Finding the best bug out backpack involves covering a whole load of models, features and functionality to find the perfect fit. If you’re not sure where to begin, our guide is here to help you get started. We’ve taken a look at some of the largest, toughest and overall best bug out backpacks for every eventuality, situation and price range.
Whether you’re looking to assemble a bug out bag, grab bag, EDC kit or are just looking for the best way to carry a lot of gear in an emergency survival situation, finding the best backpack, bag or holdall for the task is absolutely critical to success.
Our guide to the very best bug out backpacks on the market will help provide the overview you need to understand the essential elements to finding the perfect bag. From capacity and storage space to durability and materials, we’ve searched high and low to cover it all so you don’t have to.
Need a bag right now but don’t have the time to look around?
When you need to get out of town in a hurry, preparing and packing a comprehensive kit of survival supplies within a high-quality bug out backpack or duffle will ensure that you can simply grab your gear and go when the time comes.
From natural disasters such as flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, and earthquakes to other emergency events like civil unrest, conflict and biological outbreaks, choosing the best bug out backpack for your personal situation now, can make the world of difference when you need to evacuate later.
So why is a dedicated bug out backpack preferable and what makes them different to regular bags?
There are a few defining characteristics that can be said to separate a bug out backpack or holdall from their traditional counterparts, but ultimately, they are designed and constructed to handle the challenges and specific requirements of bugging out or evacuating in a disaster or emergency situation.
The best bug out backpacks will often incorporate most (if not all) of the following unique characteristics:
- They will provide an increased capacity for carrying supplies which enable survival for a set period of time (generally 72 hours and sometimes even longer).
- Will be constructed from durable materials to deal with adverse conditions and the associated rigors of use.
- They incorporate a large number of storage compartments, pockets and latching points for maximizing carrying space.
- May offer particular consideration to weight distribution, additional padding and air ventilation for prolonged carrying.
- They’re often modelled closely on military and tactical operation bags, enabling them to meet a similar set of challenges in the field.
Basically, a dedicated bug out backpack is specifically designed to help get you and your gear out of trouble and on the way to your bug out location as efficiently and effectively as possible, no matter what conditions you come up against along the way.
Choosing the best bug out backpack for your needs is therefore critical to the overall success of your evac strategy and this comprehensive guide will help you weigh up the contenders and find the ultimate bag for your bug out requirements.
While we’re going to cover a whole load of incredibly useful info on the best bags on the market, this guide won’t tell you what to put in your bag once you eventually make your decision, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there as well, just head over to our essential bug out bag list to get the lowdown on your grab bag packing priorities.
Now that we’ve covered the groundwork, I think it’s time to crack on. So without further ado, let’s check out some of the best bug out backpacks for tackling every eventuality!
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best Bug Out Backpacks for 2017
- 2 How to Pack a Bug Out Backpack
The Best Bug Out Backpacks for 2017
There’s no doubt about it, when it comes down to choosing the best bug out backpack, the amount of functionality and features can feel overwhelming.
The good news is that we’ve cut through the industry jargon to bring you the essential rundown of the very best bug out backpacks, holdalls and duffle bags, to give you the vital stats of each and every bag for the things that matter most when bugging out in an emergency situation.
Finding the best bug out backpack comes down to assessing the individual needs of you and your party as well as the kind of situation, climate and environment in which you’re likely to be bugging out – urban or rural, hot or cold, desert or snow, by vehicle or on foot?
You get the picture.
Whatever the scenario though, there’s a bag out there made for the job and choosing the right one now can make all the difference when the time comes to grab it and go.
We’ve taken a look at the very best backpacks from tactical to general outdoor and wilderness use to provide as full of a picture as possible as while a military style pack may be ideally suited to some situations, a traditional outdoor bag may actually represent the best bug out backpack in others.
From capacity and latching points to load distribution, breathability, pockets and materials, we’ve consolidated the information that really counts when you need a high-performance bag that won’t let you down if SHTF.
The RUSH72 is the three-day variant of the bug out bag range from 5.11 Tactical and as with other packs from the brand, it’s built with operational application in mind.
Undoubtedly one of the best bug out backpacks on the market today, the user reviews of the RUSH72 are a testament to the quality of the pack and an incredible amount of storage space pairs with high-quality construction to make this a key contender for your bug out carrying solution.
With a stated capacity of around 55 liters, the RUSH72 provides a good level of volume for packing a lot of gear in a way that’s organized and always easy to get at.
Built from a water-repellent 1050D nylon, the RUSH72 offers the combination of durability and functionality you want to find in an all-purpose operational bug out bag.
Features dual compression straps on the outside of the bag to keep everything secure when the bag is packed and you need to move out.
As well as a grab handle on top, the bag also features velcro ports on each side for securing a hydration bladder drinking tube in place.
Latching points on the base of the bag for attaching additional larger pieces of gear are useful for carrying additional, larger pieces of gear such as a sleeping bag, tent, or tarp.
The Rush72 also features quick-release buckles on the shoulder straps to ditch your bag quickly if you need to do so in an emergency.
When considering the best bug out backpack for your needs, accessibility and the ability to get to what you need quickly is as important as the capacity of the pack itself.
In this regard, the RUSH72 is an excellent choice with a good choice of storage areas, compartments, and pockets for almost anything you’re likely to need when you hit the road.
Featuring a ‘clamshell’ style zipper flap, the main compartment of the pack provides excellent access to your gear for both packing and unloading. This system allows for a no-nonsense approach to getting at your kit and rearranging quickly when you’re in the field.
The main compartment provides a good level of packing space (plus pockets), while zippered pockets on the inside of the flap allow for additional storage over a large surface area.
An extendable section on the front of the RUSH72 allows for the front compartment to extend away from the main body of the bag, forming a super-useful recess for storing even more equipment, particularly any mid-large sized items such as a respirator or those bits of kit that you’re happy enough to leave exposed to the elements in exchange for freeing up space in the main compartments and pockets. This ‘shove-it’ pocket is also a great solution for separating wet items from the rest of your kit or storing anything you may need to get your hands on in a hurry.
The front admin pocket compartment of the 5.11 features a good outer surface area of webbing for attaching additional modules such as a MOLLE pouch or similar storage extensions. Inside this front compartment, there’s a good variety of storage solutions from stuff pockets and organization sections through to zippered internal pockets.
As with most of the best dedicated bug out backpacks, the RUSH72 includes a hydration bladder pocket on the back of the bag which incorporates a port for threading drinking tube through the top of the pack for easy access.
Large zippered pockets on each side of the bag featuring attachment points/webbing along the length of each are spacious enough for storing bulkier kit such as water bottles of a decent size.
Inside each side pocket, additional stuff pockets allow you to pack in extra, low profile items even when the main pockets are full – perfect for smaller items or tools such as a swiss army knife or fire steel.
Smaller zipper pocket on the top of the pack provides storage capacity for smaller items such as a cellphone or any smaller bits of gear you need to get your hands on quickly. A fleece lining makes this pocket ideally suited for storing any items which you may not want getting scuffed or scratched such as glasses.
|Main Compartment:||23 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches|
|Front Pocket:||15.5 x 11.5 x 2 inches|
|Side Pockets:||16.5 x 6 x 1.75 inches|
|Hydration Pocket:||21 x 13.5 inches|
Why we love this Bag
The RUSH72 is a solid option if you’re looking for a bug out bag that offers the ability to operate over multiple nights (with the potential range extended even further with additional modules and pouches), while also fairing well as a daypack.Learn More About the 5.11 Tactical Rush72 Bug Out Backpack Here
If you’re looking for a versatile bug out bag that provides a large main cargo carrying capacity alongside multiple external compartments and pockets, then the 3-Day Assault Pack from Condor Outdoor is worth serious consideration.
Designed for a single person to live out of for 72 hours, this pack contains the features and space to extend this initial range further if packed strategically, while compression straps on the side of the bag ensure everything is kept in place when you’re ready to move out.
Offering a capacity of around 3,000 cubic inches in the main compartments, the pack provides a good level of volume for carrying plenty of supplies to see you through a 72-hour stint with ease.
Construction and Features
One of the first things that you notice with the 3-Day Assault pack is the inclusion of grab handles on not only the top of the bag but also on the sides, allowing for the pack to be carried more like a duffle bag should you need to grab it and go in a hurry.
With latching points, D-rings and webbing along the outside of the bag (including on the shoulder straps), there are multiple places to attach gear and modules if you need to extend the carrying capability of the Condor further.
Foam padding is present on the hip belt as well as on the back of the bag adding to the comfort of the pack when worn, including an area of padded lumbar support at the base of the back panel.
The padding on the rear of the Condor 3-Day Assault Pack also acts as the exterior of a rear zipper compartment which has been designed to hold two 3 liter hydration bladders with exit ports on the side of the bag to feed the drinking tubes through.
With a total of seven compartments for stowing away your gear and supplies, the 3-Day Assault Pack is well specd to provide plenty of places for separating and packing your kit quickly and effectively.
The main compartment of the pack is spacious with just over 3000 cubic inches of capacity and includes straps to secure gear as well as two mesh pockets for holding additional items in place when loaded up.
Additionally, a second compartment features three pockets suitable for holding maps and documents, as well as two radio pockets and of course, penholders.
Side pockets with enough capacity are always an essential element to any bug out bag and the Condor provides double-zipper pull pockets with a good degree of space for storing small-mid sized tools and equipment for easy access on the road.
|Main Compartment:||22 x 13 x 8 inches|
|Front Pocket:||12.5x 6 x 3 inches|
|Side Pockets:||9 x 5 x 2.5 inches|
|Hydration Pocket:||21 x 13.5 inches|
Why we love this Bag
The 3-Day Assault Pack is one of those bags that’s just as comfortable filling the role of a general outdoor backpack as it is when used tactically or even as a larger, everyday carry solution. It’s this flexibility that makes it one of the best bug out backpacks out there if you’re looking for an operational bag that will perform well in a tactical situation, while still providing the capacity to carry up to and over 72 hours worth of gear when you need to make sure nothing gets left behind.Learn More About the Condor 3-Day Assault Pack Here
The Vulture-II is a 34-liter pack designed for hauling enough gear to see you right for up to 72 hours.
Like many of the best bug out backpacks in this price bracket, the Maxpedition bag aims to combine operational capability with comfort and capacity, providing the essential requirements for evacuating on foot for 3 days in an emergency.
Construction and Features
A skin of 1000 denier ballistic nylon is the secret to this bag’s incredible durability.
This exterior is also the key to making the Vulture II as tough as nails when it comes to putting it through its paces either as an everyday carry solution or as a bug out backpack you call on during an emergency situation.
The Vulture II utilizes YKK zippers with paracord loops making them extremely strong and ideal for use in the field when the reliability of fastenings matters most.
PALS webbing is included across the side surfaces of the pack for MOLLE compatibility, and many users of this bag have commented specifically on the incredible strength of the stitching used to hold these nylon strips in place, stating that the resilience of these is exceptional due to the craftsmanship of the attachments.
The base of the Vulture II features a non-slip, abrasive finish meaning the bag will remain resilient and resistant to water, whatever surface it ends up on.
Offering 3 spacious main compartments, the Vulture-II is well specified to provide plenty of places for separating and packing your kit quickly and effectively.
With the main compartment effectively representing the entire footprint of the backpack when opened, there’s room to store a serious amount of gear which is then easy to access when required.
Like many of the best bug out backpacks, the secondary compartment of the Vulture II features a number of subsidiary pockets and areas to further separate out your equipment, with the compartment itself large enough to store a laptop or gear of a similar size.
A pocket at the back of the bag is designed to hold a 100-ounce hydration bladder with an exit port at the top of the pack for the tube.
|Main Compartment:||14 x 7 x 19.5 inches|
|Front Pouch:||12 x 15 x 2 inches|
|Hydration Pocket:||13 x 18.5 inches|
|Material:||1000D Nylon with Teflon fabric protector|
Why we love this Bag
The Vulture II is one of those packs that lends itself to versatility, able to fulfil the role of anything from a daypack (or similar EDC upgrade solution) through to a get home bag and of course, as a dedicated bug out bag for up to 72 hours.
A durable 1000 denier construction and good capacity combine to deliver a carrying solution that is both durable and spacious while remaining modest enough to not draw unwanted attention if you find yourself bugging out with this pack in an emergency situation where discretion is an invaluable feature in and of itself.Learn More About the Maxpedition Vulture-II 3-Day Backpack Here
The Ghost is a tactical backpack initially designed for use by military and law enforcement for up to three days of operational range. Both of these characteristics, combining operational durability and capacity in the field make it ideally suited as a 72-hour bug out backpack.
From detachable shoulder straps and comfort ventilation, to a removable front pocket and hydration bladder storage, this pack has many of the defining hallmarks of the best bug out backpacks on the market today.
If you’re after an excellent foundation for getting a bug out bag underway, then the Ghost is a solid choice with a lot of admirable features to get you there fast.
Built from 100% 500D Cordura, the Direct Action Ghost features YKK Zippers which can be operated while wearing gloves as well as including laser-cut MOLLE/PALS system support, making the bag fully modular.
If you opt for either the Kryptek, PenCott, or Multicam color variants of the bag, the material is also NIR (Near-infrared) treated to help avoid detection by night vision.
Utilizing what Direct Action call a ‘Combat Vent System’, the Ghost is designed to provide airflow and increased comfort when wearing – particularly useful when bugging out on foot over long distances.
To further assist with comfort and stability, this bug out backpack includes a suspension system based on an internal stiffener in the back as well as a wide, detachable hip belt to help distribute weight when the bag is fully loaded.
Providing a total of around 31 liters of carrying capacity, the Ghost offers a decent level of space for packing the essential equipment and supplies for bugging out quickly and comfortably.
Two storage features which make the Ghost one of the best bug out backpacks on the market today are the allocated space for two hydration bladders with this bag, as well as D-Ring attachment points for connecting to the outside of the bag when required.
One of the stand out features of the bag is the inclusion of a detachable 3.5 liter external pocket which is perfect as a sub-compartment for keeping the essential supplies should you need to detach from the main bag during an emergency situation.
The latest version of the Ghost includes elasticated side pockets to further increase the expansion capabilities of the bag when packing.
|Main Compartment:||20.5 x 11.8 x 7.1 inches|
|Material:||500D DWR Coated Cordura|
Why we love this Bag
The Ghost is a great choice if you’re looking for a bug out backpack that will see you right for up to 72 hours in the field or on the road.
With the inclusion of features such as a removable front pocket as well as a durable build quality, hydration bladder storage, and modular compatibility, this bag is perfect as an emergency pack if you’re starting out with a new-build bug out bag from scratch or upgrading from a budget backpack.Learn More About the Direct Action Ghost Mk II Here
If you’re looking for a bug out bag that can be carried as either a duffle style holdall or on your back via traditional backpack straps, then the Mojo Load-Out Bag from Voodoo Tactical is an awesome choice.
An impressive footprint allows the Mojo to incorporate 11 external pouches of various sizes alongside a huge main compartment to carry literally anything you might need if evacuating an area for up to 72 hours.
As a larger capacity bag, the Mojo is also available in a wheeled
With the standard model of measuring in at 39″ x 18″ x 15″, the Mojo is a larger pack than some of the other bags on this list making it an excellent choice for implementing as part of your bug out vehicle strategy while also performing well as a high capacity bug out backpack when the straps are attached.
Construction and Features
One of the key selling points of the Mojo Load-Out bag is the ability to transform the bag from the default holdall configuration to a backpack with the inclusion of removable padded backpack straps.
If you opt for carrying as a duffle, the standard iteration of the Mojo is equipped with a removable padded shoulder strap as well as a center carry handle.
The wheeled version of the bag doesn’t come with a shoulder strap, but who needs straps when you’ve got wheels?
While the Mojo is a big bag which is arguably the perfect match as a carrying solution to a bug out vehicle loadout, the ability to attach various removable straps definitely make this a viable high capacity bug out backpack if you’re leaving by foot and are able to carry the weight.
A double connected-zipper layout on the main compartment makes it easy to access your primary gear when you’re in a hurry.
MOLLE webbing on the side of the bag extends the capacity of the Mojo even further and allowing for the attachment of additional pouches such or a medical kit and freeing up space in the stock compartments and pockets.
The first thing you notice about the standard Mojo is the range of pockets and pouches (11 to be precise) that cover the exterior of the bag. These can be used for storing any number of miscellaneous tools, as well as small to mid-size equipment and consumable supplies.
If you’re considering the wheeled variant of the bag, the number of exterior pockets is reduced, but be under no illusion, there are still a lot of places to store things outside of the main compartment
Talking of the main compartment, in both variations it’s huge and typical of what you’d expect from a holdall style pack like this.
The capacity of the primary compartment makes it well suited for storing larger gear such as a tent, sleeping bag or other similarly sized bits of more substantial kit, while the exterior pouches can be delegated to handling the smaller items you need to pack.
Pair this cavernous main compartment with double compression straps on the outside of the bag and you’ll find you can pack a lot into the Mojo.
|Dimensions:||39 x 18 x 15 inches|
|Dimensions:||32 x 20 x 19 inches|
Why we love this Bag
The Mojo is one of the best bug out bags out there if you’re looking for a holdall design that can switch to backpack usage quickly and effectively when required.
If you’re looking for a system that provides high capacity but perhaps only needs to get you a short distance from your home to your car for example, the Mojo on wheels is a good solution (and of course is perfectly designed to doubles up as a vacation bag).
If you’re not planning to bug out on foot, this pack is arguably the perfect grab bag for carrying your gear as part of a bug out vehicle strategy and is a match made in heaven for a car or truck loadout, offering the ability to grab and go should you need to bail out of your vehicle quickly and ensure none of your kit gets left behind when you do.Learn More About the Voodoo Tactical Mojo Load-Out Bag Here
The Tactical Backpack from Monkey Paks probably represents our go bag of choice if you’re looking for the best bug out backpack on a budget.
Bundled with both a hydration bladder and three removable MOLLE attachments, the Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack provides an excellent starting point if you’re thinking of building a go bag with the capability of providing up to 3 days of range.
Construction and Features
One of the real selling points of the Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack is the inclusion of both a 2.5 liter, BPA free hydration bladder and 3 external MOLLE pouches.
A 600D nylon finish provides an exterior shell with a good level of durability for a budget pack and definitely puts this bag alongside some of the higher priced and best bug out backpacks on the market.
Another nice feature of the Monkey Paks bag is the incorporation of heavy duty zippers finished with paracord ties to reduce “jingle” noise when throwing the pack around or when moving.
It’s definitely a bonus to get any extra storage capacity thrown in with a bag, so the inclusion of three MOLLE pouches is a welcome addition here.
The front MOLLE pouch also features a strap to allow for carrying separately if required.
|Main Compartment:||20 x 12 x 5.5 inches|
|Front Pocket:||12.5x 6 x 3 inches|
|Side Pouches:||9 x 5.5 x 2.5 inches|
|Hydration Bladder:||2.5 liters|
Why we love this Bag
Beyond anything else, the Monkey Paks Tactical is an incredible solution if you’re working to a budget.
While other bags offer slightly more in the way of capacity and finish, if you’re looking for a no-nonsense bug out backpack that will allow you to get your kit together without breaking the bank, this bag is hard to beat.
When you compare the excellent value of the Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack alongside the inclusion of a water bladder and additional MOLLE pouches, then this bag really does begin to represent great value for money.
If you’re looking for a solid base on which to plan and prepare your bug out kit or if you want a solution that operates as an EDC or lightweight grab bag, this pack offers serious bang for your buck and is an excellent choice.Learn More About the Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack Here
If you’re looking for a budget bug out backpack that will allow you to pack the essentials for survival, then the Exos Bravo is a solid choice in this price range.
Built around a not inconsiderable 34-liter capacity, you really do get a lot of storage and packing space for your money with the Exos Bravo, making it an ideal candidate for building a budget bug out bag, daypack or everyday carry solution where the emphasis is on affordable functionality above all other considerations.
Construction and Features
Built from 600D polyester, this backpack also features a double-stitched grab handle as well as ventilated padding around the areas which matter most such as padded strap and back areas.
The focus on function continues with the inclusion of heavy duty zippers and a side and front load compression system for securing your gear when packed.
There are also a couple of features on this bag which are nice additions such as heavy duty zippers and D rings on the shoulder straps.
The number of storage spaces, external latching points and general layout of the Bravo are all impressive for a bag of this category, with the main compartment alone coming in at 18″ x 10″ x 5″ before we even consider the additional pockets and spaces scattered around the bag.
A zippered hydration compartment allows for the inclusion of a bladder within the bag and this includes a dedicated tube port for ease of access.
PALS webbing on the outside of the bag allows MOLLE attachment and velcro loop pads on each side of the bag allow for further attachments.
|Main Compartment:||18 x 10 x 5 inches|
|Secondary Compartment:||16 x 9 x 3 inches|
|Outer Top Compartment:||5 x 8 x 3 inches|
|Outer Bottom Compartment:||10 x 8 x 3 inches|
Why we love this Bag
When you start looking at lower priced bug out backpacks, you inevitably begin to make sacrifices in the name of budget. The great thing about the Exos Bravo is that it delivers a lot of the features of higher price tag backpacks without the financial cost. While capacity, material quality, and overall carrying potential is lower than higher value bags, if you’re on a tight budget and need a go-to bug out backpack right away, this is an excellent choice.Learn More About the Exos Bravo Tactical Assault Bug Out Backpack Here
The Halftrack is a serious tactical bag for bug out situations as well as for hunting and general outdoor use. Providing an awesome 2,150 cubic inches of storage, the Halftrack is built around a sturdy frame for allowing you to easily carry loads over distance.
The best bug out backpacks are easy to access and a unique front loader style makes the Halftrack easy to pack and arrange when you need to get at your gear on the go. While a combination of PALS webbing allows for the bag to be extended over longer operational periods.
A 1000 denier nylon finish ensures that from the outset, the exterior of this bag is durable enough for use in adverse conditions.
The inclusion of side compression straps helps to provide load-bearing stability on the pack which is particularly useful if you’re packing a lot of kit.
The Halftrack also features padded shoulder pads and a longer waistbelt to maximize comfort when trekking for a prolonged period of time.
There’s every chance that if you need to bug out in a hurry, the weather will be far from perfect. If this is the case, the included rain cover will ensure that your bag and kit stay dry and in one piece.
Around the main compartment, the Halftrack also incorporates a top modular pouch as well large pockets/hydration bladder pouches on either side of the pack.
Main side pockets which can be used for carrying up to two 3-liter hydration bladders.
Alternatively, two 2-liter pouches can be stored in sleeves of the outer pockets to keep the main side pockets free for other gear.
|Main Compartment:||24 x 11 x 7 inches|
Why we love this Bag
Eberlestock are known for the quality of their tactical and hunting backpacks and in this regard, the Halftrack is no exception, delivering trademark quality with reliability.Learn More About the Eberlestock Halftrack Here
How to Pack a Bug Out Backpack
When it comes to packing a backpack or rucksack, there are a few golden rules that will see you right whether you’re escaping from danger or simply escaping town for the weekend.
Even if you pick the best bug out backpack for getting out of trouble in a very specific situation, if it’s not packed properly you’ll be in for a rough time when you need to get to your equipment in a hurry.
Spending some time to make sure you’ve packed your bag properly and knowing where everything is can make all the difference when you’re on the road or on the trail.
Packing Your Backpack
Ensuring ease of access to your kit, alongside balanced weight distribution is the key to guaranteeing you’ll be able to lay your hands on anything and everything in your bag.
Packing too much heavy equipment to one side of your bag will cause you to lose balance and can significantly impact the efficiency of your journey, leading to injury in the most extreme cases.
Similarly, packing your backpack in a way that puts priority items in the easiest to reach locations is a crucial consideration when planning the layout of your bag.
Knowing What to Pack
Once you’ve settled on a backpack, deciding what to pack is without a doubt, the most important part of implementing your bug out bag strategy.
Whether you’re planning a bag for a 72 hour bug out situation or are building an INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) bag, the considerations around the length of time you’ll be carrying your kit will undoubtedly play a deciding role on what you’ll need, how much gear you’ll need to pack and ultimately, the size and suitability of the bag you choose.
With this in mind, it can be useful to think carefully about the specific requirements of your bag before exploring the different options to ensure the capacity and feature set of the bag fits the bill – after all, you don’t want to find out you’ve got more kit than you have space to pack it!
Knowing where to begin and how to proceed when it comes to packing your bug out backpack is a topic worthy of a guide in its own right (and luckily we’ve put together just the guide here to get you started!) but there are a few essential elements to think about when you start loading up your bag.
Protection from the elements is a priority when bugging out and the packing the appropriate level of shelter will ultimately be dependent on factors such as the capacity of your bag, the climate and season where you live and the duration you think you’ll be bugging out for.
Providing adequate shelter when you plan out your bag can take the form of anything from extra layers or waterproof clothing through to a compact tarp or backpacking tent.
Think about the specific requirements you have around budget, usage and weight/capacity restrictions and start from there. If budget and space allow, you can’t go wrong with a high quality, survival tent and it’s always better to be over-prepared should the worst happen. Similarly though, if your bag will simply be to get you home or is for a shorter period of time (24-48 hours), you can scale down accordingly.
Access to clean drinking water is an absolute necessity for any prolonged period away from home, so ensuring you allocate enough when planning your bag is crucial.
As with most of the items you pack in your bug out bag, the amount of water you require will depend entirely on the length of time you think you’ll be away. When it comes to stocking enough water, the recommended guidelines vary, but aim to have at least 2 – 3 liters (70-100oz) of drinking water on hand per person per day (you can find more recommendations on intake here).
One of the most efficient ways of carrying water in your backpack is through the use of a hydration bladder, with many tactical bags containing dedicated compartments for storage as well as specific exit ports and latching points for the drinking tube.
If space allows, a hydration bladder should form the backbone of your bag’s water provision strategy and should be supplemented with a standard drinking bottle or canteen, either in the form of a traditional bottle or one with an integrated water filter.
On the subject of filtration, it’s a seriously good idea whenever possible to also include a dedicated water filtration system as a redundancy during an emergency situation.
After all, when disaster strikes, you just can’t guarantee the quality of the drinking water you’ll have access to.
Without a doubt, the very best place to start in regards to portable bug out backpack filtration comes in the shape of the excellent Lifestraw or Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System, both of which can easily be fitted into your bag and are worth their weight in gold.
Finally, consider investing in some water filtration tablets and pack in a spare nook of your backpack for use in an emergency. If you need them in the field, you’ll be glad you did.
Food is fuel and so ensuring you have an adequate supply in your kit is a key consideration when planning the loadout for your bug out bag.
In a disaster or emergency situation, food is a resource which can be incredibly difficult to come by so making sure you’re covered before you set out is essential.
When it comes to packing adequate nutrition for your bug out bag, there are a number of options depending on the range of your bag. If you’re likely to be bugging out for up to 24 hours or just need to get home from the office on foot, good choices include trail mix and high-calorie energy bars to keep you powered up.
If you’re getting out of dodge for a longer period of time (think anything 48 hours+), then consider investing in freeze-dried or ready to eat meal pouches which provide the perfect combination of packability, nutrition and energy. These pouches are essentially full coverage meals meaning they’re both nutritionally balanced and taste awesome.
Remember, maintaining morale is crucial during an emergency and a good meal can make all the difference in a survival situation, not just for the nutritional benefits.
If you’re likely to be bugging out for longer than 24 hours or are planning on bringing meal pouches in your kit, although not essential, it’s a good idea to pack some form of stove.
Stoves vary in complexity from simple solid fuel based systemsto gas powered stoves and if you can afford the space and weight in your bag, the benefits of packing one include heating food as well as boiling water.
Provision for sleeping is one of the areas in planning a bug out backpack that can be easily overlooked, but if you have the room and budget, be sure to include this as an element of your loadout.
Whether you’re sleeping under a tarp, in your car or in a tent, including even the most modest sleeping bag in your kit will not only protect you from falling temperatures but can make a serious difference to the quality of rest you’re able to get.
Options for sleeping bags range from the simplest lightweight and flat-pack survival bags (perfect if space in your bag is at a premium), all the way up to four season bags designed for extreme conditions and polar expeditions.
Similarly, a lightweight thermal sleeping mat or pad is an excellent addition to a higher capacity bug out backpack or bug out vehicle, adding a layer of thermal protection and separation from the ground when it’s time to bed down.
The type of tools you pack into a bug out backpack will be largely influenced by the situation you’re preparing for in the event you need to get out of town quickly.
For example, if your bug out plan involves heading into the wilderness for any length of time, the tools you’ll want to pack will likely be very different to bugging out in an urban environment. Similarly, preparing a backpack for a bug out vehicle will require considerations that you probably won’t make if you’re planning to leave on foot.
When you’ve got the specific conditional and situational requirements established, the next most important thing to think about when planning tools and equipment (as with all the other items you end up packing), is weight and packing space in your bag.
An essential piece of kit in almost every situation is a well-featured multi-tool and whether you opt for a classic all-around tool like the Leatherman Wave or an all-inclusive Swiss army knife, the size and weight to benefit ratio makes this an invaluable addition to any bug out backpack.
If you’re likely to be bugging out in the wilderness or in a climate where snowfall is likely, a portable entrenching tool can make all the difference if you can make room in your bag. Similarly, if you’re bugging out by vehicle an e-tool is a worthy ally in the trunk.
A reliable source of illumination becomes a critical piece of equipment when the lights go out and in a disaster situation, having access to a high-quality flashlight or torch in your bag can be a lifesaver.
Without a doubt, when it comes down to lighting in your bug out bag, a lightweight tactical flashlight is a must-have.
Portable, durable and built to provide light in the most challenging conditions, the best tactical flashlights are used by military and emergency services alike, offering incredible reliability and long-lasting, powerful light output.
When choosing a flashlight for your bug out bag, go for a model that offers multiple operation modes alongside excellent runtime, a reinforced casing, and waterproofing or high water resistance.
It’s always wise to have a fail-safe (or two) in place when you’re assembling your kit, so it’s a good idea to also include a pocket sized LED flashlight as well as some kind of glow sticks in your bag. Both are inexpensive backups and will take up minimal weight and space in your pack.
Be sure to invest in spare batteries and pack in any available recess in your bag.
First Aid and Medical Supplies
A compact but comprehensive medical kit is an essential for any emergency situation where you find yourself away from home and potentially on the road or in the field.
The main objective of a portable medical kit is to pack as much essential equipment for triage and treatment as possible into as small a footprint as possible.
There are a couple of options when it comes to packing a survival first aid kit for your bug out backpack.
The simplest solution is to go for a pre-made kit which will contain the essentials to get you out of trouble should the need arise. Alternatively, building a customized kit and sourcing the supplies yourself is a good option if you’re looking for a bespoke kit with tailored contents.
Whichever route you go down, remember to supplement your kit with any prescription medicines or drugs you or your party currently take and be sure that all medicines are within expiry dates.
How to Pack your Gear – Loading up your Bug Out Backpack
- Tent – If your bug out bag contains a tent, tarp or similar shelter, it will almost certainly be the largest (and heaviest) bit of kit you’re carrying. With this in mind, you want to pack it into your bag first. Pack your tent vertically in your backpack with the weight distributed towards your back.
- Sleeping Bag / Sleeping Mat – If you opt for a more substantial sleeping bag or a sleeping mat, pack it beside your tent to balance out the weight and help keep you balanced.
- Cooking Equipment – Pack stove, bowls and silverware or similar sized items next as well as a secondary fire starting method and solid fuel.
- Spares – If your rucksack has a lower compartment, use this area to store spare clothing and if you’re kit contains one, a spare poncho (which can be used to wrap and protect the clothing here).
- Flashlight, Gas, Water Filter – Keep your primary illumination source, stove fuel and a water filtration system such as a Lifestraw in a side pocket for quick and easy access if needed.
- Water Bottle and Secondary Tools – Balance weight by storing important tools such as a multitool/Swiss army knife and your primary water bottle or a canteen in the opposite side pocket. Again, if you can go for a bottle that doubles up as a water filtration system to maximize the effectiveness and utility of your gear.
- Food and Nutrition – Store food items toward the top of your pack but also distribute around different pockets and easy access points (particularly things like energy bars) for quick accessibility.
- Waterproof – Keep a poncho or waterproof jacket at the top of your pack so you can get under cover quickly if needed.
- First Aid and Essential Tools – Pack your first aid kit within immediate reach at the top of your bag along with a high quality survival knife, matches or lighter (in waterproof pouch) and energy bars.
Prepare. Survive. Thrive.
When it comes to any of our equipment rundowns and reviews, we reference as many expert sources, and real-world user reviews as possible when looking to provide the most relevant and educational information on the ins and outs of the best bug out backpacks.
Finding the best bug out backpack for your specific situation is ultimately a highly personal activity with individual needs and preferences sometimes varying considerably between people, locations, and uses.
With these considerations in mind, this guide looks to provide advice on our own opinions of the best bug out backpacks available today, however, it’s always important to carry out your own due diligence to find the best solution for you when picking a light that’s perfect for your situation.