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The Best Bug-Out Bags, According to a First Responder

If disaster strikes, you'll be very glad you have them.

Pray for the best, they say, but prepare for the worst. And when it comes to disaster preparedness, every parent needs a bug out bag. Just think of families fleeing the brushfires in Australia. Or a flooded post-hurricane wasteland. When push comes to shove, you need to be ready to go.

“The majority of people never think that a disaster will happen to them,” cautions 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, basic survival equipment like flashlights, food, and the tools to construct a basic shelter.

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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.

This particular bug-out go bag was created to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for survival and has enough stuff for your entire family.

This is the fully tricked-out bug out bag for your entire family. Including Fido. You get two backpacks, four food bars, 30 water pouches, a folding water container, water purification tablets, and a folding dog dish plus dry dog food. In terms of creature comforts, you get  four toothbrushes, toothpaste, razor, comb, shaving cream, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and other sundries. There’s a first aid kit, plus tweezers, trauma shears, and sterile gauze. But that’s not all: Four sleeping bags, ponchos, light sticks, hand warmers, and two tube tents, plus duct tape and a multitool knife. And a dog leash and dog toys.

This is a four-person emergency go bag with its own water filtration system.

This bag contains enough provisions for four people to survive a disaster. You get a Sawyer Squeeze water filtration system, as well as four liters water and portable stove. The bag also includes 24 servings of food, eight snap lights, two LED lanterns, two flashlights, a fully stocked first aid kit, four emergency blankets, four bowls and utensils, four whistles, a MoraKniv knife, and a fire starter rod. 

If you live a hurricane zone, this bug out bag contains essential survival gear.

Although designed for folks living in earthquake-prone areas, this two-person bug out bug works for other disasters as well. It was customized by military veterans, and contains a first aid kit, 24 packs of emergency drinking water, and water purification tablets that can treat up to 25 quarts of water. All this is housed in a molle tactical backpack. You also get a crank flashlight, a thermal blanket, tourniquets, poncho, whistle, safety goggles, heavy-duty gloves, pliers, a fire starters, and six glow sticks.

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