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How Much Should A Bug Out Bag Cost?

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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.
  • Water
    • Container
    • Filter/Purification
  • Food – Usually enough for 72 hours (2000 calories a day)
    • Way to cook the food?
    • Utensils
  • Shelter
    • Change of clothing (appropriate to season)
    • Rain protection
    • Sleeping Bag or system
    • Something to keep the elements off your head
      • Tent
      • Tarp
    • Tools
      • Knife
      • Multi-tool
      • Means to make fire
        • Fire starter/Lighter
        • Tinder
      • Light
      • First Aid
  • Optional items – Nice to have
    • Toiletries
      • Toilet paper
      • Wipes – For washing up
    • Gloves
    • Cordage – 50 Feet
Tarps or rain fly's are lighter options than a tent and take up less space.

Tarps or rain fly’s are lighter options than a tent and take up less space.

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

Water

Food

  • 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
The bag itself can contribute significantly to cost and weight. Ask yourself if you need to spend $200 on a bag that will sit in your trunk.

The bag itself can contribute significantly to cost and weight. Ask yourself if you need to spend $200 on a bag that will sit in your trunk.

Shelter

  • 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.

Tools

Optional Items

  • Toiletries
    • 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?

There are tons of ways to reduce cost and weight.

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?

42 Comments

  1. LWJ

    March 18, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Truth be told I don’t even have a packed bob anymore. The only thing I have is a 72 hour bag, a vehicle bag, a trauma kit and a gun bag.

    • Pat Henry

      March 19, 2015 at 10:00 am

      I don’t have a BOB packed and waiting, but my Get Home bag is always ready. A bob could be assembled in less than 10 minutes I think. I know where everything is and what my load is.

      • LWJ

        March 19, 2015 at 10:37 am

        If you have kids do you have plans for them to have a bag? Do you have any saddle bags for your dog?

        • Pat Henry

          March 19, 2015 at 10:50 am

          I do have both. Actually, wrote about the dog in this post: http://www.theprepperjournal.com/2014/11/28/bug-out-bag-for-dogs/

        • Elizabeth

          March 20, 2015 at 10:26 pm

          Heck yeah! My 6 year old would be horribly insulted if he didn’t get to carry his own bag! Complete with his own knife and multi-tool. He’s really responsible with his tools – so much so that Santa gave him his own hacksaw when he was 5. I wasn’t so sure that Santa was showing good judgement, but because Santa had faith, my boy set out to prove me wrong 🙂

          • LWJ

            March 21, 2015 at 7:59 am

            My two have their own bags. My son got his for Goose Hunting, and my daughter got hers because Bubba had one and she needed her own.

  2. NRP

    March 19, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    “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.”
    Just wondering; did Pat not clarify this article with the above statement? So please tell me with that said, what is the difference in a BOB and a 72 Hour bag using his parameters of the description of the “BOB” = 72 Hour Bag

    • LWJ

      March 19, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      BOB aka the inch bag is for at least 72 hours if not more. If am truly bugging out I won’t be home in three days. The three day bag is just that three days and no more.

      • NRP

        March 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm

        Semantics, I carry a Get-Home-Bag that’s set for 3 days, figuring it may take 3 days to get home, hence a 72-hour bag, or a BOB. AKA is that a Kitchen Knife or a Murder Weapon, all depends on how it’s used, but still the same thing.
        Again for this discussion Pat described the BOB as a 72-Hour bag, nada more nada less.
        In all reality my “true” BOB would be a 27′ U-Haul Van, 2 Shipping containers, 3 vehicles and a shit load of “stuffed” hauled to the dump.
        Additionally I will guarantee you that if needed anyone with a brain cell working could make that “three day bag” last longer if needed, not just “three days and no more” as you stated.

        • LWJ

          March 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

          My vehicle bag aka the 72 hour bag.The contents are a bit different then a tradational BOB.

          • LWJ

            March 19, 2015 at 3:40 pm

            Another pic

        • LWJ

          March 19, 2015 at 3:47 pm

          It should be on this post…

  3. Sideliner1950

    March 19, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    The rig you have assembled for this article really does seem to be a very good start.

    You ask, “Is there anything missing from this list that you have to have?”

    A few relatively inexpensive and almost weightless items come to mind:
    -2 Dust masks (e.g., N95)
    -1 pr. Goggles (the kind that seal against the face to help keep out dust/smoke; e.g., a disused pair of ski goggles)
    -1 pr. Ear Plugs (in case we find ourselves sharing sleeping quarters with others)
    -1 Sleep Mask (for sleeping in shared quarters or napping during daylight hours)
    -Several pr. Nitrile “exam” gloves (lots of uses…Kirkland brand is decent; sold by the box. Confirm you are buying the right size for your hands.)

    Also, to expand just slightly on the “toiletries” you itemize, consider doing something like this: for each of our various bags (GHB, BOB, Camping Gear Bag, Truck/Auto/Motorcycle EDC Gear, and Rollaboard Carry-On bags) we have assembled and included a “TP Kit” consisting of an easily accessible 1-qt. Ziplock freezer bag containing the following items:
    -The 1/2 roll of TP you mentioned
    -3 pr. nitrile gloves (est. 1pr/day. These are separate from the ones listed above)
    -1 small tube of petroleum jelly
    -6 individually wrapped “Wet Ones” (or equivalent) sanitizing wipes

    Don’t know for sure how much weight these “extras” add over what you suggest, but it can’t be much; and these “extras” are indeed items we think we would “have to have”.

    • Pat Henry

      March 19, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Great additions Sideliner and I knew there would be some ideas out there. I think I suggested almost the bare minimums but at only 20 pounds I think there is a decent amount of wiggle room to add other things and still not be the 60 pound monster I first created many years ago.

  4. BobW

    March 19, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Nice tidy build. Its always makes for an interesting read when talking about bags or packs.

    While I don’t care for the bag itself, the components are solid, and provide readers a nice snapshot of what they should be shooting for.

    While functional, I’m non-plussed by the water setup. The Sawyer is fine, but I was looking for a cheap stainless bottle, as well as a cheap reservoir system along the lines of Camelbak, Platypus, or Osprey.

    For our bags, each family member has a 70-100oz Camelbak bladder, a collapsable 36oz nalgene water container, and a 24oz stainless water bottle for storage. We carry two Platypus Gravity works 4L water filtration systems between the four of us.

    As for fire starting, everyone does have a bic, but all carry a secondary means of starting a fire, like the Swedish steel. Each person also carrys one of the little Esbit stoves w/ 6 fuel tabs.

    I wont make believe that these items don’t add weight, but we don’t need to carry 150oz of water, we just have the ability to.

    • Pat Henry

      March 19, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      I have the bladders too Bob, but forgot to add the Nalgene bladders. I like the dual gravity feed options much better myself, but haven’t been able to find that set up for less than $100 yet which would have gone over my hoped max of $500. Any luck finding something?

      • BobW

        March 26, 2015 at 12:16 am

        Sorry Pat, been busy the past few days. As to the gravity works system under $100…

        1. Buying the piece parts at amazon was well under $100, but lacked the sexy bag for the hoses.
        2. Buying the 2L system without the ‘clean’ bag hits the $100 threshold. I personally think buying the repair parts for the 4L system without the clean bag is a better value. Since we are a H2O bladder system family, this works well, and reduced cost.

        We actually have one complete 4L system, and all the repair parts but the clean bladder as our second system that I’ve sealed up in small sealable bags. This way the back-up is factory fresh if we need parts, or a 2nd system in use.

        • Pat Henry

          March 26, 2015 at 8:11 pm

          The Sawyer looks really nice, but I am waiting for the price drop on that. I can’t believe it won’t eventually come down.

  5. BobW

    March 19, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I’m personally starting to think that a can of Chili, Dinty Moore stew or Spam is a must in any pack. Sure its heavy, but if a person thinks that they are going to trek for three days on two survival cookies, don’t be surprised to find those same people eating bark off of trees by day 3. If a person is running for their lives, then jettisoning heavy cans is a given, but pulling a hot can of chili out of a campfire on day 2 or 3 could be just the morale boost a person needs to keep going.

    • Pat Henry

      March 19, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      I would pack something like the Mountain House Chili Mac first. It’s just as filling and nowhere near as heavy.

      • BobW

        March 26, 2015 at 12:10 am

        That is a part of our food plan, Pat. The problem I have is the lack of calories and fat. If we are really ‘cold and alone’ in the hinterlands, we’re going to need all the fat at calories we can find, and label shopping indicates low calorie counts on most dehydrated products. Its just a theory at this point that I’m still working through.

        • Pat Henry

          March 26, 2015 at 8:10 pm

          You are right about the calorie count on some. The weight and utility still makes me chose them, but I know what you mean. You could augment with GORP too. Better calories and still lighter. Just an idea.

  6. Thomas Paine in the butt

    March 19, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    For water I have 2 24oz stainless water bottles, the ones spun from a single piece of metal. This gives me another option to purify water.

    • Pat Henry

      March 20, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Which bottle did you get Thomas? My Nalgene is a good bit heavier than I would like.

      • Thomas Paine in the butt

        March 20, 2015 at 8:07 pm

        They’re no names I got from one of my flask suppliers. I didn’t want to plug someone’s else’s site, but I’ll gladly share with your permission.

        You don’t want the ones that have soldered on bottoms as there leak if you put them in a fire.

        These give me 3 options for purifying water. Commercial tabs and a 2oz flask of bleach the others.

        • Pat Henry

          March 21, 2015 at 2:03 pm

          Go right ahead! If you have a good source for some equipment that others could use, please share.

          • Thomas Paine in the butt

            March 21, 2015 at 6:36 pm

            Ckbproducts.com

        • BobW

          March 26, 2015 at 12:07 am

          Consider upgrading the 2oz flask of liquid bleach to the powdered version for pools. I’m no expert on proper application of the powder, but I do know that liquid bleach is degraded over time, and 2 fl oz of powder bleach will go much further than the liquid.

  7. Adam

    March 19, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    My Bob is really my ghb, so many of the items here are permanent in my work vehicle. I use a spec ops brand recon ruck which is basically a modern molle compatible Alice pack. I keep a sog seal pup ( I like sog fixed blades but hate their folders) with the molle sheath. A tool I consider to be important is small bolt cutters and pry bar. I think being able to breach small structures like sheds or boarded up buildings for shelter as well as being able to cut through a chain link fence may be very handy when having to travel long distances on foot and crossing small towns if you had to. To me the two things not to cut corners on is your pack and your knife. Season weighs in as well, just a few weeks ago it was -25 with the wind chill so don’t forget your poncho liner.

    • LWJ

      March 19, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      I would throw a space blanket or two in the list. They are worth their weight in gold.

      • Adam

        March 20, 2015 at 5:30 am

        Those foil casualty blankets? I can’t remember if I put one of those in or not. I put several in my wife’s car bag but I don’t know if I kept one for me now that you mention it. Going to have to check that out.

        • LWJ

          March 20, 2015 at 6:23 am

          Yes, great to line a sleeping bag with and a few other things.

  8. NRP

    March 19, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I’m thinking that BOB/GHB/Inchbag/72HourBag/or the 27 foot U-Haul is only as good as the person that has packed their own WHATEVER-Bag and actually used it. LWJ’s 72-Hour Bag is good, even with the Hat, picture of the baby and the glass candle. We can all talk and talk about the “bag” but guess what, everyone is different, I will guarantee you that my bag will get my arz home just fine, but LWJ’s will get me dead as a door-nail in 16 hours. SOOOOOO do what is right for you, and please stop telling everyone what the others must have in the “bag”. A couple Space Blankets are great, if your Neil Armstrong in the Polar Ice Cap. But in FL or the SW a nice sweater would do just fine.
    Best suggestion, build what you think, than test it. Carry that can of Chili for 20 miles, or tote that GHB/Trauma kit/Gun Bag for 50 miles than decide what you really need.
    Each to their own I guess.
    Just lest all hope like hell we never need them….. Thank GOD the sluverment is there to save us all LOLOLOL
    NRP

    • LWJ

      March 20, 2015 at 8:18 am

      If you think my bag will get you killed in sixteen hours or less then you suck at life. If you think 50 miles with that light loadout is rough, your going to be In a world of hurt when you have to do some serious walking with some serious weight. My bird hunting vest would cripple thee after a day in the field.

      Space blankets are a pretty decent thing to have. Even if you live in warmer climates, the one thing you forget is that at night it will cool down rapidly, and if your a warm weather person 40 degrees will feel like zero for the unconditioned. It does however make going to NC in the winter a hoot.

      • NRP

        March 20, 2015 at 10:17 am

        Yeah Yeah Yeah Mr. Know-It-All, A hell of a lot of talk, FYI, stupid for you to indicate “you suck at life” to anyone, those people you insult may be the ones that cover your ass sometime. Your sounding more and more like a little boy who sits behind a keyboard playing with his toy solders. Always the one with all the answers and always absolutely right about everything without taking into consideration what others may actually need. Grow Up sonny. You may be Mr. Military but you have no clue about life. Your just not smart enough to realize there are different needs and not just what you want/have. Honestly your not worth the words. Have a nice day.
        XOXOXO
        NRP

        • LWJ

          March 20, 2015 at 12:40 pm

          Actually I will be playing Dust Tactics tomorrow night. So your correct about the plastic minis. Perhaps you should also take into consideration that most people can make it 16 hours with no gear at all, or at least what they have with their edc. My bag works out pretty well, with the basics that I have stored in it. You can’t cover somebodies six if your left beind. If you seriously think that three days of hoofing it with that kind of gear is going to be horrible, your in a world of hurt for anything that is going to last longer than that. One thing about Uncle Suger is that at least I know what I can do and what would be stretching it.

  9. usmarinestanker

    March 20, 2015 at 11:30 am

    I would add iodine tablets if radiation is a threat in your area, and supply of required meds separate from the first aid kit.

    A extra mag or two of ammo for your edc couldn’t hurt either.

    • LWJ

      March 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      Antidiarrheal pills are also a must. I have quite a few of those as well as a life straw. However getting the trots can be as deadly as a gunshot if your stuck in the boonies.

    • Pat Henry

      March 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Good ideas Matt! Actually that gives me an idea for another post. There are items to can store and forget (potentially), but according to the disaster, you should have a modular approach that you could pull out depending on the need.

  10. Kenn

    March 20, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Addressing this subject from a beginner’s perspective can indeed be daunting. What items should be included? Which should be excluded? Add weight, cost, quality & quantity & it can seem you’re simultaneously pulled in several directions. Your presentation was excellent, Pat! You established a realistic foundation on which any newbie could begin without being overwhelmed.

    I acknowledge that each of us may have differing preferences & requirements, but that’s fine! For example, to read that someone prefers a Nalgene canteen (designed to nest in a military surplus canteen cup & pouch) over a round, one-litre Nalgene bottle is how all of us can learn about other products & how they can be implemented in our B.O.B.

    Thanks, Pat, for the time & energy you invested to produce an article on B.O.B. basics. Well done!

  11. GRAMPA

    October 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I would add the compiled book on how to use your kitbag. this could be instructions on things you can make with the tools in your bag. Where to get what you need. It does you no good to tell you how to weave a basket if it doesn’t tell you where to look for what you need to make it Knowing where to find water when your supply is gone. So you need to bug out. Do you know where you are going? most people never walk over three blocks and now you don’t have a car. All the tools wont save you if you dont know how to use them. dont wait until you need them to learn how to use them.
    Grampa

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