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Bugging Out: Preparing With the Right Gear

Let's face it, disaster could strike at any time, and without warning. You could find yourself stranded and need to get home, or your conditions at home could no longer be safe, requiring you to leave with little time to prepare. Because you may not get much warning before you may be forced to bug out, you will need to prepare ahead of time to be ready. When it is time to bug out, it will be too late to start your preparations and gathering supplies. By having your gear ready beforehand, you will be able to bug out at a moment’s notice. While everyone's needs will be different, and thus their bug out bags will be different, below are some guidelines on what, and how much gear you will need to prepare. These are not hard and fast rules, but guidelines to think about your personal situation and needs.

Level Zero

A level zero bug out kit, as the name implies, is not really a bug out kit, but items you should have on you every day in a non-emergency. This does not mean you are unprepared, though. A level zero kit, or Every Day Carry (EDC) would consist, at minimum, of a wallet, cell phone, and any self defense items. Think of you EDC kit as your "Get Home" kit. What would you need in an emergency to get home? Your wallet should include cash, credit, identification, health insurance cards, and emergency points of contact (POC)s. You should have enough cash to get food, water, pay for a ride home, or cover any other minor emergencies. Others may be able to assist you in case of medical emergency if they find IDs, health insurance cards, and emergency POCs in your possession. You should always carry a cell phone or some other form of communication with you. You should be able to call for help in an emergency, or to let loved ones know if you are safe. Keep in mind In an emergency that even if cell phone service becomes overwhelmed by thousands of people calling from a stadium, for instance, text messages may still get through, as they transmit at a different frequency. Likewise, you may have the option of using wifi service to communicate out with a smart phone. You should consider always having a weapon with you as part of your EDC. This could be a concealed carry pistol, pepper spray, or improvised weapon you can pick up last minute. Please carefully follow local laws in your area, as laws can be especially punitive against gun owners. If you have special medical conditions such as asthma or allergies, you should always keep emergency medications on you as part of your EDC. You should also consider carrying a bottle of water, sunscreen, a small flashlight, whistle, or a multi-tool. What you carry with you in your EDC depends on what emergencies you expect you might face on a normal day.

While not part of prepping for bugging out, you will need to carefully consider your EDC items, and make sure you have them with you at all times. Carrying a bug out bag with you at all times may not be realistic, but having these basic items with you can get you out of trouble if your day does not go as planned. You could be stranded with a broken-down vehicle, could be caught up in civil unrest, or be the victim of crime. These EDC items could help you get out of these unexpected bumps in the road, and get you home safely.

Level One

A level one bug out kit is a basic level preparedness kit for an emergency. A level one kit consists of basic survival gear that could help you survive a situation where you become lost or stranded overnight. A Level one kit could fit in a small pouch, a fanny pack, a purse, or a small backpack. You should carry a level one kit any time you go hiking, or traveling outside of your normal pattern. As with everything else, what you put into your level one kit will depend on what emergencies you anticipate you might face, your environment, and your skill level with each item. A level one kit will help you survive a possible overnight emergency. With that in mind, water, fire, and light will be your priorities. You should have at least two of anything critical for survival. Below is an example of a level one kit:

This level one kit has the following items:

LED light on zipper tab

2 chem light tubes

Miniature chem light

Reflective panel

Signaling mirror

Space blanket


Matches in waterproof container

Magnesium block with attached ferro rod

Water filter straw

Water purification tabs

Condoms (for emergency water storage, or to keep small items dry)

Electrolyte packet

Folding knife

Miniature multi-tool


Signaling whistle

This level one kit has redundant items for light , fire, emergency signaling, and water purification. To reduce size and weight, this kit contains small items, and does not include items other than those needed for immediate survival needs. This kit should be near you, or preferably attached to your body if you need to suddenly bug out. Think about what items you will need to include in your level one kit, and where you will keep it. These items should be able to fit in a small pouch, as above, or a purse, satchel, or small bag. The bigger and bulkier the kit is, the less likely you are to carry it with you. You should also practice beforehand with every item in your kit to make sure you know how to use it, and ensure that it works.

Here is more of a tactical level one bag. This bag will help get you home or to a safe location if SHTF. This setup is geared for an urban scenario with a high threat of violence, such as civil unrest, a protest, or a terrorist attack. This bag is not intended to sustain you for long, but will provide gear needed to get you to safety. This tactical level one kit includes the following items:

Protective mask with filter

High-calorie snacks

Chem lights


Electrolyte packets

Folding knife

Supplemental IFAK (individual first aid kit) items


Short-barreled rifle or pistol with ammo

Level Two

A level two kit, often also referred to as a go bag, should contain supplies to sustain you for about two or three days in an emergency. You should have your go bag packed and ready to grab at a moment’s notice. You should keep the go bag near the door, or in the trunk of your vehicle so you can leave immediately. When preparing your go bag, consider what conditions you may have to prepare for, and adjust the contents accordingly. Will you be in a hostile area? What will the weather forecast be for the next few days? Below are three different go bag options. When you pack your go bag, think about what supplies you will need, and pack you bag to your specific needs.

This go bag will be best suited for a hostile environment where you may need to hold out for longer than the tactical level one kit will support you. This bag contains:

AR-15 rifle

Four loaded magazines


Strobe light

Water bottle

High calorie food items

Medical kit, tourniquet and extra pressure bandage

Eye and ear protection

Emergency bivy sack



Handheld GPS

This go bag factors a more rural environment than the first one. This bag includes items you may need to survive a couple of nights in a rural area in colder temperatures. It includes the following:


Miniature lamp

Inflatable lantern

Strobe light

Hydration pack in bag

Water filter straw

Various packs of food

Toilet paper

Sleeping bag

Hand warmers

Med kit with SAM splint

Survival knife with ferro rod

Fuel tabs

Extra wool socks and long underwear packed in plastic bags

Folding saw



Handheld GPS

Toilet paper

Para cord

Plastic bag


Here is an example of a vehicle go bag. This kit will remain in the trunk of a vehicle, and be available if you are stranded on the side of the road somewhere. Because this kit will remain in the vehicle, it includes a separate vehicle kit as well. This kit includes:

Heated blanket that can be plugged into a 12 volt outlet

Two gallons of water

MRE (meal ready to eat) and food pouches

Med kit

Hand warmers

Survival knife


Duct Tape

Hand-held chain saw

VS Panel for signaling


Spare cash in various denominations

Spare cell phone. (Does not need a service plan, can still call emergency services)


Battery jumper with jumper cables

Emergency signaling triangles

Air compressor


Emergency poncho

Small first aid kit

Zip ties

Bungee cord

Latex gloves

Utility knife

Screwdriver (Phillips and flat head)

Tire gauge


Duct Tape

Electrical Tape

Level Three

While a level two kit serves as an emergency go bag to grab with little or no preparation, a level three bug out kit will be larger and will need to sustain you for a longer period of time. Think of packing a level three kit as planning for a long camping trip. You will lose some mobility and add weight as compared to a level two kit, but you will sustain yourself longer. While a level three kit generally includes provisions for only one person, you can split up some pieces of equipment, if you travel in a group. For example, one person can pack a tent, while someone else packs cooking supplies, while someone else packs a larger medical kit, and so on. Level three kits can also include duplicate items from your level one and two kits, such as additional chem lights or fire starters. When packing a level three kit, keep in mind weather and climate, how long you expect to travel, what type of terrain you will cross, and any other considerations specific for your bug out plan. Weight of your pack will be very important, as the heavier your pack, the less ground you will be able to cover. Practice ahead of time with your pack so you know how difficult it will be to carry, and make any adjustments as needed. Below are two examples of level three kits:

This level three kit will help you survive in a rural environment for an extended period of time, provided you can gather additional food and water. It includes:

Two person tent

Sleeping bag

Thermarest pad



Camp stove and fuel

Camping pot

Hand-pump water filter

Hand warmers

Thermal underwear and wool socks packed in plastic bags

Space blanket

Folding saw

Rain Jacket and rain pants

Hygiene kit

Folding shovel

Some supplies that could go in a vehicle level three kit include the following. Please note, the kit above would also include items from a level two vehicle kit, or additional items, as needed:

Camping stove/grill with propane tanks

Camping pots

Large sleeping bag

Additional water

Additional food

Additional lothing, bedding, etc,

Rifle and ammunition

Crutches/folding litter/larger medical kit

Individual items for all members of your group

Level Four

A level four bug out kit would include everything from levels one through three, but would factor additional items for indefinite sustainability. A level four kit would be too large to carry, so you will need to pack it into your bug out vehicle. You would pack a level four kit when you intend to bug out with multiple people for an indefinite period of time. What you will need for long term sustainability will vary based on your circumstances, but could include some or all of the following supplies:

Litter or gurney

Towing straps



Solar panels,

Wind turbines, or water turbines

Fishing nets

Chain saw,

Shovel, ax, or other tools

Bicycle, motorcycle, kayak, or other alternate means of transportation

Extra fuel storage Large tarps

Mosquito netting

Supplies for trading or for creating value

Customizing your kit

As you can see from the examples above, there is no one-size-fits-all bug out kit. Each of the kits above have their own advantages and disadvantages, and none will be ideal for every situation. Think about your individual needs, and what gear you will need to address those needs. If you will need to bug out with babies, with disabled members in your group, or pets, you will need to factor their specific needs. If bugging out with children, remember to take a small toy or comfort item (this applies to adults as well). Make a list of things you will need in your bug out kit, and check the list at least twice a year. Test your bug out kit. Practice bugging out with your family, so that they all understand the bug out plan. These practice runs will help you adjust your kit as needed. You may find you get too cold at night in the winter, so you add a wool hat. You may find your kit is too heavy to carry, so you reduce unnecessary items. You may find all your gear gets wet, so you replace your bag with a waterproof bag and line the inside with plastic bags. Practicing with your bug out kit will also help you gain proficiency with all of your gear, which is worthless if you don't know how to use it. By preparing for a potential bug out scenario, and having the gear you will need available, you will be prepared, and not have to fear becoming stranded or becoming a refugee. You will then be well prepared to help others.

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