Your bug out bag should be designed to carry heavy loads and tough. Go on a three mile hike with your bag fully loaded. Get a feel for what you like and dislike about your bag and your gear. The bag listed above is made of Gortex material and is designed for hunters carrying heavy loads. You will want one for each family member and have an additional gear in your car. If you can’t buy a new backpack, use what you have because something is better than nothing. M.O.L.L.E. straps on the outside makes your bag expandable.
These have an advantage over folding blade knifes for extended survival situations. With less moving parts fix blades are more durable. Fixed blades can be used to chop through wood, can be modified to become a spear, and for serious self defense. While folding blades and multi-tool blades can do some of these things they don’t do it as good as a 4-5″ fixed blade knife. Don’t get carried away. Carrying a machete or 8-10 inch knife is a waste of energy and adds unneeded weight in most situations. Also, check out the SOG Seal Pup Elite
Cordage can be made in the wild but having some in your bag can be the difference between life and death. If you need to make a shelter, a tourniquet, or make a snare cordage is invaluable. This particular cordage has smaller diameter cordage inside the larger cordage which can be used for small traps or other purposes. This rope is really a two in one cordage application.
Headlamps are preferred over flashlights because they allow you to keep your hands free. LED bulbs last a very long time and produce a lot of light. My wife has had her Petzl LED headlamp for 6 years without having to replace the battery. The red light filter helps you maintain your night vision. Regular white light contracts your pupils and takes five minutes to first adjust to darkness and close to 45 minutes to completely readjust your eyes. Head lamps are light weight and are invaluable.
These types of fire-starters are preferred over matches or lighters because they produce consistent sparks. Good fire starting principles apply for any kind of fire. You will need a nest of tender to receive the spark and kindling ready. If you’ve made traditional flint and steal or a bow drill fire you will appreciate 5,500 degree sparks these strikers produce. Be sure to carry some cotton balls coated in vaseline as a quick start tender. If you don’t have some dry tender these won’t do much good.
Chlorine Dioxide have a number of advantages over other purification methods. It’s light weight and tastes better than iodine tablets. Pump operated purifiers are heavy and can have additional risks. If you drop a pump water purifier it can crack the element, letting protozoa and harmful bacteria through the filter. An added risk to pump purifiers is storing them wet which can grow nasty things on the wrong side of the filter. The instant purification straws are handy but don’t provide protection against smaller organisms. These tablets will provide enough water purification for nearly 8 gallons of water.
Stainless steel water bottles have many advantages over plastic and polycarbonate bottles. Stainless canteens can boil water, be used for cooking, and are nearly indestructible. They also keep your water tasting clean. Many canteens made of plastic maintain a memory of liquids you’ve had in them. If you’ve put Kool-Aid or anything else in other plastic bottles you’ll taste Kool-Aid for months to come. In the survival settings I’ve seen these stainless steel bottles go through hell and back. They are incredibly tough and versatile. They are also easy to clean and never leak. The loop from the body to the lid can be used to snap it your bug out bag with a carabiner.
To cook with this bottle simply tie a loop of snare wire below the ridge to hold the bottle over the flames.
A water bladder is preferred over adding extra water bottles because they are light and can carry a lot of water. You may consider getting the six or ten liter bags since water supplies may be few and far between. You can always use 1 or 2 liters if you don’t want the added weight and having the extra capacity may be a good idea in the long run. These bladders are preferred over plastic bladders (from Platypus or Camblebak) because they don’t get old and rigid. The MSR bags are also more puncture resistant and durable. These bags can be hung from a tree limb and provide easy access for hand washing, rinsing pots, and can even be used as a shower. You may also consider a hydration tube with a bit valve for added convenience. A drinking tube with a bite valve makes hiking much easier. It saves time by providing quick access to your water without having to stop and pull out your water bottle. When connected to the water bladder you will have two liters of drinking water accessible. The tube can also be used for a variety of survival techniques, including a solar evaporative still.
A bar like this packs a lot of energy, protein, and vitamins you need for extended hiking. Add a can of peanut butter, walnuts, jerky, trail mix, or anything with high fat and calories and you’ll stay energized. These bars have a shelf life of over 5 years, are ready to eat, and don’t taste that bad. This provides 3,600 which would provide 1,200 calories a day but you’d be happier if you doubled (or trippled) that, especially if you are hiking with a pack.
Shelter is the first priority if you are lost and temperature is dropping fast or its raining. This poncho is designed to cover a backpack while you’re hiking and doubles as a tarp for a quick shelter. When the weather turns bad you’ll be prepared. The benefit of this poncho over a tent is its light weight and multiple uses. If you do add a tent consider a bivy or this tent from Eureka. Even if you add a tent consider adding the poncho for protection while hiking. You may also consider adding a Poncho Liner for added warmth and for use as a ground cloth when you sleep. Another item that is a must have is Gore Tex Bivy for your sleeping bag. With this item you could sleep in a foot of snow and stay dry and warm. No matter what they say about down sleeping bags, a wet sleeping bag is going to suck, no matter what it’s made out of.
Down bags are preferred because they light and can pack to be very small (especially with a compression sack). A goretex biv sack would is a good idea to keep the down dry. Most people say down is a bad idea because it’s worthless when it gets wet but I can’t think of anything that would keep you warm if it was wet. Try to have your bag be 5 lbs or less. Sleeping bag ratings are generally “off” by 30 degrees if you’re going for comfort. If a bag rated at 40 degrees it really would be comfortable to 60-70 (basically a sleep over bag in someone’s house). Be sure to add that into the equation when you are selecting your bag. Some tricks to make a bag warmer is to zip your coat up and pull it over your feet, wrap your poncho around the outside of your sleeping bag, get in a tent or biv sack (adding 10 degrees), and zipping bags together to stay warm with another person. If you wash your bag incorrectly or it gets wet it could ruin the insulation properties.
Tactical Trauma Kit
A first aid kit is one of the most used items in extended survival settings. This is only for the carrying case and you’ll want to add your own first-aid items including moleskin and antiseptic wipes.Quikclot will save your life if you have a deep wound that won’t stop bleeding. A SWAT Tourniquet and Suture Kit are also a good ideas.
Tactical and Evasive Module
Most bug out or emergency situations are caused by natural disasters, home fires, and other normal things like your car breaking down. Other times it may be necessary to stay hidden from people (like the crazy violent people that came out of the woodworks after Katrina). And zombies, you should always be prepared for zombies. If you need to defend yourself, provide reconnaissance, or need to stay hidden add this module to your bug out bag.
- Handgun – I prefer the Glock 9mm for two reasons. The Glock is the most reliable gun on the market and 9mm is a very common (and low cost) ammunition. There is more stopping power in a larger caliber gun but the magazines don’t hold as much ammo and ammo of other calibers are less common and more expensive.
- Camoflage All items – Your bag, clothes, coat, pants, and poncho should all blend in to your environment. If you are in an urban environment consider dark or black clothing and plan on moving at night.
- Ammo – 100 Rounds in your bug out bag with stashes in strategic positions. Ammo is heavy!
- Snare wire for tripwires and early detection alarms.
- Camo face paint
- Night Vision Monocular
- Ghillie Suit
- Folding Shovel – Ground cover is an excellent way to stay out of the elements and from eye site. A shovel can help you dig a hole to conceal yourself in.
- Gun cleaning kit
There may be times you really want to be found. In addition to a good signal fire add these items to your bag.
- Signal Mirror
- Bright orange poncho
- Whistle or a Fog Horn
Extended Camp Items
These items are items that would be useful in extended camp situations. These are items that would weigh you down if your bug out bag was only intended for three days but would be valuable if you needed to bug out for an extended period of time (a week to a month). If you think you’ll be bugging out for more than a month you should plan on having a bug out location complete with seeds, replenishable water, and a solid (low profile) shelter.
- Tactical Knife/Tool – This knife can dig, pry, hammer, chop, cut, and saw. It can replace a hatchet, crowbar, and folding shovel.
- Ground Mat
- Fishing Kit (10 LB Florocarbon Line, Treble Hooks Size 14, Bait Hooks Size 6, Clear Casting Bubble, Clip-on Weights)
- Fish Net – Buy a replacement fishing net or remove the fishing net from a the frame
- Knife Sharpener
- Folding Saw
- Folding Shovel
- Leatherman – Multitool
- Ruger 22 Rifle – For hunting and defense
- Dish Soap
- Fork and Spoon
- Mess Kit
- MSR Titanium 0.85 Liter Pot – If you have the stainless steel water bottle you may not need this addition weight but it might be nice. This titanium pot is extremely light weight and very strong. Pots are preferred over mess-kits because they have the ability to boil more water. The lid on this model fits tight making for a quick boiling time and it keeps out ashes. The metal handles won’t melt in the fire and fold out of the way. These can boil stew and cook like a small skillet too. It can be used in a buried ground oven. If you have one thing for cooking it would be this pot.
- Universal Fuel Backpacking Stove – I like the MSR International Whisperlite
- White Gas Fuel with Container
- Salt & Spices (Pepper & Garlic)
- Tin Foil
- Dish Rag
- Trash Bags – Try to get black and clear bags but if you have to pick one go with clear
- Duct Tape
- Zip Lock Bags
- Metal Coat Hanger and Snare Wire
- Sewing Kit (with safety pins)
- Notepad and Pencil
- Solar/Crank Radio with built in solar charger.
- Two Way Radios
- Digital Camera
- Cell Phone (with USB Cord)
- Spare batteries
Comfort & Entertainment Module
- Alcohol (Booze for trading, for comfort, or as an antiseptic or pain killer)
- Tobacco ( Extremely valuable barter item)
- Book for Reading (Survival, edible plant guide, and inspirational)
- Deck of Cards
- Bug Spray
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Toilet Paper
- Feminine Hygiene… if applicable
Navigation and ID Module
- Important Documents (At least have copies of birth certificates, divers licenses, passport, social security card)
- Money (Silver coins)
- Compass – Make sure it has a signaling mirror and a magnifying glass (for making fire).
- Pictures of Loved Ones – For possible identification
- Jump Drive with important documents, photos, phone lists, and other things loaded on it.
The clothes you wear are the most important items that will be part of your survival strategy. Being prepared for weather conditions with a good coat, rain jacket, and good shoes will play an important role in your bag.
- Hat (Wide Brim and breathable in the summer and warm and cozy in the winter.)
- Underwear – It feels good to change into something fresh after a few days on the trail.
- Socks – Wool in the winter and a pair of replacement socks in the summer.
- Knee High Nylons – If you plan on walking long distances slipping these beneath regular socks can save your feet from major blisters.
- Fleece Jacket – Try to avoid cotton and get something that pulls the moisture away from your skin.
- Work Gloves – Good for going through brush, working, and cooking with a campfire.
- Flip Flops – After a long hike it feels mighty good to put around camp in a pair of these. Getting out of your boots is a good way to prevent fungus and foot rot.
- Insect Head Netting – This can be used to leach accorns, catch small minnows, and fend off hordes of mosquitoes and other bugs.
Don’t waste your space or money on:
- Emergency blankets – They keep water off but they do not keep you warm. You will freeze to death if you try using them for warmth.
- Excessive guns, knives, ammo. Ideally your bug out bag should get you to your bug out location or at least to a temporary stash of more supplies. In order to move quickly only carry enough ammo to get you to your retreat destination. Speed and concealment will be extremely important.
- Butane stoves or lanterns – they won’t light when its cold and are usually heavy. You’d be better off getting multi-fuel stoves that can burn white gas, unleaded, and kerosene fuels.
- Most Snake Bite Kits – From what I could tell most snake bite kits are outdated and dangerous to use. Research the snakes in your local area and put together your own kit based off your research.