The official 2016 Bug Out Bag Checklist. Survive 2016 with a fully equipped bug out bag, see our top picks and most reviewed items for your BOB.
A bug out bag is designed to get you out of an emergency situation, get you to your bug out location, and typically allow you to survive for up to 3 days (72 hours).
Whether you’re prepping for a hurricane, solar storm, or a severe Twinkie shortage caused by the zombie apocalypse, survive 2016 with a fully equipped bug out bag.
Already have a bug out bag? Awesome! Use this checklist to make sure you have everything, and to see if your gear is getting outdated.
Don’t prep? Use this list to buy for your friends and family who do. Nothing says “I care” like prepper gear for Christmas!
Why A Bug Out Bag (BOB)?
With a backpack containing everything you need to live fairly comfortably considering the situation at hand, you’ll be much better off than if you grabbed a few random things while trying to quickly evacuate your current location.
A lot of people plan their Bug Out Bag to last much longer than 72 hours, but there is always a limit to what you can carry on your back and a 3 day target is a good starting point.
The suggested contents of a bug-out bag vary, but most of the following items are usually included.
2016 Bug Out Bag Checklist
Here is a simple checklist for your bag, in no particular order. Note that nothing is set in stone and everyone has difference needs and previously learned skills that will affect what they put in their Bug Out Bag (BOB).
Full Kits – All In One Solutions
If you just want to get right to it and buy a full kit outright, it’s hard to go wrong with one of these kits. Consider replacing the backpack with a hiking bag if you’re not a big tactical backpack fan (see the bug out bag section right below this one for more).
We reviewed each of the picks below. They are all worth mentioning and any could work for what they are made to do but none of the backpacks were perfect and overall we think it’s best to build your BOB based on your individual needs instead of buying a ready-made kit.
- Emergency Zone Urban Survival 2 Person Bug Out Bag Kit
- Wise Food 5-Day Survival Bug Out Bag Backpack Kit
- Ready America Basic Emergency 2-Person, 3-Day Backpack Kit
- Extreme Survival Kit Deluxe Four Person Three Day Emergency Kit
The Bug Out Bag – Pick one
When it comes to bags there are two camps. Some people prefer a hiking style backpack, something like the Teton Sports Scout 3500 below. These backpacks are made for carrying loads long distance and are usually easier on the back thanks to their metal frame and general design.
On the other side of the stream are the tactical backpack fans. Most “survival” specific backpacks are tactical, meaning they wear and look like an extra thick book bag with velcro strips for attaching molly bags and just about anything else you want.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. With a tactical bag it’s easier to store stuff in some ways, but a hiking bag will be easier on your body if you plan to walk for several miles. You will feel less tired with a hiking backpack.
Through our research and field tests we found there’s a little to be said for both sides of the hiking vs tactical debate. These are our best picks.
- TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- Osprey Packs Kestrel 48 Backpack
- Large ALICE Field Pack with Frame and Full Outfit LC-1 Green
- Pioneer TEC 35L Water-Resistant Hiking Backpack (the cheapest option with the most features)
- Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack with 2.5 L 3 Molle Bags and Hydration Backpack Water Bladder
- Explorer Tactical Gun Concealment Backpack With Molle Webbing Hydration Ready
- 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack
Flashlight – Small, Powerful, Rugged
You want a dependable, rugged, and small flashlight. There is no sense in lugging a massive 4lb flashlight as big as your arm that puts out less or just as much lumens as a modern day compact LED the size of your palm. LED is a must for battery life, and having a handheld light and a headlamp is a good idea.
Alternate powered lamps are another option. There are many great LED flashlights with handcrank or solar power options on the market.
We researched, reviewed, and field tested dozens of flashlights. Here’s our top three picks.
- UltraFire 7w 300lm Mini Cree LED Adjustable Focus Flashlight
- Mifine Waterproof LED Headlamp – Zoomable, 3 modes, 1000 Lumens, Rechargeable Batteries
- Secur Waterproof Hand Crank or Built-in Solar Powered 3 LED Flashlight
Knife – Your Best Tool
Outside of a fire, your knife is your number one tool. You will need one for just about everything like cutting rope, cording wood, and preparing food. As such you want the best knife money can buy. The good news is good knives are not expensive, so don’t fall for the marketing hype of a $300 knife.
My personal favorite knife, and the favorite knife of Cody Lundin of Dual Survival fame, is a simple Mora fixed blade carbon steel knife. No surprise that it easily ranked number one in our trials.
Our top four favorite knifes. The Morakniv Companion was by far the winner.
- Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty Knife with Carbon Steel Blade
- KA-BAR Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife with Hard Sheath, Black
- Gerber 22-01400 LMF II Survival Knife
- Kootek Multifunctional Rechargeable LED Flashlight Knife
Water Filter/Purifier – Don’t Leave Home Without One
You won’t make it very long without one of these. Lifestraw is a heavy contender for best water filter. Sawyer and Katadyn are also great filters, but the portability of the Lifestraw puts it on the top of our list.
We used and reviewed water filters and purifiers for days. These top four picks came out on top.
- LifeStraw Go Water Bottle with Integrated 1000-Liter LifeStraw Filter
- LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- Potable Aqua PA+Plus Water Purification Tablets
- Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
Honorable Mention – The Katadyn Vario is more than worthy of an honorable mention. We’ve recommended it for quite a while and we still love it. In the end its bigger size pushed it to number five (and off this years list). There’s just nothing out there as good as the Vario if you need to put water into a separate container after it is filtered, something the Lifestraw struggles at.
Fire – Think Simple And Reliable
You need a fire, and you need it without fuss. There are a thousand+ choices but in the end you need something simple that always works, wet or dry. Our personal favorite way to start a fire is the fire piston. Not only does it work without fuss, but it is nearly dummyproof…and it looks awesome in action.
If you don’t know what a fire piston is yet, check out our article The Fire Piston – Starting A Fire With Air.
If you don’t want to spend a little time learning how to use a fire steel or fire piston, simply pack a lighter. It’s also a good backup and security against wet tinder. A lighter is essentially foolproof for a 72 hour BOB. Eventually you’re going to run out of fluid, but that’s a month away. After that you can fall back on your newly acquired fire piston skills.
Here’s our top four picks for favorite firestarter.
- CampFirePiston Hickory Fire Piston
- Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 with Emergency Whistle
- Zippo Matte Lighter
- JetLine Triple Torch Flame Lighter in Gun Metal Orange
Shelter – Pick and Choose
Here you have options. Pick and choose what you like best. These are portable shelters that will keep you comfortable. They can also be used for signaling.
You should get a tent or tarp for your main shelter, then add a cheap mylar blanket and a lightweight sleeping bag.
Thermal blankets are not your Grandma’s thick quilt, they are made of aluminized mylar designed by NASA to reflect 97% of your body heat back at you. They are super thin and loud, kinda like wrapping yourself in a trash bag made of aluminum. I use them to lay on the ground under my sleeping bag (inside the tent or on the bare ground) then put another on top of me. They also make excellent reflectors for a fire, with you between the fire and the thermal blanket.
Sleeping bags should be bought based on your lowest nighttime temperature. You want the thinnest bag possible but you also want to be warm. The below bags have separate temperatures and you should consider which you need in your situation.
We spent a lot of time reviewing, testing, and harshly judging shelter gear. In the end this is the gear that made the final cut.
- Extra Thick Double Sided Thermal Reflective Tarp (our favorite ground tarp + tarptent)
- Ultimate Survival Base Hex Tarp (another great tarptent option)
- Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (weightless, cheap, but also very thin)
- Naturehike Outdoor Sleeping Bag (for nighttime temps above 40F)
- TETON Sports Celsius Sleeping Bag (for nighttime temps down to 0F)
- Winterial 2-Person Camping and Backpacking Tent (great all weather tent)
Miscellaneous – Essentials
Important miscellaneous items that you need. Don’t consider these optional. They are essential.
- First Aid Kit (lightweight and a small bag, but comprehensive and covers a lot)
- Lightweight Cooking Camping Mess Kit (great small kit with cup and cooking pot)
- S.O.S. Food Bars (don’t depend on finding food, prep for it)
- Military P-51 Can Opener (you just can’t beat it!)
- Duct Tape or Gorilla Tape (great for quick patches or creating survival tools)
- Paracord (get certified Mil-spec 550lb C-5040H Type III, learn why and how here)
- Lensatic Sighting Compass (for finding your way)
Some things are better locally. They can be found just about anywhere and you’ll save money on shipping. These are the items that are better bought at a store near you or that you should already have at home.
- Hand sanitizer (save your water for cooking and drinking)
- Map of the area (street and topographical)
- Small mirror (for signaling, hygiene, and a lot more)
- Extra change of clothes (include socks and underwear)
- Hat (a full brim is preferred, they protect you from falling ticks and sunburn better)
- Gloves (don’t skimp, buy a good pair of leather work gloves or prepare for blisters)
- Money (small bills, nothing bigger than a $20 bill)
These items should be considered optional, but they can make your life a lot more comfortable. If you want to be totally prepared consider adding them to your BOB.
- Light My Fire Titanium Spork for your dining pleasure (really a great add-on)
- Survival Fishing Kit (if you will be near water you’ll want the tools to catch fish)
- Survival Sewing and Repair Kit (also good for sewing yourself up in an emergency)
- Protein Bars (much better flavored than survival food bars)
- Multi-tool (good to have for the extra bade + screwdrivers and pliers)
- Radio (battery + hand crank with solar and NOAA is best. Can also power other devices)
- LED Lantern (great for lighting your camp or a trail, but it must be small and portable)
- Small Backpack Stove (in case you cannot make a fire because of weather or stealth)
- Binoculars (good for seeing when you don’t want to be seen)
- Survival Whistle (yelling wears you out, but you can blow a whistle for days on end)
- BladeMedic Knife Sharpener (specifically this sharpener because it’s easy and multi-use)
- Gerber Hatchet & Saw Combo (much better than a knife for cutting larger trees)
- Extra batteries (get rechargeable batteries and a solar charger for “unlimited” power)
- Dish soap, bar soap (for washing up and cleaning)
- Small hand towel, possibly two (for washing up, drying your mess kit, and more)
- A copy of emergency and important contacts (include addresses and phone numbers)
- Hygiene necessities (travel size comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, shampoo)
Mini Survival Kits
For the person that wants to be prepared for everything.
It’s worth carrying some mini survival kits on your person in case you lose your bag or have to leave it behind, such as a paracord bracelet or a “survival grenade” on your belt loop.
The only paracord bracelet worth having by a long shot is The Ultimate Paracord Survival Kit Bracelet by LAST MAN. It’s amazing and packed full of gear. You’ll never even realize it’s there until you need it.
On your belt loop you can wear a small survival kit that’s nearly a mini Bug Out Bag called a survival grenade. Imagine if you took all your most important Bug Out Bag gear, minified it, and wrapped it in paracord. Again, we’ve examined several survival grenade kits and the best one is Gecko Equipments Paracord Deluxe Grenade Survival Kit.