When it comes to personal survival, being proactive rather than reactive can be a matter of life and death, literally. Having a survival kit that can help you power through the first 72 hours of a crisis and get everyone out alive is one major way of being proactive. Another way would be to have a tried-and-tested escape plan. Today we’ll be talking about building a bug out bag from scratch. But first…
What Is a Bug Out Bag?#
A bug out bag, or a B.O.B. in short, is a survival kit comprising all the necessary gear to keep you alive for about 72 hours away from home when disaster strikes. A recent survey shows that 78 percent of Americans didn’t have the necessary supplies, like enough water or food, before Covid-19 hit.
That number might be even higher if asked how many of those Americans have a survival kit ready if ever forced to leave their homes, sometimes for good. And that scenario is not that far-fetched when we think about the recent events, like civil unrest or hurricanes sweeping large swathes of the nation.
Why Is a Bug Out Bag So Important?#
A bug out bag is a considerable investment and it contains items that you might never need to use. Seasoned preppers build their BOBs and they constantly improve the gear in their bags to make their survival kits as lightweight and as practical as humanly possible. Building the perfect bug out bag can be a paralyzing thought for many beginner preppers as most of us don’t know where to start.
However, when building a bug out bag it is always better to have something than nothing on hand when everyone else around you are screaming in panic. Plus, a bug out bag packed with the essentials will allow you to use all your time, energy, and focus on the bug out plan and getting your loved ones to safety.
What to Pack in a Bug Out Bag: The Bare Essentials #
When deciding what (not) to toss in a BOB, always keep in mind that “every ounce counts,” especially if you’re bugging out on foot. So, it is a good idea to draw some inspiration from the masters of insanely lightweight travel gear, aka the ultra-light backpackers.
Is every ultra-light backpacker worth his or her salt will tell you that when packing light, you need to carefully consider every piece of gear: Do I need it or just want it? Is there a lighter version of this? Can I attain this piece of equipment’s function with something else such as a multitool, and so on… And extra weight adds up. Quick.
Here’s a list of what we consider the essentials in a bug out bag.
We’ll be focusing on 4 categories:
- Food & Cookware
- Shelter & Sleep system
- EDC essentials
One can survive weeks without food, but they will kick the bucket in as little as 3 days without water. In a bug-out scenario, the minimum water intake for an adult is one quart or one liter. If you believe the emergency may last 3 days pack the necessary water accordingly for each person in your group. If you are confident that there are water sources along with your bug out the path where you can filter out the water and make it drinkable, consider packing a mini filtration system, such as a LifeStraw or Sawyer, a collapsible water bottle, and a clean water bottle or light canteen.
You’ll need two separate containers to keep the dirty/contaminated water from the clean/filtered one. As a backup plan, consider packing water purification tablets too, as they’re lightweight, they can be used to purify water on the go, and a little goes a long way.
Food & Cookware #
Food is the heaviest item in your bug out bag. An adult will require between 1.5 and 2 pounds of food per day. The healthiest of us can survive on water alone up to 72 hours, but that’s not recommended in high stress and high exertion situations. Make sure that the food you are packing is nutrient- and calorie-dense, namely it provides the most calories and nutrition per weight.
Pack trail foods, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), energy bars, and dehydrated or freeze-dried foods to save on weight. Steer clear of canned foods, unless you want to unnecessarily haul all that liquid in the food cans for miles on foot. You could also invest in emergency food rations that don’t need any water to be cooked or don’t need any preparation at all. These are especially precious if the bug-out scenario requires you to be constantly on the move.
Keep your emergency food supply as varied as possible and cover all the bases: In some cases, you might not have access to water to rehydrate those dehydrated foods or you might not have the time to start a fire to cook that camping food. As a rule of thumb, have a hearty breakfast, a light snack sat to lunch, and comfort food for dinner.
As for the cooking utensils, pack only the minimum. Do your research on hobo stoves (you can build one yourself) as they are the lightest, cheapest, most reliable, and less likely to give away your position in a bug-out scenario. Choose cooking utensils that can fulfill multiple functions at once.
For instance, a spork, aka the offspring of a spoon and a fork can work double duty when preparing and eating your food. Some camp cooking sets contain pans that can double as pots and can triple as bowls for you to serve your food.
Shelter & Sleep system #
A shelter is designed to keep you and your gear safe from the elements. A wet sleeping bag or boots can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and slow and miserable death from hypothermia. A human being can survive at most 3 hours in harsh temperatures without shelter, so having a good shelter is a matter of survival.
Invest in a quality ultralight backpacking tent or a tarp and good paracord if you want to shave off some extra pounds. In summer, you can leave the sleeping bag at home and get an emergency bivvy, which weighs just a few ounces, is a lot cheaper, and can be just as warm with proper layering.
When bugging out in winter, you should get a down sleeping bag with you even though it is expensive as it is the warmest and lightest sleeping bag out there. Also, pack a lightweight sleeping pad to prevent your body heat from being absorbed by the cold ground. Steer clear of inflatable sleeping pads as those are too heavy, can get punctured easily, and can get crazy cold when temperatures get too low.
EDC Essentials #
You should be having these items on you when bugging out, but it is best to have them packed in your bug out bag. These items include:
- A map of the local area and a compass in case there’s no cell signal or your smartphone’s battery is flat.
- Emergency whistle
- Pepper spray/ Handgun
- Hand sanitizer
- Lighter, matches, and flint in a waterproof container. There are online tutorials on how to waterproof matches.
- Bandana – This one is a piece of gear that can have multiple functions in a bug-out scenario; you can filter the large debris in standing water before purifying it with it, you can handle hot pot and panhandles with it, you can use it as a tourniquet or as a dust mask, and so on.
- Survival knife – Just like with the sleep system, don’t skimp on this critical piece of equipment. Invest in a good survival knife (check out the link for some of the best survival knives currently on the market) as you will need a trustworthy knife for many tasks when out in the wilderness. You might need it to prepare the food, field dress fish and game, baton firewood, make bushcraft tools, for self-defense, and so on.
- Sewing & repair kit – Because your gear might die on you at the worst time possible.
To Wrap It Up #
Our list is not exhaustive, but we hope that it makes a good starting point for everyone seriously thinking about building a bug out bag from scratch. Feel free to adjust this list according to your budget, lifestyle, and needs.
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