Bug Out Bags: An Essential Part of Your Emergency Plan

Paul Connolly

Water-to-Go North America

They are called bug out bags, go bags, survival bags, survival backpacks, and portable survival kits, but whatever you call them they are an essential part of your emergency planning. In a world where unforeseen emergencies can strike at any moment, being prepared is key to survival. One crucial aspect of emergency preparedness is having a well-equipped bug out bag. A well-planned bug out bag provides all the essentials you need in an emergency because a disaster is the worst time to pull together what you need to survive.  A bit of planning spares you stress and can save lives.  In this guide, we'll explore why you need a bug out bag, provide a practical bug out bag list, discuss the different types of bug out bags, and answer common questions surrounding this essential component of emergency planning.

Readers of this blog can get a 10% discount on Water-to-Go bottles. Use coupon code “BUGOUT” at checkout.

Water to Go

Why you need a bug out bag

The Unpredictability of Emergencies

Emergencies come in various forms – natural disasters, power outages, civil unrest, or even a sudden need to evacuate your home. In such situations, having a bug out bag can be a lifesaver. A bug out bag ensures that you have the necessary supplies to sustain yourself and your loved ones for a short period, allowing you to respond swiftly to unexpected events.

Mobility and Adaptability

Bug out bags, also known as go bags or survival backpacks, are designed for mobility. They contain carefully selected items tailored to support basic survival needs. With a well-prepared bug out bag, you can quickly adapt to changing circumstances and navigate through challenging environments without worrying about having the essentials you need like medications and safe drinking water.

Disaster preparation bug out bag checklist

Peace of Mind

Knowing that you have a bug out bag ready provides peace of mind. In times of crisis, stress levels can skyrocket, and having essential supplies readily available allows you to focus on executing your emergency plan rather than scrambling to gather necessities.

Bug Out Bag Checklist

A well-thought-out bug out bag should cover the basic necessities required for survival. Here's a good list of bug out bag essentials:

1. Water and Water Purification:

2. Food:

  • Non-perishable food items (energy bars, dried fruits, canned goods)
  • Portable cooking equipment (camp stove, mess kit)

3. Shelter and Clothing:

  • Tent or tarp
  • Sleeping bag
  • Extra clothing appropriate for the climate

4. Tools and Navigation:

  • Multi-tool
  • Compass
  • Flashlight with extra batteries

5. First Aid Kit:

  • Bandages, gauze, and adhesive tape
  • Pain relievers
  • Antiseptic wipes

6. Communication:

  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Emergency whistle
  • Cell phone with portable charger

7. Personal Documents:

  • Identification
  • Emergency contact information
  • Important documents in waterproof container

8. Miscellaneous:

  • Cash
  • Duct tape
  • Hygiene products (toothbrush, soap, sanitary items)

Remember to customize your bug out bag based on the specific needs of your family and the potential risks in your area.

Contents of bug out bag including a water filter bottle for survival in emergencies

Importance of Safe Drinking Water in an Emergency

Amidst the chaos of an emergency, access to safe drinking water becomes paramount for survival. According to advice from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it is recommended to store at least one gallon of water per person per day. This ensures an adequate supply for hydration, food preparation, and basic hygiene during unforeseen circumstances. Clean water not only quenches thirst but also plays a crucial role in preventing waterborne diseases that can exacerbate the challenges posed by emergencies.

Adding a reliable water filter bottle can be a game-changer. These bottles are equipped with advanced filtration systems that can effectively remove contaminants, making even questionable water sources safe for consumption. The advantages of a water filter bottle extend beyond its compact size and portability. Its ability to filter out harmful particles, bacteria, and viruses ensures a continuous and renewable source of safe drinking water, mitigating the reliance on pre-packed water supplies. This not only lightens the load of your bug out bag but also provides a sustainable solution for staying hydrated in the face of uncertainty. Be sure to get a water filter bottle that can remove viruses like Hepatitis which are commonly found in drinking water during disasters due to contamination by sewage. As recommended by FEMA, coupling water storage with a reliable water filter bottle can significantly enhance your preparedness for emergencies. Over time, water stored in plastic bottles or jugs can get an unpleasant plastic taste from plastic chemicals leaching into the water. You can solve this problem by pouring the stale water into a water filter bottle which will remove any unpleasant taste and odor.

Types of Bug Out Bags

There is no single best bug out bag, as different bags serve different needs.  Talk about the needs of your family and configure a bug out bag that works for you.

1. 72-Hour Bug Out Bag:

  • Designed to sustain an individual or family for approximately 72 hours.
  • Contains the essentials for short-term survival.

2. Get-Home Bag:

  • Geared towards getting you home safely during an emergency.
  • Typically lighter than a 72-hour bag but still includes necessary supplies.

3. INCH Bag (I'm Never Coming Home):

  • Geared for long-term survival.
  • Contains additional supplies for extended periods, such as food, shelter, and tools.

4. Vehicle Bug Out Bag:

  • Designed to be kept in your vehicle.
  • Contains items needed for vehicular breakdowns or emergencies while on the road.

Couple assessing damage from fire

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth having a bug out bag?

Absolutely. Emergencies can happen at any time, and having a bug out bag can make the difference between being prepared or scrambling to gather necessities during a crisis. It provides peace of mind and enhances your ability to respond effectively to unforeseen events.

When would you need a bug out bag?

You may need a bug out bag in various situations, including natural disasters, power outages, civil unrest, or any event that requires you to evacuate your home quickly. Having a bug out bag ensures you're ready to face uncertainties with the necessary supplies.

What is the difference between a bug out bag and a go bag?

The terms "bug out bag" and "go bag" are often used interchangeably, referring to a portable kit with essential survival items. The primary difference lies in terminology, with "bug out bag" emphasizing preparedness for evacuating home, while "go bag" is a broader term encompassing any portable emergency kit.

What should be in a bug out bag?

A well-rounded bug out bag should include water and water purification, non-perishable food, shelter, clothing, tools, first aid supplies, communication devices, personal documents, and miscellaneous items. Customize your bug out bag based on your family's specific needs and potential risks.

Why do they call it a bug out bag?

No one knows for sure but the term "bug out" originates from military jargon, where soldiers would use it to describe hastily leaving their position or retreat. A bug out bag, therefore, is a portable kit that allows individuals to quickly evacuate or "bug out" from their current location during an emergency.

Water to Go


In conclusion, bug out bags are a crucial component of your emergency preparedness plan. By understanding the importance of having a bug out bag, knowing what items to include, exploring different types of bug out bags, and addressing common questions, you can ensure that you and your loved ones are better equipped to face unforeseen challenges. Stay prepared, stay safe.

 Water to Go


FEMA - Emergency Water Supplies

Additional sources of information about preparing for an emergency:

  • American Red Cross. The American Red Cross is a globally recognized humanitarian organization that offers extensive resources on emergency preparedness. Their website provides detailed guidance on creating a bug out bag, including essential items and tips for different types of emergencies. The American Red Cross is known for its credibility and expertise in disaster response and preparedness.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC, a leading national public health institute in the United States, offers valuable information on emergency preparedness and survival. Their website includes resources on creating emergency kits, including bug out bags, with a focus on health considerations during crises. The CDC's guidance is rooted in scientific expertise, making it a reliable source for comprehensive information on staying safe during emergencies.
Written by Water to Go

Leave a comment