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Bug Out Bag Essentials List

Updated on December 15, 2018

55L Tactical Bag

A mid range bag for light packing, but large enough to pack all the essentials.
A mid range bag for light packing, but large enough to pack all the essentials. | Source

What is the Purpose of a Bug Out Bag?

A Bug Out Bag, or B.O.B is a bag packed with crafted or purchased gear to keep around in case an emergency presented itself and made you unable to be safe at home.

Well stocked bags should be able to produce gear to assure that all basic needs are taken care of for at least 24 hours, but also enough to provide means of filling those needs for longer if necessary.

(Example: You have 1 freeze dried meal to eat today. You also have fishing line and hooks to try to get food later.)

Using the 10 C's of Survivability to Pack a Bug Out Bag

The most basic needs of any human being are shelter, water, and food. Survival expert, Dave Canterbury came up with 10 categories of items, that are hardest to reproduce when you don't have access to them, that are crucial in filling these needs long term.

This list should be used as a checklist to determine what is actually important to pack and what isn't actually necessary.

The 10 C's of Survivability

There may be some things that you need to survive that don't exactly fall within the 10 C's. That is perfectly fine, but the bulk of the items you are packing in your bug out bag will serve you best if they can be defined by the following categories:

Cutting Tool and Sooo Much More!

Well built tools that can be used for more than one type of task are a valuable addition to a bug out bag.
Well built tools that can be used for more than one type of task are a valuable addition to a bug out bag. | Source

Cutting Tools

Cutting tools are very important in an emergency situation because if you lose or damage any of your other tools from the 10 C's then you will most likely need some sort of cutting tool to assist in the making of a replacement or mend.

You will find a million experts claiming their brand is best when it comes to cutting tools. Ignore. Them. All. Choose something you would trust your life and the lives of your loved ones with.

Handle it. Think about skills you can already can, or want to learn to be able to, practice with it. Can you afford it? How much room will it take up in your B.O.B? Is it heavy? Is it durable? Consider all of this when choosing cutting tools for your bag. Then get what you think will best suit you and your needs.

Axes - Small camp axes and hatchets usually are better choices than felling axes. A small ax is a handy tool to have for skinning game, processing wood, pounding stakes or pegs, digging, and dispatching game for food.

Folding knives - Folding knives aren't a very sensible option when it comes to survival. The point where the knife moves is a weak spot and more prone to breaking than a fixed blade knife. If you still wish to pack one though make sure it LOCKS OPEN. Having a knife fold up on your fingers will not improve your emergency situation.

Fixed blade knives - Make sure when buying a fixed blade knife that the piece of metal that forms the blade is the same piece of metal that runs the whole way through the handle. This is an important feature of a durable knife called "full tang."

There are other styles but I don't suggest them because they are more prone to failure.

Machetes - Selecting a machete for a bug out bag is just like selecting a fixed blade knife. Just be sure that it isn't too long to pack, or be comfortably strapped to the outside of the pack while walking.

Saws - A packable saw can be used for making trap stakes, rabbit sticks, clubs, firewood....etc. But by packing something even as simple as a folding pruning saw, you now have the ability to cut dimensional lumber as well. Being able to make precise cuts through wood means being able to fit and join the wood together more easily and tightly.

Scissors - Scissors aren't really a cutting tool most people mention when it comes to bugging out, but a good sturdy pair of scissors or shears is worth its weight when it comes to processing food from plant or animal sources.


Packing tools that give you the ability to make fire is essential to processing wild meats and some wild edible plants. Fire can also be used to boil water to be safely consumed. Or as a tool to burn out hollows in pieces of wood to make cups or bowls. And fire is an awesome morale booster.

Lighter and Matches ( and a way to keep them dry) - Forget rods and sparks and blowing embers into flame. When your life is on the line you want the sure thing every time if you can help it. Lighters and matches are inexpensive and the work with a much smaller window of error.

Up Off the Ground and Out of the Elements

A covered hammock is a great option for quick, ready made shelter that is easy to pack.
A covered hammock is a great option for quick, ready made shelter that is easy to pack. | Source


Cover is basically another word for shelter and it has many forms.

Clothing - Your clothing is your first level of cover. Keep clothing rotated according to season for maximum effectiveness against the elements.

Hammocks - Covered hammocks are a good way to keep you high and dry at night and can be folded up small enough to not take up too much room in a pack.

Tents - An easy to put together, ultralight tent is a cover option that may be a little too big to pack in your bug out bag, but might not be a bad idea to keep with your bag.

Tarp - A tarp can be manipulated into a shelter with use of some rope or twine and something firm to anchor to. They can also be used as containers for collecting things like edibles. A small tarp will easily fit in the bottom of or strap easily to a good all around pack,


Containers are important tools used to store things at your shelter, in your pack, and help you perform tasks like cooking and boiling water. Your bug out bag itself is a container and within it, your preps and supplies are most conveniently categorized by usage into smaller, separate containers.

Zip Top Bags - A good addition to a survival kit of any kind because they are versatile and reusable to a degree. They are helpful in storing important documents, collecting wild edibles, keeping fire materials and tools dry, and helping organize your pack.

Cloth Containers - Shoulder bags, fanny packs, stuff sacks, possibles pouches, magazine pouches, and drawstring totes would all be possible additions to a bug out bag. Cloth containers are good choices for organizing its contents into smaller, task oriented kits.

Metal Containers - Light metal containers are priceless items to have when it comes to cooking food and disinfecting water. A canteen, pot or pan with a lid, and a cup or metal water bottle (not vacuum insulated) are about all you want to pack though if you are walking and carrying your pack. Metal adds weight fast.

Plastic Containers - Water jugs, small plastic cups, drink/water bottles, and storage containers are good items to pack. Be sure they never housed any poisonous chemicals or toxins before use though.

Every container that you pack is multipurpose. Choose containers from the most durable materials you can find and afford.


Cordage and rope are very time consuming tools to try to reproduce in an emergency.

Thread - Thread could be needed to make repairs on gear, clothing, or yourself. I suggest packing a few yards of waxed nylon thread for repairs on heavy duty materials like jeans and leather. I'd also pack a few small spools regular polyester sewing thread for repairing shirts and other lighter duty materials.

Fishing Line - The obvious use aside, fishing line is about as multi purpose as a tool can get. Higher pound test Dacron lines can be twisted to make bow strings and construct shelters. Lower weight fishing lines can be used for repairs on gear.

Nylon Twine - Nylon is a man made material that is very durable. I suggest adding #36 tarred nylon twine, or bank line to your preps because it is capable of holding over 300 pounds, and the tar helps knots to bite in a little better.

Paracord or 550 Cord - 550 cord is another form of nylon cordage that is composed of 2 parts: an outer shell that wraps around 7 inner strands of nylon. It can be broken down to gain more cordage where needed, or used whole as a rope.

Rope - It is suggested by quite a few people I have listened to or read over the years that 100 feet of heavy duty rope is a good addition to a bug out bag. Braided poly or polyester ropes are water and rot resistant and strong enough to repel heavy items, and bodies down steep inclines.

Be Able to Find Your Way in the Dark


You could end up in a situation where you have to travel or pack and unpack gear at night. To be able to perform these tasks effectively and safely you will need a light.

Flashlights - Always have a flashlight and spare batteries handy. They can help you navigate the in the dark and be used for self defense or signaling.

Candles - Candles can be used to heat small amounts of food or water, and the melted wax can be used along with fire making materials to get a fire going when its wet.

Lanterns - Fuel lanterns are nice because they can also be used to cook, but they require fuel which can get heavy and dangerous.

Electric Lanterns - High quality LED lanterns are an inexpensive and easy addition to your survival bag. They do require batteries unless you buy a hand crank, or solar charged version. It isn't uncommon to find hands free LED electric and emergency lanterns of fair quality at $1.00 and $.98 stores. This makes them a very economic prep.

Cotton Bandana

A cotton bandana or a yard of cotton cloth would be nice to have when performing a lot of tasks in an emergency. Pieces can be cut off to mark trails, used to make fires, dress wounds, or help dress a hook up as a makeshift fly to catch fish. Or the bandana could be used whole to filter water, collect edibles, fashion into a dip net for catching animals in the water, or even could be used as a bandana to keep the sun off of your head.

Cargo Tape

Cargo Tape - Also known as duct tape, ordinance tape, 100 mph tape, and mechanic's Band Aid. Cargo tape will prove itself a valuable addition to the emergency kit over and over again. It is combustible and useful in fixing things such as traps and snares in place. When a tool or container is in need of repairs, cargo tape can provide a suitable temporary mend to get the job done. It can also be used along with clean bandages to hold wound dressings in place.


It doesn't matter if you are lost, or you need to travel, a compass and a map are going to be valuable additions to your B.O.B. This is also one of the few pieces of kit that you really need to spend extra time learning how to use without failure. Ending up heading the wrong way can be devastating to morality. Ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a lot worse.

Canvas Needle

A good, sturdy needle that is capable of going through materials like denim, leather, and canvas is a good addition to any survival kit.

Not a "C"

If you were to use the 10 C's of Survivability to build this last item or set of items you wouldn't have a problem. However, there is 1 item that I suggest you purchase or make solely for the purpose of having it as its own part of your bug out bag. Spare no expense on your First Aid kit:

- Gauze

- Prescriptions

- Bandages

- Pain Reliever

- Cold Medicine

- .....Etc.

Pack it all in its own container with no other kits and in an easy to get to section of your bag, especially away from where you are storing your food. This will reduce any questionable incidents or cross contamination.

Do You?

Do you own a bug out bag?

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Be Safe

No matter what you choose to put into your bug out bag, emergency pack, go bag, or whatever you choose to call it, I hope you can take something from this to apply to your future safety and well being.

By applying the 10 C's of Survivability to your budget and planning when filling your own pack you can create virtually anything you need with the items you already have over and over again indefinitely.

The purpose of creating a bug out bag is to have items at hand to survive by having and/or being able to make whatever you need.

I think the 2 fit together quite nicely


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    • StreamandField profile imageAUTHOR


      14 months ago from Indiana, PA

      I agree. From a standpoint of someone who has others in their care, this would be a very basic and inadequate bag. Thank you for pointing that out.

    • ptosis profile image


      14 months ago from Arizona

      Before preppers there was a BOB - for women, stashed at a friend's house in case had to leave because the husband is an abuser and don't have time to pack due to a ongoing fight and they are in fear for their lives. Gotta bring the kids so the BOB is mostly kid's stuff.

      You have zero kid stuff in your BOB. Perhaps all the kids should each have their own BOB. Seems like preppers are prepping for "Every man for himself" days and fck everybody else who gets in their way.

      I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity, so yeah, if single with no kids to tie yourself down with then your BOB is useful.


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