Because my family lives in the DC metro area and would need to bug out in a true SHTF scenario, I take my Bug out Vehicle (BoV) and Bug out Bag (BoB) preps very seriously – in fact I probably obsess over them. We would leave in one of our 4WD vehicles, loaded to the gills, with food, water, fuel, and other needed supplies. If we had to abandon that vehicle and could travel in another – then and only then would the BoB come into play. I’d be a desperate situation.
My BoB [see current full inventory] is for four people since I will carry most items for my family. Everyone’s situation is different so each BoB should probably be custom – think about where you are, where you’d need to go, and what you would need to get there. Consider the most likely obstacles and the gear you’d require. I know I don’t have everything I need in my BoB, and probably won’t; I may need to dump a few things as well. The load also changes from season to season.
Currently my BoB is a U.S. military surplus CFP-90 Main Pack with Patrol Pack, purchased on eBay for about $150 with shipping included. I selected the CFP-90 specifically because of the need to carry for myself and three others, and the pack has a one of the largest size and weight capacities available – upwards of 90 pounds, but I don’t want to carry that much and couldn’t move well if I did. When choosing what goes into the bag, I get concerned with ounces, not pounds. (BTW, two emergency foods I keep in it are peanut butter and canned corned beef – great calories to weight ratio).
The CFP-90 would be a good choice even for one person, since it can always be packed light, has extra room if needed, and is adjustable. As the photo shows, there are two main compartments and three outside ones. The Patrol Pack, not pictured, can be carried as a small backpack or attached to the top of the Main Pack. Another good choice is the U.S. military surplus MOLLE II Standard Pack, which can currently be had for $50 plus shipping. I purchased one of these and find it to be a bit more comfortable than the CFP-90, but with a bit less capacity. As a BoB for one person, it’s a bargain. But any pack that is able to carry what you need and is comfortable over long periods is fine for a BoB.
I’m very aware of the need to add several items to my own pack (especially clothes for my wife and two young children, backups of important files/photos on DVD, maps, sunscreen, etc.), though some of those items are readily available and may be added right before the BoB goes into the BoV. Some things are also overkill (e.g. 900 yards of fishing line) and will eventually be corrected. The inventory is tweaked fairly often, correcting these issues.
One area where I spent a lot of time planning and putting together was the medical kit, focusing on the problems most likely to be encountered and that could cause the most grief. Taking care of even small wounds would very important, and many post-apocalyptic fiction books describe a small cut becoming a raging infection. A simple cold could prevent sleep and rest and endanger everyone. Possible poor sanitary conditions and unrefrigerated food could cause diarrhea and dehydration. Moleskin for blister prevention, Off to prevent insect bites, and so on.
Again, a BoB is generally something that needs to be customized to your specific circumstances.