An effective bug out bag is one of the most important things you need in preparation for a crises or disaster. Many situations may require you and your family to bug out from your home or safe haven: floods, viral outbreaks, terrorist attacks, fires, or any crises that leads to social unrest where looters and criminals are roaming the streets (i.e. EMP/Power Grid down event or economic collapse).

The knowledge that you and your loved ones have a practical bug out plan as well as a proper bug out bag packed will give you peace of mind leading up to potential crises. Creating your bug out bag is also a critical step when preparing to bug out – and this obviously should be done well in advance of a potential bug out scenario so it’s ready to go at a moments notice.  So whether you are just beginning to look into creating a bug out bag or you are reviewing your list of what you’ve packed, I’m going to go over 4 tips to follow when getting your bug out bag ready (as well as your family’s bug out bags).

#1) Make A Plan

First and most important – MAKE A PLAN. An effective bug out bag is not thrown together on a whim. It’s carefully organized and prepared. Before ever beginning to pack, make a detailed written list of everything you will be including. Then if the bag is ever put into use, you know without a doubt that you are prepared. Space is incredibly limited, and if a bag is not planned and organized beforehand something vital could be sacrificed for something worthless.

An important thing to remember it that there is no one-size-fits-all approach; a bag for a family in Nevada will be different for a single person in Maine, and will be different still from a couple in Florida. When making your bag, a few important things to consider:

  • Who will be included in the group? Everyone has different needs. If you’re packing for just yourself, or yourself and a spouse, you’ll have a different set of items than if packing for your children. The number of people, their ages, and their individual needs (i.e. specific medications) must all be considered. When starting the packing list, be sure to include everyone involved.
  • Where will you be? Terrain is an important consideration. Distance to cover, availability of shelter and water, and climate are all important factors in packing. While you can’t predict the weather or situation when using your bag, a general estimate can be made.

Making a plan serves a second purpose: cost-effectiveness. High quality gear can be expensive, especially when obtained last-minute.

#2) Determining What To Pack

The second thing to consider – and the place where most people tend to make mistakes – is in determining what to pack. Bug Out Bags are not forever. At most it is intended to keep someone alive and mobile for 72 hours. Consider a bag as a hiking pack, and remember that every ounce counts when it’s being carried for miles. A healthy adult can last up to three weeks without food; lighten the load by removing most of those travel meals. A few high protein bars per person are all that’s required, and anything more is both extra weight and precious space. Pots and pans, cooking stoves, extra utensils – all of these can be left behind.

What you pack is important. A bug out bag should be able to withstand hard travel over rough terrain; if there’s a risk of something breaking or spoiling, it needs to be reconsidered for importance. Items such as a first aid kit are considered a universal must, while rain gear in the Southwest is simply extra.

Some of the best advice when deciding the importance of what to pack is that knowledge is weightless. If you can trade gear for skill, do so. The more prepared you are, the better your chances of survival no matter the situation.

#3) Packing Order (by weight)

After determining the essentials, packing order is important. A successful bug out bag must be packed with consideration to weight and necessity of each item. For comfort and ease of travel, heavier items must be placed near your back, while lighter items should be placed farther out. In the same way less used items should be packed closer to the bottom of the pack, with the most important items within easy access from the top.

#4) Test Your Bug Out Bag

Fourth: Test your bag. This means test everything. Before you pack, test your equipment. Does your fire starter work? Can you erect your shelter quickly and with minimal difficulty? Learn how to use the essential equipment and test everything, since it’s better to test beforehand than have it fail in a time of extreme need.

After packing, test the bag for weight. Walk around a neighborhood and up and down a few hills. If it is too heavy or ill-fitting to carry far, it is best to reorganize and try again. Test for the ease of unpacking and repacking. Can you reach the most important items quickly? Testing prior to need helps remove problems later.

When Things Change, Make Sure Your Bug Out Bag Does Too…

Even the best plans require adaptability. Required medication can change over time, or families may welcome new members. Every six to eight months you should unpack your bag, review and retest your items, and repack accordingly. While doing so, it’s also a good idea to include any other members of your group to ensure that everyone involved is familiar with the location and use of the survival gear.

Planning for all eventualities is simply not possible from a logistical standpoint. Some situations may render you unable to reach your stored pack. To help alleviate this risk, it’s better to have more than one bug out bag. Ideally all of your bags will be accessible, but you should only need one for bugging out. When planning, make your bags independent but complementary to provide maximum effectiveness.

The bug out bag will be like a life raft of safety net for you and your loved ones even in the most uncertain of times. Because of this, it’s better to over-plan than to discover that you’re missing something important when a situation arises. Using these bug-out bag tips, you can develop a highly effective and practical plan so you have a bug out bag ready for future situations that may require bugging out.

While this list includes important tips for packing a bug out bag (and is certainly not meant to be a comprehensive guide to packing a bug out bag), do you have any other tips you think are critical when creating your bug out bag?

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