Battle for the Best Bug-Out Bag Winners

Cheaper Than Dirt!’s Battle for the Best Bug-Out Bag contest received an overwhelming response from Shooter’s Log readers. After hundreds of submissions, we were pleased to see the results of the creative and well-prepared minds behind the submissions. In all we received over 650 submissions, which made selecting the winners, a daunting task.


After several rounds of much enthusiastic discussions between the judges, Cheaper Than Dirt! would like to congratulate James B. in Williamsburg, VA,  as its Grand Prize winner! Following close behind was Chris C. from New Hampton, NY,  in second. To keep the sanity of the judges and settle the final disputes, Cheaper Than Dirt! named co-winners for third place and congratulates Dallas G. of  Bossier City, LA, and James D. of Mesquite, NV, with Ashley M. of New Braunfels, TX, Christopher T. of  Fort Wayne, IN, and Daryl A. of Santa Clarita, CA, receiving honorable mentions for outstanding submissions.

Our winner’s bug-out bag, at a grand total of $299.83, includes:

  • Vism First Responders Utility Bag 12.5″x8.5″x7.25″ Nylon Urban Gray (Item: 9-183079, $20.77)
  • 72 Hour Kit Single Person Survival Ark (Item: CAMP-242, $19.93)
  • Adventure Medical Kits SOL Pocket Survival Pak (Item: 9-194711, $26.99)
  • Adventure Medical Kits SOL Escape Survival Bivy (Item: 8-AMK-01401229, $39.99)
  • Emergency Shelter Tent 8×5′ Waterproof Compact Lightweight Silver Reflective Material (Item: CAMP-232, $9.97)
  • Ultimate Survival Technologies Reflective Survival Poncho (Item: 2-UST20-190-1000, $2.64)
  • Adventure Medical Kits SOL Series One Person Emergency Blanket 56″x84″ (Item: 8-AMK-01401222, $4.00)
  • NcSTAR VISM Water Bottle Carrier (Item: 9-183092, $10.49)
  • Water One Pure Sip Personal Water Filter (Item: 3-2811843, $13.73)
  • Aquamira Water Filter Bottle 22 Ounce Bottle (Item: 2-AQU67015, $15.83)
  • Ultimate Survival Technologies Floating Butane Lighter (Item: 2-UST20-W10-01, $10.56)
  • Winchester MultiTool (Item: 9-61484, $11.91)
  • Benchmade Knife Company HK Conspiracy Knife (Item: 20-BM-14101SBT, $46.16)
  • Cold Steel 5′ Two-Piece Blow Gun Kit (Item: 9-49498, $27.59)
  • Tru-Spec 550 Paracord Nylon Kermmantle Rope 300 Feet (Item: 20-TSP-5063000, $13.98)
  • Frogg Toggs Breathable Boonie Hat (Item: 9-74293, $7.26)
  • BLACKHAWK! Universal BDU Belt Up to 52″ OD Green (Item # 82046, $7.48)

According to James, he chose these items in keeping with contest rules, they can be contained or attached the utility bag using paracord, and all within a manageable weight on your shoulders with the option to carry by hand or easily store in your vehicle. He also kept in mind the rule of 3 while building his BOB:

  • 3 hours without shelter: To include warmth and a means away from the elements.
  • 3 days without water: Not only a means to immediately have a supply of water, but a means to drink from a clean water source, as well as bringing a supply water with one as well.
  • 3 weeks without food: An initial supply of food, but also a means to obtain and prepare other sources of food.

Team Cheaper Than Dirt! thanks everyone who sent in their entries. We hope it was as much fun for you as it was for us.

Would you use the items James chose? What would you choose differently and why? Tell us in the comment section.

Click here to start building your bug-out bag.

Chris C., Second Place:

Dallas G., Tied for Third Place:

James D., Tied for Third Place:


Cheaper Than Dirt! prides itself on being America’s Ultimate Shooting Sports Discounter since 1993. Cheaper Than Dirt! boasts over 100,000 items available for purchase through its website and catalog. Articles, photos and videos appear daily on The Shooter’s Log at We thank all of the participants for their submissions.

* Final winner status and prize deployment pending notification and acceptance.

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 (29)

  1. WOW! I figured my submission sucked and I understand with so many entries, it must be hard to select an overall winner, but that is lame. Boy Scouts are better prepared. Doubt if I’ll waste my time on any of these again.

  2. Yeah, but what about when information IS available and critical to your survival? Not all survival scenarios include EMP or grid shut down. For $15.00 for a SW AM FM radio and a $1.00 EMP protection bag or some aluminum foil or both, seems like a no brainer to me, good luck guessing WTF is going on!

  3. Meh,I dunno,not to come off sounding like a sore loser,but I agree the winning bag is/was a bit lacking in a couple of key areas.

    Not much gear in the winning bag in terms of navigation tools/aids,to me the term “bug out” implies covering some ground over that first 72 (or more) hours,and I guess that means more to me than relying on just that one small button compass included in that SOL survival pack in the winning bag.

    And as mentioned already,the winning bag has/had no flashlights or such for night-time operation/navigation.

    Also,there’s not much in the way of gear for gathering the firewood used to make a warm fire beyond just getting the fire itself started,see I’m talking things like a camp axe,a pack saw,a folding shovel and such as these are much more than just time/labor savers in a SHTF scenario,they also help to conserve one’s energy for when it’s needed most.

    These can also help one to build more substantial shelter should such be needed in a longer term bug out.

    Sure the rule of three is a handy guide no doubt,but IMO one really needs to read between the lines to get the full effect outta it.

    Also no mess/cooking kit in the winning bag either.

    If one does happen to catch some fish or wild game,it sure helps to have a way to cook it.

    And I also agree the first-aid aspect of the winning bag is seriously lacking IMO as well.

    IMO the minimal first aid gear in the winners bag is’nt anywhere near adequate,I’ve found that when times are tough going,”stuff” tends to happen,and even relatively minor injuries can quickly become game changers,so I feel a first aid kit like the one I chose seems to me to be somewhat more in line with this sorta scenario (UST CORE 2.0).

    Sure,more than a few items in the winners bag (or similar items) are/were likely in all our contest bags,the SOL bivvy,an emergency tent/blanket,some length of paracord and such,as well as some means to treat/filter/carry water,and no doubt a sturdy knife & multi tool,as those are all pretty much no brainers.

    Those items were the easy ones,to me what counted here is how one filled in the gaps between the easy items,ie: how well one covered all the bases,not just one or two of them.

    And as far as clothing and other misc. odds & ends are concerned,I guess I figured that’s the sorta stuff that one would almost hafta add from their own gear @ home to “fill out” the gaps in their “basic” contest bags,especially seeing as those sorta items are size specific,thus why I did’nt include anything like that from the CTD catalog/website in my BOB contest entry.

    I guess in closing,what I’m saying here is I’m sure we each feel we had the best bug out bag,mostly because our choices reflect what we individually tend to feel would be most important to ourselves in a BOB type situation.

    Anyhow,all & all this was a fun excersize none-the-less,so for that I thank CTD for having this contest,and congrats to all the winners.

    Bret P.

    1. Allow me to address some of your concerns.
      1. Certainly a good quality compass can be of benefit, but you already know that it isn’t the only means to navigate. The position of the sun and is certainly a useful tool (which I can use my wristwatch to position North and South), but the Moon if rising sunset, the bright side is in the west. If it rises after midnight, the eastern side is illuminated. The stars are also fairly useful if visible. Add to that the moss on trees grows thicker and greener because that side often gets more sun, and tree bark may be duller and branches more extended to the sky on the north side of trees because it doesn’t receive as much sun. Snow generally melts faster on the warmer southern side of rock faces or mountains, and Ants often build their nests on the south or southeastern side of trees where it is warmer.
      2. Gathering firewood need not be difficult either. Generally one doesn’t use green tree wood to burn, leaving a fair amount of dead wood and discarded man made items lying about.
      3. Primitive cooking isn’t a hard skill to master either. Cooking over coals (ash cooking), broiling rack, plank cooking, hot rock cooking, steam pit cooking, flat stone cooking, spit cooking, and clay cooking are all other ways for one to prepare a delicious food source.
      4. First aid equipment and supplies are yet others sources available from the environment. Many plants and foods have curative properties, both ingested and applied topically.

      Its not the equipment and supplies which dictate one’s success, but one’s training to utilize those equipment and supplies

  4. Dear Cheaper Than Dirt,

    All are good recommendations. If any ametures or folks new to the idea of being prepared when lost, stranded or hit by a natural disaster that would like to learn how to build and use their own BOB (Bug-Out-Bag) there are several options for information out there..

    Respectfully, I offer the book I personally wrote and was published last year as a reader friendly guide; SURVIVAL 101 – HOW TO BUG OUT AND SURVIVE THE FIRST 72 HOURS..

    It was written to help protect and save at least one life of the 150,000 urban “greenhorns” whoi carelessly venture into the outdoors each year, without any gear and suffer or die from exposure when lost.

    We faithfully tithe 10% of all sales of the book to the WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT. I am not really hustling my book here, just letting people know it is out there if they are interested.

    Orrin M. Knutson
    Retired Peace Officer and Author.

  5. Yeeahhhhh, ok

    Whatever the reasoning here is, I don’t see it. Just comparing the 2nd place contestants, there is a clear winner. And your saying out of 650 people NONE were better!
    Okay, note to self; “this is why you don’t do contest”

  6. I have no problem with what you chose, what you didn’t chose is a means of communication or especially information, which is critical in ANY bug out scenario, 72 hour or otherwise. Thanks.

  7. CTD carries a few options, Midland emergency crank radio, Midland 22 channel 2 way radio with 18 mile range and requires only 3 AAA batteries. Either of which would be a great addition to a BOB.

    1. If your going to include a Radio with Communications Capabilities, your best bet is probably going to be a Marine-Grade, Single Side Band Transceiver. With at least 4-watts capabilities, it’s Small, Portable and the next best thing to HAM.

  8. Strangely, it seems that just picking items (especially the bags), I keep seeing that the item is out of stock and can’t be backordered. Same day the results came out.

  9. Sorry, big fail to all entries, none of which included an electronic source of communication / information, CB radio or All band radio. Whistles and mirrors wont always cut it!

    1. EMCOMM is desirable, but impractical in keeping with the rules. The self contained radios within the CTD! catalog, lists radios with a maximum effective (non line of sight) of maybe 3 miles, optimally dependent upon both terrain and atmospheric conditions. Mobile units certainly would be better, but how is one supposed to contain the battery capable of powering said unit, along with an antenna capable of a longer distance communication within the bag?

    2. Sorry sixkiller but my scenario of survival says that most means of radio communications will be down or jammed by the feds. No telephones because towers are down. Attempts at Radio communications will only serve to give away your location. Best keep quiet until you get to your bugout location. Oh yeah, learn to use a magnetic compass as well because GPS will be encrypted for use only by the military.

    3. @ Mike.

      Single Side Band and HAM communications, are not satellite dependent. Their transmission are reflected off the ionsphere for their long-ranged signals. So, like a Blind Squirrel, that will eventually find a nut. So too with SSB and HAM radio’s.

  10. A reliable way to make fire , two knives , some cordage , wool blanket , reflective emergency blanket , signal mirror , a good water purifier , IFAK , oh and a takedown .22 rifle would be real nice ! 😉

  11. Really? A blow gun and a Boonie hat? What the hell? I thought we were bugging out? I wouldn’t tote half the crap he was packing to use to live on where I live.

  12. Congratulations James B in VA on your win.

    Yes there are many combo’s of items each to the user’s liking and need for. With that said I have some concerns about James B bag.

    1. James has only one 12hr light stick for a light source. Hope the moon is full the other two days.

    2. James has no change of clothing. Guess he is not going to get wet or contaminated with anything. Or just having an extra layer of clothing for warmth. At least a change of socks. Blistered feet, your in trouble.

    3. No gloves. If your hands get cut, blistered, or burnt your in trouble.

    4. James med kit contains only 5 band-aids to protect a wound. Maybe you could put all or some side by side for something bigger that a boo boo.

    5. No hygiene items, wipes, toilet paper.

    6. No bug repellant. Nothing like scratching skeeter and chigger bites, swatting fly’s away or picking ticks off yourself to keep your spirits up.

    7. Cold food bars are ok, but how about a least one hot meal a day.

    8. Blow Gun??? Since you have it on your list one must assume you are well practiced with it. Not sure us average folks could take a squirrel or rabbit out with a blow gun. I’ll stick to the energy bars and couple freeze dried just add hot water meals before spending time trying to get in range of small game. In stead of spending time hunting I’d rather keep moving in the direction of my home or other destination.

    Lastly I would like to say that A few comfort items like the bug repellant, hygiene items and change of clothes or a hot meal play a huge part in mental attitude for survival. Remember you are not using your bug out bag in the back yard. Your away from home and trying to get back there or having to leave home because something bad has happened.
    I’m disappoint at the judges in this contest for not considering these things and giving them more weight than they did.
    Attitude is everything.

    1. Dear Sixkiller, Mike, and James:

      This is a bug out bag, commonly known as a 72 hour kit containing items needed to evacuate, rather than that of long term survival. So lets remember the rules of 3s and know that so long as I have shelter from the elements and water to drink, I’ve accomplished the most important short term goals.

      The most important body part to protect, is one’s head. 4 of the 5 senses are exclusive to the head, as well as the only means of access to breathe and eat. The head also contains the organ known as the brain, which must function properly in order to protect itself and the rest of the body. As such, a boonie hat is essential to keep the sun off the head and also keep it warm, but with a little work, can also can also be re-purposed to be used as a wash basin

      A common heat source, known as “fire”, has been used by mankind for millennia to provide heat, light, and a source to heat food. A bit of moisture contained in a fuel source, known as green wood and leaves, has been used to create smoke and smoke signals, and utilized by the ancient Chinese, ancient Greeks, and the native Americans to signal others for thousands of years.

      There are a whole number of other materials commonly disposed by man and also available in nature can be utilized for warmth and otherwise protection from the environment……to include that of homeopathic medical care. Two (2) included emergency blankets can be re purposed for many other things other than just be used as a blanket

      If you had any knowledge of natural solutions, you’d understand that the oils from plants such as rosemary, lemon balm, marigolds, citronella grass, etc., are natural insect repellents. During those times when those plants aren’t available, it would be fair to state that insect activity would be minimal…..though it also means that a kibosh upon a plentiful source of protein.

      The rules of the contest are rather specific. It placed a $300 cap upon items from the CTG catalog, and presumed that the contestant would have a firearm and ammunition. A blow gun is a silent means to hunt, and likely a means to occupy yourself practicing during down time…..though it would be a good idea to become proficient with it long before having to actually using it to hunt.

      To reiterate: This is a 72 hour bag to enable one to survive by the virtue’s espoused in the rule of 3s. It is not a long term survival bag.

    2. Sorry James, I guess my outburst was just sour grapes. Congrats on winning the contest. That said, survival for every one of us means being ready to flee something to obtain a safe place for ourselves and our family. Myself I have a country place about a 2 day walk from where I live. If I’m lucky enough to be able to have a vehicle for the trip I’ll have many more supplies than what I can carry on my back. I have several bags packed and ready for several scenarios. My CTD submission would have been only for a mild weather bugout in my situation extreme heat or cold would call for different things than those packed in my submission. I have training in most all climates with very little in the line of gear. Basically what we had on our backs along with a great knife. For the most part forget about hunting. It takes too long if you’re having to haul and most of what you kill takes a while to cook. Best bet is to have energy bars and supplement that with native plants that you can eat on the go. Be sure you have a pocket guide or knowledge of what’s safe to consume.

    3. No worries. The whole purpose of the contest was to get people thinking about their BOB………..and market CTD! merchandise at the same time.

      I’m actually happy to have the criticisms, so addressing them provides a bit of education to both myself and others. We don’t learn from our successes, as much as we do from our failures and oversights.

  13. I think its kind of a Stupid Contest, its like arguing the differences between GENERIC vs. NAME-BRAND. Nobody is going to agree to anything, its a matter of Personal Choices and what part of the country you live in.

    1. I agree. I think it would have been better if they had given us a specific scenario to prepare for. I believe my entry just had too many things, because I was trying to prepare for any event in any climate.

    2. Sorry, but I disagree. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t have any kind of a BOB and this gets them started with pretty much 1 stop shopping. Could it be improved if it was scenario specific? Sure. But something is better than nothing to start.

      I’m hoping that CTD Suzanne will do a part 2, part 3, and so on that is scenario-specific! What scenarios would you suggest?

  14. I should add that in addition to the aforementioned reasons stated above, some degree of redundancy in accomplishing goals was built into my choices for equipment and supplied. Additionally, the one thing that couldn’t be packed into my BOB: Training, is at least as important, and likely more important, as those items within the BOB.

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