The First 23 Things I Put In My Survival “Go Bag”

go bag contents checklist

Some people might consider a bug-out bag and a 72-hour kit as essentially the same thing. For the purposes of this article, we will consider them as two separate kits. The 72-hour kit is more of a “stay at home and ride out the short-term disaster” kit, while the bug-out bag described below is more of a “grab and go” kit.

The very idea of leaving the security of your home to “bug out” to the woods has never set well with me.

In nearly every instance, it is better to hunker down or “bug in” than to bug out. Why leave the safety and familiar surroundings of your home for the open and unforgiving wilderness? For many people, fleeing is their first line of preparation against disaster.

Unfortunately, most will end up joining the multitude of other refugees freezing in a cave; dying from exposure, starvation, or violence at the hands of the mob; or becoming wards of whatever government entity is still functioning.

I live in a fairly safe area and have prepared to survive at home. I can conceive of only a few scenarios that would force me to leave. Even then, I would go to the house of an out-of-state relative with whom I have an agreement: if need be, he can come to my place or I can go to his after a disaster.

I know what you’re thinking: what about an “end of the world as we know it” type of event? Well, if such an event does take place, there will be no 100 percent safe place for most of us anyway, and do you really think you would be better off trying to hide in the open wilderness than hunkering down at home?

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you should never bug out; you should keep all options open because you never know what you’re going to have to do to survive until the time comes to make that decision.

What I am saying is that there are better ways to survive most disasters than heading into the bush. You need to weigh the risks of bugging out vs. hunkering down and make your final decision based on logic and type of threat.

That’s the way decisions should be made. Unfortunately, when making survival decisions, many people rely on emotion (to run and hide) rather than more tried-and-true logic. Relying on emotion instead of logic can make for some interesting adventures.

However, without sound planning, those adventures are likely to be short-lived. For example, I recently asked a fellow in his late 30s what he would do if disaster struck his area. He thought for a moment and said he would gather his family and all the food, guns, and ammunition he could find and head for the mountains that lie some 75 miles north of his home.

Depending on the type of disaster, his “plan” might work short-term for a lone survivor or a small group of individuals in good physical condition and equipped with proper gear and mindset. But he is the father of a newborn, and his wife thinks missing an appointment at the nail salon is the end of the world as she knows it.

prepper go back checklist

Making matters worse, the young father has no outdoor survival training or skills other than watching reruns of Les Stroud’s Survivorman television show and camping at a national park campground with all the utilities and hookups provided.

Why he thinks he can survive in the wilderness while dragging his young family along, I don’t know. He isn’t thinking logically, and if he ever has to put his plan to the test during a real emergency, his family will likely suffer or possibly even die.

Unfortunately, this “Batman in the boondocks” mentality will continue to be the chosen survival plan for many who haven’t thought survival through logically and come up with a realistic plan.

When making survival plans for your family, you have to honestly weigh the risks of your decision based on logic. In almost every disaster scenario, it is better to stay put (bugging in) or head to a prearranged safe place at an out-of-town relative’s or friend’s house than it is to head to the woods to eat twigs and pine bark.

Therefore, for most people, an evacuation bag is a better choice than a bug-out bag. An evacuation bag should contain the gear necessary to get you from point A to point B, whereas a bug-out bag (in most cases) is geared more toward wilderness survival. I have both, but admittedly my bug-out bag is an option of last resort. Knowing when to go is much more important than the contents of your survival pack or even where you will go.

You don’t want to jump and run before you need to, but if you wait too long you may never reach your destination. If you wait for the authorities to give the order to evacuate, it may already be too late.

The roads leading to safety could be blocked or impassable by motor vehicle, and walking to your destination may be impossible or too dangerous to attempt. On the other hand, if you jump and run in response to every potential disaster, you’ll soon deplete your resources and the patience of your family, school, and employers.

For example, say you live in an area prone to tornadoes, like Texas, and you evacuate to Arkansas (which has also suffered its share of killer tornados over the years) every time the clouds turn dark or the wind shakes the leaves.

You would be on the road nonstop during tornado season—which seems to be most of the time in Texas. But waiting until the twister is at your door will also put you at an unnecessary risk. There are no easy answers.

All you can do is weigh the dangers of bugging out vs. hunkering down logically based on the situation at hand. You have to consider the nature of the threat and ask yourself which option gives you the better chance of surviving the type of disaster you are facing.

Of course, there are times when evacuation is a no-brainer. Say, for example, you live on the Florida coast and a category 5 hurricane has been predicted to hit your area within 72 hours.

In that case, you would be foolish not to go as soon as possible, even if you have no prearranged bug-out location. On the other hand, let’s say there is a snowstorm heading your way and you have food, water, heat, and a way to cook even if the power goes out for an extended time.

Then you are probably better off to hunker down where you are. In my opinion, the bugging out vs. hunkering down debate is moot because it all comes down to the type of threat you face, your personal situation, and your preparedness level. In the end, you’ll have to decide what to do on a case-by-case basis.

Survival Go Bag Checklist

Please note that the following list is intended only as a suggestion. Your bug-out bag should be customized to suit your
individual needs, plans, and location.

  • ❏ Antibacterial hand wipes
  • ❏ Cash—$100 in ones, fives, and tens
  • ❏ Cell phone and charger
  • ❏ Change of clothes
  • ❏ First aid tactical trauma kit
  • ❏ Fishing kit
  • Fixed-blade knife (the linked to knife is the best survival knife available in my opinion)
  • ❏ GPS navigator (handheld)
  • ❏ Handgun and 200+ rounds of ammunition
  • ❏ LED flashlight (small) with extra batteries, as well as a crank-type flashlight that doesn’t require batteries
  • ❏ Lighters – two
  • ❏ Map of area and compass
  • Multitool (the one linked to is the best multi-tool available in my opinion)
  • ❏ OC spray
  • ❏ Paracord, 25 feet
  • ❏ Prepaid calling card
  • ❏ Prescription medications, as needed
  • ❏ Sewing kit (small)
  • ❏ Space blanket
    Sterno folding stove (less than $15 on Amazon)
  • ❏ Trail mix, a box of energy bars (15), and electrolyte packets
  • ❏ Wooden matches in a waterproof container
  • Water filter or bottle

Note: If forced to bug out by car, load both your 72-hour kit and bug-out bags

Special Considerations For Children

In stressful situations, it is important for you to appear relaxed, confident, and in control—even if you are a trembling bag of nerves on the inside. The last thing children need is extra stress brought on by a panicked parent. Another consideration concerning children is familiarity.

During a bug-out situation, you will be away from home, and this can be extremely stressful for children. It is important to eliminate as much of the stress as possible. One way to do this is by bringing along items that are familiar to them. If they have a favorite blanket, pillow, stuffed toy, or other objects that comfort them, be sure to pack it before heading out the door.

This is very important. Children tend to bore easily, so adding items to forestall or extinguish their boredom will make the time away from home much easier for all of you. You may want to put together a pack just for them consisting of toys, books, cards, writing/drawing materials, and games.

Don’t forget extra batteries for those games and toys that need them. Of course, children aren’t the only ones who get bored; include things that will keep your boredom in check as well.

M.D. Creekmore

I've been interested in self-reliance topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find here. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about prepping, homesteading, and self-reliance topics through first-hand experience and now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

14 Responses

  1. Jack says:

    Spot on, MD. The 72-hour bags we put together and are stored at the kid’s school for emergency use are certainly way too heavy for a small child to use as a bug-out bag. The purpose of those kits is to keep the gang well fed, well supplied with water and comfortable until Parents can retrieve them or send transportation to pick them up. They are trained however to find their own way to our home or Grandmother’s home in the opposite direction as a last resort. They would have to shed a good portion of their gear to make the hike. You are correct about parental nerves. I had to carefully choose the gear and plan the practice sessions with the kids. It was a challenge with kids of small stature from a different culture than my own. The only consolation is kids worldwide take comfort in many of the same things. For serious bugging out, I would do far better at sea, away from people and out of the operating range of local small craft. I would also have a huge tactical advantage on the open sea but this is a different subject. I also agree 100% about tailoring your kit to your individual needs and location. Back home in the North East US, we had a few cases of EEE, triple E or Eastern Equine Encephalitis every year or so. Not a big worry. Here in the Philippines, we have a lot of other serious “bugs” to be concerned about. In my location, mosquito-borne dengue fever is supposedly almost non-existent in this part of the province. A small child one street over from us wound up contracting the disease just a few weeks ago. There have been other cases. “Skeeter ” nets and insect protection is super mandatory for those enjoying the woods and jungles or bugging out here. Superior water treatment is a top priority unless you are way up in the mountains with little human activity. We equipped our eldest, 12-year-old Andoy with a money belt when school began. He has far more cash than needed for everyday use but we think he can leverage this to purchase supplies at Sari Sari stores near the school that may remain open (they almost never close here) or it could be the means he uses as “team leader” to bring his siblings safely home. Better to have and not need than to need and not have. I could go on and on as we have many ideas about this subject. I will close by saying thank you MD for yet another great brain-stimulating article.

  2. INPrepper says:

    I have a couple of Wingman multi-tools that I have been using for a few years. They are pretty good economical tools. I like my Swiss Tool X better but for some reason I always have a Wingman on me where ever I am.

  3. G.Go says:

    We have our go bags but plan to use them in only severe cases where we can not stay at home. We also have go bags for our pets.

  4. Crazy Joe says:

    Still laughing ……… ” and his wife thinks missing an appointment at the nail salon is the end of the world as she knows it. ”

    Ah yes , Modern Society Syndrome controls another human . I know the type all to well .

    As far as the 72 hour ( 3 day ) BOB ….. I prefer a 120 hour ( 5 day BOB ) . Depending on the season I can stretch it out to 10 days in the same mid size backpack .

    I always wondered about the fixation on 72 hours these past 20 years .

    I feel adding a thing or two can get one to that 4th & 5th day in the same small or midsize backpack .

    Each season I add or subtract a thing or two . The only problem is I eat the Slim Jim’s before they should be rotated .

  5. ShirlGirl says:

    My get home bags also contain knee, ankle, and wrist braces since I’ve had a few falls this year and would be walking uneven ground. At my age it seems important to support my joints before or after an jnjury.

  6. mom of three says:

    In the last 10 years, since I started reading your sight I went from a 4 &8 &17 year old to a 14, 18, and a married 27 year old step son , a lot has changed and my bags have changed along with them. Hubby, and are 10 years older too but have stayed in pretty good shape we have done more camping found products that work well, for our area. I have a to go bag for our cat, it’s good to travel with your animals, with samples of dry cat food, soft food and a bowl for her to eat out of and she is fine in a travel box to keep her safe. We also have two places to go to if we had a grid down, or a natural disaster. I have seen changes in our local goverment they are doing drills for all the different issues that could happen in are area, we did not see that 20 years ago so I do believe people, and some goverment locals are waking up to disaster prepareness.

  7. Ed says:

    I totally agree with 22 of your 23 items, you are a way off base on the cash, add another zero and you are getting closer for what you may need.(1,000.00) also include a roll of quarters.

  8. Frank Vazquez says:

    I feel that for myself, the best approach is to use one of the shoulder bags (Tactical messenger bags, field bags, etc.) I own to create an urban/wilderness kit that has everyday items such as tissues, a little bit of toilet paper, wipes, and the usual everyday carry items plus a poncho or bivy sack and plastic sheeting or large trash bags to create a shelter.
    My thinking is that it’ll get me started on creating a kit and in the habit of carrying a bag with me all the time, so I’ll have “it” if I need “it” and not end up in a situation where all my stuff except for my pocket knife and a small flashlight is back at my house.
    And of course I would have more gear in my car for handling or dealing with evacuation, bugging out, and to provide more supplies than I have or could carry on my person. I’m not usually more than 5 miles from home, so my EDC kit doesn’t need to be a large or heavy backpack.

    I have lots of survival stuff, but now I need to build my kits. Keep up the good work and I’ll be reading your articles.

    • janet says:

      thanks for your article m.d. as always much appreciated and good to remind families of kids things. thankyou janet.

  9. NANN! says:

    Thanks for this, M.D. While I’ve had my BOB at the ready for years, and updated it regularly, I very recently made my escape from NY and landed in the south (AL). I hadn’t given a thought to getting new local maps. I still have old ones in my BOB and vehicle. I also need to figure out how to keep my food preps at a safe temp, etc. I basically know nothing about this area, and feel like I’m starting over after about 20 years of prepping. I’ll be watching your blog much more closely.

  10. George says:

    Another great article, thank you. I have our vehicle kit, get home bag at work and 72 hours kits ready but the best advise I read, which you’ve reinforced are evacuation bags. We live in an old wooden home in an urban area and realized having to bail out from our upstairs bedrooms due to a fire is a likely risk. Our upstairs bags have cash, meds, hygiene kits, clothes , flashlights and most importantly car keys. We all keep our cell phones on chargers beside our beds so grabbing our kits and phones and scrambling down our roll up ladders would be a safe way out for us. My biggest fear is having to do this when it is -30 out. On another note I broke my wrist on a fishing trip this summer and learned quickly how vulnerable you become in a wilderness environment and later as you recover. It was a humbling experience for someone who thought he was well prepared. Keep up the great work.

  11. AXELSTEVE says:

    We need to remember that every list has a exception for people since we are not the same, no 2 people are for that matter. M D `s list is a very very good one though.