So the world didn’t end on December 21st. I never thought it would, but all the hype did get me thinking about the future. While I do think my family and I have a good plan for hurricanes and natural disasters, we never had prepared Bug Out Bags (also known as Go Bags). A Bug Out Bag is a bag you have prepped that will take care of you if you have to leave your house without notice and get by sans creature comforts for three days or so. This could be for a zombie apocalypse, alien takeover, Mayan apocalypse… just kidding, it’s for situations you don’t even want to imagine but could happen. Even FEMA suggests that everyone have a bag at the ready to get out of Dodge just in case. So this past month, I created Bug Out Bags for my family.
If you Google Bug Out Bag or Go Bag you will find a kazillion ideas on what is necessary in such a bag; each person’s needs are different and your needs will vary based upon your climate, family, health, and personal needs. In fact, Googling such a topic may freak you out a bit – there’s some major doomsday preppers out there and their “necessities” may be scary and/or overwhelming. I see a Bug Out Bag as less something to protect me on the Oregon Trail or from an alien takeover and more something to keep me and my family safe and healthy during a disaster until we have a safe and healthy place to rest.
I honestly don’t see what the harm is in preparing for a disaster in this way. I’d rather be safe than sorry, especially now that I have a human life for which I am responsible. We have stored our Bug Out Bags where we keep our emergency supplies (which is also where we meet in the house in case of an emergency). Nothing in the bags will expire any time soon nor is needed on a daily basis. Here is an example of what I have in our bags.
Adult Bug Out Bag: While online lists will encourage you to buy a Molle or Alice military backpack, you can honestly use any bag you have around the house. Again, something is better than nothing, and it doesn't make sense to go into debt for something you hopefully will never need to use. My bag is a backpack I already owned but never use. You don’t want it so heavy you can’t run or walk long distances in it, and something that will be comfortable when worn for long periods of time. Chest and waist straps will help with comfort and support. Some things you may want in your bag:
- Change of clothes (something easy to get on and off, warm if you're in a cold climate, and something that can dry quickly or handle the elements)
- Poncho (if you get a sturdy reusable one it can double as a tarp or a makeshift tent)
- Flashlight (a crank one is great so you don't have to reply on batteries)
- Water (at least three liters)
- Food (Clif bars, bags of tuna, Datrex bars, something that won't spoil but has lots of energy)
- Toilet paper
- N95 Respirator face masks (sounds scary, I know, but I even would have liked these during the dusty years at Bonnaroo)
- A sleeping bag (get one for backpackers since it will be light and take up less space)
- Mylar blankets
- Immodium AD, some pain reliever, and any meds you or your children are on
- Purification tablets for water
- Swiss Army Knife and/or multitool
- I have some paracord, heavy-duty diaper pins, duct tape, dental floss, needles and a pair of cuticle scissors to be able to mend and jimmy-rig things if need be
- Fire starter/waterproof matches
- First aid kit
- Waterproof note pad and pen
- A metal cup or small container (like from a Boy Scout mess kit) to carry food and water and heat if necessary
- Toothpaste and brush, some sort of soap (I like Dr. Bronner's because it can be used for body, hair, and even clothes and dishes), feminine care needs, pack of personal wipes, hand santitizer or sanitizing wipes
- Can opener (these are tiny, cheap, and get the job done)
- A couple trash bags and Ziploc bags
- Weather radio (even better if it's solar or crank-powered so you don't have to worry about batteries)
- Phone charger (in case you get to somewhere with electricity; I also have this solar charger but I don't always keep it in my bag)
- Emergency whistle
Child Bug Out Bag: If your child is old enough to wear a backpack, he should have his own bag. You want to keep it light and comfortable, and be less about survival and more about a feeling of normalcy in an emergency situation. Emerson has this bag from Deuter, which will also make for a great backpack for school, camping, or everyday. I taught her it is an emergency camping bag; I had her try it on, snapped the chest strap and we ran around the main floor of the house playing chase to see if she could wear it and move quickly yet comfortably. I also had her try the whistle and told her the whistle is when she gets separated from us when camping. She now knows that if we need to go emergency camping, she is to wear this bag, but didn’t get freaked out about the whole process. Some things good for a kid's bug out bag:
- Change of clothes
- Diapers or pull-ups (if applicable) or toilet paper
- A small favorite toy or two
- A paperback book
- Crayons and coloring book
- Emergency whistle
- Small flashlight
- Food (unlike we adults who understand the importance over flavor, it's good to have some snacks your kid would like – granola bars, fruit leather, candy that won't melt, honey sticks, crackers, etc. If younger, have formula/baby food.)
- Laminated card with parents' names, address and phone numbers as well as a couple other contact folks who are further away (relative in neighboring state, family friend in town an hour away)
- Face mask
- Toothbrush and toothpaste, little pack of moist wipes/personal cleansing cloths
- If your child is big enough to carry it, you can add a child's backpacking sleeping bag
Office Bug In Bag: What if you’re at work in the city when something happens? Do you have what you need to be able to get back home to safety? I know my office is about 17 miles from home and I know two walking routes to get there. I have a bag with these things at the ready in case I need to hoof it out of the city:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Face mask
- Mylar blanket (while it can keep you warm, it’s reflective and can also be used as a beacon)
- First aid kit
- Personal care (hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc.)
There are likely things that are missing and things I would never use if such a situation would occur, but I can sleep a bit better at night knowing that my family is a bit prepared if the worst were to happen. Many of these things you can find at your local CVS or grocery store or may already be hanging around your home. Many of these things I found on Amazon for ridiculously low prices. I know most Bug Out Bag lists online have far more on them than my list, but I am working with my budget, my ability to carry a bag, and I guess a little bit of hope. It’s better to have some than none, so create as much of a bag as you can with the funds and supplies you currently have.
Update your bag every few months switching out things that expire, cold weather necessities (gloves, hat, hand warmers) for warm weather ones (sunscreen, bug spray, sun hat), etc. This way you also remember what is in the bag and what you may want to add/remove as your life changes. Remind your family about where to meet in case of an emergency, and the importance of leaving these bags alone so they are always at the ready. It may seem a bit obsessive, but a little preparation now could save you if, in the words of preppers, the SHTF in the future.
UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot to mention a pet bug-out bag! We have food, water, and collapsible bowls for Cindy plus a leash; don't forget that your pets too need sustenance in an emergency! Thank you all for the reminder!