Vehicle Bug Out Bag (aka B.O.B.) – packing list to get you home

Vehicle Bug Out Bag (B.O.B.) – packing list to get you home

Living in Southern California, we all have our suspicions that the “big one” may hit someday. It could be in the form of an earthquake or as I recently became aware of, in the form of a 500 year rain storm that could potentially drop 10 ft of rain over a period of approximately 30 days. Meteorologist say that having a major rain storm is as probable as having a major earthquake. So what can I do? Well, nothing to change the weather, but I can prepare as best I can to make the ride a little easier.

Since the big 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, thousands of people have become aware of the need to prepare for a major natural disaster. In fact, the local surplus stores are just going crazy with the amount of traffic they have been getting. I saw one gentleman walk out of the store, pushing a flat cart filled with 10 cases of MRE’s! WOW, talk about feeling the pressure! I don’t know if I can stomach all those MRE’s, but either way, I think he did the right thing preparing for the worst. Having a large supply of survival goods at home is an excellent, potentially life-saving idea. But what happens if you’re not at home? What if, like the vast majority of us, you are at work when the “big one” hits? I suppose if you live only a few miles away, it’s not a big deal: just walk it. However, if you’re like me and the majority of the population in Southern California, you commute more than 40 miles to work each day. That’s 20 miles you have to hump if the “big one” hits while you are at work. Are you prepared for a walk of that distance? Maybe, maybe not. You may be thinking, “wait I commute twenty miles, I’m screwed!” Don’t feel bad, I commute 37 miles each way to work (the laughs on me, so go ahead). But you know what? I’m prepared for such a scenario and hopefully after reading this blog, you can get an idea of what to pack and how to plan in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

It’s been called by many names: BOB or Bug Out Bag, Get Home Pack, Get out of Dodge Bag, etc.  Whatever you call it, make sure you have the stuff you need to get home to your loved ones.  And for those of you just starting out, don’t just buy the gear.  Take it out and practice with it.  You’ll learn the nuances of said equipment and not get screwed when it’s for real.  With that said, here’s a list of the things I carry in my Vehicle Bug Out Pack (I call it a “pack” because mine’s more of a pack than it is a bag).

Vehicle Bug Out Bag

Vehicle Bug Out Bag

The Packing List

Bug Out Bag:

  • 1 ea, Voodoo Tactical MSP-4 Hydration Pack – another contribution from Bugout Equipment


  • 1 ea, 1:24K maps of possible routes home in a waterproof ziploc bag
  • 1 ea, GPS with my home marked as a waypoint plus spare batteries
  • 1 ea, headlamp (preferred) or a flashlight

Signal / Communication:

  • 1 ea, cell phone
  • 4 ea, chem-lite (chemical light sticks)

Personal Defense:

  • 1 ea, pepper spray
  • 1 ea, folding knife


  • 1 ea, emergency blanket

Food / Water:

  • 8 ea, bottled water (used to fill hydration pack)
  • 4 ea, individual sized electrolyte mix (ie, Gatorade or Cytomax)
  • 4 ea, bottled water (packed)
  • 8 ea, energy gel packs by GU
  • NOTE:  just be sure to pack enough calories to get you home plus 20% extra just in case


  • 1 pr, running shoes
  • 1 pr, running pants
  • 1 ea, running shorts
  • 1 ea, moisture wicking T-shirt
  • 1 ea, thin sweater
  • 1 pr, socks
  • 1 ea, hat
  • 1 pr, thin work gloves

Personal Hygiene / First Aid:

  • 1 ea, package of bath wipes
  • 1 ea, roll of Krylex gauze
  • 4 ea, alcohol prep pads
  • 2 ea, 4×4 sterile gauze
  • 3 ea, large bandaids
  • 1 ea, 7×8 dressing
  • 1 ea, cravat or bandana
  • 1 ea, roll of medical adhesive tape
Vehicle Bug Out Bag - packing list inventory

Vehicle Bug Out Bag – all the stuff that’s inside mine

The Plan
  1. Separate all items into categories (ie, First-Aid, Clothing, Food, etc).  Place all items into waterproof plastic bags.  **I use ZipLoc brand plastic bags and Food Saver bags to waterproof and organize my gear.
  2. Place all items into the bug out bag.  Be sure to pack the critical items in easy to reach locations.  **My navigation, signal/communication, and personal defense items are stored in the easy access outer compartments.
  3. When the time comes to “get out of Dodge”,  my plan is to fill the hydration pack bladder with the bottled water.  Store as much of the remaining bottled water in your pack.  ** I keep a case of bottled water in my car for this purpose.  I chose bottled water over containers of pre-made “emergency” water because of the cost and simplicity of rotating stock.
  4. Put on running clothes and shoes.  **I chose to pack running clothes in my bugout kit for one reason only.  I plan on getting back to my family as fast as possible, which means keeping things light for my run home.
  5. Place your pre-written E&E note in a visible area AND tell a co-worker / friend (if available) where you’re going.  **My E&E note has a strip of double sided tape on the back so that I can easily stick it on a wall or something (MRE humor).
  6. Move out with a purpose and don’t let anything or anyone stop you.  Get home to your loved ones.

Your bug out bag, at a minimum, should be large enough to fit all the items except the bottled water (these will get dumped into the hydration pack), clothes, and shoes (since you will be wearing these).  If everything fits, even better, as long as your pack has compression straps.

My spare bottles of water and the Vehicle Bugout Pack are kept together in a duffel bag in my car.  The running shoes and spare bottles of water aren’t kept inside my hydration pack so that I can save space which allows me to have a smaller, lighter pack.  One of the cool features of the Voodoo Tactical MSP-4 hydration pack is the mesh net that zips out of the lower part of the pack and hooks ontop the top of the pack, effectively creating a large mesh pocket.

Vehicle Bug Out Bag - large outside mesh pocket shoe storage

Vehicle Bug Out Bag – large outside mesh pocket shoe storage

Closing Note:

Be mentally ready.  You may see disturbing things on your way back home.  People will notice that you’re prepared:  decide now what it will take for you to stop and help someone vs getting home as quickly as possible.  Will it be a crying child asking for mommy?  Or perhaps some guy trapped underneath rubble?  Can you even help them?  Tough decisions are going to have to made:  keep in mind that we have a responsibility to each other in times of need.  I don’t mean to sound all grim, but that’s the reality of a disaster.  People get hurt or worse.  Be ready to deal with the stress and don’t let it catch you off guard.

~ John, Modern Bushman

14 thoughts on “Vehicle Bug Out Bag (aka B.O.B.) – packing list to get you home

  1. No gun?? Usually BOB posters / preppers and such are obsessed with guns. You would think having a gun prepares you for anything de facto…

    Nice bag! Only suggestion is stainless steel bottle or cup or something that can boil water. Canteen cup or something. Might as well get a lifestraw too.

    • Bob: you’re right. It’s probably a good idea to have a SS cup in there. When I put the bag together, the intent was to have just enough stuff to get me home and since I have a case of water in my trunk I thought I had enough. However, after considering your comment, I started thinking maybe things won’t go as smoothly as expected and I may need to sterilize water. Point taken. I will be adding a SS cup to my kit.

    • IMHO this is not a BOB. This is a Get Home Bag. If you’re not bugging out (heading away from hunker down location to a bug out location) it’s not a bug out bag. Home is a hunker down location not a BO location. I recommend having both a Get Home Bag in your car and a Bug Out Bag at home. Shalom.

      • BOB DD: You’re absolutely right. Technically, the bag is outfitted to get me home so it should be called a Get Home Bag. When I wrote the article, I don’t believe that term was being used as much or I just wasn’t aware of it. Either way, the intent is the same: have enough supplies to get me home in a jam.

  2. ya…a lifestraw should be required of any BOB. i just bought a takedown 10-22 in my pack too, the come with 10 round box magazines too, so cal legal i think.

    • Brian: it’s the best thing I did to my vehicle. I’ve had no true emergencies, but the vehicle BOB has saved my butt twice already. One time I went on a long road trip into the mountains, leaving my house wearing flip flops. Once I got to the mountain, I realized I didn’t bring my hiking shoes. Luckily, I remembered I had running shoes in the BOB. Not exactly good hiking shoes, but way better than flip flops. Similar story, but one time it was with the stored water. You can get the idea.

  3. Nice list, very much appreciated that you put it up here. I live in southern Arizona and it’s 20 miles from work to home for me. I could hustle it in about 5 hours, providing I could take the surface streets without any interruptions to my journey. If I have to stay off the beaten path, that puts me in the desert, dealing with spikes, spines, sand, sun and animals that can mess you up if they bite or sting you. I really like the idea of packing pepper spray, as it’s effective on humans and dogs. A few things I would suggest adding would be some paracord (550 cord), a dust mask, a spare pair of socks, a spare cell phone battery, and a sports-type water bottle (the kind cyclists use). The paracord is useful for tying things to your pack, repairing a broken zipper pull, or hanging a glow stick off the back of your pack if you’re walking along a road at night. Dust masks are cheap and work better than a bandana for keeping dust/ash/pollen out of your airway, plus it keeps your bandana free for other uses, like keeping the sun off your neck. The extra socks are a welcome luxury if you’re walking 20+ miles and you’ve sweated through or worn holes in the ones you left the house with that morning. You can also use the socks as makeshift mittens if you’re walking home at night and it gets cold outside. The spare cell battery is useful if you’re walking in more remote areas and your phone is on roaming, which tends to use up a battery’s charge quickly since the phone’s constantly searching for a signal. Plus, it’d be nice to keep in close contact with people throughout your journey, especially if you need to keep updated on medical situations, family member locations, etc. I keep my electrolyte powder and energy gel packets in the water bottle to take up less space, and the water bottle is handy for mixing your electrolyte powder in. If you have a water bladder in your pack, you can dispense some of the water into the bottle and mix single servings as you go. That way, you keep the water in your bladder clean, in case you need to use it to flush out a wound.

    • MXPrivateer: thanks for the advice. Upon your suggestions, I have added 3 dust masks and some single pack Gatorade mixes to my kit. As for the water bottle, I’ll just use one of the 16oz plastic water bottles from my stash. Unfortunately, I have an iPhone 5 and no spare batteries are available for it as of yet. Perhaps in the future they will come out with a battery case for the iPhone 5, but until then, I’m stuck!

    • MXPrivateer, you illustrate a challenge with your 20miles in the desert scenario. Some people need to pack more water and no straw. Others theres water everywhere but none safe to drink. Still others are going to find their biggest challenge in the cold, insects, 2-legged danger etc.

      We all need to consider carefully where we travel and pack differently than others or even seasonally. Also I feel there is a big difference between a “get home” and a Get out of Dodge” bag. Bags are cheap, and you should consider having one in the car/office and one at home for EnE, with appropriate contents in each.

      Weapons should (other than a survival knife) be a separate issue, modular add-on if you like. As a CCW licensee I am armed all the time so adding anything more than extra ammo is not necessary for a GHB, but definitely considered part of the standard load for my bug-out.

  4. Did I miss the compass, or the case knife or walking stick in the trunk. I also carry a state road map..helps me take short cuts if needed…. Good listing

    • Glen: no you didn’t miss anything. There are items I left out simply because I felt I didn’t need it to get home. The purpose of this bag is for me to cover up to 40 miles as quickly as possible. This meant ditching some items (such as a walking stick). I also forgot to mention in the article that my watch has a built in compass, as well as one on my GPS.

      Also since writing the article, I’ve also added a full size commuter bike to my trunk. Between the bike, water supply, and bugout bag I no longer have any room in my trunk, but that’s ok because I normally don’t use the trunk much.

  5. Pingback: Get Home Bag – EDC Kit for Your Vehicle | SoCal Outdoorsman

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