A bug out bag is a portable, comprehensive disaster preparedness survival kit containing essential items you need to survive for 72 hours meant for situations where you must leave your home, work, city, or general location in a quick and immediate manner – usually in the event of a disaster. A bug-out bag allows you to bug out swiftly, promptly, and safely. Bug out bags are sometimes called bug-out bags, BOBs, 72 hour kits, or “go kits.” (Additional synonyms and related types of survival bags can be found in our glossary). In simpler terms, a bug out bag is essentially a large backpack containing provisions for sustenance, shelter, hygiene, protection, and other core elements of survival. This survival kit is meant to for immediate evacuations and is only intended to sustain an individual for up to 72 hours.
The Core Definition and Rationale Behind the Bug Out Bag
Bug out bags are unique among survival kits because their sole purpose is to enable you to “bug out.” They contain everything you need to get the f*** out of dodge, and quickly. Bug out bags, or “go kits”, are intended to provide the fundamentals for short-term survival and immediate evacuation from your location with almost no notice. This can be accomplished by including comprehensive-yet-limited survival tools, gear, and supplies, through basic planning, and by building your bug out bag long before any disaster strikes.
Bug out bags are intended to contain 72 hours worth of provisions, which is why bug-out bags earned an alternative moniker, the 72-hour bag. Why only 72 hours? The logic behind it is simple. The function of a bug out bag is tied directly to the assumption that the emergency requiring you to utilize your B.O.B. will pass. Operating under this assumption, we can reasonable expect that disaster aid/relief will begin to reach disaster victims (you) within 72 hours of the emergency event.
This time period is the standard within the survival community and among government agencies, such as the United State’s government’s F.E.M.A. The bag is essentially the bare necessities – all you are likely to need in a short-term emergency or in a more common disasters.
You don’t need to build a underground unclear shelter to start basic disaster planning or to be prepared for an emergency. By compiling this basic emergency kit, in the form of a backpack full of survival supplies – a bug out bag – you’ve completed part of your most important emergency planning. Bug out bags are simple, they’re easy, and they may save your life some day.
A Note on Alternate Contents by Region & Other Survival Kits
The contents of a bug out bag can and should vary by region and your region’s likely disaster needs. Some geographical regions are more prone to certain types of natural disasters; because of this, bug-out bags should contain additional survival gear depending on where you live. This alternate survival gear will make you better equipped to survive a disaster common to your geographical area. To learn more about region-specific disasters or view our disaster specific bug-out bags, you can read our location-based disaster preparedness overview or our modified disaster-specific bug out bag lists.
We should note that there are many additional, different types of disaster preparation kits and survival bags other than bug out bag we’ve discussed in this series. Different survival bags serve different functions; they are build similarly to bug out bags, but these survival bags are configured with different contents and survival tools depending on the purpose of our survival kit and your unique individual needs. These alternate survival bags cater to slightly different needs and levels of preparedness. Other survival kits prepare for specific disaster events, long-term survival, every day survival, travel to or from longer distances, and other unlikely-but-worth-planning scenarios.
Most emergencies do not require long-term supplies or survival. We believe a basic bug out bag should be sufficient for the most common disasters and emergencies. You can learn more about other survival bags and kits and the necessary survival gear here.
Typical Bug Out Bag Contents
While the contents of a bug out bag may vary based on your region the disaster propensity of that region, all bags should have the same basic core contents. Typical bug out bag contents essentials include (partial list):
- 72 hours worth of water per person
- 72 hours worth of food per person
- Shelter: tent, or camping equipment
- Sleeping bag or bedding
- A lighter, matches, or other fire-starting tool
- Knife and/or multi-tool
- Basic clothing (socks and underwear)
- Source of light
- First aid kit
- Basic hygiene products
- (View full list of essential items)
Note: This is by no means a comprehensive list of even the most basic items. It is a very brief, partial list of basic bug-out bag items meant to give you an idea the type of survival supplies you might needed. We have a dedicated section of this website for bug out bag lists and configurations. You can view a list of bug-out bag configurations here, or view our list of essential bug out bag contents.
Bug Out Bags vrs. Other Survival Kits: Unique Factors
A bug out bag differs from other types of survival bags and disaster preparedness kits because it operates under the following assumptions:
- The emergency will end within 72 hours
- Emergency relief workers will be able to provide disaster aid within 72 hours
- You need to leave or evacuate your home or location fast/immediately
Bug out bags are designed with these assumptions in mind.
As such, a bug-out bag focuses on immediate evacuation, not long-term survival. In doing this, it provides essential supplies for 72 hours. These two factors – immediate evacuation and short-term survival – are the two differentiating factors between a bug out bag and other types of survival bags.
As you know by now, bug-out bags are intended to facilitate quick or immediate evacuation in a disaster or emergency. By building your bag and compiling all critical survival supplies and tools in a single place – a single bag – you are able to leave almost immediately. You just grab your bag, your family, and go. Without a bug out bag, you would need to track down necessary supplies or be forced to leave without them – neither option you’d want to choose in a disaster.