It’s September and there should only be one question on your mind: Am I ready for a disaster?
You should ask yourself that because this month is National Preparedness Month, a campaign sponsored by FEMA that encourages Americans to prepare for emergencies.
While you may think it’s silly to prepare for something that will probably never happen like a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion, some disasters are more common than you might think.
Natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes are no joke. I recently moved to Los Angeles and there’s a complacency that nothing is going to happen, but if that big earthquake does happens, countless people will not have access to resources or basic necessities. Even right now, flooding in Colorado has left more than a 1,000 people missing with many likely stranded.
Now that I have your attention, it’s time to start preparing. One of the most basic things you can do to prepare is create a bug-out bag. A bug-out bag is a lightweight survival kit designed to help you survive up to 72 hours in the event of an evacuation.
These are also useful for disasters that require you to stay indoors, such as a blackout or hurricane, because the contents will help you in nearly any situation. The key, however, is to be as light and compact as possible to make carrying the bug-out bag feasible.
Also, please be aware that while this is a good general guide, there are a ton of great sites out there that cover every single aspect of preparing for when SHTF (“stuff” hits the fan). I may leave out a few good tips or items, but this shouldn’t be your only guide when preparing for an emergency. Use this as a stepping stone for other research and resources.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the 10 essential pieces of gear you should have in your bug-out bag in the event of a disaster.
First and foremost is water. Food usually gets top bill on these lists, but water is far more essential because you can’t survive very long without it. It’s good to have a gallon of water for each person every day. Since that can be a hefty load, many prefer to carry a full water bottle along with a water purification system in case you run out and need to refill on the fly.
The next important thing is food. It may be your inclination to put some of your favorite foods in the bug-out bag, but it’s important to remember that only non-perishable foods should go in the bag. Switch out the food every now and then to prevent it from going bad. Some great food items to pack in your bag include dehydrated food and freeze dried foods. You can find some of these foods for sale at Perfectly Prepared.
3. First Aid Kit
If you find yourself using the bug-out bag, danger is usually nearby. Since injury can mean certain death in many survival situations, a first aid kit is essential. Don’t tie yourself down with those massive, all-encompassing kits, however. Something with the essentials like bandages, sutures, anti-inflammatory pills and a few other things will suffice.
You’ll obviously have the clothes off your back when you bug out, but you should also pack enough clothing to last about three days. When picking the clothes, use common sense based on your region. If you live in scorching climates, you won’t need to pack snow jackets, but also be aware that if it does get cold, you should have clothing that’s pretty versatile.
That’s right a tarp. When you grab your bug-out bag and head out into the world, you’ll often need a shelter. Survival expert Leon Pantenburg gave me some convincing arguments why an 8×10 tarp is one of the best survival tools you can have. Check out his post on how to make a tarp shelter.
Rope or paracord goes hand-in-hand with the tarp. You need rope in order to make a shelter for yourself with the tarp, but there are also a ton of other uses for it. Here’s a good article that lays out 15 things you can do with a rope.
You probably knew this one was coming (we are a knife site, you know), but knives are actually extremely useful in these situations. We’d actually recommend taking three knives if you have the room. One should be a larger fixed blade survival knife to do heavy duty tasks like cutting wood. A second should be a small folder for everyday tasks. The third should be a multi-tool like the Swiss Army knife. This final knife keeps you from having to carry a bunch of heavy tools with you.
8. Survival Kit
This may be cheating a little, but many companies make survival kits that include a number of important items. You can actually use this in addition to or in lieu of the first aid kit because they often come with medical supplies. The important parts of the kit are waterproof matches, fishing lines, a fire starter, a compass and glow sticks. You can find a range of these survival kits to meet your specific needs and wants.
9. Emergency Radio
If you’ve evacuated your home and made it out to the wilderness, you shouldn’t completely disconnect from the world. Knowledge and communication are vital in emergency situations. A hand-cranked or battery-operated radio will help give you the latest news, weather forecasts and evacuation updates. If there’s a blackout and you can’t watch TV anymore, this could also be good for entertainment purposes. Your mental health is equally important.
Finally, nothing’s more important than some cash. If there’s a blackout or other disaster, ATMs and banks may no longer work, but you still might need some currency to buy things from stores or people.