Let’s be honest. Moms are the greatest creatures on God’s green earth.
Somehow, you’re able to dress the kids, pack their lunches and plan an unbelievable adventure that they’ll live to tell their kids about. The thing is, you never know when disaster will strike.
While you can’t predict the future, you do your darndest to prepare for the worst. In situations where you need to leave in a hurry, the best thing you can do is have a Bug-Out Bag (BOB) ready to go.
Call it what you will:
- 72-hour bag
- Survival bag
- Emergency bag
- Go bag
- Get the heck out of here bag
A Bug-Out Bag is simply a prepped emergency bag, so you can get out of the house in a hurry but still have some essentials for you and your family. They all serve the same purpose – to keep you and your family safe when disaster strikes.
Call me paranoid, but knowing that I am prepared to leave, and still have a little food, water, and basic supplies for my family gives me peace of mind. I’ll take that if it means my kids have food to eat in an emergency and somewhere dry to sleep.
Throughout this guide, I’m going to explain how big your pack should be, what should be in a bug out bag and break it all down for you step-by-step.
Ready to get packing? Of course you are…You’re a prepper!
How Big Should my Bug-Out Bag Be?
Bug-Out Bags are generally small enough for you to tote on your back or in your arms. They need to be packed well enough to provide for your family, but you also need to be able to carry them with ease.
If packed well, your survival bag should be able to hold all your necessities in a single backpack. But not all shoulders and hips are created equal.
The last thing you want in the face of unexpected circumstances is something that’s going to slow you down or a pack not large enough to last your journey.
The Rei Coop experts suggest choosing a 50-80L bag for multi-day (3-5 night) trips. Within any range of bags, there are personal features to consider like heavy duty vs. light-weight materials. These kinds of decisions will play a role in the overall weight of your bag.
Torso Length – Not Height
Another sizable factor (no pun intended) is the size of your torso vs. the size of the bag. After all, we don’t wear backpacks on our bottoms.
Even though they may hold the same capacity, bags are created in different lengths. If you have a shorter torso like me, then fitting a large bag on your back comfortably is a toughy.
Fortunately, there are some better packs that have adjustable suspension, which is a great feature for those that are in between sizes. Rei’s experts mention that the adjustable harness does add a little extra weight to the pack.
The key point is to focus on your torso length and not your overall height.
The Hips Don’t Lie
We all have different waist sizes and let’s be honest:
The hips don’t lie.
Rei and its experts recommend that 80% or more of the backpack’s weight should be supported by your hips. If you have a thinner waist (darn you), you can find some packs that will let you swap out hip belts to create the perfect fit for you.
The experts at Outdoor Gear Lab take this seriously. Upon their recommendations, they suggest measuring the distance between your iliac crest and your C7 vertebrae for proper weight distribution and pack height.
Overall, choosing the right pack isn’t a simple “I like blue” decision. It’s about finding what’s comfortable and sustainable.
I think the best plan is to have a primary BOB you can carry on your back. You can then have an expanded BOB (a little more gear) that spills over to another bag, that your kids or other family members can carry.
If you’re just starting out, a basic large backpack will be fine – just get started on getting one together. You can always buy a bigger, nicer backpack when your funds allow. Your emergency bag will be complex but compact. A lot will go into this bag and you’ll have to Tetris your way in.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials: Luxury Items Not Welcome
The idea of putting together emergency supplies for a quick exit is overwhelming. Trying to fit enough stuff in 1-2 bags for an entire family seems impossible.
Remember, this isn’t a place for your most prized possessions. It’s a bag used to survive amidst the worst unforeseen circumstances.
There is no one-size fits all. For example, chocolate nut protein bars might be a great fit for one person, but the next person might have nut allergies.
Let’s take a look at the list by category and break down the best uses for your emergency bag.
H2O: Water to Stay Hydrated
You can live without water for 3 days, but you can make it 3 weeks without food. H2O is arguably the most important bag essential for you and your family. Water is a must-have item in your bug-bag and worthy of its own category. Here are a few items I recommend:
- Drinking water (3-4 Liters)
- Multiple collapsible water bottles
- Hard BPA Free Water Bottle
- Portable water purification tablets
In most cases, you won’t know how long you’ll be out of your comfort zone. While you want to pack efficiently, water is something you don’t want to compromise.
Food for Nutrients – Not Taste
When you’re stuck in a tough situation, you want to focus on getting the essential nutrients you need to survive. Even if you have your own prepared food items, you will want to get some dehydrated items off the store shelves.
Manufacturers label them with best before dates and are pretty conservative with their timelines. From your prepped food items, you’ll want to plan wisely with items that require water and those that don’t. You won’t know the scarcity of water until a situation arises.
Here are my go-to food essentials with all of the necessary nutrients you’ll need to live healthy:
- Protein bars (I actually like Pure Protein bars) – Whey protein powder contains faster absorbing proteins and is better strictly for the purpose of protein (according to the body building community)
- Green powders – these supplements generally contain everything we need. It’s a dietary supplement and I personally find it to be a nice quick fix, although it won’t exactly fill the stomach.
- Energy bars (Clif are my favorite)
- Dehydrated meals
- MREs (meals ready to eat). These are used by the U.S. Military and the taste isn’t half bad.
The important thing to note is that having the right food will help you get through the tough physical activity you may have to endure.
You and I probably have different tolerances, levels of fitness and body types. A light sweater might make me sweat, while you may shiver.
The clothes you wear is always a personal choice whether you’re living through everyday life or in hard circumstances. The key points to note are the function of the clothes we choose.
Here are my list of essential clothing items you’ll need:
- Zip-off pants (pants to shorts)
- Hat with a brim
- Work gloves
- Lightweight long sleeve
- Sweat resistant shirts (dry-fit etc.)
- Long johns
These are suggestions and you obviously don’t need to pack your entire closet. It is recommended to have at least two changes of clothes so you always have the option to wear a dry set.
Hypothermia is a real thing.
It’s important to reevaluate the clothes you have in your bug-out bag semi-annually. Sometimes we change sizes and seasonal conditions will play a factor in certain areas. Choose clothes that are going to keep you comfortable and mobile.
This list is short and sweet:
Your Mobile Shelter:
You can’t predict the exact number of days you will be out of your home. These items can get quite bulky, so you want to look for products that are compact and will fold easily in your bug-out bag.
- Sleeping bag appropriate for climate
- Blankets (wool or fleece)
- Ground pad
While some items may seem luxury, it’s important to account for your mental health. The last thing you want when you rest is to not get quality rest.
You won’t need your toner, but you’ll need items to keep your food healthy and body free of infection. The list below are the bare necessities:
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper (travel size or compacted into air tight bags)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Small towel
- Signal mirror
- All-purpose soap
- Wet napkins
These basic items are for your health. Don’t go without them.
Survival, Navigation and Miscellaneous Tools:
It’s easy to get caught up in the love for gadgets and tools. They’re really fun to play with and perhaps another post should be made for some of the best ones out there for different categories.
There are a few key tools you’ll need and shouldn’t go without in your go-bag. Here they are:
- LED headlamp
- Communication device (cell phone or emergency radio with hand crank)
- Pepper spray
- Survival knife
- ~Two dollars in quarters
- Money (~$400-$800)
- Small notebook
- Emergency whistle
Start Making your Bug-Out Bag
Being prepared to leave at a moment’s notice means you need to do some prep work to be ready. You want to make sure your family is protected and cared for at all times and in any situation. Now’s the time to start preparing for an emergency. Maybe you’ll never need it, or you’ll add new supplies later.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s overwhelming to get this many items and pack them into one or two tiny little bags.
You don’t have to create a full-out emergency bag today. It’s a process.
The peace of mind in knowing that you can leave in minutes and still have enough basics for your family to be okay for a few days is priceless. Bug-out bags are intended to last you 72 hours – not 72 years.
Have you started packing your bug-out bag?