Police Patrol Bag Contents: Essential Things to Carry

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Knowing police patrol bag contents is the first part of ensuring you’re prepared for each shift.

Over the years, the equipment I carry on me has changed as I’ve gained more experience.

If you’re a rookie, it’s important to know what you should have on you for your safety, convenience, and protection.

Do Police Officers Buy Their Own Equipment?

I’m always asked whether must have gear for police officers is supplied or purchased personally.

It’s common to have many items on your police duty bag checklist, which can often be expensive.

Fortunately, there are several items your precinct will provide while you have to buy the other items separately.

The equipment issued to officers depends primarily on the precinct and budget distribution.

I’ve known of some teams that get standard-issue equipment, while others receive an equipment allowance.

Some prefer the allowance because it’s a bonus on top of their checks.

The downside to equipment allowances is they’re often less than what you’d typically spend on gear.

Being able to find approved and thrifty equipment can be significantly beneficial for LEOs.

Also, if you have to buy your gear, you have to follow a list of department-approved items.

On the other hand, standard-issue equipment can be convenient but might not meet your personal requirements.

For example, you might receive a standard-issue police bag, but a tactical duffle could be better.

In these instances, you’d wind up spending your own money on equipment anyway, rendering standard-issue items useless.

Do Police Officers Buy Their Own Guns?

Another frequent question is whether officers are given guns or if they have to buy them separately.

Similar to equipment, it depends on the precinct, laws, and ability of the department.

Municipal governments are more likely to require their officers to purchase their firearms independently.

However, there is a detailed list of weapons that police officers can carry and use on-duty.

Alternatively, federal departments are often provided standard-issue weapons by their departments.

Standard-issue weapons can be preferred, significantly since a regular handgun can cost anywhere from $400 to $700.

On top of the initial cost, LEOs must replace their weapons every three to four years.

Over time, it can become a costly expenditure that is barely reconciled through equipment allowances.

What Should Be in a Police Go Bag?

Now that you have a clear idea of the essentials that I carry on me, let’s get into my police patrol gear checklist.

The items you bring with you can vary significantly, mostly if you’ve learned you prefer certain things over others.

Regardless, I highly recommend every officer creates a police duty bag checklist to make sure you’re prepared.

Also, if you’re looking for the best patrol bag for police officers, we have written this article to help you make the right choice.

Food and Water

Two of the essentials every officer needs are food and water, especially for survival situations.

MREs are my favorite option because they’re lightweight and easy to use in a pinch.

Water, apart from its hydration, is also essential for ensuring your MREs can cook adequately.

I typically keep three to five MREs on-hand, as well as a few bottles of water.

It can also be beneficial to consider buying some energy bars and nuts for quick and easy protein.

First Aid Gear


The majority of my first aid gear was agency-issued; however, I also purchased some extra items.

I prefer to have an assortment of hemostatic agents, emergency blankets, rubber gloves, tourniquets, and more.

It can also be beneficial to have OTC pain relievers, medical tape, bandages, and hand sanitizer.

This is important! You never know when you need it. Remember that a one of the most important tasks of a police officers is to save lives!

Extra Ammo and Magazines

Even though we all hope that we never have to use our guns, it’s one of the most crucial patrol bag contents.

Having extra ammo and magazines for my weapons ensures my guns are always ready to be fired.

Non-Lethal Deterrents

In most situations, I would need to opt for non-lethal deterrents, such as pepper sprays, when dealing with subjects.

If you are interested, I’ve written a huge guide about the best pepper sprays.

Dopp Kit

Dopp kits are by far one of the most convenient items to have in your patrol bag.

Also known as toiletry bags, Dopp kits give you extra storage for self-care products.

I keep any prescribed medication, shaving supplies, soap, shampoo, and a washcloth stored in the bag.

Depending on where you work you may be sent on search and rescue missions (SAR). Sometimes these can lasts for days. Having basic personal care products will always in handy.

Tool Kit

Although it would be convenient, it’s likely a full-size toolbox won’t fit in your patrol bag.

My favorite alternative is a small tool kit, which features full-size tools appropriate for any situation.

I try to keep a crescent wrench, an assortment of screwdrivers, pliers, and a hammer on me for emergencies.

Spare Batteries

It’s important to inventory all of your portable electronics to determine if they’re rechargeable.

If so, it can be beneficial to invest in portable power banks that you can use to provide power to your gear.

Another option is to bring spare batteries with you, especially for tactical flashlights.

Extra Shoes and Socks

If there’s one part of my uniform that gets the dirtiest, it’s my shoes, especially from spring to winter.

Having a backup pair of shoes and socks helps to keep my feet warm and dry.

The last thing I’d want is to have a nine-hour shift with soggy socks and wet shoes.

What Items Do Police Officers Carry?

As soon as I put my uniform on, I consider the must have gear for police officers that I’ll need.

What I carry on me can differ significantly from my police duty bag checklist, as I’ll need specific essentials.

You’ll find what LEOs have on their person is significantly different depending on where they live.

Personal Items

It’s always nice to have a personal trinket on you while you’re on-duty because you never know what you’ll encounter.

I’ve had partners who carry small pieces of art made by their kids or a good luck charm given to them by family.

Some officers opt for more religious symbols, such as small rosaries or religious medallions.

For me, I like to keep a picture of my family in my wallet.

Personal items can also cover equipment that doesn’t have as much sentimental value.

For example, you might carry an extra pair of reading glasses or sunglasses, which are very common.

Chewing gum is another fan-favorite since it can help calm your nerves throughout the day.

Practical Items

There are a ton of practical items you might want to consider having on you at all times, including:

Pocket Warmers

If you’re one of the lucky cops working in a cold environment, pocket warmers can be a lifesaver.

These unique tools will automatically warm up when exposed to air.

Typically, you would keep them in the pockets of your jacket, so you have a place to heat your hands.

Check out our article where we review the best hand warmers.

Paracord Bracelet

Paracord bracelets can hold sentimental value but are also an essential survival tool to have on hand.

Sure, they look cool when worn, but when you unwind them, they can serve as a 300-pound rope, if needed.

One of my favorite aspects of these accessories is that they’re lightweight and easy to wear.

Police tactical knife


The importance of small knives cannot be understated, especially in situations where you could be saving someone’s life.

Aside from the knife that I carry in my police patrol bag contents, I like to keep a small folding knife on me. Check out our buyer’s guide to knives for police officers!

Alternatively, multitools are another popular option for the people in my precinct.

Multitools can be preferred, as they typically have extra tools, like seat belt cutters and window punches.

Many of you have been asking about an article on multi-tools for law enforcement. We aim to please, see your article here.

Language Cards

It’s impossible to predict who will need your help throughout the day, so I like to be as prepared as possible.

If I know I’ll be working in a multilingual neighborhood, I like to carry basic language cards in my pocket.

There are common phrases and words on the card that help me to communicate with civilians.

Backup Gun and Flashlight

Even if your department gives you a standard-issue handgun, a backup gun is necessary.

I make sure I have spare ammo for both my backup and primary gun.

As an added benefit, I also keep a small backup flashlight readily available in a flashlight holder.


Tourniquets are an essential life-saving tool, especially if you’re caught in a life-threatening position.

Fortunately, they are also easy to keep on you, which is why they’re becoming more commonly issued to LEOs.

I keep mine in my first aid kit which is placed for easy access if there is an emergency.

If you want to know more about tourniquets, and learn to look for, you should read our article “tourniquet review“.

Two Sets of Handcuffs


Handcuffs are easily one of the most critical items to have on you for the job.

I like to carry two pairs, which gives me a reliable backup and the ability to detain two subjects.

I traditionally opt for a pair of hinged handcuffs and chain handcuffs to determine which is best for the scenario.

For example, if I have a non-compliant subject, hinged handcuffs are often preferred.

Whereas if it’s a regular detainment, chained cuffs are more than sufficient enough.

Check my comprehensive guide on different handcuff types if you are interested.

Tape Recorder

If you want to ensure you’re always covered, a tape recorder is highly recommended.

Although most of us are issued body cameras, they can fail, leaving gaps in reporting.

With a tape recorder, I can keep track of every interaction with a potential suspect for the record.

Learn more about why we think you should bring a voice recorder as a police officer.

Cigarettes and Zippo Lighter

You would be surprised at the sheer number of people who would do anything for a cigarette when they’re stressed.

Even if you don’t smoke, I recommend investing in a pack or two throughout the month to give to your subjects.

A Zippo lighter is also a cool gadget even crooks know to appreciate. You find some really cool Zippo lighters for police officers at Amazon.com right here.

Police Patrol Bag Contents: Final Thoughts

There is an endless list of items on my police patrol gear checklist that I’d recommend to any officer.

The primary objective is to make sure you’re sufficiently prepared to encounter any situation.

With peace of mind, you can serve your citizens with the utmost amount of care and protection.

If you want to learn more about police gear, take a look at our article about 14 important items you need as a police officer.

7 thoughts on “Police Patrol Bag Contents: Essential Things to Carry”

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