If you had to immediately evacuate your home, how many of you are prepared to grab all the essential items that you need to survive for three to five days? Would you be able to gather everything and leave your house within minutes not hours? And what if I told you that there was no power or clean water within a 100 miles-radius…do you have everything that you need to keep you and your family safe, hydrated, and fed? If not, you need a bug out bag.
What Is A Bug Out Bag:
Until a few months ago, I had never even heard of this term! A bug out bag (BOB) is a portable kit that contains everything that you need to survive for 72-hours or more during a disaster. It’s your key to survival when disaster hits.
Until recently, many of us haven’t had to worry about natural disasters. Then, we had multiple back-to-back ones including:
- Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas– left many without food, diapers, and clean clothing due to flooding. Many houses were damaged by the flood water and items had to be thrown away due to bacteria-infested waters.
- Hurricane Irma – resulted in highway congestions and stranded cars without gasoline throughout Florida due to mandatory evacuations. There are only two main highways throughout the state that runs North-South, East-West, and those leaving the originally targeted area of Miami didn’t have many options other than wait on the highways.
- Hurricane Maria – wiped out power throughout most of Puerto Rico, and people without cash couldn’t buy bread and water because credit card machines weren’t working. (*Always be financially prepared for any natural disaster and emergency by having at least $1,000 in emergency cash. Check out How to Financially Prepare for an Emergency for more info.)
- Wildfires in Sonoma and Napa – wildfires came without warning in the middle of the night and burnt down entire neighborhoods, leaving many without homes to go back to, including college students. The smoke and ash effects affected the air quality as far as San Francisco.
These natural disasters have left many without homes, food, clean water, and necessities, and it’s heart-breaking to see and hear about the casualties and damages. While sometimes disasters come without warning, taking the time and resources to plan today can make a huge difference in the severity of the consequences.
Dealing at the last-minute with emergencies can be time-consuming, stressful, and financially draining, pulling your attention away from your job and business. I’m going to minimize the number of hours you need to spend researching what to buy and pack, by sharing the exact items that I personally bought for my family. (*Note: If you missed Part I: Make sure you take the time to read “How to Financially Prepare for an Emergency”)
Part II: What Should Go In Your Bug Out Bag
Here are the top 10 types of items that need to go in your survival kit and why.
1. Book bag / Hiking back pack – This is what will become your bug out bag.
- Get a large book bag or hiking back pack that you can store emergency items and can quickly grab, put onto your back, and leave.
- Cheap option: Use an existing book bag that you already have at home.
- Better option: Get a good hiking back pack that has chest and waist clips to make the bag feel lighter, and has slots to put in a hydration bag for water. Prices can range from:
- Consider having one book bag for each person in the family, including a small one for kids if they’re old enough to carry one on their back.
- Don’t use a suit case, as it will be heavy and may slow you down. Also, if you have to travel by foot, it ties up one hand that you may need to carry small children or pets.
2. Maps – Get maps of your state and surrounding areas, since you may not be able to rely on your cell phone and GPS if towers are down.
- Put your maps in a waterproof container if they aren’t laminated.
- Cheap option: Use a freezer bag.
- Better option: Use a triple-sealed waterproof bag/pouch: Mudder brand
- If you’re a AAA member, you can get local state maps for free.
- Consider also getting a waterproof compass.
3. Clothes– Pack extra set of clothes for each person in the family that will provide protection in the outdoors from sun, wind, rain, and cold.
- Try to have clothes that are lightweight.
- Cheap option: Use existing clothes that you already have at home.
- Better option: Get convertible hiking pants that have UPF protection, can dry quickly, have water repellent finish, can be converted into shorts, and can pack down small. Prices can range from:
- Plan to dress in layers to stay warm.
- Remember hats, gloves, and jackets, especially for the winter season and cold evenings.
4. Water – Have enough water for each person in the family for three to five days.
- Consider water filtration systems and water purification tablets as back-up options if you can’t carry all the water for each person for that many days.
- I found 1-gallon jugs of waters easier to manage than a case of bottled water.
5. Food – Stock up on food that can feed each person in the family for three to five days.
- Recommend a variety of freeze-dried food with individual packets and can be cooked with water, a portable cooking system, and propane.
- Cheap option: Rely on fire to cook food.
- Better option: Use a lightweight Jetboil Cooking System that can heat up water in minutes to pour into dry-freeze food pouches.
- Protein bars are also good, since they can give you energy and usually pack small.
- Remember formula for infants and food for pets.
6. Flashlights & Signals – You’ll need flashlights when it gets dark and flares or light vests in case you need to be rescued or get people’s attention.
- Recommend having one flashlight per person in the family.
- Don’t forget batteries for the flashlights.
- Highly recommend a solar lantern that can be charged up during the day and used at night without batteries.
- Head lamps can come in handy so it frees up hands
7. Connection – Stay connected with an emergency radio and portable external battery charger if you need to make phone calls.
- Pack extra cable to connect cell phone and other electronics needed to stay connected.
- Recommend getting a solar cranked emergency radio.
8. First Aid & Toiletry Kit – Build and customize one that includes items to help with burns, cuts, sprains, pain, medication, and specific items needed for your family.
- Pack 3 – 5 days of supplies of any daily medications and vitamins needed.
- Remember to include allergy medicine for those who are sensitive to food or the outdoors.
- Get waterproof matches and fire-starter sticks to light fires in cold, wet conditions.
- Include an emergency whistle that’s loud enough to signal for help if you’re stuck.
- Use N95 masks if the air quality is bad.
- Have extra pair of eyeglasses, especially for those who wear contacts.
- Remember diapers, tampons, sanitary pads, and adult diapers if applicable.
- Include tooth brushes and tooth paste.
- Highly recommend ear plugs, especially for those sensitive to noise, especially when sleeping outdoors or evacuating to a shelter.
9. Multi-purpose tool and self-defense weapons – You never know what tools you may need to help your situation, so a multi-purpose tool will come in handy.
- If you have or choose to get a firearm weapon, make sure you have a safe way to store it, especially if you have children. The best ones are biometric, meaning they can only be opened to the person whose fingerprints are programmed to the safe.
10. Sleep and warmth items – Prepare for sleeping outdoors or in your car, especially in the winter.
- Pack an emergency tent that can pack small.
- Have an emergency sleeping bag per person.
- Use an emergency thermal blanket.
- Consider fleece pajama onesies for small children. It’s lightweight and warm.
How Much Will a Bug Out Bag Cost?
It can get expensive stocking a well-packed bug-out bag. For my family of four, we spent $500 just buying three good hiking back packs (two adults and one kid) and two hydration packs. I provided links to many of the items that I actually purchased for our families in the list above. We spent over $1,500 to stock our family of four’s bug out bags! Yikes! I know this can be a huge shock and overwhelming if you aren’t financially prepared, so start small and see what items you already have at home. Slowly add essentials to your kit as your finances allow. But, make this a priority in your budget so you can have everything you need sooner rather than later.
Please take the time to learn from the recent disasters to prepare yourself and your family. Don’t wait until the emergency is already happening, finding yourself stuck in long lines, looking at empty shelves at the stores, paying a premium for bottled water, and realizing that Amazon can’t do overnight delivery because trucks can’t get into your area. These are the very real scenarios that many have faced, including my friends, family, and colleagues.
I hope this list gave you enough information and ideas to get you started…TODAY. If you’re anything like me, you can spend hours on the Internet searching for the “best” option. The recent disasters made me realize that our family was not 100% prepared, causing stress and distraction from my business in needing to research and purchase these items from various stores. My goal is that I saved you at least two hours of research on the Internet by giving you the top ten items to check-off your list in preparing a bug out bag to physically prepare for any emergency and natural disaster. With this list, you will be way ahead of everyone and can calmly and effectively get you and your family to safety. You can also use this list as gift ideas for loved ones.
If you found this list helpful or if there is something you think that should be in this list, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!