What Is Bug Out Gear: 9 Component Foolproof Survival Checklist

You’ve probably heard the term “Bugging Out” before and wondered what heck it actually means. The term is used worldwide by military training institutions. To “Bug Out” is to “Bail Out” out of trouble. That’s all well and good, but what is bug out gear then? The idea was based on the action of hiding out with the bare minimum of supplies needed to survive out in the field. Someone who was required to “Bug Out” needed to do it quickly and swiftly and was usually in some type of danger.

The “Bug Out Bag” would contain any emergency gear to aid the user to escape an emergency situation. It usually contains 72 hours worth of supplies which is generally enough time for a user to gain access to help. In this guide, you will learn about the different types of gear needed to bug out. Also some tips and hacks when it comes to packing and storing it.

Types of Bug Out Gear

There are many types of items when it comes to bug out gear. They all fall under the same several survival categories. Each of these categories serve a very specific purpose. They aim to keep you hydrated, fed, warm, dry, and uninjured. It’s as simple as that! Every other piece of gear that supports those goals is a bonus. Let’s look at the main categories and the purpose that they serve. This will give us a better understanding of why they are so vital.

1. Food (Including Food Preparation)

Bug Out Bag Food

Believe it or not, food isn’t actually the most important category for us as human beings to survive. Humans can survive 3 days without food. Fasting is even said to be good for your body. Would it be the very last item that you would try to stuff in the sides of your bug out bag? No way! It sits a little higher up on the list though, because of the simple fact that it has a knock on effect…

The calories from the food give us the energy that our bodies need to survive. It gives us the energy to build a fire to keep us warm. It gives us the energy to setup some shelter to keep us dry and safe. It gives us the energy to perform first aid if we or others are injured.

The energy that we receive from the food needs to be the right type of energy though. There’s no point in packing your bug out bag full with junk food as that’s just a recipe for disaster. (Although potato chips are a handy source of fire lighting tinder). The only other upside to packing junk foods is it’ll definitely give any predators something extra to munch on when they catch you in a sugar coma.

You definitely want to throw in some light but nourishing food. You should also think about ease of preparation. Dried fruits, vegetables and meats are worth their weight in gold. Also, survival food bars and trail mixes are a really good food source that fit the criteria.

2. Water (Including Hydration)

what is bug out gear - water being retrieved from creek via bottle

Now water on the other hand, is by far, the most important category to fulfil in the fight for survival. You go and get yourself stuck too far down the dehydration hole and you die! That is not a joke! The reason for dehydration is simple, you aren’t supplying your body with enough water. Did you know that up to 70% of the human body is made up of water? That’s why it’s so damn important that you stay hydrated on a regular basis.

You need to keep that water inside your body to make sure that it performs as it should. Depending on the situation you find yourself in, you’re going to lose a ton of your body’s water. This can be via basic bodily functions such as breathing, sweating and going to the toilet. Dehydration symptoms range from lack of saliva, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and chills, dizziness, fainting, low blood pressure and as mentioned earlier as the worst case scenario, death!

Ideally, you want to carry a minimum of 7.5 liters (2 gallons) of water per person per day. You should aim to have a 3 days supply packed in your bug out bag and ready to go. Carrying this much water though, could weigh you down when you really want to be staying light on your feet. It will all depend on the situation that you find yourself in. So of course, there are other alternatives that can give you a supply of water in emergency situations. You could pack water purification tablets, iodine tablets or personal water filters.

We’ll go through much more when we look at building a bug out bag so read on!

3. Shelter (Including Bedding and Warmth)

Another important category type that should definitely go in your bug out bag is shelter. Shelter can come in all different shapes, sizes and styles. It could be a tent of sorts. It could be a simple tarp that you hang up with some rope. It could even include other sleeping accessories like sleeping bags or mats. These items all fall under the shelter category.

The main purpose of shelter is to provide you with a warm, dry and preferably comfortable place to sleep and recharge. It’s also a vital item to help protect you from the harsh elemental environments. This may include sub-zero temperatures or torrential rain for example. It’s your home in the middle of nowhere, it’s your hideout from criminals or predators. It’s your safety net if you will. If you are dry, safe and recharged, you will have a much better chance of facing a new day/night whilst trying to survive.

what is bug out gear - shelter

4. Clothing

Clothing as a survival item is often overlooked and definitely underrated. The thing is with clothing is that pretty much any emergency situation that you can think of will involve you not being able to access your own wardrobe. You could be stuck on a snow peaked mountain or lost deep inside a cave. You wouldn’t be able to just grab a jacket when you’re cold, a new pair of socks when you’re wet or a change of underwear when you’re….. well….. You know…..

bug out bag essentials - survival clothing

Oh, and it’s one thing to have clothing but it’s a whole new level of importance to have appropriate clothing. This means appropriate clothing for whatever the situation and conditions are that you find yourself in. It’s generally best to pack different types of clothing. Keeping in mind the weight that you need to lug around in your bug out bag. Choosing clothes that can be layered is advantageous as they can often have multiple uses.

Climates will be one of the biggest factors when deciding what to pack. Obviously, warm clothing will help fight extreme cold. On the other side, light, airy clothing will help tackle the heat. The key is to only pack essential clothes that will give you a fighting chance against survival. Remember, getting out alive from the unexpected is not a fashion show, you don’t need to look good. In fact, you’ll probably look like crap when you haven’t had the chance to have a shower for days and your breath smells like you’ve been eating tree bark sandwiches!

So, only pack what you need, nothing more, this will help maximise bag space also. One of the best materials for keeping you warm is merino wool. It’s strong, warm and breathable. For warmer climates, cotton is a great option as it’s light, airy and breathable. We’ll go through what to pack in the section on building your bug out bag.

5. First Aid (Including Personal Health/Safety, Hygiene and Sanitation)

Let’s face it, if you can’t dress a wound to fight infection or tie a tourniquet to buy you some time to get help coz you’ve been bitten by a snake, then you haven’t got a chance out there. Even the tiniest of cuts can become infected and cause major health issues. Gangrene anyone? Knowing just basic first aid is literally life saving! Having the right first aid gear packed in your bug out bag is your best chance of staying alive.

You can either purchase a fully decked out first aid kit which can sometimes wind the budget right up or you can build your own kit, piece by piece. The latter option is a little time consuming but very thorough to say the least! At bare minimum, your kit should include: disposable sterile gloves, sterile gauze dressings, bandages scissors, cleansing wipes, broad-spectrum antibiotics, OTC (over the counter) painkillers, tweezers and a thermometer.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you make sure that your kit is always up to date and fully stocked. This requires routine checks, especially for things like creams and OTC medication. Aside from first aid, this category will include hygiene essentials such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.

6. Self Defense (Including Weapons and Hunting)

bug out bag essentials - camping knife

Alright, now this category is debatable but is in fact right up there on the list of importance. More so for the self defence aspect. Not only that, but for all the hunters out there, you’ll agree that food is easy to come by with a decent take down tool. Am I right? Also, If you find yourself in some kind of a ‘cat and mouse’ type situation with a criminal or even predator, a weapon of sorts can fast become your best friend! There are an array of different small firearms that could easily slot into your bug out bag.

An item that is a definite must have though, is a decent survival knife. Survival knives have so many handy uses from creating feather sticks that help start fires to preparing food to cutting rope when building a shelter. They can also be a weapon when all else fails. Unless you’re Doctor Do-Little or Steve Erwin, it’s going to be tough to reason with a crocodile when it’s on the hunt for some lunch. So find the right knife for you to give you the best chance of staying alive.

7. Tools, Lighting and Accessories

These are the gizmo and gadgets that are hard to live on the run without. They include anything that can dig, cut, slash, shine, tie, charge, fix, etc. They are the items that you can put together to create something else that is even more handy. Almost every one of these items share the top spot of importance in their category. A small fishing kit can help feed you. Super glue can cover and heal wounds as well as fix things. Headlamps can help you see and that’s just the beginning. A bag well stocked with the right tools, lights and accessories will be the difference between sleeping easy and having nightmares.

8. Navigation, Communications and Signalling

This category is what will help get you from point A to point B and out of trouble when you are lost! From radios to maps to signal mirrors and more. You will also want to make sure that you have a well thought out disaster plan to make your flee seamless. Having the right processes set in place will enable you to navigate your way out of any danger.

9. Backpacks and Bags

Aaand, to tie all of these life saving items together in one handy spot, you have bug out bags or backpacks. We are going to go into a lot of detail in the next section. So it’s best just to say that you want something that is comfortable, lightweight and has heaps of different compartments. This will enable you to separate and organize your gear. This makes everything easily accessible in any survival type situation. This is the most important factor for you. You want to be able to get out of whatever situation that you find yourself in without any added stress of trying to dig into a bag unnecessarily. 

Survival tools and weapons

Keeping All Your Gear in One Place – the Bug Out Bag

What Is a Bug Out Bag

Now that we’ve gone through all of the gear categories that will enable you to get through almost any survival situation, let’s dig a little deeper into how you’re going to lug them around with relative ease. It may seem almost impossible to cram so much gear in one small space but with the right bag, you will have no problems! Enter, the Bug Out Bag… After all, what is bug out gear if you aint got something to carry it in! You’ve probably heard it being called a variety of names such as:

  • BOB (Bug Out Bag)
  • Go bag
  • Bushcraft Rucksacks
  • Survival bag/Survival kit
  • Emergency kit/Emergency bag
  • Evac bag/Evacuation bag
  • 72 hour kit/72 hour bag
  • Preparedness Kit
  • SHTF bag (Shit Hits The Fan)
  • GOOD bag (Get Out Of Dodge)
  • INCH bag (I’m Never Coming Home)
  • PERK bag (Personal Emergency Relocation Kit)

Call it whatever you want, but they are designed to serve a very specific purpose. That is to allow you to evacuate quickly if a disaster strikes. Not only that but it contains the items one would require to survive for at bare minimum 72 hours when evacuating from such disasters.

Choosing the Best Bug Out Bag

Ok, so we now understand the importance of such a bag that’s focus is on evacuation, as opposed to long term survival. Let’s look at what qualities actually make for the best bug out bag. There is no point in just purchasing a backpack or bag because it’s cheap and your mate has one exactly the same. There are many alternatives that fit all budgets of all sizes. When choosing the best bug out bag, here are the things that you want to look out for:

  • You want it to be made with thick and durable fabrics
  • You want it to be lightweight even before you begin to pack
  • It’s a great buy if it includes a MOLLE system
  • A chest strap and/or padded hip support straps are a must! You want to be able to run if necessary and not worry about the bag slipping or moving.
  • You want it to either be water-resistant or include a water-resistant shell
  • All zippers, clips and clasps should be made of high quality materials.
  • You want it to include lots of pockets and compartments so you can organise and separate all of your gear.
  • A handy addition is for it to be constructed with a roll-top for expanded storage.
  • You want it to be airtight (if possible)

That’s a pretty decent wish list but for good reason. This is your life in a bag so you want it to be reliable and tough! In the next section, we’ll have a look at the actual items that are essential to pack.

Bug Out Bag Essentials – Building a Bug Out Bag

We have finally reached the fun part, packing the essentials that you need to survive the unthinkable. Word of advice, don’t go packing random extra stuff that isn’t a NEED! The whole point is to survive — not to build a 12 story space station. When going through this bug out bag list, remember that the intention is to provide as many items as possible in your bag. But, if you try to cram in every single item on the bug out bag list, your bag will end up being super heavy. What is bug out gear if you cant even carry the essentials?

Ideally, you should only add the items that make most sense in meeting your needs and the conditions that you will be packing for. The main aim is to stay hydrated, fed, warm, dry, and uninjured. Don’t forget that! Everything else that supports those goals is the icing on top.

As mentioned in an earlier section, there are several main categories that all of your survival needs come from. Those categories can be expanded a little when looking at what to actually pack in your bug out bag. Let’s have a look at what you should add under each of the categories:

1. Food and Food Preparation

A minimum of 72 hour supply including non-perishable foods with high protein for sustained energy:

  • Snack/Energy/Protein Bars
  • MREs/Dehydrated Meals
  • Dried Fruits/Vegetables/Cured Meats
  • P-38 or G.I Manual Can Opener
  • Portable Stove and Stove Fuel
  • Spork
  • Metal or Collapsible Silicone Cup
  • Metal Cooking Pot And Scrubber (To Clean)

2. Water and Hydration

A minimum of 72 hour supply

  • Water: 7.5 litres (2 gallons) per person per day for drinking, cooking and hygiene
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Water Filter/Purification Systems
  • Different Types of Water Bottles Including: Collapsible Water Bottle, Hard Water Bottle, Metal Water Bottle/Canteen

3. Shelter, Bedding and Warmth

  • Thick Plastic or Oilcloth Tarpaulins (Tarps)
  • Tents
  • Ground Pad/Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Wool Blanket
  • Space Blanket
  • Waterproof Matches/Lighter
  • Ferrocerium Rod (Ferro Rod) or other type of fire lighter
  • 9 Volt Battery And Steel Wool
  • Flint And Steel
  • Tinder

4. Clothing

  • Socks (Wool) and Underwear (Of Course)
  • Long-John Set (Pants And Jumper)
  • Neck Tube Or Shemagh
  • Thin Wool Beanie
  • Medium Weight Fleece Set (Pants And Jumper)
  • Convertible (Zip-Off) Pants
  • Lightweight Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Cold Weather Gloves
  • Insulated Leather Working Gloves
  • Hat With Flexible Brim
  • Snow Goggles
  • Rain Poncho

5. Personal Health/Safety, Hygiene and Sanitation

  • Air filtration mask
  • Toothbrush And Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • Sunscreen
  • Prescription drugs
  • Medicine for indigestion: stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhoea
  • Feminine Hygiene Products (Tampons)

6. First Aid Kit With Instructions Including:

  • Bandages/Band-aids
  • Painkillers
  • Gauze pads
  • Medical gloves
  • Medical instrument kit
  • Sling
  • Burn gel
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Antiseptic/Antibacterial Wipes
  • Tourniquet

7. Self Defense (Including Weapons and Hunting)

  • Survival Knife With Sheath
  • Firearms including Ammunition (And Licence)
  • Slingshot, blowgun, pellet gun or other small game hunting equipment
  • Pepper spray

8. Tools, Lighting and Accessories

  • Multi Tool
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Mini Shovel/Axe/Hatchet (A Combo would be even better)
  • Folding Saw
  • A decent survival axe
  • Super Glue
  • Tie Wire
  • Duct Tape
  • Rope
  • Paracord
  • Small Fishing Kit Including Tackle
  • Emergency Whistle
  • Battery Or Crank Operated Radio (Including Appropriate Batteries)
  • Battery Or Crank Operated Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Portable Solar Charger
  • External Battery
  • Small Mirror (Can Be Doubled Up For Signalling)
  • Sewing kit
  • Mobile Phone And Charger
  • Trash bags
  • Aluminum foil

9. Navigation, Communications and Signalling

10. Miscellaneous

  • Emergency Cash ($500 in multiple denominations)
  • Passport
  • Identification (Driver Licence, Social Security, etc)
  • Copies of Important Documents (Medical Records, Birth Certificate, Home Insurance, etc)
  • Child, Pet and Elderly Care Needs

Final Thoughts

When all said and done, having the right gear with you in the toughest times is going to give you the confidence to survive and thrive. Not only that, but having somewhere to keep and carry your gear is essential. Whether it’s to enable you to eat, sleep, see or protect among other things, your Bug Out Gear will have your back every single time! Hopefully, this post has been helpful to you and becomes a valuable resource whenever you find yourself wondering, what is bug out gear?.

If there are any items that you feel are necessary that aren’t on the bug out bag list, feel free to leave it in the comments so this resource can be updated for any other consumers benefit! Thanks for reading and learning important answers to the age old question of ‘What is bug out gear’? Bye for now!

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