The concept of being ready to bug out didn’t originate with preppers; but it is an integral part of the prepping movement.
Since we preppers believe in the old Boy Scout motto of “be prepared,” we know that it’s impossible to tell in advance whether a coming disaster will require bugging in or bugging out. While our default is usually to bug in, simple prudence dictates that we have a bug out plan ready.
Besides knowing where we’re going to go when we bug out and how we’re going to get there, the other really important thing is to have our bags packed, ready to go… in other words, have a bug out bag.
The idea behind the bug out bag is there to provide us with everything we’ll need to have, in order to survive, as we make our way from our home to our survival retreat.
It’s not a permanent solution, allowing us to survive forever, as a properly prepared survival retreat should have the survival gear and supplies that we need. This is an important distinction, as some people go overboard in trying to make their bug out bag a survival kit for any possible scenario.
To make any bug out bag, it is essential that we consider the specific bug out plan that the bag needs to be prepared for. Someone bugging out from the center of a major metropolitan area, on foot, whose destination is the suburbs, is going to have somewhat different needs than someone who is bugging out from those suburbs to the wild.
Another important consideration is weather, as bugging out in the summertime, in a hot climate, is different than bugging out in the cold of winter.
Regardless of the specific bug out conditions, the bug out bag must provide for the basic survival needs. That means it contains gear and supplies in order to:
- Help protect from adverse weather, especially cold and rain
- Have clean water to drink
- Have food to eat
- Be able to start a fire
- A couple of tools will make shelter in the wild easier
Many preppers spend hundreds of dollars to try and meet those basic needs; but in reality, that’s not necessary. One of the reasons for that high bug out bag cost, is the idea of making a bug out bag that will work for any survival situation.
If we don’t do that, we can get everything we need for $100 or less, especially if we shop at everyone’s favorite bargain store, Walmart. This $100 price tag is also going to necessitate leaving some things out, which other lists will include; but we’re creating a list that gives us just what we need, not everything we might want.
Start With The Pack
Before doing much in the way of building a bug out bag, our first concern is having something to carry everything in. That either means a small backpack or a duffel bag.
Walmart has plenty of either, which can be found either in sporting goods or luggage.
- Outdoor Products Packable 14.9 liter Backpack, blue for $8.77
- Ozark trail Adult 10 liter backpacking daypack, red for $5.97
- Protégé Rip-stop 18 inch duffel, blue and white for $8.98
Protecting ourselves from the weather mostly means protecting ourselves from cold and rain. Cold is its own problem, but rain will make it so that our body loses heat faster.
This makes the combination of cold and rain worse. Adding wind into the mix gives us about the worst possibility we can have; so, whatever we use for weather protection, to maintain our body’s core temperature, must be airtight as well.
The standard survival solution for this is aluminized mylar rescue or emergency blankets. These are readily available from a wide variety of sources, including Walmart. You can buy them singly or in packages. I like the 4-pack, which comes at the price of $5.99. The extra blankets might come in handy and a single one is almost as expensive.
If you want to be able to convert one of those emergency blankets into a shelter, such as making a lean-to out of it or even using it as a rain fly, you’ll need some cordage. Walmart sells Hyper Tough 500 Utility Paracord in a 50-foot package for $4.84.
The other important thing to have, to protect you from the weather, is a rain poncho. Go for something lightweight, as the overall weight of your bug out bag is important.
The cheapest I found at Walmart was more or less disposable and sold for $1.42, but I’d go for something a bit better, along the lines of the Ozark Trail ¾ sleeve raincoat, which sells for $4.97.
In a survival situation, you have to take any water as being suspect, even if it looks clear. Bacteria won’t necessarily cloud water and those are the biggest risk any of us face, as they can cause dysentery.
A simple straw-type water filter will solve that problem, removing 99.99% of all bacteria and making the water safe to drink. The industry standard for a survival water filter is the Lifestraw.
A number of different companies are producing the same thing for a few dollars less than the Lifestraw sells for; sometimes adding other features. I found one at Walmart made by AoHao, which is rated for 1500 liters as well as being able to be screwed onto a standard water bottle and having a cap with a built-in compass. It sells for $10.01.
The only other thing I’d add to this is a couple of half-liter bottles of water. I’m not going to put them down as an item to buy at Walmart, simply because almost everyone has some at home.
Why buy extra bottles, when you already have some? But fi you insist, you can buy a 12-pack of Ozarka water for $3.38.
Starting A Fire
The single most important survival skill is fire starting. We can use fire to help keep us warm, to purify water (by boiling it), to provide us with light, to comfort us and even to help protect us from wild animals. Most places in the wild have an abundance of fuel to use, we need only have a way of igniting that fuel.
The most common fire starters in existence are matches and butane lighters. There are many other means of starting a fire, some of which are quite popular within the prepping and survival community.
But if you have matches and lighters, you don’t need anything else.
- A box of 25 UCO Stormproof Matches are available at Walmart for $3.97
- You can pick up a Bic disposable lighter, which should be able to light roughly 1,000 fires, for $1.56
The only problem with just having matches and a lighter is that they may not work well with damp firewood, tinder and kindling. In that case, I’d recommend making “fire starters” out of cotton balls and petroleum jelly.
To make them, scoop up about a teaspoon of petroleum jelly with the back side of a spoon. Then use the same back side of the spoon to work that jelly into the cotton ball, in a small bowl. Once completed, store in an airtight container until needed. One cotton ball should burn for over three minutes, giving you enough time to get the wood burning.
- A small container of Walmart generic petroleum jelly is $1.00
- A small bag of cotton balls is $0.96
It is easy to go crazy on buying survival tools, making that the most expensive part of the bug out bag. But if we’re going to keep our costs down, we can’t really afford to go overboard on tools.
In most cases you won’t need them anyway, unless you’re a highly skilled survivalist and planning on doing things like building your own shelter. For the rest of us, a few basic tools will do.
The first and most important one of these is a good knife. By “good,” I’m basically referring to a sheathe knife with a full tang. You can spend a lot of money on these, but I noticed a couple of decent ones in the hunting and firearms area for $9.95. Personally, I would spend more; but that’s impossible on our $100 budget.
In addition to the knife, the most useful survival tool is a saw of some sort. This would be used for cutting branches to make a shelter, cutting down wood for the fire and maybe even making a walking stick.
The old standby for survival is a wire saw, which can be found in the camping section of Walmart for $4.47. That’s actually a fairly nice one, with cloth strap handles.
But if you want something that’s going to be easier to use, I’d recommend a folding pruning saw. Not only will it cut faster, but it will be easier on your hands. I saw several, including a model by Jetcloudlive, that was 150mm long and sold for $7.99, not a whole lot more than the wire saw.
Finally, I’d add a tactical LED flashlight to your tool kit. These have taken over from the old 2-cell standby flashlight. Not only are they brighter; but there isn’t a bulb to break. There are many models and the same models might be found marketed under different brands.
You can literally pay just about any price you can imagine, up to more than $100 for some of these. But the one I pick for an emergency light is the A50, sold under the Letmy brand. I actually have a number of these, mounted in closets and cabinets in every room of my house, in case of emergency. Part of the reason for that is that they are very budget friendly. You can buy a pack of two for $5.99.
Food To Eat
I have purposely left food as the last thing on this list, mostly because we’re going to spend whatever is left of our original $100 on food. As of this point, we’ve spent $56.05, leaving us with $43.95 for food.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much food in a bug out bag.
Most people say “three days,” probably because that’s what FEMA recommends; but I like to have at least five days of food in mine. How many days you ultimately have will depend a lot on how well you want to eat.
As we’re mostly concerned with having the energy to get from our homes to our survival retreat, I’m going to concentrate on high-carbohydrate foods which will give us energy. We’ll have to forego the steaks and trimmings until we get there.
In addition to food, we’re going to need some way to cook. The standard survival solution for that is to use aluminum foil. You can form aluminum foil into pots and pans for cooking and if you’re careful with it, you can even reuse it. A 25 sq. ft. roll of Walmart’s Great Value aluminum foil costs $1.42.
As for the food itself, I’d suggest picking an assortment of the following items:
- Ramen – pure carbohydrates, but lots of energy
- Rice-a-Roni – a nice break from the Ramen, still providing those carbs.
- Mac & Cheese – good comfort good, which will also provide plenty of energy
- Granola bars – low-cost granola bars will provide plenty of energy, good taste and can be eaten while you’re walking – take along more than one kind, for variety
- Raisins – dried fruit is a great energy source, albeit a bit expensive. But raisins provide the same energy, at a much lower cost
- Canned meat, in pouches – You’ll probably want some meat. I’d recommend finding what you can that is in foil pouches or plastic “cans,” rather than in cans, just to save weight. You can get tuna, chicken, potted meat, corned beef, spam and chili packed in this manner; most under $2. For budgetary reasons, you’re going to have to limit your meat to one meal a day.
- Instant coffee – you’ll need it
- Salt, pepper and sugar – for flavoring
Keep in mind that the main reason you’re eating is to give you energy. We’ve made eating a recreational pastime in modern society; but if you’re bugging out, you won’t be able to eat that way. A diet of 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day should be sufficient.
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