Since I joined the Yard I've often spoke of my interest in survival related topics (and even posted about it a few times). This has generated a lot of questions so I thought a BRIEF thread about what I think constitutes a good "Bug Out Bag" could help address many of these questions. A lot of this information is redundant from previous threads, because this is what I have found to work for me.

Before we get into the Bag Contents, I wanted to VERY QUICKLY discuss a couple of other issues....

The Bug Out Bag

Your survival plan MUST include the ability to quickly evacuate on foot. This should be a last resort, because your other gear / shelter / food / ammo is at your home. However, if something happens that makes staying put ("Bugging In") too dangerous then you need to be ready to move - on foot - if necessary.

You cannot overload your BOB to a point as to not allow confident HIGH SPEED movement over broken ground. As a result, I do not ever recommend a ruck load over 45 pounds. This 45 pounds is in addition to the clothes you are wearing, boots, firearms and ammo, and Belt Order.

Therefore, a larger "Three Day" ruck should be adequately sized. I prefer the Tactical Tailor "Three Day Plus".

The Belt Order

The Belt Order is designed as a "mini-survival kit". This is to be on you at ALL TIMES! You can leave your ruck in camp while you forage / set up traps / fish or hunt / use the bathroom / scout / etc as long as you do not take off the belt order! The contents of a survival belt order usually include:

1. USGI or Improved Civilian Equivalent Pistol Belt - this is NOT used to hold up your trousers. This is to be worn OVER your trouser belt.
2. Handgun Holster
3. Handgun Magazine Pouches
4. PSK (Personal Survival Kit) with:

4a) USGI Canteen Cup.

4b) 550 Cord (50 feet in ADDITION to the 100 feet in your BOB).

4c) Survival Straw.

4d) Lighter (this is in ADDITION to the lighter in your BOB).

4e) Firesteel.

4f) Tinder (this is in ADDITION to the tinder in your BOB).

4g) Knife Sharpener.

4h) Space Blanket.

4i) Bandanna.

4j) Compass.

4k) Water Purification Tablets (4 in addition to the tablets in your BOB).

5. Small & Medium Fixed Blade Knifes (more on this later).

6. Trauma Kit (more on this later).

Now that we've addressed those issues, lets move on to the BOB itself....

The Main Areas of Survival Concern include:


In a "non-shooting" survival situation the above list is placed in order of importance. "Exposure" (hypothermia) will kill you faster than dehydration. Dehydration will kill you faster than starvation, etc.

The survival adage is "3 is 2, 2 is 1, 1 is 0", and as such I believe in gear redundancy. Some gear can serve "multiple roles", but I've found those products to be gimmicky. A great example is the folding knives that also have a firesteel in them. The knives are of poor quality, and the firesteel is hard to access.

Regardless, survivalism is about the RULE OF THREE:

3 Minutes Without Air = Death
3 Hours Without Shelter = Death
3 Days Without Water = Death
3 Weeks Without Food = Death
3 Months Without Hope = Death

Therefore, lets take each category in turn. I'll list the products that I've thoroughly tested and recommend. EVERYTHING will have "triple redundancy":


Fire is everything in a survival situation. It provides warm, comfort, and protection. It also enables you to boil water, cook food, harden wood for bushcraft tools, and signal for help.


A name brand butane lighter is the easiest way to start a fire. The "Bic" brand is what I use. However, these are not without fault. In cold weather they can fail, and if improperly stored - they will loose their butane.


A name brand firesteel is a critical piece of kit. I prefer the "Light My Fire" brand, because they last longer than others I've tried. These take a little practice to master, but once mastered can start a fire in a torrential down pour. My wife will attest to this, because it saved us in one about two years ago.



The easiest tinder to use is Trioxane fuel tabs. These are available on the military surplus market, but are heavy and have a limited shelf life. I recommend carrying ONE tab for "last resort" fire building.


Go to WalMart's photo development department and ask for a bag of free 35mm film canisters. Take the free canisters home, and fill them with cotton balls that you've rubbed in Vasoline. These will take an INSTANT spark from your firesteel, and will burn for a long time.


Wal-Mart sells "9 Hour Emergency Candles" in a three pack. I keep one of these in each of my kits, because once lit..they will burn for a very long time. They can also serve to provide small task lighting in camp (when a big fire is prohibited by light control, and your flashlight/headlamp batteries are dead).


Everyone's seen the mag-bars. I do not recommend them. I do not recommend them. The shavings burn too fast and erratically.

4) BACK UP PLAN! You need a back up plan in case all else fails.


Buy a $1 waterproof match case at Wal-Mart and fill it with wooden "lifeboat strike anywhere" matches. These are my "last resort" firestarters. As such, I do not use them unless all else has failed.


If you haven't been hypothermic listen to me carefully. I have been hypothermic on a couple of occasions. Each time was a FAILURE on a survival training mission. If you think that you can "tough it out" by throwing a poncho on the ground, and getting in a quick nap - YOU ARE SADLY MISTAKEN. The ground will rob you of heat faster than water. If you get wet (and are in the wrong materials) you will die - this is even a possibility when its warm during the day. Being cold will also cause you to burn calories (always in short supply in an emergency).

Once hypothermia starts to set in you must react before your mental capabilities diminish. It is far better to prevent hypothermia than to recover from it.


The USGI ripstop poncho is a critical piece of kit. If I had to take four items to survive off the land it would be: Bussekin Knife, LMF Firesteel, Canteen Cup, and the USGI Poncho. These are getting harder to find, but do not accept a civilian substitute. This poncho will be your basha, ground cover, rain protection, solar still, emergency liter (for transporting injured people), and more.

2) 550 CORD!

Except no substitute for SEVEN STRAND 550 parachute cord. You need at least 100 feet of it, and more is better. Learn how to tie knots too. This stuff is INVALUABLE in the field. It can be used for shelter making, bow string, trot line, fishing line (pull the strands out of the shell), first aid (splints, cravats, more), big game drag handle, snare making, and more.

3) MSS (Modular Sleep System)

3a) BIVY BAG! I've humped around tents in the past, and they are not for me. I want to be mobile so my max ruck load is around 45 pounds. (I am 5'10" tall and weigh about 180#. I'm athletically built, and fit). A tent weighs too much and offers too little in return. You must judge the weight-to-benefit of each piece of kit you're considering. As a result, I've come to LOVE the USGI "bivy bag". Its large enough for the biggest guy to fit in, is waterproof, and breathes.


The MSS system has two bags - one for cool weather and one for cold weather. When used togehter inside the bivy bag you're good for about 4-6 hours of sleep in -30F weather!

Some people live in climates that do not require the sleeping bags. For them I recommend the:


This liner can be worn under your poncho for "standing shelter" warm, or you can wrap up in it inside the bivy bag to create a fair weather sleeping bag.

4) BACK UP PLAN! You need a back up plan in case all else fails.


Buy the best you can afford. I like REAL USGI (not "authorized copies") due to the durability, but they are heavier than civilian products.


These will insulate even when wet. Cotton kills, and should be avoided.


The essence of life. Respect your ability to MAKE POTABLE DRINKING WATER! Getting diarrhea or vomiting because you drank contaminated water just makes your prospects of dying from dehydration greater.


This stainless steel USGI jewel is about $5, and is invaluable. Avoid the older style with an "L Shaped" handle. Find the "wire butterfly handle model". This is your primary cooking and drinking vessle. It can be used to boil water, cook food, and even be a signal mirror if you polish a surface that won't be blackened by field use.


I do not recommend anything that requires batteries. I like name brand pump filters. The Katadyn Hiker is the base model. Its light and realitively cheap. I've used them for years. The "Rolls Royce" is the Katadyn Pocket. At $225 its not for the budget minded, but if properly cared for it will produce 13000 gallons of drinking water. I've had mine since 1999, and it is still 100% good to go.


You must be able to carry water from place to place. Even if you're in an area with abundant water you need the ability to transport it in case the water is becomes too toxic in your current location. I like 32oz Nalgene Bottles (BPA Free preferred), because they don't leak and are nearly indestructible. They are also marked for measuring ounces which is handy when making frieze dried meals.

4) BACK UP PLAN! You need a back up plan in case all else fails.


Either buy a 3L SOURCE brand bladder or a 1L Platypus brand collapsible bottle. DO NOT SETTLE FOR ANYTHING ELSE. I've used over 20 brands of products and these are the best.


Do NOT buy a bottle of these at Wal-Mart. Buy the type that are in single serve blister packs. I prefer Katadyn. These tablets will kill everything in your water, but have limited shelf life and are heat sensitive.


At $10 delivered the AquaMira "Frontier Filter" is a no-brainer. Its good for around 20 gallons (maybe more if you pre-filter), and is tiny. At around 1 ounce you really can't afford to not have one in your kit.

NOTE: I prefer to keep the TABLETS and SURVIVAL STRAW in my PSK. This is a small survival kit that goes on my body instead of in my ruck. This allows me to leave the ruck in camp while I use the bathroom, forage for food / firewood, etc.


You need calories and fat to stay warm, think clearly, and remain on the move.


I've researched and tried them all. I like 3600 calorie MainStay brand, because they are the smallest for the calorie amount and taste decent. Their fat content is high too. YOU WANT FAT IN YOUR SURVIVAL DIET. All of the "I'm going to live off the land" types ignore the reality of RABBIT STARVATION. Game is too lean for constant human consumption so you have to supplement your diet with fat. We require fat to digest some foods and absorb some vitamins and minerals.


Mountain House the best I've tried overall. They are easy to make, and do not even require clean up. You just boil water in your canteen cup and then dump it in the pouch / stir / wait. Select products that sound good and try them before you settle on that particular meal. For example, the "Scrambbled Eggs" are AWFUL and should be avoided, but the "Chili Mac", "Lasagna" and "Spaghetti" are very good. Since these foods have no water you're saving weight.


Oatmeal packets are small and somewhat light. They are easy to make, and full of sugar which equals quick energy. I consider these "comfort" food, but they are a great way to start the survival morning.

4) BACK UP PLAN! You need a back up plan in case all else fails.


I like to keep a minimum of 110yds of 12-15# NAME BRAND fishing line, and an assortment of QUALITY hooks and lures in my kits. This allows me to tree fish, soda can fish, and trot line fish. If someone is interested, I'll post a complete list of my kit's contents.


You must weigh the energy spent vs the energy gained for all hunting / gathering activities. This is why I prefer passive fishing and trapping to hunting. Your fishing line and 550 cord will serve you well in a trapping capacity. However, you need to learn how to make dead falls, figure 4's, etc. This takes PRACTICE! Don't just read a book or watch a show - get out there and make them!


A 22 rifle (preferred) or 22LR handgun (acceptable) is going to put a lot more meat in your pot than they guy that thinks he's going to continually bag "big game". Remember, EVERYONE else that isn't prepared is out there hunting for big game. You're chances of killing a deer/elk/caribou/moose/whatever are a lot slimmer than having a dangerous run-in with someone who didn't prepare.


The tools required for this aren't stored in your BOB - they're stored in your head. Learn edible plants in your AO TODAY. Get expert training because mistakenly identifying a plant can be fatal. Remember the SAS rule: 1) Touch it to your skin and watch for a rash. WAIT. 2) Touch it to your tongue and watch for a bad reaction. WAIT. 3) Nibble a little and spit it out. WAIT. 4) Eat a small amount and watch for a bad reaction. WAIT. 5) Enjoy your new found food source.



This is first on my list because its the most practical tool in your arsenal. Its not what I want to fight with, but it is DEFENSE AGAINST STARVATION / DEATH FROM EXPOSURE. I believe in a "trifecta of blades" meaning:


The Scrap Yard "Scrapivore" or Swamp Rat "Rodent Solution" fit perfectly here. I just switched from a SW Warden to the Rodent Solution. This is your detail knife for caping game, cutting vegetables, trimming cordage, etc.


The Scrap Yard "S5" or Swamp Rat "RMD" are perfect. This is your belt order / everything knife.


The Scrap Yard "Dog Father" is my choice. This 10" ruck carried beast will make shelter, prepare firewood, and fend off beasts (if all else fails).


I'm a rifleman, but a handgun can be with you 24/7. Wear this on your belt order, and do not leave camp without it!

Select a common caliber like 38 Special, 9mm, 40SW, 45Acp. I prefer 9mm, because the military uses it - which means it will always be available (as long as there is a government).

I prefer Glock handguns, because they are indestructible and require very little maintenance.


Again choose something common like a 22LR, 223/5.56x45mm or 308/7.62x51mm. The Russian 7.62x39mm is a great cartridge, but are you EVER going to find it after the balloon goes up? You might find a slimy supply clerk who is willing to barter something for an ammo can of military 5.56 or 7.62x51mm....

NOTE: Choose a proven platform and train with it. Buy THE VERY BEST QUALITY even if it means having less guns or having to wait to get it. I prefer AR15 (Bravo Company and Colt), AK101(Arsenal SLR-106FR), and the mighty FAL (DS Arms). Again, learn your weapon!


Its amazing how fast something can get infected while in the bush! If you don't have First Aid Training - sign up at your local Red Cross this week. I currently have five certifications, and am always looking for something else to add.

Here are the basics of your TRAUMA KIT. This isn't an off the shelf boo-boo kit that goes in your ruck. This is on the outside of your ruck or preferrably on your belt order:


You have to stop bleeding. Blood loss will result in shock and death. DO NOT BUY THE GRANULATED PRODUCTS! They are difficult to remove from a wound. I like QuikClot's "Combat Sponge".

2) TQ!

The tourniquet will save your life. Have at least one, but two is better. The best made is the C.A.T. (Combat Application Tourinuuet).


Buy an Asherman, and research how to use it. Do not buy a Hyfin.


This is a simple, but affective item to have.


Select one that is large enough to wrap around YOUR chest. The Isreali is a compression bandage.


Two should suffice.


I like 4x4's because they're big enough to get the job done. Keep them in ziplock bags (in their original packaging).


The naso-pharyngeal airway tube gets inserted through the nose and into the throat when a person can't breath through their mouth due to an injury. It can be used on throat injuries too. YOU NEED LUBE to get these inserted. Tape a packet of surgical lube to the Naso packaging.


The ARS DN is a chest decompression needle. I am not trained on one so I do not include them. If your training includes them - add it. OTHERWISE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE ONE OF THESE!


Add a couple of ampules of saline for eye washes.


You need to avoid blood borne pathogens!


Packets of BURN CREAM, ALCOHOL PADS, IODINE PADS, etc. Anti-bacterial First Aid Cream is critical for field cuts.

13) MEDS!

I keep Cipro in my kit for heavy infections. There is also NSAIDs, Aspirin (heart attack), Antihistamines, Lopermide (anti-diarrhea), etc. If you require a prescription - keep some in your kit! I also keep a couple of sting relief pads.

FIRST AID NOTE OF CAUTION: I maintain Red Cross Community First Aid, First Aid, Blood Borne Pathogen, and advanced (outside vendor) trauma training. I also have a very good friend who is an EMT (14 years) and Professional Firefighter (11 years) who has helped my training. YOU MUST SEEK PROFESSIONAL TRAINING! DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE MEDICAL DEVICES AND TECHNIQUES BEYOND YOUR LEVEL OF TRAINING!


The following items are always included in my kits, but are hard to categorize:

1. LED Headlamp with Spare Batteries.

2. Map of AO.

3. Playing Cards - I prefer the type with survival or knot tying information on them.

4. Mosquito Head Net.

5. 3pc Mess Kit - I very much like the East German Aluminum Kit. Its a good "long term survival item". The Canteen Cup works too, but the Mess Kit makes life easier.

6. 2pc Mess Utensils - Have you tried carving a spoon? I have. Buy a QUALITY spoon and fork and add them to your kit. I typically find the Ti (titanium) products to be too small, but very much like the Guyot Designs "large utensil" set.

7. Trash Bags - these are shelter, food protection and storage, solar stills, water collectors, ponchos and more.

8. Ziplock Bags - these are good for water storage, food storage, keeping your small items dry, etc. Use the "Freezer Weight" bags.

9. Clothes - I keep the following clothing items in my rucks:

9a. Socks - At least two pair of wool for summer and two pair of heavy wool for winter. I also like to keep a pair of polypropylene liners in my BOB because it cuts down on blisters / friction and moves moisture away from the feet.

9b. Wool Hat - This is a MANDATORY item.

9c. Leather Work Gloves with Removable Wool Liners - I use USGI because they are inexpensive and durable.

9d. Polypro Shirt & Drawers - I prefer to keep Medium Weight in my ruck. These are good as added layers for evenings where you're not moving around.

9e. Jungle Hat - I keep a MultiCam camo "jungle hat" in my ruck. A hat that protects your neck and face is a critical item.

10. Weapons Cleaning Kit - Even if you have an AK you need to maintain your weapon.

10a. Lubricant - I like Slip2000 EWL for all of my lubricating needs. This is the stuff made famous during the BCM Filthy 14 torture.

10b. Cleaning Rod - A lot of people are moving toward flexible bore cleaners (Otis kits and Bore Snakes). However, these are WORTHLESS if you have a bore obstruction! Therefore, I highly recommend a USGI sectional cleaning rod with patch holder. You can use the rod to remove stuck cases, etc as well as to clean your bore.

10c. Patches - sized appropriately for your caliber.

10d. Bore Brush - sized appropriately for your caliber.

10e. Receiver Brush - USGI is the best, but a civilian toothbrush will also work. I prefer "child sized" if going to civy brush route.

10f. Chamber Brush - USGI M16 for 5.56 and USGI M14 for 7.62x51mm.

10g. Pipe Cleaners - AR15 users you do NOT need these! I've never used one!

10h. AR15 Bolt Assembly - I keep a spare bolt in my kit, because this is the primary failure item on the AR platform. (I actually keep one in my MagPul MOE pistol grip with a MagPul "bolt / pin" removable core. This enables me to keep a spare bolt and firing pin "on board" the weapon).

11. Communications - You might want to keep abreast of news after "it" happens. The ability to communicate with other survivors could also be of value.

11a. CRANK RADIO - We have an Eton emergency crank radio in our vehicle. Its rather large and slightly heavy so it does not go in our BOB. However, you might consider adding one to your vehicle.

11b. 2 WAY RADIOS - We have Midland 18.9 mile two-way radios clipped to the webbing on our BOB's (and I have a Silva Tech 4.0 Solar Charging Array to recharge the batteries). However, we've found ourselves wanting to shed ruck weight and these are typically the first to go. Nonetheless, the ability to communicate is very important. I HIGHLY recommend you research the topic before selecting a product. It isn't difficult to triangulate your location based upon your broadcasts, but GRS type devices don't broadcast a great distance. Regardless, security is a concern you should consider.

I wrote this from memory and probably forgot a few things, but hopefully this will help address people's concerns. I'm very thankful that some of you are taking your own security seriously, and thinking about building a quality survival kit!

EDITED for typing mistakes.

Last edited by Architect; 03/11/11 10:44 PM.