A Tool Roll: Quick Way to Organize a Bug Out Bag

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By Bryan Lynch •  7 min read

I am not sure about you about for me a bug-out bag is one of those projects that is never really complete. I sometimes switch bags, swap out old gear for new or better items, and I often reorganize the contents to optimize the layout. 

Everybody has their way of organizing a bug-out bag, but I thought I would share an item that I have found to be quite helpful in this regard. A long time ago I discovered tool rolls and fell in love with their simplicity and efficiency for organizing items. 

What is a Tool Roll?

You may not know what these are, but I am sure you have seen them at some point in your life. A tool roll is a piece of material with slots, straps, or pockets for holding tools and gear. Once items have been added, it is designed to be rolled up and is held shut with straps, buckles, or snaps. 

Older styles of these were made from leather or heavy-duty canvas material which can still be found today, although modern choices do include nylon, plastics, and other materials. 

The interior layout of a tool roll has also undergone some evolution, offering more choices for carrying gear.

Some styles offer several single slots where individual tools can be inserted. Other styles offer large, zippered pockets where many like items can be grouped. 

Why Use a Tool Roll?

I have used tool rolls for many years and here are my thoughts on the benefits of using them to organize a BOB.


Tool rolls today come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There are many different designs to choose from and you can place gear inside how you like. This allows you to personalize the loadout by playing items where you want them and not where they must go. 

Instant Access

Once a tool roll has opened an assortment of gear is at your fingertips. This provides instant access to several tools at once. 


I hate digging through a bag or even dumping most of the contents out because I cannot find what I am looking for. 

There is an old saying that goes something like, “there is a place for everything, and everything has its place.” It is difficult to get more organized than a tool roll that makes sure all your tools stay in their place. 

Custom Kits

Tool Rolls offer the ability to make individual kits apart from the main bug out bag. These kits can serve one specific use, or they can be general-purpose kits. Since they are lightweight, compact, and highly portable, a tool roll kit is easily carried when separated from the main pack. 

More Space 

Gear that is placed haphazardly within a bag will undoubtedly take up more space than needed and creates difficulty when packing.

When those same items are placed in a tool roll, they are secured into a tighter area. This creates more space inside a bug-out bag for carrying additional items.  

Carrying Options 

I like that a tool roll can be carried in three different ways. Obviously, it can be carried inside another bag. When it is separated from a pack it can easily be carried by hand. Lastly, it can be strapped to the outside of a bag which allows more items to be packed inside the bag. 

Disadvantages of Using A Tool Roll

As much as I like tool rolls, they are not perfect, and like anything else, they have their downfalls. Here are a few of those negative features. 

Gear Shape and Size 

Although there are many different styles of tool rolls, they are all designed to be rolled up when they are not in use. For this to be effective and efficient, gear stowed inside may need to be small and flat. 

The larger and more round an object is will limit how tight the material can be rolled up and therefore some items are not well suited to be carried in a tool roll. 

For instance, a knife or sharpening stone fits well within the overall design of the layout, but a canteen or water bottle does not. In my opinion, this is the biggest downfall of a tool roll, however, it can still stow a lot of different gear. 


The weight of a bug-out bag is always a pressing issue that we do our best at keeping in check. One of the best ways to organize our bags is to use containers to separate all the gear. Other than just the gear, the containers will add weight themselves.  

Overall, I think many tool rolls are a lightweight container option. Depending on the material they are constructed from and any hardware used on them, they will add some weight to the bag you are carrying. 

Lost Gear 

I tend to use older-style tool rolls that have slots or open pockets for gear. When the material is rolled up the ends of the tool roll are open. This design has the potential for items to possibly fall out of the roll in rare circumstances. 

I have only ever heard of this happening and out of all the years I have used them I have never experienced it. If the gear is stowed correctly and tightly secured, I believe this is rare. 

How I use my BOB Tool Roll  

The tool rolls that I have most recently used were bought at a hardware store. It was just after a holiday special and I picked up several of them while they were on sale. 

They are constructed from nylon with nylon cinch straps and plastic buckles. The interior has a row of open pockets on both the top and bottom. The pockets are meant for individual tools and allow me to see everything in the tool roll when it is laid out. 

I have enjoyed using these because they have held up well, are easy to transport, and can be opened and put away quickly. 

The only downfall of this roll is that the pocket size increases in ascending order from one side of the roll to the next.

Since the pocket size is not uniform, this restricts the type of tools that can be placed inside. This has been a slight annoyance when I have tried to create specialized or general-purpose kits. Overall, they have been an effective, affordable way of keeping gear organized.

Pros and Cons of Using a Tool Roll



Wrap up

Accessing gear in a disorganized bug-out bag is frustrating, and no one wants to deal with that. We are more efficient and effective at what we do when our gear is organized.

A tool roll is a good option for accomplishing this because it offers an easy to carry secondary container, keeps items organized, it is lightweight and compact, it can be carried on the inside of a bag as well as strapped to the outside, and it comes in a variety of different styles and designs that allows a person the utmost level of customization.   

Thanks for reading and stay prepared! 

What do you think of using a tool roll in a bug-out bag? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.