If disaster struck today, would you be ready? Sadly, if you said “yes,” you are in the minority. Being prepared for a variety of emergencies requires careful planning, especially when you consider how many are possible. Anything from a hurricane to a solar superstorm could alter the course of life as you know it, particularly if you do not have accessible and practical supplies to assist with basic survival. Luckily, by putting together a great bug out bag, you can make sure you have what you need at the ready.
What is a Bug Out Bag?
To put it simply, a bug out bag is a backpack or other highly carriable bag that holds various supplies that can assist you during an emergency. This portable kit contains items that support basic survival, typically for at least 72 hours, and make evacuating from a disaster easier (or even possible).
In most cases, a backpacking rig is best. They usually store a lot of items, have a variety of organizational options (like multiple pockets or compartments, strapping, and similar design elements), and are meant for long-term wear and carrying.
What Do I Need to Include in My Bug Out Bag?
Exactly what you need to put in your bug out bag may vary a bit based on your location. For example, if you are in the southwest and it is summer time, hydration may be a larger concern because of the excessive heat and lack of water in some areas. In comparison, someone in the northern portion of the Midwest during the winter might have access to water but needs to focus on supplies to stay warm.
However, there are certain basics everyone should cover.
First, water is a necessity. Everyone needs fluids to stay hydrated, so consider adding the following items to your bug out bag:
- 3 quarts of water per person
- A water bottle or camelback
- Water treatment options (LifeStraw, water treatment tablets, etc.)
Next, basic shelter and ways to preserve warmth are important additions. Here is what you need to carry:
- Tent or tarp
- Sleeping bag or bivvy bag
- Emergency blanket
Then, it’s time to address another basic human need: food. While you can typically go up to three weeks without eating, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry food. Without nourishment, you’ll lack energy and focus. Plus, you’ll get grumpy and frustrated.
Ideally, you want any food to be high-protein and high-fat, as they provide you with long-lasting energy. Additionally, non-perishable items are best, allowing you to pack your backpack in advance without having to worry about spoilage too often. Here are some easy options:
- Protein bars
- Beef or turkey jerky
- Tuna pouches
- Peanut butter
Supplies for starting a fire are similarly a necessity. Flames don’t just keep you warm; they also scare animals away, can work as a signal, and can help with water purification and first aid.
Have a few fire starter options available instead of just one, ensuring you have a backup if one fails. Here are a few worth adding to your bug out bag:
- Bic lighter
- Stormproof matches
- Ferro rods
Hygiene items are also smart additions. Consider carrying the following:
- Baby wipes
- Toothbrush and toothpaste or tooth powder
- Travel-sized bar of soap
- Feminine hygiene supplies
First Aid Supplies
You also want to put some first aid supplies in your bug out bag, especially if you may be traveling through rough terrain. Otherwise, even a small injury could hinder your ability to reach safety or could become infected, potentially putting someone’s life in danger.
Here are some first aid kit basics to include:
- Anti-bacterial wipes
- Medical gloves
- Gauze pads
- Bandages and Band-Aids
- Burn gel
- Antibiotic ointment
- Instrument kit
Tools and Equipment
Bring along any prescription drugs you or your traveling companions may need is also a must. You may not have access to a pharmacy or emergency medical services for a while, so don’t leave home without critical medications.
You also need a few simple tools and equipment pieces. Make sure to pack:
- Multitool (like a Leatherman)
- Hiking GPS
- Backup battery-based chargers
- Local map
- Mini shovel
- Duct tape
- Small ax or hatchet
- Breathing mask
Change of Clothes
Adding one change of clothing to your bug out bag is smart. That way, if what you are wearing gets wet, you can change, decreasing the odds of hypothermia. Wool clothing is a great option both for warmth and because it dries quickly. Other outdoor clothing can offer similar benefits, as well as heavy cotton items.
Just make sure to think “layers,” as you may want to be able to add or remove items depending on the temperature or weather.
The only exception tends to be socks. Consider packing a few pairs of tough, thick socks so you can keep your feet dry at all times.
Carry Your Critical Documents
Lastly, make sure to carry any critical documents that you may need during or after an emergency. ID cards, passports, titles, contracts, and similar paperwork may be wise to include. Additionally, writing down contact information for friends and family members is smart, especially since your smartphone may die along the way.
In some cases, you may want to add self-defense items. Anything from bear spray to a firearm can be suitable options, depending on what is legal in your area and what you are comfortable using.
Do you have a bug out bag? Tell us what you keep in yours in the comments below.
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