Basic Necessities For Your Bug Out Bags
Key items that should be in every bug out bag
If you search the web regarding what items to put in your bug out bags you’ll find a variety of different opinions and suggestions, some of which can be quite elaborate. These extensively elaborate bug out bags tend to get quite heavy and drift away from its intended use of providing you the basic level of survival tools & equipment. A bug out bag is not supposed to be a luxurious camping trip in a backpack. When designing my bug out bags I try to keep weight as minimal as possible and I analyze each item giving individual value to each based on need & versatility versus the items weight.
From the list below you will see that its somewhat limited to basic survival and its important to note that I believe in having more than 1 type of bag or kit. For example of the other bags or kits I have and recommend would include a get home kit for your vehicle, a more elaborate trauma kit for emergency preparedness and a range bag I keep packed gun stuff like loaded mags, cleaning kits, etc. Those other kits should not be in combination with your basic survival bug out bag and if you haven’t done so already I suggest you read my article on things not to put in your bug out bag.
Basic bug out bag items list:
- Pack – There is lots of good choices out there lots of good high end packs and some really quality ones you can find for not that bad of price. For example I use US issued 3 day assault pack and while it doesn’t have the amount of pockets I would like it’s highly durable and I really like having a pack that is camelbak compatible.
- Fold-up type road map – I have a small laminated fold up road atlas of the US. While it doesn’t show much for terrain features you can see large bodies of water, rivers & streams, as well as get a general idea of population density
- Basic mini first aid kit – This is a basic kit for treating only minor first aid injuries. I think for most people this should be adequate with the exception being for people extensively trained in trauma first aid such as firefighters, paramedics, or military with that unique specialty skill set. If you do have such medical knowledge by all means have the tools you have the proper training and experience to use.
- Simple fishing kit – very simple kit containing multiple brass hooks, clamp on lead weights, small cork and some 8-12lb mono fishing line. Should all fit nicely into small prescription pill bottle or an altoids tin.
- Energy bars and food rations – Preferably high in protein freeze-dried foods that you just add water. Freeze dried really makes your rations light weight when it doesn’t contain the water.
- Extra clothing – I would limit to (2) shirts (2) pair socks (2) pair underwear and roll them up in a skivy roll and put each set in a plastic zip lock bag. If you insist on having extra pair of pants I would go with some of the lighter weight tactical style pants such as those made by 511 or similar. Blue jeans are heavy! Also your extra clothing really is both a seasonal and regional thing that you should adjust periodically throughout the year adding perhaps long johns for colder climates.
- Water – Greatly depends on your region and climate but water gets heavy really fast and I’ve debated the topic extensively on both amounts of water as well as the best storage method. Canteen are great because they’re durable from punctures but it’s important to note that using canteens for water storage requires routine maintenance and by that I’m referring to having to routinely dump and replace with fresh water during the time the bug out bag isn’t being used. I would not want to drink water from a canteen that was filled with tap water months ago. Your other option is the bottled water which is sealed and can be stored for much longer while maintaining bacteria free freshness.
- Life straw & purification tablets – Don’t neglect the importance of water. I’ve personally witnessed people die from heat induced cardiac arrest that had access to water just failed to drink enough of it. Unless you live in an area where water is scarce I wouldn’t go to extremes of carrying multiple gallons of water considering water weighs over 8lbs per gallon. My camelbak resevoir holds 3l of water.
- Tarp – Has a variety of uses such as catching the morning dew for water but primarily to provide shelter from rain and even the sun.
- (2) bic lighter and (1) alternative fire starter – Yes I said 2 bic lighters! in a survival situation the ability to make fire is very important and bic lighters are reliable and long-lasting. This is an item I believe to be too critical not to have a spare.
- Ziplock bag containing dryer lint (for assisted fire starting) – Stop throwing your dryer lint away on laundry day! having some dry dryer lint can be very useful in fire starting in wet conditions.
- Poncho – I prefer a poncho over other wet weather gear because most ponchos will cover your backpack as well keep everything dry in the rain.
- Leatherman multi-tool – Contains many compact tools.
- Quality knife with sharpening stone – In a survival situation a knife will be used extensively and should be of great quality and sturdiness. For survival purposes I prefer a fixed blade with a sheath. I carry a folder for EDC.
- Quality flash light with spare batteries – LED that takes AA batteries
- Personal hygiene items – Critical items like bar of soap, toilet paper and dental care
- Baby wipes in ziplock bag – Light weight and with proper technique you can take a whore’s bath with just a few.
- Paracord – Its strong, compact and light weight and has variety of uses most importantly to be used with your tarp for shelter.
- Zip lock bags – Notice I keep mention items that are already inside zip lock bags but the need for extra exist. they keep your items dry and can be used for holding things such as berries from food gathering.
- Medium size zip ties – These are also very strong and light weight and can have a variety of uses. Zip ties can actually be re-used if you carefully pry the locking tab back.
- Duct tape – Because it’s the universal fix-all
- Panty hose – It’s very light weight and can be used for things like making nets for fishing & trapping.
- Sewing kit – Another basic item 1 roll of thread and few extra needles also fits in small pill bottle for making repairs to clothing or gear.
- (2) heavy-duty industrial extra-large trash bag – These are the very large 55 gallon drum size trash bags that are also very thick. has a variety of uses such as a dry bag to keep items dry.
- p38 can opener – A small light weight can open just in case the need for food scavenging arises.
- Sturdy spork or eating utensils – I have not tested it yet but KaBar makes a Spork/Knife combo that looks pretty awesome.
- Basic cookware – Small, light-weight camping pot.
- Headlamp – They have small compact led ones that I regularly use for night fishing but the life-span is probably less than 12 hours of decent illumination. so I would look for the larger one that also takes AA batteries. allows you to be hands free and see in the dark for setting up camp, etc.
- Cash in small bills – I’ve seen suggestions to as much as $500 USD but can imagine what a thick wad of cash in small bills would be at that amount. I think $50-$75 is more appropriate.
- Ranger bands – these are very strong rubber bands that come in a variety of sizes that can be used for compacting gear and silencing rattling equipment.
- High visibility marking tape – Can be used to mark paths and routes taken.
- Flash drive (with important digital info) – A small pocket-size usb flash drive that contains scan copies of important info such as birth certificates, deeds, and insurance info.
I strongly feel that the above items are the bare minimum requirements for any bug out bag and there is plenty of optional gear and tools that could be added but should be done so with deep consideration. Weight should always be considered with further additions are made to your pack. Each persons individual level of physical fitness should also be considered and configured to you own manageable weight. Test yourself by taking long hikes across varying terrain with your bug out bag. For further reading please read our suggested things not to put in you bug out bag article.