Making a bug out bag for yourself, as an adult, seems easy. You know your exact needs, you’re a fully grown human which means you can carry a good load, and you’re not (likely) a picky eater. Everyone in the household should have their own bug bags, even pets (though they're going to need your help ...).
But what about making a bug out bag for kids? It's not quite as easy. Kids can't carry as much as grown-ups. They don't always know exactly what they need. And they are (likely) a picky eater.
Here are some tips on how to make building a kid's bug out bag easy and fun.
HAVE THEM HELP - I’ve been making a bug out bag for my kids since they were born. Obviously, they don't have much to say about the bag contents until they’re talking, and even then, they may still not have much of an opinion. When they're physically able to carry a bag (no matter how small!) let them get familiar with it. Put the bag on them. Ask them what toys or snacks they think should go inside. Get their input so that they know this bag is really their own. You will still need to make the ultimate final say about what might need to be included and what shouldn't be, and help them understand the logic in those decisions: "This fun whistle only takes up a little bit of space, but that wooden puzzle fills up the whole bag." Kids feel more empowered and eager to carry and care about their bug out bag if they’re involved with the creation of it. As they get older, they’ll pick out more of their gear and make the bags themselves based on what you've taught them along the way.
KEEP IT LIGHT - Kids should not carry more than 10-15% of their own body weight, so keep their bug out bag fairly lightweight. Put some snacks, a water bottle, small toys, games, an extra set of clothes, diapers (if needed), wet wipes, and as they get older, maybe a couple of practical items that would be in an adult bug out bag, like a flashlight or a wooden practice knife. Other than that, keep it simple and more about comfort and entertainment than practical preparedness. You’ll be carrying their other essentials. Because you're an adult.
LET THEM USE IT - Don't just stick the bag in a closet and forget about it for "just in case". Let kids be actively familiar with their bug out bag. Take it camping, in the car on errands, to the park, on hikes, etc. Let them take out the contents and play with it, and then put it back so that they are reminded of the responsibility that's required to always have this bag ready to go.
INVENTORY OFTEN - You would likely inventory your own bug out bag 1-2 times a year, but a kid's bug out bag will need to be inventoried and updated more often because of how quickly they grow, and how quickly interests can change. I made a bag for both of my children when they were born and 2 months later had to swap stuff out, then just a few months later had to change it all again! For kids under 10, you may want to check in with their bug out bag every 2-3 months. If it's something that they regularly bring with them (for non-emergencies), it should be simple to stay on top of what they really need to keep inside their bug out bag.
Kids Bug Out Bag Basic Gear List
Flashlight (with extra batteries)
Blanket (small and packable)
Water bottle or cup
A few small toys
Coloring book or sketchpad with crayons or markers
Extra set of clothes
Diapers (if needed)
Hairbrush or comb
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Laminated card with emergency numbers on it
Wooden practice knife
Kids over 10 (in consideration of each kid's unique physical capabilities) may also consider adding their sleep system (sleeping bag, sleeping mat, inflatable pillow), and their own 3 days worth of food (ideally something lightweight and packable like Mountain House).
TALK IT UP
Talk to your kids about what you’re doing, and why. When I talk to my toddler about her bag she says “bag for emergencies”. She may not fully understand what that means, but she heard me and that’s really all that matters. When it comes time for us to grab our gear, I can tell her we’re grabbing our bags that we use for emergencies, and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The word "emergency" won't be quite as scary if kids know that they're prepared for them.
Kids are smart. And they're listening, even if you think they aren’t. Get them involved in the whole process and they’ll take a lot more responsibility for their own bug out bag, instilling in them early the confidence that comes with preparedness.
About the author:
Morgan is a Mountain House ambassador living in Texas. She’s also a wife, mother, and preparedness advocate. She’s the founder of Rogue Preparedness and is an avid lover of the outdoors.