How Big and Heavy Should Your Bug Out Bag Be?

bug out bag size


This article was contributed by guest writer Roger Gallager of Security Vantage

If chaos suddenly happened and you are at your home, what is the first thing that you’ll get your hands into? Your clothes? Your smartphone? Your iPad? Your wallet? With the clock ticking fast and quick decisions need to be made, your time is not enough. Panic gets to you and you end up stuffing your bag with almost anything that you could easily grab and run away for survival.

I’m sure your number one answer for this is your bug out bag. Sadly, a lot of people think that they can just pack everything come disaster time. The truth is, for a real prepper, a good bug out bag that you can easily pick up and carry for survival is the best way to go. You can just grab it easily and head towards survival without that uneasy feeling of panic and nervousness, instead of scrambling for the things that you need when chaos is already happening.

bug out bag

Photo 1 via Flickr

Knowing that everything that you need is in your bug out bag makes you feel relieved. However, there is another thing that you should put into consideration. Will you be able to carry it for at least 3 days? Can you run as fast as you can for your dear life with your bug out bag?

This simple bug out bag preparedness guide will help you in knowing how big and how heavy your bug out bag should be so that your survival from disasters will be guaranteed.

The Right Weight For Your Bug Out Bag

The weight of your bag is definitely an important factor to consider while preparing your bug out bag. Be sure to check the right weight that you can easily and comfortably carry come disaster time. You don’t want to be running and struggling at the same time because of your bug out bag which you have difficulty carrying. A helpful tip in packing is to put the heaviest loads near the top of the backpack so that most of the load is on your shoulders versus your lower back. If you think you have properly packed your bug out bag, carry it and walk for a couple of minutes or you can also run to test and see how it feels.

bug out bag

Photo 2 via Flickr

Make sure also that your bug out bag has hip supports to enable you to carry big loads further and MOLLE webbing as well, so that you have the ability to attach multiple items to your bag.

What’s inside?

Along with the weight of your bug out bag, you need to consider what’s inside it. Ideally, all the items on your bag should help you survive for at least 3 days or 72 hours. Here are your must-have items for your survival kits:

1. Water supply

First on the list is your water supply. The minimum amount of water for survival per person per day is 1 liter. Therefore, you should have 3 liters of water in your bag.  It is also smart to learn how to forage and purify water while on the move. This is a basic survival skill everyone should learn.

2. Food Supplies

Next to water, of course who will miss out on food? Yes, you heard it right. In order to survive, your food supply should help you live for 3 days. And how will you effectively store food in your bag? Get yourself a grip on survival food kits. These are compact, ready-to-eat meals that are packed with nutrition for your survival. Take note of your food allergies and special dietary requirements for survival.

3. Clothing

The clothes that you will pack for your bug out bag should just be like the clothes that you will bring for a weekend backpacking trip. Choose your comfortable clothes especially the ones that will enable you to run fast if ever there is an emergency. Again take note that your clothes should be for at least 3 days.

4. Shelter

For your three-day survival shelter, you would need a tent or tarp and a sleeping bag so that you’ll have a safe and dry place to sleep and stay.

5. First Aid Kit

A helpful tip is to build your own bug out first aid kit (see our guide and checklist here). You can still buy the pre-packaged ones but sometimes you don’t need everything that is in there. Building your own first aid kit can help you in choosing those items that you would badly need in case of emergency rather than filling up your kit with useless medicines and items.

6. Basic Gear

Prepping up with your essentials (or basic gear) is an absolute must, unless you want to hit yourself for not bringing these handy items that you totally need for survival. These include items such as rain gear, fire starters, flashlights, small pot to boil water and/or cook, and your reliable bug out knife (see my bug out knife guide here for tips and recommendations).

7. Weapon

In order to defend yourself from other people trying to get your bug out bag or if ever you come in an unlikely situation, having a handgun will definitely ensure your personal security. Take a gun that you are comfortable using if ever an unlikely situation happens.

The Right Size

Bug out bag experts recommend that the right size for you also depends on the weight that you will be carrying. Be sure that you can put all the essential items that you need, and a bag with lots of compartments is a good choice for safe keeping of your survival items, including emergency survival kits.

bug out bag size

Photo via Pinterest

 The purpose of your bug out bag is for you to survive, and not to get killed by it during worse case scenarios. Your legs are your reliable mode of transportation for survival and you don’t want to hinder its speed because of your heavy bug out bag. Chaos can come at any time, even in your current unpredictable and unsustainable urban life. Pack and prepare your bug out bag the right way and you’ll be evacuating with ease for survival.

About the author

This article was contributed by Roger Gallager. Roger is a security and survival expert who also writes for Security Vantage.


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

17 comments on “How Big and Heavy Should Your Bug Out Bag Be?

  1. I am 67 yrs. old, average shape little portly, I would say, but am getting my bug out bag
    ready, I had one for 10 yrs, but now am adding to it. and I can see I need more stuff, all
    the time, like wire, compass, knives, socks, caribi ers, crank radio, binoculars, gloves,hats,
    poncho, etc. my biggest problem is weight, need to practice carrying it out the property
    and even loosing some weight if possible. Any hints? Water purification seems better than
    carrying it around. Also food, I have only 1 MRE, and some candy bars, now, but need
    more of course, no tent, will use a USMC poncho, and get some sticks somewhere.
    let me know any hints u have…. older prepper Tom

    1. Hey Tom,
      This is what I would suggest based on what you have said:
      1. Dump the candy bars and replace them with some rations such as these
      2. Good work planning on testing your BOB out on your property, way to take action!
      3. It can be time consuming and expensive buying and trying many pieces of gear only to find out they are to heavy. Try our free tool which lets you choose all the gear you want and calculates the bag’s weight here.
      4. You mention “knives”. Try selecting one knife that can solve most of your problems instead of carrying multiple single purpose knives.
      5. Read our article on multi-purpose survival gear to consolidate items into fewer, lighter ones.

      Good luck!

      1. In the city, I personally carry a BK3, a bk7 and a socp dagger. sometimes I leave the BK7 behind and just carry my utility knife/breaching tool and my fighting knife

    2. Honestly, the best saying is that knowledge triumphs tools. And always discard those “one use” items. Acquire skills that will allow you to acquire additional food and water instead of lugging it all with you, a good choice would be the Atmos bow, which is a takedown longbow for hunting and self-defence. Also a SOCP dagger, lightweight and versatile fighting knife. Because when you live in an urban environment and you must bug out you’ll be bound to run into other people and in a fight the quickest typically win. Also remember redundancy, removing everything that is not critical equipment. Also you will have to move rather quickly so while 40-50 pounds is pushing it 30-20 pounds in good condition will be optimal. But some necessary tools would be a pocket saw, tomahawk(Lighter than a hatchet) Etool(super versatile and relatively light), and obviously a knife.

  2. carrying water is a crap idea, only for the fact that even 1 l weighs 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs. you really expect people to pack around about 6.5 lbs of water as well as their other kit? the more reasonable option is to carry something like the sawyer mini filter kit or a survival straw or even a britta filter bottle. unless you’re in the desert, water isn’t going to be difficult to come by.

    1. I hear you that water has a bad volume to mass ratio but it seems foolish to me to not include ANY in your BOB. Really if you have to bug out you want to grab your bag and make as much distance as possible. Having to stop to find and purify water will only slow a person down. Surely you do not need enough to last a week but a large enough supply to make 24-48 hours seems like good planning.

  3. i personally think that for water purification you should really look to something like a uv purifier, its small, light, easy to use, and reliable. they also kill parasites and bacteria. carry enough water for a day but keep your filters handy. believe me you don’t want dysentery or giardia

    1. Hey Eric,
      UV purifiers are a good option for purification (not filtration, unfortunately), but they do work well. I myself have a Steripen (click here to see it). Do you have one other than this that you suggest?


  4. With two bad knees i can walk a fair distance with my 75lb pack. My best lately has been 28 miles in a long day. However i cannot run at all. So i am willing to carry a bit more weight in defense items and water. If i leave with even 8lbs of water it will be next to “0” pounds by the end of day one, unless i am in an arid environment and need to ration it. So i am constantly reevaluating all my gear including weaponry and water containment. But i am not going to plan to scavenge water at the jump.

    1. Gene,
      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It is awesome that you have the foresight to actually practice walking with your kit. That will pay serious dividends should you ever need to actually implement your bug out plan.
      Your planning for water seems smart as well.
      Thank you so much for sharing and good luck prepping!


  5. Chris my struggle is the unknown nature of the bugout scenario lends itself to overpreparing. In my car system, I keep a ghb and car kit tote allowing me to have stuff on hand in the car (like winter supplies) and only bring them with me if the situation requires it. With the BOB its gotta be all inclusive. Water is heavy, but with most scenarios making having water way more practical than purifying… its hard to avoid. Clothes are bulky and take up alot of room but without the ability to regulate ur core the rest is useless. Its easier to make a small bushcraft pack then it is to pack a balanced urban BOB. Thoughts?

    1. Hey Bill,
      The choices you are struggling with are thing we all come across. RE: your winter clothes you may be better off rotating seasonally appropriate clothes quarterly rather than having 4 seasons’ worth in the bag.
      As for water, one should be able to go 72 hours without it. That being said, i agree it is better to have some than to spend time foraging and then purifying it. Maybe bring a gallon or so and stretch that as far as you can. You can try doing some practice hikes (with your kit) and overnight trips to help gauge how much you actually NEED.

      Good luck with it and thanks for your comment.


  6. I too struggle with the overpreppered issue. I find myself stuffing everyrhing that could ever be useful into my pack. Being in the military i understand how shitty a heavy pack is, but at the same time id rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    Also, am i the only one that feels as if planning for 3 days, or to get to a pre prepared area is foolish? Like when i think of a SHTF scenario requiring a BOB or a INCH bag i never think of a short trip, i pack to go out into any given part of the woods and live there for the forseeable future.

  7. Bug out sling pack for a 4″ 8″ person. Weight, control of the pack by adding a hip belt to the pack. I chose the 5.11 Rush Moab 10 to keep a narrow low profile. Trekking poles fastened outside the pack, FirstAid kit with headlamp in white and lesser red light, monocular, folding medium mag pouch, good light all outside the pack. Inside mostly clothing, paracord, tape, compass and near anything else including water filter system with it’s own bag, hose and more, water treatment, plus canteen cook kit w/stove, gaters. Gloves in the sling pouch. Folding shades & safety glasses. Ever need to trek in a bad snow storm? Added the belt through the sling storage pocket bringing a lot of the weigh onto the hips where also the canteen/hatchet will carry and anything else desired. Hannessy 7′ Hammock Tent on the bottom of the pack. Just fine for two small people. There is enough for two with Survival tab food which can also pack onto the belt in a canteen pouch and also doubles as a canteen. The only thing left would only count in the cold. Sleeping bag. I think there are sleeping bags with pack straps that will allow front carry utilizing the pack’s molle system. It’s not easy being small. Still a few items like radio.

  8. Has taken me 2 years and more research than I care to admit, but I have gotten my dry bag weight (no food/water) to 23 lbs. which includes the weight of the bag itself.

    I use a Camelbak BFM and it holds all my gear, including 2x 1 L water bottles and a sack containing food, coffee, cream, sugar and Gatorade pouches.

    Not a fan of bags that make noise or attract attention. I have 3 things attached on the outside. Fallkniven A1 knife in a Kydex sheath on 1 shoulder strap, a Streamlight Protac 1L mini flashlight on the other and a Kifaru Doobie (double woobie) in a compression sack attached underneath. Gives me immediate access to light and my knife while keeping everything else secure and hidden.

    I have not been given any free gear, I am not paid to sponsor any, but I feel the need to mention certain gear by brand as these items have proven themselves trustworthy, durable and as light as I can go w/out sacrificing quality

    Kammok Roo Double hammock
    Fallkniven A1 Knife
    ApocalypseGear kydex sheath
    Heavy Cover titanium canteen kit
    UGQ down underquilt
    Kifaru Doobie
    Victorinox Swisstool Spirit S
    Surefire Minimus headlamp
    Jetboil Minimo
    UA 2.0 Baselayer
    OR Helium 2 rainjacket
    Vortex 10×25 monocular

    I use a homemade 8×10 cuben fiber tarp (ultralight) and titanium stakes.

    The bag is ACU camo which is great for the woods and the Camelbak reversible rain cover can obscure it in urban areas.

    Plain black polarized sunglasses. Keep glare down, protect your eyes, look at anyone/anything and avoid eye contact.

    Fleece cap which covers my ears
    Large bandana
    50′ paracord
    Compass/map case
    Heavy duty zip ties
    Pair of gloves
    charged phone charger good for 4 full charges
    Ranger roll : wool socks, long sleeve tshirt, underwear
    Cigarettes…light as Hell, I’m a smoker anyways and man o man, if u happen upon others, they r a top of the line barter item. Addictions, gotta love ’em.

    To wrap up, there are 3 kits I carry, all quite small, but necessary…which I would like to go a little in-depth on…

    1st aid :
    6″ Israeli Bandage
    CAT Touniquet
    Celox blood clotting sponge
    Titanium tweezers
    3M steristrips
    Stomach meds
    Neosporin spray
    Dental repair kit

    Unless I have to perform a field tracheotomy or deal w/ a sucking chest wound…I’m prepared and minimalized.

    Repair kit :
    Brass wire
    Kevlar thread
    Various zip ties
    Safety pins
    Heavy gauge needles
    Duct tape
    Collapsible scissors
    2 plastic buckles
    2 plastic buttons

    These items keep it small, simple, light and allow me to repair my bag, my clothes, tarp, hammock and quilts.

    Fire kit :
    NATO storm proof matches in an Exotac XL holder which contains a striker and is waterproof
    2 mini bic lighters
    Swedish firesteel
    Small pill bottle containing cotton balls and vaseline.

    I have hiked/camped w/ this set-up in all 4 seasons and have pared it down to what I believe is the bare minimum for my peace of mind.

    Items I did not opt for which seem to be common in many bags…

    Ham radio…I am not gonna get an operator’s license or have 1 more piece of gear needing batteries. Short of an EMP, my phone is fine. A ham radio would need to be in a Faraday Cage to survive anyways in that case and I have yet to see 1 video or read 1 blog where anyone uses 1.

    Hatchet…the A1 can chop and baton, but still easy enuf to wield for making fire sticks. It’s a beast. I don’t need the extra weight.

    Sleeping bag…the UQ, Doobie, wool socks and base layer have let me sleep comfortably below 20° and although the doobie is a tad heavy, it is multi-purpose.

    Hunting gear…if I am bugging out, I am omw to my BOL so I am moving or off to a shelter…I will not be stopping to fish, making and waiting on snare traps or stalking large game. Sure it sounds cool, but it’s not realistic.

    I hope this post helps at least 1 person and even tho my bag is tried, true and years in the making…I am not dumb enuf to believe it can’t be better.

    Plz share any ideas.

  9. I pack winter clothing all year round. I can add or remove layers depending on the weather day to day all seasons. My main core system is based on Grey Bearded Green Beret over on YouTube. He’s well worth checking out.

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