More than any other piece of gear they own bug-out bags are probably the one component in a prepper’s overall plan that is fussed over the most.
No detail is too small, no contingency too fringe to worry over; weight limitations, loadouts, and checklists will be verified, checked and double-checked.
Considering the importance of the BOB and the fact it is going to be a prime consideration in how well you will fare when disaster strikes this is certainly warranted!
But no matter how diligent someone is, no matter how thorough they are when it comes to doing their “preflight” and reviewing those checklists mistakes will get made.
It never fails that you forget something, or even worse, you completely forget to account for a common problem that could have been easily solved by including the one right tool for dealing with it. It has happened to all of us; I sure know it has happened to me plenty of times!
In an effort to help you and all the other preppers avoid this unhappy and sometimes embarrassing fate I am sharing with you a list of 20 important bug-out bag items that you might have forgotten even exist.
Some of them might seem obvious, but others would have only appeared obvious in hindsight!
Review the list below and then double check your own bug-out bag for inclusion. No matter who you are and what you are preparing for I’ll bet that these items will remain universally useful!
You’ll rarely run into a prepper who does not include a fire-starting kit as part of their BOB, typically consisting of a lighter along with some other mechanical fire starter like a ferro rod or fire steel and sometimes even accelerant.
But, in my travels, one commonly overlooked and crucial component of any fire-starting kit is tinder and no, I’m not talking about the trashy dating app.
Tinder is one of those resources that most preppers just assume will be lying around in one form or another, ripe and waiting for use when it is time to get fire started most quickly. The reality is somewhat different.
While it is true that most environments will furnish tinder that is suitable for use in properly building a fire that tinder is not always in good condition for immediate use.
When you need a fire going, chances are you need it going quickly- if not because you need to warm up fast then it is just because you need to save time and be efficient.
Tinder needs to be dry and soft if it is going to catch a spark quickly and reliably, and if you don’t want to be struggling to work with unsuitable “found” tinder you need to bring your own. Dryer lint is one of my favorites since it is free, easy to pack and easy to work with.
A bandana is one of those superstar survival tools that you won’t miss until you don’t have it. Though it is true a bandana is, at its most rudimentary, nothing more than a simple swatch of cloth a proper bandana is so much more in the hands of a clever prepper.
You can obviously use a bandana as intended by forming it into a head covering, but it has many more uses, uses that can save the day in a survival situation without forcing you to destroy a shirt.
A bandana can be used as a dust mask, as an improvised bandage, as a sweatband around the wrist or forehead, as a lashing, a bindle, a rag, a ground cover, a napkin and a signaling cloth.
It can be used as a placemat to catch small parts and as a first stage filter for purifying water. In a pinch it can even be used to wipe your butt, although that is the end of the line for most bandanas!
You should never underestimate the usefulness of a simple piece of sturdy, thin cloth in a survival situation and that means you should make room for at least a couple of bandanas in your BOB.
#3. Bug Repellent
This is one of those items that makes you go d’oh! No one forgets it when they were going out camping or for a pleasure hike but there are a few preppers that seem to think of this critical inclusion for their bug-out bags.
While it is true that most of us in North America don’t have to deal with truly maddening levels of biting insects in our day to day lives, all that can change in a SHTF situation.
Especially if you are heading for the deep country, be it plains, woods or elsewhere, you will come to understand just how badly outnumbered we are by the insect menace.
Also, just because the average biting insect is not a serious threat to life and limb at the instant does not mean it cannot change your life permanently for the worse later.
Ticks are very common in many environments and can carry such awful maladies as Lyme disease. Other critters like mosquitoes can carry malaria, West Nile virus and more.
All of these germs are persistent and can cause lifelong complications (or worse) when you don’t have access to reliable medical care.
Mark my words, you probably won’t in the middle of a legit survival scenario, so make sure you include some bug spray and apply it regularly according to the package directions!
#4. Prescription Lenses
For preppers who rely on prescription eyewear to resolve the world around them forgetting to include a backup set, or even two backups, in their bug-out supplies can be disastrous.
Consider how dependent you are on your eyewear to see, and even if you aren’t totally blind without them the loss of perceptive capability could prove fatal in the middle of a survival situation.
For this reason, you cannot afford to go without your eyewear, and even if you have your primary set tethered to you and they are made of unbreakable plastic you should still have a spare pair.
For contact lens wearers this means you will need to regularly rotate one of your backup sets into your bug-out bag and ensure they stay clean and hydrated. You’ll also need to include contact lens cleaner and whatever else you need to maintain your lenses.
For what it’s worth, you should consider obtaining a set of bug-out specific eyeglasses since they are generally more durable, less prone to loss and present less complications in contaminated atmospheres compared to contact lenses, and those all make for important considerations in a survival situation.
#5. Emergency Blankets
Among all of the shelter gear and supplies that get included in bug-out bags around the world one of the most chronically, and criminally, overlooked items is the humble emergency blanket.
These ultra-thin copper or silver colored foil blankets are routinely seen wherever first responders make an intervention, typically being wrapped around the shoulders of survivors and others who have fallen into misadventure.
Sometimes derided as a better than nothing tool only, emergency blankets actually furnish preppers tons of capability for virtually no weight in space.
Used as directed they can indeed help keep you warm in all kinds of circumstances by reflecting the heat energy admitted by your body back onto your body before it would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere around you.
But beyond this, emergency blankets also make for excellent reflectors used in conjunction with a campfire, ground coverings and even liners placed inside a lean-to or bivy.
Anything you can do to recoup more heat energy from any source or help you heat up a smaller volume of air is going to help you get warmer faster and stay that way. Emergency blankets can help you do just that and for that reason deserve inclusion in any BOB.
#6. Steel Wool
Steel wool is a common sight in kitchens and workshops around the world, but it is less commonly spotted included among the contents of a bug-out bag. That is a shame because steel wool has quite a bit to commend it in a survival situation.
First and most obviously, steel wool can perform its advertised function of scrubbing away rust, corrosion and grit from metals and other hard materials, a sometimes useful necessity when the time comes to maintain your gear.
But its secondary and far cleverer function is one that should earn the respect of any prepper.
Steel wool can be used to rapidly and reliably start a fire when used in conjunction with a battery (so long as the battery has a charge).
All one has to do is to pull out a length of the steel wool before rolling it up into a thin tubular shape and then touching either end to the positive and negative terminals on a battery.
It will only take a moment before part of the steel wool in the middle will begin to glow red hot and be more than capable of lighting tinder or kindling all on its own.
This is impressive capability, especially if your typical fire starters are out of action and you are left with a mishmash of repurposed or scavenged supplies!
The capabilities of superglue need no introduction for most preppers, and that is why it is a little puzzling to me that it does not get mandatory inclusion in the portable tool kits found in more bug-out bags.
Super glue is just the ticket for all kinds of repair tasks, from mending a torn tent or fixing the busted rubber grip on a tool or firearm.
Superglue has a long and venerated history when it comes to various DIY repairs but also has a surprising efficacy in first aid settings as well.
As it turns out you can use superglue to mend relatively shallow punctures and lacerations by simply gluing your flesh back together.
The bond is nearly instant and durable, and also works to seal the wound by preventing the intrusion of foreign objects and germs. That is impressive indeed from such a small tube!
Though most medical professionals would blanch at the notion of using over-the-counter, “hardware store issue” superglue for the purpose instead of the highly similar but nominally distinct liquid stitch formulation most rough and ready outdoor professionals will tell you that the regular stuff works just fine.
Most preppers will carry a substantial amount of gear with metallic components as part of their BOB complement, and all of those metallic components and devices will require maintenance even in the middle of an SHTF situation.
Failing to deliver this maintenance at prescribed intervals will result in undue wear and tear or even outright failure, potentially dooming the poor soul relying on them for survival.
To ensure reliable operation and continued integrity all metallic components and machines require lubricant in one form or another. That means you gotta have it!
Lubricant comes in many weights and many formulations, but most all-purpose machine oils will do the job across the widest spectrum of possible uses.
Oil is especially crucial for keeping moisture off of bladed tools like knives and axes, and ensuring reliable function of firearms in all their many guises.
Make sure you include oil as part of your kit, and also take pains to house it in the most durable and leak-proof container you can find.
If your oil bottle busts or leaks not only will you lose the precious contents but you also have one hell of a mess to deal with among your other items!
#9. Safety Pins
No BOB of mine is ever complete until it has a small assortment of safety pins in it of varying sizes.
I am adamant about it, but when I share this with friends and associates they look at me like I have a few rivets coming loose.
But I stand by my determination, because safety pins are extremely useful prep and not just for their typical purpose of pinning something to something else or temporarily mending two sheets of cloth which is useful enough on its own.
Safety pins are typically made from durable, spring steel which makes them imminently useful for all kinds of things in the hands of a crafty prepper.
Even better, they come sharpened with a fine point and this makes them just perfect for ad hoc employment as fish hooks, spear points, arrowheads or fashioning multiple into a gig or trident for catching fish or small game.
You can even use them as a triggering component in a variety of larger trap designs.
Once again you get a ton of capability out of them and they weigh virtually nothing, aside from taking up next to no room. You’ve got no excuse; toss some safety pins into your BOB today!
#10. Pencil Sharpener
The pencil sharpener, specifically the compact student type that you twist the pencil inside to produce a sharpened point, is a handy survival implement for a host of reasons, not the least of which is it will allow you to put a usable writing point on a common pencil.
Beyond that, using any sort of appropriately sized twig or, again, a common pencil with a pencil sharpener will produce a pile of paper thin wood shavings in no time, shavings that make for excellent tinder in any conditions.
Also consider that a pencil sharpener can make any softer wood plenty pointy, and this makes it useful for employing sharpened stakes in traps or other tools, including weapons.
The fine, conical point produced by pencil sharpener also lends itself to the creation of various things like ground stakes, pegs, and toggles for use and all sorts of constructions.
If push comes to shove you can even remove the blade from your pencil sharpener and put it to use and some other way.
#11. Snap Lights
Snap lights are my hands-down favorite underrated lighting tool available to preppers. They are so handy, so reliable and so multi-purpose I cannot help but love them.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term snap lights are those luminescent green rods that usually turn up around Halloween, the kind you snap, then shake, to produce an eerie glow that lasts for hours.
They will definitely give most kids a thrill at least for a little while but their “real life” uses are many and worth serious consideration.
When it comes to marking or soft area lighting snap lights are tops, being totally dependable, completely safe and highly adaptable.
This is because they produce virtually no heat when the two chemicals that create the light mix inside the tube and furthermore they are non-toxic, so even if you lose them or they get broken open somehow no one is in any danger.
They are excellent for marking terrain, signaling for help or for unobtrusive, soft area or task lighting.
Since they don’t rely on any other fuel source, heat, or batteries to function they are completely self-contained, ready to remove from their package and use as soon as you need them. They are awesome, and you should definitely include some in your BOB.
#12. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is a time-honored method for reducing or neutralizing toxin build up in the body, and is still employed to this very day in various poison control settings around the world.
Activated charcoal works to help mitigate the damage caused by poison by binding harmful compounds so they can be safely flushed out of the body.
There is no great magic or special technical know-how to the use of activated charcoal, except knowing what toxins you should and should not employ it for, and this makes its efficacy useful for preppers in survival situations.
Generally, any toxin or poison ingested that is non-corrosive is a good candidate for activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal can be had in powder or capsule form at your preference, but it should be noted that it is not simply crushed up barbecue charcoal as is sometimes thought. Don’t make that mistake!
You should definitely commit to keeping activated charcoal in whatever form you prefer with your other first-aid kit contents in your BOB as there are many things that can potentially result in poisoning out in the world.
What’s more, activated charcoal also proves useful for reducing the effects of a host of skin ailments ranging from insect bites or exposure to toxic plants like poison ivy.
If you are anything like me you probably had this smelly stuff smeared on your chest when you were little by more than one well-intentioned mom or aunt.
Though it is greatly beloved as panacea for sick kiddies by a legion of parents, Vaseline (petroleum jelly) actually has many useful first-aid and utility purposes, enough that warrants its inclusion in any prepper’s on-the-go medicine cabinet.
Vaseline has earned its stripes as a moisturizer and topical treatment for all sorts of skin conditions from rashes to chapped lips, but it also works wonders as a preservative for electrical contacts and as a method of removing sticky, gummy or waxy buildup from skin and fabric alike.
If you are dealing with intensely hot and dry or cold and biting wind Vaseline can provide some protection to sensitive extremities as well.
You can get a ton of mileage out of one small pot of this stuff so make sure you include it. Trust me; your mom will sleep better at night.
#14. Zip Ties
Zip ties are incredibly useful little devices around the lawn and in the workshop, and their versatility is matched only by their compact size and light weight.
These ingenious little fasteners come in doubly handy in a survival situation where they make one of the best ways to secure things together using a lashing method. For setting up a shelter, improvising a weapon or just securely hanging something zip ties are the best.
The larger and stronger zip ties are even used as handcuffs for arresting unruly prisoners, so you know they have the strength to take care of business under duress.
You should make it a point to keep a selection of zip ties in your mobile tool kit at all times, and they are all useful, from the smallest and most delicate to the largest and beefiest.
The strength to weight ratio of zip ties is tough to beat, and they are so light even a sizable handful will add less than half a pound to your overall load.
If there is one thing that we can take away from them, however, it is that they are not particularly reusable even if you are being cautious to carefully undo the ratcheting teeth so make sure you bring more than you think you will need if you want them to go the distance.
Very few are the preppers who would ever dream of omitting a comprehensive medical kit from their survival stash, including their BOB.
It is painful to me, then, to discover how many of these folks simply forgo inclusion of one of the most common and most crucial medicines in that kit: Antibiotics.
Antibiotics are essential for preventing infections of all kinds, and what was once a wondrous medicine is now taken utterly for granted because they are so common and affordable.
Like I mentioned above you will not be able to rely on easy and sure access to proper medical care or facilities in the middle of an SHTF event, and that means that even cursory injuries you wouldn’t spare a second thought to in normal times could take on deadly new significance in the same scenario.
A simple cut on your hand that gets infected could eventually cost you that hand, your arm or even your life if untreated. One of the only reliable ways you’ll have to treat infection is through the use of antibiotics.
Unfortunately, antibiotics are one of those things you’re going to have to work at if you want to include them in your BOB, but you definitely should. First, antibiotics do have a shelf life and that means they lose effectiveness over time.
You’ll need to purchase them and eventually get rid of them knowing full well that you paid to essentially have them on standby.
Second, the best wide spectrum antibiotics are not something you can buy over the counter and you’ll need to get a prescription from an understanding doctor who knows what you plan on doing with them if you don’t want to resort to gray market sources. In the end, they are completely worth it.
#16. Instant Coffee
Every prepper has their preference when it comes to hot drinks. Some, as you might expect, are coffee diehards who would rather die themselves than go without their joe.
Others profess an abiding and undying love for tea in all of its many forms, citing it as the king of beverages. Still others yearn for the comfort and sustenance provided by a cup of classic hot cocoa.
The only downside to all of these drinks, despite the vital bolstering and pick me up they provide, is that they require a copious amount of hot water and time to prepare. Time you might not have in quest of a little pep during a survival situation.
When viewed strictly as a tool in the toolbox, instant coffee has them all beat, providing plenty of caffeine and convenience in exchange for less than stellar taste.
Instant coffee can even be prepared and slugged down cold if needed, and when you need a little extra fuel to keep on slogging during a long hike it is just the ticket.
Though it is considered heresy to legitimate “bean water” brewers, it is effective, stable and cheap, perfect for preppers looking to pad their rations and keep awake!
#17. Wet Wipes
Most preppers don’t need to be reminded of the importance of stashing TP in their bug-out bags since depending on improvised or found sources of butt-wiping material is going to be unpleasant at best and grueling at worst.
But as it turns out more than a few preppers forget to include the ever-useful baby wipe, or wet wipe, among their toiletry kit and that is a shortcoming that needs correcting, post-haste.
These wet wipes are obviously a Godsend for their typical purpose, and a great way to keep your hygiene tip top, but they are useful in other ways.
Wet wipes make for a great “hobo bath” or improvised field bath, when it is time to get clean and you don’t have the time or the resources for a proper bath or shower.
Wet wipes have gentle cleansers and fragrances embedded into a moist towelette that allows you to target and scrub the most troublesome areas on your body in a hurry and then get on with your business.
This goes a long way towards helping you feel better, but more importantly you will actually be cleaner and that can stave off a host of maladies.
Nothing works quite as well or as conveniently as wet wipes for the purpose, and a small package can go quite a long way used sparingly.
#18. Mouse Traps
Trapping is a skill set that many preppers know about, that many preppers talk about, but vanishingly few actually put in the time and the work to master, much less reach any level of journeyman skill with.
Sure, the notion that you will set up a bunch of traps in order to harvest wild game and pad your food reserves is an appealing one and one that is often preached by survival centric publications, but the practical application of fashioning and installing traps, to say nothing of maintaining them, is extremely daunting for your average prepper.
This is where the humble, common mouse trap can save the day.
Rodents of all sorts are some of the most common mammals in any environment, and their great numbers combined with their inquisitive nature and determined attitude towards the acquisition of food makes them easy prey for the common mouse trap in all its guises.
A rat or mouse might not seem like an appetizing dinner, but they do provide valuable protein reliably in survival situations. Mouse traps are easy to set, require very little bait and just as importantly reusable and easy to reset when a miss or misfire occurs.
These things are cheap and lightweight, and have other uses when employed as early warning systems. Including a few is a great upgrade for any bug out bag!
#19. Can Liners, 55 Gal.
Large, heavy duty can liners are an exceptionally useful multipurpose material for preppers in survival situations. Specifically, in all kinds of survival situations! They are waterproof, windproof, tough and ideal for all kinds of improvisational construction.
They work wonders for water storage or rain collection, rain-proofing yourself or your pack, making a shelter a little more weather resistant and even as a ground cover to keep yourself off the muck. Truly, never before has such a small roll gone so far!
But can liners are useful for more than just shelter creation. You can use them as is, with a little modification, to create a shelter all by itself in the form of a compact bivy or even a field expedient sleeping bag.
As the homeless around American cities and even the world have long since discovered, taping two can liners together before stuffing them with newspaper, leaves or some other dry, insulating material works wonders for warming up no matter what the weather is like.
Remember this clever usage and be grateful should you ever find yourself at risk of exposure but in possession of several can liners.
#20. Pepper Spray
Pepper spray is an excellent, non-lethal self-defense tool though it is sometimes derided by the gun-crazy as what you bring to a gunfight when you plan on losing.
Don’t listen to these naysayers: every prepper, everywhere, needs a self-defense tool that can solve the defensive problems you’ll run into that don’t quite call for a gun.
When solving them with fists or feet would be too risky pepper spray can do that for you, all while keeping you at a safe distance.
Pepper spray is also invaluable when you need to fend off dangerous wildlife, specifically mammals. There are countless successful interventions regarding animal attacks on people where pepper spray saved the day.
Bears, dogs or cougars will never encounter anything in nature quite so hostile or as agonizing as pepper spray, and the wide-angle aerosol nature of the spray makes a hit, or rather a successful exposure, more likely with less risk than using a firearm.
Not for nothing, at the end of the day a human or animal hit with pepper spray will not die so you can go on with a clean conscience.
Even a modestly sized can of pepper spray does not weigh much and will provide capability that no other tool can in the same way.
Get These Today
Your bug-out bag might be truly well equipped but chances are there are a few items you have overlooked or additional capability that you would rather not go without.
Take a look at this list of 20 bug-out bag items you have likely forgotten existed and you are bound to find at least a handful that are deserving of a place in your survival kit. Don’t wait until that fateful day to learn you have forgotten about them!
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.