A bug-out bag is a portable kit that normally contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster, however some kits are designed to last longer periods. The focus is on evacuation, rather than long-term survival, distinguishing the bug-out bag from a survival kit, a boating or aviation emergency kit, or a fixed-site disaster supplies kit. The kits are also popular in the survivalism and prepper subcultures.
The term "bug-out bag" is related to, and possibly derived from, the "bail-out bag" emergency kit many military aviators carry. In the United States, the term refers to the Korean War practice of the U.S. Army designating alternative defensive positions, in the event that the units had to displace. They were directed to "bug out" when being overrun was imminent. The concept passed into wide usage among other military and law enforcement personnel, though the "bail-out bag" is as likely to include emergency gear for going into an emergency situation as for escaping an emergency. Other names for such a bag are a BOB, 72-hour kit, a grab bag, battle box, personal emergency relocation kit (PERK), go bag, GOOD bag (get out of Dodge), INCH bag (I'm never coming home). or quick run bag (QRB).
The term go-kit is popular in the amateur radio service, especially in the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) communities and is used to describe a combination personal bug-out-bag and portable amateur radio station. A personal go-kit generally takes some combination of units - a "one-day" (or "24 hour") kit, a "three day" (or "72 hour") kit that adds additional supplies, or a "one week kit" that adds yet additional personal items to the three-day kit. Any or all supports deploying the operator plus his or her privately owned self-contained radio communications setup.
The primary purpose of a bug-out bag is to allow one to evacuate quickly if a disaster should strike. It is therefore prudent to gather all of the materials and supplies that might be required to do this into a single place, such as a bag or a few storage containers. The recommendation that a bug-out bag contain enough supplies for seventy-two hours arises from advice from organizations responsible for disaster relief and management that it may take them up to seventy-two hours to reach people affected by a disaster and offer help. The bag's contents may vary according to the region of the user, as someone evacuating from the path of a hurricane may have different supplies from someone who lives in an area prone to blizzards, tornadoes or wildfires.
In addition to allowing one to survive a disaster evacuation, a bug-out bag may also be used when sheltering in place as a response to emergencies such as house fires, blackouts, tornadoes, and other severe natural disasters.
Some survivalists also recommend keeping a 'get me home' kit in the car and/or at work. This is a kit to enable a person to get back home from work in an emergency where all transport cars and public transport have broken down. It is designed around personal circumstances where, for example, a walk of 25 kilometres might be required from work to home. The 'get me home' kit can include, for example, enough water to get home, suitable walking shoes, a map (not electronic), enough food for 12 hours, clothing for adverse weather, etc.
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- Enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours. This includes:
- Water for washing, drinking and cooking. Canada recommends 2 litres per person per day for drinking plus an additional 2 litres per person per day for cleaning and hygiene. New Zealand recommends 3 litres per person per day for drinking. US recommends 1 gallon (3.78 litres) per person per day. If you have pets then include extra water for them.
- Non-perishable food
- Water purification supplies.
- Cooking supplies.
- A first aid kit.
- Fire starting tool (e.g., matches, ferrocerium rod, lighter, 9volt battery, etc.).
- A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes, etc.
- Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster but kept for reference.
- Maps and travel information.
- Standard camping equipment, including sanitation supplies.
- Weather appropriate clothing and UV protection (e.g., poncho, golf umbrella headwear, gloves, etc.).
- Bedding items such as sleeping bags and blankets. If you have to sleep on the ground then a thick plastic or oilcloth tarp under the sleeping bags will keep ground moisture out of your bedding. A second one suspended on a rope between two trees or other supports can be used to form a tarp tent shelter from the morning dew or a rainstorm.
- Enough medicine to last an extended evacuation period.
- Copies of medical records for each person in the family.
- Pet, child, and elderly care needs.
- Battery or crank-operated radio.
- Lighting (battery or crank operated flashlight, glow sticks).
- Cash and change, as electronic banking transactions may not be available during the initial period following an emergency or evacuation.
- Positive identification, such as drivers license, state I.D. card, or social security card, plus any medical ID cards if you have them. Those with allergies should have a MedicAlert or similar ID.
- Birth certificate or passport.
- Fixed-blade and folding knife
- Swiss Army Knife
- Multi-tool, like a Leatherman
- Duct tape and rope or paracord
- Tarpaulins for shelter and water collection
- Wire for binding and animal traps
- Firearms and extra ammunition
- Slingshot, pellet gun, blowgun or other small game hunting equipment
- Small fishing kit
- Signal mirror
- Emergency whistle
- Rubber tubing
- Digestion care medicine for indigestion, stomach ache, nausea, and diarrhea
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