Why You Need a Bug Out Bag (And What You Should Have In It)

Some of my non-prepper friends give me funny looks when I tell them they should have a Bug Out Bag. They don’t see the need and always seem to think they’ll have time to pack up what they need when disaster strikes. However, this goes against the core mindset of being prepared. If you take the time to pre-plan what you’ll need in an emergency scenario, you can save time when one happens and greatly increase your odds of getting through one unscathed.


Simply put, a Bug Out Bag (or BOB) is a bag with essential items you would need to survive for 72 hours. The rationale behind it is that if disaster strikes you may need to flee to somewhere safe and it could take up to 72 hours for rescue workers to get to your area to provide aid. You would need to be able to survive on your own for those 72 hours.

Why You Need One

A lot of people think that they are safer than they are. When bad things happen on the news, they think it’s awful that that could happen to someone but aren’t able to see it happening to themselves. The truth is bad things can happen to anyone, even you. The most basic rule for preppers is to be prepared and the Bug Out Bag is one of the most basic preparedness item one can have, even if you don’t want to identify as a prepper.

Disasters are more common that you might think. Every region in the US is susceptible to natural disasters. There are earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, flooding, the list goes on. They don’t need to occur often in your area, it just takes one to put you and your family at risk. Aside from natural disasters, there are also threats of what I’d call man-made disasters: riots, civil unrest, terrorist attacks, mass shootings. The point being, there are many reasons you may need to get out of dodge. Even if the chance of any one of these things happening to you is just 1%, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have one happen in your lifetime.

When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. Do you really want to be struggling to pack when you could have done that ahead of time and been able to go immediately? Every minute saved increases your chances of survival. It’s a chance to beat traffic or recover from a mistake. Being prepared is not hard to do, it just takes a little planning. Why wouldn’t you do it if it could save your life?

What’s in your bag?

What You Need In Your Bug Out Bag

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to keep a bug out bag handy and now you might be wondering what you need to have in it. Remember, as a general rule you should keep anything you’d need to last for 72 hours. These may include:

  1. Water or water purification tablets – Whether it’s a pack of plastic water bottles or a stainless steel bottle and water purification tablets, water is essential.
  2. Energy bars, snacks, non-perishable food – Pack food that has a high calorie to weight ratio like protein bars.
  3. Spare clothes – Pack a pair of solid outdoor-worthy clothes. Also, a shemagh and sturdy gloves are recommended.
  4. Fire starter – Take two types of fire starters: whether it’s firesteel, weatherproof matches, or just Bic lighters.
  5. Prescription drugs and vitamins – If you take any prescription drugs daily, make sure to pack them! Pack some vitamins too. I recommend taking a week’s supply of both.
  6. First-aid and trauma supplies – A good medical kit is essential and we’ll cover exactly what you need in a future post.
  7. Toilet paper – ‘Nuff said
  8. Wet wipes – I absolutely love these wet wipes. They are an easy way to stay clean outside.
  9. Map and compass – Keep a map of your local area and a compass handy in case you don’t have access to GPS.
  10. Emergency blankets Emergency blankets have many uses and take up virtually no space at all.
  11. Crank radio with phone charger – Get a high-quality crank radio to keep you informed. Make sure to get one with a USB charger to charge your phone like this one from Midland. Don’t forget to pack a charging cable too!
  12. Fixed blade knife – Pick up a good fixed blade knife that you can use to cut brush if you need to. I like the Gerber Strongarm as an affordable but well built option
  13. Multi-tool – A good multi-tool like the Leatherman Sidekick is always handy to have.
  14. Duct tape – Duct tape has so many uses, you’ve got to have it.
  15. Paracord – Good cordage can be invaluable so pick up some good paracord that you can use to strap things together when you need to.
  16. Flashlight – Pick up a solid flashlight in case you need to find your way around in the dark.
  17. Trash bags – Pack a pair of heavy duty trash bags. They’ve got many uses from acting like a makeshift poncho to an improvised rucksack.
  18. N95 contractor masks – You don’t need a gas mask but these contractor masks will help protect your family from smoke and dust in the event of a fire.
  19. Cash – I’d recommend at least $500 in cash as you’re probably not going to have a chance to get to an ATM.
  20. Copies of important docs – Photocopy your birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport and put them in a ziploc bag so they’re waterproof.
  21. (Optional) Firearm and ammo – If you don’t own a firearm don’t worry about this. If you do I recommend a handgun or takedown rifle and 3 mags. Anything bigger and you need to sacrifice too much on weight and concealability.

Additional Tips

  1. Bag recommendations – I love both Maxpedition and 5.11 Tactical as makers of sturdy, high-quality packs.
  2. Build, don’t buy – While you can buy pre-made bug out bags, I highly recommend building your own so you are familiar with what’s inside and have to force yourself to think about what you really need.
  3. Don’t overdo it – Remember that you are going to potentially have to lug this pack around for a few days. Don’t overpack and avoid items that are not essential so you can keep the weight down and have more room for what you do need.
  4. Bonus tip: keep the gas tank in your vehicle filled. Always leave enough gas in the tank to travel at least 50 miles. The last thing you want to have to do in an emergency is visit a gas station.


For those of you who made it this far, thanks for reading. If you don’t have a bug out bag already, I hope I’ve convinced you to get one. If you do, please share this so we can convince others they need one too!

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