Bugout Infographic

It’s a tool you hope you never use. You’d be just fine if it sits in your trunk, closet, or truck bed and collects dust. But one day you might need to get out fast and you’ll be glad you have the right items in your bugout bag. Before we talk about what to put in your BOB, understand this is a temporary solution, with only enough supplies to get you to a permanent location. You won’t be able to live out of your BOB for more than a couple of days.

The Bag

The first consideration in a well-equipped bugout bag is the bag itself. It should be tough, durable, rugged, and lightweight, with lots of pockets to store everything and comfortable shoulder straps. Waterproof or water-resistant is good, too, since you’ll likely use the bag outside. Think of it like emergency camping. Will the bag survive the great outdoors? Ripstop nylon is ideal because it holds up well and repels water. Look for strong stitching because the bag will be jam-packed. Color is not a big concern, although a more subdued camo or neutral is preferred because it blends in better and can be hidden at night or in tough circumstances. This is not the bag you’re carrying to the office every day, so it doesn’t need fashion sense. It’s all about function.

This may seem obvious, but it needs to be a backpack, not a duffle or other form of carry. Chances are you’ll need to lug it a long way, maybe several miles, and your hands need to be free to clear brush or obstacles, help you climb, or in a worst-case scenario defend yourself, so the bag should stow on your back, out of the way. A backpack is easier to carry, too, because it distributes the weight evenly.


Stocking your BOB is all about compromise. You can’t take everything you want because it would weigh too much. Only take what you absolutely need, with a few extras if you have room.


The first priority if you find yourself out of your car or house is shelter. It doesn’t have to be fancy shelter, just a cover to keep you out of the weather. It can even be something as simple as a sleeping bag or blanket. Most bugout bags aren’t big enough for a tent, but they are big enough to carry some essential shelter-making tools like a small saw or knife and some twine and an emergency blanket that folds up into its own package.


While not on the typical “shelter” list, fire can be considered shelter because it wards off the chill, so be sure to take a fire starting kit.


While humans can survive up to three days without water, it’s a good idea to carry sealed bottled water in your bag at all times. Bring at least one liter of water per person per day. Since it’s easy to burn through a liter of water fairly quickly, especially when on the move, pack a slim water purification system and/or water purification tablets just in case the only backup water available is of questionable origin. Even the cleanest looking creeks can be contaminated.


Bugging out takes energy that you need to replenish. For quick fuel, throw in some energy bars and dehydrated meals, such as military MREs or beef jerky. Remember, you’re not packing for a week-long campout, so this isn’t about three square meals per day. Just take what you need to survive for a short time.


You never know what time of year you’ll bug out. Even if you live in a moderate climate, pack a waterproof jacket, hat, change of socks, and a pair of gloves that can double as work gloves. Multi-use items are a great way to save space. It’s also a good idea to keep a jacket in your trunk, too, even in the summer. If you leave it in there year round, you’ll never be without it.

First Aid

If you’re bugging out, there’s a good chance you’re already hurt or could be soon. A small first aid kit can help. First aid kits aren’t designed to tackle every injury, but they’ll get you through many simple ones. Several companies make very compact, transportable first aid kits that fit easily inside a backpack. Don’t forget your sunblock and insect repellent, too.


If you have to bug out at night, you’ll be glad you have a flashlight. Small, high-powered flashlights are everywhere and range in price from $5 to $200. Remember spare batteries kept in a waterproof container.


Tuck a workbench-in-a-box multi-tool and a sharp stand-alone knife inside for those odd jobs like opening food containers or building your shelter. Plus, you never know when you might need it for self-defense or to procure that night’s meal.

Phone Charger

Yes, we’re talking about a bugout bag. But you’ll probably bug out where there is still decent cell coverage but nowhere to plug in your phone. Thanks to portable battery packs the size of lighters, you can maintain cell charge for a couple of days without a wall outlet.

Self Defense

If you’re bugging out, it’s likely something has gone horribly wrong. You may need to defend yourself. Your knife will help, but that may not be enough. Stash a handgun and extra full magazines inside your bag just in case.

QuotesRemember, space and weight are at a premium, but don’t shortchange yourself on essentials. This is not a bag you will use every day, and frankly, you hope never, but a well thought out bugout bag can get you through that one time you really need it.