What Goes Into a Vehicle Bug-Out Bag?

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A Beginner’s Guide to Vehicle Bug-Out Bags

What’s a bug-out bag but a “home away from home” – and in some cases, a “home when there’s no home to go back to”? In the perfect scenario, we’re able to get to wherever we’ve stored our gear, grab it and set out to safety. Most of the time, if you’re like me, you’re going to keep it with you – so when you’re out and about, it’s in your car or truck.


The classic bug-out bag is portable, lightweight and made to travel. But your car is a beast of burden – it can handle a lot more than your back. So why aren’t you taking advantage of that?


A Vehicle Bug-Out Bag is a mobile solution for when the shit hits the fan. It gives you options to prepare on a different level than a backpack or other go bag. You have more room for the essentials, as well as some optional items to make your life much, much easier.


It give you a chance to increase your supply of food, water and necessary gear. What’s in your car could be your first, last,or only line of defense when faced with a man-made or natural disaster.

Let me elaborate a little bit on that… I bet you’ve noticed that things like earthquakes and hurricanes are regular events. It feels like this shit is happening somewhere in the world on a near daily basis. It’s a constant onslaught of bad luck, natural or otherwise.


When it comes to survival, the golden rule is that it’s a day to day thing – there’s no rest for the wicked, as they say. You can’t rest on your laurels… hoping that box of MRE’s you bought in 1974 will keep you alive until society reboots itself. This is a 24/7 job, around the clock, always open for business kinda deal.


There’s a huge gap between those who prepare and those who don’t – and brother, let me tell you, I’d rather be prepared.

So, What Goes Into A Vehicle Bug-Out Bag?

Your vehicle bug-out bag doesn’t need to be more complicated than the necessities. But there’s a lot of room to improve and upgrade, depending on the size of your vehicle. Some of the late model sedans have what we used to call “three body trunks” and can hold a hell of a lot of gear. On the flip side, my buddy has a go bag attached to his motorcycle. You can make due with whatever vehicle you use as long as you’re smart about it.


Depending on your style and concerns you can go small to deal with “day to day emergencies”. Things like a small first aid kit and flashlight. Or you can go all out, balls-to-the-wall, bring-on-the-end. With food, water, and shelter. People assemble “I’m Never Coming Home” (INCH) bags in their trunk on a regular basis.


We’re going to cover some basics today, but feel free to improvise and adapt. That’s what it’s all about after all, right?


To maximize your chances of survival in a hostile environment, you must prepare for anything life throws at you. In my experience, it’s better to prepare for the worst while being optimistic than vice versa. Let’s start with a short list of essentials for your vehicle bug-out bag. We’ll expand into some more advanced preps in future blog posts.

Vehicle Bug-Out Bag Essentials

  • Food and water. Survival, at almost any level, revolves around these two items more than anything else. In a grid down situation you need potable water and ready-to-eat food for the short term. You might even need to be forward thinking if you have the space – vegetable seeds, snaring or hunting equipment, fishing gear. These are the things that give you long term sustainability. For the short term, we’re going to shoot for essentials. Bottled water and non-perishable foods (canned goods, MREs, protein bars, whatever you can get). Enough to last three days per person. 24 packs of bottled water are fine but I prefer the multi-gallon containers with a spout. Make sure you rotate your water out on a regular basis to stay safe.

  • First aid. A high quality first aid kit is non-negotiable. This is one of the items that has a use at all levels of the disaster food chain. From small day-to-day cuts and bruises to those real “oh shit” moments we all dread… a good first aid kit can make the difference between inconvenience and impossible. If you can get your hands on an EMT bag, more power to you – it’ll handle most trauma situations like a pro. Make sure you get out there and learn some basic first aid, or it’s pointless. But there’s no reason to buy the gun if you don’t have the ammo.

  • Firearms. Speaking of guns and ammo – a firearm can be the difference between life and death. Going back to the first point, a good small caliber rifle or handgun can is great for hunting as well as self defense. Now if your “disaster” is a flat tire, this bad boy should stay secured away. But if you’re stranded in the woods, or we catch another one of those Carrington Events, you’ll be thankful to have a firearm on hand. Of course, this only applies if you live in a state where it’s legal to have a firearm. Always ensure the firearm is safely locked up and stored correctly. We don’t want to be the cause of any emergency situations, after all.

  • “Commando Items”. This is my catch all for your general survival necessities. Firestarters (matches/magnesium/strikers). A good hunk of paracord. A sturdy fixed blade knife. Wet weather gear (military poncho). Duct tape. A bright flashlight. A compass, a multi-tool (I prefer a good myself), mylar blankets. A good, portable water filter. If you’re worried about biological or chemical emergencies you could include air filtration. Beyond that take advantage of the extra space in the vehicle for some “necessities”. Toilet paper, paper and pen/pencil, superglue, trash bags, a small camping stove or hobo stove. Anything to make the grind easier is worth including.

  • Tools. If you have the space, some basic tools can be a godsend. A hammer, folding saw, hatchet, e-tool/small shovel, and a socket set and speed jack. If you’re going to haul all this in the vehicle, you might as well plan to keep it running. If you have a truck or SUV, an external way to store fuel is a huge bonus as well. You can pick up a solar battery/USB charger for next to nothing and makes a great addition as well.

  • Communication and navigation. A compass might be great for a real grid down situation, but we want to be able to operate in more realistic environments as well. A battery operated GPS unit with hiking maps could save your life. A map is a good backup to have. Have an old cellphone you’re not using? Consider loading it up with survival ebooks, maps, guide and notes and toss it in the kit. Even a prepaid “dumb phone” could save your life if you’re stranded and lose your cell. If you have deep pockets, a satellite phone is the ultimate communication tool if you’re lost in the woods. But it’ll have limited uses in an end-of-the-world scenario.

Putting It Into Practice

That’s a pretty extensive list and not everyone will need every item on there. Hell, some of you won’t be able to consider half the items… I know how the laws work in certain states when it comes to firearms, knives bigger than a toothpick or hatchets in your vehicle. Your limit might be space in the vehicle, or your budget.


My recommendation is this: Start with essentials. Make a list of all the “good to have” items you’d want in a perfect world. Go through and number them by priority. The lower the number, the more important they are. Start by acquiring or collecting those items and making them work in the vehicle. Keep going until you’re out of space or feel like anything else would be unnecessary.

You’ll find that a lot of the “essentials” you marked down are things you don’t care about, once you’ve built your kit.


In the future, I’ll throw together some advanced bug-out vehicle posts. We’ll look at the difference between a vehicle bug-out bag and a bug-out vehicle. I’ll try to put up a post on how to build a go-bag for your bike too, like my buddy did.


In the meantime, feel free to reach out here if you think I missed any items, have any suggestions or questions. I always look forward to talkin with ya’ll.