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Bug Out Bag Essentials for the Nuclear Apocalypse

Whenever Russia and the USA look like they're on the verge of a nuclear apocalypse it is a good time to check your bug out bag for anything else you might need should the worst happen.

Assuming you survive the nuclear missiles destroying various cities, you will want to have some of the following. Note: You obviously cannot carry everything on this list, even if you had a vehicle you couldn't bring everything. You need to prioritize what things are the most important and then you may need to scavenge things or do without as you travel.

  • Surviving the Fallout
  • Shelter 
  • Food and Water
  • Clothing
  • Defense
  • Heat/Warmth
  • Lighting
  • First Aid
  • Navigation Tools
  • Multi-purpose Tools
  • Miscellaneous Essentials

Surviving the Fallout

Air Filtration Mask: Depending on the situation, air filtration may be the only way you can access safe-to-breathe oxygen. Use an air filtration mask that filters out radioactive particulates to keep you breathing well. Because these particles are so tiny a COVID mask will not suffice.

Potassium Iodide Pills: This is not a cure for radiation sickness. It merely lessens the amount of radioiodine (radioactive iodine) that your body will absorb. The iodine is absorbed and used by the thyroid gland in the neck, which will lead to cancer / radiation sickness if too much radioactive iodine is absorbed. To prevent this potassium iodide pills ensure that the body gets a supply of iodine and then hopefully doesn't use radioactive iodine from the air.


  • Tent
  • Space blanket
  • Sleeping bag

Food and Water

  • Water bottles and/or water bladder
  • A water filtration system
  • Rations
  • Small emergency fishing kit


  • Cold weather gloves
  • Cold weather spare clothes
  • Spare clothes
  • Waterproof jacket with a hood / Winter jacket + Snow pants
  • Warm hat


  • Bow / Crossbow / Firearm - You will eventually run out of bullets, so there is a good argument for learning archery and learning how to make your own arrows.
  • Ammo - Whether you opt for arrows, crossbow bolts or bullets, you will want a fair number of them. For hunting purposes you will also want broadheads for your arrows.
  • Knife
  • Axe
  • Pepper spray / bear spray 
  • Bulletproof vest


  • Waterproof Matches / Lighter / Firestarter - You will eventually run out of matches and the lighter will run out of fuel, so having a good firestarter is the real necessity.


  • Flash light
  • Head lamp
  • Chem lights
  • Torches - If you have a good firestarter and know how to make them then torches are a good option.

First Aid

  • A first aid kit with all the essentials. The more the better. Everything from gauze to painkillers to first aid instructions.


  • Map of the region
  • Compass
  • GPS Tracking System - Assuming such systems even still work.

Multi-Purpose Tools

  • Axe
  • Multi-tool
  • Knife
  • Paracord
  • Fishing line
  • Duct tape
  • Folding saw
  • Crowbar
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Pliers
  • Can opener

Miscellaneous Essentials

  • Cellphone charger + solar panel
  • Goggles
  • Whistle
  • Sewing kit
  • Copies of important documents
  • Passport
  • Titles and contracts
  • Addresses and phone numbers of loved ones
  • Family disaster and preparedness plan
  • Emergency Cash
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Small Mirror
  • Soap
  • Dental products
  • Hand crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Moist towelettes
  • Toilet paper
  • Garbage bags
  • Plastic ties
  • Glasses and sunglasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water
  • Feminine supplies / personal hygiene
  • Mess kit: Forks, knives, plates, etc.
  • Paper, pen, pencil
  • Books and toys for small children
  • Seeds for growing food
  • Fishing equipment



The Aftermath

During the first 24 hours after a nuclear attack it is recommended that you shelter in place, preferable in a deep basement. Thus even if you don't have everything ready, don't worry about it. You will have 24 hours after the attack to ready everything you need to take with you when you leave.

When it is time to leave you may need to walk on foot because other forms of transportation may be clogged with broken down cars, traffic jams, car accidents, etc. If possible, using a bicycle or similar transportation may make the most practical sense. Or a boat if you live near a waterway. If you know how to fly an airplane or helicopter then that would be ideal.

Similarly, you may want to avoid roads or places with lots of desperate people. Instead try to follow old railway tracks or trails. Cut across open fields and avoid any steep terrain (you don't want to fall and injure your ankle or leg when walking long distances).

At night try to stay in industrial places or commercial locations, not other people's homes. This reduces the risk of running into people who will not want to share their things - and people who might try to steal your things. If possible try to find or build shelters in the wilderness off the beaten track so that nobody else is around. Thieves cannot rob or attack you if they cannot find you.

Avoid people carrying firearms, even if they seem friendly.

Destination and Route

You need a route and a destination. Preferably a route that avoids anything that was or would be a nuclear target, and your destination should similarly be far away from nuclear targets. A map and a compass are arguably the most important things on the list. Almost everything else, including food and water, can be scavenged over time.

Your destination could be farmland, an isolated island, or wilderness, but they should have one thing in common: A plentiful source of food. You will need to farm, fish and/or hunt for your food until society begins to rebuild. Thus you need to pick a location where you feel confident that you will be able to survive.

Ideally you want a location that is within 3-5 days of walking distance. So if your goal is to walk 8 to 10 hours per day, your destination needs to be roughly 24 to 50 hours of walking away. You could in theory walk for longer each day but you will also need time to rest, sleep, eat, make shelters, scavenge food/water, avoid danger, etc.

If you could find a store that sells bicycles and scavenge a bicycle you could speed up your journey dramatically. A journey that takes 36 hours to walk might only take 10 hours via bicycle, or 3 hours in a car.

But again, if you "borrow" or steal a car, you may need to later abandon it anyway if you reach a road or situation that is impassable. Also, simply having a working vehicle makes you a target for thieves and ambushes.

This is why I am a firm believer in old railway tracks. I would rather walk for 4 days and arrive safely than to take unnecessary risks.

Once you know how much time may be required to walk, bicycle, etc to the destination then you need to choose a logical route. Whether you go by road or railway tracks, you need to get out a map and choose how far you want to walk each day to give yourself a goal.

If you are traveling with small children expect it to take longer as you will need to stop more frequently for rest breaks. Finding a bicycle with a trailer behind it would be great. A truck or SUV would be ideal in that situation, because the pros and cons of traveling with small children means you are better off taking a truck and being a target for thieves, but at least then you can potentially drive off road.

Route wise, in my case, I know it takes 15 hours to walk from Toronto to Orangeville via roads. So that is at least a 2 day journey on foot. 5 hours via bicycle. It would take another 3 days on foot to reach my destination.

Reality Check

Do you actually know how to hunt, fish or farm?

Honestly, a lot of people will starve because they lack the necessary survival skills. Some will freeze to death. Some will die in accidents. A great many will die from radiation sickness. But a lot more will try to survive by hunting, fishing and farming - which they possibly have zero experience in doing and lack the necessary knowledge to survive.

So if your destination is wilderness and you think you know how to hunt, good luck with that, because I expect the game to be very scarce when everyone and their dog suddenly decides they want to hunt.

A blend of all three is arguably the best, but to do that you need a location where you can:

  • Fish in the summer
  • Ice fish in the winter
  • Farm from April to October
  • Hunt all year long

And such locations come in short supply as you need to be near a lake, prime farmland, and woods with plentiful game. So it is unlikely you can do all three.

Trapping is also another option for getting food, but not everyone knows how to make snares.

So for example let's say you have a family cabin up north which has solar panels, a wind turbine, an abundance of canned food, etc. But eventually the canned food will run out and you're stuck in a place where you don't know how to hunt and fish. Who cares if you have solar panels and electricity if your food runs out?


Being prepared for something doesn't just mean buying everything you could possibly need, because there will always be something that you forgot to get. What is more important is your planning and problem solving skills.

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