More than Just a Bug Out Bag

I’ve read so many articles and reports about bug out bags in the last couple of years that I’m about halfway convinced that the vast majority of the prepping community is planning on bugging out, but they are only planning on bugging out for three days. It seems to me that there’s something missing from our current bug out philosophy. We need more than three days worth of food, if we’re ever forced to bug out.

One of the problems with the whole idea of more is transportation. Everyone is expecting to bug out in some sort of a vehicle, but we also recognize that there’s a strong possibility that we’re going to have to abandon that vehicle at some point in time. If the roads turn into parking lots, bugging out in a vehicle just won’t work.

That brings us back to the idea of the bug out bag and only having enough to last us a few days. I’m not sure who first came up with the idea that a bug out bag should contain three days worth of food, but I don’t like it. If that’s all you’re going to carry, you’re going to get hungry fast.

What More Can You Want?

I’m going to start out with the assumption that a bug out is going to last for three days. In fact, I would expect that any bug out for more than avoiding an incoming hurricane is probably going to last for at least a few months. Therefore, you need more than three days worth of food… as well as a whole lot more. Basically, we’ve got to think in terms of a long-term survival situation. With that being the case, I’d add:

  • More food – The more food you can take, the better. Make sure it’s food that will pack well, is lightweight, high in energy and won’t spoil.
  • More water – No matter what you do, you can’t carry enough water.
  • Clothing – Most people’s bug out bags have little to no clothing. A couple of changes of good, sturdy clothing will make your life more comfortable.
  • Tools – I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to try building a long-term shelter using nothing more than a wire saw and a hatchet. I’d include a bow saw, a real axe and a shovel.
  • Spare ammo – If you’re going to end up hunting for food, you’ll need it.
  • More paracord – Great for building that shelter.
  • Sleeping bags – Most bug out bags don’t include a sleeping bag. Adding them can help you sleep easier, especially when it gets cold.
  • A good first-aid kit – What most people carry in their bug out bag won’t take care of anything larger than a skinned knee.

You obviously won’t be able to carry all this in a backpack. If you can take your car or truck all the way to your bug out destination, that won’t be a problem, but if not…

Bug Out Bags For Everyone

Don’t depend on just one bug out bag for your family. Some families do this, but it severely limits what they can take with them. Better to have everyone take a light pack, carrying their own clothes, some basic survival equipment and some of the family’s food. If you have lightweight backpacking sleeping bags, then everyone can carry their own bag as well.

You don’t need to duplicate all the family’s survival equipment in each person’s bug out bag, but they should at least be able to start a fire, rig a temporary shelter and purify some water for themselves. That way, if they get separated, they’ll be able to survive until the family gets back together again.

This also gives you the ability to take more food with you, than if you were just carrying one bug out bag for the family. Even a few extra days worth of food can make a difference when you’re in the wild.

Build Some Extra Carrying Capacity

Here’s where we’ve got to get a little creative. We’re still operating under the assumption that you’re going to have to abandon your vehicle at some time, but there’s no way you can carry everything I mentioned above, especially the tools and water, if you’re limited to carrying it in backpacks. You need something that you can take along with you, which you can load with that extra gear.


There are a lot of ways you can go about this, using just about anything with wheels on it. Of course, the wheels it has will limit the terrain you can walk on, so you need to keep that in mind. But assuming you’re going to have fairly good terrain, you could use a wheelbarrow, a child’s wagon, a stroller or a bicycle trailer as a means of carrying additional weight.

A number of years ago, my dad built a metal mule, which he would use for packing game out of the high country when he went hunting. To me, this is the ideal caddy for use on a bug out. It can be handled easily by two people, even with a couple of hundred pounds of animal or gear on it. Having only one wheel, it is easy to use on trails in rough country, and it’s not that hard to make.

Essentially, the metal mule is a stretcher, mounted over a single bicycle wheel. The diagram doesn’t show it, but there is a caliper brake on the wheel, which is controlled by the person holding the handles on the back. That helps keep it from getting away from you, when going downhill.

A couple of hundred pounds of gear and supplies can be piled on the mule and easily handled by two people. The weight is carried by the wheel, so all the people need to do is guide it and pull it forward. There might be an occasional time when they need to lift it, in order to get it over a rock or tree branch in the trail.

Developing a Layered Approach

With some sort of a caddy, like the metal mule, it’s easy to develop a three-layered strategy for your bug out equipment and supplies. Each layer adds additional supplies. Prolonging the amount of time that your family can survive, without having to depend on living off the land.

Layer 1

Layer 1 consists of your basic bug out bags, one per family member, with all that is normally carried on a bug out.

Layer 2

Layer 2 adds the tools, sleeping bags (if they are not in the bug out bags), additional food and additional water. This is packed in duffle bags, making it easy to grab and strap onto the mule with bungie cords. This layer is limited to about 200 pounds.

Layer 3

Layer 3 adds even more food and water, as well as extra clothing, the first-aid kit and anything else you might decide to carry along. These are the things you keep in your vehicle, which will have to be abandoned if you leave your vehicle.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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