With the recent evacuation of over 80,000 people from their homes in California and the hurricanes that have displaced so many families over the last few months, I thought it would be prudent to share some key items everyone should have in their “bug-out” gear. There are a lot of different views on what you should have in your bag in the event you are displaced by weather, civil unrest, or any other crisis. I’m not going to touch on the reasons why you are choosing to leave the safety of your home and “bugging out” to a backup location. Hopefully you’ve thought of this as a possibility and already picked where you are going to go if you are temporarily un-homed. This list will be specific to a 24-hour evacuation/bug-out bag for 1 adult. The same list would be accurate for 72-hour bags, you would just increase the supply of food and water accordingly. Now children, infants, and pets have different needs that need to be considered which we will touch on in another post.
First thing you need for your bag, is well…a bag. Seems simple but you need a sturdy water-proof bag that can hold all of your necessities during this tumultuous time. I would recommend a backpack, something you can shoulder comfortably and can evenly distribute the weight on your body. Something that you can wear while walking, running, or even climbing. But you don’t want anything so large and cumbersome that it could be caught on a large branches or prevent your from dragging it behind you if you have to crawl under obstructions. I would also suggest having something with multiple compartments so you can keep your supplies segregated in a way that you can find them in the dark and you don’t have to dump the whole thing out to find your matches or epi-pen if you need it.
Now that we can carry the gear, let’s talk essentials. Water, food, and clothes/shelter. FEMA has a good guide for food and water that you can look up, it’s worth the read. A healthy adult needs roughly a half gallon of water per day. You could need more because of climate or health conditions, but you should account for at least a half gallon per day each. Foods during an evacuation should be considered based on the length you anticipate being displaced, or the length of time it takes you to get to your backup location that will have more food/water. The first 24 hours you should have foods that can be eaten without heat or utensils. Things that are comfort foods and high in calories and nutrition. I would stay away from powdered meals or MRE style foods for a 24/72 hour kit. You should also stay away from saltines or heavily salted foods which will make you thirstier. My kit includes protein bars and unsalted cashews. I enjoy the cashews and the protein bars give me the energy I need to keep going. They also take up very little room in the bag. If you already have a bag together, be sure to check on it regularly, as food can expire.
Clothing and shelter during this time is another big essential! The shelter could be as easy as sleeping in your car, a tent, or even a bivy sack. I would make sure to put an emergency blanket in your bag, they are incredibly small and can help maintain your body heat if you don’t have anything else. Clothes you should pack include a rain jacket, socks, and a shirt at bare minimum. You should already have on a pair of comfortable shoes or boots on. I can’t stress the importance of a change of socks during this time and the need to change them frequently! Google “Trench Foot” on your own to see the dangers of wet feet. I would toss a pair of gloves, a hat, and face mask in your bag as well.
What about tools that you need? Well tools for a 24-hour bag really doesn’t need to be much. You will definitely need a good first aid kit, a dependable knife, a great flashlight, and a survival tin. The tin should have things like matches, maybe a sewing kit, duct tape, compass, string, etc. The amount of tools you will need to carry will really depend on the route of escape you have planned. If you are only going 5 miles down the road it’s one thing. If you expect to have to travel off-road then a shovel multi-tool is a great addition. Between the axe and saw on this invaluable tool, it’s also a great for self defense. Again, the tools you need will depend on your path.
Now I’m sure several people are going to see something missing from this list that is going to drive them insane and that’s a firearm. Well I left that off intentionally for 2 reasons. First, not everyone is comfortable with a firearm, so for them having that on the list isn’t required. Second, and more importantly for me, a firearm is a tool I carry every day, everywhere. It’s not something I put aside just for a bug out situation where I need to leave my house in terror. The firearm is always with me, I already have it on before I know there is an emergency.
A 24-hour bag doesn’t need to be extravagant, heavy, or cost an arm and a leg. A decent homemade kit can be as cheap as $50-75 per person and weigh as little as 20 lbs. These kits can be invaluable and because of the ease there is to put one together I highly recommend keeping one in the house and one in your car. Take the time to put your bag together, discuss your options and plans for evacuation and where you will go. Waiting to put your escape plan and materials together until there is an urgent need is too late.