Life is hectic enough. Working, running errands, picking up the kids, fixing that leaky faucet — there's a never-ending to-do list. Try compounding that daily grind with formulating an emergency plan based on a to-be-determined, life-altering catastrophe of unknown origins can be overwhelming to say the least. But if you're reading this magazine, it means you're responsible enough and have enough foresight to make disaster preparedness a priority.

So, is there a way to balance everything going on in your life to find the time to get ready for what may come? Well, you're in luck. There's an entire industry dedicated to convenient preparedness.

You probably have already seen the products while surfing the Web, shopping at your local big-box store, or flipping through the advertisements in these pages. Readymade emergency supplies seem to be popping up everywhere, especially as of late. The concept of saving time and money by buying a prepackaged kit is one that we appreciate, but how do these products really stack up? Based on their persuasive packaging, all these kits sound convincingly useful, but are the kits full of things that you'll never need or packed with tools that don't work well — or at all?

Let's set the record straight. We at OFFGRID believe that the best kits, particularly go-bags or bug-out bags (BOBs), are the ones that you assemble yourself. You are the only one who knows best what your and your family's needs and preferences are. You know your terrain, climate, community, and what type of disasters that your area is prone to. Only you know your disaster plan, where you will bug out to, and other contingencies. Companies that offer prepackaged survival kits do not know any of these factors. They can only estimate what people will need.

We do, however, like the idea of readymade bags as a starting point because of the time saved on piecing one together from scratch. But for off-the-shelf BOBs to work, you'll need to further customize them to suit your needs. While they can save you time, it's a long shot if they'll save you money, as you'll no doubt need to dump some products to make room for personalized items like medications, extra batteries, your favorite tools, or specific foods (in case you have allergies or a certain palate).

And don't forget the bag itself. Will it hold up to the rigors of survival? How does it feel on your shoulders on a hike? If it won't last, ditch it and get a sturdier, more comfortable one. (See OFFGRID's premiere edition, the Summer 2013 issue, for more on how to select a survival backpack.)

Due to the vastness of the market and considering the limited pages allotted for this article, we examined a limited number of preassembled go-bags of varying budgets, sizes, and uses. Before spending your time and money, take a closer look at the following buyer's guide and see if there's a ready-made bug-out bag that could serve as a starting point for your own BOB build.

Off-the-Shelf Bug-Out Bags Buyer's Guide

  • Brownells ESG Essentials All-In-One Kit

    Make & Model - Brownells ESG Essentials All-In-One Kit
    Approximate Dimensions - 18 in. H x 9 in. W x 8 in. D
    Weight - 8 lbs
    MSRP - $380
    URL -
    Kit Contains - 1 Goal Zero Guide 10 Kit
    1 Goal Zero rechargeable AAA batteries
    1 SureFire CR123 batteries (6 pack)
    1 UST Volt XL
    1 Organizer bag
    1 United Spirit OK 72-Hour Kit
    1 Adventure Medical Kits Adventure Medical Wipes
    1 UST Survival Towel (2 pack)
    1 Organizer bag
    1 Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
    1 Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
    1 Camelbak 1L eddy
    1 Oral I.V.
    1 Organizer bag
    1 Pro Mag Archangel Defense Pen
    1 Top Cop 0.68-oz. Stream
    1 ASP Baton
    1 Ontario Knife Company JPT-3S Drop-Point Folding Knife
    1 Organizer bag

    Brownells introduced its Emergency and Survival Gear (ESG) lineup just this past year. The ESG kits cover almost any kind of situation you might encounter, from being snowed in during a complete white-out to trying not to float away after a major flood.

  • Echo Sigma Get-Home Bag

    Make & Model - Echo-Sigma Get-Home Bag
    Approximate Dimensions - 18 in. H x 9 in. W x 13 in. D
    Weight - 15 lbs 14 oz.
    MSRP - $425 (as configured)
    URL -
    Kit Contains - 1 Hydration System (2.5 liter)
    1 Echo-Sigma 1-3 Day Provision Pack with MRE (optional):
    > 1 Meal Ready to Eat (MRE)
    > 3 Food ration bars
    > 1 Drinking water (1.75 liters)
    > 1 Paper napkins
    1 Echo-Sigma Compact Survival Kit:
    > 1 Compass
    > 1 Emergency whistle
    > 1 Emergency blanket
    > 1 Butane disposable lighter
    > 1 Magnesium fire-starter with flint striker
    > 1 Duct tape (50 in.)
    > 1 Bottle of water purification tablets
    > 2 Chemical light sticks
    > 1 Emergency fire-starter
    > 40 Waterproof matches
    > 2 Ballpoint pens
    > 1 Pad of paper
    > 1 Set of earplugs
    1 Echo-Sigma Compact First-Aid Kit
    1 SOG B63 Power Lock EOD Multi Tool (optional)
    1 Waterproof LED Flashlight by Fenix E25 (187 lumens)
    1 SOG FastHawk (optional)
    1 Midland ER200 Multi Power Radio (optional)
    50 Feet of military-grade 550 paracord
    10 Extra-large zip-ties
    1 Emergency tube tent
    1 Emergency Poncho
    1 Plexiglass mirror
    1 Thermal sleeping bag
    6 AA batteries
    1 Pair of leather work gloves
    2 N95-rated respirator masks
    1 Pair of Protective goggles
    2 Hand warmers

    The Echo-Sigma Get-Home Bag is a mid-sized disaster-preparedness kit that features eye, mouth, and hand protection, as well as fire-starting and water-purification capabilities, and much more.

  • Lansky Tactical Apocalypse Survival Kit

    Make & Model - Lansky Tactical Apocalypse Survival Kit
    Approximate Dimensions - 19 in. H x 10 in. W x 7 in. D
    Weight - 6 lbs 10 oz.
    MSRP - $200
    URL -
    Kit Contains - 1 Multi-use battle axe
    1 20-Function multitool
    1 LifeStraw water purifier
    1 Tactical flashlight
    1 Easy-Grip Knife
    1 Blademedic Sharpener
    1 The Puck (dual grit sharpener)
    1 Firesteel Fire-starter
    1 Button Compass (on the handle of the Firesteel)
    1 550 Paracord bracelet (8 feet)
    1 Mini survival guide

    Lansky's Tactical Apocalypse Survival Kit (or TASK) is a lightweight, no-nonsense bug-out bag that houses only the most essential of survival tools.

  • Nitro Pak Executive 72-Hour Survival Kit

    Make & Model - Nitro Pak Executive 72-Hour Survival Kit (item #5808)
    Approximate Dimensions - 16 in. H X 16 in. W X 12 in. D
    Weight - 17 lbs
    MSRP - $175
    URL -
    Kit Contains - 2 SPACE Brand Emergency Blankets
    2 Emergency rain/wind ponchos
    2 Hand/pocket warmers
    1 Frontier water filter straw
    2 Compact sanitation/toilet tissue packs
    2 Compact facial tissue packs
    1 Deluxe AM/FM radio with batteries
    1 Writing pad, pencil, and ink pen
    1 Deck of playing cards
    1 60-item first-aid kit with instruction book
    1 Bag of hard candy
    6 Emergen-C vitamin packets
    2 3,600-calorie cookie-flavored ration bars
    24 Purified drinking water pouches (4.2 oz. each)
    1 Deluxe heavy-duty tube tent
    1 50-foot nylon cord
    1 Pair of leather gloves
    1 Box of waterproof matches (45 sticks)
    1 Industrial flashlight with batteries
    1 12-hr. instant light-stick
    1 36-hr. emergency candle with three wicks
    2 N95 hospital-grade dust masks
    1 Emergency survival whistle
    2 Disposable sanitation bags
    1 Trash bag
    1 Pocket knife
    18 Wet-wipe packets

    Th Nitro Pak Executive 72-Hour Survival Kit covers the basic needs for two people for about three days.

  • Nitro Pak Urban Survival-Pak Level 1

    Make & Model - Nitro Pak Urban Survival-Pak Level 1 (item #5800)
    Approximate Dimensions - 13 in. H x 11 in. W x 7.5 in. D
    Weight - 8 lbs.
    MSRP - $328
    URL -
    Kit Contains - 1 Gerber Suspension Multi-Tool
    1 2-oz. pepper spray (substituted with a knife in states not allowing pepper spray)
    1 Swimmers goggles
    2 N95 respirators
    1 Sudecon tear gas decontamination wipe
    1 Dead On Tools Exhumer Multi-Function "Tool"
    1 Tactical Spiked Kubaton Self-Defensive Tool with writing pen and pocket clip
    1 Self-defense power-punch key holder "tool"
    1 Pair of nylon covert rubberized gloves
    1 Covert black six-way wearing balaclava/cap
    1 Personal alarm and door alarm attachment with 9-volt battery
    2 Handcuff keys (standard and covert)
    4 HD Black 16-in. zip-ties
    1 Rear-viewing covert "sunglasses"
    1 Single-side razor blade
    1 Pair of foam earplugs
    1 McNett Tactical Aquamira Water Filter Bottle
    2 Purified Water Pouches (4.2 oz.)
    2 400-calorie emergency food bars
    1 Lifesavers roll
    1 U.S. Military Medic Wound Bandage
    2 Germ-X antibacterial wipes
    2 Antiseptic wipes
    2 Ibuprofen (200 mg)
    1 Triple antibiotic ointment
    1 Fabric knuckle bandage
    2 Fabric adhesive bandages (1 x 3 in.)
    1 Safety pin
    1 DryFlex waterproof pouch
    1 Survival Whistle with breakaway lanyard and SLIM Rescue Howler Whistle
    1 6-foot folded duct tape
    1 AMK mini roll duct tape (2 x 26 in.)
    1 Liquid-filled button compass
    1 550 paracord wristband (10 feet unfolded)
    1 Dental floss
    1 SOL Survival Instructions
    1 SOL tear-proof emergency blanket (56 x 84 in.)
    1 LED flashlight with battery
    1 Red flashlight plastic film with two rubber bands
    2 Hand warmers
    1 Scripto butane lighter
    1 Fire Lite Flint One-Handed Fire Starter
    4 Tinder-Quik Fire Starting Tabs
    1 Coby Compact AM/FM Radio with batteries
    1 Rite-in-the-Rain Waterproof Note Pad
    1 Writing pencil
    3 Wet wipe alcohol
    1 Compact toilet tissue roll

    For those who require a smaller, less noticeable bug-out bag that packs a defensive punch, the Nitro Pak Urban Survival-Pak Level 1 (USP) is right up your alley.

  • Ready America 4-Person Emergency Kit

    Make & Model - Ready America 4-Person Emergency Kit (item #70380)
    Approximate Dimensions - 18 in. H x 12 in. W x 9.5 in. D
    Weight - 18 lbs 4 oz.
    MSRP - $100
    URL -
    Kit Contains - 4 Food ration bars
    Boxes of water (1 liter each)
    4 Emergency ponchos
    4 Safety goggles
    4 Disposable dust masks
    8 Nitrile gloves
    4 Survival blankets
    1 First-Aid Kit (107 piece)
    4 Emergency light-sticks (12 hr.)
    4 Pocket tissue packs
    1 Pair of gloves
    1 Emergency whistle
    3 Biohazard bags
    12 Moist towelettes

    It is recommended that we should be prepared to fend for ourselves for at least the first 72 hours after a disaster. The Ready America 4-Person Emergency Kit is a decent start to hit that goal.

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