What Are The Best Games For Your Bug-Out Bag?

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By the author of The Faithful Prepper and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices.

If you’ve ever spent much time backpacking or camping, you know that there are a few hours of downtime every evening after dinner that are spent without a whole lot that one can do. Maybe it’s the mosquitoes that drive you into your tent, the rain, the cold, or simply the lack of light.

In a grid-down situation where you need to bug out, there’s a lot to be said for staving off boredom and for boosting morale. It’s interesting to watch the show Alone and to see just how many contestants quit not because they’ve been beaten by the elements (though there are plenty of those as well) but because they’ve been beaten by their own minds.

Boredom has won out over them, and it leads them to make stupid decisions. There’s much to be said for morale. Militaries throughout history have realized this. When morale drops, people do stupid things. They forget what is important. You don’t want your family to end up doing the same thing. To stave off the boredom, I think there are a number of things one can do, but perhaps the easiest is to include some kind of small game in your bug-out bag.

Something easily packable, lightweight, and that doesn’t grow too stale too quickly. I just returned from a backpacking trip where two of these options were utilized, but here are a few of my thoughts on easy-to-pack games for your bug-out bag.

(Want to learn more about bugging out? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to emergency evacuations.)

Monopoly Deal 

If you like Monopoly, this is the card version of it. For those that don’t like Monopoly, this is the way to play the game without spending 15 hours sitting at a table. It’s a good game for up to five people, and the gameplay only takes about 20 minutes.

I actually prefer this version of the game compared to the board game version, I picked up my copy for $2 at the store, and the little cards easily stow away in the crannies of a bag. It’s not the most strategy-intensive game in the world, but it’s still a great, portable means of passing the time.

(If I play you, I’m going to win and then rub it in online.)


This is a really fun two-player game that I bet you’ve never heard of before. I really enjoy playing chess because of the strategy involved, and Quarto involves a great deal of similar strategies. Think of it as Tic-Tac-Toe on steroids.

Each piece has four traits: the shape, the height, the color, and whether it’s solid or hollow. The goal is to get four in a row matching any one of those four traits. The catch is that your opponent gets to pick what piece you lay down. This forces you to consider what pieces are still left in play, how to best trap your opponent, and how to avoid getting trapped yourself.

It’s an absolute blast, and anyone can learn how to play it in 60 seconds flat. Leave the box behind at home and just pack in the little bag of pieces and the little board. If you don’t want to pack in the board as well, you could draw one in the dirt or, like I’m considering, make one on an old bandana.  

Flip over the board, and you’ve got yourself a little coaster while you’re out in the woods too. You know, so you don’t leave coffee mug rings in the dirt.

(If I play you in this too, I’m going to win and rub it in online even more.)

Struggle for Catan Card Game

If you enjoy playing Settlers of Catan, this is the portable version of it, kind of like Monopoly Deal. You can have up to four players here, and it’s the typical rule of “first to ten points wins,” much like the board game version.

It still takes about the same amount of time as the board game (25-45 minutes), but if you’re looking for a portable means of getting your Catan fix in, that invokes a bit of the strategy of the original game, this is it.


This is a classic, and I’d be remiss not to include it within this list. Personally, I find it kind of stale – it’s been around forever – (I know, I know. Chess has been around even longer.), but there are a lot of people out there who really like it, it packs down easily, and it’s easy to learn.

Catan Dice Game

Personally, I think this is an even better Catan version to pack in a bug-out bag than the card game version of Catan. You can actually fit this one into a pocket. All it is is a few dice and a notepad. Provided you have some pens/pencils, you’ve got everything you need right there, and you don’t risk people yelling “UNO!” at the top of their lungs while you’re in the middle of the woods.

The only catch is that you can only play it with up to four players, which may not make it ideal for bugging out with a large family. If you have less than that in your party, though, I would highly consider adding it to your repertoire.

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What are your thoughts on boosting morale with your bug-out bag? 

There are a host of other games out there that may make a good fit here, but the above ones are the ones that are more down my alley than any of the others out there. Other games that almost made my list here were Play 9 (it has too many cards), Phase 10 (again, too many cards), and Conflicted (probably better pre-collapse? I’m still thinking on this one.).

Granted, you most certainly have other priorities when you’re bugging out such as security, obtaining adequate food/water, and keeping people healthy. Playing Monopoly Deal really wouldn’t be the first thing I’m thinking about in a bug-out situation. I’d be thinking about staying safe. But when security is set up, when all your bases are covered, and when you have as safe of a place to do so, I think there’s something to be said for having packed in a game.

What are your thoughts on the matter, though? Are there small games you know of with big replay value that are easily packable for a game out in the middle of the woods? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • Yahtzee. Requires only 5 dice and score sheet (sheet optional once you learn the categories and scoring)
    We travelled and camped off our sport touring motorcycle when much younger. Yahtzee was perfect for packing light and compact. It can be played by 2 to unlimited numbers, but is really great for two. Passed many a rainy day/night in our tent with Yahtzee. We still play at home in our 70s. Great time passer and easy to visit and talk during play. Our favorite. Brings back fond memories of our younger years and fun on the road.

  • I do not know if it holds true nowadays, but when I was in, someone always had a deck of cards.
    In my BOB, I have the KA-Bar playing cards. Made out of PVC, waterproof.

    • My thoughts exactly. There are so many games with the standard deck of cards. I bet somebody has a survival-themed game, even.

  • A deck of regular playing cards. It helps if you know how to play lots of games; if you don’t already, this is a good time to learn. Cards are good for 1 person or a whole group.

    My parents didn’t play board games (other than Scrabble) but they often played cards or dominoes and they included me from the time I was old enough to count. It taught me a lot.

    There are many versions of Solitaire. Years ago, I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Sweden. I spent my days in the hotel room playing different kinds of Solitaire, using my watercolors (I’m a dabbler, not an artist) and watching MacGyver on the BBC. In the evenings, my husband I played Rummy.

    Even if you don’t know how to play any particular game, you can pitch them at a target. I’ve done that, too.

    • Get a Hoyle’s Rules of Games book. This book has been around a very long time and there are several different versions.

  • I like Mille Bornes which is a car race of 1000 miles. It is a card game so it will take up little space.

  • I bought a nice pencil case with zipper. I took nicer mini cards, put in 1 deck and built 2 Pinochle decks. Monopoly to go, Clue to go, Sorry to go, Candyland to go. Game pieces in mini ziplocks. 1 game sheet of Yahtzee, farkle, twisted Farkel and Cataan card game. Cheet sheet for regular dice as Catan and as the twisted Farkel. Munchkin Loot Letters, mini Flux, Cribbage board, 2 Uno game favors (makes full deck), Keychain chess, checkers and Backgammon. Wonderland card game.. Mini DnD dice and grid paper. Clue nd Monopoly game pieces can be used as characters. Of course dice but one of different color for twisted Farkel etc. All game rules as well. It all fits, barely, but it fits.

  • I have news for you: if you are bored, you will not survive. Period.
    There is always more to be done or that could be done. Slacking off will only get you dead once SHTF,( this is not like “going camping”).
    That said, you can plan on about a bit of free time now and again, but you will probably not be wanting to play games. Sleeping, resting and maybe reading will be high on the list of least strenuous activities. So that you are ready for your next personal version of “hell week”.
    When you are bugging out, you should be traveling for 8 to 10 hrs, scouting to avoid ambushes, verify route, etc., another 2 to 4 hrs.(this includes a morning patrol before leaving, a evening patrol before setting up camp, and at any other times, as necessary). Then 2 hrs for prep, cooking and eating 3 meals, plus clean up,( and any breaks during the day.) and 2 hrs for making camp, setting up a security perimeter and breaking camp in the AM, . Plus 4 hrs on watch and about 4 hrs of sleep.
    If you can get any of that done quicker, you get more time to sleep. after a few days, you will be so tired, all you will want to do is sleep. Time to play Games? LOL.

    But once you get to your BOL, the real work begins. Plan on at least 10 hr work days, plus 2hr for prep, cooking and eating 3 meals, plus 4 hrs on watch and maybe 8 hrs sleep. Kids need to be helping out, play time will be a luxury that is not going to be available very much.
    This will be like early Pioneer life, Ranch or Farm life. If you don’t know what that is like, you better read up on it.
    They usually could not afford to or choose not to spend time on “watch”, but a lot of them paid with their lives, for that omission.
    Remember you have to work hard all summer to survive the winter. Planting, canning, cutting wood, hunting, etc. And if it is already Winter, you are in big trouble. It will be twice as hard and twice as much work.

    If you want to take a game for the rare times, that you do have time off, I suggest you put it in a cache or at a Cabin, (if you have a cabin),at your BOL. You will not want to carry the extra weight and pack and repack it every day, on the trip to the BOL.

    • Mic,
      Funny, I seem to recall a number of books on the early days on the frontier, and after the evening meal, they would sit, talk, read, sing, and play games.
      My Amish neighbors, they make time for such things as games. They work hard, but they too have down time. Sundays are their day to gather the whole community for service. A huge meal. And the kids play (I seen them play volley ball). The adults talk and socialize.

      During the winter, dawn comes late, and dusk early. Does not matter if we got 12 inches of snow overnight, livestock still need fed and watered. After that, there is not a whole lot to do, but read or play games to keep ones mind occupied, or other hobbies.
      Had you any real world experience, you might know this.

  • I have several versions of trivial pursuit. You can easily pack just the cards. It can be fun and educational as well! Playing cards and uno are part of our repertoire as well. Second the suggestion of a Hoyles.

    • and – you can pick up old Trivial Pursuit games for a $1 at garage sales – the cards should be included in any educational prep pack ….

  • Quiddler and if you have elementary school age kids, the Quiddler, Jr. The grandkids love it! Just a deck of cards with letters on them basically.

    • I was going to suggest this one, too! Our absolute favourite game ever – we have pretty much worn our deck out. Great portable game for the Word Nerds among us 🙂 And takes a lot less time to play than a game of Scrabble.

  • My son loves UNO so that would be a no brainer for us. I do remember seeing cards that had survival info on the opposite side (knot tying, edible flowers, etc). I guess if you planned to take a regular deck of cards this would be a great option to have some great info as well.

  • not a game per say – but harmonicas have gone to war for barracks and trench entertainment for over 150 years now – if nothing else they are a proven VIP trade good ……

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