The Basic Bug-Out Bag

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What’s a bug-out bag? It’s a simple, pre-packed bag with light, basic survival and emergency supplies. It’s the kind of thing you’ll keep in your car trunk or coat closet. If you have to leave in a hurry (aka “bug out”), you just need to grab this bag and you’re on the go.


Emphasis is on just sticking to essentials and being aware of the weight of the bag; You may be required to walk over rough terrain to reach safety. Keep everything light and avoid things that aren’t absolutely necessities. Next is ease of use. You don’t want to be wondering how that complicated water filter works when you’re under pressure. We can learn a lot from our friends in the ultra-light hiking/camping community here.


  • Basic pack – should have a good shoulder straps that allow you to wear it for a good long while and leave your hands free. Doesn’t have to be fancy or military-spec though. I know people that do well with “Hello Kitty” back packs.
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  • Water filter straw – I used to advocate the larger filter tools, but they are a lot more expensive and complicated to use. These are no hard than using a drinking straw and do a fantastic job of making even the worst water drinkable. Light weight and throw-away-cheap, these are the poster-child for casual survival
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  • Emergency food: I like the flavor of the Mainstay Ration Bars (a pleasant lemony/cookie flavor), but there are many options if you want something else. Assume you’ll want at least 1200 calories per day, per person and you want to supply for at least 2 to 3 days, though more is always better as long as you don’t over-load yourself.
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  • Water: in addition to your filter (above), have at least one or two bottles of water handy. Two small (.5 liter) bottles seem to work nicely, though watch out if you’re storing the bag in an area that freezes.
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  • 1 pair of dry socks:
  • 1 or 2 mylar emergency blankets
  • Area map
  • Important information – contact information, allergies or medical conditions of note, important account information (insurance, banking, etc). Identity information, such as an expired driver’s license or old passport.
  • pocket sized tissues
  • LED flashlight
  • small role of heavy tape 
  • Locking sandwich bags (ziplock bags, etc) – get a couple of these, and at least one or two large ones. We’ll use these to keep things dry like many of the paper products listed here.
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Optional items:

  • fire making supplies: such as one or two inexpensive bic lighters.
  • Multitool.
  • radio
  • Cash.
  • More clothes; a good pair of walking shoes, sturdy gloves
  • pocket ponchos



Some items do have a limited shelf life. Even the bottled water is only good for so long. Be sure that you check your kit every so often and plan on replacing things that have expired. A good rule of thumb is to check your smoke detectors every six months – just make a note to check your emergency kits at the same time.


While I don’t normally advocate a formal first-aid kit, if you require special medication for your continued well-being that you should definitely consider looking at ways to maintain a small extra supply. Though worst case, you run through the medicine cabinet on your way out the door. Don’t let it sweat you.


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