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We haven’t quite hit “panic” mode just yet, but you don’t need to wait until you’re caught in a contagion to stock up on your emergency kit. With everything from natural disasters to communicable diseases threatening our day-to-day well-being, it’s important to have some basic supplies on-hand to ward off both literal and metaphorical storms.
That’s where the best bug-out bags come in. Essentially a portable emergency kit (the name supposedly comes from the backpacks Army pilots took with them when they were directed to “bail out” or “bug out” of their planes), bug-out bags are an easy way to keep survival tools and supplies in one place.
What You Need to Know About Bug-Out Bags
The best bug-out bags (or BOB for short) are designed to hold basic essentials that can help you survive for up to three days without power, food or water.
The exact contents of a standard bug-out bag vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but at the very minimum, the bag should have some first aid tools (I.e. bandages, rubbing alcohol), survival gear (think: pocket knife, flashlight and a fire starter), and some way to get food and water. We’ve listed bags that include energy bars and pouches of water, along with kits that throw in a water filtration straw or water purification powder. The three basic essentials, as recommended by the American Red Cross, are food, water, and emergency blankets for shelter and warmth, and all three are included in most of our bug-out bag recommendations.
The latest bug-out bags are all designed for easy carry, whether as a backpack or pouch. Look for bags made from tear-proof, water-resistant fabrics, as well as bags with extra rings and handles, so you can attach a water bottle, keys and other small accessories. We’ve found options with well-organized compartments and zipped pockets too, so you can safely store and access your belongings. While all of our picks come pre-stocked with emergency essentials, they all have room for you to stash your wipes, hand sanitizer and big-ticket items like your laptop, phone and wallet as well.
Bug-out bags aren’t just used for emergencies, they can also make great camping or hiking bags. The newest bug-out bags include items for personal hygiene — like soap, shampoo and toothbrushes — and some come with sleeping bags and blankets too.
A multi-purpose 72-hour survival kit, bug-out bags are a no-brainer when it comes to staying prepared and having peace of mind. We recommend keeping one in your car, (at least) one at home and one at work, so you are never left stranded. Make sure you keep the bags somewhere that’s easy to access, so when an emergency hits, you’re ready to safely grab and go.
1. Emergency Zone Urban Survival Bag
Unlike some bug-out bags, which are big and bulky, this backpack from Emergency Zone is no larger than a school bag, which is great if you need to dash out quickly.
There’s enough here to sustain you for at least 72 hours, including U.S. Coast Guard-approved energy bars and filtered water pouches to keep hunger and thirst at bay. A water bottle, filter straw, and water purification powder lets you always have drinkable water on-hand. This backpack also includes two reflective sleeping bags, a roll up tent and hand warmers, in case the heat goes out.
A well-stocked first-aid kit includes two N95 face masks (industrial strength) and more than 100 types of bandages, wraps, etc. There’s also a personal hygiene kit that includes two toothbrushes, toilet paper, feminine pads, soap and shampoo. Basic survival tools like a flashlight, multitool, light sticks and rope are also included.
What we like: the backpack is super heavy-duty and carries all your items with ease. Reinforced shoulder straps and a wrap-around chest strap keep the bag close to your body at all times. With six different zippered compartments, everything is neatly organized. There’s enough room for other essentials too, like your ID, wallet, phone and even your laptop.
PROS: An all-in-one kit with enough supplies for two people.
CONS: Weighs 16 pounds with everything in; might be heavy for some. Food bars and water lasts for five years; you’ll want to replace them if you have the bag for longer than that.
2. Monoki First Aid Survival Kit
This 300-piece set includes everything you need to stay safe indoors, plus a few tools to help you survive if you find yourself stuck outdoors, too.
The tactical-style pouch is made from a water-resistant, army-grade nylon, with a wide handle for easy carrying. Inside, find FDA-approved first-aid supplies, that includes everything from basic bandages to items you need to treat a wound. There are a number of survival tools in the pouch as well, from a folding knife and flashlight, to an emergency blanket, fire starter and pliers. Great to have on-hand for a camping or hiking expedition, this bug-out bag also includes an 11-piece fishing kit and saw. Basic survival gear like a paracord bracelet, whistle and compass are included as well.
The internal pockets keep everything neatly organized and within reach. The pouch is small enough to fit into your backpack; two straps on the back snap open to let you hook the pouch to another bag as well.
PROS: At roughly 8 x 6 inches, it’s the smallest, more portable option on our list. The smartly-designed bag features a small hole at the bottom for drainage.
CONS: Does not include anything for food, shelter or water.
3. Ready America Emergency Kit
Ready America’s emergency kit contains enough rations to sustain two people for up to three days. Basic essentials include two, 2400 calorie food bars and 12 emergency drinking water packets. The bars can withstand temperatures between -22ºF to 149ºF while the water withstands temperatures from 40ºF to 230ºF.
The backpack also holds a 33-piece first-aid kit, emergency blankets, two face masks and two glow sticks, that get you 12 hours of light. Each kit also contains gloves, emergency ponchos and pocket tissues.
Everything is housed in a lightweight, bright red backpack that helps you stay visible in case you need to be rescued. It also makes the bag easy to spot, so you can grab and go if time is of the essence. Our suggestion: keep one of these bags in the car, one in the closet and one at work, so you’re always prepared.
What we like: the bag and kit are assembled in the USA from a company with more than 25 years of emergency prepardness experience.
PROS: Lightweight backpack that’s easy to carry. Nylon material stretches so you can fit larger items in the bag as well.
CONS: Not as well-stocked as other options on our list.