Last week we talked about bugging out on foot and how far a person can walk while carrying a bug out bag. Now let’s talk about what to put in it. It’s easy to find lists of things to pack in a bug out bag. A Google search will take you to hundreds, and we have several on this site.
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However, there are a couple of cautions with any bug out list when it comes to a “walk out bug out”.
- Most lists assume you’ll be traveling by car. Many bug out bag lists focus on things you might need while forgetting how much those things weigh. If you built your bug out bag by following a list online somewhere, you should weigh it. You may find that you need to remove or replace some of the heavier items.
- Most lists are not going to be right for your particular situation. Things like a tent, a sleeping bag, and a mess kit all make sense, but are they the right kind for your destination, the terrain, the weather, the distance, and the duration of your hike?
A good way to approach it is to focus on equipment and supplies developed specifically for backpacking. They’re designed to be lightweight, sustainable, and in many instances multi-purpose.
Rather than doing the standard bug out bag checklist, here are some considerations for the critical items you’ll need while hiking to your bug out location.
One gallon per person per day is the general recommendation. But water weighs 7.5 pounds per gallon. 3 days of water would total 22.5 pounds. A week of water would weigh more than 50 pounds, and you haven’t packed anything else yet.
This gets back to sustainability. You need to have a water filter with you and water treatment tablets. Bring as much water as you think you can carry, but know that you’ll never be able to carry enough.
There are also variables affecting how much water different people need. There’s a human water requirement calculator that can help you make some good decisions about water. You should also keep this in mind as you plan your route. Are there water sources on your travel route?
Most prepacked bug-out bags come with the standard 3-day supply of food. That works fine if you’re driving. Especially when you consider that some of them weigh up to 70 pounds, and it’s not difficult to drive up to 1,000 miles in 3 days.
However, the average speed for a hiker is 2 to 3 miles per hour. Assume an average of 2.5 miles per hour. If you hike 8 hours per day, that takes you about 20 miles. If that’s the distance you need to travel to get to your destination, 3 days of food is more than enough.
If anything slows you down or the distance is farther, you’ll need to find food on the way by either buying it, foraging it, or hunting and fishing. With that in mind, maybe you should bring a good firearm and a small fishing kit. Again, it depends on your location.
- In a city, consider parking garages, public parks, locally established shelters in school gymnasiums or public buildings, or anywhere else you can find that’s relatively safe.
- In suburbs, public parks or forested areas are worth a look. Shelters may also be set up as well.
- In rural environments, the woods or a field are possibilities.
The key is to make sure you’re in a safe environment as much as possible and to keep a low profile. Find a spot, get some sleep, and move on as quickly as possible. For more tips, check out our guide to bug out camping.
This is easy to do in the woods, but in urban and even suburban environments, a fire attracts a lot of attention. It’s also the first sign of arson and may attract some unwanted attention from local law enforcement.
You need the ability to stay warm and cook food if your walk out is of any duration, but you may need to forgo a fire in some situations. Pack some food that’s ready to eat unheated, and make sure you have the clothing and equipment to stay warm without a fire.
If a fire is a possibility, a magnesium fire starter will give you many more fires than a box of matches or a lighter.
A cell phone and solar recharger are a must-have. Another good addition worth the weight is a solar/crank-powered radio with weather alerts and a built-in flashlight. Walkie talkies are an option if cell phone service is down or there is no signal, but their range is limited.
Solar-powered flashlight, a hand-crank flashlight, an LED light that clips to the visor of your hat, and at least one battery-powered LED flashlight should be on your list. Sustainability is the name of the game, and packing extra batteries just adds weight. Try to pack lighting sources that you can recharge.
Prepare for cuts, scrapes, and burns. Also bring eye drops, OTC medicines, and prescription medicines. And don’t forget medicines for foot care. You’re depending on your feet to get you where you’re going.
Knife, gun, ammo. A handgun is easier to conceal as opposed to a rifle. A rifle over your shoulder might make you feel like you’re sending a signal. You are, but it could also make you a target for an ambush to steal your rifle. Carry what you feel you need, but remember this: the appearance of any weapon can be perceived as an immediate threat to others. Concealed carry may be a better option.
A GPS capability on your phone is a great idea. Something as simple as Google Maps can guide you on your way… Assuming you have a signal. Carry maps and a compass as well, and make sure you have routes and alternate routes marked.
Axe, shovel, Swiss army knife, multitool, paracord, duct tape. What items will you need at your improvised camp or at your destination? Maybe try a couple of nights in the backyard as a trial run. If you have to run to the garage for a tool every now and then, pack it. Either that or rethink your camp setup.
No fashion statements allowed. Pack functional clothing and the bare minimum, but don’t forget extra socks and proper shoes for the terrain you’re anticipating are maybe most important. Rain gear and other clothing like gloves and a stocking cap make sense.
Sanitation and Hygiene
In small denominations. $5’s and $10’s and up to about $200 or more depending on the current state of credit and debit cards and your ability to use plastic for any purchases.
This depends on the level of your bug out. If long-term, take the critical stuff like birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, bank records, passport, or anything else you may need for any reason that’s official, legal, and hard to replace.
If short-term, leave these items in a safe deposit box unless you think you’ll need them. Paper is light, but be sure to pack them in a resealable, plastic bag.
If you have room to spare, you might want to pack some small, lightweight items that have barter value like medicines, food, tobacco, even alcohol. Those little airplane bottles of alcohol are easy to barter.
Survival skills are more valuable than any piece of equipment. Take the time to understand at least the basics for these skills:
- Wild foraging for food
- Finding and purifying water
- First aid
- Map reading and orienteering
- Fire building, especially in wet weather or snow
- Self-defense strategies and tactics
How Far Will You Get?
If you have the skills and equipment, you could travel as long and as far as you need to go. Just remember that most pre-packed bug out bags are 72-hour kits that won’t get you through a long hike.
Carefully customize what you pack so you don’t run out of resources in case you’re delayed or need more than 3 days to get to your destination. Hopefully, you reach your destination safely on foot and spend most of your time patiently planning your return home and an eventual return to normal.
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