What You Need in an Emergency Bag

How to pack a minimalist bag for any scenario.

Imagine being forced to leave your home at a moment’s notice. What would you take? This guide helps you build an emergency bag for just such occasions, focusing on minimalism and efficiency. Learn what to pack for a variety of emergency situations, ensuring you can leave quickly with everything you need.

If you appreciate minimalism, the philosophy of packing an emergency bag aligns perfectly with your values—every item is essential, serving a purpose, and chosen with care.

Understanding Emergency Bags

An emergency bag, also known as a go-bag or bug-out bag, is a pre-packed, portable kit that provides you with the basic necessities required to survive for the first 72 hours of an emergency. It’s your grab-and-go solution when time is critical.

Choosing the Right Bag

When selecting an emergency bag, several factors must be considered: durability, size, comfort, and compartmentalization. The right choice depends heavily on the intended use and scenario. Here’s a breakdown of common types of bags and their best uses:


Duffel Bags

Rolling Suitcases

Tactical Bags

Choosing the right emergency bag is crucial to ensuring you can carry and access your essentials comfortably and efficiently in any scenario. Consider the typical environment and your physical capability when choosing a bag. Backpacks offer the best versatility for most emergency situations, but duffel bags and tactical bags can be preferable for specific needs and scenarios.

General Purpose Emergency Bags

Here are general types of emergency bags that everyone should have at the ready.

Everyday Carry Bag (EDC):

Designed for daily use and minor emergencies, this bag should be compact and light but still carry the essentials. You’ll likely take this bag with you whenever you leave the house.

Packing List

Everyday Carry Bags

  1. The North Face Vault Backpack

    • Details: This backpack offers a large main pocket for daily essentials, a padded laptop sleeve, and a smaller front pocket to stay organized. It includes a sternum strap for added support and dual water bottle holders.
    • Why It’s Great: It’s budget-friendly, dependable, and comfortable, making it a versatile choice for everyday use.
  2. Osprey Daylite Plus Pack

    • Details: This backpack is compact and lightweight with a large main compartment, multifunctional 15-inch internal laptop sleeve, and two side pockets. It features eco-friendly materials and is comfortable for daily wear.
    • Why It’s Great: It’s highly durable, comfortable, and eco-friendly, making it ideal for everyday use and short hikes.

Bug-Out Bag (BOB):

This bag contains essential items needed to survive for several days in the event of an evacuation.

Packing List

Bug-Out Bags

  1. 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 2.0

    • Details: This backpack is known for its durability, made from 1050D nylon, and features a comprehensive organizational system with a hydration bladder pouch, laptop sleeve, and a secure CCW pouch. It’s designed to handle a variety of loadouts while remaining comfortable and not impeding movement, making it ideal for extended use in emergency scenarios.
    • Why It’s Great: It’s extremely durable, highly customizable, and perfect for extended use in various emergency scenarios.
  2. Maxpedition Entity CCW-Enabled EDC Backpack

    • Details: This backpack features a clamshell opening, dedicated tablet sleeve, multiple storage compartments, and a water-resistant exterior. It’s made from high-quality materials and offers great organizational features.
    • Why It’s Great: It’s highly durable, well-organized, and comfortable to carry, making it suitable for bug-out scenarios.

Get-Home Bag (GHB):

Aimed at helping you return home safely during severe emergencies when you might be away from home, such as at work. This bag travels with you in your car and may be incorporated into your Vehicle Emergency Kit, covered below.

Packing List

Get-Home Bags

  1. Arc’teryx Mantis 26

    • Details: This backpack includes a hydration bladder pouch, dual water bottle pouches, and well-padded shoulder straps for comfort. It offers excellent organization and weight distribution.
    • Why It’s Great: It’s lightweight, comfortable, and designed for efficient movement, making it ideal for get-home scenarios.
  2. Eagle Creek Explore Backpack

    • Details: This lightweight backpack is made from recycled materials and features a large main compartment with a 16-inch laptop sleeve, detachable hip belt, and a compact design.
    • Why It’s Great: It’s lightweight, eco-friendly, and versatile, suitable for both urban and outdoor environments.

Scenario-Specific Emergency Bags

In addition to general purpose bags, emergency bags can be tailored to specific situations. Below are some key scenarios with suggested packing lists:

Natural Disaster (Earthquake, Flood, Hurricane)

Natural Disaster Bags

  1. 5.11 Tactical Rush24 Military Pack

    • This backpack is tough, roomy, and designed to withstand harsh conditions, making it ideal for natural disaster preparedness. Its 24-hour pack size ensures you can carry all essential gear, and its robust build is suitable for rain, sleet, or snow.
  2. Mystery Ranch Blitz 30

    • Known for its durability and comfort, the Blitz 30 is constructed from weather-resistant materials and features a full horseshoe-style zip for easy packing. It’s excellent for both emergency preparedness and daily use.

Urban Emergency (Power Outage, Lockdown)

Urban Emergency Bag

  1. 5.11 Tactical LV18 Backpack
    • This backpack is discreet and durable, designed for urban environments. It features a low-profile design with ample storage and organization, including a CCW compartment, making it great for blending into urban settings while keeping essentials organized and accessible.

Wilderness Survival

Wilderness Survival Bags

  1. Gregory Zulu 40 Backpack

    • Ideal for backcountry adventures, the Gregory Zulu 40 offers a balance of comfort and functionality with its ventilated back panel and suspension system, plenty of pockets for organization, and a sturdy build.
  2. Osprey Stratos 36 Backpack

    • This pack is well-suited for both hiking and survival scenarios, with features like a hydration reservoir and a comfortable hip belt. It’s lightweight yet durable, making it perfect for navigating through challenging terrain.

Vehicle Emergency Kit

Vehicle Emergency Kit Bag

  1. Maxpedition Entity 23
    • Compact and highly organized, this backpack is perfect for keeping in a vehicle as it offers structured storage and quick access to essentials. Its robust build ensures it can handle the wear and tear of travel.

Each scenario demands specific items to address the unique challenges it presents. Tailoring your emergency bag to the environment and expected conditions not only enhances your preparedness but also ensures you can respond effectively to any emergency.

Maintenance and Storage

Maintaining and storing your emergency bags are crucial steps to ensure they are ready when needed. Regular maintenance prevents the deterioration of items and ensures everything functions as expected during an emergency.

Maintenance Tips

Storage Tips

Ever Ready, Ever Steady

Preparation is the cornerstone of peace of mind in an uncertain world. With the right emergency bag, packed according to your personal and situational needs, you can face any crisis with confidence.

Remember, an emergency bag is your first line of defense in maintaining safety and control in unforeseen situations. Equip, maintain, and be ever ready to meet challenges head-on.

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