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Archer searches for his bug out bag.

7 Things They Don’t Want You to Know About Bug Out Bags

It Began With a Lewd Cartoon …

Archer searches for his bug out bag.
“My bug out bag. It was right here.”

Call me late to the party, but I first heard of Bug Out Bags a couple of years ago on the TV show Archer. (Sterling Archer’s bag is “full of fake passports and mustaches … And two hundred grand in cash!”) Archer is probably definitely not the greatest role model, but I could definitely see the appeal of having a pre-packed contingency plan. So I did a little Googling for information about Bug Out Bags.

And that was kind of the problem: There was TOO much info out there about Bug Out Bags. A lot of it was on forums dedicated to survivalism, military-style planning, and outdoors skills. Frankly, many of the dudes seemed like nutjobs. Everyone wanted to sell me their eBook. Everyone claimed to have the definitive list of stuff to pack, and much of the equipment was specialized and expensive. It was hard to know who to listen to, or where to begin. I sifted and sifted, and here’s what I learned after those long hours of reading and research:

They may have overprepared a little.
They may have overprepared a little.
  1. You don’t have to be a lunatic prepper to make a Bug Out Bag.

    • In fact, a Bug Out Bag is a super-pragmatic thing to have. Have you ever relied on a first aid kit, spare tire, or storm candles in the closet? Same principle, just different tools. Look, nobody who’s ever had to change a flat tire on the side of the highway has ever said to themselves, “Wow, I’m so proud I kept my spare tire in good condition. What a relief that I prepared for this.” The thought process is usually more like: “Oh god, I’m running late. Is this lug nut rusted onto the bolt? I hope the tar washes out of my jeans.” But here’s the real power of preparedness: Because of those tools, and because of that forethought, you were able to take control of a crappy situation — which, of course, is a great way to push aside feelings of fear, anxiety, and powerlessness. That’s not crazy — that’s smart.

      Yeah, uh, this is NOT what we're aiming for.
      Yeah, uh, this is NOT what we’re aiming for.
  2. They’re not for the apocalypse. They’re for real problems.

    • It’s in vogue to talk about how we’re going to prepare for the apocalypse. There are probably too many TV shows, movies, and video games about the end of the world. But Bug Out Bags generally have much more practical applications. (You may have seen the acronym “SHTF” describing these situations. It’s short for “shit hits the fan.” Ha!) Consider the difficulties the government and aid organizations had responding to Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Or think of all the people displaced by the one-two punch of Japan’s tsunami and the Fukushima reactor disaster. There are plenty of unexpected, real-life circumstances where a Bug Out Bag might come in handy, such as:
      • Political unrest
      • Power, communications, and transportation outages
      • Wildfires, earthquakes, flash flooding
      • Terrorist bombings
  3. Bug Out Bags aren’t supposed to be your everlasting source of survival tricks.

    • A Bug Out Bag isn’t supposed to be a pop-up log cabin that allows you to breed a herd of goats. While there’s debate about exactly what gear to pack, most folks agree that a Bug Out Bag should be able to support you and your loved ones for 3 days. Why 3 days? Because 72 hours is the maximum time span most government organizations and relief groups need to deploy a response effort to a remote or challenging location. The Bag is intended to get you through the three days where you only have yourself to rely upon. Then it’s time to reassess.
  4. They’re not going to make it a smooth ride.

    • They’re just gonna make a horrible situation less horrible. Let’s face it: if you’re in any of the scenarios described above, you’ll probably be some combination of cold, hungry, frantic, and confused. A Bug Out Bag isn’t supposed to be full of comfort blankets and chocolate. It’s supposed to cover the essential, difficult-to-obtain items you won’t be able to scrounge up during the 72 hour response period. You’re still gonna have to work your tail off.
  5. They’re not going to make you independent.

    • We’ll always need the trust, support, and resources of other people to get through tough times. If there’s a disaster that requires a lengthy or complicated response, you’ll have to rely on your community, government, and charity organizations. For the average person, a Bug Out Bag should aim to get you in touch with the people who will help. If developing your Bug Out Bag gets you stoked about survivalism, and you decide become more self-sufficient, then by all means, buy a cabin in the woods and begin stocking it with rations, water, and fishing supplies. But don’t put the cart before the horse. As a beginner, your Bug Out Bag’s first aim should be to get you reconnected with society, not to escape it.
  6. They’re not necessarily expensive to assemble

    • Many writers and webstores will recommend expensive, high-end equipment, but that’s not where you have to begin. I started my Bug Out Bag at a time when I was underemployed and financially struggling. My starting point was a beat-up old backpack that happened to come with a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty. I kicked in the warranty, traded up for a day pack with a waist strap and comfortable shoulder pads, and started filling it with handy items from about the house. Soon, I’d assembled a decent collection of firestarting material, water containers, medications, rope, and batteries. Today my bag is almost completely filled with useful gear! You can always use resources like Freecycle, Craigslist, and local Facebook trade/tag sale groups to seek items for your kit at low or no cost. We also sell a massive selection of affordable gear. I specifically recommend Ultimate Survival Technologies products for their balance between utility and affordability. I’ll link to some of my favorites at the end of this post.
  7. You don’t need to read a bazillion blogs, eBooks, and survival guides to get started.

    • Me, I like to over-research. I read tons of reviews before I buy anything. I check out what critics say about movies before I watch them. And the survivalism rabbit hole goes deep, so it’s easy to spend way more time reading than doing. But there’s stuff in your home now that you can begin assembling. Don’t be ashamed to start humble! A spare lighter and a poncho in a plastic shopping bag is all it takes to get the ball rolling. Start tonight! It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Some of my favorite products for a beginner’s Bug Out Bag are:




  • NNitecore Tube Rechargeable LED Keylightitecore Tube Rechargeable LED Keylight: Our top-selling keylight, the Tube has a wacky name, but it’s super-bright, tiny, USB rechargeable, and lets you select the exact brightness you need.


  • UST 10L Roll-Up Water CarrierUST 10L Roll-Up Water Carrier: Collapses down to nothing, but holds a whopping amount of water. Securing a supply of clean drinking water is universally considered a top priority.





No time (or interest) to assemble your own kit, but still want to have a few tricks up your sleeve? We sell a pre-assembled, off-the-shelf Bug Out Bag, the UST Be Ready Kit. It has enough supplies to last 3 people 3 days.UST Be Ready Kit

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Dan is a Marketing Associate at Battery Junction. He loves underground music, video games, craft beer, and gizmos. He lives in Connecticut with his partner Ari and their ringneck dove, Juniper.

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