The official 2017 Bug Out Bag Checklist. Be prepared for anything that comes your way in 2017 with a fully equipped Bug Out Bag. See our top picks…
If you’re prepping for a long term event or think you might have to evacuate your home one day, you need a bug out bag ready to go.
Without one you might end up with no supplies, no food, no water, and no hope if you have to leave everything behind.
What if a tornado destroys your house? What if civil unrest comes too close to home? What if it’s SHTF and a large group of thugs decides your preps are worth fighting for?
Whether you’re prepping for a natural disaster, civil unrest, or a severe Twinkie shortage caused by the zombie apocalypse, a fully equipped bug out bag will make surviving 2017 much easier.
Who Is This List For?
Our 2017 bug out back checklist is for everyone.
1. If you’re new to prepping, a bug out bag is the best place to start after water and food, even if you plan to stay at home and never leave. You’ll have a vast array of critical gear at your fingertips such as water filters, fire starters, first aid kits, and more.
2. If you already have a bug out bag, use this checklist to make sure you have everything, and see if your gear is up to date.
3. Don’t prep? Use this list to buy for your friends and family who do. Seriously, nothing says “I care” like prepper gear for Christmas or birthdays. Us preppers love getting this stuff.
What Is A Bug Out Bag (BOB)?
A Bug Out Bag (BOB) is a backpack containing everything you need to get out of an emergency situation, get you to your bug out location, and typically, but not always, allow you to survive long enough to reach your Bug Out Location (BOL).
Some people build their BOB’s to last about three days, and in fact it’s very common to start off with that goal, but it should contain enough food, water, and other supplies to last you long enough to get somewhere safe. This might be much longer than 72 hours.
Your BOB should be out of the way, but close at hand. A corner near your bedroom door is a good example. You should go through and refresh your gear every 6 months, or at least once a year. That’s why we make this list every year, to remind you to check your supplies and see what new (and better) gear has came out.
Also, you should know that prepping for a short event such as a quick cold snap that may put the power out for a couple of days would be better suited for a more lightweight (and cheaper) Basic 24 Kit or a severe storm kit. These kits are also great starting points for new preppers because they are cheaper and easier to build without a lot of detailed knowledge of different survival scenarios or various gear features.
How This List Works
In every section you’ll see that we list several choices, and the final choice is always yours.
We do not rank this gear from best to worst on some countdown like many do. We do this because if a piece of gear has made it through our rigorous review process and into our top picks from dozens and dozens of choices, it will all be top tier gear.
Sometimes one piece or another may have a feature that stands out above the rest, and we’ll point that out, but generally everything on this list is great and worth having.
Essentially, we’ve thrown all of the junk out the window and now you can choose what’s right for you and your family and the unique situations you might be in from the absolute best gear without worrying about quality and value.
We’ve took our time picking the best, so now you just have to pick what is best for you.
The Official 2017 Bug Out Bag Checklist
Before we begin, remember that when it comes to bug out bags (and gear in general) nothing is set in stone. Everyone has difference needs that will determine exactly what goes in their BOB.
For example, if you’re bugging out through the desert West of the United States from L.A. to the outskirts of Las Vegas you probably don’t need heavy clothes or thick sleeping bags, or maybe even a fishing kit (maybe).
Use our checklist to make sure you’re not missing something important, and that you’re not over-packing for your situation.
And since we evaluate and review every item on this list, you can rest assured that it is all worth buying. They are all the best in their class and high quality buys well worth their value.
Our 2017 Bug Out Bag (BOB) checklist is divided into various sections:
Piece By Piece
Mini Survival Kits
Mini survival kits are important in case you lose your bag or have to leave it behind. These are typically a paracord survival bracelet or a survival grenade.
A survival grenade is nearly a mini bug out bag in itself, and you can wear it on your belt loop. We’ve examined several survival grenade kits and the best one is Gecko Equipments Paracord Deluxe Grenade Survival Kit.
The best paracord survival bracelet that’s more than a pretty bracelet and actually includes survival gear is the Paracord Emergency Bracelet Kit by Holtzman’s Gorilla Survival. It’s amazing and packed full of gear. You’ll never even realize it’s there until you need it.
Full Kits & All In One Solutions
If you have little time or experience and need a BOB as fast as the mail can deliver, consider one of these kits. We have reviewed each of the picks below (and dozens more that didn’t make the cut).
While they are all worthy of being on this list, overall we think it’s better to build your BOB piece by piece with your own individual needs in mind instead. You will get a much better bang for your precious bucks by building your own kit.
Top 5 Full Kits
- 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
- Complete Get Home Bag with 65 Piece First Aid Kit
Piece By Piece
When it comes to backpacks there are two dividing camps, and sometimes a few wars over which is better. They divide themselves into Hiking Backpacks and Tactical Backpacks.
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 body 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 are military style with a MOLLE (PALS) system. They wear and look like a big backpack with nylon strips (called PALS).
Both sides have their points, their advantages and disadvantages. With a tactical bag it’s easier to get to and store gear, but a hiking bag will be easier on your body if you plan to trek for several miles.
Through our research and field tests we’ve found that there is something to be said for both sides of the hiking vs tactical debate. Lucky for you, we cover both and make no assumptions of which you may like better. These are our best picks.
Top 5 Hiking Backpacks
- TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- Osprey Packs Kestrel 48 Backpack
- WASING 55L Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
- High Sierra Appalachian 75
- Mountaintop 55L+10L Water-resistant Hiking Backpack
Top 5 Tactical Backpacks
- 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack
- “Big Monkey” Monkey Paks Tactical Pack W/ 3 2.5L Molle Bags & Water Bladder
- Explorer Tactical Gun Concealment Backpack W/ Molle Webbing
- Direct Action Dragon Egg Tactical Backpack
- Military Tactical Assault Molle Backpack
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. For most people, this is a simple lighter or matches.
The funnest 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. You can also use it one handed to create an ember out of anything you find that’s dry or pulpy. If you don’t know what a fire piston is yet, check out our article The Fire Piston – Starting A Fire With Air.
The only problem is they can be a fuss in high humidity environments (think jungle), and if the o-ring ever tears they won’t work. I’ve never managed to tear one, or had it fail to start an ember, but it can happen.
If you don’t want to spend a little time learning how to use a fire steel or a fire piston, simply pack a couple of lighters and maybe some matches too. It’s also a good backup and security against wet tinder.
A lighter is essentially foolproof for a simple 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.
Top 5 Fire Making Tools
- Primitive Fire Deluxe Flint and Steel Kit
- Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 with Emergency Whistle
- Zippo Matte Lighter
- Refillable Windproof Jet Torch Lighter
- CampFirePiston Hickory Fire Piston
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 contrary to popular belief, 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.
Top 5 Knives
- Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty Knife with Carbon Steel Blade
- KA-BAR Fighting/Utility Serrated Edge Knife with Hard Sheath
- Gerber Prodigy Survival Knife
- ESEE 4P Full Tang Knife
- Schrade SCHF36 Frontier Full Tang Knife
You won’t make it very long without one of these. You need clear water to keep trekking, and Lifestraw is a heavy contender for best water filter, and is the biggest player on the market right now, but Sawyer wins out for their 100,000 gallon lifespan and for their ability to be used as a gravity feed to fill cups, pots, and buckets.
Top 5 Water Filters/Purifiers
- Sawyer PointOne All-In-One Filter
- LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- Potable Aqua PA+Plus Water Purification Tablets
- LifeStraw Go Water Bottle
- Katadyn Vario
Here you have a lot of options, and a lot of layers from tents to blankets, so we’ve expanded this section with additional notes for you to consider.
Pick and choose what you like best and what fits your needs the most.
Pro Tip! Bare Setups Vs Backpacker’s Tent
Many choose to pack a small tarp and a emergency mylar blanket only, but we recommend against this if you can stand an extra 1-2 lbs. Getting a small backpacker’s tent for your main shelter will provide protection from flying insects, bugs, and everything else on the ground and in the air, as well as relief from the wind and cold, muddy ground and more.
Get a lightweight sleeping bag with a backpacker’s tent and you have a comfortable and complete shelter. If a sleeping bag is too bulky for your needs, trade it for a small backpacker’s blanket instead.
Emergency mylar blankets are worth bringing because they are so cheap (less than a dollar each online) and so small and lightweight they can fit anywhere. They do work if you use them right. Just pretend you’re a baked potato and wrap yourself in the blanket to keep all the heat in.
Tarps are the most minimum of shelters. Look for a thick mil to avoid tearing, keep it out of the sun, and consider a camo pattern to blend in easier. You will need to spend some time learning the various ways to rig them into a suitable shelter too.
Tents should be lightweight and small enough to fold into a small bag. Unlike a family tent that you’re most likely familiar with, a backpack tent is made for one to two people and is created with weight and storage size in mind. It’s worth spending a little extra for a smaller and lighter tent that you can fit in a backpack or tie to the side.
Emergency 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 extremely cheap, weight nothing, and take up almost no room.
- Silver Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets
- Camo TITAN Two-Sided Emergency Blankets
- Orange Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets
Sleeping bags should be bought based on your lowest nighttime temperature. You want the thinnest bag possible, but it has to be warm enough. The below bags have separate temperatures and you should consider which you need in your situation.
- Coleman Trinidad Warm-Weather Sleeping Bag (down to 40F)
- Coleman Palmetto Cool Weather Sleeping Bag (down to 30F)
- Sportneer Ultralight Sleeping Bag (down to 20F)
- TETON Sports Celsius Sleeping Bag (down to 0F)
Flashlights & Headlamps
Note: We have purposefully left lanterns out of this section. We consider them optional because a lantern is not 100% necessary. If you want to see lanterns on this list just let us know in the comments below or on our social accounts and we’ll add them.
Look for a dependable, rugged, and small flashlight. LED is a must for battery life. Avoid large and heavy flashlights that run on D batteries. There is no sense in lugging around a massive 3lb flashlight as big as your arm. Modern LED’s put out more lumens and last longer at a fraction of the weight.
Having a handheld flashlight and a headlamp is a good idea, if not a must. Headlamps let you work with both hands, and most survival or camping jobs are best done with two hands. There’s no reason to chop firewood with a flashlight in your mouth, just get a headlamp. It’s also easier to navigate at night with a headlamp and a flashlight.
Lights that can be powered by something besides batteries such as a dynamo (hand crank) or solar power are options well worth having if it doesn’t add too much bulk.
Top 5 Flashlights
- UltraFire 7w 300lm Mini Cree LED Adjustable Focus Flashlight
- Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight
- PeakPlus LED Zoomable 5-Mode Tactical Flashlight, 18650 Battery
- 1600 Lumens Zoomable 5-Mode LED Flashlight
- Anker Bolder LC90 900 Lumens LED Flashlight
Top 5 Headlamps
- Mifine Waterproof 1000 Lumens LED Headlamp
- InnoGear 5000 Lumens Max Bright Headlamp
- GRDE Zoomable 3 Modes 1800 Lumens LED Headlamp
- Lightweight Single LED 110 Lumens Headlamp
- Olight Nova 600 Lumens Rechargeable LED Headlamp
Essential miscellaneous items that should not be forgotten. They are not optional extras, get them! Otherwise your bug out bag isn’t going to do a whole lot of good.
The Top Item In Each Essential Category
- First Aid Kit (lightweight with a small bag, but comprehensive)
- Lightweight Cooking Camping Mess Kit (two folding pots and a cup is enough)
- Survival Food Bars (don’t EVER depend on finding or trapping food, prep for it!)
- Military P-51 Can Opener (you just can’t beat it! Great for “found” cans)
- Duct Tape or Gorilla Tape (small roll for quick patches or creating cordage)
- Paracord (get certified Mil-spec 550lb C-5040H Type III, learn why and how here)
- Survival Whistle (loud, and you can make noise without wearing out your voice)
- Knife Sharpener (you will wear your knife edge down quickly, keep it sharp!)
- Lensatic Sighting Compass (and learn how to use it!)
These items are semi-optional but are recommended. Many are items that should be sourced locally, or that you probably already have at home. You’ll save money and trouble by taking a trip to the thrift store for many of these.
- Some sort of hat, such as a full brimmed hat
- Well fitting and tough leather gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Extra change of clothes, including socks and underwear
- Money in small bills
- Printed maps of your area, including street and topographical
- Small mirror
- Extra batteries (or get rechargeable batteries and a solar charger)
- A laminated copy of emergency info and important contacts
Depending on your survival situation, many of these are optional. For example, if you’re bugging out to a desert you may not need a pry bar, but if you’ll be in a city a small prybar is vital.
Take your time to think about and examine each of these items. This is where you can save weight, but you don’t want to be unprepared either.
- Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharging Kit for recharging batteries
- Light My Fire Titanium Spork for your dining pleasure (really a great add-on)
- Survival Fishing Kit, and if you’ll be near water make sure you have one
- Survival Sewing and Repair Kit for your gear and first aid
- Protein Bars so you don’t get tired of eating nothing but survival food bars
- Multi-tool for the screwdrivers and pliers
- Emergency Radio that’s battery, hand crank, and solar, with NOAA bands.
- Collapsible LED Lantern (same as that popular $20 lantern, for half the price)
- Small Backpack Stove or a DIY alcohol stove
- Binoculars for seeing when you don’t want to be seen
- Full Tang Hatchet (much better than a knife for cutting larger trees)
- Folding Shovel for burying waste and digging trenches
- Folding Saw for silently making firewood and shelters
- Pocket Bellows Collapsible Fire Stoker lets you blow any fire into a roaring blaze
- Butane Fuel Refill to keep your lighters burning for months
- Bar soap for washing up and cleaning camp equipment
- Small hand towels
- Hygiene necessities – comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, etc.
Everyone is different, every situation is different, and every family’s needs will be different. There are no hard rules of what must be in a bug out bag, but I believe everyone agrees that the above items are critically important for nearly everyone.
A BOB has one main purpose; to get you out of an emergency situation and to your bug out location. Whatever you know it will take to get you there should be in your bag. Period.
There is one thing we do know for sure. With a proper BOB holding everything you need to survive, you’ll be much better off than if you grabbed a few random things.