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What Is A Bug Out Bag? Introduction To Survivalist Terminology

Bug Out Bag For Survivalist

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According to Wikipedia, a Bug-Out Bag or ‘BOB’ is “a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for 72 hours when evacuating your home from a disaster, although some kits are designed to last longer periods”. More formally known in the survivalist community as an Emergency Supply Kit or Disaster Supplies Kit, the idea behind it is that if you have to leave your home in a hurry because of an emergency, the process will be made significantly easier if you have put some time and effort into getting items together before an emergency arises.

Your specific circumstances will dictate some of the contents of your emergency bag – for example – if you are prepping for a natural disaster or a power outage. Some contents, however, are universal. Below are a few recommendations on must-have items for any Bug Out Bag, starting with the primary needs for water, food and shelter.

1. Water (Survivalist term – Container – For Heating Water Or Cooking)

The US government recommends one gallon per person per day. Since the bug out bag is designed to last 72 hours, you need to plan for three gallons of water per person just for drinking. However extra water may be needed for cooking or cleaning, so four gallons would be better. Water is physically heavy to transport, so consider expanding your capability for surviving longer than a couple of days by using a water purification system. This can be as simple as boiling water or using iodine tablets or a serious water filter.

2. Water Filter

If your emergency lasts longer than 72-hours, a water filter will help ensure continued access to clean water for your party.  Save the gallon jugs of water that you already had with you and refill them using a pump water filter. An inverted bag filter also works very well.

3. Food

Make sure you have enough food to last you for three days. Dehydrated meals are easy to make, and even easier to prepare. Use a freeze dryer to seal your food into airtight compartments. When the time comes to eat them, cut a slit across the top of the compartment and add boiling water. Stir and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Pre-packaged dehydrated meals (found in camping stores) are prepared the same way. These meals take up very little space, and are preferable to weighty canned goods and other types of food in your bug out bag. So long as they are prepared without oil or fats, meals can be stored for several months or longer.

Another option is ‘Survival Tabs’.  These can be used as backup food supplies in situations such as natural disasters. They are designed to supply the body with all the daily essential vitamins and minerals in a compact design that allows for easy storage.

Cooking – A small backpacking stove and fuel with a small pot/large cup to boil water in for both drinking and to add to freeze dried meals.  (See Container).

4. Tarp or Tent (Survivalist terms – Cover and Cordage)

If you are going to survive for three days in the open you are going to need protection from the elements and a warm dry place to sleep. A tarp is useful for creating shelter outdoors. A tent would work as well but tarps are a lightweight and versatile alternative. You need at least:

  • Some type of tent or tarp and a way to set it up (which is where cordage comes in!)
  • A ground tarp for underneath your shelter to stay dry or a sleeping pad (anyone who has camped out without some sort of ground protection knows how important this is to retaining heat/creating a barrier between unforgiving surfaces and the body.)
  • Some type of bedroll but preferably a good sleeping bag.

5. Clothing & Hygiene

Your Bug Out Bag clothes should be similar to what you would pack for a weekend backpacking trip. (Be sure to include seasonal clothes in your Bag). Also consider rain gear – at least two ways to stay dry in the rain. A poncho and coat are good coupled with your tarp or tent. Remember hats – for warmth and/or sun protection. In addition to clothing, be sure to include sanitation and hygiene items, such as liquid soap, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene supplies.

6. Knife & Axe (Survivalist term – Cutting Tool)

Any survivalist knows you always need a knife. Make sure you have a good knife for splitting wood, preparing food, cutting rope, and so on. Bonus points if you have knife sharpening equipment. In addition, consider including an ax, as using a knife for chopping wood, for example, is far too laborious in the long term.

7. Fire Starter (Survivalist term – Combustion Device)

If you are stranded in the open fires can provide warmth, a cooking facility and even light and a fire starter will come in handy. You will still need to gather dry wood and kindling but a fire starter will help make the process of igniting a fire significantly easier.

8. Light

Supply yourself with 2 dependable flashlights together with a backup set of batteries for each or, preferably, solar-powered charging equipment or better still – a solar powered flashlight.  A ‘tactical’ flashlight can double as a self-defense tool as well!

9. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is an essential part of any bug out bag. Your first aid kit should include anything you think you may need in the event of a medical emergency. It is possible to buy ready-made First Aid Kits or you can develop your own (in which case you would have a much better idea of what is in it and how it should be used!) Items could range from minor wound care (band-aides, antiseptic) through diarrhea to more serious emergency care (major wound care, broken bones). Interestingly enough an ordinary bandana is considered to be a much better multiple function treatment supply than assorted bandages, slings etc. Also include any medications that any member of your party takes.

10. Compass

If you are on the move, a compass is essential. We take for granted the easy access we have to maps and GPS with our phones. In a true survival situation, we may not have access to those things. A good compass (preferably with a detailed map of the area) will have you navigating with ease.


Compiling a bug out bag is something everyone should do. No matter where you live, disaster could strike at any moment.

Be prepared with a well-equipped bug out bag, with items in easy-to-carry, clearly labelled containers. Store the containers and the rest of your kit where they are easily accessible.

Kate P

I have always had an urge to “be ready’ for emergency situations. To my delight, I discovered the term “prepping” and that there is a community out there willing to learn and share information on a subject close to my heart. I also discovered how entwined self-sufficiency and homesteading are with prepping!

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