Zombies, climate change, nuclear war: What to pack when the world ends


A U.S. Navy photograph shows the suffering and ruins that resulted from atom bomb blast in Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945. (National Archives/MCT)

By Kallie Cox, Staff Reporter

Zombies, climate change, nuclear war, electromagnetic pulses, hurricanes, meteors and aliens: there are countless ways the world could end at any moment.

When a cataclysmic emergency situation happens, you are going to be faced with a choice: do you stay where you are or leave and seek shelter elsewhere?

“Bugging-out” is leaving most of your earthly belongings behind where they could be stolen, looted or destroyed. However, in order to survive you cannot leave everything behind, so what do you take with you?


The first things you need to take into consideration when packing a bug-out bag are your basic needs. You will need to focus on food, water, shelter, tools and safety.

The next thing to consider is the bag you will be using, your size as an individual and how to pack the bag in order to allow you to walk for long periods of time in the event you can no longer use your vehicle.

Even if you are in the best of shape, your bag should not weigh more than 1/3rd of your body weight. If you are in poor physical condition, it will have to weigh even less.

One way to be able to carry more is to have a fitting bag and to pack it properly in order to better distribute the weight.

A tiny book bag you take to classes is not going to work. It might be okay for everyday carry or a 24 hour pack, but not for a long trek.

Go to your local sports store or camping store and get a bag that has easily accessible pockets, water resistance and a hip belt. This will allow for better distribution.

Make sure you can clip the bag to your body so if someone tries to loot you and rip it off your body, they have to fight you for it.


Measure your torso and hips then use the sizing chart below to determine the right pack for your body type. Remember there are no bad bodies just bad bags.

When you pack the bag ensure any items you will need to grab quickly are on your person, on your belt or in your pockets.

Place all light gear in the front pocket of your bag and at the top. Place medium weights at the bottom of your pack and the heaviest gear should go in the middle.

Your sleeping mat and bag should be attached to the bottom of your pack in a waterproof bag because of their bulk.


In every survival movie or show, you’ll see people grabbing cans, throwing them in a bag and running. Do not do this.

Canned goods are great because they last a long time, but they will quickly weigh down your bag, so only pack a few.

The best foods to stock up on for bugging-out are light to carry, high-calorie and high in protein.

“Military Meals Ready to Eat” are the best, and you can find them at Walmart. Calorie-wise, you can turn each one into three meals if you’re desperate. However, these are bulky so if you get your hands on them, only take the highest calorie items.

Make sure what you bring is unlikely to expire anytime soon. Nuts, raisins, granola bars, marshmallow fluff and peanut butter are your new best friends.

Stock up on non-perishables. Don’t be the idiot who shows up to Walmart and gets axed over a can of “SpaghettiOs.” Everyone will be looting the stores; the whole thing will probably look like the cornucopia in the Hunger Games or any store on Black Friday, so steer clear and stay safe.

Metal canteen cups are relatively lightweight and useful for cooking over a fire, so keep cooking in mind when you pack. Bring a spork.


If zombies don’t kill you, dysentery will. Even if the water looks clean, it’s probably not. As a rule of thumb, filter it before you sip it.

A “LifeStraw” is relatively cheap at $20, light, easy to use and can safely filter 264 gallons of water. It can be worn as a stylish end of the world necklace and uses a hollow fiber membrane to purify the water. To use it, stick it in any water source and just drink.

Try to ensure that whatever water filtration system you bring with you is compact, light and easy to use. Do not rely simply on purification tablets or iodine; it is good to have a few tablets or iodine for an emergency, but both run out and you will need a more sustainable way to purify.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, to purify water without another filtration system, you should allow it to boil for one minute. If you are at altitudes higher than 6,562 feet, do three minutes.

Most filters will not remove salt, so don’t drink urine.

Always have a back-up container for your water. I carry a lightweight clip on the “LifeStraw” water bottle I attach to my bag, I wear a canteen on my belt and I have a “CamelBak” bladder in my BOB.

While weight is a factor, you can never be too careful when it comes to water.

First Aid

Your first aid kit should include any medications you need on a regular basis, disinfectants, pain killer, moleskin and material to cover a wound and to stop bleeding.

Pads and tampons are your new best friends. Pads are amazing at stopping bleeding; they can hold more blood than your average bandage, are sticky like a band-aid and are easy to attach.

Before tampons were used for menstrual periods they were used by the military to plug up bullet holes. They are good for that, deep stab wounds and bloody noses. They are also compact and easy to carry.

Moleskin is vital if your bug-out location is a long walk away or you haven’t gotten used to your apocalypse boots yet. It comes in sheets and can be cut to fit any blister or hotspot.

Some other useful items to carry are:

  1. Menstrual cup- a reusable method of dealing with periods in a sanitary fashion
  2. Two dozen bandages of various sizes
  3. Curved needle and thread
  4. Tourniquet
  5. Tweezers and nail clippers
  6. “X-Acto” knife (scalpel)
  7. Moleskin
  8. Rubber gloves
  9. A lighter
  10. Burn cream


It’s the end of the world and the laundromat is closed. Be prepared to not change your clothes for weeks.

Keep in mind, seasons change, so pack accordingly. It would really suck to die of hypothermia or heat stroke instead of something cool like a shark or an alien.

Make sure to have a poncho, 3-4 pairs of socks (preferably thermal ones), long underwear and a warm undershirt, a winter coat, pants made of a durable fabric with lots of pockets and a warm hat.

In addition to the clothes you bug out in, be sure to have at least one change of clothes in your pack. However, do not go overboard. Nothing can take up a lot of space and you need to be able to deal with wearing the same clothes until they rot off your body.

Other necessary items

For shelter, pack trash bags, paracord, at least a dozen zip ties, sleeping bag, a compact mat and duct tape. For carrying duct tape, wrap several yards around a pencil to save space.

For fire starting: A refillable “Zippo” that will still spark when out of fluid, a small mirror, flint, dryer lint and “Vaseline,” which can double as “ChapStick” or burn cream.

For personal hygiene: “Wet Wipes” because there will probably be no way to shower, body warmers and a toothbrush with toothpaste.

For personal protection: Personal protection is, well, personal. If you have a gun, bring it, but have an alternative because you will run out of rounds and carrying too many will weigh you down.

A good fixed blade or dagger is a must. Find one that fits your hand; you should be able to balance it on your index finger easily. It will also become your lifeline as a tool for hunting, fishing, shelters, first aid and cooking.

Other tools: Carabiners, fishing line and spare hooks, a lensatic compass and a paper map of your area.

If you have any extra room in your bag, bring any medications, cigarettes, drugs and matches you can find. When society collapses, cash will become valueless and you will want something to trade in a possible barter system.

Don’t wait until the apocalypse hits and the internet dies forever to learn the skills you will need to survive. If you can’t clean a fish, identify poisonous and edible plants in your area, dress a wound, start a fire, use a compass or build a simple shelter, what will you do?

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected].

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.