The Main Grab and Go Bag: Essential Items

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This list is not an absolute. You must adjust based on your environment and your Area Study. More importantly, how much will fit and you can carry.

The gear is broken down by areas. This is just an abbreviated list for the purposes of this blog. In the book, Prepare Now-Survive Later, I go into more detail on items and have complete lists and links for your main bag, your car bag and your work bag. I also have an easy checklist to follow.

The bag itself. This goes back to how much you can easily carry. If you have no experience with backpacks, go to your local sporting good store and ask. What you should do is go down this list first, 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.

Water. 4 full 500ml water bottles. This is your immediate emergency supply if you have no time to fill up your . . .

Water. Containers. 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.

Water Purification. Lifestraw  Potable Aqua Water Tablets:

Fire. 3 Windproof lighters. Torchzilla lighter: Windproof matches with striker. Stormproof Match Kit:

Fire* Portable stove and fuel supply. You need a small stove with a fuel supply for at least a few days. Portable stove and fuel supply. MSR PocketRocket:

Food. Minimum 3 days supply. Add in power bars, etc. Food* Pot to cook in, utensils, pot holder. Mountain House, Just In Case (29 servings):  A basic pot set w/holder:

First aid. A complete emergency first aid kit– Adventure Medical Kit Weekender:; a medical mask; Quikclot sponge. 2 each  Medical mask. 3M Particulate respirator:   Quikclot sponge. 2 each

Shelter. Emergency, light weight sleeping bag. SE EB 122OR Emergency Sleeping Base:

Shelter A small tent or poncho. This depends on multiple factors: how many people, portability, weather, etc.

Shelter* Sleeping bag. Your decision on a sleeping bag depends on your Area Study. Plus 20? Minus 20? A bivy sack is useful for both shelter and sleeping. You need something waterproof to insert the sleeping bag into.

Shelter. Sleeping pad. Either a fixed pad or Thermarest self-inflating. Not just for comfort, but in cold environment, staying off the ground, saves you heat. In a hot, jungle environment, this can be swapped out for a hammock.

Tools. Leatherman, Mutli-Tool

Tools. Portable, hand crank, emergency radio. Ambient weather compact radio, flashlight, charger:

Tools. Hand crank rechargeable flashlight. Cynergy Lifelight w/LED, red light flasher, cell phone charger, window breaker, seatbelt cutter:

Tools. Battery powered headlamp. Energizer 3 LED Headlight:

Tools. Fixed blade survival knife. A fixed blade knife.

Tools. Folding saw. These are very useful in cutting firewood, clearing paths and construction. Folding Saw:

Tools. Paracord.

Tools. Signal mirror. 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.

Tools* Fishing Line, hooks, sinkers and some lures. These come in handy kits.

Tools. 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. Snare wire. Dakota Line Versatile Snares:

Tools. Compass. Suunto M-3G compass:

Tools. Electrical tape. 1 roll. Duct tape. 1 roll.

Personal. A map of the area. A physical, geographic map. 1:24,000 scale at least. Here are two sites where you can download and print out 1:24,000 maps for free: National Geographic Maps:

USGS Maps:

Personal. Extra medication (minimum one week’s worth)     Personal. Extra glasses

Clothing. A pair of workout shoes or broken in boots, in case you have to bug out and don’t have time to put on your proper bug out clothing. Extra socks. At least three pair.

Clothing* Wool watch cap. Most heat escapes through the head or a Boonie hat. Protection from the sun, absorbs sweat, depending on environment.

Clothing. Gloves.

Toiletries. Toilet paper. Baby wipes are preferable. Toothbrush with paste. Razor and blades. Camping soap. Feminine products. Camping towel (small, dries fast)

Cash. ATMs won’t work if the power is out. Cash will be an initial barter material. 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.


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. Get the various bags in place: home, car, work, hide site.

I hope you’ve found this brief summary and list useful. It’s just a template. Remember: preparation is the most important aspect of survival that you can do now!

Here is another popular blog I did listing FREE Apps you can download for First Aid, navigating, emergencies and preparedness.

Remember: Prepare Now. Survive Later.



  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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