What goes in a doomsday backpack

I’m not really sure when the scare of the end of the world as we know it began but I suspect it has always been. When I was a kid in the seventies, we had the scare that the Russians were coming and that we were going to have this thing called “global thermal nuclear war”.

The coolest survival thing you could spring for back then was a bomb shelter which would be installed in the ground in your backyard. It had things like food and water and some forms of energy. You could lock yourself in it just in case a nuclear bomb was going to go off close enough by and you would be safe for a while. Well, as we all know, that never happened, and most of those shelters later became play areas for kids. There were a few cool ones that I played in as a kid. It always felt eerie though whenever I played in one knowing why it was built.

Today’s fears of the end of the world are more complex as there are more options and opinions on how the world will actually end. How you think the world will end greatly affects how you prepare for it and what you decide to put in your doomsday backpack. So let’s go over some of the more popular world ending theories.


God will cause extreme weather patterns

This is maybe the oldest theory on how the world would end. It nicely ties in with most religions, so if you are a believer, this one is for you.

There are no real details on how God would use weather to kill us off, so it would be tough to prepare for this one. More than likely though, there will be a lot of wind and rain blowing things away and drowning us. I’d imagine if God lets you live through this, you’ll need to stay dry and be able to get to higher ground. Also, this type of “apocalypse” could take some time, so those who believe that this is how the world would end should prepare their packs for a long process of social devastation.

Nuclear warfare

This is a somewhat straightforward way of ending the world as we know it. A couple of or all of the nations that have nuclear weapons will use them on each other, resulting in sudden death for millions close enough to the bomb targets, and long-term death for those farther away due to radiation fallout.

Sara Connor from “Terminator” said it best. “Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day. Get it?” If you think this is how we’ll all go and you are too close to a bomb landing, what your backpack will need is some of Sara Connor’s sunblock. Otherwise, It’s a “So long and thanks for all the fish” quote for you.

If out of the instant kill zone though, you’ll have a chance. Clean air and drinkable water will most likely be your main concern so your pack should be used for a good mask, lots of water, and some really good hydrocortisone ointment.

The last battle of good versus evil

The details of this world ending event vary and can be found in certain religious scriptures. In the most basic terms though, good and evil will get nasty and try to eliminate each other. Speculation on what will actually happen is sketchy because (they say) good and evil exist in all things. No one knows then the who, what, when, or even why certain events will happen in this greatest of all war.

Some say they have the details and if you believe them, ask them and then stuff your doomsday backpack accordingly. For me though, it’s hard to say what will help to survive this kind of Armageddon. When considering the last battle of good versus evil, there are just too many variables.

Global permanent electricity outage

As an American, this one makes the most sense to me. Societies everywhere have become incredibly dependent on electricity, and the dependence is growing every day, everywhere. Electricity shutting permanently off globally from some programming bug is a real threat and will end this madness with a quickness.

The world ending in this way will create millions of instant refugees as most residences will become worthless to one’s survival in that there will be no water or food available. Competition for food and water will be intense at first so your backpack will probably need to accommodate protection from other people along with water and food.

Civil insurrection or world war

The possibility of an uprising against the government or an invasion from another country exists today and has existed since the creation of a governing body over people. This “blood on the streets” type of end of the world scenario is a nasty one, and your doomsday backpack will need a variety of things.

Artificial Intelligence (AIs) will take over

This way the world will end is growing in popularity. That’s understandable since computers are taking control of some important things. As a fan of the Terminator movies, I personally consider this as a strong possibility at some point in the future.

It’s hard to think what will be needed in a backpack for this type of doomsday. This one is different in that your fellow man will be more needed for survival than avoided.

Aliens will come and take over the earth

To some, this is just a science fiction fantasy. To others though, it’s a real threat. Aliens are from somewhere else, and since they were able to make it here, chances are they know some shit that we don’t. How could you possibly prepare for something so unknown though? To me, this end of life as we know it type is a lot like the AI take over one. Survival may need the trust of other humans and some good knowledge of how to live like an animal of the planet. I’m not sure what the doomsday backpack should have beyond food, water, and things to help get more food and water.


OK, so this is how you’ll see the end of days. Question is: How will you survive it? And what will you put in that all important “doomsday” or “bugout” backpack? Here are some basics to help in your decision.


Go backpacking

This sounds so obvious, but most guys I know who have a doomsday backpack have never gone backpacking. Having a D-day pack and having not ever hiked with one is a lot like buying a gun for protection that you have never shot. It’s a recipe for failure.

Backpacking will teach you important things. How heavy can your pack be? You may think you’re in great shape, but a too heavy pack can wear you out, destroy your back, and ruin your feet inside a couple of hours. You may have the coolest, most thought out survival pack ever conceived but in an hour, you’ll be leaving it behind somewhere.

Proper footwear is paramount when hiking with a backpack. (You didn’t think you were going to leave out in your Nikes or Red Wings, did you?) Fail! The wrong footwear, however expensive or outdoorsy, will shut you the fuck down when hiking with weight on your back. If you don’t figure the correct footwear out, the only difference between you and the guy who stayed in his house on doomsday is that you died with blisters on your feet.

Backpacking will also teach you how much weight you can carry. You may be a big strong guy, but make your pack too heavy, and you’ll be deciding which important components have to get left behind a few miles in. Not good.

Try different backpacks

Everybody is different so don’t just take the advice of some guy with too tight of a t-shirt on or a Bear Grylls want-a-be. Experiment for yourself. There are some different options.

Learn how to use what’s in your pack beforehand

The day of reckoning may not be a good time to be unwrapping that fancy water purifier you decided to bring in your pack and reading the instructions. Be familiar with everything in your bug-out bag.

Have a plan. Know where you’re going

Your doomsday plans may change depending on what triggers the event, but you should have an initial plan. Where to go, who to communicate with, and how to meet the ones you want to survive with are just examples of knowing what to do.


Now that you’ve determined how the world will end, which pack you’re going to use, and how much it’s going to weigh, you can now choose what goes in it. Here’s a list of potential items:

1. Water – Probably the most essential item you can have. Water is heavy though so the more you carry, the less cool shit you can bring.

2. Food – Super important item but be sensible. MREs (meals ready to eat) are great for this but if you’re not that preppy, then have some high calorie, lightweight, and non-perishable foods.

3. Clothing – What you wear for your doomsday trip will be your primary attire. They won’t go in your pack because you’ll be wearing them (Duh) but you’ll want some secondary clothing items as well.

Two pairs of wool socks and two extra wool underwear is a really good idea. An extra pair of lightweight tactical or cargo type pants and two extra shirts are good. You’ll definitely want a jacket. How heavy depends on your climate but it being at least water resistant and wind breaking is recommended. A wool beanie and gloves won’t take up much room or weight.

4. Fixed blade knife or machete – Almost a must-have survival tool.

5. First aid kit – Shit happens when you are fleeing for your life so, depending on how outdoorsy you are, be minimal but choose what to bring wisely. Include some painkillers (Advil or aspirin) and any medication or glasses you need.

6. Gun and ammo – I do yoga. So I have a lot of friends who won’t kill a spider. That type of guy isn’t going to bring a gun on doomsday, and I wish them the best of luck. I, however, think having a gun is crucial to doomsday survival, so it’s worth the heavy weight. You’ll be wearing the gun but will need to store some ammo in your pack. Don’t bring much though. Ammo is freakin heavy.

7. Map of your state or area – My guess is Google maps won’t be working so a good analog style map may be a great idea. Laminated is preferred.

8. Compass

9. Multi-tool – You’ll finally get to use that Swiss Army knife you’ve had for years.

10. Rope

11. Lighters

12. Toilet paper – Don’t underestimate the value of toilet paper.

13. Resealable plastic bags

14. Duct tape

15. Tarp

16. Poncho

17. Survival handbook – Might be a good idea to have some how-to material as long as it’s not too heavy.

18. Cash – It may not have any value, but you never know.

While no one knows exactly what you’ll need to make your survival journey on doomsday, it’s always better to be prepared for what at least you think might happen. Survival may come down to dumb luck but as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind”.

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