A Complete Bug Out Bag List

How to Assemble the Best Bug Out Bag for Short-Term Emergencies

bug-out-bag-list

Photo by Shelley DeDauw

Some call it a 72-hour kit; others call it a get home bag. List what you need for three days, pack it in a portable container, and stash it in a safe place. If stuff hits the fan, grab it and go. Make your bug out bag list and assemble it before anything can hit the fan.

Really, what could happen? Under what situations would you need to grab a single bag and flee your home? It’s not an impossible scenario. Flooding could chase you to a downtown hotel room. Cars may break down on a long-distance trip. Power outages happen. It doesn’t take an impending apocalypse to make you glad you prepared for three days.

Bug out bag lists may cover different scenarios but they have a single focus: to cover one person’s needs for three days.

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Non-Perishable Food

You’re going to need to eat, and where you’re going may not provide food. Emergency shelters often offer soup, granola bars, or whatever a community provides. Donations don’t cover all dietary conditions. You may be camping or stuck in your vehicle, or may need all your cash to find shelter.

Focus on non-perishable food such as canned goods, protein bars, MREs, and freeze-dried food. Consider weight. Three days’ worth of canned food can get heavy. Also consider water requirements for cereals or freeze-dried food. Find a good balance of both. Also remember to pack what you will eat because you’ll want to replenish your packs, consuming foods before they expire and purchasing new products.

Water

Another obvious addition is the water you must drink. But many people don’t add water to their bug out bag list. Perhaps because it’s so commonplace we don’t think about it? Perhaps because it’s such a pain to carry. But the Department of Homeland Security recommends keeping a gallon of water per person per day. You’ll need it for consumption plus hygiene needs.

In addition to bottled water, have a way to get more. New water filtration systems are small and fit within backpacks or inside plastic bottles. Sawyer water filters are $20, will filter a million gallons, and filter to 0.1 microns because they have a syringe that back-flushes to filter again.

Clothing

Don’t just include clothes. Pack warm clothes that fit you and repack if you change sizes. An emergency is the worst time to wish you had kept a New Year’s Resolution. Fold clothing tightly and store in a zippered plastic bag to keep them dry. To save even more space, vacuum seal them with a Food Saver or similar appliance to remove all the air and make a tight, flat packet. Remember extra socks and underwear. Add shade protection such as a collapsible, wide-brim hat.

Medications

If you can, ask your doctor about purchasing more than a monthly supply so you can keep several days’ worth in your pack. Remember prescriptions, over-the-counter pain or fever-reducing medication, and treatments for upset stomachs. Pack them in a waterproof container.

First Aid Kit

First aid kits should be at the top of your bug out bag list. They’re one of the most important emergency essentials. If you don’t have time to assemble one yourself, purchase a previously made first aid kit that covers most emergencies. Include a bandana or a long strip of muslin to use as a bandage or to make a splint. Antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly can keep away infection and relieve windburn. Don’t forget hand warmers to avoid cold injuries.

Lighting

Whether you’re in the wilderness or a hurricane shelter when the power goes out, you need to be able to see. If you pack a flashlight, store the batteries in a separate waterproof container such as factory packaging, so the batteries don’t corrode. Glow sticks are small and lightweight. Mirrors signal for help. Candles can also produce heat for cooking and to battle hypothermia. A potent lighting source, emergency flares can warn other people away from danger, alert emergency personnel, and light a fire if your matches are wet.

Tools

FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security recommend wrenches to turn off gas lines during natural disasters. Scissors and knives perform functions as simple as opening a bag of food or can cut plastic and paracord to construct a shelter. And don’t forget the plastic and paracord themselves; a lot can fold up in a small space. Include a whistle to signal for help and foil emergency blankets to keep you warm until help arrives. Pair matches, lighters, or magnesium fire starters with combustible material to burn. Don’t forget a non-electric can opener for those cans of food.

If you’re worried about space, pack items with multiple uses. Or consider items that fold up into small spaces. A very basic survival gear list can include a black plastic garbage bag, a folding knife, paracord, waterproof matches, an emergency blanket, and cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly. This can all pack into a space of four inches by four inches.

bug-out-bag-list

Photo by Shelley DeDauw

Sanitation Items

No matter where you end up in an emergency, sanitation is an important and rarely considered factor. Until it happens. Bad sanitation can make you sick…or, at least, very uncomfortable.

Include moist towelettes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties for waste disposal. A washcloth can be used again and again. Remember feminine products and diapers, if you have women or small children in your family.

Entertainment

Boredom can be your downfall, especially when you’re stuck in a situation where you can’t go anywhere or do anything but keep warm. Pack a deck of cards or a good book. Perhaps a couple small travel games for the kids.

Ways to Communicate

Older bug out bag lists recommend hand-crank radios or small FM radios with extra batteries. Modern times may dictate extra cell phone batteries or solar chargers. And don’t just pack the necessary technology. Make a list of the names and addresses of your family members and friends, in case you seek help…or they do.

Money

Few emergency situations will be the result of economic collapse. The more possible scenarios are a quick retreat to a hotel. Or a stolen wallet on a family vacation, including all your credit cards. Try to anticipate your needs for three days: food, lodging, gasoline, automobile repairs, train tickets, and supplies you may not have packed. Prepaid credit cards or phone cards may help, but cash is accepted in most places you’ll go.

Important Documents

Birth certificates, social security cards, bank account information, medical information, and address books fit in portable containers. Fireproof, locking boxes add more security. Keep those valuable documents in the same area so you can grab it and go, with the key on your key ring, if a fire breaks out or your house floods.

A Bag for Each Family Member

One bag cares for one person. Pack a separate bag for each member of your household. Remember diapers and extra clothing for small children, medications and other special needs for older or disabled parents. Do you have an Epi-pen for the daughter with the bee allergy? A written list of medications or special needs for a non-verbal sibling, in case you get separated or can’t act as an advocate? Place all these bags in the same location so you don’t have to hunt for them if an emergency occurs.

Remember Your Pets

If you have to evacuate, where will your dog go? Pack a bag for him, too, including food, water, collapsible dishes, and ways to dispose of his waste. Here’s a good first aid kit list contents and their uses for animals.

Consider the Possibilities

Just what circumstances might require you to leave your home? It might not be a natural disaster at all. Perhaps you just learned that a family member is in a dangerous environment and you need to help her escape. Whether the situation may be winter weather, earthquake, car trouble, locations with no sewage facilities, or other unforeseen events, try to build your bug out bag list to accommodate as many as possible.

Maintaining Your Kit

A common error after building bug out bag lists is setting the bags in storage and forgetting about them. Food expires. Medications change. Children grow.

Cycle your food regularly, purchasing items you enjoy eating so they won’t go to waste when you replace them with fresh stock. Store food in secure containers to keep pests out. Throw out canned goods that are swollen, dented, or corroded. As you use your medications, replace old pills in your kit with new ones from a recently filled prescription. Check clothing sizes. A warm shirt you’re simply tired of wearing can easily replace a sweater that is now too small.

For more information on bug out bag lists and what to include for your family’s emergency needs, visit trusted sites like the Department of Homeland Security’s page Ready.gov.

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