Top 12 Bug Out Bag Essentials for the Urban Prepper

Current mainstream philosophy in the prepping community is that it is better for most people to bug in, rather than bug out. But that philosophy is based on the idea that it is easier to survive at home, than it is if you bug out. So bugging in is only the thing to do as long as your chances of survival are greater at home, than they would be if you left home. Once that equation switches, you need to be ready to leave.

That’s why everyone needs a bug out bag. When the time comes where you have to bug out, you won’t have time to run around your home and gather everything you need. Besides, packing in that manner is guaranteed to ensure that you forget a number of critical items. So you want to be ready.

Basically, a bug out bag is a super survival kit. As such, it needs to contain everything you’ll need to survive, if you are forced to leave your home. What you’ll need, in turn, will depend on where you are going and where you are going to stay once you get there. So before you start buying equipment for your bug out bag, you need to develop your bug out plan. That way, you can make your bag match your needs.

Ok, so once you have your bag, what does the bag need to contain? Basically, everything you will need, in order to ensure your survival.


The greatest survival need is to keep warm. Shelter helps accomplish this by providing protection from the rain and wind. A small backpacking tent is an ideal means of providing yourself with shelter. As an alternative, carry along a lightweight tarp and some paracord (also known as 55 cord), so that you can use them for making a shelter out of available materials.


Chances are, you won’t be properly dressed when you have to bug out. So a good set of warm clothing, including good walking shoes are important. Make sure you include a rain poncho, hat, rugged gloves (leather work gloves) and a seasonally appropriate coat.

Fire Starter

Fire is the last part of keeping warm. You will want to have a couple of secure methods of starting a fire, such as a windproof butane lighter and stormproof matches. It’s a good idea to take along something for tinder as well, such as the WetFire cubes or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly.

Water Purification

You can never be sure that the water you find will be safe to drink. Just because water looks clean, doesn’t mean it is. The things that can harm you are microscopic, so you need some means of killing them. Any good survival water filter will work for this; but you’re better off having one that you can use to fill your water bottle with.

Water Storage

A canteen or water bottle to carry purified water along with you. Stainless steel ones are best, as you can put them in the fire to boil water and purify it. You will need to drink a half gallon of purified water per day, so a big canteen or water bottle is better, even though that means more weight to carry.


You want to have enough food with you to get from your home to your ultimate destination, with a reserve. This should be lightweight, high energy food. Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods are the best. Many people buy military MREs (meals, ready to eat) or their civilian equivalent, but you can make your own, much cheaper, from items you can find at your local grocery store.

Cooking that Food

If any of that food you’re carrying along will need to be cooked, you’ll need some way of cooking it. The fire starting supplies you are carrying will provide the heat, but you’ll need something to cook in, preferably lightweight. A backpacking cookware set is ideal for this.

First-Aid Kit

There’s always a chance of being injured in any disaster. On top of that, you might find yourself hiking across some pretty rugged terrain. So there’s always a chance that you or someone with you will get injured. In these cases, a good first-aid kit can make the difference between getting infected or getting well. But go for something more than the $19.95 special at the corner drug store. You’re better off with a small trauma kit or an IFAK (military individual first-aid kit), because they will allow you to treat larger injuries.


Chances are, if you are bugging out, others will be too, some of whom will be two-legged predators. They always seem to come out of the shadows in any disaster situation. While some may be mere looters, trying to steal what they can, others will try to prey on those who have been forced to abandon their homes. You will need some means of protecting yourself from them, should you encounter them along the way.

Some Tools

Carrying along a few basic tools can make it much easier for you to cut firewood and erect a shelter. We’re not talking anything fancy here, just a good sheathe knife, a camping hatchet and a folding pruning saw. Some people add a multi-tool to that, although that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you’re going to be in an urban area, you might want a pry bar as well, so that you can get into areas to scavenge additional supplies.

Map & Compass

You’re going to have to know where you are and where you are going, especially how to get from one to the other. That means having a good map along. Better yet, have two; a road map and a topographical map. If you can, laminate them, so that they won’t get ruined by water. With that and a compass, you should be able to find your way around.

Critical Information

While it may not help you survive, having critical family information along with you can make all the difference in the world, when it comes to putting your life back together. I’m talking about things like deeds to property, birth certificates, insurance policies, medical records and school records as well. That’s a lot of paper, but if you scan it and put it on a flash drive, it won’t even weigh an ounce.

A Final Word

This is a very abbreviated list. Even so, all together in a backpack, it will probably weight in at 30 pounds or so. Keep in mind that you may have to carry it. So you want to limit what you take as much as possible. People who are in shape can carry a pack that is about ¼ of their body weight. But if you’re not in shape, you won’t be able to carry along that much for very far.



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