This list of essential survival items is sure to help you create the best bag for your needs (or to add to your existing bag). Either way, this list will give you the right mindset for bugging out – no matter what life throws at you down the line.
Keep in mind, this is not a comprehensive list, but it is an excellent starting point for new preppers and a great reminder of the basics for any survivalist.
The Essential Bug Out Bag List
1 – Hydration
Hydration is absolutely essential for survival. Prepare to have at least one liter/day for each person. This can be carried/used with strong, durable water bottles/canteens. We like collapsible ones that conserve space in your bag.
Whether it’s a garbage bag or a tent, you’re going to need something to protect you from the changing weather (and to keep you warm during every season). Sleeping bags and wool blankets are also very handy for this.
Tip: Invest in hand warmers – you can buy these after hunting season is over (you’ll save money and be thankful later – just make sure to rotate them every couple years).
This one is obvious – however, you’ll need the right type of food that lasts the longest. We recommend non-perishable items (try for a majority of items that don’t need water, since you might not have sanitary water in a SHTF situation).
Examples include: protein bars, dehydrated foods, and canned items.
You don’t necessarily have to lug around the fine china, but you should have some cookware in your bug out bag.
We recommend metal cookware/silverware, since they last longer and are more resistant to heat (sporks, can openers, a portable stove and extra stove fuel are equally handy).
You’ll need to make sure you have multiple ways to start a fire, no matter what the situation. Think about it – if you only prepare for one source of heat, and that source fails you…you’re up a creek without a paddle.
We recommend having at least 3 tools to effectively start a fire – these could include tinder, a lighter and a portable stove.
Tip: Bring waterproof storage for these.
It is critical that you include all prescription medications needed for yourself and loved ones in your bug out bag. You also need to make sure you have a solid first aid kit, packed with a variety of bandages, gauze, gloves, etc.
This is one of the most important items in your bag, and could save a life (or multiple) down the road – so make sure you have a good one.
7 – Protect Yourself
Whether you’re a gun nut or not, you need to have at least some sort of weapon that will effectively protect you in a SHTF situation. If you are going for a gun, keep in mind, lugging around several hundred rounds of ammo can get heavy and take up valuable space in your bag.
We recommend a handgun or takedown rifle (but still bring extra ammunition).
If you’re not going the gun route (or you need more ideas), we recommend items like a quarterstaff (research it – it looks like a walking stick but can pack quite a blow), and pepper spray.
8 – Clothes – Extras Are Your Friend
Regardless of the weather right now, it’s smart to pack layers in your bag. It may also be helpful to pack warmer clothes during the winter months, and swap out lighter clothes in the spring.
In addition, make sure to pack an extra set of each type of clothing you’re bringing (jeans, etc.) This is for if, God forbid, your first set gets wet. Wet clothes + no backup = potential hypothermia.
We recommend: lightweight short/long sleeve shirts, rain jackets, plenty of underwear and wool socks, brimmed hats and zip-off pants.
9 – Survival Tools
Tools are great, especially practical, lightweight ones (you want to make sure you conserve weight, as well as space). This is why bringing two or three tools that have multiple uses is a smart way to pack. Consider: a pocketknife, a machete, a survival knife and a multi-tool.
Portable lighting just might save your life. Keep in mind it’s important to bring spares of these, just in case you lose it or it fails. Suggestions: headlamps, LED keychains, and squeeze lights.
11 – Communication
Don’t solely depend on a cell phone in a SHTF situation – especially since cell service/internet can be spotty or even nonexistent in many areas.
Because of this, we’d prefer you go with some high-end walkie talkies (along with spare batteries). These will help keep you in touch with others in your group and are more reliable than cell service.
Just because you’re in a crisis doesn’t mean you should abandon hygiene altogether. Continuing normal hygiene practices as best you can will help keep you healthy and will make the situation far more bearable for yourself (and others).
Items can include (but are not limited to): toilet paper, travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste, travel deodorant, travel shampoo/conditioner, hand sanitizer, small mirror, and wet napkins.
13 – E-Book
Though this device might seem illogical, it’s actually just as important as the other essentials on this list (if you use it correctly).
Purchase a cheaper one without a backlight (these will last days longer than those with a lit-up screen) and download as many survival manuals, e-docs, e-books, etc. as you can.
Not only will this provide hours of entertainment (making the situation more bearable) but it will also help teach you and your group life-saving skills on a variety of topics.
The more you know, the better you can survive. Just don’t forget the extra batteries!
14 – Cell Phone
I know, I just talked about spotty cell service and not being dependent on your phone. But there’s a good chance you didn’t know that your cell phone can still save your life, even without service.
There are lots of emergency apps you can add to your cell phone now, and with them you can access flashlights, first aid manuals, area maps, and other important materials, even without service. Prepare now and start downloading these today.
15 – Miscellaneous
We didn’t stick these in any particular category, but they’re still very important for your bug out bag list:
- Money (cash and gold/silver, especially for bartering)
- Maps of the area
- Very loud whistle (or multiple for a group)
- Phone charger (just in case)
- Insect repellant
- Extra batteries
- Duct tape
- Sewing kit
Though these are all very important items to carry in your bug out bag, there’s one item I really want to bring to your attention….and that’s our Emergency Survival Sleeping Bag.
I’ll tell you why – though these might look strange (and feel like you’re sleeping in a roll of aluminum foil) these have a TON of surprising uses, such as a signal mirror, bait for fish, a quick way to dry your clothes, ground cover, and gathering water.
Plus, because they’re meant to be slept in, the geniuses who came up with this product (they were originally designed by NASA) made it out of a reflective material that helps you retain as much as 90% of your body heat, keeping you warm despite the weather.
Here’s a video providing a visual of these cool things (different brand, same great product):
This is one of the coolest (and most popular!) items we sell at Survival Frog – one of the reasons being it’s so dang cheap! NOT cheaply made, mind you, but absolutely affordable (less than the cost of a few lattes at your local coffee shop).
We believe the better you’re prepared, the better your chances at survival, and I don’t see how you can feel prepared for a SHTF situation without one of these.