Building Your Own "Survivorific!" Survival Bag

AKA "Bug Out Bag" or "72 Hour Bag" for emergency situations.

A small, small portion of what you'll need to be prepared.
Photo:Red Cross / FEMA

72 HOUR BAG (also known as a "Go Bag", "Get Out Of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) Bag", or [my personal favorite] the "Bug Out Bag")- It's Survivorific!

"It's better to have and not need than need and not have."

Make one for yourself, your wife, your husband, your kids. Tailor it to their needs. Put the bag in your bedroom closet, or in the trunk of your car. Every 6 months or so rotate out the food and once a year rotate out the batteries, ziploc bags (plastic gets brittle), and matches.  Low maintenance for a lot of peace of mind.

This kit isn't supposed to be something you can take into the woods and live forever out of, though some experts recommend (and I think it could be a really fun experiment) that once in a while you do take it out into the wild for 3 days just to see how you do and what you really need.  Might be a fun camping trip.  Bug Out Bags Gone Wild.

In all seriousness, this is just a reassurance that, God forbid, something should happen and you have to go- now - you have something with which you can throw on your back and walk out the door,  knowing that you'll most likely be just fine for at least 3-5 days- which is hopefully more time than you'll need before help arrives.  With the contents of this bag you shouldn't be too cold, thirsty, or hungry.  Even better, you may be able to provide help to some unfortunate people who weren't as well prepared.

This is a just a guideline to what I think are the essentials.  Do your own research.  Tailor it to your own needs/desires.  Have fun.  Be Prepared.

All of this stuff can be found on Amazon, ebay, Home depot, at an outdoor shop like REI or EMS, or at an Army/Navy surplus store.  In some cases I've provided links to the products about which I'm speaking.  There's no rhyme or reason as to when I decided to include those.


1 Backpack big enough for all this stuff  (like the one you had in high school, probably a couple sizes up from that- made of sturdy material)- one with a waist belt will be particularly good if you have to walk for a while with it- cinch the waist belt tight so all the weight is on your hips, the straps will only serve to keep the pack on your back, not to bear the load.  Save your shoulders the stress.  Say that 10x fast.

If you are a hiker/backpacker, you could concievably just keep your bag that you use for those purposes packed with all this stuff, un-pack and adjust it when you're using it outdoors, then re-pack it with all this stuff when you get home (though a lot of this would serve double duty)- but I prefer to have 2 separate bags, since I keep my B.O.B. in the back of my car.

Here's the one I decided to use- It's pretty big, actually.

1 Large (20L) Waterproof "Dry Sack" ( a garbage bag will work in place of this if you don't want to spend the $)- to line the main compartment of the bag and keep all the contents dry.

3 Large/thick "Contractor" Garbage Bags (endlessly useful- besides carrying stuff in them, they can be turned into a makeshift poncho, sleeping bag [stuffed with crumpled newspaper], a shower, solar still, tube tent/ shelter, body bag,  etc. etc. ad nauseum)

3 Gallon Ziploc Bags
3 Quart Ziploc bags (also use more of these to waterproof/separate things like the first aid kit, toiletries, food, etc.)


1 Pair of Long Underwear -1 Top & 1 Bottom (I prefer Smartwool, but it's $$$)*
2 Regular pair Underwear (+ a Sports Bra or 2 [I dunno] for the ladies)
3 Pairs of Socks (Smartwool!)*

1 Pair of Pants (REI makes a pretty cheap pair of cargo pants that packs down small- the ones that convert to shorts are versatile)
1 Thin Wool Sweater*
1 Fleece vest

1 T-shirt (cotton)
1 Wool Watch Cap/ Winter Hat*
1 Pair leather, or Gore-Tex Gloves

1 Pair of good Boots (already broken in- to be attached to the outside of the bag- I prefer all leather boots treated with Sno-Seal (which makes them waterproof), a pair of Merril Chameleon Hex- type shoes would be good,- some people just attach a pair of Teva-type sandals to their bag- sandals would suck in winter, though)

1 Poncho (preferably one with grommets in the corners so it can also be used as a make-shift shelter)

1 Cheap pair of Sunglasses (and an old pair of prescription glasses/ extra contacts if you need them)
1 Baseball Cap
I also throw in a Shemagh- a middle eastern cotton scarf (usually about 44"x44"- don't get one made from polyester) ... it has a million potential uses- headcover/ sunshield, scarf, towel, 1st aid sling/Triangular bandage, char cloth, etc. etc.

If you live in a colder climate it might be wise to keep a good warm jacket with the bag as well

*Note: if you're wondering why I'm so crazy about wool, it's because it's the only natural fiber that retains its ability to insulate when it's wet.  As a fun fact, Marino wool specifically has another great property- the microbes that cause body odor can't live on/in it- so it never stinks (any worse than you do)- which is why it has become so popular with backpackers and adventurers- wear it for weeks!


One of the most important considerations.  3 days without water is no good for the human body.  The general rule is 1 gallon a day per-person (that's a minimum- just for drinking & cooking- that doesn't account for washing dishes/bathing, etc).  Keep two 5 gallon water bottles/ per person in reserve in your house at all times. 

In addition to that (because water is really heavy and can be hard to tote around), there are a couple other solutions for your bag that will help you if you have to run:

1 Stainless steel water bottle- can be used to boil water as well as transport it.  Just remember to take the plastic cap off before you put it on the fire.


*1Katadyn XStream XR (or MYBottle) Water Purifying bottle (+ 1 extra virustat kit/ filter assembly)- my first choice for the bag- the thing I like about this is you can pretty much dip this bottle into any water source on the go and start drinking right away (after priming the system), as opposed to having to wait 20-30 min. for an Iodine solution to work.  The filter does have an Iodine treatment stage for killing viruses, though.


1 Bottle of Polar Pure water treatment (an Iodine-solution that'll treat ~500gallons- make sure you read the instructions!)+ 1 Nalgene-type bottle.  NOTE: Some people are allergic to Iodine.  Find out if you are.  You may also hate the way Iodine treatments make the water taste- some Gatorade powder, or Emergen C packets will cover it up fine.


If you want to go full-on mall ninja gearhead style, Katyadyn makes some great water filters- one of these and a Nalgene bottle will work.  I have a "Katadyn Pocket Filter"- it's pretty great, though a bit big/heavy.  The ceramic filter supposedly treats up to 13,000 gallons of water.  It stays at home, though.  The Katadyn Combi filter and Hiker-pro models are also well regarded. 

NOTE: most water filters neither filter out nor kill viruses- Iodine treatment kills the lil' buggers dead, but doesn't get the icky bits out of the water.  The reason I like the Katadyn XR/mybottle water bottle is it does both.  That being said- the BEST way to ensure that the water you're drinking is potable is to boil it beforehand- the only drawback is that boiling takes both time and fuel.  You don't have to boil it for 10 minutes, not even one minute, as soon as it's brought to a rolling boil every single organism (bacteria or virus) in the water that'll kill you/make you sick is already dead.


This is purely personal choice.  So many options are available, and will depend on your diet/preferences.  The fact is you can live for quite a long time without food, though I hear that gets pretty uncomfortable and you lose energy pretty quickly without it.  You won't need much for 3 days.

Options range from "emergency ration-type bars" that are like lemon-flavored cardboard packed with calories, to dehydrated camping "meals" (like the "Mountain House" brand- that are actually pretty palatable- you will need boiling water for preparation), military M.R.E.'S (MEALS READY TO EAT - 3 lies for the price of one), a ziploc bag of rice, a big bag of dried nuts and berries, beef jerky, or a bunch power/protein/granola bars.

I personally throw in a few Mountain House dehydrated camping meals, a bag of dried nuts/fruit, a bag of beef jerky, and a couple granola bars.  Note the expiration dates and make sure you rotate them out every once in a while.  I also include a bunch of tea bags and sugar packets just because, if nothing else, sometimes a hot cup of tea is comforting.


1 Good Quality Knife- I'm gonna go on a bit here, because it's one of the most important tools in the bag.

It should have about a 4" blade- don't go too much bigger/longer.  It doesn't have to be a foot long with a serrated spine like Rambo's.  That's dumb.

As for the edge- It's your choice whether to go plain edge or 1/2 serrated edge- the plain edge is easier to sharpen/maintain (learn how to sharpen/maintain your knife and get the right equipment to do so!!), the 1/2 serrated cuts things like rope and seatbelts like a chainsaw.  Either is good. 

NOTE:  Some people prefer the size/carrying options that come with a high quality folding knife. Some experts (and I) strongly recommend/ insist on a fixed-blade full tang knife (with sheath) as there is little/no chance of mechanical failure.  Examples of good knives are:

Mora craftline- steel- about $14)
or a Mora Bushcraft Series Triflex Carbon Steel Blade Knife- you won't find a better value for the money than a Mora where knives are concerned

Becker BK2 (probably the best reasonably priced knife out there as these types of knives go)- about $55

Fallkniven F1 ($120-$275- depending on if you go stock or custom)- awesome knife.  Invest in one and keep it for life.

Bark River Highland Special ($140)- or any of Bark River's knives.  Ditto on the fallkniven sentiment.

- and there are a hundred knives in between those, and more expensive, that'll do the job.  Again- your choice.  Whatever you get, you have to trust it. 

1 Multi-tool (Leatherman-type)

Hatchet (optional- heavy) You can go as Fancy as Ganfors Bruks or as simple/classic as an Estwing

Folding Saw (optional) a good one is: Bahco® 9" Folding Saw


1 Bic Lighter

1 Waterproof Container of Wooden Matches (dip them in candle wax to waterproof them- you can also buy the bad-ass Windproof/Waterproof "Storm" matches from REI [keep a striker wrapped in plastic] - but best of all are strike-anywhere matches dipped in parafin)

1 Firesteel (

Tinder Pouch (Wetfire is a great brand, Georgia fatwood rocks, soak cotton balls in petroleum jelly and keep them in an old film canister, or collect white birch bark- or do as I do and have a little of each of the above in a ziplock baggie)


100' of 550 Parachord (7 strand core- Army Navy Store) ESSENTIAL - If i had to whittle this bag down to 4 items, it'd be a knife, a fire-steel, a stainless steel water bottle, and this stuff.  Cut it open, and each of the 7 inner strands can be used as very tough string, good for anything from building shelters to fishing line to flossing.

50 ft good Rope (optional- most of your cordage needs will be met with the Parachord)


Light Weight Tent or Tarp- (Optional- only if you're not confident enough in your ability to find/improvise shelter)

1 Emergency Blanket (the ones with the silver material on one side that claim to retain 80% of your body heat- good for both reflecting heat towards you [next to a fire, for example], and away from you [in bright sunlight]- can also be used for shelter)

1 wool blanket (to be rolled up and tied to the outside of the bag) or thin sleeping bag (though you don't want to keep a sleeping bag stored in a stuff sack)

1 Metal cup (GI stainless steel-type is ideal)-

1 Spork (that's right, a spork- efficiency)

1 Headlamp (LED- hands free lighting!) I have a Petzl that I love:

1 Flashlight- I recommend the flashlight have an LED bulb (they last longer- maglight makes led flashlights now), if you wanna get fancy you can get the kind of flashlight that charges just by shaking it, or one that recharges using sunlight (a good trick- wrap a couple 2' strips of duct  tape around the handle of your flashlight- always good to have- you can do the same with your water bottle (not the steel one that'll get hot)- but don't do it with a solar powered flashlight- you'll cover the solar-cells)

Extra batteries (Lithium) for headlamp/flashlight (note: your flashlight should take the same kind of batteries as your headlamp for simplicity's sake- pack enough batteries to refill both once)

2 12 hr. glow sticks

15' good black Duct tape (I like Gorilla brand) wrapped around a pencil

3'  of Tinfoil folded up small
1 Emergency Whistle (3 long blasts with a pause between each one is the international signal for HELP!- so is S.O.S- three long blasts, three short, and three long)- I have mine attached to the shoulder-strap of the bag where I could blow it without having to take the whole bag off.  You can blow a whistle for days.  you can only scream at the top of your lungs for half an hour- unless you're a baby.

1 Emergency Signal Mirror (learn to use it- it's fun!)
1 Compass
2 Carabiners
4 Large Safety Pins
Needle and Thread

Pocket Survival Kit (another fun project- drop me a line if you want to know how many useful things fit into an Altoids tin- you'll be amazed! astounded! flabbergasted, even!)

1 Toothbrush
1 Small tube toothpaste
1 Roll dental floss (also very strong cordage)
1 Dish-type sponge with abrasive back

1 Small bottle of Hand Sanitizer (Tape up the top with electrical tape to prevent leaking)

1 Pack of Wet Wipes
Toilet Paper (rolled around a pencil to save space- twice as much as you think you'll need)
1 4oz. Bottle of Campsuds and/or Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

1 Sharpie
1 Pencil
1 Thin Small Notebook
1 Good detailed Map of your city/state
Cash (at least $200 in smaller bills)
1 Roll of quarters
Pre-paid phone card ($20)
Copies of ID/Passport/Important papers

**Also pack in something that's purely for stress relief/sanity/recreation.  Your favorite book, a deck of cards (not to be used for gambling emergency cash), a harmonica, travel-size chess set, knitting needles and yarn, a kitten in a Ziploc bag, etc.


You can get one at CVS/your local drug store for $20.00 that has too much stuff in it- split it up and make one for the B.O.B. and keep the rest for your household kit.  Make sure it's in 2 Ziploc bags to keep the contents dry.

Essentials for the First-Aid Kit:

2 Pair Latex Gloves
Band aids- 5 of each size
Butterfly Adhesive Closures
Antibiotic Ointment (the individual neosporin packs are good)

Tincture of Iodine 2% (Antiseptic- can also be used to make H2O potable! {5 drops per/quart if the water is clear- 10 drops if it's cloudy}.  Wait 40 min before drinking )

2 Rolls of Gauze
2 Small Sterile Dressings
2 Large Sterile Dressings
1 Pair Tweezers
1 Razor blade (protect the edge with a piece of tape)
Advil/Tylenol- painkiller/fever reducer

1 Roll of First Aid Tape or cloth athletic tape
2 Non-lubricated Condoms (not just for hanky-panky- they can also be used as emergency water containers- tie up the water filled condom in a bandana/Shemagh, hang it on the end of a stick,  and you're carrying water like a Hobo!)

Antihisthamines (Benadryl)
Any prescription medicines you take/need

Other things you might want in there:

PeptoBismol/ anti-diarrhea pills
Triangular bandage
Epi-pen (if you have severe/life-threatening allergies)
Face/dust mask
Tampons/pads (which can also double as good wound dressings in a pinch)


This totally depends on what kind of backpack you buy, but assuming it has one large main compartment and a couple other smaller pockets, make sure that the main compartment's contents are somehow waterproofed- either by putting everything in a "dry sack" or a garbage bag.  Keep the things you'll want most accessible towards the top- the first aid kit, rain gear, baseball cap, and wool hat & gloves being the most important to my mind.  In the middle I have food/ metal cup/ toiletry bag etc.  Towards the bottom is the extra clothes/underwear.

If the bag has outside pockets, 1 on the side is probably designed to hold a water bottle.  Another should have other immediate-use items easily accessible- your knife, multi-tool, 550 paracord, and headlamp, for example.

Of course it would be best to just go out and buy all this stuff at once, build the bag tomorrow, and have it always at the ready.  But this stuff (all together) represents a bit of an investment.  If need be, start out by buying the actual bag (or even taking an old backpack you have lying around), put whatever is on this list that you do have around the house inside, and buy a few things a week, or a few things a month, to add to it.  Preparation is a process.

The only other thing I'd say is that what goes in the bag should stay in the bag.  If you need to "bug out", you may not have time to consult this list and pack all this gear into the bag before heading out the door.  If you have a wool cap you wear in the winter, buy another cheap one at an army navy store to keep in the bag... the same goes for everything else.


Probably the best books I've read on preparedness are "When All Hell Breaks Loose" and"98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive" by Cody Lundin.  They do have a sort of End-Of-Days/ Armageddon/ Total Collapse kind of approach, and there are some comical bits (recipes for how to prepare Rat, for example)- but it's also got a ton of great/ useful information, and lots of silly cartoons for those of us who hate words. I know- sounds like a weird book- it is.

The rest of my research was done on the Internet, of course.  Google "Bug Out Bag" and you will be whisked immediately to the paranoid fringe of humanity- places like "", which, if you have the stomach and the patience to sift through all the hooey, is chock full of really interesting information.  What fun.


So, you have you're Bug Out Bag.  Awesome.  It's a great start.  In addition, keep lots of water (10 gal. per person), at least 3 weeks worth of food, a more extensive 1st Aid Kit, extra thick Trash Bags, a hand crank radio, warm blankets, flashlights & batteries/candles/lanterns stored in your basement/garage/closet.  Google "earthquake kit" to see what other people stock.


Finally... PRINT THESE INSTRUCTIONS OUT! They'll do NO GOOD on your computer screen or battery-drained phone