Best Bug Out Bag List

A bug out bag is your best friend in an emergency situation. Here's a guide on how to prepare yours!

In this article:

  1. Backpack Size
  2. Food and Water Resource
  3. Camping Gear Alternatives
  4. Possible Targets for Scavenging
  5. The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Checklist

Make the Best Bug Out Bag You Can with These Tips

Backpack Size

For the best bug out bag backpack, I recommend having an external aluminum frame pack or a larger hiking backpack. School backpacks aren't quite big enough. A frame pack has the weight of the frame, but you can attach items such as a sleeping bag or a shotgun or rifle. I prefer to carry handguns in a belt holster.

Hiking backpacks can often be found used in larger thrift shops like Value Village or the Goodwill. School backpacks will work in a pinch, but they will be full with some larger items. Also, a normal backpack may not fit all of your bug out bag essentials while remaining comfortable for constant use without needing modifications.

Food and Water Resource

My bug out bag checklist is based on the premise of obtaining food and water en route. Some food and water need to be carried, but a realistic amount to be totally self-sufficient likely requires an additional means of transport. Urban settings have food and water resources if one thinks outside the box. I list the means to cook and boil water on the assumption that food can be obtained in this part of the world fairly easily. Rural or natural settings have many potential sources of calories, and water can usually be found.

Camping Gear Alternatives

Camping Gear Alternatives | Best Bug Out Bag List

Crushed charcoal in a bandana makes a makeshift filter that should remove most undesirable elements not killed by boiling or water purification tabs. I realized that emergency/camping food and fancy means of purifying water are out there, but I prefer to stick to basic methods without parts to break down.

I also lack the funds to buy items such as purifying pump and so I'm forced to look at other means. The fishing kit can be swapped out for a collapsing pole if desired, but a fishing kit gives you the ability to rig up multiple lines for more opportunities for food. You can use an actual pole, but it should be light and compact if you go that route.

Weight is the key issue. I have hunted up steep hillsides in Eastern Washington and the ability to refill water and food on the go would be on the top of my bug out bag checklist if I had to go cross-country on foot.

It's simply impossible to carry enough water, for more than maybe a day, without breaking your back. I recommend the total load, except for a firearm if carried separately, should not exceed 30-35 pounds. I'd aim for 25-30 pounds, if possible.

Possible Targets for Scavenging

If the items are no longer in use or are not anymore needed by the previous owner, they are fair targets for scavenging. I will not hurt a person for the purpose of gaining an item, but I have no problem acquiring an unused item to ensure my own survival so long as no one else unnecessarily gets hurt. Theft, maybe, but in a survival situation, many rules of ‘civilized' living no longer apply. Calling it borrowing if it makes you feel better.

I will not purposely hurt others, but I will act to ensure my own survival by whatever actions that require. In the normal world, I am an ethically conservative person who is very professional. These values don't disappear but rather get modified in the event of a survival situation. Many preppers and survivalists think you have to be the lone wolf or the general store without any middle ground. A good balance lies somewhere in between where a person looks out for his or her own interests while still supporting a community setting when appropriate.

The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Checklist


• Fire Kit

• metal match (flint stick)

• wooden or paper matches

• lighter

• magnesium bar

How to start a fire with flint:


• Water bottle – metal, preferably steel

• Purification tablets

• Water purification pump, if within budget


• Space blanket

• Tarp – green or brown, fairly easy to find

• 50-100 feet of cordage – heavy twine will work

• Poncho – emergency ones are at every sporting goods store, better ones will cost more

• Wool socks – 2 pairs (one to wear and one to rinse and dry)

• 2-3 bandanas

• Gloves – leather or wool preferred

• Change of underthings

• Carabiners – lightweight, hanging things, can be skipped if not found


• Compass

• Flagging Tape

• Whistle

• Binoculars

• Radio and batteries


• Small LED flashlight and batteries

• LED headlamp and batteries


• Esbit stove and fuel tabs

• Small cook pot (lightweight) and mess kit including a set of silverware

• Handled metal cup

• (Inside cup) Plastic jar or Ziploc bag with tea, bouillion, and salt

• Ziploc bags and folded aluminum foil

• Sierra cup

• Travel rations of choice (rice, jerky, granola, etc.)


• Multi-tool

• Hunting or larger folding knife


• Road flares (2)

• Fishing kit – hooks, 30-40 feet of line and lead weights in a pill bottle

• Dental floss

• Toilet paper – in a Ziploc bag

• Duct tape

First Aid kit – basic, include doses of critical meds


Swiss Army knife with can opener blade

• Small can opener if there's no Swiss Army knife

• Firearm and ammo

• Rain hat

• Boy Scout manual

In Car

• Hiking boots or other sturdy boots

• Sleeping bag – with a carry bag or strapped to frame pack

• Fleece top – pull-over or zipped both works well

• Winter coat with hood

• Extra water bottle

Watch this video about what goes in a bug out bag by Blade HQ:

We covered the basic survival needs of food, water, fire, defense, and shelter, but we prefer to carry knowledge and skills rather than a bunch of high-tech gear. Fancy gear is great, but it costs money and can get heavy quickly. Most gear can be improvised or scavenged if needed. As the first thing you grab in an emergency, this resource can be hugely beneficial if you know what you're doing. A good packing list is critical to ensuring the quality of your bug out bag and your preparedness as a whole.

Care to share about your best bug out bag practices? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Up Next: My Bug Out Bag Has A Secret…

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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