Camping & Survival

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Each Season

Man on cliff with Bug-Out Bag

A bug-out bag is critical to surviving a number of crises. Every survivalist worth their salt will have one, and they’ll usually contain the same essential items: a knife, first-aid kit, MREs and other necessities.

Even so, not all bug-out bags are the same.

A smart survivalist will account for the different seasons as they’re packing their bag.

If you want to ensure your success in a dangerous, constantly changing environment, you’re going to need to accommodate the climate. Failure to do so will cause issues.

So what should you get for each season? Check out the items below.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Spring

Spring is a forgiving season, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. These essentials are crucial.

A Gathering Container

It’s the ideal time to forage, so carry a sterile harvesting and gathering bag to enjoy those first green shoots. It’s wise to bring different colored hemp string to tie what you gather.

That way, you can more readily identify different species, which may look similar at first growth.

A Plant Identification Guide

You don’t want to accidentally ingest anything poisonous. Use a printed plant guide or download an app like PictureThis to identify species you don’t recognize.

A more general survival field manual isn’t a bad idea either.

A Sun Hat

You might relish the feel of the sun on your skin after a long winter. That said, you’ll get burned in the spring. Protect your eyes and face by donning a brimmed hat.

Mossy Tree and Roots

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Summer

Did you think you could head out empty-handed in the middle of summer? Not so fast. Don’t forget these items.

Insect Repellent and Sunscreen

Ticks carry Lyme disease, a condition that can lead to lifelong complications. Likewise, mosquitos spread nasty germs, so take plenty of insect repellent.

Check the repellent itself to ensure you’re not absorbing any harmful chemicals.

Hygiene Essentials

This is the perfect season to gather ripe, juicy berries straight from the vine. But eating them with filthy hands can make you sick.

Plus, 2020 is the year of COVID-19, so take along plenty of sanitizer and wipes to make foraging more sanitary.


If you traverse the water frequently, you’re likely to experience rashes and chafing. Take a note from lifeguards and wear rashguards under your clothing.

They’re a way to reduce irritation while still protecting yourself from the elements and are also useful in winter.

Man looking off into the mountains

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Fall

Fall will bring cooling temperatures and a significant change in the environment. Consider these supplies.

A Quality Knife

When you’re roughing it in the wilderness, you can construct a simple lean-to as shelter. Breaking branches isn’t as easy as it appears, but you can get the job done with help from a knife.

The shiny metal surface also works as a signaling device.

A Paracord Multitool Bracelet

You never know what can happen in the woods. A paracord multitool bracelet lets you carry essentials like a backup compass on your wrist. Plus, the string comes in handy when you’re stitching together a primitive shelter.

Water Purification Kit

You might not notice dehydration as the weather cools. However, it’s essential to take a water purification bottle or emergency purified drinking water.

Severe water loss can leave you disoriented — a danger when you’re on your own.

Folding knife on mossy branch

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Winter

The winter is a difficult time for an amateur survivalist. With these items, you can separate yourself from the rest.

Fire-Making Kit

Heat is nearly as essential to survival as water. Even if you head out in the summer, dry air in some locations can drop nighttime temperatures below freezing.

Plus, a roaring blaze helps keep predators at bay and lets you cook any fish you’ve caught. Wrap matches in plastic and take a waterproof fire-starting kit.

Shelter Materials

You don’t want to be without an insulated sleeping spot. You can find sleeping bags that convert into a tented shelter to keep you warm on the most frigid nights.

In general, follow the smaller-is-better rule — your body heat can keep a tiny space cozier.


Blood flows to your extremities last. However, without your hands, you can’t start a fire or hunt game. Don’t risk frostbite. Bring a pair of gloves to keep two of your most vital tools protected from the elements.

Warm winter gloves

Anytime Bug-Out Bag Supplies

Many of these items come in handy during all four seasons. Additionally, you may wish to stock your bug-out bag with meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) so you don’t have to rely on your foraging skills to keep yourself full.

It’s also wise to pack a first-aid kit any time you go into the wild. It should contain material for making slings and bandages, as well as an antiseptic for wound care.

If you take any prescription medications, ask your doctor to write a week’s extra so you can keep them in your bag for emergencies.

If you have space, a survival handbook also makes a worthy addition to your bug-out bag. If a wildfire or flood causes you to flee your home, you’ll know what to do.

Alternatively, you have something to entertain yourself with when you sit by the campfire at night.

Keep a well-stocked bug-out bag. A well-stocked bug-out bag will keep you safe. Create the ideal bag for any season with the items above.

What do you keep in your bug-out bag? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Dylan Bartlett

Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about the outdoors, survivalism and similar topics on his blog. He's an avid hiker and enjoys roughing it in unfamiliar territory. Check out Just a Regular Guide to read more of his work, or follow him on Twitter @theregularguide for updates.
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 (5)

  1. This is an awesome list for the four seasons. Something that will be kept for a LONG time. I appreciate your information and it helps this old person get ready for the different seasons. Some of the items I have already and some are not as good as the ones you list, so those will be secured in the very near future.
    Thank you very uch for the listing.

  2. I keeep mine stocked for the family. They are hybrid bags that try to answer both the idea of a short term (less than a week) and longer term incident. It is a tough row to hoe and keep weight down.

    Anyhoo… for shelter/warmth. To keep it light and functional. All items should have more than on use if possible.
    Space blanket: warmth, relective propertues for sheltering, can’t beat it to signal. Pack several for extended duration
    55 gal contractor garbage bag.: again warmth (careful,like the space blanket, it does not breath), waterproof shelter, poncho/pack cover. Pack several
    Woobie: warmth, (retains insulating qualities even when wet.) Use under poncho, blanket/sleep bag, underlayment for comfort. Camoflage cover for you, pack, shelter.

    These are all lightweight l, multi use options for shelter and keeping warm.

  3. You certainly covered most of the vital things to bring. Depending on the size of your bag, some important items are Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, 3 pairs of pants, socks and shirts, and 25-50 year canned water. What about your favorite CCW?

  4. What to carry is a personal preference based on need (perceived need). One of my personal preference is that most items be multi functional. Yes even the para cord which can be taken apart and used for sewing etc. There are flashlights that have a radio and are rechargeable either by a hand crank or solar etc. My small ax/hatchet is also a hammer and has a knife in the handle. My foil shelter panel is also a ground cloth and water catching implement etc. My pocket knife is either a multi toll or a regular pocket knife that can do at least five things. There are a few things that are single purpose like your water filtering device but those are absolutely crucial item. etc. Well you get the point!

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