Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

What you need in your bug out bag – a comprehensive look

What should you have in your bug out bag? The comprehensive article - http://graywolfsurvival.com/?p=669What should be in your bug out bag?

A bug out bag is critical but what do you put in it? When considering disaster preparedness, keep in mind that what survival gear and emergency supplies you add to your bug out bag and then pack for your survival kit can mean the difference between life and death, or at least affect your level of comfort if SHTF and you had to get outta dodge.

Keep this in mind though – you can’t carry as much as you think you can if you haven’t been out there actually carrying it. This information that I’m gonna give you isn’t a list of all the things you need to have – it’s a list of things you should consider. You should carry the least amount of things that you possibly can. For further information, read How much gear should you put in your bug out bag? and just as important: How much water should be in your bug out bag?.

Just to give you an idea, most of the time, this is what I keep in my bug out bag. I do have a larger bag that has some of the items below, but those are really luxuries. If you can’t carry your gear for the distance you need to, you might as well save your money and not get it.

What do other people say you should put on your bug out bag list?

There are a LOT of theories out there on what you should put in the contents of your bug out bag. Just to give you a glimpse, here are a few examples from other people:

The Ten Essentials that were first suggested by the Mountaineers in the 1930’s as to what was suggested to bring when traveling in the back country.

  1. Map
  2. Compass
    (optionally supplemented with something like a Garmin Oregon 550 Waterproof Hiking GPS)
  3. Sunglasses
    and sunscreen
  4. Extra food
  5. Extra water
  6. Extra clothes
  7. flashlight
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Firestarter (or matches, chemical heat tabs, canned heat, or a magnesium stick)
  10. Knife

american-red-cross-logo_0_5Here’s what the American Red Cross says should be in your bug out bag inventory:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • LED flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multitool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) – I have a break-down of what documents you may need and how to stash them here
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Space blanket
    (not one of those crappy one-time use ones)
  • Map(s) of the area
  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and activities for children
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Two-way radios
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Manual can opener

And possibly

  • Whistle
  • N95 or surgical masks
  • Matches
  • Rain gear
  • Towels
  • Work gloves
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Household liquid bleach
  • Entertainment items
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

Here’s what FEMA (Ready.gov) says should be on your bug out bag list:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • LED flashlight
    and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar battery charger

They then go on to list several items to have in addition if you can, including a first-aid kit, specialty items and a few other mentioned items. Check the link for exact details.

Those are pretty good examples, and you can see even larger or different bug out bag check lists of what to pack in your go bag at Wikipedia, The Canadian Red Cross, or just start doing Google searches phrases like “bug out bag contents”, “what goes in a bob bag”, or “bug out bag check list”

He breaks it down pretty well and chooses these categories for what to put in your bug out bag and then goes on to explain a bit of the Bug Out Plan:

  • Water & Hydration
  • Food & Food Preparation
  • Clothing
  • Shelter & Bedding
  • Fire
  • First Aid
  • Hygiene
  • Tools
  • Lighting
  • Communication
  • Protection & Self Defense
  • Misc

The nice thing about Creek’s bug out bag list is that he gives you a list of categories and then goes through examples for each. What goes in your survival kit shouldn’t be chosen from a list of items you read from a prepper website – even this one. You should look at these bug out bag lists as examples so you get the idea of what you need and can generate some ideas. What you need is a list of essential bug out bag categories to choose from and then some examples from each to get your mind flowing.

So what should you do to start?

So the first thing you need to do is get a bag. Why on Earth would you do this first? I’ve seen lots of people pick what they need first, and then get a bag to fit it all. This, unfortunately, means picking a bag that suits your contents and not your back. You should get an idea of what kind of bag you’re looking for (everything from your every day carry bag do your SHTF / TEOTWAWKI survival pack) and then fill it with whatever essential items will fit, being careful to leave some room for things you find along the way or other things you decide to pack later on.

By choosing the right bug out bag, or set of bug out bags, you can make sure you can carry the thing for longer distances with greater comfort. It doesn’t do any good to pack 80 pounds of emergency gear into a bag and then bug out into the wilderness, only to have to drop 40 pounds of survival gear because you can’t carry it all. You need to practice wearing your gear in whatever terrain you might need it in. What you can put in it will be based on how much you can carry. Don’t forget that you also need to carry water in it. Here are some thoughts on how much water you should carry.

So what are bug out bags?

5.11 Rush 72 – great bag

There are many names for bug out bags, and actually different types of bags, as well as many definitions and schools of thought for each bag. One of the key things that I try to preach is that your bug out bags shouldn’t look tactical or military. A huge camouflage bug out bag with lots of equipment hanging off of it, worn by a guy in 5.11’s and a khaki shirt screams prepper (amateur one at that) and that guy’ll be a prime target for people with more training than sympathy. Watch your OPSEC when deciding what to wear.

Here are my ideas of the different types of bags:

Bug out bag (BOB bag, Get-Out-Of-Dodge bag (GOOD Bag), E&E (escape and evasion) bag, grab bag, bail-out bag)

This is the generic term for the survival pack you’ll grab if SHTF. It’s not designed to be carried with you at all times but should be available within a few minutes. It’s a good idea to have more than one bob bag to ensure it’s always ready.

EDC (Every day carry)

This is the smallest bag (or pack, or box, or whatever you happen to have it in). It’s basically the stuff you have with you every day. In a lot of cases, it’s not even a pack or case but a list of items you’d have in your pockets, in your wallet, on your belt, or around your neck.

Go bag

A go bag (my personal go bag is linked here) is a bug out bag that can have a specific purpose for a  short-term situation. In Afghanistan, I had a go bag that had my essential items for survival but also for specific missions I might be called out to do.

72-hour bag

A 72 hour bag is a larger version of the bob bag and theoretically holds everything you need to survive for three days. This is highly subjective though, and dependent upon what kind of survival situation you’re in. Your carried water supply should be thought of as separate because it’s one of the most varied survival items based on your situation. A lot of your 72 hours of survival is based on how much water you have. This 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 is a great choice for that, and I’m planning on switching my current pack over to it.

Get Home bag (GHB)

The get home bag is what you carry with you or put in your car if you’re out somewhere and for whatever reason, you have to hump it back to FOB living room.

Vehicle Survival bag or pack

Your car bag should always have essentials for car repair and first aid but you should keep a survival kit in it as well in case you’re caught out without your main bug out bag or if you break down with another person in the car who has to survive with you. My Harley has enough survival and medical equipment on it for me to survive even if I get caught out broken down in the middle of the desert for a couple of days.

Office Kit

This is similar to the vehicle survival bag but it’s kept in your office. It should have enough items if something happened while you were at work such as an earthquake or hurricane.

The INCH bag or box (I’m Never Coming Home bag)

This is the biggest of the bunch. It contains everything you’d need to start over. My INCH bag is definitely separate from my other bags and is kept in an easy-to-get location. It’s essentially a bug out bag on steroids and is designed to be put into whatever vehicle I’m traveling in when I get out of Dodge.

Cache / stache

This could be a bag, box or container and it’s usually placed at a location outside of your home somewhere. It’s designed to hold survival equipment (weapons, money, a bug out bag) so you can get it if you’re out. Some people put them at strategic locations outside of town or even at a friend’s house. One good idea is to have one (or them) located on the way to your bug out shelter where you’re going if SHTF. I’ve written an extensive post on how to plan your cache locations here.

A cache doesn’t have to be outside of your house though. Some people hide survival equipment, money, weapons, or whatever inside their home. The difference here is that this stash isn’t usually easily accessible and it’s usually hidden. What would you do if SHTF and you had to temporarily bug out of your home, or came home and all of your stuff was stolen by looters or thieves? By keeping a bug-in cache plastered behind a wall or in a secret compartment, you ensure that you’ll have essential items when you return. Keeping your preps secret is very important and is part of a good OPSEC Plan.

So what should you have in your bug out bag list?

As mentioned, there are many ways to organize what goes into your survival gear bags or boxes. Each pack should have things from each category represented. Remember: Two is One and One is None. You should overlap different categories so that you’re covered whether you can only grab one survival bag or can get to all of them. Here is how I break down the checklist into different categories of essential survival gear to have in your bob bag:

Most Essential Survival Contents:

  • Water Filters, Purifiers and Storage
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Fire
  • Communication

Next Most Essential Survival Contents:

  • Medical
  • Orienteering
  • Tools / Equipment
  • Power / Light
  • Weapons / Security

Additional Survival Equipment

Keep in mind, in any given situation, what may be most needed may be completely different than in another situation. A winter coat may be completely unnecessary in a desert environment but may be the most important #1 item in the Arctic.

So let’s break these down to give you a few examples of each so you can start to figure out what you need to put into your own bug out bags.

Most Essential Survival Equipment:


Water is usually the most important thing to have. You can only last a few days without it. In an urban situation, you may be able to find water readily but it may not be suitable for drinking. What do you need to pack in your bug out bag for water? There are two main packing considerations; filtering and containers.

Water Filtration. There are many ways to filter water. UV lights, chemical, coagulants, and porous membrane filters, are just examples. Do some research and figure out what you want to carry in each bag. I usually pack a Life Straw in my smaller bags and a SteriPen UV light in the bigger ones. I’ve now changed to a Sawyer Mini. Much better.

Containers. Camelbaks are great to have in your bug out bag because you can carry quite a bit of water in a comfortable way, and access it without having to dig things out. They’re also very weight and space friendly. Canteens or water bottles can also be used. When on tactical missions, I always tried to have a camelback on my armor and also drink from water bottles whenever possible. Don’t forget to have at least one container that’s already full of water in case you don’t come across any to gather or filter for a while.


Obviously food is important but you can go for several weeks without it and survive. The biggest danger of not having food is that your brain requires calories to function and when you’re starving, you’re not going to think properly. You need to consider these in your bug out bag: carried food, hunting, fishing, and trapping. Keep in mind that hooks and nets can be fashioned from items you find in nature so packing items such as a knife can also double as food-procurement items.

Carried food. Try to keep high-calorie / low-weight food in your survival kits. The larger the kit, the more and tastier food you can carry. I keep a small bottle of olive oil in my smaller kits because there’s 120 calories in each tablespoon. You can also double it as fuel for a fire as well.

Hunting.  Weapons are not just used for self-defense. A knife, gun, blowgun, bola, slingshots, or one of many other items can be compact and very helpful when hunting to keep yourself alive in a survival situation.

Fishing. Fish are one of the best items to get in a survival situation and one of the easiest to pack for. A couple of fish hooks take up almost no space and is usually one of the EDC items to carry. The weights and bait can usually be found where you find the fish. You’ll need some kind of line to hang the hooks and since fishing line is great for tying things up, I pack that along with hooks in my smallest bags. In my bigger bags, I keep a small fish net.

Cooking Supplies. Your smaller go bags like the EDC can’t usually carry a lot of cooking supplies but you should put some things in your bigger bags. A titanium canteen cup is lightweight and very useful. They’re expensive but very worth it for a survival bag. Some kind of Camping stove is definitely nice for your medium-size and up bags.

Knife. Because knives are used to hunt for food, great as tools, and one of the oldest weapons known to Man, they’re a no-brainer to be packed in your get out of Dodge bag. I keep a small one in my pocket at all times (part of my EDC system), an exacto blade in my EDC kit, and a knife in each and every level and type of bug out bag I use.

BTW, Survival Life has a free knife giveaway right now (as of this writing so I don’t know if it’ll still be going on by the time you read this. Check it out here.


A backpacking tent is a great thing to carry in your bob bag, but what do you do if you can’t get to or carry a bug out bag large enough to carry one? If you really don’t have any room, consider a tiny space blanket as one of the smallest shelters, but understand they’re  only good for like one use. I keep one in pretty much every survival kit I have. They are only if you have no other choice though because they tear so easily. For medium kits, consider a survival tarp, which can be used to make a field-expedient tent or as a rain-sheltered area outside of your packed tent.

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.

9 ultralight backpacking tent for hiking or bug out bags 600

Exposure doesn’t always come from the air. You can lose a lot of body heat into the ground if you’re not properly insulated. A good sleeping mat may take up a lot of room, and the lighter and more effective ones can be pricey but they’ll not only keep you alive, they’ll make your rest more comfortable.

Depending on your climate, also consider a mosquito net to sleep under if you don’t have a tent. They take up a LOT of room in a survival pack but they were essential when I was in Africa.

A sleeping bag makes things so much nicer when sleeping outside. They take up a lot of room though. In a smaller bag, consider an emergency bivvy.

As with many other categories, a knife is extremely helpful to make survival shelters in the outdoors. Make sure you have one.


There are many, many ways to start a fire in the outdoors. I wrote an article with several videos about some creative ways to start a fire here. If you don’t have the right tools though, it can be extremely difficult. Making fire by rubbing two sticks together is a LOT harder than they make it seem on TV.

will almost always work so keep a couple of them around. Fire is one of the essentials, so I always back those up with other things. There are two main considerations with making fire in a survival situation: ignition and fuel. I’m not going to go through all the methods, because there are hundreds, but here are some ideas…

Chemical. Double-duty is essential to keep weight down in a pack and ensure you have what you need. Some water purification bottles contain potassium permanganate and easily fit into smaller bags. If you combine potassium permanganate and some form of glycerin such as from transmission fluid, gel tablets, brake fluid, or others, it burns extremely hot without having to be lit. It’s a great way to get tinder started in wet environments so I always have some. I still need to experiment on this stuff to see exactly what lights and what doesn’t with it. Not everything out there that is listed actually works. I haven’t found a reliable way to start a fire using this method.

Solar. Bring along a small magnifying lens to start a fire. It’s easy to fit into a small pouch but the smaller ones aren’t too effective in real life. Keep in mind that reflecting a concave surface such as the polished bottom end of a soda or shaping ice into a lens will do the same thing. I found an absolutely fantastic backup way to start a fire by using a cheap fresnel page magnifier that’s about the size of a piece of paper. I did a whole review with video on my here.

Batteries and steel wool. Steel wool is actually a bunch of tiny wires. By rubbing it against a 9v battery, you complete the circuit and the current is enough to burn out the wires. If you are carrying any electronics that require 9v batteries, make sure you bring along steel wool as a tiny addition to your packs. You can use other sizes of batteries but keep in mind that typical ones are only 1.5v so they don’t push nearly the current so you may need several in series for it to work.

Soaking cotton balls or dryer lint in petroleum jelly is a great lightweight and space-saving way to keep fuel to start a fire in your survival kit.

Fire piston. I don’t have one of these fire pistons yet but they look pretty awesome. You basically put a tiny amount of something to burn in it, such as char cloth (link to how I make char cloth), and push down hard. The air pressure increase catches the cloth on fire. I wouldn’t use one of these for a primary or even secondary item on my bug out bag list but they are a pretty cool utilization of basic physics. These fire pistons are pretty cool but I think there are easier ways.

Spark. A steel and flint combination can be used to start a fire also, but as with some of the other methods, doesn’t work well in damp environments. Due to their small size and low weight, I always have one in my pack though and I have an Aurora firestarter on my keychain.



The Yaesu 857d. Best bang for your buck.

Communication is extremely important to add to your bug out bag inventory.

The primary consideration is for rescue. I always have a signaling mirror and a whistle in my packs.

In larger bags, I bring along a VS-17 signaling panel for aerial rescue. It takes up a fair amount of room though so it only goes into my bigger bag.

A cell phone is a no-brainer for communication, as long as you get service. If you have a smart phone, load a GPS app into it so you can let them know your coordinates if you have some kind of radio communication.

I have one of these on my Harley. Super cheap.

Since I have a ham radio license, I have a communications bag just for a portable ham radio that I bring with me whenever possible. I’ll definitely be putting together a post about how to do one of these because I think they’re essential for any prepper’s survival plan. I carry a Yaesu FT-857D portable radio as well as a Yaesu VX-6R handheld ham radio, along with a small motorcycle battery, Solar Battery Charger, and homemade rollup antenna. BTW, these Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way Radios are pretty awesome. They work on ham frequencies as well as FRS/GMRS and are under $40. They’re kinda complicated though so look through youtube for videos on them. There are some pretty thorough ones there.

Next Most Essential Survival Equipment:


A few key items should go into your EDC such as alcohol wipes, antibacterial gel and band-aids but larger bags should have more items. A medical kit is a huge subject in itself so I won’t go into too much detail but here are my essentials that aren’t on everyone else’s first aid kit list:

Clotrimazole. This stuff is just foot fungus gel. It’s a good antifungal and antibiotic ointment. It was a lifesaver when I got crotch rot in Central America one Summer though. A must-have in your SHTF kit.

Moleskin. Moleskin is essential if you start getting blisters, which you most likely will in a SHTF or disaster scenario because you’ll probably be doing a lot more walking than you’re used to.

Sunscreen. Gotta have that in your inventory.

Chap stick. I keep several of these around. Not only is it good for your lips, you can use it with the cotton balls or lint to help start a fire.

Bug repellant. Avon Skin-So-Soft is hands-down the best bug repellant I’ve ever used. I don’t bring anything else.


Map. Make sure you have maps of the area that you’ll be going to. These maps should have enough detail that you can find where you are and where you want to go with no problem. Also, you should have your route maps from your bug out plan.

Compass. Don’t rely on GPS to be there when you need it. There are many reasons for that. I use the same compass at home in my survival kit that the Army issues me.

GPS. Don’t rely completely a GPS, but if you have one, they make life so much easier. The Garmin eTrex is one I’m considering.

Tools / Equipment

Tools are usually heavy so a bug out bag should make the best use of space. I use a Gerber multitool. I’m lucky enough to have had a couple of them issued to me from the Army but I’d buy them if I hadn’t.

Duct tape is another essential consideration. I usually save space by pulling off sections of it and wrapping it around items such as my lighters or canteen cup.

550 cord is a necessity. It has so many uses. Don’t forget that you can pull it apart and use the individual strands as string.

Vice grips are extremely useful but they are heavy for their size. I keep a pair in my medium-sized and up bob bags and always have some in my car.

Power / Light

Light is a necessity to consider for bugging out. LED flashlights are usually the way to go because of how long they last. Their power has increased immensely in the last few years. I always keep a flashlight in my pocket, one in each bag (except my EDC because technically my EDC is a system, not a bag so my pockets count, and at least one spare somewhere else. My car always has at least two and I have a few in my house too.

To run all these flashlights, and other things, you’ll need batteries. One of the best ways to go about this is to get all your items to run on the same size battery. That way you only have to stock one size so you can cut down on the number of spares you’ll have to carry. If you can get a solar charger and rechargeable batteries, you’ll be even better off. I use CR123’s for as many things as I can find but there’s a good argument for using AA batteries due to how easy they are to find. I may end up switching over to all rechargeable AA at some point but I’ll have to replace a lot of flashlights to do that. I’ve switched to AA battery lights so I don’t have to carry as many batteries and I can charge them all with the solar panel, USB battery, wall power, or computer USB. Check out my Almost unlimited power for your camping or bug out bag electronics article if you want to see how I did it..

I found an absolutely screaming deal for a ridiculously bright and cheap AA flashlight that uses a CREE bulb. I liked it so much that I did a complete review on it and I now have several of them all over the house and one in each vehicle. It also happens to be the best selling flashlight on Amazon and is #4 in the entire Tools & Hardware category. I like it so much in fact that I keep buying more. They’re less than $5 and ridiculously bright. I keep one in every vehicle and bag and will be handing them out whenever I forget to buy a gift for someone.

My general system for power is a small solar panel, a Goal Zero AA battery charger, and a USB battery, each of which have USB outputs. The solar charger is powerful enough that it will charge my iPad or iPhone directly even if it’s not 100% sunny out. I’ve developed a whole battery and small electronics power kit that allows me to basically have unlimited power.

The backup battery will charge the iPhone about 4 times before it needs recharged. I usually keep the battery topped up by AC power and then charge it with the solar charger as I need it and use that to charge my electronics instead of using the solar charger directly unless my AC goes down, where I then use the solar charger until nighttime.

For my INCH bag (or box in my case), I have a briefcase-sized folding solar panel and a golf cart battery. I use this stuff for my camper usually but will bring it if I have to head out for a long time.

Weapons / Security

The whole weapons thing is a HUGE topic that’s covered in many different ways with many different points of view. I’ll be covering this one in several posts later but you essentially just need to make sure you pack something to defend yourself. I always carry a pistol, although it’s usually on me. You may even want armor.

I keep spare ammo and a cleaning kit in my bug out bags. You should start with an off-the-shelf cleaning kit to begin with but then add things to suit your needs. One of the first things I added to mine was a dental cleaning kit. Start with a larger dental cleaning kit and pull out the ones you need. For your smaller bags, you may want to consider using a hacksaw and cutting them down to size.

To alert you to people or animals wandering into  your camp in the night, you can string up a circle of fishing line and then hang a bell off of it. It’s cheap, compact and effective.

I don’t personally carry body armor when I’m not in a combat zone due to the immense weight and size but I may break down and get one of the undercover types, or at least get a kevlar fabric vest through one of my contacts.

Additional Survival Equipment


One of the key categories that people miss in packing their bugout bag is documents because they have the mindset that they are going to be stuck out in the middle of the woods somewhere. This may be the case, but hopefully at some point, you’ll make it back to civilization. Even if it’s The End Of The World As We Know It civilization is going to have to start somewhere and having identification and documents from the past may come in handy. Either way, don’t screw yourself by choosing not to carry these essential items. I would suggest laminating everything or at least putting them in waterproof containers somehow.

ID. Bring your driver’s license, any other ID’s such as police or military ID, your passport and your social security card.

Family records. If you have a flood or a fire, or have to head to a bug out location for a while, you don’t want to keep your family records back at the house. Bring your birth certificates, marriage licenses, and anything else that you may have a difficult time replacing.

Vehicle titles. This is especially important for whatever vehicle you take when you get out of Dodge but you should keep them all with you.

Deed. Bring the deed to your house, just as with your vehicle titles.

List of contents. You should actually have several lists for your items and one master list to call them out. I use an Excel Spreadsheet with a tab for every bug out bag I own and then laminate a minimized printed copy of each. This can be a huge asset if you need to find a specific item, especially medical kit equipment (which you should have in a designated area anyway). This way you don’t have to dig through all your stuff to get to something.

Contact list. List everyone you may ever want to contact for whatever reason. Put their phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, family members, and anything else that would help you contact them such as the Ham Radio channels they frequent.

Waterproof paper and space pen. Make sure you always have one of these available. You never know when you’ll need to leave a note, write down directions, or make notes of things you observe while you’re out.


Thumb drive. If you have electronics that work, such as my little eee PC, a thumb drive can really come in handy, especially for documents. Keep an encrypted list of logins and passwords, scanned copies of all documents, and your contact list. If you end up losing all your original documents, your thumb drive may help you rebuild everything.

Cell phone.

iPad or other reading device. This may seem like something frivolous but imagine if  you could have copies of survival manuals or farming ebooks right on hand?

Comfort Items

There are a lot of purists out there who scream out whenever you mention bringing any comfort items, saying it’s a survival situation and not a camping trip. Most of these people have never spent more than a drunk weekend at a camping lodge. I’ve spent over a year in the jungles of Africa and in Central America. When you’re gone for months at a time, comfort becomes a priority. You can only carry so much but a few things like toilet paper, pictures of family, and a paperback book to read can sometimes be worth their weight in gold. Or feathers, if that’s a better analogy.


Speaking of toilet paper, hygiene is important in the field. Proper hygiene will mean less medical problems as well as better morale. I bring a camp towel and liquid soap, compact toothbrush, two travel-sized tubes of toothpaste, eye drops, chap stick, and dental floss. Chap stick and dental floss are key because floss can be used for other things such as tying things together (see #11 on my list of Top 10 bug out bag survival tips).


The most important items to bring along for clothing other than the obvious weather-specific warm or dry gear are; socks, t-shirts, and underwear. Always keep a set of these three items in any bag they’ll fit and then more in bigger bob bags.

Money / Barter

You should consider more than just bringing along your cash and credit cards when trying to figure out what to put in your bugout bag but make sure you keep small bills and change in your survival kits. If you don’t, that $10 item you need badly may end up costing you the $100 bill you thoughtfully packed away because they don’t have change. To protect yourself from a short or long term economic collapse, you may consider gold or silver (see what I think about that here).

Keep these other things in mind when thinking about what to pack in case of emergency:

  • What should you bring with you to trade? Medicine you don’t need could be very valuable to someone else.
  • What skills should you use or learn that might be useful if things go real bad? Make sure you bring any tools or reference materials you’d need to be able to take advantage of your knowlege.
  • What items will probably be more useful than cash in a SHTF event? Having extra food, medicine, alcohol or tobacco could be worth more than cash if SHTF.
  • What things willl you need to barter for in case of emergency? Make sure you pack your essential items that are hard to find or you’ll be trading away all your barterables for them.
  • Extra energy or communications access? Having access to solar power to charge someone’s cell phone or letting them talk to others on your Ham Radio may be extremely valuable if SHTF.

So make sure you do a thorough bugout plan before you decide to make a checklist for your bugout bag. Don’t forget to get your go bags or containers first, based on comfort and utility and then pack them as necessary, leaving some room for future items. Your bugout plan should tell you what bags you’ll need where. Then go through the list of what categories to pack for in your emergency kit and ensure you overlap your supplies.

Remember: when it comes to critical gear (keeping in mind that you shouldn’t carry anything you don’t need): Two is one and one is none.

For more information about what you should have in your bug out bag, check out Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit.

If you want to see what I’ve packed in my bug out bag, check out How to build the ultimate 25 pound bug out bag.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. Yet another fantastic, incredibly well thought out article. You’re fast becoming my favorite lunch time reading, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to write faster (without sacrificing quality of course). 😉 Request: I would love to see an article about preparing an INCH bag. I feel like I’ve got the BOB / 72-hr thing pretty much down, but when I think about what I would need if I were never coming back, let alone how I could possibly get that in a BAG (or whatever), my brain just sort of shuts down. I get as far as seeds, water purification, and underwear, then I panic. Thanks so much!

    • Thx Kristy. At some point I’ll be putting together a whole bugout plan, which will include some INCH bag ideas and all the others. I’ve been kind of hamstrung with just an iPad for a while and then just my iPhone for the past couple of weeks so it’s a bit difficult to make thorough posts but I’m on my last flight home from Afghanistan (bought some gogo inflight time) so I should be able to do a bit more with a real computer and real internet.

      The tough part about doing the INCH bags and the others is that you need to overlap your capabilities as you gain space without having too much duplication. I know in my head how to do it but explaining it all is gonna take some beers and some thinking.

  2. My philosophy on a bob is substantially different. I go by the precept that everything should be modular, and part of the next generation up the scale the bob should be the lowest level. To the military mindset, it would be the escape and evasion kit, a Pilots survival kit of the class that was once mounted to the bottom of the ejection seat on a fighter jet, not the small pocket sized survival kit we see in the forums. A 72 hour kit should add to this with necessary food rations. Since 72 hours is only 3 days, clothing is rarely a necessity other than in specialized cases such as infants and specific weather conditions. Weather should be covered by what you are wearing on your person, and special needs is something that has to be judged accordingly, including the ladies sanitary needs. the next level would be too heavy to carry and would require vehicular transport, or distribution among other people. and the more gear you add, the less food and supplies you will have room for, so this all comes down to no single universal setup, which beings me back to my belief that the bob should be the basic E&E kit and the rest is an adjunct to it, for example a man would not carry feminine sanitary supplies in his but a woman would… it is the most basic of needs.

    • Actually tamping and maxi pads are great to have even for a guy. Great for nose bleeds, bullet wound or serious gash. Those damn this hold a lot lol

  3. In the recent months I’ve been asked to compile lists, build kits and advise item choices for many types of people in many different walks of life. There are so many factors that dictate the what, how much and why that you really are better to be honest with yourself about it. Your location, age, health, knowledge, group size (if any), your medical needs and your threshold of the limit you are willing to reach before giving in will all determine the items, level and expandability of your kit. For some it will be a simple small offering of EDC items, while others will go full tilt with an I.N.C.H. bag. My family has their own bags and as I am the responsible head of them, I carry the INCH. I can carry more, know more of those situations and will pull the extra weight. As I get more up to speed on the site, I will delve deeper into some of this. Learn, suggest and try. For now, everyone stay safe!

  4. GW, I have one exception to your list (well two really but the second is not that serious) first and foremost, You made an error, common to most people who are use to carrying, and living where carrying is an option. That is putting weapons too far down the list in priority. This is a common mistake that WE make when we live with weapons 24/7. We all need to remember that for many people this isn’t the case. For them we need to point out the need of defensive weapons early on in their kits, and that they need to be kept readily available. In true disaster situations, people lose all civilized manners and turn into thugs real quick. looking back to Hurricane Katrina should emphasize this point.

    The second point I wish to make is on the motorcycle battery. I’ve been doing the ham radio field day thing for more years than I care to count. A WET Cell battery such as a motorsports battery is fine for a fixed location but not a wise choice for a bob. even the sealed batteries are a risk as they can crack and leak, and leave sulfuric acid all over your gear as well as your skin. There are many choices of other classes of batteries, gell cells and similar that will do the job, granted with shorter life spans and higher cost, but without the safety issue the liquid electrolyte of the motorcycle battery. We can go on and on and on about the choices and what to look for, but that’s for another time, just being aware of the risk of the acid containment is the big issue on this one.
    Considering that this is a life long endeavor for me, and that I AM an engineer ( we are trained to tear perfection apart and improve it) the fact that I only found two things I “disagree” (best fitting word) is an amazing thing unto itself. Keep up the good work ! Of all the “prepper blogs” ive followed, yours proves to be the best thought out of any I have ever read, and this includes those by the big name, big money “I sell books and gear with my name on it” “experts”

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Thanks Dragon for the kind words.

      My motorcycle battery is a dry cell. I definitely wouldn’t have a wet cell portable system. I guess I should have mentioned that in the article.

      Weapons are definitely an important but I didn’t see any reason to force that issue in this article any more than I did. I did mention weapons 12 times in the article lol. I think discussions of weapons should really have their own focus like I did in this article – http://graywolfsurvival.com/2262/should-preppers-have-guns/

  5. Allan Leigh says

    An exceptional article. Although the one item you missed, which I think you know I am into; is a powerful slingshot, and heavyish lead ammo, which can be substituted for rocks if one has a very light digital scale. This can not only be used for very effective hunting, after one practices for exact shot placement. But also silent defense/offence. Acknowledge not everyone will likely ever have my skill of almost pinpoint accuracy to 50 meters; but realistic hunting provided one can stalk to around 15 meters, is fairly simple. Cheers Allan Leigh

  6. graywolfsurvival says
  7. Survival Skillcraft says

    I recently read the best book on bug out bags called: Realistic Bug Out Bag by Max Cooper. Definately a good book (170+ pages) to check out and full of practical information. It is on Amazon at:


  8. We live in NW Oregon where a 9.2 quake is expected “any time now”. If it occurs, and if we are able to get out of the house or other buildings alive, we will have about 15 minutes to run to high ground which is almost a mile away. We are in our 60s and only moderately fit. We could easily fast-walk that distance in daylight with the ground not moving. Otherwise, doing that with a survival bag, possibly at night with falling trees and torn up, heaving streets will be challenging. So I’d like to keep the bag as light as possible.

    Now this is not the kind of situation that many of you have talked about. Such a quake will knock the entire west coast from northern CA to northern Vancouver Island and 100 or more miles inland back to the stone age. But where we are talking about, survival will not be about fighting amongst ourselves. It will be about keeping warm and dry, having something to eat, possible first aid for ourselves or others, a flashlight and somehow communicating with rescuers. Any suggestions on the type and contents of a bag for this situation that would weigh in under about 12 pounds? Anything heavier will slow us down and we won’t live to use the contents.

  9. Sandy Patterson says

    In my experience maglites, mini and otherwise, are pretty lousy for durability and power to weight. Even the LED conversions aren’t realistically useful. For us mortals who don’t need a 1500 lumen weapon light with IR strobe, Princeton Tec makes good waterproof lights that are rated for use in hazardous environments (firefighter spec basically). The “Attitude” is pretty cheap, small, rugged, common battery type, nice pocket clip, lanyard hole, clear body so you can visually inspect the batteries for leaks, and you don’t have to open it up to check if it’s AA or AAA. Plus it’s not an “indicator”. If after the SHTF you pull out a specialized weapon light with pic rail attachment and red filter in order to show the Nat’l Guardsman your documents they might take a much closer look at the rest of your gear.

  10. Awesome information and I start my prepping – thank you!

  11. Randy Hinson says

    how much do you think a man with 4 kids needs to prep on food ?

  12. I imagine your BOB is ram packed and neatly stowed. What are your thoughts on including a pack away bag? A lot of pack away bags are now available in the UK now that shopping bags are charged. Once you use it in anger, I would think you need more carry space, especially if you start scavenging.

    • Sandy Patterson says

      Simon, I keep a canvas shopping bag in the bottom of my BOB. It has a ton of uses. You can use it to filter water out of muddy ground by digging a hole and lining it with the bag, or by filling the bag with mud and letting it drip out. It makes good material to fix rips and tears in your gear. It’s good for keeping flies off meat, good for putting wet clothes in and hanging on the outside of your pack, good for carried foraged food, good for getting wet and using it to cool things, and like you say, good for packing up all the crap that you’ve Tetris-ized into your bag when you had it on a nice clean, living room floor that doesn’t fit now that you don’t have 4 hours to pack your BOB.

  13. Janet Harris says

    I am 65 and my husband is 70 and recovering from a stroke. I don’t think either of us would be able to carry a bag as large as you say we would need. I can only think of using a travel bag with wheels. Do you think it would work?

  14. Ryan Quintana says

    I have an idea of what shoud go into most of the bags you mentioned (72 hour, bug out, get home, etc.) but this is the first time I have heard about an INCH bag.

    I would think for a bag to fit that description you would need a lot of stuff. What kind of things do you have in there besides the stuff you would have in your standard Bug out Bag?

  15. Can anyone give me a website along with the brand name of a fish antibiotic that is safe for humans?

  16. Infectious Disease: The
    Layman’s Guide to Available
    Antibacterials in Austere
    Settings Paperback – November 16,
    by Joseph Alton MD (Author), Amy Alton ARNP

  17. Great insight. Never hurts to look at things in a more basic way, especially when starting off. I would also add ‘something to light the darkness’ to the list. A flashlight of some sort is a simple solution and comes in handy extremely often.

  18. A flashlight is going into the kit. Probably MagLite unless you know of a better one. It will be supplied w/10 year lithium batteries. Thanks.

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