bug out bag

Reader Case Study: Making Your Family More Self Reliant

Family Preparedness

I recently received an email from a reader with an inspiring and educational story about how he helps prepare his family. I thought it would make a great case study in applying the preparedness mindset to everyday life.

We live in upstate New York and just North of us are a series of 3 poorly maintained dams that have been in the news from time to time due to neglect and mismanagement problems. Most of us who live on the downhill side of these dams are always waiting for one to spring a leak in a big way. Since they are all in a row along the same river if the top one goes the others don’t stand a chance. Neither do those of us who live in the probable path.

Great work! Bill has looked around at his environment and assessed threats that are likely to affect him and his family. He can now plan how to mitigate these and prepare more effectively.

We have had bug out bags ready and stored in our front hall closet, right near the front door, for years now. We use PVC waterproof packs made for canoe and rafting trips. I make sure the gear is rotated several times a year with respect to seasons and since we have 3 kids, I need to make sure clothes still fit. I also stick in some playing cards and a book or 2 for each of us.

Bill has done a good job here helping his family prepare. He has:

  • Packed bug out bags for all members
  • He periodically checks and updates each kit for seasonal changes and growing kids
  • He has packed items to make an evacuation less traumatizing for his kids
  • He has packed the survival gear in a waterproof container to protect everything from the elements

At this point Bill shares a very personal anecdote of his preparedness journey with us as well as shares some practical tips for choosing and archiving important documents.

But what takes work and thought are the important documents and family photos that we would not want to lose. Call me a sentimental fool (my kids leave out the sentimental part) but childhood memories are important to me and can never be replaced. I looked into keeping family photo albums and important documents with a relative but decided against it. I also looked into a safety deposit box in a bank but that was expensive. The cheapest one I found was over $40.00 a month.

The solution I settled on was scanning each page of photos from all of the albums into our computer than burning them onto C.D.’s and flash drives and keeping a copy in each of the bug out packs. It was very time consuming and frustrating because I am not an expert at this. It really was in the truest sense of the word, a labor of love. We must have 6 thick photo albums made up of years of vacations, birthday parties, Halloween photos and much more. We even caught my son’s very first unassisted steps! I’d hate to lose this stuff. In addition to the photos, I have been writing letters to each of my children since months before they were even born.

I wrote about boring things mostly. How the garden was doing and what we planted. What the weather was like or what we were doing at work. But I also wrote about how we both looked forward to meeting them for the first time and hearing their first words. How we wanted to go hiking and canoeing with them, and how much we hoped they quickly found a job. (I think I’m funny). Before I even knew their gender, I did know I was going to cherish them everyday, and I have. I still do, even though my oldest son who just turned 15 is now 6 feet tall already.

So, after I figured out the technical details on how to scan things onto my PC, then burn them onto C.D.’s, the work started in earnest. Several long days it took me to do this and more than a little trial and error, with the emphasis on error. Still, I doggedly persevered. I scanned about 200 pages with photos on each page. Then I opened and scanned each letter I have written over the years.

Bill has put a lot of effort in to keep his family’s memories together. If things go badly and the dams he mentioned above break or there is another disaster his family can evacuate to safety knowing they will have their history and important memories with them. The story of how Bill writes letters to his children and wants to preserve these for them until they are old enough to appreciate them was particularly impactful for me. We often think of survival as a checklist of gear to buy or skills to master. I think this anecdote really shows the human side of surviving that is often overlooked. If a disaster does occur having these tidbits of their former lives will provide great strength and morale to Bill’s family.

On top of that I scanned things like health, life, homeowners and car insurance policies. Some of these need to be updated a few times a year, so I scanned them individually so when I need to put a more recent document in I didn’t have to scan 6 other things as well. I also included:
Health care proxies
Property surveys
Paperwork dealing with the purchase of the house
Birth certificates
Social security cards
Marriage license
Professional certificates
Medical documentation
Blood types
Recent family photos to assist searching for separated members

Bill has moved on to the practical stuff to archive here, things that will help his family rebuild in the aftermath of a disaster. He has a great tip in there as well of scanning documents that tend to be refreshed periodically as individual items that can be updated in a modular fashion, rather than having to re-scan the whole list just to update one page. This is practical advice from someone who has done the task themself. Thanks Bill, once again your efforts are an inspiration.

But even the most well stocked bags are not much good unless you have a plan your family knows about and maybe even practices. That is a critical part of being prepared. Anyone can throw some stuff in a bag but to be really ready you all need to be on the same page and know what to do and when to do it. That will make or break your survival sometimes. Knowing what skills your family members have and being able to rely on them to do what was agreed on ahead of time is a huge part of preparedness, at least to my way of thinking. It’s also the hard part. Not everyone will see your point of view or agree on the need to plan ahead. I face that all the time with my wife, but after a few tough situations over the years we have come to trust and rely on each other. That is also when you realize you have a great relationship that needs to be cherished and never taken for granted. Ever.

Bill has wisely looked beyond just buying a bunch of survival gear to get prepared. He recognizes the importance of having a simple, realistic plan to follow if disaster strikes. He has also involved his wife in the decision making process and gotten her buy in to the plan. Having the commitment of all the adults in your Bug Out Party is so critical as it allows you to work as a team. As Bill points out this can be a challenge if your spouse is not on the same page as you. Luckily he was able to persevere and gotten her on board.

It is a wonderful thing to have neighbors who look out for each other. Super Storm Sandy tore up our property and ripped over 10 large trees down, some on our roof. We bought a 650 gallon food grade water cistern years ago and had fresh water to share. Some shared gasoline (which was almost non existent) but just having someone to knock on your door to see how you were was a real blessing.

Preparing is great, but it is also vital to communicate your plans with family, friends and neighbors. I thought my neighbors would think me nuts for telling them our plans and suggesting they make plans of their own, but no one did. They were great and offered suggestions.

Bill is once again showing how a proactive mindset pays off in survival situations. In this anecdote he:

  1. Demonstrates the usefulness of proactively preparing his home by setting up a cistern. This can apply to many things, from upgrading your home like Bill did to going out and learning some additional survival skills. The quick win that will help you survive is adopting a PROACTIVE mindset rather than a REACTIVE one. Look around you right now, what can you change, adapt, or develop to make yourself better prepared?
  2. Bill talks about his relationships with his neighbors and how they looked out for each other in the recovery after Super Storm Sandy. If you have good relationships with the people around you, it can act as a force multiplier in your recovery or survival efforts. In this case Bill was able to share some of his water. Ask yourself, if there were a disaster in your area what would you be able to offer your community? Food? Firewood? Knowledge? Try to become an expert in something and you will have the ability to help others and in turn barter your skill/resource/advantage for whatever you need.

I hope this was of use to some folks. We had to learn most of the lessons the hard way, but learn we did. Not to share our lessons with others would be wrong. Be well my friends.

-Bill in New York.

Thanks for being so generous with your experiences and knowledge, Bill!

So, what can we take away from this case study?

  1. The fact that you read this blog is a strong indication that you already have a proactive mindset. If not, adapt to it as quickly as possible. Being proactive instead of reactive is one of the most fundamental aspects of survival. If you have to rely on yourself to survive waiting for things to happen will not get you very far.
  2. Help your family with prepping by doing things for them if need be. This may mean building bug out bags for everyone, scanning documents, and more as Bill has done.
  3. …But you can’t do it all yourself. Things like making your family’s Bug Out Plan simply cannot be done in a vacuum. Involve your spouse as early as you can. If you simply are not on the same page as far as the importance of preparedness consider doing as much as you can for them and then demonstrate the utility of your actions and how it helps the family.
  4. Involve your kids as well, teaching them skills will pay dividends for the rest of their lives. Additionally educating them about preparedness will make it less scary if you ever do need to actually rely on these skills as we mentioned in our article, Bugging Out With Kids.
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate with your family. Let them know why you are preparing in addition to how to survive. Don’t get distant and do everything in isolation, show them that your actions come from the heart.

Reader Case Study Conclusion

I hope this case study was useful to you and gave you some ideas to help you along your preparedness journey. A big thank you again to Bill and his family for being so open and honest about the challenges and experiences they have faced so far.

If you have a story about your own path to preparedness or self-sufficiency please let us know in the Comments Section below or email Chris directly at info@thebugoutbagguide.com.

Always remember, chance favors the well prepared.

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cold weather survival gear

Cold Weather Survival Gear

Having a survival kit packed full of bug out bag essentials is a good start towards coming out alive in any situation.  However if you are likely to have to face a cold weather survival scenario you should consider adding specific cold weather survival gear to your kit to maximize your chances.  If you live in a cold weather climate you may have these items in your BOB at all times.  However if you live somewhere that has seasonal changes in temperature, you should include the addition of supplemental cold weather survival gear into your regular bug out bag updates.

cold weather survival gear

Cold Weather Survival Gear

There are many essential BOB items that are helpful in a winter survival scenario.  The best of these can serve to greatly increase your chances of survival when the mercury is dropping and snow is on the way.  Here are our picks of the best cold weather survival gear that should be a part of any bug out bag in a cold climate:


This will greatly help you when breaking trail through the wilderness, digging a fire pit, or when shelter building.  If you are going to be shoveling snow a flat shovel blade is suggested.  If you will have to be digging into frozen ground a spade or pick end will serve you better.

Broad blade for moving snowSpade tip for digging in frozen ground

Saw or Hatchet

This is a personal choice but bringing one or the other is a smart move.  These tools will help you build a shelter and gather firewood as well as many other important tasks.  A hatchet will be better at smashing ice and splitting wood but a saw generally weighs less and is better at cutting dead wood for fires.

High quality basic hatchetSurvival Chain SawCompact Folding SawHatchet/Saw Combo

High energy/low weight foods

Maximize the space in your BOB by using compact rations that have high calorie values such as MREs, granola or powerbars, energy gels, or nuts.  You will be burning more calories than normal so you need to up your intake to keep pace.

High energy gel - high energy, little weightHigh calories, take up little spaceKeep hydrated, just add water

Fire starting equipment and tinder

Having a fire is a key to keeping warm in a cold weather survival situation, make sure you have a high quality fire starting set.  A magnesium fire starter will last longer than matches and will work better in wet or windy conditions.  Invest in a good one to maximize your odds.

Compact and reliableOne handed firestarterMilitary grade firestarting gel. Better than any tinder.

Container for boiling snow

A metal water bottle or canteen is a great multipurpose survival tool in this regard.  It will serve as a storage container for the water after you have boiled it and will not crack if the water freezes, like a plastic bottle would.

Wide mouth makes it easy to stuff snow insideClassic style, comes with an integrated cup and carry caseInsulated to keep liquids warm

Emergency blanket

This is another great piece of multipurpose cold weather survival gear.  Emergency blankets are relatively inexpensive and in a cold weather survival situation they can be used for wrapping up yourself up to keep in warmth, as a ground cloth to keep you from losing heat to the cold ground and to keep moisture from being absorbed by your clothes, or as a shelter building material.

Compact and inexpensiveUpgraded, heavy duty version of a space blanket with integrated hoodBivvy sack made of emergency blanket material. Put your sleeping bag inside for extra warmth.

Quality waterproof boots

Taking care of your feet is one of the core elements of survival.  Wet shoes from walking through snow can quickly lead to frostbite.  Being immobilized due to this can quickly lead to death.  Having a good pair of warm, waterproof boots will eliminate any issues with your mobility and allow you to survive longer.

High quality warm, waterproof men's bootHigh quality warm, waterproof women's bootAdd on to your boots to give you traction on ice

Brightly colored bandana

Something brightly colored, preferably fluorescent will be visible from great distances against a snowy background.  This can be used for signaling passing cars or planes.  As mentioned in our multipurpose survival gear article, a bandana has many uses and this applies to cold weather survival as well.  As a cold weather survival gear item a bandana can be used for:

  • Collecting and melting snow and ice

  • A Layer of head cover under a hat

  • Wrapping extremities to prevent frostbite

  • Signaling

Bright orange and printed with helpful survival informationBright red and printed with 1st aid infromation

Quality sleeping bag

Having a quality sleeping bag rated to sub-zero temperatures is one of the most important pieces of cold weather survival gear you can have.  It will allow you to rest when you need to in order to recover your energy.  Additionally, keeping warm at night will cause you to burn less calories that would otherwise be spent keeping your temperature up.  We suggest one that is rated to -20 degrees F (about -30 degrees C) for starters.  If you live in a very cold region get one that is rated for even colder to ensure your safety.

High quality bag rated to -20Extreme bag rated down to -40


If you are in an area that usually receives a lot of snow these are a good thing to have.  They will make traversing snow covered ground far easier than breaking trail through snow banks.  Snowshoes can be purchased in many places or you can learn how to make them in the video below:

Basic snowshoesMidrange snowshoesHigh quality top of the range snowshoes


As we have discussed in the past tailoring your bug out bag to your survival scenario is a key to having it be as useful as possible when you need it.  Adding cold weather survival gear to your kit will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in a winter survival situation.  Be sure to pick quality gear, you will not be happy that you saved a few dollars when you are out in the wilderness freezing.  As with any survival tools make sure you take any items you select out and familiarize yourself with using them.  You don’t want a life or death situation to be when you are taking an item out of its original packaging.  Practice your cold weather survival skills and hone the techniques of using your cold weather survival gear for the best results.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have a piece of cold weather survival gear that you would recommend?  Do you have an innovative use for one of the cold weather survival gear items that we mentioned above?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.

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cold weather survival

Cold Weather Survival Tips and Skills

Surviving when you are cut off from the support net of society is extremely difficult under even optimal conditions.  Cold weather survival situations add significant additional challenges which must be trained and planned for.  These challenges can be overcome by gaining cold weather survival knowledge and experience as well as  tailoring your bug out bag as we mentioned in our recent article covering cold weather survival gear.  In this article we will review the most essential cold weather survival tips to practice and employ when beating the cold.

cold weather survival

Keeping Warm During Cold Weather Survival

A key to cold weather survival is keeping your core temperature warm.  A combination of shorter days (less sunlight), wind chill, lower temperatures, and ice and snow will conspire to steal body heat and energy away from you.  Your body will have to work harder and consume more calories to keep you warm.  In order to stay warm practice the following cold weather survival tips:

Dress in layers

This is the best way to regulate your body temperature while surviving in the cold.  Multiple layers are better than one thick layer because they trap air between them.  This air is then warmed by your body and acts as an insulator against the cold.  Start off with a light wicking layer to keep perspiration away from your skin and build up from there.  Three to five layers are good for most adults.  The outer layer should always be wind and waterproof to minimize heat exchange and keep water out.  Layers are additionally excellent at regulating temperature because you can add or remove them if you find yourself to be cold or hot.  If you are travelling with children a good rule of thumb is to dress them in one more layer than you have on to keep them warm.

Keep active

Keeping yourself active will keep your heart rate up and maintain a good flow of warm blood to your extremities.  It is important to not overexert yourself however.  If you become drenched in sweat this moisture will sap heat away from you.  Keep a moderate pace for your activities whether hiking or building a shelter.  Maintain your temperature by removing clothing layers to keep warm but not hot.  Slow down or stop to rest periodically to avoid burning yourself out.

Keep fuel in the tank

As you will be burning a lot of energy keeping active and keeping your temperature up you will need to consume extra calories and drink extra liquids to keep your body going.  It is important to pack extra high calorie/low weight rations in your bug out bag.  This may include nuts, granola bars, energy gels, or powerbar type foods.  To keep hydrated pack gatorade powder, which can be mixed with water or melted snow.  This will keep you hydrated far better than water alone.

Cover Your Head

Up to 90% of the heat you lose will be through your head if you do not keep it covered.  Keeping a hood up or hat on will keep this heat in as well as keep your head dry if you are working in snow.  Also this is the easiest layer to remove if you find yourself getting hot.  Keep your head covered to keep that precious heat in!

Cold Weather Survival Tips

Surviving in cold weather requires the same basic survival skills as in any other environment.  It is necessary however to add to your skill set as some tasks become more difficult under cold weather survival conditions.

Cold Weather Shelter Building

Building a survival shelter should be a top priority during cold weather survival.   A good shelter will keep out the wind and damp as well as keep heat in.  Cold weather survival provides some additional challenges as well as benefits to survival shelter building.

A basic A-frame or Lean-to shelter works well using branches and piling snow on top.  Snow is an excellent insulator and makes a great outer layer of a shelter.  If you have chosen to include an emergency blanket, poncho, or tarp in your bug out bag essentials, any of these items can be used to form the roof of your shelter if laid upon the frame of branches.  Using one of the items as a ground cloth will additionally insulate a shelter against cold and damp.  An important thing to consider when building a cold weather survival shelter is that if you are going to build a fire in a shelter be sure it is ventilated with a chimney to avoid suffocation.  Check out the below videos for instructions on building a winter survival shelter.


Fire is essential in a cold weather survival scenario for two reasons:

  1. Keeping Warm – this is obvious but its importance cannot be overstated.  Having a fire will raise your morale and keep the spectre of freezing related medical problems out of your mind.
  2. Melting Snow – This will give you a nearly limitless water supply while surviving.  Boil the water from melted snow to ensure any pathogens are killed.

When gathering wood in a winter survival situation be it is preferable to collect branches that are not lying in the snow as the moisture from snowbound wood will make it harder to burn.  Look for dead branches in the lower parts of trees in the area.  For more tips on fire building check out our article on Basic Survival Skills.

Cold Weather First Aid

The two biggest medical problems found in cold weather survival are hypothermia and frostbite.  Both of these are very dangerous and need to be watched out for at all times.  Familiarize yourself with the symptoms and treatments for these two conditions:


A condition where one’s body temperature drops below the ability to self-regulate.  This typically begins when the core temperature goes below 95F degrees.  It can happen easily if someone falls into a cold stream or frozen lake and must be addressed quickly to increase a person’s chances for survival.

  • Shivering

  • Loss of coordination

  • Weak pulse

  • Drowsiness

  • Slow speech

  • Confusion or memory loss

  • If possible seek emergency medical attention

  • Remove any wet clothes and replace them with dry ones or a dry blanket/sleeping bag, etc

  • Protection from wind or anything else that may cause further heat loss

  • Seek shelter

  • Warm the person up by putting them in a shelter, bringing them near a fire or using your own body heat

  • Drinking warm liquids can also be used to bring a person’s temperature back up


This occurs when a body part (usually an extremity or an exposed ear or nose) becomes so cold that ice crystals begin to form in the tissues.  It should be treated immediately and can lead to the loss of the frostbitten body part!

  • Numbness in the affected area

  • White patches on skin, these will turn black in severe frostbite

  • Hardening of the affected area

  • Seek emergency medical attention if possible

  • The affected area should be gradually warmed up by moving to a warmer area such as a shelter or near a fire and covering it from the elements

  • Warm water can also be used

  • Care needs to be take to not place anything hot on the affected area as this can cause burns that are not felt due to numbness

  • Try not to walk on frostbitten toes or feet as this can cause additional damage

  • You should NEVER rub the affected area to warm it up

Cold Weather Survival


Cold weather survival can be a brutal and trying circumstance.  However with some planning and the addition of some carefully chosen cold weather survival gear you can greatly increase your chances of success.  There is no replacement however for experience and knowledge.  If you live in a cold weather area try going out in the woods for a weekend with your bug out bag and cold weather survival gear to practice making a shelter and fire with the contents you have with you.  This will test your abilities and show you where you need to expand your knowledge or if your gear (including your cold weather clothing) is up to the task.  Remember, chance favors the well prepared.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any cold weather survival tips that you want to share?  Have you had to survive in freezing conditions yourself?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.

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best bug out vehicle checklist

Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

best bug out vehicle checklist

If you are one of the millions of people who own a vehicle you should seriously consider integrating it into your bug out plan.

However, this can be more complicated than simply throwing your bug out bag in your car and hitting the gas.

  • How can the particular advantages of a vehicle evacuation be maximized?
  • How can we eliminate any negatives?
  • What is the best bug out vehicle checklist to maintain?
  • What is the best bug out vehicle for YOUR survival situation?

We will walk through each of these points and demonstrate how to effectively incorporate a bug out vehicle into your bug out plan.

Bug Out Vehicle Advantages

1.  Greater travel radius

A vehicle will allow you to travel further faster.  This should be explored as part of bug out planning.  Is there a better location further away?  Just because you can travel further doesn’t mean you have to.  Take the best bug out location option, not the furthest.  If you can defend a closer location better or cache more supplies there, consider these factors.

2.  Carry more supplies

A vehicle can carry more supplies and survival tools than a person can lug.  This is great as a properly planned bug out vehicle checklist can make your ride a mobile bug out location.  However, it is important to avoid the temptation of packing EVERYTHING.  The goal is to find a balance.  Bring survival gear that will extend your independence and raise your odds of survival, not everything imaginable.  As always, focus on multi-use items.  Additionally, you should not consider even the best bug out vehicle to be a mobile bug out bag.  You should always have a full bug out bag packed and at hand in the vehicle in the event that you have to ditch it quickly.

3.  Additional shelter

Your vehicle can shelter you from rain and wind even if you are out of gas.  If it is running it can also provide heat or cooling as needed.  This makes it a powerful ally.  If a storm is hitting you can simply take cover in your vehicle rather than having to set up a survival shelter.  It can also be slept in with no additional modifications.  If you are in a pinch you can even cook on the hot engine with proper preparation (how to video below).  This will greatly raise morale and increase your odds of surviving.


Bug Out Vehicle Disadvantages

1.  Can create dependence

Planning to have the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation is fantastic but you should not consider it as an answer to all potential problems.  You still need to plan your bug out assuming that you are going to have to ditch your car, and all the niceties it brings at some point.  You may run out of gas or run into an impassable road.  Either way if you planned on driving the entire way to your bug out location you are going to need to improvise.  Even with the best bug out vehicle you will need to hone those survival skills and plan on hiking to your destination in order to guard against uncertainty.

2.  Not as versatile as traveling on foot

Foot travel is more energy intensive than driving but it is also more versatile.  Imagine you have your bug out vehicle checklist planned and packed and when SHTF you go on your merry way to find that everyone else has the same plan.  You are now faced with miles and miles of traffic.  Is this still the fastest way to bug out?  What if rubble and debris cuts off a vital road?  When planning your bug out route consider if going on foot is a more direct means of travel as you can cut through terrain rather than having to stick to a road or trail.

3.  Additional complications

Traveling by vehicle provides serious advantages as we mentioned above.  However even the best bug out vehicle also adds additional complications and costs in volume, weight, and money into your bug out plan.  Consider this addition as a whole when assessing what is the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation.

Best bug out vehicle

The Best Bug Out Vehicle

The ideal bug out vehicle would have the following qualities to maximize the advantages of a vehicular bug out while minimizing the challenges present:


A no-brainer when picking a bug out vehicle.  This will vastly increase your options when bugging out.  A non-4WD car will quickly break down if forced to drive off road.  Having a 4WD bug out vehicle will enable you to pass over far more terrain and reach safety faster.

Modular interior

Unless you are planning on bugging out in an RV you will want to modify the interior of the vehicle to be more suitable for survival.  This may mean taking out seating to allow more storage or making it convertible for sleeping in.  It is important to note that although you will want to customize the interior of the vehicle you want to do as little tinkering with the engine and drivetrain as possible.  Customization in these areas make repairs and sourcing replacement parts far more difficult.  Reliability is key with a bug out vehicle, having stock parts that you may be able to scavenge is an essential element of this.

Diesel engine

A diesel engine has many advantages over a gas model.  They are generally more fuel efficient for one.  Additionally, they allow far greater fuel flexibility, being able to run on home heating oil, kerosene, and some jet fuels.  This significantly increases scavenge potential while on the road.  Diesel fuel also has a far greater storage lifetime than gasoline.  With the addition of commercially available fuel stabilizers diesel fuel will last more than 10x longer than gasoline.

Good gas mileage

Having a gas guzzler for your bug out vehicle is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot.  Gas will surely be in short supply and you may not even have the time or opportunity to scavenge additional supplies while on the move.  Look for a vehicle that is rated for at least 23-27 MPG to ensure gas efficiency will not be a problem while making your evacuation.  Higher MPG would be better but may be hard to find for a vehicle that has good storage capacity.  Check out this site for a list of all car models with mpg ratings.

Easy to repair

Reliability is key with when trying to find the best bug out vehicle.  Having stock parts that you may be able to scavenge is an essential element of this.  Choosing a vehicle that is widely used and has commonly available parts is ideal.

Trailer hitch

This opens up options for including a bug out trailer as a part of your bug out plan.  A trailer allows more cargo space overall without sacrificing passenger seats, which is great if you have a family travelling with you.  Additionally, a trailer can be ditched once the supplies within have been used up to improve gas mileage.

Brush guard

This should be partnered with any vehicle you intend to take off-road.  It will save your front end and radiator from damage and also improves your ability to ram trees in the way or doors that need opening.

Manual transmission preferred

This isn’t required but it sure helps.  Manual transmissions increase reliability, improve gas mileage and are easier to fix and replace than an automatic transmission.  They also allow you to push start a car if an ignition is burned out or you lose your keys.

Bug out vehicle checklist

So what additional items would you want on your bug out vehicle checklist to increase your odds of success?  Note that this is in addition to your bug out bag, which you will be bringing as well!!!  Here is a list of items that will maximize the advantages present in a vehicular bug out situation:

  • Extra fuel containers

  • Siphon Pump

  • Tow Straps

  • Seatbelt Cutter/Window Breaker (see our comprehensive guide on these by clicking HERE) 

  • CB radio

  • Tire chains

  • Jumper Starter



  • Can of Fix-A-Flat

  • Basic tool kit – Pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, duct tape, stanley knife, cable ties

  • Power inverter – To charge any electronics you may have on the go

  • Winch

  • Extra oil

  • Spare keys

  • Spare tire – not a doughnut!

What else can I do to make my bug out vehicle great?

  • Beyond stocking up your bug out vehicle checklist be sure to service it regularly.  There is no point in having the best bug out vehicle in the world if it is unreliable or won’t run when you need it!

  • Make sure you have a reliable Jump Starter!  This is easy and can save your life!  This is the one I strongly recommend.
  • Practice driving your intended bug out route to see if your car is up to the task.  This will also help you identify any difficulties along the way and point out any modifications you may need to make to either the car or your bug out plan.

  • If you choose to use a manual transmission vehicle make sure all the adults in your bug out party know how to drive it.  As with any aspect of your bug out plan, redundancy is key.

  • Add vehicle inspection and testing to your regular bug out plan reviews to make sure your bug out vehicle still fits into your strategy.


As you can see, there are a lot of options for finding the best bug out vehicle for your survival situation.  Understanding them and what works best is an important step towards adding a car or truck to your bug out plan.  Adding a bug out vehicle checklist to your bug out bag essentials will additionally help you maximize the advantages of bugging out in a vehicle.

It is important however to not depend on any one thing in your bug out plan for your survival, including a car or other means of transport.  Keep flexible and be ready to continue your bug out on foot if need be.  Please also check out our printable Bug Out Vehicle Checklist Graphic below which you can download and print to have with you when you are preparing your bug out vehicle:

Best Bug Out Vehicle Checklist

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any items you would add to this bug out vehicle checklist?  What do you think would make the best bug out vehicle?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.  If you thought this post was helpful please Like, +1, or Tweet it using the social media buttons at the top of the page, thanks!

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EDC List

Every Day Carry List – Assessing Threats and Choosing Your EDC Items

EDC ListHopefully, by now, you’ve devised your bug out plan and have packed your bug out bag using our bug out bag list.

Awesome, you are now better prepared than the overwhelming majority of the populace. But what survival tools should you have in your every day carry kit?

Here we will look at what a survival minded person could have on their every day carry list that would help prepare them to deal with dynamic situations that may arise in everyday life.

What is an Every Day Carry List?

An every day carry list is a set of items that you have with you under most scenarios (at all times if possible) that helps you be prepared at a moment’s notice to deal both daily situations as well as be ready to survive in emergency situations. These items may be designed to aid your survival on their own, or they may be there to help you get to a safe location or back home. It can be made up of a wide variety of items and should be tailored to your lifestyle, locality, and probable threats.

Ideally, the items on an every day carry list will be small both in number and size and will be possible to carry on your person without an extra bag or container to lug around. There are some people however that do choose to carry the items on their every day carry list in a specific EDC bag and others who prefer to consolidate this kit into fewer, more flexible items such as those covered in our 10 Best Multi-Purpose Survival Tools post.

What should be on YOUR Every Day Carry List?

1. Things You Carry With You Already

This is important to review for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they probably reveal some of your basic day-to-day needs which give us insight into what your greater every day carry (EDC) needs may be. Secondly, if you are already carrying an item with you, you would not need to replicate its uses or functions elsewhere. Or perhaps you can modify one of these items to make it a better EDC tool without adding another piece into your EDC kit. Keeping an every day carry list simple and light is key.

  • Wallet – I need my ID and cash daily. I can’t leave home without this.
  • Keys – Can’t leave home without these unless I want to climb through the window to get back in! I am going to add a “Grenade” Survival Kit Key Fob to my keyring, which comes with more paracord and a fire starting kit.
  • Phone – I always have my phone on me to contact loved ones or the authorities in the event of an emergency. To improve this, I am going to load PDFs onto it with critical documents and a map of my local area in case I need to access these while the phone network is unavailable. I am also going to slip a razor blade and a laminated hard copy of that same map in the space between the case and the back of the phone as backups. If you do this, don’t forget to remove the blade before going through a security checkpoint at an airport!
  • Watch – A friend once told me “Never trust someone who doesn’t have a watch.” It is an item that many of us carry every day. Some ways we can supercharge this into an EDC survival tool is to add a compass or use a paracord woven watch band. If you do not want to add a compass, you can learn to use your watch as a navigation tool.

2. Things That Would Help With Frequently Encountered Problems

Do you have problems that you face repeatedly? Is there a potential problem that has a high probability of occurring in your normal day or commute? Is there something that you frequently use that has the potential to break? Having an EDC item that could assist in these situations would make your life easier generally and be of great help when the high potential risks become a reality.

  • Folding Knife – I have to frequently cut cardboard and plastic at work, but this would also be good if I was in a more office based role where I would be dealing with staples or opening letters. You cannot go wrong with the Kershaw Blur Folding Knife with a Partial Serrated Blade that I have been carrying with me for years and it still is razor sharp and can be easily opened with one hand. A small yet powerful addition to an every day carry list. Check out our in-depth article on How To Pick The Best EDC Knife.
  • Flashlight – I am in a dark parking lot daily that this will help out with that. It will also be useful in case of a blackout or a fire. A good LED flashlight (check out our article here on picking the best EDC flashlight) is also powerful enough to signal for help and small enough to fit in a pocket and can also double as a self-defense tool. We love the Fenix PD35.
  • Multitool – A multitool is the jack-of-all-trades of the tools that you can carry with you every day. You can get a full-fledged multitool such as the Leatherman Skeletool or opt for a lower profile tool that has less functionality by carrying a credit card multitool that fits in your wallet.

3. Things That Would Help With Rare and High Consequence Problems

This is a category of items that needs to be risk assessed versus threats in your area. They are meant to cover potential problems that are low probability to occur but if they did, would have a severe consequence. We will go over performing a risk assessment below, but a brief example would be if you ride in a vehicle to work every day. For this activity, there is a very low probability of needing to escape the train, bus, or car but if there was a crash and you needed to exit quickly, there would be severe consequences of not being able to do so. In this case having a glass breaking Tactical Pen or a seatbelt cutter would make a huge difference towards improving your chances of survival. Tools of this nature are what make up this category.

  • Tactical Pen – A Tactical Pen is a high-grade metal pen that can double as a self-defense tool and glass breaking aid. I constantly need a pen at work so carrying this with me will not be adding an unnecessary item that I will rarely use. This is more of an upgrade to meet a daily need with the capability to address the rare but high consequence situation of defending yourself in the event of a personal attack. The Gerber Impromptu is an excellent choice for this although we cover several great options in our Tactical Pen buying guide.
  • Pry tool – This will help me open doors and containers in the event of a car accident or a problem in my workplace or home. There are many options out there for this, the best one I found is the Boker Minibar Blade which excels in function, having both a pry tip and lever tool, but is a bit rough on the wallet. A cheaper option would be the Key Chain Pry Tool by Schrade.
  • Paracord – Paracord is awesome as it is light, strong, and will not rot. It has nearly as many uses as duct tape. I would not be looking to carry around enough to make a rope ladder or anything as complicated as that but having some at my disposal if I need to splint a broken bone or tie an emergency shelter down would be handy. There are a lot of options for paracord bracelets and other wearable items, such as The Friendly Swede Paracord Bracelet as it comes with a metal clasp that doubles as an emergency fire starter.

Our Favorite Every Day Carry Gear

For some more ideas, be sure to check our 10 Best Multi Purpose Survival Tools post for some other versatile EDC items.

How To Assess Risk

Rating the relative risks of threats in your locality is a good way to judge whether an item is worth including in you every day carry list or even your bug out bag contents.

The basic process for this is to judge each threat on two criteria:

  1. Probability – What are the chances of the threat occurring? Is it something that is highly probable (like slipping and falling on ice), which you see once a week or several times per month? Is it low probability (like an earthquake), which you would expect to see maybe once per year or every several years? Is it somewhere in between such as a car accident? Rate the probability of threats occurring realistically from your own experience and what has occurred historically in your locality.
  2. Potential Impact – What would the impact be if the threat actually happened? Would it be mild and easy to overcome? Would it send people to the hospital? Does it have the potential to be deadly?

We have created this Threat Assessment Matrix to help you visualize this concept:

Every Day Carry list Threat Assessment Matrix

This chart is a great tool for determining whether or not to add an item to your every day carry list. Keep it in mind and refer to it when building yours.


As you can see, there are some easy steps you can take to assess your every day carry needs and determine what is appropriate to be put on your every day carry list. Stick to the principles of addressing realistic, probable threats and keeping your items multi purpose and small to be most effective.

Remember when planning your every day carry list, chance favors the well prepared.

If you still haven’t packed your bug out bag, make sure to review our Bug Out Bag List to help you get started ASAP. Your EDC kit and your BOB are key to being prepared for anything and everything!

Want Even MORE Info On Building Your EDC Kit?

If you are looking for even more information on how to build your ultimate EDC kit you can check out my book, The Every Day Carry Guide. It is a comprehensive manual that will teach you:

  • How to be prepared at all times – no matter where you are
  • How to build your first EDC kit from scratch
  • How to refine an existing kit to make it more effective
  • How to pick the best gear to realistically make you more prepared
  • How to assess threats and risks in your every day life


Your Thoughts

If you thought this post was helpful, please Like, +1, or Share it using the social media buttons at the top of the page! Do you have some every day carry items that you would like to share? Do you have any questions about making an every day carry list? Please let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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