My Top 10 Must-Have Bug Out Bag Items

By BadVooDooDaddy

This post really made me think about what those top 10 items would be.  I had to do a bit of thinking and soul searching to come up with these items.  There are quite a few that didn’t make the list but it did make me realize that I really don’t need some of the stuff that I currently have in my bug out bag. 

Keep in mind these are the top 10 critical items that should be in any bug out bag, so don’t get upset in the comments section because I didn’t include this or that item. Instead, let everyone know which item should be in the top 10, as well as which item should be removed from the top 10.

So, without further ado, here is my top 10.

1) A Good Knife

I think this is the most important tool you can own. You need it to make shelter, to make traps to kill game, fire-starting, cooking, dressing game and fish, you can use it to dig with. There are just so many things you need a knife for.

It can be a folding knife or a fixed blade but it needs to be a good quality knife. There is nothing worse than a $10 knife that will just fall apart, and not be of any use to you after the first days use.

2) A Tarp

It can be a cheap blue or brown tarp or a very nice Sil-Nylon tarp but it needs to be at least 8×10 and preferably water resistant. Tarps can be used for so many things.

Shelter is the main use for the tarp but it can also be used as a ground cloth for a tent, or used with a wool blanket to make a impromptu sleeping bag that will keep you dry.  It can also be used as a makeshift pack to carry your stuff in then turned into your shelter.


3) Cordage

This means rope, paracord, fishing line, bank line and some good quality sinew for sewing up clothing or equipment. Rope can have many uses in building Shelter, Rescue, First Aid.

Paracord also has tons of uses from binding a shelter together, to pulling the center stands out for field expedient sutures in an emergency. Paracord also makes a great emergency arm splint or a tourniquet.

lifestraw go filter

4) Portable Water Filter

This is a super important part of staying alive in an emergency. More than likely your normal water source is going to be out of commission and you need water to survive.

Most lakes and streams are not safe to drink even in the high mountains due to Cryptosporidium and Giardia and in really bad cases Cholera. It is also best to have a spare filter to change the original one out after a while.


5) A Very Good Backpack

This is a very important part of the bug out bag system.  You really need a backpack that fits well and is going to be sturdy. You don’t want to get a huge backpack, and then fill it with a bunch of unnecessary stuff.  It is better to have a smaller lighter weight pack and have only the basic essentials in it.

6) First Aid Kit

This is where most people kind of fall short. Remember that you are going to use this bag when something goes wrong. You will more than likely run into a situation where your first aid kit will come into action.

If you need to help an injured person or if that injured person is you the last thing you want to have in your pack is a small first aid kit with only a few bandages and some burn ointment. Make sure to get a comprehensive first aid kit that will be of some use to you or someone else that is injured.

7) Stove and Cook Kit

You never know where you might end up in an emergency.  You might find out that all the shelters are full or you may be bugging out to a remote location.  If this is the case you will need a small but well built stove and cook kit to cook with.  I suggest a small multi-fuel stove.

One that can use alcohol, fuel tabs, or wood.  All of these will be light weight enough and for the alcohol and fuel tabs they weigh almost nothing.  The wood you can find along the way.

8) Headlamp

Having a source of light is going to be very important in an emergency situation. I suggest a head lamp because it frees up your hands to do other things and still gives you a very good light source.  If you can find one with either a red or green removable filter that is even better.

It’s also important to have a set of extra batteries for the head lamp in case the others run out of power.  The one that I found for myself just happens to be waterproof and uses a small watch battery.  It is a single LED lamp and uses energy very sparingly.

9) Emergency Food Bars or MREs

Food is going to be and important part of staying alive. Without food and water, you will not be able to keep up your strength. In an emergency situation, it is going to be vital that you have your strength to keep you going. 

I like MREs because they provide so many necessary calories.  You will be burning a lot of calories if you need to bug out especially if you bug out on foot.

10) Weapon

This weapon can be anything from a .22 rifle to an AK47.  It is important to remember that you are going to have to carry this weapon with you at all times, so choose it wisely.

As most of you know, I think the best survival weapon you can have is an SKS with a synthetic stock and a scope mounted on it.  I like this configuration because it is good at short range and can still reach out and touch someone at quite a distance.

The synthetic stock will lighten this weapon up quite a bit from its original weight.  Having an adjustable stock is nice depending on how you are going to use it.  I also suggest a single point sling, this makes it much easier to carry up front where you will need it to be.

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last update 03/31/2021

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12 thoughts on “My Top 10 Must-Have Bug Out Bag Items”

  1. Great list, all must have items…just sucks that nr. 10 will (likely) never be an option for me in Germany 🙁

  2. I agree and disagree with your list. Plus I sincerely believe you are missing some really important items. I realize you were trying to make a top 10 list, but that seems like an unreasonable limit when your life is on the line.

    I agree with the following – knife (I recommend having 2, a fixed blade for self defense (Ka-Bar, ESEE, Tops, Benchmade, etc) and general camp use and a multi-tool (SOG or Victorinox) for all the obvious reasons), cordage (all kinds of good uses), water filter (item 1 on my list), back pack (buy the absolute best you can afford – give up Starbucks for 6 months if necessary to get a better pack), first aid kit (add insect repellant, an Israeli field bandage, and Quick Clot or Cellox), stove and cook kit, headlamp (I prefer a tactical flashlight, but any light is better than no light), food (if water is available get freeze dried, if water is problem or you have to move fast MRE’s are the best), survival weapon (there are a million different opinions on what’s best, I recommend a pistol and a rifle – I favor the .223 cal. Mini 14 and 1911 style .45, but that is my perference only).

    The tarp seems to me to be a space waster. A good wool blanket, a bivvy sack, and a good poncho will be less weight and provide a wider range of uses. However, 9 out of 10 is not bad.

    I think you are missing the following – a P-38 can opener (you never know when canned food may be available and this is much easier to use than a Ka-Bar to get to the groceries), toilet paper (what they include in an MRE won’t clean a gopher’s butt), spare batteries (or a small solar charger unless you want that flashlight to be a very short duration luxury), waterproof matches (or a magnesium fire starter or even a disposable lighter), paper and pencil, toothbrush and toothpaste or powder, duct tape (Gorilla Glue duct tape is my preference – fixes about anything with a rip), and 2 pair of dry socks and underwear (dry feet and a dry crotch does wonders for one’s attitude). The above items will take up very little space, add little weight, and significantly improve your comfort level in a stressful situation.

    If you have some space left in your pack, I recommend adding a few more items to extend your comfort level – vitamins, commando wire saw or folding saw (unless you really like hacking your firewood into managable pieces with a knife), knife sharpening system (Lansky or DMT), water flavorings (even a really good water purifier may leave some odd flavor in the water), leather work gloves, sunscreen, Sheemagh (shade, towel, and and dust mask all in one), and soap (any kind – get a handfull of the little bars from the nearest hotel so if you have to leave one behind you have spares). Again, the above items are small in size and do not add much weight.

    My personal list also includes my 2 dogs (pretty sure they won’t fit in the pack, but they might come in handy anyway), a handfull of clothes pins (I use them for animal snares), 3 or 4 reinforced plastic garbage bags, dental floss, a multiband radio with a hand crank charger, and a small folding shovel.

    Keep up the good work, I look forward to your posts.

    • Thanks for the feedback Harry –

      You have suggested some very valid items – and as you pointed out – we limited the list to 10 items. Why 10 items? Well – it’s for fun really. It can be fun, informative, and entertaining to see what different people think.

      It worked!!!!! We got your thoughts too.

      Thank you.

      One item I left off my list over at The Retreat was Cindy Crawford. She just won’t fit in the bag.

      Take care – Rourke

  3. The only thing I would add is a good fire source, prefereably two of them, waterproof matches and a firesteel are the usual. You could lump that with cooking but it is so important

  4. Nice job, Voodoo. You’ve put a lot of thought into this and, just as Rourke posted on your Retreat site, the items you’ve chosen are all excellent “must-haves” for any BOB.

  5. Good list. I would like to point out that some of the items listed were necessary for living on the street in case you can’t get to a safe place right away. My concern is that an SKS rifle screams for attention and not in a good way. Especially in the first days and weeks following an emergency where there will still be a law enforcement presence and a sense of hieghtened alert. Arguably you will be better off without a gun (blasphemy, I know). I own a gun and I want to have a gun when TSHTF but if I’m traveling a recognize that a gun may be a liability and not an asset. many stores require you to leave your backpack outside. If you have a gun you cannot responsibly set down your backpack with a gun in it and walk away for 10 minutes. I travel in a motorhome sometimes and I do not carry a gun. The laws in different states are so diverse and so “odd” that the risk is too great. I do not want to go to jail for a felony weapons charge.

  6. Nice list!

    About the only thing I’d change is the knife. A good knife is vitally important, but I lean toward a good multi-tool if I have to choose. It’s not nearly as good as a knife in some respects, but it certainly has many other uses that make up for the built-in blade’s shortcomings.


  7. A sense of humor is the first thing on my list, your’s too apparently.

    Well, Cindy might be a good addition even considering the excess space allocation. I might have to choose Terri Clark instead, at least that way I can get some music to go along with the companionship and decoration.


  8. Excellent article sir, I concur with both of the blog sites. As stated, these lists are NOT “everything” that should be in the bag, just 10 of the things that “must” be in the bag regardless of environment, Geo location, or circumstance. The included item usage notes are very informative as well. I always enjoy reading the comments posted, pro and con, everyone contributes in their own way. Thanks for the great site.

  9. Wise choices!
    Actually the #10 is out of the option for me as well as I’m living in Hungary, Europe. Having a thought on it however, I think I’t not necessarily have to be a firearm. A bow, a crossbow, a slingshot or a gas-pistol could be nearly as effective as a firearm. With adequate training or expertise you can use any of them for self-defense or even hunting. Not quite as effective as some firearms and have some drawbacks but definitely, any of them is better than nothing – and even a child can operate them, well maybe not the gas-pistol (or rifle).

  10. I’d add a few sticks of glue-gun glue. When the soles of your boots come loose, you’d want to be able to fix that in a permanent way.


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