Build or Buy a Bug Out Bag ... It's Up to You!
Why in the hell should I buy a bug out bag when I can build one? Hi, my name is Sammy, I'm one of the owners of Ultimate Bug Out Bags, and I field this question at least once a month. The truth is, you shouldn't if you have the time and extra money to do it yourself. How's that for an opening line from a website that sells bug out bags? Bug out bags are personal; you should have a hand in building your bug out bag. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a starting point.
We sell the bags/packs and all of the contents (Corekits) for the do-it-yourself assembler of a bug out bag. We also sell pre-built bug out bags, they are our most popular items. It’s your choice which way to go.
However, the fact is, we can sell complete bug out bags cheaper than you can build one, yes even at Walmart and Amazon. We buy in bulk and if you add up the price of all the items that are contained in our bags, you're saving 20%-30% .
How I Built My First Bug Out Bag (Sound Familiar?)
Before I worked for Survivalist 101, I was in the Army. I'm not a special-ops guy or anything, in fact I was just a medic. However, being in the armed services gave me enough knowledge and confidence to build my own bug out bag.
The first thing I did is buy a good backpack. This part I got right. Then I set off around the house gathering the gear I thought I might need should I need to bug out. Why should I buy stuff when I have stuff just as good around the house, right?
Soon, I had stuff from the "junk drawer," I assume everyone has one of these, the shed, the garage, my tool box, my wife's sewing kit and a half a dozen other places around the house. For the most part, I had the beginning of a great bug out bag. Of course there were items that I needed to pick up the next time I went to Ace, Walmart, Bass Pro, CVS and the Army Navy store. But, I was well on my way to my own personal ultimate bug out bag.
As time went by, I did pick up a few extra items, but not nearly all of the items I had planned to get. Throughout the year, I realized that all of the items I had scavanged from around the house were there for a reason, because we actually used them.
So time and time again, I found myself, and my family (who never puts things back where they got them) trotting back to my bug out bag getting those items to use for day to day tasks like mowing the lawn, hanging pictures and a whole host of other odd-jobs around the house.
Soon, I really had no idea what items were still in my bob and which items never made it back into the bag. Not to mention I still had a list of items I was still meaning to buy. Then I realised, I have gone an entire year unpreppared to bug out. Had I needed to bug out in a hurry, as if there is any other way, I would not be ready, AND running around the house in a time of emergency trying to remember where everything is.
Then I thought to myself: "wouldn't it be nice to just have everything I need in one place, preplanned, brand new and ready to go?" Even if I have to duplicate some items that I already have around the house, how much is that peace of mind worth? One bag that will never be robbed of tools or filled with older tools that are questionable in durability.
That's how Ultimate Bug Out Bags were born. Since then we have endeavored to do one thing and one thing only, build the ultimate bug out bags. We are on our
tenth eleventh generation ... that's ten eleven design changes, each time tweaking the bags for greater efficiency and widening the aspect of the uses for each item is used. We have gotten a lot of things right over the years, and weeded out the mistakes.
Buying a Bug Out Bag: Technically
A bug out bag, BOB, go-bag or whatever you call it has one major purpose – contain everything you need to survive in the terrain it is designed to be used in. In other words, a bug out bag could save your life, but to do that you have to build a bug out bag with the right gear, with the right quality, in the right combination of weight and usability.
That means a good BOB is not as simple as throwing tools from the garage in an old backpack you don't use any longer.
BOB's contain dozens of individual items, each one of which should serve a relevant, prioritized survival purpose. These items must be good enough to do the job under difficult and stressful conditions, and if properly planned, to be repurposed for other tasks.
We are on our
10th 11th generation of bug out bags. We have weeded out quite a few bad products over the years, and found quite a few that over-perform their duty that cost less than other items that people usually purchase for bug out bags.
The truth is, building a kick-ass bug out bag takes time and requires some experience, and is basically an exercise in judgment. Each product really needs to be scrutinized for relevance, durability, weight-size, and usability. Which means, adapting the list of items you're working from for the most likely circumstances (such as climate and terrain) and prioritizing the contents for selection.
Again, these are judgment calls, which are best when based on experience.
Buying a Bug Out Bag: Financially
On the contrary, some of our best customers are people who are confident and experienced enough to build a bug out bag as opposed to buying one.
Their argument in buying a bag from us is simple: that it’s less expensive to buy our Ultimate Systems than it is to build your own bug out bag.
That's because it really is, and if you factor in your own time it's exponentially cheaper.
On the other hand, if building a BOB is partly a hobby, and you don’t mind spending hours scrounging through hardware stores, shopping online, and doing a lot of research – then your own time isn’t part of the price, and you should build a bug out bag from scratch.
Just recognise, building a good bug out bag may surprise you with how much time and money it really takes, especially if you're not that familiar with the gear and its use.
Like I said earlier, we sell the gear and the BOBs, so we don’t want to look like we’re stacking the deck in favor of buying pre-built bug out bags as opposed to someone who wants to build a bug out bag, but there are some very practical points in favor of that approach:
- Buying your items one or two at a time (online) probably requires extra shipping costs.
- As for shipping costs, running around in your own vehicle to get BOB items isn’t free.
- Retailers of BOBs, such as Survivalist 101, buy items in volume for discounts, don’t assume their cost in a pre-built bag is way above what you’d pay yourself.
- Items in a pre-built bag are tested, guaranteed, and ready to go.
- Ready to go is the key phrase, a pre-built bag isn’t missing some pieces just when an emergency strikes.
- Pre-built bug out bags may not have everything, personal taste and situations apply. You can always get specialized kits or plug ins (for example medical supplies) to compliment what’s already in the bag.
The big kicker in favor of buying a pre-built bag instead of taking the time to build a bug out bag remains in the planning by experts.
If you buy from a retailer that specializes in survival gear, and more to the point, highlights that people who make the selection of what goes into a BOB are knowledgeable about the gear and actually use it; you can be reasonably sure that what you’re paying for is relevant, durable, the right weight-size combination, and usable.
Especially for your first bug out bag, it’s both practical and helpful to start with one that already has “the right stuff.” It’s a platform you can learn from and build upon. We always recommend that you field test your BOB, get to know it and the process of traveling with your life on your back.
As you gain experience, you’re in a better position to assemble some of your own gear.
People who spend a lot of time hiking and camping have a saying (or something like it), “Any happy-go-lucky Joe can have great camping on sunny days. It takes a ready-for-anything Ronny to be comfortable when the weather turns bad.”
This applies, in spades, to survival gear because conditions are almost inevitably going to be bad. Survival situations are inherently more serious than any recreational situation. That means bug out bags and their contents need to be seriously selected for those conditions. That’s what distinguishes buying pre-built bug out bags built by experienced people.