Bug Out Bag Essentials – 95 items to pack

urban wildfire

What is a Bug Out Bag?

A Bug Out Bag is a bag containing enough food, water, and other essential gear to support one person for 72 hours. For example, if you have a family of four, you will have to take that into consideration as you are building kits for each member. However, there will be some items that will not have to be duplicated four times.

What is bugging out?

Bugging out is the action of leaving the safety and security of your home on short notice due to an unexpected or emergent situation. With that being said, we can sometimes get hung up on the meaning of the phrase “bug out bag” as it relates to the items that should go into it.

It is totally subjective and I understand that. So, to set the stage for this article, we are talking about unexpected and sudden evacuations or departures with the hope you will get to return home after a short amount of time. 

We are not talking about long periods of survival or a scenario where you are never coming home which may require and INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) Bag. With that being said, I do include “survival” items as part of my recommendations and I will go into those details further down in the article. 

Why do you need a Bug Out Bag?

flash flood

Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, gas leaks, flooding, chemical spills, rioting, protests, and more can all be reasons someone may have to bug out. 

In a lot of these scenarios, you will be leaving with the “expectation” of coming back to your home or place of residence within a short amount of time. Therefore, the items you choose to take with you should be built around that. 

If you are forced to leave your home on short notice, there will not be time to meticulously go through a mental checklist and gather up the items you may need. You will not have the cognitive ability to do this and you will inevitably leave without critical items. However, a little forethought and planning can go a long way. 

72 hours seems to be a widely accepted number in regards to how long it will take emergency services to appropriately respond to most situations. However, there have been events in recent history where emergency services were limited or non-existent for extended periods of time. 

Other names for a bug out bag

  • B.O.B.
  • SHTF Bag
  • Go Kit
  • Go Bag
  • Get Out of Dodge (GOOD) Bag 
  • Grab Bag
  • Bail Out Bag

Bug out bag essentials

For the “essentials” think of the categories as the primary takeaways. I’ve listed specific items in some of the categories because they are things I actually carry. However, this list is not all-inclusive and merely offers suggestions to get your mind working.

There are a lot of variables that will have an impact on what you pack. Things like geography, climate, family size, environmental concerns, etc., all make a difference. Take all of these things into consideration as you are putting your bag together and you will come out way ahead.

Water and Hydration

Water is paramount and hydration is something you can’t overlook. There have been numerous incidents, both natural and manmade, that have damaged water supplies. Having several means of obtaining clean drinking water is very important. 


Being able to start and tend to fire is another one of the basics of survival. Regardless of the situation, the ability to have water, fire, and shelter, is something you should have provisions for at all times. 


To round out our survival basics, we need to have a have to provide shelter from the elements. Whether you need shelter from the wind, rain, or sun, you should be prepared. Having the ability to quickly establish protection from the elements is a skill you should be proficient at.

Food and Cooking

The idea here is to be able to sustain yourself until you get to where you need to be. We are not stopping to prepare 7-course meals or anything like that. You need calories to keep you going. But, there may be times when you may be stopped for a longer duration and you would like to eat something more than emergency rations. In these scenarios, I like to have an ultralight option for preparing a hot meal. Due to weight restrictions, I usually pick my favorite Mountain House and call it a day. Being able to make hot coffee is a big bonus as well. If it were up to me I would include coffee with water, shelter, and fire, as one of the pillars of survival. 

Clothing (seasonal)

Pack your clothing according to the season and you live. I would prepare to be exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. These items will hopefully supplement what you are wearing. Below are the items I always keep packed and I simply add or take away depending on the season.

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Shirt
  • Pants
  • Gloves
  • Cap
  • Bandana
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket

First Aid

First Aid considerations are always important. As with all of the recommendations in this article, this is just a sample of items you may want to pack. I have a pre-made kit that I have added to which serves as my primary collection of items. Do not forget provisions to address more serious concerns like major blood loss, etc.


Personal hygiene can be a big deal as the days add up. Good hygiene goes a long way in preventing sickness and other crud. Not to mention, being able to freshen up can make a huge difference in moral.

  • Moist towelettes
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Soap strips
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Nail clippers
  • Medicated powder


Our lighting options are pretty simple. Again, for the purpose of this bag, we are only looking at 72 hours. Our basics will cover a handheld option, and a hands-free option, and a way to mark at night.


Nothing revolutionary here, we are just adding a few items to complement our cell phone. If our cell phone or network is down, at least we will have a way to signal for help either audibly or visually. A short wave radio will allow you to monitor emergency broadcasts related to the event or incident you are fleeing from.

Self Defense

The few items listed below are in addition to what I assume you have on you. Again, really basic stuff.

  • Red Meat Steel Rib Tickler Fixed Blade Knife
  • Sabre Red Pepper Spray
  • Extra magazines


A paper map is mandatory and a compass is always handy for the directionally challenged or if you actually do have to navigate in a worst-case scenario.

  • Paper map
  • Compass
  • Button Compass


Think of cash being used in a scenario where there are power outages, etc. You may not be able to use credit cards/debit cards, but cash will more than likely still be accepted. How much? The more the merrier up to a certain point. Think of having to buy food, lodging, fuel, and more for your family for 2-3 days.

  • $500 mixed

Tools and Miscellaneous

This hodge-podge of items are essentially add-ons that don’t really fit into any other category. I like to carry them for a variety of reasons, but your mileage may vary. They are not used all the time, but when you need them they come in really handy.

  • Multi-tool
  • Lock picks
  • Duct tape
  • Extra batteries
  • Earplugs
  • Pen
  • Superglue 
  • Notepad
  • N-95 mask
  • Charger
  • Important documents
  • Important addresses and phone numbers
  • Braided fishing line
  • Ziplock bags
  • Battery bank


What are the bug out bag essentials you must-have in your bag?  I’m interested in hearing about the items you pack that may seem kind of off the wall to some folks.

Once you have the essentials it is time to find the best bug out bag for you (Coming Soon). Sure, you can just throw all this “stuff” into whatever you have laying around. But, is that the best option? In our follow-up article, we will discuss what to use and how to use it in order to maximize the effectiveness of your gear.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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