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The concept behind a bug out bag is that you fill it with all of the gear you might need just in case a crisis should arise. The idea is that in an emergency situation, you might not have enough time to gather all of the items you’ll want to take with you, but instead, you can simply grab the bag and go on a moment’s notice.
Most people stock their bug out bags with equipment that they hope they'll never have to use, but will be happy to have on hand should a disaster strike. Those pieces of gear are typically durable, versatile, and extremely useful when things take a turn for the worse, providing functionality that could potentially be lifesaving. With that in mind, here is a list of the best survival gear to help you get through just about anything.
Our Top Picks
Best Bag: 5.11 Tactical Rush72 Backpack 55L
You can’t have a bug out bag if you don’t have the right bag, and 5.11 Tactical makes some of the best for use in military, wilderness, and survival situations. The Rush72 is a 55-liter backpack that offers plenty of storage space, numerous organizational pockets, well-padded shoulder straps, and a wrap-around MOLLE system for adding accessories. The pack is made of durable, water-resistant 1000D nylon, which makes it well-equipped to survive in difficult conditions. It is also hydration-ready and comes with self-healing zippers (so you won't have to struggle with any mismatched zipper teeth) that make accessing the various pockets a quick and easy affair. The backpack was specifically made to carry everything you need to get through a 72-hour timeframe, making it the perfect option for recreational use and disaster preparedness alike.
Best Multitool: Leatherman Wave+ Multitool
Lightweight, easy to carry, and packing plenty of functionality, the perfect multitool could be your new best friend out on the trail or in a post-post-disaster environment. Leatherman makes some of the best multitools on the planet, with the Wave+ ranking amongst its perennial best sellers. This incredibly durable and dependable product features 18 individual tools, all neatly integrated into an ergonomically designed package. Those tools include two sets of pliers, a screwdriver, bottle and can openers, a wire cutter, several knife blades, and much more. Essentially, carrying the Wave+ is a lot like having an entire toolbox that you can fit into your pocket, making it just as useful in everyday situations as during a crisis.
Best First Aid Kit: Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit
One of the essentials of any survival situation is a good a first aid kit to help mend wounds and treat serious injuries at a time when professional medical care might be hard to come by. There are a lot of first aid kits on the market to choose from, but not all of them provide the necessary supplies you might need in the event of a disaster. With more than 120 medical-grade components, the Swiss Safe 2-in-1 first aid kit is not only well stocked, but it also remains lightweight — at just 1.2 pounds — and easy to carry. Inside, you’ll find numerous bandages and band-aids, gloves, trauma scissors, safety pins, and medical tweezers. It even comes equipped with a compass, safety whistle, a first aid guide, and a glow stick, making it a well-rounded option for just about any situation.
Best Fire Starter: UCO Stormproof Match Kit
Being able to start a fire can be an instrumental part of surviving in the outdoors for an extended period of time. The problem is, if you find yourself in a wet environment, it can take a while to get a blaze going even with the proper tools. Thankfully, UCO Stormproof Matches exist to help make that process much simpler. These matches are wind and rain-proof to the point that they’ll light up even in a heavy downpour. The Stormproof Kit comes with 25 matches and a waterproof case that actually floats, making it a handy option for use on kayaking and river rafting adventures too. That same case includes an integrated striker that makes it easy to ignite the matches, which can burn for up to 15 seconds. That should be plenty of time to get your kindling going while building a campfire.
Best Shelter Alternative: SOL Escape Pro Bivvy
When you need a little extra warmth and a place to escape the elements, but don’t have a full-sized tent or other camp shelter at your disposal, the SOL ( which stands for “Survive Outdoors Longer”) Escape Pro Bivvy is a worthy alternative. This bivy sack can be used on its own when temperatures aren’t particularly low, or in conjunction with a traditional sleeping bag to provide additional warmth in cold weather conditions. Made from lightweight, waterproof, and durable materials, the Escape Pro weighs in at just .7 pounds and packs down surprisingly small. That means it takes up very little room in your bug out bag, while still offering a high level of performance. The secret to its high thermal properties is a reflective fabric that lines the interior, keeping body heat in while still allowing moisture to escape. This makes it a good choice not only for camping outdoors but for keeping trauma patients comfortable while waiting for medical attention to arrive as well.
Best Water Filtration System: MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit
Finding clean drinking water can be a serious challenge while traveling in the backcountry or immediately following a major disaster. That’s why every bug out bag needs a good filtration system and MSR’s Trail Base Water Filter Kit is one of the most versatile around. Not only does the kit come with the company’s lightweight and effective TrailShot microfilter, but it also includes a larger gravity filter for use at the campsite too. This allows you to create plenty of potable water both on the go and while stopped for the night. The system is capable of removing 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% protozoa in the water, while also filtering particulates as well. That’s enough to earn it the Trail Base approval from the U.S. EPA for meeting clean drinking water standards. Best of all, it means that you’ll have access to a steady supply of safe drinking water at all times.
Best Two-Way Radio: Midland GXT1000VP4 Two-Way Radios
Staying in communication with friends and family during an emergency situation can be a real challenge, especially if you’re traveling in remote places with little or no cell coverage. The feature-packed Midland GXT1000VP4 two-way radios can eliminate those concerns, however, making it easy to stay connected no matter where you go. These devices offer 50 unique channels to choose from, as well as 142 privacy codes to ensure no one is listening in on the conversation. The radios are waterproof, include access to NOAA weather alert transmissions, come with a built-in SOS siren, and have a range of up to 36 miles. Midland even includes a set of rechargeable batteries, an AC and DC charger, as well as boom mic headsets for handsfree talking.
Best Compass: Suunto MC-2G Global Compass
A compass is always a handy item to have in your bug out bag, and the Suunto MC-2G is amongst the best available today. Not only is it durable and accurate, but it comes with a built-in signaling mirror, a magnifying lens, and a sighting hole that aids in finding your bearings. The compass also features luminescent markings that make it easier to read in low light conditions and an onboard metric UTM scale and inch ruler for plotting points on a map. Built for use in remote locations, the MC-2G is even equipped with a globally balanced needle that allows it to work efficiently in both the northern and southern hemispheres, making it an indispensable tool for use just about anywhere. And unlike a GPS device, it never needs charging.
Best Headlamp: Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
Handsfree lighting can come in hand in a wide variety of situations, particularly when reading a map, searching through your backpack, making repairs under the hood of a vehicle, or just huddling inside a tent. Petzl’s Actik Core is a lightweight, comfortable, and versatile headlamp that offers as much as 350 lumens of light on its brightest setting. It comes with a rechargeable battery pack that provides a run time of as much as 160 hours, although the lamp is also compatible with AAA batteries should the need arise. The Actik Core is water resistant, features three levels of brightness, and has a red-light mode for preserving night vision. It also has the ability to disperse its light over a wide area or focus it into a tight beam for illuminating objects at longer distances, all of which makes it a handy piece of gear to have at your disposal should an unexpected emergency occur.
Our writers spent 8 hours researching the most popular survival gear on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 25 different items overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers, read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 6 of the items themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.