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Welcome to my Ultimate Bug Out Bag List!
This article covers all the items that range from essential to downright extravagant that you could utilize in a survival bug out situation.
I will tell you that this article is more like a small eBook weighing in at over 8000 words! However, this isn’t just another list of endless gear that you will never end up using.
Rather, I have orchestrated this article into an easy-to-follow format that clearly organizes gear into their appropriate class.
Within those classes, I notate whether the item is essential, robust, or luxury. It will be up to you to decide if the item is of absolute necessity for your unique bug out situation or if it would be a nice morale booster to have along the way.
By the end of this article, you will be well informed of how to be geared up for a SHTF bug out situation and have access to a list of researched, curated, and tried-and-true items that you can have confidence in purchasing.
I also included the average weight of each item so you can calculate the final weight of your bug out bag, an essential planning step that is easily overlooked.
I suggest bookmarking this article so you can refer back to the information as you slowly build out your bug out bag.
If you are into the concept of bugging out, then check out my article on Factors for Prepping a Bug Out Bag.
On with the show!
Table of Contents
Section One: The Best Bug Out Bag Backpack
Before we dive into the supplies that you will be outfitting your bug out bag with, let’s take a moment to discuss the actual bag you will be using, a crucial part to bug out success.
Do not skimp on the quality of your bag! Your livelihood is depending on the success of this bag staying intact and being comfortable to wear while trekking miles and miles to get to your bug out location.
Imagine if your bag fell apart while trekking, or was so uncomfortable that you had to take frequent breaks. Do not let your foundation crack! Invest the dollars into a good quality bag and rest assured that it will make the journey.
The majority of the success of your bag depends on the material that it is made of.
Denier: Material Toughness
When purchasing a backpack for your bug out bag, make sure to research the Denier of the material used.
Denier is a metric of measurement that determines the thickness, or density, of the material.
The higher the number, the denser and stronger the material is.
Do note that it does not cross fabrics; a 450D nylon is stronger than a 900D polyester.
1. Ultralight Class Backpack
Ultralight backpacks typically weigh less and keep you a lot cooler compared to other materials. They are built for comfort on long treks.
a micro-niche trend has become popular for outdoor companies to manufacture super light backpacks made out of a space-age material that costs a small fortune. They are designed especially for backpackers and long mountaineering trips.
When you are considering the weight factor, these can be great bags. However, they aren’t as durable and tough as their canvas counterparts and do need to be treated with care. You can’t just throw them around and bump them up against abrasive surfaces – maybe not the most ideal choice for a bug out backpack.
If you feel like you can treat your bag tenderly and the ultralight material appeals to you, then this could be a good fit.
This OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack is pretty lightweight at 2.5 pounds considering that it has a 50 liter storage capacity.
Although the pack itself is not waterproof, it comes with a rainfly that has its own designated pocket.
The backpack comes with several compartments and pockets for stuffing full of BOB goodies.
2. Canvas Backpack
Military-issued duffel bags of days yonder were made of cotton canvas. Back then, they would wax the canvas to waterproof the bags, but this made the bags prone to damage from abrasion and would eventually rot if left exposed to damp conditions.
Canvas is now typically made of synthetic fibers and the technology of waxing canvas has improved. You can find good sturdy bags made of waxless cotton canvas or waxed synthetic canvas.
Canvas bags look pretty badass with that classic vintage rucksack feel so you can also look cool while bugging out because we always got to look cool!), and they are durable enough to withstand any survival situation or deep woods trek.
This High-Density Thick Canvas Rucksack has a carrying capacity of 30 liters and weighs in at 2 pounds.
I like that this bag looks inconspicuous which exercises the “grey man” theory. Grey man is a person who blends in with their surroundings and does not stick out like a sore thumb. If you are carrying a huge pack, you could be subject to becoming a target.
Although it lacks the “tactical” look, it has that nice vintage military style of days past.
The high density canvas has gotten great reviews as a sturdy reliable pack.
What is the Grey Man Theory?
Becoming a “grey man” in the time of a disaster essentially means that you blend in with the crowd. It is typically applied to those that are bugging out within a city.
If you are bugging out with a huge tactical pack, this could make you a target in the crowd while people are panicking.
You need to conceal the fact that you are prepared by choosing a discreet backpack.
3. Ripstop Nylon Backpack
Regular old nylon had a bad habit of ripping and running, which is why ripstop nylon was created. It is used for sails, parachutes, and hot air balloons and is commonly used for outdoors backpacks.
Ripstop is water repellent and backpacks made of it are relatively cheap. Most tactical bug out bags are made of ripstop nylon or a heavy-duty polyester, or a blend of both.
The DIGBUG Military Tactical Backpack is a smaller pack with a carrying capacity of 30 liters. It’s very inconspicuous and has a sleek design.
What I love about this bag is the rugged 1000D nylon material used. That is a serious denier and should hold up under extreme conditions.
This bag would be good for a smaller length bug out or for a smaller person, like me!
The REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack holds 40 liters and uses the MOLLE gear system so you can hang more packs and items from the bag.
The bag itself is water-resistant so you won’t need to worry about a rain fly attachment.
I also like that it comes with the grayscale American flag – very cool.
It does look tactical but is probably small enough to fly under the “grey man” radar.
The MOLLE System Explained
MOLLE (pronounced Molly) stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. The MOLLE system is used in tactical gear by the military and is the matrixed webbing you will see on backpacks and vests.
You can attach packs and all sorts of items with carabineers onto the MOLLE matrix, expanding your load bearing capacity.
These are some badass Grimlock MOLLE D-Ring attachments.
This is a nice 3 piece set to expand your MOLLE system. I like the water bottle holder and the small pouch would be good for your phone and small stuff like keys, lip balm, etc.
Utilize every space that you have by adding these shoulder strap pouches to your MOLLE system.
Section Two: Best Essential Survival Gear
If you are building a bare minimum bug out bag, then pay close attention to this section. You do not need every single thing listed as I provide lots of alternatives for a single purpose.
I have thoroughly researched all the products listed in this section and have suggested the best items available on the market for 2020 based upon ease of use, weight factor, and affordability.
I suggest having a basic lighter for easy fire but do not rely on that as your only fire source. Having two or three firestarter options is ideal. There are all sorts of ways to start a fire, I chose the lightest and fuel-free ways for this article.
(6 oz) Flint (ferro rod) and steel – There are tons of flint and steel combos out there, but I prefer to make the upgrade to a ferrocerium rod. Ferrocerium is a synthetic alloy that makes a huge shower of super hot sparks so it’s much easier to start a fire. The price difference is nominal between regular flint and ferrocerium, so might as well make your life a little easier and make the upgrade.
I like the price point of this Bayite Ferrocerium Rod And Steel kit which lasts for 12,000 strikes.
(1 oz per bag) Magnesium – Mg comes in flakes, shavings, and powders and is used as tinder in conjunction with another firestarter. It makes for a good kindling and burns super hot at 4000 degrees! You can buy it as a block as well, but the shavings are ready-to-use and so much easier to deal with.
(2 oz) Pyro Putty- Another intriguing fire starting option is Pyro Putty. This putty works really well in sub-optimal fire-starting conditions like dealing with wet tinder or starting fire in the rain. A quarter-sized piece of putty will burn for 15 minutes down to -20 degrees.
(1.7 oz) Stormproof matches – these are a good idea to have although they are kind of spendy per match. These matches will light even after being submerged into the water – but they still come in a waterproof container, heh.
Do not purchase just any rope! Specifically, paracord (550 lb), can provide a solution for a plethora of problems encountered while bugging out.
Paracord is extremely tough as it consists of multiple strands of nylon cordage weaved into multiple small ropes that are then weaved into one large rope. You can unravel the cord and use the internal strands for many utilities.
Some uses for paracord are:
- Fishing line
- Shelter building
- Net making
The weight on 550 paracord comes in at about 12 feet per ounce.
I recommend TOUGH-GRID 750 paracord as it is made super extra tough with triple strand weaving and comes in at a really good price. Also, it is made in the USA and is used by the military. It’s tougher than the standard 550 paracord but is still very pliable and soft. I love this stuff!
Flashlights used to be bulky battery suckers, but with the advent of LED technology, flashlight size, longevity, and brightness have come a long way.
Although modern-day tactical flashlights don’t chew through the batteries nearly as fast, don’t expect them to last for more than 20 hours on each battery cycle.
(6-8 oz) Hand crank flashlight – I suggest having one as a backup to your battery-operated flashlight.
The ThorFire hand crank/solar-charged LED flashlight weighs 6 ounces and has an 18-month replacement warranty. Not only is this flashlight waterproof but can be submerged to 45 feet. Impressive!
Although this flashlight isn’t the cheapest on the market, you will get 1 hour of light per 1 minute of cranking. Other competing hand crank flashlights require 6 minutes of cranking for 1 hour of charge! That seems like a whole lot of effort to me, and I’d rather spend the few extra bucks for way less work.
(6-8 oz w/o batteries) Battery operated tactical flashlight – If you don’t mind touting around some extra batteries, there is a host of tactical flashlights available online ranging from really cheap to really expensive.
From what I have researched, you don’t need to drop a massive wad of cash to get a good quality flashlight anymore.
I found this 2-pack of tactical flashlights that have gotten very good reports from its users. The price is really cheap, especially for two flashlights. 2000 lumens of light is really bright and the bulb life is 50,000 hours. I’d say its a good find and should do the job.
(8-12 oz) Headlamps – Headlamps have also come up in quality and down in price. I remember shopping for headlamps at the hardware store; they were ridiculously overpriced and the performance was subpar. Luckily, we have much more competition in the market driving down the price and driving up the quality.
From all of the headlamps available, I chose the Keshi Headlamp for its compact design. Many of the headlamps available are large which doesn’t fit so well into a bug out bag. This one comes with a nice carrying case and has a slimmer profile.
The battery life on full blast isn’t great so you will need to pack some extra batteries or have a portable solar-powered USB charging device with you.
4. Self Defense
If SHTF in your neighborhood, don’t expect your neighbors to be so neighborly.
Self-defense plays a crucial role in survival when bugging out, especially when you are escaping an urban environment. Hopefully, you won’t have to use any self-defense tactics, but being prepared is paramount to coming out the other side.
Guns and ammo – I am not going to get into specific detail here as I am no gun expert. I do know that I feel quite safe packing my 40 caliber Glock on my side. Its a great gun for me as it feels comfortable in my small hands (since I am a chick) and it works well for lefties (I am also left-handed). I have two fully loaded clips, one in the gun and one in the holster for easy access.
As far as ammo goes, it’s hard to say how much you want to pack with you. One .40 round weighs on average 10 grams. So roughly 45-50 bullets weigh a pound. It’s not a whole lot of rounds but should suffice for a 72-hour bug out plan.
However, on a long-term bug out situation, you will want to pack more ammo especially if you are using your gun to go hunting. You can also barter ammo for supplies if you choose to do so, although I don’t suggest it. Ammo will be practically impossible to scavenge on your trek.
There are other self-defense alternatives than packing heat although I suggest having a gun as your primary self-defense method.
(8-12 oz) Heavy Duty Taser – A high-voltage taser will pack enough juice to temporarily paralyze an assailant giving you time to get away from the situation.
I like to carry my taser as my “sneak attack” defense method. If my first line of defense fails (unlikely but not impossible) or I get grabbed from behind by surprise, I have my taser easily accessible to give the assailant the shock of his life.
You can also “snap” the taser, making a loud electrical spark that scares off both humans and animals.
The Vipertek taser weighs in at 10 ounces and has a grooved grip handle so it won’t slip out of your hands. The price point is low for how much juice it packs and will last for thousands of shocks off one charge.
(1.5 oz) Pepper spray – Pepper spray is light, requires no energy, is cheap, and has a pretty good range, but it does not work on all people. The majority of people get dropped by it immediately, but some people it has no effect. Therefore, it should not be counted on as your primary self-defense method.
Gel pepper spray is a new form of spray that is safer to use as it has no wind blowback and can shoot for a very long distance.
Sabre red pepper gel is police-grade, has an 18-foot range, and will last for 18 bursts.
(2 oz) Kubotan – My last recommendation is super light, requires no charging, and never runs out of juice. It is the Kubotan and man, it packs a punch!
This little aluminum rod fits into your hand and will inflict some serious pain upon an unsuspecting assailant. It’s a non-lethal option yet is an effective tool for defending yourself.
5. Survival Knife
A good, sturdy survival knife is worth its weight in gold on a bug out mission. Yes, it can be used for self-defense, but there is a multitude of other utilities that a survival knife can be used for.
Some creative ways to use your survival knife:
- fashioning pointed tips on a spear
- carving tools
- chopping firewood
- skinning animals
- prepping meals
I use my EDC knife almost every day for prying and cutting; I typically never foresee the need for my knife until I need it.
I recommend packing three knives for your bug out expedition:
- Large, fixed blade knife
- Small EDC knife
- Skinning knife
If you are going to splurge, do so on your knife. When it comes to quality, knives that are made better are more expensive. There are lots of knives available at cheaper price points that have great reviews; but when it comes down to my experience, you are going to have to cough up some cash to get a good quality knife.
(26 oz) SXB Skullcrusher by TOPS knives – I am completely sold on the high quality of any knife made by TOPS.
The Skullcrusher is your ultimate bushwhacking hacking bashing knife that will take the beatings head-on. Its a full-tang, large, heavy knife that keeps a good edge and will take on just about anything you throw at it.
(6 oz) Off-Grid OG-220S Knife – Off-Grid Knives puts a whole lot of care into the construction and durability of their product.
What I like about this knife is the quality of the steel. It is a cryo-treated steel that makes it super durable, sharp, and decreases microchipping. The handle is chunky and super-grippy.
(12 oz) Buck Knives 141 PakLite Field Master Kit – This is a three-in-one skinning, caping, and gut hook set that will take care of all your animal field dressing needs.
I like this set because it is super-light compared to other field dress knife sets out there. If you find the handles too thin to grip, you can always wrap the handle in paracord for better gripping.
Please, please, PLEASE do not forget to pack a knife sharpener! Its a commonly overlooked tool yet is VITAL to maintain the blade and the safety of your survival knife!
I really like this (3 oz) Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener as it is meant to sharpen knives in the field. You can sharpen serration, axes, arrow points, and even fishhooks with this bad boy. It is a compact and light unit with no assembly or pieces.
6. Tools and Miscellaneous Items
(1-2 lbs) Multitool Collapsible Shovel
If you’re gonna carry it, might as well be a multitool!
I found this IUNIO collapsible 31″ shovel that weighs in at 2 pounds and can be converted into a pickaxe, hammer, and fish scaler. It also has a built-in whistle, firestarter, and bottle opener.
(7-10 oz) Folding Saw – for cutting branches for firewood.
(1 oz) Mirror – for signaling rescue in an emergency. You can get a mirror specially made for rescuing. It is made out of acrylic so it won’t break and has an aiming system in the middle for accuracy. Or you can just use a good old fashioned mirror.
This UST StarFlash Micro Signal Mirror is a high-end flashy mirror if you want to get technical.
(1-2 oz) Emergency Whistle – Good for alerting someone in an emergency or finding a friend if you get separated.
(20 oz) Portable Solar USB Charger – Personally, my go bag is constructed with NO reliance on power, period. I do not want to be dependent on having to charge devices. Everything I own is old school or hand-crank powered.
But there are so many cool survival gadgets that do depend on power! If you do decide to get some gadgets that require charging, then a solar power charger is a must-have. Just make sure you can charge the devices by USB. Check out the BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger.
(8 oz) Trash bags and duct tape – just trust me on these!
The next sections of gear have such a comprehensive selection of items that I have organized them into four classes:
Lean – the absolute essentials for your bug out bag. If you are planning to bug out at a minimal weight or are not planning for a long term bug out, then the lean section will work for your needs. This is also the most cost efficient section.
Medium – A step above the minimal plan, the items in the medium category will give you some more comforts while bugging out without weighing you down.
Robust – Items in this category are not exactly necessary but will help you exceed in a long term survival situation and can provide morale boosters.
Luxury – These items are extravagant to have but are super cool and worth mentioning. You may find it worth splurging on one or two luxury items to boost your comfort and morale.
You may find that some items listed in the medium or even robust category are essential to you. Every survival bug out situation is unique, especially when dealing with regional weather challenges.
You also might want to consider one or two luxury items for your bag as these could give you that extra morale boost you need to keep on the journey. Many of the robust and luxury items are things you could use on a daily basis that would also enhance your survival strategy.
On with it then!
Section Three: bug out bag medical supplies list
(2 oz) Anti-diarrhea medication – yep, this makes it to the top of the important list. Dehydration and being slowed down with the trots can spell complete ruin on a bug out venture.
(8-16 oz) A sterilizing agent – such as rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Sterilizing wipes are also good, but having fluid will last longer and be more effective.
(2-4 oz) Personal medication – such as prescription pills and an EpiPen.
(1.5 oz) Superglue – for quickly protecting open wounds (use AFTER you have sterilized the cut!).
(7.2 oz) Super basic first aid kit – with the bare essentials such as bandages, gauze, medical tape, blunt-tip scissors.
(3 oz) Bite and sting kit – I found this Ven-Ex Snake Bite Kit that sucks the venom and poison out of the wound. It works for stings as well.
(4 oz) Splints – there are different types of splints depending on the body part. When you apply a splint, make sure to immobilize the joint before and after the broken bone. For example, if the lower leg is broken, apply a splint that reaches from the knee to the ankle. You can read more about the techniques of splinting here.
You can also use items you find along the way such as a straight piece of wood or small straight tree branch and secure it with a piece of cloth from a ripped up shirt.
I recommend packing a SAM Splint which is moldable and cuttable.
(3-6 oz) Moleskin – to protect from blisters, moleskin is fairly high on the important list as having raw rubbing blisters that could possibly get infected can greatly hinder a bug out effort.
(4-16 oz) Medicated baby powder – to prevent chafing, friction on the skin, and to treat rashes.
(2-4 oz) Antihistamine – this may be essential for allergic persons.
(2-4 oz) Pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen – personally, I do not find these to be a lean item, but I am sure many will disagree with me. I tend to “tough it out” and only take a pain reliever if I really need it. That said, while bugging out, I may find that I really need it and would want to have it, so I do have a small bottle in my bug out bag.
(16 oz) Mid-size first aid kit – a little spendier than the aforementioned first aid kit, this medium kit does pack quite a few more helpful items.
(2-4 oz) Antibiotics – Without modern day antibiotics, a common infection can turn lethal with a quickness. I suggest picking up some aquarium antibiotics which is simple penicillin that can treat many infections.
(4.5 oz) Quick Clot – alright, this is super cool! This special sponge stops bleeding three times faster than the body naturally does. It works by using the natural mineral Zeolite which helps coagulate wounds. It can even be used on gunshot wounds.
(2.9 oz) Israeli Bandage – Thes are super legit. It’s a compression bandage that controls bleeding and can be used in conjunction with the quick clot sponge. It comes in a vacuum-sealed sterilized package and doesn’t take up much space at all.
(1 oz) Burn Relief Oil – This oil kills the pain of the burn, is antibacterial, helps heal the skin and prevents blisters. It can be used on a 1st or 2nd degree burn.
Burn relief oil can also help with inflammation, itching, and soothing irritated skin.
(3.25 lbs) Surviveware Large First Aid Kit – This first aid kit is robust but can still travel easily at a relatively low weight.
It folds up nice and tight and all the contents are secured in a 600D polyester bag.
This is probably a little too extensive for small bug outs but would serve decently in longer term survival scenarios.
This kit also comes with a one pound mini kit that you can use to barter with or have a companion carry.
(18 lbs) Advanced First Responder EMT Trauma Kit – This kit is the go-to station for serious medical emergencies. The operator will need to have the proper training to implement some of the items in this bag.
The weight is a whopping 18 pounds as there is a small oxygen tank in the bag. If you are going to lug this around (chances are it won’t fit in your go bag) its because you want to be the go-to medic in an emergency event.
Section Four: Emergency Survival Water Purification
Collecting and purifying water while on the bug out journey is crucial to your success. You should have some water with you when you begin your trek, but you will likely be depleted within a few days.
When planning your bug out path, make sure that you will have access to a fresh water source and have a method to purify that water.
I have written a thorough guide to the Best Emergency Water Filters in times of an emergency. I suggest reading it to become more researched on the topic of providing clean safe drinking water for you and your family.
Sunlight – Good old fashioned sunlight will EXTERMINATE both bacteria and viruses! Place water in a clear bottle (preferably glass) and let the water sit in full sunlight for 5 hours.
Note that relying on sunlight to decontaminate water is not an ideal primary method for a bug out situation. It does make for a good backup method, however.
Boil water in a pan – Although this sounds like the simplest method to purify water, it’s not. You will need a fire. And a pot or a kettle. You may not be able to start a fire at any given moment, and you may not have enough time to wait for the water to boil. I would suggest having a secondary water purification method in place.
(2-4 oz) Iodine tablets – These are A MUST HAVE in your bug out bag. This is the simplest way to purify water, just add a tab to questionable water and wait 35 minutes. They are also very cheap and light.
(2 oz) Water bottle – you need to be able to collect your water and make it portable. Any water bottle will do as long as it has a lid.
I found these collapsible lightweight water bottles that would work well.
(2 oz) Lifestraw – This little device is a straw that filters and purifies water. It works really well for long term camping trips and bug out situations.
The straw is rated to purify water for 1000 gallons and will remove bacteria like giardia and e.coli. However, the Lifestraw will not protect against viruses such as norovirus or rotavirus.
This is a typical feature of most “go-filters”. Here in the states and other first world countries, virus contamination in water is highly improbable. Third world countries that combine their sewage systems into their drinking water have more of a virus problem.
If you are dealing with an urban situation where the water is contaminated by sewage you MUST boil the water for a minimum of three minutes.
In order to extend the life of the Lifestraw, you should not run murky water through it. Try your best to only run clean looking water through the straw or else the membrane will get clogged fast.
(2 oz) Collapsible cup – This item goes hand in hand with a LifeStraw. Instead of having to stick your straw directly into the water source (which could be a pain in the ass) you can instead use the cup to dip into the water source so you don’t have to get your face so close to it.
I found this handy collapsible cup that can easily be hung from a carabineer off your MOLLE bag.
(12-16 oz) Gravity-fed high capacity bag water purifier – These gravity-fed purifiers work really well for an on-the-go purification method that can filter quite a good amount of water. This is an ideal method for families on the go as you can have liters of clean drinking water in a few minutes.
Out of all the gravity-fed bag filters on the market, I find that the Platypus Gravityworks system to be the most fitting for a bug out occasion.
The unit has a flow rate of 1.5 liters per minute and breaks down nicely into a small travel pouch. The system weighs in at a light 11.5 oz.
(5 oz) UV Light disinfection cap – UV rays exterminate both bacteria and viruses and do not have any residual effects nor does it expire (until the bulb burns out).
This disinfection cap screws onto your water bottle and disinfects the water in 2 minutes. It also eradicates mold and mildew from the water and the bottle so you will find your bottle staying fresher for longer.
I found the CrazyCap to be a really good choice for UV disinfection at a decent price.
(3.5 oz) Collapsible coffee pot – oh man, I’m almost convinced that coffee is an essential item! Coffee gives you energy, warmth, provides tons of antioxidants, and is an instant morale booster. If I splurged on ONE thing from the luxury list, this would be it.
All you gotta do is put your grounds in a coffee filter, place the filter in this collapsible coffee pot, and pour hot water over the grounds. Perfect for camping too. This one has a built-in ring so you can use a carabineer to attach to your pack. Easy!
(3 lbs) Go Berkey Water Purification Kit – The Berkey filtration systems purify water of BOTH viruses and bacteria. The filter is made of high-performance porcelain which has pores tiny enough to catch viruses; most on-the-go water filters cannot catch the tiny viruses. The Go Berkey can.
The Berkey can filter 1 gallon of water per hour and will also catch chemicals like pesticides and chlorine which makes it good to filter municipal water as well.
If you do decide to go with this water filtration system, I suggest using it all the time in your everyday life as the filters are replaceable. Just don’t forget to grab it if you’re bugging out!
Section Five: survival food for bug out bag
We’ve come a long way with a plethora of delicious packable camping foods, especially with the freeze-dried food movement.
We have more options than ever before – spendy options – to have whatever we want when we want it. Shoot, there is even freeze-dried icecream!
My rule of thumb is to pack super lean and cheap on calories and add a splash of yummy things to keep you trekking.
If you are planning a longer-term bug out, then you will want to pack more calories and items to hunt and fish with. You may also be able to scavenge and forage for calories along the way.
(18-26 oz) MREs – Oh, the MREs, dare I even bring them up?!
I have read a whole lot about MREs and people tend to generally dislike them to a point of disgust.
However, I think MREs are something that has been improved upon throughout time and I have read some very positive feedback on the latest versions of MREs. They aren’t gourmet by any means, but they are palatable enough for a long-term prepackaged survival meal that can be carried and eaten anywhere you go.
I’ve looked at all sorts of different MREs available and I found a box by Western Frontier that has genuine unexpired MREs at a really good price. They also come with some basic survival essentials like a spoon, heating pads, and toilet paper.
(8-24 oz) Survival Food Bars – These bars pack a TON of calories and are super convenient to consume on the bug out.
When eating these, consume them slowly so you do not get a stomach ache and make sure to drink water as well.
These S.O.S. Ration food bars pack 3600 calories in a single pack (9 bars per pack). According to the reviews, they taste pretty good too. These are built to sustain calories in emergency situations and have a shelf life of five years in any condition.
They are kind-of spendy so I suggest buying one or two bars to try out before committing to a whole box of them.
(1 oz) Spork – You will want to have some sort of utensil on the lam, and I think a spork pretty much covers it.
I found this nice titanium spork that should last through a nuclear explosion!
(1 oz) Hunger killers – Hard candy, gum, mints, etc. These are all things that are light and small and can help ease the edge off hunger pangs over long treks.
(12-16 oz) Wood burning camp stove – You got to have a way to cook your food, and building a robust fire isn’t always an option.
A new generation of cooking food on the fly has come about; these wood burning camp stoves take very little fuel and put out a high enough heat to cook and boil water with. This is an excellent alternative from hauling around a propane tank, you can even use leaves and twigs to fuel this stove.
These wood burning camp stoves are the best portable stove for your bug out bag.
The Ohuhu Camping Stove folds down into a 5-inch radius and weighs only 12 ounces.
(16 oz) Jar of peanut butter – 1 mere ounce of peanut butter packs in 170 calories and 7 grams of protein, making it a great survival food. It also tastes super yummy and can be eaten on the go with a spoon or finger.
(16 oz) Jar of honey – 1 ounce of honey contains 80 calories and whops a massive 23 carbohydrates – an excellent source of high impact energy. Honey can also be slathered on wounds to accelerate healing.
Combine honey and peanut butter into a high calorie, high energy delicious snack on the go. (I tend to eat this in the middle of the night).
(5 oz) Can opener – I think having a can opener is a good idea, even if you aren’t carrying out any canned goods. There is a chance that you can scavenge canned goods along the way, and you don’t want to ruin the edge of your knife trying to open one.
(1-2 lbs) Camping mess kit – Bring a touch of home with you while surviving the apocalypse with a lovely compact mess kit.
This Redcamp mess kit only weighs in at a pound and can be hung from your MOLLE system bag. It has 12 pieces of stuff from pots and pans to cooking utensils. I’d say it’s worth toting one of these along.
(1 oz per tab) Survival Tabs – So these little things are an interesting concept. These are not for completely replacing calories, but these food tab replacements provide essential vitamins and minerals and taste like yummy food which could give you the boost you need to keep on trekking.
Each tab consists of a mere 20 calories so please, eat other foodstuffs besides these.
(5-6 oz) Survival fishing kit – If you are bugging out for longer than expected (like forever) then packing some fishing gear is a good idea. There is usually a place to fish in most areas.
I like Uncle Flint’s Survival Fishing Kit as it is very space-efficient and has quite a bit of gear packed into a tiny tin.
(1 oz) Guide to Trapping – This foldable waterproof pamphlet that teaches you how to set up animal traps using primitive trapping methods. Could bring in the precious calories you need to stay afloat.
(1-4 lbs) Freeze-dried bug out food – There is a huge movement of super yummy freeze-dried (and ready-to-eat) camping, backpacking, and emergency foods. The selection is vast and trust me, they are not cheap.
Do you really need to eat gourmet while on the bug out? Or will an MRE or meal bar do just fine?
I think it really depends on the individual and/or family unit. If you are bugging out with a family, gathering around for a tasty hot meal may be the morale-boosting medicine you all need to keep the tribe going.
Scarfing down on some distasteful calories could make you sick to your stomach.
Another pro to freeze-dried foods is that they are very light – all you have to do is cook in a pot with boiling water.
If you do choose to go gourmet while on the bug, I found that Harmony House makes excellent freeze-dried products for a decent price. Their backpacking kit has a good variety of veggies and legumes (but no freeze-dried meat) that hikers use for long, strenuous treks. The kit only weighs 4.5 lbs for 70 servings!
You can optionally purchase a canister of freeze-dried meat, like this can of Mountain House Cooked Chicken, and add in chunks to your dehydrated veggie mixes.
Did someone say FREEZE-DRIED ICE CREAM?!?! (1.5 oz)
Section Six: Survival Shelter, Warmth, and Exposure
The best bug out bag shelter needs to be waterproof and insulated, yet lightweight and compact. You can use the most basic of items to build a shelter or splurge on space-age tents.
Either way, you need to have a plan to limit your exposure to the elements while bugging out.
(1-2 pounds) Tarp – I recommend not getting a chinsy tarp unless that’s all you can afford. Get something big enough that can cover you and your gear in a pinch.
This survival tarp by Arcturus is insulated and windproof, can be used as a makeshift shelter or an emergency blanket, and weighs only 1 pound.
(1-2 pounds) Rope (paracord) – Gotta have something to tie down your tarp! Paracord is a high strength nylon rope that is super tough but also soft and pliable. It is a bug out essential and can be used for a variety of utilities. This is a MUST HAVE in every bug out bag!
Tough-Grid makes a 750 lb paracord (200 pounds heavier than the standard 550) and is made in the USA at a reasonable price.
(>1 oz.) Emergency blanket – Cheap and can save your life. Period.
(5 oz per pair) Good, durable socks – Keep your feet in prime condition in a survival situation. The last thing you need is to get blisters, Athlete’s foot, or even trenchfoot while trying to bug out.
Pack a good amount of socks so you can rotate them out when your feet get sweaty. I would suggest at least 3 pairs, but more is better if you can afford the weight and space.
(4 oz) Life bivvy – made of a durable mylar, the Life Bivvy is basically an emergency blanket on steroids shaped into a sleeping bag. It’s 7 feet long so it will cover you from head to toe, and packs into a tiny little pouch.
(5 oz) Emergency tent – This is the same material as an emergency blanket, but it can be shaped into a three-sided 2-person tent. It comes with its own rope too.
(1.5 oz per pair) Hand warmers – Have you ever tried to work with your hands if they are cold? It’s pretty much impossible! Your motor skills decrease greatly. And if they get too cold, you could get frostbite and lose fingers (and toes too). I wouldn’t mind throwing a few of these into my bug out bag.
Out of all the brands I have researched, HotHands makes the best product. They are activated by the air and can keep your hands warm for up to 10 hours.
(11 oz) Rain poncho – These ponchos come in super handy to help block out wind, rain, and cold. Poncho comes with its own case folding it down to a tiny packable size. It’s big enough to cover a backpack too.
(5 lbs) Ultralight backpacking tent – a lightweight waterproof 2-person tent is an ideal bug out shelter. This Bessport Camping Tent only weighs five pounds.
(1-2 lbs) Cold baselayer – Thermal underwear will help keep you nice and toasty.
I strongly suggest getting 100% merino wool baselayer and I will tell you why.
Merino wool is super-soft wool, unlike regular wool. It is naturally anti-microbial so you can wear it for weeks and it will never stink. Trust me on this, I wear my Merino wool base layer every day to work in North Dakota and it never gets stinky!
Another reason Merino wool is so good is that it keeps you at an ambient state. If you do get warmer from activity, the wool regulates the temperature so you never really get sweaty or overheated.
It’s also super durable and very comfortable. Even though its a bit more on the expensive side, it’s way better than synthetic material by far.
The brand I use for all my Merino is Minus33.
Plush bedding on a survival bug out journey? Why not! Materials and design have come such a long way that bulky and heavy bedding has become a thing of the past.
(1-2 lbs) Foam sleeping pad – Therm-a-Rest makes an excellent foam sleeping pad that weighs a mere 14 ounces and has a super comfortable ergonomic design.
(1.5-2 lbs) Ultralight sleeping bag – This EcoPro Warm sleeping bag compacts into a tiny bag and only weighs 1.7 pounds.
Section Seven: Survival Navigation
If you are bugging out, you gotta know where you are going! Getting lost is a non-option.
Orienteering is a skill that is quickly becoming a lost art as our wonderful smartphones take us every step of the way to our destinations.
I remember the days of paper maps (yes I am that old, but not that old!), I had a huge collection of maps as I loved to explore the mountains and cities. I would map out my destination and write down all my steps. If I got lost, I would actually have to pull over and use my paper map instead of barking orders at Google.
There are too many people that cannot even read a map! Let alone use a compass.
I suggest getting a map of your area (or city) and plan your bug out route accordingly. Do not rely on your smartphone to help you out and do not rely on “knowing it all”.
You may think you know your area like the back of your hand, but if your trek route has to change you may find yourself in uncharted territory. Just get a dang map!
Maps are also good for visualizing strategies and measuring distances between destinations. You can develop a gameplan a whole lot easier by using a map.
(1.5 oz) Scout compass – This is your basic compass that is cheap and will do the job.
(3-16 oz) Maps on print – You can still find local maps at most gas stations or order them online. A road atlas is an ideal map to have, although they are a bit heavy and bulky.
I suggest getting localized print maps from your local BLM or USGS office. The more detailed the map, the better.
(8 oz) Tactical compass – This durable metal compass is meant for the rugged outdoors and is waterproof and shockproof. The North pointer and dial glow in the dark so you can navigate at night if need be.
(1.8 ounces) Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS – This watch is totally splurge-worthy and is great for everyday use, let alone in a survival situation.
This watch uses three navigation systems – GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo – for precision tracking. It also has a built-in compass and a barometric altimeter. Oh, and it tells time too.
There are various modes you can put the watch into to preserve battery life, but you will need to get a solar power USB charger to keep this thing going.
(1.3 ounces) Garmin 66i GPS Topo Map – This mapping device taps into the satellite system, giving you precision accuracy mapping no matter where you are.
It also has direct communication with search and rescue making it a good device for backpacking trips and deep woods exploration.
Man, this thing has all sorts of bells and whistles. If you are an avid outdoorsman, this thing is like the best toy you could get for Christmas. I want one!
On 30-minute tracking mode, you can get 200 hours of use from your battery life. Just make sure to pack extra batteries and have a backup paper map and compass.
Section Eight: SHTF Communications
The two biggest concerns for communication after SHTF is 1) if cell phone towers and phone carriers will work and 2) if there will be available power to charge communication devices.
If you cannot access communications over your cellphone, it is vital that you can access emergency broadcasts over the radio at a minimum.
If radio communication goes down completely, expect the disaster to be of epic proportions.
Despite these obstacles, there are still ways to at least keep informed of the emerging situation at hand.
(4-6 oz) Cell phone and charger – Most definitely take your cell phone with you, even if towers are down, as it could be just a temporary outage. If you do tote your cellphone then get a solar USB charger to keep it powered up.
(8 oz) Hand crank radio – This is the minimalist radio you’ve always dreamed of! It requires no batteries; you just turn the crank and the radio charges. If the FM is out, AM should be a holdout for broadcasting emergency messages. If the AM is gone then SHTF hard.
I pack a cheapo hand-crank emergency radio so I can stay informed like this RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM Radio.
(1.5 lbs) Multitool Radio – This is a souped up version of the cheapo hand-crank radio. This one comes with a flashlight, reading lamp, USB charging station, preprogrammed NOAHH weather stations and can be charged via solar power. I suggest the Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power Radio.
(10 oz per radio) Two-way hand radio walkie talkies – I would love to tote these around in a survival bug out situation! The question is, how do you keep them charged?
This is where I struggled to find a durable high quality walkie talkie that could be charged on the fly.
The problem is the heavy-duty walkie talkies all have to be charged in a cradle that plugs into the wall. Battery-powered walkies tend to be too flimsy.
I have found a solution! USB chargeable walkie talkies!
They are not as tough as the cradle mount walkies, but not as flimsy as the battery-powered ones either.
I found a set that is a true USB charging walkie talkie, it plugs in and charges just like a smartphone does. The Radioddity GA-2S Long Range Walkie Talkies fit the bill.
Don’t forget to get the solar power USB charging station!
(8 oz) Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator – This device allows you to send and receive texts via satellite service and also is a handheld TOPO GPS map .
You can send an SOS and texts directly to search and rescue. This is a valuable feature for backwoods trekkers and explorers, but probably won’t be of use in a post-apocalyptic world.
From what I have researched, you can still use satellite communication services such as satellite phones and texting devices if the power does go down. Satellites will remain intact until they eventually collide or fall out of the sky, both unlikely events.
The question is, who will you be communicating to? Make sure to gift these to whoever you want to talk with post SHTF or you will be having very lonely conversations!
Phew! Did you make it to the end with me? I told you this was the Ultimate List!
I hope you have enjoyed my article and will use this knowledge to your advantage.
I would love it if you all wanted to continue the list by adding your contributions and ideas to the comment box below. You can also ask me any questions you like about any of the products and techniques that I have mentioned above.
If you do need to bug out, good luck and godspeed!
Hi, I am Regina, the creator of Maximum Off Grid.
My goal is to teach you how to become more self-sufficient, no matter how small the change.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.
Have a great day!