Best Survival Packing List To Plan For An Evacuation

By SS Contributor | Updated: 08/09/2023

Survival Packing ListToday I’ve got something very important to share…

A Complete Survival Survival Packing List

Because in today’s fragile world, preparing for all possible emergencies pays dividends.

From winter power outages to end-of-the-world scenarios.

We can all agree that emergencies have occurred in the past; and will continue into the future.

So it’s irresponsible to stick your head in the sand and pretend that “it won’t happen to me.”

That why YOU must get your “sh*t” together and build your survival packing list.

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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Why You Need A Survival Packing List

  • Are you ready for an immediate evacuation?
  • One where the sooner you leave, the safer?

How long would it take your family to go from – lounging on your couch to out the door – with all your essential gear and supplies?

  • Could you do it in under 5 minutes?
  • Is that enough time?
  • And if you did it in less than 5, would you forget something important?

When an unprepared family is forced from their home, they’re left scrambling from room to room.

Randomly cramming survival essentials into pillowcases and suitcases.

This leads to crucial items like prescription medications, survival food, extra clothing, and survival gear being left behind.

However, those with a survival packing list and their survival pack or EDC bag ready can leave in mere seconds.

Knowing with confidence, they have absolutely everything they need.

Shouldering their emergency pack, tossing it into their bug out vehicle, and getting the hell out of dodge fast.

When time is of the essence, a survival packing list is your answer.

↓ 7 Reasons Why EVERYONE Needs a Bug Out Bag

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Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Different Types Of Emergency Bags

Before you start building a personalized survival packing list, you need to understand the difference between short-term and long-term emergency needs.

For a short-term emergency, you need a small bag with enough supplies to last you and your family a day or two.

Enough supplies and gear to go it alone until relief services arrive.

A long-term survival packing list includes items that would make it possible (with the proper education) to live independently for weeks or months without assistance.

That requires more gear, more supplies, and more planning.

And for most people, the long-term survival bag supplements the short-term bag.

You should prepare both and then pare down or discard the long-term supplies if you do not need them.

For more information on the best survival packs, click here.

How To Start Your Survival Packing List

If you, like most people, do not have access to an unlimited budget, you must amass your bug out supplies over time and look for good deals.

Start by putting together your short-term bag, which is better than nothing if you are forced from your home.

Many items you’ll add to your short-term bag may be things you already own.

Then once your short-term bag is ready, it’s time to start building your long-term emergency bag.

Your Short-Term Packing List

In a short-term evacuation scenario, you should first focus on your basic survival needs. Those are the items that will keep your body alive; that’s it. Sorry, luxuries are not essential.

The essentials of staying alive include air to breathe, water to drink, warmth to avoid hypothermia, and medical supplies.

To be brutally honest, food is not essential in a short-term evacuation scenario. And food is extra weight, so it will slow you down.

So I don’t recommend worrying too much about food for your short-term packing list. Just toss in a few high calories bars and call it good.

↓ Green Beret’s Ultralight Bug Out Bag 

While every family is unique, here are the items most people need or desperately want, broken down by category.

1. Gas Mask

Single Filter Full Faced Gas MaskThis one is controversial.

Not everyone agrees a gas mask is essential to a survival packing list. But I disagree. If the air is dangerous to breathe, you won’t last long.

Of course, if possible, it’s better to stay put and hunker down in case of a nuclear attack.

The last thing you want to do is run around outside, breathing fallout.

Your safest bet is to remain indoors with as much concrete and building materials between you and the fallout.

Plus, other chemical attacks can turn the air we breathe unhabitable for consumption.

So, if you’re forced to evacuate (because staying is more dangerous than leaving), you’ll be thankful you invested in a gas mask and some mask filters.

Personally, I’d rather have one and not need it than not have one and die. Choking on dangerous air is not something I’m fond of experiencing.

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2. Clean Drinking Water

If you’re weathering an emergency inside your home, a wall of water or a few cases of bottled water will suffice for several days.

However, bottled water is surprisingly heavy and not a suitable option for situations where you leave your home.

Instead, each family member (including pets) should have their own stainless steel water bottle, water portable filter, and some water purification tablets.

This allows you to drink water you find while away from home.

Many people think they can skip this step because they live in a rural environment and believe that they will have access to water taps or water fountains locally.

This is a short-sighted mistake.

You have no idea which water sources you can trust or not.

Just because it comes out of a tap, the emergency that forced you to evacuate may have contaminated all public water sources.

I recommend you get a portable LifeStraw water filter. Get one for each family member.

↓ LifeStraw Review and Field Test

Water is one of the easiest survival packing list items to prepare for but also the most essential.

People tend to take water for granted, but you know better.

Without copious amounts of clean water, your body will quickly start reminding you how silly it was to take it for granted.

3. Clothing Gear

Desert survival skills come into play in areas where heat is the enemy.

Dehydration and sunstroke are the real dangers.

Packing light clothing and plenty of ways to purify water.

If you live where winters are brutal, you’ll need wool socks, heavy boots, gloves, plenty of calorie-dense food, several methods of starting and maintaining a fire, and a warm sleeping bag, at a minimum.

You should also take the time to learn more about cold weather survival so you can prepare to avoid deadly hypothermia.

4. Shelter Tools

While a skilled woodsman can create a sizable cabin from only natural resources, the items you pack should make creating a survival shelter easier.

Depending on your skill level and expectations, you may want to include a survival hatchet and some 550 paracord.

If you live in an urban area, you may be able to employ some urban survival skills to squat in an abandoned warehouse with no interference.

Others may have to plan to escape into nearby forests and create shelters from nature.

Still, others may be able to rely on breaking into vacation homes or cabins that already exist.

Or even better yet, you have a bug out location.

Think carefully about what is available in your area and what you would do if you needed shelter during a terrible emergency.

Everyone’s answer to this question will be different, and preparing yourself with several options ahead of time can save you a lot of useless floundering and needless wasting of energy.

I like packing a lightweight Mylar sleeping bag like the TACT Bivvy.

↓ Bug Out Bag Shelter – TACT Bivvy Review

5. Medical Supplies

You can build your own medical supply kit or purchase a commercially available first aid kit.

But either way, you’ll want to add supplies of prescription medications your family uses.

Over The Counter Meds

You may also find it helpful to include the following over-the-counter medicines:

  • anti-diarrhea medication
  • pain relievers that double as anti-inflammatories, such as Aleve or Ecotrin
  • antihistamines such as Benadryl to combat allergic reactions
  • a coagulating agent, such as a styptic pencil, to control minor bleeding
  • triple antibiotic ointment to seal small wounds and avoid infection

Hopefully, you will never need these items. However, being caught without them will be uncomfortable at best and downright dangerous at worst.

In a widespread emergency, professional medical care may be hard to come by.

Your serious injury may be a low priority when compared to others. Or maybe there’s no professional medical help at all.

Maybe all the medical professionals are getting the hell out of dodge too.

So ensure you know how to use the medical supplies you include on your survival packing list.

6. Food Supplies

In an emergency, people forced from their homes sometimes leave for days before emergency services can get food into the area.

You’ll want to concentrate on light, nutrient-rich foods for a short-term survival packing list.

While military rations and freeze-dried meals can be good options, they can also be expensive.

Here are some good ideas for foods you can find at your local grocery store at reasonable prices.

  • meal replacement bars designed for athletes and bodybuilders
  • protein powder
  • packets of crackers and cookies for quick carbohydrates
  • trail mixes
  • dehydrated fruits
  • chocolate

While these items are not recommended as a long-term diet, they do provide plenty of sugar, protein, and carbohydrates to give you much-needed energy.

If you need to leave a disaster area, you will need all the energy you can get.

↓ Mountain House Food Review

7. Comfort Items

While this category may seem silly when thinking of life-or-death emergencies, many of the items that will keep you comfortable also have multiple uses.

Here are some ideas for keeping everyone in your family comfortable.

Feminine Supplies

Such as pads, tampons, and panty liners. Any females in your family who experience a menstrual cycle may need these items.

They can also act as bandages for wounds if they are not needed for their original use.

Tampons can also be used to stop nosebleeds or shred them and use them as kindling to start a fire.

Petroleum Jelly

This can be used to combat everything from chapped lips to blistered heels.

It can also be used as a lubricant or to keep bandages from sticking to wounds.

Survival Bandanas

Several survival bandanas can be used to fashion a sling, protect your face and hair from the sun or dust, or even be torn into strips for rope or bandages.

Bandanas have a ton of uses and are light, so pack several.


A small notepad and a few pencils can be used to jot down directions, leave notes for others, or use the paper to start a fire.

Playing Cards

Survival playing cards are a great way to stay entertained without adding much weight to your pack.

Plus, a good set of survival cards also includes valuable survival knowledge.


Spare socks and underwear can do wonders to make an emergency more bearable and hygienic.

You can use a few drops of bleach to wash the ones you wear and change them into fresh supplies.

Grooming Kit

A small grooming kit that includes toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, disposable razors, nail clippers, and a package of baby wipes can help you to feel fresh and comfortable until your next chance to shower.

You may also be able to use extras of these items to barter with others for needed supplies.

There are plenty of comfort items you may want to include in your bug out bag checklist.

But you also need to keep an eye on how heavy your supplies are becoming.

Your bag will do you no good if it is too heavy to carry long distances.

waterproof-matches8. Miscellaneous Tools

For a short-term bag, you will only need a few tools.

Depending on your geographic location, you may need to be able to start a fire or break into abandoned housing for shelter.

Some items you may want to consider are:

Large tools like survival shovels and lanterns are likely more suited for a long-term bug out bag packing list.

Keeping weight and bulk to a minimum should be your focus for your short-term supplies.

Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Personalize Your Survival Gear List

All of the above-mentioned items are those that the average person would find useful. However, your living situation and life experiences will make your needs unique.

Consider any ‘unusual’ habits you may have and how not having the necessary items could make your life more difficult.

  • Do you need a toothpick to clean your teeth after each and every meal? Include some in your supplies.
  • Do you wear a mouthguard or earplugs to fall asleep? Tuck some extras away into your bug out bag.
  • If you have long hair, do you want to include a few hair ties to keep it out of your way in an emergency?

Think carefully about your everyday habits and quirks and if it takes up very little space and is lightweight, go ahead and add it to your survival packing list.

Amassing Your Long-Term Bug Out Bag List

5.11 Tactical Bug Out BagOnce you’re happy with your smaller, short-term bug out bag, you’re ready to begin planning for a second bag designed for long-term use.

Some people decide to carry two bags, while others may decide to purchase a design where the smaller bag fits into or clips onto the larger bag.

Whatever you decide, ensure the system works for you and that you can easily separate the two kits.

You also want to have confidence you can carry all your supplies for long distances. I highly recommend you test it out on a hiking trail.

Your long-term bug out bag packing list will give you the tools necessary to survive without the aid of other humans or society for an extended period of time.

It should allow you to gain food, create temporary survival shelter and survive the elements.

Bug Out Bag Checklist eBook Cover - a man walking away wearing a military style backpack

Want a free 104 item bug out bag checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.


Foraging and Hunting Supplies

Depending on your survival skill level, you may find success fishing using only a hook, fishing line, and rudimentary bait.

Others (who don’t live near water) may decide to learn about foraging opportunities in the local area, such as edible roots, berries, and plants.

Consider your location and pack a field guide to help you find available food in your area.

If you’re not a hunter, include instructions on how to build traps and use snares. Of course, you will also want information on how to gut and prepare your kill.

If your survival books and guides are too bulky, scan and print these life-saving instructions and keep them in your bag, protected by a plastic baggie.

I recommend you carry a gun and some ammo. Obviously, guns and ammo are not lightweight items, so you’ll want to be strategic. Maybe you want to include a takedown 22 survival rifle.

Or maybe you want to keep things small and light with a Kel-Tec P3AT.

Whichever survival firearm you choose, just be mindful of your overall pack weight

Caching Some of Your Long-Term Bug Out Gear

Another option to reduce pack weight is to bury a survival cache (or two) somewhere on your mostly evacuation path.

This will allow you to stock a few extras without carrying them.

You can then dig up your cache supplies for replenishment as necessary.

If you are seriously concerned about a long-term disaster situation and want to be as prepared as possible, you can always cache your gear.

For example, you can carry your short-term bag into a local park and then unearth your long-term gear while no one is watching.

If you own rural land, you can cache more than in public areas.

If you decide to cache in public, ensure you avoid any gear with personal information.

You may be charged with littering if your cache is discovered, no matter how well you hide it.

Action PlanFinal Thoughts

Planning a survival packing list is a deeply personal activity.

Having both short- and long-term bags in place can help you feel secure if the unthinkable ever happens.

The ideas presented above will give you a starting point for basic survival.

Add or delete items from your survival packing list to suit your preferences as you improve your survival skills and supplies.

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