When all hell breaks loose, it may be a while before anyone comes to help. That’s why the government suggests having a three-day supply of essentials — aka a bug-out bag — on hand. Especially if you live in an area that’s due to be completely crippled by a devastating earthquake that will snap your state as if it were a Slim Jim.
You can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their bug-out bag. For some, it might be a pistol and plenty of ammo; for other MacGyver types, a Leatherman and a can-do attitude will do just fine. And you probably know at least one person who will have stashed away some booze and barbiturates.
Booze and barbiturates
But whatever your predilections, whether faced with an earthquake, hurricane, or any other shit hits the fan (SHTF) scenario, everyone needs to cover the basics: food, water, shelter, gas mask, sniper rifle … okay, maybe not those last two.
The first thing you need is the bag. Although you might want to hold off buying the bag until you’ve got your other essentials together, start out with an idea of what kind of container you want to carry your stuff in. You want your bug-out bag to be comfortable to carry, even when it’s full and heavy, and you want it to blend in. Keep in mind that blending in doesn’t mean military-style camouflage; according to many preppers, camouflage can be like a giant neon sign, pointing out that you may have essentials that other people want to steal. Don’t scoff — haven’t you seen The Road?
Besides the bag, arguably the most important bug-out bag essentials are related to water and hydration. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that an average individual needs 2.5-3 liters of drinking water per day. Also consider buying a foldable water bottle, filter, and purification tablets.
An average individual needs 2.5-3 liters of drinking water per day
Next up, food stuffs. You probably want a variety of non-perishable food items, some that require water to cook and some that don’t. Protein bars and MREs are what you’re looking for, along with a can opener, spork, small cooking pot, and a portable stove if you can swing it.
Clothes are important, but should be comfortable and keep you warm and dry — woolen underwear and a couple of lightweight layers should do fine. What’s probably really worth investing in is enough warm socks and a sturdy pair of boots. When everyone is trying to get out of dodge, driving is probably not feasible, and walking might be the fastest and safest way to get around.
You don’t want to be sleep-deprived when the world is going Hunger Games on you
Being warm and well rested is another concern; you probably don’t want to be sleep-deprived when the world is going Hunger Games on you. A compressible sleeping bag and tent are good options to consider, along with at least three types of tinder, for redundancy. That means waterproof matches, lighters, flint, and even cotton balls and Vaseline. A waterproof, hand-cranked flashlight should also be a priority.
These are the bare essentials, but depending on space, other items to include are: multi-tool or survival bracelet with a knife and emergency whistle, a first aid kit, sanitizer, wet wipes, note pad and pencil, sunscreen, batteries covered in electrical tape, and pepper spray. A pocket-sized paperback book might also be worth stuffing in so you don't go stir crazy. When the world ends, Netflix and Spotify are likely to go down with it.
Lastly, consider bugging in vs. bugging out. Presumably, like most people, you live in a urban area, and don’t have a handy chunk of forest (conveniently equipped with a water source and plentiful wildlife — or nuts and berries if you’re a hippie type) to sustain you. If it’s properly stocked and easily defensible, your home might be the best place to buckle down. Unless, there’s a zombie apocalypse, in which case you might as well give up right now.