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Best Bug Out Bag List 2021 (Basic & 72-Hour Survival Gear)

This article is intended as the Ultimate Bug Out Bag List and the following items should be in every survivalist Bug Out Bag that is prepping for emergencies.

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A Bug Out Bag is a prepper’s best friend! It’s 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 Bug Out Bag is not just about the backpack itself however. While this is an important part of the bug out checklist, there are many essential survival items you need to consider.

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 is, however, some common survival gear which should be in every Bug Out Bag.

This article is intended as the Ultimate Bug Out Bag List and the following prepper items should be in every BOB, no matter where you live. However, it’s easy to go overboard with all the gear you can add. Because you need to prioritize survival gear based on multiple factors – weight, usefulness, cost – we’ve decided to split this article in two parts.

First, we will discuss the prepper items that should be found in any Basic Bug Out Bag. This will be the survival gear that will keep you alive and on-the-go for at least 24 hours, until you get to safety.

Secondly, since we can never be sure for how long we will be forced to bug out, in the second part of our bug out list we talk about all the extra items that you can add on top of the basic Bug Out Bag. This will form our 72 Hour Bug Out Bag List and contains all the extra gear intended to increase your odds of survival for at least three days.

Bug Out Tip #1: Don’t go out and blow your savings buying everything on this list! We’ve tried to organize survival items by categories, utility and priority. Try to buy anything that you are completely missing first and that you can’t improvise or find around the house. Building a Bug Out Bag is a “process” that takes time.

Table Of Contents show

Basic Bug Out Bag List 2021

Bug Out Bag Backpack

Bug out backpacks are designed to keep your prepper survival gear organized and easy to access at any time. A bug out bag needs to be spacious, comfortable, versatile and durable.

It's hard to find a backpack that covers everything, so you'll have to look at your own potential survival scenarios and make a personalized decision.

However, as an overall basic bug out backpack choice, you can't really go wrong with the tactical backpacks from 5.11. As a great second choice, especially for a larger 72-hour bug out backpack, we recommend the Mardingtop 65L.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Going in depth on backpacks would take-up too much space. So, if you want to make a more informed decision, we recommend you check out our dedicated articles on general survival backpacks as well as bug out backpacks.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the majority of people were unprepared for pandemics. Unfortunately, I think we can expect more and more such emergencies in the future, so having at least basic PPE available in your bug out bag is mandatory.

We can go into great detail on the subject of personal protective equipment for pandemics, but for the sake of our basic BOB we recommend you stock up on at least two items.

Surgical Mask / N95 Mask

While the subject of masks has been widely debated, they still remain the safest and most effective method to prevent transmission and infection with a deadly virus.

We recommend you pack at least a few disposable surgical masks along with a safer, reusable, option like an N95 or N99 mask. Always make sure you wear, use and dispose of your masks correctly, as this can also expose you to pathogens.

Plastic Gloves

Avoiding direct contact with surfaces can keep you safe. Despite most viruses being airborne, they can also linger on different materials. A set of simple plastic gloves can decrease the risk of infection, and they are an easy addition to your BOB since they don’t take up much space.

Water Storage, Filtration & Purification

Water Bottle

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 collapsible water bottle or a standard stainless steel water bottle.

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Water Filter

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.

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Water Purification

While there are many methods of water purification, you should keep a simple one at hand: water purification tablets. While not the fastest or pleasant method, purification tablets are small and lightweight, so there’s no reason not to have these as a backup in case you run out of clean water.

24-Hour Survival Food

Humans can last a fair amount of time without food, and dying of starvation is definitely not a danger for just 24 hours. However, keeping up your energy levels, especially if your forced to run or hike for an extended duration can quickly bring you down.

Having a few pick-me-ups can go a long way, so we recommend any combination of the below short-term survival foods:

  • Jerky (or pemmican)
  • Energy bars
  • Crackers (or hardtack)
  • Comfort foods (chocolate is my favorite!)

Layered Clothing

This is a “survival 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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Bug Out Tip #2: Speaking of socks and underwear, it never hurts to bring some extra pairs along! They can always come in handy if you get wet and need to change, or if the weather is cold and you need to throw an extra layer on.

Rain Protection

Rain Jacket

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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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 Basic Bug Out Bag. 

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Backpack Cover

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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Survival Shelter

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 Basic 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. A tent and tarp can provide a great shelter combo in any survival situation!  

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 survival tent is a nice middle ground - it is very high quality and reliable. It will not break the bank or weigh down your BOB.

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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 survival 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. It 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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Bivy Bag

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. 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.

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Sleeping Gear

Sleeping Bag

Next on our checklist of survival gear essentials for your Basic 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. 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.

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Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads provide insulation and a 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.

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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. 


Finally, another great sleeping option for your Bug Out Bag is a hammock. It doesn't offer the best insulation, but at least it keeps you off the ground. As a bonus, you can use a hammock to catch and store rainwater in case you're running low.

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Fire Starters

Getting a fire up and running, even if it’s just for one night, can provide warmth and maybe a way to cook some extra food if you’ve packed it. On top of that, a fire does wonders for morale!

There are plenty of ways to start a fire in a survival situation. However, for a 24-hour survival scenario we recommend a very simple method.

Refillable Lighters

No need to go fancy on this one. Just some simple BIC lighters will do the trick and help you start a small fire. Of course, it’s best to have redundancy methods in place, but we will cover those in our 72 Hour Bug Out Bag section.


Tinder is a simple, yet overlooked prepp! It’s lightweight, small and easy to pack. With some nice dry tinder, you can start a fire even in the worst conditions. Again, no need to go fancy, as you can just use lint from your dryer.

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.

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. Plenty of items can be improvised with paracord

However, there is one item that you should not overlook, and it could literally save your life: a tourniquet! This can stop blood loss from serious, life-threatening injuries. Hopefully it’s not something that you’ll need to use, but if you do, you’ll be thankful it’s in your bug out bag.

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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.

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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. Alternatively, if you're looking for a ready-made emergency first aid kit, you can't go wrong with our pick below, which covers most potential injuries.

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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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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 washcloths 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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Feminine Hygiene

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.

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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.

Other hygiene products

Just like most other items on this list, it’s easy to go overboard and pack the whole house in your Bug Out Bag. That said, there are a few hygiene products that might not save your life, but they will certainly make it a bit more bearable while on the road:

  • Toilet paper
  • Diapers & Baby wipes (if you’re bugging out with a small child)
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Hand sanitizers & Antiseptic wipes
  • Nail clippers

Survival Knife

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 survival knife that we’re recommending however.  It will hold up to tough use, and won’t fail you in an emergency. If you are looking for a good survival knife to keep stored in your BOB, this is a great option.

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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 survival 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.

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One thing that you will absolutely need in your Basic 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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Glow sticks

As a secondary way to create light, you can opt for some Glowsticks. They’re cheap, usually come in bulk packages, and they’re easy to use. While they don’t provide the same amount of light as other methods, they’re better than nothing.

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Emergency Power Supply

Power bank

Depending on the survival situation that’s forcing you to bug out, telecommunications and Internet might not be available. This would render your smartphone more or less useless.

However, that’s not a good enough reason not to have some backup power to charge it just in case services come back online. Because of this we recommend you keep a power bank in your Basic Bug Out Bag. Remember to check it’s charge level from time to time!

Rechargeable batteries

Regular batteries still have plenty of uses, especially if they’re rechargeable. They can add weight to your survival backpack pretty fast, so get just a few to cover some basic appliances.

Extra Chargers

Having a power source means nothing if you can’t get the power out of it. Considering how flimsy most charging cables are nowadays, add an extra charger to your pack, as a backup in case your main one gives out.

Bug Out Tip #3: You won’t really know the conditions you’ll by bugging out in, so expect most of your gear to go through some wear and tear due to water, cold or hot weather etc.

Navigation Tools

Local Map

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.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bug Out Tip #4: Real emergency preparedness includes preparing for the telecommunications system to fail. DO NOT COUNT ON YOUR SMARTPHONE TO WORK WHEN SHTF!

Emergency Signaling


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. Whistles 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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Flares have helped countless people find rescue in dire situations. If you opt for a handheld flare or you want to pack a flare gun in your Basic Bug Out Bag, these tools can be invaluable if you’re forced to bug out and can’t find your way back to civilization or you’re trapped somewhere.

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Bug Out Tip #5: Remember to always plan redundancies in your Bug Out Bag. This is the reason we recommend at least 2, or in some cases 3, survival items of the same type. If one doesn’t get the job done or you lose it, you still have a backup!

Communication Tools


This one is a no-brainer, and pretty much everyone carries a smartphone without a second thought. Like we mentioned before, depending on the reason you’re forced to bug out, a smartphone might not be that useful. It’s still the best communication tool available, so try to keep it on you.

Satellite phone

Sat phones are expensive, and will certainly not top the priority of your purchases for Bug Out Bag gear. Once you have all your basics though, this Satellite Phone can be a great investment. It’s a more reliable form of communication in case the grid goes down and you can easily get in touch with your family if any disaster strikes.

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For more communication options we have a dedicated article which contains 15 off grid methods for survival and emergency communication.

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.

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 self-defense pepper 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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Bug Out Tip #6: It’s generally accepted in the prepper community that the best self defense tools are your feet. In other words, run and don’t look back! While this is true most of the time, there are situations where you just don’t have that option and you have to confront your attackers.

General Tools


Multi-tools are essential survival items. It is like having a toolbox on your key-chain or in your pocket. This bug out multitool can easily fit in your pocket without weighing you down. It doesn’t even weigh 9 oz.  It has essential tools like wire strippers, file, wood saw, pliers, plus many more, with 17 tools total.

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Duct 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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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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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.

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Other Useful Tools

This list of common tools for survival isn’t exhaustive and you can always find extra useful things to add to your Basic Bug Out Bag. Be mindful of your total weight and carrying capacity however.

That said, we want to highlight a few more tools that can help if you’re bugging out:

  • Scissors
  • Zip ties
  • Super Glue
  • Safety Pins
  • Carabineers
  • Fishing lines and hooks
  • Sharpening Stone
  • Plastic bags

Bug Out Tip #7: The art of improvising is a huge prepper skill to learn. Having common tools available, like zip ties or fishing hooks can give you many options in a survival scenario. Time to re-watch MacGyver!

Documents, Contacts & Prepper Cheat Sheets

While we don’t necessarily advise carrying your “original” documents in the Bug Out Bag, it’s best you add at least some copies of these. It’s generally a good idea to store your originals in a safe box that’s easy to add to your Basic Bug Out Bag in case you need to evacuate.

These are the major documents you should be aware of. Make sure the originals are safely stored and that you have backup copies:

  • ID
  • Parents or next of kin contacts
  • Medical history
  • Current medications
  • Drug allergies
  • Emergency numbers
  • Emergency contacts
  • Personal data
  • Financial data
  • Records
  • Legal data
  • Family data
  • Pet’s data

In addition to your documents, some survival info and prepper cheat sheets could come in handy. The ones we recommend are related mostly to alternative communication methods:

  • Radio comm. cheat-sheet
  • Morse code cheat-sheet
  • Phonetic alphabet cheat-sheet

Extra Basic Bug Out Bag Gear


Even though you’re bugging out, that doesn’t mean you’ll never come back home or, at the very least, reach your Bug Out Vehicle. Make sure you don’t forget your keys or try to have some spare sets already added in your backpack.


Despite living in the age of “Everything Online” and everyone has a credit or debit card, if Sh*t Hits The Fan, that money is going to be useless.

Personally, I still carry cash with me wherever I go. You never know what kind of issues the system can have during an emergency or disaster, so having cash on hand is a safe bet.

Card games

You might think that games are a waste of bag space, but never underestimate the importance of morale if you’re forced to bug out. They don’t take up much space, and they can really lighten the mood, especially if you have children with you.

Tactical Pen

Tactical pens are multipurpose and enhance your emergency preparedness. They don’t take up much space, and they a worthwhile addition to your bag.

This bug out tactical pen is great for writing, has a refillable ink cartridge, features a rechargeable LED flashlight, a glass breaker, and is waterproof. In a pinch, it can also serve as a weapon for your self-defense.

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Not necessarily being the first thing that comes to mind in an emergency, a notebook has it’s uses though. You can write down important emergency numbers, coordinates, key info and much more. In a pinch, you can even use it as tinder to start a fire.

Barter Items

Just like we mentioned in the cash section, in an extreme SHTF scenario, money in the bank might not be very useful. This is where certain items, with general accepted value, can come in handy. Our go-to barter items for the Bug Out Bag are:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate

You don’t really need to trade these however. They can also provide great value for yourself. Alcohol can be used as a disinfectant, chocolate can be a great comfort food, and there is no reason to explain the value of cigarettes if you’re a smoker!

72 Hour Bug Out Bag List

Now that we’ve covered the Basic Bug Out Bag list of survival items, time to move on to the gear aimed at keeping you alive for at least 72 hours.

All of these prepper items are on top of what we’ve already discussed. Obviously, this means that your 72 Hour Bug Out Bag is going to be significantly heavier than the basic one.

With this disclaimer out of the way, here is our survival gear list when bugging out for 72 hours or more.

Bug Out Tip #8: Equipping a Bug Out Bag for 72-hour survival is a delicate balancing act. You need to pack as many useful survival items as possible, all while keeping the weight down. Consider carefully what you’re going to add, because you will be carrying all of that weight on your back!

72-Hour Survival Food

Freeze-dried Backpacker Meals

Your extended Bug Out Bag 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).

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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.

Canned food

While very nutritious and in great variety, canned food can add a lot of weight to your 72-hour BOB. Try to add a mix of canned vegetables and meat to give you a balanced diet for a few days, but don’t go overboard. Food is important, but cans take up a lot of space and they are heavy!


Meals Ready To Eat are a type survival food originated in the military. They are very nutritious and come in small packages. However, they can be quite expensive and, if you ask anyone that’s ever eaten one, they aren’t the tastiest meals out there.

A “fun” fact: MREs are easy to eat, but quite stubborn when the time comes to…get them out.

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Extra Water

This is pretty much self-explanatory. Water is by far the biggest need you will constantly experience, especially if you need to travel longer distances. The risk of dehydration is very real! If you can, try to add some more drinkable water to your 3 Day Bug Out Bag.

Between the extra water and the filtration and purification methods we mentioned in the Basic Bug Out Bag section, you should be covered for this essential survival need.

Cooking Tools

Portable Stove

Even if you do nothing other than boil water, you should absolutely have a portable stove in your 72 Hour 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 compact survival stove is fueled by just a handful of twigs, something that is readily found nearly anywhere.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Stove Fuel

If you decide to go with a different stove option than our above recommendation, then you might as well make sure you have some fuel to run it. A canister or two of butane could keep you going for a few nights of bugging out.

Eating Utensils & Cookware

Definitely not very high on the priority list, utensils and cookware can make your life a bit more bearable when bugging out. If nothing else, they can boost your morale since you’re not eating directly out of a can!

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Can opener

Speaking of cans, if you did decide to pack some canned food, hopefully you won’t forget a can opener. This can be skipped however if you have a decent multi-tool available.

Fire Starters (Continued)

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.

Survival Matches

These highly rated matches come in a waterproof case and never expire. People have commented on having these survival matches stored for decades and taking one out and having it light on the first strike. The whole kit weighs less than 50gr.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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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Ferro Rod

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.

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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 Bug Out Bag.

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.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sturdy Shoes

If you’re going to be bugging out for 72 hours or more, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking. This is where a great pair of shoes can make a world of difference. The “best” shoes will depend a lot on your environment.

One option would be to go with a lightweight pair of running shoes for a more urban environment. On the flip-side, if you plan to bug out in the wilderness, a pair of sturdy boots is what you’re looking for.

Emergency Radio

Keeping up with info and news could be vital in case of a natural disaster or other type of emergency. An emergency radio will give you updates from trustworthy sources. You might need to relocate, head to higher ground or find a refugee camp. All of these updates could be transmitted by radio.

Pry bar

The pry bar is a smaller version of a crowbar. They both have benefits and disadvantages, but for the purposes of a 72 Hour Bug Out Bag, a pry bar should be the better tool to pack. It won’t take up too much space in your backpack and it will help you open boxes, boarded up entrances or clear debris by creating leverage to move things easier.


Just like the pry bar is a smaller version of the crowbar, so is the hatchet to the axe. The hatchet has a shorter handle than an axe and won’t offer as much leverage or cutting power. However, it is smaller and lighter and should be more than enough to cut some wood for a fire or improvise a wilderness survival shelter.

Generally, you can’t go wrong with products made by Estwing, so naturally their hatchet is a great addition to the 72 Hour Bug Out Bag. It’s forged from one piece of metal, has a comfortable and ergonomic grip and it’s very compact and lightweight.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Folding Shovel

If you're forced to bug out in the wilderness, a shovel can prove a very useful tool. It can come in handy if you want to setup a semi-permanent camp for example. If the soil permits, you can create a better insulated shelter by digging a small foundation or even partially cover the base of your shelter.

You can also use a survival shovel to create a fire pit, cover your tracks or replace functions from other tools like a hammer or knife, if you buy a versatile one.

And that's just the type of survival shovel we're recommending! The SOG Tactical Shovel has multiple functions and tools integrated in it's design. As an added benefit, it's a folding shovel, that doesn't weight too much, which makes it perfect for a 72 Hour Bug Out Bag.

Last update on 2024-05-27 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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 easier 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 2021 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 or head straight to our next article: Get Home Bag List.

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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