what is a bug-out bag and what can you do with it

While major disasters and various survival scenarios may seem farfetched to a lot of people, like something that can’t possibly happen to them, there’s plenty of things that can go wrong in an urban environment that would require us to be ready to pack up and leave for several days. Things like floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, home fires and riots are not exactly uncommon occurrences, and such situations may require a quick evacuation. This is where a bug-out-bag comes into play.

The Definition of a Bug-Out-Bag

It is a simple light bag with enough food, water and other essential items that would enable a person get by for several days. It’s a bag that sits in a corner until an emergency, and can be quickly grabbed as you make your escape.

Unlike a larger survival bag, packed with plenty of items that would allow for a prolonged stay in the wilderness, a bug-out-bag is medium-sized and packed fairly light, but can still provide the basic items needed for wilderness survival, provided that the user has enough bushcraft skills to create most of the items he needs out in the field and hunt for food.

All in all, it will cover most urban disaster situations, big or small, keeping you safe and relatively comfortable for the next 72 hours, until you can get help and access to shelter and food.

Getting the Right Bag

Although the bag will likely be sitting in a corner near the door most of the time, if the need for it ever arises, it needs to be able to withstand some rigorous use and plenty of wear and tear. A sturdy medium-size canvas backpack will do the trick, although a good waterproof military style backpack with additional pockets, the kind you would use for long hiking trips, is a great option if you live in a more rural area and you may be stranded for longer periods of time without outside help.

Packing the Essentials

The basics you need to survive are:

  • Core temperature control
  • Hydration
  • Food
  • First aid
  • Lighting

Of course, you also want to have as much comfort as you can, not just the bare essentials to get by, so we have to factor in additional things like:

  • Hygiene
  • Entertainment

You don’t need a whole lot of items, but you should make sure to cover all the basic areas mentioned above. Here is a list of items you absolutely must have in your bug-out-bag, and you may add other items if there is enough room left: 

  • Several fire-starting tools – a lighter, ferrocerium rod with metal striker and some steel wool
  • Medium to Large waterproof tarp
  • Blanket – wool is the preferred material, and you can go for a thicker one
  • Decent lightweight sleeping bag
  • A good length of paracord
  • Water – at least 2 liters a day per person, so around 5-6 liters for 3 days
  • Small metal container and water purification tablets – in case you run out of water
  • Food – protein bars, canned food, smoked meat and dried fruit are good options
  • First aid kit – some essentials to stop the bleeding, deal with bug bites and burns, antiseptics, antibiotics, painkillers, as well as indigestion and diarrhea medicine
  • A 4-6 inch full tang knife
  • A good multi tool
  • Quality compact LED flashlight
  • Small hygiene kit – wet wipes, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, small rag, chap stick and some sunscreen for the summer
  • Some form of entertainment – a small notebook and a few pens, a deck of cards, a couple of small paperback books, or anything else that is lightweight but can provide a fun way to kill time
  • Extra socks and underwear – if you have some free space, pack up a couple of extra pairs of socks and underpants to keep your feet warm and feel relatively fresh

You can find all these items with relative ease and for a reasonable price. Be sure to also have appropriate clothes ready for you to slip in quickly, sitting by the exit in a drawer or a simple cotton laundry bag. Depending on the season, these can include: good hiking boots, long compression underwear, comfortable cargo pants, warm windproof jacket, long sleeved shirt and short sleeve t-shirt, hat and gloves.

Everyone can afford to have a simple, yet effective bug out bag sitting near an exit, and some good hiking clothes sitting inconspicuously on the rack or in a laundry bag. It won’t cost much to set up, and it can’t hurt to have an effective exit and survival strategy for disaster situations.