The usefulness of a good bug out bag is not just limited to adults. Kids obviously can’t carry as much, and you don’t need to load them down with survival tools. A good kids’ bug out bag concentrates more on keeping the child comforted and involved.
90% of adults have had children by the age of 50. So, chances are that knowing how to construct a kid’s version of a bug out bag will be helpful to you and your family. In the off chance that it doesn’t, it’s always good information to pass off to new families anyways.
A child will need different supplies, tools, and resources in an emergency. Their skill sets can vary widely, and you cannot expect them to behave and react to stressful situations like an adult. We’re going to go over an ideal kids’ bug out bag list, how to pack the bag, the best bug out bag for kids’ smaller size, why kids need to know about survival and a few additional bug out tips for children.
Contents (Jump to a section)
Kids’ Bug Out Gear List
A kid’s bug out bag list looks very different from an adult’s. Many heavy items and tools that require skill are removed and replaced with items that provide comfort and emotional stability. This list is meant for kids over three since it assumes they can carry a backpack. Here are the essentials listed in order of importance:
- Contact Information – Kids get lost. You don’t want lost kids when you are already dealing with a separate emergency. Put their contact information and instructions where they know how to get to it quickly.
- Comfort Items – This is the spot for their favorite teddy bear, blanket, or whatever else they use to soothe their nerves. You don’t have to stow it away in their bug out bag, but definitely leave room for it.
- Steel Water Container – You might be tempted to put a sippy cup or other water container in their bug out bag, but a steel water container is much more versatile. Ditch the insulated types so you can use them to heat water or food as well.
- Snack Food – Kids expend a lot of energy but have little bodies. Keep them fueled up with higher-calorie snacks and nutritious snack food.
- Water Filter – Personal water filters may seem complicated at first, but they are one of the easiest survival tools to use. Kids can figure them out and have fun with them quickly.
- Change of Clothes – A change of clothes belongs in any bug out bag, and one of the easiest ways to store them inside is by using a skivvy roll. This technique works with kids clothes as well, so skivvy away!
- Hygiene Kit – Another inclusion that shouldn’t be cut just because the bug out bag is made for a kid. Hygiene is important- even on the go.
- Paper and Pen – You’ll find this in an adult’s bag as well, but kids can use them to write journals, create maps, and play games.
- Games – Small profile games are best for bug out bags- playing cards, crosswords, coloring books, etc. Keep it lightweight and small.
- Headlamp – Headlamps are fun for kids and are a great way to keep their hands free for other activities.
- Glow Sticks: Cyalume SnapLight – Great for low-light, visibility, signaling, and marking. Great for hanging a unique color on your kid’s bag to easily and discretely identify them in the dark. (See why this is the best glow stick for survival)
- Poncho – A small disposable poncho is lightweight and fits the bill.
- Sleeping Bag – An emergency bivvy may be a better choice if you are starting to run out of space or have the bag getting heavy.
- Gloves – Kids don’t want to sit around. Add sturdy work gloves in your kid’s size so they can be safe on their hands while ‘helping out’.
- N95 Mask – A small one will fit most kids, but be sure to check the fit before stowing it in their bags.
This kids’ bug out bag list can set the foundation for your child in an emergency. Smaller kids should be able to fit most items in their bags, while teens should have no problem with the list above and can add additional items from our standard bug out bag list.
Kids’ Bug Out Bag Checklist
A perfect kids’ bug out bag doesn’t exist- what is right for your kids depends on your situation and their level of responsibility. That said, we have a pretty good starting point for your kids so you can get them ready for the worst of it.
Our checklist is available as both a pdf download and as a Google Sheet/Excel file where you can check off items yourself, and even add and subtract items from the checklist.
Kids’ BOB Printable PDF Checklist
If you are looking for the simplest way to print and use the checklist above, download our printable PDF version. It is one page long on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and makes creating a kids’ bug out bag extremely easy. Once you open the kids’ BOB PDF checklist in your browser, you can either print it directly or save it through your browser.
Kids’ BOB Checklist Excel / Google Sheet
If you are looking for a comprehensive way to track your kids’ bug out bag contents, open our Excel / Google Sheet version. The sheet is sharable, and you just need to copy it to your own Google Sheet account or download it to Excel to edit it. We also keep the best-reviewed item for each category linked to simplify shopping for any equipment you may find yourself missing.
How to Pack Your Kid’s Bug Out Bag
Packing a kid’s bug out bag is about the same as packing an adult bug out bag. It is actually a little easier because you are packing less into a smaller bag. Denser, heavier items will need to go towards the bottom of the bag, and then be stacked up against the back. Lighter items will go on top and further away from the back (the outside of the backpack).
You will also want to leave room at the top of the bag for quick-pack items, like their comfort item (teddy bear/blanket), and snacks with a shelf-life. Avoid attaching stuff to the outside of the bag with ties or cords, since these can catch, become undone, or draw attention to the bug out bag.
Don’t pack too much into a kids’ bug out bag if they are carrying it themselves. It can be easy to overestimate how much the little ones can carry, since they will be eager at first but will tire out easily.
You can see more backpack packing tips at our dedicated guide: How to Pack a Bug Out Bag.
Teaching Kids About Survival
Kids are human sponges and learn just about anything quicker than you think. The main key is introducing them to survival, prepping, and preparedness early on. They learn survival skills quickly- almost like it is instinctual. Some of the best ways to expose your kids to survivalism and prepping are:
- Play a Game – There are plenty of board games with survival themes, whether it’s just general survival of the fittest or more of a niche game, like our favorite: Pandemic. There are lots of video games too if that is more your speed. Spend some time together having fun… and learning about survival.
- Watch the Tube – There are tons of survival TV shows and movies out there that are definitely worth watching. If you are going to spend some time in front of the TV anyway, why not learn a thing or two? We also have some off-grid TV show suggestions that are great to watch if you are going for self-sustainability.
- Get Outside – Going into nature is great for a lot of reasons, but it is a great place to share survival skills with your young one.
- Pick up a Hobby – Tons of hobbies have survival and prepping relevance. Pick one to learn with your kid so you can build your own skills, teach them something, and have quality time together.
- Volunteer – Helping others is one way to teach your kids. There are many ways to volunteer that align with a prepared mindset.
- Have them Help – When you are creating or updating survival kits, include your kids. Ask them open-ended questions about why things are included. Review your preparedness plans with them and ask them if they would do anything different. You may be surprised by how they see the world.
The sooner you can introduce kids to the idea of preparedness, the better. Giving kids a strong foundation of common sense can be easy- whether you let them help you change a tire, play a game with them, or build a small bug out bag together.
Kids Bug Out Tips
Different kids require different gear in their bug out bags. Their age, physical condition, and other needs can change what you need to pack for them. A baby and a teen are both technically kids, but their needs are very far apart. Child-specific medication can also complicate things as you are packing your kids’ bug out bags. Some people say, if you aren’t sure then just pack it- but that is not always the best plan.
Bug Out Bag for Babies?
Babies are a completely different topic. Obviously, a baby isn’t going to carry a bag- so most of your prepping for babies will be centered on adding their survival gear to either a separate diaper bag or your own bug out bag.
A diaper bag is a good start for identifying what you will need to pack. Take everything in a diaper bag, and add enough of the same items to get you through 3 days. This will include:
- Diapers, wipes, and diaper bags
- Formula (bottles, mix, emergency formula)
- Changes of clothes
- Baby foods
- Thin layer-able baby blankets or swaddling cloths
- Teething toys, comfort items
- Baby carrier
There is plenty to consider when packing for a baby, but it will make any emergency much less stressful and easier to handle with a moment’s notice.
Teens’ Bug Out Bag
The flip side of the coin is teenagers. This is the age when (with the right skills and exposure) they can be helpful rather than a burden during an emergency. Even pre-teens can fall into this category. Experiences such as Boy Scouts, team sports, volunteering, and other ways we covered on teaching kids about survival will help teens be an asset to your family during an emergency.
Most teens can carry more food, and water, and add skill-specific tools to improve their bug out bag’s survival functionality and versatility. Consider adding:
- Morakniv Companion knife (See why this bushcraft knife is our favorite)
- Ferro rod (See why this ferro rod is our favorite)
- Lighter (See why this lighter is our favorite)
- NOAA weather radio
- Boafeng UV-5R HAM radio (be careful with teens and HAM radios- be sure they respect the rules and are licensed if operating)
- Local maps and compass
Before adding any unnecessary weight or taking up room in your teens’ bug out bag, makes sure they know how to use the gear and have some experience with it.
Prescription Medicine in the Bug Out Bag
This is a tricky one where you will need to make the call yourself. Keeping an epi-pen in your kids’ bug out bag could save their life if they become separated from you, but it can be dangerous if they use it wrong. Most prescription medicine is this way, and you’ll need to make a parent’s judgment call on whether your child can handle and respect keeping their medication in their own bug out bag.
Kids have also been known to lose stuff, so keep that in the back of your mind as well. Personally, I prefer to keep my kid’s medication in my own first aid kit. The decision is debatable, and you may find others that suggest the opposite. You know your kids best, so make the call on your own and be comfortable with your decision.
Don’t ‘Just Pack It’
It can be tempting to ‘pack it all’ for our kids, but we need to resist that urge. We’ve all gone on that road trip where we bring about everything and the kitchen sink for our kids, but bugging out isn’t a road trip. All of the unknowns you face with your bug out bag may leave you wishing you had more, but trust me- it’s not worth it.
We talked about weight concerns already with how to pack your kid’s bug out bag. Instead of using the mindset ‘we might use this’ when packing a bug out bag, pack something only if you are probably going to use it. Weight and space will be at a premium when you are carrying gear in a bag, so don’t ‘just pack it.’
The Best Bug Out Bag for Kids
The best bug out bag for kids is the one that they are familiar with and can carry. Oftentimes, this ends up being an old school backpack. A few things that can help is to have the bag with bright colors and even familiar characters. Bright colors will help you spot your kid if they become separated and familiar TV characters can make young children care about their bug out bag more (and less likely to misplace it).
Once your kids start getting a little older and can include more items in their bug out bags (teens and pre-teens), they can go for a bigger backpack accordingly. Depending on your teen’s size, they could easily carry our favorite hiking backpack or grey man covert backpack:
- TETON Sports Scout 3400 Backpack
- 5.11 COVRT18 Backpack (see why this is our favorite gray man bug out bag)
An upgrade to a bug out bag can be a great gift. Gifting an adult-sized bug-out bag to your kid for accomplishing an achievement, like earning a merit badge in Scouts or getting a good report card, can be exciting for the kid and give them even more appreciation for preparedness.
The Final Word
Leaving kids out of a bug out plan is completely counter-intuitive. Kids can benefit the most from having resources available in an emergency, so creating a kids’ bug out bag is common sense.
I hope we’ve created a helpful guide outlining the ideal gear and considerations to have when making a kid’s bug out bag. As always, if we missed any aspect or challenge that you have encountered, let us know in the comments so we can try to help.
If you are looking for more information on bug out bags, be sure to check our standard bug out bag guide (even though it is designed for adults). Kids may very well be the future, but it will take us adults to get them there.
Here are some other guides our subscribers have found helpful:
- How to Identify a Spider Bite and Treat It
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- Bug Out Bag (BOB) Guide, Gear, and Checklist
Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.
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