My Budget Bug Out Bag

Budget bug out bag


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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Do you need a bug out bag or survival bag?

Some call it 72 hour bag, Get Out Of Dodge Bag, Get Back Home Bag or however. Making the perfect bug out bag definitely can mean difference between life and death, and there are many philosophies about what should be in it and what not. This is my take on it. It is a budget / cheap bug out bag and makes sense for me. I have some different products but tried to find most similar I could on Amazon because this is what most people have access to. I have also written about the ultimate bug out bag here. 

First lets start with some considerations before assembling it.

What is a bug out bag or survival bag?

A bug out bag is for bugging out and not living forever in woods. Survival bag is more for long term living outdoors. A bug out bag is smaller and light, a survival bag is big and has more stuff in it of course.

My philosophy for bug out bags is, you need to have things with you that gonna bring you to your desired location. Nothing less and nothing more. Traveling light is key here, not traveling comfortable. If you can do both – great, but if you need to choose then choose to travel light, fast and maneuverable. You are maybe gonna be forced to run, jump, duck, use weapon with that bag on your back.

I see long lists of things from people who seem to go on camping trip with their bug out bags. Makes no sense to me. You have survival bag or camping bag if you have no bug out location and plan to live in the woods. But before you head for the hills “to live off land” you better know what you do. Otherwise bugging in is better. Anyway, that is something for another article. But if you have a bug out location, getting there fast is most important.

Choosing the right backpack is matter of what you like, your items you carry and of course it must always matter that you keep low profile. So if you are bugging out from city you do not want to look like you are SWAT team member. Nobody survives because of style as well. If you have bug out bag at office then choose a bag that looks like laptop backpack. If you have bug out bag at home, choose a casual sports backpack in darker colors (and without any reflector).

How long are you bugging out?

You are making your bug out bag for bugging out to a safe location your bug out location and it takes you X days to get there. Depending how many days you gonna be there you gonna carry that many items.

It is great thing to have lot of useful things with you on your way to bug out location, but even better thing is to have some useful things and be able to move fast and efficiently.

Just take your perfect bug out bag and do some testing in real life, in some hard conditions, with bad weather.

Here is what I recommend for basic bug out bags.

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I carry trash bags that you can also use inside your backpack to keep things dry and three emergency blankets. Here is higher quality emergency blanket but watch out that it is not too heavy or takes too much space.

I also sleep in shelter in form of a poncho. This is cheap poncho, you look unprepared with it and that is great if you are in city.

If you are out of sight of people switch to a better one like this one or if you have money to spend this one.

Alternative could be to use a tarp of course.


I have toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and alcohol pads (if you cant use it in your face or on skin use antiseptic wipes).

Perfect way to keep yourself clean or take care of small cuts in quick way. Some soap is good to have too. Not brushing teeth for few days, bad breath is least of problems.


Snacks are good enough. Some energy barsMREs and a spork is all I have for food.

Do not think about your way to bug out location as a picnic, or nature trip. It is gonna look more like dangerous escape from war zone, so you need to act like that. Most probably you are going to eat very fast and you need something simple or you are too tired to cook anyway.


Take many ways of starting a fire. Besides regular Bic lighter I have Zippo lightersurvival matchesfirestartertinderhexamine tablets and vaseline soaked cotton balls with me.

You are maybe not gonna be in position to start fire, maybe you are not gonna need it, or maybe it is gonna be too dangerous to start it, but once when you needed you need to be absolutely positive that you can start it safe and quick. A small fire does much for your body and in many situations maybe even more for your mind.

I want to have more ways to start fire because I still remember how important it is.

One night I was stranded out in one ruined building while outside was raining like waterfalls. It was unsafe to travel so I spent night there, hidden behind pile of rubble in something that was months before living room.

I choose only 5-6 square meters where was relatively hidden and start fire. I start it with lighter and some remains of curtain, then I used wood junk from the rooms and apartments to keep it going. It was stinky, my eyes were burning from wet wood and my attempts to “cover” light of the fire with some steel plate without extinguishing it.

I was wet, tired, hungry, and without too many plans for future.

It was spooky and weird to have fire in complete darkness of ruined and half burned apartment where still on wall were pieces of some tiles with different flowers. I did not cook anything on that fire, or boil water for coffee, tea or whatever, I did not have anything.

Only “material” use of that fire was that I dried my socks on it, but it was not too important at that moment, I survived many days with wet socks.

Real use of that fire was that I felt that my strength and will was coming back to me. After some time I felt much better, I had my will again.

Everything is different when you have fire with you. It not only helps your body…

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Canteen cup kitwater treatment solutionfilter and a hydration reservoir. I also have water bottle to fill up hydration reservoir quickly next to it on shelf. Do not carry too much water but make sure you have everything to make clean water yourself.


I carry multitoolfolding knife and a knife.

It’s nice to have smartphone with GPS but also carry a map of the area, compass and make sure you know how to use them.

I carry three lights. A torchlightnano light and a headlamp. Sometimes it make sense to use strong torchlight, but in other circumstances it make more sense to use small light, without making yourself visible from great distances.

I have also created small first aid kit, but you can buy already assembled one such as this. Add a good bandage as well.

Try to carry FM radio to get some information. If you have space there are good hand crank radios available. To have information in moments of bugging out can be very important. Listen to radio with headphones to conserve energy.

Small things you should also have are some paracord (maybe in form of bracelet) and of course duct tape.

When it comes to types of carrying all of this and how to organize it you must always have things that are very important close to you and in a way separated from your backpack. I prefer a military backpack like this one.

That means that you will keep your weapons on your belt or under the jacket, your small survival box, some ammo, flask, means to start fire and some power bars in some small bag on your hip, around your neck or similar (I know they look ugly).

We all probably carry our pistol as every day carry (EDC). In my case EDC is just gonna be small addition to bug out bag. It usually consists of pistol, extra magazine, lighter, flashlight, folding knife, keys, cell phone, heavy duty scissors and wallet. But keep in mind that how many things you have in your EDC depends on your “moving” distances. Or how far you are from more stuff (in your car, job, home) so I have not much with me all the time.


In layers

Clothes in layers makes easy to you to take off something if you feeling too hot, or to take peace of clothes on if getting too cold. Do not forget that by making mistakes in this area can lead to hypothermia or in other cases in heat exhaustion if you losing too much water by sweating without controlling it.

Check for clothes that repel wind, dry quickly, clothes that stay warm even when wet etc. Try polyester (military style pants, shirts etc) wool underwear and some insulation layers with fleece. Have one set of extra clothes in your bug out bag.

Clothes that blend in

You do not want to look different remember that so also when it comes to clothes try to have usual stuff on you, or if you want and have something special just try to cover it with something usual. Remember that looking too different draws attention and that is bad.

If your clothes looks too good or too “new” it makes sense to make it look dirty before you move on. Even today when I buy new sneakers for example I first make them dirty but that is because I live in high crime area. I also talk about clothing in my in-depth bug out bag post here.


Your footwear needs to be chosen completely based on nature of your trip, not on other folks ratings. So it make sense to wear for example sneakers in city because of speed and mobility, and when you move to woods to change to something else. Pair of gators in combination with boots make sense.

Remember that you need to wear your new footwear before emergency scenario. Do not make mistake and put your new boots on for the first time when bugging out. Blisters can cripple you and I saw people losing feet because of infected blisters.

Your compass and map you are keeping in your pocket or small waist pack. In that way if you find yourself in situation that you need to loose your backpack you are still gonna be able (hopefully) to finish your trip.

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Having your bug out bag always ready somewhere on some shelf makes much sense, but having the things ready for bugging out on shelves and way of quickly assembling your bug out bag is much better idea in my opinion.

Point is to have all things that you gonna need for your three or more day trip to your bug out location ready and sorted on one shelf, so you can easily check it every day.

Another reason is that there is no perfect bug out bag for every situation, so it makes sense to have some stuff available for your BOB so you can quickly choose something and leave something else.

Remember that you can not take everything.

In some situation it is gonna make sense to take gas mask with you maybe and leave something else.

Making bug out bag, and putting it on shelf and then waiting for SHTF can be problem, you have to check stuff that is in your bug out bag, you have to know each item very good, and check it often. It is easy to forget about what you have in your bag when you have assembled it and put aside for some time.

Choosing correct bag type is important too, so it is good to have few different type bags ready for quick packing.


Your bug out bag must have things that you KNOW how to use, so it is much better to have butterfly closures that you know how to use than full wound sewing kit without real knowledge about it (and without real need).

If this concept of bug out bag sounds like you are missing lot of things, please consider again the fact that your task with this bag is to reach your bug out location on quickest and safest way, not most comfortable way. Do you want to be slowed down for a bit more comfortable night? I don’t. I also speak in detail about reasons why mobility mattered so much during my time in war in my survival course. Sneakers beat big boots back then.

If you still think to add more things to your bag to make your way easier then think about possibility of hiding some stuff on your way to your bug out location.

It has many benefits. You get to know your way to your bug out location in detail when you search for good hiding places for example.

In setting those secret places with stuff on your way to your bug out location follow few rules:

1. Always use three possible ways to bug out location, and hide stuff there because you never know what way you are gonna use.

2. Hide small stashes at many places, instead more stuff at few places. Reason is again fact that you do not know what circumstances gonna be during bugging out, and what kind of obstacles you gonna have. Just have more choices.

3. Have some system in tracking correct places where you hid the things, it is much easier to forget places than most people think.

It can be GPS device, or simply some photos taken, or some coded message describing correct place. Remember that you may give that info to someone (friend, family member). Get creative, maybe some place only you and your wife know as a starting point.

What you gonna hide depends how long your trip is, and what kind of situation is gonna be but every small thing gonna help in those times.

Canned food, MREs, fuel, aluminum foil, ammo, first aid kits, duct tape…

You can have best equipment available but if YOU did not test it, it does not mean too much. After you assemble everything go on hiking trip and test all, test equipment in rain, in forest during the night time, try to make yourself shelter from trash bag with insulating it with leafs, or whatever else you have for shelter.

Try to find a stash at night or to read compass at night… You may say here “OK what about mosquito repellent, sun lotion, survival manual, tent, solar charger … and lot of other things.”

If you want those, my suggestion would be that you buy ALL things that you like to have with you, assemble it in bug out bag and have two day trip that includes sleeping in woods, running (from someone) trying to hide, trying to get to the bug out location on time etc.

Speed counts more than comfort.

After that take all equipment and sort it again to make it lighter, you will see that suddenly you are going to find some stuff you do not want to have actually (or you find something you missed, but practice is important).

More about bugging out and weapons in next article. Please share some ideas about your bug out bag in comments.

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83 Responses

  1. I have friends with zippo lighters, and while I think they are cool, they are unreliable. The fuel tends to dry up in 3 days for there lighters. Do you not have this problem too?

        1. Yes. I saw lighters like this. Not very good performance,wick problems too, but dirty fuel was used for them, so i do not know what performance would be with some clean fuel, Zippo fluid or similar.

          1. Being that I am bugging in, I’ve found that a propane torch is very reliable, uses the same bottles as all sorts of camping gear (lanterns, stoves, etc) and uses barely any fuel. I’ve been using one bottle for everything from lighting the fireplace, doing plumbing, etc. This one bottle is still going strong after 8 years! Propane torch seems to burn a lot of fuel, but it really does not. Good firestarter.

    1. I keep a small plastic bottle of zippo fluid in a zip lock bag with other fire making materials. It is better than filling the lighter.

    2. Although I like the windproof butane lighters in the warm weather, I always have cold weather problems with them because of the decrease in the gas pressure when cold.

      I used to have problems with the Zippos evaporating all their fuel in a couple of days until I saw a quick fix on some prepper website. If you cut an old rubber bicycle tube to make a 1-2 inch wide rubber band (what some call ranger bands),

      You place the band around the Zippo and it covers the seam between the upper lid and the Zippo’s body. This creates a seal the keeps water out and fuel vapors in. Just roll a the edge of the band down to open the lighter for use. The rubber also can be used as tinder in an emergency.

    3. Carried Zippos in the Navy and they survived Typhoons, Heavy seas and much use. Now I keep the disposable ones as they are much sheaper and better for storage.

      Zippos are great but one word of warning–they will burn the crap out of your important parts if you stuff it in you pocket and it leaks lighter fluid!

  2. Thanks for your great detail Selco. However, in your point 2. I am surprised that you do not apparently think dental hygiene is important even for a few days in SHTF, with the dentists all dead/all refugees/all asking high prices.

    You were under siege for one year: were there any dentists (?) Did dental problems not cause big trouble?

    After all, you mention energy bars under 3. as bugout food. But they are sugary and stick to the teeth if they have a cereal-type base. This happens even inside the 72 hours of a 3-day bugout.

    My impression from my Internet reading is that dental care in SHTF is more difficult to improvise than other medical care. Can you confirm this with your medical experience? Do you yourself have very caries-resistant teeth? Because not all people do.

    I myself do not need to start caries at the start of SHTF.

    So I have a collapsible fold-up toothbrush in a 9.5 cm plastic case in a chest safe around my neck, next to my multitool.

    I can refill the 4cm mini-toothpaste tube in it pre-SHTF with a hypodermic syringe which I insert for suction in the mouth of a regular large toothpaste tube.

    But the mere action of brushing with water only is already very useful at reducing the risk of caries at SHTF.

    So at SHTF, I do not need to carry clove oil for toothache LOL.

    1. Sure.
      In my time there were no dentist in term that we think about it, for example you could find maybe guy who were medical student or, whatever, and he had some dental instruments maybe and you could get tooth extracted.
      So nothing like tooth repairing were possible.
      About tooth brush and BOB this is simple how my bag looks based on my experiences. I personally think (again from my experience) that being without proper dental hygiene for day or two (however that sounds) is not problem.
      Caries and loosing teeth was problem in my time, even with proper dental hygiene. Stress, stuff that we eat (actually important things that we did not eat) had lot of with that I think.

    2. Look in most pharmacy stores for a “temporary” or emergency tooth filling product. there are several products you can put in a BOB to help with dental issues. But, 99% of the time you need to get drunk and have a friend rip the tooth out of your head. Dential hygene in SHTF returns to what we had in the 1800’s suffer until they fall out, or rip them out of your head.

      Note: I strongly reccomend getting some kind of antibiotic that has a long shelf life, Pressed powder simple ones like Penicillin have the longest shelf life (measured in decades). And learn how to use them, a bacterial infection will kill you faster than a bullet will.

    3. I went two weeks without brushing my teeth thanks to an impromptu camping trip where I forgot my toothbrush/paste. Swished a lot of water every night. Gross but didn’t die or get new cavities. Selco isn’t saying to throw out your toothbrush, only that for a few days you can get away without brushing. Pretty sure you won’t develop one overnight.

      1. Pine pitch is a great thing to know how to use. You can put it on wounds too, or use as glue when mixed with ash. When one has a lot of pine trees int he environment, its good to know how to utilize them. Tea made from pine needles is good for hydration.

    4. I was born after the great depression when my father could not find work, so we were very poor. I never had a toothbrush until I married, but living in the country, we knew which small stick from tree branch to chew on to scrub teeth with. It is not best answer, but I didn’t even know that people used toothbrushes, I thought everybody used sticks. We also chewed pine pitch like gum, which probably removed the food particles. In life and death situation, I don’t think a brush will save your life, so I’m with Selco on that.

      1. My grandmother dipped snuff. I was sent to the woods once a week to gather a week’s supply of “toothbrushes”. It was sasaprass (sp) sticks. She passed away at 93 and yes she had every tooth she had all natural teeth.

  3. Want to practice finding things? Start geocaching. Once you have done several geocache finds with a GPS, try geocaching on a rainy night, even with a GPS it becomes 80X more difficult. If you really want to find out what it’s like when SHTF, go out geocaching in a wooded area during a massive rainstorm or thunderstorm, you will get lost even with a GPS in hand.

    Once you do that, now start geocaching without a GPS, use a good topo map and a compass to find it. If you do this on a regular basis you will be 900 times better at finding things based on a waypoint than most people on this planet.

    And honestly, Grab a list of geocaches on your route to and around your Bug out location, most have worthless trinkets in them, but they are trade-able items that are in hidden spots for you to loot when things go sideways.

    This is how you can practice most of your skills without being “that wierd guy” Go geocaching for a day with your BOB on your back.

    1. Excellent advice Tim – I found this very useful. My brother and I geocache every now and then, and this is a great way to augment that activity – and learn along the way.

    2. I especially like the idea of practicing without the GPS. In many cases where bugging out is necessary, there is a good possibility that GPS devices won’t be working.

  4. I have Lugols Solution (iodine drops 2%) for two reasons…purifying water, and in event of radiation hazard. I also generate my own collodial silver and I have a plastic pint bottle…exceptional antibiotic and sanitizer. I carry a tazer disguised as a cellphone and also a bottle of Olive Oil…long lasting energy. Protein bars do not provide enough fat to keep you sustained for three days.

    1. Three days you need sustenance? For a three day bugout, all you need is some jerky and water. Matter of fact, if it comes down to it, all you need is water. Yep, you’ll be hungry. No, you won’t starve. Less is more, and speed is good. Move fast when you need to, hide like a mouse when you can’t move fast. Move slow when you need to also…

      Caches are a great idea, but problematic for many of us. Micro caches are a decent idea though – something as simple as a pack of matches, wrapped in foil, wrapped in duct tape can be a lifesaver, and can be hidden anywhere. Same with food cache, weapon cache, comms, batteries…etc etc.

      1. Greg T, you’re giving me some ideas! Thanks. I’m thinking of making small tin foil/plastic sandwich bag packages and duck taping them to fence posts to hide in plan view about every quarter mile on trail, or turn a can upside down on a post when cache is hidden at base.

        1. putting one every quarter mile on your trail to your destination may work against you, its kind of a permanent breadcrumb trail to where ever you want to go and if you are on a rode you are somewhat exposed witch may be a bad thing

          but i do think that Micro caches are a good idea

  5. Everyone should try fasting to see what it feels like. I have made it one week with no food. Water and vitamins only. Unless you are already very thin, you should be able to make it one month with no food before you die if you absolutely have to. It can’t be good for you though, so I wouldn’t fast that long just to give it a try. Read about the hunger strikes by the IRA in 1981. They went without food 50+ days in the first hunger strike and no one died, however they were very close to death. The second hunger strike life was lost after 60+ days of no food.

    1. Great idea, John, I was in China during their disastrous earthquake in ’07 ish, and people were found alive buried under rubble around three weeks later. They had no water or food.’t die. Weak, yes, dead, no. I wonder if it helps to start out fat. lol

      1. It is ok to start out a bit overweight but still well trained and physically fit. The problem with being overweight is that you also use up more energy with all physical activity so while you carry more stored energy with you, you also use it up faster.

    2. To see yourself going through the phases and getting to know your cravings for food is a great experience. I highly recommend to try fasting at least for a week to everyone.

  6. I have both kinds of bag, and also a third.. The ‘go bag’, which some might call a get-home bag. My go bag is light, tight, and filled only with things I need to work with. Head cover, gloves, multi-tool, flashlight, spare batteries, good knife, some food rations (enough for maybe 2 days), tools for making a fire, and some basic first aid items. All of this fits in a bag about the size of a woman’s purse. Mine also has MOLLE/PALS webbing on the outside, so you could attach some more items if you needed to.

    Basic idea, I don’t believe, personally, that one bag can fit all needs. I think there are different goals and strategies for each bag. One might be as Selco says for long-term survival in the cold wilderness. Another might be for a completely different purpose. There are people on survivalist forums who take up the quest for the perfect ‘bag’, and many of us realize there isn’t one. There is only what is perfect for you, for the task you choose, right now.

    I have finally become comfortable and confident in my gear choices. But it has taken me years to reach that state. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on things that ended up not working out for me.

    The one piece of advice I can give to anyone putting together a bag… Know first what you want to do with it, and what you will be putting into it, before you decide on your bag.

    1. I can think of a million things to put in my bag. It’s getting bigger and heavier. So, I am going to take the advice and split into a bug out and survival bag. So would I take just the bug out or both with me to something like a tornado shelter? You never know if everything could be wiped out.

      1. Of course there is a million things for our bag. I believe point is to have things in your bag that gonna bring you safest and quickest to desired location. Clearly it make big difference if your tornado shelter is very close to your house, and if you already have useful things in your shelter.

  7. I spent 12 days hiding in the jungle from 400 Chinese Regular Army that wanted to do nothing more than catch me, hurt me, then kill me. Having all the things you think you need mean nothing when your the prey. A group of preppers locally wanted to spend 3 days in the mountains because they thought that’s where they would “Bug out to”. They left on the morning of the third day ’cause the weather looked like it was going to be bad. WAKE UP. Reality doesn’t care about you, the weather or your comfort. Thanks Selco for trying to be the reality in all of this.


    1. That’s the problem with most people who do ‘prepper practice’. They don’t treat it like SHTF, they say they’re doing a drill, or practicing a what-if scenario, but in reality they’re just drinking beer and fishing or camping, and will give up at the first sign of any real hardship.

      Those people will not survive when SHTF for real. They may have a plan. They may know what they want to do. But, when the chips are down, they will panic, because that is what they have trained themselves to do when bad stuff happens.

    2. I know what you mean about 3 days of a chase, I had a battalion of Khymer Rouge on my ass for 3 days after a kill shot, and I lived off what I could eat or grab running and dexadrine that whole time. Prey versus plan is a big difference.

  8. During Bay of Pigs with Cuba, we were living in Korea. Threatened that the South may be attacked , the U.S. armed forces were tasked with evacuating all the American civilians, and we were told that if the orders came,we would have to be out of our houses ready to go with a five minute warning. We could take only one bag per family. I had four children, one a new baby, so I packed my bag with things for them, but I had no room for survival things, so I unpacked and repacked until I had only a wash cloth, one sharp knife, one small pan for cooking that we would all eat from, we could drink from it too, a can opener in case we found canned food, one spoon, and a couple extra diapers beyond necessary change of clothes and dry socks. Also put in matches and toilet paper. It was winter, and if we ended up walking to Pusan to board a ship, we could manage with that. We did not have to evacuate, but that day I learned what is most important: to survive. Things absolutely do not matter. You will find a way to manage if you can stay alive.

    1. Earlier I mentioned we all try fasting to see what it feels like. I think we should all practice opening cans of food with a knife too so that there is no need for can openers. With a little bit of practice, everyone should be able to open a can with a fixed blade knife just as easily as with a can opener. There is a technique. Once mastered you will never think about a can opener again for survival.

  9. I live in Dallas TX. What would be a trigger to leave the city and bug out with your bug out bag. Weather-comet-banks shut down-war in USA or any other 9-11 type problem? Not sure, not clear. Can someone give me direction as to when it’s time to leave your home for a few days. I would like to be wise about this so I need to think about this before shtf.

    1. I would say that you should BUG OUT after anything as big as 911, or a surprise “Banking holiday.” You will have roughly 48-72 hours before you won’t be able to leave. Although, if your area happens to be a ground zero event location, then it could be as quick as a couple hours.

    2. Few advices would be that you do not necessary need to wait for some big event and wait for the big news. It is more important to keep “ear to the ground” i mean to watch how your local community look. Simply you need to move when all signs points to the change of rules in terms of security, law department, basic city services etc.Unemployment rate, crime and general feeling how people react to everyday life can give you some clues too.

    3. PD,

      Honestly, start out small and start practicing. Take one weekend, and kill all the power in your home and turn off the main water supply. Just see how it goes. Do you have enough food, how did/would you prepare it, how would you go to the bathroom, stay warm, etc…? The good thing is, by practicing in your home, you can always stop the exercise at anytime if needed.

      Reflect on it and start practicing again.

      Slowly but surely you will see what works for you, and start expanding on it. Expand your knowledge, your gear, and practice, practice, practice.

    4. Not sure of the chances of this happening in Dallas, but look at recent news, what is on besides ‘scandals’? Riots! Suppose Dallas has a week long, or multi-week riot happen, with buildings and homes being burned down, cars being smashed up, no way to get food or anything anymore because it is unsafe to travel the streets and walk into a store (assuming they haven’t been looted and cleaned out already). Use LA as example quite a few years back. That was nasty. Look at London riots recently, look at Sweden. Also think of the new movie “The Purge” where all crime is legal for 12 hours. During a riot, police will be rather occupied, and delinquents/criminals will use this to their advantage. Consider how you would protect yourself until it was safe to move away from the danger zone, and keep in mind, guns are noisy, they draw attention as much as they could scare someone away. Consider other ways to keep you and loved ones safe. Of course if life or death is asking you for your final answer, go with whatever protection you can rely on to save your life.

      Maybe you will have to bug in for a couple days until its safe to travel, so make sure you have a few days at least, more if you can afford it, of necessities in addition to your bug out gear. You don’t want to use your 3 day or 72 hour bag before you leave home to go somewhere safer, if you don’t have to.

      Many people are looking into bushcrafting these days.. surviving with just a knife and clothes on your back. Skills like this will come in handy if find yourself out in the wilderness with nothing but a knife. Or give you a tradeable/valueable skill if we are forced to a trade and barter economy.

      Learn your local surroundings, including plant life. When you have no food, chances are better than average that nature is ready to provide you with something edible and nutritious right around the corner.

      There are just so many possibilities and scenario’s that one can prepare for.

      Think of the most possible scenario you might face, which personally ‘I’ would say riots, terrorist attacks (bombs, possibly chemical in a major city), financial collapse, hurricanes and tornados, and martial law. Figure out what you would need to get by comfortably in each situation, then break that down to what you absolutely need to SURVIVE and only to survive in each.. Combine the most common items from each into one bag.. Then divvy up the rest into other bags and carrying methods (or put the items near the bags so you learn what you are equipping as you pack it). What you leave home with, may not always make it far with you, consider others that will be out to take from you to ensure their own survival. Be prepared to give up some stuff, it is not worth dying for if you have skills to fall back on to live after that encounter, and it’s not worth killing over if your life is not in danger, as one day we may all be faced with a time when we might have to take from someone who has surplus of something we have nothing of that we need in order to live. And killing someone looks easy in the post-apocalyptic movies, but when you have to actually do the deed, many people can’t, or they carry the image and feelings around with them for a long time messing with their head.

      SHTF is going to get dirty if it ever happens. People will die, friends will turn on you if their life depends on it, or they may be injured to a point where you have to decide to leave them to ensure your own survival. I like to think I would never leave a man/woman/child behind, but the sad truth of it is, they could be terminally injured and immovable, and you could be taking fire or being rushed by people intent on killing you and you will have no choice other than to leave them. It’s going to be a rough way to live.

      Preparedness is not just tools, or food.. but it is also a mental state. Be prepared to make the tough choices. And some personal advice, if you encounter a group of people while in survival mode, inviting you to their home/camp/whatever, avoid them. To easy for a group to take everything you have or take your life. Your chances are much better if it’s just one person offering you assistance or company. But be very wary who you trust.

      Perhaps find one reliable and good survival book that you can carry with you also. Learn the contents. Having a book to read can provide you some comfort and keep you from going crazy in a long term ‘only you’ hide-away. And as others have said, prepare all you want, but when SHTF, alot of that is going to go right out the window during the critical moments unless you are well trained and well practiced, and even then some people just simply panic and forget things, so it’s nice to have a good book to fall back on.

      Sorry for such a long comment here, but it’s impossible to suggest anything (for me at least) in one sentence or paragraph. Lots of good advice on this site, and in the comments, figure out what applies to you and go from there 🙂

  10. Many of you may know me. I’m Richard Stone, former host of the International show “Stone Cold Survival” soon to be resurrected and syndicated.

    I have been following Selco for some time and have also commented on several occasions but have remained annonymous because I did not want to steal Selco’s thunder.

    In my professional opinion, let me state emphatically, that Selco is doing a FANTASTIC job!!!

    I commend you Selco for your work and salute your efforts!

    Again, as many of you probably know, I have over 30 years of experience in various countries as an “operator” including where Selco is from and as an instructor for various special operations groups.

    Now, what do i have to say about a “bug out” bag.

    For the most part, Selco is correct.

    Survival is different than Evasion.

    Bugging out, is all about “EVASION” or should be. You need to get to someplace safe, hopefully to the same place that other family members and friends also know where to go. There is safety and “survival” in NUMBERS!!!!

    Here is a simple rule for “BUG OUT”.

    Follow the “Rule of Three’s”

    Three seconds to make a STUPID decision.


    Three minutes without air

    Three hours without adequate shelter

    Three days without drinkable water

    Three weeks without food

    There are more “three’s” but I will not go into that here.

    Here is what I carry in my “SMALL” bag.

    Selco is right, go light, be fast, be nimble, be quick!

    1. Three ways to make fire, carried in three different locations on my body, fire is a MUST!

    2. Pocket knife, multi-tool, and a good survival knife (I make them) again, three different locations.

    3. Water purification straw, tablets and canteen with integrated cup.

    Your cup is for drinking and cooking. Get used to soup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Learn to LOVE soup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4. A 10 foot by 14 foot tarp or similar size

    5. A finger light and a good medium size Pelican light

    6. A Ruger .22 caliber pistol with 100 rounds of ammunition and 4 ten round magazines LOADED

    7. Map of the state I’m in and a detailed map of my “bug out” area

    8. A GOOD compass

    9. A Grundig crank charged AM/FM/SW radio

    10. Good pair of hiking shoes already broke in

    11. Layered clothing (I’m going to change out of my business suit and into these clothes and shoes) to go on the run. Yes! I carry this in the trunk of my car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    12. Four MRE’s or equivalent that I will eat something every few hours IF I have water. Remember, eating ANYTHING uses water from your body, better to go hungry than to eat without WATER!

    13. A good first aid kit and YES!!! IT DOES HAVE A TOOTHBRUSH AND SMALL TUBE OF TOOTH PASTE!!!!!!!! I lost one of my men to a tooth ache in Nicaragua. BRUSH YOUR TEETH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    OK, enough said, other items such as paracord, duct tape, etc. are great but NOT ABSOLUTELY necessary.

    And, last but NOT least,


    God Bless You All


    1. @Richard Stone:

      Teeth brushing:

      Thanks for confirming the need for teeth brushing. As many are betting on sticky protein cereal bars with high-energy coating, i.e. sugar/chocolate for an SHTF bugout, this seems obvious. The SAS man McNab mentions in one of his books how a candidate at SAS Selection training in the early 80s was giving fellow applicants the advice to brush in the field.

      Can openers:

      On the topic of can openers. 3 persons so far in this thread have mentioned needing one. But there are Youtube videos showing how to open a can using either a metal spoon or by rubbing it on a rough, e.g. concrete surface. I tried the spoon method because the other method is a bit loud (OPSEC) and I do not want to have to carry a lump of concrete with me at SHTF:-)

      The spoon method worked first-time with a normal can of tuna. By the way, using the knife point is risky to your hand (slippage) and the knife point itself, not to mention that it blunts the knife over time.

  11. I find you can open a Anti Bio capsule and us the power to sprinkle on an open wound, it saves on waste and you get the Bio where it is needed, the powder also soaks up any fluids..
    Save my leg twice now from open ulcers which surprised me how quick they could turn nasty.

  12. I use the cotton balls soaked in Vaseline for fire starter, you can stuff a whole bunch of them in a film container. They burn for a while and work when wet . They are the most reliable fire starter.

      1. Wal-Mart has them by the barrel full. All you have to do is ask the photo counter employees for some and they’ll give you all that you can stand/want/need. I have hundreds at home.

    1. As to film containers. A good sub these days are the canisters which someone with diabetes has for their testing strips. My guess is most diabetics toss them. If you know someone, ask for them. Me? I use mine for storage of lint (free from my dryer) and a little grease leftover from cooking. Hey I been doing the lint + grease for over 40 years now. O and I also use them for a variety of items which I keep in my caches. 😉 Remember surviving is about thinking outside the box of expectations.

  13. Excellent article, Selco! This is one of my favorite survival topics. Since I retired from the Army, I have taken up building Survival Kits and Bug Out Bags as a hobby. I also put together several small containers that are set up for spontaneous emergencies, where you would be required to move quickly and take minimal supplies. I agree there is a difference between a Bug Out Bag and a Survival Kit/Pack. My family’s Bug Out Bags contain a few tools but are mainly clothing and food to last a few days.They are designed to be thrown in a vehicle in a hurry, in event we had to evacuate our home ahead of an advancing storm. Our Survival Kits are backpacks filled with camping items, primarily set up for prolonged periods outdoors. The smaller kits that I put together would probably fit the situation that you described with being on the run, in dangerous territory, where speed of movement is the priority. I made one kit from a Ruger 10/22 Takedown Rifle bag, one from a military map/photo case (fag bag) and several from my Army Load Bearing Equipment (pistol belt, BDU padded suspenders, buttpack, canteens with covers and ammunition pouches. My last project was building Crisis Gift Buckets for our family members that are not into the “Preparing” scene. Basically, I took a few 5 gallon plastic buckets and filled them with survival supplies, then gave them away as Christmas presents. I will gladly copy and paste the inventory of these containers in a comment, if anyone is interested. They would take up considerable space, though. I already posted them all on John Rourke’s website, ModernSurvivalOnline, late last year.

    1. Hi, the idea of the Crisis Gift buckets for gifts is great. What’s in them? Do you vary them according to the individual or family? I tried to find them on that link you gave but couldn’t. Thanks ahead.

  14. Crisis gift buckets for relatives sounds like a good idea since they are not all on board.
    One thought- a P38 can opener is very small and can be carried in a pocket.
    I plan on bugging in but for walking far moleskin would be great to have to put on sore spots to prevent blisters on feet and very light to carry. Moleskin is the stuff found in foot care section of drug stores. It’s soft like suede and self adhesive. Of Course duct tape could be used for that too. Taking care of feet is important.
    Everywhere I go I carry a chapstick especially if it’s windy.
    A can of kippers with a pull ring makes a great snack if you want some protein and don’t mind the salt. A couple of tea bags hardly take any space or weight.
    For a tiny stove to make tea, check out Andrew Skurka’s backpack stove made of a fancy feast cat food can on youtube.

  15. I am already at my bug out location, a small farmlet among hills and forest. I need to carry a small ” day survival bag” which will help if I get stuck away from home, and to help people find me if I have an accident. A small survival kit which can be included in your bug out kit but also is a stand alone kit.

    I have started to carry a kind of “bag” called the “Altoids kit” named after a candy tin/package which can fit in your pocket. A commonly recommended item is dental floss. Which could take care of the teeth problem. The dental floss also has numerous uses for “survival” such as sewing things, binding things, snares, fishing line, a double length could make your survival blanket into a tent.
    I found a dental floss pack like a “credit card” 40 m floss with a “mirror” surface on the back. Now a mirror has “survival” uses like signaling, looking around corners, and health uses..say if you cut your face, and need to clean the wound. So I like this item.
    I decided to use a small plastic airtight kitchen container as my “pocket pack” as I needed more space and wanted it to be waterproof. It is a bit bigger than a “can” but will easily fit in a jacket pocket. Items I include are a whistle, a small bic lighter, some bandaids, a keychain LED, and a small “boxcutter” knife ( these are light and VERY sharp). I also have some hard candies ( barley sugar type) some antacids and pain killer pills, Tylenol and Voltarin (diclofenac). I find I often eat the candy ( or a small piece) when I am taking a rest break from physical work. It helps keep your energy up. That and water to keep hydrated. So some of the items are “everyday” use.
    It’s all very well for you young guys to talk about 3 days without food, but older people and the very young will not handle it so well.
    If you Google “altoids packs” you will find endless variations and ideas.

    I also include a “credit card” survival tool. There are several types of these flat multitools. The one I use has a button compass on the outside plastic case and also has a magnifying glass built in. So there is my compass and a magnifier to read it ( no joke at my age) and I could start a fire on a sunny day. So all that goes in my pocket pack.

    But to round out my emergency pack I need shelter ..( an emergency blanket).. some para cord.. and maybe a pocket knife or multitool.. and a hand wiresaw. These are too much to go in a pocket pack so I use a waist pack. I usually carry a pack of tissues for emergeny toilet use. Trying to keep it as light as possible, and I can carry my pocket pack in the big pocket of my belt bag. If it is LIGHT and easy to carry then it will be with you all the time. The best survival bag is the one you HAVE WITH YOU.
    These days I would take my cellphone (not a fancy one) as we have just got coverage here. It also has a radio built in. I just have to figure out how to use it. Damn 21st century..

  16. I think a short shovel like the Cold Steel Spetnatz is worth having in your pack. Multi-purpose item – cuts fire tinder (place material on ground and using body weight, cut through it – much less noisy then chopping). Digs ‘cat holes’ for sanitation, Light duty pry bar. Impact weapon (I keep one in my truck for carjackers and LEOs don’t focus on as a potential weapon). I keep some various wire sizes wound around part of the handle (G.I. trip wire is particularly handy.)

    And digs – boy, does it do a great job with that. Small size is particularly GREAT for filling sand bags by your self. Moving earth for comfort, stealth, foraging – all i9n short package that can be hidden in your pack if you like.

    That G.I. trip wire – good stuff! I keep a few sewing bobbins of that handy. Makes very strong repairs and takes up very little space. I keep one bobbin on my Leatherman sheath, gluing a Chicago screw on the bobbin and attaching to side of sheath – you don’t even notice it. I also have another bobbin with a short (<3") spark rod glued through center. The bobbin forms a handle for the rod and is handy to keep it from getting lost – you can 'dummy cord' very easily.

    Last suggestion – bottle of alcohol based hand cleanser. Hand to mouth feeding – great way to contract a case of the runs. If CLEAN water is in short supply, a good back up. As is a spare tough water bladder for carrying water, the Platypus model is pretty good, but there are a lot of choices here.

    Thank you for the post – lots of good ideas.

    1. Thought about this a bit more – a few more ideas.

      Hammock – many uses and allows you to rest in spots where laying down on ground is bad for your health. Wet boggy areas, steep terrain etc.

      Bug net – my location has tropical humidity and lots of bugs. Getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult when you are slapping away insects that crawl or land on you during night. Bad night’s sleep leads to poor decisions later on. In some areas where blood borne diseases are present – can save your life.

      Paq Lite products – I think someone above alluded to them above. These items are made of glow in the dark plastiques and gather natural light that glow without battery power. They don’t cast a beam – they simply glow in the dark, lighting nearby features for location. Maybe worthy of adding to your pack.

  17. Has anyone ever had to make an incision on themselves? It is not easy to do unless you have something extremely sharp like a scalpel. In the old days I used a razor blade from one of those antique double sided razors that used replaceable disposable blades. I don’t think they make those anymore. Last time I had to do it I ended up pulling apart a cheap plastic disposable razor to get the metal blade out.

    so I would add a cheap disposable razor(or the blades from one) to a bug out bag. They can be used for other uses too.

    Also, don’t forget the duct tape! Ever tried to put a bandaid on a deep cut that won’t quit bleeding? I mean a steady stream of blood? It can’t be done. Bandaids wont stick to blood. The only way to do it is to press cloth of some kind onto the cut, then wrap it tight with something. I like duct tape for this. Use lots of it. Duct tape can be used for other uses too.

    I like things that have more than one use.

    1. You can pick up scalpel blades at good art stores. I remember the small packets of Wilkinson Blade razors too. They still sell those in the UK with soap and mugs. You would have to sterilize the blades though.

      1. I’ve never had to cut myself with a blade, but had to reset dislocated toes while vomiting, also had to squeeze pus out of and scrub and clean out wounds. Yes it is way harder to do it to yourself. The pain has to be bad enough to make you deal with it eventually. Ice cold water helps a lot too, I was lucky enough to have that.

    2. I think the blade from a “box cutter” knife would fill this role. They are “snap off” blades, so you can make a new tip as one gets blunt. I have used one of these to skin a hog.

      You don’t really need to carry the whole knife, tho they are light. You could make a “handle” by wrapping duct tape around one end. Or using a split twig and binding. I carry a few blades in my emergency pocket pack.

  18. Why is it people think you should only carry a certain amount of gear for a short amount of time. The rule to carrying gear during a bug out is, if your bug out location is 3 days days away carry 5-6 days of gear. Carrying light is great but if you need to carry water for example (which can be heavy) that’s most of your weight. You should NEVER carry just enough to get you to your bug out location. Things can compromise your travel extending your bug out travel. And Bug Out Bag & Survival Bag are one in the same. People like to create a difference between the two but their isn’t. They will both help you survive. Survival bag is a category title. Other bags fall under that category. Also, it doesn’t matter what kind of bag you buy for bugging out. You will look like a target no matter what. Here’s an example of that: if two people are walking down the street at night. One guy is a small frail man wearing a basic Jan Sport bag as a bug out bag. The other guy is tall, bigger in size, & looks strong as hell. His bag is a Eberlestock tactical backpack with obvisously more gear in it. The bad guys are not going to go after the well put together guy unless they are really desperate. They will 99% of time go after the weaker looking guy. Now, unless the bad guys are big in numbers then again it doesn’t matter what kind of bag you have they are going at you both the same. This article isn’t bad but you got to also remember that each disaster will dictate a different response in how you use your bug out bag. Meaning, you might have an easy 3 day travel to your bug out location or you might have a hellious 7 day travel instead of 3 days.

  19. great article selco….and thanks to others with some GREAT additions. i have a list i’ve been working on for 3 years now and there’s no one bag that works for everyone. so here’s some things that I think are important to ME.
    electrical tape (much more compact than duct tape!)will do in a pinch to help make a bandage/seal off a bleeding finger or foot, as long as it’s not TOO bad. you can sling a dislocated shoulder with it, make a splint. and a crapload of other uses. also tie up those loose strap ends on backpack, and anything ELSE that’s rattling around making NOISE. tape up a blister on your foot. i once developed a blister on top of a toe and by the time i realized it was VERY painful, i would never have made it the last mile to the car. so i removed the insole from my boot and taped it to my foot, made the last mile no problem! MANY things can be fixed with a small piece of tape. i carry one everywhere i go in my pocket. and don’t forget that SOMETIMES you can use it with adhesive side turned OUT if need be.
    gloves could come in handy if it’s cold.
    first aid book like “where there is no doctor”
    baby wipes in ziplock bag
    eyeglasses….lost without ’em
    coffee filters for filterin that mudpuddle you gotta drink out of
    peanut butter and crackers makes a decent meal.
    TWO military ponchos, one to sleep on, the other to sleep under
    chap stick…MY girls can’t survive without it!

    1. i TOO have more than one bag…the one in my car(or i move it to whatever vehicle i’m in) has everything but the kitchen sink in it. it is a deployer bag military issue with wheels on one end that i could actually drag around for a SHORT distance. it holds a bunch of stuff and VERY heavy-duty. i figure when the time comes to abandon it, AND my vehicle i can move the things i need for whatever situation i find myself in at the time to my assault bag, also military issue…. there are myriad situations that would require different items in your bag. also, my VEHICLE is my BIG bugout bag. many things in there that could be very handy to have, but you wouldn’t want to carry them very far. jumper cables, tow strap and small piece of chain to allow you to attach to ANY vehicle(you are stuck or someone you want to help is stuck), E-tool(folding shovel), 2 cases of water. sleeping bag, hatchet, tarps to make tent, BIG bag full of cold-weather clothes for the whole family(they will probly be with me!), hiking boots for ALL six family members, BIG first-aid kit(antibiotics too), walking stick(6 foot,mainly for protection), OTHER personal protection devices, small bag of tools, binoculars, a pair of 4 foot long 4×6’s for crossing obstacles when driving off-road(one 8 inch deep ditch can really slow you down or even STOP your journey), heavy-duty wirecutters, bowsaw to cut trees blocking road….,long pants(i normally wear shorts here in the mojave desert), money(it might still work for a while), a deck of playing cards might come in handy, benadryl for allergic reactions., antibiotics…these last few things are going to be important if you get stuck a couple hundred miles from home….in short, bugging out will be different for different situations. the spectrum goes from still being in your vehicle and traveling HUNDREDS of miles to get to safe distance from nuke or volcano to running for your life through the woods 200 yards from your house after it is over-run by looters. i prefer to have all the bases covered and just abandon what i don’t need/can’t carry when the situation arises. i won’t apologise for the long post, because every time i read one of selco’s lessons when i get to the end, i wish there was more GREAT info.

  20. Film canisters: I hit up the local photo shop about once a month. The biggest problem I have is that she wants me to take ALL of them and I want only a dozen. 😀

  21. Quoting Selco “That means that you will keep your weapons on your belt or under the jacket, your small survival box, some ammo, flask, means to start fire and some power bars in some small bag on your hip, around your neck or similar.”

    Your small survival box, is this like an Altoids tin survival kit, or something else? What is in this small box?


    1. Yes, it is similar to Altoids tin in size, maybe little bit bigger. It is plastic and waterproof. Things like extra lighter, plastic bag, small knife, flint, cotton, compass, candle, space blanket.

      1. Yes, I use a plastic “food” container too. I tested it underwater and it did let a bit of water in. So I have all the contents in small ziplock plastic bags too.. these are cheap and easy to buy.
        I cannot fit an emergency blanket in.. so I keep that in my bum bag.. and I have a disposable Painters tarp.. very thin plastic sheet.. to make a shelter/tent.

        Re Selcos story about fire. We heat with wood in our house ..a wood stove with a glass door. One evening as I stoked up the fire which was nearly out.. my wife and I sat and watched the flames and anticipated the warmth. ” It’s beautiful ” she said. There is something Primal about a fire .. I’m sure it is cultural memory from our days as early man when fire was life or death. I have never had that experience.. but I have that FEEL about a fire.

  22. Selco, you’ve given me much to think about. I know how to survive in the country…or rather I did when I was younger. Now, my challenge is this body just can’t do what it used to. So I will bug in unless i have to leave. You didn’t mention much about how the women in your family coped or the children. How and what did they do to help? I like the Shelf Idea and have that myself only I did out of instinct. I have many challenges stacked against my survival and have had such most of my life. I’m still here and plan to stay that way by being invisible in plain open site. Not going out during the day is good. I hadn’t thought of that since I live in town. When I make it to the country, though it will be tough, I will manage because I have knowledge and skill about plants, which means I can survive without carrying a lot of food. I also have mental health and some knowledge more than first aid so even though I can’t do many things physically, I have the knowledge and skill which can not only keep me alive but others too. I do not carry a survival kit as some have said. Again, what i carry is in in plain site but only if you know what you’re looking at. Weapons? Well, like that old man you spoke about being dangerous. I know knives may not work well against guns but I don’t do either. My weapons are my blowgun and my atylal. No sound,
    so like a mouse, not many will notice an old white haired lady who eats grasses and weeds. Thanks for sharing, I will keep it within my mind and teach it to those who will come to me for survival. Yes I have a reputation for healing even though I am not a medical professional. I hope to be around to help with the post traumatic stress which will be a major problem afterwards.

    1. I did not mention too much about kids in that time simply because folks did not pay too much attention to kids other to keep the safe from violence. In other things kids were left alone, I mean no one pay too much attention. Of course that was wrong and brought lot of problematic people later from that kids. But it was like that.
      Now I know that kids needs to be included in everything, people need to explain them what is going on, they need to be part of everything, prior SHTF (during preparing) and after SHTF too.

  23. I agree, your philosophy for bug out bags and survival kits and I think you have created a good basic bug out bag. Almost all the items or required things are included but first aid. I think the first aid box is more important as food and shelter. Except that an inspiration book can be a good option.

  24. I have a location you bug out but my parents don’t really listen to me. It is a 14 day treck and I have never been there before. I’m starting my Bob and I already have knives. My problem is where will a get a gun? I’m underaged but everybody knows that when SHTF they will eventually release prisoners and they can be “dangerous” in diff. ways. I have shot a pistol before but I was a little younger.

  25. Peanut Butter is energy dense (high in fat the important short term need) and reasonably nutritious. Comes in many sizes of plastic containers, which are watertight, resealable and can be repurposed once empty.

    I used to carry this when hitchhiking, and rationing a pint would easily get me through a week between regular meals (supplemented by wild forage). Could have stretched it further, if necessary.

    Hadn’t even discovered the high value of eating grubs.insects, at that point. 8)

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