Bug-Out-Bag Papers and Documents


A ‘Bug Out Bag’ (or BOB) containing some food & water provisions and various supplies is purposed for an evacuation of sorts… a time when you need to get out or ‘bug out’, for whatever reason or circumstance.

One consideration is to include important papers and documents (or copies thereof) in your BOB, just in case you might need them.

For example, lets say that there is a high confidence forecast of a hurricane impact in your area and you have decided to leave. As you are putting ‘stuff’ in your vehicle, you realize that your home might be damaged to the point of losing it, and the things inside. Are there important documents that you should take with you?

If your home has been wiped out by disaster you could lose whatever was in it, including important papers and documents such as those which prove or verify personal information of your identity, credentials, holdings, insurances, and other important records.

A question is, “What ‘important papers and documents’ might be important to take with you?”

The circumstances of the ‘bug out’ will affect the choices that you may make, such as whether or not your house may still be standing when you return, or the likelihood or timing of when you might be able to return, the probable or expected damage, etc..).

Today much of our so called ‘important papers and documents’ are held in electronic form. ‘What if’ their electronic storage is somehow damaged or unavailable? What if the means or method of reacquiring that electronic data becomes unavailable to you?

Today we rely heavily upon digital information and very little upon ‘hard copy’ information. Should we keep ‘hard copy’ backups of certain documents and information? And should we take any of that with us during a bug-out situation?

Tip: If you do, then it’s a good idea to keep them in a waterproof containment of sorts.
Waterproof Pouch with Waist Strap

The following list of documents may be useful while separated from your home during and after a disaster. In most cases, a photo copy of the original document may be all that you need. Other items you will already be carrying in your wallet.


Hard Copy Of Important Papers And Documents

The following is a ‘brainstorm’ list of ideas, not all of which may be practical…

Contact List (family, friends, doctors, banks, employers, insurances)

Birth Certificate

Drivers License


Try to have two forms of photo ID (drivers license + other?)

Social Security Card

Health Insurance Cards and/or Medicare, Medicaid

Recent Bank Statement for each account (Checking, Savings, Stocks and Bonds, etc.)

List of Credit Card Accounts (card numbers, expiration, and 3-digit code)

Prescriptions for Medications, Eyeglasses

Record of Insurance Policies

Property, Real Estate Deeds

Proof of Employment (paystub)

Living Will

Marriage License

Local and State Maps

Pocket Constitution

License To Carry Permit or relevant CCW

Comment below and add your thoughts…


  1. Ken, thanks. Great list.

    A couple of years ago my wife and I created a three ring binder of important docs. Each doc is in a clear, sealed, plastic sleeve in the binder. The binder has a cover sleeve with an inventory list so we can remember the contents.

    We also have two flash drives and a CD with the same documents, family photos, tax returns, inventory lists/images/info. One flash drive backs up the other, CD is the last resort for electronic docs. We also have a list of contractor contacts if anyone must fix something after an event, or if something happens while we are out and about.

    All of this is stored in a fire resistant safe. We figured if we have to go, open the safe grab the binder, flash drives, CD, passports and other items. A large waterproof storage bag is on top of the safe for chucking all the contents into and sort it out later. A couple of minutes max to grab the important stuff. Will be adding the paystub, had not thought of that. We have even defined, prepaid, what do with us when we “go” documents.

    Also, if something happens to us two family members know the combination and contents.

  2. Good article.

    Here are a few more things.

    Car registration & insurance
    Car titles
    Copies of Stocks, bonds, investment accounts

    Always, Always, have at least two documents that prove your current address (and your right to occupy your bug out address) in case the authorities block the roads and only let current residents in.

    Your home address may be on some of the other documents already mentioned by Ken, or in the form of mail addressed to you, checks on your checking account, voter registration card, library card, etc., but you must also make sure you have proof of your right to occupy your bug out location.

    Some examples: your title to the bug-out property or a property tax notice, fire insurance policy, or recent mail addressed to you showing the bug out location.

  3. Good Reminder.

    AS far as docs to take with, if you have to Bug-Out take a copy of a fairly current Electrical Bill and/or your Water Bill along with a copy of your deed to the property. I understand that to access some areas after a SHTF you will need to prove you actually live there and show proof of residence. This is to cut down on looters.

    All of the “original” items you listed and a few more, like Death Certificates, Pet records, Vehicle Titles, Health/Immunization Records, and the like are in an old 1890s safe that’s well over 1 ton and bolted to the concrete floor. Copies are in a nice handy dandy waterproof case locked in the Gun Safe all ready to bug out if needed.

    One very important doc you missed and a LOT of people don’t even know about that should be kept with ya all the time is the “Advanced Directive”.

    From Wikipedia, “An advance healthcare directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity”


    1. NRP, as usual a great point about an Advanced Directive.

      My wife and I both have one, takes the load off of our kids should it come to that. The point DaisyK and yourself made about multiple documents to show proof of residence; I had not considered that one, thanks. And that is why I follow this site.

  4. -if I had a vacu sealer, I would vacu seal each individually…
    -if it was some I.D, I might want to easily see both sides, without breaking vacu seal, make a cut out cardboard frame, and lay document inside..The frame should allow sealing without squishing document

    -saw suggestions somewhere (might even have been here sometime) thought was a good idea.

    -keep a large (10 by 12 inch, even) photo of each family member…in each bug out persons’ bag..

    -if separated and you need to query strangers if they have seen your loved one, a nice big photo will make life easier.

    1. @ Anon

      Good idea on the photos, one might add photos of their Pets also.


      1. And perhaps photos of the house you are leaving inside and out, in case it is destroyed by the hurricane.

        1. @ DaisyK

          Now that you mentioned it; I greatly suggest everyone get many, many photos or better yet a video, and a copy, of the inside of your house for record. Open every closet and drawer and video everything, even the inside of the medicine cabinet and each shelve in the kitchen/deep pantry. The reasoning, there is absolutely no way to remember what all you own if your home is destroyed hurricane, tornado, fire or any SHTF disasters.

          The company I work for does hundreds of insurance rebuilds a year; we see it almost everyday people have no idea what everything is or they had. I would bet that most forget a good 25-50% of what “stuff” is there and what they are due because the Insurance company does not payoff what you can’t show them or prove you have.

          The video will also show how your home is built and the furnishings helping the Contractor and Insurance companies to settle the amount owed to you. And honestly can anyone say for sure how many pair of socks you own or how much TP you have stored? I will guarantee you if you tell an insurance adjuster you had 500 rolls of TP, he will deny the claim if you can’t show him proof, such as a video or photo.

          Just remember the Insurance Companies are your friends as long as you don’t file a claim and keep making your payments. After you file a claim they WILL be your worst nightmare, seen it so many times.

          One last thing, never, NEVER take a settlement before you talk with a reputable contractor and get a cost on every single roll of TP you lost; they will try to push you into a fast settlement.

          Just a small Public Service Announcement from your local NRP.

          Keep smiling everyone.

  5. I have exception with carrying both birth certificate and SS number together. My nephew lost his wallet many years ago in which he had both. Well with that information it was literally one day before someone opened new credit cards in his name.

    The police officer who took the report told him that you should never carry both together. It’s better to memorize your SS number instead of carrying the card.

  6. Yes (NRP)

    Photos of Pets is a BIGGIE!

    I can see us more likely to be separated from pets, than people.

    Good point.

    1. On the subject of pets, please consider to keep a very watchful eye on them for any sudden changes in their behavior. Their senses will be able to alert us quicker than our own in the case of a possible natural disaster.

    2. More on the Pets.

      I seem to recall reading after some disaster, folks had a hard time claiming their pets, as they couldn’t prove they were owners…

      Suggested to:
      —-keep chip info form pet, if it has one
      —-photo of owner with pet, hopefully with some distinctive feature of pet…etc

    3. I have photos of my dogs, but no way I’d leave them behind. I won’t go to a shelter for this reason because most won’t take them. When I had an emergency due to the forest fire that was put out later, I packed my tent, dog food, tie outs and bowls for evac. for camping where I don’t have my freedoms taken away from me.

      1. Stardust

        true, no one would purposefully leave their much loved pet behind..(when I had a dog, I certainly would not have)

        However, it is quite possible you might get separated from your pet…………

        -he could get spooked and take off
        -you could be injured and rescuers not realise you have a pet

      2. Since Katrina I think they passed a law about that.
        Now shelters can not turn you away if you have a pet.

  7. I keep my thumb drives and SD cards in a TechProtect EM/Faraday bag. It looks like a heavy-duty foil zip-lock bag, available in various sizes and mil-spec rated.

  8. All the suggestions you have made are great, and you should have them in place for a quick escape from fire, EQ, hurricanes, tornadoes.

    As a person who has gone through a total loss due to a major fire, I would like to make the following suggestion.

    Keep a list of what needs to go when you leave the house.

    1)Have it prioritized by items
    2)Where they are stored
    3)What has to be shut off & where the tools are stored.
    4)If you are in a fire–turn on every light inside and outside the home for the fire fighting crews/tankers to find it.

    Take your complete fire insurance policy & amendments with you when you leave. There will be clauses that were added and rescinded in the policy. Go over your policies NOW before you put them in their ‘to go’ binder.

    Most homeowners policies have a clause that states they will cover guns, furs, money & jewelry up to $500.00 TOTAL not for each item. That is all combined value…please have those items appraised for their true value, that includes jewelry. Place those appraisals in your binder with the insurance coverage.

    Just a word of caution, some places will not take copies they request “originals”, as in the case of my stepson(born over seas). He wanted to renew his drivers license, and his mom sent us the documents that the DMV said were not original….ah yes they were. We sent them back, she was to register them with the county recorders office where they live, and then request a certified copy from the county so he could have his license. Old documents from the 1950’s to the 1970’s you may wish to have them recorded at the local county seat where you live for the JIC.

  9. Lots of great ideas.

    I keep almost all of the above mentioned documents in water proof cases stored in a fire proof safe at my house and also at my parent’s house, 20 minutes away. I also have them on a flash drive and some of them on my Google G drive. My G drive contains items like my and my wife’s college transcripts, degrees, marriage license, etc. I didn’t put birth certificates and SS# on there.

    I have read too many stories about a doctor from some country who is over here driving a cab because he fled his war torn country and had no documents regarding his education.

    Great list, just make sure you store copies in multiple forms and places.

  10. Encrypted thumb drives exist if you are concerned about keeping all those docs in one place. Who wouldn’t be?

  11. When a forest fire a block away headed towards my home several years ago, I was told to pack and be ready to evacuate, leaving my home behind. I packed all my bills, cash, insurance papers, and all the rest you mentioned. I packed my computer, camera and photos as well, and some I kept copies stored in the “cloud” just this purpose.

    I made tea for the firefighters that hot day, and said a prayer to save my neighborhood, and suddenly the wind shifted, my home was spared and the fire was put out…… Don’t forget to pack God with you.

  12. I have a hard photocopy of all my important documents well hidden at my bugout location. I also spent about $200 to get various paper topographical maps and wild life habitat maps of my area. For the bugout bag I have some good maps and a compass.

  13. Anything that you keep, in your bank’s safe deposit box,

    you should keep a copy of it at home also. And indicate

    that everything that is in, the container that you keep

    those copies in, that the original is in your safety

    deposit box…

    1. I don’t know why but almost always military records get overlooked. Has anyone tried getting copies of DD214 forms or honorable discharge records. It won’t happen overnight and they are so very important to hang on to.

      1. Cecile Neil I know here in my state the county courthouse will retain a copy of the DD214 for you.
        A lot of us do it in case of tornado etc.

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