Should I Build a Bug Out Bag or Buy One?
Survivalist 101 sells both the bags/packs and much of the contents for the do-it-yourself assembler of a bug out bag. We also sell pre-loaded bug out bags; in fact, these are among our most popular items. It’s your choice which way to go.
However, we don’t think it’s off the mark to say if you’re seriously asking, “Should I build or buy a bug out bag,” it’s probably better to buy a pre-loaded bug out bag. Here’s why.
A bug out bag, BOB, go-pack or whatever you call it has one major purpose – contain everything you need to survive a significant emergency, such as flood, hurricane, or large-scale terrorist attack – and make it possible to carry this material as far as necessary to get to safety.
In other words, a bug out bag could save your life, but to do that you have to build a bug out bag with the right gear, with the right quality, in the right combination of weight and usability. That means a good BOB is not simple.
It may contain several hundred individual items, each one of which should serve a relevant, prioritized survival purpose, and be good enough to do the job under difficult and stressful conditions.
You may already be getting the idea that building a good bug out bag takes a lot of time, requires a lot of experience, and is an exercise in judgment. Every single piece of a bug out bag should be scrutinized for relevance, durability, weight-size, and usability. Building the bag also means adapting the list of items for the most likely circumstances (such as climate and terrain) and prioritizing the contents for selection.
Again, these are judgment calls, which are best when based on experience. People who are confident they can correctly make these kinds of judgments are already so experienced; they just assume they should build a bug out bag as opposed to buying one.
Then there is the perennial argument that it’s less expensive to build your own bug out bag. The truth is, it can be. Like many things in the D-I-Y world, it looks less expensive if you don’t factor in your own time.
If building a BOB is partly a hobby, and you don’t mind spending hours scrounging through hardware stores, shopping online, and doing a lot of research – then your own time isn’t part of the price, you should build a bug out bag from scratch.
Otherwise, building a good bug out bag may surprise you with how much time and money it takes, especially if you’re not that familiar with the gear and its use.
We don’t want to look like we’re stacking the deck in favor of buying pre-loaded bug out bags as opposed to someone who wants to build a bug out bag, but there are some very practical points in favor of that approach:
- Buying your items one at a time (online) probably requires extra shipping costs.
- As for shipping costs, running around in your own vehicle to get BOB items isn’t free.
- Retailers of BOBs, such as Survivalist 101, buy items in volume for discounts, don’t assume their cost in a pre-loaded bag is way above what you’d pay yourself.
- Items in a pre-loaded bag are guaranteed new, fresh, and ready to go.
- Ready to go is the key phrase, a pre-loaded bag isn’t missing some pieces just when an emergency strikes.
- Pre-loaded bug out bags may not have everything, personal taste and situations apply. You can always get specialized kits or plugins (for example medical supplies) to compliment what’s already in the bag.
If you buy from a retailer that specializes in survival gear, and more to the point, highlights that people who make the selection of what goes into a BOB are knowledgeable about the gear and actually use it; you can be reasonably sure that what you’re paying for is relevant, durable, the right weight-size combination, and usable.
Especially for your first bug out bag, it’s both practical and helpful to start with one that already has “the right stuff.” It’s a platform you can learn from and build upon. We always recommend that you field test your BOB, get to know it and the process of traveling with your life on your back. As you gain experience, you’re in a better position to assemble some of your own gear.
People who spend a lot of time hiking and camping have a saying (or something like it), “Any happy-go-lucky Joe can have great camping on sunny days. It takes a ready-for-anything Ronny to be comfortable when the weather turns bad.”
This applies, in spades, to survival gear because conditions are almost inevitably going to be bad. Survival situations are inherently more serious than any recreational situation. That means bug out bags and their contents need to be seriously selected for those conditions. That’s what distinguishes buying pre-loaded bug out bags built by experienced people.