What if you had only three minutes to evacuate your home with no guarantee of shelter or help after you left? It’s a sobering thought and one that you should take the time to consider. Many different types of emergencies can send people fleeing from their homes, whether natural disasters or man-made emergency situations. One of the best assets to have in times like these is a well-stocked bug out bag (BOB for short) for each family member. But what do you include in there? Here’s a basic list to get you started.

The Bag: Most people use either a backpack or a duffle bag as their BOB container, but don’t rule out something like a suitcase with wheels. These don’t draw much attention in urban and suburban environs anyway, and it’s easier to pull a heavy load on wheels than hump it on your back. Seal anything that can’t get wet in zip-top bags inside your bag, suitcase, or pack.

Shelter: Usually your top survival priority, shelter could be a small backpacking tent and light sleeping bag, or at least a tarp and a blanket. Bivies and space blankets work, too. Large trash bags work well as ground covers, emergency ponchos, etc.

Water: You won’t last long without water. You should have a minimum of two quarts of bottled water to start out, and a spare container or two when bugging out into dry country. Bring a metal cup or cooking pot in order to boil water for disinfection purposes. Consider packing a water filter or lightweight water purification tablets.

Fire: Carry at least three methods of fire starting, plus emergency tinder or fire starting material.

Tools: A few basic tools like a Swiss army knife, a multi-tool, some duct tape, zip ties, super glue, and rope can go a long way in an austere environment. A headlamp with spare batteries is my favorite tool for lighting. This leaves both hands free to work, while the light shines exactly where you are looking.

Self Defense: Your existing EDC handgun is a great lightweight option for self-defense in a bug-out situation, but don’t forget a few backups. A large knife can be both useful around camp and intimidating to adversaries. Pepper spray is always a great non-lethal deterrent for criminals and menacing wild animals.

Food: Calories are life. Bring as much food as you can carry, but focus on high-calorie items that can be eaten without any preparation. Some great no-cook foods are protein bars, peanut butter, trail mix, granola, fatty canned meats, candy bars, and MRE entrées.

Communications: An emergency radio with recharging options is a great thing to have. A mobile phone with some kind of charger (solar or back-up battery) is another great option. It’s also wise to have some low-tech signaling options like signal whistles and mirrors.

Medical Gear: You might have to be your own doctor for a while after a disaster. Bring a quality
medical kit with supplies for everyday minor wounds and even a few items for traumatic injuries. These can be invaluable when preventing infection, stopping blood loss, and managing injury.

Extras: A change of season-appropriate clothing is important, along with walking shoes or light hiking boots if you typically wear “business” footwear. Prescription meds are critical to carry if you need them to live or function normally. Hygiene supplies are a welcome addition. Maps and a compass (or two) are important for navigation. Some cash and a digital backup of all your important documents and family pictures could be invaluable as you make your way through a crisis and rebuild on the other side of it.

Have you prepared a BOB for each family member? Please tell us why and what you have packed by leaving a comment.


To read more from Tim MacWelch, follow him on Twitter (@TimMacWelch) and purchase his survival manuals, including the latest: How to Survive Anything