Is It Illegal to Carry a Bug out Bag: The Truth

Is It Illegal to Carry a Bug out Bag

Bug out bags has always been popular among people. If you’re someone who doesn’t know anything about those backpacks or someone who’s really experienced with them, you have to check and see if the BOB you have is legal. There have been cases where people have used bug out bags for crimes and illegal activities. You need to know these things before you take your BOB out of your house.

Will you be stopped when you have a bug out bag? Is it illegal to carry a bug out bag? The answer is no, it’s not illegal to carry a bug out bag. Most police officers won’t arrest you for simply having a bug out bag. They might stop and search you if you seem suspicious to them. In that case, if you have anything illegal in your bag then you could be detained and arrested.

Bringing Yourself Attention

If you have to have a weapon inside of your bag, make sure you talk to your local police about it first. There are many urban survival bags out there that come with everything you need if you have trouble figuring out what to pack. Bags like these are great for new people since they don’t have to slowly build up their collection.
The bag isn’t a problem in most scenarios. It’s usually how you dress or act that makes police officers stop you. If you’re the center of attention then almost anything weird that you do will be suspicious. Stick to blending in with the crowd if you have to bring your bag.

How You Look

Police usually don’t abuse their powers so they won’t stop someone for just wearing a backpack. The thing that is likely to happen is they’ll talk about your bag if they’re into survival themselves.
Don’t start telling the police about how much you know about the law. It’s a bad plan to just incite law, resist, or torment them. If they do end up putting you in court, it’s going to look bad in front of the judges.

Preparing For Survival Is Legal

You shouldn’t have any illegal items on you in the first place even if you don’t have a bug out bag. The local cops will not bother you if you only pack things that are okay and not dangerous.
A careful person who brings a great bug outback will be prepared for wildlands, rural areas, urban places, and anywhere they want to go. It’s like an upgraded version of what to bring on a camping trip. It’s perfectly normal to store bug out bags in your house and car.

Keeping a bag of essential items to humans for emergencies just means that you’re a cautious person and like to be prepared. The Red Cross organization has even said that people should be preparing for survival. They’ve always come to the rescue of people in bad situations so you know it’s serious when they say it.

What The CDC Thinks

Believe it or not, there are people out there who are not prepared for emergencies. According to the CDC, who’s a reputable authority on the subject, they say that:

48% of Americans don’t have any emergency supplies
52% of Americans have no copies of important personal documents
44% of Americans have never seen a first aid kit in person
40% of Americans check their smartphones or social media outlets to learn about news

Drive Carefully

One of the best places to keep your bug out bag is in your car. You have the ability to just go into your trunk and drive off instead of searching around your house. It’s also one of the reasons people worry when they get pulled over. If you don’t want a cop to stop and search you, just don’t drive like you’re crazy.
If you’re driving like one of those action movie heroes then yes they will come and chase you, but if you’re driving like a normal person then they won’t even notice. Places like checkpoints are different, but in any other situation, they’ll need a warrant or a cause.

Another way they might stop you is if you look like someone they’re searching for. Police tell each other about a person’s description over the radio so if you happen to match that profile then they’ll come and get you even if you’re innocent.

Consensual Searching

If you’re being detained then the police have the right to search whatever they want. If you’re not and they ask you to search your belongings, car, or home, then it’s consensual. To find out if it’s consensual or not, all you have to do is ask the officer if you’re being detained until they answer you.
If you’re detained, it’s always the better decision to remain silent. Don’t say a word until a lawyer is there to talk to you. You’ll be in trouble if you did something wrong, but not for owning a bug out bag.

Putting Weapons In A Bug Out Bag

Plenty of people put weapons like knives or guns into their bug out bags and you can even find some in pre-made ones. You need to check your state laws and see if it’s legal to carry a gun if you plan to have one. There are rules for owning certain weapons such as owning a permit for guns or the maximum amount of knives you can have.
If you’re ever searched by a police officer, the first thing you should do is tell them that you’re carrying a weapon if you have any. If you provoke or take a crazy action then they’ll have to use their training or call in for backup.

Don’t Pack These Things

Weapons are already something that should be planned beforehand but there are other things that you shouldn’t pack. Masks are one of them since they imply that you’re trying to hide your face for a crime. You also need to take in each item’s weight into consideration. If all of the things in your bag are heavy then you’re going to have a tough time carrying it around. Another thing not to pack in your bag are electronics that require wires. Things like smartphones can’t be charged out in nature where there are no outlets.

Combinations Of Bad Items

While some things are too heavy to keep in a bug out bag, other things can make you look like you’re doing something bad. For instance having a rope or gasoline in your bag isn’t illegal but if you have those things with a torch or flamethrower then it’s going to look like you’re trying to kill everyone.

A different combination of items that could cause the same suspicion are acetone and allergy pills. You might need the acetone to clean off your nail polish and pills for your allergy, but if you have a lot of it in your bag then it’ll look like you’re trying to make meth.

One of the last things you want to keep in your bug out bag is your map and plans. If someone were to ever get their hands on your bag, they’ll know the location of your hideout and supplies. You should keep these in a space spot and let nobody know about it.

Semi-legal and Illegal Equipment

Butterfly knives, gravity knives, and switchblades are only legal in certain states. A normal knife that goes in your pocket is good enough. There are also different types of pepper spray that are illegal and some states have limits on how much you can have.
Fishing isn’t an illegal activity but you need a permit or fishing license for certain areas. If you’re just fishing in a private pond or lake then you can get by without needing one. If you’re planning to fish with your bug out bag then remember to bring your license.

For those of you who like to drink, it’s not advised to bring alcohol in your bug out bag. If a cop sees you with an open container then you can get a ticket. If you have to bring it with you then put it in the back seat or the trunk.


Some people have masks in their BOB for things like keeping bugs out of their faces. While most people wouldn’t pack a mask, those who do can draw unwanted suspicion. You better have a good reason for having a mask in your bag if a cop stops you.
The only time that regular people wear masks is on Halloween. Some could argue that you need one in case of emergencies like a fire but it could still get you a hassle in certain areas. It’s always good to notify your local police so they know beforehand.

States That Prohibit Masks

This isn’t all of the states that have anti-mask laws but where you can get into big trouble if you’re in the wrong situation.

California Penal Code Section 182-185: You can’t have a disguise used for concealment or evasion
District Of Columbia Section 22-3312.03: People over the age of 16 can’t wear a hood, mask, or anything that hides your face in public
Florida Chapter 876: Wearing a mask is considered anarchy and a threat to people’s safety
Georgia Code Title 16 Section 11-38: Wearing a mask will lead to a misdemeanor unless it’s for an emergency, sport, theater, or holiday.
Louisiana RS 14-313: You need a good reason for a mask-like Mardi Gras. People registered as sex offenders can’t wear any type of mask ever.
Massachusetts General Laws Section 34 of Chapter 268: You receive a $500 fine or a year in jail if you wear a mask
Michigan 750.396: You will either pay $500 in fees or get a misdemeanor and 93 days in jail
Minnesota Statutes Criminal Code Chapter 609.735: Masks are for religious reasons, health reasons, or jokes
New York Penal Law 240.35: Masks are forbidden in public unless at a party
North Carolina 14-12.8: No masks on roads or public property
Ohio 3761.12: You can’t wear masks with friends to commit crimes
Virginia Section 18.2-422: Masks are prohibited in both private and public property unless you have written permission from the owner
West Virginia 61-6-22: Masks are not allowed to be worn in public or cars

It’s always good to know where you can and cannot bring a mask. If you’re ever confused about if they’re prohibited or not, the best thing you can do is just leave it at home. For those who do not want to deal with what you should or should not put into your bug out bag, I suggest purchasing a bug out bag that is already loaded with the essentials. Many of the companies who put together these bags have done their research on what is acceptable in most areas of your area.  I would recommend the Emergency Zone Urban Survival 72-hour Bug Out/Go Bag. It is found on Amazon for your convenience. Click here to get more information. The good thing is that you can still add other emergency preparedness items to it to make it more personalized.

Final Thoughts

Always use your brain and think about any situation that you get yourself into. If you get searched then the only thing you need to tell the police is if you have a weapon on you or not. Do everything that they say while being polite to them. Other than that, you are protected by law to be as silent as you want.

If there’s no reason for you to be in any trouble, you can always tell them the truth yourself. Telling a cop that your bug out bag is for surviving in the wilderness, emergencies, or for camping then they might end up believing you. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that police officers are people just like us. They’re trained to be prepared for danger and staying safe during emergencies so they’ll understand where you’re coming from. Who knows, one of them might even be into wilderness survival as well and give you some advice.

While having a bug out bag is completely legal, the things that you carry in them and what you do can change whether or not you are innocent.