The Grab and Go Bag: 34 Essential Items

img_3845Your environment and likely emergency are going to be the determining factors in what you put in your G&G bags. Also, remember there are items that do not go in the bag, but must be carried on your body as we covered earlier. (from The Green Beret Survival Guide)

When picking items, choose those that can have multiple uses instead of one. I have a hand crank survival radio that also has a built in flashlight and an adapter for charging my cell phone and a solar charger. Three items in one with two non-electric power sources.

Use a bag that is at least water repellant, if not waterproof. If it isn’t waterproof, pack your items in waterproof bags. A key lesson of life in nature is to keep things waterproofed.

Here are items to consider (rather than clutter this up, I list suggestions for every item mentioned here in the specific areas they fall under in the book.)

  1. SurvivalFinal_KindleBoardsThe bag itself. This goes back to how much you can easily carry. Also, remember, the bigger the bag, the more obvious it is. And the more someone might want to steal it from you. If you have no experience with backpacks, go to your local sporting good store (REI always has knowledgeable personnel working) and ask. Do you want just a regular backpack like kids take to school? An internal frame ruck? External frame? Built in hydrating system? The choices are limitless. What you should do is go down this list, write out what exactly you want in the bag, get the stuff, then find a bag that fits the stuff. You might find you’re trying to carry too much stuff. Also, consider the color of the bag. I’d go with, if not camouflage, something that is dark in color, or that matches your surrounding terrain.
  2. Either a built in water supply such as a camelbak or pockets/clips for water carriers. Most packs have external loops on which you can secure canteens and water carriers. Remember, though, that water sloshing about and things on the outside of your bag banging about, violate noise discipline. An integral part of any G&G bag is a way to purify water.
  3. Have lighters and matches. I used to carry a half-dozen cheap plastic lighters on me when I deployed; nowadays I have several windproof lighters. If matches, make sure they are stormproof and carried in a waterproof container. You need a small stove with a fuel supply for at least a few days. Go with the stove for cooking initially instead of a fire because of smoke and light discipline. Also, you might add in a magnesium fire starter. Make sure you practice with it before trying it for the first time in the midst of a downpour and hurricane force winds.
  4. At least a poncho if not a tube tent. Something to keep the water and wind off you.
  5. First aid. You can buy complete kits. Or pack you own. I’d recommend a medical mask in case of contagion. I cover what’s needed in that chapter.
  6. Enough for a week. At least one pot/kit to cook the food in. Utensils.
  7. I have a rechargeable flashlight. It’s heavy, but that is balanced against carrying batteries. Also have smaller, LED type lights. I also like to have a headlamp. Often, in the dark, doing survival activities, you’ll need both hands, so this helps. Also, consider having a red lens cover or red option for a flashlight so you can use it at night and not give out a large signature. Candles are also an option and they have the added benefit of allowing you to start a fire. However, be careful with them, especially inside your home or tent. You can also use a candle to glaze your snow cave. And when it sputters out in the middle of the night realize you might not be getting enough oxygen.
  8. Chem lights.
  9. Sleeping bag. This is dependent on your locale. If the weather doesn’t get too extreme, consider a light bivy sack.
  10. Socks. Socks. And some socks. Beyond that, it depends on your environment.
  11. At the very least a Leatherman type tool. I carry one with me all the time on my belt.
  12. A fixed blade knife. We used to argue about knives all the time in our team room. Which type was best, where to carry it, etc. etc. You don’t need a Rambo type knife, in fact, it’s too big and too heavy. I like a six to eight inch blade with a serrated edge on the back side for sawing.
  13. If snow is likely, a snow shovel that backpackers or back country skiers use.
  14. A machete could be useful. I’d go with a folding saw over a machete. Unless you live on the edge of a place where you will have to be cutting your way through. Or have to chop off Zombie heads.
  15. At the very least a roll of light, powerful cord. Parachute cord or 550 cord as we called it in the army. This is very strong, very light and narrow cord that again, will have more uses than you can imagine.
  16. A pocket chain wire saw. Light weight, small, but can be very useful in a variety of situations. Such as amputating your own arm if its pinned to a canyon wall by a boulder. Joking. Not.
  17. A signal mirror.
  18. A signal panel, such as a VS-17. This is why everything else is muted or camouflaged. You keep this packed away until you actually want to signal someone.
  19. If you plan on having to travel at night, in the dark, each member of the team should have headgear with reflective strips on the back. You can then follow your point person. Until they suddenly drop out of sight, which means they’ve walked off a cliff. Don’t follow them.
  20. A small pair of binoculars or a small telescope could be very valuable. Some say night vision goggles but now you’re crossing the line into the Apocalypse and Zombies and we’ll discuss this later. I don’t see NVGs being in your G&G bag unless you live in Nome, Alaska where it’s dark 24 hours a day and vampires can come and have a buffet as they did in 30 Days of Night. Then get a set so you can at least see the vampire that kills you.
  21. Line, hooks, sinkers and some lures. Do you know how to fish?
  22. Snare wire. Indispensable. You’ll be amazed how many different uses you’ll find for this beyond setting snares. Traps are a much more efficient way to catch game over hunting. Hunting also leaves a noise signature that might attract unwanted guests.
  23. Sewing kit. If you know how to sew. And you can Rambo up your wound since you forgot to pack your medical kit.
  24. Ziplock bags. Light, don’t take up much space, but can be invaluable.
  25. At least one roll of electrical tape.
  26. Not for weather but for working. Something that gives you a good grip while also protecting your skin. When I was in the field, I wore thin gloves pretty much all the time. They allowed me to handle my weapon but also protected my hands.
  27. ATMs won’t work if the power is out. As you see in Panic in the Year Zero, the head of the family has to quickly buy supplies when he realizes there’s been a nuclear strike. How much is up to you. How much is your life worth?
  28. Gold or other precious metals for barter. This will be the initial barter material until it gets real bad when food, first aid and weapons will take priority.
  29. Toilet paper. A comfort item. But if you’ve ever wiped your rear with poison ivy—enough said.
  30. A map of the area. A physical, geographic map. You can order these. I’d go with 1:24,000 scale at least. National Geographic now has a web site where you can download quadrants for free on a 1:24,000 scale.
  31. Pen and paper.
  32. Insect repellant if applicable.
  33. Survival radio. A hand crank powered one is preferred. Make sure it tunes into the emergency frequencies. This might be your only way to find out what is going on.
  34. Driver’s license, passport.

Lay out everything you want to put in your various G&G bags. Will it all fit? If not, prioritize what doesn’t go.

When you pack the bag, pack it backwards: what is least important goes in first. What you might need right away is last in, or in outside pockets.

Can you carry it? Put it on. Go for a walk. A long walk. In your survival boots.

I actually have an array of G&G bags. A main one; one in my Jeep; one in my emergency cache. I also have a vest with basic survival gear in it.

Get the various bags in place: home, car, work, hide site. In the latter three places actually HIDE them. So even if someone stumbles across your hide site, they won’t find the G&G bag there.


  1. Rucksack — I’m pretty sure I’d prefer one with a frame but advantages to internal vs. external frame?

  2. Reading this makes me feel horrifically underprepared for any sort of disaster. Then again, I live in South-East England, where we don’t really get natural disasters. Flooding, sometimes (but I live on a hill, so we’ve never been flooded, and this house has been here for, well, over 100 years). Short of a zombie invasion, however, I think where I live is fairly safe from disaster scenarios. It’s just as well. I’ve got health issues that would make carrying a bag almost impossible, and I can’t even drive (for the same reasons that I can’t carry things: my knees are rubbish).

    Bookmarking this list for reference if I move and/or write a disaster novel. 🙂

  3. I always like an external frame ruck. Seems like you can adjust it better. But it’s a personal choice.

  4. I was leaning toward an external frame in case repairs were needed. Need to see if there’s anywhere around here that sells anything besides backpacks like school kids carry.

  5. I’m using the items mentioned as a suggested Christmas/Birthday shopping list for my dad brothers, and brother-in-laws. I never know what to get them, and this stuff is perfect.

  6. I love the idea of a grab & go bag. I live in earthquake territory, not zombie territory, so my needs are a little different. I find it handy to have “task baglets” — a bag for going to hot springs (soap, shampoo, little towel, toothpaste, comb), a bag for first aid (filtering masks, bandaids, aspirin, ointment, lavender oil), and a bag of snacks in case of whatever. I keep them in a larger bag — it adds some weight, but it means I’m using the little bags more often, and keeping their contents up to date and fresh. (And you know, one of the most useful things in the case of an emergency can be another bag.)

    I also love the point about being able to know how to use what’s in your kit. Fishing stuff would be useless to me. But, I could manage to do several things with a crochet hook and some twine.

  7. Also: Underwear. Paper towels. Lip balm. Sunscreen. Hat.

    • I found some surprisingly good lip balm at Walmart over the weekend — it’s shaped like a crayon — intended as stocking stuffers for kids — but when I tried the one I bought, it’s not waxy or overly greasy and kept my lips soft for the entire day. Don’t know how it’d work outdoors since I’ve not been outdoors longer than it takes to feed the cats for over a month.

  8. A really big, really sharp knife. I always make sure I’ve got one handy. Oh, and some D batteries, as they can be wicked weapons if thrown hard enough!

  9. I have print and ebook copies of this book. Thank you. Great book to have, for small emergencies as well as in case of the more catastrophic ones. When is the next book, on sustainment, going to be released?

  10. At the very least I carry a leatherman tool with me at all times. Leatherman Multitools are a good quality reliable robust tool. I carry one with me all the time on my belt.

  11. keep it light.

  12. make sure you have one lighter on your grab bag. personally I would recommend zippo lighter

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