Camping & Survival

Ammo Can 72-Hour Bug Out Kit

This picture shows a black plastic burial case.

The average ammo can, whether new or military surplus, usually holds .50 caliber ammunition and averages close to the same dimensions—11 inches long, 7 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Can you pack a 72-hour bug out survival kit into such a small area? Sure you can! Working with a small space means you eliminate heavy and unnecessary items. When you gotta get outta Dodge quickly, food, water and shelter are your main priorities. These three essentials, plus a few extras all fit in a .50 caliber ammo can.

Why an ammo can? Ammo cans take up little space, be stored virtually anywhere and are stackable. I have seen ammo cans used as center consoles in vehicles and as alternative to saddlebags on motorcycles. An ammo can, be it metal or plastic, can withstand temperature extremes and have water-resistant O-ring and gasket seals. So storing them in basements, attics, crawl spaces, and even buried underground means the gear inside stays dry. Metal military surplus ammo cans are durable, while new plastic ammo cans are untraceable to metal detectors—in case you want to cache your gear.

This picture shows a black plastic burial case.
New plastic ammo cans are untraceable to metal detectors.

Multi Purpose Gear

Fortunately, there is plenty of compact survival gear that performs double duty. For example, a three-pack of double-sided insulate emergency blankets not only keep you warm and prevent hypothermia, but two of them together will also make a shelter. They come packed folded up equaling about the size of a deck of cards.

Another item that serves multiple purposes is Goghlan’s stainless steel camp cup. It holds two cups of liquid and will withstand the direct heat of an open flame. Further, you may use it to gather water from a variety of sources.

Even though the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate survival knife is not as compact as the other items, it serves multiple purposes. At 10 inches overall, it has a 4.8-inch partially serrated blade and includes a sheath with blade sharpener, fire starter and an emergency whistle.


Water is bulky and can take up a lot of room. Obviously, you will not fit enough water to survive in your ammo can. Throw in the Aquamira Frontier emergency straw that allows you to drink straight from a questionable water source. It kills 99.9% of Cryptosporidium and Giardia—two contaminants that will make you very sick. When not expanded, the straw is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.


This is a picture of a metal, military surplus ammo can.
Metal ammo cans are durable, water-resistant and can be buried.

Though you would not want to depend on the Millennium energy bars for too long, the 409-calorie-packed bars will sustain you until you can secure a better food source. If you still have room in your can, you can add a package of Mountain House food. Fold and tape down the top of the package and it takes up 6 by 8 inches of space.

To heat up food, you will need a compact emergency stove and fuel. The military-issued foldable stove includes three packs of gel fuel that is odorless, smokeless and lightweight.

Five more things make you kit complete:

The CRKT Eat’N Tool is flat and not very long. Choose between two sizes, the smaller original Eat’N Tool and the XL Eat’N Tool. The small tool is only 4-inches long. The small model has a fork/spoon, screwdriver blade/pry tool, bottle opener and gear clip. The XL tool has the same fork/spoon utensil plus a box wrench, driver/pry tool, can/bottle opener, and gear clip.

A basic first aid kit such as the Adventure first aid kit 2.0 includes everything to treat minor aches, cuts and burns. It even includes a compass. Packed all together it will take up 6 by 8.5 by 1.5-inches of room. Some of the items in the kit might be unnecessary, so you can pick and choose what you need to cut down space.

Last, throw in 50 feet of paracord.

Emergency lighting, such as glow sticks, guarantee light without the extra weight and space for batteries.

Extremely important is a box of self-defense ammunition for your carry weapon.

Copies of important documents, identification and insurance cards should be included in all of your bug-out kits. I recommend scanning each document, such as deeds to your house, car titles, insurance cards, social security cards and other identifying information into your computer. Back up those files on a flash drive. Put the flash drive, along with some cash in a waterproof bag and put in your ammo can bug-out kit.

A picture of a plastic ammo can with organizer trays.
Trays keep small parts organized.

Quick Buy Check List


Recommended Ammo Cans

For more ammo cans, click here.

What other items do you think would fit in an ammo can? Tell us in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. I store Bug Out supplies in both the Military Surplus Fat 50 ammo cans and the Plano plastic cans. One can that I have is the large PA157 81mm Mortar Round can. This can I first bead blasted and then repainted with several coats of Epoxy enamel paint inside and out. Curing this in the oven at 150 F after the last coat. Next I custom fit pieces of 3/4″ closed cell foam thru the inside of the can. This can now holds an AR 15 upper and lower. 6 30 round loaded magazines, and a battle pack of 5.56 M855 sufficient to reload the 6 mags. 2 Bivy bags, small 2 man tent, extra Trauma supplies, Boonie hats, gloves and 2 light weight down jacket. This set up is ready to cache at any time if the SHTF. I still have room to add another AR or my old Model 94 with the buttstock removed as well as a few boxes of 30-30. Tests on another PA157 I treated the same way, and then buried back in 2008, show no signs of internal or external corrosion after 10 years in the ground (the test can is empty) Dried rice I placed loose in this can remains dry and insect free when I checked the cans condition this last fall.

  2. A multi-tool such as made by Gerber or Leatherman is another essential item. It can fit in your bug our bag, ammo can or attach to your belt. It is utilitarian in nature and depending on what options you desire can be very affordable. God bless all freedom loving men and women!

  3. I would add a coiled wire saw with split rings at each end. I also throw in some basic fishing tackle and a hank of parachute shroud line (the real McCoy, not the cheap imitation) that you can strip individual lines from. Makes great fishing line, snare wire and has a myriad of other uses. You can even weave a small seine. I will always try to find cover by a fast flowing river and the fishing line helps with food. I also like a couple of the small magnesium rod fire starters.

  4. how about WATERPROOF MATCHES and a DECK OF CARDS for playing or to help build a fire [remember they are plastic coated]

  5. I would also add hand and foot warmers and at least some sort of gloves. I keep them in my BOB. They are great if you have to be on the move, and not huddling under a blanket.

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