Bug Out Bag: Complete List of Essential Items

by | Last updated Mar 8, 2020 | Gear

What is a Bug Out Bag?

A bug out bag is something you’ve more than likely heard of. Some might call it a 72-hour bag, 3-day bag, get home bag, go bag, and many others, but ultimately it’s all the same exact thing. The bug out bag is designed to carry all the supplies you would need in order to survive in case of an emergency. As a general rule, most people pack around 72 hours or three days of supplies, but of course this varies depending on your specific situation, so if you feel like you need a larger bag with more supplies, then you need a larger bag with more supplies. On the other hand, if you feel like you don’t need as much supplies, then you can trim it down as you please.

Bug Out Bag Checklist


This one should be pretty obvious. Imagine a chain of 8.5 earthquakes occurring one after another in the next 25 minutes. You’re currently at your place of work and your family is at home about 20 miles away. The roads are shutdown as they’ve been destroyed and people have abandoned their vehicles to get home. Your only option is to get home on foot. What do you do?

In this scenario, you know you’ll need a backpack to carry all the gear you’ll need for the next 3 days. You’ll need to choose a bag with at least 40 to 60 liters of carrying capacity, but of course this all depends on what gear you plan to pack into the bag. It’s also highly recommended to purchase a strong, tough bag such as a tactical backpack as these tend to be a lot more durable which will be important as the pack will be holding a lot of gear and will likely be thrown around quite a bit.

Bug Out Bag: Complete List of Essential Items 1

One of my favorite choices for a solid 72-hour bug out bag is the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72, which not only provides ample space for all the essentials, but is also extremely durable and very comfortable to carry, which is important when traveling long distances with a lot of gear. I’ve also heard from some others that it may be more strategic to carry something that doesn’t scream military as much such as the Osprey Atmos AG 65 since you don’t want to be identified as someone who may have food and other essential equipment. That being said, while I appreciate this point, I think anyone with a large-ish bag will no matter what be identified as someone with the potential to have supplies and having a military bag I think will probably be more intimidating to potential thieves as it’ll give more of an impression that the person carrying the bag is more likely armed, trained and ready to fight back. In order to keep its contents dry, it’s also recommended to pack a waterproof bag so that items like clothing can be put into the bag in the event there’s heavy rainfall.


Starting from the top, the most important thing you’ll want to be packing is some water. After all while you can survive as much as three weeks without food, you can only survive up to 72 hours without water, so water should be at the very top of your list of priorities at all times.

  1. Bottled Drinking Water (replaced regularly) or Emergency Water (5-year shelf life)
  2. Lifestraw
  3. Water Purification Tablets
  4. Large Metal Water Bottle


Just like water, food is pretty self explanatory. You absolutely will need it to survive. I’d recommend definitely keeping at least a day’s worth of food in the bug out bag and regularly replacing any food that has expired.

  1. Energy Bar
  2. MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)


When packing clothing, it’s important to pack at least an extra change of clothing and adjust your bug out bag based on the season and the typical weather for the season. If it’ll be especially cold during the winter, be sure to pack clothes that can be layered on and a beanie while in the summer it may be wise to pack some dry-fit type clothing to dry sweat quicker.

  1. Multiple sets of clothing (shirt, pants, socks, underwear, etc.)
  2. Cap
  3. Gloves (Mechanix M-Pact Tactical Gloves)
  4. Waterproof Jacket
  5. Poncho


As far as tools go, you don’t necessarily need a whole lot in this department. While it’s tempting to purchase all the fancy gadgets out there, it’s definitely more highly recommended to keep it light in this department to make more room for other essentials such as food and water.

  1. Multi-tool (Gerber MP600)
  2. Knife (Kershaw Cryo II)
  3. Flashlight (Fenix PD35)
  4. Headlamp (Black Diamond Storm)
  5. Extra Batteries
  6. BaoFeng UV-5R Radio

First Aid & Hygiene

A basic first aid kit should always be available in any pack and is especially important in emergency situations where you may need to “bug out”. While it’s always better to construct your own first aid kit using equipment that you know how to use, a commercial first aid kit can be a good starting point for you to add or remove items down the road. In addition to first aid, a dopp kit should also be included for basic hygiene as it’s important to stay clean and prevent any medical issues arising from dirty living conditions.

  1. First Aid Kit
  2. Dopp Kit with hygiene necessities (toothbrush, toothpaste, field wipes, towel, etc.)


If you haven’t made it to your destination, then having some equipment to sleep in would be important. While it may not be necessary to pick up a full tent and set up a complete shelter, an emergency bivvy along with a lightweight mylar blanket or poncho liner could help keep you warm for at least a couple hours before you continue on.

  1. Emergency Bivvy
  2. Mylar Blanket or Poncho Liner


Ultimately, everyone’s bug out bag will always be difficult due to different needs for each individual and the situations they may come to face. For someone in the military, a bug out bag could be filled with the bare necessities of survival in addition to as much ammo as would fit while someone’s in-car bug out bag could be home to a small fire extinguisher along with a tire inflator. So, what’s in your bug out bag?

<a href="https://www.gearprimer.com/sam-chen-biography/" target="_blank">Sam Chen</a>

Sam Chen

Sam is a Southern California native and an avid tool and gear enthusiast. When he's not working his day job, he enjoys spending his time working on remodeling projects, cars, and the outdoors. Follow him on Twitter @realsamchen


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