Published on October 27, 2019. Updated on September 7, 2023

Welcome to my latest, greatest ultimate bug out bag checklist fully loaded for 2023!

Are you ready to get prepared for a disaster in your area? Are you wanting to build a bug out bag but are unsure where to start? Then this is the guide for you! 

A bug out bag is an arrangement of gear and commodities that can help get you out of a bad situation. Most are designed to last for about 72 hours and are comprised of food, water, shelter, tools, medical supplies and more.

When you start building out your bug out bag, you will quickly realize that its quite a challenge! There are many factors that come into play when packing a bug out bag:

  • Size of items
  • Weight of items
  • Capacity of bug out bag
  • Fully loaded bag weight
  • How long supplies will last
  • What kind of supplies to put in it

Once you figure all of that out, you need to consider your own personal situation and coordinate it with the supplies you put into your go bag. These factors can range from the climate and environment to bugging out with kids and family. Read my article about factors for prepping a bug out bag for more information about prepping with family, pets, and more. 

Yes, it’s a lot to consider. You can always purchase a premade bug out bag but you won’t have control of choosing your own supplies; unfortunately, many premade bug out bags are filled with cheaply made junk.

That is why I recommend purchasing your own supplies and building your bug out bag from scratch. It will cost more but in the end you will have higher quality gear that is fully customized for your personal scenario. 

In this bug out bag ultimate guide, I help you make decisions about what you need to put into your bug out bag. I break everything down into easy to follow categories. I then go a step beyond and list all the products in order from the most basic stuff you need to carry to the downright splurge-worthy items that we would all love to have but don’t necessarily need.

I then list out all the approximate weights of each item so you can calculate the final weight of your go bag, a crucial factor that often gets overlooked.

I highly recommend to bookmark this page as this article is information packed with information and survival gear. You will likely want to refer to it more than once while building your bag.

Don't forget to download the PDF checklist to help you plan your bug out bag! 

Ultimate Bug Out Bag Downloadable PDF Checklist

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Section 1: Choosing The Right Backpack For Your Bug Out Bag

Before we delve into all the goodies, we need to choose the appropriate backpack to bug out with. There is a plethora of options to consider, yet few bags are made of quality and fall apart fast. 

I highly recommending spending the extra bucks on a well-made bag. Some things you can go cheap on; the bag holding all of your precious supplies is not one of them. What a personal disaster it would be if your bag fell apart on the bug out journey! Cheap bags are also typically uncomfortable. 

You will need to consider the size and weight of your bug out bag. A typical rule of thumb is that your bag should not weigh more than 20% of your body weight. Check out my 4 Step Guide to Sizing Your Bug Out Bag for more details on how to choose the appropriate size bug out bag for your frame.

As you start shopping around for a proper backpack, you will find different classes of packs that all have their respective pros and cons. Many of us gravitate to the tactical backpack for our bug out bag, which is a good choice, but I'd like for you to consider the Grey Man Theory before settling on a bag.

What is Grey Man Theory?

Becoming a "grey man" in the time of a disaster essentially means that you blend in with the crowd. It is typically applied to those that are bugging out within a city.

If you are bugging out with a huge tactical pack, this could make you a target in the crowd while people are panicking.

You need to conceal the fact that you are prepared by choosing a discreet backpack.

Below are my recommendations for what bag to use for your bug out bag in respects to exercising the Grey Man Theory.

I have categorized bags into 3 classes: the Ultralight Class, Canvas, and Ripstop Nylon (tactical). 

1. Ultralight Class Bug Out Bag Backpacks

Ultralight backpacks typically weigh less and keep you a lot cooler compared to other materials. They are built for comfort on long treks.

Most ultralight packs are made with silnylon – nylon that is impregnated with silicone. The silicone makes the material waterproof, yet is super light weighing in at 1.5 oz per square yard.

Silnylon uses a ripstop weave that will help reduce rips and prevent rips from expanding. That being said, its not the hardiest of fabrics when compared to a rucksack or tactical backpack.

Splurge Worthy! 

Osprey Atmos ultralight class backpack

(4.65 lbs) Osprey Atmos AG 65 Men's Backpacker

Product Link

I love this bag for it's antigravity suspension - it feels like you are carrying less weight than you really are. At a 65 liter capacity, you can fit a ton of gear into it!

Budget Friendly

loowoko ultralight backpack

(2.2 lbs) Loowoko Hiking 50L Backpack 

Product Link

This budget backpack will do the job and comes with a rain cover for protecting the pack in a heavy downpour. 

2. Canvas Backpacks for Bugging Out

Military-issued duffel bags of days yonder were made of cotton canvas. Back then, they would wax the canvas to waterproof the bags; this made the bags prone to damage from abrasion and would eventually rot if left exposed to damp conditions.

Canvas is now typically made of synthetic fibers and the technology of waxing canvas has improved. You can find good sturdy bags made of waxless cotton canvas or waxed synthetic canvas.

Canvas bags look pretty badass with that classic vintage rucksack feel so you can also look cool while bugging out (cuz that’s a HUGE priority), and they are durable enough to withstand any survival situation or deep woods trek.

(2.9 lbs) Rothco G.I. Style Canvas Double Strap Duffle Bag

Rotcho GI Duffel Bag

Product Link

Here's a heavy duty canvas duffel bag with straps that would work out well for a BOB. 

 3. Tactical Bug Out Bag Backpacks (Ripstop Nylon)

I use a tactical backpack for my bug out bag, mainly for the durability of the fabric and the usefulness of the MOLLE system. I also like the fit and feel of a tactical backpack!

Most tactical bags are made of heavy duty ripstop nylon. When you are looking for a tactical backpack, pay close attention to the denier of the bag.

Denier: Material Toughness

Denier is a metric of measurement that determines the thickness, or density, of the material. The higher the number, the denser and stronger the material is.

Do note that denier does not cross fabrics; a 450D nylon is stronger than a 900D polyester.

Splurge Worthy! 

5.11 tactical backpack

(4 lbs) 5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Military Backpack

Product Link

This badass rucksack has a huge capacity of 55 liters and is made with 1000D ripstop nylon. This backpack is specifically designed for bug out purposes, and 5.11 Tactical always makes a great product. 

Budget Friendly

DIGBUG military tactical backpack

(2.9 lbs) DIGBUG Military Tactical Backpack

Product Link

I like this DIGBUG pack a whole lot, especially considering its price point. Its a 30 liter pack so its not huge, but is perfectly sized to carry gear for a 72 hour trek. It is made out of 1000D nylon so it competes with the big brand name bags. 

The MOLLE System Explained

MOLLE (pronounced Molly) stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. The MOLLE system is used in tactical gear by the military and is the matrixed webbing you will see on backpacks and vests.

You can attach packs and all sorts of items with D Rings onto the MOLLE matrix, expanding the capacity of your backpack.

molle d rings


Product Link

MOLLE tactical pouch

MOLLE Tactical Pouch

Product Link

Section 2: Basic Survival Equipment List

This section encapsulates the most basic of survival gear that every prepper will want to have in their bug out bag. I consider these items to be the bare essentials for any type of survival situation. The list consists of:

  1. Firestarter
  2. Paracord
  3. Illumination
  4. Self defense
  5. Survival knife
  6. Multi Tool
  7. Signaling

I recommend having at least one item from each category!


Basic Survival Tool 1 - Firestarter

If anything, carry basic matches and a lighter. I do suggest having an additional fire starting method that does not require fuel and does not run out quickly. 

(6 oz) Flint (ferro rod) and steel - There are tons of flint and steel combos out there, but I suggest to upgrade to a ferrocerium rod. Ferrocerium is a synthetic alloy that makes a huge shower of super hot sparks so it's much easier to start a fire. The price difference is nominal between regular flint and ferrocerium, so might as well make your life a little easier and make the upgrade.

The Uberleben Hexagon Ferro Rod provides more surface space for 20,000 molten spark strikes.

uberleben ferro rod hexagon

(2 oz) Rechargeable Plasma Lighter - This windproof waterproof stormproof lighter provides 300 uses per charge and connects thru a mini usb. Use with a solar charging station and you will have convenient fire for a really long time. 

Tough Tesla Lighter 2.0

Tesla plasma lighter survival frog

(1.7 oz) Stormproof matches - these are a good idea to have although they are kind of spendy per match. These matches will light even after being submerged into the water - but they still come in a waterproof container, heh.

stormproof matches

(4 oz) Magnesium shavings - magnesium shavings are super light and burn super hot, even when it gets wet. Just remember to extinguish the magnesium with sand or dirt, not water!

magnesium shavings for starting fire


Basic Survival Tool 2 - Paracord

Not just any ol' rope, paracord can provide a solution for a plethora of survival issues when encountered while bugging out.

Paracord is extremely tough as it consists of multiple strands of nylon cordage weaved into multiple small ropes that are then weaved into one large rope. You can unravel the cord and use the internal strands for many utilities.

I recommend going with a 550 lb paracord for its heavy duty use and weight. 

unraveled paracord many uses

Unraveled paracord 

Here are some of many uses for paracord:

  • Fishing line
  • Tinder
  • Sewing
  • Lashing
  • Climbing
  • Tourniquet-ing
  • Splinting
  • Shelter building
  • Net making

Note that the weight of 550 paracord comes in at about 12 feet per ounce.

I recommend TOUGH-GRID 550 paracord as it is made super extra tough with triple strand weaving and comes in at a really good price. Also, it is made in the USA and is used by the military. I love this stuff!

tough grid paracord


Basic Survival Tool 3 - Illumination

Flashlights used to be bulky battery suckers, but with the advent of LED technology - flashlight size, longevity, and brightness have come a long way.

Although modern-day tactical flashlights don't chew through the batteries nearly as fast, don't expect them to last for more than 20 hours on each battery cycle.

(10 oz) Hand crank radio/flashlight/charger combo - Multitools are great for saving space in your bug out bag. The Scorpion II Multi-Powered Weather Radio & Flashlight is rugged, lightweight and compact. You can crank for power or utilize the built in solar panel on the unit. Cool! 

hand crank radio

(6-8 oz w/o batteries) Battery operated tactical flashlight - If you don't mind touting around some extra batteries, there is a host of tactical flashlights available online ranging from really cheap to really expensive.

I found this 2-pack of tactical flashlights that are super cheap and touts over 6000 good reviews. These flashlights have 2000 lumens of light with a bulb life is 50,000 hours. I'd say its a good find and should do the job.

tactical flashlights two pack

(6-12 oz) Headlamps - Headlamps are the evolution of a standard flashlight. They used to be a fortune but have now come down in price as technologies have advanced. There are bulky headlamps with a third strap, these I do not care for. I prefer the more sleek models. There are also battery powered headlamps and USB rechargeable headlamps. 

Splurge Worthy! 

protac headlamp opticsplanet

Streamlight ProTac HL Headlamp

Product Link

This headlamp performs in the top of its class and is still an affordable option pricing in at under $100. The materials are high quality and the band is rubber, not cheap elastic. It does run off batteries so make sure to pack a couple of extras. 

Budget Friendly

cheap rechargeable headlamps

Cheap Rechargeable Headlamp

Product Link

These are ultracheap headlamps made in China from Amazon. What I like about them is that they are rechargeable and compact. They weigh near to nothing! They also have over a thousand really good reviews. 


Basic Survival Tool 4 - Self Defense

If SHTF in your neighborhood, don't expect your neighbors to be so neighborly.

Personally, I pack heat. I feel comfortable carrying and I have practiced quite a bit. 

However, you may not have access to a firearm. You may not be comfortable with a firearm. You also have to account for carrying ammo, which gets heavy quickly. 

As far as ammo goes, it's hard to say how much you want to pack with you. One .40 round weighs on average 10 grams. So roughly 45-50 bullets weigh a pound. It's not a whole lot of rounds but should suffice for a 72-hour bug out plan.

However, on a long-term bug out situation, you will want to pack more ammo if you plan to hunt. You can also barter ammo for supplies if you choose to do so, although I don't suggest it. Ammo will be practically impossible to scavenge on your trek.

There are other self defense solutions out there, and I suggest having at least one of these methods as a backup. 

(8-12 oz) Heavy Duty Taser - A high-voltage taser will pack enough juice to temporarily paralyze an assailant giving you time to get away from the situation.

I like to carry my taser as my "sneak attack" defense method. If my first line of defense fails (unlikely but not impossible) or I get grabbed from behind by surprise, I have my taser easily accessible to give the assailant the shock of their life.

You can also "snap" the taser, making a loud electrical spark that scares off both humans and animals.

The Vipertek taser weighs in at 10 ounces and has a grooved grip handle so it won't slip out of your hands. The price point is low for how much juice it packs and will last for thousands of shocks off one charge.

vipertek taser self defense

(1.5 oz) Pepper gel- Pepper gel is light, requires no energy, is cheap, and has a pretty good range, but it does not work on all people. The majority of people feel the effects, but for some people it has no effect. Therefore, it should not be counted on as your primary self-defense method.

Pepper gel is a new form of spray that is safer to use as it has no wind blowback and can shoot for a very long distance.

Sabre red pepper gel is police-grade, has an 18-foot range, and will last for 18 bursts.

police grade pepper gel

(2 oz) Kubaton - My last recommendation is super light, requires no charging, and never runs out of juice. It is the Kubaton and man, it packs a punch!

This little aluminum rod fits into your hand and will inflict some serious pain upon an unsuspecting assailant. It's a (mostly) non-lethal option yet is an effective tool for defending yourself.



Basic Survival Tool 5 - Survival Knife

A good, sturdy survival knife is worth its weight in gold on a bug out endeavor. Yes, it can be used for self-defense, but there is a multitude of other utilities that a survival knife can be used for.

Some creative ways to use your survival knife:

  • fashioning pointed tips on a spear
  • carving tools
  • chopping firewood
  • bushwhacking
  • skinning animals
  • prepping meals

I use my EDC knife almost every day for prying and cutting; I find that I use my knife for many things I never foresee. 

If you can, pack two knives for your bug out expedition:

  1. Large, fixed blade knife - bushwhacking, chopping
  2. Small EDC knife - cutting, carving, fine work

If you are going to splurge, do so on your knife. When it comes to quality, knives that are made better are more expensive. There are lots of knives available at cheaper price points that have great reviews; but when it comes down to my experience, you are going to have to cough up some cash to get a good quality knife.

(24 oz w/ Sheathe) Kershaw Camp 10 Tan Machete - This 16 inch machete will take care of all your hacking and bushwhacking needs. Kershaw makes a good knife, but what I really like about this unit is the high quality molded sheathe. The sheathe is super important and can be overlooked by manufacturers. This one is legit, and the knife holds up to the test. 

Kershaw machete with sheathe

(14 oz w/ Sheathe) TOPS Tom Brown Tracker Knife - I can't not mention TOPS Knives when it comes to survival knives! This is my FAVORITE brand of knives! Yes, they are spendy. But their quality is unsurpassed and they look great. 

The Tom Brown Tracker can split wood, hack just about anything, and comes with a molded Kydex sheathe. TOPS offers a lifetime warranty, is made in the USA, and touts the saying, "One Knife, One Life". Check out their website here

tom brown tracker knife

(5 oz) Spyderco Para Military 2 Signature Folding Knife - Spyderco is a well known brand and makes a great EDC knife. These knives are known for their strong locking mechanism, and can be opened ambidextrously with one hand. 


(3 oz) Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener - this sharpener is built to sharpen knives in the field. You can sharpen serration, axes, arrow points, and even fishhooks with this bad boy. It is a compact and light unit with no assembly or pieces. With thousands of five star reviews, you can't go wrong.

DON'T FORGET to pack your knife sharpener! 

work sharp field knife sharpener

Basic Survival Tool 6 - Multi Tools

Multi tools are a great way to have multiple items in one unit, reducing the weight of your pack and freeing up more space for gear. They can be a bit more expensive because they are serving more than one purpose, on the flipside, they can also be very cheap which usually turns out to be junk. 

(46 oz) Multitool Shovel with Axe - I love this multitool because it comes with a hatchet. It also has a knife, shovel, hoe, saw, hammer, bottle opener, scale scraper, compass, whistle, and glass breaker. 

(3 oz) Classic Swiss Army Knife - These little multi tools sure do come in handy and are perfectly compact. 

swiss army knife

(9 oz) Leatherman Pocket Multi Tool Pliers - Leatherman has pretty much cornered the market on pocket multi tools. This baby packs 21 tools in one, can be opened with one hand, and is made in the USA. The quality is superior and comes with a 25 year warranty. 

leatherman multi tool pliers

Basic Survival Tool 7 - Signaling

(1 oz) Mirror - for signaling rescue in an emergency. You can get a mirror specially made for rescuing. It is made out of acrylic so it won't break and has an aiming system in the middle for accuracy. Or you can just use a good old fashioned mirror.

signaling mirror survival

(1-2 oz) Emergency Whistle - Good for alerting someone in an emergency or finding a friend if you get separated.

I like this flat marine whistle for conserving space. 

emergency whistle

(16 oz) Flare Gun - A flare gun could come in handy in a bug out situation, and it can double as a self defense tool. It does not feel good to be shot with a flare gun!!!

flare gun

A Few Miscellaneous Items Worth Noting

(16 oz) Solar Power Charging Station - You may plan to have your backpack void of anything that charges, but I personally tote gear that requires a charge. If you have gear that requires charging, I suggest packing a solar charging station. 

The QuadraPro Solar Power Bank has five star reviews from hundreds of users and is one of the best built, fastest charging solar units on the market. You can hang the bank from your pack and charge while you trek!

Solar Power Charging Station

(6 oz) Lock Pick Set - this may be a survival item you have never thought of, but if you could get proficient at lock picking, it could open up a world of survival you never thought possible!

This lock pick set by Survival Frog can unlock any lock and can even unlock and start vehicles. It comes with an eBook so you can learn how to use them. Practice is a necessity to be a proficient lock picker on the fly. 

lock pick set

(20 oz) Binoculars - Being able to see ahead of the game can give you the edge for surviving. I think packing binoculars is a smart idea. The Leopold BX-1 McKenzie Binocular is compact and highly regarded as being a top notch binocular in its class. 

leupold mckenzie binocular

Pro Prepper Tip

There are a few items that are worth noting for your bug out bag. Duct tape, heavy duty garbage bags, pen and paper (small notebook), playing cards, dice, super glue, candles, rags, reusable zip ties and tweezers could all be helpful for one thing or another. If you have room to squeeze in small items, I suggest you do so.  

The Factions Of Survival 

In order for us to survive, we have to attend to many factions. As us humans evolved, we lost fur, claws, and teeth that kept us alive. However, we developed large brains that could out-strategize our predators, we developed the use of tools, we figured out how to create warmth and cooling, we learned how to cook, we even learned how to cultivate and tame animals for meat and commodities. Fire!

There are several factions of survival that must be in balance in order for us to survive even the shortest of disaster scenarios.

These factions are:

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Medical
  4. Shelter/Warmth
  5. Navigation
  6. Communication
  7. Personal Hygiene

As your situation changes rapidly, so will your demand be for supplies across these factions. Clearly, water is of the utmost importance to survival. Water will always be at the top of our prepping list. However, you may need to rely on a shelter or emergency blanket to survive a frigid night. So, is water more important than a shelter? If you freeze to death overnight, then what is the point of having water?

My point is that there is not really one category that trumps over the other. Because as your situation changes, so do your survival needs. Therefore, I recommend that you heed each faction so you can be prepared for any scenario that comes your way.

Now this is a whole lot of information, along with a slew of prepping gear that coincides with each faction. I have managed to categorize every item within each faction according to how necessary it really is to have. These categories are:

Bare Minimum – I wouldn’t want to leave the house without it!

Moderate – I feel much better having this item in my bug out bag.

Robust – I would like to have this item in my bag, but its not necessary.

Splurge Worthy – I don’t need this but man, do I ever want it!

The reason I created the Splurge Worthy category is because we all could use that bit of umph when surviving. Maybe that piece of candy will give you the extra energy you need to keep you trekking a little bit longer. Maybe that robust GPS satellite mapping unit will help you have an edge in your escape when your regular route has been blocked.

 For whatever reason you or I may have, I like to have at least one special splurge object in my bag. I will tell you at the end of the article what my special item is!


1. Survival Water Purification

Collecting and purifying water while on the bug out journey is crucial to your success.

The WHO states that an individual needs 3 liters per day - half for drinking, half for cooking - to survive. That would be a whole lot of water to pack in your 72 hour BOB!

I suggest packing enough water with you to make it for 24 hours and then plan your bug out path along a water source, if possible. 

I have written a thorough guide on How to Filter And Purify Water in times of an emergency. I suggest reading it to become more researched on the topic of providing clean safe drinking water for you and your family.

Bare Minimum Water Survival Gear

Sunlight - Good old fashioned sunlight will exterminate both bacteria and viruses! Place water in a clear bottle (preferably glass) and let the water sit in full sunlight for 6 hours.

In addition, If the water is murky, place some salt in and the particles will stick to the salt and drop to the bottom. 

Note that relying on sunlight to decontaminate water is not an ideal primary method for a bug out situation. It does make for a good backup method, however.

Boil water in a pot - Although this sounds like the simplest method to purify water, it's not. You will need a fire. And a pot or a kettle. You may not be able to start a fire at any given moment, and you may not have enough time to wait for the water to boil. I would suggest having a secondary water purification method in place.

(2-4 oz) Iodine tablets - These are A MUST HAVE in your bug out bag. This is the simplest way to purify water, just add a tab to questionable water and wait 35 minutes. They are also very cheap and light.

potable aqua tabe

(2 oz) Collapsible water bottle - you need to be able to collect your water and make it portable. Any water bottle will do as long as it has a lid. I prefer a collapsible water bottle which is lightweight and folds up very small. 

collapsible water bottle

(4 oz per pack) Emergency Drinking Water Pouches - These pouches work well as you can stash them in the nooks and crannies of your bug out bag and are good for over five years. 

emergency water pouches in box

Moderate Water Survival Gear

(2 oz) Lifestraw - This little device is a straw that filters and purifies water. It works really well for long term camping trips and bug out situations.

The straw is rated to purify water for 1000 gallons and will remove bacteria like giardia and e.coli. However, the Lifestraw will not protect against viruses such as norovirus or rotavirus. Viruses are not as big of a concern in most scenarios in the USA. Third world countries that empty sewage into their same drinking water sources have more of a virus problem. 

If you are dealing with an urban situation where the water is contaminated by sewage you MUST boil the water for a minimum of three minutes, regardless of using a Lifestraw or not.

In order to extend the life of the Lifestraw, you should not run murky water through it. Try your best to only run clean looking water through the straw or else the membrane will get clogged fast.

lifestraw water filter emergency kit

(2 oz) Collapsible cup - This item goes hand in hand with a LifeStraw. Instead of having to stick your straw directly into the water source (which could be a pain in the ass) you can instead use the cup to dip into the water source so you don't have to get your face so close to it.

I found this handy collapsible cup that can easily be hung from a carabineer off your MOLLE bag.

collapsible cup

Robust Water Survival Gear

(12-16 oz) Gravity-fed high capacity bag water purifier by Platypus - This gravity-fed purifier works really well for an on-the-go purification method that can filter quite a good amount of water. This is an ideal method for families on the go as you can have liters of clean drinking water in a few minutes.

Out of all the gravity-fed bag filters on the market, I find that the Platypus Gravityworks system to be the most fitting for a bug out occasion.

The unit has a flow rate of 1.5 liters per minute and breaks down nicely into a small travel pouch. The system weighs in at a light 11.5 oz.

platypus gravity water filter

(17 oz) UV-C Light disinfection cap and bottle - UV rays exterminate both bacteria and viruses and do not have any residual effects nor does it expire (until the bulb burns out).

This disinfection cap screws onto your water bottle and disinfects the water in 2 minutes. It also eradicates mold and mildew from the water and the bottle so you will find your bottle staying fresher for longer. The best thing about the CrazyCap is that it only takes 60 seconds to completely sterilize the water and you can set it to intermittently turn on which keeps mildew from forming. 

uv light cap water filtration

Splurge Worthy Water Survival Gear

(>1 oz per pouch) Single Serving Coffee Pouches - Nothing like waking up on the bug out to a piping hot fresh cup of joe!

These Pine Ranch coffee pouches made an ingenious product - coffee in a single serving tea bag. One tea bag makes 8 ounces of coffee. What a perfect addition to your BOB collection.

Coffee gives you energy, warmth, is full of antioxidants and is a mood booster. If I had to choose only one splurge item for my bag, this is it!

single coffee pouches

2. Bug Out Bag Survival Food 

You probably don't need a whole bunch of food while bugging out, but you will want to pack some high calorie options to give you the energy and nutrients you need if you are trekking for a ways. You also need to consider where you will be ending up after you bug out - will you be in a long term survival situation? Will you be arriving at a location that has a bunch of food and goods? Can you scavenge for food along your route?

Your destination will determine how much food you will need and also if you should bring tools for hunting and fishing. 

Bare Minimum Survival Food Gear

(18-26 oz) MREs - The classic military MRE is a great way to pack a bunch of calories in your bug out bag. 

People tend to generally dislike the taste of MREs, but they have come about a long way and have been improved. 

MREs also come with some basic survival essentials like a spoon, heating pads, and toilet paper.

MRE military rations

(8-24 oz) Emergency Food Ration - These bars are about as basic as you can get for calories on the go. When eating food ration bars, consume them slowly so you do not get a stomach ache and make sure to drink water as well.

These S.O.S. Ration food bars pack 3600 calories in a single pack (9 bars per pack). According to the reviews, they taste pretty good too. These are built to sustain calories in emergency situations and have a shelf life of five years in any condition.

emergency food ration

(>1 oz) Hunger killers - Hard candy, gum, mints, etc. These are all things that are light,small and can help ease the edge off hunger pangs over long treks.

Moderate Survival Food Gear

(12-16 oz) Portable backpacking camp stove - You will need some sort of way to boil water and prepare food. You can always start a basic fire, but this is not always easy to do and its somewhat difficult to prep food and water over an open fire.

There are so many options for portable backpacking stoves, but I personally prefer the small wood burning campstoves fof bugging out. The reason being is that you will always find fuel along the way - grass, twigs, leaves, etc. Even in the city, you can find materials to burn, as opposed to carrying fuel cartridges. 

I recommend the Solo Stove Lite as a great option for your bug out bag. They setup and cool down quickly, you can burn any type of tinder, and you will get a rolling boil within six minutes. 

solo stove lite

(4 oz) Can opener - I think having a can opener is a good idea, even if you aren't carrying out any canned goods. There is a chance that you can scavenge canned goods along the way, and you don't want to ruin the edge of your knife trying to open one.

This Japanese can opener is a perfect fit for a backpack. 

Japanese can opener

(1 oz) Spork - If you're going to carry a spork, it might as well be a multi tool! Hex wrench, bottle opener, flat head screwdriver, and eating utensil. Cool!

silverware camping multitool

(32 oz) - Camping Mess Kit - Bring a touch of home with you while surviving the apocalypse with a lovely compact mess kit.

This Odoland mess kit comes with a kettle, very handy for boiling water. You can easily hang this compact kit from your MOLLE. 

camping mess kit

(1 oz per tab) Survival Tabs - So these little things are an interesting concept. These are not for completely replacing calories, but these food tab replacements provide essential vitamins and minerals and taste like yummy food which could give you the boost you need to keep on trekking.

Each tab consists of a mere 20 calories so make sure to eat other foodstuffs besides these.

survival tabs mre

Robust Survival Food Gear

This is the point where I would like for you to consider some longer term food options. If you are bugging out but don't have access to a survival location, you will need to think about foraging, hunting, fishing, and even growing your own food. 

I personally feel better toting some long term survival gear in my bug out bag. The peace of mind is worth it!

(5 oz) Survival fishing kit - A small lightweight fishing kit is worth its weight in gold in a long term survival situation. I like this one for the string-line handle design. 

survival fishing kit

(6 oz) Hunting Sling Shot - Hunting small game quietly and efficiently is possible with a good sling shot. Quail, rabbit, and squirrel are all fair game. I suggest to get some sling shot beebees to take with you, but rounded small rocks can also work.  

the scout hunting slingshot

(13 oz) The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - I am a big proponent of bringing the knowledge with you so you can continue learning, even while in survival mode. This book gives you tons of valuable information about food survival in the wild. 

book bushcraft guide to eating in the wild

Splurge Worthy Survival Food Gear

(1-4 lbs) Freeze Dried Survival Food - The latest and greatest of survival prepper foods is freeze dried foods. Freeze dried foods are not cheap, but they are delicious and can provide you with a hot, tasty meal in minutes just by adding boiling water. 

Do you really need to eat gourmet while on the bug out? Or will an MRE or meal bar do just fine?

I think it really depends on the individual and/or family unit. If you are bugging out with a family, gathering around for a yummy hot meal may be the morale-boosting medicine you all need to keep the tribe going.

Scarfing down on some distasteful calories could make you sick to your stomach and weigh you down. 

Another pro to freeze-dried foods is that its very light as all the moisture is removed. 

If you do go the freeze dried foods route, I highly recommend Legacy Food Storage. They make high quality freeze dried prepper foods at an affordable price and have tons of options. You can buy freeze dried milk, eggs, beef, chicken, veggies, fruits, and even things like freeze dried cheese and peanut butter. 

legacy food storage freeze dried foods

(1.5 oz) Freeze Dried Ice Cream - Yup, Its a thing!

freeze dried ice cream sandwich

3. Survival Medical Supplies List 

Bare Minimum Medical Gear

(2 oz) Anti-diarrhea medication - This makes it to the top of the important list. Diarrhea can become very serious and life threatening. Between serious dehydration, loss of nutrients, and having to stop frequently could spell disaster for a bug out endeavor. 

(8-16 oz) A sterilizing agent - such as rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Sterilizing wipes are also good, but having fluid will last longer and be more effective. Don't forget to pack cotton balls!

(2-4 oz) Personal medication - such as prescription pills or an EpiPen.

(1.5 oz) Superglue - for quickly protecting open wounds. After you sterilize the cut, dab some superglue on it and the bleeding will stop immediately. 

(7.2 oz) Super basic first aid kit - with the bare essentials such as bandages, gauze, medical tape, blunt-tip scissors. This tiny first aid kit has a tiny price and packs a lot of the essentials!

small first aid kit

Moderate Medical Gear

(3 oz) The Sawyer Extractor Bite And Sting Kit- this suction device is proven to remove snake and insect venom. 

sawyer extractor bite and sting kit

(4 oz) Splints - there are different types of splints depending on the body part. When you apply a splint, make sure to immobilize the joint before and after the broken bone. For example, if the lower leg is broken, apply a splint that reaches from the knee to the ankle. You can read more about the techniques of splinting here.

You can also use items you find along the way such as a straight piece of wood or small straight tree branch and secure it with a piece of cloth from a ripped up shirt.

I recommend packing a SAM Splint which is moldable and cuttable, so you can make it fit onto any appendage easily. 

SAM splint

(3-6 oz) Moleskin - to protect from blisters, moleskin is fairly high on the important list as having raw rubbing blisters that could possibly get infected can greatly hinder a bug out effort.

moleskin for blisters

(4-16 oz) Medicated baby powder - to prevent chafing, friction on the skin, and to treat rashes.

(2-4 oz) Antihistamine - this may be essential for allergic persons.

(2-4 oz) Pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen - I typically try to tough it out before I take a pain reliever. But it is nice to have on hand. 

(16 oz) Mid-size first aid kit - To me, a midsize first aid kit comes in at around $50 and has several hundred pieces of medical supplies. 

medium first aid kit

Robust Medical Gear

(2-4 oz) Antibiotics - Without modern day antibiotics, a common infection can turn lethal with a quickness. Unsure how to get antibiotics without a prescription? Pick up some fish tank antibiotics which is straight amoxycillin, although use at your own risk. 

(4.5 oz) QuikClot - QuikClot is a sponge that stops bleeding effeciently. It stops bleeding so well, that it can even be used on gunshot wounds. It works by using the natural mineral Zeolite which helps coagulate wounds three times faster than the body can.I highly recommend this product, it could be a life saver!

quikclot anti bleeding agent

(2.9 oz) Israeli Compression Bandage - This bandage is super legit. It's a compression bandage that controls bleeding and can be used in conjunction with the quick clot sponge. It comes in a vacuum-sealed sterilized package and doesn't take up much space at all. A must have for the serious first aid situation. 

israeli bandage for compression

(1 oz) Burn Relief Gel - This gel kills the pain of the burn, is antibacterial, helps heal the skin and prevents blisters. It can be used on a 1st or 2nd degree burn. Burn relief gel can also help with inflammation, itching, and soothing irritated skin. I would like to have this if I were to get burned!

burn gel

(2.5 lbs) Rhino Rescue Trauma Kit - Take your first aid treatment to the next level with the Rhino Rescue first aid kit. This kit is designed to treat massive hemorrhaging, bone fracture, airway, hypothermia, and treatment. I like the high quality MOLLE pack and the first aid manual will help big time. 

tactical first aid kit

Splurge Worthy Medical Gear

(16 oz) Pet Survival Kit and Vest - Fido can contribute to the survival situation by carrying his own bug out bag! This pet survival kit is loaded with gear so your favorite dog can bug out with you. It also comes in small and medium dog size. 

pet first aid kit and vest

(18 lbs) First Responder Medical Trauma Kit - This kit is built specifically for EMTs, first responders, doctors, nurses, and paramedics. I do not recommend this kit unless you are a skilled medical practitioner. Its also fairly heavy so this bag would work in a situation where you are bugging out in a vehicle or are bugging out with a group. I would also have a small first aid kit in case you had to ditch the big kit. 

first responder trauma kit

(16 oz) Evacuation Gurney - You can fold this up and transport with you pretty easily, and would come in handy if you need to evacuate someone in your party who is injured. It really could be a matter of life and death, and not having to leave someone behind. However, there needs to be enough people in your party in order to carry the injured person. 

emergency stretcher

4. Survival Shelter, Warmth, and Exposure

The best bug out bag shelter needs to be waterproof and insulated, yet lightweight and compact. You can use the most basic of items to build a shelter or splurge on space-age tents.

Bare Minimum Shelter Gear

(>1 oz.) Emergency blanket - Cheap, compact, and can save your life. 

emergency blanket being used as a shelter in the woods

(16 oz) Tarp - I recommend not getting a chinsy tarp unless that's all you can afford. Get something big enough that can cover you and your gear in a pinch.

This heavy duty survival tarp by Arcturus is insulated and windproof, can be used as a makeshift shelter or an emergency blanket, and weighs only 1 pound.

heavy duty survival tarp

(1-2 pounds) Rope (paracord) - Gotta have something to tie down your tarp! Paracord is a high strength nylon rope that is super tough but also soft and pliable. It is a bug out essential and can be used for a variety of utilities. This is a MUST HAVE in every bug out bag!

Tough-Grid makes a 750 lb paracord (200 pounds heavier than the standard 550) and is made in the USA at a reasonable price.

tough grid 750 paracord

(5 oz per pair) Good, durable socks - Keep your feet in prime condition in a survival situation. The last thing you need is to get blisters, Athlete's foot, or even trenchfoot while trying to bug out.

I suggest getting a couple of pairs of merino wool socks. Merino wool is not itchy, but is rather soft and is antimicrobial so they don't get stinky. Merino wool wicks moisture away and regulates your body temp. 

merino wool sock

Moderate Shelter Gear

(4 oz) Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag - made of a durable mylar, the Life Bivy is basically an emergency blanket on steroids shaped into a sleeping bag. It's 7 feet long so it will cover you from head to toe, and packs into a tiny little pouch.

life bivy emergency sleeping blanket

(5 oz) Emergency tent - This is the same material as an emergency blanket, but it can be shaped into a three-sided 2-person tent. It comes with its own rope too.

emergency mylar tent

(7 oz) Rechargeable Hand warmer - Have you ever tried to work with your hands if they are cold? It's pretty much impossible! Your motor skills decrease greatly. And if they get too cold, you could get frostbite and lose fingers (and toes too).

This USB rechargeable hand warmer will stay warm for 2-4 hours at 105-140 degrees. Its a nice addition to your survival kit. 

rechargeable hand warmer

(11 oz) emergency rain poncho - This poncho come in super handy to help block out wind, rain, and cold. Poncho comes with its own case, folding it down to a tiny packable size. It's big enough to cover a backpack too.

Robust Shelter Gear

(5 lbs) Ultralight backpacking tent - a lightweight waterproof stormproof 2-person tent is an ideal bug out shelter. This Featherstone 2 person camping tent is an excellent product from a reputable brand at a reasonable price. 

featherstone backpacking tent

(1-2 lbs) Merino Wool Thermal baselayer - Thermal underwear will help keep you nice and toasty. I strongly suggest getting 100% merino wool baselayer and I will tell you why.

Merino wool is super-soft wool, unlike regular wool. It is naturally anti-microbial so you can wear it for weeks and it will never stink. Trust me on this, I wore my Merino wool base layer every day to work in North Dakota for weeks and it never gets stinky!

Another reason Merino wool is so good is that it keeps you at an ambient state. If you do get warmer from activity, the wool regulates the temperature so you never really get sweaty or overheated. It's also super durable and very comfortable. Even though its a bit more on the expensive side, it's much better than synthetic material by far.

The brand I use for all my Merino is Minus 33. They make an excellent product that is rugged and durable. They offer several weights of merino so you can choose the right weight for your climate. 

merino wool sweater

Splurge Worthy Shelter Gear

Plush bedding on a survival bug out journey? Why not! Materials and design have come such a long way that bulky and heavy bedding has become a thing of the past.

(3.5 oz) Backpacking pillow - Who wants to sleep without a pillow? This inflatable backpacking pillow is tiny and weighs near to nothing. Definetely a little luxury and comfort for your bug out!

inflatable backpacking pillow

(14 oz) Backpacking mattress pad - this highly rated inflatable backpacking sleeping pad will give you the extra comfort you need to keep on trekking the next day. Its super compact and very lightweight compared to other backpacking pads.  

ultralight sleeping pad for backpacking

5. Survival Navigation

If you are bugging out, you gotta know where you are going! Getting lost could be fatal.

Orienteering is a skill that is becoming a lost art as our smartphones take us every step of the way to our destinations.

I remember the days of paper maps; I had a huge collection of maps as I loved to explore the mountains and cities.  These days, most people cannot even read a map! Let alone use a compass.

I suggest getting a map of your area and plan your bug out route each step of the way. Make two, three, or even more routes. You may think you know your area like the back of your hand, but if your trek route has to change you may find yourself in uncharted territory. 

Maps are also good for visualizing strategies and measuring distances between destinations. 

Bare Minimum Navigation Gear

(1.5 oz) Map compass - This is your basic compass that is cheap and works with a map. 

small map compass

(3-16 oz) Printed maps  - You can still find local maps at most gas stations or order them online. Another great place to find rural maps is with your local ranger station.  A road atlas map would be nice, but they are usually bulky, unless you tear out a few pages for your location. 

Moderate Navigation Gear

(8 oz) Phosphorescent Lensatic Tactical Compass - This is a military style compass that self illuminates, is sandproof, waterproof, and shockproof. The housing is non-liquid so you can use this compass in pretty much any temperature range. The metal is powder coated giving it even more durability. 

phosphorescent lensatic compass for navigation

Robust Navigation Gear

(1.8 ounces) Garmin Instinct Solar Powered Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS - This badass survival watch is powered with the sun, vastly extending its battery life.

This watch uses three navigation systems - GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo - for precision tracking. It also has a built-in compass and a barometric altimeter.  This watch comes with dedicated tactical features such as jumpmaster mode, waypoint protection, dual-position GPS.

Oh, and it tells time too.

garmin solar survival watch rugged outdoor

Splurge Worthy Navigation Gear

(8 ounces) Garmin GPSMAP 66i, GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator - This mapping device taps into the satellite system, giving you precision accuracy mapping no matter where you are. It also has direct communication with search and rescue making it a good device for backpacking trips and deep woods exploration.

You can get two way text messaging with a subscription and weather forecasting if you are in cell range. It comes with rechargeable lithium ion batteries so you can charge on the go with a solar energy unit. 

On 30-minute tracking mode, you can get 200 hours of use from your battery life.

I do suggest to pack extra batteries and have a backup paper map and compass with you.

 Garmin GPSMAP 66i, GPS Handheld and Satellite Communicator, Featuring TopoActive mapping and inReach Technology

6. Bug Out Communications

The two biggest concerns for communication after SHTF is 1) if cell phone towers and phone carriers will work and 2) if there will be available power to charge communication devices.

If you cannot access communications over your cellphone, it is vital that you can access emergency broadcasts over the radio at a minimum. If radio communication goes down completely, expect the disaster to be of epic proportions.

Despite these obstacles, there are still ways to at least keep informed of the emerging situation at hand.

Bare Minimum Communications Gear

(4-8 oz) Cell phone and charger - Take your cell phone with you, even if towers are down as it could be a temporary outage. If you do tote your cellphone then get a solar USB charger to keep it powered up.

(4 oz) Pocket sized radio - This tiny radio will give you the basic function of hearing emergency broadcasting in your area, AM and FM radio, and has a convenient clip. Its about the size of a deck of cards and uses 2 AAA batteries.

pocket radio

Moderate Communications Gear

(1.5 lbs) Multi Tool Radio -The Kaito KA500 radio can be powered in 6 ways - hand crank generator, solar panel, 3 AA batteries, 5V USB input, and 5V AC/DC input with a wall power adapter. This has 7 preprogrammed NOAA weather channels, AM/FM, and 24/7 weather forecasting. 

This radio has a flashlight, reading lamp, an S.O.S beacon light, and has a 5 volt DC USB charger on board. 

kaito multitool emergency solar radio

Robust Communcations Gear

(10 oz per radio) Two-way hand radio walkie talkies - These radios are a great way to communicate with your group while on the bug out. The question is, how do you keep them charged?

This is where I struggled to find a durable high quality walkie talkie that could be charged on the fly.

I found the main issue being that most of the rugged walkie talkies have to be charged on a cradle. Battery powered walkies are chinsy. There has to be a middle ground!

After much research, I found the solution - USB rechargeable walkie talkies!

They are not as rugged as the cradle mount walkies, but not as flimsy as the battery-powered ones either. I found a set that is a true USB charging walkie talkie, it plugs in and charges just like a smartphone does.

The Radioddity GA-2S Long Range Walkie Talkies fit the bill. We use these while traveling down the road and their range, clarity, and charge is pretty good for a walkie in this class. 

If you purchase these radios using my link, you will receive $15 off your order. 

radio walkie talkies usb charging

Splurge Worthy Communications Gear

(8 oz) Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator - This device allows you to send and receive texts via satellite service and also is a handheld TOPO GPS map. You can send an SOS and texts directly to search and rescue. This is a valuable feature for backwoods trekkers, explorers, and survivalists. 

From what I have researched, you can still use satellite communication services such as satellite phones and texting devices if the power does go down. Satellites will remain intact until they eventually collide or fall out of the sky, both unlikely events.

The question is, who will you be communicating to? Make sure to gift these to whoever you want to talk with post SHTF or you will be having very lonely conversations!

garmin inreach satellite communication device

7. Survival Hygiene

I am not going to sit here and tell you that you need to pack your toothbrush and deodorant in your bug out bag. That is entirely up to you and will not have much of any impact in your survival success. If anything, hygiene will slow you down. Stinky pits and funky breath should be the least of your concerns!

There is a sanitary level that should be respected so you don't get sick, however. Soap, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper are recommended sanitary items to take with you. 

I will mention a couple of notable items you might want to bring along with you for some modest comforts and sanitation. 

(>1 oz per unit) Compressed Wipes - I really like these for wiping your butt on the run. They are tiny and compressed when dry, add water and you have a nice, 9x9 soft wipe for washing and toileting. Its a modest comfort worth packing. 

compressed camping wipes

(1 oz) Menstrual cup - Ladies, this one is for you! Okay, how much of a disaster would it be to start your period on a bug out mission? The levels reach meteoric major suck.

The Flex menstrual cup is a life saver for camping, exploring, hiking, working, vacationing, and yes, bugging out. This is the brand I use and it has never failed me!

flex menstrual cup

(20 oz) Solar Shower - If you actually have the time and the water, a nice warm shower would be such a treat. Solar showers are very effective, and in strong suns can even get the water too hot.

solar shower


As you can see, there is a ton of survival gear out there of all different qualities and price ranges. It can quickly become overwhelming to sort, choose, and purchase, let alone making sure everything fits into the bag. 

If you are having a hard time choosing what to purchase and pack, just start with the bare minimum from each category. This will get you more prepared than 90% of the population. Once you have completed that collection, you can move into more robust gear, and maybe even some splurge worthy items.

My splurge worthy item? Freeze dried ice cream 😉 

Regina Cal is a solo homesteader on 30 acres in Southern Arizona. She specializes in off grid water system design, homestead gardening, minimalism, and self-sufficiency.

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  • I would like to make the ultimate carry bug out bag. I want the best of everything X 2. Can you just tell me everything to get? Or better yet, you put it together and I’ll pay you?!?!?

  • Thank you for such a well written and researched article. With pandemics and extreme weather becoming more frequent and widespread I decided this is the year I do all those things our county emergency preparedness website says everyone should do!

    • I am glad you found value in my article. I do agree, the state of the world is quite uncertain, and it pays off to be prepared.

  • I just printed out the PDF version of this article and I wondered if people include printed photos in their big out bags? I was thinking it might be useful in a dispute over a child, or even a dog.

    • I think this is a GREAT idea, and I might add some photos to next year’s PDF download! I update the article every year, so you might want to bookmark the page and download the 2022 PDF. Thanks for the idea!

  • My wife sent me this link as she is looking for a small first aid kid for our dogs for hurricane season. Like most prepping related articles she sends me, I tend to roll my eyes as I read through the “best bug out bag lists”, as I have been doing this for many, many years…. But! Then I saw the freeze dried ice cream bar! So, I read a bit deeper.
    What you have is a great, comprehensive list. Like all preparedness minded folks, we all have our opinions on what great gear is to us, and what we think isn’t great gear. I don’t see too much in the way of something I wouldn’t carry myself (the shovel is about the only thing I don’t like). I like that you have levels and options. I assume you have affiliate links to some of these products, but for the most part, they aren’t bad choices at all. A frugal prepper could look at some of this stuff and build their own according to budget is needed.
    If someone discounts the freeze dried ice cream, let me know – I will relate two different stories of how I used to it change the will of men, both Marines and Boy Scouts, to help them carry on their missions. A little moral boost goes a very long way!

    • I tell ya, those freeze dried ice cream bars work miracles! Thanks for showing your support of my article. I have worked extremely hard on this one for years, and I update it every year. I have formatted it to where everyone, no matter what budget, can find value. And yes, most of the products are affiliate links. That is how I afford to keep this site going and also AD FREE. Isn’t that nice!

    • You are welcome! All it takes is one step to get started. Then work little by little every day, even if its just writing down an idea. Before you know it, you will have a whole bag together!

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