The Ultimate Bug Out Bag List
Step one of building a bug out bag is to put together a bug out bag list.After you’ve chosen the best bug out backpack, it is time to focus on selecting your survival supplies and compiling your bug out bag contents. This list should be comprehensive, containing a list of the most essentials for your survival. Generally you define each critical category and compile the essential items for survival. With this bug out bag checklist, we’ve done that for you.
Building a bug out bag is one of the most important steps, especially for new preppers. By building a bug out bag and developing a bug out plan, you are taking steps to help yourself and your family if a serious emergency every happens.
To save you time and research, we’ve put together our own bug out bag guide for you. This checklist is broken down into categories: 1) bare essentials (basic bag), 2) useful fundamentals, 3) location-based disaster propensity, 4) comprehensive contents.
Our custom bug out bag list builder can help you customize your bug out bag and develop a simplified list of bug out bag supplies tailored to your individual needs and experience.
This bug out bag list contains both critical bug out bag items and our recommended list of bug out bag essentials. The list below is intended to be comprehensive, but should still be customized based on your experience and survival skills, individual needs, location’s population density and climate, and regional disaster risk.
Depending on your geographical are and it’s propensity for natural disaster, you should customize your bug-out bag list to contain appropriate items (I.e. Snowclothes for a snowstorm). Our disaster-specific guide provides options in this case.
If you are ready to buy bug out bag supplies, we have a few additional options for curating your bug out essentials:
- What a checklist based on your needs? Our Bug Out Bag List Customization Tool, which will generate a list of items and recommended products.
- Need it simplified, straight, and direct? This simply list of bug out bag survival supplies with direct links to where you can find them.
- If you prefer a complete bug out bag or ready-to-go kit, check out our pre-made bug out bag buying guide, our pre-made bug-out bag comparison table, or this list of the best ten pre-made bug out bags.
About This Checklist
This 72-hour bag checklist is broken down into important categories based on your survival needs.
We’ve created this table of contents highlighting recommended bug out bag contents below. You may navigate to a particular section by clicking on a link within the table of contents.
- Communication & Navigation
- First Aid / Medical
- Survival Tools
- Self Defense
- Other Customization
- Final Thoughts
After you’ve chosen your bug-out bag, it’s time to start building it. The most important item for survival is, of course, water.
Water is essential to all life, and is perhaps the most important item in your bug out bag (except perhaps for the bag itself). In most survival scenarios, you want to include enough drinking water for 72 hours, for other you and your family. The Center For Disease Control says you need at least one gallon of water per person per day for the 72 hours.
Including water can be tricky because it takes up a lot of space and weighs a lot. If we follow the CDCs recommendation, our one-person bug-out bag needs to have three gallons of water in it – plus three more for any additional family more. It’s not realistic.
Because of the weight and mass of the water, you’ll want to include a small amount of water – up to a gallon – plus additional options for water storage and purification.
We recommend purchasing a stainless steel water bottle bottle rather than disposable plastic water bottles. The reason for this is simple: you can use it as a pot to boil water. Using this method, you have at least one way to clean/purify water when you need to find a new supply.
Water purification is also critical, even for this basic/essential bug out bag. You want at least one water purification option:water purification tablets, or a water-purification device like theLifeStraw.
Sidenote: many disaster preparedness and disaster relief organizations recommend keeping water for cooking and washing in your emergency kit when possible. Due to the follow, this is difficult. We recommend Including 1-2 gallons of water in your bug-out bag, and perhaps an additional 1-3 gallons nearby which you could bring with you in the event of a disaster.
Also critical for a disaster preparedness buyout bag is 72 hours worth of non-perishable food. In a situation where you may need to use your BOB, it is quite possible you may not have access to food, even at grocery stores. In disasters, food can become a scarce resource.
You have several options when it comes to choosing food for a bug out bag. Most importantly, you should select non-perishable food. Once your bug-out bag is complete, you set it aside in a safe place in case you need it; you want food that can last not just months, but years.
You should also consider the space the food fills in your bag. Taking your bag’s capacity into consideration, you want food that is compact, nutritious, and high in calories – especially protein. Be sure to include additional food for members of your family likely to be with you, or help them build their own bug out bag as well. Food for pets is also recommended.
For bug out bag food options, you have a few options. We recommend a combination of food options be included in your bug-out bag, one from each category.
The above category includes our top picks per category.
Note that in a disaster it may be necessary to scavenge, search, and hunt for food in addition to your basic food supply.
If you are using your bug-out bag, you should operate under the assumption you’ll be wearing the same outer clothing for the duration of the 72 hour period. Additional outwear is helpful to have, but not critical unless it’s weather-specific clothing. For this reason, we recommend including additional socks, underwear, and ideally heavy-duty hiking boots.
For weather-specific clothing based on where you live, check out our geographically-specific guide.
4. Protection from the Elements
When it comes to shelter, you have a few options. Having a portable shelter – or being able to improvise one from limited materials – can help keep you safe, warm, and dry.
For shelter, you can include a tent or a build-your-own rope and tarp shelter. Tents are more comfortable, but building your own shelter is more compact for your bag and provides faster mobility.
If you’re going to include a tent, you want one that is lightweight and compact. We recommend the Sundome 2 Person Tent. To view other compact and lightweight tents, click here.
If you want to go back to basics, you can include materials for a tarp and rope shelter.
8. Bedding/Sleeping Bag
There are several options when it comes to securing appropriate bedding: bedding that’s comfortable, but, more importantly, is as compact as possible.
We recommend a small, compact sleeping bag. We recommend the Tooge sleeping bag. View our sleeping bag comparison page here. Alternatively, a emergency blanket and small pillow will work.
Radio & Communications
A radio, while non-critical for immediate survival, may be important in determining the status of the disaster or emergency, collective evacuation plans, aid supply depots, and emerging threats. As such, a reliable radio is important to receive news of the disaster. Radio communications are even better.
The iRonsnow Dynamo Emergency Solar Hand Cranked AM/FM Weather Radio with flashlight is a exceptional all-in-one device. You could purchase this instead of the hand-cranked lights mentioned above, get the radio as well, knocking out two birds with one stone.
A reliable two-way radio is also beneficial.
First Aid / Medical
Normally one might not think to include a first aid kit, but this is a disaster/emergency-preparedness kit, which means there is some type of natural or manmade disaster if you’re using it. As such, a first aid kit is crustal. All bug-out bag kits, even the bare basics, should include one.
If you’d rather build your own first aid kit, you can view a comprehensive list and our recommended, most affordable and high value products here.
While you can probably survive a disaster without basic toiletries – I guarantee you – you don’t want to. Fundamental toiletries to include:
- Toilet Paper (2-3 rolls should be plenty)
Other toiletries like a razor are nice, but since this is the essentials list, we’ll leave them for our breakdown of a more complete bug-out bag. These basic items will keep you in touch with at least the edge of civilization.
A. Fire Supplies
You might need fire – it’s pretty important. Be sure to include it. You never know if disaster will strike in the dead of winter. Fire is also extremely important for cooking, depending on what your non-perishables are.
Fire can help keep your warm and alive, cook for food, signal for help. It’s all-around one of man’s most useful tools. As such, it’s a critical part of any survival bag.
Fire-starting tools are cheap, so we recommend at least three different fire-starting tools, even for our basic bug-out bag.
The most simplest fire tool is a lighter. While a Bic lighter might work, we recommend a more reliable option like the Tesla Coil Lighter.
Learn more on how to start a fire, why you need to be able to build a fire, and all fire starting tool options here.
B. A Blade
C. Rope & DuctTape
A reliable lighting source is important for a bug-out bag. You may need to find someone, may be lost, or may need to urgently travel at night.
There are many light source options available, with various pros and cons, which you can read about here. We recommend at least one reliable light source for your bug out bag essentials, though two or more is preferable.
Rather than focus on helpful but less reliable options like candles, we recommend a battery-powered headlamp and a hand-cranked flashlight as essentials. Specifically, we recommend the waterproof MsForce 6000 Lumen LED Flashlight with rechargeable betters. The PlusStore Rechargeable Waterproof Headlight is another more affordable option.
Many bug out bag guides forget to mention self-defense. The unfortunate reality is that in a disaster-like scenario, people act differently than they normally do. They will likely be looting, and someone who is prepared with survival gear may make an ideal target.
If you’re in a gun-friendly state, we recommend keeping a handgun with ammunition in your bug-out bag.
Otherwise, we recommend pepper spray or this affordable Vipertek Stun Gun, along with your all-purpose knife you selected above. Learn more about survival self-defense and survival self-defense options.