The Bug Out Bag – For When The SHTF

Hurricane Katrina LootingWe live in turbulent times. Natural disasters seem to be occurring with more frequency and higher devastation. Civil unrest in countries across the world is rising. Have you ever wondered what would happen to you and your family should you be forced to evacuate your home because of an impending natural disaster? Are you ready to brave the wild if a disaster situation happens and you need to get out of your home and leave the area in a hurry? What survival capabilities do you want at the ready if such a scenario were to unfold? These are some questions that every survival minded person should ask themselves right now. To gain the survival advantage, you need to have a survival system ready to go should you and your family be forced to evacuate.

The Bug Out Bag

Bug Out Bag GearEnter the survival bug out bag. This item can be referred to as a ‘go bag’ or survival kit, 72 hour kit, or SHTF bag. If you haven’t heard SHTF before, it is an acronym for a time when it ‘hits the fan.’ A bug out bag is designed to support your survival away from your home for however long you deem necessary. 72 hour kits are designed and supplied to keep you kicking for, you guessed it, three days. If you feel like you need a week of survival capabilities, then supply it accordingly. However you look at it, this bag should be ready at all times. If a disaster strikes, you probably won’t have time to gather gear and supplies. You will need to act fast; the survival of you and your family and loved ones depends on this.

Remember the rule of 3s. You can survive:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without warmth or shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Your survival kit needs to address these needs at a bare minimum. Other items can be added for additional comfort and safety. Typical bug out bag contents will have items that can be broken down into these categories:

  • food and water
  • personal protection
  • camping and shelter
  • signal and communication
  • first aid

Use this bug out bag checklist below to make sure you build your kit with the right gear.

Food and Water

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water PurifierFood and water are the most important priorities of your bug out bag contents. You won’t last long in a disaster situation without these two items. I like MREs and Mountain House freeze-dried entrees the best. They have a long shelf life and provide a lot of valuable calories. Granola, energy, and candy bars are good supplementary items as well. I like to carry at least one liter of water, and supplement this with a water filter. Katadyn filters are a great option. MSR also makes some great filters, although they tend to be a little bit more expensive. The SteriPEN is a fantastic item; it is small, light and effective. It is battery operated and isn’t actually a ‘filter’, but the SteriPEN is what I include in my personal bug out bag.

MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat) Premium case of 12 Fresh MREs with Heaters. 5 Year Shelf Life.

Protection

H&K P2000 SK 9mm.During a disaster, safety will be a major concern for you and your family. The rule of law will most likely disintegrate. High amounts of stress can cause peaceful people to act violently. The ability to protect yourself and loved ones becomes a high priority. If you live in a state where concealed carry is allowed, you should get your permit, train with and start carrying a self-defense firearm. This will save space in your pack since you already have the firearm and spare magazines on your person. If you live where concealed carry is not allowed or you don’t have a permit, consider adding a small handgun to your bag. Train with it frequently so you know how to safely use it, but keep it with your bug out bag at all times. Don’t forget to add extra ammunition, but don’t over do it. Ammo is heavy, and taking more ammo might limit your ability to carry more water or food. My concealed-carry firearm of choice is an H&K P2000 sub compact in 9mm. I carry it on a ankle holster with two spare magazines. In my bug out bag, I added 1 box of 50 rounds of 9mm hollow points.

Cold Recon Scout Black Kraton Handle With Secure Ex Sheath SK-5 High Carbon SteelA solid survival knife is also a must to include. Since I carry a Benchmade tactical folder on my person at all times (along with my gun), I also include a Cold Steel Scout Recon fixed blade inside my bug out bag. This is not only a protection item, but can be used for bushcraft activities and is one of the most useful tools to have when in a survival situation. For a less lethal option, consider adding a small pepper spray canister or taser. These items are fantastic for getting away from hostile groups. Don’t overlook this category! You could have enough gear to last you a year, but if someone takes it by force, your preparations were in vain.

Camping and Survival

Emergency Zone Brand HeatStore Reflective Survival TentThe ideal situation during an emergency would be to remain in your home. Your home is stocked with all the things you and your family need to survive. If circumstances forced you to leave, however, you would need an alternate form of shelter. Tents are great options, but they are bulky. Even backpacking tents are heavy and cumbersome. More than likely, you will need to find or create some kind of temporary shelter. Emergency tents and sleeping bags work well and are lightweight and portable. If you opt to take along a family tent, it is a good idea to split the weight up throughout your family. We’ll talk more about family member bug out bags later.

Petzl Tikka Improved Lumen Output Xp 2 Headlamp, Black, One SizeAlong with shelter, you will want to include items to increase your survival chances. Fishing and trapping gear allow added food gathering options. Fire starting materials, such as lighters, matches, and striker based fire starters are a definite necessity. If your bag has room, a small camp stove is a nice addition, but isn’t necessary. A good flashlight is a must as well. Consider adding a headlamp; these handy tools allow you to work hands free.

Rain gear, extra tarps, extra blankets, extra clothes, work gloves, and duct tape are some other items to include, as space allows.

Communication

Motorola MT352TPR Giant FRS Weatherproof Two-Way - 35 Mile Radio Triple Pack - SilverIn a disaster situation, communication with your party will be essential for security as well as logistics. Cell phones will most likely be offline. However, two way radios work great in these situations. Remember to pack extra batteries for items that require them. A survival radio is also a good item to have. When the emergency is over, your radio will let you know when it is safe to return home. Signal mirrors, whistles and flares could augment your signaling capabilities.

Etón FR160B Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger (Black)Remember to adhere to proper OPSEC during a disaster situation. Operation security is paramount to your safety and the safety of those within your group. Improper light discipline, not communicating with coded messages, and improper use of signal devices could give away your position, intentions, group size, supplies, etc to other people that might want to take what you have. There are some great articles on Graywolf survival website that go over the many facets of OPSEC. Head over there now to learn more, but don’t forget to come back and read the rest on preparing your bug out bag here!

First Aid

Coleman Expedition First Aid KitMore than likely, first aid skills and supplies will be necessary from the get go. A good bug out bag is always going to have as many first aid options as can be packed. Don’t overlook this category! Even just some antibacterial pads, band-aides, and tylenol can go a long way to improve a survival situation.

Remember to consider your family member’s prescription needs. It is a good idea to buy a first aid kit, and then add more stuff to it, like medications, extra band aids, scissors, nitrile gloves, and gauze. Add what you think you and your family will need.

What To Pack Your Gear In

High Sierra Swerve Pack (Navy/Charcoal/Black)The bag or pack that you use and what you pack it with is completely customizable and ultimately up to you. A larger backpack will allow you to carry more gear, but this in turn will reduce your mobility and speed. If you plan on staying in a group, you will have expanded options. If you are able to employ a vehicle, many more capabilities will be possible. I have a survival duffle bag in my truck at all times. This constitutes my ‘vehicle bug out bag,’ and is a supplement to my bug out bag in the event that I will have my truck with me.

Some people like to use military style backpacks to create their bug out bags. The nice thing about these bags is they are built well and are very durable. The problem is that you will be attracting unwanted attention to yourself carrying around a multi-cam or dessert digital backpack, like the Falcon II from Maxpedition (awesome backpack!!). Remember those articles you just read about OPSEC? Instead, go with a neutral color, or even a color that is common for most school backpacks (blue, black, green).

Your bug out bag contents could go in any bag that you want them to. You could fit them all in a small fanny pack, or in a rolling duffle bag. It is completely up to you. Remember that you will have to make trade offs between more gear and more mobility. When packing my kits, I find that having a bug out bag checklist to track bug out bag essentials is a good way to get organized.

Family Bug Out Bags

Family Bug Out BagsIf you are single or plan on bugging out alone, for whatever reason, the kit you prepare should cater to your needs. If you have a family or you plan on bugging out in a group, the survival bug out bag you prepare needs to cater to the needs of your family or group. For example, let’s say you are a typical family of four: you, your spouse, and two kids (a son and daughter). Do you think that you will be able to carry all the survival essentials to keep your family of four alive for a week? Probably not.

Each member of your family needs to have their own bug out bag, customized to meet their individual needs. Let’s look at what the two parents could pack in their bags first, then look at what the kids could feasibly carry to help out.

Adult 1

  • 5 day supply of MREs
  • 2 Liters of Water
  • SteriPen adventurer water purifier
  • tent body
  • fire starter
  • emergency sleeping bag
  • poncho
  • spare socks, undergarments, sweater, and pants
  • two-way radio, spare batteries
  • hand crank radio
  • first aid kit (with medications specific for Adult 1)
  • fishing kit
  • personal mess kit
  • survival knife
  • 50 feet of paracord
  • extra ammo for concealed carry firearm
  • headlamp, spare batteries
  • personal documents and small amount of cash

Adult 2

  • 5 day supply of MREs
  • 2 Liters of Water
  • Katadyn water filter
  • tent poles
  • fire starter
  • emergency sleeping bag
  • poncho
  • spare socks, undergarments, sweater, and pants
  • two-way radio, spare batteries
  • hand crank radio
  • first aid kit (with medications specific for Adult 2)
  • snare kit
  • personal mess kit
  • survival hatchet
  • duct tape
  • small self defense firearm + 50 rounds of ammunition
  • headlamp, spare batteries
  • personal documents and small amount of cash

Notice that each adult is carrying a redundant supply of food and water, water filtration, and other survival items. Adult 1 is carrying a large portion of the family tent, and adult 2 is carrying another large part. There are a few differences in their gear items, but remember that redundancy is always good, especially since things tend to break and fail during a disaster situation.

Son

  • 3 day supply of MREs
  • 1 Liter of Water
  • aquamira emergency straw filter
  • tent rain fly
  • fire starter
  • emergency sleeping bag
  • poncho
  • spare socks, undergarments, sweater, and pants
  • two-way radio, spare batteries
  • small first aid kit (with medications specific for Son)
  • fishing kit
  • personal mess kit
  • multi tool
  • headlamp, spare batteries
  • personal documents and small amount of cash

Daughter

  • 3 day supply of MREs
  • 1 Liter of Water
  • aquamira emergency straw filter
  • tent stakes
  • fire starter
  • emergency sleeping bag
  • poncho
  • spare socks, undergarments, sweater, and pants
  • two-way radio, spare batteries
  • small first aid kit (with medications specific for Daughter)
  • snare kit
  • personal mess kit
  • small pocket knife
  • headlamp, spare batteries
  • personal documents and small amount of cash

Notice that the two kids are also helping carry the family tent, but the smaller parts. They are also carrying a smaller amount of food and water, a smaller water filter, and smaller first aid kits designed specifically for them.

Why all the redundancy? Well, we already talked about the fact that things tend to break or fail when you need them the most. But what would happen if you got split up from a member of your family or group? Having one person carry all the food, while another person carries all the first aid is a disaster waiting to happen. Every member of your family needs to have a bug out bag so that each member can survive if they end up being alone. This is not ideal, and you will want to remain together if at all possible. But designing your kits to meet each member’s specific needs is essential for everyone’s survival, especially if the group falls apart.

The Bottom Line

Options. It’s all about having options. For example, survival may or may not depend on your bringing a survival knife, but the options this item gives you are endless. Plan your bug out bag based on capabilities you want during a disaster. And for heavens sakes, set it up NOW and have it ready for when disaster strikes.

Here are a few articles that offer more insight into the important items to include in your survival bug out bag.

5 thoughts on “The Bug Out Bag – For When The SHTF

  1. Pingback: Survival Bug Out Bag | Simple Survival Skills

  2. Pingback: Survival Duffle Bag

  3. Tents are great options, but they are bulky. Even backpacking tents are heavy and cumbersome. More than likely, you will need to find or create some kind of temporary shelter. Emergency tents and sleeping bags work well and are lightweight and portable.

  4. Pingback: Preparing For Emergencies With Survival Kits | Get Some Cloud

  5. Great thorough article, and good job with the opsec reminder as well as the need for redundancy. Two is one and one is none.

    Thank you also for the mention.

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