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Author: Finan Adamson

Last Updated: 09/2020


A bugout bag is a selection of supplies you put together to take with you when you have to leave your home in a hurry. This could be for a wide variety of disasters. You’ll want to have the basics you need to survive for sure, and then you can consider how much more to add based on how much room you have and how you’re traveling. 

Premade Options

If you don’t want to think about packing, you could buy a bugout bag. You will make the tradeoff of not tailoring a bugout bag to your specific needs, but you won’t have to spend much time thinking about what to get.

Customizing Your Bugout Bag

Choosing a pack

If you’re traveling in a car it doesn’t matter much what kind of bag you’re packed in, but if you have to walk you’ll want a backpack that fits. You should use a pack that fits even if you are driving so that you can hike if your car breaks down or roads are impassable. 

  • You can buy a backpack at any outdoor store. Here are a couple pack fitting guides. When going long distances, pack fit will make a huge difference to your comfort. You can also just ask the people at the outdoor store and they can help you.

Packing Water

  • If you’re driving, packing some jugs of water is great!
    • You could take the containers of water you’ve already stored for other reasons.
      • Have enough water to last the length of your journey.
  • Water is heavy. It sucks to carry water. So if you’re walking with your stuff you’ll want alternate methods to carrying all your water.
    • You should still have a water bottle or two. You need something to keep water in and drink from.
    • Along with your water bottle you’ll need a way of making water clean.
      • Water Purification Tablets
        • There are a lot on the market. Just follow the instructions for whichever you choose to buy.
      • Pump or Gravity Filters
        • There are a lot of water filters made for camping. You could buy one to be able to purify water from lakes and streams. Check the specific products to see how well they filter.


Packing Food

  • If you’re driving, just grab the food you had stored for emergencies and whatever else you have that won’t spoil quickly.
  • If you’re walking, you’ll want to pack light. Pack things that are dry that you can add boiled water to, such as ramen and instant mashed potatoes. Pack calorie dense foods like nuts, jerky, or energy bars.
  • For more options read Food Preparedness for Disasters.

Other Packing for Driving or Walking

What you take is up to you. You want to be set up to meet your basic needs as you travel and return to some level of normalcy at your next location. Think about how you will get water, food, and shelter on your trip. What are things you can bring that will help you stay positive and happy? I know it’s cliche, but having a good attitude can really make a huge difference, especially if you are hiking for days. 


  • If you’re driving, taking a big tent and a comfortable camping mattress is great. This packing will be easier because you can take a lot of stuff in a car. Take the stuff you’ll want to use to meet your needs and stay in touch with folks until you reach your next destination.
    • Stuff to keep you warm - sleeping bag, coat, hat, etc.
    • Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.
    • Since you’re driving take what you think you’ll use that fits in the car.
  • If you’re walking you’ll need to pack light. Figure out what is actually essential to you and be sure to bring that. Below are some major categories.
    • Backpacking camp gear - Still want a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, just aim more for lightness here. Ultralight and backpacking are key words for your search.
    • Fire starter - a lighter works great
    • Toiletries - don’t forget a roll of toilet paper
    • Stuff to cook with - Keep it light. A jetboil or other backpacking camp stove.
      • And a dish to eat out of.
    • A first aid kit - It’s easy to get small injuries or pain hiking.
    • An extra set of clothes - especially socks and underwear.
    • A light source - a headlamp will make your camp setup go a lot easier.
    • Hiking shoes or boots can also make a huge difference in your comfort. Consider finding some well fitting hiking shoes and doing a few practice hikes in them.

Example Bugout Bag

Basic Walking/Camping

  • 50L Camping Pack - 50L is a large backpack. Get a backpack that fits well.
  • Backpacking Tent - Lightweight. Consider how many people for what tent to get.
  • Backpacking Camp Pad - Lightweight
  • Sleeping bag in a compression sack - Pack it down so it fits better
  • Change of clothes - rolled up to pack smaller
  • Coat and Hat - Keep you warm
  • Your N95 or P100 Masks - You should already have these for other things
  • Water Bottle - Fill it up before leaving
  • Gravity Water Filter - Reduce load and effort when filtering
  • Mini First Aid Kit - Just in case. For minor injuries only.
  • Headlamp - Make it easier to set up camp if you’re doing it in the dark
  • Extra AAA Batteries - For the headlamp
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
  • A roll of toilet paper in a ziploc bag
  • Lighter - be able to make fires
  • A multitool or sheath knife - generally useful tools
  • Jet Boil - Heat up water for your food
  • Jet Boil Fuel
  • Food
    • 12x Instant Mashed Potatoes
    • 16x Protein Bars
    • 1 Jar Peanut Butter
  • Camp Bowl and Spork
  • Note telling you to grab your cell phone, laptop, and chargers on the way out.

Add if Driving

  • Stored Water - The large containers of water you had stored for emergencies
  • Stored Food - Don’t forget a can opener if taking canned food
  • Larger camping mattress and tent if available
  • More of your clothing and personal items
  • big camp stove and cook kit
  • Consider getting a car jack and a spare tire





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