There are a lot of good articles with lists and other information out there to help you figure out what gear you should have, such as my previous article on what you should have in your bug out bag. This post is really just to get you to think outside the box on what gear you might carry or store.
After thinking about it, I thought I should just make a list of some of the things that you may not have considered for your bug out bag gear. It’s a list of the unusual, or the creative.
Some of this stuff will be on lists of necessary items but I chose those here because there are those who may not have considered them even though they may be obvious to a lot of people, or because I had a couple of unusual uses for them that you may not have considered.
Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should run out and buy all this stuff to put in your bag. If you can’t carry the thing, it isn’t gonna help you much and could make things worse. Always keep your stuff as light and small as possible but make sure you don’t have a single point of failure (They called this a SPOF in Warrant Officer school). You should have backups for every critical thing you want to do (make a fire, purify water, etc) in case you lose or break something and varied ways to do something in case the first way doesn’t work.
Just to repeat this – because I still keep seeing people posting some nonsense about “why would you pack 99 things in your bug out bag” or similar,
THIS ISN’T A LIST OF WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR BUG OUT BAG.
THIS IS A LIST OF SUGGESTIONS TO GET YOUR MIND THINKING ABOUT NEW OR BETTER WAYS TO HAVE THE RIGHT GEAR.
Remember, it doesn’t help to have 10 lighters as backup if your environment and skill level won’t let you start a fire with a lighter. Also, remember that you should be carrying quite a bit of water in addition to your gear, so don’t pack too much gear. I pack my bug out bag the same way I pack for deployments – lay out everything I have, put my kit together, make sure I’ve covered the “Two is one and one is none” rule with more than one type of method (it doesn’t do much good to have a lighter as your only backup to your other lighter as your only fire-starting method if a lighter isn’t working when you need it due to wind or whatever), remove what I can live without, re-lay out everything, rinse and repeat.
Here are my top
50 60 99 bug out bag items (so far) that you might not have considered:
- Backup and digital copies of all your important documents and reference information for the area. Digital stuff should be put on a secured thumb drive.
- Weapons cleaning kit and CLP or equivalent.
- gum wrappers to start a fire with a battery (they don’t take up much space).
- Small knife sharpener.
- Tourniquet you can put on with one hand. This is the kind that I carried in Afghanistan.
- Potassium Permanganate for fire starting/wound cleansing/water and some kind of glycerol or sugarfree replacement to match for firestarting. This stuff is getting pretty hard to find nowadays. I had to order mine online.
- Glow Stick Bracelets if you have kids so you can keep track of them while walking at night. You can also use these to mark your gear or a path from your campsite to your toilet area so people don’t lose their way. Get multiple colors so it’s easier to know who’s who.
- Neck Gaiter for cold weather. This is an absolute necessity really. Takes up almost no space and makes a HUGE difference in keeping you warm or the sand out of your face.
- Clotrimazole Foot Cream. This is one of the most important things I carry. I was down for the count in Central America once due to a heavy rash that broke through the skin. Couldn’t walk. Got some of this from a local pharmacy in a nearby town and it went away in just a few hours. Amazing stuff.
- 12v way to power your stuff. This includes a 12v charger plus whatever you need to hook it up. Maybe clips that connect to a battery to give you a power plug or just a good 12V USB charger plug.
- Moleskin for blisters- your feet are super important
- Maps of your area, both digital and protected paper.
- Something metal to boil water and eat/drink in. I use a 24 ounce steel cooking cup. There are plenty of options for this one.
- Good compass like a tritium lensatic compass that I use.
- Fisher Space Bullet Space Pen and Rite in the Rain All Weather Notebook
- Aluminum foil to start a fire or use as a cup/cooking etc. There are lots of uses for aluminum foil.
- A Fresnel Lens – Flat, lightweight and powerful magnifying lens to start fires. Cheap too. (Video)
- 5V portable solar charger and USB battery for your cell phone or other USB things.
- Water filter like the Saywer Mini Filtration System or equivalent that will connect to a Camelbak. I haven’t found a better water filter yet. I even did a review of it.
- Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard PLUS Insect Repellent Moisturizing Lotion – the only thing I’ve ever found to work.
Fluorocarbon fishing line for fishing and/or for cordage/traps. Don’t get monofiliment – it won’t hold up as well.
- Dental floss reel for cordage or fishing line – or for cleaning your teeth. You don’t need the whole case, just take out the reel and put it in something so it doesn’t come untangled. unwaxed dental floss doesn’t burn very easily so it can be used to hold food together over a fire but waxed dental floss can be used for all sorts of things.
- Extra meds you’re on.
- Birth control.
- Vaseline-covered cotton balls or quik-tinder in seal straw segments for tinder – basically, waterproof your tinder. Just don’t cover them completely or they’re harder to light.
- Stormproof Lighter – this one floats too
- Spare batteries or better yet, 5v usb solar charger (above) with Solar Recharging Kit and Rechargeable Batteriesfor whatever you’re carrying. Check out how I put my solar power kit together here.
- Sewing Kit
- Couple of hidden hairpins to pick handcuffs or at least hidden handcuff key
- Spare prescription glasses and/or sunglasses if they’re needed
- Goggles and some kind of scarf or neck gator if you live in a desert (haboobs are pretty nasty). Seriously, get a neck gator. It’s amazing how warm you can be with something you can pull out of your pocket.
- Small container of pine resin if available for wounds, glue, fire staring and more. Not sap – resin. It’s useful stuff.
- Olive oil or coconut oil for cooking/lube/calories/lamp, or just emergency calories.
- Cheap handheld ham radio that will also work on FRS/GMRS like this UV-5R or even better, this BaoFeng BF-F8HP. If you want to transmit on ham frequencies with it, you’ll need to get a ham radio license.
- Family radios for everyone in your group. Preferably ones that will run off AA so you can recharge the batteries as you need to with your USB solar panel and AA charger pack. You can’t expect to keep everyone within eyesight at all times.
- Spare set of socks/underwear – especially hiking socks.
- Some kind of tarp or quality space blanket (not the cheap crappy ones) for sun or rain shade with 550 cord or bungees.
Extra feminine hygiene products.
- Pet antibiotics in case your … fish … catch something they can’t shake.
- Small tube for siphoning. A Shaker siphon would be even better.
- Sleep mask if you’ll be traveling at night and sleeping during the day.
- Tweezers to pull out splinters and thorns so they don’t get infected.
- A A quality emergency blanket and not one of those crappy ones
- VS-17 type of signal panel sewn into the inside of a tent fly or alone.
- Candles or at least candle wicks if you have olive oil or other available.
- Work gloves for heavy/rough objects even when it’s not cold.
- Something like a commando saw or hacksaw blade to cut branches (or tie wraps) with.
- Recent pics and info on all pax in your group in case they go missing.
- Titanium spork because it’s better than eating with your fingers.
- Soft collapsible water bottle (it comes with the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System if you get one of those).
- Waterproof backpack cover. Sucks to get your toilet paper and spare underwear soaked from a rainstorm.
- Signal whistle in case you can’t yell (and it’s louder anyway unless you’re my ex).
- Imodium or equivalent in case you get diarrhea. Don’t use it until you’ve let your body work things out for a bit though or you’ll just be covering the symptoms and not letting your stomach do its stuff.
- Benadryl and/or epi-pen in case someone has an allergic reaction to something.
- List of local repeaters/offsets for a ham radio.
- Hat that covers your ears and neck from sunburn.
- Quick-start or full manuals for any complicated equipment you’re carrying, like the UV-5R ham radio mentioned above (Thanks goes to db in the comments below for reminding me about this one)
- Pantyhose (from the comments). This is a good one. I wear knee high’s under my socks if I’m going on long hikes because it cuts down on blisters but full-on ones (haven’t worn those yet) can be used for things like a replacement fan belt on some older cars or for cordage. Picked up that trick in basic training a few decades ago. I also understand that it was the driving force behind the idea for Under Armour.
- Eyeglass repair kit (from the comments).
- Green laser. I try to always have a laser with me when I’m going downrange even if they don’t give me one. It’s fantastic for signalling for help or just sending a message for a LONG distance if you have line-of-sight. There are definitely cheaper ones than the one I listed but so far they haven’t made it through a deployment. The green ones travel much farther than the red ones, btw.
And now with more feedback from you guys, I’ve updated the list again below:
And now for a biggie (an update I’ve added after TONS of hours of research). The BEST way to stay warm and dry is to carry an ultralight 2-person backpacking tent. The technology on these things have improved dramatically in the past 10 years, and you can get an actual tent for about the same weight (or sometimes less) than a hammock/tarp or just a bivy.
- Trauma shears. The Leatherman Raptor is pretty much the ultimate EMS set of scissors and has 6 EMS tools on it. Botach also has a set of trauma shears that has a fabric ripper built into it.
- Deck of cards. This is especially helpful if you have kids but even if you don’t, cards are a good way to keep your mind occupied if you’re stuck somewhere for a while. Even better than regular cards for your bug out bag would be Wilderness Survival Playing Cards.
- Trail marking tape. This is a good idea to have around your camp so you know which way’s back from the bathroom/food etc, to mark off your traps, or to just let people know which way you’ve gone.
- Tampons. These are good for starting fire, first aid, and for their obvious use.
- Non-lubricated condoms. Condoms can be used to hold water or keep things like tinder or your cell phone dry in wet weather.
- Small dual pencil sharpener. These are great for putting points on the end of sticks for making gigs or arrows, and the shavings make great tinder.
- Small alcohol-burning stove. These are awesome for cooking if you’re bedded down for a while and have flammable alcohol to use. The one I linked to has a small cooking set with it.
- Piano wire. This stuff can be used to make traps, fashioned into a garrote, or for anti-personnel traps or triggers.
- Silver or gold for barter. Yes, you should have some precious metals on you in case SHTF.
- Backpacker’s trowel. Good for digging out your toilet or helping to build a shelter floor.
- Relighting birthday candles. Not just for pranks. Because these things don’t want to go out, they’re great for helping you get a fire started in windy conditions or just keeping you warm for a while in a tent.
- Faraday/RFID shield. Used in case you’d like to protect your phone or other small electronics from an EMP or from being tracked.
- Mini hacksaw. If you don’t have the room for the hacksaw itself, just take a few blades.
- Small multimeter for troubleshooting.
- Chapstick. Definitely needed for chapped lips but you can also put some on cotton or lint as fuel to help start a fire.
- Solar panel, battery charger, and USB battery to charge your cell phone, AA batteries and small electronics.
Cayenne Red Pepper. Good for seasoning, sprinkling around your area to keep away critters, relieving pain, can help stop bleeding, and is a disinfectant.
- Ripstop poncho. Keeps your upper body dry in the rain and can be used as a part of your shelter.
- Military poncho liner blanket. We call these ‘woobies’ in the Army. They’re freaking wonderful to have. Just ask any Soldier who’s been deployed.
- Emergency rations. Make sure you have some kind of food that will hold and has a lot of calories but doesn’t take up too much room.
- Quality fingernail clippers.
- A Kindle Paperwhite with 3G but select ‘without special offers’ so your battery lasts longer. You can get it without the 3G but then you have to be near a wifi to download something. With a kindle, you can store thousands of survival, medical, homesteading, repair, or whatever books on it for a tiny amount of weight. If you have 3G within range, you an just update it as you need to.
- Foam ear plugs to allow you to sleep easier in a noisy environment and can be used as fishing floats.
- Small pry bar.
- Sea salt. Great for seasoning, for keeping salt in your system as you sweat it out, and can help keep meat from spoiling.
- Single serve instant coffee pouches. I’ve used pouches like these TONS of times on convoys. They come in a lot of MREs (not as good as the version I linked to though, I’m sure).
- McNett Outgo Microfiber Towel. I’ve tried several microfiber towels in the past and they all suck – until this one. Don’t buy any other brand unless you compare it to this one. I have two of these and have taken them in my bag to several countries. This one actually works. The others don’t.
- Camelbak Elixir tablets. Contains electrolytes to keep you going and helps your water taste better if you’re getting it from sources that have a funky flavor even after filtering it.
- Large trash bags. With trash bags, you can do all sorts of things like make a poncho, carry water, hold water and heat it over a flame, make cordage, keep clothing dry inside your pack, make field-expedient flotation devices, make a shelter – oh, and hold trash.
- Collapsible camping bowl. Pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have a bowl to eat with, you’ll have to make one. This is much easier and packs flat in your pack. I have the one linked here.
- Large zip ties. These could come in handy for building a shelter, holding someone for a while, emergency repair on your backpack – all sorts of uses.
- Bicycle inner tube. You can make several Ranger Bands (super strong and wide rubber bands to hold things) with one inner tube. Of course, you could always just buy some already made for you.
- Krazy Glue. All sorts of uses, from fixing stuff tho holding small wounds closed.
- pStyle for girls. This is a winner here. Girls on convoys I was on used to use things like this so they didn’t have to go off on their own and take off their pants. Great for women, especially in the winter, because you can pee standing up with your pants still on.
- Heirloom seeds. If you’ve bugged out permanently – or just have to survive for a long time in the wilderness, having seeds ready to plant could really come in handy, and they weigh almost nothing and take up very little space.
- Trumark Slingshots Folding Slingshot. Packs small and gives you something to hunt with that will never run out of ammo, but you can get ammo for it that works really well. You’ll have to practice with it a bit though.
- Small hand crank emergency radio. This particular one has a solar panel and can be charged by USB, which works extremely well if you have a solar panel like theEnerPlex Kickr IV, sCharger 5, or Goal Zero Guide 10.
- Colloidal silver. Don’t know why you’d want it, but a lot of people think it works.
Now obviously you’ve considered a flashlight but look at this one right now that you may not have considered. It’s a tactical flashlight under $5 that’s great for lighting up a big area or focusing to a long distance. I even did a review on it. The reason I put it also on this page is that not everyone considers getting a small flashlight that can also be a floodlight. This one can. You’ll probably end up buying at least a dozen of these though because they’re so cheap you won’t expect how awesome they are. They’re the perfect throwaway flashlight that isn’t built like a throwaway.
Just remember – you really shouldn’t be carrying a lot. These are just ideas to solve a particular problem you might have. You DEFINITELY shouldn’t be carrying all this stuff. So what things can you think of that a lot of people would forget or not think of to put in their bag? Here are some related articles you might want to read:
- The best water filtration system so far: Sawyer MINI review
- Best EDC flashlight value: CREE 7w review
- What to pack in a bugout bag – a comprehensive look
- How much gear should you put in your bug out bag?
- How much water should be in your bug out bag?
- What should you have in your everyday carry (EDC) gear?
- A simple budget EDC kit
- What documents do you need in your bugout bag?
- 12 tips how to pack a survival bugout bag
- Incorporating prepping into your life – Motorcycle EDC
- Choose double duty prepper gear to save weight
- Graywolf’s bug out bag contents list (my go bag)
Anything you can think of that’s not on the list that would be useful to have but people might not have thought of?