The Best Bug Out Bag: A Checklist for Essential Contents

We never know when danger will strike or when an emergency will take place, but there is no reason not to be prepared. If a thunderstorm rolls through your neighborhood and wipes out the power down your entire block, it could be days before if gets turned back on. Or, if you get lost out in the woods on a camping trip, you might need supplies to build an overnight shelter. I know first hand how scary these situations can be because I’ve actually been in both of them and had to work my way out the hard way.

But, thankfully, today I always bring my  bag on my camping trips and I have one in the house just in case of emergencies like power outages, thunderstorms, or tornadoes. At the same time, I know that not many people know much about go bags. They are familiar with the concept and maybe know a few essential items to include, but, beyond that, they aren’t too sure of what ones to get for outdoors or quick access or a complete list of items to include.

I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories of people getting stranded in the woods, or stuck without power in a rural cabin that I decided to put my knowledge of bugout bags out there for everyone to see and let people know which ones I prefer for my own camping and survival trips.

Read my reviews below and check out the handy table I made to highlight the best survivalist bug out bags for 2015.


 

 NameOverall RatingStorage SizeQualityPrice
Explorer Tactical Assault Military3 ★★★20 x 11.5 x 11 inches3 ★★★$$
Condor 3-Day Assault Pack3.5 ★★★22 x 17 x 11 inches3 ★★★$$
Urban Survival Back Pack2 ★★8 x 14 x 10 inches2 ★★$$$
Emergency Survival 72-Hour5 ★★★★★22 x 16 x 9 inches5 ★★★★★$$$$
Voodoo Tactical Mini Mojo5 ★★★★★31 x 15.5 x 14 inches4 ★★★★$$$$$

 

Top Picks Bug Out Bag Guide

 

Here is a brief summary of my favorite bags—ones that I either currently use or have used in the past. I have them reviewed them and rated them for overall quality, durability, and storage capacity. Click below each one for their full review.


 

Explorer Tactical Assault Military Backpack Review

Rating: 4/5 Stars

What goes in a go bag
The Explorer Tactical Backpack is standard multi-purpose bag with lots of pocket space and a durable construction. It’s great for those who want to build a custom go bag on a budget.


checkMark     Pros:

  • Has a lot of storage space and numerous pockets for organizing bug out contents.
  • The shoulder and belt straps can be stowed for protection during flights.
  • Very affordable.


xMark     Cons:

  • The Zippers can be a bit sticky.
  • Not as many “frills” as other bags.
  • Some pouches could be bigger.
  • Not ideal for larger set individuals.


Check out the full review here.

check-the-price

 


 

Condor 3-Day Assault Pack Review

Rating: 4/5 Stars

How to fill a go bag
The Condor 3-Day Assault Pack is a sharp bag that can be customized to fit your every need. It is still quite an affordable bag, but has many more features and storage than similarly priced bags.


checkMark

     Pros:

  • Very large storage capacity, with separate pocket to fit up to 3L hydration bladders.
  • Lots of extra pouches for storage.
  • Comfortable and super adjustable shoulder straps.
  • Extremely durable fabric and tough handles to quickly grab and go.


xMark

     Cons:

  • Pull-tabs on the zippers have a tendency to break off.
  • Tough to zip up in a hurry.


Check out the full review here.

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Urban Survival Bug Out Bag Review

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Go bag check list
The Urban Survival Bag is a great bag because it comes in kit form; everything is included! It’s great as a present because it comes as an all in one.


checkMark     Pros:

  • Everything is included and there is no need to assemble your own contents (this can also be a con for those who want to create their own bag).
  • Good beginners who wouldn’t take the time to assemble their own bag.
  • Great as a gift.


xMark     Cons:

  • The bag itself is not the best quality.
  • For those of us who do like to assemble our own bag, the  kit might not be attractive.
  • Not much additional room after contents are added.


Check out the full review here.

check-the-price

 


 

Emergency Survival 72-Hour Bug Out Bag Review

Rating: 4/5 Stars

stuff to keep in your go bag
This bag used to be sold as a full bug out kit bag, but fortunately Fox Tactical stopped making a kit bag. Still, they do sell the bag itself, which is a great quality bag in and of itself. It’s a durable, black bag with adjustable back straps, three quick-grab handles, and tons of storage space throughout.


checkMark     Pros:

  • Sturdy, heavy-duty bag.
  • Plenty of pockets and compartments throughout.
  • Great starter kit.
  • Large capacity, plenty of room to add more contents.


xMark     Cons:

  • Contents are for one person for 72-hours. Will have to add more yourself if you plan to use it for more than one person.


Check out the full review here.

check-the-price

 


 

Voodoo Tactical Mini Mojo Bug Out Bag Review

Rating: 5/5 Stars

survival go bag goods
The Voodoo Tactical Bag is for the extreme survivalist who wants tons and tons of rooms to pack supplies for multiple days or a number of people. This would be a good bug bag for your entire family. It sure is big enough!


checkMark     Pros:

  • This bag can hold just about anything you’d want in your bug out bag. It is huge!
  • Well organized with lots of compartments for smaller objects.
  • Very durable, stiff floor on bottom of bag.
  • Come with bag straps to wear as a backpack.


xMark     Cons:

  • Might be too big to carry around quick and easy.
  • Compression straps only compress end pockets but not the whole bag.

 

  Check out the full review here.

check-the-price

 


 

Why it’s important to have a bugout bag

A bug out bag, also commonly called Go Bags, Bail out bags, grab bags, etc., is something that everyone should have in their house or apartment. This bag is technically different from a Get Home Bag, but many of the contents you will find in get home bags are also in bug out bags.

While it might sound crazy, you never know when an emergency might strike or some type of natural disaster could hit. If a hurricane, tornado, or an earthquake strikes your neighborhood and you are forced to evacuate your home, you need to be absolutely sure that you have the supplies necessary so your family can survive until rescue teams arrive or the area is cleared. A proper bug out bag will supply you with all of the essentials that you will need to survive for anywhere between 24 and 120 hours.

 


 

Things to Consider When Assembling a Bug Out Bag

There are a number of considerations that you need to take into account when putting together your bugout or bail out bags that can make or break your survival.

First, know how many people will be in your group. If you live by yourself, be sure to pack at least 2 people’s worth of supplies. The first reason for this is you never know how long you will be gone, but also, you might see someone you know.

If you are preparing for your family, be sure you have enough supplies for your entire family. If you need to pack multiple bags or have one giant duffle bag like the Voodoo Tactical Bag, go at it. The important thing is to pack all the supplies you will need, not to find out you only have three people’s worth when you have four members in your family.

Second, you will need to take into account your geographical location and the different environmental qualities that you will face. For example, someone in Washington State will a drastically different back pack from someone in Texas or New Mexico. Someone in Washington State would focus on staying warm and staying dry, while someone in Texas would probably be more focused on staying cool and staying hydrated.

These are the types of things that you will need to consider when putting together your bag. Is your climate hot, cold, wet, or dry? If it is any of those, focus on those while you plan your contents to include.


 

A Bug Out Bag Checklist of Supplies

There are a few standard items that every bug out bag should have in them and from there you can choose to customize and fit your bag to your own situation. For a more complete list of bug out bag items, see our full bug out bag checklist.


1. Water

The number one item you should have in your bugout bags is water. Water is even more important than food because you can go a few several weeks if necessary without eating food but just a few days without water and you’ll quickly suffer from extreme dehydration.

  • Water Bottles
  • Sealed, purified water pouches
  • Iodine Tablets
  • Water filtration device

Depending one how much room you have in your bag, water can be as simple as bottled water, or carrying sealed water pouches. It’s also a good idea to keep some type of water purification product like iodine tablets or a filter.


2. Food

The second item you’ll want to make sure you have in your bag is food, preferably food that lasts a long time and is high in energy content. Energy, nutrition bars are great for this because they can last years and are small enough to bring a few of them, yet they give you a lot of nutrients.

You can also include MREs in your bag, which are generally hot meals that just require water to heat up. These would be a good idea in your 72 and plus hour bags.

  • Energy/Nutrition bars
  • MREs
  • Any high protein food like nuts and trail mix is good


3. Clothing

You’ll want some extra clothing in your bag. You never know when a shirt you have will get torn or you’ll need to fashion into a makeshift device. So bringing a few pieces of clothing will go a long way. As I’ve said above, the clothes you bring are largely dependent on the climate in which you live, but here is a general checklist,

  • A long pair of pants
  • A coat to stay warm/stay dry from rain
  • A hat and/or bandana
  • Pair of sturdy boots
  • Extra pairs of socks, preferably long ones
  • Extra shirts for layering


4. Shelter

In any type of 72 plus hour go bag, you will need to include some type of shelter. This can be as simple as a tarp or as sophisticated as a tent. It just depends on how much room you have in your bag. I recommend just bring a tarp and some nylon rope to tie it up. Also, a sleeping bag is good to bring if you have extra room and will keep you warm at night.

  • Two tarps, one to string over top of you and one to lay on ground
  • Rope
  • Sleeping bag.


5. First Aid Kit

An absolute must for any bugout bag is a complete first aid kid. These don’t take up much space at all and shouldn’t be sacrificed for anything. Make sure your first aid kit includes the basics, bandages, gauze, disinfectant, tweezers, scissors, some medical tape, etc.

See our full bail out bag checklist page for a more complete list of items to bring.


 

Where should I keep my bugout bag?

This is a good question, but it’s also one that doesn’t have a definite answer. There are some general guidelines to keep in mind on where you should keep your backpack, but every situation is different. If you follow the below steps, you should be in good shape.

Keep your bag in a cool, dry place.

Go bags are meant to be used in extreme situations or times of survival, so the chances of you using it on a daily basis it slim to none. In fact you shouldn’t really ever be just using it for household things (see below). Since you won’t be using it regularly, it means that it will be sitting for long periods of time in between uses. Keeping your bag in a safe, dry location can prevent your supplies from getting wet and becoming ineffective; it can prevent your bag from mold and mildew; and it can prevent the melting of some of the plastic items inside.

Keep it Easily Accessible

While it’s important to keep your bag in a cool, dry place to keep the contents fresh, it’s equally important to keep it accessible. The entire point of a bugout bag is it’s the bag you grab when you need to take off quickly. If you have your bag locked away in a basement room or buried under a pile of junk, you won’t exactly be able to “bug out” will you?

Suggestions for Places to Store Your Bag

Usually a good place for a bugout bag is under your bed or on the floor of a closet. These two places are generally dry and free from excessive moisture. If these two spots are taken up already and you have a guest room in your house, storing your bags in there can be good spots.

If your basement doesn’t flood regularly and the humidity level is relatively low, you can store your bag in your basement. Basements are nice because they’re usually used for storage anyway and they are generally cooler than the rest of the house.

Only Use You Bag in Cases of Emergency

It’s important to keep in mind that a go bag is meant for emergencies and emergencies only. If you can’t find your household flashlight, don’t go grab the extra one in your bugout bag. This is a surefire way to end up with missing supplies, and when the time comes to actually use your bag in an emergency situation, you’ll find out that you forgot to put your flashlight or utility knife back into your bail out bag.

 

My Vote for Best Bug Out Bag

In order for me to buy a particular backpack, it needs to have a few different options. Here’s my checklist whenever I go hunting for new back pack.

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1. Is the Bag Big Enough?

The most important thing to a bag is whether or not it is big enough. There isn’t a lot of point in packing up your survival gear into a bug out bag if the bag can’t fit any of it in there. This doesn’t mean go out and buy the biggest bag you can find, just make sure your bag is big enough to fit everything you need. This includes compartments, pockets, pouches, etc.


2. Quality of the Bag

Next I look at quality because if I’m going to be lugging this back all over in a survival situation, I want it to be heavy duty, durable, and ready to bear the elements.


3. Comfort

I place comfort at number three (others may put it higher) because my bugout bag is for survival. I’m not going to sacrifice space or the quality of the bag for comfort. Comfort includes adequate back and shoulder strapping, extra grab handles, and added buckles or metal hooks the bag may feature.


4. Kits Included or Not

Kits are great to have included with the bag, but I tend to view them as a “bonus.” I usually end up customizing everything that is in my bags to fit my terrain and climate, so if the bag comes with some basics that is an added plus, but it won’t make or break my purchase.