A-Z Day 2: Bug-out Bag

The recent tragedy in Japan made me realize just how disaster can strike anytime. Japan was as prepared as they could be. They had earthquake-proof buildings—but that didn’t stop Mother Nature from claiming thousands of lives. Many more had to flee with scraps of belongings they could find.

California isn’t too different from Tokyo or Sendai. We too, live in an earthquake zone, and we live near the coastline where tsunamis can strike anytime. Scientists have been talking about “the Big One” for years, saying that California is due for another massive earthquake.

Disaster Preparedness comes to mind. I’ve been working on several survival kits (House Survival Kit, Vehicle Survival Kit, Office Survival Kit and a Bug-out Bag) for the last couple of years since I heard about the “Big One”. I’ve made list after list of things I need to put in a survival kit—I just never got around to actually gathering the objects.

Of course, when the earthquake hit Japan, it was a jolt of electricity to my otherwise complacent brain. I re-started my disaster preparedness kits with renewed energy.

The first survival kit I worked on is the BUG-OUT BAG.

A Bug-out-Bag, also known as the GO Bag, and GOOD (Get Out of Dodge) Bag, is a portable survival kit, popular among survivalists. Basically, the Bug-out Bag contains everything that one person needs to survive on the go for 72 Hours in the face of a disaster.

There are 15 essential elements to have in a BOB:

1. Water

Water is the most important element in terms of survival. You can go for weeks without food, but three days without water is certain death. Survival experts recommend having 1 Liter per day, per person. This, however, is the bare minimum. So in your BOB’s, you should have at least 3 Liters of water. That’s less than a gallon, in case you’re wondering.

In cases of extreme disaster, water might be difficult to come by for several days. You need to be able to extend your water supply, so you’ll need water purifying systems such as iodine tablets, water filters or even the ability to boil water.

2. Food

Energy bars, MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), and basically anything to keep you going. I actually made my own home-made (MRE) where I gathered packets of soup, energy bars, dried foods and so on all into a nifty 1 gallon ziplock bag. I also including cooking implements.

Home made MRE

Canned heat, utensils, folding stove, mess kit

3. Clothing

Experts will tell you to pack for the kind of weather you have. Thankfully, here in California, we typically have only one kind of weather.

These are the usual things you should put in your bag:

  1. sturdy shoes/ hiking boots
  2. a pair of pants
  3. 2 pairs of socks (wool is recommended as it absorbs the moisture and dries quickly)
  4. 1 long sleeved shirt
  5. 1 short-sleeved shirt
  6. underwear
  7. thermals (if you’re having winter weather)
  8. warm, waterproof jacket
  9. hat/beanie
  10. bandana

jacket, pants, 2 shirts, underwear, beanie, cap, scarf, gloves, socks, etc

4. Shelter/Warmth

If a disaster takes your house, you’ll need protection from the elements and gear to keep you dry such as tents, tarps, sleeping bads, sleeping bags.

REI towel, tube tent, poncho, emergency blanket

lightweight self-inflating sleeping pad

5. Heat/Firestarters

You should have at least 3 ways of making a fire such as lighters, matches, magnesium flints, tinder, etc.

candles, lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium firestarter

6. Light

Lanterns, emergency candles, headlamps, and flashlights with spare batteries.

emergency candle, flashlight, LED flashlight, spare batteries

7. Communication Tools

Emergency radios are a great way to get information about the safety of the area .  Prepaid phone cards, too might come in handy if you want to call someone but your cellphone has run out of battery.

ETON microlink emergency radio

8. Navigation Tools

Having a map of your area is important. It’ll give you an idea of where to stay, and what direction safety can be found. A compass or a gps system will also come in handy.

maps of LA and a compass

9. Safety Gear

Dust masks, goggles, working gloves and tools for protection such as pepper spray or sticks can be of use in a disaster situation. Don’t forget to add your extra prescription glasses, reading glasses, contact lenses, etc.

working gloves, pepper spray, dust mask

eyeglass case, contact lens kit

10. Toiletries

Even in the face of disaster we should keep hygiene in mind. Small towel, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, wet wipes are basics, but feel free to add anything else you need.

black toiletry kit containing hygiene essentials

11. Tools

Survival knives, leatherman, pocket knife, duct tape, paracord/rope, portable shovel/pick axe, etc.

pepper spray, MO tool, survival knife, swissknife, AMK Survival Kit and a paracord rope

12. First Aid Kit

You can buy those pre-made first aid pack, but be sure to add your own prescribed medications into the kit (inhalers, heart medicine, etc).

First Aid kit with personal medicines inside

13. Entertainment

Add a pack of playing cards, some puzzles, and books to keep your spirits up when you’re waiting around for news.

notebook and pen, SAS Survival Guide, book and playing cards

14. Important Documents copies

Lastly, (and I’m still working on these myself), you need copies of your most important documents. Birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, greencard, drivers license, vehicle registration, a list of your account numbers, insurance policies (car, house, etc), mortgage papers, car papers, immunization/health records, school records, tax returns, etc.

You should print out hard copies and keep them in a waterproof bag. Scan these documents and keep a digital copy in a flash drive or memory stick. The more copies you have the better. You can also keep copies of important family pictures as both hard copies and in your flash drive.

15. Important Miscellaneous Items

  1. Cash – a hundred dollars broken down into smaller bills and scattered in various hiding places in your BOB.
  2. Coins – quarters for calling
  3. Giftcards – target, walmart, ralphs, etc. These might help tide you over when you run low on cash.
  4. Address book – for contacting relatives and friends.
  5. Survival handbook/manual
  6. Notebook, pens, markers

Lastly, you need a strong, sturdy bag that you can put all these things in.

Bug out Bag (Track mountain climbing bag)

I have most of the things on my list in my bugout bag, but I’m still working on gathering up those important documents and scanning them.In the meantime, I keep my bug-out bag within easy reach of the bed. I’m also planning to go on some kind of camping trip one of these summer days, to actually test out all these survival items.

I hope I never have to use this bug-out bag, but in case of emergency, it gives me peace of mind knowing I have this close by. Disasters are random, picky things, and I may or may not be lucky despite all this preparation, but at least I know I’ve increased my odds of survival just by taking the time to prepare for such an event.

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44 Responses to “A-Z Day 2: Bug-out Bag”

  1. Catherine says:

    What an informative post! It’s so important to be prepared. You definitely seem equipped to handle any situation! Thanks for the follow. Looking forward to reading more! :)

  2. Doris says:

    Wow… this is something I never worry about… What an eye-opening post!

    I’m a new follower :-))


  3. Bish Denham says:

    Wow. Good for you to be prepared!

  4. All I have to do is add my machete to that pack and I’m ready for the zompoc. Great post!

  5. Monica says:

    Wow…that’s such amazing information to have. Thank you so very much!! Found you from the A-Z Challenge, looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun, with maybe with a little bit of stress thrown in!! I’m now following you on GFC and I hope you have a chance to check out my blog!

  6. Lynn Kelley says:

    Hot dog, Nutschell! I think you covered everything in this post. I hope people take this seriously and don’t procrastinate putting this together for themselves and their families. Even in non-earthquake prone areas, you never know when a catastrophe will strike — floods, fires, etc. We have lots of earthquake supplies in the house but no Bug Out Bags. These are a great idea, plus survival kit in the car in case you’re stuck too far from home and overpasses collapse and roads are too damaged for travel. Oh, I did think of one thing you could add to your bag – one of those folding bicycles! It beats walking!

    • nutschell says:

      Hey Lynn,
      I think bug out bags are a must in every household. i have a kit for my car and for the house as well. I wish I had one of those folding bicycles! I’d keep in my car trunk at all times!

  7. It is so wonderful to be reminded of these emergency survival kits and to be able to gather them and place them in your car. i think that you should prepare two bags . one kept in your car and the other in your house!
    Its just my opinion. What do you think?
    having said that I should be thankful for your reminders. i meant to do the same!

  8. Heather says:

    So sad that we have to go through things like this but you are so right and smart to be this prepared.
    Here’s to you never, ever, needing it.

  9. Kari Marie says:

    This a pretty thorough list, but I can see how this would come in handy in the case of a disaster. For the food bars you pack, do you switch those out periodically becuase of the expiration dates or are there survival bars you can buy that won’t expire?

    • nutschell says:

      Hi Kari Marie,
      I definitely switch out the expired products with new ones. It helps to keep a list of whats in my home made MRE’s and when they expire.

  10. Talli Roland says:

    Wow! You are prepared, indeed! Looks like you have everything you need.

  11. This is a good idea. This is an excellent post. My wife and I live south of Seattle and we live in an earthquake zone. We have never had a Bug-Out Bag, or any kind of emergency or survival kit of any kind. After this article, which I shared with my wife we are going to put together such an emergency bag. hopefully we will never need to use it, but if we ever do, and we survive as a result of it, consider yourself thanked profusely!

    Gregg Metcalf
    Colossians 1:28-29

    Gospel-driven Disciples

    • nutschell says:

      Hi Gregg,
      Thanks for your kind words! It’s always a good idea to be prepared for anything. I hope you and your wife have a little bit of fun putting together your bug out bags.

  12. Tom says:

    Being prepared is always a great idea. It’s also wise to update those emergency packs occasionally. We have some for our family and it had diapers and kids clothes in it for our twins, but they are now older and a baby pack wouldn’t be too helpful for them now. I’m glad we realized that before we had an emergency.

  13. RosieC says:

    Wow, you’re prepared. I’m impressed. I don’t have any of those things. I also don’t live in an earthquake zone, so I don’t usually think about it. Then again, we had an earthquake a few years back–small, but noticeable. *shrug*

    East for Green Eyes

  14. Larry says:

    You forgot all sorts of important stuff.

    A CD player. A copy of “Dark Side Of The Moon.”

    I just accept the fact that if a big disaster hits, I’m the first to go…

    Earthquakes are hard for me to imagine, and while I jest up above, you are smart to be prepared. I’ve lived my life either in Philadelphia or Phoenix (something about cities beginning with “PH”), neither of whom get much in the way of natural disasters.


  15. You certainly are prepared! Wow.

    Thanks for the information!

  16. Laura Eno says:

    Born and raised in San Diego taught me to be very blase about earthquakes, but you’re right, one should always be prepared for the unexpected. Awesome list you have. A second one for the car would be good, so you didn’t have to carry it around.

  17. Joe says:

    When I worked for a utility, we advised our customers to have something similar on hand in case of a prolonged power outage. Fortunately, even the worst ice storm didn’t last terribly long.

    But it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Nicely done.


  18. WOW! That’s quite a kit.

    I used to live in Southern California and I remember all the “training” we received in school. I was so young, and so terrified of all the preparedness we were almost required to have. I see now how important it is to have the survival kit.

  19. This is such a great idea for a “B” post. Disasters come in many forms. There was a big wildfire burning west of my town overnight, but luckily the temperatures dropped and the rains came early in the day. Up to 300 homes could have been threatened.

  20. Great pack you’ve prepared! I would add a pistol or some other small firearm with a holster for added protection. Fabulous ‘B’ post. Thanks for sharing such an informative list!

  21. Maria Toth says:

    Very informative post, Nutschell… thank you! I’m going to start working on putting my BOB together!

    As a native S. Calif, geneations of my family have experienced Mother Nature shake things up for a hundred years. At first, the quake rattles our nerves, then for days earthquake safety becomes the hot topic on the local evening news, then it’s back to daily biz as usual. We think now that we’ve had a good shaking, we can relax because it’ll be awhile before Mother Nature will shake things up again.

    But I was living in the San Bernardino Mountains when we had the Landers quake in the pre-dawn hours. Once the shaking stopped we thought it was over till the next time. Only we didn’t know the next time was just a few hours away. And it was even stronger!

    For those who don’t live in earthquake country, there are different kinds of quakes. Some sway like a boat in a choppy sea and make you say, “Whoa.” Others swing like a pendulum and you reach out and grab the nearest thing to keep your balance. And then there are those that feel like a giant has awakened from a deep dead slumber. And he’s mad. Really mad!

    The second quake that morning was the sleeping giant kind. Not knowing the quake had centered just 20 minutes up the mountain highway from our home, I thought for sure Los Angeles had been flattened and beach towns were under water. That’s how big it felt. The quake had lasted long enough for me to run down a flight of stairs, gather my kids and their sleep-over friend and get them to safety under a doorway, (which we now know not to do), then I ran to the front glass door (stupid me), and watched my jeep literally bouncing off the ground while all around dead oak branches snapped off trees like toothpicks and broke apart as they hit the ground.

    No power. No phone service, so couldn’t call my dad or sisters. I really thought they were all dead until we drove down the mountain and realized the quake had centered in Big Bear. Just writing this post makes me tremble all over again.

    Southern California is earthquake country. We know that, yet most of us think what happened in Japan won’t happen to us. But it can. In the city I live in now, San Bernardino, the water table is so high the ground is predicted to liquify when the big one strikes. I try to push away those scary thoughts.

    The San Adreas fault is a hop, skip, and a jump from our home. And I have seen the jagged open fault line on the property where an earthen damn is built in Highland, which sit at the base of the SB Mountains.

    So, thanks again for your informative post, Nutschell! I AM doing this. And I’m asking my writing buddy, Lynn, to make sure that I do!

    Sorry, didn’t mean to go for so long…

  22. Will Burke says:

    You’re scaring the stuffings out of me, and that’s probably a good thing. I’ve heard that you can water-proof matches by putting wax on both ends.

  23. Elliot says:

    I would also have to take my computer. I would perish within 12 hours without it.

  24. Good for you for being prepared!

  25. Budd says:

    I wear a survival bracelet for robe. It has about 8ft of paracord in it. I have been looking at the molle II pack.

  26. Shelley Batt says:

    Great survival information. I guess you never know when you need it so it’s great to be prepared. I like the homemade MRE’s. I’ve had the military ones and they are gross.

  27. Good idea. I don’t think I’m prepared enough for hurricanes where I am.

  28. Susana Torresdey says:

    Thank u!!
    as Lds member, we know the importance of being prepare; thank you for helping us out on how to do this…….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Thomas Lane says:

    What is the name of the hammer/hatchet tool?

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