If I could have one recommendation for anyone out there who is new to prepping, try to avoid buying a pre-loaded bug out bag. Although you might think there is a threat of impending doom with how current events are playing out, you do indeed have some time to make a bag that is tailored to you. There are many pre-loaded bags out there that are just plain junk, and it is unfortunate that people get sucked into those purchases. There are other bags out there which are “OK”, but are highly marked up in price due to the convenience factor and are not custom tailored to yourself as an individual.
My best advice to you is build you own bug out bag which is customized to your survival needs, skill level and price.
Not everyone’s survival needs are the same! If you live in the desert, your water preparations will look very different compared to someone who lives in a wet climate. Or how about medical needs? If you have diabetes, asthma, or some other chronic condition, your medical category will look very different than someone who is in good health. Get the picture? Know what your geographic needs are based on ideas from local preppers, and also make considerations to your own individual health or other limitations.
While some might argue that everyone needs to learn survival skills because it is your life, simple truth of the matter is that the level of competency varies greatly from one person to the next. In my wife’s BOB, I have some MSR white fuel canisters and a small MSR pocket rocket stove so that she can make fire easily. However, in my BOB, I do not need to carry the extra weight as I can make fire a variety of ways from natural materials. Know where you are at with your skill level and prepare accordingly. You do not want to be in the situation where you do not have the skill level to use the preparations you’ve stored.
We are all on a budget with some more so than others. Perhaps you are on such a tight budget that many of your preps are homemade or scavenged. Cost is a very big factor for a lot of people when purchasing their gear.
This list is meant to be a helpful guide for everyone! Bucketing out your preparations into categories is a good strategy so that you can keep organized and not get overwhelmed. The recommendations I have below are mostly all from Amazon.com, have very good 4-5 star ratings, and some are economical in terms of price. Much of this gear is stuff that I started out with, or even have in my own BOB today. However, as I stress that BOB’s should be customized on survival needs, skill and cost, in no way am I inferring that these are the “must-have” items. Pick and choose what items you might like, or seek out similar alternatives.
The Bag – Your BOB is a very individualized tool. Creek Stewart’s Build the perfect bug out bag is a good book to read. Also read my article Bug Out Bag weight for some additional tips. Make sure you get something with an internal frame if you’re going to be carrying anything over 25+ pounds. If you are interested in my bag (pictured above), it is an Eberlestock Destroyer. It is not a cheap bag, but it is pure awesomeness.
3M N95 Mask ~$14.00 for 20. (Can use the shemagh below in a pinch)
- Clothing – Ensure you have at least 3 pairs of socks! Also ensure that your clothing is considerate of the elements like rain and wind protection, insulation, etc.
- Bug Spray depending on region & season
- Sleeping Pad ~$40.00
- Sleeping Bag (your choice)
- Sleeping bag compression sack – $28.00
- Sleeping Bivy ~$50.00 (incredible warmth & water protection)
- Backup emergency blanket – SOL Emergency Bivy – $6.00
- All Weather Shelter (very compact) or similar tarp/tent or hammock- $60.00
- Shemagh Scarf (multiple uses) ~$15.00
- Sunglasses (especially for snow blindness prevention)
- Water Filter (LifeStraw) ~$18.00
- MSR Sweet Water Purifier (more robust purifier) ~$95.00
- Water purification tablets for backup ~$6.00
- Small plastic tube to reach water in hard places
- Containers – At least 1 metal container for backup boiling. Platypus containers or Camelback bladders are foldable and compact for additional containers.
- Tarps or emergency blankets from above can be used for water procurement.
- Waterproof match storage – $6.00
- Large Ferro Rod – $12.00
- Bic or butane lighter
- Small Candle
- Char Tin (to make char cloth). A small Altoids tin will work.
- Natural or synthetic tinder material
- You can get fancy with potassium permangenate and sugar, a 12V battery and steel wool, magnifying glass, etc. However, the above are the staples of fire making.
- Cooking Dishware – GSI Soloist set – $45.00
- Wood Burning Portable Stove – Solo Stove $70.00
- dehydrated meals or other
- Quick snacks like powerbars
- Small Fishing Kit $12.00 (I’ve made one myself as a DIY with a better hand reel)
- Frog Gig – #3.00
- Dakota animal snares (long term survival) $22.00
- A good knife! Here are some options: Morakniv Companion Knife ~$15.00, ESEE 6 – ~$140.00, Cold Steel Leatherneck – ~$45.00, K-BAR Knife – $65.00, Gerber Ultimate Survival Knife – $37.00
- Knife Sharpener (small, cheap, effective) ~$9.00 or a more robust FjallKniven diamond sharpener – $36.00
- Pocket folding Saw – $25.00
- Flash Lights – Have a headlamp for hands free operation like the PETZL TIKA – $36.00. Have a regular hand flash light like the Coast CRE LED Brand.
- Digging Trowl ~ $5.00 (for wild edibles)
- Military style spade (robust and heavy – for snow or entrenchment) – $42.00
- 100 Feet Paracord
- 200+ feet of Bank Line – The cheaper & more practical paracord alternative
- Duct tape
- Monocular or small binoculars like the Tasco Essentials – $15.00
- Goal zero AA solar recharging kit for electronics – $120.00
- Extra Batteries – Eneloop is a great brand!
Firearm & associated ammunition
- 12″ bolt cutter for fences
- Silva Ranger Compass – $40.00 or Military Lensatic Compass – Camenga Tritium Military Compass (very robust) – $70.00
- Protractor (for UTM maps) – $8.00
- Pocket calculator (for calculating distances on map)
- Ranger beads (for pace counting) – $6.00
- Rite in the Rain waterproof pad – $16.00
- Waterproof map carrier – $17.00
- GPS unit (if you like) – Garmin 62S for Backpackers – $250.00
- Pencil /pens
- For “serious” preppers, also consider bolt cutters or a chain saw in case of locked gates or downed trees.
- Baofeng UV5R+ ~$35.00. Read my article HAM Radio for Beginners for an easy tutorial on this radio.
- Mirror Signaling device -$10.00
- Metal Whistle
Medical / Hygiene
- CAT Tourniquet – $30.00
- Israeli Pressure bandages – $11.00
- SAM Splint – $12.00
- HALO Chest Seals (easy to use for penetrating chest wounds) – $18.00
- ARS Chest Decompression Needle (Advanced & trained use only!!!) – $12.00
- Generic ACE Wraps
- Gauze Rolls
- General bandages (band-aids)
- Steri-Strip 3M Wound Closures (sutures if you have the experience to use them) – $10.00
- Nitrile or Latex gloves $15.00
- Medical tape
- Medical Povidone Iodine – $8.00
- Ammonia Inhalant (revive unconsciousness) – $4.00
- Nasopharyngeal airway – $9.00
- Oral Airways – $5.00
- Celox Blood Clotting agent- $22.00
- Personal medication (asthma, motion sickness, allergies, etc)
- Sterile eye wash
- Feminine care products (tampons have many survival uses)
- Medical Scissors
- Anti Diarrhea tabs
- Temporary dental cement
- Nail Clippers
- Aspirin or other
- Burn Cream
- Antibiotics – Topical (Neosporin) or internal – (long term)
- Toothbrush & paste
- Small bar soap
- Caffeine Tablets ~$8.00 or military caffeine gum ~$25.00
- Pictures of family
- Security items for babies or little ones (stuffed animal, blankie, etc.)
- An anti anxiety essential oil
- Small music player like ipod
- Cash and identification
- Gold or silver bars for barter
I do not claim to know all the best survival gear, but this is a good start. If you have some awesome gear you would like to share with others, make note of it in the comments section below! Cheers!