The Bug Out Bucket


By Jason Herbert

I’m fortunate enough to live near one of the best ice cream places in all the land. Equally fortunate, they give me their old food-grade 5 gallon buckets. Each bucket comes with a lid, and I can’t get enough of these things for several reasons. I use these 5 gallon buckets for almost everything someone could think up for a bucket, plus more. In my family every vehicle has a bug out bag, and we also have a collection of what I call “bug out” buckets. I think a half dozen or so buckets would be useful for any family when it comes to emergency preparedness. Here’s why.


First and foremost, these food grade buckets with seal-able, rubber gasket lids are just about hurricane proof. They can easily seal in any items so they are air and water tight. Sometimes in fact, I have a hard time getting the lids off! I have my buckets organized in different ways. Some of my buckets are used for food storage while others hold gear. As far as the food storage buckets, I go one step further just in case and seal my food before I put them in the bucket.

Freeze dried food buckets like this Wise Food Freeze Dried Meat Kit ($89.99) can be used for storage after consumed as well.

Being an avid outdoorsman, I’ve seen amazing things happen in the wild when rodents are hungry. For instance, a squirrel tore apart one of my treestand straps, rendering it almost useless this past fall. I don’t have squirrels in my home, but we may get an occasional mouse, and I would not want to tempt them anymore. So even though these buckets are airtight, I still store the food inside in another package. As far as my gear buckets I have one that is just full of cooking utensils like a small stoves, Sterno fuel cans, things of that nature with some fire starting gear in it. I also have another bucket with knives, flashlights, para cord, etc. Another simply has other tools that could come in handy. I even keep open pollination seeds in one bucket in case I have to grow a survival garden.

I love how easy these buckets are to store and stack. I built a shelf and one of my rooms that is capable of holding two buckets deep, by two buckets high, by six buckets wide for a grand total of twenty four buckets. I do not have twenty four buckets filled with gear yet, but that is my goal. Regardless of how many buckets I own, my point is they are super easy to store and stack on top of each other. They can also easily be labeled with a Sharpie marker.

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Even though these are technically 5 gallon buckets, they do hold a little bit more than 5 gallons. I don’t know how much five gallons of beans or rice would weigh, and I don’t have mine set up that way anyway, but some people may. Just food for thought.

Bug Out Bucket

If the going gets tough, my family and I can easily grab whatever buckets we feel are necessary to bug out and throw them in the back of the car or truck. Or if we’re bugging in, we can simply just go grab whatever bucket we need for the situation and keep them in our home. Buckets are easy to carry with handles, and to be honest caring one is harder than carrying two of them because carrying two provides some balance. Any farm kid knows this because it is so much easier to carry two buckets of water to the cows instead of just one due to the balancing effect.

When in an emergency situation, not only does the bucket help by carrying and storing goods, it also serves several other purposes. There is no way in this article that I can list all of the possible uses for a 5 gallon bucket, but off the top of my head a few of them are as follows. A bucket with lid could be used as an emergency toilet keeping your campsite sanitary. It can also be used to transport water and food. I can imagine that a good chore for a child in a long-term emergency situation would simply be going down to the pond or lake or stream and bringing back water. I remember on safari one time in Africa where I saw several young children hauling water back and forth in old gas cans. I think regardless of the culture, a good chore for a kid is collecting water. On the same note, I think a good chore for a kid would also be foraging for food like nuts berries greens etc.. All of those things can also be easily collected in a 5 gallon bucket.

The bucket can also be used as a rodent or small game trap, be sure to read how online. I brew all sorts of beer and wine in my food grade 5 gallon buckets right now. We all know in a long term emergency alcohol will be used as currency. Brewing could also be an activity where a bucket would come in handy. Buckets can also be filled with sand or water and used as thermal mass heat sources. A 5 gallon bucket full of sand will also stop a bullet. Buckets can be used to mix up a primitive cob style concrete as well.

Like I said, the uses for a 5 gallon bucket in an emergency situation are endless and those were just a few at the top of my head. The point is every well-meaning prepper should have a collection of food grade 5 gallon buckets with lids on-hand. They are easy to, stack, and transport. And as I’ve mentioned, the uses for them in an emergency are almost endless. I would start checking with local ice cream shops and other restaurants to see what they do with their 5 gallon buckets once their purpose has been served. I can almost guarantee that the majority of them will tell you to go dig through the dumpster because they simply get thrown away. I’m not above dumpster-diving and in fact, I’ve gotten some of my best lids that way. With a little water, some bleach, and an old rag a dirty bucket will become as good as new in a matter of minutes.


So go out and try to procure a few buckets for yourself. I find peace of mind knowing that my family is better prepared for an emergency each day than we were the day prior. I also think it’s fun to be creative and see what else I can think of to use a bucket for. In fact I just thought of another use… a portable planter where small vegetables and fruits could be grown and transported if necessary. Have fun finding uses for your buckets!