A Beginner’s Guide to Bug-Out Bag Essentials

Ann Shields
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Yagi Studio - Getty Images
Photo credit: Yagi Studio - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Not so long ago, you may have dismissed serious prepping for natural disasters as an activity for the paranoid. But if this year has been good for anything, it’s been for making all of us take emergency preparedness seriously. Now, the phrase “anything could happen” seems less like a warning and more like a casual intro to the daily news report.

To prepare for a variety of possible emergencies, you’ll need a survival plan that accounts for situations where your family may need to evacuate your home. By putting together a “go bag” or “bug-out bag,” you’ll have all the necessary supplies and tools needed to get by outside of your house for at least 72 hours if disaster strikes.

Don’t put off making a plan or convince yourself that simply by planning you are courting disaster. On the contrary, beginning to gather the basics of a portable go bag will set your mind at ease. While you’re sure to have some of the items you need on hand already, we suggest investing in quality products where you can, so that they will not fail you when you need them. You’ll notice that while a lot of the elements below have multiple uses, some also have overlapping functions: Accounting for a Plan B or C is a good idea when you need to start a fire, charge a lantern or erect a shelter from rain.

What items should be in a bug-out bag?

Whether you're looking to put together a more minimalist go bag or the ultimate bug-out bag, here is our list of the essentials you'll need to think about gathering, no matter the season or the emergency:

Food and Water

  • 3 days’ supply of non-perishable food (healthy canned goods in non-BPA lined cans, other shelf-stable foods, high-nutrition energy bars, even MREs, the boxed ready-to-eat meals that soldiers carry) per family member

  • Portable water filtration system

  • Chemical water purification tablets or drops

  • Collapsible water bag or bladder

  • Stainless steel water bottles for each family member

  • Stainless steel bowl/pot

  • Spork multi-utensil

  • Field knife

  • Collapsible fishing kit

  • Portable stove

  • Fuel for stove/fire (solid fuel, fire starters, ferro rod, waterproof matches or petroleum soaked cotton ball DIY fire-starters)

  • Multipurpose tool with knife, can opener, screwdriver, etc.

  • Waterproof Ziploc bags

Warmth and Shelter

  • Lightweight tent

  • Sleeping bag

  • Ground pad

  • Emergency waterproof blanket or space blanket

  • Tarp

  • Hand warmers

  • Gloves

  • 50' of parachute cord (paracord)

  • Hatchet or machete

  • Knife sharpening stone

  • Clothes

  • Rain poncho or other durable waterproof outer shell layer

  • Warm and lightweight winter jacket

  • Warmth layer (wool, fleece)

  • 2 sets of quick-dry underwear per person

  • 2 pairs of wool hiking socks per person

  • Sturdy hiking shoes or boots

  • Hat for warmth (winter) or sun protection (summer)

First Aid and Sanitation

Light, Safety and Communication

  • Whistle

  • Two-way walkie talkie

  • Compass

  • Watch

  • Pepper spray

  • Hand-cranked radio

  • Hand-cranked flashlight

  • Hand-cranked or solar-powered lantern

  • Headlamp and rechargeable batteries

  • Glow sticks

  • Portable solar charger and power-charging cords for devices

  • Cell phones

Important Documents in a Waterproof Bag

  • Passports

  • Deeds/titles to home and car

  • Bank info

  • Insurance policies

  • Health records

  • Pencil and notebook

  • Family photos

  • Paper road maps and topographic maps

  • Printed list of friend and family names and addresses

  • Cash (small bills)

  • Survival handbook

Useful Items for Improvising Solutions

  • Safety pins

  • Duct tape

  • Zip ties

  • Superglue

  • Dental floss

  • Sewing kit

  • Petroleum jelly

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