Budget Bug Out Bag

The Budget Bug Out Bag that’s Ready to Rumble

Yes, you can have a bug out bag (or get a home bag) on a budget! Yes, it’s a review, but you can also buy one right now without worrying about what survival gear you need to put in it! And before you even think it, no, it’s not a bunch of offshore trinkets tossed together. We are reviewing a well-thought-out survival kit that factors in size, weight and function, not just cost. It pleasantly even has quite a bit of American and European-made products.

A bug out bag can get you out of a bad situation, get you home safely, or even save a life. So, let’s dive in and review our bug out bag recommendation.

Discloure: Posts may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through our links result in a small commission to us at no charge to you. We only recommend products that meet our brand standards based on testing and first hand use by our authors.

What is a Bug Out Bag?

A tornado is coming, and I chose that carefully as I just dodged one the other day. Technically, it was a derecho, but I don’t think the hoards of down trees, flattened barns or lack of power for a week would care to differentiate. Or perhaps an incident or accident occurs, and everyone is fleeing the city. I think you understand where this is heading. Now consider where YOU are heading.

A ‘bug out’ primarily means your location is no longer secure because of something that happened or is about to happen, and you need to leave or “bug out.” Now, you need to relocate to somewhere safe and do it fast with enough gear to survive the next 24-48 hours.

Most people run away from populated areas during the bad times. Rural zones offer more cover and resources, with fewer people fighting over those very resources. When bad people do bad things, they want to inflict maximum damage. Ie. You don’t see anyone blowing up a field in the countryside. Perhaps a rural route is the only way to evacuate from whatever you are trying to run away from.

What I’m getting to is a bug out bag should be suitable for wherever you are heading – yet be ready for ALL environments (urban, suburban and rural) as you may not know where you’ll end up.

What is a Get Home Bag?

Generally, a get home bag is the opposite of a bug out bag. If the above doesn’t sound like something you worry about, suit yourself, but there are some things that you should always be mindful of. 

If something unfortunate happens: car breaks down, freak snow storm, civil unrest, lockdowns, whatever – now you need to get home, and several obstacles are in your way. Again, you are looking to survive the next 24-48 hours and will need all the bare survival gear to help you get home safely.

In the context of this post, the get-home bag will be pretty much the same as the bug out bag, so let’s keep that in mind throughout the review.

Preparation is Key to Survival

Thanks to that derecho that came, good luck buying a chainsaw or a generator in hard-hit areas. They are all sold out! Freak snowstorm and the highway’s closed, there may well be 50 people ahead of you waiting for the exact help you are. It could be hours or days until they get to you. 

Here is the hard truth: It’s a blessing as a wealthier nation to have luxuries like 911, where you call for help and people magically show up. But we take it for granted and assume it will always be there. If a blackout or catastrophe were to come right now, chances are our phones won’t work. The ONLY thing YOU can ALWAYS count on are your skills and the gear you have in your possession right now!

Who Needs a Budget Bug Out Bag?

EVERYONE!! One of the very first posts on this blog is a Backpack Gear Load Out. Frankly, that post is about my bug out bag, which goes with me everywhere, especially in the woods or away from civilization where help is nowhere to be found. The problem with mine is that it costs in the thousands, and I am afraid to check if that number starts with a two or a three.

The gentlemen over at S & J Hardware in Belleville, Ontario, each have their bug out bags. They are also smart enough to recognize that not everyone is as prepared-minded as us. More eloquently said, most people aren’t as enthusiastic about survival, the outdoors or the combination of those two. They have painstakingly put together a budget bug out bag that is affordable to everyone without sacrificing function. Use the budget bug out bag for the car, a day hike, or to survive a 24 – 48 hour emergency.

The Pack

Budget Bug Out Bag

The pack itself is a standard backpack. At just under 12 litres, this backpack would fall into a small-sized category, which isn’t bad. It means the pack doesn’t take up a lot of space, can go anywhere and is generally lighter. 

The backpack features one main zippered compartment, a front and side zippered compartment and a side mesh pocket. At 600 denier, strength shouldn’t be an issue here either. It also has a padded back, which helps immensely in the comfort department.

There is still a little space left in the backpack after all the included items are in. It leaves enough room for personalization such as spare clothes, blanket, medication, glasses, phone, extra food or whatever else you want to add. 

Don’t get me started on weight. A 5-year-old can handle this pack with all its contents, and it won’t slow you down, which is the point when trying to evade or survive. I’m jealous of weight as my bug out bag weighs a ton!

One upside to the backpack selection is its bright blaze-orange colour with reflective tape. While to many, this may seem like an odd choice, it’s actually quite wise. A bug out bag is not a fashion statement – it’s all about survival and function. Go ahead, try to lose an orange pack! 

The colour also ensures the pack doubles as a signalling device. If you don’t think that’s important, many outdoor or prepping enthusiasts (who carry the expensive but muted packs) may also bring a piece of orange cloth just for signalling.

Pro Tip!

We all may need a rescue at some point, which can only happen if someone can find us!

Budget Bug Out Bag Contents

Budget Bug Out Bag Contents

It’s the essentials inside the budget bug out bag that count! All the pack has to do is be strong enough to hold its contents and provide essential comfort when carried. Let’s dive into each item included in this survival kit

Knife

The knife is none other than a Morakniv Companion. If you don’t know Morakniv, these knives are Swedish-made and outstanding. Here, you’ll find European steel and quality with a Chinese price tag. I took one for the team and shaved a patch of hair off my arm – I may look funny, but I can verify it’s razor-sharp right out of the box.

If you ask anyone if they could only have one tool in the bush, the universal answer is always a knife! It’s versatility from processing wood for a bushcraft shelter, getting a fire going even in snow, processing food, repairing gear, emergency medical, self-defence, etc. 

A knife’s utility is limitless and the first thing I look at in any kit. I’m beyond pleased to find a Morakniv in the budget bug out bag, as it immediately instills some confidence in the gear.

Before we move on, the knife comes in a bright orange sheath, and you already know why. It’s also conveniently located in the side mesh pocket of the pack. It is a matter of preference, but I like that the pack provides easy access to the knife. If entering the woods, I suggest putting the knife on your belt, preventing loss if you get separated from your pack.

Medical

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit should be in any bug out bag, period. The priority of any survival or bug out situation is medical or life threats. This bag comes with the Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit 5 from Adventure Medical Kits. I use the same brand in my fancy multi-thousand dollar bug out bag setup. And yet, it’s another sign we are headed in the right direction. 

Here is a list of the contents found inside the Adventure Medical Kit 5:

Bandages:

  • A Butterfly Closure Fabric Adhesive Bandage
  • Tape 1/2″, 10 Yards
  • Easy Adhesive Bandages, 1″x3″ Fabric
  • Easy Adhesive Bandages, Knuckle Fabric
  • Conforming Gauze Bandage, 2″
  • Sterile Gauze Dressing, 3″x3″ Pkg 2
  • Sterile Gauze Dressing, 2″x2″ Pkg 2
  • Sterile Non-Adherent Dressing 3″x4″

Cleaning & Topicals:

  • Skin Tac Topical Adhesive Wipe
  • Antiseptic Wipe
  • After Bite & Sting Relief Wipe

Blister Materials:

  • MoleSkin, Pre-Cut & Shaped, 14 pcs

Instrument:

  • Splinter Picker / Tick Remover
  • Safety Pin

S & J Hardware added 2 Loris Antiseptic Alcohol Pads to finalize this pre-made first aid kit. If I could make my suggestion here, take a small ziplock and add a small amount of your go-to medicine for headache/fever. Just mark the expiry date and check your pack occasionally to replenish or replace meds as needed. Pain relievers are not something you’ll find in a pre-made kit, probably for liability reasons. With headaches and fevers now covered with pain meds, we can remove some of the more basic medical issues that can slow you down.

Further Reading: Travel Worry-Free With the NEW JaseGo Medication Kit

Emergency Blanket

You will find a standard reflective emergency blanket that seems to be in any survival kit. I have a love-hate relationship with these, yet I always carry one. It’s hard not to, as they hardly take any space or add weight. 

My inspiration to carry them stems from the military, who issue these blankets to their troops. It’s to maintain warmth even in the heat of the desert. Why? With enough loss of blood, these blankets help maintain core body temperature. They come in handy for many situations, and the reflective side doubles as a giant signalling device.

The hate aspect of my take on these stems from the fact that most emergency blankets can be cheap or flimsy. It won’t be helpful when it tears, and many of these do not re-pack either. S & J Hardware considered that and included a second blanket.

This second blanket made by Lifeheat is a heavy grade: 3-ply, 2.5 mils to be exact. It is strong enough that two people can carry out a third using it as a makeshift stretcher! That also means the potential to double as a tarp shelter for cover from the elements. It would provide 72″ x 48″ as a tarp. The weight of this item is 140 grams! You just can’t beat this! It makes for an outstanding piece of kit to carry.

Food and Water

Don’t panic! We can survive for about three days without water and 1-3 months without food! Nonetheless, we can prevent all kinds of short-term discomfort, both mentally and physically, by covering these bases. The budget bug out bag comes well stocked in this department.

Water

First and foremost, the kit comes with a 1-litre Nalgene water bottle. These are quality, dishwasher safe and BPA-free bottles. Hopefully, you have enough time to fill up before heading out. If not, the included GSI stainless cup (591 ml) with fold-out handles is the perfect vessel to boil water for safe consumption. Having trouble getting a fire going – no problem! The kit also comes with ten water purification tablets. Each tablet treats 1 litre of water.

Let’s put 2 and 2 together: A 1-litre bottle with a tablet that treats 1 litre of water is about as easy as it gets when the time comes to make safe drinking water from an unknown source. In other words, the kit is pretty self-explanatory. If you want to dive into water purification in more detail, my post on Safe Drinking Water covers it in great detail.

Note

All the careful required thinking has been done with this survival kit. Even the Nalgene bottle is sized accordingly to fit inside the GSI cup. By nesting both items, it saves precious space inside the pack.

Electrolytes

It’s too hard to decide between food or water on this one, so it gets its category:) Included are two pouches of powdered Gatorade in Fruit Punch flavour. It covers our electrolyte needs and helps if we are on the move, dehydrated or perspiring.

Consume the electrolytes with water. What’s not so obvious is it also helps with taste, which is notoriously bad when using purification tablets. The sugars and/or calories in the packets double as a food source, not to mention a fast-acting energy source.

Yes, the Budget Bug Out Bag Even Comes With Food!

Yes, the kit even comes with food. You’ll find this is always in the form of an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat). Generally, MREs mean adding hot water right into the MRE’s container, closing it back up and waiting a set amount of time. Dinner is now ready.

The one inside the survival bag is from MRE Star. This brand supplies all branches of the US government. These meals are of high quality and nutrition. Already fully cooked food, no preservatives and all done to military specs. The one in my pack is Menu 7, Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Veggie Crumble.

Each Individual Meal Kit Includes:

  • Main Entrée
  • Starch (2 Military Crackers or 2 Flour Tortillas or Other)
  • Snacks (Corn Nuts or Nut and Raisin Mix or Dry Fruit Mix or Other)
  • Dessert (4 Sugar Cookies or 4 Oatmeal Cookies or Other)
  • Drink Mix (Fruit Flavored from 5 varieties)
  • Spoon
  • Napkin
  • Wet Nap
  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Non-Dairy Creamer
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Candy
  • Hot Sauce

Unlike the typical store-bought MREs, this one is a complete kit. The typical MRE is simply one dish and nothing else. This meal kit format simplifies everything into a well-rounded meal, even the very utensils with which to eat.

Pro Tip!

The included MRE is a kit meant for one person. You can essentially “spread” the consumption over time and make it last if needed. If your situation involves children, you’ll feed them first. While you can go for a while without food, your children are different. Keep them fed and comfortable, and they’ll keep up with you when you need to move.

Fire Making

3 Sources of Ignition

I keep screaming about fire-making throughout my blog! Always carry three ignition sources, and S & J Hardware knows this all too well, so they provided it. 

First up is the gold standard, a Bic lighter. If that runs out of gas or freezes, turn to the supplied UCO matches, another gold standard. These matches are waterproof and come in a box of 40. If that fails, they’ve brilliantly included a magnesium bar.

Any bush crafter or bushman will know the Ferro rod. You strike it with a sharp edge, it throws super hot sparks, and you can get dry tinder burning quickly. My post, How to Use A Ferro Rod, explains that in detail. 

A mag bar is very similar, where you shave off some magnesium chunks and toss a spark into it, which will set it off into a wild inferno. It’s a lot easier than a Ferro rod, and I am glad for the context of this kit that it’s a mag bar instead of a Ferro rod. Mag bars work in ALL temperatures and weather conditions. It’s no wonder it’s heavily used by the military. 

Tinder

There are six tinder sticks secured nice and dry in a heavy-duty ziplock bag. The dry tinder should make any fire-making situation a breeze. There should be enough tinder here to get some damp wood burning.

Flame Extender

The enclosed lighter and candles are wrapped in duct tape. Duct tape burns very well and for a relatively long time! Just like the included tinder, it will aid in getting a stubborn fire started.

Pro Tip!

Tape doubles as gear repair, which technically includes your clothes. It also serves a purpose in emergency medicine.

The included four tea candles are no different. You can use the candle to get a fire going as it converts to a “flame extender.” You are saving resources for future fires. By resources, I mean matches or the gas in your Bic lighter. 

Saw

I like this kit more and more. I carry a saw as well. Why? It’s a lot lighter than an axe. It also processes firewood much faster. If you’ve been camping or in the bush, you’ll know it’s a lot of work to gather enough wood to last a night. The saw is your best friend in this department.

There’s another paramount advantage to a saw. Whether it was a hunt camp road or an ATV trail, my path was blocked by fallen trees on more than one occasion. Not only was it blocking access to leave, but unfortunately, there were times when it was also the only way out! My trusty saw has never failed in cutting these trees enough to be able to pull them off to the side of the road. Granted, it’s a lot of work, but it beats the alternative of hiking out.

The included saw is from Stansport, a folding saw with a 7″ blade. It, too, has an orange handle:) But that’s a good thing. I can’t speak to its longevity, but I took it island camping and cleaned up my property. I find that it cuts very well. After a week of hard use and abuse, it survives to cut another day and gets the thumbs up.

Improvised Heat Source

We’ve covered firemaking above. It’s a vital skill to learn for warmth, drying clothes, cooking, boiling water, etc. So here’s a technique for a cold environment where a fire is not feasible. 

Burn each candle one by one. It provides not only light but more heat than you might imagine. For safety, place the candle inside the metal cup to keep the flame more contained. In a seated position, set the cup close to your body and wrap yourself in the reflective blanket. You must be EXTREMELY careful when doing this, but it does work. 

Cordage

Enclosed in the budget bug out bag is a very generous amount of 550 paracord. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a thin rope that can hold 550 lbs. Like a knife, there are a million uses for cordage. 

That heavy-duty emergency blanket we covered can double as a tarp to keep you out of the elements. In its most basic form, stringing paracord across two trees gives you a ridge line to hang your tarp in an upside-down v shape. Since we don’t have tent stakes in the kit to hold the bottoms out, the simple solution is to make your own from branches using the supplied knife.

Lighting

I am pleasantly surprised here as well. The fact that S & J Hardware went with a headlamp for a light source is a no-brainer. Headlamps leave your hands free to work! It’s also a no-brainer that a bug out bag needs a light source. If “bugging out,” we don’t get to choose when we do certain chores, which includes night. 

The pleasant part is the included headlamp by Princeton Tec is USA-made. That helps the quality side tremendously. With an IPX4 water resistance rating and three batteries, you are ready, even if it’s raining.

In terms of run time, the headlamp is dimmable. On high, it will run for 5 hours at 250 lumens and 42 hours on low at 35 lumens. We don’t always need the extra light, so having the various settings makes this the perfect addition to a survival kit. I suggest adding a few more AAA batteries to the kit, just in case.

As a backup to the headlamp, lighting is the true purpose of the enclosed candles. With the 4 included tea candles, we technically have two light sources in this budget bug out bag.

Signalling

A subject not to be overlooked! Whether it’s bugging out, getting home, stranded or whatever situation you are in. Signalling to rescue services, friends, or family is a crucial piece of the puzzle. We already know, at our disposal, we have an orange pack and a headlamp. However, there is a third item in the kit.

The budget bug out bag comes prepared with a military chemical light that is good for 8 hours once activated. To dramatically increase its visible range, tie a hank of paracord to it and swing it around in a circular motion like a fan. That little chem stick just gave you a giant visible signal at night. 

I did say military, and this product made by Cyalum has an NSN number. An NSN is a Nato Stock Number. In other words, a genuine military issue! I am obsessed with military gear! They have great gear that always works. It also means domestic production and quality automatically goes up.

With three visual signalling options, I think that department is well covered. As to sound, also included is a Fox 40 Micro Pealess whistle. This little guy comes in orange with a lanyard – meaning hard to lose, and it pumps out a shattering 110 decibels. Again, the Fox 40 is an industry gold standard and yet another pleasant surprise in this kit.

Budget Bug Out Bag Verdict

At $199, the budget bug out bag, in my mind, is above and beyond fair for the price point. My backpack alone costs more than that. It’s a perfect pack for those getting started in prepping and/or any venture into the outdoors. As time progresses and you realize your needs grow, it’s to upgrade any individual components.

I also believe everyone should carry a bug out bag in their car, even for a prepared-minded person or an avid outdoorsman who already has a professional setup. We all have friends or family who don’t share those same interests. This pack is an easy and affordable piece to toss into a significant other’s vehicle or perhaps introduce safety to our children, who are headed out for a road trip or taking up the outdoors.

Some people think it’s ok to head deep into the woods with nothing but a can of Coke or, worse, a beer. If you make it easy for the adventurer in your life, they will carry something like this. The beauty of this kit is that everything in it is self-explanatory and easy to use – the folks at S & J Hardware purposely chose the contents accordingly. They thoughtfully factored in that not everyone has the skills to deploy a bug out bag, and price was only one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

The budget bug out bag can be purchased at S & J Hardware in person or online.

Available Add-Ons for the Budget Bug Out Bag

I have a few additions for anyone looking to beef up this survival bag. Particularly, since my blog is about the woods, we should look at a couple of extras for the kit.

Compass

BushLife - Day Hiking Compass
Using a compass to find an azimuth

The budget bug out bag is designed for everyone, including those with little survival skills. A compass can add a whole new level of knowledge requirements, such as factoring for declination and requiring maps of the area you are in. I strongly recommend tossing in a compass, as a sense of direction never harmed anyone!

North is north, period. After lining north on any compass, you will have north, south, east, and west. Even a beginner can get a basic idea of where they’re heading. Ie. It keeps you going in one direction versus going around the woods in circles. And yes, when lost, we tend to go around in circles, which gets you nowhere but panicked!

Protection and Signalling

Tru Flare Pen Launcher with Flares
Tru Flare Pen Launcher with Flares

Firearms aren’t for everyone, and it can be a lengthy process for those starting. It’s also comforting to at least have a knife in the budget bug out bag. However, there are some larger, worse animals to consider, such as bears, wolves and all those not-so-cute family members of the cat family. The likeliness of you running into them is slim, let alone have a problem. While it’s rare and not something I generally fear too much, every year, there are some incidents where people get mauled. 

Let’s look at the pen-type launcher kit made by Tru Flare Launchers. In its basic form, it’s just like a pen with replaceable attachments. These attachments launch with the click of a button. The two included orange attachments are bear bangers, which make a super loud sound that will rattle a bear’s ancestors.

It’s an impressive tool with three additional attachments: a red, green and white flare. If you haven’t guessed, these are three visual and two audible signalling devices.

Budget Bug Out Bag Disclosure

Neither myself nor BushLife got paid for this post. However, I did receive one budget bug out bag with its contents for free for review. I have put the contents of this survival kit to real-world use and tested it for efficacy.

There are no affiliate commissions from the sale of these bags. In other words, it doesn’t matter to BushLife whether you buy this product or not! It’s a smart kit for the price, and if it’s for you, great. If not, that’s fine, but perhaps it’s time you start thinking about one.

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Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

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