Or how can I build a bug out bag without breaking the bank?
Do you have your bug out bag packed and waiting for you in the hall closet? Is your bug out bag tested and ready to go in a moment’s notice? Do you have a bug out bag at all or wonder, what is a bug out bag? Maybe you are just starting on the journey into preparedness and like a lot of other people, you are focusing on getting your bug out bag ready and have encountered the dilemma that so many of us have struggled with ourselves. Bug Out Bags can be pretty expensive if you don’t know what you are doing and you may find yourself looking at all of the options and wondering, how much should a bug out bag cost? Do you need to go broke to provide a level of safety and security or is there a better way?
I am always looking for ways to improve my gear or readiness level and the subject of bug out bags is one that gets a lot of attention. There are millions of lists of items you “must have” in your bug out bag; even the prepper journal has our own bug out bag checklist and as you probably know, companies are already offering pre-built bug out bags for those who simply want to buy everything in one pack and forget about it. Actually, this isn’t really a new phenomenon but I was out scouring the internet the other day and saw a company selling Bug Out bags with “everything you need” to be “ready for anything” for the low price of $2299.00.
I couldn’t believe the price they were asking people to pay so I went out and looked at the items that were included in their bug out bag and starting pricing them each out on Amazon. Aside from a lot of things I consider to be unnecessary (2 whole rolls of duct tape?), they had very expensive items in their bags when you could have easily substituted quality made, but cheaper equivalents. The bag weighed 44 pounds too which isn’t too shabby, but not the greatest either.
I started thinking that many people go about planning a bug out bag with the items they need, but neglect to look at the bigger picture and how I might be able to save someone from a potentially costly mistake. This article is my effort to demonstrate how you don’t need to spend $2200 or $1000 or even $700 to create a perfectly suitable bug out bag. Of course this assumes you have none of the items you need and would have to purchase everything.
What is a bug out bag?
Let’s start by defining what I mean by bug out bag and describing how I envision its use in a SHTF scenario. A bug out bag is what you grab when you are heading out the door and you don’t know when you will be coming home. It should contain all of the supplies you will need to live for at least 72 hours. That point is crucial in understanding the items I chose and by comparison what I think could be left out. It is not the bag that will make you “ready for anything” because that is an unobtainable goal. Properly configured though; a good bug out bag should help keep you alive.
What do you need in a good bug out bag?
Now that we know what a bug out bag is designed for, let’s go over the items I think you need to achieve that goal. I am leaving off firearms from this list.
- The bag itself – something to carry all of the stuff you need.
- Food – Usually enough for 72 hours (2000 calories a day)
- Way to cook the food?
- Change of clothing (appropriate to season)
- Rain protection
- Sleeping Bag or system
- Something to keep the elements off your head
- Means to make fire
- Fire starter/Lighter
- First Aid
- Optional items – Nice to have
- Toilet paper
- Wipes – For washing up
- Cordage – 50 Feet
How can you save money on a bug out bag?
OK, so now I have a list of items that I think are pretty much the necessary minimums for keeping you alive and healthy for three days. Could I add more stuff in there? Sure, but it will cost you in weight and dollars. The bag contents I have below are under $500 (just barely) and weigh about 20 pounds. Weight is a very important consideration for your bug out bag for two main reasons. First, if your bug out bag weighs too much it will hurt you eventually. It might not hurt when you try it on around the house, but after walking 10 miles down the road with it, you will regret every single unnecessary ounce in there.
With too much weight comes limited mobility. The heavier the pack, the harder it is for you to move quickly. Moving quickly might be needed in a SHTF scenario. So, what items do I have chosen to create a bug out bag that is less than $500 (again assuming you have none of these supplies already) and weighs about 20 pounds?
Bug Out Bag
- There are millions of options out there, but you could try the Mil-Tech Army Patrol Assault Pack for only $30 and 43.2 ounces.
- Container – I use the 32 ounce plastic Nalgene bottles for convenience. They run about $10 and weigh 8 ounces.
- Filter/Purification – Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System. $19, no moving parts to break and only 6.4 ounces
- Simple Fuel – For the most calories in a compact space, try Mainstay emergency ration bars. Each has 3600 calories and two should last you 72 hours. $16 and 41.6 ounces for two (7200 calories)
- Way to cook the food or at least heat water? – Solo stoves use small sticks that you should be able to find most anywhere. The Solo stove is $70 and weighs 12.8 ounces.
- Utensils – Plastic Spoon, Fork, Knife – Grab a set the next time you are at the Fast food place, or a nice Lexan 3 piece Camping utensil $6 and 2.4 ounces.
- Coffee/Tea – If you plan on this a nice titanium mug runs about $20 but only weighs 2.7 ounces
- One change of clothing (appropriate to season). Remember you aren’t going on vacation here.
- Rain protection – A poncho is the most versatile and cheap form of rain gear you can buy. Trash bags don’t count. You can purchase a camouflage Waterproof ripstop poncho for $15 and it weighs 17.6 ounces. Add a poncho liner for cold weather.
- Sleeping Bag – Probably the most expensive item but the Elite Survival systems Recon 3 is $156 and 48 ounces. This also will take up the most room in your pack.
- Something to keep the elements off your head
- Tarp – A sturdy camouflage tarp is only $12 and weighs 32 ounces. Not too light, but still lighter and more compact than a tent.
- Knife – Ka-Bar Knife – $59, 12.8 ounces and enough to do small and large chores.
- Multi-tool – Leatherman Wingman Multi Tool – $29 and 10.4 ounces
- Means to make fire
- Fire starter/Lighter/Tinder – Grab 2 Bic lighters, some dryer lint and throw them in a Ziploc bag. $2 for the lighters and a couple ounces.
- Light – Petzl Tikka 2 LED Headlamp – $29 and 3.5 ounces.
- First Aid – Adventure Medical Kit – $25 and 9.6 ounces.
- Toilet paper – You can easily grab a half roll from your home and put it in your pack. Low weight and no extra cost.
- Wipes – For washing up – These are a little heavier at 19.2 ounces at $5.00
- Gloves – Simple leather/cotton work gloves – $6.00 and only 3 ounces.
- Cordage – 50 Feet of paracord should be more than enough – $5.00 and 2 ounces.
What additions or substitutions should I make to my bug out bag?
But I can’t live without my kindle your say or I must have a two-man tent because I will need privacy. Of course everyone is different and this is only a guideline. I think the items I have here are a good place to start. Can you shave even more weight off this pack? Of course. You could start removing items like unnecessary Band-Aids in the first aid kit. You could forego the package of wipes and just use a washcloth; you could get a smaller knife, use a survival bivvy instead of the more expensive sleeping bag.
What about cost? You can save money there too. Instead of that $70 Solo Stove, you could make your own alcohol stove for practically nothing. Instead of the Nalgene you could simply use an old water bottle. You could skip the multi-tool and just count on something like the Gerber Shard. There are as many different options as there are people. For some great ideas on how to reduce weight and pack more minimally, you could read Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips: 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping.
I am worried about the quality of some cheaper items. Will this bug out bag last?
Ah, that is the million dollar question isn’t it? What is this bag for? How do you envision using it? Could this be simply a ready to go bag in case there is a flood or hurricane coming? If so, will you be bugging out most likely to someone else’s house or a hotel in a safer area? If that is your plan, then you could forget items like tents and sleeping bags possibly. The bag itself doesn’t have to be military spec either if you are just planning for temporary displacement.
If on the other hand, you are planning for SHTF, Mad Max Road Warrior roaming the countryside, then maybe you should give a little more thought to gear selection and quality. All of these decisions have trade-offs and they almost always come down to weight and cost. Better quality usually will cost you more, but the question for you is ‘Is it necessary’?
I know there are a lot of data points in here. My list above worked out to a Bug Out Bag that you could buy right now. The total of the contents on that list, not counting clothes was $498.63. The weight came in at a total of 20.65 pounds if my math is right. It may not be the perfect bag for everyone, but it is a start.
Let me know what you think about your Bug Out Bag. Is there anything missing from this list that you have to have?