How To Test Your Bug Out Bag For SHTF Situations

There is one piece of gear that almost every prepper has and that is a bug out bag

A bug out bag is typically a backpack-style pack that contains all of the supplies a person thinks they need for surviving a pre-determined amount of time. 

Testing Your Bug Out Bag

I could be wrong but I think many people who have such a bag do not fully test it out. 

Many times over I have heard of someone packing brand new supplies (still in their packaging) into a bug out bag and then the bag gets put into a closet or basement. 

The supplies never get tested and the bag eventually becomes overly packed.

Considering that a bug out bag is going to be a lifeline during an emergency, it must be properly tested before the SHTF.

Testing A Bug Out Bag Before SHTF

Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to a bug out bag.


Everyone’s budget is different, and it is better to have some kind of bag for carrying supplies rather than nothing.

But a plastic shopping bag is not going to make for a long-lasting bug out bag. You are going to want something dependable.

Look for a bag that with these qualities

  • Made of quality materials
  • Some degree of water resistance or proofing 
  • Adjustable shoulder straps, waist, and chest straps. This will make the bag more comfortable to carry. 


“What should a bug out bag weigh?” I have lost track of how many times I have heard this question. 

The truth is that it is up to you but more importantly it should be a weight that you can safely and comfortably carry.

There are different opinions as to how long a bug-out bag should serve a person but generally it is for a short period. Days to a week. 

A bag that is between 20-30lbs should be appropriate for most people. 

Far too often people overpack their bags only to find out that they cannot carry. So, if this weight is too heavy, then make it lighter and work up to the desired weight 

Packed Gear

I will try my best not to preach about this, but it is very important.

You need to be familiar with the gear that is packed into your bag

Here is a conversation I once had with someone about a water filter they had in their bag that was still in the packaging.

  • Me: how do you like that water filter?
  • Them: I don’t know I haven’t used it yet.
  • Me: But you have used it in the past and this is just a new backup, right?
  • Them: No. Never used before. 
  • Me: Do you plan on using it?
  • Them: Not unless I have to, it’s only for emergencies. 
  • Me: So, you have a piece of gear that you have never tried out that you plan on using in an emergency without knowing if you like it or if it even works?
  • Them: I guess so. 

I repeat you need to be familiar with the gear that is packed in your bag.

All of this leads me to the final section. 

How To Test Your Bug Out Bag

The best way to test a bug out bag is to use it as much as possible. 

Throw it in and out of a vehicle whenever you go places because you never know when you might need it or when an opportunity to practice with it will arise.  

Take it for walks. This gets you comfortable with the weight and helps keep you in shape.  

Plan weekend trips to parks and camping grounds so that you can practice using the gear inside. This will get you accustomed to how the gear operates. It will also inform you what gear you may need to add or what you can do without. 

Only by using the bag and the gear will you know the ins and outs of it.

Wrapping It Up

Ultimately, the best way to test a bug out bag is by using it as much as possible so that you know what works, what doesn’t, and you remain incredibly familiar with it.

Finally, remember to take stock of your bag after every use. Any consumables or gear that is used up should always be replaced so that the bag will be ready to go when the SHTF.

Get out there and use your bag. Thanks for reading.

Written by 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. Read more of Bryan's articles.

2 thoughts on “How To Test Your Bug Out Bag For SHTF Situations”

  1. Hi Bryan,

    This is excellent advice. It's far better to use your Bug Out Bag a few times in order to see what works and, more importantly, what doesn't. In the midst of an actual overland bug out, is a really bad time to find out your water filter doesn't work like you thought, or your Bic lighter leaked out all of its gas, your radio's batteries died, etc.

    I've run several overnight camping trips over the years to test things out — usually varying the gear somewhat to probe the edges of function vs. weight. KitchenSink packing is easy to fall into but, as you say, really not good when it comes to carrying it all through the woods. With each camping trip, I learned lessons about my gear, what worked, what needed improvement. As such, my BoB now is better than where it started.

    Those improvements wouldn't have happened by just thinking about them. They came from experience.

    Take care,

    — Mic

  2. I find this to be a critical skill, the more i use my bag which doubles as my long trip hiking bad the more it evolves. My sleeping bag, camp stove, cook set, the extra cloths i pack have all changed. I did a 20 mile overnight hike and found my sleeping bag rated well below the weather but froze my butt off anyway. The insulation had gaps. I gave my up stick stove in place for butane, while not renewable small can has given me 10 meals and is still going. Sooting up your cookware and shoving it back in your bag makes a friggin mess.

    Have fun with it, the author notes replacing consumables, do this as soon as possible because you will forget. Don't underpack food, a friend saved my hide on a long hike with a small jar of peanut butter.

    Thanks for the article, i'm preparing a cold weather trip with my son. Wore my last bag out and went back to an alice pack with an aluminum frame.


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