Thursday, March 10, 2011

Building a Bug Out Bag on a Budget

Putting together a fully equipped Bug Out Bag (BOB) with high quality items can be a project that may cost you thousands of dollars if you want top of the line high quality items. Just buying high quality clothing with base layers, mid layers, shell jacket, pants, cap, gloves, scarf, socks and hiking boots may set you back a significant amount of money. The reason for putting together a relatively cheap Bug Out Bag may be many: You might normally not engage in outdoor activities and have little use of the items in your everyday life or you may want to build an additional bag for another family member or friend. The most important aspect of Bug Out Bag is that the concept as whole provides you with the necessary components that allows you to make it through an evacuation scenario.

What clothing you need is very dependent on your climate. There is no clothing that is ideal for all situations so you simply have to find clothing that works where you live. Military surplus can be an interesting alternative since the clothing is often designed to have a long life span. Base layers that dry quickly made from synthetic materials or merino wool are the best but if you can afford pack some extra t-shirts so that you can change the layer closest to your body if you get wet from rain or sweat. A shell jacket provides good protection from wind and rain, Gore-Tex is excellent but there are similar cheaper systems that work well for a much lower price. If you don’t have shell clothing make sure to pack a poncho so that you get some protection in case of rain and bad weather.

The Bag
The most central part of your Bug Out Bag is the Bag itself. It must be big enough to hold your items, it must be durable enough to withstand a few days hike without breaking apart and it should have a carrying system that is comfortable so that you can carry the bag on your back for a few days. I write should because if you are planning to use vehicles during an evacuation a trunk or travel bag could do just as fine as a backpack or even be a more suitable alternative.

A new high quality backpack from companies like Norrona, Berghaus, Klättermusen or high quality military style backpack with Molle Attachments and some additional pockets may set you back hundreds of dollars. An old high quality hiking bag or military surplus bag may offer the same function as new bag for only a fraction of the price. Another method could be to search E-bay and the second hand market for products. It’s important that you can keep the gear inside the bag dry, having waterproof compression bags is an excellent alternative but they are rather expensive. Normal heavy duty trash bags provide some protection for equipment and come at a very low cost.

Survival Knife
A knife is one of the most important survival tools you can have during a survival situation. It’s important that the knife you choose can perform the tasks that you require it to. A high quality survival knife can be a very expensive investment costing hundreds of dollars. Some of the best cheap knives available come from the Swedish company Mora. Mora makes knives with high quality but still with a reasonable price, you can find a good knife from this company for 10-30 dollar depending on what model you choose. If you want a larger knife you can find Machetes with a reasonable cost.

What kind of shelter you need depends on your local terrain, your climate and the time of the year. For cold weather conditions it can be very hard to make it without a sleeping bag and sleeping mattress but in warmer climates you can make it with less shelter. No matter the situation you should have some kind of shelter that can shield you from wind and rain. A second hand tent might be bought cheap. A Light Weight Tarp does not cost many dollars but even a Shower Curtain may used. If you use a tarp you need some kind of rope or Paracord that can allow you to secure it properly.

High quality Flashlights from companies like Fenix or 4Sevens can provide great light in a compact format but for most situations a cheaper flashlight will do just as well. The Old AA or AAA flashlights from Maglite, a cheap LED light or a Shake Light is sufficient for most situations. Simple key chain lights can sometimes be given away for free by companies and other organizations.

High quality water bottles from companies like Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Camelback and SIGG are both light weight and strong but comes at a hefty price. There are cheaper copies of these bottles that perform just as well, another alternative can be military surplus water bottles. If you want a really cheap alternative soda bottles will perform well in most situations, just get the most solid type of bottle you can find. A water purification filter is useful but often quite expensive. Coffee filters is cheap and can be used to filter water, bleach can be used to sterilize water if you do not have the time or means of boiling the water.

Ordinary Matches is one of the easiest methods to build a fire. Make sure that they stay dry by storing them in a plastic bag. Simple BIC lighters are also a cheap and reliable method to start a fire, buying a few boxes of matches and lighter is a relatively cheap investment. Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline are a cheap way to improvise tinder.

Cooking and Food
An alcohol stove is quite cheap and effective solution since it provide both cooking vessels and stove in the same kit. An Esbit Stove is low price, low weight and can be used together with a simple cooking vessel. The Esbit tablets are also excellent tinder and fire starters. Freeze dried food is low weight, takes up little space and is very practical if you can find water in your local terrain. The main drawback is the high cost of these rations. Rice, Pasta, Lentils and Oatmeal stored in a Waterproof Container works well for food during a hike even if the solution is not as practical as freeze dried food in portion sized bags. Tea Bags, Sugar, Salt, Canned Food, Peanut Butter, Raisins are other types of food that can be used for an evacuation food kit.

Make sure to include some Soap and Toilet Paper in your pack. Toilet Paper can also be used as tinder to start a fire. Washing Up Liquid can be used as soap, to wash clothing and to clean your cooking vessels.

Other Equipment
A Map and Compass are vital tools that allow you to navigate and find your way in your local terrain. A top graphical map is the best but a road map, city map that you can find for free or a printed map from the internet is better than nothing at all. A compass is a very important tool and I do not recommend that you get a low quality model that does perform or risk breaking. Decent quality compasses from Silva can be found for around 10-20 dollars. First Aid Kits is important to have if you would hurt yourself or have to provide care for someone else, complete kits can often be found cheap at supermarkets or as military surplus. A simple pen and some paper in a waterproof bag can be used to make notes and leave messages.

Testing the Equipment
The only of telling for sure if you’re Bug Out Bag will work or not is to test it. Your items do not have to perform perfectly as long as they provide what you need. Buying second hand equipment like backpacks and clothing presents risks since the bag may break in a critical situation. By testing the equipment before a real crisis situation you will get a better understanding of what the equipment may do for you and most importantly learn how to use it. Backpacks or clothing may need repairs or be maintained, by carting a small sewing kit, a tube of superglue duct tape and paracord you can repair equipment and clothing if this would become necessary.

[ ] Backpack or Bag
[ ] Heavy duty plastic bags to keep clothing and equipment dry

Extra Clothing
[ ] Extra base layer or T-shirt
[ ] Warm long sleeve shirt
[ ] Socks
[ ] Cap or Hat
[ ] Poncho

[ ] Tent or Tarp
[ ] If the climate makes is necessary a sleeping bag or blanket and sleeping mattress

Survival Knife
[ ] Fixed Blade Knife
[ ] Back-up Knife
[ ] Sharpener

Pocket Survival Kit
[ ] Matches

[ ] Fire Steel
[ ] Snare wire
[ ] Wire saw
[ ] Sewing kit
[ ] Button compass
[ ] Safety pins
[ ] Whistle
[ ] Candle
[ ] Compact LED lamp
[ ] Compact knife or razor blade
[ ] Fishing kit
[ ] Pencil
[ ] Water Purification Tablets
[ ] Painkillers
[ ] Anti Diarrhea Tablets
[ ] Antihistamines
[ ] Antibiotics
[ ] Condom or Alok Sak

[ ] Flashlight or Headlight
[ ] Spare batteries

Equipment to build a Fire
[ ] Matches in plastic bag
[ ] BIC lighter
[ ] Tinder

[ ] Water Bottles and Water Containers
[ ] Coffee Filters
[ ] Bleach in a small bottle

Equipment for Cooking
[ ] Stove
[ ] Cooking Vessels
[ ] Fuel
[ ] Cup
[ ] Plastic Plate
[ ] P-38 Can Opener
[ ] Fork and Spoon

[ ] Rice, pasta, noodles, lentils, canned food or peanut butter
[ ] Teabags and Sugar
[ ] Salt and Pepper

[ ] Soap
[ ] Toilet paper in waterproof bag
[ ] Washing up liquid and Mop
[ ] Toothbrush, Tooth paste and Dental Floss

Repair kit
[ ] Sewing kit
[ ] Super glue
[ ] Duct Tape
[ ] Paracord

[ ] Passport or ID and Immunization Record Card

[ ] Map and Compass
[ ] Pen and Paper
[ ] First Aid Kit

People have survived in the wilderness for thousands of years without the comforts that modern clothing and high tech fabrics provide. The market for outdoors equipment is very big and you can find very useful high quality items, but these often come at a high cost. Keeping the cost down for Bug Out Bag does not have to be very complicated but might require some research in order to find the items required. By choosing cheaper products and solution you can quite easily build multi kits for the price you would otherwise have to pay for a single Bug Out Bag. This can also be a good alternative if you want to have an extra kit in your Vehicle, at a secondary location or if you want to build a kit for another family member. This post can also be used as inspiration if you want to put together a kit for hiking, hunting or camping activities.

Also see:
Bug Out Bag and Checklist
Light Weight Bug Out Bags
Bugging Out As a Group


  1. Hey, you should put in dryer lint in for fire tender. Dry as a bone, light, fluffy, and very flammable and no cost whatsoever.

  2. Dryer lint stuffed into tp tubes and cut into 3rds makes good tinder :). Make sure you have a reliable way to start the fire, rain is a fire killer so learn how to build a fire to protect the flame from rain.
    Keep every member of your family in mind too. I have 4 kids ages 11, 7, 5 & 2 so our kits are a little more comprehensive.