Bug Out Bag
Basic 72-Hour Bug Out Bag List
Duration: 72-Hours to 1-Week
Short-Notice Evacuation Due To: Flooding, Fire, Hurricane, Tsunami, Earthquake, Nuclear Incidents
Must Have Gear:
Clothing, Water, Medications, Toiletries, Food, Blankets, Pillows, Lighting, Document Backups
Definition of a Bug Out Bag
A Bug Out Bag is a short-term survival kit, typically stored in a backpack for ease of transport. Its function is to provide you with the basic tools of life should you have to evacuate a home or place of work quickly during an emergency, like a large scale natural disaster.
Bug Out Bags go by many different names: Go Bag, Go Kit, Grab Bag, 72-Hour Bag, Bail Out Bag...but it all means the same thing: a portable emergency disaster survival kit.
A Bug Out Bag is meant to be deployed quickly, at a moments notice, so it is important to have them prepared ahead of time and stored in easily accessible locations.
They are generally not meant to be used for long term survival, but rather for short-term periods, so they are designed to be small enough and lightweight enough to be carried on ones person in backpack - using a suitcase as rolling bug out bag is also great option.
They are not meant to replace everything in your home.
When you first start prepping a bug out bag, consider your plans and priorities first.
Where would you go if forced from your home, and had to leave town? What would you need there for the first 3-4 days?
For the vast majority of people, this means either staying with family or friends, in a hotel, or in a storm shelter.
So at the very least that means you need: a change or two of clothing, a toothbrush, maybe a sleeping mask and earplugs.
You shouldn't be planning on living like an outlaw in the woods when putting together a Go-Bag or Bug Out Bag if you can avoid it - but you can be prepared to deal with that type of situation just in case with a few simple items we will discuss later.
The kits we build for ourselves and discuss at great length though out this site always allow us to have have several back-up plans, so should things really go south we can still purify water, cook, and stay comfortable in the wilderness as a last resort.
It's really easy to get carried away and want to put everything you can inside of your Bug Out Bag, and wind up with a 70 pound backpack that you can't even wear for more than a few minutes at a time without hurting your back or neck.
Avoid that temptation.
To help you keep focused your we have created the BOBB Five-Part Emergency System, which helps you to create a system of emergency kits designed to simplify the overall process.
The typical worst-case scenario: you are doing a little car camping. Spend your time planning for what's likely to happen, then dial-in the less likely once you have your basic kit together.
All that said the first and most important step is, putting together a WUSH Bag.
** DO THIS FIRST **
Your primary and most important action: make sure you have prepared a WUSH Bag, and that it is small enough to integrate into this your Bug Out Bag.
WUSH stands for: Wake Up, Stuffs Happening. (Yes, we made that up.)
It's an ultra-portable emergency kit that sits next to your bed and is ready to go in a moments notice.
Why a WUSH Bag is so important:
- It's next to your bed, in a night stand, or under the bed. Within arms reach of where you sleep at night.
- You can grab it and be out of your home in seconds.
- It's small: you can still collect wife, kids, pets, etc without it getting in the way.
- It has all the essentials you'll need to start your life over, and save you a ton headaches after the emergency.
Every night, put your wallet and cell phone in your Wush Bag.
It should also contain:
- Backup USB Battery and Charging Cables
- House & Car Key Copies
- Backup USB Drive with all your digital files, photos, documents
- Copies of Important Documents (ID's, home title, etc)
- Old Prescription Glasses
- Miscellaneous little things relevant to you
If you haven't done this yet, build a WUSH BAG, then come back here.
Why a 72-Hour Bag?
During a widespread emergency event it can typically take 3 days (or longer) for government groups like FEMA or first responders to arrive and help you out.
You need to protect and provide for yourself and your family during this time when institutional help is unavailable.
That is why when we talk about what we are putting in our Bug Out Bags, we use that framework of our needs for 72 hours.
It's just an organizational technique that most people find simple to start with.
Think about the last 3 days of your life:
- What did you eat?
- What did you wear?
- What did you use in the bathroom?
- Who did you have to care for?
- Where and how do you sleep at night?
Now think about recreating those needs outside of your home, and without the normal conveniences of nearby stores being open.
The Un-Prepared Society
Remember the parable of the ant and the grasshopper? You are the ant, that's why you are here.
But there are plenty of grasshoppers out there. In fact, probably more of them then there are ants in our modern society.
And what will be their main concern should supply issues arrive? Toilet paper probably...
If you find yourself dealing with an event that is man made, or bad enough that people start to act in dangerous ways, behavioral problems will typically start to arise around the 3rd day.
Those who live hand-to-mouth or are dependent on grocery stores always being open and being stocked might start to get nervous if help doesn't arrive, and start acting in less than civilized ways.
Generally however we feel that in times of stress, your local community will actually step up and start helping one another. This has been shown time and time again after large hurricanes hit - there are hundreds if not thousands of news reports which corroborate this, it's not just optimistic thinking.
But if you are a serious prepper (that's why you're here, isn't it?) then you don't rely on the good will of others to survive and thrive. You'll plan ahead to make sure that doesn't happen.
What goes in a Bug Out Bag?
It's important to prioritize.
Strive is to keep it simple and focus in on whats most important: Environmental Protection (Clothing), Water Purification, Food Supplies, Sleeping Gear, First Aid.
Everything else is just there to support those 5 key categories.
Everyone will have a slightly different Bug Out Bag. Depending on where you live, and the types of environments or survival situation you will find yourself in will dictate some specific items you should carry, but we have compiled the list below to be a baseline for the average BOB, and you can use it as a template to give you an idea of what items to look at.
Certain things are must have items, but modify this list to suit your needs best. Not everyone will need or even want to start a fire for example, but it might be wise to at least have that option available.
If you are making more than one BOB for your family keep in mind that you don't have to have every one of these items in each bag. Several of them can be shared. Make sure the wife's and kids bags aren't too heavy! Strive for 25 lbs or less.
BTW If you buy anything with the links we provide on this page we might get a small percentage of the sale from the manufacturer. For more info click here.
Bug Out Bag Contents List
These are merely suggestions, as there are a million different options out there, but it will give you the idea.
You don't need everything on here per se, use this list as a starting point.
- Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle (40 oz)
- Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter
- Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets
- Platypus Collapsible Soft Bottle
First Aid & Hygiene:
- Toothbrush, Fingernail Clipper, Baking Soda, Soap, Towel
- Toilet Paper and Wipes, Body Soap
- First Aid Kit
- Durable Backpack or Wheeled Pack (See this, this and this)
- Navigation & Communications Kit
- Fenix HL18R-T Rechargeable Headlamp
- Streamlight Siege X Rechargeable Lantern
- Eneloop Backup AA Batteries
- Leatherman Multitool
- 103' 550lb Paracord
- Pocket Fresnel Lens
- Old Credit Card wrapped in Duct Tape
- Ziplock bags (various sizes) and Dry Sacks
- Maps of the Local Area
- Important Personal Documents
Upgrades / Additions:
- goTenna Mesh
- Baofeng UV5RA Ham Radio
- Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus
- Voltaic Systems - Arc 10 Watt USB Solar Charger Kit
- ESEE 4P Survival Knife
- Bahco Laplander Folding Saw
- Playing Cards
- One Person Tent: But ONLY if you can carry the extra weight
- Pepper Spray (If legal where you live)
One thing to note: Tents tend to be very bulky and heavy, so we consider those more to be an INCH Bag item, but feel free to add one if you think it makes sense for you - one suggestion is to break the weight up between packs if you can, put the poles and stakes in one bag and the tent itself in another.
In any case, you should learn how to build several types of shelters with different types of materials.
When we are planning for the big events that effect not just our home but the whole area we live in, we need to think about several different important factors: shelter (especially in cold weather), water, and food being the primary concerns.
For a carry-all Bug Out Bag List, see our 80 Bug Out Bag List Essentials. We dive a little deeper into the type of gear you can consider once you set your baseline kit up properly in that article.
Check out the The Gray Man Urban Survival Kit if you live in the city or suburbs.
If you live in a rural area, the Woodsman Outdoor Survival Kit is for you.
The Bug Out Bag Builder Custom Bag Builder Tool
We encourage you to use our Custom Bag Builder Tool to assemble and create the perfect Bug Out Bag for your needs.
We've populated the list with items we think make a complete kit, you can add/remove/change those items as you see fit within the app.
The Builder Tool checks you out on Amazon.com or you can just print out the list and acquire the goods elsewhere.
Your primary defense against harsh elements outside of shelter, is the clothing you have.
For that reason, we have lumped them into our Environmental Protection category for your Bug Out Bag supplies. It will be up to you what type of clothing you need to have in there, given the seasonality of the region you live in.
For some suggestions, checkout our article on protective survival clothing and footwear.
Additionally we recommend having a poncho for rain and wind protection. The one we recommend can also be used as a small tarp.
Speaking of tarps, you might want to have a small one with you as well. They can always be used as a make shift shelter, or to protect other gear from the elements.
Then we added clothes clips - we have these in all of our kits. Incredibly useful when used with cordage to hang wet clothing or towels. We don't leave home without ours, and use them on every camping trip and vacation we take.
Water is critical to sustaining your life and health. Carrying water is heavy, 8.3 lbs per gallon.
Rather than carry all of your water needs, have a way to clean up the water you might encounter out in the world.
Even some municipal tap water out there could benefit from being filtered before you drink it, especially if you have ever had to deal with a "water boil advisory" due to broken pipes.
The Klean Kanteen can be used to boil water. The Katadyn can be filled up with suspect water directly and filtered in real time.
The portable aqua tabs are backups, and he Platypus folds down small and allows you to increased your water storage capacity should you need it or once you hit base camp.
- Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle (40 oz)
- Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter
- Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets
- Platypus Collapsible Soft Bottle
There are a lot of options for food you can keep in your survival kits. Our suggestion is to get freeze dried pre-packaged foods that can be reconstituted with boiling water.
You should also include a handful of snacks that can be eaten on the go, like trail mix or beef jerky, energy bars - that sort of thing.
We also have suggestions for useful fire starting tools in our Fire Starting Kit guide.
During an evacuation scenario it is highly likely that you will find yourself stuck somewhere overnight while traveling.
Instead of that being a miserable experience, at least provide yourself some comfort with a sleeping pad, pillow and blanket.
Eye covering and ear plugs in my opinion are a must have - who knows how many other people will be in the room with you, especially in a storm shelter!
First Aid & Hygiene:
Having a first aid kit of some sort is highly recommended. There are some simple kits in the market and there are high-end kits and everything in between.
Our favorite first aid kits by far are the ones MyMedic makes. You won't be disappointed with the quality and thoughtfulness of how well they are designed and organized.
The first step towards health is good hygiene. Beyond just smelling bad, you want to make sure you can keep yourself and your clothing clean to prevent infections and disease.
Why baking soda? You can use a little as deodorant, toothpaste, use it on insect stings, clean your dishes and clothing with it and more. Very useful item to have with you at all times.
Our Bug Out Bag Picks
There are many types of bags you could use for your 72 Hour Emergency kit.
We prefer rolling bug out bags because it is easier to move larger weight around and will lower the potential risk of injury for older folks.
For our full list of recommended bags check out: The Best Bug Out Bags.
Typical Price: $250 Size: Large - 38.5 Liter
Pros: The Hazard 4 Air Support takes the number one spot for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, it has wheels which means it will be much more manageable for folks who need to carry more than 25lbs of gear.
You can add pouches to the outside thanks to the MOLLE attachment points. It will fit into an overhead compartment on a plane should you need to fly with it.
1000D Cordura and ruggedized wheels and base means it is durable. Supplement your space with a small backpack if desired.
External Size: 22.8"(L) x 14.2"(W) x 9.1"(D).
Cons: Not a fan of the laptop sleeve - we cut it in half and use it as a smaller storage pocket. Reciprocating handles sometimes make me nervous, I've seen them break on other suitcases.
Typical Price: $180 Size: XX-Large - 85 Liter
Pros: One of our favorite packs got a really nice upgrade for 2020. Relatively inexpensive, lots of storage space, well-built, low profile. Bottom zipper for quick access to sleeping bag.
420d polyester. 19"(L) x 32"(H) x 13"(W) at 5.8 lbs.
Cons: Not as durable as some of the other bags we like, we wish the buckles we're a little bit stronger.
Typical Price: $180 Size: Large - 55 Liter
Pros: Lookup bug out bag in the dictionary and you'll see the 5.11 Rush 72. It essentially defines the category. Great price to performance ratio. Easy to use, easy to pack and organize.
Lots of MOLLE options to add stuff to the outside. Comfortable yolk-style harness. Reinforced webbing and stitching throughout. Water repellent. Hydration pouch.
My favorite feature is the "shove-it" pocket to stash wet stuff or a helmet.
13.5"(L) x 23"(H) x 8.5"(W) at 5.5 lbs.
Cons: Military style might be too on the nose for some - it screams "I've got MRE's yo!"
Don't get crazy with heavy tools right away. The thing we see over and over again is Bug Out Bags with 4 knives, 2000 feet of paracord, an axe and a machete, 2 Cliff Bars, and a Lifestraw.
This totally misses the point, since none of these things really help you in the world we live in today. Yes, things could get really far out but that's not what you need to worry about at first.
Look back on the last 50 years and look at the natural disaster displacement events that have happened. More times than not people wind up at shelters or in hotel rooms but it can be days or weeks before the State or Federal Emergency Response teams can arrive on the scene.
It's that gap we are preparing for first. You can plan for longer term problems certainly, but that's not what a Bug Out Bag is supposed to do. An INCH Bag is more appropriate for long term evacuation needs.
Once you get the basics down you can dive deeper into your build out. But first start increasing your knowledge, your survival skills, your bushcrafting, then start packing for it.
It's a great idea to have a wilderness pack, but it shouldn't be your primary Emergency Kit, unless you already live in the wilderness and would need to spend days getting to civilization.
Packing for Men vs. Women
If you don't want to wind up like Quasimodo after a few minutes of wearing your Go-Bag, then its super important to know how to load it up properly. Men and women have lower centers of gravity than men so the size and shape of the packs and the distribution of body weight is different.
Load the bulkier, lighter items toward the bottom of the pack like a sleeping bag and change of clothes. These are also the things you wont need to have quick access to, they are more needed camp is already set up.
Consider the terrain you will be traversing when packing your bag. For flat ground the heavier items should be relatively high and close to the body. Put the heaviest things between your shoulder blades. For rough terrain or steep climbs put the weight lower, this will keep you better balanced. Try to keep the heavy stuff in the middle of your back.
You want to be comfortable walking a long distance with it on. Try to stick to under 30 lbs, you'll thank me for it!
You can strap tents and tarps and sleeping bags to the bottom of the pack with lashes or straps for men, to the tops of the packs for women. REI has an incredible article about this. Grab a drink and read it.
Internal vs. External Frames
One could write forever about the differences between Internal Frame and External Frame packs. For us, it comes down to a matter of choice. External frames do allow you to carry heavier stuff and keeps your bug out bag off your back during hot weather but they can be on the heavy side. Internal frames tend to be smaller (easier to stash in a closet somewhere) and usually have some sort of internal structural support anyway.
Go to your local outfitter and try different types on, see what feels right.
A Note About Weight
Did you know that a gallon of water weighs 8.3 lbs? You need a gallon of water a day at a minimum for drinking and hygiene, so for a 72 hour Bug Out Bag you're looking at 25 lbs! That can effectively double the weight of your kit...and if you think you can hike around for very long with a 50 lb bag you need to do some homework...and a lot of preparation exercise! So you need to plan carefully for what you can reasonably bring with you.
|Persons Weight (lb.)||Max Backpack Weight (lb.)|
|200 or more||25|
There is an expression which states "Knowledge weighs nothing." If you know how to build a shelter, you don't have to carry one with you. If you know how to find water then you don't need to carry gallons of it. There are basic principles to Bushcrafting which can help you immensely should you find yourself in need of creating something from scratch.
You could also consider building a Rolling Bug Out Bag as we mentioned earlier, especially if you are like me, and don't like lugging huge weight on your back all day long.
Other Emergency Kit Types
WUSH stands for "Wake Up, Sh*ts Happening." It's an immediate evac kit.
EDC means Every Day Carry, and is a small kit to keep with you at all times.
GHB is a Get Home Bag, which you keep in your car or at your place of work.
INCH is a long term kit, I'm Never Coming Home implies your home has been destroyed and you will be without one for a long time.
It's worth looking into having these other kits as well, since you may not always be sitting at home when a disaster strikes - and may be facing a long walk just to get home. Look at all the stories of those who had to evacuate NYC while at work during 9-11 for examples of how an EDC or GHB would have been helpful.
Operations Security (OPSEC)
Another thing to consider when deciding what type of packs and gear to carry: if civil unrest is part of your bug out considerations, then having a tricked-out tactical backpack which screams "prepper" may attract trouble.
In those situations its probably best to look like you have no idea what you are doing, like the rest of us!
Keep the important things as well hidden as you can, so someone less honest than yourself doesn't help themselves to your emergency kit.
If none of this bothers you then go for tactical backpacks over camping because they include the MOLLE strap system on the outside and you can gear-up like crazy and are usually more durable than camping packs.
In case you were wondering where the term "Bug Out" came from; it very likely started during WWII but became popular during the Korean War (1950-1953.)
Some sources claim the original idea came from cartoons in the 1930?s, some say t's a term originating with the British, but it has always implied the "disorderly flight of bugs when discovered, particularly their scattering if several are discovered at one, such as under a rock or can."(*)
There was "The Big Bug Out" during the November to December retreat of 1950 when the Chinese openly intervened during the Korean War, and routed the US Army and Marines under the command of General MacArthur. The US Army was hit hard during the battle of the Ch'ong Ch'on River, and the South Korean troops that accompanied the 8th Army and X Corps fell apart quickly, and ran for the hills as soon as they engaged the Chinese. The US troops didn't like that much and the term "Bug Out" was coined.
So applying that idea to our Emergency Kits, we can see that the term fits well in terms of the retreating from danger idea, but it's our hope that these tutorials will help you be a little more prepared than a scattering insect should the need arise :)
We prefer the term "Bug Out Bag" to the also commonly used "Go Bag" for a few reasons: partly because it's got a nice ring to it, but mostly because it conveys the sense of urgency which would surround t's needed purpose in a better, more descriptive way.
A "Go Bag" feels like something you take with you almost anywhere, but a "Bug Out Bag" means things aren't looking so great, and it's time to split!