The only checklist you really need: What your bug-out bag should (and shouldn’t) contain

Creating a bugout bag requires a lot more thought and effort than simply going to a sporting goods store, buying a bunch of camping equipment and stuffing it into a bag. Good preppers know that overstuffing your bugout bag can be just as bad as not having enough supplies to survive. This is exactly why it’s important to have a clear, concise checklist of the essential items that you should include in your bugout kit, so that when SHTF, you don’t have to think twice about whether or not you have enough, more than enough, or too little.

As Ken Jorgustin explained in an article published last month on, there are three main items that you should always bring with you: A knife, a fire kit, and a flashlight.

[Editor’s note: I really believe that cordage is another essential item that must be included here. Without paracord, survival becomes incredibly difficult in the wilderness, so consider the importance of cordage…]


Truthfully, in a survival situation, there are enough uses for a knife to fill an entire book with. Whether it’s cutting tinder or kindling, scraping sparks off a FireSteel rod, cutting rope or twine, or setting up an entire shelter, you’ll be amazed at how often you use a knife when SHTF. Always have one on you, because trying to survive without one will be incredibly difficult and nearly impossible.

Fire Kit

For a number of different reasons, you’re going to need a means to make fire. That’s why you should strongly consider creating your own mini “fire kit,” which can be as simple as an ordinary Ziploc bag filled with a BIC lighter, a FireSteel, waterproof “strike anywhere” matches, a tea light candle, and a small container stuffed with several Vaseline soaked cotton balls. Depending on how much room you have in your bag and how much weight you want to carry, you can also include a magnifying glass, a magnesium Firestarter, and possibly even some dry kindling. Having a fire kit will ensure that you will have the ability to start a fire whenever you need one for cooking and for warmth.

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A flashlight may not be as important as a fire kit or a knife, but it is still an important addition to your bugout bag nonetheless. If society collapses as a result of an EMP strike that wipes out the electric grid, the world is going to be a much darker place. Therefore, whether it’s having the ability to see through the shadows after the power goes out or just being able to navigate through the night, having a flashlight is a must. (Related: Here are 7 “extra” items for your bugout bag that would be nice to have in any emergency.)

In addition to these three essential survival items, there are also a number of things that you can do without – that is, things that you don’t need to pack in your bugout bag. compiled a list of 17 survival items that you don’t need to bring with you in a survival situation. Some of these items include:

  • Sleeping bags – sleeping bags are heavy and difficult to transport from point A to point B. Instead, consider taking a couple of emergency bivvies (although, granted, in the northern states it may be too cold and other sleeping arrangements should be considered).
  • Tent – Tents, like sleeping bags, are heavy and difficult to travel with. Instead, use a tarp and some cordage to make a shelter. (Related: If your bugout bag is getting too heavy, reconsider these nine items.)
  • Canned Food – Traveling with several cans of food can weigh you down because of all the water inside of them, and this added weight is just not worth the number of calories you get. Instead, pack freeze-dried food and rehydrate it with water you find.
  • Toiletries – In a survival situation, things like shampoo, deodorant and mouthwash just aren’t necessary. Bring some camp soap and toothpaste, but don’t worry about having minty breath or clean-smelling armpits in the middle of a crisis scenario.

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