Go Bag Items: The Essentials And Must-Haves

The go bag items you have on hand may be the only thing that you can bring with you if you have to head for the hills in a hurry. It pays to think out in advance what you’re going to need. That way, you won’t stumble into situations you’re not prepared for. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

A hiker carrying his go bag items.

How To Think About Go Bag Items

When you’re planning your go bag items, you have to think a little differently. You want everything to be as light as possible, including the bag itself. The “go” in a go bag means you’re trying to be mobile and agile. 

Survival is also paramount. You’re not trying to assemble your must-have luxuries, you’re trying to stay safe and alive. The best way to make sure you’ve got your bases covered is to remember the Rule of Three’s.

Go Bag Items And The Rule Of 3’s


You can only survive 3 minutes without air. Luckily, Earth is mostly covered in it. Problems arise when something contaminates the air. Many types of disaster might do this. Volcanic ash, tear gas, or even heavy smog can impede your ability to get oxygen in your system.

For this reason, air masks are a must have for your go-bag. You should at least have N-95 masks handy. These are cheap, lightweight, and easy to use. If you’ve got extra space or fear that air quality will be a major factor in your escape, opt for a larger respirator


This one surprises a lot of people, but shelter can be more time sensitive than water or food. You can only survive 3 hours in extreme hot or cold environments. Shelter should include your clothing and something you can camp with. 

This depends on your environment. If you’re in an area that experiences extreme heat or extreme cold, you should have a change of clothes that will protect you from this. You should also have a folding poncho. Getting wet can be deadly in a survival situation. It very quickly wicks heat away from your body. Getting a poncho with grommets will mean that with some rope or twine, you can use it as a tent as well.

As for your shelter, your rain poncho and cord should be able to cover you, but what about keeping you warm? Emergency Mylar blankets are cheap, versatile, and very lightweight. You can line your shelter with it, wear it around yourself, and even signal for help with shiny ones. They’re a must-have go bag item.


You can only survive 3 days without water. Because water is so heavy, you can bet that you cant carry enough to sustain you for long. This is where planning comes into play. I’ve already written an article about water purification you can read (HERE), so I’ll spare you the details. More important than having water is being able to clean water you find. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a water purification straw for the short term, and techniques planned for the long term.


You can make it about 3 weeks without food, depending on the person. While it’s another one that requires renewability, it’s a little easier to carry than water. Emergency rations have a good shelf life, and are easy to carry. You can toss a 72-hour supply of food in as a go bag item that’ll carry you until you reach a safer destination.

Bug Out Items – Tools

There are a few tools you’ll want to add to your list of bug out items in addition to the Rule of Three’s gear.

First off, you’ll want light. If you plan to be traveling at night, or if you will be out after dark, you’ll need to be able to see. Cheap flashlights are lightweight and can be found everywhere, but headlamps are an even better idea. They’re hands-free and also very lightweight.

Additionally, you’ll want a good multitool. They come in a million shapes and sizes but the must-haves are a cutting edge, pliers, and a fire-starter. If you have these bases covered then you’re ready for most everything.

Go Bag Items Wrap-up

Ultimately, what goes in your go bag is up to you. You need to make sure that you understand how to use everything you pack. And you need to make sure that the total weight is manageable for you. Otherwise you’ll be chucking useless items as you go, wasting time and energy when it matters most.

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