Taking Your Bug-Out Bag with You When Travelling

By Dan Sullivan

Frequent travelling is a bit of a problem for us preppers because we always have to figure out what we can and cannot take with us to stay protected. If we were to take our bug out bags as they are through airport security, we’d have a lot of explaining to do as to why we have knives, multi-tools, can openers and other survival items in them. Travelling by car is a lot easier but you also have to be aware of things like concealed carry state laws, as well as Mexican and Canadian laws if you’re crossing the border.

Figuring out what to take with you when travelling isn’t trivial. The factors you need to keep in mind are:

  • distance
  • duration (how long you’re staying) 
  • location (where you’re travelling to)
  • the season/ time of year
  • what the weather will be like
  • who you’re travelling with
  • and, of course, your means of transportation

Since you’re probably going to take either the car or the plane, let’s talk about each of them in detail.

Travelling By Car

If you’re travelling by car, you’re really lucky. You can put anything you want in the trunk and there’s no security to worry about (unless you’re crossing an international border).

Obviously you can’t pass security check with a loaded gun sticking out the window but no one is ever going to stop you from having a multi-tool or a folding knife. On the other hand, since Canada doesn’t have an equivalent to the 2nd Amendment, bringing firearms in is illegal.

Even if you don’t cross the border, you still have to know the laws of each state on what you can and cannot do when it comes to firearms. Some states allow you to carry concealed, others do not but this is a little beyond the scope of this article.

The sweet thing about the car is that you can pack as much stuff as you want. In fact, if you already have a car bug out bag, you already have most of the stuff you need. You can just add your regular bug out bag and you’re good to go.

Travelling By Plane

This is where things get complicated since airport security is so tight. Some items will get you in trouble just by showing up with them at the airport, others are ok as long as you keep them inside your checked luggage while others are ok as long as you keep them in your carry-on.

OK, here’s how we’re gonna do this… I’m gonna make four lists. The first will have items you can carry with you without any restrictions, the second one will have items that may be checked, the third one contains items that may safely be kept in your carry-on while the fourth one contains a few of the items you should never-ever bring with you to the airport.

Survival items with no airport restrictions (you can have them on you, in your carry-on or in your checked bags):

  • a plastic water bottle
  • a water filter such as the LifeStraw
  • food snacks
  • cash
  • plastic eating utensils
  • poncho, tent, tarp, sleeping bag etc.
  • spare clothes (socks, pants, thermal underwear, t-shirt, work gloves, extra jacket)
  • bandana
  • reading glasses
  • water purification tablets
  • hand-crank flashlights
  • zipper bags (for water storage and purification)
  • paper, pen, pencil, pencil sharpener
  • compass
  • Paracord 
  • cotton balls
  • hiking boots (keep them in your checked bags)
  • N95 respirators
  • Fresnel lens
  • aluminum foil
  • life jacket or an inflatable ball (to hold on to in case your plane crashes into the ocean – just sayin’)
  • toilet paper
  • sun screen
  • hand sanitizer
  • medical supplies (pain killers, thermometer etc. or a small first-aid kit)

Survival items you can only carry in your checked luggage:

  • firearms (they must be unloaded)
  • ammo (it should be in the same container as your firearm)
  • utility knives
  • razor blades
  • meat cleaver (not exactly a common survival weapon but you never know)
  • scissors
  • pellet guns
  • crow bars
  • saws
  • hammers
  • stun guns
  • box cutters and any other small items that have a blade
  • pepper spray (good news for the ladies)
  • shuriken (throwing stars)
  • weapons that have a blade

So, yes, you can have your machete with you in your checked luggage but you also have to make sure you let the airline know about them. One other thing to keep in mind is that this list doesn’t apply to international flights so, to make absolutely sure there are no issues, do call them in advance and let them know what you’ll be bringing.

Items you may have in your carry-on:

  • common lighters
  • ceramic rod fire starter
  • portable radio
  • copies of all your important papers
  • spare batteries and chargers for your phone and radio
  • empty metal water bottle (keep it handy in case they want to see it)

Items you cannot have with you on an airplane:

  • gun powder
  • flares
  • strike anywhere matches (use a 9V battery and steel wool to start a fire)
  • flammable liquid
  • bleach (use water filter or water purification tablets to make water potable instead)

By the way, you can find a full list of bob items here that you may want to consider as part of your regular bug-out bag. Note: although the title says “essentials”, this doesn’t mean you have to have all of them. The list is comprehensive so you can make your own pick of what to get.

Note: keep in mind the fact that TSA procedures and regulations only keep count of federal laws, not state laws. So if the state you’re travelling to allows you to carry concealed, this doesn’t mean you can just sneak a gun inside your baggage.

Note #2: sometimes, airport security will flag you for carrying a folding knife or a multi-tool while other times they will leave you alone. It’s a gamble but that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you think it’s right.

Other Items You Should Have With You When Travelling Abroad

In addition to the list above, consider the following when travelling to a foreign country:

  • local currency
  • local maps
  • dictionary
  • a pay as you go phone for that country

Besides these physical items, there are a few other things that, in my opinion, are more important the most of the stuff outline above. I’m talking first and foremost of situational awareness and your ability to orient yourself no matter where you’re travelling. This is going to not only help you stay out of trouble but to procure the necessary items you may not have on you.

So, if you’re travelling to Hong Kong and you don’t have any knives or other weapons on you, your keen spirit of observation could make mental notes of all the hardware stores you pass by so you can return to them should you need a survival knife or anything else.

Last But Not Least…

1. If you’re travelling frequently and you’re always staying in the same place, consider having a small survival bag stashed away there. This won’t work if you’re always staying in hotels but if you have your own apartment, you might as well keep a bag somewhere in the closet. This is a huge advantage because you’ll decrease your chances of being stopped by airport security every time.

2. Make sure your carry-on bag is waterproof, just in case you’re in a plane crash and it ends up in the water.

3. You can print out the list of prohibited items the TSA published on their website here and have that with you so you can show it to them in case they give you a hard time.

Stay safe,

Dan F. Sullivan

Photo appeared on Flickr under Creative Commons

Natural Blaze thanks Dan Sullivan, founder of Survival Sullivan, where you can find other highly informative articles on prepping and survival. Like on Facebook

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