How to make a Bug out Bag

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

A bug out bag is something everyone should have handy. When SHTF, you don’t want to be caught without necessities in your time of need. That’s where a bug-out bag comes in handy. Bug out bags are not only useful for SHTF scenarios, but for personal emergencies as well. They’re great for if you find yourself needing to stay in one spot for a few days because of the weather, or because you’re broke down somewhere.

With a bug out bag in the trunk of your car, you won’t find yourself rushing to the store and fighting the mobs for basic essentials. You, and your family, will be set up until a situation can be reassessed or better adapted to.

In a SHTF scenario, where you needed to leave in a hurry, there will not be much time to grab belongings, if anything. Do you really want to try to remember all the essentials your family may need in a hurry, or worse yet, not pack at all?

When planning, you may need to take some time to assess what your family will need over the course of three or four days. I started out with a backpack, but eventually switched to a five-gallon bucket. Not because of space, but because a bucket is so much more practical than a backpack.

A bucket is more waterproof than a backpack, and can still be carried comfortably over a short distance. It can be repurposed to carry water, storage or even a toilet. I felt this was a better option, but if you have a long way to hike in your bug-out-plan, you may prefer a backpack.

It’s common for families to pack a bug-out-bag for every person, as well, but I find with buckets, you can cut down on space. Instead of carrying six backpacks, you may only need three buckets. For those with a truck, or limited trunk space, this could be a better option.

Space and weight are huge factors in bug-out-bags, as you never know what situation you may find yourself in. When prepping for the unknown, it’s important to keep the three survival factors in mind, water, shelter, food, but keep in mind other needs. Morale, mental health and entertainment are three that come to mind, especially in a pandemic. You’ll want to be sure you’re building a bag to meet your family’s needs. Here are some common essentials kept in bug-out-bags(or buckets.)


It’s important to note that a bug-out-bag is intended to bridge the short-term gap until you can safely return home, or seek shelter where resources are available. Depending on the situation, you may find yourself needing to sustain yourself or your family for longer than this gap. That’s why I like to include a few things in my bug-out-bag to account for this.

A way to sanitize water- Amazon carries tablets for this.

A stainless steel pot- I recommend a good stainless steel pot, for boiling water and for cooking. With it being stainless steel, it won’t be as heavy as cast iron, but still a necessity.

Iron Skillet- If weight isn’t an issue, I would suggest throwing in a small cast iron skillet. They are basically indestructible, and you will be able to cook much more, easier.

Set of eating ware- A fold-up mess kit, but don’t forget when making your choice, bowls>plates. You can eat much more from a bowl than you can a plate.

Fishing line, hooks and bobbers- I found this really cool little kit that may come in handy. Lightweight, but could possibly save your butt. If you were caught in a bind, no access to stores, you could be nearby a river or lake. A fishing pole can be made from a sturdy stick, or if space isn’t an issue, try breaking down a fishing rod.

Ready-made meals- You can purchase these, or make them yourself.

Trail mix and beef jerky- You really can’t go wrong with some of these classics.

Water flavoring- Try to buy the ones with electrolytes, but these are a wonderful change from drinking water, especially when your water is a change from what you’re used to.

Tea- Mostly for morale, which can’t be overlooked in a crisis situation.

Seasoning- For space-saving, there’s a compact shaker for multiple seasonings. If you do end up catching your own fish, you’ll want to season it!


In a SHTF situation, you may not want to be in the city, therefore you may find yourself without access to a hotel. A great place to bug out, if you don’t have a designated place for this, will be campgrounds. They’re remote, away from the city and you will usually have access to a body of water. Jus the careful, you may not be the only one with this idea.

Tent- Backpack tents are lightweight and space-saving. They come in two-person and four-person and will come in handy for shelter.

Tarp- There’s so much you can do with a tarp. Shelter, rainwater collection, padding for your tent, a makeshift blanket and so much more.

Sleeping bags- I prefer sleeping bags to blankets because of space. They’re made to be compact and can be purchased for colder weather.


I like to keep morale in mind when I’m packing for an unexpected disaster. In times like this, it will be important to keep spirits up and get your mind off of things, at least for a bit. That’s why I think it’s crucial to include morale when prepping.

Bible- Such a comfort in rough times.

Deck of Cards- Lightweight, but thousands of games can be played from a deck of cards.

Card Games- There’s a Monopoly card game, now! And don’t forget the classic Uno.

Dice- Here’s a free, printable list of games you can play from dice.

Personal Hygiene

It’s important not to overlook aspects of personal hygiene, especially when bugging out. Ladies, don’t forget your monthly friend. This gets overlooked in so many bug-out-bags. If you need to bug out in a hurry, with no time to prep, you want to be prepared. You don’t want to get to your bug-out location and realize you don’t have your toothbrush!

Pads/Tampons- If you have a menstrual cup, consider packing an extra one in your bug-out-bag. If you don’t have time to grab anything, you don’t want to go unprepared!

Bar soap- I like bar soap, because it’s lighter and lasts longer. It can be packed a little easier, as well. You can purchase shampoo and conditioner in bar soap!

Toothbrushes- Don’t forget an extra or two!


Washcloths- These will come in handy for so much more than washing up. Use them for filtering water, too!

Towels- Hand towels can be used for drying off, but are much smaller and more packable.

Extra clothes- If you don’t have time to grab soap, you won’t have time to grab clothes! In the event that you’re ever in such a hurry, I read a great tip. Grab your dirty laundry hamper. These can be washed, but it’s essentially a grab bag of your family’s clothes.

Don’t forget extra thick socks!

Bandanas and hair ties- You can use bandanas for tying back hair, a sun shield or for filtering water.

First Aid

I am not a doctor and I am in no way recommending self-treatment for humans or animals. Please only treat yourself or a pet under the supervision of a licensed physician. I am not licensed or a doctor.

Antibiotics- Just in case you’re bugging out with your pet fish, there are antibiotics available for him. According to their website, they’re made with super-high standards, so you may want to consider picking some up, just in case your fish gets sick.

I have a list of medications great for a stockpile, right here in this post!


Duct tape- Great for patching holes.

Para-cord- This can be used for makeshift shelters, creating nets, traps and so much more.

Solar phone charger- If you’re waiting out a disaster, getting a little insight from the outside world could be a good thing.

Solar rechargeable lights- Flashlights are great, but solar lights can keep your camp lit longer.

Fire- I keep several types of fire starter in mine, matches, lighters and fire starters


You may want to think about throwing in a few items off of this list. In a total TEOTWAWKI disaster, or in a tragic event, such as your house burns down or you’re stranded, you may want a few extra items to get you through. This is at your discretion.

Seeds- I purchased this set about a year ago and they’re growing well this summer.

Reflective heat blanket

Maps- It could be a great idea to have a map with all campgrounds clearly marked. This could help you find your way in the event of a total outage.

Flashlights- Bulky, but there are small ones available if you look.

Compass- Unless you have a great sense of direction, a compass can come in handy.

Money- Even in the event of a total disaster, money will hold it’s value for at least some time.

Gas can- If gas stations are closing, you could grab some gas to get you farther to possible safety.

Extra tennis shoes or boots- What if you bugged out in the middle of the night? Your kids may be barefoot, or you may be as well. In a less scary scenario, what if your car breaks down and you need to walk, on the day you picked your sandals to wear?

Dog collar/lease- If Fido hops right in the car, it could be easy to forget his leash. Consider a tie-out stake, so he can stay safe put while you set up camp.

And don’t forget your personal protection! In a SHTF scenario, this will be so important.

The goal of a bug out bag is to get you through a short period of time, until you can reassess and come up with a long-term game plan. A bug out bag is still very useful, even if you have no intention of “bugging out.” It’s a little extra insurance, so you have what you need to get through a hump.

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