Preparation is never a bad thing!
Our culture is filled with plenty of colloquialisms that allude to that fact: Always be prepared, better to have it and not need it, an ounce of prevention. . .
It's no wonder bug-out bagsare increasingly a part of people's personal defense arsenals.
What you carry in your BOB is mostly dictated by the type of bag you're using, the space you have in it, and the length of time you want the bag to support you.
Another factor that helps determine what's in your bag is your environment - This is important because BOBs can be divided into two general categories: Urban and Wilderness.
Not all of the items discussed below need to be in every bag.
But keep in mind that the longer the bag is intended to keep you alive, the more of these items you'll want to have.
Universal Bug-Out Bag Items
These items should be in your BOB whether you're in an urban environment or a wilderness environment.
They're universal items everyone needs to stay alive and form the foundation for preparation.
- Food - Some kind of food source is a necessity for survival. Protein or energy bars take up little space and can maintain energy levels to ensure you're able to get to where you're going.
Freeze dried meals and military MREs are also a good choice.
- Water - Humans can survive without food for up to three weeks. Without water, you can only survive for around 100 hours — less in direct sunlight.
Pack bottled water or have a canteen or bladder system. You may also want to consider adding a filtration system such as a LifeStraw or water purification tablets.
- Clothing - Regardless of the environment, there's a good chance you may be wearing clothing that's inappropriate for an emergency.
Whether it's business dress for work or flip flops for the beach, everyday clothing isn't typically designed to help you survive.
Keep the seasons in mind and update your bag periodically as they change to ensure you have appropriate clothing for that purpose.
- Shoes - Keep some shoes you can use to travel long distances on foot as part of your BOB. If they're not in the bag, keep them near it.
Dress shoes, flip flops, heels, flats: None of these are good for walking long distances in an emergency, so make sure you have something that will allow you to walk miles at a time.
Hiking boots, work boots, or other strong, sturdy shoes are a good idea.
- Socks - Any good infantryman will tell you that socks are an absolute necessity — preferably multiple pairs.
If you're wearing work clothes or beach wear, you'll need at least one pair for the immediate walk.
Plus, it's good to have a spare to change into in the event they get wet.
- Ammo/Magazines - If you're carrying your gun — and you should be — have extra ammo and magazines in case things turn really ugly.
When you aren't able to carry your gun with you into your office, you should have a secure spot within your vehicle to keep it. That way, it'll be with you if you need to bug out.
Having additional ammo and magazines can benefit you in a disaster situation.
- First Aid Kit - It's absolutely crucial you have some way of tending to any injuries that occur in an emergency.
Proper bandages and wound care for scratches, burns, and bug bites are a necessity to prevent unwanted infections; which in a bug-out situation can be deadly.
Also, any prescriptions you have to take should be in your first aid kit. Sudden withdrawal from any prescription could be dangerous, so if possible, keep a backup supply.
- Hygiene - At the very least, you'll want a toothbrush and toothpaste. Oral health can severely impact overall health, and neglecting it in an emergency could cause unwanted problems.
Also, consider hand sanitizer and wet wipes for "bathing" to maintain a general level of cleanliness. It will help you feel better and could prevent unwanted illness as a result of poor sanitation.
Lastly, feminine hygiene products should be a consideration. There's no guarantee things won't hit the fan during that time of the month. Even if you're a man, feminine products are a good idea to keep on hand to help family members, friends, or others in need.
- Light Source - Whether a flashlight, glow sticks, or a keychain with an LED, some kind of light source is important.
It's very likely, regardless of environment, that you may be in an emergency situation at night and need to be able to see.
- Knife/Multitool - This one is an often overlooked essential.
No matter the setting, there are any number of reasons you'd need a knife or multitool. You may need to be able to cut, open, or unscrew something, so pack both if the space allows; you won't regret it.
- Emergency Radio - A hand crank or solar radio is a fairly universal piece of gear you'll want regardless of setting.
You can find information on your situation from listening to emergency broadcasts, which might include potential locations of rescue operations.
Having some method of finding out what is happening outside of your own location is an important piece of the survival pie.
Bug-Out Items for Urban Environments
Urban environments present a unique set of challenges that the more rural areas don't.
You'll need to be more maneuverable, especially in a larger city, due to the condensed population.
They also present possibilities for problems that you wouldn't see in wilderness areas, such as a greater chance for disease and the potential for violent encounters with other people.
With that in mind, here are few more urban-centric devices you may want.
- Cash - In an environment with more people, there may still be the possibility of a need for money. In these situations, cash is king.
Whenever possible, use denominations of 20 or less and try to keep the total amount hidden. Try to have a few hundred dollars in cash as a reserve.
- Precious Metals - Similar to cash, precious metals such as gold and silver could be used for purchases or barter.
For example, low face value, pre-1964 US minted silver coins make an easy to find, readily accepted form of currency/precious metals.
- N95 Mask - Urban environments are more likely to have issues with dust and debris in emergency situations — not to mention the potential for a terrorist attack with chemical or biological weapons.
An N95 mask or some other breathing apparatus can be essential.
- Pepper Spray - Risks of potential violent confrontation in an urban emergency setting are far greater than in a rural area.
Just because you're in an emergency doesn't mean the situation always warrants using a firearm.
Pepper spray is a good tool to defend yourself and set an escalation ladder. The gun can be the backup — it doesn't need to be the first option.
This is also something you could potentially give to family members or other travel companions who aren’t trained to operate a firearm, but still want a way to defend themselves.
- Notepad and Pencil - In an urban setting, you may find more need to mark down routes of travel, take notes for things that occurred, or make notes to leave behind for others.
You could also use these supplies to make signs for help.
- Watch - In urban environments, it can be harder to know what time of day it is, especially during power outages.
Having a good watch can help you know how close to sunrise/sundown you are, which can be extremely important in emergencies.
Bug-Out Items for Wilderness Environments
Obviously, the great outdoors presents its own set of challenges in bug-out situations.
The chances for extremes in weather and harsher living conditions are much greater than in urban environments.
Here are a few extras to consider placing in your bug-out bag if you anticipate spending time outdoors in rural or wilderness areas.
- Gloves - Surviving in the wilderness requires doing more physical labor by default, and protecting your hands extends your ability to do so.
- Tools - A wire saw, shovel, hatchet or axe (maybe even a fancy throwing axe), and other camping tools can be the difference in life or death in the outdoors.
- Shelter - Having a place to escape the elements and cool off or warm up is essential in the open wilderness. A compact personal tent or a tarp for shade and shelter go a long way.
- Fire - Fire can warm you up, dry you off, or help you cook. Pack a firestarter set, a windproof lighter, or waterproof matches with some kind of tinder.
- Survival Feeding Tools - Fishing poles, fishing line, paracord, or any method of catching or trapping food is helpful — especially as you don't know how long you may end up stuck. The ability to gain food other than what's in your BOB goes a long way.
- Map and Compass - Finding your way around in an emergency is fundamental to survival, especially in the wilderness. It's the difference in getting home and getting lost.
Miscellaneous Bug Out Bag Items
There are also a plethora of miscellaneous items that are a good idea in general, regardless of environment.
While they may not be universal necessities, things like super glue, duct tape, extra batteries, carabiners, storage or garbage bags, sunglasses, hand warmers, and even sewing kits are worth having; provided you can find the room in your BOB.
Just be careful not to overload your BOB: Ounces turn to pounds quickly, and the heavier the bag, the quicker you'll tire out.
It's impossible to plan for every potential outcome, but with a basic checklist such as this and a little forethought, you can set yourself up to be prepared for whatever type of bug out you may have to do.
Use this as a foundation and personalize as necessary. Good luck and stay safe!