The Definitive Bug Out Bag Checklist – Everything You’ll Need

Bug Out Bag list

One of the most popular concepts in the world of prepping is the bug out bag, also known as the go to bag or the three day survival bag.  When disaster has suddenly struck and you have no choice but to evacuate your home NOW, your bug out bag is what you grab before you go.  It needs to be easily accessible and contain enough supplies to make you survive for a minimum of seventy two hours after a disaster.

Building a bug out bag is one of the most important things you can do as a prepper because how well you build it will largely determine how long you survive for after you bug out from your home.  However, if you build your bug out bag the wrong way by filling it up with the wrong items or not having enough of the right items, it can be a death sentence that not only kills you but your family as well.

Fortunately, in this article, we are going to cover everything that your bug out bag needs from food and water to communication to fire and self defense and more.  By the end of this article, you will know everything that your bug out needs and if you take action based on what you will learn, your chances of survival go up dramatically:

Water and Hydration: Clean Water Will Keep You Fully Hydrated

One of your top priorities in any survival situation has to be water because it, along with food and oxygen, is literally the only thing keeping you alive.  Without enough water in your bug out bag, you simply won’t last long even if nothing else kills you.

You should always have at least one water bladder or canteen filled up with clean water in your bug out bag along with one or two more plastic water bottles.  This way you have a means to carry water on your person in your canteen while also having more water in your plastic bottles that you can access or give to another person.

There is always the possibility that you can run out of water, which means that you will have to turn to other sources such as lakes, rivers, streams, and rainwater.  Drinking unclean water can sometimes be more dangerous than not drinking any water at all, so having at least two purification bottles and a reputable water filter are more items that you absolutely must have if you’re going to be gathering water from a natural source.

  • Drinking water
  • Collapsible bottle
  • Water Filter
  • Water purification tablets
  • Water canteens
  • Water bladder

Food and Cooking: Food Will Keep Your Energy Levels Up to Keep You Going

While it is possible to survive for up to three weeks without food, you will feel starving and drained of energy after only one day without it.  The food in your bug out bag should be simple, easy to make, and filled with calories, such as jerky, protein bars, or dehydrated meals.

In addition, you should also have some cooking tools that will make preparing and eating this food much easier.  An example would be a portable stove that is powered by fuel tablets.  You can adjust the heat on a portable stove, which makes it easier for cooking food than if you were to try and cook the food on a stick over the fire.

While water is still more critical than food, food is what will keep your energy levels up and make your survival efforts easier.  In less than a day without food, you’ll already be feeling drained of energy, which is why it’s absolutely important that you pack plenty of food in your bag.

  • Protein bars
  • Dehydrated meals
  • Vitamin and mineral supplement
  • High calorie dry foods
  • Canned food and opener
  • Jerky
  • Nuts
  • Powdered peanut butter
  • SOS food bar
  • Portable stove and stove fuel tablets
  • Light utensils
  • Foil
  • Coffee

Shelter and Clothing: Keeping Yourself Protected from the Elements

The purpose of your shelter and clothing is to protect your person from the outside elements, such as wind and rain.  You will want a full extra set of clothing to change into and enough shelter building materials to construct a shelter that is both warm and easy to set up.

When it comes to clothing, arguably the most important that should be in or attached to your bug out bag is a good pair of quality hiking boots.  This is because when you need to bug out, the tennis shoes or sandals you have on now won’t cut it.  They don’t offer the sole absorption or the traction that a good pair of tactical or hiking boots do.

Your shelter and clothing are the only things protecting your body from the outside elements that will take its toll on you.  By including a complete change of clothes in your bag and enough materials to a warm and strong shelter, there is very little that the elements will be able to do to you.

  • Hiking boots
  • Poncho
  • Jacket
  • Socks
  • Undergarment
  • Warm clothing
  • Pants
  • Tarp
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Shorts
  • Gloves
  • T-shirt
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Umbrella
  • Rain cover for backpack
  • Ear muffs
  • Faraday shield
  • Hat
  • Belt
  • Extra shoes

Fire: The Only Thing That Gives You Security, Light, Warmth, and the Ability to Cook

Fire is one of the most critical elements of survival.  This is because fire is the only thing that can provide you with warmth, light, protection/security, the ability to cook food and purify water, and a morale booster all at the same time.  You should have multiple fire starting materials in your bug out bag so you always have a backup option if one method fails.

I like to pack at least three fire starters in my bug out bag in case one fails.  Your three best options are going to be a simple lighter, waterproof matches, and a magnesium flint striker.  This way when one of these fails, you can turn to another one.

In addition, having materials that can increase your odds of starting a fire in wet conditions is a huge plus.  Vaseline cotton balls, a candle,, and a bundle of kindling/tinder are all easily flammable and will allow you to get a small fire going even when it’s pouring rain around you.

  • Waterproof matches
  • Lighter
  • Vaseline cotton ball
  • Tinder
  • Flint

Light: Light Equipment Allows You To Move at Night

This is a category that many preppers overlook.  You want to be able to see/navigate at night and in cramped/dark locations for making repairs, and that’s where lighting systems will come in handy.

You should have at least two flashlights in your bug out bag, preferably one large duty flashlight and one smaller flashlight that you can carry with you at all times.  Having enough spare batteries and bulbs for these flashlights is a must.  A large duty flashlight made out of metal can also be used as a club for self-defense and provides you with a more powerful beam, while a smaller flashlight can be carried on your person at all times.

Don’t forget that a flashlight can also be used for distress signaling by sending an SOS message to others when you’re stranded or in need of assistance.  The official SOS flashlight distress signal is three short beams of light, three long beams of light, and then three more short ones.

  • Headlamp
  • Flashlight
  • Phone charger
  • Candle (trick candles)
  • Solar charger

Communication and Navigation: Communication Devices Allow You to Stay in Touch with the Outside World When the Globe Goes Dark

In a disaster scenario especially, you want to be able to stay in contact with the outside world in order to know what’s going on.  In a wilderness survival situation, you will want to know the right direction you need to go in to walk out.  Include these items in your bug out bag.

A high quality GPS that comes with a radio installed is one of the most versatile devices that you can have in this department because you can use both the radio for communicating with the outside world and the map portion for navigating your way to safety and away from danger.

Of course, a GPS can always run out of batteries or be ruined by the environment, which is why you must also not neglect including the classic map and compass in your bug out bag as well.  Include maps relevant to your area and actually invest in a high quality compass rather than the dingy ones like you can find on the end of a cheap whistle.

  • Compass
  • Walkie talkie
  • Ham radio
  • Paper, Pen, pencil
  • Hand crank Radio
  • Batteries
  • Noise cancelling ear buds
  • GPS
  • Whistle
  • Maps
  • Flash Drive
  • Tablet
  • Glow sticks
  • Binoculars

Personal Hygiene: Items That Will Allow You to Stay Clean in a Survival Situation

Sanitation standards are going to drop significantly in a post-SHTF or survival situation, which makes personal hygiene only the more important.

Don’t skimp on your personal hygiene items.  Arguably the most important personal hygiene item of all is baking soda because of the multitude of uses it can be applied for.  With baking soda, you can make toothpaste, body/hand washing soap, shampoo, deodorant, and dish washing soap.

Hand sanitizer and Chap Stick are very versatile items to have in your survival bag because they can be applied to numerous other survival applications beyond personal hygiene use.  You can use Chap Stick to seal open wounds or hand sanitizer to get a fire going, for example.

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baking soda
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Comb
  • Female hygiene products
  • Baby wipes
  • Chap stick
  • Mask
  • Towel
  • Soap strips

Tools: Gear That You Must Have With You If You Are to Survive

Your efforts to survive are simply going to be made significantly easier with the aid of certain small but versatile tools that each can serve multiple purposes.

Without any shadow of a doubt, the most important survival tool that you can have in your bug out bag is a good knife, and more specifically, one large fixed bladed knife for heavy duty work and a smaller, folding pocket knife for more close quarters cutting.  Both of your knives should not only be sharp, but the blade of the fixed one should be extended into the handle, while the blade of the folding knife should be able to lock into place for more durability

The next most versatile tool after a knife is the hatchet.  The hatchet is more at home for larger tasks such as chopping wood or felling trees, and you can also strike it against a rock to create sparks and get a fire going.

  • Multi tool
  • Knife
  • Knife sharpener
  • Paracord
  • Pocket knife
  • Hatchet
  • Pry bar
  • A hand-powered chainsaw
  • Blade
  • Hammer

Valuable Items: Items That Give You Power When it Comes to Bartering

If someone else has something valuable to you that you must have, it’s important that you have something equally valuable to give in return.  Valuable items should always be on your person or in your bag.

Not only should you have paper money in your bug out bag (preferably at least one hundred dollars worth in an assortment of bills), but gold and silver as well that you can more effectively barter with people if the economy turns south and paper money becomes worthless.

Having identification of yourself in your bug out bag is also important so that rescuers can correctly identify you and notify your family after you have been found.  Include a copy of your driver’s licenses and other important documents for further identification.

  • Gold, Silver coins
  • Currency
  • ID

Defending, Hunting, and Fishing: Tools That Enable You to Defend Yourself and Catch Wild Game

Your personal protection and ability to catch wild game are top priorities in a survival situation.  The items in this section allow you to do both of those things.

Some people don’t like to include a gun and spare ammunition in their bug out bag, but it is a good idea because it can be used for both self-defense and hunting.  If you decide to include a gun, either go with a handgun chambered in a common round or a collapsible rifle that can be easily stored in the bag.  Have a minimum of fifty rounds and include a small cleaning kit if space permits.  If you decide not to have a gun, pepper spray or a machete will work fine for self-defense weapons too.

Your fishing kit should also be complete and consist of a folding or collapsible rod, fishing line, weights, lures, baits, and hooks.  Yes, you can easily make your own fishing equipment out of either items such as a soda tab for the hook and natural vine for the line, but a ready to go fishing kit will save you a lot of the hassle of making your own

  • Gun
  • Ammo
  • Cleaning kit
  • Armor
  • Machete
  • Slingshot
  • Bow and arrow
  • Pepper spray
  • Dog / bear whistle
  • Fishing rod
  • Fishing hooks
  • Fishing reel

First Aid: Medical Equipment That Will Enable You to Survive Serious Injuries

Accidents can and do happen in a survival situation, and even if only a slight injury is sustained as a result of those accidents, it’s important that you tend to that injury immediately so that it does not develop into anything worse or catch an infection.

A specific piece of first aid equipment that too many people neglect to include in their bug out bag is any prescription medications you may have.  If you do have any prescription meds, you will need enough of those meds to get you through a month at the bare minimum.

Knowing how to administer first aid either to yourself or someone else in your group will be one of the most important life skills that you ever learn, which means you must know how to do it correctly to avoid making the injury worse.  Consider taking a survival first aid class where you can learn how to give first aid correctly and with minimal resources for a hands on experience.

  • Pain killers
  • Anti-biotic
  • CPR kit
  • Band aid
  • Thermometer
  • Hand and body warmers
  • Laxative
  • Gauge pads
  • Knee brace
  • Scissors
  • Gloves
  • Antibiotics
  • Tylenol
  • Tweezers
  • Regular medications

Other: Additional Items That Will Make Your Efforts to Survive Easier

There are also a lot of miscellaneous items that don’t exactly fall into a specific category but will still be very handy to have in your bug out bag.  These items are not entirely necessary, but they will be nice luxuries in a survival situation.

A garbage bag, for example, is one of the most adaptable pieces of gear that you can have in your survival bag.  With a garbage bag, you can make your own poncho, use as a covering for your shelter, create a bedding by filling it up with leaves and pine needles, lift food on a tree up off the ground, or use as a signaling device if it’s brightly colored.

Paper clips are another very useful survival item due to their small size and abundance of applications they can be used in.  You can use paper clips to hang up clothing on a clothesline, fashion them into fishing hooks, or make into a safety pin.

  • Electrical tape
  • Mosquito net
  • Brass wire
  • Clips
  • Elastic band
  • Trash bag
  • Ziplock bag
  • Water proof bag
  • Mosquito spray
  • Benadryl
  • Liquid bandage
  • Moleskin
  • Siphon
  • Zip ties
  • Pantyhose
  • Paper clips


We hope that you enjoyed this list or at least found it resourceful for you.  The next thing for you to do is to take what you have learned in this article to begin building your own bug out bag.

If you can fill up your bug out bag with as many of the items on this list as possible, and have that bug out bag ready to go at all times, then you will be much better prepared for any disaster that comes your way than you were before.

Now of course, this checklist is not definitive.  There may be some items that you decide you don’t need based on your circumstances, and others that you do.  If you feel that there is anything that could be added to this checklist, please let us know in the comments section below!