Bug Out Bags for Beginners

Bug out bags for beginners

You finally decided it was time to get serious about preparedness, so buying a quality backpack was your first step. You have it home and are wondering what now, it appears to have a lot of space, and yet seems small when you consider what you may need to pack in it.

What you think you may need to survive could fill a two-car garage. What you will need to survive can easily fit inside your rucksack. What is needed and what is wanted are two vastly different things when it comes to survival.

Keep in mind you are not packing for vacation. You are preparing to survive alone in a wilderness or even an urban environment. You have only the items in your pack, no grocery stores, restaurant take-outs or grabbing a meal out of the freezer.

Some emergencies may require a quick deployment out your front door, so your bag needs to be ready to go at all times.

Survival is maintaining life. Living out of your backpack will not give you the same quality of life you are accustomed to, but during a crisis sustaining life is your only objective. Living good comes later, after the threat has subsided. To maintain life and to improve your conditions means you need certain things however.


You have a backpack full of gear and materials along with food and water. Things are lashed to straps and every pocket and crevice is bulging with recommended gear. Your home is now strapped to your back. You are mobile and ready for anything.

Two hours later, you are rummaging through your pack because the weight is too much. Your legs are burning and trembling, sweat is dripping off your nose and you are frustrated. You cannot decide what stays and what goes, because you do not know why you have some of the things you have. Is this or that a want or a survival necessity.

Before you pack anything, you need to know what each item is designed to do and how to use it. Before adding an item look for other uses for that item and can something else instead perform the same task, so you can leave that one out. For example, most multi-tools will have a can opener blade so you may not need to pack a manual one, which can only be used for opening cans. You want multi-purpose items. Weight is a big factor and small items add up to a lot of weight if you do not pick wisely.

Instead of carrying 12 items, carry one that can perform 12 different tasks.

The Basics Never Change

In order of importance in any situation, you need shelter, water, fire/energy and nutrition/food. Some will argue about what needs to be a priority and the ones that say shelter is not a priority because the weather is warm or hot have never been in a survival situation, and would not likely survive if they were ever in one.

The rules of three state you cannot live longer than three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter, three days without water and no longer than three weeks without food in a survival situation.

You need shelter in a hot/warm climate to protect your body from the sun and breezes to slow down sweating and to slow the evaporation of sweat from your skin. This slows the dehydration process. Otherwise, you will develop hyperthermia. Anyone that states they do not need shelter from the sun and hot winds will die searching for water.

Get out of the sun into shade so you can ration your sweat. You cannot ration your water. You may very well have to provide your own shade from what you have in your pack. People have died of dehydration with water still in their canteens because they tried to ration their water supply. They developed hyperthermia because they did not build a shelter to cool off in and then died because of dehydration. They sweated in the hot sun wandering around looking for more water when they should have been cooling down in a shaded shelter rationing their sweat.

This is even true in temperate climates you need shelter first. In cold, weather it obvious you need shelter to maintain a safe core body temperature. Just a three-degree reduction in core body temperature means you are in the initial stages of hypothermia and if not treated it is fatal.

Packing Your Bag

For those not accustomed to carrying a backpack should not try to carry more than 25 percent of their body weight.

You will need supplies for immediate use (water and food) you will also need the tools, materials and supplies that allow you to obtain what you need from your environment when the supplies you started out with have been depleted. Most of all you will need knowledge.

List of Items for Your Bag

An items position on the list is not an indication of its importance

✓ Material for shelter, use lightweight nylon tarps, you can purchase a quality tarp that weighs less than one pound. Carry two so you can expand your shelter. You can also use a quality poncho for shelter along with Mylar thermal blankets.

✓ Water for 72-hours, water weighs 8.5 pounds (3.8kg) per gallon, so a three-day supply at one gallon a day will weigh approximately 25 pounds. In some cases, this is more than half of the weight you can realistically carry.

You can reduce the amount of water you carry but you had better know you have access to water and know how to make it safe to drink. The average person can lose up to a gallon of body fluids a day through sweating and urination in warm temperatures. The lost fluids must be replaced immediately.

Fixed bladed knife along with a multi-tool

Camp ax and/or machete or a small folding wood saw

Rations for 72-hours, avoid canned foods because of the weight. Recommend Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s). Two per day is the recommended amount for most adults. MRE’s can weigh up to 26 ounces each, depending on the meal. MRE’s will average between 16 and 26 ounces each. You will need at least six meals for three days.

✓ 50 feet of quality nylon rope (recommend 550 Paracord) small spool of 20-24 gauge wire for snares, traps, general bindings and gear repair.

Lensatic compass and maps of the area, state and country.

Personal hygiene kit that contains among other things pre-moistened bath wipes to conserve on water, hand sanitizer, lip balm, sun protection, toothbrush and paste.

✓ Hat, two bandannas, sunglasses, flashlight, garbage bags, recommend brightly colored ones that can be used as a signaling device.

✓ Gloves

✓ Rain poncho/rain gear

✓ Extra socks

✓ Fire starting materials, you need multiple ways to start a fire, carry a magnesium stick, Ferro rod, matches, lighter and also include petroleum jelly, cotton balls, dry tinder.

First aid kit that contains a suture kit for stitching up wounds, and/or a quality sewing kit with various sized needles.

✓ Mylar thermal blankets (2)

Fishing tackle

✓ Insect repellent non-aerosol and/or netting

Signal mirror, whistle

✓ Coffee filters for water filtration

Water purification tablets

Stainless steel canteens with metal nesting cups and/or a small metal container suitable for boiling water/preparing food. You can use commercially available water filtration devices, but ensure it is a quality device and remember most filters do not remove viruses from the water.

Start out with the canteens filled and secured to your belt to help reduce the weight in your pack.

✓ Personal defense items such as a firearm, pepper spray and so on.


Extra clothing is optional (must have dry socks however in your pack) as is a sleeping bag. Remember it all has to be carried in or lashed to your backpack. Clothes add weight quickly as will a sleeping bag or blankets.

Minimalists that are trained in bush craft and survival techniques can pack light and survive. If you do not have extensive knowledge and training, you will need enough food and water in your pack to allow you time to find alternative sources. The less you know the more you have to pack.

Either you need the materials in your pack to make a shelter and/or the tools to make one from material found in your environment.

Knowledge weighs nothing so stock up on it now. You will need the training and knowledge to find or make items from what is in your environment. Once you have the knowledge you will soon discover much of what you are carrying is just added weight.