What Should Your Bug-Out Bag Have?

Bug-out bag, 72-hour kit, emergency pack. Whatever you want to call it, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of having one.  While you’d like to fit your whole emergency storage in it, you’re limited to space and weight.  Here’s a step-by-step process to help you build the perfect 72-hour kit. Items are listed in order of importance in each category.

Food & Water
The first component of a good 72-hour kit is sustenance. You’ll need food and water to stay alive.
Water- Pouched water or water bottles for 3 days. You need to pack a minimum of 40 ounces of water. If there is room in your pack when you finish packing,  add as much as will fit.
Food- There are 3 basic sources of food that would work in a 72-hour kit. Any of these would work, but they each have different pros and cons.

  • Calorie bars- Emergency Ration Bars are single bars that are packed with 2400-3600 calories. You eat these over the course of the 3 days.
    Pros: Easy, calorie-packed, filling, fills less space.
    Cons: Short shelf life (1-5 years), nutrient lacking, no variety in taste or nutrition.
  • MREs-  Meals Ready to Eat are essentially meals in an airtight bag that can be heated and eaten no matter where you are.
    Pros: Easy, self-heating, nutrient-rich
    Cons: Short shelf life (1-5 years)
  • Freeze-Dried- Freeze-dried food is food that has been flash frozen and dehydrated.
    Pros: Lightweight, nutrient-rich, easy, long shelf-life (up to 30 years), great variety
    Cons: Some items need rehydrating (not all freeze-dried food needs rehydrating to consume.)

Warmth & Shelter
Once the basics of food and water are taken care of, you’re going to want to move on to the need for warmth and shelter. (Or cooling)

  • Emergency blankets- Mylar space blankets are compact. They reflect radiant body heat, keeping you warm. You might want to try an emergency sleeping bag to trap heat even better.
  • Hand warmers- These warmers can be used for up to 7 hours to keep you warm
  • Cooling cloths- Cooling neckcloths can help keep your core body temperature down if you are stranded in the heat.
  • Ponchos- Staying dry will be important to keep your heat in. Pack a couple ponchos.
  • Tube tent – As far as priorities go, the tube tent is important, but not at the top of the list for your bug-out bag.  However, it could be very helpful if you are in a situation where you don’t have shelter. If you have room in your bag, it’s a great asset.
  • Matches/Firestarter


  • Flashlight- A flashlight is a very important item in your 72-hour kit. If you can get a combined radio/flashlight, that will cover communication needs, as well. Also, to avoid having to store batteries, a hand-crank flashlight with a cell phone charger is a good idea.
  • Light Sticks

First Aid 
A basic first aid kit is essential in a good emergency pack. Essentials include:

  • Bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Burn cream
  • First aid tape
  • Tweezers
  • Particulate respirator mask


  • Multipurpose pocket knife
  • Paracord
  • Carabiner
  • Collapsible water storage pouch


  • Toilet paper roll
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Diapers/Wipes for babies
  • Tissues
  • Wet wipes for general hygiene

Make sure you have a sturdy backpack to carry what you need. For families with small children, it might be a good idea to add small toys, playing cards, candy, etc.

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