20 Tips for Making Your First Bug Out Bag

Ash rains down outside your window, like snow. A wildfire is raging at the edge of your town. Noises in the distance grow louder as emergency workers announce on a megaphone that everyone needs to evacuate immediately. You look around you. No time to pack anything. You urgently tell your partner it’s time to go. You quickly load the kids and the pets into the car, and leave, with nothing from your home but the clothes on your back. In the rear view mirror you take one last look as you drive your family away to safety. You realize you don’t have medications, important documents, or family pictures. You have no idea where you can stay because everyone else is evacuating too, and all of the hotels are booked. The kids are crying that they are hungry. You realize how thirsty you are too. But you can’t stop. You have to keep driving to safety.

That has been the story for many people who have faced emergency situations like this. Any number of situations can cause you to leave your home in a hurry, such as natural disasters, a home fire, industrial accidents like a chemical spill, civil unrest, structural failure, and more. You may have to evacuate someday, but you don’t have to find yourself in a desperate situation. What you need, is a Bug Out Bag.

A Bug Out Bag (BOB) is a basic necessity for every prepper. In fact, every member of your household should have one. Below you’ll find a list of 25 tips for making your first Bug Out Bag.

  1. Pack a bottle of water. You will need at least one bottle of water to get you through until you can refill it or find a drink elsewhere. Make sure there is one in each family member’s bag.
  2. Water filter or purification tablets. Depending on the situation you find yourself in, you may not have access to fresh water. If you need to use water from a natural source such as a spring or a river, being able to properly filter and sanitize your water could save your health, or even your life.
  3. Fire Starter. If you have to camp or need to cook or stay warm, you will need to be able to build a fire. You’ll need something to ignite your fire, like matches, a lighter, or a flint & steel. Don’t forget to keep these items in a plastic baggie or other waterproof container.
  4. Bug Repellant, Sunglasses, and Sunscreen. If you find yourself camping or walking anywhere, you won’t want to also be fighting mosquitoes and flies, or dealing with a painful sunburn.
  5. First Aid Kit. While you definitely want to have one, for the purpose of your BOB, you can keep a standard, smaller kit. You need to watch how much space and weight items take up.
  6. Medications (Prescription and Over the Counter). Pack enough prescription medication for a week. Consider what kind of over the counter medications you are most likely to need, and pack enough for a few days. Do not bring the entire bottle of OTC meds, as it can take up too much space and weight. Use a daily pill minder to store small amounts of OTC meds. It is compact, organized, and water resistant. Don’t forget an anti-histamine (oral and topical).
  7. Pandemic Protection. This would be things like hand sanitizer, masks, and a small (hotel sized) bar of soap. Include a small kitchen-towel to use to dry off your hands or body.
  8. Collapsible Rocket Stove. This is an incredibly handy tool if you plan on cooking, or warming up water for coffee, tea or sanitation. A rocket stove is a very small stove that is powered by fire lit with small kindling. It doesn’t require much fuel and is highly efficient. You can use whatever bits of wood you find around you.
  9. Cooking and Eating Utensils. There are great portable camping mess kits that you can find inexpensively online or at camping stores. Look for compact and light weight!
  10. Food. Whatever you pack will need to be high-calorie, non-perishable and light weight. Canned goods are not a great solution for this because they are so bulky and heavy. Consider things like trail mix, granola bars, and even dried soup mix to cook over your rocket stove. This food is meant to give you energy to get through your situation.
  11. Shelter. Consider a small pup tent or a tarp, if you don’t believe you can carry a full sized tent in your BOB. You will need shelter from rain, snow, and sun, given various situations.
  12. Bedding. You might think about a sleeping mat that you can roll up and lay on the ground. Another solution would be to bring a pool lounge-float in it’s uninflated state. You can blow it up and give yourself a nice bed to sleep on. To save weight and space, you can use an emergency blanket to keep yourself quite warm. Otherwise, a sleeping bag or a lightweight fleece blanket will do a lot to help keep you warmed up.
  13. Clothing. Pack an extra set of clothing from head to toe. Don’t forget clean underwear and socks. You will need dry socks to stay healthy, especially.
  14. Cold and Water Protection. A hat, gloves, and scarf will go a long way to keeping you warm in cold conditions. There are also lightweight single-use rain coats that would come in handy in case of a storm.
  15. Hygiene items. Pack small travel-size versions of your normal hygiene items. This might include things like a toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, chap stick, lotion, deodorant, baby powder (helps with chafing), toilet paper, and wet-wipes.
  16. Tools. A few favorites include a multi-tool, rope or paracord, a cable saw, a good knife, and of course, duct tape.
  17. Lighting. There are many options for this, but perhaps the most efficient would be a head lamp. You could also use candles, flashlights, LED light keychains, glow sticks, and more.
  18. Communications. Everyone in your family or group should have a walkie talkie set up in their BOB so that you can communicate in case you get separated. Make sure to have some extra batteries just in case. You will also want to make sure to bring your cell phone and an inexpensive solar charger. It is also a good idea to bring a whistle so that you can signal for help if needed.
  19. Navigation. Make sure to bring a compass, and practice using it. Include a trail map, and a road map in your BOB.
  20. Bonus Items. First of all, cash in small bills. This could come in very handy if you come across a vending machine, or need to hail a cab. I would suggest putting important documents and family photos on a flash drive that you keep in your BOB. This makes it much easier to evacuate, knowing you have some of the most important items with you. For children, bonus items would include small toys, drawing supplies, or even candy.

With those 20 categories and items, your BOB will be packed with anything you could need. Is there anything else that you include in your bag that we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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