72-Hour Kit vs. “Bug out Bag” – What’s the difference and when do you need them?

I was chatting with a few of my friends this weekend, and the conversation of “bug out bags,” and 72-hour kits came up. Like many people who are interested in being prepared, they started with a 72-hour kit and it slowly evolved into a bug out bag. The problem is that their BOB (bug out bag) is huge and heavy. If they just needed to leave their house for a few days, the BOB was not practical. This article is full of the advice that I ended up giving them. First, I am going to do a brief walk through for anyone who is new to this information.

What is the difference between a 72-hour kit, and a Bug out Bag?

A 72-hour kit is a basic bag of items that would help you stay alive for several days (3 to be exact from the name). These are meant to be light and easy to grab, and are primarily to help you get somewhere safe.

A “bug out bag” is a bag that is meant to help someone live off the grid or be able to start living away from any modern conveniences.

The difference here is definitely up to some interpretation. Both have the same basic lists of things (food, clothes, water, tools, first aid, basic warmth and shelter, and basic survival tools). Check out my previous post if you are interested in an extensive list on 72-hour kit supplies.

To me, these two items become different when a Bug out Bag includes additional items that would help someone live off the land indefinitely. This is obviously a grey line because many items in a 72-hour kit could help you get started out in the wilderness. However, if your 72-hour kit is too large to move quickly, or your Bug out Bag is too small to include important necessities, then you are wasting the full potential of either preparedness item.



What items do you consider non-essential for a 72-hour kit, but would go into a bug out bag?

Here’s my list (however this is not exhaustive):

  • A larger first aid kit that includes a medicinal essential oil set, a larger storage of personal prescription drugs, large multi-use pads, doubles of your smaller first aid kit items, witch hazel
  • Rifle or shot gun with ammunition (if you carry a weapon with your 72-hour kit, you probably would want a smaller and lighter hand gun)
  • A cooking appliance (small gas stove, a jet boil, “buddy burners” made in a tuna can)
  • A small animal trap or a way to make one
  • An essential tool kit
  • A way to collect and purify water for longer amounts of time
  • Fishing tools (a fly rod is preferable if you have the skills to do it)
  • Multiple ways to make a fire and several lighters
  • Several pairs of prescription glasses or eye contacts
  • An extra hunting knife (I highly recommend KA-BAR)
  • Extra batteries and a rechargeable flashlight (solar based lights, or hand charged)
  • Atlas/Maps of the United States
  •  Survival books, reference guides (I recommend The Encyclopedia of Country Living, survival medicine, and a guide to edible plants in your area)

basic tools.jpeg

So which should I store, a 72-hour kit or a bug out bag?

What I recommended is to have a 72-hour kit that is light, small, and really is just to survive for several days. Place this bag where ever you spend most of your time. If you are at your home most often, place this in a coat closet by your door. If you are at work most often, you may want to consider keeping it in your office, or in your car. I personally always keep mine in my car. This is in addition to a small car bag with basic car maintenance items.

Then at your home, I would create a separate bag for your “bug out” scenarios. You could decide if you want it to be a beefier copy cat of your 72-hour kit, or a bag that would be in addition to your 72-hour kit. If it is in addition, consider storing this items in plastic bins/bags with wheels or wearing your back pack on the front and back of your chest, or dividing the items up between several people. A “bug out”scenario would be safest with several people with the same plan. A 72- hour kit should be tailored to fit just one person.

guy with backpack.jpg


How do I know if I should rely on my 72- hour kit, or get my bug out bag and leave town?

This is a very difficult question. Let me try to provide as much clarity as I can.

Here are situations where a 72-hour kit will be most convenient:

  • Your hours, your neighbor’s house, or a nearby industry catches fire and you need to leave quickly
  • There is a nearby gas leak
  • There is a severe weather evacuation (hurricane, flooding, an upcoming blizzard).
  • A severe entire city power outage
  • Unexpected weather has ruined your home (tornado, lightening strikes your home).
  • I have used mine when I just needed to take off to a hospital to see a friend in urgent care (I had clothes already packed)
  • Small cases of civil unrest in cities
  • In the event of a major disaster/emergency, you will want a 72-hour kit to help you return to your home (earth quake, terrorist attack, civil unrest, etc.). Then you can decide to shelter in place or leave town.

Here are situations where you would want to shelter in place (you would want a 72-hour kit to help you get home):

  • A recycling plant catches fire and the air is not safe to breathe
  • You were not able to leave the are before the nuclear power plant had a melt down.
  • A tornado, hurricane, or blizzard is currently happening
  • Civil rioting has started right out front of your house
  • The city has lost power, but other places in the US still have their grid in tact
  • A terrorist attack is currently happening
  • Illness spreads through out the city
  • There is a nearby shooter

Here are situations where you may need need to leave and stay gone for an indefinite amount of time:

  • Major earthquakes
  • Terrorist attacks (cyber or physical) have just happened or could happen
  • EMP attacks
  • Nuclear meltdown at the local nuclear plant
  • Large scale rioting
  • Disease pandemic


Honestly, if you decide to get out of town, and then it appears that everyone is “business as usual,” just laugh and go back home. At least you’re safe, right? Chalk it up to a fire drill.

Try your best to figure out what type of emergency is occurring, and where it is happening. There is always the chance that you won’t be able to get home after an emergency. However, if you have your 72- hour kit, it should be good enough until you can get to safety. Whether that means meeting up with your friends, going to your family’s safe location out of town, or going to a family member’s house, just get there instead of trying to get home. Many people actually use that “safe” location to store their BOB and any other survival supplies.

In an emergency, many people start to panic. When you feel your breath quickening, and your brain becoming less clear, stop and take five deep slow breaths. Go through your plan. Can you get home? Where are you meeting your loved ones? What supplies are you able to acquire safely? What can you do right now? Use this grounding information to help you make safe and quick decisions.


Let me know if you have other questions about planning your bag supplies.

One thought on “72-Hour Kit vs. “Bug out Bag” – What’s the difference and when do you need them?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s