"Bug Out Bags are a waste of time and money!"
I heard this said a few times and I see where people are coming from. Many companies out there try to sell an “end of the world” theory but their motives are based on fear rather than hope.
Truth be told, if the world ended the way it’s advertised in movies, I’m not sure I would want to live to tell my story. If that were to really happen, I don’t think anyone would be fully prepared for it, nor is it worth the stress.
The truth is that we're not invincible and something is bound to happen to us at some point of our lives. It's vital to keep a bag of basic supplies handy in case you're given a mandatory notice to evacuate quickly.
Think of it this way: not having a bug out bag is like traveling without luggage.
Any time you travel, you bring with you certain items you can’t live without, such as, a toothbrush, a few changes of clothing, a cell phone charger, to name a few. Bug Out Bags are intended to serve a similar purpose. In case you need to evacuate, you should have some basic things ready. I have been evacuated on several occasions, and the times I was unprepared, I would fear that if anything happened to my home, I would lose valuable documents. Thankfully, I was never in a situation that I needed immediate medical assistance, but had I been, I would have used many products in my go-bag. In mass-scale disasters, I wouldn’t rely fully on the government as a source of help. President George W. Bush was criticized by the delayed response to Hurricane Katrina. President Donald Trump has also been heavily criticized with respect to Hurricane Harvey and Irma, but time will show the effects of how well, or weak, his response was. These situations go to show that the government isn’t fully prepared to combat natural disasters. Even though we live in a relatively advanced country, there are many holes in the system, so to speak.
The government doesn’t have all the answers and will not protect us as we wish it could. In immediate need, there may be evacuation shelters, but there’s no guarantee that there will be enough supplies or services for everyone in need. Therefore, a Bug Out Bag is not only the smart thing to own, but it’s also a necessary item in your household. Rest assured that even your basic needs will be met, even if the government resources are not there to back you up.
Don’t look at your Bug Out Bag (BOB) as a piece of equipment that will sit in your closet collecting clutter. Instead, prepare a BOB with the intention that it can potentially save your life and your family members’ lives. Purchase items that are made with quality, even if they cost a little more. If your life depended on it, you would want to have reliable tools.
Make sure you prepare yourself for at least the first 72 hours following an emergency.
Three days is the minimal amount of time you should prepare for, although a 14-day bag is recommended. The importance of a bug out bag is to keep you warm, dry, hydrated, fed and safe until emergency personnel arrive, which in many cases can take up to three days, if not more.
What should I have in my bug out bag?
To prepare your bug out bag, first consider how many people you’re preparing for. Ideally, you will create one Bug Out Bag per person in your family. Babies, elderly people, and pets should have their own bags as well, considering their specific needs, such as diapers, medication, and food.
The convenient thing about making your own bag is that you can customize it to your particular needs. Personalize your bag according to your location, personal preferences, and climate. Think of the vital items you’ll need to increase your chances of survival based on the potential emergencies likely to affect your area (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes…you get the idea).
There are several items important for your well-being and survival. We’ll explore these in their respective categories:
- Hygiene/ First Aid
- Signaling/ Communication
- Important items / Miscellaneous
Make sure you have at least 2 liters of water per person per day. It will be very heavy to carry 6 liters of clean water, so try out these alternative methods instead.
- Water Purification Drops or Tablets: I recommend this one because it is all natural, doesn’t contain any chemicals and leaves no after taste.
- Water Filter: I used this one on a backpacking trip in Central America and it was amazing! I never got sick and it’s super lightweight and convenient to store and carry.
- Water Pouches: These are amazing because they have a 5 year shelf life and they’re BPA free. If you don’t use them within five years, take them on a hiking trip before they expire, and add a new set to your backpack. It’s good to have a few of these because as soon as an emergency hits, you won’t need to go looking for water. As things settle, you’ll have more time for that, which is where the filter and purification drops come in handy.
The goal is to prepare enough food for each person to eat a minimum of 2,300 calories per day. In emergency situations, you’ll want to eat well-balanced meals with the appropriate amount of protein, minerals, vitamins, fats and carbs. It’s important to plan this ahead of time, because in stressful situations we tend to eat whatever we see, without considering the effects food has on the body. Staying healthy will be your greatest weapon for your survival. Also consider appropriate meal alternatives if a family member has food sensitivities.
- Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) and Freeze-Dried Meals: Buy pouches that are easy and quick to prepare, and only require water!
- High-Energy Granola Bars: Purchase CliffBars, KIND bars, or make them homemade with your favorite ingredients.
- Multi-Purpose Knife: This one is a must-have, simply because it serves multiple uses (as the name suggests).
- Fishing Kit: This comprehensive kit is perfect for bugging out because it has all the tools to catch fish and cook it too!
- Hearty and Filling Snacks: Oatmeal packets / Honey / Trail Mix
- Emergen-C Packets: These are essential for boosting your immune system.
- Veggie / Chicken Bouillon Cubes: Soup will always taste better than plain boiled water.
- Baking Soda: This is technically not food, but it's a versatile item that can be used in a vast number of ways and is especially necessary in baking. Check out 50 clever ways to use baking soda in emergency situations here!
- Spork: One per person
- Frisbee: It can be used as a dish, and also as a frisbee to have fun and pass the time.
- Cooking Set: This set is lightweight and ideal for backpacking. It can be used in camping trips, not just bug out emergencies. It is easy to clean and perfect for cooking freeze dried meals.
Keep in mind what climate you will be prepping for. In hot temperatures, you could get hyperthermia (heat stroke). In cold temperatures, you could get hypothermia (cold exposure). Make sure you have prepared the appropriate clothing. Store them in a large Ziploc bag to keep them waterproof.
- Extra Change of Comfortable Clothes:Long socks / Underwear / Leggings / Long-sleeve shirt / Jacket
- Head Covering: Hat / Bandana / Beanie / Scarf
- Rain Poncho: You can also use a large black trash bag for this too!
- Shoes: They can be hung outside of your bag with a carabiner, to save space inside your backpack.
- Work Gloves
In the event that you can’t make it to a government evacuation shelter or one hasn’t been set up yet, make sure you have the basics for your own shelter. Think camping! Again, this is emergency-based, so it doesn’t have to be luxurious, but you have to make it alive through the night in whatever weather you’re in.
- Waterproof Tarp: It’s best to go with a tarp 8 ft. x 10 ft. in size. You can find these at home improvement stores or Amazon. They’re fairly inexpensive and super versatile. I recommend this one because it’s under 2 lbs, so it’ll be easy to carry and store in your backpack.
- Parachute Cord: Also known as paracord, this is an amazing tool to have. It can be helpful in multiple scenarios. Ideally you want at least 50 ft.
- Emergency Survival Blanket: Emergency blankets are made to retain a person’s body heat while keeping the cold out. It’s also a versatile product with multiple uses. It can be used to protect clothes in rainy weather, and can even be made into an antenna to boost cell and radio reception, amongst other things.
- Emergency Survival Sleeping Bag: To sleep through the night, I prefer this over an emergency blanket, only because it will cover your entire body. With the blanket, you may have gaps that let some of the cold air in, especially moving around at night. For adults, a sleeping bag is the best alternative. However, to avoid suffocation, it’s best that children use blankets instead of a sleeping bag.
- Hand Warmers: I have used these under my gloves and in my shoes during skiing trips and they work wonders! Definitely I would have at least 2 per person, per day. Wear these when sleeping inside your emergency sleeping bag to keep your extremities warm.
- Large Black Trash Bag: I would have at least 2 in my bag. Again, this is a versatile product- you can use it as a rain poncho, as a cover for your backpack to stay dry, as a source for gathering water, and many other things!
- Lighter: I prefer to have two, in case one decides to stop working on me. Another option is waterproof matches, or matches inside a ziplock bag to keep them dry.
- Steel Wool: If you rub a battery on the steel wool, you’ll instantly have sparks. This one is a good choice because it’s super fine.
- Compact Tampon: The cotton in tampons is flammable. You will want to make the tampon extra fluffy so the flame catches on quicker and lasts a little longer to light the rest of the tinder.
- Birthday Trick Candles: I’m talking about the kind that don’t blow out easily, like these ones. Remember going to birthday parties where they used these candles? The kids would try over and over again to blow out the candle but it took multiple tries. Well, these are perfect for getting your fire going without the wind blowing it out first.
- Wire Saw: Sometimes you need tinder and branches. This heavy-duty saw will make it easy to cut these down.
- Petroleum Cotton Balls: On a future post, I will show you how to make these but they also work wonders for starting a fire.
Hygiene and first aid
- First Aid Kit: Including the basics, such as: bandaids, gauze, antiseptic swabs, painkillers, etc.
- Toothbrush: One per person
- Feminine Products
- Toilet Paper
- Microfiber Towel: This one is super lightweight and dries very quickly. I use mine in all my backpacking and camping trips and it dries within an hour (or less if it’s a windy day). Plus, it doesn’t take up much room at all and it’s really light.
- Sewing Kit
- Lip balm / Lotion / Sunscreen
- Insect Repellent
- Baby Wipes
Signaling and communication
- Glow in the Dark Sticks
- Flashlight / Headlamp: (with batteries!)
- AM/ FM Radio: (with batteries!)
- Signaling Mirror: Any mirror will work.
- HAM Radio
- Cell Phone: Make sure to include a solar-powered charger
- Signal Flares
Put all of these items (with a pen and pencil) in a ZipLock bag to keep them water proof.
- Copies of:
- Birth certificates
- Driver’s license / ID
- Important phone numbers
- There are many other important documents you may need. That's why we dedicated a post just for that. We even provided a free checklist that you can print to help guide you. Find the complete list here!
- Cash: Have at least $100 in small bills. ATM machines and credit cards might not be working during emergency situations. It will be vital to keep cash at hand.
- Any Guide Book of Your Choice: edible plants / first aid / survival and disaster preparedness.
- Heavy-Duty Backpack:This is the most important item! You want a durable waterproof backpack to carry all the items we discussed above. I like this one because it has a lot of pockets to keep things organized. If you don’t like too many pockets, this backpack is another amazing choice. It is made of high-density durable fabric.
- Playing Cards
- Super Glue
- Zip Ties
- Duct Tape
- Compass / Map
- Extra Items: Make sure you remember the needs of your babies, children, elderly family members living with you, and pets. Maybe you need to have their prescription medications or copies of medical records handy.
What is the best bug out backpack?
The best bug out bag really depends on the supplies that are in a kit as well as the quality and durability of those supplies.
Building a good bug out bag takes time and can become expensive.
That is why we recommend buying an already made backpack and adding the rest of the essentials that it may be lacking, such as a folder with your important documents, prescription medication, and extra cash.
If you're looking for a great quality bug out bag, this deluxe backpack is perfect for two people! It includes many of the items that will help sustain you during the 72 hours that follow a disaster. To this kit, you can add any personal items.
Print this list to check off the items you already have and determine which ones you need!
How much should my bug out bag weigh?
As far as weight goes, try to keep your bag under 30 pounds. The heavier it is, the more difficult it will be to carry it.
What’s good about the bug out bag is that it doesn’t occupy much space. I recommend finding a corner in one of your closets at home and hanging it in an accessible area.
These are my comprehensive tips for creating your own personal go-bag. To many it might be cost and time effective to purchase a pre-made bag. The only disadvantage to that is that they are not usually made to order, but you can always personalize it with your own must-have items. If you’re looking for a pre-made bug out bag, I recommend you check out these backpacks.
Make your bug out bag a priority! It will bring you a lot of comfort knowing you have it ready for the day when you do need it.
Did I miss any B.O.B must-haves? Let me know in the comments below!! What are some of your favorite go-bag items?
Also, I'm curious...have you ever had to use your bug out bag? What are some items you wish you would have had or been better prepared with?
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