Gear, Parts and Accessories

Bug Out Ready? Get Your Kit Together

Belly band holster, with GLock pistol, chest rig loaded with a full size handgun and spare magazines, and Ziploc bag of loaded pistol mags

The other day, Mrs. Pandemic asked me a simple question. Of the idiotic level of stuff, I have strewn about in my house, garage, …and allegedly stowed elsewhere in the U.S. “What limited number of items would you grab if you had 10 minutes to leave on foot?”

Well, that was a stumper. I stumbled into the gun room and stood there for a good hour wondering what I would indeed grab as I gently fondled one pile of arms and ammo after another.

opened lifestraw personal water filter
Add tubing and plastic poly bags to your bug out kit for an offline gravity fed option.

Which guns, ammo, suppressors, how much cash, and good lord, let’s not forget all the accessories, electronics, packs, jars of peanut butter, armor, water filtration, and soft goods? The reality is, aside from the packed bug out bag in my garage…err I think it’s in my garage, I am not really ready to “grab and go.”

Admittedly, I do not have my “bug out kit together.” As a writer, it can be a bit crazy tearing down many of your core bug out kits for photos for articles and then not putting the time in to get them back together, equipment training, and retested on the range.

The Reality of Small Bag is Enough

Just slinging a small footprint bag full of a few critical items such as cash, water and snacks, passport and IDs, a clean pair of socks and underwear (mom was right), a couple magazines for your handgun plus your EDC stuff (FAK, knife, multitool, lighter, and tactical light) is going to get you pretty far — if you play it smart. This less-is-more gray man move fast strategy is still what SERE, spec ops folks, and those three letter folks use to move around the globe. This strategy will not weigh you down and would also go pretty much unnoticed at checkpoints and in the masses of the general public vs. Timmy Tactical donning a plate carrier, helmet, dressed in fatigues, 50-lb pack and an AR over the shoulder.

Though they do have a tactical style, I love the very high-quality Hazard 4 Plan B, and Rocket bags because they are very small format, can carry a separated 10-inch barreled AR pistol, are hydration bladder ready, and force a conservative packing strategy. Similar bag concepts are available from RUKX, Odin, Grey Ghost Gear, and UTG.

At around 720 cubic inches this size prevents an “everything and the kitchen sink” packing strategy. The longer Hazard 4 TakeDown pack can carry a separated 18-inch barreled AR-10 with the same slim, but longer, footprint. These ambi-sling packs were specifically designed as very lean grab and go bags that could move through crowds and in and out of vehicles quickly.  Paired with a battle belt, this is a formidable setup.

Chest rig with a handgun, magazines, and lights
A simple chest rig can deliver a lot of configuration options beyond just a mag holder and can store easily for a bug out situation.

Another highly proven sling pack is the 5.11 Moab 10 Rush sling pack. This will accommodate an Angel Armor plate, and I can tell you from lugging this around the world it is extremely durable. Though a standard backpack has its place, the single sling style moves through crowds and in and out of vehicles better, generally is less likely to interfere with a gun sling, allows fast access to items, or you can slide the entire pack and onboard armor plate quickly to the front.

A few tips I will provide from international travel. Vacuum pack socks, t-shirt, underwear, and a quick dry pair of shorts with your kitchen food saver — this effectively creates a waterproof trauma plate for your armor. The clean and dry spare clothes compressed to about one-third the size has saved me countless times during luggage loss and unexpected layovers. The other is to purchase an Angel Armor or other soft backpack armor…because you never know…

Mission Determines the Gear

What is the survival “game” we are playing? Is it something easy like a gas leak, and I just need to drive to a hotel with my Amex card and some underwear? Or, will I be playing ultimate survival in the woods with a tent? Is there radiation or biological agents in play? Do I have 15-minutes to escape from the city fast? Will I be smashing and grabbing my way through an Apocalypse Now urban environment with bullets flying? All different kinds of stuff may be needed.

belly band holster with a Glock 26 pistol and spare magazine
Belly bands can offer surprising number of pockets for stuff beyond a gun and mag and are an easy addition to a bug out kit.

How much should I plan for? This can make you nuts and the reason most of the military have quartermasters and mission configured kits based on a multitude of criteria. There is no one perfect solution.

Which Gun and Is It Set Up?

If you are like me, you love gun collecting, the hobby itself, the surrounding stuff and/or doing the builds. You have this gun for this thing and another setup for another thing. You may even have the same guns in just different colors… and soon, you have a crapload of guns. What do you choose, the killer Cerakote competition build or the ugly and often heavier MIL-SPEC rig, or maybe just a couple very concealable handguns?

The next question is do you have your suppressor mounts in place, everything cleaned and Lok-Tite’ed, optics zero’ed, sling attached and adjusted, hydration bladder clean, light mounted with fresh batteries, and mags loaded? How about a lightweight pack with the bare minimum basics that can be supplemented as needed.

Picture shows an Army-issued first aid kit.
Packed in a MOLLE Army digital camo pouch, this first aid kit treats minor cuts to serious wounds and is useful for a bug out scenario.

Most importantly, do you have a FAK – First Aid Kit setup, because the probability is high you will get shot or have a misstep in SHTF madness. Generally, I like to have at least a CAT-style tourniquet, Israeli compression bandage, and Halo patches. However, I like to have a basic band-aid and antibiotic ointment kit, butterfly sutures, and mini super glue tube to close wounds. I am surprised how many times I have used super glue to close a wound and a compression bandage to address a sprain.

Options to Not Get Bogged Down

Two options I really like are a couple grab-and-go setups based on simple chest rigs and simple battle belts which are trim and light if they are not loaded down with 20 pounds of gear. Both could be stuffed into a standard duffle to bolt out the door. I have some simple chest rig setups for just a few basic uses including simple hiking stuff that includes, FAK, radio, multitool, and the AR mag slots serve as a small water bottle and snack holders.


I have another setup for hunting with .308 mags and a few essentials, and one more tactically focused with AR and pistol mags. These seem to provide a really streamlined option usually with 3–4 slots for both AR and pistol mag pouches plus room for a FAK.

The other simple and extremely comfortable solution is a simple battle belt with just a very few elements such as a pistol, FAK, and single AR and pistol mag holders, plus an amazingly useful fold-up dump bag with drawstring top. If you do not have a $20 fold-up dump bag on your belt, you are missing out of the single most useful and versatile piece equipment you can have on your belt that can do anything from hold a water bottle, extra mags, snacks, pick up range brass, cell phone and wallet holder…etc. and the list goes on. A simple and weight optimized battle belt plus chest harness for the extras is a very tight setup.

Getting Stuff Setup Right

Other simple things such as assuring the FAK kit you purchased actually has the items — and “quality” of items — you might need like adding two sets of rubber gloves, a CPR vomit shield (usually people vomit when resuscitated), compact safety clothing cutter, and sharpie to record the time and date and mark injury locations.

Ziploc bag with multiple loaded magazines
How about preload and pack your AR and pistol mags as a quick bug out bag.

When was the last time you swapped out those snack bars and batteries in your pack, checked the expiration date of Aquapure water purification and IOSAT tablets? How effective are some of those 10-year old bandages that have now disintegrated.

Thousands of people have purchased LifeStraws and Sawyer inline water filters. However, most people forget to pack four feet of tubing, a simple cloth filter, and a water scoop bag to allow post collection purification, versus being required to dwell at a likely congested water source filtering water. Two 4-mil heavy poly bags and attaching 4-feet of tubing to a LifeStraw or inline filter delivers a more sophisticated offline gravity fed purification option vs being limited to a sip only option at a water source.

Coms and Electronics — Another Ball of Twine

Communication gear is another entirely different set of skills ranging from kids with a pack of $20 walkie talkies to $5,000 handheld Ham radios. Baofeng U5R are the standard prepper radio and offer a ton of power and flexibility at a sub-$40 cost.

A solid coms platform is only as good as the training and familiarity by your family and friends, and I can tell you that the U5R or any radio is not something learned, or programmed, in the field or after stuff starts to happen. The universal, easy-to-use magic radios shown in the movies are BS. This coms training can set you apart from people wandering aimlessly during the apocalypse.

Belly band holster, with GLock pistol, chest rig loaded with a full size handgun and spare magazines, and Ziploc bag of loaded pistol mags
Modular packs work in combination or as stand alone units tailored to the bug out task or mission.

A level of communication and coordination that allows you to get things done safely is a huge advantage. All my radios all pre-programmed identically with pre-noted stations and coded station IDs. That is done, along with turning off the super blinky transmit and receive lights that would give your location away from over ¼-mile. I still need earpieces and PTT – Push to Talk modules all routed and nested into my equipment, but those are luxuries.

I only had the 110-volt chargers for my radios and added a couple USB radio charges, because having other charging options such as solar USB charges could be handy.  Obviously, a quality solar charger, charging bricks, and USB rechargeable flashlights can be vital. Did you know there are CR123, AAA, AA, and other common batteries that have onboard micro USB cord recharging ports? They work great to convert your favorite standard devices to USB recharging if needed. I use them constantly while globally traveling.

Battle Proven Kit

Though the modern warrior can load out with 100 pounds+ of kit, most feel that is unneeded and let’s face it we are not all in that level of shape to hike with a 100-pound pack. Tribal warriors seem to be able to cross barren continents with just a spear and water bag, so maybe a wad of cash, a few handguns with food and water may just be enough. Considering the kits of today’s U.S. warriors seem to get it done with just a rifle with about 210 rounds in 7-loaded magazines, a med kit, flashlight, and usually coms, armor, hydration, and some food, maybe this is enough.

Do you have a single bug out bag or a combination of kits that can be used as standalone units or combined for the task at hand? What items do you include in your kits? Share your answers 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 (13)

  1. I’m too old and busted up to run.
    I keep my truck packed with a weeks worth of gear and I have 3 grab bags to add to that.
    But where I live if you don’t have water you might as well just hunker down and load the guns.
    I have a support group and places to go and people who would take me in or come to my house and get taken in.
    But to flog an idea some more, you need 2 gallons of water per person a day.
    Now I’m going to go drag out my bug out bags and reread the previous articles for updated info.
    Good stuff.

  2. There were some good advice posted here ,
    I would like to add a few. If bugging out, you better have your own place to Bug out to because if you go to a friends neighborhood you may not be accepted and are told to leave. If America collapses there will be chaos, tyranny. Friend against Friend.
    If you are Prepper, don’t tell anyone because your home will be one of the 1st one neighbors will come to .

  3. Good article with one part of bad advice. I would suggest NOT buying any part of a ham radio transmitting device unless properly licensed. The first thing you will want to do is try it out. And that will be your first mistake. Transmissions from an Unlicensed person is punishable with up to a large fine and/or a couple years in prison. Think you won’t get caught? There are folks monitoring all across the country for such violations, And I am one of them.

  4. Lifelong survivalist. I live and breathe this lifestyle. Have done for many decades, since childhood.

    First off, something you didn’t really address: Where are you bugging out to? Good survival minded folks SHOULD have a secondary location to go to, prearranged, and it’s good to have more than one. They should also be between 80 and 130 miles from your primary living space. If you’re bugging out without a secondary location planned, you’re just running into the woods like an idiot.

    As such, your bugout pack, per person, should only contain everything you need to hike on foot, if necessary, for about 100 miles. Water purification, temperature regulation, first aid, and some compact calories. You can add other things from there, but this rule is one I have taught over and over: Your bugout ruck should weigh in at LESS than 40 lbs. 20 is optimal.

    Two things your Bugout should NOT contain:
    – Water. It’s heavy. It will slow you down. If you need to carry water as you bug out, grab a canteen or water bottle and fill it. It should not be part of your actual packout. Liquid water is unnecessary weight, and if the container leaks, it may ruin some of your other gear.
    – Firearms. Again, incredibly heavy – and if you are in a Bugout situation where you need a gun, it should be in your hand or on a sling. Not in a backpack. Not in a fanny pack. Holstered, slung, or in your hand. It should not be considered part of your BOB. Grab it if the situation warrants it. I love guns. I probably own more of them than the majority of people reading this. But they have zero place in your BOB. That’s like putting your main fire extinguisher in a locked shed.

    And the reality is you can likely hike 80 miles over 3 days with no water, or minimal, and no gun, and still make it to your secondary location. It might suck, but you can do it.

  5. LJB,
    Very hard to follow comment. Some punctuation would also be appreciated. I hope it at least makes sense to your family.

  6. My job takes me all over the state I live in and into the nieghboring states. I taught survival for years and carry the ability to produce or acquire the four basic needs in route through the woods back to my family water, shelter, fire and food. This is based on the possibility I may have to abandon my vehicle at any moment and yes I do travel heavy enough to discourage any trouble. My family has been instructed to muster at our home and wait for one week for me to return home. If I’m not back by then, they go to the bug out location only 45min away. We have a descrete route mapped out to get there without drawing attention, because the roads will be choke points. We are prepped at home and at the bug out location, vehicles and such protected from EMP. Yes, we have prepped but we will live off the land mostly and save our prep supplies for times you can’t traverse the surrounding area. Since I grew up and hunted our bug out location i know every cave, quick sand bog, moccison mind field, natural spring, edible vegitation, sucluded fishing hole the best place to hunt or trap. And one last thing, pray heavily that God will protect my family and this great country of America.

  7. I look forward to your articles and this particular one really makes me feel terribly unprepared!

  8. The one hundred pounds is with solid supply chain support. Bug out bags belong in obsolete fiction, and a family of four needs two vehicles to get the ability to carry extra vehicle fuel and the supplies for two weeks plus minimal weaponry and a fairly large stockpile of ammunition– and SALT. You will need salt to handle the local food resources and eating for any extended time frame.

    Bug Out Bags belong with the school desks in the old “duck and cover drills.” They would not work, but they make you feel you did something without really doing anything,


  9. The article was a good refresher. It made me go through and redo my bags and change some things around. My house is somewhat rural and hardened and the plan is to defend in place. The train crash in Ohio is a reminder that “Man’s plans and Gods laughs”. . I’m sure some people there never imagined having to bugout / evacuate either! It’s not only the stealing horde of bandits heading for you door that you have tomplan for ! Sometimes it’s an event of catastrophic event like poisoned air that make you have to leave.

  10. The dilemma we seem to all face eventually is as stated above a there seems to be any number of answers and solutions to that question. All the solutions seem to agree on the basic components and more or less a 3 to 10 day time frame.
    So…. a real world, SHTF, the sky is falling and society, government, civil order, and in general Man’s Humanity To Man has, overnight become the New Normal and YOU are on your own, alone, confident but scared, got your BOB, Belt, weapons, an cloaked yourself in your gray man persona. You are prepared to face the New Order…
    Then what? What’s the Mid an long term plan?
    My point is that those who do this kind of prep and planning for a living. Whose life and by extension others lives, is actually dependent on their gear, training, and prepping for that 3 to 10 day window. They ALL have a mid and long term plan(s) that, in part, define all that gear an prep to get you thru those first days.
    Everything stated in the above article is valid, well presented, and is very likely where many, the majority, may find themselves.
    Have a WHOLE plan, not just the starting points of one, make it flexible, have a goal, MAKE THE PLAN FIRST. Then figure out the gear and prep needed. Plan for EVERYTHING you can, then cut it back to what the reality, your capabilities, and actual abilities are. Don’t make a plan for specific disasters or SHTF event., Make a plan that will keep you safe, healthy, fed, hydrated, and protected to get you to your next STEP of your plan.
    Plan for yourself first and foremost, if you don’t place yourself in the #1 spot you not only fail yourself but fail those who look to you.
    Point: it all starts with a Plan of Action, that is flexible enough to accommodate 90%, 9 out of 10, of the possibilities but with enough flexibility to limit the impact of what you didn’t think or plan for.
    The Plan you make, will show you what is needed to make your plan work. Work the plan.

    Great article, great reminders. Always helps to know that the track your on is valid.

  11. My advice is to live in the place where you plan to bug out. That’s what I did when I retired. This way a bug-out bag only applies when I’m temporarily away from my sanctuary. It’s really a seasonal get me back home bag. A cell phone, flashlight, Swiss Army knife, matches, and emergency blanket form the barest essentials of something I can regularly carry on my person. I plan to add a small trauma kit. Bulkier items such as water bottles, snack foods, tool kit, first aid kit, flashers, chains, ropes, entrenching tool, and blankets are kept in my vehicles.

  12. Since I travel quite a bit and I may not be home I marked everything with colored numbered tags
    4 number 1 bags red
    Each for a family member with basic 3 day supplies medical and financial information and a weapon prepacked backpacks
    2 number 2 bags yellow tags 1 on safe for docs and financials electronics second one weapons and ammo pre packed
    3 number 3 bags pre packed basic food water shelter first aid
    2 number 4 bags more ammo weapons and spare parts pre packed
    2 number 5 bags more food water equipment long term supplies pre packed
    2 number 6 bags long term supplies pre packed

    IF she was by herself with the kids I doubt she would get past number 3. Bags when packing put to go to our property
    If I was there we would get all and then some more loaded
    But it takes sone of the decision process away to have them numbered and color coded

  13. A good, as in accuraste and reliuable, .22 LR rifle. I refer you asll to the late
    Skeeter Skeleton’s classic article “If I could have only one gun…”
    Thos should be reprinted annually!

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