Ten Must-Have Pieces of Equipment for Your Bug-Out Bag

As I wrote in an earlier post I like to keep my bug-out bag light, but have enough equipment in it that I don’t suffer if I’m forced to spend a night out.

Remember, gear is important, but it can’t beat knowledge and experience.  Get out in the woods and build a fire with a firesteel, go on a long hike with your BOB, get your hands dirty building a fire pit.  It’s great practice for the real thing and you just might have fun at the same time.

Ok, here’s a short list of crucial equipment that I use in my summer BOB:

1.  Poncho – A military grade poncho is a piece of equipment that has many different uses – exactly what you need when preparing a bug-out bag.  I say military grade because in my experience I’ve never been let down by one of these sturdy ponchos.  If you buy something from Walmart don’t forget the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”  I used a Walmart poncho once and that was enough.  It tore while I was trying to set it up as a shelter and by the time I was done with it I might as well have used confetti to make a shelter.

I’ve slept under military grade ponchos many times as a shelter and they can even be used to camouflage your location.  I’ve wrapped up in them at night with a poncho liner (see the next item), and I’ve even used it to stay dry when it rained out!

They can be used as ground cloths, to channel water into your canteen when it rains, to protect against sun as well as rain, it can converted to help carry heavy loads, and on and on.  You’re only limited by your imagination.

2. Wool Blanket A poncho liner can be tied to your poncho to make a good blanket and if you roll up in it it will almost act like a bivy.  One of the good things about the poncho liner is that it’s pretty lightweight and compresses down pretty good for storage.

The wool blanket is an old military standby and I have one in my bag.  It’s warm and even when wet canvarious products EPIC20 code colorado veteran 400x250 still provide some insulation against the cold.    Put it on over your shoulders and put it up over your head to create a hooded robe for when you’re under-dressed.

Another option in place of the poncho liner is a space blanket, but the type I’ve seen can only be used a few times before they’re no good.

3.  Stove and FuelIt’s good to cook over an open fire when you can, but it’s not always practical.  I’ve used many different types of stoves and during different seasons I’ll carry different types.  Butane and propane work well in the warmer months whereas if you want a good stove for the winter a white gas stove is probably your best bet.

4.  PotA steel cookpot for your water is a crucial piece of gear to have in your bug-0ut bag.  I’ve used all kinds from the military canteen cup to a titanium pot used for high altitude cooking.  There are different types and what you buy depends on your financial situation and your needs.

5.  Firesteel – I like a firesteel because it will throw a spark no matter what.  A lighter is great, but I’ve found that when it gets wet or in cold weather it’s hit or miss whether or not it will work well.  You can pull a firesteel out of the water, dry it on your coat and it will throw a spark immediately.  There’s no guessing with one of these bad boys, but you have to know how to build a

fire in order to use it.  Don’t throw one in your pack and expect it to save your life if you haven’t used it a bunch of times.  Practice practice practice!

6. Knife – A good survival knife is probably the most important tool you can have with you in the woods.  If I had the choice of  just one item to take with me in a survival situation it would be my beloved K-Bar Becker BK 2 Campanion knife.


7.  Water container – You can make your own water container in the woods using birch bark, or by burning a hole in a large piece of wood, but nothing beats a steel water bottle or a canteen.  The good thing about a steel water bottle is that you can boil water in it thus getting rid of the need for a water filter and a steel pot.

8.  Water purifier – I have an older model water purifier than the one pictured here, but Katadyn is the go-to-company for filters.  They’re lightweight and I’ve never got sick drinking water through one of these filters and I’ve used it on different sections of the Appalachian Trail many times.  (To be absolutely sure you might want to boil it after filtering if you have the time.)

9.  Headlamp – A headlamp is a critical piece of equipment for obvious reasons.  Once the lights go and the sun goes down it’s your only way to see at night.  I’ve used Petzl brand headlamps in the winter in some of the harshest conditions in Maine and they have always held up superbly.  Yes, there are ways make your own lamps out of materials found in the forest, but when you need to move at night nothing beats a good head lamp.

10.  550 Paracord – Cordage is extremely handy in the field.  You can make your own if you know how, but it’s labor intensive and takes a long time.  If you have 100 feet of paracord on-hand it will make things a lot easier when it comes time to


There are many other items you can pack of course, but this is the basic kit I like to pack in my environment here in Maine.  What do you put in your bug-out bag?

-Jarhead Survivor


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50 comments… add one
  • not applicable September 7, 2012, 9:03 am

    And Jesus said, ” Before, when I sent you without money, knapsack, and sandals, Did you lack anything?”

    The He said, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and like wise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his coat and buy one”. Luke 22: 35-36

    • irishdutchuncle September 7, 2012, 9:13 am

      “Thou shall not put the Lord thy GOD, to the test”.
      keep your gear close by, because when the time comes to “flee to the mountains” there won’t be time to retrieve your “stuff”, from the house. (not even your coat)

      • Brad September 7, 2012, 7:44 pm

        I believe he was adding “a gun/sword/weapon” to the list of things in the bug-out bag. You have to defend yourself. It’s a fact. If you have to give up an essential, give it up for a sword.

        • irishdutchuncle September 7, 2012, 9:36 pm

          agree, totally.
          there’s a lot in that passage.
          when the apostles were sent out that first time, the Deity proved to them that they were under his care. it was his plan. one should never assume that your plans for you are the same as the Deitys plan for you. protection from the Deity is never something to boast about.

          • Christian Gains March 11, 2017, 1:12 am

            IRISHDUTCHUNCLE, you’re 110% correct! Never take credit for the Lord’s care of you…ALWAYS give HIM the credit…if nothing else, it’s a witness…ALSO, the old adage “God helps them, that cannot help themselves” has a balance: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”…so, he’s ALWAYS THERE…and whether you THINK you don’t need HIM of not, ALWAYS ask HIS counsel, Proverb 3: 5 & 6 “Trust in the Lord with ALL of thy heart & lean NOT to thy own understanding; in ALL of thy ways, acknowledge HIM, and HE WILL direct thy paths”…There’s a WHOLE LOT of wisdom in those 2 verses!

  • irishdutchuncle September 7, 2012, 9:05 am

    i like the idea of a magnesium block, as a backup to your firesteel.
    they are also easier to find than a top quality firesteel. whichever you have, the striker is critical. my stainless pocket knives don’t make good sparks. YMMV. i agree completely about the poncho.

    all the Petzl stuff i’ve seen all seems to be good quality.

    even the top quality space blankets will show some wear with use. at least once, it didn’t keep me as warm as i would have liked. it isn’t really a substitute for a wool blanket. a can of soup or chilli, warmed by the camp stove is one of the best ways i know of to get warm.

  • Leon September 7, 2012, 10:41 am

    I like your choices, but the bag seems to be geared to warm weather. The poncho and blanket are fine in the warm months, but for where I live in the foothills of the Cascades, I would substitute a tarp and sleeping bag. The sleeping bag could be unzipped to wear as a robe, but would be much warmer for sleeping. I’d carry a C.T. Fischer six-inch Bushcraft knife instead of your Becker (just personal preference – the Becker is a fine knife!). I’d also carry a Berkey sport bottle for water, since it serves both as a water container and a water filter.
    Your stuff appears to be really well thought-out and practical, but like any BOB, you have to adapt for the climate you may be bugging out in. And all the gear needs to work for you, so practice with all your stuff!
    Great post!

  • GA September 7, 2012, 11:13 am

    Down here in Florida one of my mandatory items is the mosquito net. Pure misery without it.

    • Howie Honky September 9, 2012, 7:29 pm

      Amen to that – I would add as much insect repellent as I could handle and maybe even one of those ‘head net’ affairs that you slip over a boonie or other hat. I can attest that you cannot concentrate on one little thing, when you are being eaten alive my mosquitoes, biting flies, even ants. I remember the legendary Carlos Hathcock saying once that the bugs made his life way more harsh than the VC. Granted, he was often spending eight or more hours crawling at a snail’s pace through tall grass, but the principle is the same

      I would also toss in a bandana. Weighs nothing, lots of purposes, and again, if you are trying to remain motionless for evasion or for an ambush, having hot steaming sweat drip into your eyes is a hellish annoyance that can be avoided.

  • Charles,,,, September 7, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Good idea provoking post, seem’s the time of year and region will dictate contents so a monthly/bi-monthly BOB check would be prudent,,,,, my BOB isn’t the lightest around, it’s stuffed to service 3 as I know wherever I am, normaly, there are those around me that live near me,those at work, church or play, so I keep 2 extra bag’s within the bag to dispense, albeit rare if I found myself having to go alone then it will be a waste but the load would have to be lightened, stashed to retrieve later or hung in plain sight for anothers use,,,, but if I can help another down the road some then I’ll lend a helping hand. Lot’s of thoughts there…..

    • Brad September 7, 2012, 8:16 pm

      I kinda dig that 1 or 2 hand-out thing. When/if all goes bad, some of your friends/neighbors will not be prepared. What better gift than to “loose” a bag or two someone in need. That’s what “The Man i.e. ‘The Lord” would like to see. After a few handouts tho, one must fend for himself. AND he must carry a sword.

  • Charles,,,, September 7, 2012, 12:27 pm

    As a thought, it might be a good future post to kick around ideas, for someone to explain time travel continuum’s,<is that spelled right? Say your a hundred miles from home with the basic road to follow due to rivers needing to be crossed would be an interstate, what ever would one do if they had to hoof it the whole way with just a BOB, yikes !!!!!

  • T.R. September 7, 2012, 12:49 pm

    The only thing I disagree with , and yes its all personal taste , is the headlamp . My personal view is that its actually dangerous to you because of the elevated position and fumbling around for the off switch . To me , a flashlight belongs either in your hand or on you gun .

    • Brad September 7, 2012, 8:19 pm


  • sput September 7, 2012, 1:17 pm

    First aid kit and clean socks. Pocket knife and water purification tablets. USGI canteen and cup. Belt.

    • Tank September 8, 2012, 3:12 am


  • Charles,,,, September 7, 2012, 2:28 pm

    Bummah, light discipline, but I so like my headlamp, it has a red lens setting, how far is that visible? I’ll need to range it,,,,,, I haven’t heard of a web belt from anyone? I have one cinched to the outside of the BOB to use, to have immediates attached to it, which lighten’s the pack load and put’s certain things at hand if anything goes bump in the night…..

  • Charles,,,, September 7, 2012, 2:47 pm

    While rummaging around the BOB I noticed the package of little nickel sized sponges that expand when water is added, and a few other items that I keep in the original pacakging, and noticed that the edges of the cardboard is fraying, so pulling back on some, I discovered that these thin sheets of paper are laminated together to make the packaging stiffer, so I peeled off a sheet and with a lighter to test flammability I got a good quick light and steady burn, short life but an added source of starter for a fire….

  • smokechecktim September 7, 2012, 3:14 pm

    this is the time of year to start converting from a summer to a winter BOB. Agree about the milspec poncho. In SAR we joke that the only thing you cant do with a good poncho is eat it….I’m sure somebody is working on a recipe.

  • smokechecktim September 7, 2012, 4:16 pm

    I keep a supply of bottled water in my office to fill my bottles and water bladder in case the water isnt working when I decide to bug out. That way as least I head out with fresh water without having to stop and filter.

    • Brandon September 8, 2012, 11:48 am

      I do exactly the same thing, kudos.

  • Michael September 7, 2012, 6:50 pm

    Mine’s a get home bag in my trunk not a bug out bag in my house, it could go either way though I suppose. No water purifier, I keep at least a half gallon of water in the car, which should be enough to get me home. I’ll mostly be in urban area’s and wouldn’t want to drink “found water” even if it had been run though a filter.

    I have a small mattress pad to get me up off the cold wet ground, which doubles nicely as a place to sit or lay down if I want to go read a book or have lunch in a park.

    A small tarp and para cord to string it up with serves to keep the rain off It’s also nice to kneel on if you have to change a flat tire in the rain. A Puffy jacket that compresses down to the size of a softball serves to keep me warm. When we get the occasional cold spell with nights dipping below freezing or I’m headed away from home for more than 24 hours in the winter time I toss a sleeping bag in my car.

    The rest of the stuff is the normal food, clothing, first aid kit, map & compass and so on.

    • irishdutchuncle September 7, 2012, 7:02 pm

      the “mattress pad” is an excellent idea.

      • riverrider September 8, 2012, 9:33 am

        floats too!

  • prepguy September 7, 2012, 11:34 pm

    How about nonlethal items like pepper spray?

  • irishdutchuncle September 8, 2012, 10:57 am

    char cloth, plus at least one other emergency tinder.

  • GoneWithTheWind September 8, 2012, 11:48 am

    Not as a criticism but a suggestion.
    1. A good rain suit can be light, strong and so much more waterproof then a poncho.
    2. They now have very compact sleeping bags that will even keep you warm while wet and because they are made from hi-tech materials they will even dry out while you sleep in them. Much more compact and lighter then a wool blanket.

  • Brandon September 8, 2012, 11:59 am

    I like to keep moleskin in my BOB. Even though I walk every day, there’s no guarantee that my feet would hold up if I had to bug out and the moleskin can add a little bit of insurance.

    • irishdutchuncle September 9, 2012, 12:10 pm

      moleskin an excellent idea.

      also some type of ointment would be real good. imagine being blistered and chafed at the same time…

      almost enough to bring a grown man to tears.

      • irishdutchuncle September 14, 2012, 6:06 pm

        edit that to say ointments, plural.

        make sure to include some anti-funguals. the women should keep something with them that’s effective against yeast infections. the men need to stock up on something that works on jock itch or athletes foot.

        • izzy September 23, 2012, 11:18 pm

          (look closer – they are often the same ingredient. hilarious, huh? also, powder works best against chafing, blisters)

  • Charles,,,, September 8, 2012, 12:43 pm

    I keep a packet of Wet Ones, purse size, 15 per packet, they tend to dry out after 90-100 dayz, even in a backpack, either way they double as TP as well as wet wipes, and can be rehydrated if wet ones are needed,,,, first aid isn’t much, tube of superglue, re-rolled duct tape in a pill bottle, triple antibac, 2 tampons, ibuprophen, anacin, imodium, chewable pepto, just a few tablets each which all go into a recycled pill bottle, and 2 packets of burn cream w/lidocaine which is all carried inside the extra pair of sock’s, to be dumped into the side pouch once the bottle of water is gone when I change out socks if required….

    • irishdutchuncle September 14, 2012, 6:08 pm

      yeh, what Charles,,,, said.
      baby wipes: they’re not just for babies anymore!

  • Ray September 8, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Outstanding! 4.0 jarhead, I’d ad my firstaid kit to that and some COFFEE (my pesonal weakness–Beware The Pre-CoffeeRay) And Well put. Get out and try this yourself people. Don’t just trust the good idea fariy to save you.

  • Tim September 8, 2012, 1:02 pm

    Dave Canterbury has some good info on his youtube channel. Look for his 10 C’s of survivability. Worth the time IMHO.


  • prepguy September 9, 2012, 12:32 pm

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  • prepguy September 9, 2012, 12:33 pm

    The F15-300N Foldable Solar Charger is the first step up in portable power and charging needs, producing more power and opening up additional applications. Utilization of the included 12 V Female Barrel accessory makes the F15-300N Foldable Solar Charger extremely easy and convenient to use. Essentially replacing a vehicle battery for powering small devices such as a portable air pump or electric inverter, the F15-300N is a perfect addition to outdoor supplies.

  • T.R. September 10, 2012, 1:41 am

    I ran across some high tech socks called sealskinz , they claim to be 100% waterproof and yet still allow your feet to breath through special DuPont fibers . If they indeed do everything they claim to , a pair will definitely be in my BOB .

  • Montana Merlin September 10, 2012, 9:34 am

    small tarp and TP! then again we all carry more than 10 items. Here we can have snow anytime, only month that I have not seen new snow has been August.

  • LindseyJean September 10, 2012, 11:58 am

    I just spent 2 wks in the Canadian rocky mountains with my 3 kids. We camped in true albertain style… In the snow. We took our bobs, and a few other supplies (this was our holiday afterall). I learned very valuable lessons. Ditch the 2nd pot, and replace it with tin foil. Your pocket knife is your best friend. You can never have enough paracord, especially when your children are aged 4, 6, and 9. Good shoes are a must, and back ups are vital. You can never have too many long johns. A folding shovel and t.p will be your most used tool. And last but definitely not least, a sleeping bag rated to -35* celcius is a priority.

    • irishdutchuncle September 10, 2012, 12:39 pm

      -35*C, is darn cold!

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. September 10, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Great list of ‘must-have’ items. Down here waaay down south, I’d add two more items – 1) hammock (multi-use items in very lightweight package), and 2) bug net (’cause sleeping in buggy areas really does not allow good nights sleep, which really hurts the following day(s) activities and decisions.

  • smokechecktim September 10, 2012, 4:59 pm

    i know it not needed but I have a 10 minute highway flare wrapped in saran wrap. I can really get a fire going quickly no matter what the weather

  • irishdutchuncle September 12, 2012, 8:26 pm

    a trowel for digging cat holes, snow caves etc.
    saves the edge on your survival knife.

  • John June 29, 2016, 8:34 pm

    something small to add to our fire kit is a pencil sharpener , making tender just got a little easier

    • JF August 16, 2016, 5:57 am

      That is F’ing genius!

    • DOUG June 24, 2017, 5:14 am


  • Hope November 3, 2016, 3:25 pm

    When I was in the Marines meny moons ago, we (women) weren’t taught any kind of combat or survival skills. Had to learn them on my own. But I always have at least two full tang and two folding knives with me even in my purse. Don’t like to carry a purse but it hard to carry conceal on your person in a dress. I like all the ideas everyone has given. I keep a Bob in my car with water, candy, extra socks and various other small items.

  • Jeff January 17, 2019, 8:23 pm

    Toilet paper. Almost every blog I read leaves this crucial item off their list.


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