Welcome to part 3 of my Budget Emergency Preparedness series! Today we’re talking about how to be prepared in the case of an emergency where you have to leave your home, potentially with as little as a backpack in hand. While this may seem unlikely, there are extremely common disasters that necessitate evacuation, and when that happens, you should be prepared.
As of February 2021, the items in these emergency bags helped me and Jacob weather the worst winter storm in the south in over 50 years. We lost power for days, had temperatures in the negatives and we were lucky as hell to not have it worse. Other Texans dealt with massive pipe bursts, highly hazardous interior temperatures, no water and frozen dangerous roads.
Thanks to having these preps, this situation was unpleasant for us instead of life threatening. We didn’t have to brave the roads or compete with others in need for essential supplies. We were able to just wait it out. This was a huge blessing and I want everyone to have that peace of mind. Emergencies will happen. I’m so glad I resupplied myself after the grocery/ supply rush at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Don’t let the world catch you off guard.
- Wildfires/ fires that are spreading
- A sudden disastrous winter storm in the south
- and more!
We aren’t talking zombie apocalypse here (though having some supplies would help in the case of that), I’m talking about basic emergency supplies that so many of us are without until it’s too late.
Bug out Bags are meant to be there in the case of an evacuation where you need a basic set of items to help you whether it’s at a stay-at-home emergency or to be easily grabbed if you have to leave your home.
There are TONS of Bug Out Bag tutorials online, some are meant to live in the wild, hunt for food, etc., but I tend to prep with more of a “most likely” scenario in mind. If I had to evacuate my home, I’d go to a hotel, family or friend’s homes, etc. I’m not going straight to the woods. That said, if I were trapped in traffic or in my car (as sometimes happens during disaster evacuation), I do have some more primitive camping items in the kit, just in case.
You could also purchase a pre-made kit, like this one, but I’m extremely confident that you can create your own kit that meets your needs for far less than $400 that will serve you BETTER than pre-made. You also very likely have a lot of the stuff you’ll need already and can source the rest inexpensively. Remember that cheap does not always mean low quality!
Because I have a car, I would also try to bring my other emergency preparedness kits, seen below.
First, I have a:
72-hour -to- 1-week Emergency Food Kit.
I have a whole blog post and video on this with free planner resources and lots of great advice for you. You can make one of these for around $30 or less and at the very least, know that your family has 72 hours worth of food in case of an issue.
This kit is in a 5 gallon bucket and could be used in house in a bug-in situation, or be moved to my car to take with us.
I also have:
An emergency cooking, cleaning and hygiene kit
These kits build on each other, and this one contains everything necessary to cook the food in the first kit (in the case of a power outage), and clean and sanitize yourself, your food and your environment (in the case of a water/ sewer outage.) It also has some tools and other items necessary to secure your home should it be damaged (in a storm, flood, etc.).
Learn how to make your own and what to include here.
BOTH of these articles have FREE spreadsheet planners to help you organize your preps, budget for them and keep track of what you have (you won’t remember!)
Why create a Bug Out Bag?
So now what if you have to leave your home? Say you had an hour to evacuate. How certain are you that you would be able to grab everything you might need for being away? In an emergency situation, there’s often no telling how soon you’ll be able to come back.
For instance, it took weeks to be allowed back down to my home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina hit. I was only 17 at the time and I only thought to grab some clothes, my computer and my dog before booking it up to relatives in North Mississippi. I got very lucky, but as an adult who has been through several types of emergencies and disasters now, I know I can do a lot better.
How to plan your bug out bags
I created bug out bags for each member of my home with our needs and strengths in mind. As always, your emergency kits need to be made for YOUR family’s needs. This is another reason I don’t recommend you buy pre-made kits.
For my family, we have Jacob, myself, and our two dogs. If we had kids, babies, etc. our kits would include items needed for them.
If you’d like to see emergency kit planning for a family with small children, check out my friend Lydia’s emergency preparedness kit here!
What kind of bag should you use?
You’ll need to choose a way to transport or hold your bug out supplies. Some people use a duffle bag, a rolling suitcase, a plastic tote or a backpack. There are pros and cons to each choice, including portability, bulk, etc. Consider your options and what will work for your family.
I had two old trusty Jansport backpacks (I’ve had the one on the left since elementary school and these things hold up forever!) These have lots of pockets and would be easy to carry on Jacob and I’s backs, leaving our hands free to wrangle our dogs and potentially carry our two bucket kits. so this worked for us and our situations.
What should go in your bug out bags?
The entire point of a bug out bag is to have the basic things you need should you have to bug out. So based on my experience, research and after consulting many other recommendation lists, here’s what I have in EVERY bug out bag. Don’t worry, we’ll be customizing them later in this article, this is just a starting point.
- A change of clothes (I packed leggings, a t-shirt, light sweatshirt, sports bra, and 2 sets of socks and underwear in a 1-gallon ziploc bag)
- A spare pair of shoes or flip flops (to use if your shoes get wet or damaged.)
- Hygiene kit (custom for each person, see full lists below)
- First Aid Kit (with extra basic medications, gloves and masks added)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Flashlight and batteries
- Bag of snacks (shelf stable meat sticks, granola bars, crackers, etc.)
- Mess kit and camping utensils
- Sterno tin
- Fire sticks
- Matches/ lighter
- Knife and utility knife
- Small hatchet/ crowbar/ hammer tool
- Tube Tent
- Work Gloves
- Reusable water bottle
- Sealed filled water bottles
- Inventory list of what’s in the bag (you will forget!)
Need help picking some high quality and budget friendly items? Check out my Amazon Emergency Preparedness list to get my curated picks. Most of these items are in my bags/ preps!
What ELSE should go in your bags?
I’ve further customized our bug out bags based on Jacob and I’s needs and skills. This lightens each of our individual loads, but as these are less essential items, we are both prepared with the basics above. We decided that Jacob would carry some additional tools and defense items and I would carry cooking and water purification items. I also have a better array of hygiene items versus his more simple kit.
Here’s what else is in our bags and some options you might want to include for your situation!
My bug out bag
I’m a big camper and love gear. So I have a lot of items in my bag that I already owned and might help in various situations that are less likely. It also makes sense for me to keep these items in the bag just in case.
As I have more camping and fire experience, I also have the cooking items in my bag. We do have a full set of cooking supplies in the “cooking, cleaning and hygiene kit” linked above, but in the case of only being able to grab the bug out bags, it would be nice to have ways to cook in an emergency in there too. (I also owned multiple camping cooking kits.)
Here’s the extra’s in my bag:
- Spare pair of glasses
- Water purifier straw
- Can opener
- Hand crank radio with phone charger
- Paracord bracelet with compass
- Hygiene kit
- menstrual cup/ tampons
- mini shampoo/ conditioner
- lip balm
- wet wipes
- hair bands
- Rory’s emergency items (more on that below)
Jacob’s bug out bag
Jacob’s bag has more tools and defense items than mine does. It also holds some items he already owned (like a machete, rofl). In case of an emergency he would be slightly more equip to repair, secure or deal with any sort of disaster wreckage.
Here’s the extra’s in Jacob’s bag:
- Giant knife in sheath (I don’t know why he owns this, except boy?)
- Screwdriver set
- Small organizer box of nails and screws
- Utility knife and blades
- Duct Tape
- Hygiene kit
- mini shampoo/ conditioner
- Maggie’s emergency items (see below!)
Item’s you might want in your BOBs
These are things we’ve considered adding to our bags but decided they were either unnecessary for our situation or weren’t worth the money or space right now. You may find them necessary for your bags. It all depends on what you’re preparing for. Customization is key!
- Ration bars
- Full tent
- Sleeping bag
- Air filtration mask
- Fishing kit
- Water bladder
- Waterproof jacket
- Cold weather gear
- Hand warmers
- Light sticks
- Extensive medical kit with surgical instruments, sling, burn gel, tourniquet, etc.
- Map or GPS system
- Mini shovel
- Pepper spray/ firearm
- Charger/ charging cords
- Copies of important documents (I have a different system for this)
- Comfort items/ games for children
- Other children’s supplies (diapers, wipes, formula, etc.)
- Specialized medication (make sure to rotate this out for safety!)
Pet Emergency Supplies
We cannot forget our furry friends in the case of an emergency! At one point I actually had a little dog backpack for Rory, but it didn’t hold much and I have no clue what happened to it.
Jacob and I have a plan for our animals in the case of an emergency and have spit up their supplies accordingly. In the front pocket of each of our backpacks is our designated animal’s supplies. I have Rory’s stuff. He has Maggie’s. If only one person is home when an emergency strikes, that person grabs both packs and both dogs, otherwise, I handle Ro and he get’s Mags.
Rory’s Emergency supplies
- Spare leash and harness (she does not normally wear a harness but this would allow me to keep a better hold on her in a disaster.)
- Fold up water/ food bowl
- Three sealed and shelf stable pouches of wet dog food
Maggie’s Emergency supplies
- Spare leash and harness
- Fold up water/ food bowl
- 1 can of hydrolyzed dog food (Maggie is on a special diet as regular dog food makes her sick.)
You may also want to keep a copy of their recent vaccination record or vaccination tag and ID tag with your contact info in case you’re separated.
If you have other pets, please make a plan for what you’ll do if you need to evacuate. Better to think about it now than in the midst of an emergency!
You may also decide to pack a kit specifically for your animals to keep with yours. Do whatever works for your situation and family.
See a tour of my bug out bags here!
Discuss your emergency plan with your immediate and extended family so everyone knows what to do if you cannot communicate. Kids especially should be told ahead of time and involved in the process of packing their bags and knowing what to do.
If you have water, food or medicine in your bug out bag, make sure to rotate those out at least annually to avoid being stuck with expired or stale consumables. I have an alert on my phone to rotate out the food in my 72 hour kit and bug out bags each year on my birthday (in January.) It makes it easier to tie it to a date.
To better help you plan, budget for and keep track of what is in your bug out bags, I have a free spreadsheet planner for you! It’s accessible anywhere, you can print it out or fill it out online and there is a basics list and area for you to plan custom BOB’s for up to four people or pets.
Do you have an emergency plan and supplies in place? What do you think I should add to my bug out bags/ preparedness kits? I’m always taking suggestions!