Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bug-out Buckets

Meet B.O.B.
...which stands for Bug Out Bucket.
This is a 2-gallon bucket I got from the bakery department of our grocery store. It's air-tight and water-tight, and when filled with just about anything, light enough to carry and small enough to not be bulky. 
Since I can get them for free I've been using them to store beans, rice, flour, sugar, and anything else that'll fit inside the bucket.  When the lid is snapped on, the contents are protected from water, mice and other rodents, and insects.
My husband and I were talking about Bug-out bags a couple of years ago, and stories from friends came to mind.  They'd had trouble with things like water damage and mice getting into the backpacks they had made into bug-out bags.
We started talking about water- and rodent- proof containers.  The first thing that came to mind was plastic totes, but they're awkward to carry.  Then we thought of the buckets we'd been filling.  The disadvantage in comparison to a backpack is that your hands aren't free.  You can loop the handle of the bucket over your arm for limited hands-free use, but generally, you'll be carrying it.
There are some oddball options, such as packing a length of baling twine in the bucket; maybe a piece around 5' long, and you could tie each end to a bucket and drape the string across your shoulder, or tie them to a pole and carry the pole across your shoulders.  Strange, I know, but if we're tying to think of every possible situation and every possible solution, it's one.
When I packed two of these buckets for us, I was thinking 30-days of supplies plus whatever we can forage for, depending on the situation.  I planned to throw in basics that would go with those foraged foods, and possibly a few snared rabbits or squirrels.
Today when I took the lid off for the first time in two years, I was surprised at the bad choices as well as some of the good choices I'd made as I packed it.
First thing on top was half a dozen fast-food napkins.  Okay, not a bad choice for a filler item.
Let's look at the rest of the items.  The bag in the bottom right corner of the picture is white sugar.  I had packed it for the quick burst of energy from even a small pinch of sugar placed on the tongue.  I also figured it could be used with tea made from wild plants, as well as added to foraged berries for energy.  To the left of the sugar is a ziplock bag of mint hard candies.  Those, too, were for quick energy.
Below that is a small tube of toothpaset, and at the top of the picture are two new toothbrushes.  I left them in their packages to keep them clean and because the cardboard backing could be used to start a fire if necessary.
Next to the toothbrushes are some packs of matches and a vacuum-sealed pack of cigarettes.  None of us smoke.  These were acquired with a free coupon and sealed, to be used as a barter item if we had to bug-out, or as something to calm down an irate person we might meet along the way.  Our plan was to trade or give them away one cigarette at a time, never the whole pack at once.  We buy the matches in cases and distribute them among everything we store.  Fire can save a life, and matches are likely to be good trade items or gifts if things get bad.
The two jars with blue lids, laying next to the bucket, are bouillon cubes.  one chicken, one beef.  My line of thinking was to use them along with foraged greens and other plants, to flavor soup and provide sodium.  In every day life that much sodium might not be good for us, but if we're on foot walking and foraging, we'll need to replace the salt we'll sweat out,  Plus, we won't be eating as much other foods with a high sodium content, so it'll average out.
What I'm not sure about is why I left the cubes in the glass jars they came in.  The extra weight is probably not worth it.  Maybe I was thinking they would make good cups after they were empty?  I have no idea.  When I repack it today I'm going to dump the cubes into ziplock bags and leave the jars out.
Below the jars are two different sizes of bandaids.  Not much of a medical kit.  To the left of them is a pair of fingernail clippers.  That's a good choice, but the smaller, compact size might be an even beter choice.  Most Dollar stores sell them three to a pack for a least the Dollar Tree near us does.  Two are small, one pair is bigger.
On the bottom left of the picture is a 1-lb. bag of black beans.  I'm guessing it was to be 'camp' food along the trail.  How I was going to soak them and keep a fire going long enough to cook them is beyond me.  I'm going to leave those out of the bucket this time.  I have some beans that I cooked and then dehydrated, and I'll be packing a bag of those instead.  They're like "Instant beans", in that all I have to do is add water to them.  They don't even have to be heated.
The reason I would still pack beans in this bucket is for the protein and iron.  I had intended to pack a jar of peanut butter in here, but I didn't find one.  That would be more ideal than beans.  A person could eat a spoonful (or finger-lick full, but don't double dip and get bacteria from your saliva in the jar, and second thought, you don't know what's on your finger, and it might cause nasty things to grow in the peanut butter!) and get a large amount of fat and calories.  One Tablespoon of peanut butter has 8 grams of fat and 100 calories.  It's ready to eat and delicious right out of the jar.
Digging deeper in the bucket I pulled out a jar of Vanilla imitation flavoring (above the bouillon cubes in picture).  What in the world was I thinking?  What possible plan could I have had for carrying a full, unopened bottle of vanilla seasoning?  I have no idea.  If I had to bug-out unexpectedly from my home and hoped to rely on the contents of this bucket to contribute in a big way to my survival...why vanilla?  It won't be going back in the bucket.
There's also a full bottle of Cinnamon.  I sighed when I pulled it out. I could see putting a little bit in a small, snack-size ziplock and tucking it in a corner, but why a full bottle?  It, too, won't be going back in.
You can't see it in the picture but I pulled out four regular rubber bands.  That's an okay addition.  Extremely light-weight and doesn't take up much space.  Could be useful.  There were about a dozen tea bags, green tea.  I'm not sure what I expected to make the tea in, but at least I had sugar along to sweeten it!  Using boiling water is the best way to make tea, but I've added a tea bag to the water bottle on my bicycle and let it sit there for a few hours as I pedaled in the sun, and gotten pretty good 'sun tea'.  So the tea bags can stay if I have room to slide them in between things.
Next I pulled out a can of hot cocoa mix.  I'm addicted to it, and I suppose I had room in the bucket, so I put it in.  Nothing would make a bad situation more bearable to me than to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa.  But again, what was I going to heat the water in, or drink the hot cocoa out of?  The glass jars from the bouillon cubes?  I don't know.  I should at least put one of those lightweight tin cups with a handle into the bucket.  I can stuff it full of things and it won't add much to the weight or bulk of the contents. The hot cocoa added 1 lb. 4 oz. of weight.  I'm undecided about keeping it in there.
Also in the bucket was a 2-lb. can of coconut oil.  That, I'm sure, I put in the bucket for calories and fat.  One Tablespoon has 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.  It has a very long shelf life, is stable in all temperatures, and tastes fairly good straight out of the can.  It could be used with the wild foods, and scientifically speaking, help the body absorb vitamins and other nutrients from the wild greesn and other food. 
Is 2 lbs. too much weight?  Too much volume?  For a 30-day survival bucket, it's not too much.  For a 3-day bucket, yes, it's too much.  I'd eliminate the coconut oil and just rely on the peanut butter for fat.  In the longer term you'll be struggling to get enough fat and calories.  Wild meat usually isn't very fatty, though there are exceptions.  Wild food is low in fat too, with exceptions like nuts and seeds.  Since this is a 30-day 'supplemental' bucket, the coconut oil will stay.
Lastly, there is a 1 1/2 pound can of salt in the bucket.  I think carrying salt in a 30-day bucket is a good idea, but perhaps only half that amount.  The bouillon cubes are also a source of salt, so I'd pour half the salt into a ziplock bag and put that in the bucket.  The total weight of the bucket did not seem all that heavy, so I was considering keeping the salt, but then I thought about carrying it for 30 days and I'm not so sure.  On the other hand, salt is a valuable barter item.  So I'm not sure.
There are things noticeably missing.  Maybe I had figured on those things already being on my person in a pocket, or in a survival belt bag.  There's no knife in this bucket.  Even a small, cheap pocket knife would have been useful.  Although there are matches, there is no lighter, which is something I usually pack into everything.  There is no flashlight and spare batteries, which is one of my staples.  I have dozens of them stashed everywhere, including in a few places in our car.  But none in this bucket.
There is no water or way to purify more water, other than the matches for starting a fire to boil water.  But then, what container would I use?  This is another use for that tin cup I mentioned.  Foil blankets and thin plastic rain ponchos are another cheap item that take up almost no space and are almost weightless that should have been in the bucket.
I'm really surprised at how unprepared I really would have been if I had had to grab this bucket and go in the last couple years.  Time to gather up some things and repack it, using my head this time!

My goal is to open the bucket once a year and rotate the items like peanut butter and coconut oil.  Peanut butter, especially, will go rancid after a while.  Twice a year might be a better idea.


  1. I believe that we are always learning in our prepping activities. And there are things that we could probably use at one time. But things in our lives change and we don't need them but do need something else. If that makes any since. I do enjoy reading your post.

    1. I agree, we're always learning, and our circumstances are always changing. I've probably 'grown' some as a prepper since I packed that bucket two years ago. I'm still putting it back together with what I think it needs.... at least what I think it needs based on the knowledge I have right now. Who knows, next year?

      When I have it ready I'll make another post or add to this one. Meanwhile...I'm still scratching my head over the vanilla!

  2. what would you do, for a child with food allergies, or medications needed to stay alive? I wouldn't want to put a 30 day supply of meds in a bucket to just leave it for a year or two, not only do meds go bad, but often they are very very expensive (one of them my MIL is on for her MS is almost 10K per month, thankful for medical insurance or she'd probably be dead now) one of them my son is on, is highly addictive and essential for his day to day life, but also very expensive, our insurance only pays for a 30 day supply at a time, and there's no way we could hope to purchase extra just to leave in a bucket for a "what if" situation. often when we have to leave home unexpectedly,we find ourselves stopping at the pharmacy to get a few day supply. what would you do to not forget those essential meds if you have to bug out, without leaving them in a bucket or bag where they are just going to go bad...

    1. First, I don't think I'd store meds in a bucket as part of regular storage. I'll address storing them in bug-out bags, buckets, or kits, farther down in this post. What I would do is keep the 'extra' day-to-day meds(when extra is possible) rotated and keep it handy. Store the meds like anything you'd store: in a dark, cool place. Even if you have a six month supply, use it up and put your newer meds in line behind those.

      The only meds I'd store in a bucket would be over-the-counter things like aspirin, tylenol, and benadryl, and once a year I'd rotate them out for use and put fresh bottles in the bucket.

      Yes, it's really hard to build up any reserves of expensive meds and those that are carefully controlled. If you can get even a week or two ahead, it can be helpful for weaning off the med if something happened to dry up your source unexpectedly. The meds you can only get for 30 days could spell disaster if something happened just as you were about to run out.

      There would be some painful and heart-breaking outcomes if something that bad happened. I can't give you false hope. We'll lose some people, and it'll be devastating. I've read two different disaster/SHTF-scenario books that involved a Type I diabetic dying. One book is "Alas, Babylon", where the mother of one of the main characters dies when the insulin is gone. The other is "One Second After", where the main character's little girl dies for the same reason. It's very sad, and it's something I hope we never have to face.

      All you can do is your best. Love and appreciate those in your family or circle of friends who are on life-saving meds, and hope that nothing will happen to interfer with the supply of meds. We need to be prepared, but not let it consume us. LIVE today, and love those around you.

      For food sllergies, especially potentially deadly ones like peanut allergies, be diligent about what you store and how you store it. Make sure the food comes from sources that are certified peanut-free. If a long-term situation arises you'll probably be supplementing your storage with things like gardening and foraging, and you'll have a lot of control over what goes into your meals. Use the shopping methods you currently use to buy allergy-free items for stocking up. While things like nut allergies present a lot of risk, it also leaves a lot of options.

      If possible, you could store a few days' meds in your bug-out back, bug-out bucket, or whatever will go out the door with you. When you get the new 30-day supply, change out the ones you have in your bug-out kit. Unfortunately that means if something happens you only have a few days' supply.

      Find out what is safe for weaning off of that particular med. If you have to bug out, can you immediately cut the dose in half? Maybe the first day's meds in half, to spread over two days, then the next ones in fourths, which would get you about a week? Could that be better than risking going cold turkey after the 3-day supply runs out?

      If it's a 'civilized' disaster it might not be a problem. If flooding or wildfire or something localized happens, the 3-day supply you carry would probably be enough to get you through until you can get more. If it's widespread, that's another problem.

      Are there herbs that are similar enough in properties that you could store those too? Or is the herb common enough that most times of the year you could forage for some if you had to? If you're not sure, you could send me a private email ( with the name of the med and I'll find out what I can for you.

      Good luck. It's not easy, especially with the life-threatening medical conditions and medications.


  3. i'm really confused about what you are actually prepping for? is it a natural disaster? why do you think you won't have access to boiling water? if you have matches and a billy can you can make a fire and boil water? or do you think you won't have access to water at all? in which case how will this bucket help you survive? how will you survive without water?
    i love the idea of being prepared for disasters and the like (we get flooded in frequently and need to be prepared!) but am trying to understand your logic! thanks

    1. Now I'm the one who is confused. Where did you get that I didn't think I'd have access to boiling water? I think I offered suggestions in case a person gets into a situaion where they don't have access to boiling water, or water at all.

      I mainly see prepping and preparedness as having supplies to get through things like natural disasters. Rescue and aid workers often have a huge number of people to take care of, and I don't want to be hungry or watch my family be hungry if we get caught up in a disaster.

      If we have to evacuate due to any sort of disaster or emergency I want to have some sort of kit packed and ready to grab, with a few things to keep us a little more comfortable. For me, since I have dozens of these 2-gallon buckets, these made the perfect 'kit' to pack it in.

      For people planning for bigger or longer-term emergencies or collapses or whatever they prepare for, the best a packed bucket or any kit will do, is to help get them to the next step of their plan. It's for the "transition". No, it won't save their lives in the long run. There are several levels and stages of preparedness. The thing to keep in mind is that we have to start somewhere. Once you take the first simple step, such as packing a bucket or backpack, then you decide if you need further plans or prepared items.

      My main goal is helping people get started in the first place. I have too many friends and neighbors who wring their hands and talk about this stuff, but have endless excuses about why they just can't get started. I help punch holes in those excuses and give them a nudge. There's nothing special about me or about these tactics, and I sure don't know everything. But I can do what I can to help people make a plan and start acting on it.

      Try not to think too hard. That's a stumbling block for a lot of people. Keep it simple. Logic? I don't use that word. Common sense. Use your head. Look at your OWN situation and risk factors and get the information you need for them. I can't cover every single possible scenario because even the same disaster has a different scenario for every person, family, street, town, etc. You've made a plan and prepared based on the fact that you live in an area that floods frequently. That's great! You're doing the right thing.


  4. Some Ideas I came up with on what I have seen and read.

    With the Bullion jars: Yes keep them to use as cups or water containers and I would double fill the jars intill they are packed full.Usually the container is only half full. buy 2 of each and pack each container full.

    On the bag of beans:I would put a bag of beans and rice in a vacuum seal bag with a desiccant bag. Use both beans and rice to balance out what your body needs.

    On thwe Vanilla:Instead of baking spices put pepper, salt and onion soup pack in there place.

    On the No water but matches note: A case of water bottles and an empty dry bottle with pool shock in it. 1 Heaping table spoon will create 2 gallons of Chlorine base. This base will then clean 200 gallons of water. Think about the concentration to weight ratio. The initial case of water are mini canteens for water being cleaned.

    On the rain poncho: When you choose your ponchos and rain gear get green or tan. No sense in getting a yellow rain coat and then trying to camo it.

    My last idea is to get a Bug Out Back to carry each bucket. Ensure the bags are large enough to put the buckets in. Remember that you will leaving quickly and repack when time and security allows. Try and carry a bucket or buckets 2 miles and see how well that works (Not).


    1. You have a lot of good ideas here. I like the idea of packing the boullian jars as full as possible. There probably IS room to consolidate a couple jars of them.

      Yeah, spices and salt & pepper are much better choices than vanilla. I'm still scratching my head over that. What was I thinking, putting a bottle of vanilla (imitation vanilla, at that! Not even any alcohol value!) in the bug-out bucket? I have never remembered what my thinking was on that.

      I like the idea of neutral tones for the rain ponchos. Good suggestion.

      I'm not sure what you're picturing about teh bags to put each bug-out bucket in. Do you mean nylon 'stuff' bags, trash bags, something else? Wouldn't that be harder to carry than holding the handle of the bucket? Please write back and explain more about it, because the idea might have merit if we understand what you mean!

      Thank you for the great ideas.

  5. I wonder how difficult it would be to design a backpack to carry the buckets (kinda like we carry babies), so that these would make total sense for a single person to keep with them? The buckets I have are the ones with the screw out middle portion in the top of the lid (they have some fancy name). Anyhow, it would need to be comfortable on the shoulders, so it might make sense to repurpose current market backpacks to carry the buckets. I didn't read all of the comments, so just disregard this comment and there is no need to post it, if it is already posted above. Thanks.

    1. The important thing would probably be that there is good padding between the bucket and your back. The advantage to putting it in a pack would be that your hands would be free then. We have ours packed to be secondary to a backpack, so if we can't grab the bucket(s), our primary supplies are in the pack. If we're able to take the buckets(s) then we'll be that much more comfortable if we have to bug out. And there's enough in the buckets that if, for some reason, we end up with the buckets instead of the packs, we'll still do pretty good.

      Thanks for the neat idea!