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How to Make an Evacuation Bag

Updated on June 20, 2013

What's an Evacuation Bag?

An evacuation bag is a backpack, suitcase, or bag. It is portable and you are able to lift its weight easily. In it, you carry everything you need to survive -and probably a few luxury items- for three consecutive days.

Why three days?

Three days is generally the amount of time it takes for help to arrive in the form of FEMA, Red Cross, or other first responder.

Three days is also the amount of time it takes humans to lose civility and turn on each other in their quest for food, water, and shelter. In your bag you will have food, water, shelter, defense, and other useful items.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When Would I Use an Evacuation Bag?

An evacuation bag is used in any emergency or catastrophic event to insure your survival and comfort. Getting prepared today means you don't have to panic in an emergency, you only have to follow your established plan. What threats do you face, based on your location?

  • NATURAL DISASTER: These include tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, landslides, mudslides, and avalanches.
  • MAN MADE DISASTER: These include industrial accidents, chemical spills and leaks, power plant failure, and resources shortage.
  • CONTAGIONS: Current contagions include West Nile Virus, MSRA, Staph Infections, and Avian Flu.
  • CIVIL UNREST: A riot can happen almost spontaneously, looting usually occurs directly in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • TERRORIST THREATS: Though unlikely, a terrorist attack could be electromagnetic, biological, chemical, or nuclear.

Which Threats Are You Likely to Face?

What are you most likely to face?

See results

BOB and GOOD Will Do You Right

Evacuation bags go by several names. They can be called Go Bags, because you are ready to go, or BOBs for Bug Out Bag. My favorite is the GOOD Bag for Get Out of Dodge. You may also hear them called 72 Hour Kits, 3 Day Bags, or Survival Kits. It's all the same thing.


Choose Your Backpack

There is only one person qualified to select a bug out backpack and that is YOU. It is you that has to carry it, so you should pick something comfortable for your body. It is you that chooses what to put it in it, so you should pick the size. Some people prefer the smallest bag they can possibly get, others want a large bag so they can put more stuff in it.

Don't let a spouse talk you into a bag, or buy one that's really popular. Pick for yourself.

Let's Build an Evacuation Bag

No list you find anywhere will be exactly suited to your personal needs. You have unique needs and any list you find including this one is just a starting point. Research is key, so is understanding your needs and the needs of family who will be evacuating with you.

  1. A complete change of clothing including extra pairs of underwear and socks. Consider adding some tough gloves. Make sure clothing is weather appropriate, for example, a hat with a brim if you may be walking in the sun, a wool cap if you live in a cold area.
  2. Copies of keys to your home, car, office, and safety deposit box.
  3. Copies of identification including drivers license, passport, health insurance cards, birth certificates, or anything else you have. I personally store the most recent expired drivers license in my GOOD bag. While it is not technically valid ID, people are less picky during an emergency situation. Also, if you are dead or require medical treatment, a proper ID is essential.
  4. A printed list of friends and family not located in your local area which you can contact for assistance or to assure them you have made it out safely.
  5. Credit and debit cards, $200.00 minimum in one dollar bills, and anything else that can be used as currency. Alternative currencies include silver and gold, coffee, and cigarettes. You want to carry the one dollar bills because no one is going to give you change for a $20, they are going to say they don't have it.
  6. A current copy of your state map. If you plan multiple evacuation routes in advance, you will also need state maps for states along your route, or a US map showing major highways. It's especially good to have a map that includes topography, state parks, nuclear facilities, and hospitals.
  7. A hand crank radio, bonus if your radio also charges your cell phone or other device and has a solar power option.
  8. A hand crank flashlight unless your radio also includes a flashlight.
  9. A small sewing kit and first aid kit for quick fixes.
  10. Food and water for three days. For water, you want at least one gallon a day, so if you can't carry this much you need to plan on where you will be getting it. Meal bars are small and densely packed to fill you up and deliver much needed calories. They usually taste horrible, but will suffice. You can choose to stock your bag with meal bars if you are trying to conserve space. If you have plenty of room, you will have more options available to you. If you bring canned food, be sure and include a can opener.
  11. Eating utensils. In a pinch, you can roll or fold some tin foil up to serve as a plate, and add a spork to eat with. If you have the space, you may consider a nesting plate and silverware set.
  12. Matches and a lighter. A metal match is a plus. Make sure and put these in a small waterproof container. Old film canisters or ammo cans are good. Tinder is free, you can use a cotton ball or gather some lint from your dryer.
  13. A three day supply of any medication you need to take.
  14. I strongly recommend a weapon. At least bring a small pocket knife.

Evacuation Route Planning - Have your route planned in advance!

Knowing where you plan on going in an evacuation is almost as important as having your bag ready. Multiple evacuation routes are best, one for each direction, obviously eliminating one way if it’s right next to the coast or something. Know your methods of travel and your ultimate destination.

Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition
Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition

I chose this book because it covers evacuating in great detail, down to maps of power lines, nuclear power plants, railroad tracks, and the politics and general feelings in each state. Other countries are also briefly discussed.


Let's Look at a Few Items in Detail

Remember, the authority on building a bag to suit your needs is YOU. Most items you need for a Get Out of Dodge bag are already in your household and will be easy to throw together. We'll go over a few items in detail so you have an idea of what you might want.

Laminate Highway Map

This laminate map is lightweight, takes up little space, and will show you all the major US highways. The laminate means you can mark on it with dry erase markers for route planning, then wipe it clean later.

Streetwise USA Road Map - Laminated Major Highway Map of the United States
Streetwise USA Road Map - Laminated Major Highway Map of the United States

Durable, foldable, and two sided. The reverse side shows major cities and the mileage between them. Excellent for route planning while on the go.


Hand Crank Radio with Flashlight

Any hand crank radio is a good start. Things to look for in a radio include: an alarm, flashlight, USB port to charge cell phones or other small items, and a solar panel. You definitely want AM/FM but also check for NOAA weather. That's where you will find nearly all emergency broadcasts.

Eton FRX3 Hand Turbine NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio with Smartphone Charger - Black (NFRX3WXB)
Eton FRX3 Hand Turbine NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio with Smartphone Charger - Black (NFRX3WXB)

After much research, this is the radio I chose. It's small and lightweight. It has AM/FM and the NOAA weather stations. For power, you can use a USB charger, batteries, hand cranking, or solar power. It has a headphone jack for privacy, a flashlight, and a glow in the dark locator.


Metal Matches

A good metal match will provide sparks every time you strike in any weather and any altitude. Throw a few regular matches in your bag for ease of use. Adding a firesteel in addition to matches is one of the best things you can do. Put one on the back up key chain in your BOB.

Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter
Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter

This metal match has been tested and approved by the International Survival Instructors Association. I own this item and have given it to friends and family. It's low cost, should last forever unless it's used, and capable of starting great fires.


Premade Evacuation Bags

For those with more money than time, or who find building a bag to be overwhelming, you are in luck. There are ready made survival kits available as well. Whichever one you choose, be sure and thoroughly check it out when it arrives. Make sure everything that is supposed to be in the bag is there, and that all items are in good condition. Also add your personal items and customize the contents for your unique needs.

Additional Resources

The websites listed here provide free disaster or emergency related updates and provide useful information for free.

What's in Your Bag? - Tutorial and Examples of Bug Out Bag Contents.

Wranglerstar has a pretty good video showing what's in his bag. The video is 15 minutes long, and if you aren't interested in an introduction, skip to about 2:30 to see the bag contents in detail.

Are you going to build a BOB now? Do you see something I missed? Tell me!

Submit a Comment

  • DrMAnderson profile image


    5 years ago

    We also have a BOBasement :) It's not a crazy thing to do, it's incredibly smart to be prepared to take responsibility for oneself. I love this lens!

  • Grifts profile image

    Devin Gustus 

    5 years ago

    Easy to read, I liked this lens.

    About your contagions, your hemorrhagic fevers like ebola, Marburg, and really even an influenza variant are going to be more lethal than MRSA (MRSA is a specific staph infection). Influenza has killed more people than all the wars in all the world ever will.

  • RedHairedRockHead profile image


    5 years ago

    Wow. Already planning my bag....

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    The hub bought one, but says we need one for each of us. He plans to get another.

  • takkhisa profile image


    5 years ago

    I thought of this type of evaluation bag before. Thanks for sharing :)

  • mrsclaus411 profile image


    6 years ago

    It's a good idea to be prepared for anything. I will probably prepare for my own evacuation bag after reading this. Thanks!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Very cool! This is one of the best lenses I have seen, I don't mean to be dramatic, but you are probably one of the best writers too.. very nice, and please don't stop. I plan to see more from you

    *like* from Zacrew7! check out mine and tell me what you think? I'm in the search of great squidoo members to review my lense and give me tips. Thanks.

  • Jogalog profile image


    6 years ago

    Useful but scary - I prefer not to have to think about this!

  • Emma Vine profile imageAUTHOR

    Emma Vine 

    6 years ago from Texas, USA

    @bgassociate: YAY! If you ever need it (and I hope you don't) you will be so glad.

  • bgassociate profile image


    6 years ago

    Great lens. 28 weeks later-esque. Started on BOB already! :)

  • uneasywriter lm profile image

    uneasywriter lm 

    6 years ago

    Nice lens being prepared for anything is always good. This is a simple thing that every family should do. Great work!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I don't have one, but probably should. I thought about it long and hard after reading the Road, but I guess three days wouldn't do in that case. It should get us through the next snow storm however.

  • srsddn lm profile image

    srsddn lm 

    6 years ago

    Very useful information. Thanks for sharing all these ideas.

  • Emma Vine profile imageAUTHOR

    Emma Vine 

    6 years ago from Texas, USA

    @rooshoo: Another alternative to currency is bullets, however in a go bag the amount of bullets would be so small that I'd have to recommend you keep them all to yourself. It is an alternative currency though, which even a non gun owning person could accept as payment knowing it could be traded elsewhere.

  • LiteraryMind profile image

    Ellen Gregory 

    6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

    This is would have helped so many people if they had done this before hurricane Sandy --or any other disaster for that matter. Great lens.

  • flinnie lm profile image

    Gloria Freeman 

    6 years ago from Alabama USA

    Hi great info and tips on a BOB. I need one of these.

  • WildFacesGallery profile image


    6 years ago from Iowa

    No one likes to thnk about the worst happening but in an emergency this would be a life saver.

  • Vivianpro profile image


    6 years ago

    Informative!!Thanks for sharing.

  • rooshoo profile image


    6 years ago

    I like the tip about coffee and cigarettes being used as currency. Maybe things like batteries too. This is a fascinating lens you've made. Great suggestions.

  • audrey07 profile image


    6 years ago

    You just never know when you will need it. Having one ready should be the way to go.

  • WriterJanis2 profile image


    6 years ago

    Thanks for the helpful tips to make one of these.

  • EEWorkouts profile image


    6 years ago

    Awesome lens! Thanks for putting this together.

  • Ahdilarum profile image


    6 years ago

    yes, I felt the necessity to keep this ready.

  • MartieG profile image

    MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

    6 years ago from Jersey Shore

    I don't have one but I needed one last week when we evacuated due to hurricane Sandy! Nicely done :>)


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