80 Bug Out Bag Essentials Checklist

Illustration of a backpack with icons showing survival items included within, next to a checklist image

80 Bug Out Bag Essentials Checklist

As you probably already know, this website is dedicated to Bug Out Bags: how to make them, how to get the best ones for you and your family, but most importantly, how to do so quickly and save money by getting the right stuff from the beginning!

In that spirit we have put together what we think is the best bug out bag supplies list you'll find on the internet.

The Best Bug Out Bag List is the one that works for you

The best Bug Out Bag is the one that starts with the best Bug Out Bag List, naturally. You could have the best backpack in the world but if you don't have the right survival gear inside it then it won't help you in an emergency situation.

If you don't know how to use the gear, well then it's dead weight, that's why we'll make sure you only have those items you'll absolutely need. Only the essentials!

This list is designed to give you a baseline survival kit to start with. If you are just starting out it will give you an idea of what you need to think about.

If you have already started making your bug out bag, it will help you fill in the gaps where you might be missing some items.

Building a Bug Out Bag is Easy!

Yellow osprey backpack filled with camping items

Bug Out Bag Builder is a resource, a tool specifically designed to help you prepare for natural disasters like an earthquake, flood, fire, or hurricane.

Our main focus is on making excellent Bug Out Bags: 72 Hour Emergency Kits that are portable and ready before a disaster strikes. Some people call them Go-Bags, Bail Out Bags, or Ditch Bags.

We do our best to keep it as simple as possible for the newbie prepper in our Learning & Tutorials Section, while doing deeper dives on more complex issues such as radio communications, and food storage on our Blog and Product Reviews.

Why our List is the Best

There are a ton of websites out there promoting products that they have never even used, tested, or probably even seen in person. They are marketing websites that are focused more on trying to get you to click on links than getting you prepared.

Bug Out Bag Builder is different.

We have the Experience

We have been teaching people survival training and emergency preparations since 2005. We've been practicing, learning and perfecting bushcrafting, escape and evade, homesteading, and permaculture skills for over 20 years.

We've had to deal with and live through hurricanes, floods, and evacuations.

We are a part of our local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES).

We know what survival gear works and what doesn't because we used it. We pushed it as far as we could to make sure it would hold-up when you needed it most.

We will always give you our honest opinion and the right information without the marketing fluff or click-bait.

We have the Community

Our Facebook Group has over 7,000 members. These are people who asked to be a part of the Group, these are not paid-for "likes."

Questions are asked and within moments well thought out answers are given by people who want to help. This is a fantastic and diverse bunch of people from all over the world, and we are honored and humbled to be a part of that community.

Bug Out Bag Builder Emergency Support Group Facebook Group Logo

We have the Bag Builder Tool

Finding the products you need on Amazon can be a daunting task, since they don't organize their products into Emergency Kits for you, but we do!

Our Custom Bag Builder Tool lets choose from products which we have personally vetted and believe in.

Each bag starts out with a curated kit that we pre-made for you. Add and remove products as you see fit for each kit type. Then when you are ready, checkout and the list gets sent over to your Amazon shopping cart and you can settle up with them.

We are Amazon Affiliates by the way. That's how we keep the site running. We take a $$ percentage off of Amazons end. We don't know who you are or what you're buying, we're just sending the product links over to them, and once you are logged in they know it's you but that info doesn't come back to us. 

Choosing your Bug Out Bag

Man walking on the street with a grey maxpedition backpack

For many, the first item on peoples Bug Out Bag List is the bag itself. This can be useful since it gives you something concrete to look at and use for your Emergency Kit.

Some people prefer to get the items first and the bag later. That's a more conservative approach and not a bad idea since you can have a better idea of what size bag you'll need. This is especially important if you want a high-end (read: expensive) backpack and need to get it right the first time.

Head on over to our article on The Best Bug Out Bags to see our top choices organized by size. We're updating it all the time, and we've tried to make it a broad cross-section of bag types without making it overwhelming.

You can read more about Choosing A Bug Out Bag in our Learning & Tutorials section.

Bug Out Bag List Essential Items

Before Diving In:

  • This list is prioritized, with the most important items first. Start at the top and work your way though each category as you start acquiring your survival gear.
  • Remember the rule of 3's: You can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter (in extreme weather,) 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.
  • Excess Weight Kills: Any kit over 25 lbs will be too heavy for all but the biggest of dudes to wear or hike with for more than a few hours. If you need to move fast a heavy kit that slows you down can kill you.
  • You are not bugging out to the woods Davey Crockett style, sorry: 99.9% of evacuees in the US end up in shelters or a neighbors/relatives home during the immediate aftermath.
  • Your Emergency Packs will evolve over time. You might swap things out, change packs, upgrade items. This is the normal process, don't sweat trying to get it right the first time.
  • If you buy anything with the links we provide on this page we might get a small percentage of the sale. For more info click here.

Hydration & Water Purification

A woman filling a Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter from a river in the woods

The most immediate need for people during natural disasters is clean drinking water. Have some water prepared in your kit but know this, each gallon of water weighs 8 lbs. So a 3 days drinking supply could take up the entire weight allowance of your pack!

You'll need to be able to purify water you find in the environment if you cannot secure a clean reliable source after the first 24 hours.

Note: Flood water is very difficult to treat. It will likely have chemical as well as bacteriological contaminants. It may also have salt water mixed in, which cannot be filtered out. This water would need to be filtered first then purified, and is beyond the scope of a typical Bug Out Bag water filter.

In that case a table-top Berkey Filter or a Go Berkey Kit might provide potable water, depending on the amount of petrochemicals present in the source. Know the limitations of your chosen water purification system.

Many more water filters and water purification strategies in this tutorial.

Food & Cookwear

Using a jetboil to pour hot water into camping food packs

Wait, I thought you said I can go 3 weeks without food? Yes, you could. But it is miserable.

Have you ever tried fasting for even just 24 hours? Try it. You'll likely have low energy, and probably get a headache.

Now, consider that you will be under tremendous stress during a natural disaster. Want to go days without eating? You'll need fuel to operate at peak performance, so don't sell yourself short in this area.

Also consider that you may have to eat on the go, and that water may be scarce so heating dehydrated meals may not be possible. We leave it to your discretion whether to include a cooking kit.

If preparing for a family then have the cooking kit go in dads pack, while mom and the kids hold the lighter food.

Ready to Eat Options:

Dehydrated Meals:


Fire Starting:

Warm food does more than just fill you up, it's also comforting. Comfort during rough times is a literal lifesaver.

Don't try to be a tough guy, give yourself the option to get a brief respite once in a while. It could be days or weeks before the situation your facing gets better. So for those reasons we also suggest:

Comfort Foods:

  • Instant Coffee: don't forget the Sugar Packets & Powered Creamer
  • Hot Chocolate: For the little ones
  • Gummie Bears or Hard Candy: something sweet that won't melt/crush

We have a whole Bug Out Cookwear tutorial for you to read and review.

Clothing & Shelter

A man trying to fix a tarp in a rain storm which is blowing away

Image source

We lump Clothing & Shelter together because they serve the same purpose: to protect you from the elements.

Where you live determines the type and amount of clothing/shelter you will need, as well as the season.


Clothing is bulky and takes up lots of space in a backpack, so you have to find a balance between how much you'll need to survive vs. being comfortable or stinky. You should also have a plan in place to rotate out clothing during the different seasons as appropriate.

Dirty, wet, smelly clothing can be a real downer too (not to mention potentially dangerous) so it is a good idea to have the foresight to have clothing that can resist some of these issues.

For example: cotton is the worst when it gets wet. It can cause blisters, it lowers your body temperature dramatically, and takes forever to dry. You'll want to avoid cotton as much as you can.

For some more suggestions, read Bug Out Bag Clothing.

All Conditions:

Warm: Wet or Dry

Cold: Dry

  • Wool Pants, Shirt, Hat, Gloves, Socks
  • Wind Breaker Shell

Cold: Wet

  • Synthetic water treated pants over thermals
  • Waterproof footwear
  • Face mask or shemagh


Not everyone will want to carry these items in their packs. It's a personal choice and should be considered carefully since we are adding significant weight.

If you do choose to carry any of these items, make sure you know how to use them! There are important knots you will need to learn to set it up correctly: overhand loop knot + truckers hitch.

See more about Emergency Shelter & Bedding.

Hygiene & Sleep

Cots in an emergency storm shelter with people and their belongings

Although many of these items are pretty easy to find and replace, it's still best to have extras in an emergency kit. You don't want to be in a position where you don't have these items.

If you have extras already around the house, use them, but make sure they stay in your bug out bag at all times.

First Aid Kit, Exposure, Hygiene

  • Nail Clipper
  • Tweezer
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap: Pocket Types or Bar
  • Baking Soda: toothpaste/deodorant replacement
  • Towel: Beach towels pack small
  • Toilet Paper: vacuum sealed if possible
  • Razor

If you are sleeping in a shelter or in close quarters with others you will appreciate having these items at night!

For more see Emergency Shelter & Bedding.

First Aid

A MyMedic first aid kit and its contents

The most important thing here is your medications. See if your doctor will give you a longer prescription if you are taking medications on a regular basis, so you can keep some in your Go Bag. Try to rotate them out each time you get your newer meds.

A good option is to pickup a high-end pre-made kit from MyMedic or a good family boo-boo kit like the Surviveware Large First Aid Kit or their Small First Aid Kit.


A man at night lighting up a bamboo forest with a flashlight

Operating in the dark can be dangerous and impossible if power is out in a large area. You'll want backups for your lights.

You'll want one of each type of light ideally: headlamp, area light, flash light, and identification light.

Here are our favorites from each category:

See more of our suggestions in our Emergency Lighting tutorial.

Important Documents

Do not overlook this category. This is how you will rebuild your life after a disaster, especially if you wind up having to leave your home for long term, to travel to another state/country.

See our some other Important Document recommendations here.

  • Waterproof USB Drive or Hard drive
  • Paper Copy of Phone Numbers/email addresses
  • Paper Copy of Govt ID: License/Passport
  • Copies of Medical Records and Insurance Card


The goTenna Mesh and how it works, people standing on the edge of a canyon

Communications is a very important but typically overlooked item in ones Bug Out Bag. Why is it overlooked? Because most people think that their cell phones will work no matter what.

That is a mistake, just ask the folks in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Charging phones could be impossible, and cell networks are dependent on power, and could be out for weeks or longer.

Check out our articles Bug Out Communications, and How To Communicate When The Grid Goes Down for more information about this critical subject.


Electronics: nice to have, but can be pricey. These suggestions are budget dependent.


A bahco laplander saw cutting through a branch

It's really easy to get carried away with too many tools in your Bug Out Bag!

Tools are heavy though, so you have to be selective with what you include.

Cutting tools are important but be realistic about what you will need them for. More likely cutting rope and food prep than batoning a tree down or skinning a deer, but you know your needs/skills so plan accordingly when analyzing a survival tool.


Misc Tools:

See some other Bug Out Tools that we consider for our kits.


  • Web Dominators: Take up strap slack on backpacks
  • Bandannas: Water pre-filter, Runny Nose, Head Cover, etc
  • Ziplock bags (various sizes) or Dry Sacks
  • Garbage Bags: to waterproof inside or outside of pack

What NOT to Have

Notice whats not on this list you will see in nearly every Bug Out Bag list?

  • Tents

Tents are heavy and bulky. And most times they will not provide adequate long-term shelter. Keep one in your car or INCH Bag if you wish but don't have it in your Bug Out Bag.

  • Axe and/or Machete

Great tools, but extremely heavy. Unless you have a very specific need for them in your Bug Out Bag these, like tents, are more suitable to be carried in a vehicle or kept in your home. You just won't be able to carry them a long distance.

  • Plastic Water Bottle/Utensils

Plastic just doesn't have the same durability of metal. If you have the choice, use metal whenever possible, especially in an emergency kit.

  • Cotton Clothing

"Cotton Kills" is an expression you might have heard. Cotton can cause hypothermia when wet and cold because it lowers body temperature dramatically. Cotton socks are also prone to developing blisters.

Keep Learning

This is just the beginning of a process, it can take some a long time to get started for some, and it becomes a lifestyle once you get into it!

There are lots of tools and resources on Bug Out Bag Builder to help you refine your Emergency Kits to just the way you want them to be.

If you ever have any questions or comments please contact us or join us over at our Facebook group and we will be more than happy to lend a hand!

And make sure you learn and practice your survival skills. Get books, take a class, meetup with a group of like-minded folks.

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