If you and your family have decided to brave the elements and head out for a weekend in the wild, then the very first thing you need to do before heading out is to plan for the unexpected. Creating a bug out bag for your family is going to be crucial in order to prepare for unforeseen circumstances like adverse weather or emergencies that can occur when you least expect it. Your bug out bag is going to be your one stop shop that contains all of the essentials that will improve your chances of survival in the wilderness for a 72-hour period, after which point you will hopefully be able to return home unharmed.
The harsh truth about the survivalist lifestyle is that it is impossible to pack everything you might possibly need, because, realistically, the extra load will become incredibly burdensome in a short amount of time and it will slow you down too much in situations that require you to think and act fast. And this is especially important if not all of your family members are mobile, as you will have to bear their weight as well.
What Exactly Is A Bug Out Bag?
Simply put, a bug out bag is a kit that contains all of the essentials you would need in the event that you would need to survive a disaster for the first 72 hours after evacuation. Disasters can also include unforeseen circumstances like a drastic change in weather that prevents you returning to base during a planned family camping trip. Alternatively, perhaps you suffered an accident and injured yourself badly enough to reduce your mobility.
Here are all of the key items that you will need to create a comprehensive bug out bag for family of 4, In the event that disaster strikes.
Water And Water Purification Methods
Water is, without a doubt, the single most important thing that you must consider when building your bug out bag, as research shows that a human can survive for around three weeks without solid food, but the body will cease to function after more than 72 hours without water. It goes without saying that the first and most crucial item that should go in your BOB is at least one full bottle of water per person and ideally more water if you are able to share the load between your family members. Everyone should have their own water bottle as well. You should also have at least one water purification method packed in case you run out of bottled water and you need to turn to other sources for hydration such as a stream or lake. Water purification tablets can be used in conjunction with a purification tube, and these can filter as much as 1000 liters (about 264.2 gallons) of H2O while removing bacteria.
The best portable water filter you can get your hands on is the LifeStraw, which eliminates 99.9% of bacteria from non-potable untreated water, making it safe to drink. It is really important to have a backup plan for water like this, especially if your family includes children. Another easy and lightweight option is to put some water purification tablets on your bug out bag checklist.
First Aid Kit
Accidents happen more often than you think, even among the most experienced of survivalists. And when a disaster happens, the risk of accidents increases substantially, which is why you need to be prepared and create a first aid kit that will cater for a wide range of injury and illness. Firstly, include at least four days worth of prescribed medication that any of your family habitually takes and, in addition, some general antibiotics and antiseptic. Adhesive bandages, gauze bandages and tape also need to be included, as do over the counter medications like antihistamines and Anti-Diarrheal tablets.
This first aid kit can be purchased online for just under $15 and it has everything you need to treat non-critical injuries fast.
A radio is an essential piece of equipment that should be high on your checklist when creating a bug out bag for your family; and, surprisingly, it is something that often goes overlooked. If you find yourselves in the midst of a disaster, you need to not only be able to communicate with each other, but also to be able to tune into official channels (weather, emergency, etc.) to find out how the situation is developing. Staying alert and informed is key to survival, and a radio will give you the best shot at communicating with rescue teams when your mobile phone is out of signal or your battery is dead. This solar powered radio also doubles up as a flashlight, phone charger and beacon, so it is a great space saving option that has received rave reviews from survivalists in the know!
In a life or death situation that warrants a bug out bag, a simple backpack just won’t cut it. You need to make sure that you choose a pack that is lightweight, spacious, waterproof and incredibly strong. You also need to think about how carrying weight for extended periods of time could affect your back and shoulders, and you need all of your kit to be well organized and easily accessible. This pack bag has been specifically designed for survivalists, and it is multi-functional, allowing you to easily holster a weapon. It is also made of tough waterproof fabric that will weather the elements.
Being able to see where you are going is imperative to keeping your family safe. In harsh weather conditions or low light, you need to clearly see what is in front of you before you start heading out in a certain direction in order to safely avoid accidents and predators. Multiple methods of illumination are advisable in case one of them fails; you can always rely on a back up option. If you go for a battery powered light, then remember to pack extra batteries, but we suggest buying a solar powered flashlight like this one that will be bright enough to light your path. The light should also be powerful enough to hopefully startle undesirable wildlife that could be aggressive. However, you should also pack a self-defense weapon.
While it is perfectly clear that many people are not used to handling weapons, it is wise to become proficient with a weapon in order to defend yourself against attack, especially when it comes to protecting your family in the face of an emergency. This is especially true when bugging out, as many animals like bears and wolves are predators that won’t think twice about devouring you alive if they decide to do so, or if they are provoked. A mother bear with cubs is particularly dangerous. A survival knife that is compact, durable and sharp will allow you to hunt for food and this multi-tool knife can also be used as a screwdriver and bottle opener. This is the bare minimum that you should carry. You should also carry a firearm; however, a discussion of firearms is beyond the scope of this guide.
Packing perishable food items in your bug out bag will take up unnecessary space that is needed for imperative survival items, so that’s why energy bars and other non-perishable food are a much better idea. The better products available like these ones have a shelf life of up to 5 years, and each bar contains 400 calories, which is enough to keep you nourished and alive for an extended period of time, provided you pack enough of them for all four family members. They also taste deliciously fresh, which is different from the usual emergency food sources used by the army, MREs (we have a popular guide regarding those). Beef jerky is also a good additional snack food to pack, as it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge and it is an excellent source of protein when you find yourself in need.
Matches And A Lighter
Fire is one of man’s greatest inventions and it is almost impossible to survive for a long period of time without the possibility of making one during an emergency. Not only will a fire keep your family warm, it is also useful for keeping predators away, signalling for help, and, of course, boiling water and cooking. So pack some matches (they make waterproof ones) and a lighter in your survival kit, just in case of emergency.
Emergency Signalling Equipment
If you get lost in the wilderness during a family bugging out excursion, or you are dealing with an actual disaster like a serious injury, then a flare is going to be your best option for attracting help. Your bug out bag should contain at least a few flares for good measure, and a small mirror that reflects the light is a good backup option in case your flare isn’t seen. You can also use smoke signals to draw attention to your presence, and a brightly colored emergency blanket (see our emergency blanket buying guide for more information) is also an effective way of signalling for help.
An emergency blanket (see our emergency blanket buying guide for more information) for each family member will help protect you from life threatening illness like hypothermia, as well as keep you dry and warm in the face of disaster. The ultra lightweight aluminum sheets are used by military and rescue forces worldwide as a primary way of preventing shock from setting in during extreme weather conditions, and they fold up to the size of a deck of cards. The majority of emergency blankets will be brightly colored on one side in order for victims to be spotted easily, and some even come with SOS stamped on them for extra attention. They are extremely cost effective and designed for survival, which makes them a must-have on your bug out bag checklist. If your family includes minors who will likely be the most vulnerable and scared during a time of crisis, these particular emergency blankets are larger than average so you can snuggle up to your kids and make them feel safe. They also come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, since as the manufacturer claims, you will not find a tougher product elsewhere.
Identification is absolutely necessary during an evacuation process, as authorities need a way of keeping track of where people have been moved. Make sure you carry your original photo ID in a waterproof case and a copy somewhere else on your person or in your survival pack. In a worst case scenario where you or one of your family members has been critically injured and you get separated from each other, ID will allow the emergency services to identify you. It is also a good idea to include written details of any allergies you might have, your blood type and two emergency contact numbers on a piece of paper that you can store in the weatherproof pouch, along with some money and your identification document.
A Compass And Map
Relying on Google maps is going to be no good if you find yourself in an isolated area where you are out of signal, or if you need to navigate your way back to civilization following a natural disaster. Knowing how to read a compass and a map will play an important part in staying on track when confronted with danger. Don’t worry if you aren’t much of a Robinson Crusoe type, you can obtain an easy to read watch compass that is comprised of a Para cord bracelet that extends into a 10 foot rope and can also be used as a fire starter, whistle and light. The best part is as you wear it on your wrist it will always be easily accessible and it won’t take up any space in your pack.
Ready-Made Bug Out Bags
If you don't want to go through the time-consuming process of reading through a checklist of essentials and preparing your own bug out bag, you can always choose a ready-made bug out bag. We have selected two excellent options below to simplify your search.
This well thought out kit contains all of the essentials that a family could need to buy them another 72 hours of time before the situation gets desperate. It features superior, quality supplies like food and a liter of water each and it also contains 4 whistles in the event you get separated and need to find each other again. It is one of the most highly rated bug out bags for family of 4 online, and an affordable price tag makes it an appealing purchase option.
Similar to the product above, this bug out bag is equipped with all of the essentials and is designed to sustain your 4 person family for 72 hours. Coming in at just under $300, this kit is an absolute steal when you consider all the extras that it features, like an emergency guidebook that will allow you to better navigate natural disasters. The kit is so well created that it has been approved by the US Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which gives it even more credibility.