Essential Bug-Out Resources

In my post yesterday Survival Learnings From A California Fire Evacuee, I promised to share the specific resources that have proved especially valuable during my family’s emergency evacuation due to the Kincade fire. So I’d better get to it…

Gas & Cash

Having now been surprised by two massive fires (the Tubbs and the Kincade) within the past two years, in both instances, the preparation I was most immediately grateful for -- hands down -- was having sufficient on-property stores of gasoline and cash.

The moment your community realizes that flight may be necessary, forget going to the gas station. In my area, the lines were 20+ cars deep.

Waiting in those kind of lines (when there’s no guarantee there will be gas left when your turn finally comes) can easily cause you to miss your window of safety. As I mentioned yesterday, my friends who tried to evacuate just 45 minutes after I did eventually had to turn back home because the roads out of town had become hopelessly gridlocked.

So get in the habit of keeping your cars’ fuel tanks topped off, especially during times of seasonal risk (fire season, hurricane season, flood season, etc). Make it a point never to return home with the gauge below half-full.

Also, keep at least a tank’s-worth of gasoline stored on your property. In my case, I have four 5-gallon gas cans. This ensures I can get to safety even if I’ve forgotten to keep the car tank full. And if I’ve remembered, I can throw the cans in the car for an extra 300+ miles of range.

Similarly, once the electricity goes out, the ATMs stop working. Having $500-$3,000 of emergency cash on hand to take with you makes a huge difference.

First, you don’t need to attempt to hit the ATM on your way out of town, losing valuable time. Those long gas lines? You’ll have the same experience at the ATM (provided it’s still working).

Second, you never know where you’ll end up. Your escape route can easily change based on the on-the-ground realities. You may end up in an entirely different place than your intended fallback destination due to road closures, etc. Having cash on hand gives you plenty of opportunities you may not have otherwise for obtaining food, lodging, medication and other essentials.

As I type this, due to PG&E’s mandatory blackouts, there are still millions without power in the areas surrounding Sonoma County. This is a stark reminder that you may end up fleeing to a place that is similarly compromised, where credit cards may not work. Cash goes a long way in those situations.

Your Smart Phone

As strongly as I advise you be prepared for situations in which your phone doesn't work (dead battery, downed communications grid), if mobile service is available to you, a smart phone is practically invaluable.

In addition to the basic calling function, which by itself is extremely useful for updating and coordinating with others, today’s apps and services have turned our phones into a Swiss army knife-style smorgasbord of utility.

GPS/Maps are incredibly valuable for navigation and directions, and increasingly suggest alternate routes when your intended path is compromised by accidents or traffic. Weather apps with forecasts tell you what to prepare for. Heck, most phones can now operate as pretty effective flashlights.

But beyond those standard apps, there are a number of others I’ve found particularly useful in persevering through these latest fires.

Nixle sends you text and email updates from your local public safety departments. It’s invaluable during an emergency; letting you know when and where power shut-offs will occur, which roads are being closed, what actions are being taken by the authorities. It has been the primary source of information for everyone in my community during this crisis. When I got the notice that evacuation in my area was mandatory and I had to leave? That came from Nixle.

Nextdoor is a local group messaging provider connecting neighbor-to-neighbor. It’s an easy way to communicate with folks in your immediate neighborhood to keep each other updated, or ask for assistance. During the past few days, neighbors have used Nextdoor to report where the fire was spreading, identify who in the area needed assistance with evacuating (e.g., the elderly and infirm), and ask for help with transporting heavy livestock to safety.

Social media & texting have proved to be an effective way to broadcast your status to those worried about you. Many of you have tracked my posts to Facebook throughout this fire situation. I’ve really valued how this one-to-many form of communication saves me lots of time that would otherwise be spent on the phone updating folks one at a time. By being able to blast my status out to my entire community within minutes, I have had a lot more time and mindspace to devote to the primary task of keeping my family safe.

Radio streaming apps like TuneIn have been surprisingly valuable. Our local radio stations banded together to create a war room that reported on the crisis, and all channels broadcast the same feed. This was incredibly appreciated and was the best resource for staying informed of where the fires were, what the authorities expected, and what they planned to do next. But as we were mobile, in many areas, my actual radio encountered trouble finding and/or holding the signal. Using TuneIn, I was able to stream the broadcast through my phone at a much more dependable and higher-quality fidelity than my actual radio.

During a crisis, authorities will often post interactive maps to show where the danger is, where it’s mostly likely to progress next, and which towns could be affected. In my region, everyone has been glued to this fire incident map, and's wind forecast map for the area.

With much of the power still out, finding a working television to watch live news updates is challenging. But with today’s mobile internet, you can stream most TV station live feeds online.

All the above shows how your smart phone is truly a miracle resource – as long as the cell towers are still operational. Or as long as your phone has battery life.

Which is why having multiple ways to recharge your phone is highly advised. Probably more than any other responsibility, keeping an eye on our phones’ juice has occupied my family’s attention constantly since we fled our home.

There are great portable battery rechargers available for between $60-$200. Get one. Keep it charged up at all times and ready to grab & go. It will be worth its weight in gold should you be forced to hit the road.

We’ve been making good use of a battery-powered LED lantern that has USB ports for charging digital devices. It charges our phones pretty quickly, and will keep doing so as long as our supply of batteries lasts. I recommend getting one (or several) of these.

Video Record Of Your Possessions

If time allows, before you leave your home for safety, take a few minutes to walk through your house while using your phone to make a video recording of each room and its possessions. This will prove extremely useful should you file an insurance claim for any damage incurred during a disaster.

I did this once evacuation became a possibility. It only took about 5 minutes, walking around the house and providing some high-level narration to the video for clarity.

You do this because, if your house burns down/is leveled by a tornado/floods out/etc, your possessions and any related receipts will be destroyed. If you then file a renters/homeowners claim, it will be your word vs the insurance adjuster’s when it comes to determining how much you should be reimbursed for.

But if you have a video record, your case becomes significantly stronger:

What matters is that you have a list, pictures, and/or video of everything in your home. That’s not as daunting of a task as it sounds. Walk around your home or apartment and slowly take video or photos of each room, making sure to get each wall. It’s a good idea to open cabinets and drawers, as well to capture the contents – that’s all the stuff that you’d forget if you were making a list after a loss!

Adjusters love video because it’s easy for them to pause and dig in on a particular area to make sure they’re giving you full value for the items, but pictures also work. In either case, make sure you upload them to the cloud somewhere. If your phone suffers a loss and the video is on your phone, you’re in trouble!


Note the wisdom of uploading the video to the cloud in case your phone gets damaged. If pressed for time, just text it to a family member or friend, who can keep it as a backup copy.

How To Help

As I ended yesterday's post, I want to again express my thanks for the many of you who have sent well-wishes and offers of assistance. Literally hundreds of friends, acquaintances and near-strangers have contacted me via email, text, social media and over the past 4 days. I’ve received offers to put up my family from folks throughout California and now 5 other states. It has been a tremendous honor to be on the receiving end of such kindness.

So many of you who have asked “What can I do to help?”. Personally, I’m safe and being well-cared for where we’re currently staying.

But I’ll be honest: the gesture that would benefit me (and my business partner Chris Martenson) the most at this point would be for anyone with the means and interest to purchase a premium subscription to

The thrash that these fires are inserting into my bandwith is impacting at an important time, when Chris and I are taking big strategic steps to substantially expand this website’s audience and offerings.

So if you want to help us with that mission, while enjoying valuable insight in return, please subscribe. Even just for a single month.

With great gratitude,

~ Adam Taggart

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Hi Adam,
Thanks for another helpful post. I would add a few more apps to your list:
First aid app - there are many to choose from
Scanner Radio Pro - this streams police and fire scanners based on your location. You can choose which available feed to listen to.
Knot tying app - again there are many to choose from

During the California outages, we’ve found it really helpful to have a single 12vdc marine deep cycle battery tied to a single 100W solar panel. That’s enough to power either a few 12V light bulbs or a small inverter to power a few regular house current bulbs. You’ll want LED bulbs. A few hours of good sunlight per day will give you a few bulbs at night, and lightbulbs are a lot safer than candles. Of course the more solar the better, but even if you haven’t installed a solar system, it can pay to buy a single panel and battery. The panel need not go on your roof.
We also purchased a camp stove and 1 lb canister of propane, for morale boosting hot liquids.

I found that the ROUND 5 gal gas cans can’t be lined up in the back of a car, but the RECTANGULAR ones can. They extend the range of the vehicle.
With 5 of these cans in the back of his Prius and a full tank at the outset, my dad could drive halfway across the country to my house even if the grid was down.

Mark, thanks for highlighting this distinction.
I agree. My cans are rectangular :slight_smile:

I am wondering about people who had only electric cars during a time of mandatory evacuation AND a power outage?

Also, keep at least a tank’s-worth of gasoline stored on your property. In my case, I have four 5-gallon gas cans. This ensures I can get to safety even if I’ve forgotten to keep the car tank full. And if I’ve remembered, I can throw the cans in the car for an extra 300+ miles of range. Similarly, once the electricity goes out, the ATMs stop working. Having $500-$3,000 of emergency cash on hand to take with you makes a huge difference.
I mean, once the power's out...then what? A supercharging station turns into lifeless copper cable instantly. At least a gas station can have a back-up generator and pump out however many thousands of gallons it has on hand in an emergency. This seems like it was a particularly cruel combination for at least a few unlucky CA residents.

… there is always the “reliable” Tesla Power Wall"… i also have Solar generators and Eccoblue Water cooler (makes 6-9 gallons a day of purified water from atmosphere … good in the humid South)… strange daze ahead …invest in Relationships/Community (Bodhi-Chitta) – Greatest Re-Turn … To Source

When the Volt’s battery pack runs out of juice (50-66 miles) the gasoline generator kicks in to constantly charge the batteries so the electric motors can still drive the wheels (as long as you can keep getting gas). I’ve been getting a minimum of 30-33 mpg while the gas generator is charging the batteries and it’s got a 10 gallon gas tank. So, unlike other EV’s, I don’t have any “range anxiety” and a power outage wouldn’t immobilize me. I’ve got 5 gallon gas cans for the Volt and my Colorado truck (and a 5x8’ utility trailer to haul all our “essential” supplies and belongings). Unfortunately Chevy has discontinued the Volt (I bought my 2017 used back in June). Rumor is Chevy is planning an SUV to replace the small Volt sedan.

If the cell phone towers burn or go off the air, many smart phone apps will be useless. I suggest an essential bug-out item should be enough detailed topographic maps to get you where you want to go. I recommend topo maps of about 1:24,000 such as which give sufficient detail to identify even the smallest roads and tracks which might be used to circumnavigate gridlocked roads. Most highway maps do not have this level of detail and often completely omit smaller roads altogether.
Don’t forget that reading these detailed maps is something of an art which should be practiced beforehand.

We have a Nissan Leaf. It’s mostly our drive to work every day car. If we had to evacuate, it would just sit here. Sure, the range sucks is not great, but the car is paid off and it costs us less then a 2$ a day to get to work and back.
We also have one of the scandalous VW diesel cars that we kept instead of taking the trade in. The diesel engines are great for long distance trips because they get over 40 miles to a gallon. We only keep 10 gallons of extra diesel in the garage, but that’s enough to extend our total range over a 1000 miles.
If we had to leave, the Leaf would just end up sitting in the driveway :frowning:
On a side note, I can connect an inverter up the Leaf when the power goes out. That is about 24 kilowatt hours that I can use to say, run the refrigerator.
I just bought one of these on Amazon. “Kyng Power Solar Generator Portable Power Station 540Wh 1000w Peak Lithium Battery Back Up Power Supply Emergency, CPAP, Outdoors, Camping, Silent Generator Rechargeable Inverter, 4 USB, AC Outlet”. It’s not here yet, but soon I will know if I can recommend one or not.

According to BP:

Petrol (gasoline) in sealed containers The storage life of petrol is one year when stored under shelter in a sealed container. Once a seal is broken the fuel has a storage life of six months at 20°C or three months at 30°C. Petrol in equipment tanks The storage life of petrol in equipment fuel tanks is one month. Source
Diesel Under normal storage conditions diesel fuel can be expected to stay in a useable condition for:
  • 12 months or longer at an ambient of 20°C.
  • 6-12 months at an ambient temperature higher than 30°C.
This data may be country-specific, although a quick DuckDuckGo search suggests that it's not. Lesson: rotate your fuel stockpile.

I wonder if the shelf life of gasoline is like the shelf life of canned goods. I use fuel stabilizer when storing gasoline but I’ve used 2 year old gasoline in an old lawnmower and it ran fine. I’ve eaten canned foods many years beyond their shelf life and they’re fine too. I wouldn’t run old gas in an expensive, high compression or forced induction engine with direct injection such as in a high performance vehicle but for an old motor on something like an old gardening or farm implement, I don’t have a problem.
Regardless, I do agree one should rotate their fuel supplies annually which I am in the process of doing right now. I always pay extra for the ethanol-free fuel for storage purposes since it lasts longer and the fuel systems of the equipment you run it in lasts longer as well. I also fill up with winter grade gas given that our area has cold weather longer than it has hot weather. I use military style gas cans, fill them up to the top so there is the least air possible (with just slight room for expansion), put in PRI-G stabilizer, store them in a cool area, and check the gas for any contamination before I use it. I have been doing this for nearly a decade and haven’t had any problem.
I always kept enough gas on hand so when my kids were 400 miles away in college, we could load gas cans in the vehicle, drive down there, pick them up, and drive them back home without having to stop for gas. Living through the East Coast gas shortages in the early 70s taught me that I never want to be caught without gas again. Sitting in 3 hour long lines starting at 3 AM to get gas at 6 AM in sub-freezing winter temperatures when you don’t have enough gas to idle your car for heat and seeing fights break out in gas stations, including brandishing of weapons, left an indelible impression.

Thought I’d share here. I have put together several backpacks. This is my best one. It’s my take everywhere backpack. Except work, I have a different backpack for work. And my camping backpack is separate. If we had to run in a hurry, we would grab our camping backpacks (which are usually ready to go) and my take everywhere pack.
Here is an external shot:

Here is the pack opened up: (Ack, that picture is upside down)

And here what’s all inside:

The full list of contents: (right to left)

  • Some misc maps
  • Velcro patches (Empire or Rebel Alliance, use )
  • Faraday bag (water tight bag for my phone)
  • CR123 batteries (I have other gadgets that use CR123s not shown here)
  • Paracord line
  • 2 lighters
  • Leatherman tool
  • Fire starter stick
  • Knife sharper
  • Dial thermometer, plus one other thermometer on the pack zipper
  • Notepad sealed in water tight bag with pen in the bag
  • Sharpie marker
  • Water bottle with titanium cup
  • Titanium spade
  • Solar panel
  • Batteries: 2x CR123, 3x AA, 1x 18650
  • 18650 charger/discharger (I can charge my cell phone)
  • Battery nank: 4x 18650
  • Universal usb converter,
  • USB C cable for my phone
  • Yugled flashlight (includes red light, red flashing, magnetic base)
  • 700 lumen flashlight, uses 18650
  • Mil-spec rain poncho (it’s heavy but work every oz)
  • Extra ziplock bags
  • Sawyer water purification with bag
  • Ibuprofen
  • Nail clipper
  • Titanium knife, fork, spoon, and chopsticks
  • Water purification tablets
  • Water purification drops
  • Range finder (probably not needed here, gives 4x magnification)
  • One pair of micro fleece leggings and a top
  • One micro fleece hat
  • Red first aid kit
  • D-ring clips
  • Sowing kit
  • Tooth brush, paste, and floss
  • Hand radios
  • Sun glasses
  • Emergency foil blanket
  • Microfiber towel (aka inter dimensional towel)
  • Pair of gloves
    Here is a shot of the first aid kit:

    And the first aid kit:
  • Triple antibiotic
  • Safely pins
  • Whistle
  • Tweezers
  • Scissers (these ones are junk, I need to replace)
  • Snake bit kit
  • Quick clotting gauze
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Mirror
  • Tape
  • Nail clipper
  • Rubber glove
  • Gauze roll
  • Ibuprofen and other options
  • Mole skin (for hiking blisters)
  • Steri-strips
  • Lots of band aids (because kids like eat them or something)
    Hopefully there are some helpful ideas here.

Travis: nice looking bag, lotta tools, but you’re gonna get hungry packing those bags around. I didn’t see fishing line/hooks, nor snare wire. Whatcha gonna eat? Aloha, Steve.

Depends on where I’m going. If I’m going hiking, I will carry this book.

Some fishing line, a hock, and a snare are not bad ideas (small and don’t take up much space).
We do have a good amount of grab and go camping food.
Putting together a good backpack is a balancing act over weight, size, and value.
Water is kinda heavy. You die without water. Kinda need some of that.
Cell phone and extra batteries. Kinda heavy. Mostly just a camera when out in the wilds. Useless after the batteries are dead in several days. Being able to charge later and reach people, very important.

The figures provided by BP are very conservative indeed. My experience is that high-test gasoline preserved with Sta-Bil, stored in plastic jerry cans inside a garage will last three years. I rotate it by pouring it into the tank of my BMW (5 gallons added to ten fresh already in the tank) and notice no change in performance.
Similarly, diesel and home heating oil, when treated with an algaecide, will last for at least four years. I have some which is still perfectly fine after five years.
On the other hand, I can attest to the fact that untreated diesel can turn into a horrible black sludge which will choke filters and injectors and require the tank and the entire fuel system to be stripped and cleaned.


I never see mention of passports and big limit credit cards. The scenario for us is getting to our vacation rental or if it goes Venezuela like, getting out.
We had a BMW i3 which like the Volt has a generator and can go for as long as you can keep the tank full. A brilliant design and pretty good execution given the limits of bureaucracy that were inflicted upon it.

It surely is totally secondary to the essential bug-out resources discussed here, but maybe related to what dryam has linked: if you have stored some precious metals at your home, as recommended for wealth preservation, how do you handle them in a bug-out scenario?
Leave them behind in a secret fire proof place to eventually recover them when returning, or include them in your bug-out resources?
Thanks to all for sharing all this useful info and best wishes to Adam and everyone acutely affected by the wildfires!

Maps & map books books are awesome - when you can read em! For those who need reading glasses be sure to add a few pairs of cheap reading glasses. They are invaluable back ups to prescription glasses and cheap enough you can add a pair to bug out bags, glove compartments, purses etc.