Bug Out Bags 101

Bug Out Bags 101:  Non-fiction Writing Contest Submission by Everyday Prepper

Bug Out Bags (BOBs) have been hotly debated on the internet for some time and while I don’t expect my post to put an end to the discussion I thought I would throw in my 2 cents for those readers out there that our just getting started.

Why Do We Need A Bug Out Bag?

Let me start of by saying that if you’re searching for information on survivalist or preppers then chances are you already realize the need to get ready for situations that may be out of your control.  These situations can include anything from a problem with your house to a world crisis.  As preppers we generally say you need to get ready for what you consider to be the most devastating realistic event you can think of. 

If you honestly believe that the worst thing that can happen is a tornado touches down and blows away your house then you should start preparing for that.  When you prepare for the worst you can think of you generally cover a whole broad spectrum of smaller things that you can’t think about or don’t want to think about.

When prepping for any event whether great or small one thing that is most likely needed across all situations is a way to leave wherever you are quickly and without too much thought about what you will need.  This is where the bug out bag comes in handy.  If prepared before an emergency then when an emergency comes you don’t have to think about what to grab.  

Now you may ask “What about the situations where I don’t need to leave and I need to stay instead?”  Well, you see, having the BOB didn’t hurt you and the supplies in the BOB can still be put to use where you’re at and you don’t have to scrounge around to find them.  Having one just makes sense and by creating one early in your prepping adventure you will find this to be one baby step toward your ultimate goal.

The .gov folks have stated that in any national emergency you should be prepared to get by for at least 72 hours by yourself without any assistance.  For a horribly real example of this look at what happen after hurricane Katrina.  As far as I can tell the .gov had been telling people about the 72 hour waiting period for some time and still people didn’t believe or they chose not to listen. 

We can look back and see what crazy things happen in the aftermath of the storm and while not every location lost control (although the media didn’t talk about the calm and reasonable people) some did.  I went to Mississippi shortly after Katrina to help in the relief effort on the coast and got to see what shelter life was like. 

I can promise you that you don’t want to be in that situation especially with a family.  Where we were staying was a camp ground about 30 minutes outside of the national guard lines that blocked the coast and there were tarp houses setup in the “primitive living” camp sites. 

We didn’t understand what that was about when we were there but looking back after visiting the shelters and hearing stories about what was going on at some of the shelters I can see how sleeping in a tarp house would be better than sleeping in a shelter. 

I say all of this to make you understand that if you buy gear now for a BOB and prepare for a 72 hour period extending that period becomes an easier and easier job.  You simply get more gear and also (more importantly) you get more knowledge about what it will take to survive an emergency.  The more prepared you are the less freaked out or panicky you will be in the time of emergency.

Who Needs A Bug Out Bag?

In my opinion every member of your family should have a BOB just for them.  Yes there will be duplicate supplies but as the saying goes “two is better than one” or as the survivalist saying goes “two is one and one is none”.  Having a BOB for each member of your family will ensure that you have the supplies you need to make it through a short-term emergency.

Where Do We Get A Bug Out Bag?

There are several prebuilt solutions available but in general I would stay away from them.  I personally believe your BOB should be tailored to you or your family members and the generic solutions just can’t promise that.  Also with a generic version you are paying for someone to assemble a group of cheap supplies. 

You can build a good BOB suited for you with good gear for around the same price or less most of the time.  Not only will you possibly save money but you will know the gear that is in your BOB instead of just reading about it in the printed 8.5×11 piece of paper that comes with your prebuilt BOB.

When To Use Your Bug Out Bag?

One of the most difficult questions to answer is “When do I use my BOB”.  There are many theories and many arguments but it really all come down to what you and your family plan to do during the emergency at hand.  With many emergencies staying at home and sheltering in place might be a necessity.  With other situations you may be forced to leave your home. 

Having plans for what you will do before hand makes the decision of when to use your BOB much easier because all the information doesn’t need to be weighed while you are stressed and going through the situation.  If you already know that in the event of a blizzard you will stay home, ride it out and contact some out-of-state relatives to let them know what you are doing then the decision to not use the BOB has already been made for you. 

The same is true for the situation where you know you will use your BOB if someone knocks on your door at 3am and tells you that you must be ready to leave your house in 5 minutes because you are being evacuated to a “safe” location because a wild-fire threatens your house.  Planning is what will help you determine when to use your BOB. 

Planning for every possible event that might happen is very important and can make your life much easier and a little less stressful during very stressful circumstances.

With that said however you can’t plan for all situations so you need to be ready to make a split second decision under stress at any given moment.
Here are some things you may want to consider when deciding to use your BOB.  (These are in no particular order)

  • Is your family safer at home or elsewhere
  • Are you worried this event could lead to lawlessness or vandalism
  • Is this a personal, community, state, national or world level crisis
  • How long will this emergency last
  • Is your family healthy enough to travel or be moved currently
  • Is the weather good enough to change locations
  • When you get to the other location will you be able to survive with only what you are bringing
  • Is there a way to not only survive but to thrive and prosper when you get to site b (not meaning get rich but meaning live and continue living once your BOB supplies run out)

What’s In A Bug Out Bag?

There are a lot of list on the internet about what items you should place in your BOB.  I don’t offer any individual items most of the time because it really all depends on your comfort level with the locations you will be bugging out to and through. 

For instance, if you are a seasoned backpacker and your plan is to escape 60 miles through the woods to a cabin that you own then your supply list may be very small.  The more you know the less you have to carry on your back.  This is especially true with bushcraft related skills but also applies to urban environments.

Here is a basic overview of what type of items you should have for most scenarios.

  • Shelter
  • Clothes
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Food
  • Hygiene


While you may be feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by building your first BOB it’s really not as bad as you think.  Going to the library to find books on backpacking or even going to a store and talking to the “experts” there will help you quite a bit.  Just remember the people at stores are there to sell you lots of stuff. 

Most of it you won’t need and much of it will just be dead weight that you have to carry on your back.   Overall you should really be looking to carry only about 25%-30% of your total body weight.   At first you will probably buy cheaper heavier equipment and that OK.  Don’t put off building a BOB just because you’re on a budget. 

My first BOB weighed almost 50% my total body weight and nearly killed me my first 10 mile hike.  Slowly but surely you’ll find lighter gear and you’ll learn what you don’t really need to carry.  All this will add up to a lighter and better BOB.  Get started today and you’ll be hooked, just don’t forget to actually practice some hiking and overnight stays with your BOB every once and awhile.

What is in your bug out bag…?

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. templar knight says:

    Everyday prepper,

    I have a BOB ready to go, but have a little different take on it. I have a tent, Katadyn water filter, clothes, extra boots, a large medical bag, a solar radio/light, some Mountain House freeze-dried food, and hygiene items in a plastic container, which I carry along with my backpack. My backpack has added weight due to a handgun and ammo. The plastic container allows me to carry a few more items, and enhance my BOB.

    • Lint Picker says:

      Is your plastic container carried within your backpack or is it carried separately? If separately, how do you carry it? I have sometimes included a 5-gallon bucket as part of my BOB, which I tie to the backside of my backpack. In the bucket, I carry sanitation supplies (toilet paper, poo powder and wag bags). Recently, I’ve eliminated the bucket (too noisy, too bulky), but am reconsidering it again now. A plastic bucket is very useful, so I think I’ll add a lid and re-attach it to my BOB and wrap paracord and/or duct tape to the handle to cut down on noise and to have both available for use when bugging out. A survivalist can never have too much paracord or duct tape!!!! 😉

      • templar knight says:

        Lint Picker,

        The plastic container is pretty light, except for the boots, and I have a strap attached to the container that hooks on to my backpack. My wife and I have bicycles that pull small trailers, which is where we intend to put the container. If I’m dodging bullets, then I plan to drop the boots and attach the container to my backpack.

        To make the container I bought a heavy plastic one, green in color, of medium size and drilled two holes in one end of the container, threaded an old strap from a Army dufflebag through the holes, cut a piece of plastic to reenforce the area where the cord goes through, and sealed it off. I use the strap latch to attach the container to my backpack.

        As for duct tape and paracord, two rolls and two 50-ft lengths in each BOB.

  2. Lint Picker says:

    Very good points. I especially liked your point that family members should have their own BOBs and that each one should carry redundancies. One question: Along with Hygiene, I presume you would include First Aid?

    It’s a good idea to pack items that have multiple uses.

    As examples: A good-quality multitool is probably better than a single-blade knife. 100′ of 550 paracord is probably more useful than rope, twine, and thread. Iodine will purify water, thwart infection, and work as ink. I know you didn’t list specific items because, as you said, each BOB should be personalized. However, I listed specifics just to give newbies some ideas of multi-use items. Mulitpurpose items in a BOB help a lot in limiting weight.

  3. My backpacks are basically the same one’s I go camping with, plus a few things that I don’t take when I go camping–like water purifiers. I’m not much of a believer in a quick collapse scenario–beyond natural disasters. Human’s can adapt to amazingly horrible living situations, when forced to, so I see societal problems as more of a 20 year decline, with perhaps a couple steep declines later this decade due to oil issues/ and economic woes that hit larger and larger percentages of people.

    Too much of “survivalism” involves some quick collapse scenario, most which are very unrealistic, perhaps EMP Solar events in 2013 have the largest chance of serious quick collapse type situation. Although, if warfare hits domestic soil–somehow, again something fairly unlikely I would say, at least this decade, in the 2020’s all bets are off–things will be very different, but I live life in smaller chunks, lots of collapse scenario’s for people are severe injuries, illnesses etc. the more likely personal collapses that a BOB etc will not help with.

  4. When several scenarios are possible, several bags are appropriate.

    If you ever had a phone ring at 2:30 in the morning and someone say the word “Alert” you know to be prepared. I kept my alert bag ready to go 24/7. This being in the 70s it might have been before the popularity of personal prepardness. But I also kept a bags for my family in case the real balloon went up.

    Today, my system is much the same. A crosscountry bag, bear essentials for a short period. A larger box for anything expect that might last, that go in the vehicle. Then moveout boxes that go in the back or the truck or trailer or even the boat. Having things organized to the duration of any stay away is good for me. If I need to take off from the boat for example for a day hike, my short bag is already for that period of time. It seems like common sence, I’m sure everyone packs in a similar manner. No reason to put a socket set in your hiking bag, but the vehicle gets the heavy tools. Medical supplies are in each bag, to differing degrees.

    Like lint picker, I like paracord. Used as is, strands used for thread and woevn in various ways to provide heavy use.

    I can stay for an indefinite period with my large Alice pack. Now is about the time to check the bags and change out for winter too. Where did I put my long-johns and gloves???

  5. axelsteve says:

    I have a tub in the back of my car with various things. I want to get an alice pack and assemble more of a get home bob for the trunk of the car.I plan more on getting home then bugging out if absolutly necesary. Steve

  6. Okielawman28 says:

    There is alot of various methods to the madness of a BOB, I think that everyone needs one and should be prepared for what ever may come. That being said, the idea of what to pack and how to go about it all depends on ones abilities and needs.

    Me myself, I have a simple military ruck with roughly half of the weight that I could carry when i was 18, lol. 35-45 lbs with various foods, ammo, clothing and survival essentials, water of course and a decent sleeping bag. With all of these I can stay gone or take care of myself and maybe one other person for a sustained period of time, my bug out location is much more prepared and ready for what ever may come but that is a matter of opinion.

  7. kimber_45 says:

    I have an Eagle A-III pack that i keep with me at all times unless I go with the family to town. My employer could ba a major terror target so I keep a few things in my bag in case i had to stay at work and couldnt get home for a few days or I had to walk the 28 miles home. I keep some MRE entrees and snacks for 2-3 days, some hygeine items, USGI Gortex rain suit, spare set of clothes, 3L camelbak bladder in pack, compass, TP, cant have fire stuff in the pack because i bring it in with me to work, but i have it in my truck, First Aid Kit, etc. I may not be comfortable, but i can survie to get home and that is what matters.

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