Picking Apart a Bug Out Bag List

Posted on: May 24, 2013

While recently reading an article on a rather popular survival website, which shall not be named here, I saw yet another list of suggested bug out bag contents. I’m deliberately not naming the originating website as I feel it normally has fairly informative content and I don’t want the following to be seen as typical of their offerings.

Lists of contents for bug out bags are a dime a dozen. Often, they are written and posted by people who have no real experience and are instead just parroting what they’ve read elsewhere. Honestly, I’m not at all certain what this particular writer’s experience is, though there are allusions to some sort of military service. But, I strongly suspect, based on the list he writes, he is instead a veteran of nothing other than heroic battles in his imagination.

My reason for sharing this with you, complete with my own commentary, is that I want you to think things through as you assemble your own bug out bags and other survival kits. Use common sense and logic, rather than just following one or another lists.

I’m not posting the entire article but just the content listing. My comments are in italics.

Weapons and Ammunition

Semiauto handgun in .45 ACP, 40 S&W (A 9mm, is less desirable. The bigger the projectile (bullet) the bigger the hole and big holes and deep penetration.)
Four loaded magazines for handgun
Additional 50 rounds for handgun
Fixed blade combat knife
Folding tactical knife
Tomahawk with sheath (excellent for bush craft & a formidable weapon)
Compact weapons cleaning kit for weapon caliber (Bore Snake and CLP)

A handgun, provided you are duly licensed as may be necessary in your area, is not a bad idea. I’m not sure why the folding knife needs to be “tactical” though. I’ve found a simple Swiss Army knife or a multi-tool works just fine. As for the tomahawk, well, sure it makes for a fearsome weapon but they aren’t light and how much crap do you really want hanging off your belt?

Other Tactical Equipment

LED Key Chain flash light with green lens (to read maps)
A map and compass will do you much better good than a GPS unit. Plus, no batteries necessary.

Holster for your handgun
Handgun Magazine Pouches
Camel back style Hydration System with inline filter, 100 fluid. oz
Multi-tool, black or OD in color
If we already have a sheath knife and a “tactical” folding knife, do we really need the multi-tool as well?

Small SureFire (or other tactical-type) flashlight
We have a keychain flashlight, do we really need a “tactical” flashlight too?

Six spare batteries for lights, GPS, etc.
Six spare batteries for Surefire lights
Ditch the GPS and the Surefire and you won’t need all the batteries, which are going to be heavy.

One (1) spare flashlight bulb for each style of light
Appropriate first aid kit
Small binoculars
Radio pouch for GMRS/FRS size radios
Head set with push to talk for GMRS/FRS radio
These radios are only useful if you have someone on the other end to talk with. Also, the range is minimal. Ditch ’em unless you really have a good reason not to.

Wristwatch with covered dial/face. Nothing that reflects.
Knee pads
I shudder to think what these are for….

Ruggedized Cell Phone with spare battery
Yes, cell phones are a good idea overall but I don’t know that you need to go out and buy a special “ruggedized” one just for the bug out bag.

Cell Phone charger for 12 volt and 110 volt
Topo maps of your area of operation (AO)
Yes, maps are a must. But, how many do you need? One should probably be sufficient. If your bug out plan requires you to travel so far on foot that you need several maps to cover the area, you better rethink the plan.


Sleeping pad (Thinsulate)
Good quality large size Space Blanket or Rain Fly, either camo in color or with camouflage net
Ditch the sleeping pad. Replace it with a large contractor grade garbage bag you can fill with leaves.

Water / Food

Water bottle with filter
Several coffee filters to strain sediment from water
Flint & Steel with Magnesium Bar (practice building fires in the rain)
Zip Lock Bag of Dryer Lint (fire starter)
Dehydrated food for at least seven days, entrees only
Heavy duty Fork and Spoon
A way to cook your food, i.e. MSR Multifuel stove or MRE cook pouch. You probably will not always have time for a cooking/warming fires and there will be many times that you do not want to expose yourself with that type of a signature.
If you have the time to actually cook food, you have time to build a fire. Ditch the stove altogether.

P 38 can opener


1 set of Camo appropriate for your location
1 pair of combat style boots that are well broken in to your feet
Camo rain gear or winter gear as needed
Sun glasses
Tactical belt for pants
Dry socks (No socks with seams over the toes! i.e. Smart Wool brand)
Camo rain poncho
Store everything that has to stay dry in heavy duty Zip Lock bags
All this insistence on “camo” is getting ridiculous. A bug out isn’t, or shouldn’t be, some sort of quasi-military patrol. You’re trying to get home, that’s it. Dressing up in camo is just going to get you noticed and singled out rather than blending in.


If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses you must have a spare pair/set
Toilet paper and know a natural alternative in your AO. Save the T paper for when you have to be quick
As opposed to the leisurely dump in the forest we all look forward to each day.

Tooth brush
Apparently the writer doesn’t feel toothpaste is necessary, just the toothbrush?

10—six inch black zip ties (to repair equipment in the field)
10—heavy duty 12” black zip ties to secure bad guys
What bad guys? You’re trying to avoid contact with other people, not go all Rambo and try to trap them somehow!

One roll black electric tape (UL listed)

Partial roll of camouflage Gorilla Tape
Why does it have to be camouflage? Why Gorilla Tape? Just make a roll of duct tape by rolling it onto a pencil and toss that in your kit.

100’ of 550 cord
Potassium Iodate tablets
For the threat of nuclear radiation, I presume.

Several one gallon size Zip Lock Bags (spares)
Two leaf/yard size trash bags
Two small roles of picture hanging wire for snares etc.
Hooks, flies, lures, line, sinkers, swivels, weighted treble snagging hook with steel leader, all sized for your A.O.
I’m on the fence about snare wire and fishing gear. On the one hand, yes you should have the means to procure food, just in case. But, on the other hand, a bug out means you’re likely not spending a lot of time in any one place. You should be moving towards home when you’re not sleeping.

One small plastic container of cayenne pepper
Why? What is this for? Salt and pepper to season food would be good but I’ve no idea what he plans to do with cayenne pepper.

Mosquito repellent

Now, I’m not going to address the comments he makes in the overall article, given how his entire approach is on the “tacticool” side of things. Suffice to say, this guy apparently believes a bug out is akin to patrolling for enemies in a hostile jungle rather than what it really is — an attempt to get home as quickly as possible. Just one more mall ninja who makes the level-headed among us look bad.

25 thoughts on “Picking Apart a Bug Out Bag List

  1. so many folks posting crazy bug out bag lists . all you need is a 1911 a cell phone and a truck . anything else you need you can get with one of those three items . simple as that . semper fi .

  2. Here’s the thing, Rann. The list was originally presented in such a fashion as to indicate this is what the writer felt was necessary for people to pack in their kits. No caveats like, “This is what works for ME, your mileage may vary.” You are absolutely correct in that every survival kit, whether a bug out bag, get home bag, or even an Altoids tin, should be assembled in such a way as to take into account the individual’s area of operation, skill level, fitness level, likely threats, and experience. While the basic categories (food, water, shelter, fire, etc.) don’t change, how one meets those needs will differ greatly.

    The reason I have such an issue with this particular list is that it seems to insist people need to rely on “tacticool” gear in order to survive. Further, the total load could be reduced considerably by limiting the necessity for so many damn batteries.

    I would, however, dispute your statement that bug out bags are only for fleeing an area for a possible infinite length of time. While it does come down to semantics, many if not most preppers use the terms “bug out bag” and “get home bag” interchangeably. I prefer not to do so, myself, but that’s a fight I gave up on a long time ago.

  3. Jim Cobb, I dont know who wrote the bug out list, but come one man, they were just posting THEIR list specified to THEIR needs that THEY know better than YOU do. I wouldn’t make a bunch of immature comments insulting your b.o.b., which judging by some of your comments (such as relying solely on a trash bag full of leaves to sleep on, which is definitely not practical for everyone in all areas and will also do know favors to your moral or sore back in the morning when you wake up) is probably lacking. Btw, a fishing kit is a fantastic idea and I carry one myself.

    Also, just thought you should know, as everyone in the prepper community excluding you knows….a bug out bag’s purpose is NOT to get you home, it’s to keep your ass alive when shtf and you have to LEAVE home, maybe days, maybe months, maybe indefinitely, who knows? a get home bag is for getting your ass home to your b.o.b. or if shit hasn’t hit the fan, simply get you home and kep you from dying of dehydration, exposure, etc. when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere or the like. Get your shit straight dude and most importantly…..don’t criticize, especially publicly as if to embarrass them, someone else’s b.o.b. just cuz YOU wouldn’t pack it. If shit does hit the fan, I hope you have the right gear cuz nobody is gunna wanna help a prick. Good day sir.

  4. the cayanee pepper is good for many things,not only for protection from ppl, tracking dogs but at your night camping site spread some around to keep bears, wolves, coyotes etc. from walking in to investigate. it also works to stop blood flow from wounds, even fairly substantal wounds can be stopped or atleast slowed alot by it.

  5. I unfortunately have to agree with the other comments that this wasn’t a very effective article. You keep mentioning ‘getting home.’ There are many different types of bags for different scenarios and while many people have a ‘get home bag’ that would be lightweight and less involved a BOB is often set up by people to sustain for days of travel if needed SHTF. Personally a get home bag wouldn’t have much and your ideas would be appropriate but a true BOB to me would be very similar to the original poster and your comments are void. I plan a BOB to be used for escaping a situation likely through the woods and being able to sustain for longer periods of time until reaching a safe place. Camo is great for this but I agree I wouldn’t go with so much camo. I prefer mostly solid neutral colors like hunter green, black, khaki or gray just because they blend into the woods like camo would but aren’t ‘tactical’ and ‘survivalist’ looking if I do need to cross through a city or town I then need to blend in there and camo won’t do it. I don’t want to look ‘prepared’ crossing through a town or near people and be more of a target. And yes all the weaponry is necessary if you expect a SHTF when there will be other people that could harm you. I fully expect this in my area that if a bad situation happened things would be violent but that’s from hurricane experience as well… you wouldn’t believe how people freak out when shit gets real. Everyone has to adapt to their needs but I really think you should look at this list for what it is… a true BOB to escape and survive possibly for a while and not a ‘get home’ bag to get you from work or town to your home and safety fairly quickly.

  6. I have to say I’d personally rather have a sleeping bag than a rubbish bag full of leaves. I also read somewhere that potassium tablets can purify water and act as antiseptics, so if that’s true they could come in handy. I agree with you on the camo and tactical stuff though.

  7. Sounds like his bag is not a planned “get home bag” but more of the SHTF bag to get out of an area and subsist for a few days til things calm down. Each persona bag will be different- sh!t, I have a dog and he will have a small pack to carry his necessities- I won’t go into the whole list but food, Benadryl, and a citronella bark collar (for keeping him quiet) are a few. Location, plans, and ability dictate ones choices. I’ll be having my girlfriend in tow so while I won’t be giving her a big heavy bag to carry and complain- she will be a factor in my packing

    Sarcasm is great though. I condone it’s use at all times

  8. I always get a kick out of reading these articles and the responses. Any one that packs a BOB on someone else’s needs and conditions will likely expose themselves to hardship and die in short order. A well thought out bag in Tennessee is a death trap in Montana. Use you heads people, access and adapt.

  9. Cayenne pepper is a far cry from actual pepper spray, at least in a bug out scenario. Sure, you *could* toss a handful into someone’s eyes, I guess, but if the wind isn’t favorable, you might end up doing much more harm to yourself.

  10. This is a good post I would always recommend versatility as a former ranger I can tell u want to be light as u can be you never know how far you might hike. So carry only the most versatile tools you can. I also recommend if possible a ammo stash along your bug out route with a kit to clean guns and tune your bow. Good luck and good prepping.

  11. One more thing. I really appreciate all those people who write articles about survival. I learn a little bit from each one. Thanks for taking the time to do so.

  12. I’ve been in the military for ten years. 3 years active Army 7 years National Guard. I am 11-B infantry and a combat veteran.

    I think the person who wrote this list might actual be a veteran based on his list unless he just copied another list.

    Us military guys love the tactical shit even when its not the most practical lol. I’m not saying his list is great its just that I have been around soldiers preparing for war and much of the stuff on this list is the type of crap we buy before we deploy.

    The LED keychain is very small lighweight and not powerful. We would attach one to out collar usually and it is not enough light to move around with. It just lights up whatever is right in front of you. You will need another light and most of us had surefires which were usually mounted on our weapons.

    We were issued multi tools and combat folders. Many guys also had fixed blade knifes. A few people had tomahawks but no one in my Platoon did. I didn’t carry any knife at all just the multi tool. If I ran out of ammo I planned on swinging my SAW like a baseball bat lol.

    We all wore knee pads. If you are going to be shooting you should always be behind cover kneeling or prone. If we weren’t moving we were kneeling behind cover. That’s what knee pads are for.

    We all had zip ties. Sleeping pads are standard issue but I think your garbage bag idea is good. Lighter and it would take up less room.

    I like the pencil duct tape idea that would save room.

    I think this guy is trying to prepare for worst case scenario. One in which there are hostiles. Thats why the camo. He might live in a rural area so sticking to the woods might be the best and easy option. I think in a SHTF situation you will see people wearing all sorts of gear especially camo. It might work to your advantage or disadvantage. Depending on where your bug out location is it might take some time to get there especially if the roads are closed.

    My bug out bag…haven’t put one together yet but I assure you most of it will be food and water(plus a means to purify water). None of the other stuff will make any difference if you run out of food and water. Especially water. Like I said you never know how long it might take you to get where you are going.

    Another consideration you really need to take into consideration is weight. If you are going to be walking you had better pack light. You might think you can walk 20 miles in a day with a 65lbs but I assure you you most likely can’t do ten. You might fall out after 3 no BS. I have done countless road marches and when we started doing them in basic we started a 3 miles carrying 35lbs and a few people fell out. Our last road march was over 24 miles and we had people collapse and go into convulsions. One guy broke both his feet from the strain. He still finished though. Thats after two months of conditioning. So if you are in your 30’s 40’s or 50’s and your bug out bag is over 35lbs you might want to strap that thing on and start training. You will probably be able to do 3 miles no problem because you can do it at your own pace, we were being driven by Drill Sergeants to move as fast as possible.

  13. I mostly agree with you; looking all “tactical” is rather stupid (IMHO). I don’t own a GPS, I’ve got a map and a compass and know how to use them. I carry a cell phone, which may or may not work. If it does work my get home bag becomes my wait for a ride bag. hahaha I have mixed feelings about a hatchet. It would be handy and I’ve got room to tie on the outside of the bag so I’m undecided on it. The rest of my stuff is about the same as every other generic list you see (water, dehydrated food for 2 days, energy bars, rope, para cord, small flashlight, fire starter and tinder, civilian poncho, small tarp, poncho liner, etc) except I don’t carry any fishing equipment. I’m not planning a vacation, this is just to get my sorry ass home if I need to. Hopefully I’ll lug this bag around forever and never need it.

  14. As with any bug out bag list, not all items are right for everyone. You clearly understand this. This is the main criticism I see across the internet when people try to be helpful and compile such a list – is that it’s missing this or that, or this item isn’t necessary.

    We hear the same thing about our list.

    But we also state it’s to serve as a starting point for you to get the hamster wheel turning upstairs about what items you personally will need given your specific situation/scenario. No two bug out bags should be exactly alike.

    Agreed, use common sense and logic when building your bug out bag. Also, I’d say don’t forget to enjoy doing it. You’ll be more prepared for when disaster strikes – and that’s a good thing!

  15. Seriously? While you were trying to attach the writer I got some good info from the article and just completely ignored you foolish comments

  16. Each BOB is going to be different depending on your location, climate and resources in your area. For example, my BOB is very simple containing (and I’m doing this off the top of my head)
    1. .22 Revolver (9 shot revolver, it’s quiet, light and I’m not hunting humans.)
    100 .22 rounds (10 are the “birdshot” .22)
    1 ballcap
    1 mini maglite I’ve upgraded with LED and a rear fire switch (I keep one of these on my belt with my edc. Fairly handy, and I use it more than I ever thought it was.)
    Water Proof Matches
    Fishing equipment (line, hooks, sinkers and bobbers. I can always cut a stick to make a rod from)
    First Aid kit (including gauze, bandages, 90% isopropyl alcohol and athletic tape)
    2 bandannas
    1 fixed blade knife (cold steel true flight thrower, fairly rugged knife, good weight, balanced, paracord wrapped handle that I can steal in a pinch if I need to, and a decent value)
    Speaking of Paracord, 50 feet of it
    1 7’x5′ Campers Tarp
    1 steel mug
    1 box cutter (weighs less than an ounce and can do more finesse work than any of my other knives)
    1 Speedy Sharp (look this up. I swear by this little knife sharpener)
    1 magnesium firestarter (because why not, it’s light and can save my matches if I can)
    A small handful of sandwich sized ziplock bags
    5 protein bars

    This is all stashed in my vehicle I take to and from work. I built this BOB to work in tandem with my EDC which consists of
    Kershaw Brawler folding knife
    Kershaw “Tactical” pen (I really hate the adjective tactical, but “Metal pen that if stuck into someone’s throat turns a good day into a bad day” is too long to describe the damn pen.)
    Glock 19 or 26 depending on the clothing of the day and where I am going.
    Maglite Solitaire attached to my keyring

  17. Where I live, the leaves are cold and wet, most of the time, a contractor bag of them is rather useless. The empty bag could serve as a dry spot to sleep on, or in, however. Cold and dry is a little better than cold and wet. Also, in some other areas, in winter the leaves are frozen to the ground. In that situation the insulated sleeping pad makes sense, but you need a sleeping bag or other extra insulation to go with it..

  18. Well, Greg, I’m sorry you feel your time was wasted. Hopefully you’ll find other information on the site more to your liking.

  19. I found many of your comments on the article you are attacking to be thoughtless and idiotic. If you disagree, fine, but why the juvenile retorts?

    I personally DO have a folding, fixed blade knife, AND a multi-tool packed, because a knife isn`t a screw-driver, or pliers. And I LOVE my Surefire lights, so yup, I pack one of those, and, gasp, those heavy old ounces of batteries.

    I can`t believe I wasted my time reading your drivel.

  20. I do not disagree on your comments. As to the cayenne pepper, this can be used a a hemostat or blood clotting agent. Just sprinkle it on the wound if not too servere. I recently purchased Wound Seal at CVS, expensive but it came in little plastic foil tubes that make it easy to carry. Corm starch also works to stop bleeding, pour on and press. I have some in all first aid kits. Use old vitamin bottles to store. Tons of info on ways to stop bleeding on the web.

    I have some of the items listed in my get home bag and most in my BOB. Don’t see the need for so much camo. I carry a spare knife. flint, P51 can opener and pocket compass in my pocket. I use fire cloth that
    I discovered on Tactical Intellegence site, easy to make and use. Keep a pouch in my lunch box that contains many of the same items carried my US Navy Seals. Navy will not give specifics but web has info gather from public procurement records. Love the Seal Survival Guide. Seals are by far the most prepared people in the world. One item that I carry and do not see is a folding shovel. Have carried for years to dig car out of snow. Sharpen the front 2 edges and one side and it also makes a effective weapon. Favored by Russian Special Forces.

  21. The Cayenne pepper is for throwing off the tracking dogs who are gonna be after you. Gees, don’t you know anything…lmao. And where on this list is your SHTF team to help you carry all this crap…smh

  22. I agree with the Cayane pepper :))) I use it more than salt nd pepper. As for the hatchet I will carry it. Other than that I love ur post

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