As mentioned previously, no BOB is "one-size-fits-all", but there are certain items that should be included in every Bug Out Bag.
The "3 F's"
- Fire - You should have at least 3 methods of starting a fire included in each of your BOB's. I carry a simple lighter, waterproof matches and a magnesium fire starter in each of mine. In addition to the flame itself, I also carry tinder. Depending on the size of the bag, tinder can be anything from dryer lint mixed with a little wax to fast food straws (I find McDonald's work best!) stuffed with Vaseline-soaked cotton. Some folks have a separate tin to carry Vaseline-soaked cotton balls in as they work great for getting even wet wood to catch fire.
- First Aid - No BOB is complete without first aid items. The size of the BOB will dictate how large your first aid kit is, but every kit should contain a 4x4 bandage, miscellaneous adhesive bandages, alcohol wipes, anti-bacterial ointment, aspirin/ibuprofen and first aid tape. Larger BOB's should contain these, as well as items such as scissors, rolled bandages and additional gauze pads and bandages. It would also be smart to carry a basic surgical kit with your BOB, but it would be equally important to know how to use the items properly, as well.
- Fishing - If you live in a state like Colorado, fishing opportunities abound, especially in the most remote, bug out friendly areas. I keep several hooks, sinkers, and plenty of fishing line in each of my BOB's. They are light weight, easy to carry, take up very little space and would come in very handy for an immediate source of food in a number of bug out scenarios.
There is some debate on whether or not to include food in your bug out bag. Personally, I think it is wise to have enough food items to last at least 3 days in a survival situation. This food does not have to be fancy - dehydrated, camp style foods are the best, although cans of tuna and spam can add taste to any dehydrated noodle or meal, and add a negligible amount of weight to your BOB. Having at least a 3 day supply will allow you a little time to get your shelter put up and other priorities addressed, while still providing enough time to get traps, snares and other alternative food sources set up. Great, light weight items to include are beef jerky sticks, granola bars and trail mix type foods.
Again, there is much debate in the bug out community on what to carry when it comes to water. The general rule is one gallon per person per day, but let's face it: water is heavy. Nonetheless, everybody needs water to survive, so you will need to address water with your BOB as well. Any time I bug out into the wilderness, I carry at least one canteen of water, if not a couple. More importantly, however, I also carry means of purifying water I find along the trail, in the form of inexpensive and light weight water purification tablets (available at Wal Mart or any outdoor outfitter, or on Amazon.com). It is also smart to carry a "LifeStraw", an amazing invention that will provide you with safe drinking water in a number of situations. Of course, a fire-safe container that water can be boiled in is also good to have in your BOB.
With the proper tools, you can make a shelter out of just about anything. Still, it is a good idea to carry at least one type, if not several types, of materials to assist in your shelter making endeavors. I carry an emergency blanket in my EDC, which can be fashioned into a number of different shelters. Nothing fancy, of course, but enough to keep the rain or sun off me when necessary. A tarp is light weight and can be carried on the outside of your BOB. Even the smallest tarps can be turned into some more sturdy, almost tent-like shelter. Of course, tents are being made extremely light weight and easy to carry these days, and should be considered at least for your vehicle BOB.
I remember when the multi-tools first came on the market. They were rather prestigious, actually, and broke my bank to even think about. Fortunately, they have become quite commonplace anymore, and more importantly, more cost effective. I have several styles and brands, from a miniature Cabela's multi-tool to a couple larger styles. I have used these tools in everything from building bushcraft shelters to vehicle repairs and just for general wood carving/whittling. Every BOB needs at least one multi-tool.
Duct Tape/Zip Ties
When it comes to versatility, nothing will beat Duct Tape. Tent repairs, shelters, snares and traps, emergency bandages and so much more can be had with just a few feet of it. I keep several feet wrapped around things like water bottle, flashlights and pill bottles. The nice part is that it can be wrapped around a number of items that are already in your BOB, so you can carry more of it and it won't add any major weight to your BOB. Likewise, zip ties can be used in a number of ways in a bug out scenarios - from holding together sticks for a cooking tripod to securing the corners/sides of a makeshift shelter - zip ties should be considered a basic for every BOB.
I carry multiple forms of lighting, including a headlight (MUST HAVE!) and a couple sizes of flashlights. Of course, these require batteries to power them, so you'll want to carry at least a couple changes of batteries as well. The best flashlights are those based on LED technology. The LED lights use less energy, helping the batteries to last longer, too, so you won't need to have all that many extra batteries. I also carry larger lanterns, both gas and battery powered, in my vehicle, along with fuel and extra batteries to power them.
550 Paracord is indispensable and a must carry in every BOB. You'll be amazed at what a 50' length of paracord can mean in a bug out situation. From tying down shelters and securing items to use as fishing line, the amount of cordage you'll have will undoubtedly come in handy. The best part? It's compact and light weight, and can be made into fashionable bracelets that can be worn on a daily basis, just in case!
I'm sure the case can be made for other "basics" as well. Again, no BOB is "one-size-fits-all", and each should be customized to fit your needs and location.
NEXT UPDATE: BUILDING A BUDGET BUG OUT BAG - Stay tuned!