The term “bug out” is related to retreating with speed—as in, getting out fast when the s–t hits the fan. This list for a bug-out kit is long, but it provides you with everything you’ll need for your best chance at surviving and living the wilderness in cold climates for an indefinite period of time. This kit also lends itself to portability, because you never know when you’ll need to move on from one location to another. The kit can be loaded into a canoes or other portable-size boats to be transported on water, and it can be portaged (albeit across many trips) between bodies of water, allowing you to access remote areas. When you and your family are not living off the land—waiting out the apocalypse—the kit can all be stored in a garage, trailer, or storage shed.
I made this list based on the needs of two adults and one child. The speed of your retreat with this outfit in tow will depend on how organized the kit is—and where you live. I know it seems like a lot to carry, but this outfit will give you the best chance at hacking out a life in the wilderness with your family in a cold climate. After all, if you think you can live for an extended period of time in nature with whatever you can fit inside one small backpack, you are sorely mistaken.
Canoe and Paddles
- Canoe: I recommend two durable 18- to 21-foot canoes with a carrying capacity of roughly 1,500 pounds each. The ability to carry large amounts of gear in canoes—in addition to their portability—make them your best bet for reaching backcountry areas. Keep in mind you don’t “pack” the canoes. You pack the kit into them. This is what makes this bug-out kit transportable. Two 18-foot canoes can fit on top of a moderate-size vehicle and can be carried by one person through the woods. Gear Recommendation: Nova Craft Prospector Canoe
Food and Water
- Grub: Pack dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and meat (i.e. jerky), plus staples like rice, flour, lard, pasta, baking powder, salt, sugar, seasoning, cooking oil, and yeast. Try to bring a minimum of two months’ worth of food.
- Seeds: I focus on native plants because they grow much more easily. In much of northern North America, this means corn, beans, squash, asparagus, and rhubarb.
- Stock Pot
- 10-litre Gravity Filter
- Water Purification Tabs
- Mess Kit: Opt for one with two smaller pots, a frying pan, and metal plates, bowls, cups, cutlery.
The Eureka! K-2 XT Tent. Amazon
- Tents: I recommend a large—15×13 feet—canvas wall tent with a portable wood stove and telescopic stove pipe for space. I also bring a lighter tent for faster traveling on shorter forays and for spike camps. Gear Recommendations: Snowtrekker Mega Crew Canvas Tent; Kni-Co Tundra Stove; Eureka! K-2 XT
- Tarps: I bring three tarps—roughly 10×12 feet in size—including a heavy-duty tarp and a lighter-weight option. Gear Recommendation: X Pose Safety Heavy-Duty Tarp
- Sleeping Bag: This should be rated for -30 or -40 degrees. Pack them in dry compression sacks. Gear Recommendation: Western Mountaineering Bison GWS Expedition
- Foam Ground Pads: Portable and durable pads are essential as sleeping pads, but they have other uses, including as an emergency splint. Gear Recommendation: Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Reflective Foam Camping Ground Pad
Fishing Gear and Tackle
- Gillnet: A gillnet is one of the most efficient methods for catching a lot of fish. You’ll want a large one—about 100 feet long—with floats along the top and lead core line along the bottom. I also bring a smaller, 15-foot gillnet for shorter trips.
- Tackle: You’re going to want to have all of your bases covered here: several spools of line in varying tests; a wide range of hooks; four spinning reels; four two-piece fiberglass rods; two strong telescopic (or four-piece) rods; and a large assortment of lures—jigs, soft baits, metal lures, etc.
- Ice Chisel: Choose a long, two-piece chisel that you can use to open holes in the ice. Gear Recommendation: Lure of the North Ice Chisel
- Firearms: I bring a 12-gauge pump action shotgun with a standard smooth-bore barrel and interchangeable chokes. I also recommend bringing a .22, and a larger rifle in .30/06 or .308.
- Firearm Accessories: You’ll want waterproof, floating soft cases for all of your firearms, as well as a gun-cleaning kit. Gear Recommendations: Yukon Outfitters Waterproof Floating Gun Case; Hoppe’s No. 9 Cleaning Kit
- Ammunition: Go heavier on the shotgun shells, focusing on non-toxic BB shot for geese, and bring slugs and plenty of rifle ammo.
- Bowhunting Gear: Pack a take-down, traditional bow as well as carbon-fiber arrows with broadheads and judo tips. This is a good hunting option to have when you need to conserve ammo or be silent.
The Arcadia Gear Fat Boy Ferro Rod. Amazon
- First Aid Kit: This needs to be substantial—one that includes antibiotics, pain killers, including narcotic painkillers if possible, anti-inflammatories, and sutures. Gear Recommendation: Adventures Medical Kit Mountain Medic Medical Kit
- Signal Mirror: This tool can be a serious lifesaver. Just make sure you know how to use one to signal for help. Gear Recommendation: S.O.L Rescue Flash Mirror
- Lighters: I have 30 (yes, 30) classic Bic lighters in my kit.
- Ferro Rod: When you run out of lighters, this tool is one of the most reliable ways to start a survival fire. Gear Recommendation: Arcadia Gear Fat Boy Ferro Rod
- Wire: You’ll want several spools in varying gauges for snaring game and other uses. (Stick mostly to 22 gauge for snaring rabbits and grouse, and bring some small snare locks for snaring beaver.) You can also use wire to repair shelters, make crab, lobster, or fish traps, or fashion fishing lures.
- Maps: You’ll want detailed topographic maps of your main areas and aeronautical charts covering farther-reaching areas.
- Compass: Go with a high-end baseplate, orienteering compass and bring multiple. Gear Recommendation: Silva 16DCL Compass
- GPS: Best to bring two of these. Gear Recommendation: Garmin GPSMAP 65s
Blades and Tools
The Ontario Knife Company SP8 Machete Amazon
- Axes: You’ll want a maul for splitting, and a smaller Hudson Bay-size axe with good sheaths. Wood handles can be replaced more easily. Gear Recommendations: Hickory Shaft Log-Splitting Maul; Council Tool 2.0 Hudson Bay Camp Axe
- Bow Saw: Bring an extra blade—or three.
- Woodworking Tools: Having the basics can come in handy if you need to build a cabin, raft, toboggan, a self-bow, and more. I bring the following: draw knife ; wood chisels ; wood augers ; and a pocket plane .
- Belt Knife
- Folding Camp Saw
- Sharpeners for Axes and Saws
The Alps Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack. Amazon
- Books: Take some knowledge with you. Books on wild edibles and medicinal plants are good to have, as are manuals about how to make a bow and arrow, how to trap or set a gill net, and books about wilderness first-aid.
- Flagging Tape
- Clothing: You’re going to need clothing for every time of year—for the extreme cold to the heat of summer. You should also pack chest waders, footwear, and rain gear. Pack clothing in large dry compression sacks. Lining the dry compression sacks with trash bags will lengthen the longevity of their waterproofing. Gear Recommendation: Alps Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack
- Bug Jacket: This is kind of like a beekeeper’s jacket with a zip-up mesh face covering to protect from biting insects like mosquitos. Gear Recommendation: The Original Bug Shirt
- Lamp Wick: This stuff is great for making lanterns out of animal fat. You can also use it to make traditional snowshoe bindings. Gear Recommendation: Cotton Oil Lamp Wick
- Candles: Choose long-burning soy wax candles and consider choosing a block of paraffin wax and wick for portability so you can make your candles in the field as needed. Wax can also be used to waterproof fabrics. Gear Recommendations: UCO 9-Hour Candles; Hertel Paraffin Wax
- Sewing Kit: This should include heavy-duty needles, an awl, and dental floss for thread. Gear Recommendation: AIEX Upholstery Repair Kit
- Duct Tape
- Cordage: Pack 200 feet of 8mm climbing rope, and 400 feet of parachute cord of varying colors.
- Vitamins and Supplements: Multi-vitamins, vitamin C, B-3, and B-12 are key.
- Packs and Containers: Bags (backpacks, fanny pack,(comma) dry bags with patch kit), bucket, food barrels with straps, contractor’s garbage bags, larger sized water jug.
- Sleds: Bring two plastic sleds to use when transporting gear or game in the winter. Gear Recommendation: Flexible Flyer Winter Trek
- Rechargeable AA and AAA Batteries
- CB Radio with Antenna and Rechargeable Batteries
- Long Range Walkie Talkies
- Folding Solar Panels: I’d suggest bringing two. Gear Recommendation: Goal Zero Nomad 100 Solar Panel
- Power Station