We here on Ultimate Bug-Out Bag List always say that anything is better than nothing. Money is tight for a lot of people, and bug-out bags are not at the top of most people’s list of priorities. That’s why we wanted to take a moment to help people put together a bug-out bag from things that they may already have around the house. In the event of an emergency, having a few items from around the house, stored in a bag and ready to go at a moment’s notice, can really make a huge difference.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you read through the list and then collect items from around your house. First, this is not what we consider a complete bug-out bag. These are items that many people will have around their house, and having them in a bag and ready to go can be a huge help in a survival situation. It’s definitely better than nothing. Second, if you do put together a bug-out bag from things found around the house, we recommend that you take a look at our complete bug-out bag list, and try to supplement your BOB by adding things you’re missing, and upgrading items in your bag to higher quality or more appropriate items, when you can.
One of the most important things to have in your BOB is water. We recommend at least two liters of water per person, per day.
Many people already have bottled water in their house. Figure out how much water you need, and then put it in your BOB. You should make sure you have enough water for at least three days. One thing to check is the Best By date on the water. Make sure it will be good for a while, and then don’t forget to swap it out before that date gets too close.
Another important thing to have in your BOB is food. We recommend at least 2,500 calories per person, per day. Even more calories than that per day would be good, because often in the event of a disaster, you will have to spend a lot of energy, clearing debris, building shelter, and doing lots of other stuff.
One thing I’m constantly telling people to throw in their bug-out bags, as well as their cars, is peanut butter. A typical 2.5 pound jar of peanut butter has around 6,300 calories. That’s a lot of calories that are easily accessible in a convenient container. Eating plain peanut butter isn’t the best, but in a survival situation, your main concern is getting calories. Throwing in some crackers to eat with the peanut butter can help, and unsalted are the best, because they won’t make you quite as thirsty.
Energy bars and protein bars are also excellent for BOBs. They usually have a good amount of calories for their size and weight, and they’re convenient to eat.
Many people think of canned food for bug-out bags, but usually things like canned beans don’t have nearly the number of calories per pound that something like peanut butter does. For this reason, we don’t usually recommend putting canned goods in your BOB. You can store canned goods next to your BOB, however, as they can be great if you are sheltering in place. If you do put canned goods in your BOB, or you store them in case of emergency, make sure to also have a manual can opener, such as a P-38 or P-51, or even just a manual can opener from your kitchen..
Another thing that people usually think of as a food source for their BOB is dried rice and dried beans. We don’t recommend that people put these in their BOB, as they require additional water, as well as a way to cook them. We very much prefer food that does not need water or any preparation. If you do choose to add any kind of dried or dehydrated food, make sure you also add additional water, and the necessary equipment to cook it, such as a pot and a portable stove.
Another essential for your bug-out bag is a light source. You’re almost certainly going to need to take care of things when it’s dark, and even if you’re sheltering in place, you likely won’t have electricity.
An extra flashlight you have in your house would be great for your BOB. Make sure that it’s working, and make sure you also add the proper batteries for it. Use new batteries, and check the expiration date. Don’t store the batteries in the flashlight.
Most people have candles in their house, and candles are excellent to add to your bug-out bag.
Having the ability to start fires is very important in a survival situation. With fire, you can keep warm, make water safe to drink, cook food, and more. We always recommend having more than one way to start a fire, in your bug-out bag.
Lighters and matches can be found in most households, even if the occupants don’t smoke. If you include matches in your BOB, make sure they are in some type of waterproof container, such as a film canister or a resealable plastic bag.
Having a resealable plastic bag with dryer lint or cotton balls impregnated with petroleum jelly can help you get a fire going quickly.
In an emergency or after a disaster, it’s common to have injuries. In a survival situation where you may not have access to doctors or hospitals, it is very important to take care of all injuries– even small ones– as quickly and effectively as possible.
For your first aid kit, you’re going to want to include a number of things you probably already have around the house. You’ll need band-aids and bandages, gauze, alcohol, burn ointment, aspirin and/or other pain relieving medicine, tweezers, scissors, razor blades, and some clean rags.
In a survival situation, sanitation is very important. You may be surrounded by things like sewage, disease, and other hazards that can make you sick or kill you. You’ll want to be able to keep somewhat clean, and to minimize harmful bacteria on or around your person.
For your bug-out bag you’ll want to include several pairs of rubber gloves, garbage bags, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and feminine napkins. Dust masks can be very useful, and you should include NIOSH-approved N95 masks, if you have them. Add toothpaste and a toothbrush, a bar of soap, and a small bottle of shampoo. The soap can also be used for your hair in a survival situation, if you don’t want to take up additional room with shampoo.
You may need to make a shelter in the event of a disaster, and even if you’re sheltering in place, you may need to make quick repairs on your house. For this stuff, you’ll want to head to the garage.
You’ll want a tarp or two, and some kind of cordage– it could be paracord, clothes line, twine, etc.– duct tape, and zip ties. Also make sure to include a warm blanket.
A knife is an extremely useful tool in a survival situation. For your BOB, a fixed blade knife is best. It should be good quality, and it should have a full tang (the blade continues all the way through the handle to the end of the knife).
If you’re putting together a bug-out bag from things around your house, you might not have a great fixed blade knife. A folding pocket knife is okay, just try to make sure it’s decent, and fairly sturdy. It should be sharp and in good condition. A lock blade is preferred if it’s a folding knife.
There are a number of tools that can help you out in a survival situation, many of which you may have in your house or garage.
The first one you’ll want to put in your BOB, if you have it, is a multi-tool. Multi-tools are common, and they are great for doing all kinds of stuff, including making things, repairing things, repurposing things, and more. Aside from your knife, this is the most important tool in your bug-out bag.
Other tools you’ll need are a small shovel of some kind, like a gardening spade, a small crowbar (not a big, heavy crowbar), and possibly a hatchet and a machete.
Inspect these tools and make sure they are all sturdy and in good shape.
You never know when you’re going to be caught in a disaster or emergency, and going to need to rely on your bug-out bag. For this reason, it’s very important that you have warm clothing in your BOB.
Make sure you put in some durable pants, a heavy shirt, underwear, and some heavy socks. A warm sweatshirt and jacket are great to add, too. You also need a good pair of boots or shoes, and some type of hat that can help keep sun off your face and neck.
An all-weather poncho is great for your bug-out bag, but as most people don’t have these lying around, you can include some large, heavy-duty trash bags that you can cut armholes and a neck hole into, to wear over your clothes to help protect them from getting wet.
You should also toss in some needles and thread, in case you need to repair some of your clothing.
Communications & Signaling
It’s important to be able to signal other people in an emergency or after a disaster. Often, phones will be down and the police, fire department, and ambulance services may have their hands full. If you or someone else is injured, or in need of help, you may need to be able to attract the attention of others nearby.
A loud whistle is a great way to get people’s attention. If you have one add it to your bug-out bag. Unfortunately, most people don’t have whistles lying around. A small mirror, like in a woman’s compact, or a similarly sized mirror can be very useful for signaling. If you don’t have a mirror, an audio or data CD or DVD can work well. A laser pointer can also be really good for attracting attention.
You’re going to want to be able to get any information or news that you can, so it’s great to have a small radio with batteries. Keep the batteries outside of the radio when it’s in your BOB, and check the expiration date on your batteries.
Lastly, walkie-talkies can be useful for staying in touch with the people you’re with. And a pen or pencil and paper can be useful for leaving notes to other people, as well as other things.
Often in disasters and emergency situation, you will want to shelter in place. If you do have to bug out, however, you’ll want to have a few items. A GPS can be useful, as can a compass and a map.
There are a number of other items that can be very helpful to have in your bug-out bag. Many of them you might already have around the house.
Heavy gloves can be very useful for things like clearing debris after a disaster, or even just keeping your hands warm. Insect repellent with sunscreen can keep bugs from eating you alive, and keep you from getting a debilitating sunburn. In addition to the cordage that you might have specifically for shelter, we recommend you have at least 50′ of additional rope. Dental floss is great to have, too, because it doesn’t take up much room, and is very strong.
Safety goggles can be handy, and you’ll want to include a weapon of some kind, such as a gun, taser, pepper spray, etc. Unfortunately, in survival situations, people can become desperate and dangerous. You need to be able to protect yourself, if you have to.
If you need to take prescription medication, you should put at least two weeks’ worth in your bug-out bag. You don’t want to be caught without your medicine in the event of a disaster. Make sure the expiration date isn’t close.
You’ll need cash– we recommend at least $100 in small bills and change– spare keys for the house and car, any important documents, items that are necessary for babies, the elderly, and pets, and any contact information and emergency plans.
Lastly, you need a bag to put everything in. The best bag to use is a good, waterproof or water resistant backpack. Whatever you choose, it should be able to hold everything you need, and it should be comfortable to carry. A bag with pockets can make it easier to get to specific items.
When you’re collecting things from around your house to put into your bug-out bag, keep in mind that once you put something in the bag, you want to leave it in the bag, unless you’re changing it out for something with a later expiration date. For instance, you don’t want to put a multi-tool in your BOB, and then take it out every time you need to use it. It’s too easy to forget to put back in, and to be stuck without it when you really need it. Just add things that you can spare for your bug-out bag.
Once you get your BOB put together, look to add items that you’re missing, and to swap out items for better ones, when you can. Take a look at our bug-out bag list for additional items to add.
Make sure that you have enough supplies for everyone that will need to rely on your bug-out bag. Don’t get caught short.
If you ever do any camping, you might have additional equipment that would be great for your bug-out bag, like a small tent, portable stove, emergency blanket, etc. Take a look through what you have, and see what you can add to your BOB.
Finally, check the expiration dates on stuff in your BOB, periodically. Things like food, water, medicine, and batteries expire, and you don’t want to find that something is no longer good, when you really need to count on it. Always make sure that all expiration dates are a long way off.
By taking a little bit of time to gather supplies that you already have around the house, you and your family can feel a bit more secure knowing that you’re prepared for most disasters and emergencies, whether you shelter in place or have to bug out.
Below is the list of items to include, so that you can browse through them more easily.
- Bottled water
- Peanut butter
- Unsalted crackers
- Energy bars and protein bars
- P-38, P-51, or other manual can opener
- Disposable lighter
- Burn ointment
- Aspirin and/or other pain relieving medicine
- Razor blades
- Clean rags
- Several pairs of rubber gloves
- Garbage bags
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Feminine napkins
- Dust masks (N95 preferred)
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Bar of soap
- Cordage such as paracord, clothes line, twine, etc.
- Duct tape
- Zip ties
- Warm blanket
- Small shovel such as gardening spade
- Small crowbar
- Possibly a hatchet and a machete
- Durable pants
- Heavy shirt
- Heavy socks
- Warm sweatshirt
- Good pair of boots or shoes
- All weather poncho or heavy duty trash bags to make into poncho
- Needles and thread
- Small mirror or CD
- Laser pointer
- Small radio
- Pen or pencil and paper
- Heavy gloves
- Insect repellant with sunscreen
- 50′ of rope
- Dental floss for use as cordage
- Safety goggles
- Weapon such as gun, taser, pepper spray, etc.
- Prescription medication
- Cash in small bills
- Spare keys for house and car
- Important documents
- Items for babies, the elderly, and pets
- Contact information and emergency plans
- Good backpack or bag to contain everything