Here’s my suggested list of priorities.
After you assess your particular situation, adjust this as necessary.
Priority 1: The most essential storage items to sustain life.
- Set up a basic food plan for 1-2 years with recipes
- Water for 2 weeks (14 gal/person) and purifier
- Garden seeds for at least one season
- Basic medical supplies and medicines
- Minimal sanitation needs
- Clothing to last a full turn of the seasons
- Bedding to keep warm without additional heat
- Method to cook and heat, with fuel for at least one year
- Basic survival library
Priority 2: Portable storage for minimal needs for 72 hours.
- Emergency evacuation kit (See Survival Gear & Evacuation section below)
Priority 3: Storage and other items necessary for a more normal lifestyle. This priority includes equipment, tools, supplies and other items needed for a self-sufficient homestead or survival retreat.
Once your priorities are determined you need to set specific goals. Set a target date for each item on your list. It takes most families/groups months and even years to build an adequate plan and to learn the skills to use it effectively.
Survival Gear & Evacuation
Individual Survival Gear List
The following is a list of recommended supplies that will assist you in surviving a long-term emergency. You may want to acquire military versions of this equipment because it is often of higher quality, comes in camouflage colors, and surplus gear is often cheap. Alternately, you may want to choose backpacking gear to look more civilian. In most cases you will want to shelter in place. But in some scenarios you may decide it is best to abandon home. This kit is meant to help you in the case that you need to flee.
Bug Out Bag
The primary purpose of a bug-out bag (BOB) is to allow one to evacuate quickly if a disaster should strike. It is therefore prudent to gather all of the materials and supplies that might be required to do this into a single place, such as a backpack. Duffle bags or storage containers can work but are cumbersome to carry over long distances. These kits are designed specifically to be more easily carried by the individual in case alternate forms of transportation are unavailable or impossible to use. It can be thrown into a vehicle or onto a horse when the situation allows you to drive/ride away from the area. It also provides you with a kit that can be carried out of an affected area if the damage is too great to drive a vehicle over rubble or obstacles, such as when found after a severe earthquake. The Bug-Out Bag is presented by many to be the first level of preparedness that anyone should put together, simply by virtue of its overall usefulness.
In addition to allowing one to survive a disaster evacuation, a BOB may also be utilized when sheltering in place. These survival kits come in a variety of sizes, contain supplies and tools to provide a person with basic shelter against the elements, helps them keep warm, meets their health and first aid needs; and provides enough food and water. In some cases a survival kit could contain items used to signal to rescuers or assist you in finding your way back to help.
This BOB must provide:
- Water for one person for three days
- The ability to procure and purify water for an indefinite period thereafter
- Food for one person for three days
- The ability to procure and prepare food for an indefinite period thereafter
- Appropriate clothing for any season
- A means of making shelter
- Multiple, redundant means of making fire
- A radio to receive relevant emergency information
- Currency or items for barter
- Versatile tools, equipment, and materials to meet unanticipated needs
- A detachable, smaller pack to provide survival essentials should the main BOB be lost – this is called a Compact Survival Kit or an Every Day Carry (EDC) bag.
I have included many items in the list below, it may be difficult to fit everything into a single bag. You will have to use your judgement, depending on your circumstances, skills, budget, preferences, etc. when selecting your gear. There is an endless list of items that “would be good to have,” so you will have to make some tough compromises. Don’t over pack, a person in average shape can carry about one-fourth to one-third of their body weight fairly comfortably, you should try not to exceed that in your planning. As a family you can have some items as duplicates (each person should have their own knife and water bottle, for example), but other items can be distributed among the group’s supplies as a whole.
Key to Notations:
*: Items for a compact survival kit. A compact survival kit is a survival kit which consists of those most essential outdoor survival tools and supplies which are the hardest to improvise or replace. A mini survival kit is intended to be carried all the time or at least when traveling and is usually designed to complement other survival tools carried in a larger, separate bag. A compact survival kit is intended to remain always upon one’s person, be appropriate to all environments, and be a comprehensive kit. Other personal gear will primarily offer additional serviceability and ease of use, but the mini survival kit should provide for the basic needs of a survival situation. This small basic kit can fit into the pouch of a pack. Soldiers are issued these kits to help them stay alive if they get lost in the wild. Various survival outfits and military surplus distributors sell these types of kits. They often come in small tins.
+: The Ten Essentials, this is a list of essential items hiking authorities promote as recommended for safe travel in the back country.
I recommend putting the Ten Essentials, any other very important items, and your compact survival kit into a single bag in case you can only carry one bag with you.
Books and Information
- A survival reference book (try to get different ones than the ones your friends/family have).
- A field guide to edible and perhaps medicinal plants in the area (try to get a variety of these too).
- A disaster plan including location of meet-up points, contact information, possible evacuation routes, maps, travel information, etc.
- Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster, but kept for reference.
Shelter and Warmth
- Bivvy sac or small tent
- Tarp with grommets or tie-tapes (nylon or polyester is lightweight).
- Good sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Wool blanket
- Reflective “aluminized” (Mylar coated) space blanket or survival blanket to retain body heat (or use as a signal for rescuers)
- Mosquito net
- Optional: Heavy-duty garbage bags (as poncho, pack cover, expedient shelter roof, for carrying forest duff to make a bed, black bags can be used to heat water out in the sun, as waterproof storage, for garbage collection, etc.)
+Good outdoor clothing layers for all seasons, wool is best.
Survival clothing should be durable, warm and comfortable work clothing of various kinds to suit your situation, climate and seasons. Good-quality outdoor clothing is often the best choice. Tightly woven fabric is more snag and tear resistant and wears longer but loosely woven fabric is warmer. Natural fabrics like wool and cotton are more absorbent, and wool retains its insulating properties even when wet. Synthetics resist abrasion and mildew better, and dry more quickly. Waterproof but breathable Gore-Tex and similar fabrics should be considered for pertinent items.
- A good woolen hat “beanie” to insulate the area of greatest heat loss, 25% of body heat is lost through your head.
- Pants – find some that are tough, fast drying and cheap (in bushcraft you spend a lot of time grubbing around on your knees, so pants get a lot of wear). Cheap woolen pants from a thrift store are warm and you can get lots of thin ones (always dress loose and in layers).
- Lightweight poncho or rain jacket/rain pants for protection against wind and rain – preferably either a set that fits over the backpack or is accompanied by a separate pack liner or cover. A rain-poncho is a handy thing. It can be used as shelter, for gathering rainwater, and if you have to, you can put a rock or two in it, and you’ve got a last ditch weapon.
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes, both light-weight foot ware and heavy-duty foot ware (with several pairs of socks). If you have the money to get some good boots, do so. Keep coating them with veggie oil or fat until the leather won’t take any more. This makes them supple and very waterproof. Get only well-fitting shoes and boots with quality leather uppers and heavy nylon hand stitching (not glued). Other features to look for are full bellows tongue to keep dirt out, steel shanks to protect the foot and Vibram soles for long wear.
Basic Clothing Per Person For One Year
- 8 sets underwear (2 long)
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 turtle-neck shirts
- 1 wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
- 1 beanie or balaclava
- 1 heavy-duty work belt
- 1-2 sweaters
- 2 pr leather work gloves
- 1 pr winter gloves or mittens
- 2 pr work shoes or boots
- 1 pr waterproof boots
- 2 pr shoelaces
- 12 pr socks (8 light, 4 heavy)
- 4 pr jeans, pants, overalls
- 1 pr heavy wool pants
- 2-4 work shirts
- 2 flannel shirts
- 2 heavy wool shirts
- 1 water-repellant windbreaker
- 1 winter work coat
- 1 heavy-duty winter parka and snow pants
- +Waterproof/windproof matches in waterproof case (include striker — facing away from matches, if not “strike anywhere” matches)
- *Candle (use for starting fire with damp materials, may be cut square to fit into small container).
- *Magnesium bar/artificial flint and steel striker for fire-starting.
- *Magnifying glass (sometimes comes with a compass or Swiss Army Knife).
- Butane lighters (won’t work when freezing – carry inside clothing pocket).
- +Tinder (cotton balls soaked in fat) in Ziploc bag. Keep away from rodents.
Food and Water
- Have an initial supply of 1 gallon (4 liters) of water per person per day for 3 days – approximately 8 pounds (3.6 kg) per person per day: two quarts for drinking, two quarts for food preparation/sanitation.
- Portable water filter.
- A metal container to boil water if the source is questionable (see mess kit).
- Collapsible (empty) water bags or containers, water bladders, canteens, etc.
- *Non-lubricated condom (emergency water bottle when supported in a sock or bag)
- +3-day (or more) supply of non-perishable food which does not require refrigeration, preparation, cooking and little or no water: jerky, dried fruit, lard, nuts, nut butter, etc.
- Salt. (can also be used for brushing teeth).
- Tea or other pleasure foods to boost morale.
- Nutritional supplement (seaweed, pemmican, etc.).
- Mess kit (small pot/bowl set). Try to find a set made of lightweight spun stainless steel, avoid aluminum.
- Utensils: Hobo Knife (spoon, fork, knife combo) or a Spork (cheap, tough, light).
- *An assortment of fishhooks, split shot lead sinkers and as much fishing line as manageable (typically 30 feet to 100 feet or all that will fit on a bobbin).
- *Several feet of snare wire (at least 3-5 feet): copper or brass wire is best for workability without tools, steel ‘trip wire’ or utility wire is more durable (wire is also useful for repairs).
- Gill Net (for emergency fishing).
- Optional: Larger cooking pots. Stainless steel 18/0 is a fairly non-toxic metal for cooking in, is durable, and doesn’t rust like cast iron does; but food tends to stick and burn more easily.
First Aid and Hygiene
- Feminine hygiene products (e.g. a Keeper), reusable washable cotton fabric pads, etc. (some cotton/paper products are also useful for fire-starting).
- Toilet paper (or nature-based alternative, i.e. water).
- Dental floss
- Small mirror
- Sanitary towelettes
- Nail clippers
+First Aid kit:
Common Ailments and Treatment
A first aid kit usually contains items to treat cuts, abrasions (blisters), punctures and burns. Additional items might address broken fingers, limbs, cardiac conditions, hypothermia, frostbite, hyperthermia, hypoxia, insect and snake bites, allergic reactions, and other wounds. Vary the contents based on your skill and needs.
First aid (wilderness first aid in particular) can help a person survive and function with injuries and illnesses that would otherwise kill or incapacitate him/her. Common and dangerous injuries include:
- Lacerations, which may become infected
- Bites or stings from venomous animals, such as: snakes, scorpions, spiders, bees, stingrays, jellyfish, catfish, stargazers, etc.
- Bites leading to disease/septicemia, such as: mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, sand flies, animals infected with rabies, komodo dragons, crocodilians, etc.
- Infection through food, animal contact, or drinking non-potable water
- Bone fractures
- Sprains, particularly of the ankle
- Poisoning from consumption of, or contact with, poisonous plants or poisonous fungi.
- Hypothermia (too cold) and hyperthermia (too hot)
- Heart attack
- First-aid manual
Personal protective equipment:
- Nitrile rubber gloves (several pairs)
- Mouth shield for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (precaution against tuberculosis and hepatitis)
- *Band-Aids. One box of adhesive bandages (at least 12 Band-Aids) of varying sizes, with at least two 2-inch or larger square bandages. Try to stock waterproof band-aids; for covering minor wounds and keeping them clean. Fingertip and knuckle varieties are highly recommended. All can be cut to make wound closure strips.
- Two ace bandages
- Six wound closure strips
- One large roll of 2-inch cloth adhesive tape (may be torn or cut to smaller widths)
- Several 4-inch-by-4-inch sterile, non-adhesive dressings
- Three 3-inch wide gauze rolls
- Two triangular bandages
- Burn gel and “second skin” bandages
Pack loose medicines in airtight containers with cotton balls to prevent powdering and rattling. The following list, which is a rough guide, will cover most needs. Substitute herbal remedies where desirable or in addition to pharmaceuticals. The medicines listed below are from a fairly conventional list that I copied. I wouldn’t use most of the products myself, but would use it as a guide to find herbal equivalents. Check expiration dates and rotate stock every year. Any material in the kit that may be damaged or rendered ineffective by water should be wrapped or sealed in plastic.
- A supply of any special prescription medication you may need every day such as insulin, heart medicine or asthma inhalers. Keep a copy of your prescription and use instructions with these supplies.
- *Mild pain reliever. Pack at least ten of your favorite Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or other pain reliever. Consider packing fever-reducing (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen, Nuprin, Motrin, Advil) types.
- Systemic analgesics such as Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Vicodine (a prescription pain killer).
- *Antibiotics. For general infections. People who are sensitive to penicillin can use oxytetracycline. Carry enough for a full course of 5 to 7 days.
- Echinacea, colloidal silver, spilanthes-usnea, tea tree oil, and grapefruit seed extract are natural antibiotics and anti-fungal medicines (some internal, some external).
- Antibiotic cream (also fire-starting)
- Antacid – for upset stomach (i.e. Pepto Bismol)
- Activated charcoal (for poisoning)
- Syrup of ipecac (to induce vomiting)
- *Diarrhea medicine. At least ten doses. Loperamide Immodium is usually favored. Take two capsules initially, and then one each time a loose stool is passed.
- Epinephrine (prescription counter-anaphylactic shock med) and antihistamines (example “Benadryl” diphenhydramine) for allergic reactions, primarily for insect bites and stings.
- Hand sanitizer (also topical antibiotic and fire-starting)
- *Potassium permanganate or iodine solution/tablets: wound treatment/water treatment/antiseptic. Potassium permanganate has several uses. Add to water and mix until water becomes bright pink to sterilize it, a deeper pink to make a topical antiseptic, and a full red to treat fungal diseases, such as athlete’s foot.
- Rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes or povidone-iodine prep pad: wound cleaning, alcohol pads may also be used as fire tinder.
- Oral re-hydration salts. Salt depletion can lead to muscle cramps and loss of energy. Carry 5 to 10 packets.
- Bleeding stopper – Quikclot or powdered goldenseal herb does a good job at stopping bleeding from wounds.
- Saline solution to flush the eyes or as a general decontaminant.
- Insect repellent (or clothing designed for this purpose)
- Lip balm.
- Three sterile applicator sticks, cotton-tipped
- Instant cold-pack/icepack
- Safety pins and sterile needle
- Scissors: surgical blunt-tip
- *Single-edged surgical blades and scalpel kit. At least 2 blades of different sizes. A handle can be made of wood if required.
- Emergency suture kit
- Sterile thread
- SAM splint
- Thumb/finger splint
- Kelley hemostats
A supply of money in small denominations in your kit helps for situations such as telephone calls (if the lines still operate) or vendors selling various goods. Banking transactions may not be available. About $200 in emergency money per person is recommended.
Signaling, Navigation and Reference
- Pen/pencil and paper
- *+Two high-quality compasses, preferably ones that glow in the dark – one is a backup compass (Silva orienteering compasses are among the best). Know how to use these. Note: Some compasses are calibrated for either the northern or southern hemisphere.
- +Map(s) of the region, or charts if at sea (on land topographic maps are best for studying the terrain). Consider water proofing or laminating them.
- +Light: headlamp (with red-light option: this is better for health or other flashlight (solar/hand-crank powered preferred), torch, or glow sticks (good for situations like earthquakes when gas leaks occur because flashlights may cause an explosion).
Optional: Whistle to signal for help when weak or short of breath.
Optional: Mirror – especially those designed for signaling.
Optional: Smoke or illumination flares.
- Backpack for carrying stuff (how to pack).
- Duplicates of necessary items that may be hard to get (multiple pairs of eye glasses, etc.).
- +Steel Survival Knife (stout 6″ fixed blade with a safety sheath).
- Sharpening tools. Get soft and hard whetstones for use with knives, axes and other edged tools. A file is used to take out nicks and for rough sharpening. You’ll need a saw set tool and a saw gauge for straightening and sharpening saw teeth. Sharpening steels, ceramic sticks, and strop straps are used to straighten the edges on knives.
- Multi-tool or a Swiss Army Knife.
- Heavy-duty leather gloves.
- Can opener (usually on a multi-tool) if bringing canned food (not me).
- Spare rechargeable batteries for anything that might need them, with a solar recharger.
- *Sewing kit (w/ heavy-duty needle and thread – dental floss doubles as strong waxed thread).
- Bandanna or scarf for filtering water, bandage, sun protection, and signaling.
- 50 feet (15 meters) of sturdy cord or “550” parachute cord for setting up a tarpaulin and snaring small animals.
- Rifle and ammo – for hunting and defense. Getting a rifle and pistol that use the same ammo, i.e. .22 Magnum caliber, reduces the variety of ammo that you need to carry.
- Carabineers – for attaching gear to your pack.
- Collapsible military spade shovel. Glock makes a good telescoping one with a saw.
- *Folding saw or cable saw.
- Wash cloth or towel.
- Permanent marker – marking trees, labeling, etc.
- Portable radio (solar/hand-crank preferred) with the weather band. Eton makes a few types.
- Sacks: Waterproof bags for valuables or carrying water. Also, pillow cases are good for filtering liquids, wrapping meat from insects, carrying things, etc.
- Repair kit (additional wire, super-glue, duct tape, nails, cord, awl, pliers, hammer, hand drill, zip ties, extra buckles for pack).
- Tent sealer – seals seams to keep water out.
Some Optional Tools (when sheltering in place or having transportation):
- Crowbar (defensive weapon, building/vehicle entry, etc.)
- Lockpick set
- Sledge hammer
- Bow and arrows
- Shovels, pick, a cold chisel
- Fire extinguisher
- Watch or clock (battery or spring wound)
- Gas siphon – or short rubber hose
- Spare keys for household & motor vehicle
- Wrench or pliers to turn off water/gas valves
- Extra sets of round cotton shoe laces (these double as a good string for bow drill fires, synthetic fibers are too slippery)
In addition to setting up a Compact Survival Kit and a Bug-Out-Bag there are a couple of other bags to consider: a Get Home Bag (GHB) and an I’m Not Coming Home (INCH) bag. The GHB is fairly self-explanatory. These are typically located at ones place of work or in their vehicle. Should disaster strike while working, the GHB is designed to help you get home or to some other pre-planned location where your primary set of supplies and gear is at. The INCH is a slightly modified BOB, oriented towards long term survival. To look at examples of all of these types of bags, check out: zombiehunters.org.
Bug Out Vehicle
A bug-out vehicle (BOV) is a vehicle that the owner keeps prepared in the event of the need for an emergency evacuation. Keep your gas tank full, refill it every time it gets half-empty as disaster can strike at anytime and you don’t want to have a nearly empty tank in a crisis. Vehicles that can achieve at least 30 miles per gallon or with extended range fuel tanks are gaining popularity because of the lessons from events like Hurricane Katrina in which publicly available commercial fuel supplies were quickly exhausted.
If you are concerned about getting to a retreat, you should pick the toughest and most dependable vehicle you can find. Select one capable of carrying the expected load of passengers and gear. It must be capable of traveling off-road in the worst weather imaginable with plenty of ground clearance for rocks and other obstacles. It must also have the needed range under full load with expected road conditions (test to make sure). These criteria virtually eliminate all passenger cars and suggest a sturdy truck type of vehicle. Around the homestead a vehicle is used basically to haul load and do other work, again pointing to some type of truck. The vehicle should still be tough, but fuel economy becomes more important than it is for just getting to a retreat. And, because you may have to service and maintain the vehicle in either case, it should be as simple as possible and easy to maintain and repair with plenty of spare parts available such as would be the case with a fairly common model.
Typically the vehicles that fit this criteria are SUV’s, full-size pickups and vans. Pick the one that best fits the combination of passengers and cargo you anticipate. A 3/4 ton pickup or van is built much stronger than a 1/2 ton, and the 1-ton is perhaps heaver-duty than necessary.
Although newer models have the advantage of newer parts, they also have computer chips that increase complexity and might be hard to diagnose and fix in a survival context. One option might be to rebuild an older model. To rebuild doesn’t mean to make cosmetically appealing, but to effectively bring all the components like the engine, transmission, differential, drive line, wiring, suspension, braking and cooling systems to like-new condition. If you have time to do it yourself you will also become intimately knowledgeable of your vehicle and probably do it for less than half the cost of a new machine.
Typically a BOV is equipped with a variation on the bug-out bag that includes additional automotive supplies, clothing, food and water. Evacuations in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita stimulated interest in the use of dual-sport or on/off road touring motorcycles as BOVs due to the massive traffic jams and fuel shortages. In many places people are now considering “bugging out” with their entire families and accordingly are changing from driving 4×4 cars and SUVs, instead using converted panel trucks (trucks with an integrated and enclosed rear cargo section). Both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive panel trucks can be fitted out as BOVs and stealth campers (campers with no side windows). The interior of these BOVs are fitted out like mobile homes and expedition vehicles, but without any of the frills, usually with a kitchen, refrigerator, cooking stove, toilet, dining area plus enough berths (beds) for all the family. The inside of the vehicle will also contain enough food, water, clothing, tools, medical supplies, weapons, etc. to sustain a family for a significant period of time. Extra fuel and water containers are built into or under the vehicle to extend its operational range, but from the outside the vehicle is indistinguishable from a panel truck.
Vehicle Survival Kits
In some cases, supplies and equipment may be loaded into a vehicle such as a van or truck with bicycle racks and an extra “reserve” gas tank. Some survivalists also carry a small (e.g., 250 cc) off-road-capable motorcycle in the van or truck.
Food supplies would include provisions for several months.
The transportation items may include bicycles with off-road tires, emergency tools and spare auto parts (e.g., fuses, batteries, fan belts, light bulbs, spark plugs, head light, spare oil, tire pump, etc.), and an inflatable raft with paddles.
The communications equipment may include a multi-band receiver/scanner and radio.
The power supplies may include a gasoline generator with a one-month fuel supply, an auto battery and charger, extension cord, flashlights, rechargeable batteries (with re-charger), an electric multi-meter, and a test light.
Tools may include cutting tools such as saws, axes and hatchets; mechanical advantage aids such as a pry bar or wrecking bar, rope/cord/twine, pulleys, or a ‘come-a-long’ hand-operated winch; construction tools such as pliers, chisels, a hammer, screwdrivers, a hand-operated twist drill, vise grip pliers, glue, nails, nuts, bolts, and screws; mechanical repair tools such as an arc welder, an oxyacetylene torch, a propane torch with a spark lighter, a solder iron and flux, wrench set, a nut driver, a tap and die set, a socket set, and a fire extinguisher.
In addition, the kits may contain typical individual “survival kit” items.