Bug Out Bag – How Do You Pack Yours?
In our first post in this series we covered off on basic survival tips if you get caught out in the wild. Today we are going to dig deeper into this and detail what you need in a good survival pack or Bug Out Bag.
There’s one thing you’re never without when you make the long commute into the city each morning – your briefcase! Your briefcase contains everything you need to get you through the working day. Of course it depends on your line of work, but every suit carries this office essential – you would never leave home without your laptop, would you? The same goes for camping and hiking; there are some things that you should never leave home without.
Your ‘briefcase’ for the outdoors, your ‘Bug-Out Bag,’ is your essential survival kit if you happen to get into any trouble in the outdoors. Typically, your Bug-Out kit will ensure that you’ll be able to survive in the most extreme cases for 72-hours if you happen to come across trouble while out and about.
For newbie survivalists creating your first ever Bug Out Bag can seem like a daunting task – it’s difficult to know what to fill your bag with when you have such limited space, and it’s difficult to even know where to start. But in saying all of this, if you’re prepared for the basics, you’re going to be 99% better off than the guy in the next office over who arrogantly dismissed the idea of a Bug-Out-Bag.
Just like you choose your personalised leather-bound diary, choosing your Bug-Out-Bag is a personal thing. Before you start buying all your things for your pack, you need to buy the bag itself. A backpack needs to be tried and tested for comfort, so don’t make a rash on-the-spot purchase and talk to a professional in the store for advice.
Bug Out Bag Essentials
Water is crucial and without it, you’ve got slim to none chance of survival. If you happen to get into a survival situation, you’ll soon forget all the expensive gear and your water will become your most precious commodity. Aim at having about 1 litre of water per day at a minimum, so your survivalist pack should contain at least 3 litres.
To boost your chances of survival for a longer period of time, a water purification system wouldn’t go amiss. At the very minimum you should carry a tin flask which you can use to boil water if you get stuck. Throw a few iodine tablets in for good measure, which will purify water when boiled.
A good sturdy Tarp is going to be key to survival.
Yes you can build a shelter from scratch but having a tarp in you pack can make all the difference if you need to get a shelter up really quickly.
The standard A Frame Tarp Shelter is perfect in this situation. Quick to put up – Length of Paracord, two trees and a Tarp and thats it really. Look for something lightweight that compacts down to a fairly small footprint. Space in you pack will be at a premium so try and avoid the big heavy blue polyethylene tarps.
Don’t worry about pegs etc as you can whip them up really quickly from a thin branch and your trusty knife.
Food and Cooking
Food is also necessary for survival and on top of the provisions that you’re already taking you’ll need enough for an extra three days. Camping stores have all sorts of ready-made meals available and while they may not be the a la carte dining you’re used to when being wined and dined by your overseas partners, they pack easily are easy-to-prepare – all you have to do is add boiling water – how hard is that? Mountain House put together a great 72 hour food kit that might be an option for you to keep. Can be stored for ten years and you never know when you might need it.
Other provisions you should pack are:
- Energy or protein bars
- Dried fruit
- Trail mix
- Metal pot
- Metal cup
- Pot scrubber
- Stove gas
- Portable camping stove
Essential item number three is good clothing. In addition to the clothes you’re already wearing, you’ll also need:
- A pair of trousers (not jeans)
- Woolen socks
- 1x Long-sleeved shirt
- 1x Short-sleeved shirt
- Long Johns
- Waterproof jacket
- A hat
- A pair of work gloves
- A pair of sturdy ankle support hiking boots
Wet weather gear should also be included in your Bug-Out-Bag. Since you’ve already probably packed a proper outdoor’s jacket, a waterproof/windproof poncho should suffice. This coupled with your shelter will be enough to keep you dry in case of a downpour.
Shelter and Bedding
The next thing you’ll need is some form of shelter and bedding for camping. Your shelter and bedding when outdoors will help you stay protected from the elements. Even though some of the following may seem excessive or unnecessary, you’ll see they’ll come in handy. If you buy lightweight items specifically for camping, you’ll see that if rolled and packed properly, they won’t take up too much space.
- Sleeping bag
- Ground mat
- Woolen blanket
First Aid Kit
You should never head anywhere outdoors without a First Aid Kit. It’s possible to buy a pre-made one from the chemist, which is fine in some instances, but usually these are often filled out with things you won’t even need. When you build your own First Aid Kit, you’ll also get to know what’s in your kit well, which will mean that you’ll be able to react quicker without rummaging through useless or foreign items.
Obviously, you’re going to have to light a fire in the wild, and you should never just rely on one source to start it. Bring a few different supplies including a lighter, a stove lighter, and waterproof matches. If you don’t trust matches, buy yourself a magnesium firestarter. This will prove to be a good investment and a solid backup to your lighters or matches. Another good tip is to bring a tin
On the note of fires, you’ve got to think about how you’re going to get your wood. If you think you’re going to be able to just scavenge for wood, you’re misguided. Often this is the case, but a true survivalist will bring a tool to cut firewood as well.
As a minimum you should have a trusty solid knife in your pack. This is an essential item and you should not leave home without one. You should also, where possible carry a camping axe with you. An axe’s size doesn’t really matter, but these usually range in length between 14-36 inches.
Another option you have to chop wood or fell trees is a foldable saw. In many cases survivalist newbies prefer this option as less energy is consumed when cutting.
Some critics will say that you don’t need to carry an axe at all, but if you consider the trade off between calories burned without one and the small addition in weight to your pack if you do carry one then you will see why it should form park of you basic pack.
Have you thought about night when it’s dark and the only light source you have is the moon? You’ll need to carry at least two dependable torches and enough backup batteries for each one. We have a mega review on the brightest flashlight here based on battery type so make sure to check that out first…
A LED headlight will also come in handy – if you’re really in a true survivalist situation in the pitch black of the night, you’ll need both your hands free when walking.
The best selling Ultrafire LED torch is light, very bright, compact and reliable and should be in your pack
Any seasoned hiker or outdoorsy person will tell you that one of the main items to carry in your Bug-Out-Bag is a survival knife. After a few times outdoors in the wild you’ll soon learn that your survival knife is the most useful and versatile tool that you’ll be carrying.
It’s worth investing in a quality bushcraft knife with a solid blade. Cheaper knives tend to break easily or loose their edge, especially if you have to cut through hard objects. Check out our knife review and see if there is one to suit your needs.
Paracord will prove to come in handy. You don’t need to be the Mr-Fix-It kind of guy to make it work for you. It can be used for multiple things, especially when it comes to putting up a rain shelter.
Just like paracord, snare wire is very light and will hardly take up any space. If you’re conjuring up images of snaring a rabbit, you’re right however, this should never be relied upon as the only way to gather food!
Before you turn your nose up at it, another essential item is a small sewing kit. In a survivalist situation, things happen unexpectedly, resulting in rips and tears. You’ve got to be ready to do some minor repair work because what’s the use of having a tent with a hole?
You just never know when you might need to dig a hole in the wild. It could be for bathroom purposes, it could be shelter, or it could be something even more serious, such as digging out a person from an avalanche or landslide. A small camping shovel is hard and light, and should also be a must-have item for your Bug-Out-Bag.
The last thing you’ll probably think of when in an emergency situation is a hygiene kit, but this is something you’d also take with you on a business trip (minus the toilet paper). Include the following in your Bug-Out-Bag, and make sure you pack them well into a sealable waterproof bag:
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
When you head outdoors into foreign territory, you should always carry your mobile. During a working day your phone is stuck to you, so if you plan on having a phone-free break away, think again.
Emergency services and the local park rangers are probably not listed in your exhaustive phone book, so make sure you programme them in before you leave the house. If you had the room you could also consider packing a Solar charging unit.
Heavy duty black bin liners will surprise you. They’re so handy and versatile and can be used for a range of things from making your own poncho to a tool for collecting fresh rain water. In an emergency situation, you’ll surprise yourself at how creative and resourceful you can be.
Other than the knicks, cuts, and bruises you may get out there, there’s always the danger of sunburn and insect bites. Carry a high SPF sun block and insect repellant with you. Sun burn and bites can be easily avoided if you’re prepared from the outset.
Of course there are a number of other things that you could probably think of packing as well, but the above list includes the essential items to make you an absolute trooper in case of an emergency.
It’s possible you may one day get into a situation where you’ll have to try to survive yourself. This should only act as a guideline and you should think about what your own personal requirements and needs are and modify your Bug-Out-Bag accordingly.
And remember one thing – In the wild, it’s not the strong who survive, it’s the ones who are most prepared!
For anybody interested the bag above is a Camelbak Hellion. Made around 2009 but sadly no longer available.
You don’t need a canopener. Look online for how to open a can without, its very easy. You don’t need gas or a stove. Make one out of soup cans, look up rocket and teslonian gasifier stoves. They use wood and burn super efficiently. You’ll save space and weight. Also grab stuff like masks, rubber gloves and rain gear. You don’t know if there will be a chemical spill, chemical attack or bad weather. Hypothermia kills and water mixed with cold air can do you in just like anything else and is more likely!
Oh, and duct tape!
Thanks for the additions Will. I put in Gas stove (small compact one) because some may find it difficult get a fire going for cooking etc and prefer the convenience over the additional weight but I get the point you are making. And I can’t believe I forgot Duct tape… Just goes to show that getting somebody else to go through your list is a must.
Thanks again for joining the conversation.