Vehicle BUG-OUT Kit: Stay prepared, stay alive.

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Bug Out kit for the Jeep / vehicle

There a lot of talk about Bug-Out kits going around.  In these strange times, it’s always good to have a plan, but when there’s no time to execute a plan, be ready to roll at a moment’s notice.  But how do you go about building a vehicle bug-out kit? This post is all about the ready, GO!  Whether it’s straight from the office, home, the beach or anywhere, it good to be as ready as possible.  These tips can be used to put together a go-bag at home, work or anywhere, but I am specifically working around the confined of my Jeep (or your car, truck or SUV)

If you are like me, chances are your vehicle is not far from you wherever you are, so having the necessary gear to bug-out on hand could be handy…or could save your life.  Additionally, sometimes we don’t want a kit that going to take up a lot of space in the car, or in my case, I use my Jeep regularly to haul my wife, two kids, and two dogs, so space is an issue.

What is a Bug-Out Kit?

Let get to the heart of the matter.  A bug-out bag by definition is a collection of gear that will allow the carrier to leave where they are at any given time and escape from a bad situation.  In an emergency, there is little time to gather your thoughts, let alone a bag of well-thought-out gear!  Let’s get the thinking over with now, get prepared, and be ready!

I have a primary and secondary focus when it comes to bugging out.  The primary focus is the Rule of Threes.  What is the Rule of Threes?  It’s simple and can save your life:

The Rule of Threes

An average human can survive:

3 minutes without air

3 hours without shelter

3 days without water

3 weeks without food

This is the foundation of my bug-out gear plan. So let’s start with the entire list.

I wanted to give special thanks to Brownells and Condition1 for their support in this project. Check them out when you get a chance.

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Vehicle BUG-OUT Kit

  • Masks, bandana or other to filter air.  You need to breathe to survive.  Whether it’s a pathogen, smoke, or gas, any face covering to breathe through is a necessity…even if it just helps you get through and on with your journey.
n95 mask bandana air filter dust
  • Shelter.  We would all love to carry a small tent, and that would be great for a home-based bug-out that can take up space, but for the vehicle, I carry an emergency shelter and bivvy.  This can protect you from the elements until you can build or find a more permanent shelter. Lightweight, portable and can keep you alive.
emergency shelter bivvy tent survival gear
  • Water. The average human needs about a half-gallon of water a day to stay hydrated, and obviously more if they are on the move.  Water is also HEAVY, so there needs to be a balance.  Make sure you have water-carrying containers and water on hand. I’ll cover off on filtration and boiling further down the list.
water filter pare water emergency hydration tablets purification
  • Food. Dehydrated rations, energy bars, and any lightweight, high-calorie food with a long shelf life should be in your kit. Remember, this is not about luxury, this is about survival. Be aware of nutritional needs, allergies, etc prior to food selection.
emergency survival rations 72 hour food kit dehydrated for your Vehicle BUG-OUT Kit

Let’s Complete the Bug-Out Kit

With the Rule of Threes handled, let’s move on to the rest of the list of what I consider to be necessities in a vehicle-stored emergency bug out kit.  These are not in any specific order, as they are all necessary. Keep in mind, I am going for light, portable and easy to store for a long time in a vehicle.

  • First Aid Kit. Remember, this pack needs to be light and portable, so carry the essentials. I have a very comprehensive kit in my Jeep, but I won’t be carrying it around in a bug-out situation. My bug out First Aid Kit is small and light, and has multiple attachment options if I need to attach it to the outside of my pack. The basic portable first aid kits will have the minimum.  I will lay out a comprehensive list after I get through this list.
first aid essential gear emergency medical kit

  • Multitool. There are lots of options out there. I prefer the Gerber Center Punch. With a multitude of small tools in one package, it’s much easier and lighter than carrying a toolbox.
gerber multi tool survival tool kit multitool for your vehicle bug out kit


  • Small Axe. Great for firewood, and any chopping job. Keep it small…the lighter the better. It also can be used as a hammer.
small axe split wood splitting campfire survival hatchet portable light

  • Folding Shovel. Portable and very useful.
portable folding survival shovel dig, bury. perfect for your vehicle bug-out kit

  • Fixed Blade Knife. Have something solid, sharp and strong. Great for cutting, chopping, defense and can be lashed to a stick and fashioned into a spear for hunting.
fixed blade knife for cutting, chopping, defense, spear hunting

Buy Fixed Blade Knife Here!


  • Folding Knife.  Preferably one-handed opening. Pretty self-explanatory, the pocket knife is one of the most useful tools you can carry.
folding pocket knife useful tool cutting

  • Gloves (work) Have a pair of tough gloves to keep your hands protected. A good set of work gloves will help prevent blisters and hand injuries. Medical gloves are covered on the first aid kit list below.
work gloves to protect your hands and prevent blisters

  • Goggles Inclement weather, blowing dust, and many other eye contaminants are a possibility, so having a set of decent, lightweight goggles is a great way to protect your vision.
goggles eye protection

  • Lighter / Matches/ lightweight tinder Starting a fire is imperative for keeping warm, cooking or boiling water. Carry a lighter, weatherproof matches and some dry tinder, like dryer lint. This is a bug-out pack, NOT a demonstration of your backcountry fieldcraft survival techniques, so carry something light and easy to use, like a disposable lighter and matches. Zippo style lighters can be unreliable, but a couple simple disposable lighters will get you through the 72-hour bug out.
lighter matches fire starter lint tinder

  • Light Having some good LED lighting for low-light activities and travel is imperative. Carry a small flashlight, Headlamp and/or emergency light. Keep it simple. AA and AAA battery powered lights are easy to find spare batteries for. Avoid high-end exotic batteries.
LED flashlight light headlamp torch. Always good to have in your vehicle.

  • Spare batteries Carry a few AA and AAA batteries for your lighting. hopefully, you won’t need it in 72 hours. Try to avoid exotic battery types.
AAA AA battery batteries for spare

  • Chem Lights.  12 hours from a glow stick can be very helpful if batteries die. Lightweight and easy to use. They can also be used for marking areas at night.
chem lights glow sticks for light and signal

  • Maps Keep maps of the area handy. They are cheap and light. Make sure you orient yourself BEFORE a bug out! Do it now!
map terrain topo guide book is a must in your Vehicle BUG-OUT Kit

  • Compass. Carry and know how to use a basic compass. If you have a direction, you have a way out.
compass tool for direction

  • Mirror A signal mirror is lightweight, portable, and has a long history of being a great tool for signaling and rescue situations. A small signal mirror can be far more effective than bright colors or even smoke when seen from a distance.
signalling Mirror rescue signal

Buy Signal Mirror Here!


  • Whistle Great for making loud noises that stand out from nature. Light and portable.
rescue whistle to get found

  • Cash. Keep a little with you. You never know when you might need it.
cash money

  • Spare Magazines / Ammo For those who carry a pistol, or are familiar with firearms, carry a spare magazine or two and ammunition. Not only do I carry a spare mag for my Glock but also a spare mag for a 1911, and an M17 (standard Army issue sidearm) just in case. I also carry a handful of ammo from a few different common calibers. You never know.
spare ammunition and magazines for survival and defense

  • Tape.  A small roll of duct tape is very useful for repairs, attaching things and just sticking stuff together as needed. I even keep a small amount in my first aid kit for a last resort fix situation.
Duct Tape for repairs, fixes, sturdy connection attachments

  • Emergency Blanket Stay warm, stay out of the elements, STAY ALIVE. This is not the comforter from your bed, but it will help you retain body heat and survive a cold night. Very portable and lightweight.
emergency blanket packable space mylar heat retaining safety survival

  • Emergency Poncho Stay dry. People who get wet run a higher chance of hypothermia…even in seemingly warm temperatures. Keep a lightweight, portable emergency poncho and keep the elements at bay.
emergency poncho jacket to stay dry in rain bad weather can be used as a tarp

  • Water Filtration Purification tabs are light and portable, but keep an actual filter system handy too. Keep some water in the vehicle, but always be prepared to boil or filter more. This little unit weighs only a few ounces and can be screwed onto a bottle or used as-is. You want to carry some water, but it is HEAVY so be ready to purify your own.
sawyer water filtration system water filter portable

  • Small Stove and Pot to boil water as needed. Have a simple, light kit, like this canteen and portable stove/cup handy. Light and easy to use. The stove is designed to heat food and water with twigs and sticks, or over a fire. No cans of fuel are needed. Any additional fuel sources just weigh you down. Start a small fire, heat what you need, survive.
canteen gi portable stove and cup for boiling water and cooking food

  • Charger / charging cables.  There are many options for small stand-alone battery and mobile phone chargers. This is easier and more convenient than a wind-up light/radio and easy for a 48-72 hour emergency plan.
portable jump start charger vehicle mobile phone and battery. SHould be in your vehicle bug-out kit

  • Rainproof notebook / pen / pencil The ability to write in all weather is important for communication, personal log, reference points etc.
write in the rain waterproof rite notebook field notes pen pencil paper

  • QUALITY Dry Bag / Backpack.  Keep your pack secure in a high-quality pack. I recommend a dry bag backpack like this one form Condition1. Keeping stuff organized, ready to go and DRY is always important for a bug out scenario. You may have to cross a stream or get caught in inclement weather, so keep your gear safe and dry!
dry bag backpack for your vehicle bug-out kit quality tough condition1

  • Cordage.  Have 50 feet of Paracord. Perfect for hanging a temporary tent, repairs, lashing anything together. Paracord has a tough outer sheath and strong fine thread core. As a whole, it can support hundreds of pounds, and the inner threads and be used to repair cloth tears, stitch a cut or whatever you may need.
paracord cordage rope survival strong binding tie

  • Toilet Paper Self explanatory. Biodegradeable RV toilet paper breaks down the fastest. Remember, grab your shovel, dig a hole, and bury it!
toilet paper biodegradable wipe
  • Hand Sanitizer Have a 1oz bottle handy for quick cleaning. I have one in the pack and one in the first aid kit. Keep it small and light.
hand sanitizer purell clean antibacterial cleaner to stay clean while you bug-out
  • Wipes Travel size is small and light, and can be used as a full-body clean if needed.
hand wipes antibacterial clean travel for your vehicle kit
  • Change of Clothes. It’s important to have spare clothes that are ready to go and built for the outdoors. Avoid cotton. Be sure you have a wicking material to keep moisture at bay and be sure it is durable! Avoid bulky clothes and bright colors. When you bug out, you need to blend in with others and the environment. No need to draw attention. Include: Pants, Shirt, socks (x2) underwear (x2) Hat, Jacket, Boots, Belt.
  • Pistol, Spare Magazines. If you are able to carry a pistol, bring one. Remember, this is a survival pack, and knowing how to use your tools is imperative. Survival is also about avoiding bad situations and staying alive, NOT breaking the law. Know your local laws and restrictions when it comes to firearms.
pistol survival tool
  • Sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun…they are the only set you have!
sunglasses eye protection UV

Remember, this is all designed to be gear you need for evacuation purposes.  This is not designed for long term survival, but simply a means to get you to a point where you can set up and get more permanent relief. Your vehicle bug-out kit contents may vary based on personal needs, but make sure you have what it takes to survive.

First Aid Kit Contents

OK, let’s break down the first aid kit.  I have a large kit in the Jeep, but I wanted to make sure the essentials were in a lighter, easy to carry package. Your kit should include:

  • Adhesive Bandages
  • Non-stick Bandages
  • Sterile Gauze Pads (2×2,3×3)
  • Rolled bandages
  • Triangular Bandage / Sling
  • Wraps
  • Cotton Balls
  • Bleed Stop
  • Tourniquet
  • Trauma Pad
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • Nitrile Gloves
  • Medical Tape
  • Instant Cold Pack
  • Medical Scissors
  • Empty Syringe (for rinsing wounds)
  • Lip Balm
  • Tweezers
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Bite or sting wipes
  • Hand Wipes
  • Small bottle of hand cleaner
  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Pain reliever tablets (Tylenol, Ibuprophen, Aspirin)
  • Sharpie
  • Super Glue
  • Liquid Skin
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Emergency Poncho
  • Q-tips
  • Small sewing kit

THINGS TO AVOID:

Don’t pack unnecessary things in your vehicle BUG-OUT Kit.  This pack is designed to keep you warm, fed and hydrated above all.

Food Issues:

Avoid complex meals.  Meals are for survival. That means calories.  If you have special dietary needs, there are many options out there for survival food, but if you have a dietary CHOICE, like preferring to be Vegan or not like fish, then you need to understand that this is about survival, and protein and calories are designed to keep you alive in a survival situation.

Foods with short expirations dates.  Yes, I know pretty much anything you eat has an expiration date, but perishable food is a no-no.  MREs, ready to eat bars, or dehydrated foods that take minimal boiling are good, and most come with prolonged expiration dates. Remember, this food is for SURVIVAL, not luxury or taste.

Survival, not Camping

Do not confuse camping gear with survival gear.  Now is not the time to bring a full-size tent, sleeping bag, bed mat, barbecue, smores, etc.  Get through the emergency.  Then go camping when it’s all over. 

Water is necessary but HEAVY

Avoid large water storage containers.  Clunky, inconvenient water storage will just slow you down.  Keep it portable.  Also, hydration packs should be avoided.  They can puncture easily and take up room on your pack for essentials.

Salt

Don’t bring it, don’t use it.

Some other considerations

Coffee.  Unnecessary weight and use of water resources.  If you must have coffee, grab a couple of instant packs and drink them with cold water.

Avoid cotton and denim clothes.  Invest in proper pants, tops, and jackets that retain heat and wick moisture.

Wind Up Radio / Flashlight.  This is an emergency, short term bug-out solution.  Wind up lights are unreliable and use precious energy to wind.  With all of the options for small battery chargers for phones and batteries, a wind-up version is unnecessary.

So now what?

Thanks for tagging along with me! Now you’ve got a list. It is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all list. Your list may be different or may have unique requirements. People have different needs, so ask yourself questions as you pack. Do you have any important documents that need to be on hand? Do you wear glasses? Do you have prescription medication? There are many things to consider when personalizing YOUR Vehicle Bug-Out Kit. Keep in mind, you want your pack to be no more than 10% of our body weight. My pack weighs in at just over 20 pounds, which is perfect for me.

Do you have a suggestion for your vehicle bug-out kit? Perhaps a question? Feel free to comment HERE

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