In the event of some sort of disruption in the normal flow of your day, a bug out bag has a goal, to carry you from point a, to point b. As quickly as you can get there, safely.
Be it an earthquake, a tsunami, an EMP event, or an alien invasion. You want to get from where you are, to where you want to be.
With that in mind. There are 4 needs you must consider
Food is last because you can survive a few days without food, but depending on the year and location, a few days without shelter will kill you. If you live in some place that has year round nice weather, then feel free to swap food and shelter.
How long will you be bugging out? If it’s more than 72 hours, you have a lot of tough choices to face. You won’t likely be able to carry enough water for the trip, so you’ll have to be able to find it on the way. Will you be pulling it out of a stream? some random source like a watertank on a farm?
You won’t know, unless you have a destination in mind. So that’s two constraints.
Your bob should be based on these constraints. A journey of 10 miles over rough terrain with easily available water requires a different set of contents than a 50 mile journey through urban and suburban streets with no or intermittent water sources.
So for a thought excersize, posit a 22 mile bugout, through mixed suburban and rural route, with the last 5 miles being ‘out in the woods’.
The hammer drops at lunchtime while we are at work, and we have about 10 miles to walk to get out of ‘the city’ then about 8 miles to walk on state highway/county roads, then 5 miles across dirt roads and tracks. For the first section, we might be able to buy water and food from convenience stores, if we have cash. So add a small store (say, $100) in small bills. It doesn’t weigh much, and if we can buy food or drink on the way, that’s less to carry.
Speaking for myself, 10 miles hiking in one day(8 hours), over level paved or nearly paved roads, is about all I can accomplish without being stupid. But then I am 50 and overweight, your mileage may vary. But don’t fool yourself.
So we walk the first 10 miles, into the night, with no issues, buying 2l of water on the way. plus a bag of jerky and a hotdog at a (miraculously) still open 7-11.
10 miles in 6-8 hours? that’s not much! Unless you are starting hungry, and out of shape, and scared. Then it’s not so bad.
No food needed from the pack, to make camp, unravel the two construction grade trashbags for a groundsheet, and the lightweight 30degF sleeping bag for a bed.
Now we make a small fire using tinder and kindling gathered along the way, trash mostly, a few twigs, and add a couple of sticks found while we walked. Pour some of the water in a steel cup, and boil up some beef stock cubes for supper.
Not too nourishing, but salty, hot, and if the temps are anywhere near where the 30DegF bag makes sense, we’ll need the heat. Snarf a bit of the jerky with the broth. Roll into the bag, and sleep for about 4 hours.
Wake a bit after midnight. We have 15 miles to go. We’ve rested for a while, feeling a bit better, but sore. Treat any blisters with the booboo kit, change socks, and clean up and head out.
So far, we’ve used some cash, stock cubes, (purchased jerky and water) and some reusable stuff, trashbags, sleeping bag, steel cup. Disposable lighter, all of which we repack and continue on.
Getting hungry, finish off the jerky, maybe we took the time to brew up another beef tea before we went on our way, or maybe just drank some water and ate a protein bar.
15 miles to go. Start walking. We are out of the city now, and traffic is light. Nobody stops, for good or ill, it’s dark, and we aren’t exactly trying to be seen. Walk on another 4-5 miles. Our feet are killing us! it’s 2 hours since we resumed, and it’s time to change the socks again. We only had one spare pair in the pack, so when we changed them earlier, we draped the used pair on the back of the ruck. Unless it was raining, they are dry now. If it was raining, they’re clean, but wet. Drying them means tucking them inside our shirt, and warming and drying them there. Apply foot powder (in a pinch, talcuum will do. But a small bottle of golds medicated foot powder weighs little, and if you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you.)
put back on the socks you just took off. (they’re a bit sweat soaked, but otherwise ok) Unless it *wasn’t* raining, and you can put on the aired out and dry pair on the back of the pack. Get back on shanks mare. 3-4 miles to go until we hit the woods. There’s a water standpipe outside a 24hr convenience store at the crossroad. We ask, and receive permission to fill up our water carrier there. Either we trust the water, and do so. Or we do not, and add a couple tabs of purifier from our pack.
The storeowner refuses to sell any food. He doesn’t have a great selection of jerky and other long term storage, and he’s getting worried about things himself. But he does agree to sell us some icecream. The power failed in the night, he doesn’t know why, but the freezer is defrosting, and he accepts our $5 bill for a couple of dove bars. Eat them, they’re energy. There’s little else in the store worth buying that he’ll sell, so we continue on. Only 5 more miles to go.
It’s about 04:00 now, and we continue on. From here, we can expect to see no one, and we are really on our own. The track is rutted, there are no streetlights, so a small flashlight with a low ‘candle’ mode is clipped to the pack straps to light the way for a bit. Or there’s a full moon and clear skies, enough light to walk without stumbling. We go slower now, and the final 5 miles take almost 3 hours, between watching where we put our feet, and the hours and miles behind us, we aren’t breaking any hiking records.
Finally, 15 hours after we left, we have arrived. What did we use on the way?
Maybe $20 in cash (packed)
2 Trashbags (packed)
1 sleeping bag (packed)
2l of water (purchased)
8oz of jerky (purchased)
4-6 Stock cubes (packed)
1 Steel cup (packed)
1 bic lighter
Tinder and Kindling (packed or gatherer, or more likely, a mix)
Maybe some bandaid/blister pads (packed as part of the booboo kit)
One pair of socks
Flashlight with ‘candle’ setting (packed)
Water purification tabs (packed)
Everything went perfect, and we could carry what we needed in a daypack. Mostly because the sleeping bag takes up some room. If it was nice and warm, Skip the sleeping bag and carry all the above in a jacket pocket.
It’s when things start to go pear shaped that the gear list gets longer. Should we carry a shelter? a poncho? Food? water? a fire extinguisher?
Noone can tell you what to carry in the bob. only tell you to think about what you are bugging out to, how long do you think it will take, and what problems (and resources!) will you have to deal with on the way.
If you don’t have a destination in mind, it’s not a bug out bag, it’s a ‘live out of my backpack for the rest of my life’ bag, and that is a whole different kettle of fish.