Bug Out Bag Documents: An Ultimate List Of Important Papers

By Will Brendza | Updated: 02/05/2024

Bug Out Bag DocumentsToday I want to share a massively underrated bug out topic…

The Bug Out Bag Documents You Shouldn’t Leave Behind

A list of papers (and digital documents) you must take with you.

TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
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.

Why Personal Documents Matter

Obviously, discussing documents (even the important sort) is not the most exciting survival topic.

Some may even say it’s boring. But that attitude is for amateurs.

Why? Because ensuring you pick the right bug out bag documents helps: 

  1. Prove your identity
  2. Affirm your survival skills, and
  3. Sharpen your survival knowledge.

It’s these overlooked but important details that give you a survival edge during a bug out.

Even in a worst-case “the end of the world as we know it” survival scenario; society will eventually put things back together.

And once they do, it’ll be much easier if you can prove who you are, where you’re from, and your level of education.

And while the “end of the world scenarios” are severe, they’re also the least likely reason you’ll need to bug out.

It’s more likely you’ll be forced to flee because of a:

And in the wake of any of these disasters, you’ll be glad you packed copies of your most important documents.

Having the proper bug out documents stashed in your pack is a functional, rational means of making your survival life easier.

So spend a bit of quality time fine-tuning the documents of your BOB.

Otherwise, you may find yourself lacking critical information when you need it most.

↓ The Perfect Bug Out Binder: Just In Case

Organized Stack Of Documents

Key Ways To Protect Your Documents

I recommend keeping physical paper copies of your important documents.

Paper copies are easy to access, cheap to produce, and don’t require a computer, internet connection, or external energy source to access.

Paper is the most foolproof form of documentation and is, therefore, my personal favorite.

Go to Kinko’s, find a copier, and make yourself a backup stash of every important piece of paper you can find.

Many of these documents may already be in your document safe or safe deposit box.

However, paper is not the most durable of materials.

It can easily tear, burn, and soak to the point of ruin.

And in an emergency survival situation, being gentle with your bug out bag will be low on your priority list.

Stuff happens; so you need to prepare your paper bug out bag documents for these events.

The good news this problem is easy to navigate with some preparation:

Laminate Pieces Of Paper, Cards & Photographs

Laminated documents are waterproof and less prone to tear.

Laminating your bug out bag documents is the best method to protect these important papers.

Plus, laminating paper copies is easy if you get yourself a laminator and is relatively inexpensive for the amount of extra protection it grants you.

Keep Documents In A Waterproof Carrying Case

These pouches come in a variety of different sizes and shapes to accommodate your needs.

Buy a single large one, or get several smaller pouches for maximum organization.

These will keep water away from your vulnerable paper documents and ensures everything stays neat and tidy.

Without a way to contain your documents, they will get tossed around, smashed, and crumpled inside your pack.

One of the biggest drawbacks to paper copies is they get heavy when added up, and there is nothing you can really do about that.

So, pack the rest of your bug out bag light.

Obviously, paper is light in small quantities, but once there’s a stack, it suddenly becomes very heavy.

So stash only the most important documents in paper form, the rest can be saved digitally.

Digital Copies For Your Pack

Digital copies are the most efficient and lightest way to keep backup documents stored for bug out emergencies.

Use a photo scanner (you can often find one at local libraries or copy stores) to scan everything you need and most of what you want.

The best part about storing digital copies is that you can save almost as much as you like.

Unlike paper copies, which must be carried in moderate quantities, with the right amount of digital space/memory you’re capable of storing every family photo you own, your favorite video clips, your important documentation, your survival books library, and still have room left over for frivolous extras.

The main problem with using digital means to store your emergency documentation is the fragile nature of electronic equipment (of any kind) and their reliance on power/computer access.

In the event of an EMP strike or total social breakdown, getting your hands on a working computer will become difficult – probably even impossible

However, it’s more likely the world you flee into is one where you can still find computers and electricity, in which case it will be helpful to have digital copies of important information on backup.

There are several options for storing digital files:

Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop

I have no way of knowing how much you plan to invest in your BOB.

If you want to keep an emergency laptop computer ready to bug out with, this may be a good option for you.

Especially if you like to read a lot…

Books are heavy, and in digital form, you can keep a complete library of books.

Survival books, cooking books, fiction novels, and how-to guides are stored on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

But these computer devices are both heavy, and fragile (the opposite qualities of good bug out gear).

When something falls on your computer, or when you drop your pack or sit on it, it’s going to break.

And there will be very few people who can repair it.

But you can mitigate this risk by investing in an industrial-strength protective case.

However, now you’re adding more weight to your pack.

So the bottom line:

It’s not my favorite solution.

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.

USB Flash Drive

USB flash drive is the ultimate digital file storage device.

If you showed a USB to a human born on the other side of 1900 and demonstrated how much you can store on one of these, they would accuse you of being some kind of magical sorcerer.

And they’d likely burn you at the stake.

Or more likely they’d think you were nuts since they wouldn’t know what the word “digital” meant in the first place.

The largest USB available on the market today is the Kingston DataTraveler Predator.

This bad boy can store one terabyte of content (currently going for a modest $870).

That is 17,000 hours of music, 40 days of video, or 310,000 photos!

↓ Kingston’s Fastest Flash Drive

All in a device the size of your thumb.

Obviously, you don’t have to go that big.

But the point is:

When it comes to saving digital files that are important or helpful, a USB drive can give you plenty of space.

You may even want to save some home videos, photo albums, personal projects, or your favorite music, and the best way to do that is, without a doubt, a USB flash drive.

The biggest drawback you will face is the risk of damage.

Like handheld computers (and other electronic devices, in general, ) most USB flash drives are not built to withstand any abuse or the elements.

They are made for office use.

Those sterile, safe environments where it’s not likely to experience mud, rain, or blunt trauma.


That’s why you need a badass survival USB.

One that can handle real-world abuse and is waterproof.

↓ Best USB Flash Drives – 1 Corsair Flash Survivor

copying files digital security

Digital Security

No matter how you store your digital bug out bag documents, you need to be cautious with how you store them.

Because you don’t want your digital data to end up in the wrong hands.

Imagine someone getting a hold of your personal USB drive that had copies of your license, passport, social security card, debit/credit cards, family photos, and home videos.

That’d be a crappy day.

So there are several solutions to help protect the information you store digitally.

Here are a few examples:

Cyber Security Software

You can invest in online tools to protect your privacy online that will serve as a decent barrier against simple intrusions.

Allowing you to surf anonymously and encrypting your digital data.

And as with most things in life, the more you pay (typically) the better security you’ll receive.

There are a ton of different levels of security that you can buy for digital documents – it all just depends on how big your budget is.

↓ Free Security Tools Everyone Should Use

Hiding Files

You can choose to hide files deep within other files, buried in a sequence of random names and numbers that only you would be able to follow.

This creates a digital labyrinth that’s difficult to crack quickly.

↓ How to Hide Files and Folders on Windows 10

Changing Files Names

This is a simple method for misdirecting anyone sifting through your information.

Mislead them with strange file names that only you will recognize.

Changing File Types

This is another simple method for misdirecting amateur hackers.

The more specific the file type, the less chance there is that anyone but you will be able or willing to open the stored documents.

↓ How to Change Fire Types on Windows 10

portable solar panel and phone

Finding Sources Of Power

As mentioned before, one of the drawbacks to using digital means to store your documents is the power necessary to access them.

USBs need a computer with a USB port, handheld computers (like smartphones and tablets) require an electric charge before they can be powered up and things like external hard drives require both a working outlet and a USB port.

None of those would be accessible by traditional means in a world where the power is out for good.

So what can be done? More than you might imagine, actually.

There are a number of ways for generating power without the power grid that society is so dependent on.

Renewable energies are perfect for this task.

Here is a list of some alternative means of power production:

Portable Solar Panels

You should invest in a portable, packable solar panel today that works great for just this purpose.

They are powerful enough to charge phones, tablets, speakers, and flashlights.

↓ Portable Solar Battery Bank Review

Fire Generators

These are relatively new devices and are absolutely perfect for your bug out bag.

This BioLite Woodburning CampStove 2+ uses heat to create electricity.

In our 104-Item Bug Out Bag Checklist, we suggest taking a small portable camping stove to boil water and heat food.

Now you can add “generate electricity” to the list.

There’s just one word to describe this stove: Badass.

↓ Biolite Campstove 2+ Review

Crank Generators

These come in all shapes and sizes.

Some are only large enough to charge up a flashlight, while others are more than capable of ramping up the wattage for bigger jobs.

Crank generators convert your physical energy into electrical energy – you just have to make sure you have enough energy and get crankin’!

My personal favorite style of a crank generator is the style built into portable radios.

Items with dual purposes help combat pack weight. Instead of hauling around a hand crank generator AND a portable radio.

Just get a hand-cranked radio and you’re all set.

↓ Hand Crank Radio Review

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.

stack of papers

List Of Bug Out Bag Documents To Take

There are a lot of bug out bag documents you could choose to save, especially with the extra space provided by a USB or handheld computer.

Here is a list, broken into two categories (with some overlap) of some general forms of documentation/identification you might want to save.

↓ Family Contingency Binder – Grab & Go Documents

1. Reference and Personal Documents

Emergency Contact Information

Keep the numbers of those closest to you and emergency contact numbers.

Emergency numbers such as the poison control hotline.

This serves two purposes: one, it ensures that you have all of the appropriate contact information for emergency situations.

And two, in an event that you are the victim of an emergency, and someone else finds you and your Bug Out Bag, they will have the means to contact the right people.

Keep this as a luggage tag, attached to the outside of your BOB, or in an easily accessible file in your digital databank for easy access.

General Contact Information

Keeping a databank of phone numbers, mailing, email and physical addresses of your friends and family can come in incredibly helpful.

If you need to get ahold of someone for lodging, refuge, supplies, or help of any kind an address/phone book is exactly what you need.

Contact information is an incredible survival tool – friendly humans can be very helpful.


Of course, you cannot carry every map with you. Even with a gigantic amount of digital storage space, you would struggle to store all that memory.

But you can keep the important maps laying around – maps of your city/state, maps of the places you spend most of your time, maps of the areas around your family’s homes, and maps that detail how to find your survival cache.

↓ Maps and Navigation for Preppers

Translation Books and Apps

Who knows how far you’ll need to venture, so having a number of conversational translation books on hand could be a lifesaver.

No obstacle is more challenging than the language barrier.

Obviously, carrying big language books around would get bulky, and heavy.

But translation apps do not weigh a thing, and you can buy them cheaply (some even for free).

↓ Top 5 Best Free Translation Apps For iPhone & Android

Repair/Maintenance Manuals

If you are traveling in a car, on a motorcycle, or even by bugging out by bike, bring a repair manual or a book on engine maintenance.

Or if you have a stove generator or some solar panels, you will need some guidance for managing those suckers.

If you have a computer or a survival radio do not forget to bring or download the instructions and repair information before setting out!

Technical issues suck, they always happen, and they can be serious if you can’t fix them.

Prepare for this.

Family Photos and Home Videos

These are the most personal items you can choose to include in your bug out bag document stash.

They will not help you fix engines, or navigate you through unfamiliar terrain, but they can make you feel a lot better.

Items like these do not provide any hard survival advantages, but they will keep you sane in a world gone mad.

Books and Movies

Another item that does not provide hard survival benefits, but can keep you from falling off the deep end.

Survival situations do not allow for a lot of downtimes for reading or watching films.

But when the time does manifest, you will be incredibly grateful that you packed/downloaded something to entertain your brain.

2. Official Documents

Passports and Visas

For obvious reasons, these are essential.

You cannot cross the US border without them, and a passport is the ultimate form of identification in the USA. Having yours is extremely important.

Even photocopies or pictures of your passport are better than nothing at all.

Driver’s License

If you plan on using vehicles, having one of these is sort of important.

Usually, people keep their actual driver’s license in their wallet (and not tucked away in an obscure pocket of their go-bag), so photocopy it and snap a few pictures to have as backups.

Birth and Marriage Certificates

Actually, any federal certificate is good to have a copy of in your survival bug out bag document stash.

Two Alternative Photo IDs

These can be student IDs, work IDs, military IDs, or any official identification with your name and face on it. Ideally, two of them.

This is helpful for reiterating your identity.

If things get really bad people won’t trust you just because you have a driver’s license.

Having a couple of extra proofs of selfhood never hurt anyone…

Personal Prescriptions

If you take any medications regularly (like insulin, inhalers, or anti-anxiety meds) keep a copy of your exact prescription handy.

Because in the event of a disaster or emergency, finding your medications will be hard; having the names and doses written out will make it a lot easier.

Health Insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare Cards

Having proof of insurance could save your life.

If you get hurt or sick and need immediate medical attention the doctors will be a lot more inclined to get to work knowing that their patient can pay up.

Hopefully, medical experts will help you no matter what – but having this documentation might endow them with a level of peace of mind.

Medical History

This includes listing allergies, medications you take frequently, chronic illnesses or injuries, mental health history, immunizations, and reasons for prior hospitalizations.

Any and all of your medical information and history is important, and will likely come in very useful.

Last Will & Testament

This is probably the most important bug out bag document you should be carrying.

Because let’s face it: any event that forces you to grab your bug out bag and flee your home is a dangerous one.

And in a dangerous world, people do not always live as long as they planned.

Having a will may seem like overkill but it could ensure that your children or parents or friends get your heirlooms (and not the federal government or looters).

It will also give you great peace of mind that, if you do not make it out of your situation, your belongings and final wishes will be cared for.

Making a will can feel like a grim process, but there is arguably no other document you can put in your BOB that will be of greater utility.

Concealed Carry Laws For Different States

Many people who bug out, plan on doing so with a firearm.

That is great. Just make sure you’re ready to follow the concealed carry laws of whatever states you find yourself in.

It would be a major bummer to survive a serious disaster, bug out of your home, escape to safe land, and then get arrested because you had a .357 hidden under your driver’s seat.

Just prepare to know the “lay of the lands” you’re entering.

Copy of The United States Constitution

If the SHTF event that causes you to flee turns into a martial law scenario, it’ll be important to know your rights.

The constitution was designed to protect the rights of U.S. Citizens from the Government.

In times of chaos, those in power will want to subdue those rights in the name of “security”.

Don’t be fooled, make sure they know you understand your rights and you may be able to avoid being forced into FEMA camps or worse…

Consider packing a pocket version of the US Constitution.

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.

The Final Word

Documents are not THAT exciting; I get it.

But when you’re getting ready for rough circumstances, you will probably pack other stuff first…

…before you think about packing important papers.

But regardless of their dull nature, documents are just as important.

They will make your life easier and will increase your chances of making it in the long run.

The Bottom Line is: 

DO NOT pack a bug out bag without including a stash of your important bug out bag documents. 

If you do, you will regret it.

Why Trust Skilled Survival...

Go here now to review a full breakdown of:

  • Who We Are
  • Our Credentials
  • Our Mission
  • & Product Recommendations...

Here are a few highlights of our teams credentials & certifications:

  • Certified Member of a Mountain Search & Rescue Organization
  • Plant Emergency & Safety Leader for a Major Food Manufacturer
  • Member of the 10TH Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR, CPR
  • Official Gear Tester for Numerous Outdoor Gear Companies
  • Countless Multiday Backpacking trips into Remote Wilderness
  • Bachelor's Degree In Mechanical Engineering 
  • Bachelor's Degree In Civil Engineering
  • Bachelor's Degree In Biomedical Engineering

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." - Warren Buffett

We're fully aware that trust is NOT something you GET but is EARNED.

And we'll continue to earn YOUR trust through our forthright and honest approach with each new Blog Post, Guide & Product we create...

Will Brendza

Will Brendza

  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Member of The 10th Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR (expired), CPR (expired)
  • 8+ Years Researching, Writing, About Survival and Preparedness
  • Awards from Society of Professional Journalists
  • Winner of Camp Cold’s “Happy Camper” award in 2020
  • P.s. Do You Live In A 'Danger Zone' County?

    Find out now using my Danger Zone County List & Special Report it’s absolutely FREE.

    In minutes you’ll know EXACTLY where you stand and if you should be worried or not..

    Cooking over a rocket stove
    Get My 10 Steps To Basic Preparedness Video For FREE.
    Plus daily survival tips (unsubscribe anytime).