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Survival Cache Presents: Building Better Bug-Out-Bags

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The Bug-Out Bag is probably the first thing that you think of when you hear the word ‘preparedness’. Sometimes masquerading under different names such as a BOB, GOOD, NICE, INCH, or whatever else you want to call it, we are talking about the same thing here. A Bug Out Bag is usually designed to get you out of an emergency situation and allow you to survive self-contained for up to 3 days. A lot of people plan their Bug Out Bag to sustain them for much longer than that, but there is always a limit to what you can carry on your back and a 3 day target is a good place to start.


Some questions that are asked frequently run along the lines of: “How do I build an emergency kit, or BOB?” or “How do I know what to pack?” This article is going to help answer those questions.



The process of building a Bug Out Bag can be divided into five easy steps.


1) Determine what you want your BOB to do for you.

2) Research.

3) Select your gear.

4) Testing and Evaluation.

5) Adjust the setup


Step1: Determine what you want your BOB to do for You.

You need to figure out the POU, or Philosophy Of Use. My BOB is designed to support me for 3+ days in an emergency situation, in which I might face hiking over long distances, the need to purify water, procure food, and defend myself against predators both two legged and four legged.


Step 2: Research.

From this perspective you will first have to do some research in order to find items that can allow you to perform these tasks. Picking the tools that can provide you with food, water, shelter, and fire is a long process. You need to consider factors like price, weight, quality and function, and determine what tools serve multiple purposes in order to reduce the amount of tools you carry. I suggest that you try to check out equipment like clothing, tents, knives and other gear in a physical store before you purchase them, or check out what equipment friends, family or professionals that work in your area use.



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Step 3: Select you gear

After you decide what items you want to get, you still have the process of finding the items and buying them. You might already have some of the equipment needed or you might have to buy the equipment. Make sure that you check with your family, friends, eBay, and your local flee market before you buy a piece of equipment. You can often save a lot of money by doing some research.


Looking at Maslow's listing of the priorities for life can help you determine what gear is really necessary. You can also use the Rule of Three’s, which is often taught in wilderness survival courses. This rule states that in extreme circumstances the human body can survive:


3 minutes without air/medical treatment

3 hours without protection (clothing/shelter/fire)

3 days without water (clean/pure)

3 weeks without food


Let's look at how we can address each of those needs.




Despite the fact that this is one of my favorite topics, I am not the one to expound upon it. Simply put, only carry what you know how to use. This is a very important topic, so be sure to get good training and a medical guide appropriate to your situation. I recommend that you get advice from people who know what they are doing, and if at all possible, move to their house post-collapse :-)


Some great places to get medical advice are:

Our Medical Forum

Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy



Good Medical Guides

Emergency First Aid Kits

Edited by Josh_Survivalcache

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The concept of layering is very important here, search the site for some discussion on the topic. As a rule I try not to use any natural fibers other than wool in my clothing choices, just to save on space and weight. I am always found wearing a hat of some kind, and in severe cold I will sleep with a watch or knit type cap on. My best advice on clothing, as in everything else is to be the “grey man”, and try to blend in with your surroundings.



I try to stick with neutral colors, being Brown, Grey, Black, OD Green, Coyote Tan, and even some camouflage.



If your clothing is your first layer of shelter, than your sleeping bag would be your second. I use a super compact bag like a Snugpack, but anything will work.



Your third and final layer of shelter is your dwelling. Whether it be a ultra compact tent, or a simple tarp. clicky

Edited by Josh_Survivalcache

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Fire is very important to survival. With it, I can dry my clothes, keep myself at the critical temperature of 98.6F, boil water, cook my food, keep predatory animals at bay, and raise my morale. You get the point, it does a lot. I keep multiple disposable, adjustable flame lighters stashed throughout my gear.



I keep a dedicated ‘fire kit’ full of fire-starting supplies, but you will also find fire-starters in my cooking kits, with my stove and of course in my pocket.



A large Magnesium/Ferrocerium block firestarter is always something that I will throw in my bags and kits.


Going hand in hand with fire is a source of artificial light. This part is both the easiest, and the most fun. Be sure to read lots of reviews on the light that you plan to buy. Go for high output LEDs, but keep in mind that flashlights are like computers, a better one is born every minute.



For a tactical strength hand held, I prefer a SureFire LX2 Lumamax or a Surefire G2X Pro.

Edited by Josh_Survivalcache

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Your goal for water is to have 1 gallon per person per day. Water is heavy, so having a way to treat it instead of carrying all that you may need is important.



I like 32oz Nalgene Bottles and collapsible canteens like the Platypus Water Bottle.



My water treatment plan is redundant like most of my other important items. This is an area in my kit that needs improvement, I will be upgrading to a MSR Hyperflow Microfilter soon. As a back up, I always carry Auqamira tabs. Coffee filters, or a bandana can go a long way to extending the life of your filter, and are multi use items.



To solve the ever present problem of how to store water in my BOB, I keep enough bottled water stored by my bag that I can just fill up my containers and go.

Edited by Josh_Survivalcache

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Regarding food, simple, light weight, and filling are the only requirements that I have. The three big types of food that you are likely to find in mine, or any other persons BOB are MRE’s, Backpackers Meals, or Mainstay Rations.



MRE’s are a very good bug out food. They have an entire meal in one vacuum sealed bag, most will have an entree, a side meal, a snack, several beverages, a dessert and a condiment packet. The downside is they are big and in my experience it will take two MRE’s per person per day to keep them active, as they only have about 1200 calories. This being said, they have 100% of your FDA’s recommended daily values.



Mainstay rations are what I consider to be one of the ‘perfect’ bug out foods. They dont spoil in heat or cold, have a 5+ year shelf life, and don’t make you too horribly thirsty. Each bar will have from 1200 to 3600 calories, depending on the size that you get. They are very compact, roughly the size of a paperback novel in the 3600 calorie size, which is enough to sustain an adult for up to three days.



Call me biased, but I typically pass on backpacking meals all together. They require water to re-constitute, and are typically more expensive than previously mentioned options. A well rounded food kit would be a combination of the three above mentioned options.


Because my main ration is self contained in either MRE or Mainstay form, I do not have to do a lot of cooking. But when it comes time to do some cooking of supplementary food sources, the lightest weight solution that I have found is a roll of aluminum foil. Just wrap your food and pop it straight on the coals.

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What are some other things that contribute to your survival besides those already mentioned? Let's take a look:



The challenge here is to balance how much you need verses how much you want to bring with you. A good target is to try to keep your number of tools at five or below. As we know, the three basic functions of a cutting implement are to chop, saw, and stab/slice, and we need to include all of these in our planning. These tools would fill the places of 1) a folding pocket knife, 2) a multi-tool, 3) a fixed blade knife, and 4) a muscle powered method to process wood. My suggestions:



1) As your main folder, try to go with a heavy duty locking blade from a reputable manufacturer.



2) There are two main competitors in the multi-tool market: Gerber and Leatherman. The two models that I carry are either a Leatherman Wave or a Gerber MP600.



3) Fixed blades, the ruler of the roost. As much as I love a big blade like a Kershaw Outcast or Parry Blade, it is not always the best tool for the job. A good knife, size and shape wise, would be something along the lines of the Cold Steel SRK.



4) I will usually roll with a saw over an axe, just because of the calorie expenditure to work accomplished ratio. Something along the lines of a SaberCut Saw is usually my big cutter. If I carry an axe at all it will be a Gerber.


Another consideration is weapons. Obviously a firearm of some sort is best for this, though not in all situations. I will not go into specifics about what type of gun you should bring because that is hotly debated and really a personal choice. Take what is comfortable for you.



While far from a survival priority, something that needs to be addressed is your pack. While it may not be a necessity, it sure is a nicety. Your options here are pretty much endless. There are an amazing number of resources out there that can help you determine what bag to get for your needs. I recommend your bag meet these criteria: comfortable and light weight, durable and big enough to carry all of your gear, and finally it has to blend with whatever environment you plan on being in. Please remember that while there are a huge variety of fantastic bags out there, you do not need to get too wrapped up over what bag you use as long as it works for you.


Step 4: Test the Bug Out Bag

After you have put everything together, you still have to test the kit so that you actually know if it performs as intended. Taking the bag for a longer hike in your local terrain can give you the chance to practice skills and see what items are really necessary.


Step 5: Adjust the Setup

After you have tested your Bug Out Bag, make adjustments to the setup as needed. After you have adjusted, take it out for another test run, and repeat the revision process as necessary untill you are happy with your final setup. Remember, the items contained within may be the only items that you have to survive with in the future.


This article is written to give you some ideas of what factors to consider when building a Bug Out Bag. The important thing is that your BOB reflects what you need and is designed for your particular situation. One size does not fit all; this is something that applies to all kinds of crisis preparedness and survival situations. Others can often provide good suggestions and feedback, but in the end you have to make the decisions for yourself.






United States Marine Corps



Ultimate Survival Technologies



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Very good and specific josh! This really helps one think about thier supplies a bit better. All too often we tend to just start throwing stuff in the BOB just to have it and not take the time to think about all the reasons why something should be in there.

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A good ting to do is keep a notebook with an inventory of all the items in your BOB and check them off as you use them or they expire and so on so forth. It makes it easier than digging everything out every few months to remind yourself what the heck is in it.

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A great pack that I have used and liked is the good ole Alice pack with frame. I am issued one for duty being active duty(navy mp) and I liked it's durability and life so I purchased one online at for 80 bucks and I believe it was in better condition than the one I was issued. Even used, you can't go wrong with this pack. It's my choice for my BOB and it is worth it's weight in gold.

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Great thread!!!! Does anyone have a generic list of what they keep in their bag? I'm going camping in a few weeks (first time in years) and I'm making a list of items that my wife asked for to buy me on occasion.

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Great thread!!!! Does anyone have a generic list of what they keep in their bag? I'm going camping in a few weeks (first time in years) and I'm making a list of items that my wife asked for to buy me on occasion.


Theres lots of list out there and in here.


For camping


-Sleeping gear






-Cooking system


-way to make it

-fuel if collecting wood is not an option


-change of cloths

-warm layers


-flash light

-basic repair kit (duct tape, para cord)


-first aid kit


Theres a lot of room to improve on this but it you hit these basics you probably wont die on your camping trip.

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A good ting to do is keep a notebook with an inventory of all the items in your BOB and check them off as you use them or they expire and so on so forth. It makes it easier than digging everything out every few months to remind yourself what the heck is in it.
Tinder wolf im gonna disagree with you slightly! Its not a bad idea to have an inventory of your bob. But You should be pulling items out of your bag regulary to practice using what you have to gain skill knowlege and possibly improve on organization. Right?

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Tinder wolf im gonna disagree with you slightly! Its not a bad idea to have an inventory of your bob. But You should be pulling items out of your bag regulary to practice using what you have to gain skill knowlege and possibly improve on organization. Right?

Yes I do agree with you that you should be using things to better know how to use them and also maintain what is in there but at the same time its nice to be able to flip through a notebook and see that I have ten glowsticks before I go to the store so that I know to get more rather than go through the bad and count them up.

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Josh_survivalcache, GREAT POST! I think what I like best about it, is that it gives a good overall view of what a BOB should be and why. A lot of people who I've helped with BOBs have been dwarfed for a while because at first, all they see is a mess of gear shoved into a backpack. Posts like this are what wake people up about what they need, so that they can build their BOB the way THEY should. Great post.

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