How To Make Your Family Bug Out Bag

Family Bug Out Bag

If you are a parent or plan on bugging out with family members that have children there are some important factors to consider when preparing for your potential evacuation.  This includes carefully packing a family bug out bag and making your family bug out plan compatible with the limitations presented by having young ones with your bug out group.  Here we will take a look at bugging out with infants, young children, and tween/teens to help you determine what to pack in your family bug out bag and how to best prepare your family unit to survive when the unforeseen strikes.

What Makes A Great Family Bug Out Bag?

A family bug out bag can differ from a typical solo BOB in a few important ways.  Although it has the same primary purpose of being a mobile kit to help you survive, it must be tailored to meet the needs of multiple people of various ages and skillsets.  Here are some items to add into your family bug out bag based on the ages of the children you will be evacuating with:

Family Bug Out Bag: Infants and Toddlers (Age 0-5)

Combination child carrier and pack

This will enable you to carry both your child and survival gear .  It is ideal to utilize one of these combination packs as an option for your family bug out bag if you have a toddler or infant that you are going to bug out with.  Having a combination child carrier/pack will enable you to carry everything comfortably and allow you to move further faster.

Osprey Packs PocoKelty Pathfinder 3.0Kelty Transit 3.0Vaude Wallaby 12L Pack


This is obvious for anyone who has been a parent but it might be something that is overlooked when packing your firestarters, paracord, and other survival gear.  Reusable diapers are probably a better option.  Besides the fact that they are multiuse with some basic treatment, they are also multipurpose and can be put to many other tasks beyond their primary objective.

Medicine syringe/Eyedropper

This goes along with any medication you may be giving your child.  It may be as simple as a reflux medication but you do not want to have to improvise a delivery method while on the move.  Medicine syringes are lightweight and take up very little room.  If your infant may need to ingest any medication be sure to pack one.


You may pack rations or be able to forage and hunt for yourself but what about the little one?  Even if the mother is currently breastfeeding it is wise to pack some powdered formula.  This will enable another person to feed the child if the mother is separated or otherwise unable to do so.


If your child takes a pacifier having one packed in your family bug out bag will make sure it comes with you as you evacuate.  A pacifier may help your child sleep and will give you an option for keeping them quiet when maintaining a low volume is imperative.

Extra Clothing

As a rule of thumb pack your family bug out bag with 2 more sets of clothing for your child than you pack for yourself.  This will enable you to better regulate their temperature by using the principle of layering and give you options in the event of a diaper accident.

Waterproof Bodysuit

This is essential foul weather gear for your infant or toddler.  Keeping them warm and dry will go a long way in reducing parental stress and keeping morale high.  There are many options out there for this, make sure if you already have one that it is packed in your family bug out bag, not hanging in the closet.  Also be sure that if it has been a while since you last performed a review of your family bug out bag that this item (and any other clothing) still fits your growing child.

Pre-sterile bottles

These are bottles that are sold in sterile packaging.  It will save you from having to boil a bottle before feeding your child while on the move.  Be sure to keep track of expiration dates on any sterile items as a part of your regular bug out bag reviews.

Sterilization agent

This is generally sold in a concentrated powder or liquid form that is diluted with water.  If you have to use any bottle multiple times you will eventually need to sterilize them.  A few drops of sterilizing agent mixed with water in a nalgene or other wide mouthed water bottle can be used to sterilize bottles or other small items.

Bug Out Planning for Infants and Toddlers

It is essential to realize that you are going to need to carry your child for the overwhelming majority of your bug out.  Besides the physical limitations of toddlers and infants they may be emotionally or mentally traumatized by the event that caused the bug out and new surroundings.  This will lead them to be more needy and want to be in frequent reassuring contact with their parent.  As you will already be carrying your family bug out bag, the additional weight of your child has to be incorporated into your bug out planning.  It is necessary but it will ultimately slow you down and cause you to burn more calories.  Plan your energy intake and rest stops to account for this.

Noise reduction is an important aspect of operational security.  This clashes with the need for most young children to yell or cry to express their needs.  This means you need a strategy in place to keep your child quiet if a critical situation arises.  It may be as simple as giving them a pacifier or as advanced as giving them a dose of antihistamine or other substance that may make them drowsy (Talk to a doctor if you are considering this latter strategy!!!!).  Plan and prepare to avoid problems when you are on the road.

Family Bug Out Bag

Family Bug Out Bag: School Aged Kids (Age 5-10)

Non-battery powered toys

Keeping your school aged child’s hands and mind occupied will go a long way in making the situation more bearable for both you and them.  Plan on packing at least one non-battery powered toy in your family bug out bag to keep your child entertained when you set up camp for the night.  Ideally this item will have many uses and ways to interact with it.  Think simple, and light and a single toy, not something with many pieces like legos.  It is good to have your child pick this item and put it in the family bug out bag themselves as it will help them understand that it is a special toy they are setting aside as part of the family’s preparedness planning.

Comfort item

Kids this age know enough to pick up on the cues around them to know something is wrong.  Pack a familiar item for them in your family bug out bag to comfort themselves with.  This may be a favorite toy, blanket, or stuffed animal.  Having something they are used to interacting with will make the bug out situation less overwhelming for them and reduce parental stress.

Child’s Bug Out Bag

School aged kids will be able to carry their own backpack with a few supplies to take a small amount of the load off the parents.  You may be able to pack some of their clothes or other lightweight items in their pack or split up some of the group’s basic essentials such as rations or other survival items amongst the gear they are carrying.  Be careful not to overload the child, 5 lbs worth of gear is a good guideline.  If you load them down and tire them out quickly you are going to have to carry them AND the gear.

Bug Out Planning for School Aged Kids

A child at this age can begin to contribute towards the family’s prepping.  They will be able to undertake many tasks while under adult supervision such as collecting firewood, setting up camp, foraging, and many more.  This is also a good age to instill the prepping mindset in kids.  Have them tag along as you build your bug out plan and pack your family bug out bag to get their minds working.

Starting to learn basic survival skills is an excellent way to involve kids as well.  Train them in basic first aid to start off with.  This means they will be able to provide some assistance if the parent gets hurt.

It is wise to put photos of the family in the pockets of school aged children.  In the event you are separated, they will be able to show these to authorities or other people they encounter to help find you again.

At this age kids also begin to spend time away from their parents at school.  Because of this it is important to drill into them where to meet if a disaster occurs.  As we cover in our How To Make A Bug Out Plan Article, this may be a specific office or classroom but what is important is they know what to do when the bug out plan is initiated.

Lastly although school age kids can show some initiative and take on some responsibilities it is important to recognize that at some point in your bugging out the parent will most likely have to carry them.  This may be due to exhaustion or just facing difficult terrain.  Regardless of why you need to be prepared to do this and have a family bug out bag packed in a manner that does not prohibit carrying your child.

Family Bug Out Bag

Family Bug Out Bag: Tween and Teens (Age 10-18)

Teen/Tween Bug Out Bag

Kids in this age group should be able to carry at minimum all their own personal gear that makes up your family bug out bag.  This may be their spare clothes, rain gear, and any tools that are specifically for their use such as a hunting or self defense item.  Get your teen or tween a backpack made to fit their smaller frame.  Make sure it is a quality bag that is able to be carried comfortably and cinched tight to their bodies, not a cheap school book bag.  We provide tips on how to pick the best backpack in our article here.

Hunting Tools

Teens and Tweens are old enough to be taught at minimum proper weapon safety, care, and use.  Note that this does not have to be a firearm, if you are uncomfortable with giving a minor a gun you can still teach them to fend for themselves with a slingshot or bow and arrow.  Have them practice accuracy and stalking as a part of your regular preparedness exercises so they are ready to catch dinner when you are bugging out.


A knife is one of those basic tools with nearly limitless applications.  A kid in this age group should be taught how to safely carry, use, sharpen, and care for a knife.  Pack a knife for your teen in your family bug out bag or have them carry it with them in their pack.  There are numerous tasks that a teen can carry out using this to assist the welfare of the bug out group as a whole.

Bug Out Planning for Teens and Tweens

As teens are entering the first stages of adulthood this is a great time to start giving them some responsibility.  They should be able to understand the seriousness of a bug out situation and grasp that all bug out group members need to pitch in and help.  As you prepare at home challenge them to make decisions in a controlled environment. Doing this will teach them to take responsibility for the well being of the family.  Teens are also able to learn more advanced skills such as:

Kids in this age group are able to take on more autonomous tasks to be carried out when on the move and when setting up a camp.  Teach them to take ownership over basic tasks such as gathering firewood, finding and treating water, and foraging for food.

Teens are also able to understand that a bug out situation can be very dangerous and that they may need to defend themselves or their family members.  If you are comfortable and knowledgeable in self defense or weapons training it would be wise to pass this information on to older teens in a responsible manner.

Family Bug Out Bag

Family Bug Out Bag Conclusion

Bugging out with children of any age adds challenges to an already difficult situation.  However as you can see with some simple planning you can overcome these difficulties and help your family evacuate safely.  Think critically about what items to add to your family bug out bag to make things easier on both the child and the parent.  Also include your kids in your preparedness training and bug out planning so they know what is going on when the time comes.  If you are interested in more details on making a Family Bug Out Plan, I recommend checking out this comprehensive ebook:

Family plan

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any items that you would add to your family bug out bag?  Is there any special planning that you would do to make sure your family can bug out safely together?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

37 comments on “How To Make Your Family Bug Out Bag

  1. The toys for kids in a survival situation is another reason waldorf theory is great. My kids use natural items in their everyday play – pinecones, rocks and shells, twigs or log pieces as blocks. These items would be available in the wild while moving. I would also suggest cotton, muslin or silk (playsilks) hankies as toys and small wool felted animals or dolls. They also make pocket dolls or soft knotted end dolls for babies that would make nice lightweight options. Most of these items can be made at home for not much money as well. For pack weight I’d suggest not more than 10% of the child’s body weight for them to carry plus a possible one lb extra similar to the amount suggested for weighted sensory items. This helps too to determine the weight by the individual child and age.

    1. Thanks for your comment Michelle. You make some great suggestions for easy, space saving toys. Thanks!

  2. I would add to the other Michelle’s suggestions, nature exploring type items, magnifying glass, age appropriate nature guides, star gazing guides, small nets, child fishing rods. Of course, we are not talking a weekend camping trip here, so take only appropriate items. And the guides can be fold up type maps, not heavy books.

      1. Also as a note for parents with children with special needs…I have a daughter with special needs (she gets fluids through an IV every night). Obviously some conditions will prohibit bugging out to the wilderness, but for some minor conditions, don’t forget necessary medical supplies other than first aid. Our plan is to get to our daughters’ hospital and stay there/in the area. So that when we don’t have supplies anymore we can still get her the stuff she needs to survive.

  3. Remember Grandpa and Grandma! They will probably have special needs as much as the little ones. (Diapers, spare glasses, medications), and how much can they carry on their own. Again, your own circumstances dictate your needs.

  4. Great post. I have had a doctor recomend specific doses of some OTC medicine to help with some baby sleeping problems bedore. e very careful about this and definately ask your pediatrician. Not only because of the obvious medical issues with medicine. Most adults will likely reach for Benedryl as the best drug to cause drowsiness- DO NOT TRY THIS ON YOUR TODDLER! Their bodies literally process it different than in adults. In many cases a common side effect is that IT MAKES TODDLERS **HYPERACTIVE** NOT DROWSY! I cant take the stuff without planning a nap and it turns my sick two year old into a wild ball of boundless energy bouncing off the wallls. Unless you know for sure that your kid gets drowsy dont risk it- you very well might get the opposite of what you wanted by trying antihistimines. Bad news in a survical situation. Ask the doctor (they will likely recomend an NSAID)

    1. Just wanted to say something about Buddy’s comment. While it is true, some children get excited on benedryl, most get drowsy like adults. The side effect of excitability is MORE common in children than in adults. That dose not mean it is common. I would never recommend using a medication “Off-label” but if SHTF and it’s try something to protect all vs everyone being found, what is the difference if what you try gets everyone found anyway?! You take a lose-lose scenario (not trying something to keep the quiet) and make it a 50-50 scenario (probably better than that). Here is a link to what the NIH (National Institute of Health) says. Good luck to all

      1. My family Dr actually recommended benadryl for our 1 year old to help him sleep on a long flight. He gave us the dosage suggestion and everything. That being said, check with your own doctor and be sure to test it on your child first so you know you are not going to have the wrong reaction (hyperactivity instead of drowsiness).

    2. My mom used Dramamine on us. (I’m 58) It does come in liquid form as well.

      I was the carsick kid so it was double duty. LOL

  5. Wow do i struggle with this. I’ll tell you, my bag is easy overweight since i Jane 3 children under 6. However, depending on the scenario i can dump unnecessary great. For instance, i have gas masks for all and 2 canisters each. No nuke or dirty bomb, etc.. i can dump the masks/filters and just keep the lighter n-95’s. It really depends on your scenario, number of children, and age distribution. Great article.

    1. Hey, that is great that you have gear to cover a lot of scenarios but you have run into the problem that a lot of us do in trying to find a way to carry it all. If you are planning on ditching stuff that doesn’t apply to the particular disaster fate throws your way I suggest packing the mission specific items in their own ziplocs. This will make it easy to identify and ditch unneeded kit all in one go. Just grab your gas mask (or whatever) bag and dump it instead of having to dig through your bag and pull out each item individually.

      1. Great idea thanks! 🙂 I recently had a flood on two floors of my house and unpacked my wet bag. I dried out whant i could. I just got replacements and will be repacing VERY soon. I ordered a different bag with more molle pouches (my previous bag was molle, but I didn’t have teh extra pouches) and will try to place specialized gear in the pouches for wasier dumping. Obviously leaving on foot with a family of small children is my last choice. Thanks again.

          1. Great suggestion. However, the flooding was from a burst water line on the first floor, flooded the first floor (about 70% of it) and rained down into teh basement. I ahve 2 sump pumps (the secondd on a battery back-up). But, the way teh water rained down every where, tons of stuff got soaked,despite teh fact that the water level never really got over a couple fo inches.

  6. I have been trying to read as many of your emails as I can but if I missed this I am sorry but there is one Idem I thank you and others keep forgetting for their bug out bags and believe me it would not take long till you realized just how bad you do need it and that is T Paper.
    I have been in a few emergency situations up where I live power and water outages for small amount of time. the last one was for a month.
    and I was thankful for a small supply of T Paper.
    it is light weight and can be used as fire starter (kindling)
    anyway T Paper is better then the alternative if you do not believe me if you have a family member who was born around the 1940’s ask them what their opinion on this subject.
    believe me you want toilet paper in your supply’s.

    1. Disagreed. As a 5 year user of the “family cloth” and an experienced outdooswoman. TP is a helpful luxury that can be used for many things but it is not necessary and Oftern creates trash. Not to mention that it does not last very long among a family even with conservation efforts leaving you back without. I mean really, In a real shtf situation you likely wouldn’t miss it as you would be focusing on things that were more priority.

    2. Hey Charles, and all. I was also concerned about TP in my bugout bags, but it was so bulky, even when I removed the cardboard tubes and pressed each roll flat. I shopped around and found an awesome item. It is the compressed towelettes. They come in small pods about the size of a Mentos. You simply place them in water for a few minutes and you have an instant wet wipe for washing up, TP, first aid and many other uses. They are great tinder when dry, and you can get organic ones that will decompose naturally. I bought mine on and received nearly 500 for just $8 and $2 shipping. I loved them so much, I gave them out to all of my friends and family that are Prepper inclined.

  7. I see one thing that pretty much everyone is forgetting: School! Yes, the kids may survive when SHTF, but how will they learn things like reading, math, and history? Now, I wouldn’t suggest keeping all of the books needed with you (they can very quickly add up to a staggering amount), but have a place where all of the schoolbooks, other books, pens/pencils, etc. can be kept, and once your family has found a place to settle down, retrieve the books.
    Also, I would bring some religious books and ‘symbols’ (such as jewelry, etc.) While you yourself may not be big into religion, people may want to trade you for that Bible, and it can make you look more trustworthy to religious people (cross necklace = Person A.O.K in Christian’s book!)
    Hope these tips help, and remember: Stay Prepared!

    1. Most Christians I know learned early that a cross and or Bible does not always mean anything- your words and actions will tell where your heart lies. 😉 Also again Ina real shtf situation you will be focusing on survival not education. Even so experience as a former teacher and a current homeschooler I know that you could manage on nothing but you smarts and some stick and dirt to teach. 1 or 2 comprehensive and small books (Jamie York math comes to mind as 1) would be sufficient for basic instruction if you felt like you needed that (again why?) So if shtf everything would change. I’m sure as hell not backpacking bug out style with our himeschool supplies and books that’s a bad idea just sayin.

      1. Agree with Marge. Also look into wildschooling and unschooling as possible alternate options. Definitely will not be packing any of our textbooks to take with us if shtf.

    2. Audrey,
      Great idea on school books. My daughter was recently enrolled in an online school so that she can stay safely close to home. I took many of their lesson guides and transferred them into a spiral bound notebook, leaving the backs of each page blank for her to practice on. Many lessons for kids can be done this way, while other lessons will of course have more verbal components. This has worked for our travel needs as well. After all, a spiral notebook with a pencil or pen in the spiral doesn’t take up much space or weigh a great deal but it will allow me to cover the basics she will need. If there are extra spaces in the spiral, it can also work for entertainment as it will provide a canvas for journaling, writing, drawing, and collecting notes during rest times.

  8. If my kids are stuck at school, then I would want some basic items in their backpack in case they have to hike a long distance to get home. A map would be good if they take the bus/mom & dad pick them up. Some emergency money. Small 10 item first aid kit. A whistle. Water bottle with filter (goes to school every day with them already). And a snack that they have in case of emergency. A friend of mine doesn’t allow cell phones, but she gave every kiddo a 10 mile walkie for emergency situations ONLY & backup batteries. They have code phrases, and have walked through emergency procedures with them. Thought that was an interesting idea. Lastly, if you work far from your kids school, and can’t get there in time, make sure there is a family that your kids can go home with until you can get them.

  9. I don’t know about your schools but my kids schools will NOT release children, including older kids, to anyone but a parent, legal guardian, or someone authorized in writing in advance. At the beginning of the year you fill out the form, you can revise it any time but you can’t just send a note the day of. So when planning what to do in an emergency situation I can’t just have my kids walk home (even though we are only a block away) . We have to have a plan to go get them.

  10. Iam a grandmother raising two of my young grandchildren. When we bug out due to tornado’s, I always make sure I have enough light sticks for my kids & any other children taking shelter with us! It calms them down, entertains them and relaxes them! Plus they are fun! And you can buy bags of 10 for 1!

  11. I liked this post. I have a big bug out bag with all the necessary stuff, but I am in the process of gathering things for my 3 yr old daughter as well. I am a single mom so I worry about trying to bug out with her anyway since I wouldn’t have any help. A couple things I liked was the photo idea of family. I was always told before to have a comfort item like a stuffed animal or blanket. However the photo of family to put in your child’s pocket is a good idea because you can write the names of family members and phone numbers on the back of photo. If I was unconscious, separated or killed, my daughter wouldn’t be able to communicate who I was or who her grandparents are or their phone number so this is a good idea. So many little ones only know their parents as “mommy” or “daddy” instead of Jane Smith or John Anderson. Another thing I liked is the formula idea. I am a big breastfeeding advocate, but if mom was killed or separated, I would rather the baby have a little formula instead of starving. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Melissa,
      We have so much in common!!!! Single mom, 3 year old, breastfeeding advocates…
      I haven’t revised my bug out bag since my son was newborn…. I’ve got some time coming up I plan to do that in, and all I can think is how quickly he’s growing through different sizes lol

    2. Melissa, Great point. One of the items that I have always made sure were in my family bugout bags was a Sharpie in a waterproof container. The intention being that I would write pertinent information on my daughters arm, just incase we were separated. The Childs name, age, address, emergency contact, parent, and even medical conditions written directly on her arm in Sharpie works as a little insurance of getting her home safely. If she were unconscious or in shock when found and unable to communicate it would make the difference in her getting home or not. I suggest the arm not the hand because the hands are used for everything and washed more often. The writing may fade too soon. The Sharpie could also help groups leave notes for separated members, or mark their path with a prearranged symbol.

  12. Cards are a great ‘toy’ that both adults and kids can utilize to pass the time. We are in the process of getting school plans in place, since we have 4 kids at all levels of school now on 4 campuses. They always have water bottles, and a snack. I put a 10 mile walkie with the batteries in a separate baggie. Extra inhaler. I never thought about the extra cash. They do have a map, with 3 ways to get home marked out and walked with parents, a compass/whistle combo and a headlamp. Other than that, we are in scouting to help out with basic outdoor skills for our kids.

  13. Don’t mean to bump an old post, but this appears to be a “living” document. I have thought about this extensively. Our daughter is 6 now, so I feel better, but… a big concern I had is; will a child listen, be quiet, move, move faster and do it all on command? Practice, practice. We have forest fires in our area. I use that to practice. We have phrases so that she knows “normal” is out and “serious time” is in play. I practice with her following commands without hesitation or questions. (The sillier and more novel, the better). We do similar drills for active shooter situations. Other than that, I packed her heavier on clothing and shelter items in her bag. If she got separated, she could at least hole up and stay warm. She also knows where to kick people in bad situations. 😉

  14. I am also a single mom. That’s has a 2 year old that is non verble . We will have no help . So I can use all tips I can to be ready to bug out when needed. I am getting prepared to set up a BOB . But I do not even know where to start he is also 1 1/2 years behind government standards with autistic tendencies. I am open to any advice .

    1. A good item to have for many back packs or purses is a picture of the the family. If a child is non-verbal or unable to communicate it makes a fast image of people that are part of the child’s family. This can lead to faster authorizations for operations, treatment and release the child to you.

    2. Bethany, a non-verbal child has even more need of identification. It is hard because bags and even clothing can be lost or left behind. Use a Sharpie to write important information on your child’s arm whenever an emergency occurs. That way he can be identified and returned safely home if you are ever separated. Keeping to routines helps for many kids, but a bug out situation will be far out of their normal routine. This can cause stress for any kid, but more so for kids with special needs. I have heard of people helping their kids adapt more by taking their kids on hikes and camping trips regularly so that if a bugout situation occurs they will be used to hiking and camping. It will not be routine, but it will be something they are used to so it will help lower their anxiety levels. The use of comfort items will be more important too, as a non-verbal child will not be able to voice their distress, so lowering that stress may help. Keeping a notebook in their bag that has information can also help them. If they are at a pre-reading age like your child pictures will do as well. It can help with communication at least. Another thing you might be interested in is a piggyback backpack. This allows your child to ride on a platform while you carry your pack and them. This may allow you to keep your child closer and not overtire or exhaust your Childs physical capabilities. As you stated that you are a single mother and would not have any help, I would suggest that you look for a prepper group. Having backup and help will be so valuable, if you can find a trustworthy group to travel with, then it will allow all of you to divide supplies and back up in child care while you forage or do other tasks necessary.

  15. Fanny packs are really good to have also for money smaller items hair ties compbs snacks bank cards identifications purified tablets to put in the water canteen . Pen that has a knife attach to it

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