If you want to prepare yourself for a disaster scenario, you’ve probably heard the term bug out bag (BOB). But a BOB isn’t just a bag that you toss supplies into willy-nilly. Everything you pack into a BOB should have a purpose and should be something that you really need. When you’re getting the heck out of Dodge you can’t afford to have useless gear taking up weight. Here’s a list of the major categories of items you need in your BOB and some examples of items you might want to carry.
1. Water and Hydration
You can’t live without water. You either need to have water on you or have some way of getting and purifying water. A gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds, so you’re not going to be able to carry enough to last you all that long. That’s why you’ll need to be able to find a water source and treat the water so you can drink it or cook with it.
Some items you might want to think about putting in your BOB are a collapsible water bottle, a water bladder, water purification tablets, or a Lifestraw-type filter.
2. Food & Preparation
You need either a small amount of food or, if you expect to be away from ready food sources for days, some way of procuring and preparing food. Canned food is too heavy, so if you’re carrying food with you, you’ll want to carry MREs or freeze-dried camping food. If you expect to be near water, a fishing kit can come in handy.
If you have the space, a portable stove or burner to heat your food can be helpful, as well as lightweight cookware and utensils. And always have a can opener on you just in case you stumble across some cans of food.
If you’re caught in a disaster scenario with just the clothes on your back, extra clothing will be very welcome. At the very least you’ll want something to keep yourself protected from the elements, such a a brimmed hat or a rain-proof poncho. Gloves will be very useful too to protect your hands from cuts and abrasions.
Protecting yourself from the elements can be vital to survival. At the very minimum you’ll want to have an emergency survival blanket to keep up your body temperature. Some emergency blankets have a reflective interior and an orange exterior to make sure that you’re visible to rescuers if you’re lost. You can also carry a tarp that can be tied or anchored into different positions to protect you from wind and rain.
If you intend to stay outside for a longer period of time, think about a ground pad and lightweight sleeping bag to make sleeping outside a little more comfortable.
5. Fire Starting
If you’re out in the open overnight, especially in cold weather, you’ll need to find some way to make a fire to keep yourself warm or to signal to rescuers. You can never have too many ways to start a fire. Always assume that your main means of starting a fire won’t work, and have two backup methods. Assume that your first several matches will get blown out by wind, and carry many extras. You might get lucky with just a cigarette lighter and a box of matches, but then you again you might not.
Be sure to carry some tinder with you too, such as cotton balls or jute twine. The more you have, the easier and less stressful it will be for you to start a fire.
6. First Aid
After water, first aid should form the core of every bug out bag. From boo boo kits to blowout kits, you need to be able to repair yourself in the field. Bandages, gauze pads, finger splints, antiseptics, antibiotic ointments, nitrile gloves, etc. should all form the heart of a quality first aid kit. If you think you may experience more severe injuries, pack things like QuikClot and tourniquets that can quickly stop hemorrhaging.
Basic hygiene supplies shouldn’t be overlooked. Toilet paper and baby wipes can make doing your business in the woods a whole lot more pleasant. Follow up by cleaning your hands with hand sanitizer. A toothbrush and toothpaste can help you feel better by cleaning your mouth if you expect to be out in the wild for a while.
The types of tools you’ll need will depend on where you are and what type of scenario you’re preparing for. They can include everything from a multi-tool and pocket knife to an ax, machete, or hatchet. Basically anything that can help you dig a hole or cut wood for shelter can fit in this category.
Everyone should have some sort of light source on them in order to see in the dark, or to find things in dim lighting. A flashlight is the bare minimum, but a headlamp can be a real boon if you find yourself needing to hike and navigate at night.
Being able to communicate with the outside world, signal to rescuers, or navigate your way to populated areas over strange terrain can help you survive. A compass is obviously key to navigating, as are maps of your immediate area. An FM/AM radio with weather band reception can keep you up to speed on what’s going on in the outside world, as well as pick up reports of incoming inclement weather. You’ll also want to think about a signaling mirror, whistle, flares, or other means of alerting rescuers to your position if you get lost. And if you absolutely can’t live without your smartphone, think about buying a solar charger.
Anything else that doesn’t fit into the above categories fits in here. Tops on this list is paracord or 550 cord, which can be used for just about anything. Also think about carrying plastic bags of all sizes, a small sewing kit, and a length of wire. Just remember, your BOB should be personalized to carry the items that you think will be necessary, not what someone else thinks is necessary.