With all that’s been happening of late in the world, you have to wonder if you are prepared enough for a disaster. One that might strike too close to your home and have you scrambling to leave in a hurry. One of the best things you can have lying around during such times is a bug out bag or B.O.B.
A bug out bag is a light, durable and waterproof backpack that contains survival essentials meant to last for at least 72 hours.
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Figure Out If A Bug Out Bag Is Necessary For You
The truth is, depending on where you live, you might not use a bug out bag for years. And that is how it should be. But, putting together a survival bag is similar to purchasing car insurance. You hope you’ll never have to use your bug out bag, but it still gives you tremendous peace of mind just to have it. Because you know that a B.O.B. might just save your skin during an emergency.
See also prepping on a budget.
Choose A Type Of Bug Out Bag
There are a few different types of B.O.B. The best way to classify bug out bags is by the purpose they serve and what they are meant to protect you against. These are types of bug out bags as a whole survival kit (vs different types of backpacks that can hold your bug out supplies):
- individual 72 hour bug out bag
- bug out bag for family
- bug out bag for baby
- bug out bag for pets
- bug out bag for earthquake
- bug out bag for floods & tornados
- bug out bag for wildfires
- tactical bug out bag
It is important for you to decide what kind of a bug out bag you want to put together. For example, a bug out bag for floods and tornados needs to be waterproof for long periods and also needs to contain specialized survival gear that will protect you during such disasters. You can also put together a more general type of B.O.B. or combine 2 or more types.
Consider Bug Out Bag Weight
Weight is one of the most important factors that you need to consider when making a bug out bag (sorry marketing guys, it’s only what they can comfortably fit inside the bag). There are few resources and no studies that examine how much weight a regular person can carry for extended periods of time. A rule of thumb is that a fully loaded bug out bag should be no more than 25-33% of your body weight. But, I expect that the ideal B.O.B. weight will vary based on your physical condition, weather conditions, terrain and period of time that you need to carry it for.
The most accurate research there is out there on the subject of bug out bag weight was made by a physics professor at the Kansas State University, Michael O’Shea. The study smartly points out that lower-weight adults might be able to carry more weight than their heavier counterparts. This actually makes sense – a heavier weight person also has to carry their excess weight on top of the bag weight.
Always Have A 72 Hour Bug Out Bag Handy
There are couple of reasons why you should put together a B.O.B that will have essential survival supplies for at least 72 hours:
- there are much lighter than other bug out bugs such as an i.n.c.h. bag (I’m never coming home bag).
- chances are that rescuers or other people will find you within that time frame.
Such a light 72 hour B.O.B. also has downsides:
- there may be more than 72 hours before someone finds you.
- you may not have all the necessary gear to survive the wilderness for a longer period.
However, federal campaigns such as ready.gov advise people to pack up at least 72 hours worth of emergency supplies for a good reason. Even if it takes a little longer for you to be found by rescuers, you can ration your supplies to cover your survival needs for a longer time.
Start With The Bug Out Bag Essentials
Let’s take a look at our interpretation of Maslow’s basic human needs:
I’ll put together a bug out bag list based on your basic survival needs as displayed above. But, first, you need a place where to put all of this – the backpack itself.
Get A Sturdy Survival Backpack
Here are some essential features you should look for when shopping for a bug out backpack:
- allows freedom of movement
- roomy enough for your survival equipment and supplies
- has a hydration system, reservoir or compartment (fits 2-3 liters of water)
- sleeping bag compartment
- preferably (but not absolutely necessary) has MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, similar to that used by British and US armed forces) pouches, webbing and attachments
- two other features that experienced backpackers would not do without are hip belts and load lifters
- lightweight - for a backpack with an aircraft aluminum internal frame
- bow, rifle & pistol compatible
- 2 liter water reservoir compatible
- Lifetime warranty, fix it for free no matter what happens
- weighs 5 lbs 15 oz
- you have to purchase the water reservoir separately
Make Air (More) Breathable
Air is your most important survival need.
To enhance the air you breathe, just add a cotton scarf to your bug out bag that you can use for:
- covering your mouth to prevent heat loss during extreme cold
- filtering out some of the smoke (dampen it first)
- filtering out dust
A survival scarf has a lot of other uses such as a sling, bandage, towel, water filter, protecting from the sun during summer, keeping warm in the winter so you can’t really go wrong with one. You can also get a dust and pollen mask but it’s not going to filter out heavy smoke.
Purify Drinking Water
You can survive for about 3 days without water, but that will probably leave you weakened and unable to face whatever is threatening your safety.
There are a few different ways how you can find and purify water in the wild. But, given the available, cheap gear, why risk not finding any? As I mentioned before, your bug out backpack should have a water compartment or reservoir. But, you want to be on the safe side and still keep hydrated if you somehow puncture that reservoir or you have to wait longer for rescue. For that purpose, you can consider buying a survival water filter.
You can also purify water in other ways (by boiling, by using bleach, water purification tablets, etc), but you risk not removing chemicals if any are present. Also, these other water purification methods take a little bit more time than just using a water filter.
- filters 99.9% of bacteria and viruses
- filters contaminants such as lead
- comes with a sport bottle
- weighs 3 lbs empty
Stock Up On Emergency Food & Cooking Gear
Food is very important during an emergency. Although you can survive around 3 weeks without having anything to eat, you will feel sluggish and you will not have any energy to spare.
Cooking gear can be used for preparing food and boiling water.
Depending on the type of emergency you might be facing you should choose one of the two types of cooking stove:
- wood burning cooking stove
- gas or fuel cell burning cooking stove
My favorite is a wood burning cooking stove that I can also use for camping. Gas or cell burning emergency cooking stoves might be better to use if you are in a flooded area. Unless you know how to build a fire with wet wood or have some quality all weather firestarters.
- lightweight - weighs 3 lbs
- boils water in 4-6 minutes
- produces very little smoke
- may be hard to use in a flooded area
“Food will win the war “was one the slogans used during World War 1. Your survival food cache should fulfill one or more of the requirements below:
- have a long shelf life
- be lightweight and not bulky
- easy to rotate whenever it comes close to the expiration date (tasty enough to eat as a regular meal)
Ideally, all your food should be cooked, warm and delicious, but you may not have the time or resources to do that. Some of the foods listed below can be eaten as they are (Meals Ready to Eat) and some require light cooking. You should have a mix of these two types of food in your bug out bag.
- 5 years shelf life
- non thirst provoking
- Kosher, enriched with vitamins
- some people didn't like the lemony taste
- some people had issues with punctured packaging
You can also add your own ready to eat food items, such as your favorite energy bars or even sealed trail mix as long as you pay attention to their expiration dates and rotate them accordingly.
- Mountain House offers an incredible 30 years taste and shelf life guarantee for it's freeze dried food
- Tasty servings
- allergy information - contains soy, milk, wheat, eggs (no real cons to list)
For fresh food, fishing is one of the easiest ways to get your own food in the wild, if you are close to a river or lake.
First, knowing whether the fish is safe to eat or not and which species you can safely cook and consume is recommended. This depends on a lot of factors – for example, some rivers and lakes are so polluted that authorities recommend against eating the fish they catch in those waters because they contain dangerous chemicals, such as Mercury and PCBs. For example, the State of Michingan has a general recommendation of not consuming more than 1-8 servings of fish per month (based on species, general health of the consumer, etc) as those chemicals might accumulate.
To catch fish fast, you need basic fishing gear such as a fishing pole, line, hooks and bait. It can get a lot more detailed than that, from fishing nets to waders and ice fishing gear, but in an emergency bug out situation, having these basic fishing accessories will serve you well.
There are a lot of options (maybe too many) when it comes to B.O.B. safety gear. I’ll walk you through the best ones, sorted by importance.
- wound dressing
- roll up foam splint
- pouch with room to spare
- you'll need to add stuff to make it complete
- pain reliever/fever reducer for adults
- pain reliever/fever reducer for children (if you have children)
- small hand sanitizer
- sunscreen (varies with your skin type), insect repellent or both - check this out
- antibiotic cream
- pain relieving gel
- any prescription medicine taken on a regular basis
- allergy medicine
- feminine hygiene products
- other first aid and hygiene products for children & the elderly
Bug Out Plan, Personal Documents & Money
A well-designed bug out plan should include:
- local maps with possible shelters
- escape routes
- steps to take – things to do before and after you leave, people to take with you, people to contact
- best way to get back to civilization when it is safe to do so. Ways to contact rescuers, the authorities, etc
- anything you need to know about the local animals and plants
I addition to a bug out plan, you should have copies of important documents and some cash. Put them all in a waterproof pouch or in a ziplock bag.
- spring loaded pliers
- military grade 12-in-1 0.5 lbs multi tool
- includes Bear Grylls survival guide
- pouch could be better
- in case that one breaks or you lose it
- keep one in your B.O.B. at one in its holster, attached to your belt
- Titanium coated with hammer pommel
- in-handle firestarter
- belt sheath
- some people complain it is hard to take it out of the sheath
- 22000 mAh
- 8 iPhone 7 charges or 3 iPad mini charges
- lifetime warranty (you need to register for it)
- comes with pouch and 2 microusb charging cables
- some people complain they received defective units, lifetime warranty should take care of that
- weighs 0.9 lbs
An alternative for a power bank is a hand crank or solar charger. The Maxoak 7800 mAh has both a hand crank and a solar charger, but usually, the solar charger takes a long time to charge (think 1-2 days or more). The hand crank is a little bit more efficient, but you’ll still want to use it exclusively for making emergency calls.
- 1200 lumens USA made Cree LED emitter
- aircraft grade aluminum alloy that keeps the flashlight working in boiling or freezing water
- 25x brighter than regular flashlights
- 30 day money back guarantee
- warranty period could be longer
- tough blade built for emergency applications
- solid grip
- multi use modular sheath
- striking pommel
- some people complain about receiving it with a dull blade and having to sharpen it right out of the box; blade is high quality otherwise
- vertically on MOLLE
- on your backpack's hip belt
- on your leg
Bring Your Own Shelter & Sleep Like A Baby
- full coverage fly with two vestibules
- lifetime warranty
- 4 season protection
- 7 lbs 7oz weight
- lightweight 2.8 lbs sleeping bag
- SBS quality zipper
- temperature rating up to 20 F
- soft lining
- some buyers have complained about the stuff sack but customer service seems to be receptive and they replace faulty ones
Choose Your Clothes Like The Pros
There are two types of clothing articles that will serve you well no matter what your facing – shoes and gloves.
It is hard to make a recommendation when it comes to survival shoes because there are so many different sizes, for men, for women, etc. However, what you should be looking for is a pair of all season waterproof running shoes. It is important to get a quality pair of bug out shoes for the following reasons:
- they will last more than cheaper shoes (sometimes by years, varies depending on care and use)
- they will not hurt your feet and help you maintain a rapid pace
- they will keep your feet warm and dry
- your feet are the part of your body that has the most contact with the ground when you’re running away from something. Protecting them is a very good idea
- windproof and cold weather resistant
- weighs 5.6 oz
- a lot of people say that these gloves are water resistant. As opposed to waterproof, water resistant means they are able to resist water penetration to some degree. For example, when submerged in water they might keep it away only for a limited time.
- just like shoes, the perfect pair of gloves will vary from person to person
- they will protect your hands against the cold
- they will protect your hands when working. For example, when you are building a shelter, chopping wood, pushing away debris, etc
- they will keep your hands dry (results vary with use)
Some other clothing articles you should pack in your bug out bag are:
- 2 x trekking pants and long-sleeve bug tops (tick resistant)
- 3-4 pairs of socks and 2-3 pairs of underwear
- rain poncho
- waterproof beanie
- insulated jacket
- insulated thermal pants and insulated thermal top
- fleece top
Don’t forget to say hello and drop your own B.O.B. tips in the comments section.