Everyone should have their own bug out bag (BOB). This means each capable person in the family should have one as well. It’s recommended to have a bug out bag that will allow your survival for at least 72 hours and I’m going to show you how to make the perfect bug out bag. Keep in mind your personal needs and wants are different than mine so you don’t have to follow this to a ‘t’. Also, your skill level will also be different, the more you know the less gear you need, the less you know the more gear you’ll need.
In order to do this we need to cover a few topics first so you know why you’re making one in the first place, and how exactly the bug out bag will allow you to survive.
What Are Bug Out Bags And Are They Necessary?
Bug out bags are popular among survivalists and preppers and refer to the term ‘bugging out’. Bugging out means heading for the hills to avoid disasters, threats, or simply when you’ve had enough of the world’s BS and want to get off the grid.
You’ll also often hear BOBs referred as a 72-Hour Bag, I’m Never Coming Home Bag (INCH Bag), Get Out Of Dodge Bag (GOOD Bag), EVAC Bag, Grab ‘N Go Bag, and a Battle Box. The BOB is necessary because it will contain important items that you will need in order to survive for at least 3 days walking distance as you make your way to your designated Bug Out Location (BOL). I say walking distance because you may not be able to leave your area by vehicle for a variety of reasons.
When Would You Use A Bug Out Bag?
The idea behind the BOB is to ensure you aren’t scrambling for supplies when shit hits the fan (SHTF) unexpectedly. The cause could be anything from a storm knocking out power, to severe natural disasters, to war breaking out. You can never be too prepared for when disaster strikes and you need to leave in a hurry.
Depending on your situation you’ll need to gear up for urban and/or wilderness survival, so think about your options and what’s best for survival in your environment.
Only use your BOB in true emergency situations, this isn’t your everyday camping or hiking bag.
We can’t control when disasters strike, but we can control how prepared we are. Remember hurricane Katrina? Tens of thousands we left stranded with no plan, no resources, left to scavenge and fend for themselves. Living in North America we have this idea that we’re in a protected bubble that can never burst, it’s naive to think we can never be affected by man-made disasters, natural disasters, terrorists attacks, etc.
With that out of the way, let’s build your BOB so you are ready when SHTF.
How To Make The Perfect Bug Out Bag
There are eleven categories you’ll need to fulfill to make your perfect BOB. Keep in mind that not everyone’s BOB will be the same, if you’re in a cold climate your needs will be different than those in a tropical climate. Don’t be afraid to change and adapt your gear over time as you figure out what you do and don’t need. Keep in mind having something is better than nothing, so get started today.
Building your BOB is a process and will take some time, unless you’re made of money and can go buy everything in one swoop, then by all means do it. Just don’t buy pre-made kits, they’re bags loaded with crap to look full at the cheapest price and maximum profit to the manufacturer. When it’s your and your family’s life on the line it’s best not to cheap out. Others have recommended to buy the items first then buy a bag to fit it all in.
Choosing The Bag
The bag needs to be comfortable on your back, fit all your gear, water resistant or water proof, compartmentalized, and high quality. Your medium to large sized bag should have kidney pads (hip belt) and padded shoulders.
When shopping for a backpack look for external or internal frame only. The framing will help distribute the backpack weight and reduce fatigue. For heavier loads and hotter climates an external frame backpack will make the heavy weight more manageable and allow air to flow between you and the bag. Internal frames are popular because of their sleek styling and ability to hug close to the body.
Something else to look for is the style of bag, not so you can be fashionable, but so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. If you look like you’re bugging out people around you will see you are prepared and want what you got. The less attention you bring to yourself the better.
Bigger doesn’t always means better, sure you can get a 70 L bag, but will you personally be able to carry that gear effectively over long distances? That’s something only you can answer. As a general rule, if a bag is 35 L it should be able to carry 30-35 lbs of gear [source].
Here are some great options to consider for your bug out bag:
- YAKEDA® 600D
- WOTOW 55L MOLLE Backpack
- TETON Sports Scout 3400
- Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack
- Snugpak Rocketpak Backpack
Category #1 – Water
Having water is an absolute must. The average human needs to drink at least 1L of water per day. The Mayo Clinic suggests much more, but in a survival situation that may not be possible. That said, bring as much as you can carry and separate water into different containers for easier weight distribution and convenience. If you lose or break a water container you don’t want that to be your only source of water storage. At the least you should have:
- Metal Canteen or Single-Walled Water Bottle – Ability to boil water when needed
- Collapsible Water Bottle – Not as durable but when empty they take up almost no space
- 32 oz. Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottle – These don’t leak and are crush resistant, a huge bonus
When your clean water runs out you’ll need a way to purify it, yes you can boil it for 10 minutes, but that’s not always possible. For convenient water purification include the following:
- Water Purification Tablets –
- Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System – Lighter and more compact than the LifeStraw
If budget, weight, and space allows a more robust water filtration system like the Survivor Filter PRO is a nice addition.
Category #2 – Food
After the basic necessity of water comes food. You’ll want food with a long shelf life, easy to eat, and lightweight. Chances are you’ll be burning a lot of energy so choose foods high in carbs and calories to keep the body working. The easiest way to bring long lasting and nutritious foods are:
- Energy/protein bars – Perfect for on-the-go snacking and mini-meals. A must have!
- MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) – A little pricey and may be overkill for your BOB, but they make for a convenient full meal.
- Dehydrated Camping Meals – Lightweight with long shelf life, but require water and a heat source.
Be sure to carry enough food to cover at least three days worth of energy. Ideally have enough to consume 2,200-3,000 +/- calories per day (depending on your anticipated activity level, age, sex, weight). Try to also bring other dried foods such as whole-grain rice, oatmeal, beef jerky, and nuts.
You have the food packed now you need a way to cook it and a means to boil water. To make life easier bring a cooking pot designed for camping. For more convenience a metal cup that fits on the bottom of your Nalgene bottle, like this GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Bottle Cup/Pot is perfect. For the sake of your budget you can simply use an empty coffee tin as a pot. An added bonus to the cooking pot is you can use it store small items in.
Don’t forget to add a spork so you can enjoy your delicious meals.
Category #3 – Shelter and Bedding
Without shelter you’ll succumb to the elements fast, 3 hours in extreme situations. Shelter is used to protect yourself, stay warm, and of course get a decent sleep. Being well rested will allow you to think clearly and perform physically. Add these essentials to your BOB:
- Military Poncho – Wearable and ability to be converted into shelter
- Reflective Emergency Blanket
- Waterproof Nylon Tarp – Use for shelter, ground cover, and many other things
- Lightweight Tent – Only if you have the space, they can be very expensive but the added protection and comfort is worth it
- Sleeping Bag – Your region will determine the temperature rating. Look for lightweight, mummy hooded sleeping bags.
- Sleeping Pad – Or make a bough bed
- Wool Blanket
Depending on your skill level and the scenario you find yourself in, you can make shelter out of almost anything, but if time is of the essence then carrying the above gear will save your life. If you think it’s too much then the absolute minimum you need to carry is the Military Poncho, Reflective Emergency Blanket, and Sleeping Bag.
Category #4 – Fire and Heat Sources
Fire is needed to boil water, cook food, stay warm, and signal for help. The ability to create fire cannot be overlooked. Read my Best Fire Starter Kit guide for more info and be sure to add, at the very least, these fire starter items:
Creating fire is not instant and requires time and skill to use the above tools. Some other heat sources to include in your BOB are:
- Esbit Stove – A lightweight and popular choice for small cook pots and one cup meals. It uses fuel tablets to bring water to a boil but also allows the use of small twigs should you run out of tablets.
- WetFire – Lights on fire even when wet, a huge plus!
Getting tinder to burn is the easiest (although sometimes not that easy) part of fire creation. The real skill is building and maintaining a fire, we’ll save that guide for another day.
Category #5 – Clothing
Clothing is a tricky subject because it entirely depends on where and how you’ll be bugging out, your body type, and personal tolerances. What we do know for sure is that no matter where you are in the world you’ll need protection from the elements (hot or cold) and being wet is awful.
Avoid cotton, it holds moisture and takes forever to dry, which is the complete opposite of what we want. Look for quick-drying, moisture wicking, durable, and loose-fitting clothes in bland colours, just in case you need to hide. As a general guideline have two sets of the below, wear one set and the other in your bag. Use common sense to determine what you do and don’t need depending on your climate:
- Long pair of zip-off pants – Lightweight wool blend or poly-nylon blend
- Lightweight Long Sleeve Shirt
- Lightweight Short Sleeve Shirt
- Brimmed Hat
- 2 Changes of Underwear
- Base layer/thermal underwear
- 3 Pairs of Wool Hiking Socks
- Work Gloves
- Shemagh – Useful in all climates for wind, sun, sand, and snow protection along with hundreds of other uses
- Fleece Hat
- Mid-weight Fleece Jacket
- Heavy-Weight Fleece Jacket
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
- Wind and Rain Breaker
- Winter Gloves
I didn’t include a Military Poncho since it’s listed in the ‘Shelter’ category, so don’t forget it! It’ll provide a means of shelter and protect you and your gear from rain and wind.
Category #6 – Tools & Gear
When you have the proper tools and know how to use them you won’t need to bring many. Versatility is key. With only a sharp survival knife you’ll be okay since you can do almost anything with it. But we want better than just ‘okay’ right? Include the below tools and gear:
- Full Tang, Fixed Blade Survival Knife
- Machete – Not a necessity, but can make life easier when cutting through brush or chopping wood
- Folding Saw
- 20-30′ Duct Tape
- 50’+ Paracord Rope
- Pealess Whistle
- Signal Mirror
- Flashlights – Carry a few LED flashlights
Category #7 – First Aid and Protection
Without a first aid kit you’ll be in a heap of trouble. You can build your own personal first aid kit or buy a pre-made one then remove and/or add what you need. By building your own you know exactly what you brought and how it’s organised. This saves you time and frustration for when you need something and need it now. Your BOB needs:
- First Aid Kit – Be sure to include medicine!
- Insect Repellent
- Lip Balm
- Sun Screen – Choose your preferred SPF, I always go with 60 SPF
- Poison Ivy and Poison Oak Protection and Cleaner
Category #8 – Hygiene
Personal hygiene is often overlooked but is very important. Being clean will ward off bacteria and infection, the last thing you need when trying to survive is to get sick. Be sure to carry these:
- Wet Naps
- Hand Sanitizer
- All-Purpose Camp Soap
- Small Pack of Towels
- Toilet Paper
- Travel Size Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss
- Other Personal Hygiene Necessities
Category #9 – Communication and Information
You’ll need a means to communicate to the outside world, whether it’s because you’re in danger and need to call for help, or simply need to learn what’s going on to determine if it’s best to stay put or move locations. Remember that batteries die so use sparingly. There are several options to keep your electrics powered, such as a hand crank power charger or portable solar power system, so choose what’s best for you and add these to your BOB:
- Cell Phone
- Hand Crank Emergency Radio
- Map of Area
- Personal Documents – ID, passport, health card, SIN card, debit and credit cards, etc. Keep in waterproof map case
- Rite in the Rain Notebook and Pencil
Category #10 – Hunting and Self Defense
A tricky subject, at least here in Canada, because the government hates personal protection. If you carry a knife it must only be used as a tool and nothing else. For example, if you were attacked and were forced to use the knife to defend yourself the courts could then determine that the only reason you had the knife was to inflict damage to a person, so it’s now a weapon (illegal) and not a tool (legal)…
Obviously don’t be the source of a criminal act or conceal weapons and you’ll be okay, maybe. If SHTF and it becomes the Wild West all over again you’ll want a means of protection because people are dicks and will begin rioting and looting. Not only that, you may need to begin hunting for your food.
Stay safe by avoiding conflict and dangerous situations in the first place!
Be sure to look up your local laws on what you can and can’t carry. I won’t be held responsible for your actions. That said, here are the top hunting and self defense “tools” you can carry apart from your chosen survival knife:
Of course don’t forget to carry ammunition for your guns and arrows for your bow. Be sure you are properly trained and licensed and that your guns are secured properly according to your local laws.
Category #11 – Misc. Items
Below are some more items you should carry if you have the room and the weight is okay to carry for a few days. Everyone has different needs and strength so pack appropriately:
- Spare Batteries
- Steel Wool – Create fire with batteries
- Ziploc and Various Plastic Bags
- Sewing Kit
- Fishing Kit
- Trapping Wire
- Dust Masks
- P38 Can Opener
- Knife Sharpener
- Pocket Sized Survival Guide
- Rubber Surgical Tubing – Many uses such as straw, slingshot, tourniquet, etc.
- $500-$1,000 – Yes, you will need money especially in an urban environment
How To Make The Perfect Bug Out Bag Summary
There is no ‘perfect bug out bag’ per se but, there is a perfect BOB for YOU. I’ve done my best to list the essentials you should not be left without no matter the situation. The most important being water, food, shelter, and fire.I appreciate you reading this guide and I hope I’ve been able to provide some valuable information. But the creation of your BOB is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to continually educate yourself and practice using the tools and survival tactics before SHTF. You’ll need a plan and location you’ll be bugging out to/
For a much more in depth look into the bug out bag and more you have to read ‘Build The Perfect Bug Out Bag, Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit‘ by Creek Stewart. It’s an easy read with lots of pictures to give you the visual aspect of what he’s writing about. He goes way more in depth into building a BOB, the mentality of surviving, planning, and much more. Read my full review of Build The Perfect Bug Out Bag here.
Here are some other great sites for your BOB inspirations:
- Real Survivalist | Best Bug Out Bag
- Bug Out bag Academy | Free Bug Out Bag List
- Gray Wolf Survival | How I Built My Ultimate 25 Pound Bug Out Bag
- Survival Cache | Bug Out Bag
- Art Of Manliness | How to Make a Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Emergency Evacuation Survival Kit
- ‘Build The Perfect Bug Out Bag‘ by Creek Stewart