Bug Out Bag vs. Evacuation Kit: What’s the Difference?

In survival and emergency preparedness literature, we see the terms Bug Out Bag (BOB), Get Out of Dodge (GOOD) bag/kit, Go bag, 72 Hour Kit, and Evacuation Kit. These terms, although often used interchangeably, actually describe a few different similar, but distinct, kits. The differences lie in the purpose for the kits. While all survival kits are personal and unique, based as they are on each person’s individual circumstances, there are many generalities in theory if not in practice.

The Bug Out Bag is a stash of supplies one would keep at work, in their vehicle, or carry with them when traveling. The theory is to have on hand enough supplies to get you from wherever you happen to be to your home, retreat, or other safe location. Food, water (and the means to purify found water), comfortable walking shoes/boots, and season appropriate walking clothes are a few of the important contents of a BOB. Generally speaking, envision some type of disaster striking when you are at work or traveling. What would you need to have with you to make it back home, assuming that for whatever reason you were forced to make the trip on foot? How long might such a trip take?

The Evacuation Kit (a.k.a. Get Out of Dodge kit, Go Bag) is different in that it presumes you are home and are forced to vacate the area for an undetermined period of time. Much of the contents of this kit will be similar to a BOB. The additions would include copies of important papers (insurance policies, bank account information, list of emergency contacts, etc.), small toiletry kit, extra clothes, and perhaps small books or toys for any kids. The idea here is you are grabbing this bag on your way out the door and heading to a motel, an emergency shelter, or a friend’s/relative’s home for the duration of the emergency.

The 72 Hour kit is designed, more or less, for those folks who have not already prepared for emergencies that may require them to remain in their homes for two or three days (possibly longer) during a crisis. Think pandemic or something else along those lines. In some ways, this might be the easiest kit to assemble in that you probably already have many of the necessary items. We presume water still currently flows from your taps, right? Therefore, it is easy enough to fill several 2L soda bottles for storage, rotating them regularly. Canned food and other dry goods will hopefully suffice for your consumables. Some extra toilet paper, candles and flashlights, as well as battery operated radios are other items you’ll want to have on hand. The trick is to ensure you are rotating your supplies regularly and replenishing the stocks as you use them up.

You’ll notice there is a fair amount of overlap among the different kits. That’s not a bad thing. Your BOB may likely be stored in your trunk, so you have it on hand when traveling to/from work. If you’re at home and forced to vacate, grab your evacuation kit and, coupled with your BOB, you’ll have double supplies of some items, thus helping your food last longer. Remember, “Two is one, one is none.”