Building A Practical Bug Out Bag

Building a bug out bag can be complex or extremely lean and practical. Too many bug out bags I’ve seen online have everything inside them including the kitchen sink. You will certainly become quickly crushed under the weight of such a bag unless you’re in pristine shape. Even if you do have the strength of a thousand pack mules, why would you still choose to include useless gear you’ll never use?

In this post I explore the contents of a lean, mean, and practical bug out bag.

The contents

Here is a list of everything you need:

  • The bug out bag – The 5.11 Rush 72 is considered the best bug out bag in the business. I’ve written a complete review of this bag here.
  • 72 hours food and water – At the core of your bug out bag is 72 hours worth of food and water. The food packed should be non-perishable foods like dried nuts, fruits, Clif Bars, etc. Think about foods you would take on a camping trip. I particularly enjoy the meals from Mountain House foods as my go-to bug out bag food source. They’re a practical way to pack in the calories you need to survive 72 hours.
  • Change of socks and underwear – Not the flashiest gear on the list but completely crucial. Sometimes a change of socks is enough moral boost to blow you through even the hairiest SHTF situations. Besides, having to hike in wet socks is a terrible experience and will only degrade your mentality.
  • Headlamp – A headlamp for when it gets dark.
  • EDC Knife. A knife or a multi-tool for times when you need them. The list of uses for this piece of gear is endless. You don’t need a full blown fixed blade survival knife but a nice folder like the Kershaw Cryo 2 is a great knife.
  • Spare cash – Cash for times when the grid is down and stores can’t process your credit card. Also good for bartering items with other people.
  • Fire starters – Lighter and matches in some kind of waterproof container or plastic bag

Other considerations

All of the above gear is the core list of what you need in a practical bug out bag. There is no reason why you couldn’t survive and get to a safe spot with the above kit. However, we can begin to crazy and add more gear to the core list of items. Use your own judgement and decide for yourself if these items are “practical” and worth the weight.

  • Cell phone and mobile charger – Chances are you already will have your cell phone on you when it’s time to bug out. Consider packing a mobile charger to charge up on the road.
  • Water filter – More for long term survival but I can see practical use in the short term too if you run out of water early. The Sawyer Squeeze is the industry standard for survival water filters.
  • Stainless steel cook kit – You’ll need something to cook any food you find or to boil water.
  • Proper clothing – a layered approach works well in many environments. Read my post on survival clothing for more information into this aspect of survival.
  • Area Map – A map of your city/town. More important if you’re new and aren’t familiar with all the escape routes.
  • Paracord – Paracord has a number of uses out in the wilderness. Use it to rig up a makeshift shelter, make a bear bag, and haul a load up a mountain.

The bug out plan

Perhaps most importantly is your bug out plan. Your bug out plan consists of two parts: Where you’re going to go and how you’re gonna get there. Figure those things out and your bug out bag will be compounded in usefulness. Having a plan will give you peace of mind knowing the road ahead is paved with a clear goal in mind.


The practical bug out bag is cheap and efficient. Add whatever you want but keep in mind the weight of the bag is a crucial consideration.


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