When considering what to pack in a bug-out-bag (BOB) and scouring the internet for ideas and suggestions, I've realized a couple things:
- Packing a bug-out-bag is a deeply personal thing
- If you ask 20 "survival experts" what things are absolutely essential to include, you'll get at least 20 different responses.
The first priority of the rule of three is air--you can't go more than three minutes without it. In terms of packing one's BOB, this probably translates primarily to a first aid kit. I'm not talking about a generic kit that includes 50 million things of which you know how to use 7. I'm talking about first aid items you would know how to use: bandages, alcohol pads, antiseptic wipes, maybe an all-purpose salve. For me, I have an assortment of bandages, a small bottle of OTC pain relievers, and a small container of homemade calendula salve. If you are on medications, you need to make sure to include a minimum of a 3 day supply of those as well, but it is better to have more on hand since it might take longer than your bug out scenario to be able to acquire more of specialized essentials like that. I also consider sanitation in this category, since getting sick can hamper your ability to breathe, so a roll of TP minus the roll in the middle packed in a plastic bag, a packet of facial tissues, and a bottle of hand sanitizer also fit into this category. Some lists include gas masks in this category, but I'm far more likely to hunker down than bug out in any scenario I can conceive of that would merit a gas mask, and don't want to lug around something so heavy that is useful in such narrow situations, so I don't have one in my BOB (but if I wanted to add one, that is a really good price on one on Amazon right now! Only $23 for something that usually costs $90?!?!?! Dang!)
Next is shelter. For my kit, this means a complete change of clothes including underthings and sturdy shoes, a tube tent, several Mylar emergency blankets, a clear plastic dropcloth, a small roll of duct tape, a large plastic trash bag, a wool poncho that can double as a blanket, toe warmers (another really good deal on that!) and hand warmers, sunglasses, small candles, and several means to make fire, and I'm going to stick an all purpose knife, like a Swiss army knife, in here since it may be needed to help build the fires. Yeah, it's a lot. If you think about it though, you can go 3 days with out water, 3 weeks without food, but only 3 hours without shelter, so it should be the bulk of your 72-hour kit, because, in theory, you would survive without food easily, be pushing it without water but probably could make it, but you would not survive without adequate shelter. The tube tent, emergency blankets, drop cloth, garbage bag, duct tape, and wool poncho combined, especially if supplemented with a lean-to made in the field (which I would be very likely to do before reaching for my supplies), would withstand most weather conditions. Add a fire by which I could keep warm (outside the shelter!) and I should be hunky-dorry in just about any weather conditions. For making a fire, I've seen the guideline in a number of places that you should have a minimum of three ways of making fire with you, which I do, with a couple lighters, waterproof matches, and a magnesium firestarter (which doesn't do you a lick of good if you don't know how to use it, so be sure to practice before an actual emergency arises!). I also have steel wool and commercial firestarters ensure I have adequate tinder, since both of those things will light even when wet, so I should be able to get a fire going even if the whole world, including my BOB, is soaking wet.
Next comes water, which many lists say should be your number one priority, but I think that's silly given that you can, in theory, live 3 days without, unlike shelter. That isn't to say I don't take the water aspect seriously. I do. I have a couple 1/2 liter bottles of store bought water, an empty collapsible water bottle, iodine tablets, a mug (I'd like a lightweight metal one, but until I get one, there is a ceramic one in there), and the drop cloth mentioned in the shelter category also goes in here. I also have a gallon jug of water I keep tied to my BOB with a bandana as an additional water supply. The bandana makes a nice handle for carrying for long periods of time once separated from the bag. With these few items, I have a practically indefinite supply of water. The water I carry is enough for a day or so. Within that time, I probably can find other water that just needs some bacteria and such killed and I can put that water in the collapsible bottle with an iodine tablet and have a secondary water source. If I need water beyond that or if the only water I can find is too contaminated for the iodine tablets, I can make a solar still using the plastic drop cloth and the mug. Alternatively, I could boil water using the mug to make it biologically okay. The keys are redundancy and options: no matter what happens, I should have some way to have sufficient clean water for the bug-out period.
The last major category is food. Yes, you can go three weeks without food, but you should assume if you are "bugging out", you're going to be being very physically active and are going to need food. About 3000 per adult would not be unreasonable. Anything shelf stable that will keep for a long time is good, but high calorie, nutrient dense items like nuts, jerky, and dried fruits will get you the most for the carrying weight. Individual packets of oatmeal are also a popular BOB item. I almost see the food category as optional though, since more than likely there would be sufficient wild edibles, bugs, etc, to keep me and anyone with me fed for a minimum of three days, but it is better to be prepared and not need it than count on having the wild food around and then not being able to find any!
The only other things I have in my bag are a second knife, a ring sling since I have little ones that would probably need to be carried a lot if we were on foot for an extended period, and a Sharpie. Other people might want to include paper, compass and map (I know my area well enough that I'm not worried about that), paracord (I prefer duct tape since I suck at making knots), signal mirror, survival whistle, flashlight (I did have one of those in there, but my husband swiped it and I haven't replaced it yet), firearms, copies of essential documents such as birth certificates and social security cards (I keep copies of these in an off-site fireproof safe instead, so there are copies around, just not on me so I have less to carry), a professional survival guide book, shovel, radio, more knives, cash, water purifier, multivitamins, fishing gear, sleeping bag, extra batteries, safety pins, sewing needles, playing cards, wire, feminine hygiene products, or glow sticks. See? A lot of variation. Some of you are probably reading that list incredulous that I don't have them in my bag and others are probably thinking "what on earth would you need that for?" and probably thinking those things about the same items! A bug-out-bag is going to be the most useful if it keeps you alive (and, by association, anyone you choose to have with you). The items chosen to be in my bag accomplish that goal, without the added weight additional items would add.