If you’ve read anything about survivalism, you’re probably familiar with the term bug-out-bag. To rehash quickly, your bug-out-bag is the one thing you grab before you leave the house and never come back again. The general idea is a backpack stocked with dozens of valuable pieces of lightweight equipment to help you last 72 hours in a disaster situation. Ideally, you can afford enough space for some items that look toward your long-term survival too.

There are two main aspects to planning and constructing an awesome bug-out-bag: the bag itself and what goes in. Suggested BOB inventories abound on the Internet in plague proportions, and many have 75+ items, but you’ll be limited by what you can afford and physically carry. Thankfully, there are a few rules that apply regardless of your unique budget, climate, and survival strategy.

The rules:

  • Information is lighter than stuff. Whatever you can make from raw materials, or can salvage as you go along, pack in a separate bag that you can ditch if you need to run (or don’t pack at all).
  • Hone your own list of priorities based on your own unique situation: i.e. clothes for surviving below freezing temperatures if you live up north and a mosquito net if you live down south.
  • Think about where you’ll be using your bag: does your strategy involve heading for a hut in the hills? Or boarding up the windows and never leaving the house again (bug-in-bag)? Or driving to the countryside until you run out of gas? Each of these plans will benefit from a different mix of items.

What to construct first – the bug-out-bag or the pile of sweet gear?

 It’s impossible to know exactly what you can carry without having your pack in front of you, and impossible to know what volume / shape / how many pockets you want without having your inventory in front of you. Catch-22. So just put everything you glean for your list in the best bag (as in, best suited to purpose) you have to hand, and improve/expand later if necessary.

The Bag:

An expensive, flashy, brand new ultra-lightweight pack with reflective stripes might be great for hiking, but in a Cormac McCarthy’s The Road-like scenario, you may not want to attract attention to your envy-worthy gear. Your pack should be sturdy first, comfortable second, and thirdly waterproof or able to be made water-tight. Several pockets will make it easy to keep track of your inventory, and easy to find things in urgency or darkness. Leaving some space will make it easier to sort through, and let you pick up extra supplies as you go.

Add an extra strap so that you can attach your bug-out-bag to a bike – unless you live in mountainous terrain there’s no reason you should assume you’ll be walking everywhere. A trusty old bicycle will be a boon to any traveller on post-apocalyptic roads, or anyone trying to pull their town together after a natural disaster.

The gear:

There are eight main kinds of gear you’ll need to get before your bug-out-bag is complete: Information; hydration; food; clothing; shelter; medical supplies; tools; and weapons.


  • road and/or terrain maps
  • ICE phone numbers and addresses (in case of emergency)
  • radio frequencies
  • how-to guides

 Remember- don’t carry anything as weight that you could carry as information. A map with fresh running water sources in your area weighs nothing compared to ten gallons of water but is infinitely more useful. Information is also cheaper and easier to find than many of the items on this list, so there’s no excuse for not getting it squared away pronto.


The most basic physiological need. Carry at least three liters of drinkable water, plus enough of a purifier to last you three weeks minimum. Iodine, bleach, purification tablets and a pot to boil water in are all options. A couple of awesome tips: pack a collapsible container for extra water storage, and paper/steel coffee filters to prolong the useful life of your filtration system.


10 calorie-rich energy bars will get you through 3 days if they have to. Beyond that, pack something with a good source of vitamin C. You can throw in some freeze-dried ready-made meals marketed to hikers if you like- these are incredibly lightweight and have a shelf-life worthy of vault 101.

A guide to foraging and edible weeds is worth more weight-for-weight than ready-made food. Longer-term contingency items might include seeds for food growing, and a tiny packet of spices to raise moral when you need it.


  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • long-sleeved pants and shirt
  • a bandanna

Beyond that basic minimum:

  • a set of thermals to layer underneath
  • a light, squashable rainproof jacket
  • a spare pair of socks
  • a light blanket that can double as a poncho


  • 2 tarps (or one tent and one tarp)
  • rope
  • a bedroll, and preferably a sleeping bag

Medical supplies:

If only it were as simple as carrying stimpaks. What you’ll actually need is:

  • A first-aid kit (how simple or thorough is up to you)
  • Any medication you regularly need (replace this as needed to keep it in-date)
  • Antibiotics (ditto)
  • A mooncup or similar if you menstruate
  • Condoms if you don’t want to add pregnancy and sexually-transmitted-infection to the list of shit you have to deal with


  • A sharp knife
  • A small whetstone
  • 3 different ways to start a fire
  • A small pot for boiling water
  • 2 reliable flashlights with batteries
  • Backup batteries
  • A pen/marker and paper
  • A radio (2-way if possible)
  • A small solar panel to recharge batteries or charge items directly. Goalzero makes a lightweight panel that folds up like an small book, which would be great for attaching to your backpack.


The best weapon is one that will save your life without intimidating others and escalating confrontations. Any defense weapon should double as a hunting weapon. If nothing else, a survival knife kept in arm’s reach will do.

Summing it up:

You’ll notice that the majority of this stuff is what you’d want to have with you on any three-day hiking trip. If you hike or backpack anyway, you can construct an awesome bug-out-bag without having to spend a ton of money or buy things you’d never use otherwise. Just expand your regular wilderness gear with some purpose-specific survival gear, and the few things you’d be most glad to have if you were never going to see home again. Then leave your pack somewhere inconspicuous, but somewhere you can grab it from easily. Done!