Bug Out Bag Essentials
When you build your bug out bag, you have to make certain assumptions. You might not be able to check into a hotel. You might not be able to stop at a restaurant or store for food. You might not have accessible clean drinking water.
In essence, you might need to take care of your basic human survival needs of food, water and protection from the elements and predators or enemies.
There are ten essential categories that your bug out bag gear needs to focus on so you can do that.
I have listed fire first because having fire can make a huge difference between life and death in so many ways.
Fire keeps you warm, preventing hypothermia and death from exposure
Fire cooks your food, keeping you from getting sick from bad food.
Fire allows you to boil water making it safe for you to drink.
Fire can signal for help and rescue.
Fire can be a weapon against wild animals or other people.
Fire is so important to our survival that it should be the first thing you plan for in your bug out bag and the first skill that you learn. If you can’t start a fire, your chances of surviving while on the run are so much worse.
It’s not up for debate Rookie! Learn how to make fire!
Next up is our ability to protect ourselves from the elements. Fire is important, but it is not effective alone. You must also have shelter to survive.
In a situation where you are on the run, you will need to be able to improvise a survival shelter if you are going to survive.
When it comes to shelter, it is best to stock up on more knowledge and skill than gear. You should know how to make several different types of shelter depending on the environment you find yourself in.
Of course, having gear with you can help if you don’t have a lot of time to put up a shelter. There are several pieces of survival gear you can put in your bag that are both small and lightweight but will provide you adequate shelter to survive exposure.
Water is the building block of life. The human body is made up of over 50% water.
It helps us regulate our body temperature through sweating and respiration. It carries our nutrients to our cells. It cleans us and flushes our waste.
You cannot live much longer than three days without water.
Once you have taken care of fire and shelter, you must secure a reliable source of water. Even if it isn’t clean water. You can always learn how to purify water and carry the supplies you need to do it.
We can live quite awhile in a survival situation without food. But why would you if you don’t have to?
Having food is extremely important to keep your body operating with enough energy to do what you demand of it. It is also very important to our mental well being.
Imagine living in some pretty rough conditions. Your shelter is small, cold, and dirty. Your family is afraid and looking to you for protection. If you can give them a hot meal every day, it will go a long way toward morale. Having a belly full of food is very comforting.
At the very least, you should have compact, high calorie food that will sustain you for three days. Depending on your choices, you could carry food to last for 5-7 days.
Since you don’t know how long the SHTF situation will last, you should also have gear, knowledge and skills that will help you supplement your food stores.
Consider fishing, trapping, hunting, and gathering wild edibles since you might encounter a longer bug out situation than just a few days.
It’s also important that you have the means of cooking food. As I wrote before, it really helps to have warm food in your belly. And, if you have to eat something disgusting, it will help if you cook it.
Medical / Hygiene
If you are in a bug out situation, the chances of someone getting hurt are pretty high. You will probably be in unfamiliar territory, living in dangerous circumstances and that can lead to injury.
We hope that injuries or illness don’t happen, but it would be completely irresponsible to not be prepared for them in the event that they do happen. That includes carrying a well-equipped first aid kit.
More importantly than that, it means knowing how to use your first aid supplies.
Your kit should be able to handle smaller things like bug bites, small cuts, or debris removal from cuts.
You should be able to care for burns and infections.
You should be able to tourniquet and stabilize major injuries.
It’s a good idea to keep a small selection of medications for illness and pain as well.
Besides illness and injury, you might consider carrying some sanitation and hygiene supplies.
Being able to stay clean will help you keep your mind and your body healthy during a SHTF situation.
Lastly, consider protection from different disasters, such as glasses, facial masks or gas masks, gloves, and other clothing designed to protect you.
It is a good idea to keep a small selection of tools available to you for various unplanned needs. You just don’t know what you might encounter while bugging out.
Fortunately, there are many tools that are designed for multiple uses, making the amount of tools you need to carry much less. You can cover most of your needs while bugging out in just a few of these multitools.
The most important of the tools you can carry is your knife. The selection of a knife for survival is hotly debated in the prepper and survival community.
Your choice of knife should first solve for need but there is nothing wrong with buying a quality knife that also matches your personality.
Other tools we’ll consider are hand tools, cutting tools, digging tools, tools for breaking, etc.
Let’s face it, there are other preppers out there whose sole plan is to raid, rob, loot and plunder for their needs. They will be intent on your supplies if they see you with them.
If you aren’t prepared to defend yourself against this, you will become an early casualty.
This is most easily accomplished with a handgun. Handguns are easy to use, easy to carry and easy to conceal. But they still do a damn good job of protecting you and your family from assault.
There are other methods of defending yourself as well, such as long barrel guns, tasers, or pepper spray.
Even if you think you are against any type of lethal defense, remember that this person is scared and hungry and wants what you have. They will certainly be lethal towards you.
As harsh as it sounds Rookie, if you can’t respond in kind, you are not going to survive.
It is important that you are able to navigate your way around any environment. Ideally, you will have a GPS unit that will identify where you are and how to get where you need to go.
But, if there is a SHTF situation that renders electronics or satellites useless, you won’t be able to use GPS.
That means being able to use a compass and a map and having both with you. Again, this is an area where skill is just as important as gear.
This is not an easy skill to learn or practice, but it could save your life. If you are lost, you might never make it to your bug out location and your chances of survival drop significantly.
Learn how to get where you need to go Rookie, and keep the gear that will help you do that in your bug out bag.
The least considered essential item you should have in your bug out bag is something to help you better pass the time while bugging out. This will help you keep your mind occupied rather than worrying or being scared.
There are different items to consider adding into your bug out bag – small items like a book, or a deck of cards, a small notebook and pen to journal, or a travel game.
The only thing that matters is that you would enjoy the activity you include. It should go without saying: If you don’t like reading, don’t pack a book.
Signal & Communication
I saved this for last because you could very well encounter a SHTF situation where the last thing you want to do is let others know where you are. There are times when stealth and evasion are more important than signal.
But, if your BOB also serves you during camping or other travel situations, you might need to signal for rescue.
In that case, you need to know how to signal and make sure you have redundant ways of doing so. Rescue might be your only chance for survival (especially if you don’t know how to navigate).
Additionally, you will need to be able to communicate if you are in a group and you get separated. The whistle and mirrors can help with this, but the easiest way is to make sure you are using two way radios.