If you’re serious about survival, or even just trying to adequately prepare for a natural disaster, chances are that you have a bug out bag (BOB). But one BOB isn’t always enough, there is no one size fits all. Every situation you may find yourself in may require its own bag with its own mission-specific contents.
All bug out bags should contain items that can help you survive. Those items can be loosely categorized into these categories:
- Water & Hydration
- Food & Preparation
- Fire Starting
- First Aid
Working from those categories, bug out bags should be created with specific scenarios in mind, such as these:
1. Car Bag
This is the bag that everyone should carry in their car. Water and first aid should form the core of the bag’s supplies, to be able to stay alive and treat wounds when you’re on the road. Sheltering supplies are next, in case you run out of gas, slide into a ditch, or are stranded in heavy snow and have to spend the night in your car.
Fire starting supplies can be very handy if you’re in a remote area. Always make sure to pack an extra cell phone charger, especially one that can charge from your car’s battery while you’re driving.
Tools should be car-specific, such as a military entrenching tool to help dig your drive wheels out of mud or snow, a tire patch kit, valve stem repair kit, tire pump, etc. It doesn’t hurt to have spare fluids too, such as motor oil, ATF fluid, antifreeze, etc. Basically you’re trying to prepare to fix minor problems with your car to get yourself rolling again, or get ready to spend the night in your car without freezing.
2. Work Bag
This bag sits under your desk at work. If you commute by public transportation, it should be something you can carry in a briefcase. This is your get home bag. If you’re stranded at work, or an earthquake hits and the subways stop running and you need to walk home, this is what you need.
Again, water and first aid should form the core. Pack some snacks like granola bars, or maybe an MRE. Have a little extra cash in case you’re able to buy food somewhere. An extra pair of comfortable socks will feel very nice, especially if you have to walk home after a long day at the office. Have a charger for your phone and a flashlight in case you’re getting home in the dark.
3. Plane Bag
The plane bag (or train bag) will necessarily be limited due to TSA regulations. You could have two bags, one for your checked baggage and one for your carry-on luggage, if you want to make sure you have a knife, scissors, etc. at your destination. If you’re only carrying on luggage, you’ll obviously have to dispense with sharp objects and water.
Carry a water bottle that you can fill with water after security, possibly even a collapsible bottle. Make sure you have plenty of first aid equipment. Since you’ll be preparing for a crash or intentional ditching that may be in the middle of nowhere, you’ll want to focus on signaling equipment such as mirrors, glow sticks, flashlights, and whistles to alert rescuers to your location.
4. Go Bag
If you have no other bug out bag, this should be the one you put together. This is your “the house is on fire, we have to get out now” bag. It should be able to keep you and your family alive for at least 24 hours should you be forced to evacuate your home.
It should contain sensitive documents such as IDs that you don’t already carry on your person, knives and multi-tools, spare ammunition for any guns you’re carrying, phone chargers, cash, extra clothes, water, first aid kit, basic toiletries, and spare batteries for all of your electronics. When packing this bag, you should keep one thing in mind: if you had to leave your house within the next five minutes and couldn’t return for at least 24 hours and your house might not be left standing when you come back, what would you take? That’s what should be in this bag.
5. 72-Hour Bag
This is a bag that you’ll pack for serious SHTF work. It should weigh no more than 20% of your bodyweight, so no more than 40 pounds for a 200-pound man. That’s a pretty heavy pack, and will probably necessitate a full-size rucksack.
When you’re packing this BOB, ounces are pounds. Get the lightest gear you can that will still hold up to sustained long-term use. Plan to live out of this bag for at least 72 hours, and possibly up to a week or more. Water, first aid, and food are a must.
This is where you’re really going to want to think about a sleeping bag, tarp, woobie, etc., to protect you from the cold or rainpack . You’ll also need to give thought to tools like hatchets, shovels, trowels, and hand saws. Just remember to pack within your weight limit and don’t carry anything that isn’t absolutely essential. “Pack light, freeze at night” may be true in many cases, but hauling around a bunch of unnecessary gear will just wear you out and slow you down when you can least afford it.