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The Essential Bug-Out-Bag

The idea of strapping everything you need onto your back and fleeing your home is not something that inspires lighthearted feelings. But the reality of our world in its current condition requires that those of us who can read the signs plan ahead for when disaster strikes. A bug-out-bag isn’t just something that you should think about or put on your list of things to do at some point in the future. It is something you should have prepared and ready to go NOW.

Prepping for an emergency is not a hobby. Sure, it’s fun to dig around the Internet and look at all the flashy new gizmos that are advertised as β€œmust-haves,” but when it comes down to what you absolutely need to take with you in a survival situation, serious considerations must override popular trends. Survival is not about comfort or luxury, it’s about using what is most readily available and efficient to get the job done. The items that go into a bug-out-bag need to be versatile, lightweight and durable. The fewer items the better. Carry only what is needed.

The Bag

The pack you carry on your back in a SHTF situation should have adequate space and be capable of standing up to a great deal of abuse. The correct pack for you is the one that you feel fits your body the best. Things like a hipbelt and a sternum strap can be real gamechangers when it comes to putting miles on your boots, as they allow you to carry your load in places that optimize your ability to hike long distances.

It’s great if you can get your hands on the kind of pack that has specialized compartments within it. Delegating where specific items are stored in your bug-out-bag is something that helps both peace of mind as well as functionality. It’s also fine if you choose to use a bag that doesn’t have those kind of options, just make sure you’ve prioritized your essentials before you load them up. Separating the items into categories of food, clothes, shelter, survival, and tools is a great way to get a handle on things.


In a survival situation, you will likely have to scavenge food from the environment around you. The vitals that you carry in your pack need to be just enough to get you through the first push, until you can find more food, water, and hopefully safety.

Water (3 liters)

Small pot


Bottle of bleach (6-ounces)

MRE (x3)


Note: These prepackaged individual food rations have a minimum shelf life of 3 years. MREs provide 1200 calories. They include a water-activated exothermic heating pack, and do not require cooking. They also come with a plastic utensil.


You’re going have the clothes on your back, let’s just go ahead and assume that. But you will need these bare essentials to make it through unforeseen circumstances and potentially hazardous weather conditions.

Wool socks (x3)

Rain gear (pants and jacket)



Note: This headwrap is a priceless addition to your bug-out-bag. If you can’t get your hands on a proper balaclava, a beanie or wool stocking cap can work as well. The advantage of the balaclava is that its form can be manipulated, you can use it as a scarf or a tourniquet.


When it comes to finding or building shelter, we’re not talking about a long-term set up. In a bug-out situation you are not looking to homestead or farm. You only need the raw materials below and some help from the surrounding habitat to create a temporary home.


Sleeping bag

550 cord


Note: paracord is probably the most versatile and easily obtainable cordage available, but any cordage is better than no cordage at all. Fishing line, twine, thread… anything.


In a sense, the entire bug-out-bag is about survival, but these items cover your physical well-being in case of emergency.

Ignition source

First aid kit


Tinder box


Note: a small Altoids box, filled with dry tinder is an efficient way to ensure that you have dry material to get a fire going, even in wet weather.


This is the part of prepping a bug-out-bag where people tend to go overboard. Everyone loves tools, toys, gadgets and gizmos. The thing is, you don’t really need (nor can you afford to carry) a hardware store in your pack. Traveling light, remaining adaptable and choosing to bring only what you absolutely must have is key.



Handgun (2 full clips)

Flashlight with extra batteries

Duct Tape


These are items that border on being expendable. While adding any or all of them to your bug-out-bag could greatly enhance your chances of survival, they are not must-haves. Many of the below items are things that are situation specific, or somewhat expensive. In short, they’re a good idea if you can spare the cash and carry the weight, but you can get by without them just fine.

200 dollars in small bills

Gold or silver coins

Take-down rifle



Heavy trash bags

Large zip lock bags


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  • I think it is essential to be ready for anything my area is prone to flooding I keep a bag ready with supplies and cloths ready in case I have to go to my relative on higher ground keep you medications in the bag also in the original bottle not in an unmarked container in case you get stop by the police

  • By the by, I believe most pistols use magazines rather than clips. I don’t want to quibble, but …. I sort of like a .22 LR/mag for my bug-out bag. You can obtain some for $200 or so, and when it is in my bag I probably will not be using it and you can carry many rounds with little weight. True, the .22 does not have the power of a .357 but it will kill, so you can eat and protect yourself.
    It is difficult to make a bug-out bag that does not weigh much. As I am old and cannot go far or do much, I’m more into bugging-in place. In my truck, I do keep a large storage case with necessities such as shoes, clothing, axe, machete, hunting knife, tarp, rope, hat, etc. I always carry a side-arm anyway.

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