Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Advice for bug-out bags

We've been wildly busy here in the Lewis household, which is preventing me from posting on this blog as often as I'd like. So, dear readers, forgive me if something new doesn't show up every day. Our schedule will be crazy until the end of the busy season for our woodcraft business, which is mid-October.

However I just received a comment on an older post concerning bug-out bags as follows:

I am new to all of this, but for several several weeks, I've felt like I should be preparing such a bag. I have a few questions. I am in the process of creating a bag, but it seems expensive to stock it all at once, so what are the first 5 things I need put in my emergency kit?

Do I need multiple kits? Home, work, car? Are they all the same or different? I only work a mile from my house if that makes a difference...

What general suggestions or advice would you give to a single, fifty-something. not very physically fit woman both in terms of preparing this kit and preparing both physically and emotionally for a disaster?

Since many heads are better than one -- and since I've been so busy lately -- I thought I'd turn this dear lady's question over to all of you. What are the first five things everyone should have in his/her bug-out bags? Don't overwhelm her with an extensive list; just give what you feel are the most important items.


  1. A gun that you can handle, water plus purification pills, a knife for other then self defense (bonus if you can use it for self defense), high protein low weight food, a tarp/ poncho for shelter.. First aid items would be next on my list

  2. water, (water purification method).,food, shelter, firearm., dual purpose is best.. Self defense & food gathering. First aid.

  3. water, (water purification method).,food, shelter, firearm., dual purpose is best.. Self defense & food gathering. First aid.

  4. I think first you should break it down to what type of disaster you may face ... Hurricane, tornado, ice storm, flood, fire, will you have to evacuate or shelter in place. There are several basic first on the list of items, but the rest depend on the type of disaster. First Aid kit, include a few rolls of vet wrap in it. Blanket, tarp, flashlight or glow sticks, Sterno, toilet paper is nice to have. Crank style radio, change of clothes. Keep a box of canned goods easy to grab and go if needed. Can opener, canned tuna, chili, even canned soup can be eaten cold. Use up your canned stash and replace every 6 months and you are not wasting money on specialty foods you may never eat. If you eat energy or protein bars, keep them with your stash and replace as often as needed. Plus a supply of water. Don't store plastic bottles of water in your vehicle, if you do, use for washing. Everyone has different needs for different emergencies, but the basics are all the same.

  5. water, method of purification, food, method of cooking, shelter, self defense, each in a way that works for you. Yes, I know that is six.

  6. might add a solar powered radio or communication device with light.

  7. Some sort of poncho or other rain gear. You don't realize how cold you will get once soaked, even when it is still 75 degreees outside. A good pair of walking shoes. Even working just a mile from your house can bring torture to your feet if you are walking home in high heels or other uncomfortable footwear. Then it would depend on your area as to whether you should carry either a couple of bottles of water or a life straw. Where I live we seem to be no more than an hour away from water regardless of where we are so water isn't as critical, so a life straw is more than adequate. Then a couple of high energy food bars. Last a good dependable flash light in case you get stuck hiking at night. I keep an LED headlight(you wear it on your head to keep your hands free).

    1. I didn't even finish reading your comment after the second sentence about how cold you can get when you're wet, even if it's "warm" out.

      You're so right!!!

      I do shows like Mrs. Lewis and a while back, I had to tear down my booth in a raging storm. Wind, driving rain, thunder, lightning -- the whole nine yards. I was soaked and scared.

      It had been in the mid 80s that day and I expected to feel "cooled off" by a rain. But there was no respite from the severity, and no where for me to go. I was wet to my bones, miserable and I was freezing!!

      RAIN GEAR!

      Just Me

  8. The suggested list posted by Anonymous 9:54 is a very good one.

    I'd suggest you don't limit yourself to five starter articles, since you probably already have on hand some of the important basics, which are also small and lightweight.

    Add in a cheap lighter/matches(preferably waterproof)and/or a firestriker, a long-burning candle, a small flashlight and a small first aid kit, even if it's only a box of band-aids and some antibiotic ointment. Include a few plastic bags, some toilet paper, which can be smashed to save room, a good swiss army knife or all-in-one and a bandana or two..and your meds.

    A Bible is highly recommended.

    Once you get started you'll begin to get a better sense of what you're doing and what you'd need. You're on the right track and asking good questions.

    A. McSp

    1. Just a side note. If these items are kept in the trunk of your car, consider getting a bees wax candle instead of an ordinary candle. Bees wax has a higher melt temperature than regular wax, so it won't melt all over your stuff.

  9. Water filter straw, Energy bars, poncho/w liner, fire starter, good boots.
    These are the first five low cost items I would get. They cover the need for water, food, shelter, warmth, and transportation. They are lightweight and readily available.

  10. In order of need:
    1) Water (or water purification if you will find a stream on your bug-out route)
    2) Shelter (small tarp and 'mummy bag' especially if it's winter)
    3) Food (lightweight freeze dried... enough for 3 days)
    4) Protection tool (knife, pepper spray, etc)
    5) Fire (matches or lighter)

  11. Before answering what five things are most important here are five questions for you to answer first.

    1] "Where are you bugging out *to*?"
    If you have a destination in mind, the stuff at your destination very much affects what you need to bring. If you're just bugging out to nowhere in the woods you're probably going to die.

    2] "How long will it take you to get there"?
    If you expect to be able to get to your bug out location in a day you probably don't need to bring anything to overnight, it will just slow you down (although it's always good to have some ability to overnight if you are delayed or re-routed). If it's a multi-day hike you will need to think of something to allow you to sleep rough.

    3] "What will you have with you when you leave?"
    If you're a woman and you work in an office in a skirt suit and heels then pants and sensible shoes are must for your bug-out bag. If you are leaving from home you can probably assume you can dress appropriately before you leave.

    4] "What terrain are you going to be bugging out through"?
    If you're bugging out through the woods then camo and a big green rucksack are the way to go. If you're bugging out through the suburbs that’s just going to attract a lot of attention!

    5] "Who is with you"?
    Bugging out alone is different from bugging out with family or friends.

    Without the answers to these questions we can only take a wild guess at the top 5 things you should have:
    1] Water bottle (metal is better than plastic as you can boil water in it)
    2] Water purification (filter or tablets)
    3] Coat to keep the Rain/wind off
    4] Multi-tool / Swiss army knife
    5A] Flashlight (if you are in a built up area)
    5B] Some way to make fire (if you are in a wilderness area)
    If it all really has gone to hell and you're running for your life you won't even be thinking of eating for the first day or two.

    1. ^^^ This^^^^

      My needs as a mom of school aged children in the deep south are very much different from someone in areas where snow/ice are commonplace, and drastically more different than someone in a desert environment (say Phoenix,etc)

      Always stop and think things through...reacting in a panic (oh no, I need **Whatever**) will cost you money and time...

  12. Make or determine one, according where you think you will be when you need to bug out. Say at work , stored in your car you would need walking shoes a rain coat , items that will get you home whether carried in car or if you walk. They need to bear up to high and /or low temps , depending on you area of operations. Bear in mind weight , as ounces become pound when you have to carry it on your back.

  13. I don't have a bag as I am already in the middle of nowhere but I have food in an outbuilding and we have a spring. I need to have some emergency bag so I will work on it. I would think you would want some cash, topo map of your area, enough food to get where you plan to go, fire starter, .22 rifle, fishing line/hooks, container to boil and cook in. Cold weather/rain gear. Probably books written on this subject and it really depends on your plans I guess.

  14. Why the insistence on a firearm? If you can have it, fine, but not in the top 5. Much more practical and reliable is a good knife (or 2 or 3) with a sharpening stone. If you need to hunt food, use your brain and set traps instead of waiting by a tree for a deer or a duck.

    1. Firearms ain't always for hunting.

  15. From my perspective, the most important thing about your BOB is to have one and fight the temptation to pilfer from it. Remember, it is a big part of your emergency PLAN and your SYSTEM to execute the plan.

    Even if, to start, your 'bug out bag' is a box of what you have on hand just kept in a handy spot for a while, that's a great leap forward. I have lots of things in empty pill bottles to keep them from getting lost or accidentally discharging, like small bic lighters and over the counter meds.

    I'd offer that your BOB should be tailored to WHERE you are and where you'd be going if you had to leave home for a while. If you think your most likely scenario is hurricane evacuation by car to a hotel, then changes of clothes, meds and cash may be in the top 3.

    My BOB is tailored to worst case of 'on foot.' I live in the desert, so #1 for me is that the actual bag needs to have a way to carry a fair amount of water. The BAG design and getting the right one is #1 for me. (I am currently saving up for that one, but am using an OK bag with 2 water bottles in the mean time). I can live a few days just on what's in the bag if I'm on foot. It supplements what's in my car if I have the luxury of leaving in my vehicle.

    It rarely rains here, so my poncho is a cheap plastic disposable and wasn't in my top 5.

    Think Maslow's hierarchy. Water, food, shelter, security. I have 3 ways to start a fire (matches, lighter, firesteel) you may want to start with one or two ways. I have multiple ways to get water because it is so scarce here. These include getting it from small or unconventional sources such as a dirty puddle using hydropack pouches. If you have abundant water, you may only need water bottles and ways to strain and purify, like a bandana and purification tablets.

    Food and a way to eat it are a high priority for me. If you take dehydrated or freeze dried, you'll need more water, a way to heat it and a way to eat it (spoon!).

    Rather than 5 'things' I'd suggest 5 capabilities that are most important to you. Staying hydrated, sleeping without pests or rain on you, protection from bad things, light and or heat, something to eat.

    After that you can work on luxuries like a good first aid kit, personal hygiene and a change of clothes (maybe a couple changes of socks and undies).

    I try to keep my pack at about 16 pounds so that with water, my solar charger, protection and my hiking stick I don't exceed 30 pounds. More than that and I move like a snail, so why bug out?

    If you have household members, remember that you can and should eventually have a BOB for each member of the household, according to what they can bear. Once a child is 6 or 7, they can carry a change of clothes, a few snacks and a pint of water. My dog has a pack and carries a supply of her food, a bowl, a brush and about a quart of water. No free rides for those with 4 good legs! I don't have a cat. If you do, you're on your own!

  16. Hard to make a list without knowing all your details.

    1. Lifestraw + Water bottles (you need more water if you live in an area with limited resources)

    2. Fire starter, matches + plus knowledge to start a fire without matches.

    3 Two tarps + Paracord + Mylar blankets for a shelter

    4. 3600 Food Bar

    5. Knife (the best you can afford)

    Other things that you should already have on hand:

    - Change of clothes, 2-3 undies, 3 socks
    -First aid supplies ( you can find band-aids on sale, and ankle wraps at the dollar store)
    - Metal water bottle
    - Good pair of walking shoes
    - Extra personal care supplies (Castile soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloth, tp, etc
    - Duct tape
    - Cash (in small bills) + quarters
    - Copies of important documents.
    - Dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky
    -If you are trained on how to use a firearm, include that with some extra amo
    - Fishing line, hooks
    -Sewing kit
    -Poncho or some big trash bags

  17. Just in case my comment/reply gets missed because of a scroll down, go back and read my reply to Peanut Gallery at 12:17. It's worth it. Protection! Rain gear! Amen!

    Just Me

  18. In order to not overwhelm her, I'd suggest that she start with her purse/handbag. (Or briefcase/satchel/laptop bag if she is a professional more likely to have that handy than a purse.) That way she has essentials like a wallet with small bills of cash/change right at hand.

    To the "normal" purse stuff many ladies carry, I would add:
    1) Method of starting a fire + some tinder (a lighter will already be present if one is a smoker; if not, invest in a Zippo or other sturdy lighter that draws no extra attention if one is cleaning out one's purse somewhere - go with a regular firestarter if one
    doesn't care about prying eyes)

    2) Flashlights...yes, two (at least). One on your keychain (I found a Freedom Proton Micro that can go on a keychain or hook on a coat zipper pull that has several ON settings, rather than the kind you have to hold down to keep the light on) and one with a lanyard (Look for the LifeGear model that has a regular flashlight, a blinking flash mode, and a colored "light stick" mode. This one also includes a whistle built in one end. Very handy and not expensive.)

    3) A bandana or sturdy scarf (if it's "pretty" you can even tie it on the purse strap to save space and no one will think anything of it). I also have a "sweat rag", as we call them - a small terry cloth that was standard when we lived in a subtropical area - everyone carried them for wiping faces, etc in the heat. It has already served me well for this and other things, such as washing kids' faces and shoving on a child's wound on the way to the ER.

    4) Small sewing kit and/or small First Aid kit - better yet, combine these two and other items in an Altoids-type tin (I'm sure she'll find great lists for these with a simple Google search or here on your site), and again, a mint tin draws no eyes when it's in your purse or briefcase.

    5) Gloves. I stuck a pair of suede-type gloves in my purse this winter so I wouldn't forget them - for the summer I've left them in my purse, as hot days heat up my steering wheel very quickly. More than once I've needed the gloves to protect my hands while the AC got going and cooled things down in the vehicle! Also handy for keeping clean while changing a tire, and worst case, protection from the elements or going "hands on" digging through rubble, assisting someone with an injury, etc. Not exactly medical grade but any protection is better than none.

    6) Pocket knife - I know you said 5, but this is awfully important - check local laws regarding blade lengths, etc. first though.

    From there she can work up to various bags, obviously - but just grabbing a few things and adding them to whatever she'd carry out of the house while shopping, visiting friends or at work, and she'll already be better prepared than she was an hour prior. :)


    1. For now, I have a "mini kit" in my purse - which is a small backpack style purse. A real BOB for each family member is on my "to do" list (just in case of some sort of natural or non-natural disaster that might force us to quickly evacuate our home), and a car kit is also needed.

      But for now, in my purse/backpack, I have my mini kit:
      *multi-tool card
      *button compass
      *bandaids (2)
      *alcohol wipes
      *dental floss
      *4 safety pins
      *paper clips
      *magnifying glass (plastic/mini)
      *2 birthday candles
      *folded HD foil
      *small pencil
      *3 firestraws

      I also have a tiny first aid kit/sewing kit in my purse, a small flashlight, a blue-light squeeze light, a small pill bottle with Tylenol, Advil, Benedryl, Imodium, and baby aspirin in it (and the bottle is labeled for med ID purposes). And typical purse stuff (chapstick, sunscreen, compact with a mirror, small nail clippers, and my keychain has a mini Swiss Army knife on it).

      I also have my conceal carry permit, so that's an option as well.

  19. In the past, I heard a wilderness survivalist refer to what he call the "Five Cs" for basic survival.
    They are:
    1. A cutter. Some sort of a bladed instrument or multi tool.
    2. A container. Something to hold your survival equipment and also serve as a water container and cooking implement.
    3. A combustible. Some instrument that can be used to start fires.
    4. A cover. Small tarp or poncho to provide shelter.
    5. Cordage. A ball of heavy twine or 550 cord covers more uses than can be covered in just a few sentences.
    You can pack these few very useful items with minimal weight and then expand your B.O.B. as circumstances dictate.

    1. I think that right there is some of the best advice I've ever heard about a Bug-Out Bag. Given out big this country is, I don't think there's two people reading this blog that will face the same situation in a disaster or emergency.

      Other than that, water filtration is a must. But the "5 Cs" cover just about everything.

  20. I think everyone else has pretty well covered everything so I'm going to make some suggestions where to get some of these items.
    Dollar Store - not the greatest for sturdy long lasting items, but cheap for the beginner until you can afford the better quality stuff.
    For a knife, you might look on Ebay if you have a particular kind in mind. I personally like SOG Revolver knife which is a revolving blade. Has regular knife and can be switched to a saw blade.
    Check out Wal-mart's camping goods. Could pick up a couple of freeze dried meals there and small first aid kit. The main thing is stick to your budget and buy what you can when you can. Prepping is a never ending task.
    Good luck!

  21. 1. Water - probably in a canteen or nalgene water bottle.

    2. Food - small amount, maybe a few power bars

    3. A small tarp - you could use it as a shelter overhead or use it to wrap around you in a rainstorm to keep somewhat dry

    4. A knife - besides it being a tool it could also be used as a weapon

    5. matches/lighters

    That shouldn't cost much at all for those just starting into preparedness.

  22. I would suggest walking the mile to work occasionally to increase your physical fitness, maybe with the bug out bag. Maybe you would need to build up to it, or try it out on a day off, walk part way there and home again. Try different routes. Not always possible due to weather and traveling terrain, but just a thought.

  23. I am new reader & have to say that I'm loving your blog! I'm so glad to find another woman of like minds. I too am a Christian SAHM who homeschools. Looking forward to reading more in the coming days.

  24. A good way to start is to look at how long it will take you to walk home from work. When I started I was less than a half mile from work so all I needed was rain gear, then I picked up more hours in a different office but 5 miles from home, so I added good walking shoes and water. Then I started working in another office 12 miles from home. So I added a couple of high energy bars and flashlight as I could be walking in the dark before I get home. Then another office took me 15 miles from home, so I added a complete change of clothes and a means to start a fire. Then look at the farthest you would travel on a regular basis and adjust accordingly. When you take it in small steps its not as daunting. Again I cannot stress enough how important rain gear is even for short distances. It takes getting caught once and getting soaked to realize how important it is to stay dry in order to stay warm.

  25. For my two cents I would recommend getting the best quality bag you can afford. This will take research on your part and a trip to a local outfitter or sports type store. You need to try on different bags/packs to see what fits you best and what works for your height and weight. Also consider getting something that will carry a heavier load that you can carry right now. You can always get into shape to carry more as you go.

    Get your bag in a neutral color that won't stick out like a sore thumb and keep in mind you want it dark enough that it won't be immediately obvious if you are walking at night. Or if you find what you want on sale in a bright color, you can always get a shroud to cover it.

    You also have to consider how big of a bag and how much you want to carry. You can start with a small bag - fill it with your top 5 priority items and then consider what else you want and get a larger bag and continue with your supplies. Keep in mind that if you attach the small bag to the large one, if you have to travel lighter, you can take the small one and leave the large one.

    Whatever you buy, remember that quality lasts longer and is more expensive. Do your research regarding your top 5 picks and consider that if you have to leave and all you have is your bag, you need one that will stand up to whatever is thrown at you and not fall apart when you need it the most.

    Regarding your car, you can keep additional survival items in a bag or bin in your car. You might want to consider an emergency car bag/kit for car things, like jumper cables, oil, oil filters, et cetera. When you store items in your car, make them an extension of what you have in your BOB. Redundancy in this case is not a bad thing. Your car can become a traveling BOB.

    As for work, if work does not object or even notice or care, take your small BOB as part of your every day work things. Hide your BOB in plain sight if its small enough. Get creative and think outside of the box.

    Whatever choices and decisions you make - do what works best for you and your environment.

    My only other suggestion is to get a quality pair of hiking boots (they provide ankle support as opposed to hiking shoes) and start breaking them in by walking around with your BOB on your back filled with your five and more items as you decide on them. You can add canned goods to the pack to make it heavier.

    This would do two things for you - help you to get more physically fit as walking is good for you, and you would get used to carrying something heavy on your back. If you do this, start out with a relatively light weight and work your way up. It does you no good to over do it.

    As far as getting emotionally ready for a disaster, my only recommendation is imagine what you would do if .... Whatever your disaster scenario is.

    You can start by considering and thinking about how to evacuate your place of employment for a fire or other disaster. You should actually going outside during a fire drill, know where all of the fire exits are and where they lead to. This helps to get your brain prepared to think and process what is going on as opposed to just knee jerk reacting.

    Cultivate the survival mindset. There are plenty of books and information out there. Again you just have to do research. It's simply a matter of training you and your brain to work together to remain calm and steady, using the knowledge you acquire of how to survive and thrive during and after a disaster. OK oversimplification, but, you get the idea.

    Good luck on your research and keep us posted on your progress. Please remember that whatever choices you make for your BOB keep it packed and by your door when you aren't using it. If its not ready to grab and go all your preparations and work does you no good.


  26. The problem is: 1 If you don't know your inexperience will probably get you killed. That is you are going to "bug out" for days, weeks, even longer with equipment you are not familiar with (else why would you ask) and you expect to be better off bugging out???
    2. If your bag is much heavier then about 30 lbs you are going to be like the pioneers of the 1840's who will leave their stuff and bodies along the trail. (if you are a many between 18-30 something and just finished basic training you can probably carry a much heavier bag.)

    My suggestion is set up your bug out bag and take a week long hike by yourself or with your likely partner in a bug out scenario and your wisdom and understanding will grow exponentially.

    The most important thing to have will be good broken in boots or shoes.

  27. First of all what about me?? I am not going to walk any wear fast. I have arthris in my feet and I am on
    a hard core pain pill.Now what kinda bothers me, also
    is where I live. i love, but if there is a disater do
    you all know that we are now under "Peacful Martial Law" and that Obama can suspand Congress for 6 months.
    Now getting back to where I live. The National Guard
    can close all the roads and we are stuck. What about where you all live. Is there more than one way out??
    Also read Last of the Breed by Louis L Amour. It talks
    about servial without any thing in Mother Russia.There
    is alot to be learned from the book
    Any blessings, Debby

  28. This is highly dependent based upon where you live; the BOB for central Arizona, for example, will be different than one for Northern Minnesota.

    That being said, here are my top 5:

    1. Leatherman Multitool.

    2. Water kit (1 gallon water, several clean canteen containers, filter).

    3. Fire kit (1 firesteel, 2 bic lighters, 1 container of waterproof matches).

    4. Small tarp.

    5. 50' of paracord.

    My 2 cents.

  29. All great suggestions! Water, fire, shelter, containers and food are tops on my list.

    I added a small pair of binoculars. The ability to look closer at things from a distance is invaluable.

    As stated before, buy the best you can afford without neglecting the basics.

  30. As far as the national guard or the police placing roadblocks; you need to look for and find trails and backroads in your area. Walking is good excercise so start a walking program to walk one hour or so everyday. Then walk in a different part of your town and outskirts of your town everyday. The shortcuts and trails will appear where you cannot see them from a car. Use Google maps to identify possible routes then go explore them.
    Personally I am not worried about the police or national guard (that could change in the future) I am worried about the gangs and alienated groups who might be roaming around out there after TSHTF.

  31. Some items I haven't seen mentioned:
    Berkey water bottle with built in filter - lightweight and handy.
    Dry jello packs to mix in with water for carbs and protein.
    While she may only work 1 mile from home, there's also the grocery store, mall, dr's office etc that could be farther. A county map should cover it.
    Chapstick... in every purse, BOB, car and deskdrawer :)
    I pack some homeopathic remedies geared toward stress/trauma (aconite) and as mentioned my best stress reliever - a pocket New Testament from Gideons.
    Designing my GHB (get home bag) was very fun for me. Like putting a puzzle together. Praying I'll never need it, but feel better having it.

  32. Hey you were talking about bugging out. Both of these
    ideas may work for bugging out/staying at homw without
    the power,etc.I went to Cosco today in my home town.
    I do not know if Cosco carries this nation wide or not.
    But they had 10 Mountain House dinners for just under
    46 dollars. It worked out to about $4.59 a dinner I
    think. I could only afford to buy one box. But depending how many people are in a family,each may have to carry the contains of a box, if you have to bug out,etc.You may need the energy. Also for those of you who can sew and especally those of us who are in northern states, go the Green Pepper company. They
    have a womens and maybe a mans fairbanks pullover that
    you can make out of a wool blanket.My Ace Hareware store carries new wool blankets for under $18.00.Also you can line the wool pullover with like a cotton sheet, to make it warmer. Also can be warned if you have to walk out in the winter.But any way I don't know if any of this knowledge will work for any of you.
    Hope that it does.
    Also concerning water. If you stay home, buy new those
    five gallon water jugs from Wally world.My husband will not buy used, because you do not know what may have been in the water jugs. Even with new, we bleach out the water about twice a year just to be on the save side.Maybe we are being to safe you do not want to get sick if you don't have to.

  33. Get a bag about 6 feet long with air holes in it.
    Put Daniel Boone in bag.

    - Charlie

  34. If someone has already bagged Daniel Boone, I suggest the following:

    1. sturdy, comfortable shoes and 2 pairs of socks
    2. Gun/ammo
    3. 1 gallon water, iodine, filtration straw, metal container for water/boiling water
    4. trail mix (large) or a couple 3600 cal bars
    5. Map of the area and compass
    6. protective clothing (to keep warm/dry)
    7. Bic lighter
    8. Lancome mascara

    The skill set to use all of the above well in place before disaster strikes.

    You're set!