Building a bug out bag is a rather personal matter. No two emergency kits are going to be identical. While we all have the same basic needs to fulfill with our kits, the execution is going to differ greatly. The purpose of this article is to get you thinking of each category of need and how you can best fill that need in your own kits.
The human body doesn’t function very well without adequate hydration. The general rule of thumb is such that the body can last up to three days without water. However, realistically even a single day without hydration will be extremely detrimental. Your bug out bag should not only have water in it but the means to filter and purify more as you come across it.
The problem with transporting water though is it is heavy and you can’t really reduce the size. Simply put, it is what it is. Most average people are probably capable of carrying at least two liters of water at any given time. I suggest you have two separate water bottles, each one liter in size. This allows you to have at least one bottle full while the other can carry water you need to filter. Of course, you could kill two birds with one stone and simply pack a couple of water bottles that have the filter built right in.
Food provides the fuel that powers the body. While we can last several days without eating, a constantly rumbling stomach is a big hit to morale. Don’t try to pack enough food for three square meals a day. You’re not going to get very far having to carry all that. Instead, concentrate on high energy foods you can eat while moving, such as dried fruits and nuts, granola bars, and hard candy. Tossing in a few freeze dried meals and the means to prepare and eat them will give you something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Your first aid kit should cover the basic types of issues likely to crop up during a bug out. These include splinters, blisters, aches and pains, stomach upset, and small scrapes and cuts. Unless you are a trained EMT or other such medical professional, there’s little need to pack an entire surgical kit. If you regularly take any prescription medications, be sure to have a supply of those meds as well in your bug out bag.
Your shelter needs include not only a way to get out of the elements for the night but things to wear while traveling. Be sure to have with your bug out kit a spare pair of good walking boots. This and a change of clothes are vitally important if your job requires you to dress up every day. A suit and tie, let alone a skirt and high heels, are poor choices for having to walk several miles or more. A rain poncho will fit into a small pocket of your pack and be very welcome should you end up walking through a downpour. Gloves and a hat will also help keep you comfortable in cooler temps. As winter approaches, add to your kit a good coat and scarf. You should be wearing those anyway as you go about your day but it is good to have backups. An emergency blanket or two will help you keep warm and dry at night.
A decent campfire will not only keep you warm but will heat up your food and just help you feel better about your situation. Therefore, always have multiple ways to get a fire going. These include waterproof matches, butane lighters, and fire steels. Practice making fires at home so you are familiar with the process before you truly need to do so. It isn’t always as easy as flicking a lighter. Also in your kit you should have some tinder that is ready to go in case you can’t find any natural sources. Dryer lint, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, and commercial fire tabs are all great to have on hand.
Bugging out without a planned destination and route to get there just makes you a refugee. Your navigation tools should include a good compass and maps of the area. Plan ahead so you know where you’ll go and the various routes to get there.
There may be times that you won’t want to be discovered but you should still have tools for signaling for help, just in case. A whistle’s sound will carry much further than the human voice and has the benefit of not taxing your vocal cords. At night, a simple glow stick spun on the end of a three foot cord can be seen for miles.
You’re going to want some sort of flashlight too. It is best to have an LED headlamp so as to keep your hands free while working as well as a handheld LED flashlight as a back up.
There are a couple of tools you’ll want to have with you as well. A good quality knife is critical. Duct tape has hundreds of uses. Paracord or some other cordage will be of great help when building an expedient shelter.
Last, but certainly not least, are hygiene supplies. You can’t expect to be able to take any sort of bath or shower while bugging out but keeping at least reasonably clean will help reduce the risk of illness and infection. Pack a bottle of hand sanitizer to use after going to the bathroom as well as before eating. A roll of toilet paper can be crushed flat for easier transport and will certainly be a better alternative than leaves. A small towel and bar of soap will help you feel human again at the end of a long day on the trail.
Yes, this sounds like an awful lot of stuff…and it is. But once you gather all the supplies together and put them in a decent backpack, you may be surprised at how small the overall bug out bag can be while still meeting all those needs.