What Is a Bug Out Bag?
A bug out bag is a vital part of any prepper’s equipment. The bug out bag is backpack or other easy to carry bag containing everything you will need to survive for a few days plus bushcraft tools and equipment that you can use to continue to survive for longer periods. The bug out bag should always be prepared and ready for you to grab and leave at a moment’s notice.
This guide to bug out bag kit aims to include everything that you need to survive for at least 3 days when you have to grab your bug out bag and get out of the home quickly. It can also be used as a three day survival kit when sheltering at home.
It is possible to buy pre-prepared bug out bags with three day survival kits, but many of these contain only food for three days, and do not consider water, first aid, shelter, tools or any other supplies that you may need. It is definitely better to prepare your own kit, so that you can make sure it contains everything you think you will need, and doesn’t contain items that aren’t necessary.
Each person in your household needs to have their own bug out bag with similar contents in each. If you have children, you may need to consider packing some of their items in the adults’ bags, with small bags for the children to carry.
What Should Be In My Bug Out Bag?
The most obvious bug out bag three day survival kit items are water and food, however clothing and shelter are equally if not more important. First aid is vital to deal with any injuries, and bushcraft tools and equipment are necessary to make the most of your other equipment and to extend your survival period.
The guide below gives you a great bug out bag to survive many different disaster scenarios, however you should customise it to fit your own circumstances as well as your survival plans.
Shelter, Clothing and Warmth
Shelter from the weather is absolutely vital to survival. The best options for shelter that you can pack in a bug out bag are either a tarp or small tent. A tarp is the smallest and lightest, but it takes experience to make an effective tarp shelter, and you need to make sure your bug out bag includes everything you need to make your tarp shelter. If you don’t have this experience, a tent would be a better option.
The tarp or tent will keep you out of the worst of the weather, but it won’t keep you warm on its own! A sleeping mat reduces the amount of heat lost to the ground, and a sleeping bag, bivvy bag or even just an emergency blanket will help to keep you warm.
Clothing appropriate to your plans and to the local weather conditions will help keep you warm and dry. In the UK, it’s always a great idea to include waterproof coat and trousers in your bug out bag. Getting wet can be a threat to your survival and should be avoided if possible.
Footwear is an often overlooked part of a bug out kit. If your plan includes leaving the home, you will likely be on foot for a lot of the time. A good pair of comfortable, worn in, waterproof boots is vital to avoid injury and discomfort. Although these form part of your bug out kit, it would be best to store them with your bag rather than in it, so you can access and use them quickly. Pack a couple of extra pairs of socks so that you can keep your feet clean and dry.
Being able to start a fire is very important for warmth and cooking. Your bug out bag should include a fire starting kit, which has all the tools you need to start a fire, including tinder and something to generate a spark or flame. The more experienced you are at survival skills, the fewer items you may need for starting a fire!
Water & Hydration
Survival requires water, but containers of water are big, bulky and heavy, which makes it difficult to store and carry enough water for three days in your bug out bag. We need an absolute minimum of 1 litre of water per day to prevent dehydration, but this assumes cool weather and being physically inactive. In warm weather or when physically active, this amount increases significantly. Carrying 3 litres of water in containers in your bug out bag gives you the absolute minimum you need for three days, but water purification methods can then add more to that.
Your kit should include not only clean, fresh water, but also a means to purify and clean water that you can obtain from other sources such as streams and collected rainfall. There are various methods to purify water, including boiling, filtration, and chemical purification, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Boiling water is simple with a fire and container that you can use to boil water. There are various water filters available to keep in your bug out bag, as well as a number of different water purification tablets. Ideally keeping both a water filter and purification tablets in your bag gives you multiple options for purifying water. A few paper coffee filters take very little weight and space in your bag, but can add an extra layer of filtration to remove dirt and particles before using any of the other methods.
Food and Cooking
The best food to keep in your bug out bag will not take up much space, not be too heavy, will last a long time in storage, and will be easy to prepare. Food in cans or jars lasts a long time, but adds a lot of weight, so is not ideal for a bug out bag. Military style MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) can be a better alternative as they are usually packed in foil or plastic containers and are designed to be easy to prepare and cook, or sometimes can be eaten cold. Determining how many calories you need gives you a guide to how much food to pack in your bug out bag to be able to survive for three days. Bear in mind that if you’re active, you’ll use more calories.
If you have the means to start a fire, then with a little extra equipment you also have the means to heat food and water. A mess tin and a spoon allow you to cook over a fire, and you can use the mess tin to eat too. Alternatively, you may want to pack a small cooking stove and fuel source in your bug out bag, along with a bug out bag cooking kit including a small pan, plate and utensils.
You need to be able to deal with minor medical emergencies quickly in a bug out scenario, so a decent first aid kit is an important part of your bug out bag. You can buy off the shelf first aid kits, or make your own based on scenarios that you have considered in your bug out planning.
A good knife is one of the most important parts of the kit in your bug out bag. There are so many uses for a knife, including preparing food, cutting rope, paracord or bandages, cutting wood for fires or for making tools, cutting a path through brambles and many more. Your bug out bag should include at least one knife, as well as equipment to maintain a sharp edge.
Paracord (or parachute cord) is a strong, thin rope that has a multitude of uses including use in construction of shelters, attaching items to your kit, making repairs to kit, replacing shoelaces, making fishing equipment. Duct tape is another great thing to have in your kit for making emergency repairs.
A wind-up torch, rather than a battery powered one, may prove to be invaluable after dark. Chemical light sticks are also useful but they can only be used once, however they do have uses that a torch might not work for, such as marking a location for you to find again an hour or two later.
Other Useful Items
Maps of the local area and a compass will help you to navigate, as well as identify sites that could be useful when bugging out, such as streams and rivers for water, woodland for areas that might be suitable for camping out of sight, high ground for escaping floods or sheltered areas to escape strong winds and extreme weather.
A few other items that you may want to include in your bug out bag are: binoculars, documents (e.g. copies of I.D., ownership of house), notepad & pencils, a few printed photographs of family or people that mean a lot to you and a few small treats that may help during difficult times.
The bag itself is obviously a very important part of the bug out bag kit, as without it you can’t transport your kit. However, the bag should be one of the last things you buy after you have assembled the majority of your three day survival kit. Once you have assembled the majority of your kit, you can determine the best size of bag to contain it. Buying a bag first may lead to a bag that is too small and unable to hold all your kit, or a bag that is too big which may persuade you to add more items that you don’t need.
I would also recommend packing your kit, particularly clothes and items that will be affected by water, within dry bags. These are waterproof bags that will keep your items dry even if water gets inside your backpack, from rain, crossing a stream or river, or your water supply leaking within your backpack.
I use a 5.11 Rush 72 backpack for my 3 day survival kit bug out bag. It’s a large (55 litre) and very well made backpack with plenty of compartments for keeping my kit organised and easily accessible, and is also equipped with the MOLLE system, which enables accessories to be attached to the webbing around the outside of the backpack.