Bug Out Bag Strategy, by S.G. – Part 1

It’s the middle of the night, and you get a call from the local authorities that a mandatory evacuation has just been ordered because of a major fire. You’ve been given 10 minutes to evacuate because no one expected the fire to turn your way so soon, and you have no time to do anything but grab what you can and jump in your vehicle to head out for parts unknown.

What’s a BOB?

Let’s start with a simple definition of what a bug out bag is. It’s some form of bag or backpack you’ve prepared that you can grab at the drop of a hat when you need to leave right now. Within this bag, you’ve placed items that will make your life bearable in the short term. Ah, but how do you stock it? What are the kinds of things that you’d need to make your situation livable while you’re dealing with an involuntary displacement?

The Bag

As for what to carry all your necessary “stuff” in, it can be anything from a couple of sturdy grocery bags (probably not recommended, considering the state of today’s less-than-satisfactory grocery bags) to a backpack to a duffel bag. What matters is that it’s something that can be easily grabbed on the way out (or even left in the trunk of your vehicle) and is sturdy enough to hold everything without falling apart immediately. A good start would be to look at any of a number of so-called “three day packs” manufactured by a variety of companies. If this is the direction you go, something you might consider is one of the new military-style packs, manufactured by Maxpedition®[1] or Spec-Ops®[2], which allow for attachment of pouches of various types on the outside of the pack, including pouches for everything from Nalgene®[3] water bottles to handheld radios and even specialized pouches for small first aid kits. However, even a simple grade school-type backpack can fit the bill in a pinch, and these can be found in most big box stores for a very easy-on-the-wallet price. The important thing is to find a packing system that works for you.


Now, what to put in your bug out bag? There are some basic items that you need to consider.

The first consideration is basic physical comfort. Since you cannot be sure of how long you’ll be away from home, you should consider having enough clothing for at least five to seven days, with clean undergarments, underwear, and socks being especially important. So, consider three or four shirts, one or two pairs of pants, a week’s worth of undergarments and socks, and a sturdy pair of shoes or light hiking boots. Oh, and don’t forget a sweater or sweatshirt, a good coat (light weight for mild weather and/or heavy duty for colder areas), and a good hat for sun protection. You may also carry gloves and a neck scarf, depending on where you think you might be stranded and the season of year.

You should also have a week’s worth of toiletries. For men, it could be as simple as a comb, razor, tooth brush and toothpaste, shampoo, and soap. For women, the necessities are slightly different. They include similar personal grooming supplies plus feminine supplies and other similar items specific to women, such as feminine pads, tampons, douche, and so forth. The basic toiletries are also necessary for children, including toothpaste and a toothbrush.

Just as important are any dietary supplements you take, as well as a small supply of necessary medications you may require, just in case you forget to grab your regular supply. Ideally, you should have your medications arranged in such a manner that you can put them in a small carry bag you keep nearby, so that you can have all of them available in case of a long term stay. Don’t forget your prescription glasses! Even an outdated pair of glasses with an old prescription is better than nothing. Depending on where you live, including a pair of sunglasses might be included.

It would also be a good idea to have enough sustenance for at least two or three days. This could be in the form of bottled water, figuring about three liters of water per day for a female and four liters for a man[4], assuming typical activity levels. If you’re in a warmer area, carry more water per day. Unfortunately, water is heavy, and there isn’t much you can do about that, except to carry water in bottles rather than large, bulky containers. This way, you can carry a couple bottles with you while leaving the rest in your vehicle, where you should ideally already have a couple cases of bottled water purchased from the local big box warehouse store. As for food, carrying snack-type foods is most convenient; small bags of nuts, jerky, energy bars, and the like are handy. Try to stay away from high sugar items like candy bars, which tend to be “empty calories” that don’t support you as well in a high stress situation, like a mandatory evacuation. While the idea is not to carry gourmet meals wherever you go, you can carry foods that are high in energy (for their size), are easy to consume while on the move, and also taste good. Just consider all the different flavors of jerky and conveniently packed “meat sticks”!

Don’t forget your cell phone and, at minimum, a car charger for it, so you can contact family members. In addition, a small battery-powered transistor radio is a good idea for listening to news reports when you’re away from your vehicle radio. A flashlight with extra batteries is also a good thing to have for finding your way around dark areas. Try and find one that takes the same batteries as your transistor radio. It would be a good idea to have at least a small pocket first aid kit, to which you might add things like eye drops, saline nasal spray, a small bar of soap, and deodorant. If you have babies, bring baby food and a couple of favorite toys. The same goes for pets. They require appropriate food and toys. Also, don’t forget one of the great basics– toilet paper!! You never know when you’re going to need it; while heading out your may find that the restroom in the last gas station out of town is fresh out. You don’t want to start experimenting with unknown leaves on your backside!

You should also have an “important documents” bug-out kit. This includes insurance papers, the deed to your house, important bank documents, plus a list of important phone numbers (relatives, doctors, insurance agent) and ID documents, such as your Social Security card and your passport. If you have room and time and you think it’s important enough, you might want to grab any important family items, such as small pictures or other keepsakes like your grandmother’s wedding ring.

This is, of course, a “short list”– a starting point to be modified to personal need. The important issue is, be prepared; you don’t want to be throwing things in the car at the last minute!

First Aid Kit

It’s late on the second day of a camping trip, and you’re starting to pack things up to head for home. All of a sudden, somebody bumps you with a metal box. The sharp edge digs a gouge in your arm, and you’re bleeding! It’s nothing major, but you’re still dripping blood and you’re worried about getting an infection. Did you bring your first aid kit?

Even a small kit can go a long way in keeping a minor wound from getting really nasty. Having one on hand that’s both simple and useful is actually very easy. Whether you’re carrying a small personal kit in your pocket or you’ve got a more comprehensive model in your vehicle, the process can start with a quick trip to any big box store that has a decent pharmacy.

For a personal kit, light and small is the order of the day. A small pouch with a few small bandages, a small tube of antiseptic, some lip balm, and prescription medications[5] for a day or two is all that’s probably necessary. This is assuming that you’re dealing with a very minor injury. If you’re more seriously injured, you or someone nearby can get you to a hospital.

For a personal bug out bag kit, you want something a little larger. Many big box pharmacies will have first aid kits in small plastic boxes. The one I’ve got is from Johnson & Johnson and purchased at Wal-Mart. It contains some small cleansing wipes, a variety of Band-Aid®s, some Tylenol® (acetaminophen) and Motrin®, and some Cortaid®. This is usually more than enough to deal with minor dents and dings. Another item you should keep and use all the time, especially if you’re fair-skinned and/or operating at high altitude, is a good sunscreen of at least SPF15 (the higher the better), as recommended by the American Melanoma Foundation[6].

For a first aid kit that would go in your vehicle bug out bag, you can start to get more comprehensive. In addition to the above items (which you should increase in number a bit), it would be a good idea to include an ace bandage, a large 2 foot-by-2 foot section of cheap cloth to act as a sling, a small bottle of iodine antiseptic, a couple of needles for piercing blisters and extracting splinters, tweezers, some self-adhesive medical tape, some 5 inch-by-5 inch gauze pads, a small pair of scissors for trimming medical tape, and bandages.

Finally, if you’re really serious about being prepared and you want to be of somewhat more assistance to others in an emergency situation, I would suggest contacting the American Red Cross regarding taking the appropriate courses for First Aid Certification. You might even decide to earn CPR Certification. This way you not only can take care of yourself in the immediate, you can be of service to others.






[5]I’ve got a small pocket first aid kit called an “Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight” which I purchased at the local REI which, minus the prescription medications, fits the bill perfectly.

[6]http://www.melanomafoundation.org/prevention/facts.htm, first bullet point under “How do you select a sunscreen?”