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Bug Out Kits
© 2006

Way more information than you ever thought you'd need to know...

Several years ago my eldest daughter moved to a coastal community in Northern California. She said it was a step up from where she was living before, New York City. I said that she was nuts to live in either place, but, you know what "advice from Dad"

That Christmas, almost as a joke, my wife and I sat down and decided we would make an emergency Bug Out Kit with the California Earthquake in mind. We designed it for the single woman, alone, with almost no survival instinct. She gets lost in a mall. By the time we were finished, we had spent well over a hundred dollars, and been to at least 25 stores to round up the equipment we thought she would need. Also included was a copy of my first survival book, available only to family members. On Christmas eve, she and her friends sat around opening presents, and they "all had a good laugh at my gift".

As it turned out, only a few weeks after she received our present, her area of California was rocked by an earthquake. Not a severe quake, just one to let you know who's in charge. My daughter is a stand-up gal. She called me that night and she admitted to me that the first thing that she thought of when the dishes started rattling, was "Where did I put that kit?". She still has it years later.

The moral to this story is that you can't use something you do not have.

What's important is that YOU work out your own problems. The first, and most important, is whether or not to leave home. Only you can make that decision based on what is happening in your neighborhood. Contrary to what the late "Mister Rodgers" sang, it's not always "a wonderful day in the neighborhood". Sometimes it can just plain suck.


Here's some sample ideas on what each type kit should contain:

INDIVIDUAL BUG OUT KIT (One for Each Person)

All this should fit inside 1 pack you can carry on your back and still walk away.

  1. Water. 1 Quart per day. Plan on 5 days. In winter, store near doorway, not in the car. Water is for drinking and cooking only, not bathing or washing. Can be plastic bottles but I prefer metal canteens.
  2. Clothing. Enough for 5 days. Plan on cold weather. Go layered, not 1 or 2 heavy items. Lots of sox.
  3. Rain Gear and/or Snow Gear. I recommend the US Military Poncho, it has more uses.
  4. Sun Glasses and extra Prescription Glasses (if needed).
  5. Hats and gloves.
  6. Food. Dehydrated preferred; such as MRE's or Mountain Home Freeze Dried Meals. One meal a day plus high energy snacks in between.
  7. First Aid Kit. I will have a special article on the first aid kit in the future.
  8. Medications: At least a 30 day supply of all your medical needs, including aspirin/Motrin, etc.
  9. Women: Feminine hygiene items. Plan on at least 2 cycles away from civilization.
  10. Knife: Sheath knife preferred, but a strong folding knife is OK. Don't skimp. Get a good knife.
  11. Multi-tool. Buy a good set, not a cheap set. It must be stainless steel, and have as many gadgets that you can get for your money. Avoid the Swiss Army Knives. They aren't worth the price.
  12. Compass. A good quality lens-type compass for map reading.
  13. Maps. State and local areas of where you are and another for where you are going.
  14. Personal Protection Device: Stun gun, mace, small arms, shotgun, whatever you decide is necessary for your own protection. Like a knife, it may have it's own belt-mounted holster or sheath.
  15. Toiletry kit: Like ammunition, Toilet Paper will be in short supply. More is better. Shaving gear if needed (I don't carry it). Soap and small towel is important for hygiene purposes. Other items "you can't live without. Toothbrush, small toothpaste. Try to limit yourself to 6 items.
  16. Utensil Kit: Usually a small pan that houses knife, fork and spoon. Keep it small.
  17. One person sleeping bag. These are sold as to various degrees of cold they will withstand. Pick one suitable to the worst case scenario in your area...then pick the next lowest setting. Buy that one.
  18. One person tent. A weatherproof nylon kit should suffice to keep out of the wind and rain.
  19. Fire starting equipment: Waterproof matches, tinder kit (char cloth), flint and steel, butane lighters, or anything else that will be light weight and start a lot of fires...not just one fire.
  20. Personal survival gear such as hand-held fishing gear, bow & arrow, etc. If your multi-tool doesn't have a can opener attachment, include one here.


Keep in one container (except tires) and packed as tightly as possible to conserve space.
  1. Spare tire(s). Have two tires with rims, fully inflated. Do NOT rely on those cheap "wannbe tires" that most new cars come with. Trucks have full sized spare tires, so should cars.
  2. 12 Volt tire inflation pump (kit).
  3. Extra motor belts. Extra radiator hoses. Oil, engine and transmission. Wiper fluid. Antifreeze. Headlights and interior lights.
  4. Tools to do automotive repairs. Some newer tool kits are very compact.
  5. 10-ton hydraulic jack. This is in addition to the car jack. I use mine A LOT.
  6. Tire chains if snow driving is even a possibility. Not a high priority Florida item.
  7. Map set for driving almost anywhere in the country. Road Atlas is an option here.
  8. Compass for car.
  9. Optional: 40 channel Citizen band radio with high power booster.
  10. Optional: Satellite Navigation Transceiver. Portable, battery powered. Spare batteries.
  11. 1 Roll of heavy-duty plastic sheeting.
  12. 2 to 4 rolls of duct tape.
  13. 100 feet of 1/2" braided nylon rope, or larger.
  14. Extra ammunition for selected weapons. Keep stored (locked) separately from weapons.
  15. Fishing equipment and/or trapping equipment.
  16. Spool of wire suitable for trapping. Later article will cover more on trapping small animals.
  17. Hand powered tool kit: Hand drill, hammer, nails, plane, hand saws, etc. No electrical tools.
  18. Axe and wood splitting tools.
  19. Camping equipment such as Coleman stoves and lanterns, fuel for stoves and lanterns, other small items to make camping life easier.
  20. Optional: Machete. I use mine a lot clearing campsites of unwanted brush.
  21. Water: Extra water should be just left in the car (except in the winter when it freezes). It doesn't go bad and it insures that you have sufficient water to drive for extended periods of time. I think the "sport" type bottles are good here since they are resealable and don't spill easily. In winter, keep water inside heated area of vehicle and remove it when not using the vehicle. Don't let it freeze or the plastic containers may crack and leak.
  22. Shovel or entrenching tool.
  23. Bleach for decontaminating water. (1 Gallon minimum) (Store inside a sealed 5 gallon bucket)


This is a hard one. Keep in mind that NO public shelter, and very few hotels/motels, will accept pets of any kind. Saying that, you have to live with your own conscience if you own a pet. I know some pet owners who would rather leave their child behind that leave the family pet. It's your choice. I know what my choice is, do you?

If you choose to take your pet with you, consider all these following problem areas:

The animal must have its own water and food. This water is extra, heavy, and the animal cannot carry any of its own supplies. You have to carry it for them. The animal must periodically take "rest breaks" or else the inside of the vehicle will get very messy very fast. Some animals are better travelers than others. How is your pet? The space you must set aside for your pet and the pets supplies is space that is NOT available to human beings. Are you willing to sacrifice a human for this animal? When you reach your destination, will the animal be welcome or have you just put off the inevitable?

Left on their own, animals may resort back to their "wild" status much faster than humans. It is not unusual for animals to survive on far less than we mere humans would think possible. Depending on the type of pet (dog, cat, snake, lizard, bird, etc.) it may be more humane to let them go free rather than drag them around under stress traveling from place to place. In Florida, there are huge flocks of wild canaries and parrots that have escaped from their previous owners. A pet bird in Florida may be better off released into the wild. A de-clawed cat is defenseless. Let you conscience be your guide. Snakes can live anywhere, except anywhere near my wife and daughter. If you are joining other people, including family members, who may also be bringing pets, it would be a good idea to coordinate ahead of time where these pets will stay and who will take care of them.

Rogue Turtle's Philosophy on Pets: The only "pet" I can justify in my mind is a working dog for blind or disabled family members. This pet earns its living by assisting in the care of this individual, freeing you to spend more time towards survival needs.

Have you seen the bumper sticker "I brake for animals". I don't brake for animals. I may try and swerve out of the way, but I refuse to endanger human lives for the sake of any animal. I won't even brake for people braking for animals. If you are so insensitive as to the safety of my life, I sure don't care about yours. That bumper sticker should really read: "I am selfishly risking my life and yours to brake for this animal."

I get upset about people's misguided priorities. I guess it has to do with my military background, particularly from Vietnam. I know how cheap life can be, and how important it is to preserve and protect it above all else. But, the first time anyone is willing to take my life, or the life of a loved one, in exchange for any item of subjective value, then they have got a full blown fight on their hands. I WILL protect my family.


Who are the "Special Needs" people? They are members of your family that will travel with you that need items above and beyond the basics already listed. Mostly, these will consist of medical supplies and equipment necessary to sustain life. It could be Oxygen breathing equipment, wheel chairs, special beds, Diabetic Testing equipment, and the list can go on and on. Once you agree to have this person accompany you, you take it ALL on, not just the easy part. 30 days of medication is needed.

Elderly people with dementia present an entirely new burden on a survival group. Under some conditions it can be like caring for a very large infant; in other conditions you may not even notice that the condition exists except for a possible "poor memory". Medication for these elder Americans must be continued or else their conditions may rapidly deteriorate to the point where far more drastic steps have to be taken to control the situation. Group survival, with an adult suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, will be the most trying experience of your life.

One adult will have to be awake at all times to prevent this person from hurting themselves or others. I know. My mother died from this horrible disease. I count myself fortunate I did not have to "bug out" with her in my care. I honestly do not know if I could have done it. She was violent in the latter stages of the disease.

INFANTS AND SMALL CHILDREN: A special category all to themselves, and one of the major problem areas for the entire "bug-out" scenario. They simply cannot take care of themselves. Special food, special clothing, special diapers, all increase the work load of the parents. You have to take care of your own children. But, unless the children are your own blood relatives, I would think two or three times before accepting other infants into my bug out group. No, I'm not heartless (really), but YOU HAVE TO REALIZE you CANNOT SAVE THE WORLD. Save yourselves first.


Yes, I have a plan. I have taken it one large step farther. Everything and more that I have listed above I have stored in a 25 foot travel trailer, with parts of it in my Dodge Ram 3500 diesel truck. My "bug out plan" is to hook up the trailer, get in the truck, and boogie on down the road. The only thing I will need to do is refill the trailer's 50 gallon water tank, and load my electric generator (and spare gasoline) into the back of the truck. Then I load perishable food. Everything else is not needed for survival.

Food. Since I always have a good supply of emergency food around, I will load all the food I can carry out to my trailer and store it away. If I have had even an instant's advance warning, I will have gone to the grocery store to stock up even more on food supplies. With my travel trailer, truck and generator, I can last for months without any assistance whatsoever from anyone, except for diesel fuel. That's my Achilles' heel. When I'm out of diesel, I go no further. So, on the road, I refill my tanks every chance I get. My pre-planned route of travel avoids bridges or tunnels that may not allow the large travel trailer.

Inside my trailer, I have individual back packs that can be filled if I have to abandon the trailer for any reason. The most obvious reason would be damage to the trailer making it un-towable. I wouldn't like it, but no object is worth risking my life or the life of my family for. In Florida, my biggest threat is always the Hurricane. You've seen the photos and newsreels. I have only 3 directions I can travel: North, towards Georgia; East, towards West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach; or South towards Naples and Fort Myers. Driving west runs me into the Gulf of Mexico, and is not an option.

"Just do it"

My plan will not work for you. Your plan will not work for me. What is important is that you have a plan. Planning gives you a chance of survival far and away more than unprepared neighbors. Unprepared evacuees are victims, not survivors.

Even if all "heck" breaks loose and you can only get out with just the items on your back, then you still have the items in your car. If you can't have your car, then you had time to pick up your pre-packed back pack and carry it away with you. If you have "Something" you will have 50 times what the unprepared victim has available. Hang on to it. Not everyone out there plays nice.


I get asked this a lot. If you could only take 10 items, what would they be? Here's my list, it might surprise you:
  1. Water for 3 days in a large metal canteen.
  2. Heavy duty knife.
  3. One-man Tent.
  4. Sleeping Bag.
  5. Multi-tool.
  6. Hand fishing kit.
  7. Fire starter kit.
  8. Change of clothing.
  9. .22 cal semi-automatic pistol and ammunition
  10. US Military Poncho and liner.

I feel I can live quite comfortably for several weeks with just those ten items in my pack. Others may disagree, but I think I could "scrounge" or make enough of the other necessary items to make survival not only possible, but very likely. (Item 11 would be dehydrated food.)

I don't want to just survive on my own or by myself. I want to survive with my loved ones around me. What is good for me may not be good for my family who have fewer survival skills and knowledge than I possess. When we first married, my wife's idea of camping was checking into a hotel without room service. She's coming around, but slowly. Notice, we own a travel trailer now. My step-daughter is smart and eager, but young and inexperienced in the woods. If and when we are forced to flee our home, we plan to go together and support each other. We will have the best supplies and equipment I can afford. What more can I do?


I knew you'd ask: I can collect food as I go along. It's not on my short list.
  1. Water. While I feel I can reasonably boil up water any time I need it, I may need to keep walking for several days before the opportunity presents itself to boil more water.
  2. Heavy duty Knife: I carry a US Marine Corps K-bar Knife from WWII. Semper Fi!
  3. Pop-up nylon tent with built-in (dry) floor. Gets me and my equipment out of the rain for some sleep. You haven't seen rain until you've been in a hurricane.
  4. Sleeping bag. I like to sleep, OK?
  5. Multi-tool: I have a large size Leatherman-type kit (includes a can opener) with a belt sheath.
  6. Hand fishing kit. Easiest source of protein food. Easier than hunting, and a lot safer. (see my hand fishing article)
  7. Fire Starter kit: My own design in a small plastic box, char cloth included. I'll cover the whole fire start kit in a later article, but you can read my char cloth article today.
  8. One complete change of clothing. One to wash, one to wear. I hate sleeping in wet clothes.
  9. .22 caliber selected because I can carry more rounds per ounce than larger calibers. I am a good enough shot with this stainless steel Ruger target pistol that I can hunt small game - or protect my family - as the need arises. Everyone in my family fires this weapon regularly and all are very good shots.
  10. US Military Poncho with liner. No finer rain cover exists. Can be used as a lean-to shelter, and will cover your back pack while walking.


The best time to break in a new pair of hiking boots was yesterday. It's too late today; you get to suffer the blisters now, not later. Boots, not tennis shoes or flip-flops. High tops with ankle support is the best. Lace up only. Avoid the fancy snaps and fasteners because they always fail when you need them the most. NO ZIPPERS. Zippers break under pressure, such as jumps from high places. And when wet, zippers cause bad blisters. I wear Marine Corps Paratrooper Boots, and they are already broken in for me. They will never let me down.


Only the complete collapse of the United States Government would render our cash money useless. Cash will always be accepted, unless we are facing the very remote possibility of full-scale nuclear war. I think the odds of that happening are less than my delivering a bouncing baby boy. If you are caught overseas, in Europe, the Euro-dollar would be my preferred currency. In countries where the Euro is not used, check around to see what currency is most likely to be accepted. The Euro and/or US dollar is always right on top of the list. Money from Russia is worthless.

The "Doom and Gloom" bunch will preach that you should have saved up enough gold and/or jewelry to be able to barter for goods and services. I don't believe it. Your best "barter" is a service for a service. You change my tire and I'll repair your roof. That sort of thing. You help me and I'll help you. Bartering goods may eventually come along, but without a set standard of value, cash will probably always be used first. Without set values, there will always be someone who thinks they've been cheated.

Carry cash at all times; just don't tell anyone you have it. Credit cards are "OK", but are useless if there is no electricity to charge your goods. "Money talks, BS walks". Bribery is far and away a better option than violence. If you can convince someone to help you for money, then do so. Then move on. I don't think I like people who only care about money. Money is only another means to an end.

Keep small amounts of money hidden all over your person, not just in one place. If you are "Hijacked" and searched, most punks don't know enough to search everywhere it's possible to hide money. You hide your own money, I'll hide mine. And I'll never tell you where mine is... If you kept all your cash in your boot and you lose the boot, you've lost all your money. Even kids can hide and carry money. It's better if you hide it in their clothing when they aren't looking. They don't have great poker faces when asked where they hid the money. If they don't know, they can't tell. (Sounds like a Pentagon Policy.) Sew small amounts into clothing but don't show the kids. But please, insist they take care of their clothes and not to lose them. Double loss if they do. Discourage trading clothes with friends.


Have you reached the point of "brain saturation" yet? It's a lot to think about. Nobody has to run out and start buying tools and stuff for the bug out kits. Take your time and think it through. Purchase what you need slowly over a period of time, placing needed items into the kits as you get them. Check your kits frequently because "out of sight, out of mind". I had several small kits in a store room out back in my garage. I had completely forgotten what was in the kits and had to browse through all of them to re-familiarize myself with the contents. Some items had rusted and had to be replaced.

Of all the kits you prepare, the one in the car is always the first to suffer from owner abuse. It is bulky and gets in the way. You need the space to haul little Suzy's toys so you take it out "for a short while" that turns into months...and then you lose it. Stored water freezes and then leaks all over the car. You remove the kit to let it dry out but forget to put the kit back in the car. You forget to replace the missing water. The kit gets lost. See what I mean? It's not easy keeping a high alert posture.

We are all human and humans make mistakes. If you acknowledge that fact - and even plan on it - then you are ready, even when you're wrong. I like that idea.

Now that you've gotten all your stuff together (literally), you have to plan on where to go, and what to do when you get there. The "Bug Out Kit" is just that - enough immediate equipment and supplies to get you safely on the road and out of danger. Your journey has just begun.