best bug out bag check list

Bug Out Bag Check List – Be Prepared For You And Your Family

You will need this Bug Out Bag Checklist to help you put together the best Bug Out Bag for you and your family to carry. If you keep an eye on the news or live in a disaster-prone area, you will know that more and more natural disasters and tragedies are taking place that are highly likely to affect you.

Climate change can fuel emergencies such as fires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and droughts. We are also in danger of solar superstorms, not to mention pandemics, epidemics, and frequent earthquakes in most parts of the world.

The goal is to BE PREPARED, no matter what.

Here is a step-by-step guide with information on preparing to survive an emergency, including an idea of what to put in your backpack and preparedness kit.

What Does Bug Out Bag Mean?

Bug Out Bags (BOB) are light, portable bags, preferably backpack style, designed to allow you to escape after or during a natural catastrophe.

It is different from the usual Emergency Preparedness or Survival Kit, enabling you to survive longer in harsh conditions.

This emergency kit is specially put together to contain all the necessary objects to allow you to best survive for a minimum of a 72-hour period – not long term.

Remember, the focus is on evacuation, not primarily survival.

Who Needs A Bug Out Bag?

The primary purpose of a Bug Out Bag is to have a backpack that allows you and your family to carry some essentials and clear the area quickly should a natural tragedy strikes.

Who Needs A Bug Out Bag

Some people might slightly customize the contents of their 72-hour bag. For instance, a person who lives in an area where earthquakes or floods occur might have different items compared to a person who lives in a hurricane-prone area.

Even though you might need to adjust your kit for the region and climate where you live and potential disasters that can occur, this comprehensive guide will help you create the best go bag possible — in any circumstance.

Considering that no one lives in a disaster-free area, it is clear that everyone needs a BOB.

They can enhance your survival rate when disaster strikes. They can help you survive for a minimum of 72 hours so that survival teams and people searching can find you.

Therefore, your pack needs to be prepared beforehand.

Natural disasters also include those closer to home, such as fires, blackouts/power outages causing unrest, and floods. So, preparing your pack and leaving it in an easily accessible location is essential.

Some people prefer to put together several packs, one to be kept at home, one in the workplace, and one in their vehicle, so they are prepared at any moment and in any place they might be during an emergency.

Dog Go Bag And Pet Emergency Kit

Dog Go Bag And Pet Emergency Kit

Every family member should have an emergency survival bag, including this dog go bag or pet emergency kit if needed.

What Size Should A Bug Out Bag Be?

What Size Should A Bug Out Bag Be

The ideal bag size is not a micro version of your house for the long term. Decide what you need to survive during a natural disaster.

Keep in mind that a kit is to allow you to escape quickly during an emergency. Therefore, it should be relatively lightweight. Otherwise, it will slow you down, and you will not be able to make it out.

Your bag needs to match your torso size. Measure your body from the neck to the hipbone and note the results.

Manufacturers of Bug Out Bags sometimes make standard sizes for children, women, and men.

What Makes A Good Bug Out Bag?

A good Bug Out Bag’s weight should not slow you down and must fit your hips. Most manufacturers label their bags as;

  • extra small – 15½ inches
  • small – 16 to 17½ inches
  • medium – 18 to 19½ inches
  • large for torsos bigger than 20 inches

Choosing a Bug Out Bag with plenty of storage is also essential. Once again, the purpose is not to put everything you might want in it, but only what you need in an emergency to ‘Bug Out’ from the scene.

The extra storage is also valuable if you need to expand your supplies, including a first aid kit, food and water.

Working with your overall body weight and capabilities should be the primary focus.

Additionally, the most suitable size Bug Out Bag contains many pouches, zippers, and other storage options. In a natural emergency scenario, your Go Bag should not be randomly stuffed with all sorts of gear – it should be well organized.

You will not have enough time during or after a disaster to take all your supplies out and ramble through a mess of the things to find what you need.

So, for example, you should use separate compartments, zippers, and pouches for clothes, gear, food and water. This will allow you to access everything quickly, be efficient, and increase your chances of survival.

The more compartments you have, the more organized you will be, and you will be able to locate everything you need quickly.

Remember that the size of your finished BOB is crucial – a heavy one will slow you down, and you can potentially get in danger.

There are many possible situations where you must flee quickly, and carrying a bag that will slow you down with weight will not help.

You might want to exercise and test your pack if you have no training in carrying heavy bags and backpacks (such as in the military).

You can do this by doing different exercises such as hiking to see if you can carry it on your back for long distances.

Remember… the more stuff you add and the heavier your BOB gets, the more difficult it will be to walk or run and get to safety.

Bugging Out

The last aspect of the looks and size of your backpack Bag is the color.

Color is critical in an emergency situation. You must avoid bright colors because you do not want to attract unwanted attention.

You can choose any Bug Out Bag to fit in with your area; go for a camouflage bag if you live in a rural area, around a forest or woods.

Alternatively, if you live in a city, choose a neutral color which looks exactly like any regular everyday carry backpack or a book bag.

Best Bug Out Bag Summary

So far, we have established that size and color can change a life or death in a natural disaster scenario. There are also other aspects you need to consider.

Firstly, make sure your Bug Out Bag is durable and well-designed.

It needs to be highly durable because it might end up useless if the pouches break, the straps snap, or anything happens to the integrity of the bag holding all your life-saving supplies. It also needs to be intelligently compartmented, so you can quickly access anything you need.

The best Bug Out Bag must also contain supplies and gear according to your skill level.

Packing technologies or items you do not know how to use is a bad idea, as they will be useless. Also, remember your climate – ensure you do not forget blankets if you live in a cold area.

Consider what obstacles might appear unexpectedly – do you live next to the forest or woods, where you might encounter wild animals? Or do you live in a city where you could face falling debris or violent rioters and people?

So, to sum it up, this is how the best Bug Out Bag looks: appropriate for your size and body weight; only necessary gear for an emergency situation; and not heavy enough to wear you down or slow you down.

The Best Bug Out Bag is, in fact, the one that fits all characteristics, survival skill level, age, fitness, and needs of each person carrying it.

Best Bug Out Bag

Bug Out Bag Essentials And Recommendations

Putting together a backpack for 72 hours is the first step of survival, so next, we will explore all the essentials you need to get by in the aftermath of a disaster. Depending on your climate and what kind of disasters are typical for your area, you might not find all of these necessary.


An air filtration mask is an absolute must, as humans cannot survive without air for more than 3 minutes. Therefore, you need to ensure that, in any scenario, you have access to clean and easy-to-breathe air.

An air filtration mask is useful in any type of disaster which might pollute the air – volcano eruptions, riots, fires, and earthquakes, to name a few.


After the disaster and you have access to clean and breathable air, the next step is to ensure you have shelter for sleeping and protection against the elements.

Your Bug Out Bag cannot include a full-size tent for sleeping for this purpose, but you can easily find a lightweight, waterproof survival model.

Some tents on the market are made with components that repel water and retain heat, so this might be a good start for you.

Whether in the middle of the forest or woods or you are homeless after the disaster, a good quality survival tent with a space blanket or a lightweight sleeping bag will go a long way.

Make sure these three items, including the sleeping bag, are not unnecessarily heavy – stick to basics and keep it simple.


Once your oxygen and shelter needs are taken care of, next comes your water supplies. The main reason water supplies are necessary is to lengthen your survival chance

You can live only three days without water.

Your survival skills should be extended to learn how to purify water in the wild. Still, you can also carry water purification tablets or purchase a water filter system to turn any water into drinkable water.

Also, include a solid water bottle, which will enable you to carry water around.


Air, water, and shelter should keep you on track in the first few hours. But what about food?

You might be able to survive without food for more days, but you should still include a few meals packed with calories.

Keep in mind that you want a Bug Out Bag which is as light as possible, so overstocking food is not an option.

Choose non-perishable emergency food supplies, as dense in calories as possible with a good shelf life, and ration them, so you have enough food for at least three days.

The Rule of Threes states that humans can survive three weeks without food.

You might want to include a tiny fishing kit if you live near nature with woods near lakes.


Clothing can also make the difference between life and death. Whether in a warm or cold climate, pack and carry some thick gloves and clothing in your Bug Out Bag.

The reason for thick gloves is that, after a disaster, you might encounter broken glass or debris, which you might need to handle safely. Or, perhaps you need to gather wood for a fire, build shelters, or handle fallen branches.

Good quality, thick gloves and clothing will help keep you and your hands warm.

Some say that, in the case of an emergency, you should not focus on packing clothes to get changed. If the weather is dry and your climate does not have frequent storms, experts suggest packing only undergarments.

If there is a chance of rain or you become wet, you need to consider a waterproof and windproof jacket and one change of clothes in case you get wet.

Having damp clothes can lead to hypothermia. One cap or a beanie should also be included if you live in a cold environment to protect your head and keep it warm.

Building And Lighting A Fire

Matches or fire starters that match your skill level are also essential in a survival situation.

Ensure you do not buy and pack any gear you cannot use or need to be charged. Stick to basics to start a fire, such as matches.

A fire starter will help you get warm if needed or cook food, but most importantly, it will help you to build and start a fire to attract rescuers’ attention.

Starting A Fire For Survival

Additionally, your matches and fire starters should be able to work even if they are wet.

If you have all you need for your first few hours after the disaster, it is safe to assume that night will come and you will need to survive through it.

In this situation, you need to make sure that you pack a light source. Lights are not only used to signal your presence but could deter wild animals from coming to you.

Therefore, a flashlight is essential (preferably an LED one) – make sure you have spare batteries.

Choose a solidly built flashlight that is compact and lightweight enough to suit your needs.

First Aid KIT

In the case of a disaster, you or a member of your family might likely get hurt.

It is essential to include a first aid kit to be able to treat your minor wounds and injuries.

Ensure to include antibacterial solutions or wipes in your first aid kit, which can quickly disinfect your wounds. Bacteria is your worst enemy in this scenario. Include over-the-counter painkillers in case you suffer an injury that incurs pain.

If you live in a hot climate, ensure you include sunscreen and burn gel to keep you safe from sunburn or to help you treat burns if they occur.

A pair of medical gloves could also come in handy, as they allow you to care for your wounds without contaminating or infecting them.

Consider including scissors, safety pins, medical tape, and forceps as they could become helpful in a lot of different situations. Bandages are also essential in an emergency kit to cover your wounds and prevent bacteria and dirt.

Creams and gels with antibiotics are also helpful as they promote quicker healing for burns, cuts, and scrapes, preventing infections.

Map And Compass
Navigating In A Natural Disaster

In a bug-out situation, you will try to escape a disaster zone. Most likely, the environment is majorly affected, and some parts can hardly be recognized.

Including a detailed map of your state and adjacent ones is essential, allowing you to stay on track and easily navigate your surroundings.

You should also include a compass, but once again, your skill level is vital as there is no point in adding a compass if you do not know how to use it. It is an instrumental skill, so you should consider learning it.

Survival Tools

You want to pack multi-purpose survival tools, so consider your available room wisely and ensure you include tools such as a mini-sized shovel, an axe, knife and/or a multi-tool.

A shovel can be a lifesaver if you need to protect yourself, dig up a shelter, or make a fire pit. The axe is also helpful in numerous situations.

Make sure you choose the most light-weight option that is compact and easy to use. Take time to learn how to use it and practice as much as possible.

Consider other survival tools such as a crowbar, a compact and foldable saw, and duct tape.

The duct tape can be helpful in case you need to make emergency repairs on your shelter, bag, or clothing. It is also waterproof and durable.

The crowbar can be used for defense, hammering, or lifting heavy things. A foldable saw allows you to cut wood, clear pathways, and build your shelter.

Self-Defense And Signaling

If your Bug Out kit still has some room and, most importantly, isn’t heavy, you can consider a sharp, durable additional survival knife and pepper spray for self-defense.

You can leave these out for a lighter load since you can use most of the tools above to protect yourself. Although I feel a great survival knife is a good idea in a survival situation and could be used for self-defense too.

With an electric flashlight in your survival kit, and radio or smartphone, you must ensure that you have a portable charger.

Ideally, you should opt for devices that are operated using solar power or batteries (make sure you have spare ones).

A whistle and a small signal mirror are also essential to pack into Bug Out Bags because they might help signal your presence to rescuers.

Additional GEAR

Although not necessary for survival, you should consider including a few other items in your pack. Zip ties and a sewing kit, for instance, even a basic one, can help you repair your clothes or fabrics, such as a tent and blankets, if they rip.

Emergency Plans For Your Family

You must also make copies of all your important documents – from your ID and passport to contracts of ownership (house, vehicle, etc.) and loan agreements. You can have these on a USB and saved online too.

Make sure that you discuss your plans with your family. Very few people make Preparedness Plans and discuss them with their loved ones.

Share this Bug Out Bag List with your family, so they can also be prepared for a disaster – and make a plan to keep everyone safe.

Establish a location to meet each other should anything happen. Do your best to remember their addresses and, most importantly, remember their phone numbers (not using your phone).

Essential Bug Out Bag Checklist

Complete Bug Out Bag List

This list includes the essentials for your survival kit. You can add other items and medical requirements that you deem vital for survival based on weight and space.

  • Air filtration mask
  • Tent and sleeping bag (lightweight and waterproof)
  • Water filter, water purification tablets and water bottle
  • Rationed food with Good Shelf Life and fishing kit (if applicable)
  • Thick gloves
  • Matches and firestarter (waterproof)
  • Flashlight (ideally LED)
  • Extra sets of batteries
  • Antibacterial solutions, wipes and hand sanitizer for First Aid
  • Creams with antibiotics for scratches and First Aid
  • Painkillers for First Aid
  • Burn gel for First Aid
  • Bandages for First Aid
  • Medical gloves for First Aid
  • Instrument kit for First Aid
  • Map of the state and adjacent areas
  • Compass (if skill level permits)
  • Shovel and axe combo
  • Multi-tool (mini pliers, knife, screwdriver, bottle opener, wire snips)
  • Duct tape
  • Foldable saw
  • Crowbar
  • Charger (if needed – preferable solar or batteries)
  • Whistle
  • Important documents (copies)
  • List of loved ones’ addresses and phone numbers
  • Clothing and gear for warm climate
  • Sunscreen
  • Clothing and gear for cold climate
  • Lightweight blanket
  • Cap or beanie
  • Items for rainy climate
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Change of clothes
  • Sewing kit

What! No Toilet Paper?

I know what you’re thinking; what about toilet paper? Here’s a solution if you don’t have the room: Where And How To Poop In The Woods. Remember to Leave No Trace.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this guide and Bug Out Bag List highlight the most critical aspects of making the Best Bug Out Bag Essentials for you and your family.

Always keep in mind that you need to be able to carry your go bag without slowing you down or wearing you out due to heaviness.

All the items you intend to carry should be packed according to age and skill level. Still, some skills, such as knowing how to use a compass, are worthwhile, so you should take the time to learn as many survival skills as possible – including building a fire and shelter, which is crucial in a survival situation to keep you warm and safe from animals.

You need to be creative and inventive and be able to use your supplies in different circumstances.

All items should be easily accessible and appropriately organized, so you can find everything you need in a blink of an eye.

Avoid relying on technology when there is a blackout or power outage. Although batteries are essential to some items (flashlights), they can be heavy if you carry too many, so consider solar rechargers.

Remember to think like a YoYo Survivor – Be Smart, and BE PREPARED for When You’re On Your Own.


Stay Safe!

About the Author YoYo Survivor

I have a love of the great outdoors and have lived in the backcountry for over 15 years. I like to practice and learn general survival skills and get educated on how to prepare for a natural disaster or emergency where my knowledge could save mine and other people's lives.

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