Before we start the most important tool you possess is your mind, with proper preparation and training you can be ready for almost any situation. Under “TrainingEducation” on this site there are some very good resources to get you started.
Lately I have heard a lot of discussion about bug out bags and the discussions or arguments that ensue about what should be in them. The bottom line of what should be in them really depends on a couple of factors such as where you are and where you plan to bug out to, climate, terrain, personal needs IE medications and such, and most of all why you are bugging out. The other thing to keep in mind is the purpose of a bug out bag. I don’t mean to insult anyone by saying that but sometimes people (and I have caught myself doing it) start getting cool gadgets and gizmos that fill space and weigh you down quick. A bug out bag is something you grab and go in a hurry, very different than all the food and gear you may have for more of a Prepper or survive in place situation. One important thing to keep in mind is you can forage as you go. Use those supplies and save yours when you can.
One thing most people can agree on is that there are some basics everyone will need. I will list them below in no particular order and then I will continue to explain. Also use your best judgment when putting other family members bags together, for example don’t under estimate the power of a comfort item (book, doll, blanket) for a child in a high stress situation.
Paper maps and compass, or GPS with extra batteries. (I prefer the paper maps GPS units can break or batteries run out.)
Food and water, once again amount depends on where you are and where you are going.
Good sleeping bag and a military poncho half. (Cant tell you how many otherwise wet and cold nights I would have had in the military without a poncho half to put up for quick shelter)
Water purifying gear iodine tablets, UV, filtration, metal pot (a small hiking pot to boil works great and can be used forever however you must start a fire to use so depending on your situation could draw unwanted attention)
Basic medical supplies
Water proof fire starting materials (Swedish steel, 9 volt battery and steel wool, char cloth in a water proof case, whatever your preference)
Light source (chemlights, flash light with colored lenses)
Wet, cold, and or warm weather clothing or gear depending on climate.
Change of clothes to include multiple changes of socks (often overlooked)
Personal protection (knife, gun, or even some non lethal such as pepper spray)
550 or parachute cord (like gold in a survival situation)
Small bartering items (cash, silver, gold, even mini bottles of liquor)
Photos of family members in case you get separated
Hygiene items (sounds small but bad hygiene is one of your worst enemies. Dental issues, feet, keeping hands clean in case you are bugging out during a pandemic so as not to get infected or pass it to others)
Medications, extra set of eye glasses (ditch the contacts in these situations)
Small manual can opener
By no means is this all encompassing but it is a good place to start. A good thing to keep in mind is finding the balance between what you want and what you need. One thing I learned very quickly is even a very fit person can only effectively walk, run, climb, etc while carrying a certain range of weight over a prolonged time. In the military we learn that is from 50 to 70 pound give or take and any of you that have carried 70 pounds over rough terrain for long periods know that can be stretching it if you find you need to move fast.
So in short only pack what you need, don’t rely to heavily on technology its nice to have but don’t have it be your sole source of anything. Keep in mind Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” you can not plan for everything. Don’t let the situation overwhelm you, be flexible your most powerful tool is your mind and by developing that tool you can overcome any situation.