Bug Out Bag List 2020 [30 Must Have Survival Items]

A Bug Out Bag is an essential item for any prepper’s list.

It is intended to hold everything you need to keep you alive for an indefinite period of time, so it needs to be well-stocked, organized and ready-to-go in an instant.

If SHTF right now – would you be ready?

The backpack itself is something to be considered, and there are many types of backpack which can serve as a great Bug Out Bag.

Every Bug Out Bag will be different, depending on who you are, where you live and the type of survivalist you intend to be. There are some common items, however, which should be in every Bug Out Bag.

This article is intended as a Bug Out Bag Checklist and the following items should be in every B.O.B., no matter where you live.

Fully equiped bug out bag next to a wall

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Table of Contents

Bug Out Bag Checklist

Water

Water is fundamental for basic human survival and is one of the Bug Out Bag essentials. 

If you live in an area where water is scarce, stock your Bug Out Bag with at least 1.5 gallons of water.

Be sure to include a light-weight water container, such as a stainless steel water bottle.

Even if you live in an area with abundant water sources, you need a good water filter.

This ultra-lightweight filtration system will filter out all bacteria and parasites from water.

What we most appreciate about this filter is that it is effective for treating up to 100,000 liters of water.

That is a lot of clean water for an individual or for a larger group.

This filter requires no batteries and is easily cleanable.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $

Non-Perishable Food

Survivalist eating bread and canned food by a fire

We all need to eat. Your BOB should contain enough food to see you through at least three days. Keep in mind that this is per person.

Unfortunately, packing enough survival food for three days can add a lot of weight and bulk to your bug out bag.

One way to work around this is to pack freeze-dried backpacker meals.

We recommend these pre-packaged, nearly ready to eat, meals for your Bug Out Bag food for a variety of reasons:

  1. They will never go bad. 
  2. They are extremely lightweight.
  3. They provide balanced nutrition.
  4. They are incredibly easy to prepare (just boil water).

Our Choice

Price estimate: $$

The only downfall to these instant meals is that they tend to be expensive.

Consider this a necessary investment, though, and don’t skimp. If you are in a survival situation, a good hearty meal will work wonders.

The Mountain House food offers consistently high rated and great-tasting products, at a reasonable price.

Portable Stove, Fuel, and Small Pot

Even if you do nothing other than boil water, you should absolutely have a portable stove in your Bug Out Bag.

We recommend this particular cook stove and pot combo specifically because it is small, lightweight, and compact.

Most importantly, it eliminates the need to carry additional fuel.

This incredibly handy stove is fueled by just a handful of twigs, something that is readily found nearly anywhere.

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Price estimate: $$$

Layerable Clothing

This is an “item” that will be different for every person depending on the general climate and seasonal variability where you live. 

All the same, there are some general guidelines that will help you in choosing the best survival clothing for your ultimate bug out bag list.

  • Avoid cotton – “cotton kills” is a common saying in outdoor and wilderness survival groups. Cotton does not wick moisture away from the body. It is not quick-drying and can cause you to suffer from hypothermia even in non-freezing temperatures.  Avoid it.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of socks. Good socks will prevent blisters and help keep your feet happy during hours of long walking.  Invest in a nice pair or two.
  • Long underwear is not just for winter climates. It’s called a “base layer” and should be a part of your BOB clothing if you live in a climate that can be cold, damp or both.  Base layers wick your sweat away and keep you dry underneath your outer layers.
 

Protect yourself from the sun. In hot, sunny climates the sun can be just as harmful as rain and cold. Wear long sleeves and consider a good, weather-appropriate hat.

Watch below a video from Trekitt explaining a great layering system for cold weather.

You’ll notice we don’t make any specific style recommendations.

This is because Smartwool has a great line of products that vary in price and utility.

They are a proven brand that makes high-quality products that you can count on.

You can find socks, underwear, base layers, and high performance outer layers that are lightweight and highly functional.

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Rain Poncho and Backpack Cover

You absolutely need to protect yourself and your survival gear from the rain. Getting wet can be downright dangerous in a survival situation. 

Your Bug Out Bag gear should include an outer waterproof shell layer that includes both a rain jacket and pants. 

You will also want to include a waterproof backpack cover to keep all of your gear dry.

Unfortunately, a lot of rain gear tends to be bulky and not exactly lightweight.

Cheap rain ponchos can easily tear and are practically disposable. 

We recommend investing in super lightweight rain gear that will see you through the toughest of times.

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Price estimate: $$$

This jacket packs down to about the size of a protein bar. The pants pack down to about the size of a can of beer.

They’re adjustable, have waterproof zippers, and weigh only ounces. 

The only downside is the cost, especially if you are outfitting more than one Bug Out Bag. 

Our Choice

Price estimate: $$$

This highly rated backpack cover comes in a wide variety of sizes so you can get the perfect fit for your BOB

It’s made of resistant material, meaning it will hold up to heavy rains and tough environments.

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Shelter

Survival shelter combination of a tent and a tarp
A tent and tarp can provide a great shelter combo in any survival situation!

When SHTF and you have to leave your home quickly, it might be impossible to find shelter.

Just in case you have to rough it out, your prepper’s Bug Out Bag needs to include a tent, a tarp, or both. 

If you want to go super lightweight, skip the tent and/or tarp and consider a bivy bag.

If you prefer the enclosed protection from the elements that survival tents offer, be prepared to dedicate space and weight towards your sheltering needs.

This tent is lightweight at just under 4 lbs. 

As tents get less expensive, they also tend to get heavier.

This tent is a nice middle ground – it is very high quality and reliable.

It will not break the bank or weigh down your BOB.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $$$

Another great option is a tarp. Tarps can be folded and tied to make a shelter that is adaptable to your surroundings.

They are more versatile than a traditional tent and allow you more shelter flexibility depending on the weather and climate conditions.

Avoid the tarps they sell at the hardware store, though. Those are bulky and very heavy. Instead, consider a lightweight backpacker tarp.

This tarp has over 30 tie-down points and comes with all of the stakes and ties you will need to make yourself an improvised shelter. 

The tarp weighs in at just over 2 lbs and is about the size of a water bottle when packed in its carry bag.

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Price estimate: $

Bivy Bags are basically weather-proof coverings that fit over you and your sleeping bag and sleeping pad.

They are significantly more lightweight than a tent or a tarp and will keep you warm and dry. 

The disadvantage of bivy bags is that they won’t provide you shelter for cooking or a protected workspace.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $$$

This is a four-season bivy bag that will keep you warm and dry in the harshest of weather. 

It is incredibly lightweight weighing less than 600 grams, or just over a pound.

Sleeping Gear

An open survival sleeping bag

Next on our checklist of survival gear essentials for your bug out bag is sleeping gear.

Your sleeping bag is fundamental in keeping you warm and allowing you to rest in an emergency situation.

Unfortunately, sleeping bags tend to be both bulky and heavy.

If you are prepping on a budget, they can also be one of the more expensive items on the prepping gear checklist.

However, saving up for the best sleeping bag you can afford is a worthwhile effort. 

A good sleeping bag will provide you with so much more than a good night’s sleep.  It could potentially save your life.

A very important consideration when investing in a sleeping bag is what the weather is like where you live. 

Do you have long winters or regular nights below freezing?  Considering that emergencies can happen at any time of the year, it is best to be prepared for all circumstances.

This sleeping bag is definitely costly but is well worth the investment. 

This bag weighs only 16 oz and packs down in a stuff sack that measures just under 6 inches.

Plus it will keep you warm, in a pinch, to temperatures well below zero.

Just like with tents, the cheaper the bag you purchase, the heavier and bulkier the bag will be.

This sleeping bag is definitely costly but is well worth the investment.  It weighs only 16 oz and packs down in a stuff sack that measures just under 6 inches. 

Plus it will keep you warm, in a pinch, to temperatures well below zero. Just like with tents, the cheaper the bag you purchase, the heavier and bulkier the bag will be.

Sleeping pads provide an insulative and padded layer between you and the ground.

A good sleeping pad will prevent you from losing heat through your sleeping bag or wicking moisture up through the ground. 

Even the thinnest of sleeping pads will increase your comfort and sleep quality.

This is the lightest and most compact sleeping pad available.  It is a bit expensive, but your back will thank you after a decent night’s sleep. 

It weighs less than 9 oz. (250g) and folds down to the size of a water bottle. 

Fire Starters

Every survival Bug Out Bag should be supplied with distinct fire starting options.

The idea is that if your preferred option fails, you have a backup (or two) for getting a fire started.

These highly rated matches come in a waterproof case and never expire. 

People have commented on having these matches stored for decades and taking one out and having it light on the first strike. 

The whole kit weighs less than 50gr.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $

This handy block of magnesium is for shaving off flakes to use as a quick lighting tinder.

If you want to save your matches, use your survival knife on the flint striking surface to throw a spark and start a flame.

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Price estimate: $

This screwdriver sized ferro rod stands out from the competition because it includes two tins of an innovative fire starter called Pyro Putty.

The putty is stored in the canister handle. The ferro rod and striker allow you to throw a spark on the putty and start a fire under any weather conditions.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $

Personalized First Aid Kit

We recommend that you take the time to build a personalized first aid kit.

Many prepackaged first aid kits will include impractically small sample sizes of certain medications.

The last thing you need is to run out of antibiotic cream when you are injured and SHTF.

Here’s a prepper checklist to get you started on building your own kit. 

The items on this list are just suggestions to get you started. This list is, by no means, complete and authoritative.

Check out our guide to building your own first aid kit for some additional suggestions.

Well stocked first aid kit medicine box
Any serious prepper needs to have a well stocked first aid kit.

Other items such as tweezers and scissors may be tempting to include in your survival first aid kit. We recommend, however, that you look for these as included features in an everyday carry multitool.

It is really easy to go overboard with first aid kits.

Remember that knowledge, creativity, and ingenuity are priceless and weigh nothing. Bandages and slings can be easily improvised. 

Water can be boiled for sterilization purposes. Items such as tourniquets can be improvised with paracord

Take your first aid items out of their original box and eliminate any excess packaging.

We recommend that you purchase a waterproof container just large enough to hold all your bug out bag first aid essentials.

Our Choice

Price Estimate: $

Remember, your bug out bag kit is meant to get you to a safe location within a few days. To save space and weight, consider purchasing travel-sized bottles or individually packaged pills.

Full-sized pill bottles will take up extra space and quickly weigh you down.

You’ll notice that many of these products can be purchased in bulk.

You can easily put together multiple first aid kits if you are prepping on a budget.

Personal Hygiene Products

Basic personal hygiene starts with soap

This soap is an all-in-one soap that can be used for washing dishes or your bum.

Because it’s solid, it won’t spill or easily be wasted. 

This soap is so concentrated and long-lasting that you can easily cut the bar of soap in half or even in thirds to eliminate unnecessary weight.

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Price estimate: $

You may also want to pack along a towel.  Even if you don’t feel the need for a towel for washing yourself, they are useful for washing wounds if the need should arise.

These are compressed down to a small cube, do not need to be wet to open, and are great for many other improvised uses. 

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Price estimate: $

If you are a woman, the need to take care of feminine hygiene cannot be ignored when prepping your BOB for emergency preparedness.

Menstrual pads and tampons can be a bulky addition to your pack and can make an already uncomfortable emergency situation unbearable if you happen to be menstruating when SHTF.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $

Even if you never use the menstrual cup in your day to day life, it is a great option for every woman in an emergency situation. 

There’s no need to stock up on bulky pads or tampons.  One menstrual cup will last 10 years of monthly use with proper care.

Survival Knife

Survival knife stuck in a tree with a camping lamp in the background

When it comes to emergency preparedness and outfitting your bug out bag, you want to make sure to have a decent survival knife

There are some really expensive knives out there that can be quite costly.

If you are looking for the best survival knife on the market you can expect to pay handsomely for it.

Don’t be fooled by the price of this knife.  It will hold up to tough use, and won’t fail you in an emergency.

If you are looking for a knife to keep stored in your BOB, this is a great option. 

Headlamp

One thing that you will absolutely need in your Bug Out Bag is a headlamp.

The practicality of having a long lasting, high-quality hands-free light cannot be overstated.

This headlamp provides over 40 hours of continuous use on a single charge.

When you need to charge it, it takes only four hours. Plus, it’s super lightweight and compact.

Having a rechargeable headlamp eliminates the need to carry backup batteries in your Bug Out Bag.

Make sure you choose one with a red light as this will help you stay more concealed at night, and not ruin your essential night vision.

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Price estimate: $

This leads us to the next essential prepping item on our complete survival gear list.

Small Solar Panel

In an emergency situation, the last thing you want to worry about is keeping your devices charged.

That is why we recommend including a small solar panel and battery pack in your essential survival gear.

This lightweight combo weighs approximately 2 lbs.

The solar panel is about the size of a small notebook when folded up and is sleek enough to fit into even the smallest BOB.

With the solar panel, you charge the included battery pack which you can then use to charge nearly any device that is rechargeable via USB, including most smartphones.

Local Map and Compass

Compass over a map in the wilderness

Now that we brought up the subject of smartphones, it’s worth reminding our readers of something very important.

Real emergency preparedness includes preparing for the telecommunications system to fail.

DO NOT COUNT ON YOUR SMARTPHONE TO WORK WHEN SHTF! 

One of the essential skills we have forgotten in recent generations is how to read a map and navigate without our GPS.

As we mention in our complete guide to prepping and emergency survival, learning to use a compass and read a map are essential survival skills that every prepper needs to learn. 

This also means that every prepper needs to include a local topographical map and a compass in their bug out bag.

The US Geological Survey has an amazing online tool that lets you order inexpensive topo maps for anywhere in the US with a quick search using your zip code.

As for a compass, there are some really fancy options available out there.  Just remember that the best compass is not necessarily the fanciest or most expensive.

At the same time, avoid buying cheap junk that could possibly get you lost.

This compass appears to be on the pricey side compared to cheaper options.  But you get what you pay for.

This is a high-quality compass made in Finland that is specifically calibrated for the Northern Hemisphere.

It is highly recommended by professional orienteering experts and is highly lauded for its accuracy and durability. 

Our Choice

Price estimate: $$

Whistle

A whistle is one of those essential survival items that are easy to overlook, yet can save your life. 

If you need to make your presence known, a whistle is a way to do it.

Whistle’s can sometimes be found built into the clips on your backpack.

If you choose a Bug Out Bag backpack with that design feature, you might still consider packing a small whistle to hang around your neck if you happen to get separated from your bag during an emergency. 

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Price estimate: $

Personal Defense

Personal self defense is, well… extremely personal.

Depending on where you live and what your personal philosophy is, you will want to consider very carefully what you choose to have for your personal protection when SHTF.

Can of pepper spray
Pepper spray is a great non-lethal self defense option.

Some of you may choose a firearm such as a pistol or a shotgun. Others may feel better with a taser gun. Others may feel safer with pepper spray, a knife, or relying on their own martial arts skills.

If you are not comfortable with firearms or the idea of getting close enough to an assailant to use a taser gun, pepper spray is a great option.

This particular spray will fire up to 35 times.  It is small and super lightweight. It has a shelf life of four years.

It is our opinion that pepper spray is a great universal personal protection device appropriate for every prepper, even younger children.

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Price estimate: $

Duck Tape

Do we really need to explain why it’s worth making space in your bug out bag for a roll of duct tape?

This stuff can fix anything. Patch your tent, your sleeping bag, secure a splint on a broken arm… there’s nothing this stuff can’t fix.

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Price estimate: $

Sewing Kit

As with generic first aid kits, generic sewing kits tend to have too many useless items that you will most likely never use.

Do yourself a favor and purchase a pack of sewing needles and a small spool of high-quality thread.

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Price estimate: $

In an emergency situation, no one is going to care if your thread color matches the garment.

Make sure your everyday carry multi-tool includes a pair of scissors and you are good to go.

It’s not hard to find a safe place to stash a needle and spool of thread. 

We recommend including it in your first aid kit.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $

Paracord

There are so many reasons why paracord is an essential item in a Bug Out Bag.

The obvious uses are for tying down loads, setting up camp, hanging bags out of reach, and even making improvised harnesses.

You can also break apart the weave of the cordage to create smaller strands when a thick cord is impractical.

Certain kinds of “survival” cords have re-engineered standard paracord to include additional features that can prove handy when you are in a survival situation.

This specialized paracord comes with incorporated strands of woven fishing line, a strand of waxed jute that can be used as kindling, and a strand of nearly unbreakable kevlar wire.

It can also support over 1,000lbs of weight. 

The 103 ft. cord is fairly bulky, but you can easily cut the cordage in half, and carry only 50 ft.

Our Choice

Price estimate: $

Bug Out Bag List Essentials

  • Backpack
  • Survival Knife
  • Paracord
  • Personal Self Defense Items
  • Water Bottle
  • Water Filter
  • Freeze Dried Backpacker Meals
  • Portable Cookstove and Pot
  • Layerable Clothing
  • Rain Jacket and Pants
  • Waterproof Backpack Cover
  • Tent or Bivy Bag
  • Backpackers Tarp
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Firestarters
  • Personalized First Aid Kit
  • Soap
  • Washcloth
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Local Topographical Map
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Duct Tape
  • Needle and Thread
  • Rechargeable Headlamp
  • Portable Solar Panel
  • Power Bank
A bug out bag with survival gear
If you're serious about survival if an emergency occurs, then you need to have a Bug Out Bag prepared and ready to go.

Bug Out Bag Checklist FAQs

Do I need to spend a lot of money on my Bug Out Bag?

There is no set budget for a good Bug Out Bag list.

The more money you have available, the more easy you will find it to put together a great Bug Out Bag; however if you are used to being thrifty and shopping around then there is no reason why you shouldn’t find great items for a lower price.

That being said, ask yourself: can I really put a price on survival? Money spent now will be well appreciated in the future when SHTF.

How big should a Bug Out Bag be?

There is no set size for a Bug Out Bag as it totally depends on your preferences and survival style. Most probably fall in the range of 37-55L backpack.

More important than the size is the organization, just make sure that you can find everything you need to quickly and with your eyes closed, then you know you’re ready.

Being organized should also help you save space so you can either choose a smaller backpack or pack in more essential items.

When should I start preparing a Bug Out Bag?

The best time to start is yesterday!

Don’t waste any time when it comes to getting prepared. There is no telling how and when disaster will strike.

Look at how quickly the Coronavirus pandemic descended on the world – there was little to no time to prepare.

Start prepping now, even if it is small bits at a time, and you won’t regret it.

Should I pack a gun in my Bug Out Bag?

This is not always a straightforward answer.

Gun laws vary from country to country, and it may be highly illegal for you to have a gun in your Bug Out Bag whilst you are getting prepared.

Guns should only really be used by people who know how to use them – they can be very dangerous in novice hands.

It is much better to plan to survive by staying low, learning your gear and using your strengths rather than relying on firepower.

Bug Out Bag List Conclusions

This wraps up our Bug Out Bag Checklist. You will no doubt come across other items you want to include as you start prepping, but this list is the essential starter pack for everyone.

If you feel anything is missing from this list – please get in touch to let us know! The prepping community is another essential tool in survival, and we’d love to hear your thoughts.

This article is one of many in our “Ultimate Survival Gear” list series. Check out the landing page to explore our full range of gear articles: Ultimate Survival Gear or head straight to our next article: Get Home Bag List.

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