How Often Should You Update Your Bug Out Kit?

bug out kit

Many people, once they have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) made and a rough Bug Out Plan choose to stop there in their survival planning.  This is a grave mistake that can have catastrophic consequences.  Just imagine that you have your Bug Out Kit sitting at home for years before it is needed.  Then when a disaster hits and you need to execute your Bug Out Plan, you run out the door to find out that your food rations have expired and flashlight batteries are dead!  Managing your disaster planning and Bug Out Bag contents list should be an ongoing process with refinements and adjustments made as you develop along your path of survival preparedness.

How Often Should You Update Your Bug Out Kit?

I recommend reviewing your Bug Out Bag and plan quarterly (4x per year) at minimum for basic elements such as:

Expirations on food items

Some survival rations have useful lives up to 5 years but many are perishable well before then.  Make sure you are checking the shelf life of any food items that you are planning on relying on quarterly and replace them before they go bad.

Expirations on medications

Medications have a wide range of lifetimes.  If you have any medication in your BOB – antibiotics, insulin, EpiPens, heart medication, or any others make sure you know how long each will be good for and replace as needed.

Expiration for first aid items

many single use first aid items such as creams, antiseptic wipes, bandages, and eyewash/irrigation solutions have a limited shelf life.  This is generally around the the sterility of the item and out of date first aid items should not be used to treat wounds.  Conduct regular first aid kit inspections and replace out of date items as needed.

Bug Out Kit - Sterile Items
Many first aid items have expiration dates that need to be monitored

Battery charge for electronics

One of the biggest advantages of having solar or hand cranked electronic items such as a radio or flashlight is that you don’t have to worry about the batteries dying at a critical moment.  However, if you do have any items in your Bug Out Kit that do require batteries, these should be checked quarterly at minimum to ensure that they have enough charge to power your equipment.  An excellent preventative measure against batter drain is to store them in the electronic item (such as a flashlight) with the two positive (+) ends of two batteries facing each other.  This prevents any current passing through the dormant circuit and greatly reduces energy seeping from the stored batteries.  See the picture below for details.

Bug Out Kit - Batteries
Store your batteries + to + to prevent energy drain


If you have a firearm and ammunition in your Bug Out Kit, you should plan on test firing a sampling of rounds at minimum twice per year.  If you have any misfires, plan on replacing rounds from that batch with newer ones.


When else would you update your Bug Out Kit?

In addition to the above mentioned checks, which should be scheduled to be performed periodically, you should review both your Bug Out Plan and survival gear as your personal situation changes:

When you move from one home to another

Moving to a new locality can effect large changes to your Bug Out Plan.  If you moved from a rural area to an urban one, you would want to remove wilderness survival specific items and modify your Bug Out Bag into an urban survival kit or vice versa.  If you changed climates you would need to update your spare clothes to suit.  Moving from an area with many lakes and rivers to a desert region would merit greater sun protection and removal of fishing gear.  These are just a few examples of the many ways that moving to a new locality can warrant a change in your Bug Out Kit.  As always, tailor your survival gear to YOUR personal survival situation.

Changes in your bug out party

If your bug out group changes with the addition of a family member or departure of a party member, you will need to re-look at your survival gear and plan to accommodate these changes.  If someone has been added that requires special resources such as medical gear or they bring a new skill set such as expertise in hunting or trapping, you would want to modify both your gear and plan to account for and take advantage of these needs or abilities.  On the other hand, if your party is reduced through a member moving away you may need to remove items that were included specifically for them or add other gear that will compensate for the loss of their skill set.

Arrival of new threats

The modern world is highly dynamic and the status of external threats is changing constantly.  If a new threat were to arrive or an old one suddenly increase in probability, you would want to update your Bug Out Kit and plan to account for such changes.  This may be an increased chance of terrorism, severe weather patterns such as El Nino, a strong storm season being predicted, or other reasons such as a new, potentially hazardous industrial facility being constructed nearby.


Keep in mind that your Bug Out Kit and plan should be constantly evolving as new factors and information emerge.  There are a great many things that can impact your survival situation and keeping your Bug Out Kit up to date will maximize your chances of survival when disaster strikes.  A great practice is to set a reminder in a calendar either on your phone, computer, or in a planning diary to review your Bug Out Bag contents list quarterly at minimum.  These reminders will keep you on track and spur you into action!

Lastly, there is no time like the present to take action.  Why not review your Bug Out Kit and plan today using our free Bug Out Kit Update Checklist?  If you want help in updating your Bug Out Plan, check out our post on how to make one.

Your Thoughts

If you thought this post was helpful, please Like, +1, or Share it using the social media buttons at the left of the page!  How often do you update your Bug Out Kit or Bug Out Plan?  Are there any other factors that you consider when making these updates?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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basic survival skills

5 Basic Survival Skills You Need When Bugging Out

As we mentioned in our How to Make a Bug Out Plan post, the more skills you have, the more self reliant you are and the higher your chances for survival become.  Here we are going to discuss some basic survival skills and teach you how to best utilize them to protect yourself and your loved ones when disaster strikes.

basic survival skills

Basic Survival Skills

When you are out on your own without the support net of a healthy society, these are the traits and basic survival skills you need to master in order to succeed.

1.  Positive Mental Attitude

This is actually more important than any of the other basic survival skills because when you are relying on your ability to wring survival from your surroundings, once you give up hope you are done.  There are many amazing stories of people who have survived avalanches, fires, floods, and being isolated for extended periods and making it through thanks to an undying will to survive.  They are ordinary people who would simply not quit.  Keeping a positive mental attitude will give you the strength to never give up on yourself no matter the circumstances.

Some ways to instill this mentality are:

  • Set goals for yourself – These may be daily or even hourly goals such as making it to the next hilltop or obtaining a meal from your surroundings.  Make sure they are achievable and objective based.  Every goal you accomplish will be a psychological boost for you and will build confidence in your basic survival skills.
  • Focus on what you can change – If a major disaster has struck, focusing on the unfairness of the resulting situation or the loss that has occurred will not help you.  However, focusing on building a shelter or staying dry will help immensely.  Concentrating your efforts to make your situation better will help you both in the long and short term.  Ignore the big picture and focus on improving your immediate situation.
  • Keep hydrated and nourished – This will give you the energy to persevere in the face of adversity.  A steady water and food supply are extremely important.  You will not be looking to feast daily but meeting your basic calorie and hydration needs will be enough to keep you going.  2400-3600 Calories  per day is a good amount to aim for.  Additionally, if this requirement is squared away it will allow you to focus more on recovery efforts or finding help.
  • Be outwardly positive – Positivity creates more positivity.  Showing fellow survivors that you are with that you have a positive mental attitude will prevent the group being dragged down under the weight of the disaster.  Be the seed that grows into higher morale for your team.

2.  Water

Beyond your own internal fortitude, water is the most important resource you require.  Finding it and knowing how to make it fit for consumption are two of of the most important basic survival skills you can learn.

  • Know how to look for signs of water.  This may be looking where plants are growing, where terrain slopes or contours into a natural water trap, or observing animal movements to see where they are finding their water supply.
  • If you are able to map a route as a part of your Bug Out Plan, identifying likely sources for water along the way will be a massive boon.
  • Understand how to treat water to make it fit for consumption.  Drinking contaminated water can be deadly.
  • Filtration – this consists of passing water through very fine membranes to remove particles and some pathogens.  Some viruses may still make it through even the finest filters available.
  • Purification – treating water with either chemicals such as iodine or UV light sources.  This neutralizes all pathogens but does not eliminate particles.
  • Boiling – This is a type of purification as it kills all pathogens but does not remove particles.  Water should be kept at a rolling boil for at least 1 minute to sterilize it.
  • Because of the separate benefits of both filtration and purification it is recommended that you use both methods to be 100% sure of water safety.  The most basic way to do this is to pour water through a cloth and then boil it.  However a more effective approach is to pass it through a filter device such as the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter and then purify it using tablets or a SteriPen.  These items should be considered mandatory requirements for any list of Bug Out Bag Essentials.
  • Be able to exploit rainfall if possible.  This may include catching it in a poncho or container if available.
  • Utilize a Solar Still – This can be purchased here or fashioned out of your survival gear.  A Solar Still uses the sun’s heat to evaporate liquid and then recapture it as clean water.
  • Understand how much water you need – A person can survive 72 hours without water.  It is however recommended that someone who is active consumes 75% of their weight in ounces daily. So if you weigh 150 lbs then you should be drinking about 113 ounces (3.31 liters) of water per day.
Basic Survival Skills
A Home Made Solar Still

3.  Food

  • Hiking with your Bug Out Bag loaded with essential survival gear will cause you to burn 400-500 calories in an hour.  To keep your body working as an efficient machine it is important to keep it fueled up.
  • First off, ration what food you have with you.  You are concentrating on survival, not feasting.  Eat small portions when you are hungry but do not over do it.
  • Supplement your rations with foraged sustenance from your surroundings.  This means you will need to learn what edible plants are around and how to harvest them.  Also learn where these plants grow.  Does a particular berry grow around water holes?  Does a high calorie plant prefer the shade?  Learn these aspects to understand where to look for sustenance.  Some plants are only edible after cooking or boiling, learn what you need to do with your local flora to make it palatable.  Additionally, learn what is hazardous or poisonous to eat to avoid making yourself sick!
  • Understand what types of animals inhabit your area.  This includes possible predators to avoid and prey to seek out.  Learn what environments these animals inhabit.  Is there a particular fish that likes eddies and whirlpools?  Target these spots to find them.  Does an animal in your area like to eat a particular plant?  Placing snares in the vicinity of these plants would be ideal.  If you do not know how to operate a firearm, a slingshot may be a good option for you.  There are many options for slingshots, such as The Scout Hunting Slingshot or learn how to make one here.  Also learn how to prepare these animals for cooking.  This includes skinning and butchering animals and filleting fish.  We have embedded the below videos as a tutorial in these basic survival skills.

Basic Survival Skills: How to Fillet a Fish

Basic Survival Skills: How to skin a squirrel

Basic Survival Skills: How to Butcher a Deer

4.  Shelter

A well prepared person will have a means of sheltering themselves from the elements as a part of their Bug Out Contents List.  However, a TOTALLY prepared person will also have learned survival shelter building as one of their basic survival skills.  A survival shelter does not need to be complicated or fancy but it should keep rain/snow out, keep heat inside, and be easily cobbled together from local materials.

  • A survival shelter can be built from most anything – debris from collapsed buildings, trees and leaves, animal hides, or a tarp or poncho
  • Consider bringing paracord and a saw or hatchet when building your Bug Out Bag Contents List as these can be your best friends when building a shelter.  With these items you can make a survival shelter out of just about anything in very little time.
  • If you do not have paracord, zip ties, duct tape, or another binding material, primitive rope can be improvised from strips of tree bark, small green saplings or branches, and vines.
  • A basic survival shelter could consist of building a frame from long rigid materials such as tree branches or 2×4’s and laying a poncho or tarp over it.
  • If you cannot use your poncho or tarp for this, layer brush on to the frame sloping away towards the ground to insulate for warmth and keep moisture out.   See the picture below for a general idea of this.
Store Bought Survival SheltersA Shelter Made On the Trail

Basic Survival Skills
Image Credit: simonov on Flickr

5.  Fire

Fire can provide many things when in a survival situation and both building and maintaining one are essential basic survival skills.  A fire will give a morale boost, provide heat and light, and enable you to purify water and cook food.
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  • The basic requirements to build any fire are to give it air, fuel, and an ignition source.
  • Air – A fire consumes air hungrily and it is important to build it in a way that allows air to flow into the combustion.  Do not smother a fire by putting too much fuel onto it.
  • Fuel – This is what actually burns in a fire and can be sourced from many places.  If a branch or stick snaps cleanly it is dry and will burn well.  If it bends and splinters it is still green and will smoke and smother a fire.
  • Ignition Source – this can be a lighter, matches, or a fire starter that you bring with you.  You should however learn more primitive means of fire starting as one of your basic survival skills in the event that these items cannot be sourced.  See the video below for one simple method.
  • A fire is build in successive layers of increasingly larger wood.  You start with tinder, which is very small, dry, and catches easily.  Examples of tinder are tree bark, dryer lint, coconut husk, and pine needles.  From tinder you go up to kindling which is generally twigs up to the diameter of your little finger.  Next is fuel wood which is in sizes up to your thumb.  Continue to add more wood gradually until you have a fire large enough to ignite logs.  These logs are what will produce the majority of your coals in a fire pit.
  • The opposite technique is to build what is known as an “Upside Down Fire”  This has large logs at the bottom and tapers to fuel wood, kindling, and then tinder at the top.  An upside down fire allows you to build your cooking fire and then let it burn down without having to babysit it and can be great in makky outdoors situation.  Check out my in-depth instructional guide to learn how to build an Upside Down Fire here.
  • Learn how to use a fire to cook food.  Coals are a far better method of cooking food than a naked flame.  Coals will produce a more even heat and allow you to control the rate at which your food cooks, rather than having some parts seared with the inside raw.  A naked flame is however better at boiling water.
  • The most commonly used types of fires are called a Teepee and a Log Cabin, which are pictured below.
  • A Dakota Fire Pit is another type that is less widely used than these but more efficient.  See the image below for how a Dakota Fire Pit works.
Teepee FireLog Cabin Fire
basic survival skills
Image Credit: mikemol on flickr
basic survival skills
Image Credit: geraldford on flickr


basic survival skills

Basic Survival Skills: Dakota Fire Pit

basic survival skills

Basic Survival Skills: Making a fire without matches


There is no doubt that learning basic survival skills will significantly increase your chances of success.  Putting in some time now to teach yourself these basic survival skills will make you better prepared and help you provide for yourself and your family when disaster strikes.  As with your bug out bag contents or bug out plan, you should tailor your survival skill set to match your environment.  To learn what you need to master in order to survive in a cold weather setting have a look at our article on cold weather survival tips.  We mentioned several survival tools in this article that partnered with your skills will make your struggle far less daunting including paracord, a hatchet, saw, and fire starter.  To see how these items will affect your overall survival kit and see what other items you can add to your Bug Out Bag list, check out our Free Bug Out Bag Planning Tool.  Remember, chance favors the well prepared.

Basic Survival Skills

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!  What do you think of these basic survival skills?  Is there a survival tactic that you would recommend?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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How to Make a Bug Out Plan

bug out plan

It can be argued that having a bug out plan is as or even more essential than having a packed bug out bag as one can escape mortal danger with or without a survival kit as long as they have a plan.

We have looked in the past at how to pick a bug out bag as well as what to put in it and even how to customize it for wilderness or urban survival.

Now we will maximize our survival preparedness by examining how to execute a bug out or strategic evacuation.

Click on the link below to download a free template for making your own custom bug out plan. The information presented in this article will help you make informed decisions while formulating this plan. Once it is complete, be sure to share it with anyone whom you will be bugging out with and conduct practice runs to make it second nature.

Also, be sure to review and update your bug out plan periodically to make sure it is effective towards the ever-changing threats you may face.

Factors to Consider When Making Your Bug Out Plan

1. What disasters are likely to occur in YOUR area?

An important part of survival preparedness is knowing what has happened historically. Is your area known for having massive floods? Are you in an earthquake zone? Has your town or city been a target of terrorist attacks?

Consider these factors when making your plan, as they may immediately eliminate some options or make others more favorable.

2. What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?

Considering these can help tailor your Bug Out Plan to complement your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, and give you a much higher probability of survival.

  • Are you very fit? Great, you will be able to carry more survival supplies and plan a longer route.
  • Do you know how to perform survival first aid? That could be vital if a member of your party gets injured.

Identifying weaknesses can be as easy as understanding what survival skills you need to train in.

  • Can you make a fire reliably? Are you able to navigate at night with your map and compass?
  • Do you have a working knowledge of plants and animals in your area?

Learning these things and other survival skills will make your Bug Out Plan far stronger.

Remember, the more skills you have, the less you need to carry.

3. Plan on more than one possible destination

The best practice for survival planning is to have at least 4 destinations as a part of your Bug Out Plan, one for each cardinal direction on the map (North, South, East, West).

This can be narrowed down due to both geography and the likeliness of particular events occurring. For example, if you lived on the Mississippi River’s western bank and were preparing for a flood, you would not need to consider bugging out to the East. Having multiple destinations in your plan and multiple routes to each adds a level of flexibility that must be planned out ahead of time. Going through this planning effort will make you prepared no matter what disaster fate throws at you.

Going through this planning effort will make you prepared no matter what disaster fate throws at you.

4. Have specific destinations in mind

Having a destination in your bug out plan gives you a goal to work towards as you travel. This will have an enormous positive psychological impact on your survival scenario. Surviving is extremely difficult in even favorable conditions and having a positive state of mind makes a huge difference towards success.

Certain types of destinations, such as a second home, relative’s house, or designated camp also allow for caching survival supplies both at the location and on the routes to them. Besides giving you an even greater psychological boost, this will massively increase your odds of survival as well as lessen the amount you have to carry.

If none of these options are available, look for large public facilities or designated shelters, no matter what it is, having a destination is a key element to your bug out plan.

bug out plan - survival planning

5. Calculate how fast you will be able to travel

This is essential for planning your routes. If you can calculate your average travel speed you will know how many hours or days it will take you to reach your destination. This then informs you as to how much survival gear and supplies you need to either carry, forage, or cache along the way. Your average travel speed will be most heavily impacted by the following factors:

Weight of your Bug Out Bag

An average person should carry no more than 25 percent of their body weight in a backpack. More than this is possible but highly strenuous, plan your bug out bag accordingly. To aid you in determining what you will bring and how it will affect the overall weight of your bug out bag, we have created this free tool. It is even better if you can perform a test carry of your bag over a significant distance to ensure you can handle it. You need to be able to carry your pack for hours, if not days. Bringing too much weight will hobble your progress.

The terrain you will be crossing

The average walking speed with a pack is 2.5-4 miles per hour on flat ground. When planning your route, you need to account for what type of terrain you will be crossing. People often make the mistake of thinking that hiking downhill is faster than uphill. This is often not true, as hiking with a pack downhill will mean that you need to take extra care to have proper footing and to brace your steps. Will you be picking your way through rubble or having to cross a body of water? Plan a realistic pace as a part of your survival planning to have a better outcome.

Overall fitness

A very fit person will obviously be able to cover more ground than an unfit person. Assess yourself realistically for this trait; there are no egos in survival. If it has been a while since you went for a run, plan accordingly. The great part of making a Bug Out Plan is that it brings to light your weaknesses. This allows you to address them BEFORE they become a liability. If your plan would benefit from additional fitness, start slow going for walks or runs and then build up to conditioning your body to hike with the additional weight of a pack.

The makeup of your party

If you are creating Bug Out Plan for additional people you will have to consider this as a factor. If you are moving with elderly people or children, you should incorporate into your survival preparedness the additional resources and time needed to assist them. Do this by planning your routes’ progress based on how far you expect to travel at the pace of the least fit/mobile of your party.

bug out plan - map

Additional Factors to Include in Your Bug Out Plan

  • Plan on packing an extra waterproof or laminated map with your routes and destinations clearly marked. It is additionally helpful to mark landmarks along each route to aid navigation.
  • If you are bugging out with others, establish a rallying point for you all to meet at. Doing this beforehand avoids a messy situation where you are all wasting valuable time desperately attempting to contact each other when you should be on the move.
  • Also, bring along a list of emergency numbers for friends, family, and government agencies. This will help you stay in touch and keep updated on the disaster situation as it evolves.
  • This may seem obvious but actually USE your Bug Out Bag to make your journey easier. This may mean using your hatchet to fashion a shelter or pry tool to open a door to access a shortcut.  There is no point in planning, packing, and carrying awesome survival supplies if you are not going to use them. Have you ever gone camping with a friend who brings a carload of gadgets that they never even take out? Battery-powered tent fan, anyone? Do Not Be That Guy.
  • Plan on looking for a place to spend the night 2-3 hours before sunset each night. You may not like the idea of trading that much travel time in, but this will give you enough time to find a safe, dry place to camp, prepare food and water, and establish your shelter.
  • Know that a 160-pound person will burn more than 400 calories in an hour while hiking and more than 500 if carrying a full backpack. This is a level of exertion comparable to that of aerobics or running. Incorporate into your survival planning rest breaks and methods of keeping yourself hydrated and fueled up.
  • Once you have made a bug out plan it is important to review it periodically to make sure it still fits your personal survival scenario. Learn how to do this and get our free Bug Out Kit Update Checklist here.
  • More information about general disaster preparedness planning can be found at (external link).


Creating a Bug Out Plan is an important step towards your overall survival planning. Utilizing these tips to build a simple, effective survival preparedness plan will ready you and your loved ones to survive when disaster strikes. Download our free Bug Out Plan Template and get started preparing your family to evacuate. Be sure to also use our Free Bug Out Bag Planning Tool to help you determine what to pack.

Remember, chance favors the well prepared.

Your Thoughts?

If you thought this post was helpful, please Like, +1, or share it using the social media buttons at the left of the page! Have a great Bug Out Plan that you would like to share? Are there any factors that you think are essential to consider when making one? Please let us know in the Comments section below. Thanks!

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