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Do you have bug out bags for the family? If you need to leave the house with five minutes’ notice, there must be a bag packed and ready to go. Start putting together your bug out bag today to reduce stress and discomfort in emergencies.

In May 2016, wildfires raged throughout North America.

Here in Canada, one particular wildfire threatened the city of Fort MacMurray in Northern Alberta.

Residents thought they were safe until a sudden shift in the wind sent the fire directly into the city.

Some people had less than half an hour to grab what they could and leave.

Unfortunately, because of the late evacuation, most of them ended up on the wrong side of the city and were cut off from supplies.

And the items that many of them had grabbed in their terrified rush to leave?

Mismatched shoes.

Wigs.

A boxed wine kit.

One lady grabbed her husband’s stuffed bear.

A box of Fruity Pebbles.

A child’s snow pants in May.

A single pair of pajamas for two children … but every pair of socks in the drawer.

Imagine for a moment that an unfortunate accident required you to survive away from your home for several days. How do you think you’d feel?

Dreadful.

Scared.

Uprooted.

While we can’t always predict when a flood or forest fire will come right through our community, we can prepare for the discomfort and upheaval by getting an emergency kit together.

What are bug out bags, these emergency kits that can mean the difference between an orderly evacuation and leaving with three left shoes and a box of dry cereal? That’s important to answer!

Define your terms, right?

Kept near your front door, where you know you can grab it in an emergency, bug out bags are for situations in which you must evacuate your home with little or no notice. As a quick note, a kit in the trunk of your car, intended to get you home safely in the case of a disaster is often called a Get Home Bag.

Bug out bags are personalized kits that hold everything you need to survive for about seventy two hours. They are not intended for long term survival. Their purpose is to get you to a place of safety.

In an evacuation situation, you might have one minute to leave your house.

Can you do it?

I read once about a woman running back into her house in order to grab milk and bottles for her one year old twins – while her husband stood at the minivan and screamed for her to get back. She survived and her family evacuated, but what if she had taken just a few minutes longer?

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Anyway, different ages have different needs. We once had to evacuate our apartment when pipes exploded and flooded the place. It took me about 20 minutes to stuff what I needed into a bag, which is about 19 minutes longer than it should have.

Like food storage, I doubt there’s a “perfect bug out bag” that would suit everyone. Use this as a starting point to figure out what you need in your family’s bug out bags.

Keep in mind that babies and small children will not be able to carry their own bags. And, of course, young children can not walk for long distances – so eventually, adults may find themselves carrying children and bags!

Take this into account when packing and planning. A wheeled deployment bag is perfect to hold all of the individual bug out bags.

Here is a larger version.

So why? Honestly, why should you even think about packing an evacuation bag? Or, let’s be honest, if you are part of a family, you might be packing four, five or six.

Why go to all that effort and spend the money?

A bug out bag is a pre-made kit that contains the essentials that you would most likely require in order to survive for several days and is kept in a constant state of readiness – grab and go. It’s also sometimes called a GOOD bag, which stands for Get Out of Dodge.

Seventy-two hours, or three days, is recommended by disaster management and relief experts.

Its primary function is to help you evacuate a place instantly if a disaster strikes, and get to a safe place without worrying about whether or not you brought Dad’s heart medication.

What your bug-out bag must contain depends mostly on the geographical region you belong to, because regions prone to hurricanes will have different survival requirements as opposed to, let’s say, an area where frequent blizzards occur.

For this reason, if you live in an area with distinct seasons, be sure to change out the contents each season.

A winter bug out bag in Fort MacMurray, Alberta, would look completely different than what the residents needed in the spring.

What sort of disasters make a bug out bag important?

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods are all natural disasters which are quite unpredictable. While most people won’t need to evacuate for a snowstorm (and in fact, it’s generally safest to stay put), forest fires can force people from their homes with almost no notice.

There are other reasons, too. Technological disasters like a dam failure, a nuclear meltdown, power grid problems or utility failure can all result in power black outs. In these cases, your Bug Out Bug serves the same purpose but keeps you functioning at home until power can be restored.

A survival kit or bag may also be required in the unfortunate event of a pandemic. In case of disease outbreaks, such as the spread of the influenza virus, it is important to possess safety supplies that help you maintain good health. With the fast proliferation of disease, there’s no way of knowing who will be affected if such a virus should break out.

Similarly, incidents of terrorism or invasion also magnify the need for a bug-out bag to a greater extent. Biological threats, nuclear wars, terrorist attacks, bombs and dirty nukes could all restrict you from moving about freely in the neighborhood. You may be confined to your place for an undecided period of time. Therefore, it is important to have a bug-out bag with important essentials to help you get through the self-imposed ‘incarceration’.

In a nutshell, a bug out bag not only allows you to evacuate a disaster-ridden place instantly, but also ensures that you survive for as long as period of seventy-two other without having to experience major discomfort.

You do not have to be a survivalist to want to have your family ready for disasters that we know can happen.

It doesn’t matter if you’re wondering how to prep for a zombie apocalypse or you’ve been looking making sure Grandma can survive a storm or long term power outage.

Important Files

During an emergency evacuation, you may have five minutes to grab everything you need, knowing that your home could be completely destroyed before you can return.

Your bug out bag should include physical copies of all:

  • birth certificates
  • passports
  • home ownership or apartment lease papers
  • drivers licenses
  • insurance paper work and contact numbers
  • vehicle paperwork

As a backup, consider scanning all of this and keeping it on a portable USB key in your bag. Label it and fasten it to the inside of the bag so that it will not be accidentally knocked out and lost.

Pets and Livestock

In a large scale emergency, pets and livestock are often a major problem. Emergency shelters often refuse animals. If you have a prior relationship with a vet clinic or animal kennel, consider asking them if they can be part of your emergency evacuation plan.

In an emergency evacuation, livestock are frequently a casualty. In the best of times, it is slow work to get terrified animals into a vehicle or animal trailer. However, sometimes the evacuation is preventative and there is time to remove livestock. For those cases, it may be worth having an arrangement with another farm to house your animals. This arrangement would need to be in place before an emergency, however.

If you’re looking for a detailed Bug Out Bag for Pets, click here.

Baby Bug Out Bags – adjust sizes for age

  • Diapers – 12 plain cloth diapers  + 3 covers + 12 washcloths + 3 diaper pins
  • Disposable diapers are fabulous if you know you won’t have water, but you’ll need more
  • Clothing – one simple, complete, seasonally appropriate outfit, including seasonal hat
  • Zinc ointment for rashes, scratches, etc.
  • Baby carrier that you can comfortably wear for long periods
  • One large receiving blanket  
  • One travel-sized sanitizing gel
  • One bottle of age-appropriate Tylenol
  • One complete baby bottle + One can powdered baby formula + Bottled water — Even for a breastfed baby!

For a baby over 6 months, plan for 72 hours worth of non-refrigerated ready to eat food (easy for babies!)
I like this Two Person Survival Blanket from Amazon so that parent and child can stay warm together.

Child Bug Out Bags

For smaller children, keep a backpack child carrier near the door and the bag(s).

  • Complete change of clothes, including seasonal hat
  • Thermal blanket and Rain poncho (less bulky than a sleeping bag)
  • Compass and whistle
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, small comb
  • Age-appropriate Tylenol
  • Sippy cup to which child is already accustomed, or water bottle for older child
  • 72 hours worth of small, packaged, non-refrigerated food items – applesauce, tuna and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, dried fruit and nuts, fortified baby crackers and baby meals (lots of nutrition in small amounts of food)
  • Small hand-cranked flashlight
  • Two Person Survival Blanket
  • A mini photo album with recent pictures of the entire family, including pets

Adult Bug Out Bags

  • Any survival gear that you feel you need should be in the adult bags, like your survival knife.
  • A complete, seasonal change of clothes, including thermal underclothes
  • Firestarter that you know how to use
  • Water and possibly water purification tablets
  • Full First Aid Kit
  • Swiss Army Knife + Small knife sharpener
  • Thermal Blanket and Rain Poncho
  • Hand-cranked flashlight
  • Compass + whistle
  • 6′ x 8′ Plastic Tarp, Twine and 4 – 10″ steel tent pegs – can make a tent with this
  • Fishing lure and line
  • 72 hours worth of portable food
  • Hand-cranked radio
  • Bottle of multi-vitamins – As a note, these DO expire, and they’ll mold!
  • Bug repellant and sunscreen
  • Provincial map
  • Folding axe and shovel
  • Small package of facecloths
  • Deck of cards and set of dice

Heavy Duty Bug Out Bags

You do NOT need a heavy duty military bag for a bug out bag, at least not when you are creating your first one. Any backpack or duffel bag will work.

But when it’s time to upgrade, you will want to look at military bags that are designed for survival situations. Look at the various options carefully and decide what is required for your needs.

The first one on my list is the Tactical Assault Military Army Style Backpack By Monkey Paks. This one has a water bladder inside it that can hold 2 liters.

bug out bag

The material of the bag is made of tough nylon that resists water. You get plenty of compartments to keep your gear separated. Four of the compartments have zippers so you won’t have to worry about stuff jostling around.

The main compartment has plenty of space because it’s a roomy 18″ by 12″. The total space that you get is 1831 inches. There are also compression straps, which enable the bag to be expandable – plus it has a vented panel on the rear of the bag. You get adjustable straps and it will work with MOLLE (you can read up on what that is here at Wikipedia) as well as PAL (read up on that here)

The 5.11 Rush 72 Back Pack is another great choice. You get plenty of space with this water resistant bag and it’s easy to keep items organized with all the pockets.

bug out bags

It also has a MOLLE system. You get a hydration compartment and wide zippered compartments as well. The bag offers a space for your sunglasses that’s lined with fleece to prevent scratches on the lens. The bag has compression straps for easy carrying. Extra attachment points makes expanding the bag a breeze.

Bags like the Mil-Tec Military Army Patrol Molle Assault Pack Tactical Combat Rucksack Backpack Bag are designed to be tough.

bug out bags

The bag is water resistant to help it stay dry in inclement weather. It has 2 big compartments that offer a variety of smaller spaces you can zip and store things in.

Plus, it has front pockets and a roomy hydro pocket. These pockets are fastened with two way zippers. The straps for the shoulder are easy on the back and shoulders thanks to the thick padding and the ergonomic design.

The back is padded for extra carrying comfort and with the compression straps, you can add gear. You get plenty of MOLLE straps to enable you to get the bag ready the way that you want it. It offers a 36L capacity.

The 5.11 Rush 24 Back Pack is a smaller bag but it still offers plenty of room. It’s made of strong nylon and is water resistant. You’ll get 2070 inches of room.

bug out bags

Thanks to the wide compression straps, carrying this bag will be easy on the back and shoulders, plus the sternum strap is adjustable for added comfort. There are drainage grommets and easy pull tabs.

You get plenty of side pockets along with the bigger interior storage space. There’s also a hydration pocket. Thanks to the MOLLE platform, you can expand the bag as needed.

With the Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Pack Military Style MOLLE Compatible Tactical Backpack Bug Out Bag, you get a bag that’s completely customizable. This bag has the MOLLE system and other attachment features.

bug out bags

It’s made of strong nylon and has a center compartment that at 20″ by 12″ is perfect for carrying a bigger load. There’s a padded waist belt and compression straps. You get double zippers so that you can get into the bag quickly if needed. The bag is compatible for use hydration bladders.

Just Plain Living

What's in your family's bug out bags? If you need to leave the house with five minutes' notice, there must be a bag packed and ready to go. Start putting together yours today.