The internet is full of opinions on the subject of “must have” supplies for a prepper’s bug out bag. And, while many of those “must have” products are carefully researched and worth giving valuable space in your bag, too many of them are crap. I don’t think it’s smart to buy low quality products just so I’ll fill my bug out bag faster. Instead, I take my time and sometimes pay more for well made products that will last forever. Because I do not want to be in a bug out situation and have an important tools break when I need them the most. It’s not like I can just logon to Amazon and buy replacements in a SHTF situation. Instead, I buy with quality and longevity in mind in the first place.
The Actual Bug Out Bag
When you start looking to create a bug out bag, the first thing you should decide on is the actual bag. At minimum it has to be big enough for everything you want to put in it. It also needs to be well designed and well built. Here are some of the features that I want:
- Be tactical. But not look tactical.
- Full length zipper so that it’s easy to get to the bottom of the bag.
- Large zipper pulls that can be pulled easily with while wearing gloves.
- Straps on the sides for attaching long items (axe, rifle, etc..).
- Pass-through hole for a hydration tube.
- Comfortable to wear/carry.
I’m a big fan of the 5.11 and the Maxpedition bags. Both brands have some good products in the 5.11 AMP24 Backpack 32L (no Amazon link) and the Max Entity 35 (Amazon link). Those two are solid backpacks with plenty of room.
But I ended up finding a bag that I liked even better, in kind of an unexpected place. SOG is actually a knife maker, but they also offer a really great bag. Take a look at the SOG Prophet 33 (Amazon link). Not only did it have all of the features that I wanted. But it also functions as a duffle bag and has a cool impact-resistant top pocket to safely stow valuables like sun glasses or binoculars. Plus it has great reviews on Amazon. Weight: 3.0 lbs
With a saw, an axe, and a good knife you can make just about anything in the woods. So I want to have all of these things in my bag. Take a look at this TA Outdoors video for some inspiration.
First the saw. I really like the Silky Katanaboy 500 (Amazon link). It’s a well designed Japanese pull-saw that folds up to reduce the overall length. If you haven’t already, then go ahead and watch the video I linked to in the paragraph above. You’ll see this saw cut through a log like a hot knife through butter. Be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock, because this saw is on the expensive side. But once you use it, you will not regret spending the money. Silky does make a larger version of this, the 650. But I think the 500mm version is better for a bug out bag. Weight: 2.0 lbs.
Now the axe. I’d say a full size felling axe at 36″ is too long for strapping to the side of a bug out bag. Instead, I think the shorter 24″ limbing axe is the way to go. My choice is the Helko Werk Germany Black Forest Woodworker Axe (Amazon link). Helko Werk has been hand forging axes since 1844 and has a stellar reputation. Weight: 3.5 lbs
And finally, a good bushcraft knife. There are a lot of expensive bushcraft knives out there. But in this case you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an awesome knife. Take a look at the Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Black (Amazon link). The Morakniv knife is high quality and very economically priced well under $50. Weight: .5 lbs
A tent takes up too much space in a bug out bag. Pack a tarp and some 550 paracord, instead. They both have multiple uses and you’ll be glad you have them.
But I don’t think the standard cheap tarps are the way to go. One that is specifically designed for backpacking and camping is better suited for a bug out bag. That is exactly what the FREE SOLDIER Backpacking Tarp (Amazon Link) is. It is waterproof, offers UV protection, reinforced seams, grommets, and guy lines. Setting up this tarp as a shelter is much easier and faster than setting up a standard tarp. Weight: 2.5 lbs
As far as 550 paracord goes. I’m not a big fan of the popular Titan Survivorcord (Amazon link). Sure, the idea of having a single strand of waterproof waxed jute (for starting fires), a 25-lb. mono-filament fishing line, a 30 AWG wire that can be used for snares all integrated together is a great gimmick. But for a survival situation, I would rather choose each of these separately so I can have more control over the quality and diameter of each one. So instead, I have 100 feet of a good quality Mil-Spec paracord (Amazon Link) in my bug out bag. Weight: .5 lbs
Fishing and Snares
Catching or snaring your own food is always preferable to eating packed food. It tastes better, and the more fresh food you catch the longer your freeze dried stash will last you. Setting up automatic fishing gear and small game snares that will work for you while you’re doing other chores is a smarter way to go about gathering food than fishing with a pole and hunting. Here are some good options for equipment that will help you set up passive fishing and hunting systems.
First you will need a good assortment of fishing gear. I think a $10 Eagle Claw freshwater fishing kit is enough (Amazon link). The plastic case is a little bulky, but it sure is convenient for organization if you can make it fit. If not, you can condense this gear down a lot with just a few cloth or plastic bags. Weight: .75 lbs
They make a saltwater version of the same kit, if you happen to be on the coast instead of inland.
In addition to basic fishing gear I think every bug out bag should have some fishing yo yo reels (Amazon link). There is no easier way to catch fish while you are sleeping. They take just a few minutes to set up and they will work for you while you are not present. Awesome product!! Weight: .75 lbs
Similar to the fishing yo yos, having a dozen small game snares in your bug out bag ensures that you can catch food while you sleep. Redneck Convent (Amazon link) makes some high quality snares that are easy to set up. I prefer these premade snares over just snare wire because they are easy, and consistent. Sure, the idea of making my own snares is appealing, and would be a point of pride, but I like to eat so I’ll go with the easier and more consistent solution every time. Weight: 1.5 lbs
Fire and Cooking
For starting fires, the ferrocerium rod (ferro rod) can’t be beat. They are small, light, and produce lots of very hot sparks. I know you are thinking. “Whoa why not just throw a few little Bic lighters in the bag?!” WHAT!!! No self respecting prepper uses a Bic lighter!! Get the ferro rod. Weight: .25 lbs
Once you have a fire, you need to have something to cook your food in. As much as I love cast iron cookware, it is way too heavy for hauling on your back. You really need something light and strong. Check out finessCity Titanium Camping Cookware (Amazon link). They even have some titanium cutlery (Amazon link) that is pretty sweet. Weight: 1.0 lbs
Water Filter and Storage
There are many good water filters available online. The Sawyer Mini (Amazon link) is the best one for a bug out bag. It’s very small, and a single filter will work on an astounding 100,000 gallons of water. Weight: .25 lbs
After you filter the water, you have to store it. Make it easy to drink, even when you’re walking. I really like the Platypus Water Reservoirs (Amazon link). They have a 3 liter version that seems perfect for a bug out bag. The backpack I chose has a pass through slot for a tube so you can drink without having to pull our your water bag. When the whole unit is empty it weighs less than half a pound (5.6 ounces). When it’s full it weighs just over 2.5 lbs.
A few small electronics can make a huge difference in a bug out situation.
Nice to have a solidly constructed LED flash light. With over 13,000 positive reviews on Amazon the J5 Tactical V1-Pro Flashlight (Amazon link) is a great addition to your bag. Weight: .25 lbs
I think a good GPS is important to help you get where you want to go. The Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS (https://amzn.to/2STQIqh) is an excellent choice. The nice thing about this model is that it is worn like a watch. So it’s 100% hands free. All you need to do is pre-program all of the places that you want to go ahead of time. They have some nice software that helps you do that. Weight: .25 lbs
A few light items can make life much more comfortable through bad weather.
I think every bug out bag should have an emergency blanket. They take up almost no room and though they seem kind of flimsy, but they could save your life. The Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blanket (Amazon link) is a good choice. Weight: N/A
In addition to the emergency blanket, having a sleeping bag made out of a similar (thicker) material is a good idea. The Go Time Gear Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag (Amazon link) takes up very little room. And it can sleep two if you’re really good friends. Weight: .25 lbs
When it’s raining and you are trudging through the woods, some good rain gear will make life much more bearable. A rain jacket and pants take up a lot of room in a bag. A rain poncho makes more sense. Not only will it keep you dry, but you can wear it over your backpack to add another rain protection layer to your gear. The Arcturus Rain Poncho (Amazon link) is a good choice. It is big enough to also use as a temporary shelter if you need to. Weight: .75 lbs
When I was in the Army I was introduced to a poncho liner (Amazon link). Some genius invented a product that I’m sure every veteran has in their bug out bag. Don’t know what a poncho liner is? It is basically a eight foot by five foot blanket and made out of a light insulated material. During warmer weather you can cover yourself and it is a light breathable covering. During colder weather you can add another layer on top of it and suddenly it is a extra warm insulation blanket. Plus it makes a good pillow if you roll it up into a ball. Or a good sun blocker if you tie it up with the attached ties to some limbs or other structure. Weight: 2.0 lbs
A basic first aid kit is important for your bug out bag. It doesn’t have to be fancy. This Ultra Lightweight Compact First Aid Kit (Amazon link) is a good start. Add items to it as you see fit. Weight: 1.5 lbs
Freeze dried food is the lightest nutrition option for a bug out bag. The Mountain House 5-Day Emergency Food Supply (Amazon link) is a good solution. It is adding 4.5 lbs to the bag, which is the heaviest item overall–even more weight than the axe. But it is also the only item that gets lighter as you travel. It is nice to have a little food that you can fall back on, if you are not able to catch fish or snare animals. Weight: 4.5 lbs
Overall, my entire bug out bag weighs just under thirty pounds fully packed. That is a lot to carry. Now, that doesn’t include items like firearms, spare ammo, extra batteries, tactical vest, body armor, etc… But you have to start somewhere.
Hell, night vision goggles, archery equipment, and a M60E6 would be great too.
Everyone has an opinion of what should be in a bug out bag. Some people think a super light pack is the best way to go. I think that’s possible if you have a lot of skills, knowledge, and some good luck. For most people a pack that is a little bit heavier will serve you better. The idea of a bug out bag is to equip you with what you need to get to another location that you have fully stocked with enough equipment and supplies to survive long term once you get there.
This page details what I have in mine.
Every prepper web site has a bug out bag post. I decided to make a dedicated page on the topic instead. I’ve listed the items that I have in my bag, and provided a link to the actual manufacturing company, when possible, in addition to an Amazon link. I’ll update this page occasionally when new products come out that I think should be considered.