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Everybody has their own idea about the most important things to include in a bug out bag. Different strokes, different folks. But whatever items you choose, make sure a lot of them are multipurpose items.
Your bug out bag might not seem very heavy, but after carrying it all day, it will begin to seem like the heaviest thing you’ve ever held. Multipurpose items can help you reduce the number of items you need to pack, thus making your bag lighter.
The list below includes some of the most useful survival items you can get your hands on. You don’t necessarily have to put all of these items into your bug out bag—as I said, you don’t want it to be too heavy. But I encourage you to seriously consider each item. Take your location and personal needs into account and decide whether they’re worth including.
For most of the items, I added a link to an article or video (most of them on this site) where you can learn more about the many uses for them. Okay, let’s get on with it…
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Don’t pack an entire roll (which would be heavy). Instead, fold up a few sheets and slip it into one of your bag’s pockets. You can use it to catch fish, start a fire, boil water, cook food, signal for help, and much more.
Bandanas are lightweight and can be tied to your pack if you are worried about them taking up space. And there are nearly 100 survival uses for them.
3. Bobby Pins
Bobby pins aren’t just for old ladies. A small package can be stashed in your bag without taking up much space. Use the pins to keep your hair out of your face or as tiny pry sticks that could be used to scrape bark for tinder.
Keeping a bottle of water in your bug out bag is crucial, but once it is empty, that bottle will serve a multitude of purposes. Don’t toss it out!
I use these to hook items to my bug out bag, but they’re also great for building shelter, hanging a clothesline, tenderizing meat, keeping ropes/cords together, and so forth.
6. Chap Stick
Chapstick is a luxury that can mean the difference between dry, cracked, painful lips or healthy lips. But it can also be used for miscellaneous things like starting fires and making candles.
7. Clothes Pins
Obviously, these are great for drying clothes, but you can also use them to organize small items, label cords, fix glasses, make tinder, clip bags closed, and more.
These are surprisingly useful. You can use them to pre-filter water, start a fire, make a bandage, and organize small items like seeds, berries, nails, screws, tinder, and more.
Condoms aren’t just for their intended purpose. There are many surprising uses for them that make them worth packing in your bag.
10. Cotton Swabs
Some cotton swabs, better known as Q-tips, can be used to clean a small cut, cut off to use as tinder, or used to clean a gun barrel.
11. Duct Tape
Duct tape has long been a favorite of preppers. Buy a roll and keep it in your pack. You can stuff gear into the center of the hole if you are worried about losing any space. There are literally hundreds of uses for duct tape.
Empty pill bottles are an excellent vessel to store Vaseline soaked cotton balls, dried moss, or even matches. Once you’ve used up what’s inside, you can save the bottle and use it for a variety of other purposes.
While oral health is important, there are many uses for floss besides keeping your teeth and gums in good shape. Building shelter, mending clothes, setting traps, and even stitching wounds.
14. Folding Shovel
A folding shovel isn’t exactly small, but it does fold down to about 6 inches. A shovel with a serrated edge is perfect for cutting large branches. Use it to dig a hole for a fire pit or a hole for taking care of bathroom business.
15. Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are cheap, but they are very useful. If you have kids in your bug out party, have each kid wear a glow stick so you can keep track of them. The larger sticks can be used to light up a camp or illuminate the inside of your shelter.
A hatchet is even more versatile than a knife. It can be used for splitting or chopping wood, chopping ice, digging, cutting, or self-defense. Some hatchets even come with a hammer installed on the opposite side of the blade, which can become invaluable for shelter building (especially if you bring nails too).
A knife is a standard piece of equipment in any survival situation. Make sure you have one tucked away that is full-tang and durable enough to serve multiple purposes. The knife should have a handle that gives you a good grip and not one that will easily slide out of your hand. Little multipurpose knives are not going to cut it.
18. Mylar Blankets
Mylar survival blankets are about the size of a wallet, but once you open them up, you are looking at a lot of possibilities. Always carry at least two. They are flimsy, and reusing them is not always easy.
Old pantyhose or even a new cheap pair is a great way to keep small gear organized. The pantyhose can be used as cordage or part of a filtering system after you’ve collected water.
20. Paper Clips
Paper clips are tiny and weigh almost nothing, but they’re very useful in a survival situation. Keep some stashed away in one of the pockets of your bug out bag.
Paracord is another staple of any bug out bag. You can wear a paracord bracelet, belt, lanyard, or carry a length in your pack. Paracord has numerous uses that could save your life.
22. Plastic Bags
Tuck some of these into your bug out bag to use for keeping gear dry, wrapping over your shoes to keep your feet dry, collecting water via transpiration, and so forth.
Keep at least one poncho in your bug out bag. Ponchos obviously keep you dry, but they can be used for a variety of other purposes as well.
24. Safety Pins
Safety pins are great for hanging items from your pack, off your jacket, or keeping a tent door closed. Keep several of varying sizes in your pack.
Shoelaces are easy to get your hands on. Put a pair in your pack to replace broken strings on your boots, to use as a belt, or to use as a sling.
26. Soda Cans
Because soda cans are made from aluminum, you can use them to make a mini stove, fishing hooks and lures, an emergency whistle, a signaling mirror, a mini shovel, a candle holder, and more.
You should have extra socks in your bug out bag anyway, but you should know that socks can also be used to pre-filter water, make a dust mask, organize small items, tie things together, or even make a weapon by filling one with rocks.
28. Super Glue
A couple of tubes of super glue is going to be very helpful. You can use it to close a cut on your skin or repair a flapping shoe sole.
Tampons are probably already a part of any woman’s bag, but they can be used for a number of other things as well. A bloody nose can easily be stopped with a tampon or you can shred the cotton material and use them as tinder.
Tarps are a little bulky, but you can roll one up and attach it to the bottom or top of your pack. They are great for throwing up a shelter, making a stretcher, carrying supplies, etc.
31. Trash Bags
Large kitchen trash bags can be transformed into a comfy mattress or used to clean up your campsite. Cleanliness will be doubly important during a major disaster.
32. Zip Ties
33. Ziploc Bags
Ziploc sandwich bags are perfect for keeping your gear dry and organized, gathering wild edibles, collecting water, and more.
Think carefully about what you put in your bug out bag and don’t waste any space whatsoever. Choose items that can be used in many different ways. You’ll be glad you did.
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