That ragged guy on the street corner howling about the end of the world might be onto something. Think about it for a moment. Every morning it seems we read news of some horrifying, unprecedented event. People are scared, and they have good reason to be: according to a recent UN report, in 2015, 98.6 million people were directly affected by natural disasters, and with ongoing climate change, the disasters are expected to become bigger and more frequent. Governments are struggling to handle millions of political refugees. And then there’s North Korea. What will happen tomorrow?
No one can say for sure. But whenever and wherever the shit hits the fan, you should be prepared, and one of the best ways to do this is to assemble a bug-out bag. Typically, a bug-out bag (a.k.a. “survival bag” or “GO bag”) is defined as a backpack or duffel loaded with one to five days’ worth of survival essentials — food, water, clothing, shelter, miscellaneous tools and, if necessary, a weapon for self-defense — stashed away in a safe place and grab-able at a moment’s notice. Having one means you won’t be scrambling at the last minute to throw together a few things you think you might need, whenever a disaster occurs — and who knows what disaster it could be. Jason Charles, head organizer of the NYC Preppers Network, a group that teaches city-dwellers how to best prepare for unexpected disasters, says survival bags aren’t only for citywide emergencies like earthquakes, floods or nuclear attacks: “They can also be for smaller emergencies like home fires, evacuations or broken-down vehicles.”
Disaster preppers like Charles aren’t always the kooky bunch of paranoid weirdos that reality TV makes them out to be. They simply want to be ready for the event that everyone hopes will never happen; indeed, the event that many people, to their potentially fatal disadvantage, believe never will. Charles, himself a survival bag expert, taught us how to best assemble a great survival bag. Here’s the one we came up with — let’s hope you never have to reach for it.
You know how seemingly every doomsday blockbuster has a token ex-Spec Ops badass who’s always heroically rescuing people? This is the pack he’d wear. Made in the USA and backed by a lifetime warranty, it’s built to stay strong in the harshest, most dangerous environments and holds several days’ worth of gear.
Fast Pack EDC by Triple Aught Design $340+
Food and Water
Can’t Live Without ‘Em
MRE 6-Pack by Meal Kit Supply $45
Guardian Purifier System by MSR $350
Dromedary Bag (4L) by MSR $40+
Micropur Purification Tablets (30-Pack) by Katadyn $11
Habenero Cherry Walnut Beef Bar (12-Pack) by EPIC Bar $25
Trek 900 Titanium Cookset by Snow Peak $53
Lite Stove by Solo Stove $70
Wide Mouth Water Bottle (40-ounce) by Klean Kanteen $29
Clothing and Shelter
Warm, Water-Resistant and Rugged
This is not a style contest. In a disaster scenario, the only things that matter about your clothing is that it keeps you warm and dry, and that it doesn’t fall apart. You won’t have time to make repairs. As for shelter, hammocks are easy to set up, quick to take down and pack small enough to leave room in your bag for everything else.
Blacksheep Boxer Brief by SAXX $32+
Maverick Tee by Duckworth $80
Scout Jura Half-Zip Fleece by Ibex $88
Ultra-Light Poncho by Frogg Toggs $11
Echo II Catenary Cut Tarp by Hyperlite Mountain Gear $325
When the Power Grid Fails
You have food, water, clothing and shelter, which is great — but none of that matters if you don’t have a way out. Making it to safety is all about communication. One way to do this is to spell out a massive “SOS” using rocks and fallen tree branches. The other, easier way is to call for rescue by simply pressing a button.
Minimus Headlamp by SureFire $168
Scorpion II Portable Radio by Eton $45
Mesh (2-Pack) by goTenna $179
Venture 30 Recharger by Goal Zero $100
MacGyver Your Way to Safety
Ultralight/Watertight Medical Kit by Adventure Medical Kits $8+
Fixed Contego by Benchmade $179
Alpha 3-Piece Set by Sea to Summit $20
Stormproof Match Kit by UCO $16
MC-2 Compass by Suunto $44
All-Weather Black Metal Clicker Pen by Rite In The Rain $15
All-Weather Top-Spiral Notebook by Rite In The Rain $12
Wilderness Wash by Sea to Summit $3+
Rebar Multi-Tool by Leatherman $60
Personal Towel by PackTowl $10+
Accessory Cord by Sterling Rope $50
The Finer Things
One Final Indulgence
Because you might as well enjoy your final moments — whether that’s with Whisky, Bourbon, Tequila or beer.
Birthday Bourbon by Old Forester Learn More
Powerband Cigar (5-Pack) by Camacho $52+
Titanium Curved Flask by Snow Peak $150
Already Complete Bags
Sometimes it’s easier to just buy
If you just want to pick up a bag that has all this (and more!) prepared for you, that’s fine by us. Here are a few suggestions for a ready to buy and go bag.
Mountain Series Weekender First Aid Kit by Adventure Medical Buy Now: $50
Seventy2 Survival System by Uncharted Supply Co. $350
Family Prep Emergency Survival 72 Hour Kit by Emergency Zone $140
Multi-Function Ultimate Survival Tool Kit by S.O.L. $26
Looking to take on a multi-day backpacking adventure? Picking the right pack is crucial. These are the best packs available in every size. Read the Story