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If you had to leave home, work, school, or the gym right now to escape an impending disaster—would you be ready? Would you have the tools, supplies, food, and water that you would need for at least the next three days? Having one or more go bags, a.k.a. “bug-out bags,” stocked with essentials for health and survival is a smart way to be prepared for emergencies. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute to gather your flashlight, batteries, and blankets when the hurricane, zombie herd, or army of darkness is closing in.
In the interest of being as prepared as possible, it’s recommended to have a few go bags. A backpack is ideal for wearing as you walk or run; this should be your everyday pack that you have with you most of the time. You're going to want a durable material, such as ripstop or cordura nylon, which is common to these bags. Canvas is another good, tough fabric, so something like the cross-body KAVU Rope Bag would also serve you well. Webbing for straps provides added strength and reinforcement, and many backpacks, as well as the KAVU bag, use it.
Next, you’ll want to have a vehicle bag for your automobile, which could be another regular backpack, if you wish, but could also be a different type, such as a larger, heavier hiking pack or a rolling bag or duffel/tote. The third would be a bike bag for your bicycle or motorcycle, specifically the type designed to fit on the apparatus itself. By choosing the right types of bags for different spots on the bike, including duffels, frame packs, panniers, and seat packs, you can actually outfit your ride with up to seven (one of which would house a tire repair kit)—and still wear a lightweight riding pack or hydration pack. The fourth and final type of recommended go bag is a waterproof one for your boat, which could be a backpack, deck bag, dry bag, or duffel.
Having a bag for each mode of transportation is prudent because you don’t know where you’re going to be when things “go down.” This way, you can take whichever is closest—car, bicycle, Harley, or speedboat—to get to a safe area, knowing you’ve got everything you need stowed in a pack (or two, or seven). If your backpack gets lost somehow, you’ve got a spare bag right there. If the backpack’s still with you, now you’ve got two go-bags on hand.
What are the essentials you need to have in a go bag? For starters, make sure there’s a survival kit in there. These bundles combine various indispensable gear and supplies in one compact, easily portable kit. They commonly include tools for cutting and opening, along with fire-making apparatus/materials, fishing line and hooks, a flashlight, and more. Gerber's Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Kit is a 16-piece package with a multi-tool, a nylon bag with waterproof zipper, a mini light, hand saw, signaling mirror, blanket, fire starter, waterproof matches, fire tinder, snare wire, emergency cord, waxed thread, fishing kit, sewing kit, whistle, rescue instructions, and Bear’s "Priorities of Survival" Pocket Guide—all weighing a total of well under 1 lb.
Multi-tools can bundle up to 20 implements in one, making them extremely versatile pieces of gear and convenient space-savers in your bag. The Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X Pocket Knife weighs 7.3 oz and features a straight blade, 3 screwdrivers, bottle and can openers, a crate opener, scissors, a metal file, 2 saws, 2 wire cutters, a wire bender, a wire scraper, a reamer, a chisel, a multi-purpose hook, and a corkscrew coupling.
In addition to a multi-tool, you’re going to want a good, reliable knife. Whether it’s a folder like the partially serrated Gerber Covert F.A.S.T. Folding Knife or a fixed-blade like the CRKT Ultima, you want something sharp and strong for cutting tough materials such as rope, webbing, straps, and leather, as well as for use as a lever or pry bar—and, of course, for self-defense, if necessary. The Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife combines a cutting tool with a fire-starter: its sharp, flexible blade doubles as a striker for the supplied fire steel, saving you space and simplifying your tool set. Knife blades, including the three just mentioned, are typically made from stainless steel, and you can’t go wrong with that. Look for a non-slip, ergonomic handle, too, as that will afford a secure grip even in wet conditions; all three of the knives above are equipped with one.
When creating a recipe for survival and health, you must recognize a first aid kit as a crucial ingredient. The Stansport Pro III bundles a total of 82 pieces inside a package that’s only 17.5 x 8.5" when open. Stocked with the works, it offers 11 bandages, 16 sterile pads, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and antibiotic ointment—plus thermometers, forceps, scissors, a splint, a razor blade, a cold pack, and acetaminophen.
Make sure a bright flashlight, ideally an LED one, and spare batteries find their way into your bag. Many lights have variable outputs, so in brighter environments, you can reduce output to save battery life. When it gets dark, switch to the bright settings. The versatile Vulta Volcano has a huge brightness range, from 1-880 lumens, as well as multiple strobe modes, allowing you to send distress signals or use the light as a signal beacon. A disorienting strobe mode is another good feature to have on your primary or backup light, so you can significantly hinder an adversary's ability to attack—giving you a better opportunity to strike or escape. And don't underestimate the effectiveness of a solid aluminum-alloy flashlight as a self-defense tool; some even have strike bezels for this purpose.
Recommended emergency tools, in addition to your flashlight, include emergency radios and two-way radios for communication, calls for help, and weather alerts in zones where cellular service is unavailable. Have a small GPS unit handy to help you keep track of where you are and find your way from point A to B.
At some point, there's a good chance you'll need to take shelter outdoors, so pack a tarp, rain cover, or canopy and a blanket. You can strap these, along with a sleeping pad, to the outside of your bag. Put some warm clothing inside the bag, too. You have limited space, so a thin, insulated thermal shirt and pants, along with a hat, would be the way to go.
It's critical that you drink sufficient fluids and eat to keep your strength up. The aforementioned hydration packs are excellent since they're compact and keep your hands free. In addition to water, you need to replenish electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals to stay energized and healthy, so have some hydration drink mix in your cache. For ensuring water you find is safe to drink, pack some purification tablets. Energy bars and gels are good sources of necessary nutrients like protein and carbs, and their small size allows you to pack a bunch without taking up too much room.
Go bags allow you to keep all your survival goods and supplies in one place. Getting multiple packs stocked and ready now means you can be well on your way to safety, with everything you’ll need for the next 2-3 (or more) days, before the storm hits, the outbreak spreads, or the enemy blows open the doors.
What else do you have in your go-bag? How would you compromise having your bag contain all the essentials without excessive weight? Tell us in the Comments section, below.