BOB, GHB, EDC, INCH… Which Survival “Bag” Is Right for You?

Choosing The Best Type Of Survival Bag

Note: This article was contributed by Dan F. Sullivan of  To learn more about Dan you can see the About the Author section at the end of the post.

It can be a little intimidating for newbies to know what all these bug out bag acronyms mean, let alone knowing which ones to focus on. Ask 10 people and you get 10 different answers, right?

Different people live in different situations and have different needs which is why we need to make it clear what each of them is and to point out the differences so you can make the right choice.

The BOB (Bug-Out Bag)

Designed to help you survive for: up to a week

Obviously, if you’re looking for information on bug out bags, there is no better resource than the site you’re on right now. Bug-out bags are the first thing newbie preppers take care of when they start.

I’m just gonna say it, there’s no such thing as the perfect bug-out bag. Age, location, climate, skill and many other factors come into play when deciding which backpack to get and how to assemble it. I won’t go into details on what it should contain as there are plenty of good resources such as this one and this one but, if you’re completely new to this, let me talk a little bit about the purpose of a BOB.

A bug-out bag is simply a backpack filled with emergency essentials that allow you to run from danger, whether it’s natural or man-made. Typically, a BOB contains a lot of tools and items to aid in your survival but it should also contain food and water for up to a week (although opinions differ on this one). Beyond that, you should either be at your bug-out location where more supplies await your or you should pre-pack some tools that will aid you in procuring food and water.

Choosing The Best Type Of Survival Bag
Keep in mind that your bug-out bag may also include items for your family members.

Another very important set of tools to keep in your BOB are the ones that help you survive in the wilderness. You just never know if you’re going to make it to your destination so having a tent or a tarp, several ways to start fire, a couple of light sources and so on… these are all important.

BackpackBag NameFeaturesSizeCost

VVV Gear Paratus 3 Day Operator's Pack
Modular design - 3 packs in 1
2 large compartments, multiple interior pockets/organizers, two attached MOLLE pouches
Heavy duty zippers
2890 cubic inches$79
Rebel Tactical Assault 3 Day Pack
Expansion Zipper
1 large compartment, 6 pockets
3220 cubic inches$48
Modern Warrior ACU Military Camo Backpack
1 large compartment and 2 smaller pockets1463 cubic inches$34.99
Sandpiper of California Long Range Bugout Backpack
1 large compartment and 7 pockets
Expansion zipper
3900 cubic inches$147
High Sierra Tech Series Titan 65
4 large compartments
Integrated rain cover
3966 cubic inches$113
Outdoor Products Stargazer Backpack
1 large compartment, 4 smaller pockets3440 cubic inches$77.49

The 72-Hour Pack

Designed to help you survive for: up to 3 days

Out of all the survival bags in this article, this is the only one I don’t recommend. The 72 hour pack is nothing more than a simplified version of the BOB that has a catchy name, reason for which survival companies use it to sell you this pre-packed bag. In reality, you’re much better off doing it yourself as you’ll save cash and make it such that it can help you survive for much longer than 3 days.

It’s obviously better than nothing so if you really want one, that’s up to you, but this article plus the well-researched articles on this site make this type of bag a poor choice for newbie and advanced preppers alike.

Choosing The Best Type Of Survival Bag
A 72-hour pack can serve as a lightweight option for day hikers to prepare for the unexpected.

The GHB (Get Home Bag)

Designed to help you survive for: up to a day

The second favorite bag for preppers is the get home bag and it is built with one purpose in mind: to help you get from when you are when disaster strikes either home or even to your bug-out location (BOL) if it is feasible.

There’s an excellent chance that you won’t be at home when disaster strikes and that you’ll have to get there in record time and, possibly, even have to face certain obstacles. A GHB is also useful when you’re forced to leave your car.

The main difference between a GHB and a BOB is that a GHB is made for short distance emergency traveling (typically less than 100 miles), it has a lot less items in it and it’s also lighter.

Choosing The Best Type Of Survival Bag
Forced to leave your car behind, you’ll be glad to have your get-home bag well-equipped to commute on foot.

The thing is, most of the items you have in your get home bag are already in your bug-out bag but the entire reason you need this second one is because you know you’ll be away from your main BOB when it happens.

When the line between get home bags and bug-out bags is really blurry is when we’re talking about cars. It’s good practice to have supplies in your car because it’s going to act as your bug-out vehicle so, when you think about it, the emergency survival bag you have in your trunk can act as a get-home bag just as well as it can be a BOB.

Whether it’s one or the other, it all depends on how much you pack. At the end of the day, the more you have the better but keep in mind that a heavy pack will make it harder for you to move.

BagBag TypeCostFeatures
5.11 Rush 24 Back Pack
Backpack$$$$Extremely high quality construction and well thought out pocket design make this a flexible and practical bag for real-world use. Molle integration along with hydration bladder compatibility mean easy customization to suit your exact needs.
Maxpedition Falcon II Backpack$$$Tough ballistic nylon construction protects gear and stands up to any conditions. Compact size keeps shape even when full making it easy to stash at work. Removable waist and chest straps distribute weight evenly.
Explorer Tactical Assault Pack
Backpack$Sturdy option at an economical price. Plenty of MOLLE attachment points and straps to carry extra gear. Multiple compartments ideal for easily accessing Level 1 items. Padded straps provide comfort for prolonged wear.
ALPS OutdoorZ Little Bear Hunting Lumbar Pack Lumbar Pack$Compact with mulitple compartments. Removable straps offer improved weight distribution.
Mountainsmith Lumbar Backpack Lumbar Pack$$Reinforced with high tenacity nylon wide. 14L capacity and extra mesh pockets on the waistband provide sufficient storage space for its compact profile. Shoulder strap pad for messenger carry or separately purchase Mountainsmith Strapettes for additional carrying options.
High Sierra Diplomat Lumbar Pack Lumbar Pack$HEX_VENT mesh padded back panel wicks moisture. Multiple compartments and 2 external water bottle holders (BPA-free bottles included). Webbing and tuck-away mesh pouch for loading additional gear.
Rapid Dominance Classic Military Messenger Bag Messenger Bag$Cotton canvas with polyester lining. Large 16L capacity and 2 inch wide comfort strap to handle larger loads. Subtle appearance conceals its purpose.
UTG Urban Messenger Bag Messenger Bag$No top flap enables all compartments to be readily accessible while on the move. Specialized slots for holding tools. Detachable pistol holster with belt loop. Discreet for daily carry.
Maxpedition Last Resort Tactical Attache Messenger Bag$$$Heavy duty water resistant nylon exterior. Removable divider lends to customizing main compartment. Multiple hook and loop pockets for smaller gear.
Camelbak HAWG 100 oz Hydration Pack Hydration Pack$$$Sufficient gear storage capacity plus 3L hydration bladder. High density nylon harness with EVA foam shoulder padding. MOLLE attachments on front panel for additional gear.
CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100 oz Hydration Pack Hydration Pack$$$Separated compartments for Level organization. Compact size easy to manuever thrrough crowds. Multiple hydration tubing exit points. fleece-lined pouch ideal for safely storing eyewear.
Osprey Men's Manta 36 Hydration Pack Hydration Pack$$$Weather protected with integrated raincover. Over 30L capacity rivals a backpack and hipbelt provides support for heavier loads. Airspeed suspension and BioStretch harness team up for a comfortable and ventilated fit.

The INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) Bag

Designed to help you survive for: up to a few months

People who prefer INCH bags are planning to survive harsher conditions and longer periods of time without a permanent shelter. A bug out bag can take you to your bug out location but if you’re not able to get there within a few days, maybe a week, surviving is going to be very tough for you. An INCH bag assumes your home and your bug-out location are compromised.

Choosing The Best Type Of Survival Bag
Your INCH bag should include gear for making fire, as well as means of obtaining and preparing food.

The contents of an INCH bag is very similar to that of the BOB although more items will be required. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get more food but more ways to procure that food. Keep in mind you might be forced to live in the wilderness for months on end and even have to make a permanent shelter with your bare hands.

The EDC (Everyday Carry) Kit

Designed to help you survive for: up to a few hours.

The everyday carry kit is the smallest “bag” you can have. I wrote bag inside quotation marks because you don’t really need one. Your EDC is all about the items you carry with you on a daily basis when to help you get away from danger and to one of your other survival bags.

Items that could be a part of your EDC: your phone, wallet, a small flashlight, a button compass, paper clips, a Paracord bracelet, a Bic lighter, a bandanna and so on. They are only limited by the number of pockets you have and by how much you’re willing to carry with you every single day.

The funny thing is that even with EDCs, you may not have all the items with you at all times. Your phone is within a couple of feet from you most of the time but sometimes you forget (or just leave it) when you go about your day. Your flashlight or multitool may be uncomfortable to keep in your pocket. That is where having a designated EDC bag can come in handy.

Your EDC kit may fit easily in a small pouch or you may prefer a messenger bag or backpack that can fit your laptop and other larger items. For help choosing an EDC bag, CLICK HERE.

Can One Survival Bag Double As The Other?

Definitely! Your EDC can also be your GHB or your GHB can act as your BOB. It depends on a lot of things but I think the factor that matters the most is your lifestyle.

For example, if you’re travelling a lot by car then it makes sense that your get-home bag and your bug-out bag are one and the same and safely secured in your trunk. Spending so much time around the car, it may not make much sense to have both (unless you’re more advanced and you don’t mind the extra investment).

Choosing The Best Type Of Survival Bag
Whichever bag you choose, the most important thing is that it equips you for YOUR survival situation.

Another example is when you’re taking your laptop to work each day and you have one of those backpacks that can fit any portable computer nicely. That backpack plus whatever you have in your pockets can make a nice EDC-GHB combination for urban environments starting from the premise that you’ll have that bag near you at all times.

Final word…

The issue with these acronyms is not that they exist. The real problem is that people think in terms of “Hey, I gotta have this or that type of bag” instead of thinking about all the various scenarios that may occur and then making their choice.

So, what you should be asking yourself are things like “Well, if I’m stuck in the city and all the means of transportation suddenly stop working, how do I get home?” Questions like these help you narrow down the events with the highest likelihood of occurring so you can figure out which items you need so you can FINALLY figure out which survival bag to get.

I hope that makes sense and that you assemble the right bag(s) for you and feel confident you’ve made the right choice.

Your Thoughts

Have you started building a BOB, GHB, INCH, or EDC kit? Do you agree that a 72-hour pack is a weaker option for most preppers? How do you handle overlap in the purpose of each bag? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, thanks!

About the Author

Dan F. Sullivan runs  He describes himself as:

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t take orders from anyone. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to friggin’ war!

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how to pack a bug out bag

How To Pack Your Bug Out Bag For Survival

how to pack a bug out bag

Scared yet excited, Rick raced anxiously to retrieve the large bundle he had carefully hidden in the corner of his garage. This was the moment he had anticipated, and he was ready.

Several months ago, Rick had come across a video about Bug Out Bags (BOBs) while surfing the Internet; even with no outdoor or survival experience, he decided he needed one. Planning a personal BOB seemed like an awful lot of work, so in his panic he bought the most expensive pre-made bug out kit he could find. After dropping a whopping $3,000, he felt confident he was prepared for any emergency and left the pack hidden for 2 years. Now, he would finally get the chance to use it.

What happened to force him to bug out? It could have been any number of things such a natural disaster, civil unrest, viral outbreak, or some other type of event that throws society into a freefall ; but the ‘why’ isn’t what’s important. When you need your BOB, the question ‘why’ becomes much less important than the question ‘will’: will this survival kit keep you alive for 72 hours? Using Rick as an example, I’m going to take you through the basic steps in properly packing your bug out kit so that if (or when) you need it, ‘will’ won’t be a question – it’ll be a certainty.

how to pack your bug out bag

Choosing the Right BOB

No doubt you’ve spent months, maybe years, carefully planning out potential bug out scenarios and collecting the items you’ll need to survive should one of those scenarios pan out.

It’s now time to select the perfect bag for your kit. One of the key questions in choosing your bag is whether you select a bag big enough to hold all the items you need, or a bag that best fits your body and sacrifice some of your items if there isn’t enough room. The answer is: it depends.

What Features Should You Focus On?

The number one feature you want from your BOB is mobility. If you can’t move with it – what’s the point? Therefore, having a good fit is a must. To learn more about selecting the best bag for your situation and what to look for in terms of comfort and fit, please see our article How to Pick the Best Bug Out Bag Backpack for YOUR Survival Situation.

In addition to comfort, the pack must weigh enough to be carried wherever you need to go; this sometimes means paring down your items to only the most essential or packing more creatively.

With mobility as your number one priority, the best strategy is to find a bag that is most comfortable for your body type and tailor your items to fit in it. However, if you have a ‘can’t live without’ item that requires using a certain bag, you may consider packing your kit around your bag. Survivalist vlogger Envirosponsible provides a great example of such a situation in this video:

Let’s get back to Rick, our wannabe-prepper. Having simply bought the most expensive bag he could find, without consideration to how it would fit his body, he found his bag way too heavy. Additionally, not having tested the bag, he found that the straps dug into to his shoulders and made it almost impossible to walk for more than a mile at a time. Instead of being the life-saving asset he intended it to be, his BOB has turned into a hindrance.

Deciding What to Pack

There are myriad lists available online that can provide you with suggestions for essential bug out items, including broad-based lists such as this one from Survival Cache as well as highly specific ones such as our own Bug Out Bag List. You can even purchase pre-made bug out bags; if this is something that interests you, we’ve provided a fairly robust review of some of the pre-mades out there. However, keep in mind that no two kits are the same; the person who best knows what should be in your survival kit is you, and customization is key.

Bug Out Bag Checklist

Customize Your Kit

What you pack depends entirely on your own situation and location; check out our past articles on how to tailor your kit for an urban location or a wilderness location and see how they differ. Customizing based on your own situation is essential – a well-stocked urban kit could be useless in the wilderness, while a bug out kit perfect for California wouldn’t hold up for a minute against Canadian winter.

The most difficult part of packing is deciding what goes in and what stays out. You can never be 100% sure of what you’ll need should disaster strike so the best you can do is make educated guesses.

Test Your Gear

A great way to test your kit is to actually go and try it out. Spending time with your bag under non-disaster conditions will not only help you determine what is essential and what may be missing, but also allows you to test out your equipment and become more proficient with its use. A good adage to remember is that if you have two, you have one, and if you have one, you have none – always bring a back up.

Organize Your Bug Out Bag

Generally, your must-have BOB items will fall into the following categories:

  1. Shelter and safety / protection
  2. Water
  3. Ways to make fire
  4. First aid
  5. Hygiene
  6. Food
  7. Tools

The types of items you choose for each of these categories depends on your personal situation, but the greatest tool you can add to your bug out kit is knowledge. The more you know, the more useful your pack will be in an emergency situation and the less you will have to pack.

For those with minimal survival training, packing a survival guide is a must (the SAS Survival Handbook is a solid resource). If you want to develop your survival skills, there are many resources available to you including Creek Stewart’s Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, which has an entire chapter dedicated to developing the mental and physical preparedness needed to survive in a disaster scenario.

How about our friend Rick, how is he faring in his disaster scenario? Unfortunately, not too well. Since he didn’t bother to try out any of his gear, he found that he couldn’t even use half of the items in his bag. His $300 water filtration system? Completely useless without the knowledge of how to forage for water. Thankfully, he’s found one item he actually can use and that he desperately needs – aspirin. Unfortunately, it expired over a year ago.

Packing the Bag

When packing your BOB, much like choosing your bag, mobility is key, while utility is a close second. The organization of your pack cannot be haphazard and must be approached with the same methodical process as planning for your bug out kit.

However, keep in mind that the purpose of a BOB is not for a hiking or camping trip – it’s to save your life in an emergency. As such, you want to prioritize the packing of your survival kit slightly differently than you would a hiking or camping backpack while still keeping in mind basic rules for properly distributing your load.

A properly packed BOB is not only easier to carry, but can also fit more stuff. Generally, you want to keep heavier items further down in your bag and close to your back and vice versa for lighter items. The following is an example of a properly packed BOB from The Prepper Journal:

how to pack a bug out bag

In his book, Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, Creek Stewart recommends organizing your items into three categories:

  1. Non-urgent
  2. Urgent
  3. Emergency

Your non-urgent items would go into the pack first. Non-urgent items are those that won’t be retrieved with a sense of urgency and include items such as:

  • Extra clothing
  • Bedding
  • Hygiene
  • Miscellaneous supplies

Your urgent items would be packed second, for easier access, and include items such as:

  • Shelter
  • Water
  • Food
  • Fire starting items

Emergency items are those that will need to be accessed within a moment’s notice; these items should be kept on your person or in easy to reach pockets of your pack. Emergency items include:

  • Communication gear such as radios, walkie talkies, or whistles
  • Self-defense gear
  • Flashlights
  • Personal tools such as survival knife
  • Foul weather gear such as your poncho

Within each of these categories, you should compartmentalize your items based on a system that will make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for in a hurry. When packing your items, look for creative ways to save space; some popular tricks include wrapping duct tape around a water bottle as well as packing items inside other items, such as your cooking pots.

how to pack a bug out bag

Keep your gear dry

Above all else, remember to waterproof your items; you can use professional grade plastic bags or simple Ziploc bags, just ensure your items are protected. Creek Stewart also recommends lining your pack with an industrial strength garbage bag as an added layer of protection.

Stay Low Key

While mobility and utility should be your foremost concerns when packing your BOB, it is also important to keep in mind safety. Don’t make it obvious how much gear you’re packing; in desperate times you don’t want to become a target for scavengers. The more your bag looks like a simple backpack and less like a survival powerhouse, the safer you’ll be. This is known as the Grey Man Principle.

Once you’ve packed your BOB, don’t toss it in a corner and forget about it. Your kit should be constantly evolving to reflect your lifestyle and location. We recommend a quarterly review to ensure the items you’ve chosen are still the best choices and that nothing has expired, leaked or been damaged. For tips on periodic BOB reviews and a checklist to help make sure you have everything covered check out our article, How Often Should You Update Your Bug Our Kit?


I bet you’re wondering how Rick is faring. As you’d expect, not too well. Since his store-bought BOB was packed more for show than utility, he had to stop and unpack his entire bag every time he needed something, slowing him down at critical points.

However, he doesn’t need to worry about his pack anymore; his flashy bag and expensive tools hanging from the side attracted the attention of less-prepared parasites who quickly took it off his hands. As it turns out, when SHTF, Rick would have been better off pocketing his $3,000.

Don’t end up like our friend Rick by letting let packing become an afterthought; put the same effort and analysis into packing your kit as you did into planning it. When disaster strikes, it won’t be the guy with the biggest BOB who wins, it’ll be the guy who best knows how to use his.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have a trick to pack your bug out bag as efficiently as possible?  Do you know of any major mistakes that should be avoided?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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bug out bag size

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.

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Best Bugout Backpack

How to Pick the Best Bug Out Bag Backpack

Best Bug Out Backpack


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.


Best Bug Out Backpack Example
This bag has many options to ensure a good, comfortable fit.

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.

best bug out bag backpack

3.  Accessibility

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.

best bug out bag backpack
Here you can see how you can organize a multi-compartment bag to maximize functionality

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 compatibilityMOLLE (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.


Best bug out bag backpack mollee
Many bags have MOLLE attachment points for easy customization

The Best Bug Out Bag Backpacks

Here are some backpacks that are excellent choices for your bug out bag.

BackpackBag NameFeaturesHydrationMolleCost
5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack
Sized for 3-day excursions. Designed by special operations combat veteran. Large, external shove-it pocket, Top exterior crescent-shaped organization pocket, two exterior, side, gusseted zippered pockets. Water-repellent coating.YesYes$$$

VVV Gear Paratus 3-Day Operator's Pack
Modular design - 3 packs in 1
2 large compartments, multiple interior pockets/organizers, two attached MOLLE pouches
Heavy duty zippers
Reebow Tactical 3-Day Backpack
1 large compartment but with many other organization pockets. Great value for the price.YesYes$

Our Pick

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
The 5.11 Tactical Rush 72
Our favorite bug out bag backpack: The 5.11 Tactical Rush 72

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.

Your Thoughts

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!

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