Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bug Out Bag Essentials - Basics to Include in Every BOB

Survival Basics

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 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.


Bug Out Bag 101


There are a number of reasons to have a bug out bag and a decent emergency preparedness plan, the least of which is simple: peace of mind. In today's world, a number of issues could arise in the course of everyday life that would necessitate a bug out bag. These include, but are not limited to:

• Personal emergencies - I remember getting the call early one morning. My grandfather, who was battling stage 4 cancer for a number of months, was being
rushed to the hospital, and the chances of him improving enough to go home were extremely small. In fact, according to the family member who called me, it
appeared this would be the last trip, and I needed to get there soon if I was to see him alive one last time. My biggest obstacle was the 8 hour drive from New Mexico to Colorado, and the last thing I needed was the added time it would take to pack for the ride. I hung up the phone, grabbed my bug out bag and headed out.

• Disaster, natural or otherwise - A little over a year prior to this writing, a construction project in a residential neighborhood right here in my hometown led to a natural gas explosion. Fortunately, there were no major injuries, and the main devastation was limited to the destruction of just one house. Nonetheless, the surrounding homes for quite a few blocks were evacuated for safety, until it could be determined that the situation was safe enough for folks to return to their homes. This meant hundreds of families were forced to be away from home for up to a week, and some for longer.

• 2012 and 2013 were rough years for eastern Colorado. During that time,
thousands of people were affected by a series of devastating forest fires, followed
by some of the worst flooding to hit the region. As a result, thousands of people
were displaced, with many of those losing everything but the shirts on their
backs. In situations like this,, having a grab and go bag ready would greatly
reduce the headaches that come with starting over.

• In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and points across Louisiana.
According to survivors, some areas went 6 days without any kind of government
response. On top of the storm itself, residents were left to their own devices in
order to survive for up to and in some cases, more than a week. Even after help
arrived, survivors were left without major services such as running water and
fresh food for months after.

Being prepared for any given emergency or unforeseen disaster is just plain smart. The
biggest problem is that many people don’t know where to start or how to begin preparing.
I hope this guide will answer the questions you have, and spur you into taking the steps
you need to take to make sure you and your family remain safe and secure in the face of

What Is a "Bug Out Bag"?

Anytime I mention having a "Bug Out Bag" to someone less informed, the reaction is usually the same: "Oh, you mean in case of the Zombie Apocalypse?" The truth is, there are many different types, styles and sizes of the "BOB".

The "GOOD" Bag

"GOOD", or "Get Out Of Dodge" - this type can be for survival purposes and contain all the essential survival basics, or it can be just what it says - Get out of Dodge type stuff (munchies, extra change(s) of clothes, etc.) that would normally be used for a quick weekend/day trip for general relaxation. In my experience, the GOOD Bag comes in handy when you know where you are headed and do not expect too many inconveniences along the way. This is best used in situations where you will only be gone a day or two, and will usually have hotel or other such plans for accommodations while you are gone.

The "Hospital Go Bag"

Pregnant women across America have used a form of the BOB for many years: The Hospital Go Bag. This bag contains the items that mom and baby are likely to need during the hospital stay, as well as items that will be necessary/useful when bringing baby home. Some items might include an extra change of comfy clothes for mom, as well as bottles, formula and supplies, etc.

The "Every Day Carry" (EDC) Bag
The author's "EDC" - a handmade, black leather
pouch worn on the belt.

The EDC is a smaller pack, usually belt carried, and contains only essential items for survival in the worst of conditions. This is also known as a "Get Home" Bag, and is a temporary solution until you can get home to your bigger, well stocked bag. Items included in the EDC are things like waterproof matches, pocket knife, a couple band aids/bandages, aspirin and perhaps some fishing items such as hooks, line and sinkers. The EDC I carry also includes an emergency blanket for shelter purposes.

The Genuine "Bug Out/Survival" Bag

This one is for the Zombie Apocalypse, or any other natural or man-made disaster or emergency. The true BOB will usually contain enough supplies, including some camp style dehydrated food, water purification, multiple forms of shelter and fire creation and other items you could expect to use during a bug out scenario lasting 3 or more days. It generally will also contain things that will assist you in maintaining survival for extended periods, such as shelter building tools, ammunition, and potential trading items (a little silver, gold, tobacco, etc.).

Things To Consider When Building Your Bug Out Bag


As mentioned previously, having a BOB on hand gives the survivor peace of mind. In
any emergency, the adrenaline gets pumping, judgment gets clouded and spur of the
moment decisions are usually the norm. Knowing that you have your bases covered
ahead of time give you the confidence to know that whatever is thrown at you, chances
are that you will be prepared to deal with them properly. The best part of having a BOB is knowing that you are ready and able to immediately respond to a number of disasters or emergencies, and that will go a long way in helping you maintain a positive attitude even in the darkest of situations.


Let's face it: in today's economy, it's hard enough for most of us to survive daily life, much less prepare for a major disaster or emergency. Some of us will need to consider our budget when building our BOB's. This is no reason to not build a bag. In the coming articles, you'll see how easy it is to spend a few dollars every payday, and still come up with quite the complete bug out bag. To begin with, building a better bug out bag can be done on as little as $10 a payday. Keep reading to find out how.

Personal Needs

Bug out bags are NOT one-size-fits-all. There are basics that every BOB will need, however, you want to make sure that you are carrying things that YOU need as well. Some things to keep in mind are medical, dietary and regional/geographic considerations (you probably won't carry snow shoes with your BOB if you plan on bugging out into the desert). Other things to keep in mind include addictions. If you are a smoker, access to cigarettes will become a major issue in the event of a complete "SHTF" scenario. Having a stash of tobacco and papers would be a major relief to many. Even if you don't smoke, having some on hand could come in handy for trading for food or other items you may need.

Be Redundant

Being ready for a bug out situation means having multiple forms of your preparations. This includes keeping some basics in your home and vehicles as well. Indeed, redundancy should also translate to each of your bags or packs - have multiple forms of fire starting, shelter and other basics.