Type in Bugout Bag into a search engine and what do you find? Probably list after list of the key essentials needed when assembling one for an unexpected emergency, and this isn’t a problem. In fact, having a list to guide an inexperienced survival practitioner is both logical and needed in most cases.
However, what is seldom found among the plethora of bugout bag lists of essentials are the non-essentials that shouldn’t be overlooked. These items, sometimes criticized by the “experts” as taking up extra space or weight can be life savers when it comes to mental and emotional stability during a crisis.
So, ditch the idea that only the survival essentials matter, because after you read this list, you’ll understand that the essentials for individuals can be quite different and can aid in ways you probably never even imagined.
Bugging out may cause isolation from your family. Whether you were separated during a natural disaster, or just on opposite sides of the city when the unexpected happened, having photos of your spouse, siblings, parents or any loved one can offer that adrenaline shot to your arm when your drive and morale sink due to seemingly overwhelming odds. Photos take up extremely little space in your bag but can mean so much during down time as you recharge with their images fresh in your mind.
Yes, any food is welcome during a bug out situation and your bag should have shelf stable, non-thirst inducing, long-life foods. Yes, that’s true. But be sure to also save some space in your pack for your favorite comfort snacks and goodies. They may provide you with a sugar crash, empty calories, or little in the way of generating vital energy during your travels, but a childhood favorite or an adult guilty pleasure can bring a smile to your face during downtime. Rations and dehydrated foods are not the tastiest. Add one of your own treats to perk up your spirits.
Hunkered down before and after a natural disaster means a lot of downtime. Power could be out for days, roads closed, and literally nothing to do. Save yourself from extreme boredom with some items to pass the time. These could include a paperback book (even I say skip the hardcovers), a deck of cards, a notebook for drawing or writing, or a few miniature-sized board games. For adults, it passes the time well, for those with small children or teens, it’s an absolute must to keep peace and sanity throughout the family.
No matter your religion, there is something that you can carry with you that represents it. Whether it be a bible, scroll, artifact, or just a single verse jotted down on a piece of paper, religious items can give you focus when all is seemingly lost. This intangible lifeline can do wonders for morale, help you find the courage in dangerous situations, and give you a starting and ending point to your day. Not religious? Then find your own power in the universe and create a tangible item that symbolizes your own personal beliefs.
Let’s be real, survival foods are not known for their award-winning taste. They accomplish what they need to do and that’s to keep you alive. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t spice them up a bit. Taking up little space and weight, you can create a mini spice kit containing salt, pepper, and any number of herbs and spices you desire. From cayenne pepper for a kick, to meat blends for freshly killed proteins, to cinnamon and sweet toppings for breads and crackers, most spices can fit in small, zip-locking bags and make a dramatic difference at dinner time.
An emergency situation is no time to be wasted, trashed or out of it, but a little sip of booze or a puff or two on a cigarette here and there may be what you need to relax and face your terrible situation head-on. A small pint of liquor, some cigarettes, a cigar or two, or even more unconventional vices like an extreme energy drink or sugar-filled candy can fill your need and allow you to function without withdrawal or distracting cravings. However, keep your vice-use for necessity only and don’t overindulge.
No, I’m not talking about a firearm, knife, or stun gun, but rather a favorite stuffed animal, decades-old blanket, torn t-shirt, or any other odd item that acts as a security device for mental and emotional well-being. This item, that you can wear, hold, or curl up with at night can offer a link to your “normal” life and allow you to have a better night’s sleep or a feeling that you’re not alone even if you are. Never dismiss carrying a security item as childish or foolish, and never be embarrassed because your tough-guy neighbor may be hugging his own tattered Teddy Bear as he sleeps.
Everyone is different with their own personalities, wants and needs. As such, no list like this one is ever complete. Don’t be afraid to add to your bugout bag whatever makes you smile, gives you an energy burst, or allows you to trek on in the face of severe adversity. Your item or items may have deep meaning that only you understand and that’s okay, you don’t have to explain anything to anyone about your choices. The bottom line is that carrying only the essentials is incredibly misleading. Yes, tangible survival necessities are good and needed, but those non-essentials that others may scoff at for being space-wasters, provide much more importance than those around you will ever know.
While it’s true that having more supplies and gear during an emergency situation is a good thing, packing them all in your bugout bag is not. Excessive weight in your bag can have negative effects for you during your journey. A heavy bag can slow you down, which is catastrophic when minutes count for you to get out of a dangerous location. Fatigue is also a factor. A heavy bag means more rest stops, and basically slows you down once again. Additionally, back, neck and leg stress and injuries can occur when constantly wearing an overloaded backpack.
The best, well-balanced solution, is to look for multi-functional items to help eliminate excessive tools and gear, discard heavy items for lighter plastic or titanium versions, and be selective when choosing food and water provisions (no tin cans, bulky bottled water, or unnecessary cutlery or dishware.) By reexamining your load, you’ll find the proper balance between necessities and the perfect pack weight for optimal carrying.