July 24, 2024


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Bugging out as a family is a common reality for most of our current population if a societal disaster were to ever occur. Understandably, you’ll want to do as much research as possible before putting your bug out bags together. The resources available online provide a lot of useful information. The problem is that the majority of it is tailored towards bugging out individually.

All of the available information is great if you’re learning how to get past the first crucial 72 hours after a disaster on your own. However, adding a wife and two kids to the mix can prove to change the plan a little. This article aims to teach you the best practices and strategies that you can take for building bug out bags for the whole family.

Table Of Contents

Bugging Out With Your Family

Using the average of four people per family can give you a good idea of the dynamic you’ll be working with in a bug out situation. If your family is larger then you can extrapolate the number of items and packs you’ll be using.

How Is It Different From Bugging Out Alone?

In a survival situation, worrying about yourself is relatively easy when you compare it to keeping a family alive. You’ll need additional gear, food, and water to keep everyone functional.

Individuals may have disabilities or other impairments that may make escaping physically difficult. They might need special attention in preparing their bags to help make escaping easier.

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Mentally, a bug out situation is taxing on anyone, especially for a family that has never experienced it before. Morale can be low and motivating the group is necessary to stay alive. The general idea is that there are other micro situations layered on the larger one in front of you. 

Bugging Out With Children and The Elderly

Children might be confused or upset when a disaster event happens and accommodating them is important. Having a detailed plan in place that you run through every few months will familiarize them with what is required.

Some may say that discussions about bugging out might not be appropriate for children; however, having them prepared mentally will help them adjust quickly.

If you have infants and toddlers then you’ll need to incorporate additional baby items into your packs. These can include:

  • Baby Backpack
  • Formula
  • Bottles
  • Soothers
  • Diapers
  • Medicine

The elderly will often have physical limitations that will provide some obstacles if they need to move quickly. Ensuring that everything they need is within easy reach is the key to making an effective getaway.  

Creating Bug Out Bags For The Family

Bug out bags for your family will be different than your neighbors but the concept should remain the same. The longer your bug out packs can last you, with well-stocked bags able to surpass the 72-hour timeline.

With the addition of other family members, you could carry enough for up to a week. If someone from your family gets lost, they should have enough to get them by for at least 24 hours.


Creating an itemized list that is easy to follow eliminates the confusion on whether or not you have an item. Even if you don’t use the bug out bag, periodically check it to ensure the items are there and have not spoiled.

Go over each checklist with the other family members so they are familiar with the content. A good tip would be to draw out the bag as a cross-section on a sheet of paper and label each compartment with the gear or supplies that are contained.    


Dry runs through your bug out plan should occur at least twice yearly as both preparedness training and team-building activity. This should include going over the checklists for each bag and answering any questions regarding the contents or how to use them.

Transparency and Expectations

A disorganized family will be confused, angry, and acting on impulse. Having serious discussions and being transparent about possible disaster situations keeps the dialogue open. Laying out the groundwork that everyone can agree upon turns a reactive family into a proactive family.

If your family consists of small children, talking to them is still important. You don’t need to trouble them with all of the details but at least let them play around with the pack and handle all of the contents. 

Bug Out Bag Strategies

Having multiple family members means that you have a lot of available strength to carry all of the necessary gear. Tweaking a strategy is a lot easier than creating one from scratch. Using these options as a baseline and then making modifications based on age, capabilities, and available supplies.

Matching Bug Out Bags

Having the same gear and supplies in each bag is the simplest strategy for packing your bug out bags. Not only will you have multiple of the same supplies, but if a family member gets separated then they will have everything they need to survive for a few days.

This is a great option for families with teenagers and adults since the weight of the packs is generally heavier because of all the same gear. It also limits space for luxury or personal items since every pack will be identical. 

Creating Two Types Of Bug Out Bags

This strategy involves creating two types of bags, called “Bag A” and “Bag B”. “Bag A” will have all of the essential gear and supplies while “Bag B” will contain the “handy to have” gear that is not necessary for survival. Utilize this strategy if you assign the family members into pairs so that each pair has both types of bags.

Here’s an example of what can be found in both “Bag A” and “Bag B”:

Bag A

Bag B

The downside to this strategy is that if the family gets separated then someone may be missing a piece of gear that is necessary. However, in a pinch, dropping Bag B frees you up to get away quickly.

Dividing The Contents Evenly

This is the best way to balance a weight load amongst family members and is best used if you intend on staying together. If you need to flee quickly then dividing the packs evenly will be the lightest of the weight loads.

A big advantage is that if one of the bags is lost then you will still have some of the essential gear available in some of the other bags. 

Bug Out Bag Checklists

These are some basic checklists that you can use as a framework for your bug out bag plans. They are designed to provide each person with the ability to survive if they become separated while also providing gear that can be used for the entire family.

Family Member #1 (Father)

Family Member #2 (Mother)

Family Member #3 (Kid A)

Family Member #4 (Kid B)

The adults will carry most of the heavy items with the others carrying just essential gear and lighter items. Everyone is equipped with water purification and food in case of separation. Additionally, everyone has a way to signal somehow so that they can regroup with the others easier.

Tips On Building The Perfect Bug Out Bag For Families

The checklists above can be modified in any way to suit your family situation. Add and remove items based on usability, skills needed to use, and pack weight. Here are some tips to help you build the perfect bug out bag for your family.

Use Multiple Brands For The Same Item

There is probably nothing worse than a piece of gear failing in the field. For example, a faulty water filter is bad enough, but if you have everyone carrying the same filter then you’re at risk of them all failing. Using a water filter from different brands ensures that if one filter fails, you have a variety of others that will work.

Find Items That Have More Than One Use

As any bushcrafter or prepper, they’ll tell you that they look for items that perform multiple tasks. This can be an item that performs multiple functions, such as a Swiss army knife with all of the different tools. Another good example is a bandanna, which can act as a filter to sift debris out of drinking water and keep the bugs off your head in the warmer months. 

Personal Family Items

Most families are attached to personal items and it can be difficult to part ways with them during a disaster. Focusing on bringing the necessary items ensures that you stay alive.

In the best-case scenario, you can come back for the items later, however, there may come a time when you have to leave much of it behind. Hiding your most precious items in a safe space is a good idea if you plan on reclaiming them at a later date.

Final Thoughts

Bugging out with a family introduces some challenges that can be addressed with proper bug-out bag packing and a sound plan. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your family will help pack each bag so that the person can function effectively in a group or on their own

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