Essential Bug Out Items
Situational preparedness can be a life saver. When disaster strikes, seldom will you have the time to go out and purchase every bug out essential. In this article I will provide you with the knowledge and necessary framework to assemble your very own custom emergency bug out kit for short term situations. This kit will be for one adult to last up to 72 hours. Once assembled, you can keep it at home, or at work, in the car, or with you on outdoor trips. Depending on your environment, caloric requirements, and personal preference, you may add/subtract items. For a more in depth guide, check our article The G.O.A.T Bug Out Bag Guide.
First thing you need is your pack. Considering this will be the item that holds everything, we will want to spend a bit more time and effort when choosing the right pack. Primarily, you will want a pack that is spacious, but not overly large, comfortable, but tough and durable. Additionally, we will pick a pack that has many purpose-built options like straps, Velcro, webbing, pockets, water resistance etc. With a bit of digging, I’ve found the optimal and popular sized bag for 72-hour kits are around 40L in capacity, some going as high as 55L. There are many options available on Amazon, and with their current popularity, it’s easy to make relatively sensible purchases on products with hundreds of reviews. In our case, let’s look at a budget option as this will give us a great balance between quality and cost. Building a good quality, low cost kit will also allow us to assemble multiple kits for other family members.
At the time of writing, one of the best-selling backpacks on Amazon is the REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack. For $40, this 40L pack provides great bang for your buck. Made of high-density water-resistant fabric. The pack has integrated MOLLE throughout the sides and front of the pack. Comparatively, similar packs such as the 5.11 RUSH series of packs also feature MOLLE on the sides and front. Some other great features are the inclusion of a dedicated space for a hydration bladder, a top handle, a waist strap, padded shoulder and back material, and additional pockets.
The Survival rule of 3’s says you can survive 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Since this is a short-term kit, more emphasis will be put on water than food. Having ready to drink water is a necessity and having the means to treat water is also just as important. The backpack has a dedicated compartment for a hydration bladder of 2L. A bladder is fine if you keep it empty in the pack and can quickly fill it before leaving or filling in before you go out on an excursion. If you plan on not having the time to fill the bladder before bugging out, the space in the pack should be used for long term stored water. There are many great options for hydration bladders on Amazon, and many reviews to help you chose the right one, here’s one I would pick after reading through a couple, comparing reviews and features from different brands.
Emergency drinking water comes individually packaged in one time use pouches, they have a storage life of 5 years. This makes them excellent additions to a bug out kit as you can leave them in there and have it ready to go at a moment’s notice. Datrex is the choice, approved by many countries, and made in Kinder, Louisiana. There are many purchase options and retailers so you can decide how many you want to buy, but approximately 18 x 125ml pouches is 2.25L and enough to fit in the hydration compartment of the pack.
Another essential water product is some sort of filtration and treatment. LifeStraw on its own is enough once the pouch water has run out, or you can save the pouch water for other uses like cooking, up to you. The LifeStraw is independently tested by multiple government and health agencies. It filters 99.9999% of bacteria, parasites and microplastics. You can opt for the single straw found on Amazon and many other retailers both online or in store, or you can choose the LifeStraw Flex. The LifeStraw Flex comes with a soft bottle and filter which allows you to take and store water from the source. The flex also has a better filter than the basic LifeStraw with better chemical reduction and heavy metal removal (better taste.)
Figure 1:LifeStraw Flex
Having a compact cook-set is not mandatory, but nice to have. This two cup cook set from Stanley provides you with a stainless-steel pot and two insulated ceramic cups for $14. Everything is nested in the small kettle.
Food is totally customizable to your preference. For bug out kits that are probably going to be sitting unused for extended periods of time, I would recommend MREs or emergency ration bars as they have a longer shelf life. You’re probably going to be burning lots of calories, so getting high caloric foods into smaller sizes is important. We also want to have a good balance of carbs, fats, and proteins, but this is not extremely important for short term packs or for outdoor excursions. If I’m minimizing space, I’ll look at purchasing meal replacement bars. These are totally based on taste and personal preference so you’re free to pick and choose between products that suit your taste. For this article, I’ll go with Redcon 1 MRE bar. A box of 12 bars provides 3120 total calories. A single bar provides 260 calories, 6g of sugar, 29g of carbs, 20g of protein, and 9g of fats.
Figure 2: Redcon 1 MRE Bars
First Aid and Accessories
Integral to every bug out kit is a first aid kit and protective equipment. Most items for your first aid kit should already be lying around the house, all you have do is assemble them in your pack. For simplicity sake, some key items you should take include scissors, bandages, alcohol swabs, tweezers, antiseptic, sting relief, pain relief, gauze pads/roll, tape and wet wipes. I was pretty impressed with this first aid kit. $18 will get you a compact MOLLE Rip-Away EMT First Aid Pouch. It has many great reviews and it is loaded with all the first aid you could want, and at that price to boot. Many users mention the quality of the pouch, and its ease of use when attached to the outside of their packs.
Figure 3: MOLLE First Aid EMT Pouch
Now it’s time to assemble the survival equipment. Aside from some absolute necessities like fire starting and shelter items, you’re free to pick and choose the rest of the items you need based on where you live. I’ll provide a ready-made survival kit, but essentially you build around the shelter item, shelter is one of the Survival Rule of 3’s. 3 hours without shelter in a tough environment is all it will take to kill you. Starting with shelter, the Go Time Gear Life Tent is an excellent, cost effective choice for any bug out kit. It’s on sale right now for $19.95 and there’s a ton of amazing reviews on Amazon. It is extremely compact and 8.7 oz and 5.25” x 3.25”. Windproof and waterproof, this 2-person tube tent is extremely quick and simple to set up, it even comes with a 120db whistle.
Figure 4: Go Time Gear Life Tent
Another great item to have is a thermal sleeping bag, Go Time Gear also makes a compact bag great for emergency situations. Small enough to fit in your palm, this 4.1oz bag provides amazing value at just $19.95. In addition to the sleeping bag we should include some miscellaneous items that come in handy. This compact kit by Gearrific has a whole bunch of goodies like a tool card, 28” pocket saw emergency blanket, compass, tourniquet, flit & striker, signal mirror, and some fishing essentials. If fishing isn’t your thing, you could swap it out for some trapper’s wire, or even a compact .22lr and some ammunition.
Figure 5:Gearrific Survival Kit
We should have some space left over, and with a MOLLE backpack, we can attach some tools and accessories on the outside. Go ahead and attach a good knife housed in a MOLLE compatible sheath. I would also include a multitool, collapsible shovel, work gloves, hand warmers, zip ties, 550 paracord(50ft.), a poncho, an N95 rated mask, maybe even protective goggles. We already have a flint and starter, but I would like redundancy in the fire-starting department by adding some waterproof matches and a lighter or two.
Technology is intrinsically integrated in our daily lives, and a bug out kit without some sort of power is not ideal. The DuraHub is a purpose built choice for outdoor power if you don’t already have a similar product at home. It is a 20000mAh waterproof battery bank with LED light, solar charging 3A USB ports and QI wireless charging support.
Figure 6: DuraHub battery bank.
Having a bug out kit is essential when practicing disaster preparedness. Being ready at a moment’s notice can mean life or death, and such a kit is well worth the money and time it takes to assemble. A bug out kit is better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
Written by John Sader
From camping shoreside as a toddler while his father fished well into the night, to portaging through the backwoods of Ontario, John is an outdoorsman in every sense of the word. A natural Jack-of-all- trades, he is always outdoors doing anything and everything. John enjoys spending his weekends fishing, from a boat or through the ice, hunting for Turkeys and mushrooms in the spring, wing shooting in the fall and chasing deer until the last day of the season. He one day hopes to have his own homestead where he can enjoy the outdoors to it’s full potential. Follow along on his journey on Instagram @set_hook.