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Updated 2023 Bug Out Bag List: Your Complete List of Go Bag Essentials

When disaster strikes, preppers have the option to either stay put with their stockpiled resources or evacuate to a safer location. For the latter, having a well-stocked family bug-out bag is essential. Our bug-out bag checklist covers all the necessary items you need to ensure a successful evacuation.

When SHTF, some preppers will choose to rely on the resources they’ve stockpiled especially to stock up on food at their current location to wait out whatever the emergency event might be. However, other preppers will decide to evacuate or “bug out” to survive the event until things settle down.

Bugging out requires just as much preparedness as bugging in, if not more. To bug out successfully, you must have a well-equipped bug-out bag, or go bag, filled with all the bug-out essential items.

To help you prepare for an evacuation, we’ve decided to share our bug-out bag list. Keep reading to see what go bag essentials we recommend you pack to be ready for anything, and click here to download our complete survival guide, which includes a printable version of our bug out bag checklist.
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Starting Your Bug Out Bag List 

Every bug-out bag is unique—each person will have subtle nuances to their own survival kits. However, ten go bag essential categories should guide the items you include in your emergency go bag, no matter what.

Ten Bug Out Bag Essential Categories

1. Food 6. Defense
2. Water 7. Light
3. Shelter 8. First Aid
4. Apparel 9. Navigation
5. Warmth 10. Other Important Items

Now, let’s dive into the details about what makes each of these ten categories important.

bug out bag checklist download

But Out Bag Food Preparation

Food preservation should be at the top of your bug-out bag list. It will allow you to deal with short-term emergencies and food shortages, and provide sustenance for your family in the event of a prolonged survival situation. Be sure to include food preservation items in your bug-out bag to make sure you're prepared for anything.

Bug Out Rations

Cooking Food From A Bug Out Bag

Food is an essential part of any bug-out bag. It's important to remember that when disaster strikes, grocery stores may not be available to stock up on food. That's why it's critical to have enough food for your entire survival group. Be sure to include food as one of the most important items on the checklist for your bug-out bag.

We recommend preparing at least three days of food for each person for emergencies. We consider a 72-hour kit of food the bare minimum. For more severe events, we recommend preparing upwards of three months of emergency food. 

Freeze-dried food is becoming the industry standard for survival food. It is lightweight, nutritious, and lasts for a very long time. Plus, nowadays, you’re not just stuck with meat and potatoes. Delicious alternatives like freeze dried fruit and freeze dried vegetables are now available. For more guidance on the best survival food, visit our website.

Go Bag Kitchenware

After you evacuate, you will need to prepare food and boil water.  Therefore, your bug-out backpack should include basic kitchenware amenities. How many kitchen items you include should reflect the size of your survival group.

A basic list of kitchen items should include the following.

  • Portable stove
  • Cooking pots and pans
  • Cups and plates
  • Forks, spoons (or sporks), and knives
  • Cooking utensils such as spatulas, slotted spoons, and ladles.
  • Can opener
  • Fuel for the stove (e.g., butane, white gas, or propane)

Fishing & Hunting Equipment For Your Bug Out Bag

Lures on Placed on Wood, an essential piece of a bug out bag list

Besides food rations, your bug-out bag should include fishing and hunting supplies. This is especially true in emergencies that drag out for a long time. Being able to fish for, hunt, or trap fresh game in a long-term crisis could be the difference between survival and going hungry.

Water & Hydration for Your Bug Out Bag

Access to clean water is a big deal when you're bugging out. Sure, you can survive without food for a while, but water is another story. Dehydration can hit you fast, causing fatigue, dizziness, and messing with your head. Don't leave your water source to chance. Pack plenty of water and the tools you need to purify it, such as water purification tablets and filtration systems. Make sure these essentials are on your bug-out bag list so you're prepared for any situation.

Filtration & Treatment Systems For Bugging Out

As you probably expected, water is next on our bug-out bag list. Without water, your well-thought-out survival plan will quickly go up in smoke.

You should always have emergency water on hand. We recommend you plan for one gallon of water per person each day in survival scenarios.

Besides storing water, you should also have at least two methods for filtering and treating your water. If you need to find water while you are on the go, the simplest way to treat the water is to boil it. However, there are many other ways to purify water and make it safe for drinking.

Bug Out Water Transportation

water container from a bug out bag list

In a bug-in scenario, all the water you have cached is close by. However, if you’ve decided to bug out, you will need to transport water for drinking and cooking. A reliable way to store and transport water should be high on your bug-out bag checklist. Here are some ideas:

  • Commercial single-use water bottles
  • Mylar water bladders
  • Wheeled water tanks
  • 5 gallon water containers
  • Reclaimed juice, soda, or milk bottles
  • Canning jars
  • Reusable water bottles

Shelter for Your Go Bag

Shelter is a critical component of any bug-out scenario. When evacuating, having a place to protect yourself from the elements and a safe place to rest is essential. A secure shelter allows you to store your resources, gather with loved ones, and get some rest. Don't leave your shelter needs to chance; include a plan for shelter in your bug-out bag to ensure you have a safe place to retreat in the event of an emergency.

Tent or Improvised Shelter Materials For Your Go Bag

A tent is a piece of your go bag essentials

If you have chosen to bug out, then you have intentionally left behind your most reliable form of shelter. In some scenarios, you may evacuate to another shelter in a disclosed bug out location (BOL).

However, if you do not have another shelter, you may need to bring one. Therefore, we recommend you include a tent or other shelter materials in your bug-out bag checklist. Being able to pitch a tent will keep you warmer, drier, and more protected from insects and wild animals.

Nowadays, there are plenty of lightweight tents on the market. However, if the thought of packing an entire tent seems like a lot, you may want to pack a tarp, stakes, and paracord to create an improvised shelter.  You may also want to research improvised shelters using natural resources.

Include Sleeping Essentials 

Besides the shelter itself, you will also want to include sleeping essentials in your bug-out bag checklist. Typically, a reliable sleeping bag is non-negotiable. Your sleeping bag should be warm enough for whatever weather the current season may throw at you. You may also want to include:

  • Emergency space blanket
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Sleeping pad
  • Extra blankets

Add Apparel To Your Bug Out Bag List

Clothing can make or break your survival in an emergency situation. When you're exposed to the elements for long periods of time, your body can begin to suffer. This is why it's important to pack the right clothing for all the conditions you might encounter. Whether it's a warm coat for cold weather, rain gear for a storm, or breathable clothing for hot weather, having the right clothing for the situation and climate is key.

A Change of Clothes For Your Bag

In a bug-out survival scenario, you may become exposed to the elements. Your clothes may become dirty, wet from rain or snow, or worn down. Therefore, we recommend you pack a change of clothes into your survival kit. The clothes you plan to bring should be able to handle the current weather.

Bringing a spare change of clothes may seem unnecessary to some folks. But let’s be honest, there is no other feeling in the world quite as enjoyable as putting on a fresh pair of socks.

Include Waterproof Layers In Your Go Bag List

prepare for rain with your bug out bag essentials

Your bug-out survival kit should also include waterproof layers. Ideally, you will have a waterproof rain jacket, pants, and shoes just in case you get caught in a storm. Spare rain ponchos are also a good lightweight and cheap solution for wet weather.

Winter Gear May Be Necessary

You never know when disaster may strike. It could be during the dead of winter. If this is the case, your survival kit must include winter weather gear. Otherwise, you won’t make it very far. You must be covered head to toe with reliable clothing if you need to bug out during wintertime.

  • A warm hat or beanie
  • Scarves or neck gaiters
  • Winter waterproof gloves
  • Long underwear
  • Thick socks

Reliable Footwear

Most of us take our feet and footwear for granted. But in a survival situation, you may be up the creek if something goes wrong with your footwear. That is why having proper footwear ready to go is so important.

Reliable footwear keeps our feet dry, protected from injury, and provides ankle support. Ideally, the footwear you include in your survival kit will be able to accommodate all types of terrain, weather, and climates.

One important factor to consider in building out the emergency survival kit in your car is having a spare pair of shoes or boots. If you get caught in an emergency coming home from work and must leave your vehicle, you won’t have to walk in your dress shoes or high heels.

Face Mask or Gas Mask

Depending on the scenario, such as chemical warfare or a pandemic, the air around you may no longer be safe to breathe. For that reason, an air-filtration mask or gas mask may be the only thing that can provide you with safe-to-breathe oxygen.

Plan For Heat In Your Bug Out Bag

Having ways to provide heat in your bug out bag is critical to your survival in emergency situations. Exposure-related injuries and hypothermia are major concerns in the wilderness and can greatly reduce your chances of survival. The key to preventing these conditions is to keep your body warm. If you have the right equipment and supplies to generate heat in your go bag, you can greatly increase your chances of surviving an emergency situation safely and comfortably. With the right tools and preparation, you can maintain your body temperature in the harshest of environments, greatly increasing your chances of survival.

Matches or Firestarter For A Bug Out Bag List

Staying warm and cooking hot meals is essential for survival in a bug-out situation. We already talked about what to pack to stay warm in cold weather. But what about making a fire to keep warm or cook food?

Including matches or some sort of fire starter in your bug-out kit is imperative. With matches, flint, or a lighter, you can start a fire to stay warm, signal for help, boil water, and cook a warm meal.

But what about when the matches get wet, or you run out? Check out our helpful article on how to build a fire without matches.

Bug Out Defense

In a survival situation, you have to be prepared for potential conflict. People will not be on their best behavior in stressful emergencies, so it's important to have a self-defense plan in your bug out bag. This may include carrying weapons or tools and knowing basic self-defense techniques. In addition, be prepared for aggressive wildlife when traveling in the wilderness. Having the right equipment and knowledge can help you defend yourself and increase your chances of survival.

Pepper Spray

carry protection in your go bag

Preparing to protect yourself in a survival scenario is not out of the question. For example, you may experience a scenario where someone wants your resources. Therefore, packing pepper spray into your bug-out bag is a good idea. 

Include A Knife In Your Bug Out Bag

Another reliable tool for self-defense is a knife. Knives are essential to include in your bug-out bag checklist, because they can be versatile in a survival scenario.

Guns & Ammunition

Many preppers are choosing to purchase guns and ammunition. If you plan to include firearms and ammunition in your survival kit, be sure to do your research and follow all gun laws in the State that you live in.

Light for Your Bug Out Bag Checklist

Having a reliable light source in your bug out bag is a must for surviving an emergency. Being able to see clearly, day or night, and even if the power goes out, is key to taking care of business and keeping you and your family safe. A good flashlight or lantern, along with extra batteries and other essentials, will come in handy for reading a map, starting a fire or finding your way in the dark. Don't get caught in the dark without a reliable light source - it could mean the difference between being prepared and being caught off guard. Pack the right gear in your go bag and you'll be ready for whatever comes your way.

Headlamps & Flashlights

lights that could go on your bug out bag list

In the aftermath of an emergency, such as a natural disaster, it’s not uncommon to experience a power outage. During daylight hours, this is no big deal. But after the sun goes down, it becomes much more urgent to be able to see.

For that reason, we recommend having a selection of high-powered and durable headlamps and flashlights in your bug-out backpack. Headlamps are fantastic, because you can keep both your hands free. And remember, every well-equipped bug-out bag will also include spare batteries.

Emergency Flares

Depending on the scenario, it may also be useful to pack emergency flares. Flares are extremely useful for signaling for help and providing a source of powerful but short-term lighting.

Emergency Generator

An emergency generator can come in handy in the case of a power outage. Generator technology has significantly improved over the years. Portable generators are now more lightweight than before but just as efficient and powerful. 

Solar Panels

The power grid may go out in a disaster, but the sun will not. That is why you may want to include a portable solar panel in your bug-out backpack. Solar panels can be handy for keeping your devices charged up and ready for usage.

Some may argue that solar panels are too big or bulky, but if all your devices are rechargeable, you may save on space and weight because you no longer need to worry about backup batteries.

First Aid For Your Go Bag

Medicine for a Go Bag

No bug out bag is complete without a first aid kit - you never know when you'll need to patch yourself up. In case of an emergency, hospitals and clinics may not be an option, so it's best to be prepared to handle basic first aid or life-threatening injuries. Trust us, having the right supplies on hand could make all the difference.

There is a lot of information about what to include in your first aid kit. We recommend you research and build a custom first aid kit that suits your needs. We also recommend that you sign up for first aid and CPR classes. However, we would like to make some crucial recommendations based on what we like to include in our emergency first aid kits.

●    Antibacterial wipes

●    Painkillers

●    Gauze pads

●    Sunscreen

●    Medical gloves

●    Adhesive bandages

●    Slings

●    Burn gel ointment

●    Antibiotic ointment

●    Antiseptic wipes

●    Tourniquet

●    Roller gauze

●    Syringe

●    CPR mask

●    Safety pins

●    Triangular bandages

●    Elastic bandage wraps

●    Tweezers

●    Trauma shears

●    Thermometer

Personal Hygiene for Bugging Out

As part of first aid, we would like to include personal hygiene. The reason is that much of what we do daily regarding personal hygiene keeps our bodies happier and healthier.

For example, brushing our teeth and hair, applying skin care products, and shaving can all be important to our well-being, especially during a survival situation. Not so much because shaving itself helps you survive, but because keeping to your routine can help you stay in a healthy headspace.

Yes, some of the less critical daily routines may drop off in a survival scenario, but personal hygiene is a must when it comes to maintaining a routine and keeping our bodies healthy. For that reason, our survival kits always include:

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Toilet paper and facial tissue
  • Important (or prescribed) skin care products
  • Travel-sized soap, shampoo, and conditioner
  • Hairbrush or comb

Bug Out Navigation

Having the right navigation tools in your bug out bag is critical to getting to your bug out location (BOL) safely and efficiently. Whether you're navigating through unfamiliar terrain, bad weather, or other challenges, a map, compass, or GPS device can help you stay on track and reach your destination. Without these essentials, it's all too easy to get lost or disoriented and risk getting stranded in harsh or dangerous conditions. So don't take navigation lightly-pack the right gear and stay on course.

Regional Maps & Compass


Navigating with your bug out bag



Navigating off the grid with a map and compass can be just as important of a skill as navigating with your smartphone. This is especially true if a disaster or emergency has knocked out the power grid and cell phone towers.

That is why we always recommend keeping waterproof and durable topographic maps of your region packed away safely in your bug-out bag. That way, when SHTF and you can no longer rely on your cell phone, you can still get your bearings and figure out where you need to go.

GPS Device

GPS devices have come a long way in the past decade, and are now more powerful than ever. GPS devices are fantastic when you have a power source for recharging and a reliable satellite connection. If you like using GPS devices, we recommend pre-loading them with important waypoints like your BOL, water sources, reliable hunting grounds, and tracks for a more efficient way to hike through the terrain.

Cell Phone

The everyday reliance on modern-day cell phones is through the roof—and for good reason. They are extremely powerful tools that help us stay in touch with friends and family, stay up to date with current news, learn new things, and navigate the world around us.

Supposing there is still reliable cell phone service and satellite connection in whatever disaster scenario you are planning, we recommend you become acquainted with multiple mapping applications so that you can avoid getting lost and always know where you are going.

Other Important Items For Your Bug Out Bag List

Like we said, every bug-out bag is different. So when it comes to other miscellaneous items you might want to include in your kit, we recommend you go with your personal preferences.

Tools belong in your essential bug out bag

Nonetheless, we want to help you brainstorm. Below you will find a list of miscellaneous items we like to include in our bug-out bags.

Miscellaneous Items To Include In Your Bug Out Bag Checklist

●    Ax or hatchet

●    Small shovel

●    Multi-tool or small tool kit

●    Paracord

●    Duct tape

●    Crowbar

●    Folding saw

●    Charging cables

●    Goggles

●    Whistle

●    Compact sewing kit

●    Copies of important documents

●    Emergency cash

●    Prescription drugs

●    Mirror

Maintaining and Storing Your Bug Out Bags

After you assemble your bug-out bag, it’s essential to maintain it and store it properly so that it is ready whenever you might need it.

Keep your bug-out bag in a clean, cool, and dry location. If you can, we recommend you store your bug-out bag wrapped neatly in plastic or in a metal container.

Now and then, it’s essential to revisit your bug-out bag. You should take inventory of what’s included in the bag and replace any items that have gone bad or expired. This is especially important for medications.

Most importantly, we recommend you reevaluate your needs every year and upgrade your bug-out bag accordingly. Your bug-out survival kit should evolve and improve as you and your family’s demands change.

The Power is in the Plan

No bug out bag is useful without a plan

We never know when an emergency may occur. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare supplies and a bug-out kit in multiple places.

    • Home: The bug out kit you keep at home should always be ready. We recommend you store it in a dedicated location where every family member can access it, just in case you need to leave your home quickly.

    • Work: If an emergency occurs and you cannot leave work, you will want emergency supplies to wait out the scenario comfortably. We recommend you prepare at least 24 hours' worth of food, water, and other basic essentials at your workplace.

    • Car: In case you are stranded in your car as you commute to and from work or while running errands, it’s important to keep emergency supplies in your trunk. Food, water, a change of clothes, and a first aid kit are all great items to keep in your car or dedicated high water vehicle or your best bug out vehicle.

Don't wait to start prepping! Being prepared can make a big difference in survival and recovery in case of a severe or life-threatening event. The whole point of prepping is to lessen the chances of things going wrong and to give you the peace of mind to bounce back faster if they do. Get organized and get your bug out bag in order - you'll thank yourself later.

For more help with your bug-out bag and to receive a downloadable PDF version of everything discussed in this article, just click here!

And if you are ready to start your emergency food and water storage, schedule a meeting with one of your Valley Food Storage expertstoday.