No prepper blog worth its salt would be complete without a big ole' post about your Bug Out Bag List and Bug Out Gear Reviews. Here we're going to tackle a few critical points. First, how does a Bug Out Bag differ from a government sponsored Emergency Kit List? Next, should you bug out in the first place? We'll create a general list (because there aren't enough Bug Out Bag Lists out there) and then we'll talk about personalization. Most of this is pure common sense, but we've found that it really helps to think through different emergency scenarios to help add to out mental (and written) pre-planned responses to threat.
Bug Out Bag List vs. Emergency Preparedness?
A Bug Out Kit is really nothing more than an evacuation kit. BUT, it's created by someone who has taken their head out of the sand to realize a few things:
- People aren't always nice to you when they're desperate.
- "They" (the local, state, or federal government), won't always show up to help quickly.
- Temporary or permanent loss of infrastructure means no electricity, running water, or communication via cell phone (because the cell towers need juice, too)
What Isn't a Bug Out Bag?
Okay, let's be realistic. Even though it sounds like great fun, your Bug Out Gear is not what you'll need to a) live off the land like a pioneer indefinitely, or b) participate in an armed insurrection against a hostile government takeover. (If you're laughing right now it's because you considered those scenarios. Admit it! We all have.)
You probably don't need to start a fire using 12 different methods. You can probably leave those snares at home. If you're bringing your AR-15 it's probably because you don't want it looted from your home while you're away. And rather than pack a whole library of survival manuals, wouldn't it just be easier to load a few onto the Kindle or Nook app on your cell phone?
So the difference between our Bug Out Gear and the FEMA Emergency Preparedness list is simple. To the basics of food, stored water, first aid, and sanitation we consider a few salient points:
- Desperate people are bad people= Carry a gun
- The government doesn't always show up quickly= Pack a water filter and extra calories
- Cell phone towers may not work= Have a portable radio, compass, and some real maps
Should You Bug Out or Bug In (Hunker Down)?
Let's begin with the most common, likely scenarios in which we'll find ourselves in the middle of an infrastructure collapse or pause. While not the most crushing possibilities long-term, natural disasters are frequent across most of the country. Nature doesn't pull any punches.
Assess your location and local population density. If your area is densely populated or you live in an apartment, your need to bug out is increased exponentially. If your home is along a main road you will probably need to bug out.
Why the difference? Because people aren't nice when they're desperate. Your tight knit urban neighborhood or apartment complex is full of people who will not prepare at all. In very short order they will turn into groups of roaming beggars and thieves. If you're close to a main road your house is a convenient target for roaming bands of brigands looking for food, water, and comfort.
In about a day any water they've stored will run out. In 3-5 days they won't have any food in their cabinets. They'll be hot or cold, thirsty and hungry, and people you thought you knew will do things you wouldn't expect. This is the reality of a mass survival situation. Hope for the best, but expect a mob.
Now that you've thought that through take a look around your house and neighborhood. Are you in a populated area? Are you close to a main road? Do you have a number of large windows and/or doors that would allow for multiple points of attack? If you've answered yes to at least two of these then you'll probably want to take your Bug Out Plan pretty seriously.
Conversely, you'll be safe in low population density areas, or if your suburban home is a few turns off the main road. If you look around and find that you live in a quiet neighborhood off of the main drag you're in luck. If your bottom story doors and windows are easily defensible then you're even better off. You may wish to put more emphasis on a Bug In plan, while still taking steps to Bug Out if it gets bad. Bug In plans will be covered in a later post.
Okay, on to "The Bug Out Bag List" (Everybody loves lists)
Than, start with your normal, FEMA style emergency preparedness categories:
Water is first. You won't live long without it.
Most of us will be Bugging Out in our cars. So plan on at least a gallon per person per day. Two gallons per person would be better. If you've built a Get Home Bag then you already have a Sawyer Filter or a LifeStraw. If you have a large family or are planning to Bug Out in your car, consider including the LifeStraw Family Filter.
Everyone should have their own canteen, and may also carry a hydration bladder. If you choose to carry hydration bladders you'll still need the canteens. You can boil water in a stainless steel canteen to use with dehydrated camp meals.
Don't forget electrolyte replacement powder to keep you from getting dizzy.
Keep your energy up with some decent food.
The simplest and easiest things are pre-packaged small meals such as energy bars, peanut butter packets, or tubes of nuts. For real meals your two main options are the freeze dried camp meals or MREs. Freeze dried camp meals are much lighter, therefore easier to carry, but they require boiling water to reconstitute them. MREs are heavier but you can eat them as-is. MREs also contain far more calories. During our test runs, we prefer to pack a mix of the two, but eat the MREs more often while on the move and use the camp meals for dinner after we've stopped for the day.
MREs taste just fine if you eat them at room temperature. So don't worry if you're in a hurry or just don't feel like using the MRE heaters.
80% of the time we'll all wind up at a hotel, staying with friends or family, or at worst sacking out in our car. But for that other 20% of the time fire provides a significant psychological boost after a long day of traveling, and we also need it for camp-out stops on our way to wherever we're going. So, carry a lighter and a fire starter. If you want to boil water use your canteen and this folding pocket stove. Or this slightly larger one for a couple or small family. You can also use the fuel tabs themselves to help you start your fire.
Toss a phone book into your car kit. You can use it for both fire tinder and for emergency TP if nature calls.
There are a million and twelve first aid kits on the market and they all have one thing in common. They're great for minor cuts and scrapes, but not much more. From out first aid experience in the Middle East we've learned a few important lessons.
- Most minor scrapes or cuts can be treated with a little alcohol and some duct tape.
- Band-aids and gauze are useless against heavy bleeding.
- For real bleeding trauma you need a tourniquet and QuikClot
- Fortunately, as with seat belt cutters, it didn't take too long for these lessons to come home from the wars.
This is a real first aid trauma kit. And this is a real tourniquet. If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident, by flying debris, or in an earthquake, QuikClot and/or a tourniquet will go a lot further towards saving their life than band-aids and gauze.
Here at Survival HQ our first aid kit is simple. We carry one trauma kit per person, one tourniquet per person, duct tape instead of band-aids, hand sanitizer for cleaning cuts and scrapes, and ibuprofen for headaches, sprains, or fevers. After you have your QuikClot and tourniquet spend a little time on YouTube learning how to use them.
Obviously if you or your family take any regular prescription medication then you'll want to remember these on your way out the door. Add them to your list.
You should already have a decent folding knife on you as part of your everyday carry, but it doesn't hurt to add an extra to your BOB. If you've packed a Get Home Bag, you already have a good fixed blade survival knife like this one SOG Specialty. If not, get one now. It's required. If you expect to camp out add a hatchet. A good LED flashlight should also be part of your Every Day Carry, but it makes sense to have something a little more powerful with your Bug Out Gear. This light by Fenix is unmatched in quality and runs for 10 hours at medium power on a single AA battery. Obviously you'll want extra batteries.
Duct tape is important for use as a bandage, restraints, to stop leaks, or to secure loose gear. You can get small rolls made for portability or pack an entire roll in your car (recommended). Pack a bandana to bandage up a wound, use as a dust or smoke mask, an instant wash cloth, or douse it in water and tie it around your neck to keep cool. Paracord has a thousand and one uses.
This is another item for your "on the way out" list. Plan on one change of clothing per person per day, with TWO pairs of socks per person per day. Each member needs a hat, good sunglasses, and climate appropriate outerwear. Sturdy shoes such as hiking boots or sneakers are important. Pro Tip: Don't buy clothes specifically for your BOB. You'll want familiar clothes that fit you well and shoes that are already broken in.
Each member needs Wet Wipes to keep their faces and bodies clean. Each member also needs a few packs of personal tissues for when nature calls.
Make some physical copies of important documents such as birth certificates, insurance information, Social Security cards, and your contact list (in case your phone breaks or dies). If you suspect your home may be looted you may wish to take the originals with you. Scans also work well, and if you're already using a portable hard drive to back up your computer then you should grab that, as well.
Personal Protection Pistol
Okay, this is NOT on the FEMA list. Think back to our discussion on people becoming desperate in desperate times. Yes, you need to be able to protect yourself and your family. If you're a gun owner already (likely), and bugging out in your car (also likely), then it goes without saying that you'll just throw your arsenal into the trunk with everything else. If you're just keeping it to the essentials, then a quality pistol in a large enough round to stop most people is what you need. This will be covered more on a different page, but any decent pistol or revolver chambered in .38 Special, .357 Magnum, 9 mm, .40, or .45 will do the trick. Our favorites are the Springfield XD series. Carry enough ammunition to get the job done several times over. We carry two extra magazines and 100 extra rounds.
Personal Protection 22lr
A .22lr rifle makes a fantastic deterrent and you can also shoot small game if necessary. The best option for this is the venerable Ruger 10/22. The 10/22 has a long history of dependable, accurate shooting and it's easy to find parts or accessories. Even more exciting is that Ruger recently released a "Takedown" version that packs up small for inclusion in your Bug Out Plan.
An alternate option is the Henry Arms AR7, which is a purpose-built survival rifle that packs away into its own hollow stock. These are very light and simple to use. Either will work for you, but we recommend the Ruger 10/22 Takedown.
Personal Protection Shotgun
Lastly, nothing says "Get Off My Lawn" (or away from my family) like a shotgun. Traditionally the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 are the two most common personal defense shotguns. Both work well. A recoil reducing stock like this one works wonders to keep your shoulder in joint and makes shotguns much easier for women. (This is just one example of many recoil reducing stocks. You'll need to find one to fit your particular firearm.)
Communication and Navigation
An emergency radio, flashlight, and USB charger with a hand crank and solar cell is a handy tool. Use the radio to find out what's going on out in the world and the USB charger to keep your phone/GPS juiced up.
If you plan on taking back roads or think there's any chance you may be walking then a compass and local maps are essential. Grab a whistle for each person, so no one wanders off and gets lost.
Protection From The Elements
If you think you'll wind up pulling over to camp out, add a tent appropriate to the size of your group and a sleeping bag for each person. A small lantern for inside the tent will help, as well.
Your Bug Out Bag List
- A large capacity, sturdy, tactical backpack.
- A single, sturdy outfit with shoes and socks
- Food that keeps well such as nuts or energy bars
- Freeze dried camp meals or MREs
- Lighter and a backup fire starter
- If you expect to boil water use a folding pocket stove
- Stainless steel canteen, one for each person
- A water filter
- Electrolyte replacement packets
- Extra ammo and magazines for your concealed carry weapon
- 24" zip ties
- Fixed blade survival knife
- Duct tape
- First Aid Kit
- Trauma kit with QuikClot
- Solar Radio/Flashlight/Charger
- Antibacterial wet wipes
- Mylar Emergency Blankets
- Pain reliever
- For warm climates: sunscreen, insect repellent, extra water
- For cold climates: Extra layers, gloves, knit cap
Putting Your Bug Out Gear Together
Print our free Bug Out Bag Checklist and start wandering around the house. Gather up what you already have. Swing by your local discount store for gallons of water and snacks. Set a deadline to get your Bug Out project completed. We'd recommend one week to gather, order, sort, and build your kit.
Oh yeah! What's the big secret?
If you want to test out your bug out plan with your family, but they're not quite as Gung Ho as you are, JUST TAKE THEM CAMPING. Plan a 72 hour weekend at a primitive campground about halfway to your bugout location. Give each person a list for clothes and personal items and tell them everything needs to go into a large backpack or small duffel bag. You pack up the car with the stove, cooler, MREs, Wet Wipes, board games, cards, etc.
Take notes on what works and what doesn't, especially things you forgot or overlooked.
This way when "it" happens everyone will already know the drill. Plus, they'll already have an idea of what to do with their own Bug Out Gear.