house after natural disaster

13 Bug Out Kit Essentials

My list for small and lightweight essential items for on-the-go urban survival.

Years ago, as a young military solider, I learned this invaluable equation: Situation plus terrain (location) dictate tactics. Many people ask me what they should do if [this or that] happens. Usually my response is, “it depends.”

Frankly, it depends on that previously mentioned formula.

The same goes for your individual survival kits. It depends on where you live, what your skills and comfort levels are, and how much you are willing to invest in money, time, and learning in order to find peace in preparedness.

That said, for those of you who usually buy cheap stuff that breaks quickly or doesn’t work, I’d remind you to ask yourself how much your life is worth before you buy a product that may not work well. I don’t trust my life to inferior products. Period. It doesn’t mean I need to buy the most expensive items; it just means I feel more comfortable when I know my gear works. 

The items I mention here are the most basic—and perhaps the most important—items you can ever acquire. I would recommend having these items in separate kits in your car, in your home, in your office, or at school. These items make up an essential survival kit.

These basic kits will be a part of your larger kit(s), like a bug out bag (BOB) or a get home bag, or even a stay-at-home bag. These items are specifically geared for urban and suburban locations, as well as most rural locations.

If you have neighbors and structures within walking distance, these kits are meant for that. In other words, I didn’t develop these kits with wilderness survival in mind or considering all terrain or every weather consideration. And I designed these essential survival kit items for being light weight, an important consideration when you have to grab and go. 

I realize there are a lot more items you can choose to add; this is just the mere basic essentials. In this article, I won’t go into detail about why I opted to include or not include some items. I can do that in a future article.

And by the way, this is for a permissive environment or relatively safe environment unlike a non-permissive environment, which the U.S. government describes as being at the “national or sub-national level, in which uncertainty, instability, inaccessibility or insecurity constrain [one’s] ability to operate safety and effectively,”[1] in which case, you’d need good fighting blade and a firearm, as well as some other survival items that may include bushcraft survival.

Okay, without further ado, here’s my list of small and lightweight essentials. The items are in no particular order. (Note: Most of these things can be found on Amazon, and I am not getting paid to list any specific brand.)

1. Grabber outdoors original space brand all weather reusable blanket. These are better than the really cheap and thin mylar ones. If you want to go smaller, buy a mylar one.

2. Black Diamond Flare Headlamp. It has a battery that will last for many years.

3. Large contractor trash bag. You can roll it and put a rubber band around it or lay it flat.

4. RediTape flat duct tape mini roll or small, coreless duct tape rolls (S.O.L. or UST sells them or DIY).

5. Two packs of compressed gauze, S or Z-rolled.

6. Triangular bandage with safety pins.

7. MRE prepacked toilet paper x 2 or a pocket pack of tissues.

8. Sawyer MINI water filtration system that comes with a water bladder.

9. Two Nas-co survival 1 liter stand up bags.

10. At least two water purification tablets.

11. Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD. 

12. A few single towelettes of antiseptic wipes.

13. A bottle of water.

If you need any medicine like insulin/glucose or nitroglycerin, etc., you’d better have that on you. What you carry on you—your EDC—may be separate from this list. For instance, you ought to have your phone and if you have a phone you may want to get a backup battery charger with some extra cords, but I digress. Alas, all 13 of these listed items can all go into a gallon zip lock bag and store nicely inside of your larger kit.

[1] US AID. (2018). Fact sheet: Working in non-permissive

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times,, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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