We’ll never know when we’ll find ourselves retreating from a raging wildfire or city-shattering earthquake. Densely populated spaces like large cities have their own challenges during emergency situations like evacuation traffic or looting.
Modern cities rely on so many lifelines that the failure of just one could be a complete disaster for everyone living in them. A critical failure in a city’s electrical grid, sewage system, or road network may paralyze a section of the city at best or lead to massive civil unrest at worst.
With this in mind, it’s generally a good idea to make one’s way outside city limits in a disaster to places such as a friend’s home or a far-away motel in the event of a disaster. In the case of a complete failure of the electrical grid, it would be advisable to make it to the nearest campground with running water to weather the storm if you anticipate that you’ll be without power for several days. While you’re out there attempting to survive, it would be good to have a few crucial items on hand.
This is not one of those end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse bugout bag packing lists. The following list assumes the bare necessities of a single individual, traveling alone, in the event of an emergency. These materials are not designed to sustain a person indefinitely, but are good for a few days of off-grid survival.
Cash and change. Outside of the complete and total collapse of society or the extremely unlikely event of occupation by a foreign power, you’ll need cash to pay for essentials like gas and food.
Emergency reference material. Booklets like survival manuals and maps stored in waterproof bags may prove to be essential.
Sleeping system. Sleep is a basic human need. If you have enough storage space, you could use an inflatable mattress or use a warm blanket while you sleep in your car with the AC off and the windows open. Sleeping bags are a good choice for comfort, but if you want to travel light on foot, a poncho and poncho liner would suffice for an ad hoc sleeping bag, using your rucksack as a pillow.
Clothing. A complete change of clothing including long sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, and most importantly – socks and underwear. You actually really need only one set, and in pre-industrial times, most poor people only had one set of clothing anyway. In colder environments, pack winter gear for protection against the cold. Getting sick is a no-no in a survival situation.
Fire starter. Some sort of fire starting material such as a magnesium fire starter, waterproof survival matches, or a storm lighter is necessary for starting a fire for warmth or cooking. Storm lighters might be the best option of the three – they’re relatively cheap, windproof, waterproof, and can be refilled with butane from any gas station.
Portable cooking utensils. For lightweight cooking supplies, consider an esbit stove and a 1 quart camp oven instead of an “all in one camp kitchen” that’s probably the size of a cooler. Don’t forget to bring at least one but preferably 2qt canteens for water.
A good knife. You’ll never know when you need to cut a rope, peel the bark off a piece of wood, gut an animal (or fend one off) or make other survival tools. A multitool knife is not the best option, but the small blade is better than nothing. A full size knife like a Ka-Bar is much more appropriate, but at the same time, enormous things like the Bowie knife, which as might as well be a short sword, are not the best option for delicate and meticulous work.
Multitool/can opener. A typical multitool is made for emergency situations, and usually has such essentials as scissors, a saw, and another knife for more intricate work. Some models even have magnifying glasses for starting fires. Unlike a regular knife, these devices have purpose-made tools which make tasks like opening cans or deboning fish easier to do than they would be with a regular single-edged blade.
Paper and pencil/pen for writing. Making journal entries or lists may help you keep track of tasks you need to do or help you relieve boredom. Rite in the Rain notepads are the notepads of choice for the United States military, chosen for their waterproof material.
Potable water. 60% of the human body is composed of water. Dehydration is a real danger when you’re roughing it outside civilization, and keeping hydrated is very important when one is on the move.
Non-perishable food. Canned goods are very heavy, consider dried food with plastic packaging such as beef jerky, protein bars, or meal replacement bars.
Phone with charger. Your phone, even without an internet connection, can function as a clock, and with the addition of some apps, as a notepad, compass, and so much more. If you’re concerned about finding a place to charge, consider solar-powered chargers or hand cranks for those situations where you might find yourself in some truly out-of-the-way places.
Radio. On the topic of powered devices, a battery powered/solar powered/hand crank radio is vital for receiving weather and news alerts from local stations. Portable radios such as these will give you information on the progress of your disaster situation NOAA Weather Radio tone alerts and extra batteries.
Individual first aid kit. Packed with things like alcohol, antibiotic ointment, bandages, cotton buds, calamine lotion to treat itching, and a tourniquet. This first aid kit should have enough supplies to remedy common injuries like scrapes, burns, blisters, cuts, and other physical injuries of that nature.
Personal sanitation. Moist towelettes/baby wipes, garbage bags, your toothbrush, and liquid soap are adequate for hygiene out in the wilderness. An entrenching tool also helps for when you need to dig a latrine pit.
GPS (Global Positioning System): A GPS device can provide precise location information, helping you navigate and find your way in unfamiliar terrain or during an emergency evacuation. A handheld device or a GPS watch can help you plan routes to safety and mark waypoints. It is particularly valuable when maps may not be available or when you need to make quick decisions about your route.
Personal weapon with a flashlight. You may still need to defend yourself from looters and the occasional dangerous animal. A rifle chambered in an abundant intermediate cartridge like the .223 would be suitable for taking down the vast majority of threats, while a powerful high-candela flashlight like the INFORCE WML would serve to identify those threats before you pull the trigger. The WML’s toolless quick detach mount also allows it to function as an improvised helmet mounted light if need be, since many newer models of ballistic helmet come with picatinny rails or picatinny rail adapters which are meant for attachments like the WML.
These materials should all be able to fit in a single large rucksack. It is your responsibility to plan your route to your bugout location. If you’re going on foot, be sure you have the cardiovascular endurance to make the hike, and if you don’t, it should be a warning sign to get you to practice, if you’re taking your bugout plan seriously.
This comprehensive emergency supply list covers essential items to ensure your safety and well-being during critical situations, from natural disasters to unforeseen emergencies. It's designed to provide you with the tools and resources necessary for a few days of off-grid survival, allowing you to navigate, stay nourished, maintain personal hygiene, and even defend yourself if needed. By including GPS technology for navigation and a personal weapon with an INFORCE flashlight for added security, you can better prepare yourself for the challenges that may arise during an evacuation or wilderness survival scenario. Remember, being prepared can make a significant difference in your ability to endure and overcome unexpected circumstances.