The biggest misconception about bug out bags is the idea that the contents in and of themselves will be enough to keep you alive. The truth is that the contents of your bug out bag are only as good as the individual using them. If you don’t know how to make the most of the contents of your bug out bag or ration them appropriately, they won’t help you survive any more than a firearm without any ammunition. You should always take the time to familiarize yourself with the contents of your bug out bag and feel comfortable using everything so that you’re best prepared when TEOTWAWKI does occur.
Using this site as a guide I just finished my own BOB. I purchased many of the same items with some slight variations based on my local geography. Since I was starting from scratch I didn’t have many of these items yet so most were recently purchased. Right off, the tent, sleeping bag, ham radio and titanium stuff are about 800$ after getting all of the other items I am right about 1500$. However, some of the items I got there were cheaper options but I chose better quality to ensure the equipment lasted a very long time.
I also have a Petzl E+LITE Ultra-compact emergency headlamp that comes with a little plastic case. I keep a spare battery inside with it since I can’t recharge that size. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to do stuff with a headlamp so you can keep both hands free. I’m still debating on whether I want to drop this from my kit or my secondary flashlight since I really don’t need both. I hate sucking on a flashlight while I try to get things done though.
Every year in the US about 150 people die while out and about in national parks, more than 1,000 die in hunting-related incidents and thousands of backcountry enthusiasts get in deep trouble and require a Search and Rescue team to save them; with dozens of those folks dying while awaiting rescue. Most fatalities are the result of poor preparation. Bad weather descends and people get lost. They wander without water or shelter, often injuring themselves in the process. If they survive they often suffer frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration, trench foot or some combination of them all.
I have a Harley handkerchief that they gave me at the local shop on Veteran’s Day last year. It can be used to filter out all the big stuff and to soak up small puddles. You can also brush it on tall dew-covered grass and plants as you walk through and wring it out into your mouth, although that won’t taste too good. Much better than using your socks though.
Some will think the omission of foodstuffs from this bug out bag to be a bit odd but it’s not if you think about it. It might be years before you have to use the bag so it makes sense that you’ll want to procure your own emergency rations and review their condition a couple of times a year, replacing anything that might look dodgy. That said this bug out bag does emergency kit right with the aforementioned items as well as a dozen pouches of purified water, rain ponchos, quality toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving razor, comb, emergency whistle, emergency blankets, survival handbook, duct tape (!), paracord and more. There’s also the obligatory deck of cards for when you finally settle into the emergency shelter. Toss in some dry clothes for everyone involved, charger cords for your smartphone in case you run into a power source and a good book or two and you’ll be ready to wait out events in good shape.
Most everyone loves fire. Fire is essential in a wilderness survival situation for a few reasons. One, it provides warmth which keeps body temperature up. Two, it provides heat used to purify water. It also provides light, heat to cook food, and serves as a center to draw people in. Earth based wisdom teaches us that fire is a spirit unto itself, and encourages us to have a good relationship with fire. I know that despite my passion for it, I didn't truly appreciate fire until it took me four days to get it with a fully primitive bow and drill fire making kit on my first wilderness survival solo.
Since the human body is composed of up to 78% water, it should be no surprise that water is higher on the list than fire or food. Ideally, a person should drink about a gallon of water per day. Many lost persons perish due to dehydration, and/or the debilitating effects of water-born pathogens from untreated water. In addition to water-borne pathogens, minerals and metals can be found in waters downstream from industrial and agricultural operations. The best sources for clean drinking water in a wilderness setting are springs, head-water streams, and collecting morning dew.
I took all my “kit” electronics ie solar panels etc, a duplicate luci lamp (how fun is this!), and some spare LED flashlight bulbs and wrapped them in overlapping wax paper with a dessicant pack, then foil, then wax paper, then a specific 3M dri-shield mylar anti-static bag which I closed with HVAC metal tape (like they use to patch a/c ducting). The tape and bags make for some sharp corners and I’m still pondering how to solve that. You can write directly on the bags with a sharpie or use masking tape to make a label. Every couple of months I open it all up to see if it’s working and/or corroded. It’s a total pain in the patootie to seal it up again but I sure sleep better. Didn’t really add any weight and I didn’t wrap everything just the backup/spare stuff. If there was some weird solar or other event, then I would dump the more EDC stuff if it stopped working. Hubby thinks I’m nuts but I sleep better at night.
SOG made their shovel practical survival gear by cutting back its length to a manageable 18 ¼” and its weight to an equally manageable 24 ½ ounces. It folds up to a mere 1 foot long and can be easily strapped to the exterior of any decent sized backpack. The SOG shovel also boasts a row of thick rugged teeth along the side for hacking and cutting underbrush or harvesting wood for your fire. The blade can also be rotated and used as a pick or a hoe to do more precise clearing. All in all this is a piece of survival gear you won’t want to do without.
As a wilderness survival guide, I often am called upon to differentiate wilderness survival from primitive living. Often times these two are lumped together as one, but in fact they are distinct. Wilderness survival refers to the actual experience of survival in the wilderness, which may or may not be a "primitive" experience depending on the gear you have access to. Wilderness survival is usually a short term experience. Primitive Living is usually a long term experience, and refers to the experience of living in a primitive setting, practicing primitive skills for an extended period of time.
So despite the impression many people got from my “50 Items” article, I don’t think you should pack your bug out bag with as many items as possible. In fact, I think you should check your bag for any non-essential items with a large weight-to-space ratio and remove them. To that end, here’s a list of survival items I’ve seen in various lists online that, in my opinion, you don’t really need in your bug out bag.
For food acquisition, I have several yards of 40-lb test fishing line. Normally you don’t want it to be so thick but this way I can use it for building a shelter, making a snare trap, or repairing clothing if I need to. I’ve also added some fishing hooks, a couple of bobbers, and a couple of weights in a little case. The disposable ear plugs can also be used as floats. I also have some dental floss that can be used for the same things.