7 Tips For Your Bug Out Bag

Yea, I know, another BOB post. You have it all squared away, but do you really?  I like to think of my pack as a multi-scenario item. Call itHow to build a bug out bag a GHB (Get Home Bag), GOOD bag (Get Out of Dodge) or INCH bag ( I’m Never Coming Home ) or just a plain old BOB (Bug Out Bag). Whatever you have named your pack, it should be able to sustain you well for a few days and if the rules change, keep you alive for an indeterminate period of time. That’s a lot to ask of something, but we have the technology and the tools available for not a lot of money.   You just have to be willing to put in a little bit of time and work for you and your family’s safety and well being.

Number One: What Size Pack?

Tip for your bug out bag
This is my everyday pack. Marmot Talus older version, no frame. Currently it weighs 26-27 lbs with handgun kit, 20 lbs without. Very comfortable and doesn’t draw much attention.

With so many variations and styles, it can be a daunting task to find the right fit.  What I mean by that is, does it feel good?  A huge mistake most people make is overestimating the weight they can/want to carry vs what pack they choose.  So this might be more a suggestion than a tip, but it is important.  Packs are rated at cubic liters or cubic inches, this tells you a lot.  It has been my experience that a certain cubic liter translates into a certain amount of weight that a pack can cover comfortably. It has a lot to do with the suspension also, but most packs are built to a certain spec of operation.  So here is my theory, a 35 L pack can carry 30-35lbs good. After that the pack doesn’t feel good, but can still carry more, but it just starts to rub you the wrong way. I have found this to be true in the lower ranges of 15-20L, up into the 40-50L size. BTW, we are talking about internal frame packs, or frame sheet on the smaller ones.  So the first question you need to ask yourself is, ‘how much weight can I carry, day in, day out’?  Be honest or suffer.  The only certain way to know is to do.  As for the few who can carry 60 lbs or more consistently, that is post for another day.

Number Two: Rig for Silent Running

If you need to carry a lot, I believe these are the best packs on the planet. Vintage Jansport D2's, they come in many different configurations, but weighing in at about 6-7 lbs, they are lighter than any pack made today that can haul as much as them. I found the tan one on CL for $25 in perfect condition. They can haul more than you want to carry.
If you need to carry a lot, I believe these are the best packs on the planet. Vintage Jansport D2’s, they come in many different configurations, but weighing in at about 6-7 lbs, they are lighter than any pack made today that can haul as much as them. I found the tan one on CL for $25 in perfect condition. They can haul more than you want to carry.

That means, keep your pack quiet.  Noise is never good, unless traveling in Griz country, then traveler beware.  Rattles and clanks can scare off prey, alert predators, and ruin the peace and quiet of nature.  Grab your pack and shake it.  What noises do you hear?   The biggest culprits are cook sets, ammo, loose tools and half full water bottles.  The use of extra bandanas and ranger bands can be the perfect solution since they have many uses other than noise reducers. A piece of ShamWow can serve many purposes.  Think possible signaling device too when choosing colors. Don’t forget to use your compression straps.  If for some reason you haven’t maxed out your pack, then pull those straps tight to reduce shakes and rattles.  One more reason to keep things quiet is the fact that a quiet pack doesn’t have things shifting around messing up your balance.

Number Three: Speed vs Security

My chest rig, constantly evolving, weighs in at 10lbs with 9mm. It isn't very Gray Man oriented, but it serves a vital purpose and can be rolled up and put in the <a href=

Maybe this should have been number two.  I don’t know where this saying originated, but it is pack gospel. At its core, the saying speaks to the reality of what weight does to your speed and ability to cover distance.  You might be able to carry 50 lbs all day, but can you run with it?  Will you have to jettison all your worldly possessions to stay alive in the next second? This tip should always be in the back of your mind when assembling your kit.  The ultralight community is a good place to learn how to trim weight from your pack.  The biggest single weight additions that will affect your final package, are shelter, sleeping, and cooking items.  This stuff can make or break your back.  Every ounce saved is more food or water you can carry.  We might have to put together a weight chart on this site to compare real world numbers.  Each item could use its own post.  Tiering your stuff and carrying it in varied ways can really make hard decisions
easier and help balance you on the trail.  Tiering is just the system of prioritizing your gear. What pieces do you never want to lose, that’s tier one and should be in pockets or on your belt, typically this is called your EDC.  The next tier would be all the stuff that makes life simple. I mean gear that is hard to replicate.  Time and calorie consuming bushcraft stuff.  I am leaning towards a chest rig for at least some of this stuff. By spreading the weight around your body, if done right, you can improve your balance and reduce bodily wear and tear.  Actually I have a set up that is based on the Ranger RACK Chest Rig, I have 10 lbs of stuff, including rig and pouches, and it really does make you walk different. It adds some heat to that area, but it does have a mesh back.  I could do a whole post on chest rigs, but for now you need to give it a thought. Last is a quote that I hope to never forget, “Movement is life”World War Z.

Number Four: Stay Organized & Keep Gear Secure

Basically, keep your pockets buttoned and zips closed.  When pulling out gloves or putting them back, secure that pocket, never assume that the stuff will not fall out.  I have found many gloves, hats, and other miscellany on the trail because people get tired and complacent, maybe a 2 year old was involved.  Lost gear is worthless gear.   Stuff sacks with cord locks are notorious for coming loose when attached to the outside of a pack.  Tie a slip knot after cinching the cord lock in case that unit wants to slide.

Number Five: Freeze Alert

Colder temps can ruin your batteries, water filters, and burst your water supply.  Try to keep extra batteries and electronic devices close to your body when the temperature drops below 32.  Water filters will always have residual moisture in them and can be ruined if allowed to freeze.  Water bottles and bladders are harder to keep warm. Some bladders can be close to the back and kept liquidity, but those hoses can turn rock hard before you know it. I have some insulated tubes that fit on the hose, it helps, but is far from perfect.  I believe that there is no silver bullet for this one. Drink up your water, take time to replenish, and hope for the best.  Just be aware of the problem and don’t get caught with nothing but blocks of ice.

Number Six: Keeping Gear Dry and Flotation

Multi-use item alert!  So if you are trekking through heavy rain or crossing a creek, keeping your stuff dry is very, very important. A pack cover will deal with the rain pretty well and can gather rain water to drink, win-win. All it takes is one misstep during a crossing and in you go.  Imagine your pack submerged and filling with water, what would be ruined or just a big pain to dry out.  Most problems like this can be avoided by a dry bag.  Freezer ziploc’s are great too. How about an extra 32 oz Nalgene?  All of these have multiple uses in gathering water, food, kindling, you name it.  Keeping your extra clothing, ammo, and food dry is essential.  As a great lightweight alternative to all of these, I think Aloksak’s are worth every penny.  Thank you SullenRonin for turning me on to these.  Where does flotation come in, think about having to drag a water logged pack across a body of water.  Even squished down dry bags and the like, hold air and by default give you buoyancy.  When crossing a stream that is deep enough to sweep you away, take your pack off your back and sling it in front of you or off to the side.  You do not want to go face down with a 40 lb pack on your back holding you down or bashing your head into a rock before you go under.  Think of your pack as a life preserver in these situations.

Number Seven: Storage & Transport

My travel set up with my Go bag. This is the one that will keep me alive if I have to travel quickly. The whole thing weighs 50lbs with luggage, 42lbs of kit. If I am going to <a href=

If you have to leave NOW!, is your sh*t ready?  If you are really into this stuff, you are constantly playing with your gear.  This means that at any time your kit may be spread around the house.  Try and put your toys away when done, I heard a Mom or two say that before.  If you are digging into your pack to exchange or use a piece of gear, put it back ASAP. Replace any consumables immediately.  So one aspect of keeping your gear together and ready to take with you, just in case, on the road, is keeping it together and mask its identity.  We all have a Go Bag and small duffel for extra clothes or what-not, in this house.  Add a pair of boots and weapons and extra food and winter clothing, you have a sizable amount of stuff. I have found that big top zip duffel bags are indispensable.  Being able to throw extra gear in a big bag and throwing it in the trunk is huge.  Even if you can’t carry it all when the SHTF, it is nice to be able to gear up and go, consider it a soft sided gear locker.  Traveling by air?  Want to take your kit?  Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to find a gorilla proof luggage that can hold your stuff and weigh in at 50lbs or less.  This is easier said than done and has consumed many of my hours. I am currently using an old hard-sided Samsonite. Remember those old commercials with the chimp tossing an American Tourister around in his cage (click here). The downside of the hard sided units is they aren’t very forgiving in the expandable area, but they are rugged and lighter than some soft sided units. The search for the perfect piece will continue. Please sound off if you think you have the perfect item. As always, if you have some suggestions, please share them. The best part of posting my ideas is hearing other peoples ideas concerning these areas..These tips might not be the most glamorous, but they can make or break your journey.

Photos By:
Monty Python


Joel Jefferson
Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of SurvivalCache.com. After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

32 thoughts on “7 Tips For Your Bug Out Bag”

  1. The problem with most peoples' bugout bags is not that they weigh too much, but rather they weigh too little. And in many cases they weigh nothing at all

  2. Nice article, recently I upgraded my packs for water resistance. I have construction grade trash bags that I use as a liner inside my pack. I also use the Ziplock bags inside for extra protection and to keep my contents grouped together…..fire, medical, shelter, water, etc. I also apply a silicone water proofing spray on the bags yearly. I know it isn't 100% but it is very little weight and is an affordable way to keep my gear dry.

    • If you swap out the garbage bags with quality ultralight dry bag(s) for rafting etc. you can gain all the benefits as your trash bags plus the ability to harvest many gallons of water if you need to. Kind of like a 3-5 gallon water bottle that weighs only a few ounces when empty. Not the most durable, but a lifesaver if you need it.

    • Trash bag liner, how many uses does that have? 25 cents and weighs 4-6 oz for a construction grade. Every pack should have one. Black or Bronco orange?

  3. Mine weights in at 35 pounds and is not gray man. however I live on almost rural areas anyway so staying hidden is more important than blending in with people
    For the most part.

  4. My BOB consists of a old-style Swiss Army jacket with attachable backpack! The jacket has lots of good-sized pockets in front and lower back, and the modified backpack attaches with flaps going over the shoulders then clipping on the chest snaps. It was modified by expanding the main center pouch to carry a 12 Liter Lock & Lock container which easily carries a week's worth of food, providing protection from small pests, water-proofing, and positive buoyancy! The two side pouches on the backpack each can hold a plastic 2L soda bottle or similar containers. They currently carry an extra shirt and two extra pairs of socks (in ziplock bags) in one and 100 foot of 550 cord, roll of duct tape and a L&L container full of fuel tabs and tea candles (as well as a lantern for them) in the other! On top of the attached pack, a small, lightweight tent, and a sleeping bag wrapped in two construction-grade trash bags (wet sleeping bags blow chunks, especially in winter) are secured with straps!

    The pockets of the jacket contain the 10 C's (thank you, Dave Canterbury) with the arms and inner liner removed to make it into a lighter as well as cooler vest! The front lower pockets each hold a 2L military canteen helping to balance out the weight load. A side note about water freezing in your canteen, I've had the experience in the Rockies, in a lightweight tent, along with an overnight dumping of about 12 inches of snow. My solution was to urinate in my canteen cup (about one inch worth), put the slightly-swollen plastic canteen in, set on my Esbit folding stove with two lit tea candles providing extra heat, then shortly after putting on boots, and going out to write my name in the snow, enough canteen water had thawed to rinse out the canteen cup, put an inch of potable water in the bottom of the cup and continue thawing until no longer needed! Good Luck!

  5. I like the idea of a separate pack and frame. water weighs 8 Lbs, per gallon, fuel around 6 Lbs. (plus the weight of the container)
    after getting to my bug-out location, I expect I'll need to haul water, fuel and food around. (from where it is, to where we're camped)

    • Being able to haul water and loads of meat, fish, and produce is essential when the grid goes down. I have modified a couple of Alice Pack frames to do this. One has a 6 G jug strapped on to it and another has a 10 G bucket attached. There are some packs out there that do this exact job, they all have a lower shelf built in. I don't own one yet, but I will be looking for a deal. I have collected some frames from Kelty that are going to get modified for cargo hauling, ammo cans, you name it. In WWII a packboard was utilized for bulky loads, I have a brand new/unissued one. They are surprisingly comfortably. Out of all of them, the Alice frame with 10G bucket might be the most utilitarian of them all, not pretty, but very sturdy. I love packs 🙂

  6. 03USMC, amen to the cleaning and the Oakley's. I am an M-Frame junkie. I will have to debate the toothbrush thing, should be part of your IFAK. An ounce of prevention…

    I just saw 'Wild' with Reese, laughed my butt off at her pack nicknamed 'The Monster'. The scene of her trying to stand with it for the first time…I have been there.

  7. Probably one of the better articles on BOBs I have read. The too much gear cant be emphasized enough. Can you lie flat and then get up quickly with all your gear on? Now do this several times. If its exhausing, then too overloaded. Can you fit through narrow doorways, go through heavy brush ( without having gear stripped off)? How about up and down several flights of stairs?
    As too keeping gear dry, a great peice of kit is either SeaLine or Sea to Summit dry bags. These are extremely durable and will keep your gear dry. A cheap alternative is heavy duty contractor bags. Crossing a body of water is something many never think about…bridges make great pinch/ ambush points…best to avoid.
    Again great article.

  8. I agree for short duration. Long term though, it isnt about fresh breath as much as preventing an oral problem ( toothache or gum infection). Additionally, there can be a morale 'pickme up' factor for most. Infection/disease is one of the most dangerous factors if TSHTF.

  9. Very good article with good appropiate coments ! Cant stress on try your gear out under different conditions. Hot ,cold wet etc. to see how every part of your gear holds up!

  10. I continue to read every artice that I find on this subject. This is if not the best, darn close to it. Thanks for a very informative article. Also learning from the comments, thanks folks!

  11. Hey there people. I am new to the post a comment thing but have been reading articles for some time now. Great website and thanks to all who provide a wealth of intelligent comment and advice to newbies like me.
    For my 2 cents worth, I am a backpacker, hitch hiker and traveller who heads out with little money.
    My pack is always, and I mean ALWAYS packed. Ready to walk out the door. It is not a BOB or a GHB or whatever, but it is my whole house on my back…pack. Stoves, water, fire kits, rope, clothing, winter kit, sleep system, even summer stuff like mosquito nets and the like…the list goes on. 25kg is heavy of course but this includes a weeks worth of food and a liter of water. This kit has kept me on the road for months at a time from -17 celcius to +35 celcius. Not an easy ask for a single pack, but it is worth it in the long run. I recently walked a 90km walk in the northern sub arctic forests here in Sweden and completed the trail in 4 and a half days…fully loaded. My pack has proved itself and stood the test of time and distance.
    Thanks again for a great website folks

  12. This is an old trick from the boy scouts. find a light weight box that fits in side of your pack. Pack everything into the box then wrap in in something watter proof and slide the box into your pack. Everything will be right where you put it in the box when you pull the box out to get what you need. I'm sure there are other options out there now that will do the same thing as I was a scout back in the 60's.

  13. The best way to test your BOB, is to spend your free weekends using it. Park your vehicle, grab your bag, and walk away. In all types of weather.
    Keep a pad of paper and a pencil in it to write down things you find you could have used.
    Something else I haven't seen in any posts like this, if you have to bug out for a long time, have you thought about throwing some seeds in your bag? Another option, if you know what area you will bug out to, is to sow some seeds there on your weekend visits.

    • Guerrilla gardening I believe is the term, and I like it. As a kid in IN, I knew where all the fruit and berry patches were. Learning about wild edibles is critical too. So a great question or post idea would be what and how many seeds to pack. I will put this on the list.

  14. Great article and great replies. In Vietnam we were obsessed with making sure there was nothing that could get caught on anything hanging from our packs and that included tieing our shoe laces in such away that they did not show (they were wrapped around and double tied and then pushed down in the boot) plus hanging objects make noise. I cannot stress enough about keeping quiet when moving, particularly learning how to move quietly over the surfaces you walk on in your area. Somewhere someplace there are articles on how to move quietly other than the jungle. I just have not found them yet because I am new to prepping. Anyone out there know of anything about this?

  15. Quiet movement is a matter of surroundings here on a warm dry still night breathing will give you away.
    a slight breeze and you can play bingo with a loud speaker and I doubt anyone will hear you.

  16. S.L.A. Marshall wrote a great book entitled, "The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation." In a broader respect it alludes to the fact that as our nation (The United States of America) has become more affluent, our military leaders have loaded down our military with more and more "stuff." We all need to address exactly how much of the "stuff" we pack is really necessary. We all need to assess exactly what our "bag's" purpose is and pack accordingly. Most of us probably have several bags depending on the need. We also must take into consideration where we live (gray bags or camo, etc.), if we have transportation available (larger duffle bags, larger load packs like the current USMC "Pack", and so on), will we be armed, and so forth, and of course, what type of crisis are we bugging out from. Personally, if I am traveling it is in a large pickup truck that has a secure "tool box" with items I might need in a road emergency, along with first aid, shelter, water, and food items. I also have a bag that I always carry when in my truck, just in case I may need to leave the truck and light out on foot. Because I live in a rural area where law enforcement assets are few and far between, I keep a "gun bag" at the ready in case of problems with undesirables coming onto my ranch with criminal intent (now for those living in urban areas in the northeast, illegal immigrants that pose an immediate physical threat may be only something you read about in your morning paper while having a cup of coffee, here in south Texas it is a problem that we deal with on a regular basis, so that threat we must also deal with). So, I have several bags ready for different scenarios. In a complete bug out situation they would all be taken. My mantra is "2 is 1, and 1 is none!" Water, food, shelter, ammo, fire, first aid are the critical items.

  17. I am still playing with abandoning my ALICE and my Three Day Assault Pack and going with a mix of my web gear I had for WW-2 reenacting and some M56 gear I had leftover from when I was in the Army National Guard in the 1980s and my dad had when he was in in the late 1960s through the early 1980s. I plan to carry some spare clothing and a compressible sleeping bag in my M1928 Haversack with an M61 Field Pack (butt pack) to carry some basic survival gear. I already have a small first aid kit on one side of the M61 pack in an M56 universal ammo pouch and another larger field first aid kit on the other. Strapped underneath is a ponch and ponchliner. On the Haversack is a meat can pouch with a mess kit and utensils and an M1910 e-tool carrier and an M1910 T-handle e-tool. The belt I use since my rifle is an M1 Garand is an M1923 cartridge belt with ten pockets each holding one 8 round enbloc clip for the M1. To allow for more ammo for the Garand I have two five pocket Mosin Nagant bandoliers from Strike Hard Gear. These each hold two Mosin Nagant 5 round stripper clips or one M1 enbloc per pocket. On the belt I have a KABAR USMC combat knife, an M1942 first aid pouch with a field dressing and two M1910 Canteen carriers with Canteens and Cups. One cup is for drinking the other for cooking. In the field pack is a Stanley Camp Cooker nested within an 18 oz. Walmart Ozark Trails stainless cup. Food is one pound bag of long cook rice, one pound bag of beans, three to four 2.5 oz envelopes of tuna, three to four packages of ramen and four to six granola bars. I also have a ziploc 1 qt. freezer bag with bags of green tea and another of coffee singles. I am adding a water filtration device to the mix and may carry that and some of the food in a Lightweight Gas Mask Bag as what was used to carry the M4 Gas Mask in WW-2. I have used a vintage one to carry some of my bits and pieces when I reenacted an US Infantryman and in that I had a cleaning kit for the Garand, some spare food (reproduction K or C rations that now will be granola bars and reman), playing cards, a New Testament with the Psalms and some spare socks. Since my Mutual Assistance Group is also preparing for operations beyond protection of our BOL I am going to carry spare ammo in there as well as the field pack and may trade out the haversack for a Mussett Bag and a set of M1936 X Suspenders for the belt.

  18. Just a suggestion. The ability to attach items to outside of pack (molle) attachments is huge. Also the trend I would say is back to external frame packs. If you lean to military packs (rigs) chances are that they are better suited to extended and tactical situations or those type of actions. Meaning canteens, ammo pouches, E tools can be attached securely on outside of pack. Extra webbing and ability to tighten the pack with built in straps is HUGE, especially to control balance. Center of gravity and controlling load is bigger than most people realize. I would always lean to bigger packs, with an assault pack or butt pack available for patrol or quick action. Think ILBE set up or Alice pack with web gear worn with Alice setup, when you dump pack (ambush) you can continue with H harness rig or assault pack from back of ILBE. Two strong options…..to fight and move.


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