I travel a lot and even though some of my work projects happen near my home state, others will take me abroad in unknown areas. If you are preparedness-minded and you happen to travel due to various reasons, you should consider building a travel bug out bag. One that complies with various federal and international restrictions.
Most of the people I know have a well-thought plan for handling a crisis event at home. However, when it comes to traveling, most of them are unprepared and exposed to unpredictable scenarios. As a quick example, my brother-in-law went to Atlanta recently and he was more interested in the things to do in Atlanta than bringing his traveling bug out bag along. He asked me how to build one, and when the day came, he forgot it at home as the excitement of the upcoming trip took over.
This article will provide you with some straightforward tips to build a travel bug out bag. The type of bag that will keep you safe when away from home. It covers what I’ve used in the past for carry-on emergency gear and other survival items that I’ve found useful.
Why should you need a travel bug out bag?
There are many scenarios in which a travel bug out bag can come in handy. Here are just a few of them:
On a plane, Train, Bus or at the terminal
Although the chances of a plane crash and the survival ordeal that comes after are very slim, harsh weather, mechanical failure or a terrorist attack will ground transportation for days. Once you are stuck in the terminal, you will be glad you brought your travel bug out bag with you. Having a well-equipped travel bug out bag will help you adapt to whatever difficulty setting you might have to face.
At the hotel
You never know when you might get stuck at a hotel and Snowzilla was a perfect example for me. I had to stay at my hotel near the airport and although food and water weren’t an issue, I’ve heard of certain establishments that rose prices overnight on all sorts of consumables. This is a well-known practice in third world countries. Many people will be forced to live off of vending machines.
On the road
To visit another town once you’ve reached your destination, you will probably have to rent a car. Since accidents happen all the time, having your travel bug out bag with you will help you cope with any unpleasant situation.
Essential items for your travel bug out bag:
When I go on business trips I like having my 5.11 Tactical Covrt18 Backpack with me. It is built for rough use and it allows me to carry my laptop, a rain jacket, some extra clothes and a few food items. Depending on my destination, I add in my travel bug out bag a shoulder bag in which I keep my critical gear. This is a good alternative because it is very compact and unobtrusive.
Here is what I carry in my travel bug out bag and the reasons behind each item:
- Portable water filter
- 2 N95 Dust Masks
- Duct tape
- A tactical pen
- A compact multi-tool
- Meal replacement bars
- Spare prescription glasses
- AMK heatsheet
- Wet wipes
- A pair of confortable shoes
- Universal charger and universal power adapter
- Mini-first aid kit
- A USB stick
Portable water filter
I carry my LifeStraw on me at all times and it served me well more than a few times. Having a water filter will help you purify water, regardless if you are in the wild or in the city. Obtaining fresh water in an urban crisis is a priority. You need to make sure the water is drinkable, even if it is advertised as such. I traveled to India a couple of times and during my first trip I got a bad case of diarrhea.
At first I thought it was a classic case of traveler’s diarrhea, but after going to the hospital I found out it was a bug I got from the water. I was shocked because I was drinking only bottled water. However, I later found out that some street vendors are bottling tap water which they sell to tourists as purified water.
N95 Dust masks
Carrying a $500 state of the art military gas mask in your bag will get you in trouble. I guarantee you will never be able to go through security with such item. However if you carry a few N95 masks with you and you tell custom that you just want to protect yourself against airborne contaminants, nobody will question you further. Luckily for me, I never experienced an event that made me test the full potential of these masks. The first and only time I’ve used such a mask was during a safari trip in Dubai. They did a good job protecting us from a small sand storm.
You need to protect your hands because they are critical survival tools and there could be many hazards associated with an urban disaster. You should avoid neoprene or nylon gloves because they will melt when exposed to intense heat. I’m used to carry a pair of Bionic driving gloves and I’ve used them many times under various conditions.
I carry a mini-roll of duct tape with me because you know what they say “if duct tape can’t fix it..”. Duct tape has many uses in a survival scenario. You are limited only by your imagination when it comes to finding a good use for it. Regardless of the reasons you have for using duct tape during your trips, I advise you to always stick with quality brands like 3M. I carry a Gaffer’s tape mini roll because this type is the absolute toughest and it’s worth the money.
A tactical pen
This is one item that is being overlooked. If made of the right material it can be a very effective self-defense tool. The design must include both the function of the pen (a daily writing tool) and a potential stabbing weapon. The material of the pen must be hard enough to be used in a fight yet light enough to be carried every day without effort.
If you carry a notebook in your backpack alongside your tactical pen, you should have no problem getting through security. I wrote in a previous article about the tactical pen I’m carrying in my EDC, the NiteCore NTP10. It’s compact and portable and it has a tungsten steel tip that can be used as a window breaker.
A compact multi-tool
When it comes to survival tools, you should always opt for something small. Choose something that can be carried on you at all times, regardless if you’re in the woods or at the mall. There are many options when it comes to multi-tools and I’ve chosen the Swiss+ Tech Micro Max 19 in 1 tool for my travel bug out bag.
The tool includes six screwdrivers, two hex wrenches, wire stripper, wire crimper, pliers, file and hand drill. Like most tools, it also comes with a bottle opener and in addition, it has two rulers and two ruler extensions.
Recommended reading: Small multi-tools for big survival tasks
Meal replacement bars
Since I’m always on the run, having a decent meal at a local restaurant is not always an option for me. I’ve tried street food on many occasions and even though sometimes I got lucky, there were times when I cursed my decision to go for the “local cuisine”. I prefer to be safe and get some meal replacement bars. The type of food that will provide me with enough fuel to push forward for several hours. When I’m on the road, I always carry eight meal replacement bars in the glove box of my car and I never forget these for my travel bug out bag.
Although I got used to eating the Clif meal replacement bars, my advice is to try out as many meal replacement bars as you can and see what works for you before an emergency crops up. You can find meal replacement bars at the grocery store in the supplement aisle.
Spare prescription glasses
If you wear prescription glasses, you need to have a spare pair in your travel bug out bag. Since accidents happen all the time, you never know when you might need a spare pair. As with any piece of gear listed in this article, you get what you pay for and you need to get a pair of glasses that protects your eyes from wind, dust and debris.
These emergency blankets are an ideal choice for every bug out bag and they are compact, puncture-resistant and far superior to the space blankets you find on the market. I carry the bivy bag type in my travel bug out bag because I had the chance to test it during my hiking trips and I’ve noticed it holds up extremely well.
I’ve traveled to cities where third-world living conditions were a harsh reality. I now appreciate more the living conditions we benefit from in our civilized countries. Sanitation and hygiene becomes critical when you travel to such locations. Having a package of wet wipes in your travel bug out bag helps tremendously. Besides wet wipes, I also got used to pick up a small bottle of hand sanitizer after leaving the airport.
A pair of comfortable shoes
I often like to discover new places when I travel and I’m always prepared for long walks. Having the adequate footwear is really important when you travel and you can’t show at a business meeting wearing sneakers. In my travel bug out bag I carry a pair of foldable sneakers and in time, I’ve learned that they worth they weight in gold if you are used to travel by foot. They are durable, comfortable and most importantly, they are breathable.
Universal charger and universal power adapter
I’m used to carry my K-Tor pocket hand crank generator because with it I can generate up to 10 watts of electricity for any rechargeable devices that I’m carrying. Although many will go for solar chargers, I find this option more suitable since it can work regardless of the weather conditions and it also helps to keep you in shape. I also bring a universal power adapter for international travel in order to power up my electronics and to avoid paying for one at the hotel.
Recommended article: 6 Electricity Generators You Need to Have in Your Bug Out Bag
Mini first aid-kit
During an urban disaster, first responders will be overwhelmed and it may take some time before they get to your part of the city. You will then become your own medic and you need to have a quality first-aid kit intended for remote medicine. After many recommendations coming from my prepper and outdoor enthusiasts friends, I’ve chose the Adventure medical ultra-light kit and it is more than enough for the first-aid knowledge I hold.
An USB stick
Although I carry hardcopies of my documents with me just like any other traveler, I’m also used to carry an USB stick with copies of my passport and immunization documents and pertinent prescriptions (allergy and antibiotic meds). I also have copies of the documents I need in a folder on my NAS that I can access from anywhere in the world.
Besides this gear, I’ve also developed the habit of picking up a few extra items after arrival. I usually do a quick stop at a grocery store to get the following:
- Water – I get two 1-liter bottles to have a good start and stay hydrated.
- Sunscreen – I get a small tube of sunscreen because my skin is prone to sunburn.
- A bic lighter – I usually get one or two bic lighters and I leave them behind when I fly home.
- Hand sanitizer – I get a small bottle because I don’t want to rely only on wet wipes.
- Some no-cook foods – depending where I’m staying, I usually get a some packets of tuna, jerky or freeze-dried meals (if I can find any). I also get a few packs of noodles and bouillon cubes to go along.
Just because you travel to a foreign country that has different rules and regulations, that doesn’t mean you should leave your preparedness gear behind. If you plan a business trip or a family vacation, make sure you build a travel bug out bag containing all the critical survival items you might need. Having such a bag with you will reduce travel anxiety. It will boost your self-confidence knowing that you are prepared should a crisis occur.
Stay safe and God Bless!
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Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)
Bullet Proof Home (Learn how to Safeguard your Home)
Blackout USA (Video about EMP survival and preparedness guide)
US Water Revolution (A DIY Project to Generate Clean Water Anywhere)