Ultimate Bug Out Bag Checklist

Your Bug Out Bag is a 3-Day survival kit conveniently packed into a backpack, or whatever you would prefer to carry your stuff in.

This is not a 1 size fits all kind of list. For each item, think about why we are suggesting it and whether it fits your situation. For instance, the further north you are the more you need to consider the threat of the cold.

This is assuming the bug out bag is being packed for a single person. If you have multiple people you should either pack multiple bags or multiply certain items by the number of people you will have.

The Bug Out Bag

What comes first? The bag or the items. Personally, I think you need to decide how much you would be willing to carry if you found yourself on foot for 3 days. If, realistically, you can only carry 30 lbs, than the items below need to be 30 lbs or less, regardless of my recommendations.


So what can be in water? Viruses, nuclear contamination, possibly. Maybe, more likely though, bad water will be the result of some unprepared asshole taking piss up stream. In either case your going to want a method of getting some clean water.

  • Clean Water: Assuming you drink 1 quart a day you should include 3 quarts of water per person. Of course water is also heavy and some of us live in hot and/or dry environments. So adjust as needed. Water when properly sealed can last indefinitely. Usually its a problem of stuff leaching into the water form the container over time.
  • Water Container: You will use this to hold your clean water and water you filter. This should be collapsible or you could use the container(s) from your clean water.
  • Water Treatment Method: This is a great back up if you use up your clean water. With today’s technology, small filter systems are pretty cheap. Treatment tabs or pills take up less space however they are single use and have a shelf life of 5 years, unopened. Purification systems can also be small (though bigger then pills) and low-cost however can treat thousands of gallons when properly stored should last indefinitely.

Shelter and Warmth

You will want something to protect you form the elements.

  • Tent or Tarp: In either case you need something small enough to carry. Generally speaking a tarp will likely be lighter, have more uses, and easier to camouflage. A tent will be easier to setup and a more foolproof way to create shelter. Find something with a hydro-static head rating / water rating of 2,000mm or higher.
  • Survival Blanket: Bivy Bag, Mylar Thermal Blanket, or similar light-weight cover, 1 for each person. These are usually designed for emergencies in mind and not long term durability.


So the rule goes 3 weeks without food, I am not sure I would want to even attempt 3 days. Personally, I like eating several times a day, otherwise I get cranky.

  • What Type of Food: Pack things that are non-perishable, high in protein, and high in fat. Canned food is heavy so try to avoid it.
  • Samples or Ideas: beef jerky, tuna pouches, dehydrated foods (meat paste, hummus, bean paste, etc), peanut butter packets, energy gel packets, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, protein or meal replacement bars, meal replacement and protein shakes (just-add-water), and maybe some candy.


Fire can keep you warm, keep animals away, provide security, boil water, and cook food. You get the idea, its useful stuff.

  • Fire Starter: Ferro rod, waterproof matches, or other rugged form of fire starting. A fire starter is often included in multi-purpose tools like camping axes, med kits, and cooking utensils.

Personal Hygiene

You don’t need much. Even when I travel for business I can fit 3 days worth of hygiene in a sandwich bag. Quite simply because that is all the TSA allows to carry on board. Stick with travel sized items, or create your own even smaller packages.

  • Anti-Bacterial Lotion
  • Bar Soap
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Feminine Items
  • Travel Baby Wipes or Wet Towelettes


You don’t need much more than a change of clothes. Try to pack clothes that are light and dry easily (think camping, sport clothes, synthetics). Pick clothes that fit your climate.

  • Hat: A light large brimmed hat to keep sun and rain out.
  • Gloves: Durable yet light, Venom brand rubber gloves or Kevlar based are good choices.
  • Change of Clothes: Shirt, socks, pants, underwear, etc.
  • Poncho: The disposable kind are usually light and very compact.


Most of survival is going to follow the 80/20 rule. About 80% of the medical concerns you will come across can be handle with a handful medical items.

Medical kits are an option. These medical kits cost around $15-$35 and usually weigh under 1 lb. Be careful of item count. I have seen a 300 piece kit cost $15 and weigh 8 oz, while a 100 piece kit cost $35 and weigh 16 oz. The 300 piece one had nearly 200 assorted band aids. I don’t even have that many band aides in my house.

Larger kits start to include things like an emergency blanket, hand saw, fire starter kit, etc. Either stick with a smaller kit or use the items in the large kit to cross off items from this Bug out bag list.

  • Burn and Blister
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Pain Management
  • Bug Bites
  • Medical Shears
  • Bandages and Sterile Pads
  • Tweezers
  • Medical Tape
  • Sterile Gloves


Most tools are heavy. So the idea is to carry tools that will be the most multi-functional and versatile tools you can think of.

  • Flashlight: Something small and bright, likely LED based.
  • Solar Light: Could be a lantern or landscape light. These often last 6-8 hours on a single charge.
  • Survival Hatchet: Some of the different models include a saw, hammer, pry bar, ratchet options, etc.
  • Compass: Sometimes part of the survival hatchet or mobile app. Also have seen paracord and survival water filters come with a compass.
  • GPS: Could be an app on your phone or stand-alone device.
  • Survival Radio: Multi-pupose AM/FM, weather, solar or crank powered, phone charge.
  • External Battery Pack: Lithium based with USB output. A 10 Ah pack can charge a phone about 3 times and weighs less than a pound.
  • Paracord: 25-50 ft of 550 paracord
  • Pocket knife: Small knife to keep in your pocket. Versatile, light-weight cordage that can be broken down into smaller rope.
  • Folding Knife: Larger knife in the backpack for heavy work, hunting, self-defense, etc.

Self Defense

  • Ammunition: If you are going to carry a gun, keep some rounds in the backpack. I would keep the gun safe, not in the bag, especially if you have young children.
  • Pepper Spray: Sometimes you just need to make the person think twice.

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