Survival Kit

What Should You Pack In a Bug Out Bag?

What Items Should Be in a Bug Out Bag?

some of the items you should pack in a bug out bag
Just some of the items in a BoB

This is the second post in the Bug out Bag (BoB) series, read this post first before reading on. To find out what you should pack in a Bug out Bag, you need to know your local environment. And any potential emergency situations you may face. For instance, you may live in a forest area and life threatening fires are a reality for you every summer. With that knowledge you can add contents to your Bug out Bag that will deal specifically with your local reality.

Depending on what that reality is, you may need to have a storage space inside your BoB to deal with it. For example, it could be a face respirator or other bulky piece of emergency gear, that you need to survive. It is important that you have settled on your gear/tools before you build a bag to hold it all!

Unique personal space aside, every BoB must have a space dedicated to the essentials for survival. So, to really determine what should you pack in a bug out bag, you’re going to have to make a few decisions.

What Should You Pack in a Bug out Bag – The Essential Contents

When it comes to the essentials for survival, the decision to include them has already been made. These are the essential items that unquestioningly should be packed in a Bug out Bag. To make this really simple, you need to break it down into two categories; essential and non essential. Firstly, the essential gear that you need to pack in a Bug Out Bag (BoB) is pretty straight forward. In fact, I have already covered these contents in the 72 Hour Survival Kit post.

Secondly, the spare space remaining after the essentials, is for your personal equipment and comfort. How much spare space you have will depend on how well it is packed and the bag size you’re willing to carry. To get started, let’s revisit the 72 hour kit and its essential contents.

first aid and toiletries pack
Essential first aid kit, don’t forget the toothpaste
Pack These in Your Bug out Bag – 72 Hour Survival Kit Contents
Folding bucket
Rescue whistle
Weather station
Mess tins
Wound dressings
Palm axe
Palm axe out
Multifunction shovel
Safety Matches
Butane/Plasma Lighter
Fire steel
Filtered Drink container
Signal mirror
Fishing kit
Multifunction shovel in
Note pad and wax pencil
Heat Blanket
Water Purification Tabs
Zip lock bag
Wire Saw
Sewing Kit
Filtered Straw
All the basic survival/rescue items covered

To show you what I think the purpose of a 72 hour kit is, I’ll show you a video of what its purpose isn’t. It’s a good video and I like this guy’s style and gear but I think he’s a little confused here. For instance, he says it you need to grab your 72 hour kit and go but it has 3 large bottles of water! He mentions the kit being portable, however, it has a ton of gear and looks anything but portable.

Although, I agree with his choice of gear and their usefulness, there is just too much of it. Again, looking at your own situation and determining a useful selection of this type of emergency gear is essential. As with all of your survival kits, they have to be portable, to be truly useful in an emergency.

The purpose of a Bug out Bag, is to have all these qualities, like the 72 hour kit, packed into one bag. However, balancing what you want to pack and what you can carry, is the biggest challenge.

More like a 72 hour kit for home survival

Pack a Bug out Bag with Mobility in Mind

Some of these items listed above and, in the video, should be removed from the 72 hour kit and packed directly in your Bug out Bag. This will help keep your 72 hour kit smaller and less weighty and therefore more portable. In this way, the 72 hour kit mostly becomes a mobile first aid kit, with other survival gear included.

It’s important that you consider this 72 hour kit as being separate from your BoB and is to include the essential gear only. Ideally, it’s also best if your kit is attached outside of your BoB, to save packing space. This kit will form the wilderness survival component of your Bug out Bag.

If your survival situation deteriorates further and you need to move, you can ditch the larger pack and take the 72 hour kit. It’s small, light and in the worst of conditions, has all the basics for your survival. Keep in mind, that for your survival, this smaller kit is more important than whatever else you pack in the Bug out Bag.

survival contents to pack in a bug out bag
Trimmed down 72 hour survival kit

Non Essential Comforts in a BoB

The point I’m trying to make here, is that a dedicated and smaller 72 hour kit will cover all your wilderness survival. That’s it! Your survival outdoors has been taken care of and the space left in your BoB is for whatever else. Obviously, you can now add gear that will help you survive and also thrive in a dangerous environment.

Some examples of what you should pack in your Bug out Bag; extra clothing, footwear and food are some of the nice to have items a BoB can take. There are many choices but some others could be electronics, shelter, tools and communications. Just remember, you’ll be carrying it, so keep it simple and focused on the items that add to your survivability.

Some more of those items may be a poncho, tent, swag, water filter and spare survival consumables, such as food rations. Other items, like toiletries and personal items need their own space too, especially a space for valuables. After all, it’s a Bug out Bag, so you’re bugging out and presumably taking your valuables with you to safety?

Personal Space in a BoB

If bugging out with valuables sounds like something you need to do, then arrange the container, wallet or lock box first. Determining the size of your contents prior to purchasing the bag to carry it in, is a no brainer. There will be a future post on this valuables kit. But for now grab it and pack it in the Bug out Bag with all of your riches inside!

anti theft pouch
Your valuables might just be cards and cash

At this stage your Bug out Bag has an outdoors survival kit, a valuables container and space for personal items. Which basically means you can take your money and survive out in the woods, for a short while anyway. What should you pack in a Bug out Bag if your journey is also going through urban areas?

What Should You Pack in an Urban Bug Out Bag?

Survival in an urban environment is less about water/heat/shelter/food and more about homicide/assault/robbery. If you build a BoB to cover those areas you’ll probably end up with arrest/charges/court issues to deal with! Compared to the wilderness, in urban areas there is an abundance of shelter, water and food options.

Assuming society is still somewhat functioning, then money will solve all those urban survival needs. So, building a bag for that, would just look like a wallet with cards and cash? Maybe some tools to unscrew and cut things and a battery wall charger could be useful?

urban gear for a bug out bag
A selection of Urban environmentally friendly survival gear

Whatever you decide to pack in your bug out bag, to survive in your local urban environment, pack it into a small kit bag. By building a small urban survival kit and packing it inside your BoB, you’re making it good for the city and the wild environments alike.

What Size is a Bug Out Bag?

When considering the size of the 72 hour kit and urban kit, a small back pack will have little room left. As you’re bugging out, it is safe to assume that you want to take more than just the basics along. Therefore, your BoB will need to be in the mid sized bag range, with options to enlarge.

Taking into account the type of items you’ll need, your bag will need to be strong enough to carry at least 10-15kg. Not only strong but also to be able to carry that sort of weight comfortably on your back. To pack the weight properly in your bug out bag, you will want at least two separate compartments.

Lastly, on the size of the bag, try to keep it no bigger than your own body profile, as in width and height. For instance, the bag should sit no higher than your shoulders and no wider than your back. Obviously, you don’t want your swinging arms colliding with your too wide back pack as you walk.

bug out bag with smaller pack

How Heavy Should a Bug Out Bag Be?

The weight of the bag should be round 10-15% of your own body weight, otherwise you will fatigue too quickly. Unless you train daily carrying a pack above the 15%, I recommend keeping it around the 10% mark. Although, if you want a BoB with great survival environment coverage, then I expect it could weigh up to 13kgs!

In the next post, I will pack a Bug out Bag with survival gear, for the city and the wild, to see the maximum weight you can expect to haul.

Keeping a Low Profile Bag

To give your bag the combined urban and wilderness abilities, you’ll need to have a low profile type bag. Nothing screams “Tourist” more than a large frame back pack, when you are walking through urban areas. The lower the profile the better but it still needs to be large enough to carry all your gear too.

As mentioned previously, having a bag that can breakdown or be added to easily, will help with managing the profile. Also, straps that can be pulled tight and keep the bag close to the body, will help with the shape. Similar profile reducing effect with the chest straps and a waist belt, as well as increasing carrying comfort.

survival kits to pack in a bug out bag
Smaller specialized kits make up your BoB

The colour and appearance of the bag is of importance and needs to work in both environments. In the wilderness setting, bright colours work in your favour, for attracting the attention of rescuers. Although, you don’t want to attract any attention, when travelling through an urban environment. Especially considering that you’re bugging out!

Likewise, if you’re bugging out in the wilderness, you still don’t want to attract attention. As a result, bright coloured bags are out and neutral coloured types are the logical choice for a BoB. I went with a wilderness friendly Olive drab colour and because it’s a common colour for backpacks in urban areas as well.

How to Pack a Bug Out Bag?

A recap of what items are inside a BoB:

  • 72 hour survival kit – For emergency wilderness survival needs
  • Urban survival kit – For Urban survival environments
  • Personal space – For personal items such as valuables and other non essential survival items
  • First aid kit/Toiletries/Medications – Personal hygiene and medicine as well as a more extensive first aid kit and supplies.

The next post will focus on how to pack your Bug out Bag, specifically, these smaller kits that make up your BoB. Also, we will determine the best items to carry in these individual survival packs. Together, these kits all form your survival platform and are carried as one in your Bug out Bag.

lightweight gear
Packing your lightweight items to the front compartment of the BoB is important

Thanks for reading and keep reading!

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