Adapting BOBs for family use

I’ve noticed that most BOB guides (including the very good one here) seem to focus on equipment for one person, with only a bit of lip service paid to larger groups.  How does everyone handle kits for, let’s say, a family of four?  A few considerations:

– Which items scale and which don’t?  Obviously you probably wouldn’t need four Level 3 first aid kits and four radios, but you would need four sleeping bags and four sleeping bag pads.

– Shelter – increase the size of the tarp for level 1?  For level 3, one large tent or two 2/3-person tents?

– What do the kids carry (we’re talking grade school kids here, not teenagers who I would treat like adults), other than let’s say a backpack with a sleeping bag, water, etc.?


  • Comments (9)

    • 4

      You are asking some GREAT questions! Here are my personal thoughts, let me know what you think about them and ask any followup questions you may have. 

      As my family grows, I want to have each member make their own BOB, with my guidance of course. I want each member to be familiar with the gear in their bag, to know what is in there, and how to use it. They will feel a sense of pride and ownership over the bag and take care of it a bit more than if it was just random unknown and unfamiliar items that I threw in there for them. 

      By having each member make their kit, they use what is within their skill level. A 12 year old might not be able to use a ham radio in their kit, but could use a hand crank radio or walkie talkies. A 8 year old might not be able to use a Katadyn hand pump water filter, but they definitely could stick a Lifestraw into a stream and suck. 

      I think it would be a great activity to go out on a family overnight campout and live out of their BOB. They can use their items to gain familiarity, and also see if there is something they would change about it. They can work together to build a larger shelter lets say with the two tarps from their two bags, but also can make a single shelter with their individual tarps if they wish.

      Here is a quote from The Prepared’s BOB list that I think answers some of your questions:

      You can’t assume your party/family will always be together, so don’t spread critical gear across bags. For example, it’s a bad idea to have water gear in one bag and food in another. Every person over 10 years old should have their own essentials in case they get separated.

      Children under 10 can have their own bags, but you build theirs more for their comfort and your redundancy. In other words, build a child’s bag so that if they get separated they at least have some basic stuff/info to aid whatever adult finds them, and so you can raid their bag if you lose something critical like your water filter. But make sure it’s no big deal if they lose the bag altogether. In a bag that’s small enough to be appropriate for their age, you can usually fit in a few essentials such as a full set of clothes, special medicines, and documents/photos about their family and home, while adding more kid-friendly items like a stuffed animal, book, and sweets.”

      What does your family look like? What ages are they? What skill levels are they?

      • 5

        Thanks Gideon.  Family is myself, my wife, son (age 10) and daughter (age 7).  I’m the only one with anything resembling a “skill level” in this department, so we’d be building from the ground up.  Due to geography and relative safety from natural disasters, a “shelter in place” is more likely here than truly bugging out, so I haven’t heavily invested in things used for truly “bugging out” like tents and sleeping bags. 

      • 6

        I would start out small then. Get old backpacks, like their previous year’s school backpacks if they are in decent shape still, and put a few items in. 

        Lifestraw, snacks, water bottle, old blanket, change of clothes, maybe a BIC lighter, little altoid first aid kit with Band-Aids, super glue, antibacterial ointment. Things like that. 

        Better than nothing, it’s within their skill level, and you can always improve it overtime and as they grow. 

        Have a little hour long campout/dinner in the back yard with their new bags. Start them off real slow, one month teach them to start a fire with their BIC lighter, piece of paper and twigs they gather from around the yard, another month teach basic water filtration. 

        Make it a fun adventure/game. Have them invite a friend over and make them a cheap little kit and have them “survive” in the back yard for 2 hours or so. 

      • 4

        Totally agree that getting some experience with the gear is key.  For instance we all carry radios in my group, because we can use them for comms between people.  And all of carry individual tarps.  We found out on a trip that want a little bit of separation.

        With respect to the wee ones–we are still trying to figure that out.

    • 3

      Thanks for the ideas on getting the family into actually using the gear.  So if I have this correct, two tents are better than one, and everyone carries their own sleeping bag/pad and basics like a boo-boo kit, light, lifestraw, etc. 

      • 6

        I think that would be a good plan. You and your wife carry two 2-person tents. If you did have to bugout then you each tent could house an adult and a kid. The kids will have thier basics and sleeping gear. As they grow older, can carry more weight, and know how to set up a tent, then maybe get them their own tents too.

        I’m excited for you! You’ll have to get back to us with pictures of your family’s kits once you have them all made. 

    • 7

      Regarding tents, sleeping pads, etc. Here are some thoughts from a married father of two kids under 10.

      I think you need to think about where you’re going if you leave your house and how you’re going to get there.

      First, let’s assume the best plan with a family is to stay exactly where you already are. Simple.

      Second, if that option isn’t available for whatever reason, you need to think about where you’re going. If I am forced to leave with my two kids and wife, realistically, I’m headed either to a friend or relative’s house within 10 miles or to a flipping hotel. I’m not dragging two kids under 10 into the woods to forage for berries and snare rabbits if I have other options. And I am taking a vehicle. So our bags cover basically a weekend trip to another town.

      Third, if all my nearby friends and relatives are also affected, I am going to a friend’s house about 1.25 hours away. He and I have a mutual agreement that our houses are open to one another in case of an emergency. And I am taking a vehicle. So our bags cover basically a weekend trip to another town. I might throw a few of our prep boxes (Plano Sportsmen’s boxes, which are pretty good for the money) into the vehicle if there is time.

      So, I think you ought to consider whether you need to spend the money on camping equipment for an entire family (good lightweight camping equipment is definitely not cheap). If you have the money and you like that sort of gear, go for it. However, it is hard for me to imagine just how a scenario would occur in which a family is absolutely reduced to sleeping in backpacking tent. Not saying it couldn’t happen, but it’s just that there are so many other much more likely scenarios that could happen first.

      • 7

        Good points here.  I don’t live anywhere near the wilderness so really the idea of the whole family having to sleep in a tent is not terribly realistic.  I can’t imagine how bad things would have to get before that scenario would take place. Road War type life. 

    • 5

      Hey mas picante! Hope you are doing well. 

      One of our editors released a blog post this week about his and his family’s BOB’s. Maybe that would be a good place to see another perspective and also get some more ideas. I certainly learned a lot from it and I want to reassess my BOB.