Well, I know what you’re thinking… “No I haven’t,” and “Don’t call me Shirley.”
Putting together a great bug out bag takes research, knowledge, and the literal application of your gear and newly acquired neural connections. It takes testing your gear and getting to know it better than you got to know good ol’ Handgela McFingerton in middle school.
If you came here to learn a few new tricks, whether you’re a newbie or a pro, thanks for joining us! I’m sure you’ll pick up a new thing or two. Or perhaps you’re one of those guys who knows better than the rest of the world and thinks you can do this without the help of some experts… We have a name for you too, and it ain’t Thick Richard if you know what I mean.
Sadly, too many people attempt to hide their inadequacies by using their computer for cover, and that’s not who we are. Our list is simply the foundation for self sustainment in any environment, and not the “end-all-be-all” to survivalism. As we go through this list, think to yourself that this is a road map to your future destination; and like all road maps, there’s more than one way to get there.
We’re constantly re-assessing our preps, and continuing to seek our failure points, so we can push beyond and grow to reach new potentials that would have otherwise gone undiscovered.
The following instructions, will help you put together the best bug out bag for your particular needs. Use it as a starting point, and add specifics as you see fit.
The Correct Backpack
I can’t stress this enough. Just like a sturdy house starts with a strong foundation, your Bug Out Bag is the foundation to your survival, and shouldn’t be overlooked when looking at quality.
The key is to get a backpack with proper support, and molle webbing so you can attach additional items as needed. The Multicam Ruk Sack shown here runs about $400, and has hip support. This is essential, as it helps distribute the weight to your hips, and take the stress off of your back and shoulders.
You can get a lot of various multicam tactical accessories from many of our favorite retailers. Things to consider are pouches for each category. Eating, Clothes, Shelter, etc.
Along with your backpack, you should have a waterproof shell. These are lightweight, and very effective at keeping your gear dry in adverse conditions. Thinking that you’ll never encounter bad weather, is as foolish as falling for “Change you can believe in,” we all know how that turned out.
Change of Clothes
It’s important to have a change of clothes, possibly even inside of a dry sack incase you encounter terrible weather. This should include a change of pants, socks, underwear, shirt, poncho, gloves and I even include a pair of flip-flops. These will come in handy for a lot of things, depending on your particular environment.
For example, getting in and out of your shelter during the night to use the bathroom… you won’t need to lace up… just slip ’em on, pop a squat, and head back to bed.
You may even consider a set of camo-clothes and a set of civilian clothes, depending on your environment – so you can blend in or disappear.
We’ve all heard the rule of 3’s. You can survive three minutes without air, three hours without shelter (in extreme environments), three days without water, and three weeks without food.
Obviously shelter is critical, and can even play to your advantage. If you pick shelter that adds to your camouflage strategy, you can increase your survivability. I’m a big fan of Hennessy Hammocks, as they can be set up quickly, they’re compact and lightweight, and don’t require level ground.
Be sure to get a compression sack for your tent, as well as for your sleeping bag. This is incredibly valuable, and will save you loads of space during your exfil.
The best way to treat illness, is to never get sick. Most disease can be prevented by good hygiene. This is why the army even dedicates an entire book to field hygiene. This field manual can and should be downloaded online.
You should be sure to include:
- Wash Cloth or Bandana
- Dental Floss
- Toilet Paper
- Dish Soap
- Hand Sanitizer
- Bar of Soap
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- 1st Aid Kit
Food & Water
These are critical. It’s recommended to have a 3-day supply of food. I prefer Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals, as they’re lightweight, and you just add hot water and let them sit. I think the downside is that they’re so bulky, so if I’m concerned with space in my bag, I’ll be sure to throw in several packets of instant oatmeal. These can fit in your canteen cup and stove kit, as talked about in the following video.
In addition to your main meals, you should strongly consider “instant access” meals such as a Cliff Bar or trail mix. These will quickly give you carbs and sugar to help sustain you for the short term, but they should not be depended on for your main source of food.
You’ll need a way to prepare these items, so consider the following tools for food:
- Titanium Spork
- Titanium Plate
- Katadyn Water Filter or NDuR Canteen Filter
- Canteen Cup and Stove
- Hexamine Tablets or Vaseline Soaked Cotton Balls
- Matches, Lighter, Flint and Steal
- Vargo Titanium Hexagon Wood Stove for long-term bug outs
On a quick side note, if you read my article on Putting Your Survival Camping Gear To The Test, you’ll recall that I didn’t have a plate, so I made one from palm leaves.
This mistake cost me a lot of time, but certainly worked in a pinch. It’s very hard to gut and clean a fish without a hard surface to clean it on.
I believe the reason I was able to get away with this in the moment, was that my friend and I were sharing the chores. He dug the Dakota Fire Pit, while I set YoYo Traps and caught dinner.
Without the aid of a bug out buddy, I simply wouldn’t have had the time to create a plate from leaves.
If you have the luxury of being able to afford a few high-speed tools, you should make your decisions based on a priority tree. What are you personally most likely to use, and do you know how to use them? If this is the first time you’ve tried to navigate land by compass, don’t even bother getting a nice one. However, if you’re an expert land navigator, then it’ll be a no-brainer for you to get the tools to fit your skill set.
Knife (Asek Survival Knife System or Bear Grilles has a very high quality knife)
- Paracord, 100 feet, or two lengths of 50′.
- Gerber Multi-tool
- P-51 Can Opener
- Small Fold up Saw
- First Aid Kit
- Tritium Compass
- Sewing Kit
- Duct Tape
- Map of Your Area
- Rite in the Rain Tablet
- Headlamp with extra batteries
- Small plastic shovel
There are certainly a handful of items that will help take the edge off. If you have the room and don’t mind a little extra weight, I highly recommend something to help entertain yourself. Here’s a quick list of things to consider.
- Carmex (Ease the cracking of dry lips and skin, and won’t leak in your bag)
- Bug Spray
- Sun Screen
- Folding Stool (VERY important in some areas)
- Ziplock Bags
- Super Glue
- Camping Stakes To Secure Tarps or Tents
- Goal Zero Solar Charger for your batteries
- Deck of Playing Cards
- Sandals or Crocs For Wet Areas
- Pocket Bible or War Time Prayer Book
Feeding Yourself After Supplies Run Out
If you end up bugging out for more than three days, some of your supplies will quickly run out. Knowlege is almost always better than gear, so take the time now while times are good, and educate yourself on bushcraft. Learn how to track an animal, trap it, and preserve the meat without the use of a gun.
However, if you can bring a gun with you, we recommend a Ruger 10/22 Youth Model (Smaller than original), with folding stock. This is lightweight, compact, and so is the ammo.
If I could only pick 3 items to bring to help feed me for a long term bug out, they would be:
1) Ruger 10/22
2) Conibear 110 or 220 Trap
3) Yoyo Fish Trap
With just a little training, you can end up with more food than you can (or want to) eat with these tools.
The picture to your left shows our catch with a Conibear 110. We dug a small hole about the size of the trap, placed the guts and waste from earlier in the day into the hole, and laid the trap within it. Obviously the opossum stuck his head in the trap to get the food, which quickly and painlessly ended it’s life, and provided us with plenty of food.
Often Overlooked Items
Last but not least is a quick list of often overlooked items.
- Prescription Medication
- Cash (up to $500 in fives, tens, and twenties)
- 1964 and earlier “junk” coins
- Dry Sack (To keep your shoes in at night to keep water and critters out)
- Condoms… just sayin’
I hope that you find this list helpful. As you can tell from some of the pictures, we’ve assembled this list based on applying techniques and actually practicing our bug out plan. This is simply a foundation; a starting point. Feel free to add to the comments below if you feel we overlooked something that you find essential.
Lastly, this entire load out is about 40lbs. It sounds like a lot, but in a bag that’s built to distribute the weight, it’s not too bad to lug through the woods.