Top Items To Have in A Bug Out Bag

A “Bug Out Bag” is something you would prepare for an emergency when you need to leave your home.

This could be due to a forest fire, tornado, gas leaks in the neighborhood, etc. Think of floods in the area, or other unexpected emergencies. There will be times you will have to leave and not return for up to 72 hours, and to minimize the stress of that, here are the top items to have in a bug out bag.

Change of clothes for each family member

This needs to be checked on seasonally, and make sure that you have clothes that fit. There’s nothing worse than having to leave home during the heat of the summer only to find you have only wool sweaters that are 2 sizes too small.

I usually grab an extra set of clothing for my kids at the thrift store for this purpose. They don’t have to be pretty, just fit and be comfortable.

You will want to include at least a change of good socks as well. My hubby and oldest son swear by wool socks, even in the summer, for keeping feet cool and dry.


Carrying debit cards is convenient, but in an emergency situation, you want to make sure there is some cash at your disposal. I often recommend $100 minimum, in small denominations. I also would include at least a roll of quarters, for doing laundry as needed.

This will just make life easier, if you are leaving home due to a major power outage in your neighborhood, as the card readers will not be working.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Being able to brush your teeth, even if you haven’t been able to shower in 2 days is almost magical in lifting your spirits. When you check your clothing, check to make sure that the toothbrushes are in good condition. They are around $1 for a six pack of toothbrushes in our area (cheap ones) and that is really all you need…so keep them new as much as possible.

Books and Cards

This isn’t the time to carry tons of books, but having a Bible (or other religious book) and a deck of cards will provide some entertainment and comfort during an emergency situation. I like to have at least one small paperback for each child as well.

They all have Kindles, but what if they aren’t charged for some reason? A magazine or two are also lightweight to carry and will keep kids’ minds off not being at home.

Snacks and Easy to Prepare foods

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Having some quick and easy meals on hand, that require little to no preparation will make this short time easier to handle. I usually have granola bars, a couple jars of home canned chili, and crackers.

This isn’t “real food” per se, but it’ll keep you fed during this short period of time. If you can afford (and stomach it) MRE’s can be a viable option as well.

Drinking Water

Having some drinking water, at least 2 quarts per person per day is important. Especially if you are camping out during this time. I don’t like plastic at all, and glass jars get really heavy to carry, so I like to grab a stainless steel tumbler and fill it quickly before we leave. Of course, there will be times when you can’t get to clean water during a short emergency, so one personal water filter (such as a Lifestraw or a Sawyer Mini) per person is a good investment as well.


A hatchet, folding shovel, and a hammer will make life so much easier if you are having to walk through woods, or make a fire at a campsite. We bought these at a garage sale and cleaned them up and they are packed in my hubby’s backpack.

We also have an extra set in the van for emergency times on the road. You just never know when you will need a shovel, really. Trust me! Some matches are also a good idea. I carry some waterproofed matches in an old medicine container to keep them clean and dry.

Having these things

in a sturdy backpack that each member can carry on their own is important. For smaller children, their packs can contain a Lifestraw, snacks and maybe a favorite toy and book.

Our children are all old enough to carry what’s in their pack by themselves, but we do make sure they aren’t overloaded. Sometimes, you have to let go of some things you think you need, but really don’t. How do you know?


Once a season, we will “bug out” with our kids and figure out what needs to go into the packs and what should’ve stayed behind.

Sometimes we will stay out for a full 72 hours, sometimes, we just go the afternoons. It keeps things interesting as the kids never know when we will have to bug out, and if they forgot something, it’s remembered the next time!

What would you add to a bug out bag for 72 hours?

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9 thoughts on “Top Items To Have in A Bug Out Bag”

  1. I was just thinking the other day that I needed to have something like this in case we have to evacuate due to a forest fire!

  2. These are great things to have in your bag. I try to keep a change of clothes for the girls and myself in the car because you never know when we might need it while we are out.

  3. Cash is a good one to note! In a day where it’s becoming a lot less common to carry it, there are times I’ve come across where I sure wished I had a couple of dollars on me (esp. in a hot amusement park w/a water machine that only took cash). 😉

  4. What an AWESOME idea!!! I do not have a Bug Out Bag.. but I so need to make one 🙂 Love this… pinning as we speak!

  5. For kids I get cheap or free coloring activity books and cheap or free crayons (Smokey the
    Bear and the firefighters usually give them away) and a scratch pad for playing Hangman or other pencil and paper games. Besides a regular deck of cards, I have a deck of Uno cards, always good, especially for multiple ages.
    First Aid kit, prescription meds, extra glasses, plus things for infants, disabled or elderly family members, and your pet.

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