man in the woods with bug out bag on back.

With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Friday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in March 2011.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from wilderness survival expert and instructor Creek Stewart. 

The term “bugging out” refers to the decision to abandon your home due to an unexpected emergency situation — whether a large-scale disaster caused by nature or by man. A “bug out bag” is a pre-prepared survival kit designed to sustain you through the journey to your destination once you’ve decided to bug out in the event of an unexpected evacuation. It can also be a source of vital supplies if you need to shelter-in-place. Typically, the bug out bag (BOB) is a self-contained kit designed to get you through at least 72 hours. This kit is also referred to as a 72-hour bag, a get out of dodge bag (GOOD bag), an evac bag, and a battle box.

The thought of having to evacuate your home due to a sudden and imminent threat is not unrealistic. The reality is that sudden and uncontrollable events of nature and man do happen. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, storms, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic explosions can strike fast and hard — wreaking havoc on homes, vehicles, roads, medical facilities, and resource supply chains such as food, water, fuel, and electricity. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, tens of thousands of people had to evacuate their homes with little warning; this has been an all-too-common reoccurrence in the years since. Unprepared and with no emergency plan, many of these people were completely dependent on scavenging and hand-outs while living in make-shift shelters — fending for themselves in a time of complete chaos and disorder. A 72-hour emergency kit packed with survival essentials would have been an invaluable and priceless resource.

In a world where volatility exists in our political and economic structures, we would be foolish to think there is also no chance of a foreign or domestic terrorist or military attack or a scenario of severe civil unrest that could possibly force us to evacuate our own home. Acts of violence and conflict are not the only threat from man. Dams burst, power plants go down, pipelines explode, oil spills occur, and other man-made structures and facilities can fail, resulting in disaster. And of course, as we’re all too aware of, disease and pandemic can also warrant an evacuation.

We cannot control when, where, or how disasters strike. But we can control how prepared we are to deal with a disaster. There is a fine line between order and chaos and sometimes that line can be measured in seconds. When every second counts, having a plan and the tools to see that plan through are crucial to survival. The bug out bag is your #1 resource in your overall bug out plan and may very well be your key to survival one day.

There are 10 supply categories that need to be considered when assembling your bug out bag. Before we dig into each of these categories, it is important that I discuss the bag (or pack, rather) itself. Your bug out bag needs to be a backpack. It needs to be large enough and sturdy enough to contain the gear necessary to get you through 72