Essential Items That Should Be In Your Bug Out Bag

What’s a Bug Out Bag?

The bug out bag can trace its roots back to the “bail-out bag”, the emergency kit that military aviators carry in case they need to evacuate. Incidentally, the term “bug-out” is also British slang for “leaving quickly under fire.”

Basically, a bug out bag is what you need to pack in case of emergencies. Bug out bags are meant to be lightweight, handy, and should be able to carry essential items needed for short-term survival. It should preferably be water-resistant and have compartments so you can easily organize your supplies.

A bug out bag should have everything you need to be fed, sheltered, and clothed for at least 72 hours. Most crises often stabilize after three days, and until then, or until you can reach a more secure location, your bug out bag should provide you with the basic necessities.

What Should Be in Your Bug Out Bag?

As mentioned above, your bug out bag should have the essentials needed to get through the first 72 hours after a crisis. That being said, you don’t have to stuff everything in your bag. Keep in mind that you will be carrying your bug out bag around. Stuffing it with unnecessary items would only end up making it bulky and disorganized.

Here’s what should be in your bug out bag:

Important Documents, Money, and a Written Plan for Emergencies

Include copies of identification and important documents such as:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Deeds
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank records

It’s also wise to keep printed copies of your family members’ photos in case you get separated during an evacuation.

Keep around a few hundred dollars in small denominations.

In the event of an emergency, you’ll also find it pretty hard to keep a level head and to remember important places, phone numbers, and things. That’s why a written plan should also be in your bug out bag. This should contain emergency phone numbers, a checklist of things that you need to do and bring, and an evacuation plan.

First Aid Supplies

You won’t have access to prompt medical attention in emergency situations. It’s best to equip yourself with basic first aid skills and to pack first aid supplies in your bag, which includes the following:

  • Wound dressing materials like bandages, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine swabs, dressings, and antibiotic ointments
  • Various medications for common ailments like aspirin, acetaminophen, cough and cold medicine, antacids, and other prescribed medications for family members
  • Rash cream and insect repellants
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

Food and Water

A 3-day food and water supply should be in your bug out bag. Stock up on food that is non-perishable or has a long shelf life and has high-calorie content to keep your strength up. Examples include:

  • Energy bars
  • Trail mix or nuts
  • Beef jerky
  • Peanut butter
  • Pre-packed emergency food like MREs

A half-gallon to a gallon of water per person per day should be able to sustain you in an emergency situation. Keep a Nalgene-style water bottle in your bug out bag. If able, you can always keep the larger water containers in your car. In case a safe water supply is not available, keep water filters and purifiers like water purification tablets or a survival straw in your bag.


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Your bug out bag should contain clothing good for three days. Since you won’t know when an emergency will arise, keep in mind to stock clothing that you can use in both cold and hot weather.

Clothes that have good wicking properties are also ideal as they draw sweat away from your body. Clothing made of merino wool is also good to keep in your bag; wool is water-resistant and has special properties to keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.

Include the following articles of clothing:

  • Long and short-sleeved shirts
  • Thermal underwear
  • A jacket
  • Thermal blanket
  • Wool socks

Hygiene Kit

Don’t forget to observe proper hygiene, even while bugging out. Include toiletries and personal products such as:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Towel
  • Body wipes and toilet paper
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Deodorant

Tools for Shelter

You will have to prepare to camp out for shelter. It’s also practical to bring tools that serve multiple purposes. They get a lot of jobs done without eating up precious space. Pack the following items:

Other Supplies

There are other miscellaneous supplies that you can pack in your bug out bag. They can serve various purposes from communication to sending rescue signals.

  • Whistle
  • Extra set of keys for house or car
  • Extra batteries and chargers for electronic devices
  • Tactical flashlight/hand-crank flashlight
  • Portable radio
  • Bandana
  • Pantyhose
  • Chlorine or iodine tablets for water purification
  • Extra glasses or contacts

Final Thoughts

Your bug out bag is only as good as the items inside it. Aside from keeping your bug out bag organized and easy to access, continually update your bug out bag as some supplies may have expiration dates.

However, no matter how “complete” your bug out bag may seem, these items would be useless if you don’t actually know how to use them.

Practice your survival skills constantly. Learn how to start a fire from scratch, or how to purify water— these will be invaluable in a survival situation. Prepare other members of your family on what to do in case of an emergency so you can stay calm and organized.

These are the basic items that should be in your bug out bag. Did we miss anything else? Let us know in the comments below.

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