14 Things Needed for a Survival Bug-Out Bag

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A survival or bug-out bag is an interesting term used to denote a bag that contains at least 72 hours of survival items. What’s in your bag will depend on your specific needs. Whether you’re preparing for a disaster, going for a campout, or out for a long hike, you’ll want to be ready. You never know when you’ll want, or need, to grab your bag and get the heck out of Dodge, so to speak.

No matter what else you pack, certain items are necessary in your bug-out bag. Here is a list to start you off.

A Good Pack or Bag

A good survival or bug-out bag is an important place to start. This should be your first purchase so you will know what amount of supplies it will hold. The size of bag you buy will depend upon who will be carrying it: a larger adult pack vs a smaller child’s one. Whichever you choose, your bug-out bag needs to be able to hold up under the amount of weight you will carry without coming apart at the seams or ripping elsewhere. You will also need one that is waterproof and has several pockets for you to quickly locate the items you need. It is advisable to consider a bag that also has outside straps for carrying a light-weight bedroll.

Plenty of Water

Clean water should be number one in your survival bug-out bag. It is a known fact that humans cannot go without water for more than about 3 days, making water an especially important item to remember. One gallon per person per day is the recommended guideline for water necessary for human survival. So if you need, say enough for 2 people for the recommended 72 hours, you will need to bring along 6 gallons of water. Also remember to bring extra for hydrating dried foods, any accompanying pets, and the occasional bath.

Food for Survival

Even though you may be able to last a few days longer without food than water, who wants to go without it.

There are two main ways to pack your food for the lightest weight in your backpack or survival bug-out bag. Both include re-hydrating your food before consuming it.

First, preparing your own dehydrated meals, although time-consuming, can be fun. To seal your food into airtight bags, use of a freeze dryer works best. And there are several good books on dehydrating and preparing your own food.

Ready to eat? You begin by slicing across the top of the bag and adding boiling water. Make sure to stir your food and then let stand in the bag for about 10 minutes before serving.

Secondly, you can purchase pre-packaged dehydrated meals to place into your bug-out bag. You will find several different companies online with a wide variety of items that are sure to please most anyone’s taste buds. Each pouch will have its own instructions on how much boiling water to add and the correct amount of time to leave the food in their bags before the eating begins.

Remember to include enough meals for the predicted length and people you will be dealing with. In any case, 3 days’ worth at the very least.

Cookware for Campfires and Stoves

If you decide to bring along items (or plan to fish, hunt, or forage) that need to be cooked over an open fire or on your propane cook stove, or heat up that hot water, you will need to have a kit for that. I recommend a lightweight set such as the Gutsdoor Camping Cookware Set. It has all the things you’ll need for cooking plus and fits nicely together in a compact form within a drawstring bag for easy transport.

A Reliable Flashlight

A strong, reliable flashlight, including batteries, is a must in any bug-out bag. Whether you need to light your way to the portable toilet, find something in your tent, or defend yourself when in danger, this will come in handy every time. Tip: Until needed, store batteries, plus extras, in a baggie to keep them from corroding the inside of your flashlight if not used for a long time.

Survival Water Filters

In case the unthinkable happens and you run out of water, you’ll want to add one or two water filters to your bug-out bag. These filters will help provide you with clean water when used on any nearby water source. Remember to save your empty water bottles so you can refill them with the cleaned water you get from the filter. You can purchase these water filters at most outdoor supply stores as well as on the internet.

Survival Knives

A good quality knife, along with a sharpener, is one of your best friends in any outdoor situation. It is key to surviving. You can not only use your knife for preparing meals, but it also comes in handy for removing bark, starting a campfire, shredding makeshift bandages, cutting a rope, protection, and a variety of other things. You might even pack a few extra survival knives to share with your fellow survivalists.

A Tarp or Two

You will probably have a few small, light-weight tents next to your bug-out bag. However, a good tarp placed in your bag will be a great asset to have. A tarp is a good item to spread out under or over your tent in case of inclement weather. It can be used to wrap dry firewood, placed under a sleeping bag, hung in a tree to secure your garbage bags away from hungry animals, or used as a shelter itself. You will likely find several more uses for your tarp.

A Loud Whistle

An emergency whistle hung on the outside of your bug-out bag is an important part of your survival. You will want to purchase a very loud sounding whistle with a strap you can also place around your neck. If an emergency arises, such as you find yourself lost or are worried about wild animals, blow as hard as you can and keep on doing so at intervals until help arrives.

Survival First Aid Kit

You never know when an emergency will arise. Don’t forget to pack a waterproof first aid kit. This kit should at least contain gauze, surgical tape, band-aids, antiseptic ointment, scissors, matches, tweezers, cotton swabs. Also thermal pads, small mirror, disposable gloves, face masks, pain killers, snake bite kit, and anti-itch cream. And don’t forget to remind yourself and others, bring along any medications you take on a regular basis. You should consider attending a first aid survival course, whether in person or online, then pack a first aid manual in case an emergency arises and you can’t remember what to do.

A Good Compass

A good compass is always an essential part of any bug-out bag.  Even if you think you know the area like the back of your hand, you may still get your bearings mixed up. In an emergency, say a fire for example, you most likely will need to run from its flames, thus losing your sense of direction in all the smoke and confusion. A good compass can sort things out for you when getting to safety. You may say, “I have a cell phone so why have a compass?” Ask yourself this question, “What if the cell towers are down or I no longer have service?” A compass is a great backup plan.

Lightweight Cording

Carrying a strong, but lightweight cord in your bug-out bag is another important item to include. Find one that is preferably made of strong nylon as this will be of lighter weight and easier to carry in your bug-out bag or pack. You can use cording to hold up your tarp between trees for shelter, tying items together, having party members hold onto during adverse conditions, or in rescue situations. You will most likely discover many helpful uses for this cording.

A Fire Starter

Don’t forget to purchase a good fire starter for your bug-out bag. These consist of a ferro rod and striker that will send an array of sparks to start your cooking/campfire. It can help you from depleting your supply of matches or if you already used them up. Used with a bit of tinder: dry pine needles, slivers of wood, drier lint (you surely have a baggie of this), pocket lint, a shaved branch, or some fire starting cubes, and voilὰ, you’ve got your fire started. Then don’t forget to add something like small branches to keep it from going out.


And don’t forget to carry some cash in your bag in small denominations. It’s always a good idea!

Take Action Now

Before you do another thing, purchase or make yourself a good survival bug-out bag. Do this BEFORE you need it. You’ll be glad you did. Did you know that the military instructs their soldiers to have one of these bags? They are ready in case they need to bug-out.



Survival has been a necessity ever since the world began and has continually built upon itself. However, few could pull out of their hats the skills to survive if, and when, called upon to do so. With all that is going on in today's world, this knowledge is an important tool, one that each of us needs to hone. This is why I founded this site.

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