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 to the best survival backpacks is here to help you get started. We’ve taken a look at some of the largest, toughest and overall best bug out backpacks and survival 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 survival backpack, bag or holdall for the task is absolutely critical to success.
Our guide to the very best bug out backpacks and survival backpacks on the market will help provide the overview you need to understand the essential elements to find 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 bug out bag right now but don’t have the time to look around?
When you need to get out of town without a moment’s delay, preparing and packing a comprehensive kit of survival supplies within a high-quality bug out backpack, survival backpack, or duffel bag 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 or survival 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 and survival 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.
- Survival backpacks may offer particular consideration to weight distribution, additional padding and air ventilation for prolonged carrying.
- They’re often modeled 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 or challenges 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 survival backpacks and tactical 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 and emergency survival situation.
The Best Bug Out Backpacks for 2020
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, survival backpacks, holdalls and duffel 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 the 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 survival backpack 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 survival backpacks from tactical application bags 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 survival backpack and bug out 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.
It’s hard to find fault with the RUSH72 as an all-round survival backpack and the user reviews of the pack tell a similar story with its versatility and durability in a wide range of scenarios continually coming across when it’s put into action, whether being used for hiking, traveling, or in an emergency bug out scenario.
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 or tactical survival backpack.
The RUSH72 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 RUSH72 also features velcro ports on each side for securing a hydration bladder drinking tube in place – an invaluable addition to a survival backpack.
Latching points on the base of the bag for attaching additional larger pieces of gear are a useful addition for carrying extra, larger pieces of gear such as a sleeping bag, survival 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. This is an often under-recognized feature when looking for the best survival backpack for use in a real world scenario but is one that can represent a lifesaver if you actually need to break away from your bag quickly.
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 for a survival backpack 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 quickly and is an excellent addition to any fully featured bug out or survival backpack.
The front admin pocket compartment of the 5.11 features a significant 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 a drinking tube through the top of the pack for easy access when wearing the bag.
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, fire steel, or tactical flashlight.
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 also makes this pocket ideally suited for storing any items which you may not want getting scuffed or scratched such as glasses or anything delicate.
|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. If survival backpack with real world military and tactical operation meets comfort, space, durability, and build quality is what you’re looking for in your bug out backpack, then few rivals come close to the RUSH72.
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 a survival backpack that’s 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, this survival backpack 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 duffel bag should you need to grab it and go fast.
With latching points, D-rings and webbing along the outside of the bag (including on the shoulder straps), there are multiple places to attach external 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.
When looking for the best survival backpack for use over three days, storage space is everything and with a total of seven compartments for stowing away your gear and supplies, the 3-Day Assault Pack is well spec’d to provide plenty of places for separating and packing your kit quickly and effectively.
The main compartment of this bug out backpack 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 fully loaded up.
Additionally, a second compartment features three pockets suitable for holding maps and documents, as well as two radio pockets and of course, pen holders.
Side pockets with enough capacity are always an essential element to any bug out bag or survival backpack 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 hiking, camping, or general outdoor backpack as it is when used tactically, as a survival backpack, or even as a larger bag for an everyday carry solution. It’s this excellent 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.
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 and the rugged exterior of the bag make it a survival backpack that will hold up to considerable punishment in the real world.
This exterior is ultimately 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.
A survival backpack needs to be built to withstand considerable adversity and with this in mind, the Vulture II utilizes YKK zippers with paracord loops which makes 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 this survival 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.
If you find yourself in a bug out situation, the performance of the survival backpack you take with you goes beyond packing space and performance.
While a durable 1000 denier construction and good capacity combine to deliver a carrying solution that is both durable and spacious, the Vulture II excels by remaining modest enough to not draw unwanted attention if you find yourself bugging out in an emergency situation where discretion is an invaluable survival feature in and of itself.
The Ghost is a tactical survival backpack initially designed for use by military and law enforcement with up to three days of operational range. Both of these characteristics, alongside combining operational durability and capacity in the field make the Ghost ideally suited as a 72-hour bug out backpack that can rapidly adapt to changing situations on the ground while serving well in a number of roles.
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 survival backpack for getting a bug out bag underway and assembling a kit that will see you through a bug out situation, then the Ghost is a solid choice with a lot of admirable features to get you there quickly.
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 devices when used in low light situations.
Utilizing what Direct Action call a ‘Combat Vent System’, the Ghost is designed to provide airflow and increased comfort when wearing – a particularly useful feature in a survival backpack 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 within the bag, as well as D-Ring attachment points for connecting to the outside of the pack when required.
One of the stand out features of this survival backpack is the inclusion of a detachable 3.5 liter external pocket which is perfect as a sub-compartment for keeping the essential supplies separated 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 – a nice to have feature in a fully featured survival backpack.
|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 survival backpack if you’re starting out with a new-build bug out bag from scratch or are looking to upgrade from an existing budget backpack.
The Paratus 3 Day pack is an awesome choice if you’re looking for a high capacity pack that contains everything you’d want from a comprehensive bug out backpack.
Effectively a composite survival backpack system, the Paratus is comprised of three main sections which make up the whole unit.
The main backpack itself forms the bulk of the carrying capacity, while a ‘rapid deployment pack’ and two molle pouches make up the additional storage compliment. If you’re planning to build a bug out bag around a backpack that puts organziation at the top of the list of priorities, you won’t go wrong with the Paratus.
A super durable construction and overall rugged build quality are backed by a lifetime warranty which gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the pack when used in the field.
Double stitched seams alongside heavy-duty 600D PVC nylon form the resilient strength of this bug out backpack and make it both weather resistant and durable in the field.
Carrying comfort is provided through the inclusion of padded shoulder and waist straps which offer support and allow long distance wear and this mobility is further added to in the shoulder strap system in the form of releasable side buckles.
On top of this, both a heavy-duty padded carry and drag handle, as well as a molded EVA back panel, are also included to ensure that the pack is comfortable and easy to move over long distances and strong enough to stand up to adversity and continual use. Both of these are crucial considerations in any survival backpack and the combination of the two is key to ensuring a solution that continually performs in all situations.
The backpack itself utilizes a semi-rigid construction which gives structure to the bag and helps protect whatever you’re bringing along.
Providing a total of around 39 liters of carrying capacity and packing volume, the Paratus 3 Day Operator’s Tactical Backpack has been designed to carry a lot of gear securely and comfortably.
One of the unique selling points of this survival backpack is the inclusion of a modular system of separate storage areas which allow maximum utilization of storage space alongside an ability to compartment and organize your equipment as efficiently as possible.
The two large MOLLE pouches which attach to each side of the bag each provide 100 cubic inches of packing volume and are perfect for those items you need to get to rapidly.
As well as this, the Paratus bug out backpack features what the company calls a ‘Rapid Deployment Pack’, effectively a fully MOLLE compatible pack with a grab handle which is perfect for supplementary use for carrying everything from first-aid supplies to essential survival gear.
|Main Compartment:||20 x 12 x 5.5 inches|
|Material:||600D PVC Nylon|
Why we love this Bag
If you’re looking for one of the best bug out backpacks combining the essential requirements of capacity, comfort, and rugged durability, then the 3-day Operator’s Tactical is a very good choice when it comes to delivering it all.
What we particularly appreciated with this bag were the inclusion of a lifetime warranty alongside the ability to split the pack into three distinct compartments – a godsend when it comes to packing and organizing your kit effectively.
Broken down into its constituent parts, what this effectively leaves you with is a survival backpack core alongside a selection of invaluable smaller storage areas that can either function individually when needed or can be combined as a whole to deliver a highly effective bug out carrying solution.
The Drakon Waterproof Go-Bag is truly a unique survival backpack solution, effectively combining a high performance dry bag with a high capacity tactical bug out bag. The result of this, is a bag that is quite literally built to perform in all conditions.
If you’re looking for a bug out backpack or survival backpack that strips away all of the conventional ideas of a go-bag right back to the core and then looks to build up again with the aim of becoming the ultimate in resilient, durable, waterproof, tactical carrying, then it’s quite possible that this bag is the answer you’ve been searching for.
Built around the idea of a completely watertight bag construction, the Drakon combines high capacity and build quality with a unique approach to storage, focussing on modular expandable MOLLE compatibility alongside a significant main bag compartment.
This is a bug out backpack that’s designed to survive around water, offering welded seams which mean that if it’s correctly sealed, this bag will actually float if dropped in water.
The inclusion of 5 removable external pouches provide quick flexibility and customization of storage options that can be swapped out and as when needed
Construction and Features:
The Drakon is constructed from 500D PVC Tarpaulin sheets with each seam hand welded and checked to ensure a completely watertight seal across the whole of the bag.
It’s this unique approach to build quality that sits is at the core of the Drakon Waterproof Go-Bag and completely informs its mission of offering versatility and durability in challenging conditions.
This level of waterproofing is so complete that the bag can even be used to actually carry water direct from source back to your camp or home base for filtration and treatment and has been tested to carry up to 10.5 gallons of water using only the backpack itself without leakage – no bladders, canteens, or buckets required.
An 80 pound strap strength is just one example of the durability of the Drakon as one of the best bug out backpacks out there when it comes to high tensile structural integrity and this is complimented by padded back, lumbar, and shoulder straps, meaning you’re going to be able to carry a lot of weight without sacrificing comfort.
The main storage element of the Drakon is the bag itself which offers 40 liters of space for packing within what’s effectively a giant drybag. The advantages of this are that you’re going to have a pretty good idea how much gear you can pack into this bag early on, without having to remember where things have been stored away when it comes to unloading later.
Outside of the main storage area, there are 4 side pockets, a large pocket on the back and most impressive of all, the external surface is almost entirely dedicated to MOLLE webbing for outward modular expansion.
Out of the box, this looks like additional space for attaching the 5 external pouches which come as standard with the bag, offering a truly excellent range of storage spaces which mean you can compartmentalize your gear to get at everything you need when you need it most.
Additionally of course, this webbing means this survival backpack is designed to be modular – a bug out backpack blank canvas that you can totally customize to fit your own specifications and requirements – and for us, this makes this bag a true winner when it comes to offering maximum utility in the field or in a real world bug out situation.
|Main Compartment:||28 x 12 x 7 inches|
|Material:||500D PVC Tarpaulin Sheets|
Why we love this Bag
Preparing the best bug out backpack configuration is a highly personal process and changes from person to person.
The Drakon Waterproof Go-Bag understands this deeply and doesn’t look to get in the way of allowing you to build the bag you need while still performing the essential operations of a solid survival backpack.
What it does do is offer you a foundation to build the backpack you want from an incredibly well constructed, high capacity main bag which provides all of the webbing space you could ask for to ‘bolt on’ the pouches, modules, and any other equipment that you want or need.
It does all of this while also paying more attention to total waterproofing than any other survival backpack we’ve come across and this makes it an exceptional choice for the money if these factors rate highly on your best bug out backpack wishlist.
If you’re looking for a bug out bag that can be carried as either a duffel 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 what’s effectively a survival backpack layout with the inclusion of removable padded backpack straps.
If you opt for carrying as a duffel, then 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? This configuration is almost certainly going to be useful if you’re looking to combine with some form of bug out vehicle solution, where the ability to load up quickly and easily is the priority, regardless of packed weight.
While the Mojo is a big bag (which as already mentioned, makes it 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 time is critical.
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 meaning you’ll have no problem in storing gear and supplies from food to shelter.
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 of supplies and equipment 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 large survival 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, then 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.
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 low 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.
If you’re looking for a bug out backpack that tries to strike a balance between feature set and budget, then this pack is a decent choice, providing a lot of functionality for the price tag.
This may represent a good choice if you’re looking to invest more heavily on the contents of your bag up front with a view to building a high-end survival backpack into the mix further down the line.
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 a pretty decent exterior shell with a good level of durability for a budget pack and definitely puts this bag alongside some of the higher priced best bug out backpacks and survival 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.
As with all bug out backpacks within this price range, you’ll almost always notice a superior build in more expensive survival backpacks and dedicated bug out bags, but if your budget is restricted, this truly is a great bug out backpack for the money.
It’s definitely a bonus to get any extra storage capacity thrown in with a bug out or survival backpack, so the inclusion of three MOLLE pouches is a welcome addition with the Monkey Paks bag and allows for extra separation of kit when you’re planning and packing.
The front MOLLE pouch also features a strap to allow for carrying separately if required, making it a great solution for use as a first aid kit, ammunition pouch, or even as an emergency ‘grab and go’ kit if the main bag becomes compromised.
|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 tight 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 now, without breaking the bank, then 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.
If you’re looking for a budget bug out backpack or affordable survival backpack that will allow you to pack the essentials for getting out of harm’s way, 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.
Another excellent choice if you’re working to a tight budget, the Exos Bravo manages a good trade-off between value and functionality and while you will lose out slightly on the overall build quality and capacity offered by higher-end packs, there’s a lot to be said for this bag given the incredibly modest price-tag.
Construction and Features
Built from 600D polyester, the Bravo features a double-stitched grab handle as well as ventilated padding around the areas which matter most (such as padded strap and back areas).
What these build features mean in practice is that the pack is designed with consideration for carrying comfort and reinforced at the stress points if you need to grab quickly while potentially loaded with a lot of gear without risking damage to the bag.
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, both of which are a nod towards higher-end survival backpacks and bug out bag carrying solutions.
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 and again, are classic features on a survival backpack.
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.
This focus on internal storage areas and external latching points gives an excellent range of options, not only for packing space, but also for keeping a clearly seperated and delineated packing system that allows you to get to load up and acsess all of your gear as effortlessly as possible.
|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 a higher price tag survival backpack 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.
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 unpack 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.
In addition to this, a combination of PALS webbing allows for the bag to be extended over longer operational periods and make it highly adaptable as a survival backpack for use in a bug out situation.
Construction and Features
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 quickly, the weather conditions 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 putting the Halftrack in line with other top level survival backpacks on the market.
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.
Hunting backpacks are, by their very nature, excellent candidates as a base level pack solution for a bug out situation and the Halftrack is quite simply one of the best options for building a survival backpack that’s designed for long-term outdoor use with a firm foundation on durability, quality, and practicality.
The Best 24-48 Hour Bug Out Backpacks
While an evacuation or bug out situation will almost certainly call for the provision of three days worth of supplies in your kit, there are plenty of situations where having enough gear to get you through less time is sufficient and may even be preferable.
When it comes to preparing a bug out bag for less than 72 hours, you’re really looking at two major advantages that come with a lower capacity; size (the physical mass of the backpack) and weight.
If you’re looking to put together a ‘get home bag’, the chances are that you’re not going to want to opt for a full-blown bug out bag, but rather you’re going to be looking for a solution that’s more compact, a survival backpack and accompanying packing solution that potentially blends in more within an urban survival situation, containing the right balance of supplies to packed weight to get you home safely and quickly in an emergency situation.
Similarly, a bag with a range of 1-2 days can serve as an excellent fallback in a bug out vehicle, allowing you to grab the essentials for a quick escape if the safety of your transportation becomes compromised and you need to bail out quickly.
One of the major drawbacks of smaller bug out backpacks or survival backpacks with a shorter range is the sacrifice of extra packing space that these kinds of bags inevitably provide, often meaning larger equipment like higher capacity survival tents may not be a viable option in smaller packs.
Ultimately, as with every element of emergency preparedness, individual requirements will dictate the best solution for the job and a solid strategy often adopted by many people is to invest in a couple of bags of different sizes, ensuring that they’re covered for a multitude of scenarios and situations.
This could means a strategy including a bug out backpack for 12-24 hours on the road from the office back to your home, a backup bag with 2 days of range, and a fully specified survival backpack solution for 72 hours worth of coverage when you need to bug out for a prolonged period.
If you’re looking for a tactical daypack or 24 hour survival backpack with the capacity and durability to get you where you need to be, whatever’s going on around you, then the RUSH24 is a serious contender for one of the best one day bug out bag solutions on the market.
Combining packing and storage space with rugged construction is key to any good bug out backpack and as with the other bags by 5.11 Tactical, the RUSH24 delivers on every front here.
5.11 Tactical have a well established reputation in the field of high performance bug out backpacks and survival backpacks, offering solutions that cover periods from 12-72 hours.
The RUSH24 brings together the trademark quality of the brand in a survival backpack that blends a large feature set with durable, resilient materials, the comfort to wear for prolonged periods of time, and the versatility to use the bag as either an emergency preparedness solution, outdoor backcountry daypack, or even as an everyday carry around bag for work or school.
Construction and Features
The RUSH24 is made from durable 1050D nylon with a water repellent coating to increase the resilience of the bag in all conditions and situations.
Two external compression straps and a contoured shoulder yoke system make for increased stability and rigidity when packing and carrying, while reinforced elements around the bag such as a strengthened grab-and-go handle make further add to the staying power of this backpack if it’s being used in adverse conditions.
For increased ease of use in challenging and potentially shifting environmental conditions, the RUSH24 features self-repairing YKK zippers, glove friendly pull tabs and drainage grommets meaning this bag is ready to adapt to anything the situation (and mother nature) throws at it.
The packing and carrying capability of the RUSH24 totals 37 liters (2275 cubic inches) of total capacity and is focused around a main storage compartment, dual zipping side pockets, and a stuff-it pocket with integrated draw cord. Probably the most impressive thing with these stats in mind is that this survival backpack manages to deliver a higher total capacity than many of the best bug out backpacks designed for use over a longer period, while still maintaining the size and weight profile of a 24 hour bag.
What this looks like in practice is the ability to pack and compartmentalize enough gear and supplies to see you through a good 24 hours on the road or trail in a way that still maintains a low carrying footprint and which is easy to handle in a range of situations and events.
A dedicated hydration pocket (18” x 12.5”) provides the ability to carry a 2 liter water reservoir or bladder with you – an ideal solution in an emergency situation if you need to quickly grab your bag, fill your drinking water supply and get out fast.
Preparedness Tip: Consider pairing this bag with a high performance hydration bladder for low-weight readiness.
Extending the carrying capacity of the RUSH24 even further is possible thanks to the inclusion of a wrap around MOLLE web platform for bolting on additional carrying modules or other compatible gear.
|Main Compartment:||20 x 12.5 x 8 inches|
Why we love this Bag
The RUSH24 is one of the most capable one day bug out backpacks on the market today, combining legendary reliability with high capacity and the durability to effortlessly switch between uses.
If you’re looking for a 24 hour bug out backpack, survival backpack, or tactical bag solution that will serve you whether you’re under fire or just out hiking for the day with the family, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more capable carrying solution.
The Dragon Egg is a 25+ liter capacity tactical bug out backpack designed with military and law enforcement applications in mind.
Available in a wide range of color and camo variations, this low profile survival backpack is ideally suited for use as a 2-day bug out bag as well as an everyday carry solution or hybrid heavy duty backpack for carrying your daily essentials such as a laptop.
With a considered combination of durability, comfort, and storage space features, the Direct Action Dragon Egg is a natural choice for a 48 hour bug out backpack that’s been designed with the ability to adapt and react to any situation that you’re likely to face in an emergency or disaster situation.
Construction and Features
The Dragon Egg is constructed from highly resilient, 500D Cordura with DWR coating for water resistance and all-weather capabilities. This Cordura fabric finish is available in a range of color options including camo variants which are NIR(Near-infrared) treated helping prevent detection with night vision.
Heavy Duty YKK Zippers are included on the bag and are glove friendly meaning you benefit from highly durable access points which can be interfaced with no matter the external conditions.
A paracord drag handle on the top of the bag is both durable and practical, containing two 2.5m cords which can be broken away from the bag when needed in a survival situation.
The Dragon Egg focuses on increased operator comfort in a number of ways from contoured foam profiles with air channels, alongside a mesh system that combine to promote airflow and keep the pack off of the wearer’s back. After long periods of use, this effectively means a significant prevention of heat build-up and sweating, allowing you to comfortably wear the backpack for longer and under high intensity situations.
As a survival backpack, the Dragon Egg provides over 25 liters of storage capacity, utilizing a unique ‘egg’ shape to allow for a lower height and width profile while maintaining the same storage and packing space as other bug out backpacks within this volume range.
A front pocket on the bag includes an internal organizer system for equipment such as GPS, writing utensils, multi-tools, or other similarly sized gear.
Side pockets on this pack are well positioned and sized for storing and carrying a water bottle solution such as a Nalgene bottle or U.S. size canteen.
Daisy chain webbing on the front panel seam of the bag provides latching points for carabiners while laser-cut, non absorbent MOLLE/PALS provision makes the bag both modular and expandable in terms of extending capacity and range if needed.
|Main Compartment:||18.9 x 10.6 x 7.1 inches|
|Material:||5o0D DWR Coated Nylon|
Why we love this Bag
The Direct Action Dragon Egg is an awesome choice if you’re looking for a 48 hour bug out backpack that effortlessly doubles up as an everyday carry or use bag.
The inclusion of features such as water resistant coatings, a paracord drag handle, and MOLLE/PALS extension make this bag highly tactical, while others such as a padded laptop sleeve mean it’s just at home in a hybrid role for use going to work or school, as it is in an emergency situation as a top flight survival backpack.
Constructed from 1050 denier nylon that’s both water & abrasion resistant, the Falcon-II is a tactical day pack designed to be both durable and comfortable when worn in a number of challenging scenarios.
Built with a particular focus on ergonomics, features including padded shoulder straps, sternum & waist support, and hydration bladder compatibility make this backpack efficient and practical, while still retaining a core focus on carrying comfort for periods of long wear in the field.
A capacity of 23 liters means this pack is well suited to use as a 24 hour bug out bag or everyday carry bag, with enough considered storage space to accommodate a lot of gear.
Packing provision ranges from internal pockets and customizable loop fields, through to PALS webbing on the exterior of the bag, and even a concealed carry pocket.
The Best Bug Out Backpack Accessories
From external pouches to water bottle carriers, utilizing the external webbing and latching points on the best bug out backpacks will allow you to considerably increase the storage capacity and range of your survival backpack.
We’ve taken a look at the very best bug out backpack accessories for extending the carrying volume of your pack to allow a level of customization for a truly individual bug out bag.
If you’re looking to extend the carrying capacity of a 5.11 Tactical bag or backpack start here.
Designed to connect seamlessly with bags, packs, and duffels within the 5.11 range, the 6.10 Vertical Pouch is a lightweight, all-weather storage solution that let’s you pack more and go further.
Crafted from ultra-durable 500D nylon, the 6.10 Pouch features a full-length YKK zipper and a molded grip pull for glove-friendly accessibility.
The 6.10 Vertical Pouch is compatible with MOLLE and 5.11 SlickStick web platforms for easy integration onto your bag, adding instant extension to your existing loadout.
Molle pouches are quite simply an invaluable addition to any bug out or survival backpack where capacity looks like it may become an issue, allowing you to extend the natural carrying space of the bag by extending outwards. With this in mind, the choice out there is wide ranging but without a doubt, the pouches by 5.11 Tactical are some of the best in the business and allow that perfect combination of compatibility and durability.
Designed to integrate directly with 5.11 survival backpacks, bags, and packs, this durable water bottle holder is constructed from hard-wearing nylon for carrying your hydration solution in a place which keeps it close at hand.
A high impact locking clip ensures strength when under continual use, while MOLLE and slick stick compatibility mean this water bottle carrier is the perfect solution as part of a modular carrying system.
This external water bottle pouch is available in a variety of colors and is designed for ease of attachment, removal, and access when in use.
If space in you bag is limited, but you want to increase the capacity of your loadout for carrying extra water (recommended), then this external backpack water carrier is one of the best choices available.
The Gadget Pouch from Condor is a multi-functional, MOLLE compatible utility pouch built to carry small devices and equipment.
Whether you’re looking to carry a cell phone or GPS, or even just those extra bits of small gear in an easy to access location, the Condor Gadget Pouch is an exceptional solution for use in a range of demanding scenarios.
A high build quality and simple to access an compartment make this small pouch a great choice for the things that you just don’t have the space for in the pockets of your pack.
If you want a pouch on the exterior of your bug out backpack for keeping those small but essential pieces of equipment close at hand, then this is a great grab and go solution for getting it done.
The Best Conventional Hiking Backpacks for Bug Out Use
As we looked at earlier in the guide, there are some distinct differences between the types of backpack that are traditionally used for hiking, camping, and general leisure activities, and those which have been designed for specific use as a tactical backpack or bug out backpack.
A hiking backpack isn’t for example, typically going to include webbing or expansion slots for other modular gear. Similarly a backpack designed primarily for hiking or trekking is highly unlikely to come in what would be considered ‘tactical’ color finishes and designs (no camo here).
With all that being said, hiking backpacks still offer a ton of benefits when it comes to use as a survival backpack or bug out backpack which make them a great choice in a number of situations.
- Hiking backpacks may draw less attention than a military or tactical application backpack (particularly important in an urban survival scenario or environment)
- Hiking backpacks often deliver an excellent carrying capacity to comfort balance.
- Construction quality of the best hiking backpacks makes hem extremely durable in a number of demanding situations.
As with all elements of emergency preparedness planning, deciding on whether to opt for a dedicated bug out backpack or choosing a hiking backpack that you convert to the job of bug out bag, is always going to be a personal decision based on your particular requirements, preferences, and situation.
Consider the differences and find the type of backpack that;s best for your needs.
Here are some of the best hiking backpacks for use in a survival situation.
There really is a lot to love about the AmazonBasics Hiking Backpack when it comes to assessing it’s suitability for use as a survival backpack or bug out bag.
From finish and build quality, to price point and storage space, this pack is without a doubt an awesome option if you’re looking for a dual-use hiking backpack that can effortlessly switch roles to get you out of trouble in an unexpected bug out situation.
Construction and Features
The first thing to note about this backpack is that it comes in a couple of color finishes as well as size variants (more on the sizes below). The two available finishes of black and green move this bag beyond the usual spectrum of colors you’d expect from a conventional hiking backpack and into those usually reserved for more tactical bags – such as dedicated bug out backpacks or military packs.
What this means in practice of course is that you very quickly end up with a hybrid survival backpack that effortlessly switches between hiking bag and bug out backpack without skipping a beat.
In terms of exterior construction material, the AmazonBasics bag utilizes a durable polyester finish which is water repelent and provides a durable build quality for use in a range of real world scenarios.
If the weather turns more serious, the inclusion of a removable waterproof cover is a nice addition to keep your gear dry in any heavy downpours.
An internal frame built into the pack provides superior stability when fully loaded and means carrying a lot of gear over potentially long distances is a much simpler affair than a bag without this addition.
There are currently three capacity variants of the AmazonBasics Hiking backpack available (two in the UK and Europe) ranging from 55-75 liters of carrying capability.
The entry level pack (pictured) comes in a total of 55 L spread out between 50 L internal carrying capacity and a 5 L extension collar.
Outside of the main compartment, this survival backpack features multiple storage compartments and pockets including a large sleeping-bag compartment and multi-directional compression straps for stabilizing your packed items.
If the weather turns quickly, the inclusion of a self contained rain cover becomes a godsend and can easily be stowed away and carried with you when the skies clear.
One of the advantages of dedicated hiking backpacks is that they’re designed to deliver the optimal combination of easy access, high packing capacity, and distributed carrying comfort.
For the price tag, the AmazonBasics pack recognizes this and brings a lot of storage space in its offering meaning you’re going to have a lot of places to keep your gear while ensuring the weight remains balanced and your equipment is always within reach.
|Dimensions:||32″ x 15.5″ x 7″|
|Capacity:||55 liters (50 l + 5 l Extension Collar|
|Pack Weight:||5.11 lbs|
Why we love this Bag
Not many conventional hiking bags look like they could double as a dedicated tactical backpack or bug out backpack at the first sign of trouble, but the AmazonBasics pack does exactly that. Providing an excellent combination of build quality, carrying capacity, comfort, and cost effectiveness, this bag is a great choice for a survival backpack that is also going to be qually at home, camping with the kids at the weekend.
The Teton Sports Explorer is a rugged and durable internal frame hiking pack providing a 65 L carrying capacity, making it the perfect survival backpack for bugging out anywhere from 2-5 days comfortably.
Delivering a solution that while ultimately designed for hiking, is equally well suited to bug out or emergency situations, the Explorer provides a ton of storage options combined with a focus on stability, ease of packing, and carrying comfort.
Construction and Features
The core support provided by the Explorer comes in the form of its internal frame which provides a solid framework for packing and comfortably carrying a lot of gear from hydration and nutrition supplies, through to sleeping and shelter equipment.
A 600D squared ripstop and 600D Oxford canvas shell form the durable outer skin of this survival backpack and mean that it’s more than ready to deal with a whole host of potential issues in the field, as well as lasting for years.
Comfort is built into this pack from the outset with a multi-position torso adjustment allowing you to alter the fit up to 6 feet 4 inches of wearer’s height as well as an open-cell foam lumbar pad, contoured shoulder and hip pads, and molded channels for airflow to prevent overheating when carrying.
The inclusion of multiple mesh and zippered pockets, a dedicated lower sleeping bag compartment, and a hydration system pocket for holding a water bladder up to 3 liters all combine to provide a solution that’s built for carrying a lot of gear on your back.
The Explorer 4000 provides an epic 65 liters (4000 cubic inches) of packing capacity making it a good candidate as one of the best hiking bug out backpacks or survival backpacks for carrying a full complement of heavy duty equipment such as a multi-season survival tent and sleeping solution, as well as the usual inventory of bug out survival gear you’re likely to need during times of adversity.
In addition to the main storage offering provided by the bag itself, the ‘floating pocket’ design incorporated into this backpack means you can secure tent poles, walking sticks, or similarly shaped objects to the side of the pack without interfering with access to zip and mesh pockets and compartments.
An invaluable component to most of the best bug out backpacks is the ability to support a hydration system and in this regard, the Explorer 4000 complies with the inclusion of a padded compartment for a hydration bladder of up to 3 liters.i
Compression straps at the top and bottom of the bag allow you to secure larger gear such as a tent or sleeping pad and a dedicated sleeping bag compartment makes both packing and access of your kit incredibly straight forward.
|Dimensions:||32″ x 18″ x 12″|
|Capacity:||65 liters / 4000 Cubic Inches|
|Pack Weight:||5 lbs|
|Material:||600D Diamond Ripstop / 600D Oxford Canvas|
Why we love this Bag
The Explorer 4000 is a natural candidate for a survival backpack solution, providing the fundamental criteria of capacity, carrying comfort, ease of access, and build quality.
A neutral color scheme is also something worth looking out for when it comes to finding the best hiking backpack for use as a bug out backpack (nothing says “look at me” like a neon green bag on your back) and on this front, the considered green and grey color options available make the Explorer a solid choice.
How to Pack a Bug Out Backpack or Survival Backpack
When it comes to packing any 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 fast.
Remember, spending some time up front 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 and need to get to your gear quickly.
Packing Your Survival Backpack
Picking the best survival backpack for the job is of course, only half the battle when it comes to preparing for the worst, and knowing how (and what) to pack can make all the difference when you need to get to your gear fast.
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 when the time comes.
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, potentially even leading to injury in the most extreme cases.
Similarly, packing your survival backpack in a way that puts priority items in the easiest to reach locations is an equally crucial consideration when planning the layout of your bag.
Knowing What to Pack
Once you’ve settled on a survival 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, backpacking tent, or a full blown survival shelter.
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 intended to get you home or is for a shorter period of time (say 24-48 hours), you can scale down accordingly.
Choosing a survival backpack with the largest carrying and packing considerations in mind will allow you to settle on a minimum set of values when it comes to capacity and storage space.
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 survival 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 simply can’t guarantee the quality of the drinking water you’re going to have access to.
Without a doubt, one of the very best places 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 them 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 in your survival backpack inventory.
Stoves vary in complexity from simple solid fuel based systems to 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.
Again, the amount and type of nutrition that makes it into your survival backpack inventory is going to vary hugely based upon any number of factors ranging from personal requirements through to time coverage.
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, survival 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 survival 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 survival backpack or bug out 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 component of a comprehensive survival backpack load-out.
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.
If you still have weight and packing capacity to spare, you’ll be in a better position to begin judging any extra items that will make any bug out scenario more manageable, and ultimately, more comfortable should you need to get up and go in a hurry.
The kind of kit that makes it onto this secondary list will vary largely based on the conditions where you live and personal preferences but the kind of things you may want to think about are those items which provide maximum benefit for minimal space constraints.
In your survival backpack loadout, consider packing a lightweight, energy efficient, and durable ebook reader or Kindle containing essential ebooks for survival, first aid, and bushcraft as well as a wide variety of fiction if you can spare the space.
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 survival backpack 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.
Survival Backpack Essentials – What to Look For in the Best Bug Out Backpack
Choosing the best bug out backpack or bag for your specific needs is an exercise that by its very nature will require thinking about a lot of different considerations, scenarios, and personal preferences to ensure you end up with the perfect pack for the job.
Comfort is obviously high on the list of priorities when finding the best bug out backpack for the situation at hand, but so is style, capacity, construction materials, functionality, and features.
Even things like color are going to represent a critical success factor for picking the best bug out backpack for use in an emergency scenario with urban survival situations for example, requiring a different set of design considerations to carrying a bug out backpack in a rural, wooded, or even desert environment.
With these areas in mind, this part of the guide looks at the specific elements that go into making the best survival backpacks and bug out bags and will help you think about some of the more specific components and features that go into most of the packs out there.
Bug Out Backpack Consideration #1 – Range
While there’s really no such thing as a ‘standard’ length of time that a bug out or survival backpack should look to have you covered, the commonly agreed rule of thumb is that unless you have a specific bug out plan in place, you should be looking to find a backpack or survival carrying solution that will see you through a minimum of 72 hours/3 days of use.
72 Hour Bags
Most of the best bug out backpacks will tend to be marketed as providing 72 hours of ‘range’ and what this really comes down to is primarily how much gear you’re going to be able to carry on you (i.e. a 3 day supply of nutrition, hydration, shelter, and other essential survival kit), as well as the practical comfort considerations associated with use over this length of time.
If you’re looking for a bug out backpack that’s going to provide that balance between adequate coverage in the face of the uncertainties of a survival situation while still making sure you’re not under-prepared or over-encumbered, a survival bag with 72 hours of coverage is probably what you’re going to aim for.
The best bug out backpacks within the 72 hour range are going to provide enough room to pack everything from suitable shelter through to emergency food supplies, water filtration, illumination, and the other essential tools and equipment for surviving up to three days.
24-48 Hour Bags
For situations where the objective is to get out of an area quickly and safely but not necessarily to evacuate for a prolonged period of time, the best bug out backpack may be one with a smaller packing and weight profile but that still provides enough coverage to see you through a period of 1-2 days.
A 24 hour tactical day pack is often a great choice as a survival backpack for getting you out of immediate harm when danger is close and you either need to get home, to a larger stockpile of supplies, or just need to get to safety as soon as possible.
Similarly, a bug out backpack designed for up to 2 days of use is going to provide a good range if you’re looking to keep a few more supplies on hand but aren’t anticipating a prolonged period of survival.
The important consideration when choosing a bug out backpack or survival backpack within this range is that while you’re going to benefit from reduced weight constraints when packing and carrying 1-2 days of gear, you’re also going to be considerably more exposed to longer term survival risks with a reduced packing profile on hand.
Bug Out Backpack Consideration #2 – Storage Space and Access
Similar to the concept of range, the storage space and compartments on a bug out backpack determine how much (and where) you’ll be able to pack the gear on your bag.
From the main compartment of the bag, to supplementary areas, pockets, and external pouches, the storage space on the bug out backpack you choose will be the major consideration when it comes to how much you’re going to be able to carry on you in an emergency situation.
Top loading access is without a doubt the most common kind of opening you’re going to find on most bug out backpacks and will offer the most effective way of packing and unpacking your gear when you need to if packed in the right order.
Front loading packs can also offer a good alternative to traditional styles of bug out backpack, particularly if you’re looking for a way to get at all of your gear quickly.
For every kind of survival backpack, internal organization and division is something you’ll want to look for when thinking about the best bug out backpack for your needs and most bags will offer some level of dividing system for keeping your gear separated when inside the pack.
Pockets will vary by type and size across most bug out backpacks, but generally speaking you’re going to be looking at a mixture of open and zippered pocket storage inside and on the exterior of the bag.
Map pockets and hydration bladder pockets are common inside the best bug out backpacks and are an excellent way for distributing and separating these elements of your survival gear when packing and on the road.
Latching Points and Additional Modular Storage Options
External webbing is an essential addition to the best survival backpacks as it allows for the attachment of modular storage pouches which can significantly extend the storage capacity of your bag.
MOLLE storage expansion is common in the best bug out backpack solutions and represents an incredibly effective way of ‘bolting on’ additional pouches for accessing specific elements of your gear such as first aid supplies, ammunition, food, and other essentials without digging through the rest of your kit to lay your hands on what you need.
If you’re thinking packing space within your bag may become an issue, then utilizing the surface area on the outside of a bug out backpack is one of the best ways to expand your carrying capacity with minimal effort and cost.
Bug Out Backpack Consideration #3 – Carrying Comfort and Ventilation
If you find yourself evacuating an emergency situation or disaster with three days of gear on your back, then choosing the best bug out backpack for continued comfort is a key factor to ensuring you get where you’re going as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The inclusion of adequate padding on a bag may seem like an obvious addition when choosing the best bug out backpack or the best survival backpack for use over any length of time but it’s one of those often overlooked areas that you don’t think about until it’s too late to do anything about.
The main areas where padding matters most on a bug out or survival backpack are the components that will bear most of the weight and be in the most frequent direct contact with your body.
Carrying comfort is the ultimate aim of the game when it comes to finding a bug out backpack with adequate padding so you’re going to want to find a pack that focuses padding on the areas which are likely to be under the most stress and where you’ll be feeling the majority of the burden from the bag.
With this in mind, look for a bag that features a good level of padding on the obvious areas such as the straps, back, and any hip belts or additional support areas, as well as those which actively promote the combined ventilation properties of any padding on offer.
If you’ve ever carried a backpack for any prolonged period of time, you’ll know the importance of adequate airflow when it comes to regulating your temperature (and reducing sweat!), minimizing discomfort, and making sure you’re able to carry your gear for as long as needed, no matter the conditions you find yourself in.
The best bug out backpacks and survival backpacks will feature some kind of mesh system or a dedicated ventilation system to encourage airflow and reduce sweating during longer periods of use.
Don’t overlook the importance of good ventilation when it comes to finding the best bug out backpack for use, particularly if you’re likely to be carrying your pack for prolonged periods of time or in warmer climates.
Bug Out Backpack Consideration #4 – Color and Finish
Choosing the best survival backpack for the job is always going to be a highly subjective endeavor with requirements and bag considerations varying widely between situations.
For example, the requirement for the material of a bug out backpack to be fully waterproof is significantly less important if you’re likely to be using it in arid conditions as opposed to temperate or colder climates.
It’s therefore important to think carefully about the kinds of environment and conditions you’re likely to be operating in with your bug out backpack in the event of an emergency situation unfolding and using this as a starting point for choosing the best survival backpack (in terms of construction and finish) based upon these criteria and factors.
Construction and Materials
Most of the best survival backpacks and bug out backpacks tend to be constructed from some form of extremely hard-wearing and durable material such as nylon or Cordura.
Generally speaking, the best bug out backpacks will display the properties of the material used in terms of a metric called ‘denier’ or ‘D’ (for example 1050D nylon).
The denier rating of a backpack doesn’t refer specifically to the ‘strength’ of the material used in the bag, but rather, refers to the weight. Strength is typically derived from the actual weave of the fabric, but in terms of abrasion resistance (think durability and resistance to wear and tear over prolonged periods of use), a bag measuring 500D is going to be less resistant to abrasion than one coming in at 1000D.
Color and Finish
Choosing the best bug out backpack color can be a tough one and while there’s no right or wrong answer to finding the best color or design for your bag, there are a couple of things that can be useful to keep in mind.
If you’re looking to pick the best survival backpack for use in any kind of wilderness situation – such as for forest, desert, snow, or similar uses – there can be a strong case for specifically opting for a bug out backpack that factors these environments into the design.
This may mean a specific camo finish or a flat color that’s sympathetic to these environments (like an olive drab or tan finish).
If however, you’re looking to put together an all-purpose bug out backpack solution that you can grab and go from home or a vehicle and that will serve you in multiple scenarios, you’re probably going to want to be thinking about a flat darker color such as a black or gray finish.
The major advantage of this last category is that firstly you’re going to draw considerably less attention in a disaster or emergency situation if you opt for a bag that ‘blends in’ and doesn’t promote the fact that you’re actually more prepared than your low-key backpack suggests.
Nothing shouts “I’m prepared, come and take my gear/question me!” like a camo or obvious military application backpack, so if you’re in an urban area or looking to keep a low profile in an emergency situation (recommended), then a less conspicuous color scheme on your bag is a good choice.
The Last Word
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 and survival backpack solutions.
Finding the best bug out backpack or survival 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 and survival 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 bag that’s perfect for your situation.