Medications, especially prescription ones, are hard to come by when SHTF. You have to make sure that your scripts are filled, especially if you or any of your family members suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and the like. If someone has allergies, an EpiPen could be a lifesaver. Don’t forget to take some over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen or cough medicine for common aches and pains and topical creams for rashes and insect bites.
Legal Documents and IDs
Legal documents and IDs are important but they’re utterly fragile things, too. Important legal documents like passports, birth certificates, IDs and land titles can easily get destroyed in a fire or flood or could simply be forgotten when you’re about to evacuate a place.
Make sure you have both physical and digital copies in your bug out bag. You can keep the physical copies in a waterproof zip envelope, while the digital ones can be stored in a handy flash drive.
Photos of Family Members (Physical Copies)
This is important in case any of your family members get lost. Your phone might run out of battery, or in the case of a major EMP attack, not work altogether, so physical photos of individual family members are a must if you need to find them. This also comes in handy if you’ve got pets. Keep the photos in a waterproof zip envelope or laminate them for good measure.
In a major disaster, don’t expect credit cards to work, especially if the grids are down. Cash will most likely be the only mode of payment available. Prepare a stash of cash in your bug out bag at all times to pay for things like extra supplies, transportation and the like.
Extra Batteries or a Solar Charger
Devices like tactical flashlights need batteries to work, so make sure you carry an extra set or two. If that kills your weight savings, a lighter and more versatile option would be to bring a portable solar charger. This way, your flashlight, or any other electronic device, can work even when the rest of the world goes dark.
Toilet Paper or Wipes
These two are a given when it comes to bug out hygiene, but they’re also the ones most likely to be forgotten. Wipes are especially useful when you need to get clean but can’t find water, or have limited amounts of it.
Another must-have are tampons— these are useful for both men and women. Aside from hygiene purposes, tampons can be used as tinder, makeshift water filter, and bandage. Check out other multipurpose items here.
This item is a must-have if you have kids. Packing several disposable ones is the way to go when facing a short-term bug out the situation as they are lighter and less bulky compared to their reusable counterparts.
Reusable cloth diapers are a more eco-friendly and sustainable option, but they take a lot of time and effort to use— two things you don’t have a lot of in a survival situation. They also use up a lot of water for clean up. Save those cloth nappies for long-term use but for a bugout bag, go disposable.
You’ll be out in the wilderness for a while and bugs can be quite notorious. Bug bites can cause a myriad of inconveniences like rashes and allergies and even serious conditions like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever so make sure to carry bug spray.
Mobile phones and the internet can crash when SHTF. How will you communicate?
Two-way radios are especially useful when the usual communication lines are down. These radios may be old-school, but they’re easy to carry and very effective, especially when you need to ask for help.
Zip ties are lightweight but very sturdy. They take little space in your bag and can be used in a variety of ways.
You can use zip ties to secure just about anything in place. You can use the bright, colored variety as trail markers. Zip ties can even be used as “handcuffs” in case you encounter some human threats.
Spare Glasses or Contacts
If you’ve got bad eyesight, losing your glasses or contacts is the last thing you’d want when SHTF.
There’s slim to no chance of having an open eyewear repair shop so make sure to always bring a spare pair glasses or contact lenses. Carry an eyeglass repair kit or an extra bottle of contacts solution for good measure.
Don’t forget to stay warm even when SHTF, so pack a couple of spare socks in your bug out bag. A good pair of socks can also help prevent blisters and sore feet.
You can also keep a pantyhose, which you can wear under your socks for warmth and protection against insect bites. Check this article out for other helpful uses for pantyhose in your bug out bag.
A whistle is one thing you’d want to have if ever you get lost or trapped. Sadly, it’s often too small to get noticed. Whistles are capable of signaling for help even across long distances so don’t forget to pack, or better yet, wear one around your neck.
Baking soda isn’t just something you’d use in the kitchen. It’s also quite useful for other things like getting dirt out of clothes and absorbing foul odors. If you ever run out of toothpaste or shampoo, baking soda can be used as a great alternative.
Condiments and Bouillon Cubes
Most bug out food will likely taste like cardboard so you have to pack stuff that can make them more appetizing.
A spice kit made from an altoids tin or tictac containers works really great and takes little space in your bag. You can add some bouillon cubes to elevate the taste of food as well. They weigh close to nothing and can make palatable camp soups when needed.
Oral Rehydration Salts
Oral rehydration salts can be a lifesaver in bug out situations. Dehydration and exposure to the elements is a pretty serious threat when bugging out, so make sure you carry a couple of rehydration packets with you.
Water Filter or Purification Tablets
Thanks to modern tech, most backpacking water filters are now very light and can get rid of 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and protozoa. They come in very handy when you’re not sure about your water sources outdoors.
Water purification tablets or drops are also a cost-effective and space-saving option. Your water won’t taste great, but at least it won’t give you any stomach troubles.
When SHTF, you’ll be facing a lot of threats, both from nature and other humans. When you need to defend yourself, don’t discount the power of a non-lethal weapon. It doesn’t hurt to include some pepper spray for self-defense. Well, actually, it will, but for potential bad guys— not you.
Expect to do a lot of manual labor in case the grids shut down, so include a trusty pair of gloves in your bag. It protects your hands from blisters, cuts and from potential hypothermia and frostbite if the weather is a bit unforgiving.
A good, reliable facemask like the N95 is important to keep you from breathing polluted air or to protect yourself from infection. According to the FDA, N95 masks can filter as much as 95% of airborne contaminants greater than 0.3 microns. Make sure to select one that fits your face properly for best results.
Plastic bags have a multitude of uses. You can use them to carry wet items, separate stuff in your bag, or hold trash. Your creativity is the limit.
Sure, it’s easier to use duct tape but sometimes things can rip and you really need some needle and thread to sew them back together. If you want something more heavy duty than a thread, you can use dental floss. The stuff is usually made of nylon, so it’s super sturdy.
If you’re a trained individual, you might also want to keep a suture kit handy, just in case a situation calls for emergency field surgery (you definitely can’t duct tape your way out of that one!)
Map-reading is a skill every prepper needs. When you can’t rely on GPS, this skill will save you from getting hopelessly lost. While you’re at it, bring a compass, and learn a couple of natural navigation techniques as well.
Having a dull knife is worse than having no knife at all, so don’t forget to include a knife sharpener in your BOB.
Books, either for survival or entertainment are important in a SHTF situation. Of course, you can’t bring tons of books without putting additional weight on your bag. You can instead invest in a digital reader like a Kindle, where you can store numerous books for reference or entertainment. What’s great is that their batteries can last for a long time. Fully charged, the device can last for 4-6 weeks, depending on usage. Put it in flight mode and it’ll last even longer.
Don’t forget to pack aluminum foil! A campsite staple, aluminum foil has many uses from food to firestarting to signaling for help. It’s a great multipurpose item that can help you out of a lot of sticky situations.
Whether you’re planning to bug out from the get-go or are forced to evacuate, having a great bug out bag will most likely increase your chances of survival. Sure, you might have covered the major items like food, clothing, water and shelter, but don’t forget to take a look at other important things like the ones in this list.
Do you have any other items in mind? Don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments below!