Which Bug Out Bag backpack is best?
Choosing the right bug out bag backpack is the important first piece of equipment you’ll need to purchase when building your kit.
- Should you choose a backpack, duffel bag, or backpacking style bag?
- What qualities should be considered when picking one?
- Are any features that are particularly important?
We’ll tackle these questions and then share our recommended bug out bags.
How to Pick the Best Bug Out Bag Backpack
The types of bags typically employed as Bug Out Bags are:
- Backpack – A Bug Out Bag backpack can be anything from a school book bag to a tactical assault type bag. This category has the widest options and is the most commonly used as it has a good balance of size and variety. This is optimal for 1-2 people or if you are bugging out with a party of adults who can each carry their own survival supplies.
- Duffel Bag – These generally are a greater volume than a backpack but lack the ease of carrying. This is a good option if you are planning on bugging out in a vehicle and have a destination in mind such as a second home or designated camp. You would not want to have to carry this type of bag for an extended period over uneven ground.
- Hiking Pack – This combines the best features of a backpack and duffel bag being that it will have a large volume and ergonomic carrying options. You will be able to carry much more survival gear in one of these than in a backpack which is great if you are evacuating with a family.
Critical Bug Out Bag Backpack Factors
1. Comfort and Fit
You may be humping your Bug Out Bag for days on end. You need something that you can wear comfortably, and that will not limit your movement by causing you discomfort. Pay attention to the following features when looking at a candidate bag:
- Hip straps and hip padding – This is the single most important thing when looking at a bag for comfort and fit, which is something that is not understood by someone who has not humped a heavy bag over long distances. Hip support straps snug the pack tightly to your hips allowing the weight to be carried by the strong muscles in your thighs and hips rather than balancing the load on your shoulders. This improves balance by lowering the center of gravity and saves your back and shoulders from bearing the weight. It is exponentially easier to carry a heavy load in this manner.
- Width of straps – Are the straps made of narrow webbing that is going to dig into your shoulders and hips or is it wide with ample padding to cushion the attachment to your body? I reiterate: you have the potential to carry everything you need to survive over long distances. If you are hobbled by discomfort you will not be able to travel as fast or far.
- Sternum clip – This enables you to secure the shoulder straps to a comfortable position and uses the bony part of your chest as a counterbalance to the backward leaning force of the bag.
- Allows for airflow on the back – Walking all day with a sweaty back can lead to discomfort and chafing. Most better bags come with channels or webbing in the part of the pack that faces your back. These allow for air flow to minimize this.
- Are there any hard elements within the bag that may rub or poke into you – Some bags have rigid frames or hard plastic bits to help them retain their shape or to allow you to strap things to them. They do not need to be avoided as a whole, but they are something to consider when choosing one. I once ignored this when choosing a hiking pack that had a metal frame right at the height of the back of my head. This caused me to have to lean slightly forward or bang my head… for miles. Please do not make the same mistake.
- Gender specific design – Many bags come in male and female options. These have the straps cut and shaped in particular ways that make them better fitting for their designated gender’s body types. There is some good information here about measuring yourself to help find the best fitting pack.
2. Volume and Mass
How much space do you need in your Bug Out Bag backpack? This is determined by:
- How many people are you carrying survival supplies for? Will you be bugging out by yourself or with a family in tow?
- Do you plan on packing your Bug Out Bag with everything and the kitchen sink or just the bare essentials?
- The more you pack, the larger volume bag you will need and the more mass you will have to carry on your back. It is one of the most important trade-offs you will have to consider.
- Consider your phyical ability when determining how much weight you can actually carry.
- I prefer sticking to the essentials rather than bringing everything under the sun and then scavenging and improvising on the way. Multi-function items are a godsend in getting the most from your gear in this regard.
So now know that you want the perfect fitting bag that carries the right amount of survival supplies, great job!
Let’s consider the options for how we will be compartmentalizing the gear and accessing it.
If you have a decent sized list of bug out gear, you will have a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and utility. Putting this all in one large compartment is a formula for inefficiency and frustration. Imagine you have slipped and cut yourself and now need to dig through all your clothes, tools, and rations to get to your medkit. Not good.
What we want for an efficient bag is one large compartment to store general items and several separate, smaller compartments for storing smaller subgroups of items. Most modern bags have multiple compartments and options to attach small satellite bags. This is ideal. Before packing, you will want to organize your gear with these compartments in mind. You will want to put larger items in the main compartment and smaller ones in the secondary pouches, organized by item type. This will make finding things in a hurry much easier and your Bug Out Bag more useful overall.
4. Useful Features
So you have your Bug Out Bag backpack that meets your basic needs, what are the best additional features you should be looking for that will increase your chances of survival while bugging out?
- Hydration Bladder Compatibility – Integration of a hydration system such as a Camelbak is a huge bonus to any bag. This makes it far easier to carry large amounts of water over long distances. As you will be exerting yourself, keeping properly hydrated is essential to keep you moving as fast and as far as possible. There is some good additional information on choosing a hydration pack.
- Rain Hood – Many bags come with a rain cover integrated within. This is usually tucked away into a velcro compartment and then pulled out and over the bag when needed. This will keep your gear dry and preserve it optimally for when you need it.
- MOLLE compatibility – MOLLE (pronounced “molly”) is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It is used to define the current generation of load-bearing equipment and packs utilized by a number of armed forces. This widespread use means that there are a HUGE number of compatible options for adding accessories to a MOLLE compatible bag. Items that use MOLLE include tool sheaths, pouches, hydration bladders, and medkits.
The Best Bug Out Bag Backpacks
Here are some backpacks that are excellent choices for your bug out bag.
Looking at the features, price, customization options, and overall quality we have chosen to award the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 as Best In Class for the following reasons:
- Modular design allows us to plan and organize our Bug Out Bag for maximum efficiency
- High quality, durable pack for a great price
- Medium carrying capacity means that we will be able to carry our essentials without being weighed down
- High quality, padded straps will let us move faster and for longer while bugging out
- MOLLE integration and Hydration bladder compatibility exceeds our standards
For those that are building a more compact or lightweight bug out bag, consider the smaller 5.11 Tactical Rush 24 (or the even smaller 5.11 Tactical Rush 12).
Remember, it’s important to design your bug out bag according to your physical ability. Use our interactive bug out bag list builder to help you decide what to pack while automatically estimating the bag’s approximately weight.
Budget-friendly picks: If you prefer a budget-friendly option, take a look at the 3V Gear Paratus 3-Day Backpack or the Reebow Tactical 3-Day Backpack.
Hopefully, you have taken away from this discussion the elements that you need to look for in finding a suitable Bug Out Bag backpack. This is an important step in your disaster preparedness journey and getting it right make a huge improvement in your ability to bug out when the unforeseen strikes.
If you are ready to plan what items to pack in your Bug Out Bag, check out our Free Bug Out Bag Planning Tool.
Remember, chance favors the well prepared.
If you thought this post was helpful, please Like, +1, or Share it using the social media buttons at the top of the page! Are there any features or types of Bug Out Bags that you would suggest? Please let us know in the Comments section below, thanks!
24 comments on “How to Pick the Best Bug Out Bag Backpack”
Have you put out the article on how to pack you BOB efficiently yet?
Sadly I have not gotten around to writing this article bu it is on my to do list!
Here is a great resource for that information though if you are looking to learn:
Colin Fletcher’s books on backpacking/hiking are great for organizing a backpack, and I think his methodology would work for a BOB as well.
one thing you didn’t touch on and actually provided poor examples of….colour! do NOT get a bag that is olive drab or camouflaged, only for the fact that those colours make you look prepared and will make you a target for looters and bandits for sure. you want a bag that is either black or dark blue because those two will get less notice. personally, i made a primitive external frame pack from wood and hand sewed a bag out of oilcloth. yes it’s comfortable and no it’s not heavy. i tested it on a 10 mile hike with full kit and had no problems. the logic behind that is giving the appearance of not having anything worth stealing. then again, most of my survival/bo kit is primitive and not worth much to those who don’t know how to use them anyway.
Totally agree, Grey Man is the way to go. The last thing you want to do is advertise the fact that you are carrying a bunch of survival gear by having a “military looking” backpack. Blend in and live!
In a real disaster scenario do you really think that the color of your bag is going to make any difference to someone who would steal your bag? If they are looking to steal bags they are probably going to take whatever they can find when it comes along. Just sayin’.
Imagine someone with bad intentions is watching a crowd. They see a few people go by with normal looking clothes and bags. Then they see someone walk by with cargo pants stuffed full and a tactical looking bag on their bag. Who do you think they are going to target?
Okay, I’ll bite. I’ll play the devil’s advocate. Let’s say I’m actively looking for the best target to steal from. A man goes by with his red backpack and then a man goes by in full camo with his camo bag. My first thought upon seeing the latter isn’t going to be ‘Hey I bet he has a bunch of useful stuff for a disaster’ it’s going to be ‘Shit he might be a soldier or a vet or know how to use a gun.’ I, personally, would target the guy with the red bag.
I guess it comes down to individual choice and your view on the matter but I think a low-key bag beats a camo one or anything else that would draw attention.
I think if someone is going to try and steal all your stuff from you they wouldn’t look at the bag but the person instead. If someone looks tired as hell and like easy prey they will go after him and his camo or black bag as opposed to the guy who is moving with energy and a purpose with a bright pink hello kitty bag. But that’s just what I think
Hey Jon, Great input and I agree wholeheartedly. Maybe I will have to look into a hello kitty bag….
Thanks for your contribution.
When it comes down to it there is little to gain by signalling your capability to others.
We’re talking group dynamics here. People are going to be targeting others by using strength in numbers. Anything short of a sizable group of prepared people obviously capable of immediate and coherent retaliation will not be much of a deterrent.
Should you miraculously not find yourself in such company in a survival situation, you as the capable looking guy will be targeted first, not only for equipment but to strike at the head and scatter the sheep.
What do you think about the maxpedition falcon 2?
Hey Herb. Do you mean this bag: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004H0TQN6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004H0TQN6&linkCode=as2&tag=tbobg-20&linkId=XMBZSMKLOQ4Q6LHB
If so it is a good one. Good size and easy to organize your gear. A bit pricy but you get what you pay for.
I love all the info in this post. The only thing I would like to know is if there are bug out bags for mildly handy capped people. I know the bag I’d like only if there is no other exist for me. Minor back problem, plus feet. This doesn’t stop me from accomplishing what is needed.
Glad you like the post and thanks for posting your question. You may want to check out our article, “Bugging Out With Limited Mobility” which directly addresses your concern. I hope it helps!
This was a great read on choosing the right bug out bag backpack. We all have to remember that each of us will have different needs and should choose a bag accordingly. My vote goes to the Condor 3 Day Assault Pack. I love it.
Good website and good info. Please consider: Choose a backpack that does not “stand out” (particularly in an urban situation). You want to blend in and not attract attention. Go with a black “ordinary looking” (non tactical) backpack.
Personally if your mildly Handicapped or smaller than average stature use a smaller bag as a 511 Rush 72will be too big as they can carry a huge amount of stuff they have two smaller Sizes the Rush 24 and Rush 12 , Dont be a hero remember Soldiers train for years on how to carry large amounts of gear also if your getting on in years 60+ you may think your just as strong as you were in your 20s and 30s but you could have a shock when you dont need it if you use a rush 72 packed out as your looking at 50ibs + to carry and if your in say the tropics your gonna sweat like crazy , Personally a 24 would be about the right size for any non regular hiker also look at Direct Action Gear they have excellent Backpacks and are cheaper than a lot of other Brands .
Ian, thank you for your very valid feedback. We’ve updated our guide accordingly.
You’re right that a Rush 24 (or even 12) might be a more appropriate choice for a compact bug out bag.
For people that are of average weight and fitness, the rule of thumb is to keep your kit under 25% of your body weight. To help do that, we’ve created an interactive bug out bag list builder that automatically estimates your packed bag’s weight based on your selections.
We hope it is particularly useful for individuals that need to keep their kit lightweight!
3VGear all the way. Lifetime warranty and they have addressed issues with their packs so that they have redesigned them twice in 3 years and they’re still cheaper and matching in quality if not better than so many other brands. I too have personally benefited from the warranty (older model sling bag) and customer service and have been satisfied each time. The only other pack I would consider is TAD’s fastpack. Just one man’s opinion.
I realize that this is an old post and I may not get a reply but I do have a question/comment.
I too am slightly disabled and I am glad that was addressed. But what I really am is financially disabled. I’m on a fixed income and most of my stuff is DIY. I simply cannot afford to pay a lot for a backpack. And yes, I realize that you get what you pay for, but if you can’t pay for it, then what?
I also realize that what seems like a lot to me, may sound cheap to someone who is better off financially, but I live check to check and do not have spare money lying around.
So are there any dirt cheap packs that will suffice or any good DIY ones?
Tim, I’m not sure what your definition of “dirt cheap” is but you can look on Amazon or eBay and get some packs that would be okay for around 30.00 or 40.00 bucks depending on the size you need or you might try Goodwill or other resale/donation/pawnshop stores. You can also try Facebook and a new place called Letgo. I would also check with the Boy Scouts and to see if they have some good used backpacks that they would be willing to let them go for cheap or maybe a local National Guard post might know of some used gear. If you’re a vet, I bet you could get hold of one of the vet organizations and they could hook you up.
I hope this helps in some way, good luck in your search.
U.S. Navy – Semper Fortis
i have spent a lotta time in the bush and ican.t see myself carrying a black backpack people can spot it for miles it has to blend in with nature.