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The internet is filled with lists of essential supplies to pack in your emergency survival bag, often called a bug out bag. The lists include small packable items that will provide you with food, water, and shelter for about 72 hours.
While all of the lists feature some indispensable items for surviving any disaster, you’ll get the best results if you tailor some of your contents to your location and individual needs. For example, someone who lives in an urban area has different needs than someone who lives in a rural setting. Age, gender, health, and fitness levels also should play a role in what you pack in your bag.
Whether you are packing a bug out bag for the first time or rethinking its contents, here are 17 options you may not have considered.
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1. Water Valve Key
Have you ever noticed that the water spigots on the outside walls of many buildings do not have handles? How could you access that water in an emergency?
The answer is with a sillcock key. A sillcock key is a tool with four different socket heads. You find the head that fits the faucet and then turn the key as you would a handle to access the water.
Men have it easy in the on-the-go bathroom department, but this female urination device is a must-have for the rest of us. Made of medical-grade silicone, the GoGirl is lightweight, washable, reusable, and discreet.
Yes, nails. Standard metal nails can come in very handy in an emergency. Pack a few different sizes in a small kit for use as tent pegs, fishing hooks, animal traps, trip wires, and weapons. This video has more ideas.
With a bit of practice, you can use this lightweight and versatile weapon to kill a variety of small game from 30 feet away. And you don’t need to weigh down your pack with ammo; small stones and rocks work well.
5. Pocket Chainsaw
This emergency survival tool can cut through branches and limbs to help you build a shelter or create a pathway through the wilderness. Made of high carbon heat-treated steel, it comes with a storage pouch. You can sharpen it with a regular round chainsaw file.
6. Toilet Paper Tablets
Many bug out bag packing lists include toilet paper. But a roll takes up a lot of space, and it can get wet and soggy pretty quickly when you are outside. These tablets are an answer. These small tablets are made of compressed cellulose that expands into sheets of paper when dipped in water.
7. Solar Lantern
Most bug out bag lists include flashlights and headlamps. While these lights are undoubtedly useful, they do not provide the kind of 360-degree light you will want in many temporary living situations. This portable lantern can charge from the sun or from a USB port. It’s water-resistant, has three light settings, and collapses to hook onto your backpack or fit inside.
8. Self-Defense Spray
Whether your attacker is human or animal, a can of pepper spray can offer a quick solution. This bottle of pepper gel does not blow back in the wind as traditional pepper spray does, and it can shoot up to 18 feet. The 1.8-ounce bottle holds 18 bursts and comes with a strap to attach to your bag if you like.
9. Sleeping Mask and Earplugs
Sleep is often difficult to come by when you are in an emergency location. There may be unfamiliar sounds and people all around you, or you may be hearing the sounds of the wilderness for the first time.
Plus, stress can keep your mind whirring. A sleep mask and earplugs can help you get the rest you need. If you feel you need to hear everything to stay safe, you still may want to consider earplugs for your kids.
Small and easy to tuck into a backpack, a pair of pantyhose has many unexpected uses in an emergency. Here are some ideas:
- Wear as an extra layer under your pants to keep warm and to protect against insect bites and stings.
- Use as a skimmer, to secure bait, or as a net when fishing
- Wear under socks to help prevent blisters
- Use as a pouch or to carry small items
- Use as a water filter
- Use to secure a hot or cold pack
- Use as a tourniquet
11. Pocket survival guide
No one can be prepared for every emergency. In the event you don’t have access to the internet, or you want to conserve your electronics, a pocket survival guide can come in handy.
This helpful guide folds down to the size of a credit card so that you can carry it at all times. It’s weather-resistant and packed full of information. If you prefer a book, here is a pocket-sized guide written for short-term survival scenarios.
12. Mosquito Net
Many bug out bag lists suggest bug spray, but can you pack enough to last several days – or longer? This durable polyester netting will cover a single sleeping bag or cot. You can anchor it into the ground or hang it from tree limbs or posts.
13. Waterproof Deck of Cards
Keeping your mind occupied when you’re hunkered down during an emergency is vital to your mental health. You might want to consider adding a deck of waterproof playing cards to your bug out bag. These playing cards are standard size, but they’re printed on clear plastic card stock.
14. Waterproof notebook
Keeping a journal, leaving notes, keeping track of the weather – all are reasons you’ll want to have a notebook in your backpack. The trouble is, regular paper can get muddy and ruined in a hurry. This notebook will handle the elements and the tough constraints of a backpack. Use it with a standard No. 2 pencil or an all-weather pen like this one for best results.
It’s a good idea to invest in a quality rain jacket, but a small plastic poncho in your bag can also come in very handy. You can use it as a ground cover when you take a break to sit down or to help block the wind in a temporary shelter. Check the dollar store for inexpensive small folded ponchos.
16. Sewing Kit
Needle and thread can help mend clothing, tents, tarps, and straps on the go. In an emergency, you might even need to use them to stitch a wound.
Here are some other items you might want in your small sewing kit: several sizes of thread, safety pins, thimble, needles of various sizes, small scissors, and Superglue.
17. Zip ties
These lightweight cable ties can fit into small spaces in your bug out bag, but they can provide a lot of bang for the buck. Here are just a few of the ways you can use them in an emergency:
- Makeshift handles
- Help compress and hold bulky gear together
- Secure bandages
- Makeshift shoelaces
- Trail markers
- Hanging items
- Hand restraints
Most experts agree that a bug out bag should weigh about 15 percent of an average person’s body weight. The goal is not to stuff your bag with as much as you can but to choose items that will fit your location and your individual needs.
One final tip: leaving some space in your bag so that you can find things without having to empty the bag each time you take something out will save you time and frustration.
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