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).

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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

[products ids="2149, 2159, 2167, 2174, 2182, 2190"]

Prepare Now:

Disclosure: These links are affiliate links. Caribou Media Group earns a commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

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