Survival Guides

How to Build A Bug Out Bag

Ask any prepper and he or she will tell you that you have one of two options during an emergency. You can either hunker down until the crisis is over or you can “bug out.” When you need to bug out, you need to rely on your bug out bag to keep you alive and well until you reach a safe location for long-term stay.

I know what you’re thinking, “oh look another bug out bag list.” We promise you, this isn’t going to just be another boring bug out list. I’ve compiled a list of about 50 items that are absolutely essential to your safety and health, and I’ve even broken them down into useful categories.

Choosing a Bug Out Bag

Before we even get into the essentials you need for your bug out bag, the first item on your list is the bag itself. How you pick your bag is really up to you, but generally most preppers rely on one of two principles:

1) You should pick a bag that is best for you and only you

2) You should choose a bag after you’ve already collected the items you need

It doesn’t really matter which bag you choose, but keep in mind you will need a functional, portable bag that can be taken within minutes of an emergency developing. So going to extremes (too big or too small) probably isn’t the best idea.

Okay, enough with the boring stuff, let’s talk about the essentials you need in your bug out bag.

Bug Out Bag Essentials

Water & Hydration

Hands-down, the most important part of your bug out bag is water & hydration. The human body can only survive without water for about 72 hours, whereas most adults can last over a week without food. Water is an absolute must-have in your bug-out bag. You need about a liter per day and at least a few days available. We recommend the following:

  • Two liters of water
  • Hard water bottle
  • Canteen
  • Water purification tablets
  • Water filters

Food & Meal Preparation

Next to water, food is the most important supply you can possibly have. Most bug-out-bag lists tend to recommend various foods, mostly off the shelf, dehydrated, and store-bought items. Personally, I recommend carrying a variety of non-perishable items, some of which may require water.

To be safe, you’ll need to pack at least three days worth of food. You should also use metal cookware and utensils for heat-resistance, durability, and for safety reasons. We recommend:

  • Six to Eight protein bars
  • Three dehydrated meals
  • Can opener
  • Metal cooking pot
  • Small portable stove
  • Stove fuel
  • Scrubbing utensil


Choosing clothing can be a bit more difficult because we all have different body types, preferences, and live in different areas. It’s always a good idea to re-evaluate your clothing selection for your bug out bag every six months or so, and it’s a good idea to replace items as needed.

As a rule of thumb, always have two sets of clothing so you change in the event your clothing gets wet. The worst thing in a bug-out situation is wet clothes. Wet clothes can lead to hypothermia and they’re extremely uncomfortable. In my personal bug-out bag, I’ve got the following:

  • Two pairs of wool socks
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirt
  • Convertible pants
  • Working gloves
  • Rain poncho
  • One short sleeve t-shirt
  • Medium weight fleece
  • Hiking shorts
  • Underwear

Adjust what you bring based on your location, eliminate, and preferences. Just be sure to at least pack for the elements in the event you travel further or to a different location than your bug-out shelter.

Bedding & Shelter

After water, food, and clothing, things become a little less serious. For example, bedding & shelter is still important, but you’ve got a better shot at finding bedding & shelter than you do food & water in an emergency situation.

Plus, you can make a shelter within a few hours outdoors if you really need to. If your bug out bag can accomodate some extra bedding though, consider:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Ground Pad
  • Thermal blanket


Heat is important for a variety of reasons. It’s a means to stay warm, to dry wet clothes, and to cook any food you need to prepare before eating. Having a backup source to make fire is also essential because if your primary source fails, you’re otherwise out of luck.

We recommend having at least:

  • Ignition Source
  • Tinder
  • Waterproof storage for said materials

First Aid

There are several “done for you” type products out there for first aid, and while some are great, most aren’t useful for a bug out bag. The general topic of first aid could easily warrant a dozen posts, but we’ll keep things simply by insisting you have.

  • A basic first aid kit
  • Insect repellant
  • Any and all medications
  • Paper towels
  • Hand sanitizer


If you’re bugging out, there’s a good chance you’re going to be in the dark for a little while. Having multiple sources of light is essential because like anything, your light source could fail or run out of batteries at any time, leaving you in a difficult situation. This is why we recommend:


Self defense is the area where most preppers seem to get a little crazy about. It’s true that self defense warrants serious discussion because if you’re in a bug out situation, then you’re in the severest of situations – like the kind of situations where you could potentially die. Whether you choose a handgun, a hunting rifle, an assault rifle, or even just pepper spray, you’ll need to be adequately prepared to defend yourself and your family.

We personally recommend carrying:

  • A handgun
  • Pepper spray/tazer
  • One rifle
  • At least 200 rounds of ammunition


We put tools right next to self-defense because this is the second area that preppers tend to go crazy about. You don’t need every tool and gadget that’s out there. Most of those tools are useless anyways. What you really need is a select group of multi-tools that serve a variety of functions. You can get away with:

  • Machete
  • Multi-tool
  • Survival knife

Literally, that’s it. If you want to take more, go for it – but you likely won’t need it.


Communications is often overlooked, but it can be essential to your bug out situation – especially if you’ve got a family/small group going with you. We’ll keep things pretty simple for you (we’ve tried to do this the entire time), so only bring these items with you:

  • Set of walkie-talkies
  • Cell phone
  • Emergency radio
  • Solar charger


We promise we’re almost done. There are some additional items you need to bring that may not fit into any of the categories we mentioned above, but are still important and can have several uses:

  • Duct tape
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Cash
  • Sunglasses
  • Sewing kit
  • Fishing kit
  • Binoculars
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Towels/Toilet paper

And there you have it. This is our guide on how to build a bug out bag. We aren’t experts or certified in any way, but it is our goal to provide you with the best information out there. We still make mistakes and forget things from time to time. If you feel we’ve missed an item, please share by commenting below. We always want to hear from our readers, and we strive to help our readers best prepare for the worst, so give us a shout if we’ve made a mistake.

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