Pray for the best, they say, but prepare for the worst. Unfortunately, when it comes to disaster preparedness, not enough Americans abide by this saying. “The majority of people never think that a disaster will happen to them,” says Karina Warshaw, a first responder and the co-founder of VLES designs, a company that specializes in emergency go-bags. “When things do go bad, they are struggling to get by.” Warshaw’s sentiment echoes a 2015 FEMA study that found that less than 60 percent of Americans are practicing emergency preparedness. That means that, if a hurricane, wildfire or some other disaster — manmade or natural — forces them from their home, 60 percent of the population will not be ready.
That’s alarming, especially considering how easy it is to be prepared these days. Many disaster prep and survival companies sell pre-packed bug-out bags: rugged backpacks you store in your home that are stocked with the basic survival tools to help you make it through the first 72 hours of an emergency — the most important period after any disaster. (“That’s when almost 95 percent of all issues in disasters are resolved,” says Warshaw) These pre-packed bug-out bags come in different sizes for different families and are made for different time lengths (some are built to sustain you for more than three days) Although they contain different types of essentials, the ones to look for all follow FEMA’s recommendations and contain first aid supplies, water, radios, flashlights, food, a way to filter air, and the tools to construct a basic shelter.
So, when shopping for a pre-packed bug-out bag, what should you consider? Warshaw recommends one that checks off the above criteria but that also has extra room to store copies of vital documents, critical personal medicines, extra cash, and maybe a change of clothes. Even more important is the quality of the bag itself — this will be your “home” in the aftermath of a disaster so it needs to be well built and able to take a beating. Taking all this into consideration, here are the best pre-packed survival backpacks and bug-out to keep you safe.
CES Uncharted Supply Co. Seventy2 Survival System
The creators of this comprehensive bag reached out to experts in numerous fields — mountain guides, first responders, doctors, and special forces members — to build a bag that can help people in any situation. The result is a 600D waterproof tarpaulin roll-bag that contains 35 curated survival items, including a first aid kit, water filtration system, air filtration mask, shovel, goggles, and a radio/flashlight/charger system. The interior features a large pull-out insert that organizes everything into separate pouches and makes accessing items quick and efficient. “This is a perfect bag to add into your family’s bug-out system,” says Warshaw. “It’s really good for a calamity and has so many items to survive with, just one of them could make a difference.”
American Red Cross 4-Person, 3-Day Emergency Preparedness Kit
“The whole kit is well designed and offers a good level of comfort,” says Warshaw of this Red Cross-built bag. Packed inside a bright red backpack that will help you stand out when visibility is poor, is every item from FEMA’s emergency management list. For hydration there are 16 sealed, 4-ounce water pouches as well as a 2.5-gallon bag to gather water. There are also the comfort items you will need — soap, shampoo, razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste — alongside practical items like a first aid kit, hand warmers, and flashlights. A large outside pouch can safely hold important documents you’ll need in the event of an evacuation.
Stealth Angel 2 Person Elite Survival Kit
“The Stealth Angel people have been around for a while, longer than most in this field, and they make good products,” says Warshaw. Housed inside the rugged pack are items to create a shelter with emergency sleeping bags, body warmers, and a tent. There are also tools to keep in touch (radio, flashlight, whistle), basic survival items (first aid kit, food, water, multitool, leather gloves, rope) and some hygienic items to keep you comfortable. With its numerous pouches and straps, the bag has room for personal items, allowing you to customize it to your needs while also hitting FEMA’s checklist.
Designed by the Warshaws themselves, this bag is build for use in many settings, but is a great fit for city dwellers. The bag, which can function as a backpack or a roller bag, is wrapped in waterproof fabric and has three large interior modules to organize items for easy retrieval. The bottom two modules come equipped with hydration packets, first aid supplies, emergency supplies, hygienic items, and a hand-cranked radio/charger/light. The top module also pulls out and can be converted to a messenger bag if needed. It has everything you need to keep your family safe.