Surviving Disaster Part II: Assembling A Bug Out / Go Bag & Planning

by Chris on March 13, 2011

This is Part II of my series on preparation in the event of a disaster like an earthquake, tsunami or even riots. If you haven’t read Part I yet, read it now for info on putting together an Emergency Preparedness Kit.

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Bug Out Bag / Go Bag

The bug out / go bag is what you want to have packed in case disaster strikes and you need to be on the move. For obvious reasons it will have similar, but different contents than an emergency preparedness kit. For starters, you want to have a bag or backpack than can hold a decent amount of gear. One interesting point I came across when researching how to build a go bag is the importance of what kind of bag to get. If you are walking around with a military-style backpack, you are going to scream “I’m prepared and have supplies” which might just attract some unwanted attention to you. Not a vital element to consider, but something worth thinking about.

As far as your contents for a basic bug out bag go, here are some ideas:


This is so important it can’t be stressed enough and deserves its own category. You don’t want to have a bunch of empty water bottles sitting around, because that’s not helpful, and you don’t want to have a bunch of Nalgene bottles sitting around full all year round. The best idea, in my humble opinion, is to have both. Collapsible water bottles are great because they take little room when empty. However, it’s a good idea to keep those empty, and have a case of bottled water with your go bag. When the time comes, you can fill your bottles up and be ready to rock.

A way to purify water

It’s easy and relatively cheap to pick up some form of water purification system. Look around at camping supplies and you can find pumps that purify water and remove contaminants.


Back pack meals or MREs are a great option. They last long, are very portable and are easy to make. Obviously you might need a longer-term food option, but for being on the run these are a great choice. Any other portable, non-perishable foods are a good idea, too.

Flashlight (Same rules apply as in your EPK)

First Aid Kit

As far as first aid kits go, sometimes you might be better off making your own then buying a ready-made one. Ever look at a ready-made first aid kit and think about how much stuff is in there that you might never need, even in an emergency situation? They are a great guide point and very convenient, but if you can, put together your own.

Battery or self powered AM/FM Radio

At least 3 ways of making fire

There are tons of fire-starting tools out there, but you never want to rely on just one. Waterproof matches, a magnesium fire starter and a lighter are a good start.

Weather-resistant clothing

You don’t want to get caught in the rain and cold with shorts and a tank top on. Get a poncho or rain coat, sturdy shoes or boots, long pants, a couple of shirts, extra socks (ideally not cotton), a jacket, a hat and a bandana.

Something to sleep in/Shelter

A couple of small tarps and a sleeping bag might be a good idea in case you get caught sleeping without shelter.


If you need to boil/purify water, what are you going to do it with? A small pot doesn’t take much room and can be a life saver.

Survival knife

I won’t get into what makes a good knife, but you should have something strong and sturdy that can stand up to cutting, hacking and make even prying. Something with a partially serrated edge is a good idea as well.

Copies of important documents and identification

This is something that I wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t done some research. Store them in a waterproof container, because they may just come in handy.

Pry bar and rope

You never know when this stuff might come in handy. A pry bar can help you get into shelter in an emergency and can even serve as a good self-defense weapon if the need arises. For rope I like 550 para chord. It’s super strong and when you cut it there are actually a number of smaller threads inside that you can separate and use. My personal favorite use for this chord is as shoelaces on my boots. This way you always know you have some around.


A survival handbook

This is important. How many of us out there are well versed in the elements of survival? Not too many I’d bet. I know I’m not. You can find a copy of the US Army Survival manual in most bookstores and online. Even just basic information from it can save your life.

Again, this isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it’s a good start. At first I know this seems like a lot of gear, but when you think about it, it’s really not. The New York City Department of Emergency Management suggests that both your emergency preparedness kit and go bag are stocked to last at least 3 days.

To some people, packing up these supplies may seem paranoid, but when you look at the types of disasters that have struck in the past it seems to me like just good sense. I’m no survivalist but even I think it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst.


One thing that isn’t on either of these lists, but needs to be made clear is the necessity of a plan. No amount of supplies is going to help you if you don’t have some kind of plan in the even of a disaster. Get in contact with your local department of emergency management and find out what you need to do if something happens. Make sure you have a plan in place with your family. Some factors to take into account when making a plan:

  • Where will your family reunite if separated?
  • Identify exit routes from your house and neighborhood
  • Designate an out of state relative or friend where you can meetup
  • Take care of any special needs
  • Make sure everyone has a copy of your plan
  • Go over your plan with family members

I hope this simple guide is helpful to you. I also hope you never need to use any of the information in it. Just remember you can never be too prepared for disaster. If you’re interested in learning more here are some great references that also helped me to write this.

New York City Department of Emergency Management

Survival Cache

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