Choosing a backpack for your Bug Out Bag

A bug out bag is built around the idea that its content will help you survive for 72 hours. Basically, within three days you should be able to reach safe heaven. In this article, we will discuss about the basics for choosing the bag itself.

Choosing a bug out bag is not easy, especially since there are those companies who manufacture and sell the “one size fits all” bug out bags. Some may say that having one of these bags is better than nothing but as emergency preparedness taught us, choosing the right type of bug out bag for yourself is the right way to do it. Let’s face it, one size cannot fit all the supplies you have, regardless if we talk about clothes, shoes, food or survival gear. A bug out bag is a personal item that should be designed based on its owner and it’s like a personal wardrobe if you prefer calling it that. Just like you can’t wear somebody else’s shoes, you can’t survive off of someone else’s bug out bag.

While people stick to the 3 days food and water quota, some will prefer to add enough supplies to last for five days or even more. Others will design their bug out bag in such manner that it will allow them to survive for more than a week. You should calculate the amount of supplies you want to carry based on the space your bug out provides.

Before selecting a good bug out bag, it is important to look at your bugging out timeline (source) and decide how you are going to bug out when it hits the fan. The options you have for bugging out will affect the type of bag you select, the size of it and the supplies you will take with you.

Most preppers plan on bugging out in their car or truck and that’s a great option if you can, but you also have to think about ditching your car. If you are forced to abandon your vehicle and you need to continue on foot, you have to plan your bug out bag in such manner that you can carry it. If your bug out bag might be too big or too heavy to carry, all your planning and money spent on supplies would have been for nothing. You basically have two choices to make it work: you can load it as much as you can since the car will be carrying all the heavy load or you can make it lightweight enough so that it won’t become a problem if you have to carry it.

If your bug out bag is way too heavy to be carried you still have some chances of succeeding as long as you plan in advance. When the time comes and you are forced to abandon your car, you have to split your supplies and take only what you can carry. You have to think about this in advance because you might not have the time to ponder on the spot about what items to keep or discard. Even more, make sure you don’t leave those supplies for the “unprepared” and think about a way to cache them. You can always return for them, once things cool down.

Suggested reading: Caching, the smart way to “abandon” supplies

Going with a backpack is my recommendation and there are a large number of sizes and styles you can chose from. From school backpacks to the ones frame mounted backpacks designed for hiking, everything is available on the market.

One may think that the bigger the backpack the more that you can carry in it, but this is a wrong mentality, one created by desperation and lack of knowledge. The bigger the backpack means that you will have more weight to carry. If you can’t carry a load that weighs more than you can handle, you will just put yourself in danger. Soldiers are trained to carry a 60 pound backpack for more than 15 miles, but they have regular training. If they can do it, that doesn’t mean you can. Try and walk a full hour with your loaded backpack and check how you can handle the load. If it’s too heavy for you, you need to rethink your bug out bag or get in better shape.

The most common backpack available on the market is the day pack, a type that can hold up to 200 cubic inches of supplies, organized in various pockets. These are designed on the ruck sack style with your shoulders supporting all the weight. When these backpacks are fully loaded the carrier will sometimes walk with his body bent forwards so that the weight of the pack can rest against his back. This happens because pressure is accumulated on your shoulders and you will try to disperse some of the weight.

The backpacks that hikers prefer are designed to have a much higher capacity than the day packs, even twice as much. These types of backpacks have a frame and a belt, designed to help you carry a heavier load. The two accessories will transfer the backpack’s weight to your hips and allow your legs to carry the load, putting less pressure on your back. For most people, the legs are much stronger than their backs and this backpack design will allow you to carry a much heavier load.

Regardless of the model you choose, you must test your backpack and yourself in order to see how much load you can actually carry. If you can’t carry the pack comfortably for one hour, without having to stop for breaks, you are doing something wrong. It’s normal to stop for a minute or two to catch your breath, but if you do that too often, your backpack is probably too heavy for you.

Once you select the right size for your bug out bag, there are other things you need to consider. Things such as:

The padding of the straps and belt of your bug out bag

If your bug out bag has well-padded straps your body will thank you. A good padding material not only keeps the straps from cutting into your flesh, but also helps spread the weight. The wider and more comfortable the straps, the longer you can carry your bug out bag. Narrow straps will start cutting into your flesh, the moment you put the pack on your shoulders.

The mounting location of the straps of your bug out bag

The location of the straps is important depending on your body type and it will help the backpack from falling or restricting your movement. This may be a problem for thin people because if the straps are mounted too far apart, the backpack may slip off their shoulders and they will spend all their time adjusting it. It creates additional stress and they won’t be able to pay attention to details concerning their surroundings.

Number of compartments for your bug out bag

Some think that the more compartments a bug out bag have the merrier, but it all depends on what you need to carry. Having one big pocket is not practical because every time you need something from the bottom, you will have to take everything out. Having several compartments it will make it easier to organize your bug out bag and keep things in reach. While multiple compartments will help your backpack from becoming a mess, you will need to memorize the location of your most needed items (such as medicine) and avoid going through all the pockets because you forgot where it is.

Exterior straps and attachments for your bug out bag

Your bug out bag should allow you to carry things outside your pack as well. If the pack you selected doesn’t have straps, bungie cords and hooks to attach things to, you need to rethink your choice. Having all these elements will effectively increase the size of your backpack and allow bulky items such as bedrolls and coats to be attached to the outside of your bug out bag.

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Choosing the color of your bug out bag

Picking the right color is important because it will make you look less like a soldier or survival expert. When people are desperate, wearing cammo and carrying military gear will transform you into a target. Those desperate people will not hesitate to attack you in order to take what you got in your bug out bag. Black might not seem a good option because it’s the color of choice of Special Forces and police special ops teams. On the other hand, you don’t want a bright color either. Bright colors are too visible and you will be easily spotted in the wild, making it impossible to keep a low profile. I recommend going for a neutral dark color such as dark green, dark brown or even dark blue.

Related article: How to travel when SHTF

Some considerations before choosing your bug out bag:

  • Don’t limit yourself only to the storage that your bug out bag provides. Wearing a survival vest or hanging things from your belt should also be an option.
  • Don’t keep the items you think you need in your bug out bag. Keeping your gun in your bug out bag might seem a good idea, but what if you don’t have the time to reach for it?
  • Your most critical survival gear should never leave your body. You might be separated from your bug out bag and you need to make sure you have a fighting chance. Keeping your knife in a belt holster, a fire starter in your pocket and wearing a paracord bracelet should be the basic.
  • All the items that can be discarded should be placed in plastic bags and the bags should be easily accessible. This will make sorting and caching much easier if it comes to that.
  • Always read the reviews when buying online because the experience of others will prevent you from doing the same mistakes. A dissatisfied customer will take the time to write his frustration and let everyone know about his ordeal. It’s true what they say in marketing, “one dissatisfied customers equals 10 satisfied ones”.
  • What works for you won’t work for your family members. Each bug out bag should be designed for the person that needs to carry it.

Choosing a backpack for your bug out bag requires some planning and research, and it’s an important step when designing your bug out bag. You need to make sure your start right, otherwise you will have to improvise and find alternative solutions to fix your design flaw. What is listed above are just the basics when it comes to choosing a backpack and it’s something that every prepper or survivalist should know.

Stay safe and God Bless!

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