The minimalist Bug Out Bag (BOB) is something you can chuck into your trunk and forget about until needed. It is for the family member who is resistant to the idea of a BOB, or meant as an extra bit of smart packed into each of your car’s trunks to augment a basic BOB. To assemble it you will need:

Several quart sized and one gallon sized Ziplock type bags.

A lighter. Fire is our friend.

One flattened roll of toilet paper with the cardboard tube removed. Toilet paper is also our friend. Once flattened, place in appropriate ziplock bag, squeeze out all the air and close the bag.

A pocketknife, preferably a Leatherman Supertool or something similar that is high quality. This is without a doubt incredibly useful. You shouldn’t even put it in the bag unless it is a spare, put it in your purse or on your belt. This isn’t a pocketknife, it is a toolset. It is a can opener, a knife, a saw, a file, an awl, a bottle opener, a pliers, a wire cutter, a crimper, a flathead screwdriver, a Phillip’s head screwdriver, and both a metric and English ruler. This ain’t your Daddy’s Swiss Army knife. Spyderco also makes a gadget knife with a blade so sharp you could do surgery, so check it out as well.

Five Maxipads. This is optional, but in addition to their accepted use, they are very absorbent and sterile, so they can be used as pressure bandages in case of an accident. Put in Ziplock and squeeze out the air. Please note: Sanitary pads are designed to soak up blood, not clot it. These are for emergency use only, to help contain major bleeding. They should be replaced with proper bandages as soon as possible. Rhino Rescue makes good products.

2 pint bottles of water. (optional).

2 or 3 power bars. If you can, get the horrible kind like they put in military combat rations, the dreaded MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), these bars will last longer than commercial counterparts.

A flashlight. They now make small disposable LED keychains that are extremely bright and run off a watch battery. Normally these things run under $1.00USD, although some places charge more. While this is good from a size standpoint (they are about as big as a quarter around), and from a weight standpoint (maybe a quarter ounce), they are not terribly rugged. Other light sources are, and  

Mag-Lite makes a very small flashlight that uses AAA batteries called a Mini Mag-Lite that is very bright and about as big as a man’s middle finger. Maglites are tough as tough can be, water proof, and they come with a spare bulb in the base. Leave the batteries in their package and stick the light into a ziplock bag with at least 2 extra batteries.

If you have these items you will be set for the vast majority of life’s little curveballs. The Leatherman or a similar tool alone will solve the majority, but the others really do matter.

Take the stuff and put it into the gallon ziploc bag. Express the air and zip it shut. You can then take the second bag, place the full bag into the second so that the zipped portion is put in first, express the air, and zip the second one shut. This will provide a lot of moisture protection.

The Basic BOB

The Basic BOB is meant to be carried every day, and is geared towards an urban or suburban environment. This is something that, since it is meant for everyday carry, must be comfortable, rugged, and useful in daily life.

The bag itself. We suggest something inconspicuous and easy to carry,

but with an appreciable load capacity. A medium sized briefcase will suffice, but try to get a North Face or Jansport type bag that college students use as book bags. The bags will have extra external and internal pockets which will come in handy for little things you need to get to quickly such as toilet paper or food. The bags often come with Fastex buckles which allow the bearer to externally attach other items allowing the user to customize his carry.

A Leatherman Supertool or something similar as mentioned in the Minimalist BOB.

Spare glasses. If you wear glasses get a spare set and put them in. If you wear contacts, get a pair of glasses and store them in the bag. In an abrasive or caustic atmosphere you can seriously damage your eyes with contacts, and you may not be able to clean your hands enough to replace dirty or lost lenses. So, glasses it is.

One roll of toilet paper. Never be without at least one roll of toilet paper. For ease of carry remove the cardboard tube and smash it flat. Then take it and put it into a ziplock bag. Express the air from the bag and seal it tightly. If you’ve ever been in a position where there is no TP, you understand the necessity for this one.

A multifuel lighter (zippo-type) or an unopened drug store butane lighter. If you don’t smoke you may never need it, but fire is man’s most basic tool, so get it and have it. If you get the Zippo, remember extra flints and fuel.

Food. Have some power bars or some cookies. The best way to figure your needs is to miss lunch, then see if one or two packs of Oreos or a power bar or two takes most of the edge off. The prepackaged cheese and crackers snacks for kids are a good idea also. Plan on a 48 hour period of relying on your BOB. Have six very small meals, each in its own ziplock bag. Eat them once a month and restock so they don’t go bad on you.

Water.  Have a minimum of 4 20 ounce bottles. If you can stomach warm Gatorade, get that instead. Most hunger pains are actually thirst, so try drinking a half a bottle of fluid with each mini meal you eat.

Medicine. Be absolutely certain you have any daily meds you take. This may be something you have to put into and remove from the bag each day, but don’t forget them. If the medicine you take is not easily perishable and not a controlled substance, get your doctor to write an extra prescription and keep a spare bottle, that you rotate out monthly, in the bag at all times.

Space blanket. There are emergency blankets that fold up to about the size of a sandwich. They are inexpensive and very warm. They are also usually waterproof. Get one or two.

Toothbrush and toothpaste. This is optional, but performing personal hygiene can make you feel worlds better in a bad situation. Put them in a ziplock bag together.

Money. A spare $100.00 is a very good idea. At the very least get a roll of quarters for vending machines since they may work in the absence of electricity. Be aware that money may not have much value in a true SHTF situation. Money is a good idea, but it only works in a civilized paradigm. 

Deodorant. Very optional. This only applies if you are from the US. Other countries don’t seem to want it.

Spare clothing.  This is optional, but not a bad idea. At the very least you will want some spare socks sitting snug in a ziplock bag.

Personal protection. Get the strongest pepper spray you can find and rotate stock every six months or so. If the button gets pushed, get rid of it. The can will leak.

Firearm. If you live in a free state, get a concealed carry permit so that you can carry your weapon without fear of arrest. If you are in a state where the rights of all people are not recognized, rely on the pepper spray. For a BOB firearm, the suggestion is for a something reliable. It has to go boom every time the trigger is pulled. A compact lightweight revolver such as Taurus or Smith & Wesson make may be the ticket. Firearms are a very personal sort of equipment, and if you don’t know anything about them, get help and get good teaching.  At the very least get a small semi-auto .22LR pistol and learn how to use and maintain it. Keep it in a holster or case so the sights and trigger can’t be bumped. Any gun is better than no gun when people around you lose their minds.

Feminine hygiene. Get some maxipads. Remember they can be used as pressure bandages.

Pencil and paper. Being able to write a note can be very necessary at times. You may need to write down a license plate or a description for the police, so get a small wire bound 3”x5” notebook and put it in a ziplock with a pencil.

Band-Aids. Always a good idea. Stick 10 or so in a ziplock bag and seal it tight.

Radio and batteries. A cheap transistor radio can be a big help. If nothing else it can tell you if there are road or bridge closings or if there is a shelter nearby. Make sure the radio isn’t a flimsy headset design that will break with rough handling, and make sure it is a RADIO, not a CD or an MP3 player when you buy it. Put the radio and batteries in ziplock bags.

A flashlight. Just as described in the minimalist BOB, get a small AA or AAA battery using Mini Mag-Lite or a LED keying. 

A respirator. This is optional. Lowes, Home Depot, and other hardware stores stock painter’s respirators that run about $15.00 USD. They use replaceable canister filters that are really very good for what they are. This isn’t a gas mask of course, but if there is a lot of stuff in the air these cans will help keep it out of your lungs, especially dust in the event of a nuke or radiological “dirty” bomb. A respirator doesn’t weigh much, is about as big as a fist, and is cheap insurance. Get one and put it into a ziplock bag.

Soap. One or two bars of hotel sized soap can help with cleaning hands before eating or for just getting yourself a little cleaner. This is especially helpful in the event of a small wound. It may hurt to wash a scrape or cut, but it is the best way to avoid infection.

A fork and a spoon. Eating with your hands isn’t just bad manners, it is a health hazard. Remember the Four F’s of Food Sanitation: Fingers, Face, Flies, and Feces. Getting food poisoning when you have no ready way to care for yourself can be very problematic. Even freshly washed hands can carry enough bacteria to make you ill in dirty conditions, thus poor personal hygiene coupled with a failure of civil sanitation is a recipe for trouble.  If you have a regular metal fork and spoon, you can sidestep this large potential problem. Put them in a ziplock so they won’t get lost and put them in the bag. You can make a cup if needed by cutting the top off a plastic pop bottle, or by using your can opener on a soft drink can.

The Basic BOB can be stashed in a locker or car trunk until it needs to be used.

Doug Irvin is an eclectic writer living in the wilds of the Texas Hill Country. His entire BOB advisory with the Intermediate and Advanced versions can be found at