Your Bug out Bag | A Comprehensive Guide

By James Barton •  Updated: 06/15/19 •  10 min read

In this blog post, we will talk about everything you need to do to be prepared in case some sort of global catastrophe happens. It’s not that we are wishing for something similar, but it is generally a good idea to be prepared, especially if you live in an area where environmental disasters are regular, such as tornadoes, floods, etc.

If we are talking about preparing yourself for these kinds of situations, then we can’t overlook bug out bags. It isn’t possible to “be prepared” for anything if you don’t have a bag suitable for packing all of the essentials that you and your family will need in those moments and get away without any injuries and without lacking a single thing.

Even though you might think that you are prepared for these kinds of situations and you know what needs to be done, you still need to pack all of the essentials that will be needed for your safe extraction. When a catastrophe happens, you won’t have the time nor the ability to pack things properly because you will have to move fast, and this is where bug out bags come into play.

What are bug out bags?

type of bug out bag

The so called “bug out bag” can be a backpack or a handbag that has enough space to hold items that could sustain a single human being for three days or even slightly longer. They are designed with one thing in mind: to help their carriers survive this period and help them have everything they need to cover basic needs while getting to a safe place.

They are designed as an emergency option which people can store somewhere in their home and grab quickly in case of a catastrophe, leave their homes, and head out to the nearest safest location. It is recommended that they are packed in advance to make sure that you always have everything ready in case of a dangerous situation to ensure that you and your family get to safety very quickly.

They usually come with a lot of compartments and they look larger than “regular” bags that we use for travel. A lot of quality models come with various reinforcements and they are designed to sustain severe pressure as well as to resist water and blows.

Why is there a need for bug out bags?

In case you need to leave your home very quickly due to an emergency, you will need to have all the items with you which are necessary for survival. What’s even more important is the fact that, when something alarming happens, you will usually not have the time to run around your home and look for all the stuff you need to put in your bag.

Just think about it; this is not a regular situation where you can take your time and think about the things you need to bring along. At the same time, it is imperative to have all the items you need because your life and the lives in your family depend on this. Even when packing for a vacation, you often forget something and, in these kinds of situations, you cannot afford this.

You will have to be ready to leave your home as quickly as possible and this means that having packed essentials in a prepared bag is paramount. To some of you, this might sound crazy, but everyone thinks that they and their families are not in any danger until something happens. Of course, I’m not saying that something will happen to your family, but just think about it.

Did the people in New Orleans think that Hurricane Katrina will happen? Did Japan know that a terrible earthquake was going to hit them in 2011? Just think about it, most of those people would also be skeptical about being prepared for disasters before, but now they understand how important it is to increase your chances for survival even by a few percent.

What does a good bug out bag look like?

bug out bag

This is one of the most common questions about bug out bags, but there isn’t a single answer that can point you in the right direction. It’s not that simple because there are many factors involved. Additionally, a lot of people want to make their bug out bags on their own. However, there is a wide choice of bug out bags that you can buy at stores.

A bug out bag can be more or less suitable for a certain area. First of all, it is important to consider where you are living; is it an urban area or a more rural part? Consider what kind of climate you have in your area; are there a lot of rains, is it cold or warm, etc. Do you see how many important factors there are for a proper bug out bag, and we are only scratching the surface here.

This is why we will present 7 general and most important factors you should look for in a bug out bag, no matter if you are making one yourself or you plan on buying one. Follow up on these things and you will be able to choose the right bug out bag for your needs:

1. Find a simple bug out bag

A lot of people make a big mistake thinking that a bug out bag is a mobile home that they will carry on their back. This is a completely wrong approach; it’s called a bug out bag for a reason – it should help you get all the essentials you need and leave very quickly.

At the same time, you don’t need to bring dozens of items with you in your bug out bag. A bug out bag should be filled with the bare necessities, without electrical devices that need power or can be broken down easily. This also means that it will help you move quickly and cover larger distances as it will be lighter.

2. Make sure it’s comfortable to carry around

Comfort is absolutely essential when choosing a bag. Bear in mind that you will probably be spending a lot of time walking while carrying the bag. If the bag is uncomfortable or too heavy, it might be more difficult for you to reach shelter. Try your bag out and consider the fact that you will be carrying it for multiple hours on a daily basis. You will have to go fast and be somewhere safe in three days tops.

3. Plan for how long you will need the bag

As we mentioned earlier, a bug out bag is supposed to help you get away from a dangerous situation very quickly and easily. It’s not your camping equipment that you will carry along to stay somewhere for a long time. It’s supposed to get you out of a dangerous situation and sustain you just enough so that you can get to safety. In most cases, the optimal time period for reaching safety is three days or 72 hours.

4. The size of the bag

bug out bag sizes

When considering the right option, you need to know how much stuff you plan on packing. When packing a bug out bag, the general rule is to include things that will sustain you for a period of three days and nothing more. Don’t look to pack things for scavenging or things that you will need only in rare occasions.

Bring the absolute essentials for survival for a couple of days. When you know how many things you need to get through three days, you will know how large your bag needs to be and this is how you can choose the right one.

For a bag that will be filled with supplies which will last for 3 days, the average room required should be around 50 liters or 3000 cubic inches. If you get a larger one, you will probably want to fill it up to the top and this means that it will be quite heavier and impossible to carry for longer periods.

5. Make sure it’s built with quality

As we mentioned earlier, your bag will be filled to the end with all of the items you need. On top of that, its purpose is to carry those things for a long time through non-urban areas. This means that you will probably go through various weird places, obstacles, tiny spaces, and so on.

This means that the bag you choose needs to be built well, to make it through your whole journey. A good choice is to get a bug out bag that has MOLLE. This is short for a modular lightweight load carrying equipment system that helps carry pouches and tools on the exterior of the equipment.

These pouches are attached to the side of the bag and they can be reached easily to get the stuff you need very quickly. On top of that, they can be detached to put exactly the right amount of items you want. Furthermore, you can give them to someone else to share the load.  

6. Find a bag with many different compartments

As you will be packing various items and the situation cannot be anticipated, there will be those things that will be more useful and used more often than others. For example, no matter where you are traveling, you will almost always use a blanket at night and never again This is why it is a good idea to pack a blanket within the main compartment as it is larger and you won’t be needing it often.

At the same time, some other equipment such as water filters, fire starters, or lighting gear are used more commonly and they are also smaller in size. This is why they should be placed in smaller side compartments which are easily accessible and not in the main one underneath a lot of stuff.

Not only that it would be difficult to get to them, but you will also have troubles finding them due to their size. This is why you should make sure to find a bag that has lots of different compartments with different sizes to make everything you use constantly available instantly.

7. Mind the color

bug out backpack

You might think that a bug out bag is best in a certain color that attracts attention but it’s not. During a disaster, many things could go wrong. First of all, the nature of the incident might require you to run away from some people and this means not being seen. On the other hand, even if it is an environmental catastrophe, a lot of people will not be ready for it.

As we talked earlier, many people think that it’s impossible for something like that to happen to them and this is why they don’t do anything to prepare for such potential catastrophes. In these situations, even those around you who are also affected by the catastrophe might be a threat.

Desperate people will do desperate things and this also includes attacking their neighbor to get their stuff. This is why you should choose a bag that has a camouflage or a color which is barely noticeable from a distance. These kinds of situations are about survival and you need to take care of yourself and your closest ones and not let anyone endanger your well being.


In the end, remember to create a list of items which are most essential and prepare them all for your bug out bag. Make sure to include food (non-perishables), water sources, and items that can help you find your way around, stay warm, and so on. Put your bag in a safe, but reachable place so that you can grab it very quickly without anything getting in the way in case of an emergency.

James Barton

James Barton

Hi, I'm James. I am the founder and main editor for The Survival Corps. I have been a part of the survival and prepping community since my mid 30's as I downsized and started to prepare to be self sufficient in a time of crisis.