Supplies You Need for a Wilderness Survival Bug Out Bag

Few of us have experienced having to flee our homes in the middle of the night and wandering into the wilderness because of an invading army, a natural disaster, or civil unrest.

However, no one is immune to catastrophic events – we’ve simply been lucky enough to live in a period of world history that has been relatively innocuous. If you had to flee your home at a moment’s notice, what would you take with you?  

If you don’t have a bug out bag, then you might grab a gym bag, throw in a few clothes, a few toiletry items, perhaps some food from the pantry, and then be out the door with a mishmash of items.

You would direct your family to do something similar. Once you left the house, how long could you survive with a few t-shirts, toothpaste, and a couple of nutrition bars?  Where would you sleep?  

What would you drink?  What would you eat? How would you stay warm? How would you get your news about the events that caused you to flee?  The more you think about it, the more you may realize that you would be wholly unprepared to support and protect yourself and your family as soon as you left the comfort of your home.

This is a scary thought. What’s the solution?  Preparing a wilderness “bug out bag” (a bag that is pre-packed with survival supplies that you could grab and go when events required you to leave suddenly) would be a pretty good start.

Start with a Durable Bug Out Bag That Can Handle the Elements

So where do you get a bug out bag and what makes one better than another? A search for a “bug out bag” on Amazon gives some immediate options ranging in price from $40 to $700.

So how do you know what makes one bug out bag better than another and which is best for the wilderness over an urban bug out bag? Let’s start with the bag itself. The bag must be hardy, durable, and weatherproof.

It wouldn’t make much sense to have a bag that was going to rip the first time it got caught on a tree branch. Additionally, if the bag isn’t weatherproof, the contents of your bag may be damaged and rendered useless if you encounter rain or snow.

You should have a bag for each family member, which is properly sized. You wouldn’t want to ask your ten-year daughter to lug around the same sized bag as yours. Comfort matters.

Ask an infantry service member, if you have to carry around a bag of your supplies for days on end, the last thing you want is a bag that sits uncomfortably on your shoulders. Forty pounds will quickly feel like 80 pounds with an improperly sized or designed bag.

Above all, don’t skimp on the quality of the bag. The last thing that you want is to be stuck with a bag where the zipper sticks, the straps break, or the bottom tears. At the risk of sounding too dramatic, it’s recommended that you select a dark color, such as black or dark green, in the event, that you desire not to be seen as you are bugging out.

The Ability to Purify Water

A bug out bag is a survival bag. Think about that. The purpose of this bag is to keep you breathing in a scenario that may threaten your life. The bug out bag is not designed for you to pack with your family photos, your lucky t-shirt from high school, or your favorite books.

The contents of this bag are all about protecting your life. The very first thing that you should be thinking about is water. The lack of clean drinking water in the wilderness will threaten your survival in a matter of days.

Surviving the ordeal that you have found yourself in will require a clear mind and a strong body – neither of which is possible if you’re dehydrated. Unfortunately and obviously, water is heavy.

How much water do you need?  A common estimate is one gallon per person per day. One-half gallon for drinking and the other half gallon for cooking and sanitation. At a minimum, you will need one liter a day just to replace the liquid that is lost through urination, perspiration, and exhaling.

Let’s assume you are a family of five, and let us further assume that you want to ensure you have enough water for one week. At one gallon per day per person, that’s 35 gallons of water.

A gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds, so 35 gallons of water weighs 290.5 pounds. This isn’t feasible to carry as you evacuate your house under the cover of darkness at two o’clock in the morning and head for the wilderness.

Therefore, your bug out bag must contain the tools required for you to purify water that you find in creeks, ponds, lakes, or even puddles. Don’t let the pristine appearance of water found in the wild deceive you.

Non-treated water contains microscopic pathogens that can cause illness, diarrhea, or stomachaches. Your bug out bag must contain a solution to the problem of purifying water.

You have three options. The first is boiling water, but that requires starting and maintaining a fire. Although doing so isn’t rocket science, it is time consuming or potentially challenging and complex – and the existence of a fire and smoke may even put you in danger, depending on what it is you’re bugging out from.

The other two options are filtration and purification tabs. Filters generally come in one of two forms – a straw or a squeezable filter. The benefit of the straw filter is its simplicity – you literally drink through the straw.

The disadvantage is that its lifespan is significantly less than the squeezable filter. Another option is the use of purification tablets, which most commonly contain chlorine dioxide.

If you have the ability to purify water, you will be hydrated. This is a great step towards ensuring your survival.

Readymade, Easy to Cook and the Ability to Source Food

Your second wilderness bug out bag focus will be food. The good news is that the human body can survive for quite some time without food. Although it is obviously unethical to experiment on humans to see how long they can survive without food, most experts agree that a hydrated individual can go greater than two weeks without food.

This is based on the observations of hunger strike participants. However, hunger strike participants are typically not exerting themselves by traveling in the wild in the face of existential danger.

Therefore, food is required to keep your energy levels high and your mental acuity sharp. You have three options: ready-made food, easy-to-cook food, and sourcing your own food from the wild.

In all likelihood, your bug out journey will not be measured in weeks or months, but rather days. Therefore, your objective is to keep moving as much as possible so you can get from point A (danger) to point B (safety) in the shortest period of time.

Therefore, it is advisable to equip your bug out bag with readymade food to minimize the amount of time you are preparing foods. You have some viable options in the readymade food department.

Freeze-dried or dehydrated pouches make a good addition to your bug out bag. However, some people have undesired intestinal effects from these. It’s recommended that you try a pouch or two from the comfort of your home prior to packing your bug out bag.

If you are going to have stomach problems, you want to know so that you can try a different brand or type. Military MREs and Cliff Bars are another option. They won’t win any gourmet food awards, but they are calorie-dense, physically small, and easy to pack.

Lastly, you could always pack items that are readily available in your home – such as peanut butter, canned meats, and nuts. If you opt to cook food, your bug out bag should contain food that is calorically dense, easy to pack, and easy to cook.

Pasta, rice, and ramen noodles are the fail-safe options using these criteria. Keep in mind that this option will require that you pack something to cook the food in. Ensure that your bug out bag includes a pot or pan.  

The bigger the better, as you don’t really sacrifice space in your bag because you can fill the pot with other supplies. Most bug out bags contain enough readymade or easy-to-cook food to last three days.  

Therefore, you will want to ensure that you have at least 10 meals per person per bag.  The more, the better, but 10 meals should be the minimum in your bug out bag. On the off-chance that your journey outpaces your food supply, you will have to source your food from the wild.

You all need to know how to hunt and gather food. You would be wise to ensure that your bug out bag includes a fishing tackle, paracord, and a pistol or knife. If you have access to a pond or a lake, fishing is likely your best option for sourcing food.

If you are forced to hunt, not only do you have to be a really good shot, but you will also have to have the stomach to dress, prepare, and eat small animals such as squirrels and rabbits.

Gathering berries and plants sounds like an option because of their ease and availability, depending on the time of year in colder climates. However, unless you are a survivalist expert, the chances of you knowing which berries are edible and which are poisonous are slim.

You don’t want to experiment to find out. If you think you could not bring yourself to fish or hunt, consider packing a small book that classifies berries and plants in your location for edibility and nutritional value.

Fire Building and Cooking Gear

Your bug out bag must include gear that allows you to build a fire. Boiling water can be done for drinking water and cooking, but you may also need a fire to keep you warm. To build a fire, you need a flame and something to burn.

For the flame, keep it simple – lighters and matches are a good place to start. However, they may not serve you well in inclement weather (although you can find stormproof matches), so it’s recommended that you have a Ferro rod striker.

The Ferro rod is challenging to use, but it lasts forever. Additionally, you can include a solar-powered spark lighter, which can be easily obtained online and packed into your wilderness bug out bag.

As for fuel, you will be surrounded by fuel in the form of sticks and logs. However, it can be difficult to get these sources to catch fire, and attempting to do so can burn through a lot of matches and fuel in your lighter.

Therefore, you will need some tinder. An old survivalist trick is to pack cotton balls coated in Vaseline, which makes for excellent tinder. Alternatively, you can use a tinder cloth, dryer lint, or waterproof fire sticks.

You’ll want some cooking gear to use with your fire. While a stainless steel pot or pan can be used, if you’re not on foot, and instead using a 4-wheeler or other vehicle, you might be able to take something more formidable, like cast iron pots to use over the fire.

You want to make sure you remember to pack a spoon to stir with, a spatula, knife, and other things you’d normally use for cooking. Don’t forget to pack a camping messware kit that has a plate, cup and utensils for everyone to use when it’s time to eat.

You may also want to consider investing in a foldable solar cooker for the times when a fire is not a possibility. These come in a variety of sizes, or you can learn how to make one yourself.

Shelter Options for Extreme Heat or Cold

Keeping yourself protected from the elements will serve not only to keep you comfortable, but can also be necessary to keep you alive. Exposure to extreme temperatures can be life-threatening, so you must ensure that you have a plan for sheltering and sleeping.

When preparing your wilderness bug out bag with shelter supplies, your efforts should focus on warmth, protection from the elements, and comfort. Unfortunately, bedding and shelter supplies tend to take up a lot of space and space is a precious commodity when preparing a bug out bag.

You must be wise in selecting your bedding shelter supplies. In regards to warmth, look for a blanket or sleeping bag that breathes, retains heat but not moisture. However, most that are on the market will only protect you down to a temperature of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Therefore, it’s recommended that you supplement your primary blanket or sleeping bag with a pack of Mylar blankets also called emergency or survival blankets. These disposal blankets are very thin, but allow you to retain 90 percent of your body heat, which will ward off hypothermia and frostbite in extremely cold conditions.

Additionally, they reflect heat to prevent you from heatstroke in extremely hot environments. Lastly, it’s recommended that you also pack a wool blanket. The wool blanket can be used as a bottom layer of bedding, another layer of warmth, a makeshift tent, or a cape or poncho.

Most survivalists don’t recommend including a tent in your bug out bag due to their size, but again – if you’re using a vehicle or capable of attaching it and carrying it using MOLLE, you can do that.      

First Aid and Communication Supplies

Although you might hope that your situation is not made worse by an injury, hope is not a plan. Include a first aid supply kit in your bug out bag to assist you in responding to insect or animal bites, cuts, burns, wounds, or sickness.  

Although there are many readymade kits on the market, you should take care to ensure that your kit contains items to prevent or treat the most likely situations and ailments you may encounter.

Consider supplying your kit with OTC medications such ibuprofen/aspirin for general pain relief, antihistamine in the case of an allergic reaction, and Pepto Bismal to combat diarrhea in the case of drinking contaminated water, or a bad reaction to your modified diet.

Don’t forget to include any medicines that you are prescribed. Your wilderness bug out journey is not the time for a preventative medical emergency or withdrawal symptoms. Equip your bag with bandages of various sizes, disinfectants such as rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, adhesive tape, gauze rolls for potential burns or cuts, ace bandages, a suture kit, and antibiotic ointment to allow you to respond to cuts and injuries.

Don’t forget to include small tools that may be necessary to support your first-aid efforts – such as scissors, a magnifying glass, tweezers for splinters, splints, headlamps, thermometers, and tourniquets.
Lastly, you should ensure that your bug out bag includes resources to allow you to communicate or at least receive information from the outside world during your transit to a safe location.

A solar-powered charger will help to ensure that you have the use of your cell phone for the duration of your transit. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will have cell phone service – even with a fully charged phone.

Therefore, an emergency hand crank radio may prove essential to receive information such as weather and news. If you really want to be prepared, consider including a HAM radio.

Whereas a typical radio only receives AM/FM frequencies, a HAM radio allows you to receive and transmit on virtually every frequency such as CB (Citizens’ Band) and VHF, which may prove useful in communicating with other individuals bugging out in the area.

This guidance is not all-inclusive. You must take into account your home’s location, which will determine the variables that are most likely to impact you in a forced emergency and determine what situations, climates, and terrain you should prepare for.

Although no one can prepare for every possible scenario, a properly prepared wilderness bug out bag can significantly increase your chances of survival should the worst-case scenario unexpectedly force you out of your home without the luxury of ample preparation time.