Survival Essentials to Keep in your Bug-Out Bag

A bug-out bag is an important addition to any survivalist’s gear collection. This compact backpack should contain everything you need to survive in the wilderness and possibly establish a homestead.

Since keeping this bag compact is important, it can be difficult to know which items to prioritize over others. We’ve compiled a list of the essentials we recommend to build the most efficient bug-out bag possible.

As you browse this list, keep in mind the keys to survival are food, water, shelter, and fire. Each of the items we have selected is hand-picked to make obtaining these essentials as quick and easy as possible.


We suggest packing at least two knives in your bag. A durable pocket oem knife is great for skinning small animals, as well as carving spears and arrows for hunting.

We also suggest a stationary knife that can be used for larger projects, such as foraging and building traps. Self Reliance Outfitters has a variety of options for survival knives of all types. Their products are durable and compact, which is why we recommend them for your bug-out bag.

Food Rations

Include 72 hours of food rations in your bug-out bag. MREs are a great option if you can get your hands on them and you have the room in your pack. You may also opt for store bought rations like protein bars and freeze-dry meals.

Trapping Supplies

If you have even the slightest amount of knowledge on how to trap, it wouldn’t hurt to pack some pre-made snares or wire. These items take up a very small amount of space and can come in handy for long-term situations.

Fishing Gear

Whether or not you have viable fishing options in your immediate vicinity will determine if you want to include any fishing gear. If you do, we suggest a small tackle box that contains the essentials for catching bait and medium sized fish in your area.

You’ll then want to decide if you can make your own pole out of found materials or if you want to pack a collapsible fishing pole. Either way, you’ll need to have a fishing line in your preferred weight.


You have a couple options for obtaining water, and each of them have differing levels of compactness. Water purification tablets would be the most compact, but they do eventually run out. These are great to have as a supplemental item, though.

If you’re thinking of the long term, a compact pot for boiling water is a great route to go. This is the optimal choice, since it can also be used for cooking.

If you are willing to make the space for it, a water filtration device may be suitable. These come in a variety of forms, from a compact water bottle to full systems.


Shelter can be created in various ways. The main options are to pack tools to build your own, a pre-made shelter, or a combination of the two.

Make Your Own Shelter

If you want to make your own shelter, it’s important to have knowledge of your local terrain and foliage. You’ll want to pack tools needed to cut and build a shelter from natural materials.

In addition to the knives you’ve already packed, a machete will come in very handy for cutting brush. A wire saw is another essential that will help with larger limbs and small trees.

You may also want to pack a tarp and rope to use as supplemental building materials.

Pre-Made Shelters

Most tents are not designed for compact use, but some are designed especially for bug-out purposes. However, they can get quite expensive and may not be the most practical for all weather conditions. You’ll also need to pack a sleeping bag and tarp, creating additional bulk.

A more popular and practical option is to use a hammocking system. If you opt for this route, you’ll want a durable base with straps and a rain fly at minimum. Depending on the weather in your area, you may also want an under quilt, mosquito net, or cooling blanket. 

Fire-Starting Materials

A fire is one of the first things you want to build in a survival situation. It allows you to boil water, cook food, keep warm, and deter wild animals and pests. Since you’ve already packed plenty of tools for acquiring wood, you’ll just need a few items to help you start the fire.

All of these items are compact, but they have varying lifespans. You may choose to pack a couple options for different situations.

  • Waterproof Matches
  • Lighters
  • Lighting Fluid
  • Flint and Steel
  • Pre-Made Fire Starters
  • Home-Made Fire Starters

You can also use some of your other tools, such as rope, to help you start a fire using friction.

Bug-out bags can range in size, but as long as you have a way to obtain each of your essentials, you’ll be covered.

One last tip: If you plan to bug out with multiple people, make sure each person has at least the basic tools for obtaining the essentials of survival. This will ensure everyone’s safety if one person gets separated from the group.