The Official 2018 Bug Out Bag Checklist. See our top picks for over 100+ reviewed items! Knives, fire starters, filters, shelters, backpacks, and more…
It’s that time of the year again. Our official 2018 Bug Out Bag (BOB) checklist is here.
We’ve reviewed thousands of items, threw out all the junk, and kept the best. In this thorough resource you will find the gear you actually need.
Having a bug out bag ready to go gives you a significant advantage. Without one you might end up with no supplies, no food, no water, and no hope.
A well equipped bug out bag can get you through natural disasters, civil unrest, and even a severe Twinkie shortage caused by the apocalypse. Zombieland anyone? No?
Ok then. . .
Who Is This List For?
New to prepping? A bug out bag is a classic place to start, even if your plan is to stay at home and never leave. You’ll have a vast array of critical gear at your fingertips.
Already have a BOB? Use this checklist to see if you’re missing anything. New and innovative gear comes out every year, so you might find something worth upgrading too.
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. We preppers absolutely love getting new gear.
What Is A Bug Out Bag (BOB)?
A Bug Out Bag (BOB) is a backpack containing everything you need to get you to your Bug Out Location (BOL).
A good bug out bag has enough food, water, and other supplies to last at least three days. If your bug out location takes longer than 72 hours to reach (by foot, worst case scenario) you should add more.
Store your BOB in an easy to grab location. A corner near your bedroom door is ideal.
The rule of thumb is to unpack, examine, and refresh your gear every 6 months, or at least once a year at a minimum. We make this list every year to remind you to check your supplies and see what new (or better) gear has came out.
How This List Works
We’re here to get you through the worst day of your life, not to force gear on you like some gear review site. As such, we do not rank anything from best to worst, nor do we push one item over another.
We’ve reviewed piles of gear and picked the absolute best gear so all you have to do is choose which is best for you. If a piece of gear made it into our top picks over all the competition you can bet it earned that spot. It takes top tier gear to survive our rigorous testing and review processes.
We’ve thrown out all the junk so you can focus on choosing what’s right for you.
The Official 2018 Bug Out Bag Checklist
Play through the scenarios you’re prepping for. Think out the gear you’ll need and then use our 2018 bug out bag checklist like a guided shopping list.
You’ll get the best gear, won’t forget something important, and it will keep you from overbuying.
We evaluate and review every item on this list, you can rest assured that it has all earned its spot. This gear is the best in its class, all high quality and worth the value.
Our 2018 Bug Out Bag (BOB) checklist is divided into various sections:
Piece By Piece
Mini Survival Kits
These are like backups to your main kit. If you lose your bag or have to leave it behind these small kits will at least give you something to work with. Some are actually quite comprehensive, like a survival grenade.
A survival grenade is like a mini bug out bag. You usually clip them on your belt but definitely don’t store them in your main bag.
Top 5 Survival Grenades
- Gecko Equipments Paracord Deluxe Grenade Survival Kit
- The Friendly Swede Carabiner Grenade Survival Kit with Eye Knife
- Holtzman’s Gorilla Egg Survival Kit
- CampSnail Emergency Survival Kit Grenade
- Prep2Go Paracord Grenade Survival EDC Kit (55 in 1)
Another form of wearable survival gear is the ever popular paracord bracelet. Unfortunately, most paracord bracelets on the market are just about useless. We’ve examined several dozen and have found these to be worth their salt.
Top 5 Paracord Bracelets
- Paracord Emergency Bracelet Kit by Holtzman’s Gorilla Survival
- RnS Star Paracord Survival Bracelet
- Diroca Outdoor Paracord Bracelet Survival Gear
- The Friendly Swede Multi Functional Paracord Bracelet
- A2S Paracord Bracelet K2-Peak 2 Pack
And then you have survival tins. This market has exploded with new tins in 2018. Some use actual tin cans, but most are switching to durable waterproof containers with secure latches. They easily fit in your pocket, glove box, and just about everywhere else so some preppers use them as an every day carry (EDC) kit.
You can also build an altoids survival tin yourself.
Top 5 Survival “Tins”
- Limitless Equipment MK. 1 Survival Kit
- Xuanlan Emergency Survival Kit 11 in 1
- Stealth Angel Compact 8-in-1 Survival Kit
- Tianers Survival Gear Kit
- S.O.L. Scout Survival Kit
Full Kits & All-In-One Solutions
We’re not big fans of large, all-in-one bug out bag emergency kits that try to cover everything. They can sometimes have low quality items or filler junk, so we prefer building our own BOB’s from scratch. But we also understand it’s exactly what some people are looking for.
Remember that you’re getting almost everything you need to survive in these kits, so don’t let the sticker shock scare you away. We have reviewed each of the picks below (and dozens more that didn’t make the cut).
Top 5 Full Kits
- Sustain Supply Co. 2 Person Premium Emergency Survival Bag Kit
- Sustain Supply Co. 4 Person Premium Emergency Survival Bag Kit
- The Ultimate Premium Family 4 Person Emergency Kit
- Zippmo Survival Gear 4 Person Deluxe Extreme Survival Kit
- Wise 5-Day Survival Bug Out Bag Kit + Ultimate Arms Gear Survival Set
Top 5 Purpose Built Kits
- Road Warrior Emergency Vehicle Kit
- Emergency Ready Tornado/Hurricane Survival Kit
- Mayday Earthquake Kit
- Complete Earthquake Bag for 2 people for 3 days
- Lightning X Deluxe Fully Stocked Large EMT First Aid Trauma Bag
Piece By Piece
Whether you prefer a hiking style or a tactical backpack we’ve got you covered.
Hiking bags are usually easier on the body and made for carrying a long distance. Tactical backpack are a faux military style with a MOLLE (PALS) system for attaching stuff. Most “survival” specific backpacks are tactical.
You can store gear easier in a tactical bag, but a hiking bag will be easier to carry if you have to walk several miles.
Over the years we’ve found pro’s and con’s to both sides of the hiking vs tactical debate. Lucky for you, we’ve reviewed both and made no assumptions on 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
- Mardingtop 65+10L Internal Frame Military Molle Hiking Backpack
Top 5 Tactical Backpacks
- 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack
- Maxpedition Falcon-II
- Explorer Tactical Gun Concealment Backpack W/ Molle Webbing
- Direct Action Dragon Egg Tactical Backpack
- SOG Ninja Backpack
Your fire making tools should be easy to use and dead simple. A survival situation isn’t the time to experiment, learn how to use it before depending on it. A simple lighter or box of waterproof matches fits the bill.
If you plan to carry anything else, please put in the time to learn it. It takes trial and error in all sorts of weather situations before you’re ready to depend on it. Humidity, tinder quality, and a dozen other factors will decide if you’re making a fire on that day. Give yourself the best chance possible by building the experience you need now.
A fun way to start a fire is with a fire piston. If you don’t know what a fire piston is yet, check out The Fire Piston – Starting A Fire With Air.
While a lighter is perfect for most people, one thing to consider is that eventually it will run out. After it’s gone you will have to fall back on your secondary fire tools. For this reason we recommend that everyone learn how to use a fire steel, fire piston, or flint and steel.
Top 5 Fire Making Tools (besides a bic lighter)
- Primitive Fire Deluxe Flint and Steel Kit
- Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 with Emergency Whistle
- Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
- Refillable Windproof Jet Torch Lighter
- S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer Fire Lite Kit
You need a knife for almost everything in a survival situation, so get a reliable one. That’s not to say you have to spend big bucks either. You want the best knife YOUR money can buy. That might be $30 or $300, but either way don’t skimp and get the best you can.
The Mora style fixed blade carbon steel knives are a low cost favorite of many survival experts, including Cody Lundin of Dual Survival fame.
Top 10 Knives
- Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty Knife with Carbon Steel Blade
- Morakniv Garberg Full Tang Fixed Blade Knife
- Gerber Prodigy Survival Knife
- ESEE 5P Black Tactical Survival Knife w/ Sheath
- Schrade SCHF36 Frontier Full Tang Knife
- Ka-Bar US Military Fighting Knife
- Gerber StrongArm Coyote Fixed Blade
- Tops Knives B.O.B. Brothers of Bushcraft Knife
- Schrade Leroy 16.5in Full Tang Bowie
- Genuine Gurkha Hand Forged Kukri
The biggest seller in the water filter world is still LifeStraw, but there’s no easy way to fill cups, pots, and buckets with one. And the life span isn’t very impressive, some 264 gallons. We’re not big fans.
As a comparison, Sawyer boasts the highest level of filtration on the market and has an extremely long filter life (about 100,000 gallons), you can drink directly from it and easily fill containers too, and their personal kit costs relatively the same.
Top 5 Water Filters/Purifiers
- Sawyer PointOne All-In-One Filter
- GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier [+ FILTER] Bottle
- Potable Aqua PA+Plus Water Purification Tablets
- Katadyn Hiker Pro
- Katadyn Vario
Many preppers only pack a small tarp and an emergency mylar blanket for shelter. We feel you’re far better off with a small backpacker’s tent unless you just don’t have the budget for one. The 1-2 lb difference will hardly matter and they roll up quite small.
A tent can do things a tarp cannot, like protect you from flying insects and crawlers on the ground. It also blocks the wind and rain much better and keeps you off the cold, muddy ground. And it gives you the psychological advantage of having a home away from home. They can do all of this and more for about 3-4lbs total weight and they fold up into a small bag.
A sleeping bag plus a backpacker’s tent is a comfortable and complete shelter. If a sleeping bag is too bulky for your liking, trade it for a small backpacker’s blanket instead.
As far as emergency mylar blankets go, they are so cheap and portable and have many uses so you might as well still bring a few with you. Lay them on the ground underneath you to keep the cold ground from stealing some your body heat, or lay them on top of your sleeping bag to trap as much heat as possible. They’re great for signaling too.
Tarps should be of a thick enough ripstop material to avoid tearing. Consider a camo pattern whenever available to blend in easier. You will need to learn how to rig them into a suitable shelter too.
- Sanctuary SilTarp
- Rolling Fox Tarp Shelter (see our full review here)
- Aqua Quest Defender Tarp + Adjustable Strap Kit
- World’s Toughest Ultralight Survival Tent
Tents should be lightweight and small enough to fold into a small bag. Backpack tents are specifically made with those aspects in mind. It’s worth spending some extra for the smallest and lightest tent you can afford.
- ALPS Mountaineering Lynx
- TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent
- Winterial Single Person Tent
- MSR Hubba Hubba
- Snugpak The Cave
- Snugpak Scorpion 3
- Winterial 3 Person Tent
- ALPS Mountaineering Zephyr
- ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian
- Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Tent
Emergency thermal blankets 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
- Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets
- S.O.L. 90 Percent Heat Reflective Emergency Blanket
- UST Survival Blanket 2.0 In Orange
Sleeping bags are rated based on the lowest nighttime temps you can comfortably use them in. Get the thinnest bag possible that is warm enough for your area. The bags below have different temps, so make sure you buy one that fits your geographical area.
- Coleman Sunridge 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)
Backpacker Blankets are lightweight versions of normal blankets, except the wool versions. Usually made of a special material, except the wool. They are warm and ultralight…except the wool. So why the wool? Because you can’t ask for a more durable, warm, and effective material for a survival situation. Wool will keep you warn even when it’s wet, good luck trying that with any other material.
- Pocket Blanket
- Woolly Mammoth Explorer Collection Wool Blanket
- Cocoon CoolMax Blanket
- Kelty Bestie Blanket
- Montem Sneaky Snuggler Camping Blanket
Flashlights, Headlamps, And Lanterns
Flashlights must be dependable, rugged, and small. LED is a no-brainer now and greatly extends battery life, so accept nothing less. Look for zoom abilities, several modes to save power, high lumens, and alt-power options such as a dynamo (hand crank) or solar power.
Headlamps let you work with both hands. Chopping firewood with a flashlight in your mouth is a failure to prep. It’s also easier to navigate at night with a headlamp. Again, go with LED and look for high lumnens, adjustable lights, and a comfortable strap.
Lanterns cast light in all directions and are perfect for a tent or work area. It’s about like flipping the switch on at your house. Look for LED, a compact design, built in power banks for charging phones if you need it, and a long run time.
Rechargeable 18650 batteries are the best battery on the market and are actually the same batteries Tesla use as the main battery bank of their cars. These are not the rechargeable junk of old, these suckers are a real workhorse. They are not interchangeable with regular AA’s, so look for products that are built to use them.
Top 5 Flashlights
- UltraFire 7w 300lm Mini Cree LED Adjustable Focus Flashlight
- Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight (see our full review here)
- PeakPlus LED Zoomable 5-Mode Flashlight (w/ excellent 18650 li-ion battery)
- 1600 Lumens Zoomable 5-Mode LED Flashlight
- Esky Hand Crank/Battery/Solar LED Flashlight + Emergency FM/AM/NOAA Weather Radio + 1000mAh Power Bank USB Phone Charger
Top 5 Headlamps
- 5000 Lumens 3-Head Waterproof Rechargeable CREE LED Headlamp
- GRDE Zoomable 3 Modes 1800 Lumens LED Headlamp
- Lightweight Single LED 110 Lumens Headlamp
- Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
- Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight
Top 5 Lanterns
- Etekcity 2 Pack Portable LED Camping Lanterns
- Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern and USB Power Hub
- Tough Light LED Rechargeable Lantern + USB Power Pack
- Coleman Quad LED With 4 Detachable Lanterns
- LED Camping Lantern With 2 Detachable Flashlights
These are miscellaneous items that are important to have, they’re not optional extras so make sure you include them.
The Top Item In Each Essential Category
- First Aid Kit (lightweight in a small bag, but comprehensive)
- Lightweight Cooking Camping Mess Kit (pots, cups, utensils, mini stove, etc)
- Survival Food Bars (don’t 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 (make small rolls to go in your BOB)
- 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.)
- High Quality Compass (don’t ever buy a green mass produced junk compass!!)
- Money in small bills
- Printed maps of your area, including street and topographical
- A laminated copy of emergency info and important contacts
We highly recommended getting these items to make like easier, but if you’ve already eliminated everything else and absolutely must cut more from your BOB you can make do without them.
- Some sort of hat, such as a full brimmed hat
- Extra batteries (or rechargeable batteries and a solar charger)
- Well fitting and tough leather gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Extra change of clothes, including socks and underwear
- Small mirror
These are optional. Think about what situation you’re prepping for and decide if you need them. For example, if you’re bugging out to a desert you won’t need a pry bar, but it’s a must have for urban dwellers.
Take your time to think about and examine each of these items. This is where you can save weight, but make sure you don’t cut yourself short either.
- Foldable Solar Charger With USB Ports for recharging phones and batteries
- Light My Fire Titanium Spork for your dining pleasure (really a great add-on)
- Survival Fishing Kit if you might be near any rivers or lakes
- Survival Sewing and Repair Kit for your gear and also first aid
- Protein Bars so you don’t get tired of eating nothing but survival food bars
- Multi-tool for the screwdrivers and pliers… and everything else.
- Emergency Radio that’s battery, hand crank, and solar, with NOAA bands.
- Small Backpack Stove or a DIY alcohol stove
- Binoculars for seeing when you don’t want to be seen
- Full Tang Hatchet to cut trees and branches
- Folding Shovel for burying waste and digging trenches
- Folding Saw for silently making firewood, uses less energy than a hatchet
- Collapsible Fire Stoker lets you blow any fire into a roaring blaze
- Butane Fuel Refill to keep your lighters burning for months
- Small Pry Bar for escaping dangerous situations and searching buildings
- Bar soap for washing up and cleaning camp equipment
- Small hand towels
- Hygiene necessities – comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, etc.
A BOB has one main purpose: to get you out of an emergency situation and to your bug out location. Whatever it takes to get you there should be in your bag, period. Determining exactly what that is can be a (fun) challenge.
It has also come to mean a portable collection of essential survival gear to get you through any situation, whether you’re bugging in or not. At any rate, keep your BOB some place safe and easy to get to. Use it often. Take it with you camping and live off of it for a weekend.
We will all be in different situations when the day comes that we need our bug out bag. For that reason there are no hard rules of what must be in your bag, but the above items will cover 99% of situations.