Survival Food Kit
Bug out Bag

Bug out Bag Contents: What Should Be in a Bug Out Bag

Posted On May 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm by / 23 Comments

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If you’ve come across this page, then chances are pretty good that you already know what a bug out bag is, and you probably know why you need to always have a bug out bag ready to go. This article will help you establish the basic bug out bag contents that you will need to survive.

Bug Out Bag Essentials: Water, Food, Shelter, Fire

First thing is first – most survival blogs and survivalists suggest that your bug out bag contains emergency supplies that will allow you to bug out for a maximum of 72 hours.  What is the single most important element to human survival? Water!

Bug Out Bag Checklist #1: Water Filtration

Clean water is a must. You must have a way to filter water – even if you are planning on boiling your water first, you’ll still want to be able to filter out sand and other nasty impurities.

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I suggest getting a nice water filter that is portable and lightweight, and that is capable of producing enough water to survive on for 72 hours. Here’s an example.

Emergency Water Filter– $34.95
Emergency Water Filter Used by the military during Katrina. Makes over 3 Liters of clean drinking water a day for 3 days. Makes virtually any water drinkable – even muddy water.The filter itself has a microscopic pore size of 3 to 5 angstrom; 100 times smaller than the smallest pathogens and 200 times finer filtration than competitive filters. The system this filter uses is forward osmosis. Meet all EPA standards.


This type of water filtration kit is small, lightweight, portable, and inexpensive.

Another possible addition to your bug out bag contents could be a UV pathogen killer, like this one below.

Bug out Bag Contents
Survival Water Purification via UV Filter – $150 bucks

What a filter like this does is kill water-born pathogens that could make you sick. If you carry one of these in your bug out bag along with a few coffee filters, you can achieve great tasting and safe water during your survival situation.

If you do decide to go with a UV-type water killer, remember that these all require power. Even with a solar charger, batteries have a limited shelf life, and they will be difficult or impossible to recharge during a long term grid-down or TEOTWAWKI situation.


Bug Out Bag Checklist #2: 72 Hours of High Calorie, Long Lasting Food


Your bug out bag contents must contain a minimum of 72 hours of food rations. Most survival blogs and survivalists recommend using MREs (meals-ready-to-eat).

Here are some benefits to MREs:

  • MREs are lightweight
  • MREs require little preparation
  • MREs are relatively inexpensive
  • MREs have a great shelf-life
  • MREs are a great source of extra calories
Bug out bag contents: MREs
72 Hour MRE Survival Pack for $29 bucks!

When deciding on the contents of your bug out bag, make sure you realize that you are going to be in a survival environment – which means you’ll be burning more calories than normal. Most survivalists assume that you will be burning at least 3500 calories each day that you’re bugging out, so make sure you account for those extra calories somehow.

To add extra calories, think about using energy bars that are super high in calories to augment your bug out bag contents. Here’s an example:

Food for Bug out bags
Great tasting 3600 Calorie Mayday Energy Bar – $6.95


Bug Out Bag Checklist #3: FIRE!


You need to make sure your survival bag contains plenty of ways to make fire. Most survival blogs and survivalists suggest having 3 ways of making fire – just in case. I personally like to have a lot more way of making fire.

Fire is an essential for survival. Here are the reasons you need fire in a bug out situation:

  • Warmth
  • Water purification/sanitization
  • Cooking
  • Light
  • Security

Here are some of my favorite tools for creating fire.

Magnesium Fire Starter

Bug out bag contents: fire
Magnesium fire starter for your bug out bag – $12.25

Here’s how to use a magnesium fire starter:

  1. Gather wood, kindling, and tinder for your wood pile
  2. Get an area to catch the magnesium fire starter scrapings – a piece of bark or dry wood works
  3. Scrape a small pile of magnesium shavings onto your catching area
  4. Add some tinder on top of the shavings
  5. Spark it up!

Using magnesium fire starters definitely takes practice, but they are much longer lasting than matches or lighters.

Waterproof Matches

Bug out bag contents - waterproof matches
Waterproof matches, an essential bug out bag item – $0.60 for 45

No bug out bag is ever complete without water proof matches. Waterproof matches are an absolute must for every bug out bag.

Stormproof/Windproof Matches

Bug out bag contents - windproof matches
Windproof matches – extra large heads that will burn for 10 seconds in the wind  $4.95

You never know what is going to happen during your bugging out – so I always suggest getting waterproof and windproof matches. Although wind-proof matches are more expensive, it would be your last resort. Your magnesium will blow away and your matches will blow out.


Bug Out Bag Checklist #4: Lightweight, portable shelter

If you’re a human, then you definitely need shelter to survive. Its absolutely essential.

Shelter protects you from the following:

  • Heat/sun
  • Cold
  • Rain
  • Animals
  • Insects
There are hundreds of different options you can use for shelter during your bug out situation. Here are the characteristics we look for in a bug out shelter:
  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Affordable
  • Longevity
  • Size
But out bag contents - tube tent
Super cheap & lightweight bug out shelter – survival tube tent – $7 bucks

These super inexpensive survival tents are quick to set up and easy to use. They weigh less than a pound and can fit two people.

However, both ends are open, which provides little protection against the elements, insects, or animals, and could make it a bit colder. Still, I do suggest carrying one of these with you – because you just never know.

Bug out bag contents - bivy
This 1 person bivy weighs less than 2.5lbs and is easy to set up. Goes for $99 bucks

This is a one person shelter tent that retails out at around $100 bucks. It may be a bit more expensive than a tube tent, but it sure is a great little tent for bugging out in an emergency. It has plenty of headroom and a side entrance.

This is an essential item for my bug out bag for sure.

Bug out bag contents - two person tent
This 2 person tent is setup in seconds! Weighs less than 6lbs and retails for about $85 bucks.

This tent is an ideal tent for the survivalist who might be traveling with a girlfriend, wife, friend, or who just wants a bit more space. This tent will sleep up to two people, but you can fit a third person with the three person model.

This tent retails at about $65 bucks and is a great item for bugging out. It weighs out at 6lbs and can be setup in seconds.


Bug Out Bag Checklist #5: Firearms for bugging out

Personal protection – the survivalists’ most fun hobby. We sure love our AR15, Glocks, and guns! That said, packing your survival bag with the bare essentials is important – remember, you’re only anticipating a 72 hour bug out period, so you won’t be able to lug around 1000 rounds of ammunition. I wish we could!

That said, I’ll explain what I have in my own bug out bag and why I chose those firearms for bugging out.

Bug Out Firearms: AR15 

Although I’ve never gone camping or have been in a bug out situation with my AR15, my ultimate goal would be to bug out with my AR15 and about 6-10 magazines. Here’s why I would choose an AR15 over any other rifle.

AR-15's in action
AR-15’s in action
  • The AR15 is very reliable – which would be important in an bug out situation
  • The AR15 is accurate ( the shooter needs to be too)
  • The AR15 has the ability to switch out its bolt and magazine to make it into a .22LR – perfect for small game hunting
  • The AR15 has low maintenance – but I would carry some extra springs and such just in case

I could go on and on about the AR15 – but instead, read more about the AR-15 here: How to Choose an AR15 That’s Right for You

Bug out bag contents - AR15 to .22 conversion kit
Simply pop in this bolt and use this magazine to fire .22LRs from any standard AR15! Costs about $150 bucks.


Bug Out Firearms: Smith & Wesson M&P vs. Glock

Smith & Wesson M&P vs. Glock 19
Smith & Wesson M&P vs. Glock 19

Living in Florida, I never leave home without carrying a firearm, and I recommend that anyone who is legally allowed to carry should carry. Imagine the lives that could be saved! Enough about that, onto the Smith & Wesson M&P vs. the Glock 19.

I’ve been a Glock owner for years, and I stand by their reliability, their accuracy, and their performance. They have a ton of accessories and parts are readily available (and cheap!).

However, I purchesed a Smith & Wesson M&P 9c – and that quickly became my carry pistol.

Which pistol would I bug out with? That’s easy!


Arguing about Glocks being better or M&Ps being better is like trying to prove that Fords are better than Chevys, or that iPhones are better than Droids. In the end, it all comes down to opinion.

The bottom line on bug out firearms is this – whatever firearm you feel comfortable bugging out with, that’s the best firearm for you.


Bug Out Firearms: Tactical Bug Out Accessories

But out bag contents - tactical bug out vest
This tactical bug out vest allows for a quick draw and plenty of storage, and runs about $150 bucks.

When choosing their bug out bag contents, keep in mind that you may be in situations where speed and agility could be important. Being able to draw and use your firarms quickly is also very important. All of these factors need to be addressed when deciding what your bug out bag should contain.

If a bug out situation ever faced me, I’d be wearing a tactical vest that contains a chest holster, a holster on my right leg, and plenty of areas to story ammunition and other items.


Bug Out Bag Checklist #6: Survival knife

So now you have chosen your most essential items – water, food, fire, shelter, and firarms. Take a sigh of relief – but here’s where the real fun starts.

We’ve dedicated entire blog posts to survival knives, but for the sake of time, we’ll try to go through it fast. Here are the survival knife basics:

  • Make sure your knife is one single piece of metal with a handle – these are 100% more reliable than cool looking knives with mechanical parts
  • Make sure you have a way to sharpen your survival knife
  • Make sure your survival knife will not fall out of its sheath during high movement activities
Glock survival knife
Here’s a great survival knife with a saw edge made by Glock for about $30 bucks. Make sure your survival knife is one piece of metal from tip to hilt!


Bug Out Bag Checklist #7: Compass

During a bug out situation, I plan on keeping moving and avoiding as much human contact as I possibly can. That said, your bug out needs to contain navigation equipment like a compass.

Don’t trust a cheesy compass – spend a but of money and get a nice one.

Bug out bag essentials - compass
This compass retails for about $30 bucks and has some great features for bugging out.


Bug Out Bag Checklist #8: Pots, plans, and cookware

Cooking equipment needs to be lightweight, strong, and portable. Here’s a few examples.

Bug out bag essentials - camping pot
Here’s a lightweight aluminum pot for about $30 bucks.
But out bag essentials - fork, knife, spoon
You can pick up a set of forks and knives for your bug out bag for about $30 bucks.

23 thoughts on “Bug out Bag Contents: What Should Be in a Bug Out Bag

  1. I looked at that site. Evidently the poster doesn’t know much about web site templates, like he wants people to believe he dreamed that one up from scratch. Kind of funny.

      1. How about a sawyer mini for 100,000 and 20 bucks, or sawyer squeez 1,000,000 gallons and 30 bucks at Walmart?

  2. I have always wondered why I have never seen bug out supplies listing laminated maps as important to carry. If it is truly TEOTWAWKI, then shouldn’t we have maps???

  3. Living in the UK, unfortunately I cant have a gun, thinking about a crossbow or throwing knives! Good alternative I suppose ;p

    1. Hey Teach,
      I doubt you’re still monitoring this page, but you should consider a take-down recurve bow as opposed to the crossbow. Why? because it has fewer moving parts, and most can be replaced in the field. Also, using a bow instinctivly (without sights) means you aren’t even relying on that to keep food on your table. It’s an added benefit that most folks get really squimish about being shot with an arrow- more so than a bullet for some reason.
      Another cool part of using a recurve is that the arrow speeds are slow enough that you can make your own arrows- try that on a high-powered crossbow and you’ll get a face full of splinters as the bolt explodes.

  4. For someone new to prepping building a Bug Out Bag can seem like a big task. Everybody you read about has been tweaking theirs for months or even years and has a pile of gear built up. It’s hard to know where to start, but if you cover just all of the basics in a survival situation you will still be much better off that 99% of the people.

    We started with one of the kits from and added copies of important papers, extra clothing and an emergency radio too. It takes only a few minutes to pick out a kit that works for your family and have it shipped to you, instead of driving all over town trying to find all the items you need for a good bug out bag. Then spend a day reviewing the contents and adding your extras. Put it in the hallway closed by the door and it’s ready whenever you need it. Total time spent probably 2 hours = Lifetime of Peace of Mind!

  5. I am 12 and am trying to prepare with stuff that I have but it’s not enough I barely a have a small pouch of supplies and my parents don’t believ their will any thing devastating like TEOTWAWKI
    Any suggestions on how to get supplies for my bug out bag

    1. Start with:

      A bag
      A change of clothes
      Second set of underwear and socks
      Monthly supplies if this has started (pack ’em anyway because there is always someone who needs ’em)
      Small notebook and a pencil
      Basic first aid kit – start with a few bandaids and add things as you find them
      Bar of soap (this can be a mostly-used bar of soap or a collection of mostly-used bar of soaps)
      Hand towel
      Old comb and toothbrush
      Two or three extra plastic grocery bags

      Add to this as you find things:
      Water bottle (plastic or stainless steel)
      Tin cup (camping type of thing that can be put over a fire)
      A few tea bags/packets of sugar
      Hand held radio
      Batteries for the radio/flashlight
      One of those survival blankets you see runners wear when they finish a marathon race. They are shiny and silver
      Plastic poncho
      Paracord if you can find it, or some sort of durable string.
      Big plastic sheet (with the cord it can be used to create a tent, or on its own to cover the ground so you can sit on it)
      Some sort of snack that keeps well

      Put everything in their own ziplock bag to keep things dry (for when things get wet). Most of the supplies I didn’t already have I got from a dollar store. If your parents are being muffins about the bug out bag – mine are and I’m 45 – call it a ‘going camping bag’.

      When you get old enough add matches and folding knife. One of those all-in-one tool kits is nice as well (mine is part hammer, part screwdriver, bottle opener, pliers, knife, etc).

      Swap things out as they get too old. Keep in mind the weather so if it is winter and cold in your area maybe add an old toque and gloves.

  6. the AK-47 is waaaay more reliable than any AR, much cheaper to acquire, easier to maintain, especially in a SHTF scenario when one might not be cleaning it regularly, and the ammo is cheaper too. There are ALOT of combat vets(both current and former) that are NOT happy with being stuck with the AR platform… and their lives DO/HAVE depend(ed) on it!

    1. The Ak is a nice and reliable platform. But it is not nearly as effective as an ar15. Cost now is right about the same. Thanks obama. Reliability is not much of an issue now days either. Like with any machine, spare parts and lubrication are allways needed. Just to say all i am going to need is my ak and nothing else would not be wise. With the push of 2 pins i can change my whole set up. Do i want my bull barrel sniper set up. Or do i want my tactical set up. Maybe i can go with a light tactical sniper set up… I like knowing i can reach out and touch you and your skull accurately at 500m. Try shooting anything at even 300m with an ak. If your up close my gun is lighter and quicker with almost no recoil for followup shots. Much faster to reload, my gun even tells me when it is empty.that would suck to corner your enemy and click oh wait let me fumble with the magg for a min and have to pull back the handle here. AR all you do is tap and slap. Dont get me wrong i own an ak and if shtf i would deff pack it. But my go to battle rifle are my ar15s. I geuss its all in the eye of the beholder.

    2. AK Vs. AR is PC Vs. Mac argument. Both are decent reliable firearms. One is a Rifle one is a Machine gun. Range, accuracy, weight, modular capabilities to convert between calibers make the AR a prime choice. The AK while it’s almost guaranteed to fire in almost any condition, it’s point to point accuracy fades at 200 meters, its cheap but the ammo is heavy. If you do the AK route, be sure to pick the best models possible. Russian and Chinese milled receivers are some of the best. Better yet build your own. The AK is good for less experiences shooters because of it’s simplified functions. Make sure you pack spare parts for it.

      Bullet weight… Something to consider…you have carry ammo as well.
      .22LR: 100 rounds=.75 pounds,
      .223X54: 100 rounds=2.69 pounds,
      7.62X39: 100 rounds=3.63 pounds

      I own both and love both for varies reasons. I’d bug out with my AR and let the wife take the AK.
      Pack a .22 pistol or breakdown 10-22 as well, and train, train, train with you firearms!

  7. The 22lr adapter is instrumental to hone your shooting skills, that is cheaper than .223 target shooting. Don’t wait for the SHTF..that is too late. Not just shooting. If you hadn’t camped yet PRACTICE again again and again, building a fire, Fishing, Hunting, trapping, Making a shelter, cooking, navigation (reading maps with a compass), etc. It might be that GPS’s don’t work anymore. I do all that stuff except hunting, I’m against to kill animals a put a trophy on the wall, however I would take a animal for food. My primary weapon is a AR15 Bushmaster, my secondly always on my belt is a LLama 45-automatic modified ( if the rifle is leaned on the tree opposite side of my camp when more SHTF happens). If I would you I would designate a primary and alternate “ALAMO” if you were forced out of your house. When you are there set a perimeter as much you can. If you can’t use natural obstacles, make alarms…like fish line tied with cans tin plates. I am going to use pull snaps..If you hear that grab the AR/A/whatever and run in the opposite direction. Always hope for the best and prepared for the worst!!.. Please check out your local regulation, and licensing. I hope we don’t have to do anything of this!

    1. Hunting is for food. People that kill just to put trophies on the wall and not eating the meat are few and far between. You sound like you’ve never hunted and would probably screw the meat up so bad while trying to “clean” the animal that you’d starve to death in a matter of weeks. Go hug a tree hippie.

  8. One thing I include in my bug out bag is a couple spools of spiderwire.
    It can be used to make snares & such,repair gear(stronger than thread),
    My 2¢ YMMV

  9. @Steve – agreed – most people that hunt also know how to dress, prep, and cure their meat – they have a great respect and knowledge of nature and the wilderness, they aren’t just going out there for sport.

  10. a crossbow is is good idea for hunting. as is a al pistol with good optics and ammo weight is not bad. also a tac vest is a good idea. as for guns and ammo pick ones that are most used and easy to find like 223, 308, m, just to list 3 of the most popular with nato and the law. I love all the POSITIVE help and ideas for my BOB. Please keep in mind folks that the basics like water, protein, instant shelter, first aid and protection will always be needed if we are forced to abandon our homes. A survivalist will find a way to make it possible to have, carry, find those items even if we use a device thats used diferently in our lives today. Eventually all the things we put in our BOBs will run out and have to be replaced so keep in mind that our setup on these bags is to keep us alive long enough for us to learn to live off the land, so to speak. What events would cause us to become instant survivalists? Solar flare knocking out all power? contagious virus (Zombies!) Military martial law? AI gone rogue. Keep to the basics. I m a single dad of 3 boys, ages 13,14,17. My plan is for us to bug out together and stay together which means we will be carrying different things to keep each bag weight down for long distance travel. Don t travel alone.

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