As a beginning prepper, you’ll find a huge variety of premade everyday carry kits and pre-assembled bug out bags available for sale. They’re tempting, right? You may think, Why should I spend all this time and energy agonizing over every single purchase, when I can get everything I need with just a few clicks?
I understand the appeal — believe me. It’s so much faster and easier than assembling your own bug out bag.
So, are there any down sides? In short, YES.
Who decides what goes in a bug out bag kit?
Premade bug out bags are usually assembled not by survival experts, but by marketers.
That’s right: most kits aren’t assembled by experts. (Well, they’re experts at sellingthings online…)
The folks who decide what goes into the kit are a lot less focused on quality and utility than on price and profit margins. Basically, marketing the finished product.
What’s wrong with that?
Here’s an example: virtually EVERY pre-assembled emergency kit I’ve ever seen includes fishing hooks, fishing line, and lead weights/sinkers. Super useful, right?
…Well, no. In order for these particular items to be actually useful to you, you must:
- Live near a stream, lake, river, or ocean that actually contains fish
- Know how to fish
- Expect to spend long enough in emergency status that you’ll actually consider fishing for food
In 2010, 90% of Americans live in an urban environment. How many of them can actually expect to so much as find a place to cast their fishing line?
This is another way of saying: preassembled bug out bags and kits are very likely to contain crap you don’t need.
What the hell is this thing for?
In addition to things you don’t actually need, ready-made bug out bags are also quite likely to contain items you don’t recognize. What good is, say, a signalling mirror if you don’t know how to use it? (Theoretically it could become a barter item — but you aren’t Mad Max and this isn’t Bartertown…)
Don’t make the mistake of spending money on, and taking comfort from, a pile of gear you don’t know how to use. This is the opposite of prepping.
Benefits of assembling your own bug out bag
We’re HUGE believers in the do-it-yourself approach. Here’s why:
You know your environment. You decide whether an emergency Mylar blanket is a necessity. (Here in Fort Lauderdale, not so much.) Will you be going fishing for food? Not if you live in Phoenix… Customization is the biggest benefit of choosing your gear piece-by-piece.
You can choose the best piece of kit available. You aren’t limited to items your supplier can get you a good deal on. You don’t have to choose the cheapest thing that’ll maybe get the job done. Instead, you can invest in a top-quality tool that will last a lifetime — a tool you can trust with your life. Because that’s what we’re really preparing for.
The IKEA effect. This is a logical fallacy — basically, when you build something yourself, you value it more highly than if you’d acquired it fully-built for you. If you take the time to assemble your own bug out bag, you’re a LOT more likely to maintain it properly and keep it handy than if you just buy one.
Increased familiarity. As you research your individual purchases, you’ll learn more about the tools and their applications than you would otherwise. You’re more likely to try each item out and figure out how it works before you really need it.
Lower initial expense. Say you have a budget of $100/mo. You can save for a few months and buy a pre-assembled bug out bag. Or, you can choose a few pieces of gear at a time, slowly building up your bug out bag and your familiarity with the tools. The latter approach requires discipline (you have a plan, right?) — but is a lot easier to work into your overall expenditures.
Let’s face it: assembling your own bug out bag based on your needs and your budget isn’t for everyone. Buying a premade kit is better than nothing but simply never as good as doing it yourself.
Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to build your very own Badass Bug Out Bag. Everything you need, from reviews to lists to sample kits, lives here. And if there’s anything else you need to help get you started, leave a comment and we’ll get right back to you.