GOOD to GO, BOB? Gear List for a 72-Hour Bugout Bag

Posted on Feb 24, 2012 in Emergency Preparedness & Survival

Kevin Hayden –

Source: Survivalistics (in part), Originally posted Nov 5, 2010

Edited by Hayden to include more options and items.

The idea of a Get Out of Dodge, or Bug Out Bag is simple in theory, but in practice, takes some thought, time, and effort: it contains everything you might need to survive for the short term during a serious disaster situation. The key element here is time: typically, these are seventy-two hour solutions and are part of a larger plan for longer evacuation or survival scenarios … they are not going to last you forever, but are a good place to start larger-scale emergency planning.  Remember, this is for a very temporary bugout bag.  With some forethought and good planning, you can easily build upon this idea for 14-day, 30-day and even 120-day concepts.

Food & Water: These are things we take for granted, but they are not always available – and snacking on a leather belt or dropping tablets in seriously contaminated water … well, those are not as romantic, practical or safe as they may sound in the stories of war heroes. While essential, this category is easy: some dense, high-impact CLIF Bars, MRE meals, or perhaps some Mountain House-like meals, and a few liters of water will do the trick for a few days. Also, vacuum-sealing calorie-dense, easy to make food is a great option for those already into dehydrating fruits and jerky or disaster preparedness.

But wait, what about filtration? One option is to carry a bulky stainless steel canteen or mess kit in which you can boil water in.  Another option, which I prefer, would be carrying a small, hiker-sized water filtration device, such as this little gem:

This Bug Out Bottle is great for quick and easy water purification.  It turns pond or stream water into clean potable water with minimal effort; simply scoop and sip.  The low cost makes it a  ‘must have’ for any bug out kit.

  • 0.2 micron, 98% nominal, (0.5 micron absolute) ceramic filter cartridge.
  • 0.75 liter capacity bottle with bite valve protected drinking spout
  • Filter is replaceable and inexpensive.
  • Filter lasts for approximately 200 refills.

The company, Homespun Environmental, provides other, packable water filtration kits, emergency filter kits, siphons, and much more.

Shelter: The tricky part about shelter is that the serious ones tend to take up a lot of space.  Smaller, lightweight bivvys and hammocks can be neatly tucked away or included in a small bug out bag and greatly expanded by utilizing trees, rocks, and other natural shelters. Still, it never hurts to have a reflective emergency blanket or two and definitely a change of clothes that are appropriate for the season, including gloves and thermals if needed.

Should you carry a sleeping bag or tent?  While it would certainly help more than hurt you, it can also weigh you down.  That little 2-person tent you have weighs 5 lbs. or more.  Unless you live in a region with extreme temperature variation from day to night, consider alternative options to a tent, such as a bivvy or tarp, especially if bulk and weight is a concern.

Fire: Heat is always nice and light can help you see – combined with smoke, it works well for signals too.  Obviously, fire is a very important survival concept, especially when it comes to boiling water for safety.  A few Bic lighters are often overlooked but in most cases will work just fine – it’s best, of course, to supplement them with some waterproof matches and other weatherproof fire starting tools to be safe.  Many of the scrape and light types are no bigger than a keychain, so be sure to have a back-up for your back-up!  We all know how well Murphy loves to remind us of his law.  What can go wrong, will go wrong!  Check out this handy little fire starter:

SE KHK6320 Outdoor Tanto Knife with Fire Starter

Price: $7.95

4.1 out of 5 stars (3720 customer reviews)

7 used & new available from $6.66

First-Aid: While food, water, fire and shelter are common-sense basics, we tend to take access to medicine, bandages, and so forth, somewhat for granted. Why? For one thing, we do not need them in our cushy day-to-day lives very often. For another, when something truly bad happens, we know there is always an emergency vehicle on call and functional hospital close by. That may not always be the case. It helps to carry everything from the obvious basics, such as pain relievers and band-aids, to absorbent bandages and wraps that can help deal with sprains, breaks, burns, cuts, and bites from long or short-range disaster travel.  You can never have too many 4×4 bandages and tape!

Navigation: Used to your GPS and following regular roads?  That landscape can change quickly under certain conditions, so having a few maps in hand and a compass are vital. Best to pack these in a waterproof container (or buy laminated maps in the first place). Make sure to cover a few scales – very local, regional and perhaps even a whole state topographic map. Trouble finding laminated ones? You can always buy a regular map, cut it up (so it folds more easily when laminated, like the store-bought ones do) and then have it professionally plasticized – REI also lets you print out maps of particular regions on demand in various formats and with moderate moisture resistance.  Depending on the size of your bag, a good pair of 2-way radios could become vital for communication and navigation.  Don’t forget extra batteries or a small solar charger!

Weapons & Tools: Hopefully you won’t find yourself face to face with a predator (animal or human), but a stout, sharp knife is good for more than just self defense. From chopping wood to cutting rope, it can help prepare traps for food, build fires, assemble shelters, and perform emergency surgeries under extreme conditions. Ideally, take three types: a folding one you can fit in your pocket, a stronger full-tang one for heavy-duty work and a multi-tool that offers other odds and ends.

As for personal defense and light hunting, a mid-sized or compact handgun is ideal.  Be sure to include three to five magazines, loaded with quality ammunition.   If you’re bugging out, then so are other people.  This doesn’t have to be a zombie invasion to need protection.  Citizens were killing and robbing each other within 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina breaching the levees in New Orleans.

Now, it might be tempting to pack all kinds of things, but remember: this is a temporary survival kit – not a full-on wilderness expedition pack!

Odds & Ends: Some other good things to include:

Flashlight, duct tape, vacuum-sealed toilet paper, a tarp, and essential medicines are a must as well – so either include those in a first aid kit or put them in a more-accessible pocket.  Got glasses?  Pack your extra/old pair – better to have an older prescription set than simply hoping the ones you are wearing don’t break.  And there is no reason not to add a small, pocket-sized survival guide into the mix – though reading one beforehand is probably better.

Missing Something?

One way to double-check that you have what you need is to consider what you would need to pack in other situations. What do you carry with you when you travel on a plane, or go camping, or simply take a road trip? You might not need all the items you come up with but there are bound to be a few you will want from the mix. Regardless, best to build a checklist first and start from the most to least essential contents – you do not want to gear up with a bulky rifle or shotgun that you cannot ultimately fit in your backpack or easily sling if we’re talking about a ‘Get Home Bag.’  Whether you are stuck in the wild or worried about an urban zombie invasion, consider the order of things presented above.


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