Bug-Out Bags

by Wendell

Bug-out bags contain items necessary in the event a quick getaway is needed due to some unforeseen event. Catastrophic events can necessitate a focus on disaster survival.

Wildfires, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, massive biological hazards and unconfined viruses can quickly upset our serene lifestyle. In the event one of these events impacts the area around where we live, are we prepared to move out quickly?

A Bug-Out Bag - What Is It?

Crisis management includes preparing your getaway

bug-out bag, also known as BOB, is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster. It is also known as a 72-hour kit, a grab bag, a battle box, and other popular names include "Personal Emergency Relocation Kits" (PERKs) GO Bag and GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) bag. source: Wikipedia

The terminology "bug-out bag" is probably related to the "bail-out bag" of military aviators.  If the pilot or crew were forced to abandon their aircraft it would be necessary for them to survive until their rescue could be secured.  The bail-out bag needed to contain everything they would need to sustain themselves for an unknown period of time.

Perhaps the first encounter you have faced with a bug-out bag is the bag an expectant mother had ready and waiting for the time when she would need to go to the hospital for the birth of her child.

It should be stressed that Get Out Of Dodge Bag (GOOD Bag) is not designed to be a long term survival bag.  Rather, it is designed to contain all items needed for a quick evacuation of an area until arrangements for a return or an alternate plan can be put into place.

The 72 Hour Bag

Why 72 Hours?

Pack your bags!  For how long of a period of time should we pack?

Most emergency management organizations recommend provisions for at least 72 hours.  This is based upon historical records that it could take that long for emergency relief to reach affected persons to offer relief.  Needless to say, depending upon the emergency, the time involved could be longer or shorter.

You will want to pack one bag for each member of your family or for each member of the group for which you are responsible.

Remember, the focus at this time is evacuation from a threatened area rather than long term survival.

There is a completely different set of principles and rules to apply for long term survival and the type of tools and supplies can differ greatly.

Representative Examples of Bug-Out Bags

Bug-Out Bags, BOB, Get Out Of Dodge Bags, GOOD Bags, 72 Hour Bags,
SOC Gear Long Range - 1,000 Denier

The SOC Long Range 1000 Denier has enough capacity to carry enough gear for several days. The main compartment is expandable to manage all of your hydration, communication and ...

SOC Gear

View on Amazon

Large ALICE Field Pack with Frame and Full Outfit LC-1 Green

Large, durable and practical, with many compartments for easy organization. Genuine military issue, manufactured to spec for U.S. armed forces. Part of the All-Purpose ...

Heartland Values Outdoors  / Only $299.0

View on Amazon

MOLLE 3 Day Military Assault Pack Backpack - Black

****Large load cargo capacity compartment with separate pocket to fit up to two 3L hydration bladders. Body contour shoulder straps with D-Ring for equipment attachment, ...


View on Amazon

MOLLE II Standard Pack, Desert Camo, Genuine U.S. Military Issue

M.O.L.L.E. II Standard Pack, Desert Camo, Genuine U.S. Military Issue (External Frame Pack, see image)This is an assembled MOLLE II Standard Pack, including a Gen-IV Frame, ...

U.S. Military Contractors  / $121.76  $271.0

View on Amazon

MOLLE II Military 3 Day Assault Pack

Made From 600D Polyester Material. Large Main Compartment. 1 Outside Zipper Pouch. Internal Hydration Panel. Adjustable Padded Shoulder Straps. Sternum Strap For Easy Carrying ...


View on Amazon

Maxpedition Vulture-II Backpack

Support: 1" Sternum Strap, 2" Integrated Belt (min 19" strap alone / max 52" strap alone; min 34" loop / max 67" loop)


View on Amazon

How Many Bug-Out Bags Do I Need?

Always be prepared

Boy in tent There should be one bug-out bag for each member of the family.  Obviously, what is packed inside will differ based upon the needs of the individual.

With today's families going many different ways during the day, members can be separated at the time of an emergency.

Consequently, there should be at least one bag at home that contains all the needs for each member of the family for 72 hours.

There should be a bag located wherever each family member spends a good portion of their day.  If much of the day is spent at a job location, there should be a bag at that location in the event evacuation must be made while on the job.

If children spend much of their time at a daycare facility, they should have a bag with them there.  

There should be a bag in the family vehicle for quick evacuation.

We do not want to go overboard but do want to be prepared in the event we need to move out quickly.

What Kind of Bug-Out Bag Should We Buy?

This is not a 3 day stay at Grandma's

Girl Holding Back FloodImage of TornadoHurricane Evacuation Route SignAnything we can carry can be used for a Bug-Out Bag.  But carrying a suitcase for any distance could get very tiring.  Also, a non-water repellent canvas bag could result in wet clothes by the time we got to our destination through a pouring rain storm.

While a backpack that is used for carrying school books could conceivably be used, we should at least consider the merits of a backpack that is designed for the more rugged use of recreational backpacking.  These will withstand the rigors of the potential weather conditions and will be designed to carry larger loads with a better weight distribution.

The type of bag we buy will also be dependent upon the type of emergency evacuation we might be facing and planning around.

  • Broken water pipes and house has been flooded - relatively easy evacuation with only basics required and transportation available.
    • Any type of Bug-Out Bag will suffice.  Basic supplies required.
  • Natural disaster has severely damaged or destroyed the area - transportation may not be readily available.
    • We will want a Get Out Of Dodge Bag that is somewhat durable.  Basic supplies plus supplies for additional hazards anticipated will be required.
  • Catastrophes where transportation will not be readily available and housing may not be easy to find.
    • Our BOB will need to be durable and will need to contain the kind of supplies that will allow us to survive in the elements until help can arrive.
There could be situations where we will need to be able survive beyond the 72 hours we have prepared for.  It is those extreme situations where we will need to decide if there are adequate survival actions for which we need to plan.  In that case, our requirements will be much more stringent and survival related.


The 72 Hour Bag - What Goes In It?

Can all that fit?

There are a few different factors to consider as we decide what to pack.

  • What is the environment?  Hot?  Cold?  Rainy?  Snowy?
  • What is the destination of our evacuation?
  • How will we get to our destination?
  • How long will we need to be gone?

Let us look at the contents as being added in layers according to need:

The Basics

The following items should be included no matter what kind of bag we are packing:

  • Water - Recommendation is 1 gallon of water for each person per day
  • Food - Enough to last for three days and light enough to carry.
    • Suggest freeze dried food or meals ready to eat (MRE's)
    • Energy bars
    • Backpack meals
  • Clothing - One change appropriate for the season/weather. My wish to consider what can be layered.
  • Medication - Sufficient supply for the time away.  Recommend not actually packing in the bag but have readily accessible.  This way the medication will not be beyond its useful life.
  • First aid Kit - Recommend preparing our own kit so we know what is in it and how to use it.  Will want to consider items for the uniqueness of the area such as snake bites.
  • Special needs items such as baby diapers.
Those six items will give us the basics for evacuation and should cover the inconvenience type of evacuation.

Beyond The Basics

Headlamp - flashlight Compass - GPS Sunglasses/Sunscreen

Fire Starter (waterproof matches,

  chemical heat tabs, etc.)

Repair kit Signaling device
Portable water purification system

Duct tape - sewing kit

2-way radio
NOAA Weather Radio Whistle Cell phone - Satellite phone
Space blanket

Toilet paper - can be 

used for kindling

Trowel - sanitary waste



Copies of important 


Survival weapons and tools

Two Must Haves

No matter what, there are two items that are essential for any given evacuation plan:

  1. Cash - Do not plan on running by the local ATM as electricity may be out and the machine may not be functioning.
  2. Shoes - these should be sturdy, water repellent, and comfortable for walking/hiking.  We may find ourselves unable to get to our destination by automobile transportation.
There will be other things to consider such as shelter material.  

Remember, in an extreme case it may be necessary to carry all the necessities for our 72 hour evacuation on our backs.  We will need to ensure the bag is as light as possible and that we are physically in shape to handle the task.

Examples of What To Include In Our Bug-Out Bag

4 Person Survival Kit Deluxe Perfect ...
Only $195.95
Mayday 4 Person Deluxe Emergency Hone...
Only $119.97
4 Person Deluxe Survival Kit
Quake Kare, Inc.
$190.0  $187.0
Mountain House 72-Hour Emergency Meal...
Mountain House
Datrex Emergency Water Packet - Case ...
Emergency Disaster Systems, Inc.
Only $10.89
Total Resources
Only $20.0

In Summary

Stay Safe

The purpose of the Bug-Out Bag is to be ready to move out quickly should some sort of catastrophic situation upset your usual routine.  With things happening quickly it is easy to forget some of the essentials.

We will need to ensure we have the essentials; food, water, medicines, and medical kit ready to go.  There are other items that should be included depending upon the type of situation in which we find ourselves.

Most of us probably live in urban areas and I suspect many of us have not had our routine upset too drastically.  But remember, it can happen to you and without warning.  Simply getting stranded in a blinding snow storm and making a wrong turn can put you in an area that is not frequented by others.


Always Be Prepared With Your Bug-Out Bag

Updated: 03/13/2012, Wendell
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kimbesa on 06/03/2013

Something everyone should have ready, especially in certain areas where fires, tornadoes or floods are common.

Wendell on 03/14/2012

@Katiem2 Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It is easy to think that whatever happens is going to happen to the other person. When it hits us we start spinning in the wind wondering what we should grab.

Recently, in our area, we had a wild fire that destroyed several homes. One of the local newscasters left her home early in the morning and went to work not knowing if she would be able to return to here home. She was notified while on the air that her house had been destroyed.

katiem2 on 03/13/2012

What a great idea, bug out bags are a safety measure we could all take a little time to prepare. Thanks for the great tips

Wendell on 03/13/2012

@Akitajitsu You are quite correct in that consideration should be given to pets. After all, they are a part of the family.

Essentially the principles are the same; food, water, medicines, and first aid to last at least 3 days.

I really didn't do any research as to whether there were bags our four legged family members could carry.

Wendell on 03/13/2012

@terrilorah There are several types of bags depending upon the situation. How about a Get Home Bag? What about the situation where you may not be able to use standard transportation to get home? Might want to throw the high heels in the bag and pull out a good pair of walking shoes.

Bug-Out Bags are designed for the the quick short term getaway. Naturally, if the event calls for a longer period of time away from the normal environment it could quickly evolve into a survival situation requiring different supplies and tools.

terrilorah on 03/13/2012

Wow, the folks in West Liberty KY sure could've used these bags. They lost everything. My friend's family lives there and these sure would've come in handy for them. Thanks for an interesting article. I never knew what these were!

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