Building your own "Bug-Out" or "Get Home" Survival Bag

Many survivalists have two classifications (bug-out bag or get home bag) for essentially the same thing; pre-packed gear you can carry to keep you alive should immediate mobilization/evacuation be required to avoid inherent danger and bodily harm. If you carry one of these types of bags in your vehicle, it can also be used to shelter in place in your vehicle during severe weather prohibiting safe travel. The main difference between the two is the Bug-Out Bag is made for long term wilderness survival and generally has more cooking and harvesting tools and equipment. The Get Home Bag’s generally consist of more dry snacks, processed emergency food and athletic energy supplements. So the question everyone needs to ask themselves is “can I pack one bag light enough to serve as both?”

Personally, I have only one and it’s suitable to get home or for heading to the hills. It doesn’t have everything I’d like to carry for simple weight reasons, but that’s the reality of the situation…what do you really need to survive? It can be very easy to get caught up in clever gadgets when building your personal bag; just because it looks good on paper or it’s something you personally want, doesn’t mean you actually need it in survival situations. There are also several items not listed here because they are items I already carry that we covered in the “Must Have’s When Leaving the House” article.

To answer the question of “really need” I have found it very helpful to have an inventory list of the items that are in the bag. I have a printed in the bag and a printed list at home so the family knows what I’m prepared with should I ever need to use it.

It is also helpful for me to have a “prep” bag to support my bug out bag. Wrangler jeans, boots and button down collar shirts consist of my general attire and work great for my daily activities. But if you’ve ever been in wet blue jeans, or hiked rough terrain in cowboy boots, you know these are not ideal for long distance walking, much less bugging out in a hurry. My prep bag is a change of shoes, clothes, a high calorie food supply and water to consume just before “bugging” out. Additionally, this helps keep the actual bug out bag lighter!

So, where to start? Experts on the topic generally classify categories of essential need for bug-out bags into the following:

  • W - Water
  • F - Food
  • C - Clothing
  • S - Shelter
  • B - Basic Gear: Multi Tools & Fire Starting Devices
  • A - First Aid
  • H - Hygiene
  • N - Navigation
  • T – Transmission/Communication
  • D - Self Defense/Weapons
  • P – Packing Equipment

Before we get started a point I’d like to address that I feel many overlook, is this is not something you put together and forget about. The following is my inventory list at the time I wrote this article. It has changed over time and it will change again. There will always be new inventions/products that will change what we pack, knowledge we acquire that will void need of excess along with age specific needs and abilities. Just because it’s on my list for my needs, doesn’t mean it will apply to you. Remove what you don’t feel is necessary and add based on your personal needs, and adjust as time adjusts your needs.

At the bottom of the list, make sure you review Additional Thoughts to Ponder before you start investing in your personal Bug-Out Bag.

Prep Bag – Basic duffle bag with shoulder sling.
Category Item Details
C Hat Bonnie/Safari Style for maximum shade
C Sun Glasses Polarized with neck strap
C Long Sleeve Shirt Outdoor/Safari Style
C Pants Outdoor/Safari Style
C Belt 2inch
C Hiking Boots Lightweight made for long distance
C Socks Breathable hiking socks
B Survival Bracelet Easy way to carry 20 feet of cord
B + D Gerber Leatherman Freehand Multi-Plier Tool

Bug-Out Bag – Mine is the Camelback brand with in a “tactical” design compatible with the Molle & SlickStick System which is basically a modern version of military web gear. This allows for adding additional, customized storage for specialty items that are otherwise hard to pack in a backpack or you need quick access to without unpacking.

Main Compartment
Category Item Details
W 100 oz. Water Bladder Came with the backpack and has it's own compartment.
W Katadyn Water Filter Hiker Pro, 300 gallons per filter
F Camp Fire Grill Explorer model
F Cooking Pot Cook N' Save Brand
F Sporke Fork and Spoon Combo
C Head Wrap/Shemgah For dust and extra protection against direct sunlight. VooDoo Tactical is a pretty good brand.
C Jacket Weatherproof – most ‘waterproof’ I have found are too stiff and noisy for my personal taste.
C Gloves Leather or other strong material
C Socks & Underwear Two pair for a total three.
C + S Poncho Use as a pullover or tie between objects for a cover/tent.
H Portable Bidet Sanicare Travelmate – It sounds silly and you will need water, but until I find another way to stay clean once the paper is out, I’ll tote it along.
T + N Solar Powered Radio Kaito Model KA350. Monitoring weather and emergency PSA’s could greatly change your course/destination.
B + S Roll of Fishing Twine Good for lashing limbs together for a shelter, building small game traps, etc. 1000 ft. only weights about 3oz.


Second Compartment
Category Item Details
W LifeStraw Filters 260 gallons of water www.buylifestraw.com
F Energy Bars Mainstay Brand by Survivor Industries, Inc.
N + T Compass The desert is pretty easy to navigate with all the open sky we have. But get into dense growth or a low clouds and you will need one to keep on track. If you purchase one with a mirror it can also be used to signal as well.
B Butane Lighter Delta Stormproof Windmill
B HotSpark
B Travelers Sewing Kit
H MultiTowel
H CampSuds Bio Soap Sure this is a commodity in an emergency situation and will run out in a short period of time. But there is no reason to not try and maintain some form of cleanliness.
H Body Glide anit-chafe Another commodity that will be short live but much appreciated in the heat of the summer.
H Hand Sanitizer www.drbronner.com
H Insect Repellant Many desert residence from other parts of America will laugh when they read this line because “this ain’t nothing compared to back home.” True as that may be, if you’ve even been around the lakes and streams (which is likely where you will head for water) on a summers night, you know Arizona has plenty of misquotes and other biting insects. Ultrathon.
P Water Proof Map sleeve Contaiging the following four items
N Maps Local road map and a satellite map of basic travel routes with marked paths to safe locations, water sources, etc. Having these scouted out ahead of time will be a great help if ever end up in a bug-out situation.
B + T Pocket Constitution Know your rights and stay clear of public set up shelters if at all possible. You’re prepared so you don’t have to be subject to “assistance.”
B USA Passport / Legal ID
B $500 Combination of cash and silver coins.

Right Side Attachment
B + T Tomahawk In my opinion, the tomahawk is one of the simplest and most versatile tools ever invented. Variations can be found in all parts of history from the Romans to American Indians. I like the Benchmade 172.

Rear Attachment Pouch #1
Category Item Details
P Pouch Pack 511 Tactical 6x10 Vertical
W Water Purification Tablets Potable Aqua treats 25 quarts of water.
B Hand Saw Unbelievable Chain Saw
B + N Tactical Flashlight Sure Fire Defender
B Binocular Simmons Realtree
T + N Glow Stick Flashlight + Flasher + Whistle mainly for non-verbal, night time communication with family & friends who all have a standard signal and response for various message.
B Candles I’ve never seen this listed for Bug-Out bags but I think they are great for starting fire in moist conditions without using up butane or multiple matches. I even make my own out of used shotgun shells. Each burns around 30 minutes depending on temperature and elevation.
H Roll of toilet paper Removing the cardboard center will allow you to flatten and save space.
H Hair Comb or Brush
H Hair Scissors
H Straight Edge Razor
B + D Bear Grylls Ultimate Gerber Fix Blade with Sharpener
A Adventure Med Kit Hybrid 3 Kit
A QuikClot www.quikclot.com
P Water Proof Electronic Bag Loksak Brand containing the following five items.
T All-Weather Notebook www.riteintherain.com
T .7 Mechanical Pencil
A First Aid Tape Waterproof, ½ inch x 5 yards
B StoreProof Matches www.industrialrev.com

Rear Attachment Pouch #2
Category Item Details
P Pouch Pack 511 Tactical 6x6 Square
F Food Supply Nuts, dehydrated foods, candy bars, energy supplements, and seasoning for game harvesting.

Hand Carry Item
Category Item Details
F + D .22 Rifle + Ammo I would prefer a shotgun but the ammo is heavy and bulky. With a sharp eye and steady aim, one could live a LONG time on small game with 300 rounds of .22 long rifle.



Additional items worth consideration:

  • Folding Shovel
  • Survival Blanket, also commonly called space blankets.
  • Gaiters for high mountain and winter use. Aside from being submerged in water, nothing will get your feet wetter faster than walking through high grasslands and mountain meadows on a dew saturated morning.
  • Magnifying Glass - Alternative fire starting method.
  • Sling Shot – Great way to harvest game without being tied to trap locations or giving away your position with gun shots.
  • Auto Reel Yo Yo - If you’re in an area with reliable fishing, one if not two would be perfect for food harvesting.
  • Bible and a Wilderness Survival Book – Your mind can be your worst enemy. Have something to read to keep you alive and for mental health and hope.


Additional Thoughts To Ponder:

Practice Survival: How far can you walk in the desert with 100 oz. of water and a 40 pound backpack? Do you know how to condense humidity into liquid for drinking water? If you melt a cup of snow, how much drinking water will it produce? What plants are safe for human consumption? Can you start a fire without a match? Do you know how to locate the North Star? Or name and tie ten basic knots? These tasks may seem rudimentary to the modern world, but they are the basics that can keep you alive in emergency situations. Reading about preparedness on the internet or in a book or talking about it with piers is not enough. You must practice and live it.

Two is One; One is None: This phrase you will hear at virtually every wilderness survival or emergency preparedness class. This saying can apply to people too; have a support group and never go at it along when you can travel with someone you know and trust.

Test Your Gear: Don’t just buy something to cross it off your checklist and pack it away without making sure you know how to use it and that it works and servers its purpose.

Have a Plan: If you needed to bug-out where would you go? What route would you take to get there? What neighborhoods, roads, rivers, canyons or other obstacles could lie in route? Think about evacuating different locations from your home, to the office, a freeway, your friend’s house across town, or your kid’s school, etc.

Bug-Out Bag’s for every member of the house: As previously mentioned, age has a great factor in the contents of your bug-out bag…as will gender, height and health. Ensure everyone in the house is prepared to move as fast as you are, should you ever need to. For those with pre-teen children, please reference our Emergency Preparedness article on Entertainment.

Night Navigation: In the extreme heat of the summer, be prepared to lay in the shade to conserve water and avoid heat stroke. Save travel time for dawn, dusk and by moonlight if you are capable.

Update Your Bag Seasonally. In the summer, you will need less clothing, but more water and you may want to make adjustments accordingly. If nothing else, it’s good practice to annually unpack your bag, analyze the contents, change out water and re-pack.

Cache locations: If your pre-determined bug-out route to safety is more than twice the walking distance you have a reliable water supply for, you may consider hiding a waterproof cache with extra water, dehydrated food and ammo. I would not over invest in these as they very possibly could be accidently found and stolen or washed away in a storm. It’s also unlikely in the event you would need to bug out that you will be conveniently in line with the cache and your destination of safety. However, my home and office are over 50 miles apart and due to how much time I spend at work, I have two caches between the locations to aid getting home if I ever needed to do so on foot.

Metal vs. Plastic: Although generally lighter, I tend to stay away from plastic equipment/parts if sturdier metal options are available.

Electronics: In many articles I have seen a number of electronic devises mentioned along with extra batteries, solar rechargers and the cables that go with them. Perhaps I’m missing something but for me personally I’ve never had an electronic devise that didn’t have a short life span, and I see little benefit to using up packing space on something that will eventually just break anyway. If you are considering a GPS, two way radios, tablets or anything that takes batteries…what are your plans after you run out of batteries or its breaks? For me and electronics, less is more and I just assume to learn to live without them in a survival setting.


Retailers – Local and online retailers for the items listed on this page.

Retailer Arizona Location(s) Online Store
Gear Up Scottsdale www.gearupcenter.com
Summit Hut Tucson & Oro Valley www.summithut.com
Off the Grid Survival Gear Prescott www.offthegridsurvivalgear.com
The Preparedness Shop Cottonwood www.thepreparednessshop.com
R.E.I. Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson www.rei.com

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