This article from Diane Vukovic at The Organic Prepper is adapted from a chapter in her book Disaster Preparedness for Women. This is an excerpt from Bugging Out with Babies and Toddlers.
Building a Go Bag for just yourself is challenging enough. When you have to calculate family members into the plan – especially babies or toddlers – things can get really complicated.
There’s no one perfect solution. You have to think about what makes sense for your family and what disasters you are preparing for. Here are some insights and things to think about when making Bug Out Bags for babies and small children.
Planning a BOB Bag for Babies or Toddlers
If you have small children, it’s even more important you make a solid evacuation plan which includes a safe bug out location. You need to be prepared to leave quickly and early so you can avoid crowds and worsening weather and travel conditions. Hopefully you have your own vehicle so you can keep it packed and get on the road quickly.
But even the best-laid plans can go to hell.
Always keep Bug Out Bags ready to go. Pack them with the idea you might have to ditch your vehicle and walk, potentially through rain, deep water, at night, or in other really terrible conditions.
Bug Out Gear for Babies and Toddlers
Ideally, a Bug Out Bag should weigh no more than 20% of your body weight. Otherwise the bag will be too heavy to carry, especially if you have to go over tough terrain or run. However, there’s really not a good way to travel light with a baby in tow. They need supplies like diapers, wipes, creams, bottles, and formula.
I personally found it easier to travel with infants than toddlers. Infants might cry a lot and use up more diapers, but they are content to cuddle in a front carrier. By contrast, my toddler wants to constantly run around. I worry about losing her in crowds as well as keeping her clean when she decides to run through a giant puddle.
If you aren’t sure what items you really need for evacuating with your small kids, I recommend going on a family camping trip. Even better, go on a backpacking trip. You’ll get a crash course in what it’s like to get by with minimal supplies as well as what’s essential versus what’s nice to have.
Below are some of the key Bug Out gear you need for babies and small children. At the end of the article, you can find a complete list of baby BOB items.
Strollers and Carriers
My younger daughter is currently 18 months old. She’s already over 20lbs. Combined with the weight of my Bug Out Bag, it’s a lot to carry! Luckily I’ve got a pretty tough stroller I could use to push her as well as haul her supplies. But strollers aren’t exactly the ideal solution for evacuating.
In 2015, I witnessed firsthand the Syrian refugee plight in Europe. I remember seeing Syrian refugees with children trying to roll strollers through thick mud and over rough terrain. Many ended up abandoning the strollers and carrying their kids instead. Others were forced to abandon the strollers when entering cramped boats or buses.
I’d recommend getting a good baby carrier for your child to have as a backup to a stroller. Most carriers are backpack style, which means you’d have to wear your Go Bag on your front. Or you could get a front carrier for your child and wear the Bug Out Bag on your back. Neither option is ideal because you easily get off-balanced and can topple over.
After carrying my heavy baby on many hikes, I’ve learned that trekking poles are a Godsend. They allow me to stay balanced even when carrying a heavy weight and help redistribute the weight so there isn’t as much strain on my back.
Even with a good stroller, be realistic about what shape you are in. Can you actually carry your child and a Bug Out Bag for a long distance? This illustrates how important it is to have a solid evacuation plan and leave as soon as you can and hopefully won’t end up carrying your child.
For clothing, choose items that can be worn in layers to regulate temperature better. It also makes it easier to keep kids clean.
Backpacking with my children taught me that rain suits are a parent’s best friend. You can let your kids crawl or run freely without having to worry about them getting wet and covered in mud. When you only have three changes of clothes packed for your kids, you definitely don’t want them to get wet or dirty!
Even if you exclusively breastfeed your child, you’ll still want to stockpile infant formula. There are scenarios where you could end up injured or separated from your baby and unable to breastfeed. While it isn’t common, there are also situations where a mother’s milk “dries up,” such as from stress, illness, poor diet, and certain medications.
The main issue with formula is that you need to sterilize the bottles and nipples. You’ll also need to make sure your hands are clean beforehand. This is especially important in disaster situations where contaminants are all around.
You could pack a stove, pot, and extra water for sterilizing bottles. However, it takes a lot of time and water to get the bottles and nipples clean. An alternative option is to pack “bottle sterilizing tablets.” To use the tablets, you put the clean bottles and nipples in clean water then add a tablet and let everything soak. Yes, this method still requires extra water, but not nearly as much as with traditional sterilization methods.
You can also avoid sterilizing completely by using pre-sterilized bottles or bottle liners. While these are more expensive, it is probably worth getting at least three days’ worth for your Bug Out Bag.
You’ll want to pack at least three days’ worth of diapers in your Bug Out Bag. You can save space by vacuum sealing diapers.
You might end up needing a lot more diapers than this though. As a backup, you could pack several cloth diapers and covers. It’s really impractical to try to clean cloth diapers while bugging out, but it’s better to have them than risk running out of diapers.
Consider packing diapers or Pull-Ups for potty-trained children too. The last thing you or your child wants to worry about during a disaster is potty accidents.
Baby/Toddler Bug Out Bag Gear Checklist
These items are in addition to the other BOB gear you need, such as food, shelter, a knife, and survival tools.
- • Baby formula or food
• Pre-sterilized bottles and nipples, disposable bottle inserts, and/or bottle sterilizing tablets
• Baby medications
• Diaper changing kit
• Disposable diapers
• Several cloth diapers and covers
• 2-3 changes of clothing for layering
• Extra underwear for potty-trained children
• Rain suit
• Plastic bags for soiled clothes
• Sleeping bag or sack
• Toys/comfort items
• Pacifiers with clips
• Child harness and leash (for walking children; useful so you don’t lose your child in crowds)
• Carrier and trekking poles
• Child-sized N95 respirator or hood (talk to your pediatrician about this)