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Bug Out Bags For Families: Building A Bug Out Bag Family Style

Bug-out bags (BOBs) are essential to your emergency preparedness plan, especially if you have a family. Properly prepared family bug out bags will exponentially increase your and your family’s chances of survival. 

BOBs should include everything you need to survive a minimum of 72 hours after a disaster. After that, hopefully, you can return to “normal life.” However, if society doesn’t stabilize, your BOBs should also have essential survival equipment to help you secure shelter, water, and food. 

Keep reading to learn about bug-out bags for families and how to prepare BOBs strategically so you and your family are prepared for the unexpected. 

Family Bug Out Bag Essentials: What To Pack?

family bug out bag


bug-out bag, also known as a go-bag, is a vessel, oftentimes a backpack, that you fill with food, water, and other survival gear. Your BOB needs to be lightweight and portable enough to carry but packed with enough necessary supplies to keep yourself warm, fed, and hydrated for an indefinite period.

“Two is One, and One is None”

There are many ways to pack family bug-out bags. Below, we will talk about bug-out bag essentials and four packing strategies for bug-out bags for families. As you read and begin brainstorming about your BOBs, we want you to remember a helpful catchphrase– “two is one, one is none.”  

The idea behind the popular catchphrase “two is one, one is none” is redundancy. In other words, you will have multiple methods to accomplish specific tasks. 

Having redundancy built into your emergency preparedness plans, especially your BOB preparations, will ensure that you can still perform certain survival functions even if something is lost, broken, or loaned and not returned.   

Bug-Out Bag for Families Essentials

There is a lot to consider packing when preparing bug-out bags for unexpected natural disasters, economic collapse, warfare, or other catastrophic events. We recommend keeping the following categories in mind as you devise what you pack.

Ultimately, what you pack into your BOBs will depend on you and your family. However, check out our bug-out bag list for more specifics on what to include in BOBs. 

10 Essential Categories for Bug-Out Bags For Families 

  1. Shelter

  1. Defense

  1. Food 

  1. Light

  1. Water

  1. First Aid

  1. Warmth

  1. Navigation

  1. Apparel

  1. Other Essentials



[product_render product-handle="family-emergency-kit"]

Packing Strategies for Bug Out Bags for Families

In most cases, parents will shoulder the responsibility of preparing the bug-out bags and carrying most of the gear. One of the key advantages of bugging out as a family is the ability to distribute the load amongst all capable members. This will largely depend on your family's size and the age of its members. When assembling your bug out bags for families, there are four viable strategies to consider. 

You will pack your BOBs depending on the size of your family and the age of its members. When preparing BOBs, you have four options to consider.

  1. Every member of the family gets a matching BOB.

  2. Essential survival gear and extras get divided evenly between the BOBs.

  3. Primary and secondary BOBs.

  4. Essential items are included in every BOB, with extras divided evenly.

1. Matching Bug-Out Bags

matching bag out bags

This strategy for packing BOBs involves creating identical bug-out bags for everyone in the family. 

The advantage of this strategy is that if you get separated, everyone has what they need to continue surviving. However, the load of each BOB will be greater. Therefore, this is typically only possible when everyone in the family is old enough and strong enough to carry their own bag. 

2. All Survival Equipment is Divided Evenly

The second option is to divide all the survival equipment you want to bring evenly amongst the BOBs for each family member. 

The advantage of this strategy is that if one bag is lost somehow, you will still have essential items in the other bags. In other words,  not all your eggs are in one basket. With this strategy, you can also more easily distribute the load amongst everyone.

However, one downside is that if you get separated, whatever that family member had in their bag will be missing. Likewise, the separated family member may also not have some essentials.    

3. Primary and Secondary BOBs

This strategy for packing family bug-out bags is all about dividing your survival supplies into primary and secondary BOBs. The primary BOB will contain all the essential items, while the secondary BOB will contain other helpful equipment.

This packing strategy is ideal for small families with children who may not be able to carry very much, and either mom or dad has to carry the majority of the load. If necessary, with this approach, you can ditch secondary BOBs to lose weight and move faster.    

4. Essentials in Each BOB with Divided Extras

The fourth strategy for packing bug-out bags for families involves including essential survival supplies in each family member’s BOB. Aftward, you evenly divide the remaining survival supplies.

This strategy is thought to be the best for larger families with multiple family members who can help carry heavier BOBs. The main advantage is that every family member has a mix of essential and non-essential equipment. 

However, if you need to leave a bag behind or someone gets separated, the family unit will lose out on what the BOB contained. 


Specialty Items for Family Bug Out Bags

emergency items for bug out bags


Preparing your family to bug out is much more involved than putting together a BOB for yourself. You must consider myriad other supplies to keep your family comfortable and healthy.

  • Multivitamins for extra nutrition. Some growing kids have extra nutritional demands.

  • Extra clothes for kids. Little ones get dirtier faster than adults.

  • Toys and comfort items. Bugging out is stressful for everyone.

  • Photographs of each family member. These are useful if anyone gets separated.

  • Emergency contacts and maps of safe places. Ideal for keeping kids safe if they are on their own.  

Weather can be an unpredictable factor during emergencies. It's essential to pack gear that can handle varying climate conditions in your bug out bag family kit. Include items like a poncho for rain, sunscreen for excessive sun, and a thermal blanket for cold weather. A hand-cranked or solar-powered radio is also an essential addition to stay updated on the weather situation and other vital news during a crisis.

Extra Bug Out Items for Families with Infants and Toddlers

  • Baby formula

  • Bottles

  • Pacifiers

  • Diapers

  • Baby medicines

Top Tips for Packing Bug-Out Bags for a Family

Packing bug-out bags is as much an art as it is a science. While we understand that each family will have its unique methods, we would like to share a few crucial tips related to family bug out bags.

  • Go for walks or hikes with your BOBs to get accustomed to how they feel.

  • Let mom or dad carry the heavier stuff.

  • Keep bug-out bags underneath the beds so they can quickly be accessed if you need to bug out at night. 

  • Keep extra BOBs at your bug-out location.

  • Pack duplicates of essential items, like water filters, headlamps, and cooking fuel.

  • Practice using survival equipment, like building a tarp shelter or cooking on a camp stove.

  • Pack heavier items towards the bottom and lighter items on top. 

download survival guide

Maintaining and Storing Your Bug Out Bags for Families

After you assemble the various bug-out bags your family requires, it will be essential to store them properly.  

We recommend keeping your family bug-out bags in a clean, cool, and dry location. We recommend storing your BOBs in large plastic trash bags, totes, or metal containers whenever possible. Besides keeping your bags in your home, you might consider prepping a BOB in your bug-out vehicle also.  

Over time, you will need to monitor the condition of your BOB and its contents. We recommend taking inventory of what’s inside and replacing any items that might have spoiled or expired. For example, old survival food and medications. 

Another crucial aspect to consider is the importance of rotating the food and water in your bug out bags for families. Just like the clothes you pack for your growing children, food and water have expiration dates. Regularly check the expiration dates and replace items as necessary to ensure your family will have fresh and nutritious sustenance if a disaster strikes. 

Personal hygiene is often overlooked in many bug out bag lists. In an emergency situation, maintaining cleanliness can prevent diseases and infections. Be sure to include hygiene items like travel-sized toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet wipes, and hand sanitizers in your family bug out bags. If you have female family members, don't forget to pack menstrual hygiene products as well.

In addition, we recommend reevaluating your needs every year and upgrading your BOBs accordingly. For example, after a few years, you may be able to remove the items you packed for your infant. Or you may divvy up your supplies differently as your children get older. 


Final Thoughts: Carefully Plan Your Bug Out Bags for Families

Being prepared ahead of time can make a huge difference in your family’s survival and recovery after a severe and life-threatening event. That’s why we recommend that you don’t wait to start prepping! 

Ultimately, prepping family bug-out bags gives you peace of mind. In reality, we hope you never have to use your bug-out bags. However, you and your family will be thankful later on if a disaster does strike.  

We hope you found this article to be informative. If prepping is new to you, look at our beginner prepping guide or consider joining our Facebook Group. To find other helpful blog articles, visit our Practical Pepper Blog