What To Put In Your Bug Out Bag

The term "bug out" came out during the Korean War. Like its name suggests, it means to leave quickly.

There are dozens of reasons you might have to leave quickly. It can be for natural causes like fire, flood, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Or it can be for unnatural causes like domestic abuse.

If for whatever reason, you're not safe in your own home, don't leave without the essentials.

Enter the Bug-Out Bag.

I never realized how important it was until Hurricane Rita. We were so unprepared it wasn't even funny. It wasn't even a case of not having money to buy the things we needed. It was that the things we needed couldn't be had for love or money--not in our immediate area anyway.

The US government has a great little list of supplies at a web site called Build a Kit. The general rule of thumb is to have enough to sustain you for three days.

The list is a good one, but let's drill down to the basics.

You want a backpack that will provide, water, food, communication, identification, medication, and currency to get you away. Each family has different needs. A family with dogs (like us for example) will include additional food and water for pets.

If you think a disaster is imminent you'll want to store supplies in your get away vehicle. If you're on foot, the bug out bag will have to be in the form of a back pack for ease of carrying.

Have you ever been camping? I can testify that I've found I can live on a lot less if I have to carry it on my back. :) Just sayin'.

If you're leaving on the sly, say to get away from a bad domestic situation, you'll want to store your items carefully so as not to call attention to them.

Before any imminent departure, fuel your vehicle to the tippy top.

Here is what I would put in MY bag.  Click on the photos for more info.

• Bottled water (qty. 3 liters)  (See note below #1)
Survival Straw (in case I have to use a questionable water source)
Hand-crank flashlight and radio. These were ABSOLUTE lifesavers, during our last disaster. I cannot recommend this enough.

• Food (See note below #2)
• Cell phone and charger
Solar charger for cell phone in case you're really stranded with no power.
• A head lamp (surprisingly useful)

• First Aid Kit   (See note below #3)
Prescription medication and pain relief meds
• Antibacterial wipes

• Soap
• Towel
• Toilet Paper (I have my priorities and I'll make room for this!)
• One change of clothes, 2 pairs of socks

• A good knife with a sharpening stone
• Duct tape
• Leather gloves
• Rope
• Several gallon-sized self sealing plastic bags. I use them to keep fragile things dry like my first aid kit, documents, and clothes.
• 1 large trash bag. Good for makeshift rain gear.

• Notebook and pen/pencil
• Important documents (insurance, ID, list of contacts)
• Cash, Credit Cards

• A weapon. This might not be for you, but me, I carry a gun. I'm too old to fight hand to hand and I'm too rickety to run.

Note #1 Water: I only carry three liters in my backpack but I will carry at least a couple of gallons inside my car.

Note #2  Food: Same goes for food. I'll store bulkier items like cans (with a can opener) in the car. But I'll carry lightweight things like nuts, granola, beef jerky, and flaked tuna in pouches in my backpack. When selecting your food, choose high protein food for energy.

By the way, I always buy my tuna in oil. In a crisis, the fat is not only a good source of calories, but it's oddly comforting. Trust me on this.

You can also buy a few commercially packaged camp food. All you add is water. They are light, well-vetted, and the better brands are surprisingly tasty. Mountain House is a particularly good brand.

Note #3 First Aid Kit: The only other things I would include here are alcohol and iodine--though I prefer Betadine solution myself. These things are a little bulky so I would leave them in the car's bug-out box. You can always pour some into a smaller container that seals well. For extra protection, I double secure the cap with a piece of duct tape so it doesn't jiggle loose during transport.

In a car, you can lug all you want, but if you have to get away on foot or on a bus, get a good backpack with an interior frame. It'll make the load easier to carry. I'm 99% sure my vehicle will get me wherever I want to go, but I've been stranded in the past, so I don't leave anything to chance.

I've been in situations where I was totally unprepared and I've been in situations where I thought I was prepared. It's a sobering wake up call when you're sitting somewhere AFTER the fact thinking of all the things I should've packed.

This is the list I use now.

Have you ever been in situations where you've had to leave fast? I know some of my friends have harrowing tales of escape so I hope you'll chime in and tell us what you did during a crisis.


Mike Keyton said…
Dear God, Bernadette would have me committed if I suddenly did all that. Having said that, you have no idea how it appeals to the novelist in me - or perhaps the small boy in search of adventure. And on a serious note, the water and generator might be a worthwhile investment in this new age of cyber-warfare. So easy to bring water and electricity to a halt. Guns, unfortunately are not really an option.
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: But you don't live in an area of hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. I'll be honest, we used to have a bug out bag ready during hurricane season, but where we live now, I've only ever once prepped a bag when a major wildfire came dangerously close.

The rest of the time we hunker in place.

re: generators
Generators are a godsend. Living in the boonies we don't need a natural disaster to lose power. Thank goodness for Greg's solar array too.
marlenedotterer said…
Very important post! I haven't had to use it yet, but here in earthquake country, supplies are critical. And forget 3 days - go for 1 - 3 weeks for general supplies. The backpack can only be used for the short term, but it IS essential. Let me add: rotate food and water supplies at least every 6 months. Also check batteries and chargers to make sure they still work.
Gwen Gardner said…
Excellent list! My hubs always has a bug-out bag ready just because that's how he rolls. But when we were living in fire country, we were always ready to bug out. We lived in the mountains on a dirt road with limited access and no close neighbors. We were ready!
Stacy McKitrick said…
Sounds like a smart idea. My problem? I'd pack one up, forget all about it and when the time came and I needed it, it would be ten years later and all the stuff would be useless. Thankfully, I've never had a need for one.
Maria Zannini said…
Marlene: I think earthquakes scare me more than any other natural disasters. We've had to survive for a whole 21 days without help, so you are right on for supplies.

re: check batteries
Yes! Before any bad weather I always check batteries and I make sure lanterns are out in the open in case we need them.
Maria Zannini said…
Gwen: The closest we came to a wildfire was one year during a severe drought. I could smell the smoke. Fortunately, they stopped it before it reached us. Jackie Burris could tell you stories though. She lost everything that year Texas hill country burned.
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: Count yourself lucky you don't live in an area of earthquakes, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes. It turns you into a Boy Scout overnight. :)
Jenny Schwartz said…
I remember one of your posts where you mentioned the value of candy in the aftermath of a disaster - energy to keep you going. I've added that to my list of life wisdom to remember.
Stacy McKitrick said…
I grew UP in an area of earthquakes. Felt several myself. Just got lucky, I guess.
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: It's really helps. I guess it makes you feel like things can't be all bad as long as there's candy. :)
LD Masterson said…
Just one thought - you listed a hand crank radio /flashlight and a solar cell phone charger. If space/weight is an issue, get a hand crank radio with a USB port and use it for your cell phone.
Maria Zannini said…
Linda: My crank radio/flashlight is so old it doesn't have a phone charger. That is a stupendous idea though. Makes me want to buy one.