Here’s a list of the best 60 items you can put in a bug out bag
Do you want to be prepared for the widest range of disasters? This in-depth guide will walk you step-by-step through the 60 essentials and the process of getting prepared. You’ll see the answer to common questions and resources that’ll move you well along the road to readiness.
Why prepare a bag like this?
Sooner or later you’ll have to leave home in a hurry. Possibly at 3 AM. And maybe you’ll never be able to come back. What would you carry with you that means the most…that could save your life? (Or at least make your new normal a lot more comfortable.)
Fact: some people die trying to make this decision. They discover this question is really hard to answer in the few panicked moments they have to escape.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on the phone with a nice guy named Scott. He was helping me buy some work equipment. He also happened to be on the 90th floor of the World Trade Center south tower.
You know what happened next. When I saw the plane go into the building, I knew it was only a few floors below Scott. The phone went dead. “My God, what just happened to Scott?”
Scott survived. Here’s why:
He jumped into action, using the 15 minutes while the stairways led to safety.
Hundreds of his coworkers delayed and died.
Here we are a couple of decades later. Thousands of more reasons to prepare a bug-out or go-bag. I got motivated to start preparing when I found a good list. Since then, that list has turned into the far better one you see here.
Why there is no perfect list
We are all different sizes. at different levels of fitness, health, survival skills and viewpoints.
For example, the CIA trains agents to use a palm-sized go-bag. Only 6 tiny items. Perfectly designed to steal your way to survival.
Maybe this sounds great to some people. But for the rest of us, that’s why there’s a Personal Protection section below.
But is there a list that fits the widest range of people for the widest range of circumstances? That’s why this is the best bug out bag list. Personal experience plus well over a hundred hours went into researching what experts say about these items. And this post is the result. For example…
Why is this list only for a backpack?
When disaster strikes, will you have an escape vehicle that works? Will you be injured? What will your health and fitness level be?
Can you see why you should start by preparing what you can carry on your back? And then later consider what you might be able to bring if you have more options?
It’s all about giving you peace of mind because you’re not making these decisions in the heat of the moment!
What you can carry on your back may not have all the comforts of home, but these items are a well-thought-out system to keep you alive.
|3||Water, in a 32+oz Single-Walled Canteen||40|
|4||Collapsible Water Storage (2x 1.3 Gallon)||5|
|5||2 Lighters: Regular Lighter OR Mini Peanut Lighter OR Rechargeable USB Lighter OR Waterproof Matches||2|
|7||Tinder: TinderQuik OR Fatwood OR Vaseline-Soaked Cotton Balls in Aluminum Foil||2|
|8||Mini Bivvy OR Tarp||5 or 18|
|9||Compressible Camping Pillow||15|
|10||Sleeping Mask AND Ear Plugs||1|
|11||Hat (Beanie, Wool Cap OR Wide Brimmed)||3|
|12||Bandana OR Shemagh OR Gaiter||3|
|13||Jacket (Outer Shell)||16|
|14||Jacket (Base Layer)||10|
|16||Tech Pants w/ Zip-Off Pant Legs||22|
|17||Underwear (2 Pairs)||6|
|18||Socks (2 Pairs)||6|
|19||Prescription Eye Glasses And/Or Contact Lens Cleaner||6|
|20||First Aid Kit Bag (8"x6"x4" MOLLE)||6|
|23||Z-Fold Gauze, Standard 4.5"x 4 Yards||2|
|24||Coban Roll, Standard 2” x 5 Yards||1|
|26||Acetaminophen / Tylenol||1|
|27||Ibuprofen / Advil||1|
|28||Caffeine Pills / No-Doze||1|
|29||Loperamide / Imodium||1|
|30||Laxative / Ex-Lax||1|
|31||Diphenhydramine / Benadryl||1|
|32||Band-Aids (10x, Various Sizes)||1|
|33||Chest Seals (1 Pair)||2|
|38||Medical Field Guide||5|
|42||Condensed Camping Soap||2|
|43||Field Knife: ESEE OR Schrade||8|
|45||550 Para-Cord, 100-Feet||7|
|47||USB Charging Cables and Wall Plug||2|
|48||Solar Panel + Li-Ion Battery Pack||19|
|49||Two-Way Radio: Motorola T480 OR T600||9|
|53||Waterproof Paper AND Pen||4|
|54||Documents (Paper and USB Thumb Drive)||2|
|56||Pepper Spray Gel||3|
|57||Storage Bags (20 L Dry Bag and 5x 1-Gallon Ziploc)||15|
|58||Contractor Trash Bags (2x) and Duct Tape||5|
|59||Toothbrush, Paste, Floss||5|
|60||Tactical Backpack, 40L Ultralight w/ MOLLE||27|
|TOTAL WEIGHT: 25 LBS|
What if I can carry more than 25 pounds?
That’s great! But before you pack more, think about this…
“Blood is the price for carrying too much.” That’s the name of a recent study the Marine Corps is paying attention to.
Countless experiences prove this: most people grossly overestimate how much they or someone else can carry. And it’s costing lives.
Packing light isn’t just about dodging bullets. It’s about all the other stuff you will very likely have to struggle with when you need to flee disaster: Wading floodwaters, climbing high-rises or hiking for miles without a vehicle… and you’ll likely be exhausted, hungry, cold, injured, etc.
Bottom line… the percent body weight recommendations don’t work for everyone. 25 lbs is ideal for most. 35 lbs if you can walk for miles with this much weight on your back. 45 lbs is for the super-fit.
1. Food (Ready to Eat)
Unfortunately, almost all foods are too heavy, too bulky, they spoil/expire too soon or they melt in summer heat.
You might be surprised to know many experts caution against even carrying those handy meal-in-a-pouch or MRE foods in your survival bag.
Those kinds of foods require you to boil water. That means carrying fuel and some kind of stove.
Even a small amount of fuel and a stove will probably add more weight than is practical. A significant weight, since you can only carry a few packets of food.
That package of eggs and sausage or spaghetti might seem tastier than a granola bar…but lugging around all the extra weight to eat it? That’s probably a dangerous decision if you need to keep your pack light.
Then there’s the other extreme. Some people assume they can always forage or kill their own food as they go.
Even if you’ve got years of experience proving you can do this… experts say it’s wise to carry at least some food with you.
Yes, the Rule of 3’s says you can go 3 weeks without food. But you can’t afford to get anywhere close to that.
In the hours following most emergencies, you need more than ever to avoid panic, poor decisions and tiredness.
A quick burst of energy from a lightweight snack can mean your survival.
Diet limitations? What if you must eat gluten free? Try Lara bars. And you might want to pack a pound or two more food than others. FEMA probably won’t be able to hand you gluten free items.
To keep your bag lightweight, experts say the best go bag foods are the ones that require no heating: peanut butter, granola, trail mix, jerky and energy bars.
Even the best food goes stale. So you’ll want to set a reminder to replace the food you’ve packed…at least twice a year. It also helps to note on your container the date you packed the food.
2. Water Filter
Water weighs over 8 lbs per gallon. Experts say we each need… at the very least… a gallon of clean water each day for drinking, washing, etc. Can you see the big problem here? How can you carry all this water? Well, you can’t.
Unless you’re in a very hot dry place and you need more, experts consider it an acceptable compromise if you carry just one quart.
The one quart buys you about a half day’s time to find some water somewhere and filter it. This is extremely important. Truth is, unless you are one of those rare, ultra-healthy people, your sense of thirst is not working right. You will be dehydrated before you feel thirsty.
And this is 100 times more important in a stressful, survival situation.
If you’re dehydrated, you can’t think straight. Poor decisions can seriously threaten your survival. How do you avoid this?
Make sure you’re looking for water to filter from the beginning of day one that you’re depending on your go bag!
The nice thing about a filter is that you have reasonably clean water almost immediately.
Assuming you’re not trying to filter mud. If all you have is muddy water, consider filtering it through some cloth, maybe your bandana, to keep from clogging up your filter.
The Sawyer Mini is cost effective and most consider this a good filter. I chose the HydroBlu Versa Flow filter (for only a few dollars more) since the HydroBlu gives you the same filter quality but works faster.
3. Water, 32oz in Single-Walled Canteen
Why is a 1-quart, single-walled, stainless steel canteen so useful?
First, it can act as a backup in case you cannot use your water filter. And backups are essential when you’re surviving.
“Where there are two there is one. And where there is one there are none.“
This lifesaving rule of thumb is tied in with Murphy’s law. Something will go wrong. One of the lifesaving tools you bring along will fail to work.
Staying hydrated is absolutely critical to your survival. So make sure you have a backup for purifying water.
However, boiling water to purify it means starting a fire. And putting your container over a fire means you must have a single-walled container.
Many stainless containers are double-walled – to keep your hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold. But these are a real danger for your bug out bag. Double-walled containers can explode if you put them over a flame. Get a single-walled container.
Some like the Kleen Kanteen, but it is 27 oz. I like to measure my water intake, so I prefer a container that is at least 32 oz. The Topoko single-walled stainless canteen is 34 oz. Close enough.
A third backup might be water purification iodine pills. These pills require you treat the water for about 4 hours before you drink it. So these are not ideal. But they take up very little room and weight. You might want to throw these in your pack also.
4. Collapsible Canteen/Vessel (2x 1.3 Gallon)
Experts recommend these should not be your main water container, as they can be easily punctured or a fire ember can burn through them.
Depending on the filter you choose, you may get a couple smaller collapsible water bladders in the package.
However, these 1.3 gallon water containers are still lightweight and small. They allow you to purify a gallon or two at a time. And this makes life a bit easier if you’re camping somewhere.
5. Two Lighters: Regular Lighter, Mini Peanut Lighter OR Rechargeable USB Lighter (Pack 2 of Your Choice)
Easy and quick is the goal. Almost any survival expert would prefer using a lighter over rubbing two sticks together. Or even matches. Prepping more than one survival bag? Buy a pack of lighters and put 2 in each.
Why pack at least one cheap lighter rather than those fancy ones from the truck stops? You might be tempted to rob your survival pack to take the fancy one on a camping trip. This leaves you unprepared. And because of that, you might end up actually being forced to rub two sticks together!
Disadvantages? Lighters may not always work if you must start a fire in a windy place. And keep your lighters in a case, not a plastic bag. Otherwise the button on the lighter gets accidentally depressed and you lose all the lighter fluid.
Some like to pack at least one peanut lighter. They’re easy to refill and last a lot longer than a regular lighter. After several hundred uses, you’ll have to grab the wick with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and pull on it about 1/16 of an inch. No problem if you’ve packed a multitool.
Others prefer a rechargeable USB lighter. Simply touch the flame to good tinder and you’ve got an easy fire. After starting dozens of fires, simply recharge it with your solar charger or lithium ion battery pack.
Some people like the ICFun lighter. But I’ve long preferred the Survival Frog lighter. I find it easier to start fires with, and I like having the built in LED flashlight and whistle.
Still others like a small sealed container of waterproof matches.
Pick any two of these options as part of your small, lightweight fire making system.
6. Ferro Rod
A ferro rod, or magnesium flint stick, can last for years after you’ve run out of matches or lighters. And there’s no worry about it getting wet. Simply wipe it off and it’s ready to start a fire.
Using one takes practice, though. Plan some time (before you have any emergency) to get used to starting a fire with it.
The idea is you use your knife to scrape magnesium off the rod and into a pile. A dime-sized pile of these magnesium scrapings become a super volatile fire starter. Locate the small iron strip that runs along one side of the ferro rod. Run the dull back of your knife over the iron strip to create and throw sparks onto the magnesium powder to ignite it. Actually, you can use this handy spark-maker to ignite any good tinder.
Caution: this small, lightweight tool is easy to lose. I like the ones with a high visibility handle – or at least a hole in the handle so you can put a high visibility string through it. Fostar ferro rods are inexpensive yet reliable.
Packing some tinder is wise. You never know if the emergency you’ll face will allow you to find enough random twigs and dry grass to start a fire.
Good tinder is small and weighs very little. So plan on enough tinder to start at least 20 fires. If you are careful, this can keep you going for a couple months. This means about 40 cotton balls (see below) and a stick of fatwood fire starter (see below also.)
And most people, especially those new to starting fires…underestimate how much of the right fuel they need to get a good fire going.
What’s the best tinder? Especially for beginner fire builders, it’s best to have a combo of long-burning and quick start tinders.
Why do you need the long-burning kind (like cotton balls soaked in Vaseline)? Many people make a mistake about how much of the different fire fuels (tinder, kindling, sticks, logs) their fire will need.
Long burning tinder is more forgiving and keeps burning when an improperly-fed fire would normally just fizzle out and turn to smoke.
These soaked cotton balls will burst into a sustained flame when they come near a spark. They’re a pretty easy fire starter.
Make this tinder even longer-lasting by packing the Vaseline-soaked cotton inside a small (1-2″) folded square aluminum foil.
You’ll want to pack a bunch of these in a Ziploc type bag.
When you need a fire, cut an “X” on one side of the foil square. Pull the newly cut pieces of foil upward exposing the cotton. Pull a bit of the cotton upward and light it.
This foil covered tinder can last up to an hour. Plenty of time to fix mistakes and build your fire the right way. (But it’s always best to get your fuel ready before you light the fire.)
Spread a sheet of aluminum foil over the inside of a skillet. Turn the heat up to low-medium. Place a teaspoon of Vaseline in the skillet and wait for it to melt.
Spoon a cotton ball into the melted Vaseline. Use the spoon to move it around and get it thoroughly soaked. After about 10 seconds of soaking, it’s ready to go. Simply spoon it into a plastic Ziploc bag. Repeat until you have a whole bag of soaked cotton balls.
As you see, this is a lot less messy than using your hands to try and get the Vaseline inside the cotton balls.
Pack a plastic spoon along with your tinder for scooping out cotton balls when you need to start a fire.
You also need at least one quick-burn tinder for any wet weather situations. They burst into a flame hot enough to get small, dry sticks burning well.
These tinders don’t stay lit if you didn’t build your fire well, though. (Another reason to bring two kinds of tinder.)
The easiest to use is TinderQuik. Pretty much a guaranteed fire if you can make a spark or flame.
If you have a knife and can shavings, you can bring my favorite quick-burn kind of tinder: a fatwood fire starter. This is a kind of soft wood (like pine) that is saturated with highly flammable sap. If you don’t have fatwood nearby, you can always get buy a small stick – enough to start many great fires.
If you’ll be exposed to conditions less than 50 degrees F, heat is your #1 priority. In these temperatures, hypothermia hurts more people than dehydration, getting lost or frostbite.
You’re a walking space heater equal to about 6 burning matches. This isn’t much heat if you’re exposed to wind, water or wet clothes. Survival means you must think carefully about what you sleep on, in and under.
Shelter could be one of your bulkiest, heaviest items. There are lots of opportunities to make severe mistakes here. Most tents can make your pack far too heavy to carry the distance. So can most camping equipment, like sleeping bags and ground pads. And if it’s too heavy, you won’t have it with you when you need it most.
A tactical bivvy is the simplest shelter. It’s tougher than a mylar emergency blanket, but it’s flimsier (and much lighter) than a sleeping bag. Not totally comfortable, to be honest. It’s just there to keep you warm. But it’s the simplest shelter. It requires no special skills to use. In fact, if you have few or no survival skills, a bivvy is probably your best option.
Learning more skills can greatly increase your comfort while keeping your pack light. For example, learn to tie a few types of useful knots. And how to put up a tarp.
A tarp is not completely enclosed like a tent. If you need more protection from the cold, you may have to rely on finding brush, twigs, etc as insulation around the tarp. And this requires shelter building skills – all well worth knowing.
Many ultralight tarps are just too fragile. And so many tarps are ultra-tough but way too heavy. Aqua Quest makes one that’s light (about 2 lbs) but fairly tough.
To keep your pack to a weight you’re able to carry, a tarp or bivvy are your best options.
I hope you see that a go bag is more than just buying a bag with a bunch of stuff in it to keep you alive. You’ll be far more comfortable in an emergency situation if you’re more prepared by learning a few skills.
9. Compressible Camping Pillow
Maybe experts would argue this is not a life-or-death need if you’re keeping your pack light. I disagree. Anything fairly small and lightweight to help you sleep better in an uncomfortable, stressful situation is a vital item.
Get a camping pillow that packs to about the size of your fist and weighs about a pound. And of course, try it out to make sure it’s comfortable enough for you to use.
10. Sleeping Mask / Ear Plugs
Shelters are not always snuggly campfires and quiet privacy. Imagine 50 people snoring, crying, talking, with lights turning on and off.
If the crisis sends you to a place like this (which it has for many), you’ll need all the help you can get to sleep. Ear plugs and a sleeping mask are a small, lightweight addition to your pack.
A hat is vital survival equipment for you in any weather. Whether you normally wear a hat or not.
In super cold, you’ll need a thin layer (such as this Thinsulate beanie), with a thicker layer over that (such as this Minus33 wool cap).
Wool works so much better than cotton or synthetic fabrics for keeping heat in. Merino is a special kind of wool that’s thinner and lighter.
Many hats are a blend of wool and synthetic fiber for a softer feel (but they lose some insulation power compared to 100% wool.)
For most cold weather, one cap is enough. Your choice here.
In warmer weather, you’ll need a wide brimmed hat for shade, absorbing sweat and ventilation. Look for “packable” or “crushable” type hats you can pack in a bag. A chin cord or draw string is super handy in windy situations.
12. Bandana / Shemagh / Gaiter
A cup of coffee may cost more than a bandana. But there are few items in your bag as useful as your bandana.
Use it as a hat or neck wrap for warmth or to absorb sweat. Dip it in water to stay cool. It’s no N95 respirator but it’ll keep dust out.
You can also use it for shade, to signal for help, as a cleaning rag, potholder, a bag, emergency bandage, trail marker, fire starter or torch material. You can even tear it apart and use it for cordage.
A shemagh, also called a keffiyah or ghutrah, is about twice the size. (Usually 42″x42″). They’re also stronger and thicker. And you don’t have to be in the desert to make good use of them.
A neck gaiter (or even a balaclava) may seem to have less uses, but if you’re in a colder climate, you may prefer these over bandanas.
13. Jacket (Outer Shell)
You’re prepared for the widest range of situations when you pack layers.
Your outer jacket has a simple job: keep the wind and water out. Get one with a hood. No insulation – that’s in the other layers underneath.
A regular raincoat is lightweight enough. But you’d be absolutely miserable in it when you’re carrying a pack. You need lightweight and breathable.
Mosquitoes are attracted to the color blue. Opportunists seeking to steal supplies are often attracted to camouflage and people with the military look.
Choose subdued colors like olive, tan, brown, gray or black (instead of hunter orange.) There are many crises where you won’t want people noticing you unless you choose to be seen.
Tip: use a food saver to vacuum seal your clothes. They stay dry and compact until you need them.
14. Jacket (Base Layer)
Fleece, wool or down? Down and wool are warm, until they get wet. And they tend to stay wet. Well, in a survival situation you will get wet.
Avoid denim, khaki and cotton unless you’re in a place that’s warmer than 70 degrees all year round. Otherwise, you’re inviting hypothermia.
If wearing natural fibers is important to you, wool is probably better than down. I choose fleece for my base layer jacket. This synthetic material dries fast to keep you warmer. It’s lightweight, and for me, it’s comfortable.
If you live where half the year it’s ridiculous to pack a jacket like this, then set yourself a reminder. Rotate your winter clothes out of your bag. And be sure to get them back in for the cold season. Just be safe and pack for cooler weather than you think.
Tearing up your hands is too easy. You may need to be in the cold, splitting wood, clearing debris/broken glass, or handling hot cook pans over an open fire. Blisters, splinters, cuts and infection are serious problems when you’re surviving. You need to pack gloves.
Cheap hardware store gloves may last longer. Ski mittens may be warmer. But Mechanix tactical gloves are superior for most emergencies: some protection from cold, heat and rough work – but they allow you to really feel with your fingers. And that can be truly critical for surviving a crisis.
16. Tech Pants w/ Zip-Off Pant Legs
If you throw a pair of your jeans in your bug out bag, I won’t judge. The important thing is you pack a full change of clothes besides what you’ll be wearing. Experts emphasize that in so many emergencies, you will need them.
Why the convertible or zip-off tech pants? They’re lighter than most pairs of jeans. They’re also tough and better built for outdoor weather.
This means stain/sun/wind/water resistant. They also dry fast. Plus you’re really getting a pair of pants and shorts for changing weather conditions – but in one smaller package.
Same as with your jacket, unless you’re in the tropics where it’s 80+ degrees 24 hours a day, you’ll want to avoid cotton, denim and khaki.
For colder weather, pack a pair of long johns or a base layer for insulating you below the waist.
17. Underwear (2 Pair)
Having a clean, dry pair of underwear to change into when you’re hot, tired or soaked to the bone? Priceless. Pack at least 2 pair. Enough said.
18. Socks (2 Pair)
Same relief as clean underwear! And it’s just as vital you take care of your feet.
You may need to walk some distance to get away from a disaster. Walking with wet socks can cause blisters or worse, foot infections.
Sadly, some people have had to have their foot amputated because of a serious infection – which could have been avoided by keeping their feet dry.
Blisters can start up without your knowing it. Experienced hikers prevent blisters by changing their socks every time they stop to eat a meal.
So pack at least 2 pairs of socks.
19. Prescription Eye Glasses And/Or Contact Lens Cleaner
Have an extra pair of prescription eye glasses? Great! Pack it in your bug out bag.
If you don’t have an extra pair…
There are a few items like your glasses and your phone, which cannot go in your bag until the last moment.
When you are not wearing these items, keep them in one designated, can’t-miss spot. One you can find quickly if you need to leave in a hurry.
Contacts? Pack an extra contact container and bottle of lens cleaner in your bag.
20. First Aid Kit Bag
Help is not coming. Or at least that’s what you have to plan for. When there’s no doctor. It’s only you and the life you’re trying to save.
Does it really matter that you don’t have a doctor with years of experience beside you? Or a fully stocked emergency room?
Look, if you’re in trouble and need a doctor, you’d get one if you could! But what if there is none available?
A good (not necessarily perfect) first aid kit can still help you save lives in most situations. At least that’s what experts say – the medics and emergency techs who’ve helped people through literally thousands of crises.
And your kit keeps you a lot more comfortable too. (Think of trying to remove an irritating splinter.)
But the majority of experts really dislike pre-made kits.
Almost all of them just aren’t good enough. Somewhere they cut corners to get the price to $49 or $199. So they end up leaving out something important. And they try to fill it with cheaper/unnecessary stuff.
Build your own kit if at all possible. If you won’t bother with this, then a pre-made kit is better than nothing.
Go ahead and compare the list below with what’s in one of those pre-made kits. You’ll appreciate this list.
MOLLE (pronounced Molly) is a simple way of strapping stuff to the outside of your pack. The straps are all consistently sized so no matter who makes the product, everything works together.
And putting your first aid kit on the outside of your pack is actually a great idea. In a real emergency, you don’t want to waste time digging through your pack to find something.
Why a 8″x6″x4″ first aid kit bag? Small and lightweight. And everything that goes in your first aid kit will fit in a bag this size.
(Unless you buy something large and try to squeeze it in where a smaller package would do.)
The only item that doesn’t go in the bag is the tourniquet. Most experts recommend attaching the tourniquet to the outside of your first aid kit anyway.
You probably never needed one of these before. I hope you never need it. But if you ever do… a modern, pre-made tourniquet is far safer and easier to use than your belt or something improvised.
And having one can save your life.
Bright red arterial blood shooting out of an arm or leg – this is the signal there are seconds, maybe a minute for you to put on a tourniquet, stop the bleeding and save a life.
Don’t believe the myth that you should only use a tourniquet if a hospital is nearby. Yes, putting on a tourniquet is a serious decision. Yes, there are serious risks when you remove a tourniquet. But don’t let that stop you from using one when you absolutely must. Experts say more lives could have been saved if people weren’t afraid to use the tourniquet they had with them.
When you pack one with your bag, why not get some training? At least get and read a medical guide. Or better, get some supervised training.
Hindsight is 20/20. Imagine knowing before this whole COVID thing that you might want an infrared thermometer. And actually getting one before the desperate panic and months of waiting for supplies from the other side of the world.
Same thing with getting a tourniquet. You won’t know you need one until you need it. And experts say you’re far more likely to need one when you’re in the middle of a crisis situation.
A good first aid kit must have one of these.
22. Pressure Dressing
AKA trauma wound dressing, emergency bandage, hemorrhage control bandage and more commonly… the Israeli bandage.
Instead of cutting off blood flow to an entire arm or leg as a tourniquet does, a pressure dressing helps control blood loss at the point of injury. This bandage/dressing/pressure combo device can put 30 lbs of pressure on the wound.
Most of these come double-wrapped. Maybe this keeps them sterile, but experts recommend you take off the outer wrapper (without puncturing the inner one.) After that, go ahead and locate (without tearing) the pre-cut tear mark on the inner wrapper. (You won’t want to fuss with wrappers when major blood loss is going on.)
If you ever need to use a pressure dressing, look for the string running throughout the bandage. You’ll probably have gloves on and things get slippery. The string is there to help you keep from dropping the bandage and getting it dirty.
Also: if you can put your finger into the wound hole, go ahead and pack some sterile gauze in the wound before you put the pressure dressing on.
This is another item that begs you to get some training before you need it. And every good first aid kit will have a pressure dressing.
23. Z-Fold Gauze, Standard 4.5″x 4 Yards
This is a highly absorbent cotton wound packing material. It’s z-folded (instead of rolled up like most gauze) to help you quickly pack a wound and stop the bleeding.
Some may wonder about the Celox 3″x10′ z-fold gauze since Celox is treated with a gel to stop the bleeding faster. However, the Celox gauze is three inch …the kind you wrap around a wound. You already have the pressure dressing to wrap around the wound – and it’s very effective for controlling blood loss.
The 4.5″ z-fold gauze allows you to pack gauze inside a wound such as a bullet hole or serious knife wound.
And this is the perfect size to work along with your pressure dressing.
If you ever have to use the z-fold, rip through the outer vacuum packing and use the inner sleeve to dispense the amount you need.
24. Coban Roll, Standard 2” x 5 Yards
Wounds need protection. If you’ve ever used gauze, you know you need tape or something to hold the gauze in place. Coban roll is a near-perfect solution for this.
It sticks to itself without the need for any adhesives, pins or clips. It’s lightweight, porous, breathable and stays in place so you don’t have to adjust it all the time.
Coban roll (also known as “vet wrap”) not only holds gauze in place. It can help immobilize sprains, strains and other injuries. It can even provide some compression. It’s a great overwrap for splints too.
Just keep in mind that it can restrict blood flow if wrapped too tightly. Also, it may contain natural latex rubber, which some people are allergic to.
25. Trauma Shears
Every first aid kit needs at least pair of scissors. In some situations, you may need to quickly cut clothing away from a wound.
Why do you need trauma shears instead of plain scissors?
Trauma shears are super sharp but have blunt, rounded tips so you don’t accidentally stab anything with them.
Plus, you want a sharp cutting tool reserved just for first aid uses. Not the one you use for cutting up your dinner or other things you wouldn’t want getting into a wound.
26-31. Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Advil (Ibuprofen), No-Doze (Caffeine), Imodium (Loperamide), Ex-Lax (Sennosides), Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
These over-the-counter meds are often essential in a wide variety of common circumstances. Feel free to pack either generic or name brand products.
If you can’t find a collection of 10-20 single-dose packets, at least put them in clearly marked Ziploc type baggies. Use labels that won’t smudge or leave you in danger of getting them confused later.
If you pack meds in your own bags, make sure you cut out the drug facts and warnings for each and include these. This info can be crucial when you need these meds.
Clearly mark the expiration date for each of your meds too.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is probably the safest of the 4 main pain relievers: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and aspirin. It’s usually ok for pregnant women and it’s the only one of the 4 to relieve fever for someone less than 6 months old.
Aspirin and ibuprofen thin your blood and can interfere with clotting. These also require adequate food in your stomach to minimize digestive system damage. Ibuprofen can also cause challenges if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. Or if you have kidney problems or are elderly.
However, if you sprain your wrist or ankle, Ibuprofen reduces inflammation far better than acetaminophen. When in extreme agony, some will combine acetaminophen, ibuprofen and caffeine pills to get results similar to opioid pain relievers.
Caffeine pills are far smaller and easier to pack than instant coffee. Plus they don’t require boiling water. If you need caffeine to function, use these instead. Keep in mind you may need to ration them and wean off caffeine.
Unusual food, new environments and stress often cause diarrhea. You always want to treat this seriously in a survival situation – it can lead to dehydration, debilitating fatigue and worse. Imodium can help.
New foods and dehydration can often cause the opposite – constipation. You’ll want to bring sennosides such as Ex-Lax to prepare for this possibility.
Diphenhydramine can help you through hay fever or cold symptoms, such as a runny nose. Since it puts you to sleep, some use it to defeat insomnia. And if your allergies are serious enough to pack an epi-pen, you’ll want diphenhydramine to help you defeat the allergic reaction.
32. Band Aids
Pack at least 10. Reduce the risk of infection and re-injury. It’s useful to have various sizes too.
33. Chest Seals
Most people probably don’t have these in their home first aid kit. After all, ambulances and hospitals are nearby. But if you’re preparing for when there is no doctor to help – these are an essential item.
Sure, it would be nice to have a big 8 fl oz tube of this. My skin burns easily. But I would never pack more than an ounce or two. Why?
It’s the size and weight issue again. And if you’re pack is too heavy, then part or all of your pack is useless.
Plan to bring protective clothing to cover most of you. Then you only need a little sunscreen and your supply lasts a lot longer.
It’s impossible to foretell how far you’ll have to walk. So plan to take excellent care of your feet.
If you have to hike in wet socks or shoes (or your shoes/boots are not worn in with lots of previous use) you’re asking for serious debilitating trouble. Don’t ask me how I know.
To spare you the bloody details, I’ll tell you I once used a whole package of moleskin while hiking the Grand Canyon. (Trauma shears are great for cutting pieces to size.)
Even if you’re careful with your footwear, you’ll want to pack moleskin. It can prevent blisters. Or at least diminish the agony of them.
36. Burn Gel
Get the kind in packets (instead of the larger heavier tube), and put some in your kit.
If you ever need more than a few packets, toothpaste doubles as a decent burn cream. Some say it’s the sodium fluoride that brings the relief. Whatever it is, I can tell you it works.
37. Nail Clippers
Wouldn’t your multitool or scissors work for this? Field medics recommend you bring clippers. Nail issues can get serious.
Especially in a survival situation do you need to avoid injuries – keep your hands and feet in good condition.
38. Medical Field Guide
Of all the medical guides I’ve seen, I really like the Wilderness Medical Associates Field Guide. Spiral bound, small, concise, comprehensive yet easy to understand and easy to pack.
39, 40. Respirator and Filter Cartridge
While these items won’t fit in your first aid kit, they can protect your lungs and save your life in a pandemic, fire and many other crises.
Bandanas or 95 masks keeps dust and some contaminants out. For smoke, gases and nuclear threats, you’ll want more protection.
Some may opt for a full gas mask. I prefer to pack goggles and separate breathing protection. Another size and weight thing.
You can find a ton of misleading or half-good options online. It could take hours to sift out the real deal.
3M makes a nice half face respirator. Paired with the 3M Multi Gas/Vapor 60926, P100 Filter Cartridge, this gives you protection from a very wide range of threats.
41, 42. Toilet Paper and Condensed Camping Soap
Both items can make a huge difference in your comfort and health.
Simply add water to the soap to get foam. It cleans and disinfects far better than hand sanitizer. A tiny bit of soap goes a long ways, so it will last you far longer than hand sanitizer or wet wipes.
If you buy the soap in a 4 oz or larger bottle, pack your soap in a 1 or 2 oz bottle and label it clearly.
43. Field Knife
No matter your skill level, many survival situations will put you in front of tasks where a fixed blade just works better than a multitool or pocket knife.
Imagine trying to open your multitool while a wild animal is charging at you. But a fixed blade? Much quicker to pull out and defend yourself! (Along with the sharp stick you carved up.)
Need to push on the knife or just use one hand while you cut? A fixed blade is far less risk than a hinged blade.
Keep your field knife attached to your belt (instead of inside your backpack), on the side of your dominant hand.
Knife enthusiasts hotly debate this, but there’s no ultimate survival knife. If you’re chopping trees, an axe is better. Trying to escape a locked building? A pry bar is probably handier.
The best knife for emergencies? You want one that’s more average for most jobs and not really specialized for anything. And light enough experts would recommend it for EDC (everyday carry.)
Cutting tools are so important in survival situations, I recommend carrying both a fixed blade and a multitool. But if I could only carry one cutting tool, I’d bring my multitool.
If you notice what most survival experts actually carry, you’ll see they have a Leatherman Wave. Yes, I know this one is a bit expensive. But I’ve had the privilege to try many different kinds of multitools. And I have never found any that are half as good as a Leatherman Wave.
Why do the survival experts use this one? It simply has the most useful survival tools of any multitool. Besides 2 kinds of cutting blades, there are scissors, screwdrivers, 2 kinds of files, a wood saw, pliers and more. Also the blades are locking – an absolute must for safety when you’re using a multitool.
45. Para Cord
“550” para cord means it can hold up to 550 pounds.
Why is this type of rope/cord essential for you? It has so many uses in a crisis situation.
You can cut off a section, remove the outer layer and use the 7 inner strands for all kinds of things: snares, fishing line, or lashing sticks together for a makeshift shelter. Or you can use the whole cord as a strong, compact, lightweight rope.
If you’re more experienced, you may be able to get by with 50 feet of para cord.
But to be more prepared for a variety of situations, I feel safer bringing 100 feet along. It’s super lightweight and compact anyway.
If you’ve ever had to dress a wound while it’s dark, you know you need both hands and a headlamp. Not a flashlight. Ditto for lots of other tasks.
In a crisis, you also don’t want cheap plastic that falls apart or quits working when wet. This eliminates a lot of lower cost headlamps. Even the ones runners, hunters and campers swear by.
With even the tougher ones, some are bright but heavy. Others have good battery life but not as bright.
I like the Petzl Actik Core. With 450 lumens on high level, it’s like a supernova strapped to your forehead (90 yard visibility) with a 2 hour burn time plus a 3 hour reserve. It doesn’t have a spotlight feature like some do, but it’s super-bright and more than adequate for delicate work in the dark.
Low power mode (24-feet visibility) gives you 130 hours of light. Plus it also has red light for night vision.
True, the mode button takes a bit to get used to. But it’s easy once you’ve used the headlamp a bit. While I wouldn’t try submerging it in water, It’s water-resistant against splashing and rain.
Comparable to the older Black Diamond ReVolt before they downgraded features and became more expensive.
The main reason I like this Petzl? It has the most important quality for your go bag – charging versatility. In addition to using common AAA batteries (even the USB-rechargeable kind). It can also charge from just about anything with a USB adapter – a car cigarette lighter, your laptop, an external battery, a 110 wall outlet… or even a solar panel.
Looking for a more budget option? You can power a cheaper (around $15) headlamp with USB rechargeable AAA batteries. Just look for lighter weight gear (less than 5 oz including batteries) that is tougher and water resistant.
Always go with the most adaptable gear (such as USB rechargeable batteries), that allows you to carry the least stuff.
47. USB Charging Cables and Wall Plug
Apple’s 12W USB power adapter for iPads and iPhones weighs less than a half ounce. So if you use Apple devices, this can be your wall plug. If you use Android or something else, just bring a wall plug with a similar size, weight and power rating.
An advantage for Android users? You only need 1 USB to micro-USB charging cord. Apple users need to pack an additional USB to lightning cord. Those tiny micro USB to lightning adapters are too easy to lose.
Depending on your headlamp choice, you might need to charge AAA batteries individually. If so, you might need to pack a USB 2.0 to Micro USB Splitter 3 in 1 Cable.
I prefer packing 6 foot long cords. A bit bulkier. But you may end up in a shelter situation where you need this much length to charge your stuff.
48. Solar Panel + Li-Ion Battery Pack
Tons of different solar panels to choose from. Same for battery packs. Almost none of them are ideal for your bug out bag. Why?
Here’s what you really need. (Go ahead and compare this with most of the products out there and you’ll see they don’t measure up):
Some survival/prepping sites give you in-depth testing with a truckload of charts/graphs proving one model is superior to another – and then they recommend something that totally doesn’t meet these 3 requirements.
I like the 25000mAh FEELLE Solar Power Bank. It meets all these criteria, works as a backup flashlight, is about the same size as your phone, is built tough, water-proof and in bright sun can charge your phone in less than 2 hours while you’re using the phone.
Plus the FEELLE can power up your devices while it’s being charged. Oh, and the 3 segmented panel is far more efficient at capturing sunlight than most other designs.
49. Two-Way Radio
Most people have not put in the extra hours of effort to certify as a ham radio operator. If you have, that’s great. You’ll get far more range than a regular 2-way radio. But be sure to pack the lightest 2-meter radio that allows USB recharging.
Everyone else? A simpler 2-way radio is still an essential item in your pack.
Makers of two-way radios (Motorola included) brag about 10, 20 or 35 mile ranges. This is only true if you’re on water or there are no objects between you and another radio. Most people only report getting a quarter mile range if you’re in a forest or a building.
If you’re packing for only yourself, get the Motorola T480. It’s about half the price, has some waterproofing and is lighter than the T600. Planning for 2 radios? Consider the T600. You’ll pay a little bit more to get 2 radios. But the T600 units have better water proofing and they double as extra flashlights.
Since you’re using AA batteries (in addition to the AAA batteries in your headlamp), consider getting USB-rechargeable AA batteries.
50. Cell Phone
Bringing your cell phone along is a no-brainer. It can also double as a GPS, flashlight, entertainment, medical reference and more.
I’d like to point out that the 25-lb pack mentioned here includes your half-pound cell phone in the pack. You’ll probably carry your phone in your pocket, not on your back. This could be true of your knife, multitool and other items.
Also, where two different weights are listed above in the table, the heaviest one is included in the 25 lbs. So your pack could be somewhat lighter than the 25 pounds listed.
51. Signal Mirror
Be sure to get a signal mirror with a center hole and grid for accurately pointing your signal.
And why not practice signalling with this before you depend on it?
Also doubles as a camp mirror for shaving, washing your face, etc.
53. Weatherproof Paper and Pen
These tools can be a lifesaver for documentation, navigation, medicine or even journaling and entertainment.
Gloryfire makes a 5-pack of small notebooks each with a waterproof PVC cover, tough wire binding and 48 sheets of waterproof paper.
You’ll also want to pack a Rite in the Rain pen which can write through water, sweat, grease and mud.
54. Documents (Paper and USB Thumb Drive)
You’ll need to pack important docs both digitally & physically. For digital, a small USB thumb drive will do.
For paper documents, you may want to laminate them or at least.keep them in a watertight plastic bag.
Even better? Also keep copies of each of these documents in the cloud and on your phone.
What documents should you pack?
You may also want to include additional documents for entertainment or to help you cope.
As much as possible. Many try to bring at least $500. Be sure to have mixed bills. A stack of just hundreds may not be usable.
Some may bring jewelry, coins, etc to barter with. If you do, just be sure to make people see that what you’re offering is a last-of-its-kind item… instead of making them wonder how much more you have.
56. Pepper Spray
Non-lethal self-defense makes more sense to me for many reasons. Your decision though. I don’t judge. So I won’t get into advantages or dangers of lethal weapons.
But consider this: guns and ammo weigh several pounds. Pepper spray is only about 1/4 of a pound. Each canister gives you 25-35 shots with up to an 18-foot range.
And that’s enough to force multiple attackers into immediate vomiting, crying level pain and temporary blindness.
Okay, they call it “pepper spray” – but don’t get the spray kind. Get the gel. Spray can blow back into your face. Gel is much safer and easier to aim.
I like Sabre products. This brand is what US marshals as well as the New York and Chicago police departments carry.
However, check your laws about how much and what kind of Sabre products you can carry. And if you need a permit. (Especially if you live in Arkansas, D.C., California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina or Wisconsin.)
Here’s what the experts who train law enforcement say:
Don’t just get one of these and pack it. They’re only about ten bucks. As soon as you get one, test it out in a safe area. With the Sabre pepper spray gel device I recommend, you get about 35 bursts. So don’t be afraid to test it. You don’t ever want to find out in an emergency that you’re holding a defective device!
Get familiar with rocking the safety back and forth. And then depressing the trigger with your thumb to make a steady spray. Do this every 6 months. This costs very little and could save your life!
Additional Protection Items:
Depending on your training level, a slingshot could be a great addition to your pack. It also doubles as a hunting weapon.
It’s not feasible to put in your pack, but later, if you have to camp, finding and sharpening a long stick is a moderate protection against wild animals. Ditto for wooden clubs.
Note: be very careful when wood carving. It’s far better to be familiar with knives before you need to use them. Horrible injuries happen on simple camping trips. Emergencies, hunger, tiredness and other stresses multiply the danger.
This means always keep that blade pointed away from you and your fingers and hands. Respect knives!
57. Dry Storage (20L Drybag and 5x 1-Gallon Ziploc)
These are great for keeping your tarp/bivvy, clothes, first aid and electronics items dry and organized.
The 20L dry bag can even function as a second backpack on its own. And of course, can attach to the outside of your backpack.
However, remember to get a subdued color to help you stay hidden, if needed. Most survival situations are far different than the usual dry bag uses, where a bright colored bag is better.
58. Contractor Trash Bags (2x) and Duct Tape
Well, at least two. If you can carry the weight, bring more. Here are some common uses for this multi-use survival item:
Keeping yourself or your stuff dry. Or gathering things. Use your shears and duct tape with a bag to supplement your first aid kit for wound care. Or use it as an ice pack. Or for collecting, hauling or storing water, even a solar still. Also works as an insulating poncho, a mattress, pillow, toilet, clothes washing or shower.
Cut them open and flatten them out for shelter, blacking out your windows, quarantining the sick, fixing leaks, staying afloat, catching fish, a makeshift rope or marking trails. Carry a bright colored bag to help you signal for help.
59. Toothbrush, Paste, Floss
Want to add 20 years to your life? Always take excellent care of your teeth. That’s what a great dentist told me once. Travel sized dental care items make this an easy add to your pack.
60. Tactical Rucksack, 40L Ultralight w/ MOLLE
Can’t get one right now that has all these features? Use what you have. Just make sure it doesn’t look so tactical. Forget the camouflage or anything that makes you look tough, military or carrying stuff people would want to steal.
A true 40-liter bag is more than enough size for your 25 lb pack weight goal. However, backpack makers often exaggerate their pack size.
MOLLE webbing on the outside of the pack is so helpful. Want to add to the size of your pack? No problem, just use the MOLLE attachment system to securely attach more compartments to the outside of your pack. No matter who makes the pack or extra bags.
Finally, weight is critical. You can find 3, 4 or 5 pound packs in this size. Yet you can get a pack that’s plenty tough and useful enough but weighs 2 lbs or less!
Aveler made a nice pack at 1.5 lbs but this one is currently unavailable. I like Mardingtop’s 1.7 lb pack.
Why so many items?
If you’re new to the idea of preparing, this may seem like a lot. So please remember that these items are carefully chosen to get you through a very wide variety of emergencies.
Even if you were preparing only for 2 types of disasters, maybe earthquakes and tornadoes… experts would still recommend you bring most of this.
The list of what could be useful will always seems like a lot… and is usually more than what you can carry!
How do you tackle such a daunting checklist?
Focus on the bare essentials first. For example, a water filter will be crucial when you won’t have a reliable source of drinking water. So get the filter. But skip the canteen and pack a plastic bottle instead – until you’re ready to tackle more items on the list.
Your priority is a mix of what;s most important along with what you can afford.
Keep in mind, the list above is grouped by purpose – not by priority. You’ll see more about priorities in a moment – with a more detailed explanation of each item in the list.
Survival isn’t child’s play. But learning about it can be a lot of fun. And the more skills you know, the less you have to carry.
So have fun getting prepared. Start in small doses. Practice safely starting fires in your fireplace or put a tent up in your living room or backyard.
How can you help your family get started preparing?
If you have a family to protect, this step is every bit as important as getting yourself prepared…
Your family may not be as excited about preparing as you. Look for opportunities when they might want to talk about preparing. Educate, inspire, entertain…instead of forcing ideas on them. You’ll accomplish a lot more.
Growing up, my family was poor. I had mostly garage sale toys. I’d stack dominoes into buildings and then topple them with my toy dart gun. But Dad saw this as an opportunity to teach me the importance of avoiding danger.
Dad would play the part of the building manager: “Don’t worry folks. Maybe we lost the other tower, but there’s nothing to worry about here.“
I’d laugh and then obliterate that domino tower. Since age 5 I’ve never forgot Dad’s lesson.
Here’s another example. You want the most practical bag. One that’s lightweight. The color won’t draw attention if you’d ever need to flee undetected. A bag that’s tough enough and carries enough.
But maybe a family member is excited about a bag that is… well…less practical. You told them what’s best. But they still want a different bag. Well, how much better to get them started preparing with a bag they’re excited about. And then keep looking for a way to gently guide them in a more practical direction later.
Don’t just “play” survival
Some people like the idea of playing survival. And that’s great if it helps you get prepared. But the worst thing you could do is read this and then fail to actually pack a go bag. The most important and valuable thing you can do is to actually prepare.
Stay tuned. Look for more items that can fit in 35 and 45 lb packs.
And let me know how your preparation is going or your thoughts on the list in the comments below.