Bug Out Bag Checklist 101: Bug Out Bag Essentials to Pack Now

In most survival situations, your sources of food, water, clothing, and shelter would be compromised. An evacuation scenario is also very likely, so you would do well to prepare a bug out bag beforehand.

What is a bug out bag? What should your bug out bag checklist include?

Here’s what you need to know:

What Is a Bug Out Bag?

different bug out bags side by side

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. They 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.

Must-Have Items to Include in Your Bug Out Bag Checklist

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 will only make it bulky and disorganized.

Here’s what to put in a bug out bag:

Important Documents and a Written Plan for Emergencies

Your bug out bag should 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.

In the event of an emergency, you may 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 checklist. This should contain emergency phone numbers, things that you need to do and bring, and an evacuation plan.


Stash around a few hundred dollars in small denominations.

First Aid Supplies

your bug out bag checklist should include a first aid kit

You won’t have access to prompt medical attention in emergency situations. What to put in a bug out bag in terms of first aid supplies, then, 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

It’s also best to equip yourself with basic first aid skills so that you’ll know what to do with these supplies. 

Food and Water

A 3-day food and water supply should also be part of your bug out bag checklist. Stock up on non-perishable food or food with a long shelf life and high-calorie content to keep your strength up. Examples are:

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 possible, 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.


Another thing to include in your bug out bag checklist is 3 days’ worth of clothing. Since you won’t know when an emergency will arise, make sure 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.

Add 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. Here are some multipurpose items your bug out bag checklist needs:

Other Supplies to Include in Your Bug Out Bag Checklist

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, it doesn’t matter if you’ve ticked off all the gear and supplies in your bug out bag checklist if you don’t actually know how to use them. They’ll only take up space in your bag. 

That’s why you need to practice your survival skills constantly. Learn how to start a fire from scratch and how to purify water—these will be invaluable in a survival situation. Make sure your family members also know what to do in case of an emergency so they can stay calm and organized.

These are the items that belong in a basic bug out bag checklist. Did we miss anything else? Let us know in the comments below.

Advertising and Affiliate Disclosure

We put a lot of effort into all of the content on tactical.com. We are able to provide this content for free because we earn money for advertisements on this site. We also earn small commissions for sales generated via our affiliate links. While these commissions do earn us income, they do not cost our readers anything additional. Clicking on our ads or links helps support our staff and we sincerely appreciate your support.

3 thoughts on “Bug Out Bag Checklist 101: Bug Out Bag Essentials to Pack Now

  1. very helpful and informative, starting right away to make a bugout bag for my wife and I. Thank You, E. Champion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.