How to build a ‘bug-out bag’ for less than $50


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Most of us might feel like we are adequately prepared for the unexpected because we dress in layers and have an extra pack of gum in the glove compartment. But if it’s a natural disaster, zombie apocalypse or other emergency requiring that you get out of Dodge in a hurry, that may not cut it.

Bug-out bags, or BOBs, are self-assembled kits you can grab in an emergency and ideally include enough essentials to survive for at least 72 hours.

“The reason for a BOB is simple,” says survivalist Creek Stewart, owner of APOCABOX, a subscription-based survival box service. “To help facilitate the journey from point A to point B.”

Stewart says high-profile natural disasters and survival-themed entertainment have made the concept more popular. But these aspiring Bear Grylls apprentices may be building some unnecessarily extravagant survival kits.

“Fleeing a large-scale disaster toward a safer destination is not a camping trip,” he says.

So what are some bug-out bag essentials that can help you be prepared for a quick exit for just under $50?

1. Water and food: $13

You’re not going to go anywhere without water, the most basic essential, but there’s no reason to carry heavy water bottles when a filtration straw is lightweight and costs as little as $7.

As for food, shish kebabs probably won’t be on the menu while you’re on the run, so pack just enough to stay energized.

“Skip the meals that require time-consuming preparation,” Stewart says. “A handful of high-calorie protein bars is sufficient for a couple days’ travel.”

A 6-pack of protein bars should do the job and costs about $6.

2. Shelter: $6

When it’s all hitting the fan and home is not an option, even the most minimal of shelters can feel like a Sandals resort. You can at least close your eyes in a $6, 2-person tube tent and pretend you’re on a beach sipping a mai tai instead of tepid water through a filtration straw.

3. First aid: $7

Whether a disaster is natural or man-made, trying to get away can mean a scraped knee or two. Your BOB should include some first-aid basics, such as bandages and cleansing pads. You can get a bare-bones kit with around 27 pieces for about $7.

4. Documents storage: $5

The rule of thumb used to be that if you had to vacate your home in a hurry, you would grab the photo albums and a stack of manila folders with all of your important documents. These days, you can carry most of your essential documents on a flash drive; a 16GB model will cost about $5. Vital hard copies to take include things like insurance cards, birth certificates, Social Security cards and passports.

5. Bag and clothing storage: $16

“Forget the fancy, heavy camping gear and keep it simple with only what you need and nothing more,” says Stewart.

That goes for the “bag” in BOB, too. Surplus military rucksacks can be found for as little as $10 and serve the basic purpose well.

Clothing should be warm, water-repellent and packed in a vacuum bag, which will cost about $6 for a pack of 4.

6. Odds and ends: $4

There are a few more odds and ends you’ll want to take, such as an LED flashlight, which you can find for about $4. You’ll also want to take a pencil and paper, as well as some cash in small bills, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This gear and a little foresight should help you survive an unexpected catastrophe for at least the first few anxious, anarchic days. Come to think of it, you’d better grab that gum on the way out the door, too.

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