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The Pilot’s Get Out of Dodge Bag

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


If you drive a truck, it is easy to throw a large bag or backpack in the tool box to keep you going when you need to hit the road or move to the trail. If you drive a standard sedan, a get out of dodge bag can be situated in the trunk or behind a passenger seat.

Pilots are much more likely to need the supplies in a get out of dodge bag if forced to land early due to weather or technical difficulties or get stranded at a remote airport where they didn't plan to stay. Yet they face greater constraints on space and weight. Furthermore, they need to carry the tools and critical parts to make basic repairs so that they have a chance of safely communicating with the outside world and maybe even getting to their desired destination.

What do pilots need for their go bag? What should pilots pack in a get out of dodge bag?

Ham radio equipment has a distinct advantage over a cell phone if stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Ham radio equipment has a distinct advantage over a cell phone if stranded in the middle of nowhere. | Source

Recommended Resource

Pilots can get guidance on how to pack a Get out of Dodge bag or GO bag from the pamphlet “Land Survival: Are You Prepared?” It is document number FAA-P-8740-59 AFS-803 (1999)” It is often available at your local Flight Standards District Offices or FSDO.

How Is This List Different from the FAA's Guidance on a Go Bag?

There is at least one major piece of common bad advice in the pamphlet mentioned above. Given that, there is a lot of very good information in it or it wouldn’t have been recommended here.

Many items on this list are included in “Land Survival: Are You Prepared?” but this article contains more recommended items for a pilot's go bag as well as specific recommendations for different categories of items.

As is always true, this advice is a set of guidelines and you need to evaluate each item for relevance and necessity. This list is a basic shopping list for those building a go bag, but add tools, supplies and other items as you see fit.

Pack food that won't go bad if it sits in the plane's back seat for a year.
Pack food that won't go bad if it sits in the plane's back seat for a year.

What Pilots Most Likely Should Pack for Their Go Bags

The purpose of this go bag packing list is to give you everything you need during a callout, since it is highly likely that nothing you need will be available where you end up. What items should you pack as a minimum for your go bag?

  • High energy and high fiber snacks

Anyone who plans on hunting off the land while stranded or living off the land finds they desperately need fiber. High energy and high calorie foods are denser and thus take up less space than other foods. Furthermore, these snacks need to be suitable for being left in a plane during temperature swings, so that you don’t have to worry about it going bad if you leave it in the plane between trips.

  • Sore throat lozenges
  • A supply of prescription drugs you need to keep going
  • An extensive first aid kit.

Pilots need more than the small kit for handling an upset stomach or minor cuts, such as having supplies for broken bones and handling burns.

  • Log book, paper, pencils and pens.
  • 3 day change of clothes

This should include underwear, outerwear and shoes.

  • 3 day supply of MREs or ration bars

This is separate from the snacks you may eat while flying or stuck in the hanger waiting for a mechanic.

  • 3 day supply of water

You need a minimum of 1.5 gallons per day, per person who regularly flies with you.

  • A flashlight with extra batteries

You can supplement this with a solar charged flashlight or manually powered flashlight, but you never want to be in desperate need of light but need to pump the handle for five minutes.

  • Candles or glow sticks, water proof matches, flint and steel or lighter

You want a method of providing constant light at night, like the candles or glow sticks. You need a fast, relatively foolproof method of starting a fire in an emergency, whether for warmth or cooking food if stuck in the middle of nowhere.

  • Electrical and duct tape

This can be used for a surprising number of survival uses, in addition to making repairs.

  • Safety glasses and ear plugs
  • Message forms like FSD 244 if you are a ham radio operator
  • Headphones
  • RF connectors, patch cords, extra coaxial cable, an SWR bridge, ARRL standardized connectors (Molex 1545) and extra antennas with mounts so you can communicate with the outside world.
  • A standard tool box with hand tools plus a soldering iron, extra solder wire, shovel

The shovel can be used to dig a hole for sanitation, bury the dead or move snow or sand around the plane.

  • Shelter/sleeping bag

You should have either a sleeping bag you can use in any season or a tent, if not both. This is an either/or due to space and weight constraints.

  • Toilet articles

You need soap, a tooth brush, tooth paste and other essential toiletries in case you are stranded or forced to travel on foot. You should consider the bathing wipes used in nursing homes that let you get clean by wiping down with the wipes, letting you get clean without using up precious water.

Optional Items

You can consider packing the following items as space, weight and budgetary constraints allow.

  • Lifestraw or other small portable water filter

Do not pack a water filter in lieu of water stores, since you cannot be certain that water is available nearby when you’re stranded.

  • Generator

Whether this is an electric generator or a roll out solar panel array to power a cell phone or recharge a flashlight depends on your budget and space constraints.


Each item of your “Go” bag needs to be reviewed by those with experience in the area of the emergencies you have designed the “GO” bag to meet.

You are the person who will bear the consequences of your choices so you make the final selection.


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