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Grab-and-go-bag essentials: Survival items you absolutely must pack for an emergency

A grab-and-go bag, aka a bug-out bag, is a portable bag stocked with emergency supplies. The idea is to have one ready to take with you in case you need to leave your home in an emergency or a disaster situation. If there is an emergency, you likely won’t have the time or the presence of mind to pack everything you’ll need. This is why it’s so important for you to stock up on grab-and-go-bag essentials before you need them. You may not know hot to start your grab-and-go bag. Or you have one already, but you suspect you don’t have all the supplies you need. Either way, you need this list of grab-and-go-bag essentials to pack for an emergency.


The first thing to consider when assembling your emergency bag is the bag itself. A regular backpack stuffed full of everything you think you might need is not going to make it very easy to use. You’re going to want something that is waterproof, durable and easy to organize all your supplies in. Many recommend a military-style tactical backpack. We like the Stealth Tactical Backpack, the Helikon Bail Out Bag Backpack and the 5.11 Daily Deploy 48 Pack to name a few.

Building a grab-and-go bag can feel overwhelming and can get costly. If this all feels like too much for you, there are companies that offer pre-made options. Examples include Stealth Angel, Uncharted Supply Company and Judy among others. Keep in mind these kits are generic and won’t include everything you need. You’ll need to add your own medications, documents or other items specific to yourself.


You should have a grab-and-go bag ready for each member of your family, including pets. So do a little extra research and consider anything specific they may need.

Water. Each person needs a gallon of water per day, which it tough to carry. For what you can carry, use water containers that you can’t puncture with ease. We like single-wall stainless steel canteens such as those from Klean Kanteen. Another solid option is the Pathfinder Stainless Steel Bottle and Nesting Cup Set. Stainless steel is also a good choice because you can use it to boil water if you need to to disinfect it. For water you find, carry water purification tablets such as Potable Aqua. A water filter such as the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is also a smart carry.

Food. Aim to pack at least three days’ worth of non-perishable food and calorie-dense snacks. Choose foods that needs little or no preperation. Freeze-dried meals and whole meals in a can like such as those from Mountain House are good options. They need only water to prepare. You may want to limit the amount of canned food you pack, as it can be heavy. Granola bars, nuts, jerky and any other non-perishable snacks are all good choices.

Can opener. This is for any canned food you do bring. Be sure it’s a manual can opener to avoid the need for unnecessary batteries.

Multi-tool. Typical multi-tools have blades, openers, pliers and screwdrivers. So they can help you out with a variety of situations. A good go-to here is the Leatherman Skeletool CX.

Phone Charger as well as a battery bank like the Anker PowerCore 10000 for when you don’t have access to power.

Battery or Crank Radio. A NOAA Weather Radio like the Midland er210 is your safest and most versatile option.

Battery or Crank flashlight. A crank flashlight such as the Clipray is great because it provides light with no batteries. It also works as a phone charger. A headlamp like the battery-powered Black-Diamond Spot 350 is also a good option.

Batteries. Ditch the typical Alkaline batteries. Opt for rechargeable NiMH batteries like the Panasonic Eneloop instead. You can store them for much longer without losing their charge, and you can recharge them on the go.

Lighters and Matches. For a lighter, opt for something refillable, windproof and waterproof. We like the UCO Stormproof Torch. Be sure your matches are waterproof and windproof too. Keep them in a secure case like these UCO Survival Matches.

Whistle. You never know when your rescue might depend on someone hearing you over a lot of other noise. That’s why you need a loud and safety whistle such as the Shoreline Marine Safety Whistle. Its bright color will also help rescuers spot you.

Spare clothes, sturdy shoes, and emergency blanket. Pack versatile clothes that will be comfortable in various conditions. Make sure your shoes are sturdy and have thick soles. You can tie your shoes to the outside of your bag so they don’t take up room inside or make your other supplies dirty. Also make sure you have a hat for sun protection and rain ponchos are also a good item to include. For the emergency blanket a product like these from Don’t Die in the Woods are a good go-to. They keep you warm, make you visible and you can use them as shelter.

Toiletries. No-brainer essentials include toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine products, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer and soap. Also have spare glasses and contact solution if you need them. A multi-use soap like Dr. Bronner’s All-One is a good option. You can use it on your hair and body as well as for dishes and general cleaning.

Trash Bags. You can use heavy-duty bags like Husky 42 Gal. Contractor Bags for extra baggage, to keep supplies dry or as makeshift shelter.

First-Aid Kit. No list of grab-and-go-bag essentials is complete without an all-purpose first-aid kit. Be sure the kit itself is well-stocked and organized so you can find in it what you need when you need it.

Medications. Carry at least a week’s worth of any prescription medications as well as pain relievers.

Cash. ATM machines and credit cards may not be working in an emergency so you should pack at least $100 in small bills. And make sure to pack it in something that will keep it dry.

Copies of Important Documents. Have personal documents such as birth certificates, passports, driver licenses and other ID. Also carry a list of important phone numbers, addresses and usernames/passwords. As with cash, be sure to store these documents in something that will keep them safe and dry.