Whatever the next disaster, are you prepared to evacuate on short notice? Or like a lot of people not prepared, are you ready to lose everything? A good Bug Out Bag can be a life saver in that regard.
A Bug Out Bag, on the other hand, carries a lot more gear and food, and is similar in size and scope to what a heavy duty backpacker would carry on a hike or expedition lasting anywhere from 1-2 weeks.
Over the decades, countless numbers of refugees have had to flee disaster zones and war zones with nothing but the clothes on their back. Currently there are over 65 million refugees -- the biggest refugee crisis in history.
Wouldn't you rather be prepared with everything you need to survive should that day ever come your way? And it just might -- looking at the increased frequency of massive disasters in recent years and the growing threat of major war with U.S. enemies coming to the homeland one day.
Sign Up for our free email newsletter packed with survival tips and tips on preparing for widespread disaster. Topics covered include survival foods, martial law, government collapse, living off the land, self defense, survival hunting, survival fishing, and MORE...
So remember, if you bug out by car or truck for the hills, you may find a handful of places that have supplies of on site fuel along the way, with no attendants present. I don't advocate stealing but if this is a true life or death situation and there's no police and government has collapsed, if those remote installations have been abandoned then that fuel is essentially free for the taking. If someone else has already claimed it, don't fight them for it if they won't share some -- go elsewhere.
Eventually you'll find a fuel facility that's been abandoned.
Having various size duffel bags and different colors per bag (green, navy, black, brown, etc.) helps organize your gear, clothing, and food. Canvas duffel bags are absolutely essential for helping make a Bug Out go quickly and easily with less stress or wasted time. Note, you are looking for a canvas duffel bag, not nylon. If you're paying attention they look a lot like Army bags used by military service men over the years.
Manufacturers of large duffel bags may claim that their nylon is strong and won't rip easily, but they're not considering that their bags are going to be used in a long term survival situation. Some times you may want to throw sharp edged tools in a bag, other times you may have to drag a bag up into a tree or over a fence. On another day you may use a bag to haul firewood you've collected. Canvas is just a better choice in the end.
At the same time, provide each family member with a large duffel bag of their own, for their own personal goods and clothing. Even fully loaded, these duffel bags can be packed easily and carried more securely than just about any other method. Because they have zippers, they can be thrown around in a hurry, and not going to spill their contents, unlike boxes or bins. (Some duffel bags have shoulder straps and others you can find may have a separate accessory zipper bag that is great for small tools, cash, hygiene items, small electronics, etc.).
Bug Out Tactics Using Several Duffel Bags: One tactic that will make bugging out go quickly is having 80% of your gear (and food) already packed and just waiting in a closet in your home or your garage for that day when you're going to need to evacuate with your gear, knowing you might be in a hurry.
Use compression stuff sacks (which we cover further down in this guide) to tightly compress clothing, parka (winter coat), and sleeping bags so that they take up a lot less space in your pack. Use zippered tool bags (which we also cover further down) to separate and organize personal hygiene items, firemaking tools, water purification items, and first aid essentials.
In a few moments, you will read several reasons why having a number of zippered tool bags of various sizes will make Bugging Out (or just about any travel venture anywhere -- even your next vacation) go a lot easier while saving precious time during your travels. In the military these small zippered bags are commonly referred to as tactical bags.
For survival and bugging out, there's no need to get that fancy and spend more money for anything "tactical" unless it's to carry your sidearm and extra ammunition. With that said though, tactical bags can be an asset as they may have belts and pockets inside to keep items from banging around when you're on the move.
In no way do you have to spend this kind of money though.
There are a lot more expedition size backpacks available at a lower cost -- but you get what you pay for. Because the pack you're investing in is intended to be used as a "bug out bag" and it's not intended for recreational hiking, this is the main reason a person should be willing to spend more money for a higher quality pack.
It needs to hold up to the elements and greater wear and tear.
Kelty isn't the only quality brand on the market. Other respected brands such as "North Face" are available; for some you may pay more. The problem with many North Face bags is often bright colors (on a Bug Out you want to avoid bright colors as much as possible so that you don't call attention to yourself and so that you can conceal yourself and your gear, if for any reason you need to hide out quikcly). Another problem with "North Face" products is that buyers are often looked at as Yuppies (just a word of caution: remember, there's no telling who you're going to come across in your travels; for the same reason you shouldn't drive a Mercedes SUV or BMW SUV on a Bug Out, you should also avoid standard "yuppie" backpacking gear; further, when your new gear does arrive, do yourself a favor and remove or conceal labels all together; in a major catastrophe, it's not wise to look like someone with money and supplies -- you become a more likely target for a robbery; it's better in the long run to go with dull colors and do everything you can to blend in with the average joe or jane; for most of us, blending in is standard fair and no cause for concern.)
If you're on a budget, and can only afford $100 or so for a pack, at the very least find one with a lot of good reviews and then read those reviews to help ensure it's not just marketers hyping up their own product. Last, be sure to invest in a good sewing kit as well as thick thread so that you are more equipped to do emergency stitching should your bag come apart at the seams during your travels. Duct tape is good for a quick repair; adhesive glue (keep reading) is also recommended and can be used for several types of repairs in the months ahead.
You will want these key items in your Bug Out Bag before you ever hit the road.
That way if you have to flee from your vehicle on short notice you can just grab this bag, throw it on your back, and make your getaway. If you have to stop and rummage through all those extra duffel bags of gear that are meant for your vehicle, you may be wasting precious time right now, the time you would need to otherwise make a successful escape from whatever danger up ahead you had encountered on the road. With all that said, let's go back to the first pieces of gear advised for a bug out, those duffel bags for your vehicle:
• Small propane gas stove rated for propane burning efficiency -- you're going to use a specialized adaptor to connect it to the 20 lb propane tank, which typically would not connect to a small camp stove; they're normally used for larger barbecue grills or outdoor fireplaces.)
• As mentioned, a specialized adapter for connecting a small propane stove to a larger propane tank.
If you conserve your propane, you can make one 20lb tank of propane last several weeks by using it with a small propane camp stove compared to a larger barbecue grill; those barbecue grills are not efficient and will quickly deplete your propane; they are also too large to transport in a vehicle for the purposes of a bug out. With a small propane camp stove you can cook your food and or boil water quickly and without the tell tale sign of smoke that a normal campfire would giveaway.
Note there are other smaller and lighter-weight portable stoves on the market; many use hard to find fuel canisters of unique shapes (that can only be purchased from outdoor shops or online). By going with a standard propane camp stove as well as that specialized adaptor means that you can now use any propane tanks you come across in your travels (Hint: most forklifts are powered by external propane tanks; find a warehouse and you're likely to find a great deal of both forklifts and propane tanks, enough propane in some places to last several years; you can also find propane tanks in the backyard barbecues of abandoned homes, abandoned industrial shops and or retail stores).
• Solo Stove and or Solo Stove combo kit for boiling water It's not enough to have just a propane tank and stove on a vehicle bug out; you need a Solo Stove for burning sticks, paper, and bundles of tinder for those days you're only carrying a backpack and trekking on foot. Solo Stoves are one of my most recommended pieces of survival gear. A Solo Stove is also a good gift for the kids and can steer them away from building dangerous campfires to much safer and more fuel efficient smaller fires in a Solo Stove. Collecting firewood for a daily campfire is a lot of work; collecting sticks and small tinder bundles for a Solo Stove on the other hand can be done in just a couple minutes, saving precious time on a Bug Out when you're trying to put distance between you and whatever danger you are fleeing from. (Solo Stoves do produce a small amount of smoke; if smoke is a concern that day, use the propane camp stove.)
• Bivvy Sack (waterproof). A Bivvy Sack is carried in your actual Bug Out Bag in place of a regular tent. The reason for a Bivvy sack? It takes up very little space and weighs a lot less than a tent; it doesn't have tent poles or stakes, weighs just a few ounces, and can be pulled out of your Bug Out Bag and crawled into in just seconds. A Bivvy Sack fits over your sleeping bag(s) like a sock, and then zips up with a breathable hood, and is intended for you to sleep in. They are common military issue to ground troops around the world. Nowadays, there's a deluxe version of a bivvy sack, which gives you a bit of room for sitting up, reading, etc. It's essentially a one person tent but in the same low profile shape as a Bivvy. These are popular with mountaineers and solo hikers and hunters alike. A leading version and one with the right colors for a bug out is this one sold by Snugpack.
• 1 camouflage rated hunter netting (called a blind) to help conceal your tent or Bivvy from any distant passersby. Use a camouflage blind as well as actual brush for the best concealment and effective layers of camouflage so that you can keep your tent hidden from others (there's no telling what criminals will be out in your region; better safe than sorry).
A camouflage blind can serve a second purpose in the coming weeks: Hunters commonly use camouflage blinds to conceal themselves as they wait on large game (deer, elk, moose, antelope, etc.) and small game (squirrels, rabbits, etc.) or even game birds, allowing an easy shot from a close distance. So, in the end, this inexpensive camouflage netting can both help conceal your tent and campsites as well as keep you fed during your travels.
• 1 small heavy duty tarp to go on the ground beneath each tent or Bivvy; a tarp helps protect your tent from ground moisture (instead of just a tarp, a heavy duty space blanket is best in the winter months as it reflects the cold from the ground that would otherwise seep body heat from your sleeping bag while you sleep). To really add a layer of protection from the cold, add an Emergency Space Blanket Bivvy Sack to your Bug Out Bag. Unlike a standard space blanket, this one can fit right over your Bivvy Sack, and help keep you warm during really cold temperatures and snow. It's a 'just in case' item that hopefully you never have to use.
• 1 extra-large heavy duty tarp (a dark color such as brown) and 50 feet of rope. Cut the rope into shorter sections and use a center pole (such as a tall tree branch) to elevate the tarp and create a large canopy. This can be your "base camp" and provide shade and protection from rain for several people. This second larger tarp can be strung up over your group's tents or bivvies or used in any manner of other ways to provide a barrier from the rain, wind, or sun. It can also be used as part of a rainwater harvesting system; meaning it catches the rain that is falling and then funnels it toward waiting containers, providing you and your group with clean drinking water.
If you sleep in your vehicle and don't want to be spotted, get your vehicle safely off road and backed into some bushes; cover it with your tarp and then drape that tarp with that camouflage hunter's blind, and then finally cover both with intertwined layers of brush. In the end you want your vehicle to be safe from being spotted by anyone, allowing you to sleep the daytime or late night hours away until you're ready to move again.
• Extra large poncho. Stay protected from the rain as you travel with a poncho; choose an extra large size to wear over backpack or anything else you are carrying.
• Mosquito Netting (full canopy). Purchase a canopy for outdoor use or separately in large sheets for custom use. Depending on the season the mosquitoes, flies, bees, yellow jackets, or wasps can be bad in certain areas. Mosquito netting is cheap and can be cut into various sections (if you purchase it by the yard in sheets) and then used in various ways to provide protection from biting and stinging nuisance insects.
Why do I recommend jerky? Jerky is a long time proven survival food; remember the dried and or smoked meat that pioneers and natives ate in centuries past? Jerky is essentially the same stuff. It's dried meat that doesn't need refrigeration (though you still have to safeguard it from certain scenarios such as hot, humid conditions or cross contamination; either of these could cause meat to spoil.)
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of producers of bulk jerky at a reasonable cost; you'll either have to make your own (you'll need a meat dehydrator and knowledge of how to use it correctly as well as package your food correctly for long term storage). Or, you can turn to the freeze dried version, such as those sold here, Wise Company 60 Serving Gourmet Seasoned Freeze Dried Meat, and more widely available.
• Several packs of freeze dried food meals (these will compliment your supplies of jerky, making it easy to prepare soups and stews for the first few weeks of a bug out).
• Large sealed bags of homemade trail mix (or prepackaged trail mix if that will work for you; wrap each bag in duct tape to protect from tears).
• Large bags of rice (rice with short soak time; wrap each bag in duct tape to protect from tears)
• Large bags of beans (beans with short soak time; wrap each bag in duct tape to protect from tears)
• Large bags of oatmeal (shorter cook time, the better; wrap each bag in duct tape to protect from tears)
• Bucket of freeze dried fruit and berries; fresh fruit and berries are likely to be in short supply and hard to come by; a 5 gallon bucket of freeze dried fruit and berries can last several weeks, help keep you and your family up on nutrients, and also supplied with glucose (glucose is an important energy source for the brain and working muscles) while helping you maintain overall health and prevent exhaustion on long treks.
• Food-based multi-vitamin (men, choose a "men's multi"; women, choose a "woman's multi"; food based multi-vitamins have more nutrients than standard vitamins, containing a number of natural health ingredients that other cheaper brands of multi-vitamins often lack; have teens or smaller children? They need a multi as well, especially for a long term Bug Out scenario.)
• MRES (meals ready to eat; military rations) - Due to how compact these are and how calorie-rich they can be, as well as shelf life, MRES should be part of your Bug Out Kit. MRES should be a last resort food that you can turn to, when you've exhausted all other food supplies or simply want something to share with any needy people (including children) you come across.
• Whey Protein (transfer from store-bought container to smaller plastic bags for conserving space in your Bug Out Bag / duffel bags; wrap each plastic bag of whey protein in duct tape to protect each bag from any tears during transport).
• Heavy duty denim and canvas pants -- you're looking for pants that have a lot of life in them as you may be alternating between the same 2 pairs for the next several months.
• Heavy duty canvas cargo shorts (for warmer temperatures and occasional stream crossings).
• 5 Pound Pick (a 5 pound pick can assist in digging especially on hard packed or rocky ground; also great for clearing brush and leveling ground for setting up tents; in a Bug Out scenario, you can easily find yourself stuck, whether in a car or truck for that matter; a pick can be a fast and easy way to dig yourself out, before you have to reach for a shovel; it's an essential for anyone who spends time in the backcountry)
• Claw Hammer (break into abandoned buildings, garages, and vehicles; pry apart fencing, etc.)
• Lock cutter (if you're driving down a remote road in the countryside, foothills, or mountains a heavy duty lock cutter can get you access to roads that are otherwise locked (sometimes by logging companies, other times by state officials); some of those locks though can't be cut and are enclosed within a steel box -- you'll have to figure out another way past that gate or skip it altogether. (Hint: You can dig a path around one side of the gate, though you may have to cut down a couple trees and move small boulders buried in the dirt; use your crow bar as a lever to help move small boulders too heavy to move otherwise; the longer the crow bar, the easier it will be to use it as a lever -- otherwise known as 'mechanical engineering 101' and or 'lever physics' if you want to read up on this centuries' old technique for performing heavy duty work).
• Crow Bar (break into abandoned buildings, garages, and vehicles; secondary weapon; use a long crowbar for prying and moving heavy objects)
• Hi-Lift Jack (first ensure you're vehicle has the supports to use a high-lift jack; if it has the supports, when driving off road a high-lift jack can be a good tool for helping get a vehicle unstuck)
• Stainless Steel Kleen Canteen Bottles (you want the simple steel bottles which can be used to boil water in for purification purposes)
• Bolo Machete (there will be times when you need to clear heavy brush; Gerber's Bolo Machete has a generous blade length and comes with it's own sheath; if you'll be traveling with multiple people, it is a good idea to have more than one machete for brush clearing and in a worst case scenario, self defense)
• Folding Saw (basic bushcraft, shelter building, wood cutting for pointed traps, etc.)
• Military Issue E-tool / Folding Entrenching Shovel. An essential for your vehicle, you might get stuck and have to dig a path out for your wheels; an essential for your Bug Out Bag if there are any threats from other people in your area; with an E-tool you can quickly dig yourself a shallow trench and cover it with brush, and even sleep there (another reason for a waterproof Bivvy sack), allowing you to hide from a pursuing enemy while you also get your rest; when you're sure the enemy is long gone, rise from the trench you dug and continue on your travels.
• Industrial Strength Glue / Adhesive . Essentially this is a super glue type substance though with a longer set time; it's rated for fabric, among several other uses; whether this adhesive or another you prefer, choose the best you can find in a large quantity or multiple small containers; you may be doing repairs to boots, miscellaneous gear, clothing, zipper, and tent tears in the months to come.
• Lensatic Compass (an essential for navigation; on a cloudy day or deep under the trees you can lose all sense of direction -- a compass can keep you on the right path; if you've never used a compass before be sure to pack a survival manual on compass navigation (Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & Gps that you can refer to; though referring to a manual without any prior experience could be a foolish step; you are better off learning how to use a compass now, including those "angles of declination", and then getting out and practicing with a compass beforehand; you want your compass to come through for you in a survival emergency.
• Fencing pliers / Lock Cutter. For cutting chain link and barbed wire fences, easily cuts thick wire and cable for other purposes, such as hooking up a 12 volt battery to an inverter using heavy duty #2 cables that you've removed from an abandoned vehicle (this one doubles as a lock cutter, recommended earlier in this article; the one mentioned prior is bigger, giving you more options for lock cutting, though it's too large for a Bug Out Bag -- it's chiefly for your vehicle).
• SOG Power Lock EOD Multi-Tool (lots of miscellaneous uses for a Bug Out:
Hard wire cutter
Double-toothed wood saw
Large flat-head screwdriver
Can opener/small flat-head screwdriver
Bottle opener/medium flat-head screwdriver
Fuse well spike
Nylon carrying pouch)
More essential items for your Bug Out Bag include Paracord, Precision Binoculars, Spear Heads, Flashlight / Headlamp, Bowie Knife, Folding Knife, Sidearm, Hunting Rifle, Sling Shot (professional), Sleeping Bags, First Aid, Portable Solar Panels, Rope, Dry Bags, and Compression Stuff Sacks. For further details, refer to: 50 Critical Items to Survive Disaster, 137 Survival Gear Supplies List for Military and Civilian Survival Kits, and Top 10 Survival Gear ... When All Hell Breaks Loose.
These tools bags have a second important use; they can be used to divide and organize smaller personal gear, including a handful of silverware (forks, knives, spoons), and metal pot lids (can be used as plates), and finally an entire mess kit of mini pots and pans (carry the least amount as possible; your goal should be to make do with just one small pan and one small pot). One bag can hold fishing gear, another bag a back-up handgun and ammunition, another bag can hold a pair of two way radios, another bag can be used simply for holding various size batteries, and yet another bag can have your headlamp, flashlight, and even battery operated or handcrank lantern. Finally, each of these zippered tool bags can be labeled (or just written on with a permanent black ink pen) so that you can find important items quickly without having to fish around.
When you've got all your survival items organized, throw all of these tool bags into 1-2 large canvas duffel bags and you are ready to now hit the road in your car or truck.
• Screw top plastic bottles Start saving small plastic bottles with screw top lids. They are excellent bottles for transporting rubbing alcohol in small quantities, chiefly for fire starting.
Small plastic bottles that work well are empty screw top seasoning bottles and 16 ounce juice bottles; a great way to make just one of these bottles that are filled with rubbing alcohol last quite some time is to fill it with cotton swabs (Q-tips), and let each swab soak up rubbing alcohol. When you need to start a fire, just one of these cotton swabs can be removed that bottle (that is filled with rubbing alcohol) and then that cotton swab easily lit with a lighter or match and subsequently used to set fire to a small bundle of tinder.
As mentioned, there are multiple methods of firestarting and commercially produced fire starters. For me personally, this has been an easy method I've used. Research other methods for starting fires if you like, and choose the one that you prefer. For the most part though, keep your campfires small and short, and only use a campfire if you feel as though you're in a 100% safe area where no one is going to spot your smoke as it rises up or is dispersed by the wind. There's no telling who you might draw to your location with a camp fire. More often than not, in the first few days of a retreat away from population centers it may be safest to skip making fires altogether, as much as possible.
As I've been saying above, though a vehicle is the preferred method for a bug out, at some point you're going to probably end up on foot with just a large backpack and several duffel bags of gear.
If you travel in a small group, each of you can carry a duffel bag or two full of gear, along with those Bug Out Bags on your back.
It won't be easy but this will allow you to bring more gear into the remote lands you're traveling through.
Another essential piece of gear will come in hand at this point: Heavy duty 55 gallon contractor garbage bags.
Put the gear bags that are too cumbersome to carry with you into these 55 gallon garbage bags and tie each one shut and stash all under some brush (the garbage bags will protect your gear bags from the weather). You now have a supplies cache that you can come back for later. After all is said and done here, a lot of those supplies you packed into your vehicle can now be used in the weeks ahead (as long as you don't have to abandon your cache due to any number of circumstances).
Once you ditch your vehicle, an emergency radio may be your only source of news for the next several weeks or months. Having access to news (if the entire region hasn't been wiped out) can give you warnings about possible approaching dangers or geographical areas you should avoid at all cost:
What if terrorists had poisoned a major reservoir upstream in the direction you were headed?
What if the prevailing winds were carrying a nuclear cloud of radiation just to the south of you -- the same direction you were about to head off to in order to get around a small mountain range. You might never know about these or any number of other dangers without a way to obtain news that a good emergency radio can give you.
Two way radios can play such a vital role at different times, that they should be near or even at the top of your list of essential Bug Out Bag supplies. Two way radios (and extra batteries) allow you to stay in contact with one another, should your group have to split up; some may be capable of hunting; others may be skilled at fishing or just learning the ropes from those experienced among you; some may be scouting the hills up ahead for possible food sources or to gather intel on other people in the area. In a long term Bug Out, there's a good chance you're going to use these two way radios again and again.