Bug Out Bag Checklist: Your Bug Out Bag Guide

Maxpedition Vulture 2

Bug Out Bag Checklist: 21 Essential Categories

Having a bug out bag checklist will make building your own bug out bag a whole lot easier. But instead of telling you each item of survival gear that you need, I think I’ll show you the different categories that you need to consider when building one, with a few examples thrown in to the mix.

A bug-out bag is a survival kit designed to carry all the stuff you need to survive for seventy-two hours.

Bug Out Bag Checklist: The Categories

MRE's are a good survival food choice.Food:

Examples: MRE’s, freeze dried and dehydrated food, canned food, and food bars.

Being hungry can be a hell of a distraction when you are in survival mode. If you are bugging out on foot then you will need at least 3 days food in your bag. If you are bugging out in a vehicle try for a whole weeks worth of survival food for everyone. If you plan on bringing any pets with you you’ll need to have food available for them as well. You’ll have to be able to get food from other methods eventually but having enough to get you through to safety is critical.

The Lifesaver 4000 is a great addition to a bug out bag.Water:

You need a gallon a day minimum per person. Carrying that much water will quickly become a logistical nightmare though. You absolutely must have a way to purify whatever water you come across after you bug out. There are several good methods of water purification available; water purification tabs, survival water bottle filters, boiling, even solar water disinfection. Learn as much as you can about water purification…it can save your life.

Emergency bivy sacks make good lightweight survival shelters.Shelter:

Good examples of emergency shelters are bivy sacks, tents and tarp shelters. Shelters become very important in areas where temperature extremes take a physical toll on your body..such as hot, cold, and rainy climates. One of the easiest things to include in your bug out bag is a small tent. If you’re bringing a whole family with you it might be easier to just pack a tarp since it can be used for shelter and other things (like catching rain for drinking water) if needed.

Any bug out bag checklist without a first aid kit is a joke.First Aid Kit:

No bug out bag checklist is complete without a survival first aid kit. You will want a first aid kit that is good for the area which you are most likely to run to. If it’s out in the woods, think about having something to treat minor scrapes, some poison ivy soap, perhaps even a snake bite kit. If it’s somewhere with direct sun you should also consider including sun screen. Just make sure you have everything you need for all basic medical situations.

Your Bug Out Bag needs several ways to start a fire.Fire Making Gear:

Examples: Lighters, matches, fatwood,and fire steels If you don’t have several different ways to start a fire, you will wish you did.

Survival Knives Top the list of my bug out bag checklist

Survival Knife:

Survival knives are critical for everything from trapping and skinning game to assisting in the making of shelters. I like to carry at least two knives; a fixed blade survival knife (I like the Becker BK2)  and a folding, every day carry knife.

Multi=tools should be included in all survival kits.Multi-Tool

Having a good multi-tool will definitely come in handy in any survival situation. I carry one daily as part of my EDC. Most survivalists I know would feel naked without one.

A good compass is a must have in a bug out bag.Navigation:

Examples: Compass and Map, GPS.

Being able to get to where you want to go is very critical in emergency situations. This could mean avoiding big cities, or trying to find them quickly. Having a GPS is ideal but should not be the only thing you have since they may be out of service. Bring a map and a lensatic compass to help you navigate when all else fails. Oh, and practice navigating with them! No use having the gear to navigate if you don’t know how to use it!

Paracord is a great, inexpensive cordage.Cordage:

With enough 550 paracord and duct tape you will  have an easier time surviving just about any situation. These two items will be essential for building shelter, setting traps for hunting, repairing clothing and much much more. Don’t get caught without these two survivalist requirements.

Having an appropiate change of clothing in your bug out bag is important.Clothing:

Having a change of clothing that is appropriate for the season and climate is important. Many survivalists just put ordinary clothes in their bug out bag to save money, but lightweight, durable  adventure clothing has several advantages that are appealing. Also, remember to pack plenty of good hiking socks.

Rain Ponchos are the perfect survival rain gear.Rain Gear:

Even if you live in the desert it is still important to be able to stay dry when it rains. A nice poncho will help you stay comfortable and dry without weighing much or taking up much room in your bug out bag. Used Swiss Ponchos are a great bargain.

A lightweight camping stove is a smart way to cook from your bug out bag.Cooking and eating gear:

Examples: Lightweight Integrated Stove, Pot, Mess kits, water bottle.

Being able to cook your food will be very important right from the beginning. Make sure you have everything you need to cook and eat well.

Tomahawks make versatile addittions to a bug out bag.Wood Chopping Gear:

Examples: Axe, Saw, Tomahawk

You’ll need to chop wood to make fires, build shelters, clear a campsite, etc. I prefer the tomahawk above the ax and saw because it is also a superior tactical weapon that can protect you from both 4 and 2 legged predators.

Having a small shovel in your bug out bag will help with lots of chores.Small Shovel:

Having a shovel at hand will make life on the run much simpler. You can dig a small hole to help with shelter, or a trap for hunting or just to bury your waste. Some shovels like the Cold Steel Shovel are even good for fighting in close quarters.

Signaling mirrors are an essential part of a survival kit.Signaling:

Examples: Survival whistle, signaling mirror, cell phone, flairs.

Being able to signal for help when needed can be a lifesaver. I suggest every bug out bag to have a signal mirror and enough survival whistles for every member of your party.

Keep an emergency radio in your bug out bag to keep up with important news.

Emergency Radio:

Being able to get news and information will be very important in any disaster situation. A radio that does not need to be plugged in is going to be an essential source of information for you. They can be hand cranked, battery operated, and even solar powered.

Snares are good for the procurement of food.Food Procurement:

Examples: Snares, fishing kit, slingshot…

You’ll want to be able to get your own food once the supplies you packed up run out. Using a snare, fishing kit or sling shot is going to be a great method for this and you don’t have to worry about ammo.

Including weapons in your bug out bag checklist is a personal decision.Weapons:

Example: Handgun, rifle, Shotgun

Whether you use it for hunting or protection, having a firearm available is going to make you a whole lot safer in an emergency situation.

Don't forget your personal items in ypur bug out bag.Personal Gear:

Examples: Medication, glasses, toothbrush, feminine products…

If you’re on any sort of medication you should make sure to grab it before you bug out. Discuss with your doctor any rationing they would suggest if you find yourself in that situation as well. Glasses, toothbrushes and feminine products will make life much easier as well.

secure usb drives are a smart way to carry your important documents with you.Personal Documents and Cash:

If power’s down credit cards won’t work. I suggest you put $200 in small bills in your bug out bag Even if you’re in a SHTF situation, you will still be able to use cash, at least for the first week or two. Having enough money on hand will make survival a whole lot easier.You also need to have important documents with you. Keeping digital copies on a secure USB drive is a smart way to do this.

55 gallon trash bags can be used for lots of things besides garbage.Sanitation:

Examples: Toilet paper, plastic bags, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide

It’s easier to die from infection than starvation when you’re in a SHTF situation so having enough of these key sanitary items is important. Bring  enough to last for a few weeks. The large 55 gallon plastic bags can be used for many thing; temporary poncho, emergency shelter. rainwater collection. ground-cover…use your imagination.


Figuring out how to build a bug out bag can be a fun process. You will probably discover as you follow this bug out bag checklist that you have lots of the stuff already, just laying around your house and garage.  Rotate the clothing, medication, food, and water as appropriate. Also, keep the bug out bags in an easy to get to location and make sure everyone in the family knows where you keep them.

  1. Becky

    Good article! I have a question though. Where in the world can I learn how to navigate with a compass and map?. I’m just a city girl, after all.

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