How To Build A Bug Out Bag

Building your own bag is the best way to get a bug-out bag that has everything you need. While you can start with a premade bug-out bag if you wish, starting from scratch is usually the more cost-effective option.

While you may not be able to get everything on this list for you and your family packed, the good news is that if things do go bad every bit of preparation you do now puts you in a better place than you would have been had you not planned. 

What should be in your bug-out bag?

As the world watches the Ukraine evacuate from the cities many of us are thinking about if we have the supplies needed to handle an evacuation or worse. The good news is that you can buy pre-made bug-out bags or build your own bug-out bag to make sure you have what you need to survive if things go bad. Here are some essentials that your kit should have.

First-aid supplies

Your emergency kit needs to have the supplies for basic first-aid. If there is an emergency, help may not come for a while so being able to clean and dress wounds to prevent infection could save your life.

Taking the time to stock a first aid kit with all of the basics to deal with mild wounds and some that can treat bigger trauma could be essential in a SHTF situation. Knowing how to use it all is even more important. Take the time to learn how to use every item in your first aid kit.

Start with a basic first aid kit that contains all of the essentials for dinner bumps and bruises. This should include bandaids, alcohol wipes, Neosporin, and basic medications for things like allergies and pain management. This simple kit will allow you to create basic issues to prevent them from escalating.

QuickClot – Normally used for things like hiking trips quick clot can be a valuable addition to your first aid kit in a SHTF situation. These bandages have a clotting agent that can help stop major bleeding. While this is designed for a trauma kit and not your average first aid kit at the end of the day having this on hand could save your life.

Steri-Strip Wound Closures – If you get hurt and you do not have access to medical care which is the most likely situation if things go bad you need to be able to close your own wounds. Steri-strips are a great option for closing wounds. Cover with sterile bandages to keep dirt out and you are good to go in an emergency when you can not get help.

While you hope to never need this option it is a blessing to have if you do need it. I keep some in my wallet first aid kit because even if we have access to help it doesn’t hurt to get a wound closed enough to stabilize it and stop bleeding while you wait for help

KT Tape – While you may not be thinking about kinesiology tape in your first aid kit this can be a great asset to helping keep you mobile and controlling pain after an injury. Something as simple as a sprained ankle can make it difficult to keep moving in a SHTF situation but KT Tape can help give you stability and speed healing while allowing for a better range of motion than sports wraps or ace bandages.

Arnica Gel – Arnica Gel is one of my favorite items to have on hand in my first aid kit and it definitely is essential to my bug-out bag medkit.

This option is amazing for getting rid of bumps and bruises, eliminating pain, and allowing you to keep moving. For everything from bruises to joint pain, you can use this essential. This is a much safer option than other products like Icy Hot.

Bug bite extractor – While you could carry a bottle of Calamine lotion around in your go bag this is more likely to spill in your go-bag than last to be put to use. A great natural and easy-to-use option for dealing with bug bites is a bug bite suction tool like That Bug Thing.

This will pull the toxins and stingers that make bug bites itch or hurt out helping to relieve discomfort. If you have children with you this can be a blessing.


From a light source to a knife to cut things you want to make sure you have basic tools in your bug-out bag. I am a big fan of multitools and use them for everything.

While you will not need a full tool kit in your bug-out bag that you may be carrying you should consider putting a full tool kit in your car emergency kit. This will allow you to do small repairs for yourself and should you have your car in a bug-out situation you will be glad to have the extra resources.

Hygiene kit

Hygiene supplies are important in your BOB. This will help keep you comfortable and healthy which can be vital to making it easier to get through any situation.

Kids can easily carry their own hygiene products in their bug-out bags to help take some of the load off of you. Make sure you are packing the appropriate essentials for your needs including:

  • Hairbrush
  • Hair ties
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Baby wipes
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Straight razor

That last one may come as a surprise but having and knowing how to use a straight razor even for women is a great way to make sure you can stay comfortable. Disposable razors are great for a go-bag but are only going to work for a short time and if things go longer than expected you could get uncomfortable.

The strop or leather strap used for sharpening can help keep it sharp as well as add a bit more sharpness to your life as well. Even better. A straight razor makes a great close-contact self-defense weapon or EDC option.

Some items like toothpaste can even be used for other things. For instance, if you are bitten by fire ants you can stop the pain by rubbing some mint toothpaste onto the ant bites. 

Change of clothes and socks

Should you find that you have gotten soaked in rain or mud you will need to get out of these clothes to prevent hyperthermia. Keeping a change of clothes and socks in your go bag can help to keep you warm and comfortable.

If you tend to wear open-toe shoes a lot your bug-out bag may need to contain a change of shoes that are good for walking or hiking to offer some protection if you have to run and do not have time to change your footwear.


From ponchos to protect you in the rain to emergency blankets or even a tent can be wonderful assets in an emergency to help keep you and your family comfortable. Keep in mind that if you have to bug out there may not be room for you in a shelter or you may have to go somewhere that shelter is not available.

The good news is that you can pack some shelter basics like a tent or even a tarp and rope to help keep you warm and provide some shelter from the elements. 

Communications and light

A weather radio and a source of light are both vital for your kit. You can even get a weather radio that has a light and will charge your phone. Look for one with a hand crank option to charge in case you are stuck somewhere.

Having light sources for nighttime or when you are in a shelter space without power is essential. This is even more true if you have children with you that may be afraid of the dark. Stocking things like glow sticks and flashlights are great options.

We stocked flashlights but also some cheap multi-packs of glow stick bracelets from the dollar store. 25 of these for $1.25 is a great deal and you can light up a large space by dropping a few clean glow sticks into your water bottle so the water can spread the light. 

If you are bugging out with friends and family, walkie-talkies can be a great option for communication to help keep everyone together and allow for everyone to communicate when you need to split up for things like looking for food. 

Food and water

Having at least one full bottle of water in your kit is a good idea to make it easy to make due until you find water to filter. A quality emergency water filtration system is the best option for the long term.

Add some emergency food bars to your kit to make sure you can survive a few days even if you can not find or make real food. A simple camping mess kit is a great addition to any bob.

Honestly, if you do not have time to put together anything else in your go bag, food and water are your true essentials. Many children are dying in war zones like the Ukraine and Afghanistan where food is hard to come by and their little bodies do not have the necessary stores to thrive. By planning ahead you can ensure that your family has more time to get food and water. 

Our go bags include snack packs with things like fruit cups, cereal bars, oatmeal packets, and beef jerky. These packs could get us a few days on their own. Then we added in a 72-hour meal bar. These emergency food bars may not be the best thing you have ever tasted but they can be a lifesaver in a SHTF situation. 

On top of calories, you need to make sure that your body is getting the nutrition you need. To supplement you should get the stronger cheap bottles of multivitamins you can find. For the best results look for one that has iodine.

While it is nearly impossible to find items like Iostat on hand you can get a quality multivitamin and increase your dose to offer some protection even if not the most effective option out there in the event of nuclear fallout. 

Fire kit

Your BOB should have multiple ways to start a fire. This could be lifesaving to keep you warm and cook food. Keep several ways to start a fire in your kit and keep them in different places so if one gets lost or damaged you have other options.

Fire starting tools should be kept in every member of your party’s bug-out bags. In our case, even the children have fire starters in their bracelets that also offer emergency whistles and built-in lights in case we get separated. 

I know that preparing your bug-out bag is not an easy task and it can be a bit scary to take the time to think about how bad things can possibly get. Try not to feel overwhelmed and remember that if you pack even one thing a day from around your home each day you are one bit closer to having less to worry about.

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