The 16 Essential Items for your Bug Out Bag

The 16 Essential Items for your Bug Out Bag
What happens if you find yourself in a situation where you need to drop everything and run? Perhaps there's a terrorist attack and your city is no longer safe, or a large-scale disaster like a flood means you're now evacuating your home and all of your carefully prepared supplies. There's no time to start packing because every minute wasted means other people on the roads, and more problems as a snowballing amount of people start to evacuate. This is where the bug out bag (BOB) plays a vital role. A well-stocked BOB contains enough supplies to get you through the next 72 hours, and means you can be on the road in an instant, leaving your home without so much as a backward glance because you've got everything you need ready to go. Of course, what it takes for you to survive will differ on your own situation, and where you're planning on bugging out to, and yesterday we sat down with the team here at APE Survival to run through our favorite items to include. Here's 16 items every kit needs to have:

Metal military canteen and cup

The number one item you need to survive a disaster is water, and it's even more important than food. Metal canteens are durable and hardy, and the cup will allow you to cook, as well as boil and purify any new sources of water you find along the way.

Fire starting kit

In addition to your flint and striker, don't forget to include a way to keep your initial flame lit, especially if you're bugging out to an area where dry tinder is hard to find. Wet Fire tinder is an awesome addition to your bug out bag, as they burn even while immersed in water. Fire is a critical element you need to survive, as it provides warmth, purifies water, cooks, and can also be used to signal for help.

Light-weight tarp

In the warm balmy days of summer you won't miss it, but any other time of the year having a tarp you can use to improvise a shelter may just save your life. It keeps the rain off, can reflect and retain heat from a fire, and keeps you sheltered at night. Exposure to the elements is one of the most deadly things you will face as you're bugging out.

High-energy protein bars

You'll find plenty of dehydrated food in any sporting goods store, but remember the goal of bugging out is to evacuate to a safe location as fast as possible. You may not have a chance to stop and make camp, and it may not be safe (or possible) to start a fire to cook your dinner. Emergency food bars take up little space, can be eaten straight out of the pack while you're trekking, and they last a long time.

Reliable knife

You should always carry a Swiss Army knife, but a large sheath knife can also come in handy for any large cutting or chopping tasks, as well as a means of protecting yourself.

Clothing for your situation

Whenever you're in the outdoors you need to be comfortable, so make sure you pack accordingly based on the weather you will face. Layering is the most efficient way to stay warm, and at a minimum you should have a change of shirt, clean underwear, a waterproof poncho and a couple of spare pairs of socks. Forget cotton as it dries slow and can be dangerous in cold weather.

Crank flashlight

Find a compact LED flashlight that works on a crank charge. This way if you're ever stuck in the dark, you will have a source of light, without worrying about batteries. Maybe you're stuck in a pitch black office tower or you're caught out in the middle of nowhere and night is rapidly falling. Being able to see can be a life saver.

Crank radio

You can't rely on your cell phone, especially when the signals jam because the towers are down or too many users are on the network. Find a hand-held short-wave radio you can charge by winding it up (again so you're not worried about batteries) to stay updated on the latest news.


For both hunting and self-protection, having a firearm is considered a must by nearly every survivalist. Pick something small and lightweight, like a .22 caliber pistol, and have at least 100 rounds of ammunition to keep you safe. If you're going to be hunting you should also consider a .22 rifle, but in many cases we prefer the handgun as it is more easily concealed and carried.

Duct tape

An entire roll isn't necessary, but even just a couple of meters of duct tape allows you to quickly perform basic repairs and get back on the road. You can use it to hold your shoes together, wrap and protect a cut, repair a split seam in your backpack, or fix a hole in your tarp or poncho to keep the rain out.


There are a million uses for cordage, from helping to secure your shelter to creating makeshift snares, and in an crisis having a few meters of paracord is a good idea. In addition to the 10 meter roll I keep in my kit, I have replaced many of the ordinary items I wear with paracord so I always have a supply handy. My sheath knife has it's handle wrapped with it, I've replaced my shoelaces with it, and the wife even made me a paracord belt so I'll never be short in an emergency.

Folding saw

This one was a hot debate in the APE Survival team, as some of us prefer the saw because it's lightweight, while others opt for the axe because you can also use it for self defense. The saw ultimately won out, but you can adapt this one to your own personal situation as needed. Just make sure you pick one so you have a means of collecting firewood, and can cut and trim what you need to construct a makeshift shelter.

Biodegradable soap and baby wipes

Staying sanitary may be the last thing on your mind when a crisis hits, but if you get yourself sick you will not be able to get you or your family to safety. A small supply of soap will help you keep your hands clean and ward off any sickness, especially when you're handling food, and baby wipes are awesome when nature calls.


In a total meltdown of society, cash will be useless. In reality, you're going to find there is an actual need for it, especially in the beginning of a disaster before everything really turns bad. Ensure you keep enough with you so you're not worried about inflated gas prices, can afford food and accommodation if you stumble across them, and can comfortably get to your bug out location.


For signaling help, or contacting other members of your group in an emergency, the sound a whistle makes carries much further than you can yell or shout, with much less effort. Have one for every member of your group.

Important documents

Imagine that once you evacuate this is the last time you will see your home. Have you got everything you need? At a minimum have copies of all of your ID, as well as birth certificates, insurance details, and lists of important contacts (next of kin) as well as any medications you're taking. One of our guys also has an encrypted portable hard disk with all of his family photo's, and key information from his business - so if both his home and office burn to the ground, there is nothing he will miss. We all agreed this was a nice touch, and something I've just added to my kit. Of course, no list of items will contain everything you need for your exact situation, but these 16 form a basis to get you started. Remember that your goal isn't to carry every possible item with you, you just need enough supplies and gear to help you escape a potentially bad situation with your life. Have you got your bug out bag packed?

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