How to Prepare an Emergency Bug Out Bag (Part 1)

Why you need a 72-Hour Bug Out Bag

If you have to evacuate your home during a voluntary or mandatory evacuation, you probably won’t have time to think through what to pack, let alone locate all the essential items quickly and calmly. This is just one reason why you want to have your own personal emergency bag packed and ready to get you out the door to safety in case of an emergency.  Also, for those of you that want to do ministry work after a disaster, this is type of bag would allow you to leave your house shortly after being called.  Of course, ministry occurs only after you insure that your house and most importantly your family are safe.


How to Prepare an Emergency Bug Out Bag


1) What is a bug out bag?

A bug out bag is a packed bag full of “gear” that you keep pre-packed for use in case of an emergency. When something happens that forces you to evacuate your home and normal services are interupted due to the event, you will be able to use the bag that you have prepared to transition you more smoothly back into your new normal (i.e. What things look like as you recover and move forward.).  It allows you to more quickly recover from an event that effects your life.  This bag can also double as a way for you to continue to do some sort of ministry during and after an event.  You will use it to help keep you going so that you can:

  • keep your ministry going. 
  • help people that are affected.
  • be a helping hand at your local ministry or church that is opening its doors in response to an event in your area


2) What kind of bag do I need?

You need a backpack that you can comfortably carry over a long distance (such as a few miles) and still have energy to do some work after you arrive.  It is also important to be able to have your hands free so that you can quickly use your hands for security and for moving items that are in the way. You can use a new or an old bag, just be sure the straps and seams are sewn on securely. If it is not waterproof, treat it with a waterproof spray or purchase a backpack cover. Also, drain holes in a pack will help if any water gets inside.  Packs with lots of compartments are handy for organizing your supplies, and ones with zippers or buttons are preferred so that things do not slide out when you are carrying the pack.  I also suggest that you urbanites pick up a “carry on” style bag that can be pulled on wheels.  This way you are able to roll the bag for a good distance in order to save your back, but you still have a backpack inside of the "carry on" ready to grab if you have an area that you can no longer use the wheeled case.


3) What do I put in my bug out bag?

This will partly be determined by where you plan on staying and/or ministering while using your Bug out Bag. You need to keep in mind that your bag will look different than everyone else’s, and this is the way it is supposed to be.  BUILD YOUR pack so that it meets YOUR individual circumstances. Remember, you are planning to live out of this bag for three days. It is meant to keep you alive for three days not provide luxury. (That being said, for me a couple of candies that I like help a lot with my mental well being while going through a tough situation like this.) 

Can I really and I MEAN really move this bag when it is loaded down? (A 20 year old guy that runs marathons has different abilities than the 80 year old grandmother, but they each need to have a bag.) Please do not be intimidated by other people's large and/or “fancy” and/or techy bags – some of those people that have one cannot even carry it to the car and/or use the gear and/or know what to do if the tech breaks or fails.  The most important thing is to have one put together.  Even if it does not meet all of your needs, when something happens it will make life that much better having some of your needs met than having all of your needs unmet.  

  • How much can you carry?  To get an idea of what you are capable of doing right now, try walking a couple of times around a sport's track (usually a half mile) with four gallons of water in your bag (roughly 8.3 lbs each for a total of at least 34 pounds plus the weight of the backpack).
  • Pack your essentials with total weight and space in mind.
  • Remember the rule of "two is one, and one is none" when putting a pack together (e.g. waterproof matches & a lighter to make fire).  
  • For bulkier, heavier items, if you cannot use it a couple of ways, throw it out or learn how (e.g plastic tarp can be used as a poncho, tent, or to help waterproof the backpack).
  • Keep in mind that you may have to carry this bag over some rough terrain, so please consider what it would be like to go up a steep hill, over fallen trees, or perhaps through deep snow.


4) Concerns and things to think about when putting together your pack.

  • Is this going to be very expensive?
    • It does not have to be.  You can put together a pack for almost nothing or spend thousands.  I have done packs that cost under twenty dollars (even this year — 2012). Get creative and think beyond what items were orginally designed to do.
    • Get what you can to cover as much as you can now and then, as budget allows, upgrade the pack and repurpose your “old stuff” into a new pack for a spouse or a child.
  • How much time is this going to take to do?  I don’t want to become my whole life
    • Initial set-up is not too time intensive (it can be put together in 2-4 hrs.) but afterwards, it is just a few minutes every few months for upkeep.
  • Does it meet what I need for my environment?  (Phoenix, AZ packs will look very different than Boston, MA bags.)
  • When building the bag, you want to make sure that you have considered the following things:
    • Food and Water
    • Shelter/Bedding/Clothing
    • Light/Warmth/Fire
    • First Aid/Medical
    • Equipment/Gear/Tools
    • Communications/Directions
    • Security/Personal Documents

 Coming up — more specific information on items that can go into a bag and some of the pros and cons of those on the list.




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