A “Bug out bag” (sometimes called a “bail out bag” or “survival bag”) is loosely defined as a backpack-style bag that a person keeps at the ready in case they need to evacuate in a hurry (bug out) due to natural disaster, civil unrest, fire, war or any other similar type of calamity. A bug out bag won’t be much good should a comet the size of Dallas hit the earth but for the type of events listed above it can make the difference between thriving and barely surviving.


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.

Tent: In many emergency situations, shelter may be hard to find. While packing a traditional tent may not be a viable option, a good bug out bag should always include a waterproof survival tent. The best survival tents are made of Mylar, which can retain heat and repel water. Pro-tip: Be sure to stack leaves, grass or anything else from around the campsite against the tent for added protection from the elements.


Another concern when you’re lost in the wild is where to procure potable water. Sometimes there will be bubbling streams of crystal clear water rolling down wooded hillsides to fill your water bottle and sometimes you’ll have little more than a stagnant pool standing between you and dehydration. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is survival gear that can turn that stagnant pool into a lifesaver.
SHTF is an acronym that stands for sh*t hits the fan. This means that something drastic has happened, like a natural disaster, financial crisis, or a war has started. This term is generally used for when things go south quickly. The other acronym that is commonly used to signal it is time to pull out your bug out bag is ‘TEOTWAWKI’. This stands for ‘the end of the world as we know it’.
People ask if I was in the military. Yeah, but it was 80 lbs and 40 years ago. Special Forces “A TEAM” medic in fact. But I forgot a lot of that. I carried 120 lb rut when we moved out, but about 40 lbs of ammo and grenades on patrol. I have 2 dozen ruts now, from patrol size to major moveout size. I put 80 lbs of cat litter (we have a cat rescue) to practice the other day … and I had a very hard time to get up with it. So I dropped that to 40 and hit the treadmill 3 miles and 3 mph. I will need to do that for awhile before increasing the weight. I’m 220 wanting 180 but at 66 yrs it’s becoming harder to do things. Hips, knees, shoulders, knuckles .. they are all stiff and ache. So I may have to cut back. But to tell someone just bring 12 rounds of ammo …… that’s crazy. Get an AR in 22 cal, the Ruger Takedown fits well in our ruts. 300 rnds of 22lr is light. I have a Glock M22 40 can with a 22 conversion that works great, same for 1911 45 / 22. In reality, it all comes down as to what the threat is perceived to be. CPAP: my new one is 10 oz, and 6 days of rechargeable batteries are 4 lbs. Solar panel or 110 to recharge the batteries. Forget the CPAP = loud snoring and dog tired wakeup.
I have three little Keychain lights that I got in care packages when I was in Afghanistan. They weigh pretty much nothing and are convenient to have in certain areas. I keep one clipped to the inside top of my backpack so I can see inside it to find things without having to get my flashlight, one clipped to the front chest strap, and one inside my Survival-Tools Bag.
The most important factor that will determine the right size bug out bag is your torso size. You can measure your torso by having a friend or casual acquaintance measure the distance from the top of your Iliac Crest (hip bones) up to the bony prominence at the base of your neck (the last cervical vertebrae). Knowing the length of your torso will help you choose a bug out bag that fits comfortably.

It’s bad enough being injured or lost in the wild but things really get bad when the weather closes in and you can’t get a fire started to stay warm and prepare food and hot drinks. That’s where Ultimate Survival Technologies’ Wetfire Tinder comes in. Developed specifically to help you get a fire going in the pouring rain if necessary it’s without a doubt essential survival gear.
As I wrap up this wilderness survival guide, consider this. While I began my journey learning wilderness survival out of a deep, and what I now understand as an archetypal, need to be in direct relationship with my most basic needs as a human being, the learning journey itself brought many more gifts. It actually changed the way I perceived the world, bringing me to a newfound level of health and vitality, and ultimately bringing me into full connection with my passion, my power, and my purpose in life.
One needs to think of situations why one would need to bug out. More than likely, something is or went wrong. Therefore, we’re reduced to down and dirty survival. If you need to bug out, possibly so do others. So many concentrate on the “drop in the middle of nowhere with no one around” scenario. Sorry, but if the stuff hits the fan, you ain’t camping in the woods with a fire eating bullion because there’s a bad guy out there just waiting for you to walk by so he can take your stuff. And he’s got a gun. As a matter of fact, who doesn’t? Best plan. Pack a pack to keep warm and dry and have some food. Drive the beater as far away from the incident as possible. Ditch the beater. Take money…lots. Buy a ride to even further away. Make some friends or hide for a while. Bug out…really means get out of dodge fast – as far away as possible. You don’t need a lot of this extended stay camping stuff….so……go camping…figure out what you need to move, stay dry, and eat for several days…..test it …try it….(this is your practice, even with a family). Home is scenario one; car is scenario two; on foot is scenario three. One and two is disposable. The goal is to move away as fast as possible and watch the crap from a distance. Check out the middle east if you needs examples. Good day.
On point number 9. It is best to try and reduce the carry weight but having utensils can drag you down. One solution that I have used is to take a frisbee instead of a plate. Its lightweight, easily cleaned, can be a water dish for any pets, they can be brightly colored for signaling and it has the added bonus of being a toy. A little stress relief can go a long way when times are rough.
It is an extremely important list in my opinion but dances between the motive. Sometimes it’s hiking, sometimes it’s nuclear bombing and sometimes a fugitive (I even felt Zombie Apocalypse). I think you should set specific scenarios and then try creating a list. For example, a person leaving his home to find a job in a new city or a person who is on a constant move. So you can think about what exactly matters and what does not. We are easily confused homo sapiens, we don’t need a big list of items that may come to our use, we need a list of items we may have forgotten but are very important to us. So, having a scenario-specific list is better. But I do like the list, it made me add a few more items to my almost perfect list.

With a calm center, over half the struggle is over. As I mentioned earlier, the most common physical reason that people die in wilderness survival situations is exposure to the elements. A person can die from exposure in as little as three hours. You must learn how to stay warm when it is cold, how to stay cool when it is hot, and how to stay dry when it is wet. Enter the wilderness survival shelter. It can take many forms, with a classic one being the debris hut. The debris hut is a small, one person shelter that is basically a simple structure that cocoons a person in leaves, grasses, boughs, or other natural debris to keep them insulated. It is built to shed water. Just imagine a primitive tent and sleeping bag all in one.
There’s no denying the that first aid kit, paracord, emergency tent, waterproof poncho, compass, tactical gloves, candles and more will all come in handy should you find yourself forced to flee with no shelter in sight. The tomahawk will also save you the need to try and harvest wood for a fire using a survival knife and the machete, beyond its obvious self-defense cred, may come in handy if you decide to hack some underbrush to make a cover for your shelter. Where this bug out bag drops the ball a bit is in having virtually no purified water (although to be fair it does include a water filter) and only a single package of emergency rations. Nonetheless if you find yourself wandering the wild due to natural disaster this bug out bag when augmented with food and water, will stand you in good stead.
Remember that this pack should be prepared and stored somewhere easily accessible and rodent proof. It is also a good idea to review the contents of your pack every 6 months to ensure you have appropriate clothes packed for the season and that your gear and rations are in order. This will help you feel confident that your Bug Out Bag is ready to go at a moment’s notice!
“It’s your number one, go-to rescue knot,” Stewart, who uses a mnemonic for every knot, says. It’s foolproof for fastening rope to an object via a loop, particularly when the rope will be loaded with weight: the harder you pull, the tighter the knot gets. Stewart’s mnemonic for tying the bowline from any angle is “the rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole.” Use this mnemonic, says Stewart, and “it doesn’t matter if you tie it spinning on your head. It’s going to come out right.”

The kind of gear you need – It’s easy to get obsessed with survival gear and start accumulating every new product that comes on the market. If you have money to burn and engage in a variety of backcountry activities this might be a sound strategy. Most people however decide pretty early on what type of outdoor activity floats their particular boat and as such any survival gear should have some sort of relationship to that activity. Everyone, for instance, should have an emergency whistle with them but not everyone will need an extreme sleeping bag. Everyone will need first aid items but not everyone will need to carry croval shovel or a tactical watch or field watch. If you’re a mountaineer you’ll probably want that shovel, especially if you’re climbing in the winter. If you’re going on a day hike and aren’t bringing food that requires preparation there’s no need for a mess kit and so on.

A lack of water causes dehydration, which may result in lethargy, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and eventually death. Even mild dehydration reduces endurance and impairs concentration, which is dangerous in a survival situation where clear thinking is essential. Dark yellow or brown urine is a diagnostic indicator of dehydration. To avoid dehydration, a high priority is typically assigned to locating a supply of drinking water and making provision to render that water as safe as possible.
It is an extremely important list in my opinion but dances between the motive. Sometimes it’s hiking, sometimes it’s nuclear bombing and sometimes a fugitive (I even felt Zombie Apocalypse). I think you should set specific scenarios and then try creating a list. For example, a person leaving his home to find a job in a new city or a person who is on a constant move. So you can think about what exactly matters and what does not. We are easily confused homo sapiens, we don’t need a big list of items that may come to our use, we need a list of items we may have forgotten but are very important to us. So, having a scenario-specific list is better. But I do like the list, it made me add a few more items to my almost perfect list.
I like your list. I wish I could keep my pack as light as you keep yours year round. Wisconsin winters are cold, and I like having a full extra set of clothing as I will have to cross a few rivers if I bug out on foot. Even though I have ultralight synthetic fibers long underwear packed for winter, my kit is a bit heavier than yours when equipped for that season. Brr, I just got cold thinking about it.
Great read & outstanding list of items. Extremely helpful & very much appreciated. While I’ve found over the decades that there are usually several ways to accomplish most things, focusing on the core items/goal while adapting to the situations & environment an individual(s) find themselves in is crucial. You can have everything known to man & still have limited skills/experience leaving you vulnerable. You can have all the skills but arrogance & overconfidence can do you in. Applicable intelligence, balance in actions/approach to problem solving on the fly & practice with skills/preps can make the difference in most cases. So one has a 35 year supply of beans and rice, great to have no doubt, but who wouldn’t trade some of it for a coke and some M&Ms for normalcy occasionally? That may be just enough encouragement to get the companions/family through to safety. Again, it’s all a wag for the most part…do what preps you can, develop usable skills…plan, persevere & prevail. Fantastic prep checklist & ideas…thanks! Proverbs 27-17…As iron sharpens iron, so on man sharpens another!
Slid into the back of my backpack is a sheet-sized Fresnel Lens. It weighs so little that it didn’t come up on my scale and since there’s a flat spot that it fits into nicely, it effectively takes up no weight. It’s a no-brainer to get one of these. Here’s a quick video I did showing how easy it is to start a fire with one of these if you have a sunny day and some dry stuff laying around:
Making fire is recognized in the sources as significantly increasing the ability to survive physically and mentally. Lighting a fire without a lighter or matches, e.g. by using natural flint and steel with tinder, is a frequent subject of both books on survival and in survival courses. There is an emphasis placed on practicing fire-making skills before venturing into the wilderness. Producing fire under adverse conditions has been made much easier by the introduction of tools such as the solar spark lighter and the fire piston.
To me, the best option is to store emergency food. How much? If you have none, store enough for a few days. If you have enough for a few days, get enough for a week. How much you store depends on what time frame you think you're at risk for having to be completely independent. The early settlers of the southwest liked to store enough food for a whole year and still do to this day!
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