a good outcome. At best you waste time and energy, both precious resources under the circumstances. At worst, you become really, really lost, and cannot find your way to your destination all the while burning through your decidedly finite resources.
You don’t need me to tell you that you should carry a set of maps and a reliable field compass with you as part of your BOB’s complement but one item that many preppers omit for ignorance or complacency is a pace counter, an item that will help you reliably track how far you have traveled with some precision after you learn how to use it.
Thankfully, a pace counter is shockingly easy to make, consisting of little more than a length of cordage and a few beads to serve as increments when you count. We have a great video above from ITS Tactical that will take you through making your own pace counter for inclusion into your navigation kit.
The slingshot has long been the favored toy of mischievous, neighborhood menaces throughout the United States for decades, and even today it is the rare toy aisle you will stroll through that does not have some form of slingshot represented.
However, the slingshot’s iconic status as beloved toy for boys belies its efficacy as a formidable and accurate weapon, one more than worthy of inclusion into a survival kit.
Modern slingshots utilizing glass or metal bead ammunition and powerful elastic bands are more than capable of functioning as a reliable, quiet hunting weapon for small and medium sized game.
They even have some efficacy as a self-defense or tactical weapon, capable of inflicting substantial pain and serious wounds to a human attacker or used for strategically knocking out lights and security cameras.
Purpose-made slingshots can be surprisingly expensive, but you can rely on old fashioned methods utilizing nothing more than a forked branch to craft a shockingly accurate and powerful slingshot. The video above will tell you how.
7) Survival Bracelet / Survival Watch
In the military, there is a notion of various lines of gear or equipage. The first line is the most basic, and essential, the bare minimum needed to survive.
Second line gear is added on and worn in the form of a vest or harness containing all the supplies required to execute the fight while third line gear takes the form of the pack or rucksack with everything required for sustainment in the field.
We can borrow this idea and the attendant planning methodology for survival, with the concept of first-line gear, with items worn on our bodies or carried in our pockets being our bare minimum needed for survival.
The idea is if we are wearing it we will always have it when we need it, whatever other luggage we might lose. This concept is embodied by survival bracelets and watch bands commonly found on the market.
Containing a varying amount of lightweight and low profile survival gear, from compact wire saws and paracord to fish hooks, whistles, compasses and more, these are decorative “lifestyle” items that can still serve a very important and very real survival purpose.
But, like all faddish items they trend towards being very expensive. Lucky for us these items are easy to make and it’s also easy to make them look good while including exactly what you want in the payload. Check out the above video for ideas and instructions for crafting your own.
8) Tin Can Stove
Modern camping stoves are incredibly light, surprisingly fuel-efficient and all around excellent additions to your bug-out bag. How unfortunate it is, then, they are expensive and completely useless without the prerequisite fuel canisters required to operate them.
You know me; I am all for adaptable, multi-purpose gear and having backup plans nested inside my backup plans like those strange little Russian dolls.
One old school method that has started to go the way of the dodo but is past due for resurgence is the creation of the tin can field stove, easily made from a soup can, soda can or any other thin and easily malleable metal container.
These cans are a great addition to your BOB and your survival skill repertoire because they are easy to create and the raw materials are likely to be found quite literally anywhere in the form of trash or litter.
They also have the advantage of being multi-fuel capable and will function using anything from alcohol to twigs. Be sure to check out the video above for an overview of these ingenious little gadgets and instructions for making your own
9) Water Filter
Water is an incredibly precious survival resource, and one that many preppers take extreme pains to ensure they will have access to in one form or another.
Because water is so heavy, most of us will rely on a reusable container and some form of portable water filtration system so that we may render found, natural sources of water safe to drink.
But these portable water filters, for all of their marvelous efficiency, do not last forever and many of them are surprisingly delicate.
If your water filter gets used up, broken or lost you’ll still require drinking water one way or the other, and if the idea of coughing down pond water with the same color and consistency of syrupy coffee does not sound like a winning plan you better have a backup filter on hand.
Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to fashion your own impressively effective water filter using little more than a clear plastic bottle and a variety of found or scavenged materials that are common pretty much everywhere.
While these improvised filters do not boast the same incredible efficacy as modern field water filters, they will go a hell of a long way towards keeping you from getting sick. Once again YouTube will show you the way. Check out the how-to video above.
10) Waterproof Matches
Perhaps even more important than water in certain environments is the need for shelter, specifically the ability to regulate your body’s core temperature. More than any other threat in a survival situation it is simple exposure that is the most likely to kill you.
Even wearing clothes, if you should get soaked with water or perspiration and then exposed to stiff winds and falling temperatures you can be rendered hypothermic and incapacitated in as little as a few hours!
The obvious answer to the problem is to build a fire so you can warm up quickly and dry out your clothes, but in these same bad conditions many conventionally taught methods of starting a fire will fail. If you are already cold, shivering and dealing with numbed fingers usual methods employing friction to start a fire or even operating a lighter might prove virtually impossible.
Matches are a good option, but they are fragile and vulnerable to becoming waterlogged. A variant of the humble match, the survival or “storm” match, utilizes waterproofing techniques to ensure they will strike in any weather conditions.
You can create your own budget-friendly version of these matches at home and then store them in a waterproof container for inclusion in your BOB. These will always make an excellent addition to any fire starting kit.
An ignition source for your fire is one thing, but actually getting it going through proper assembly and management techniques is another. Any good campfire follows a logical progression of fuels, and the starting gate for that progression is the tinder.
Good tinder is found throughout nature in most environments, but it is not always found in immediately usable condition, and that means most preppers will typically want to bring their own to ensure they have everything they need to reliably start what fuel is on hand.
There are all sorts of materials suitable for use as tinder, both natural and man-made, and everyone has their preference.
Discussing these preferences is an entirely separate article in itself, but one of the most traditional and most effective tinders just so happens to be one you can easily create yourself. Char cloth.
Char cloth is typically made from cotton or some other organic fiber in such a way that it is exposed to extreme temperatures in the absence of oxygen, a process which renders it down into a sort of charcoal consistency.
The char cloth will then burn and smolder for considerably longer than a match once you light it, and even a single, tiny spark can easily get it burning again, making it an excellent “first stage” for your burgeoning campfire. The Art of Manliness has an excellent article on the process of creating and using char cloth, so check it out.
There is hardly a survival situation conceivable in which you will not have a need for tough, strong cordage. From improvising tools to constructing shelters, cordage is one elemental tool that you’ll always need.
Most preppers are already well acquainted with two of the most common. Paracord, which is incredibly strong, and accessory cord, not nearly as strong but much finer than the bulky paracord. Both have their proponents and their best uses.
But sometimes you run out of cordage, need extra or just want to make the best use of what materials you have in creative ways. You can easily produce your own cordage by re-purposing something you probably already have in your kit, or even some found garbage.
You might already know that common dental floss makes for strong, super-fine cordage, and if you didn’t you do now! But lacking floss you can also make use of common plastic bottles, especially 2-liter soft drink bottles, as cordage.
How? Simple enough. By slicing the bottle around its circumference into thin, even strips you’ll be left with plastic tape or webbing that you can use just like typical cordage, and for all the same purposes. There are specialty tools on the market for the task or it is easy enough to improvise a field expedient fixture for accomplishing the same thing.
You might be surprised at how strong and useful this stuff is! Once again we have a killer YouTube video that will show you the way.
13) Bow and Arrows
Ranged weapons are almost invariably a component in a well-rounded survival kit, and it is the rare prepper that will go a field with their BOB without some sort of firearm.
Ranged weapons are tops both for hunting and for self-defense, but guns without bullets won’t shoot, and guns themselves are complex machines that require nearly constant ongoing maintenance in order to reliably function.
But lacking a functional gun or ammunition, how is a prepper supposed to reliably bring down dinner, or dissuade bad guys at a distance? A slingshot might be all right, but it is not exactly decisive.
The humble bow and arrow is one ancient weapon that has persisted and remained viable all the way through today, but if you have ever stopped to look at the prices on a modern compound bows you probably felt a bit faint. These things are in no way cheap, however marvelous their performance!
You might not be much of an archer, but I’ll bet you have skills enough to craft a primitive bow that will get some arrows moving down range with surprising accuracy and velocity. Basic bows can be crafted using man-made or completely natural materials, the same way our ancestors have for millennia.
This is a fun DIY project you can start practicing right now, and those skills may prove invaluable somewhere down the line. The linked article provides an excellent overview and many options for creating your own.
14) First-Aid Kit
A first-aid kit is a mandatory inclusion in any BOB. There will be no shortage of ways to get hurt or get sick in a survival situation, and when you can’t run to the doctor’s office, dash into the emergency room or call paramedics to come and save your bacon, you’ll have to take care of things yourself.
First and foremost, you must have the skills needed to successfully intervene in a medical crisis, but after you have those in hand you’ll need the right tools and supplies.
You can walk into any store and find a selection of first-aid kits, but most of them have the same two attributes in common: incomplete and overpriced.
Save a bundle and get exactly what you need by putting your own first-aid kit together from basic and commonly available components. Check the video for a great walkthrough.
15) Trapping and Fishing Kit
A clever prepper will plan on supplementing what carried rations he has with wild caught or gathered edibles. But hunting is an exacting and involved activity, and you must focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else if you hope to succeed.
That’s one way to get some wild caught protein, but there are other ways to increase your yield while also making best use of your time.
Fishing and trapping rigs can be set up and left to work while you tend to other matters, effectively doubling, tripling or quadrupling your yield with only a minimal investment of extra effort.
A comprehensive and inexpensive trapping and fishing kit can be assembled for pennies on the dollar or even improvised from found materials.
You can dramatically increase your chances of a fresh and wholesome dinner for only a few extra ounces added to your BOB.
The BOB is one piece of gear that no prepper wants to be without, but fully equipping and outfitting your BOB can be a massive investment financially.
You can exponentially reduce this financial investment while increasing your self-sufficiency and improvisational skills by taking the DIY route and crafting the necessary items for inclusion.
The list above represents some of the best options, and also the best information for doing exactly that.
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.