Urban Vs Wilderness Bug Out Bag: Choosing The Right Gear

If you were born in the 70’s or earlier you probably remember when the term Bug Out Bag was virtually unknown. Nowadays at least three out of four people you meet in a social context are likely to be familiar with the term. It’s a sign of the times in which we live.

However, we don’t hear a lot about the concept of varying the items in one’s BOB depending on whether it’s an urban or rural environment the person will be dealing with. I won’t spend time going over all of the items one should have in his/her pack as I suspect this is well covered ground for most reading this article (CLICK HERE to make your custom bug out bag list & have it sent straight to your inbox!).

Whether one is in the city, countryside, or deep in the wilderness, much of the pack contents should be the same. Much, but not all.

Choosing The Right Tools For The Job

I have read advice about the best items to select for a BOB as if the general environment where it will be used is irrelevant. In my view this is akin to having a handyman show up to your home with only a small tool box without telling him whether it’s a plumbing or an electrical problem he will be addressing!

urban bug out bag

Having the right tools to survive can mean the difference between life and death! Choose wisely…

As a cop working in the greater Los Angeles area for over two decades, I’ve spent some time observing the kinds of scenarios typically encountered when things go awry in urban and suburban environments. Some were accidents, while others involved intentional violence. The point is that all of these events are likely to occur during and following a major disaster, with two major differences:

  1. The effects of these incidents will be exponentially larger, and
  2. Any resources available to respond to same will be overwhelmed, and possibly unavailable altogether.

Worse yet, in my opinion there is likely to be a synergistic effect if the scope of the disaster is severe enough to severely impact the infrastructure (including police response). Those who live their lives as predators (i.e., gang members and others) will in all likelihood become aware of the lack of first responders far more quickly than the rest of society, and will take full advantage early on.

I would like to be proven wrong, and perhaps I will, but don’t count on it.

urban bug out bag

A disaster doesn’t tell you when it is coming

Disaster Planning: Know Your Environment

Making a Bug Out Plan that is specific to your locality is vitally important. You want to include the intricacies and potential dangers that are local to where you are going to be operating.

Urban Disaster Planning

If one should find himself/herself in an urban environment after a catastrophic incident that essentially collapses the infrastructure, the primary objective should be to get out of the heavily populated area ASAP. This is one of the major differences between bugging out through an urban area and doing so in a rural location. Time is a much bigger consideration in the former. With this in mind, one should prepare so that he/she can:

  1. Be equipped to determine alternate routes while on the move (or at least with little time to make route changes).
  2. Have the means to defeat the varied physical obstacles potentially to be encountered.
  3. Have the tools capable of extricating one’s self or others from confinement due to structural collapse, vehicle collisions, or other situations more common in urban disasters.
  4. Be equipped to create large holes in interior walls to facilitate escape from threats present inside the building.
  5. If escape/avoidance is not possible, have an effective means to defend against violent attack.

wilderness survival kit

A wild fire can move incredibly fast and destroy EVERYTHING in its path

Rural Disaster Planning

Contrast the above with the typical priorities for a short duration rural or wilderness survival scenario, such as:

  1. Capability to process wood for starting and maintaining fire.
  2. Means to put together basic (short term) shelter.
  3. Less important, but worth mentioning, is the means to fashion additional crude tools (e.g., hunting devices) to aid in survival conditions should the scenario turn into a longer term one.

Urban (and Suburban) Pack Items


A map of the city where one works (as well as where one lives if not the same city) is imperative. Unlike as is often the case when traveling through rural or even wilderness locations, urban travel after a disaster can present fluid situations chock full of potential extreme danger requiring sudden and unexpected route changes. No matter one’s skill and/or type of weapons he/she may have, avoidance of conflict at virtually all costs is going to be the better option. And in the process of changing direction (perhaps multiple times as part of evasion), even the best of us can find ourselves disoriented. Pack a map! And have at least one (preferably two) reliable light sources to study the map during darkness. I have found that unlike when navigating through wilderness, a small inexpensive compass will suffice for city map work.

Map Reading Skills

Click on the image to brush up on your map reading skills


Downplayed Appearance

Unlike when hiking through wilderness locations, having/wearing high quality state-of- the-art gear while walking through heavily populated areas when the infrastructure is down is a mistake. Wearing the latest “tacticool” pack can be an equally big mistake.

Since two-legged predators will be aware of the increased opportunities the conditions have created for them, the less attention one invites, the better. I know from experience that many street smart bad guys have a surprisingly keen eye for quality gear, even when it comes to items they know almost nothing about.

Don’t advertise your cool gear if you can possibly help it. Wearing a pack is likely to draw at least some extra attention no matter what—this is largely unavoidable. But donning a pack that appears to be very used, or even dirty, is a better option than a brand new pack. And a “plain Jane” civilian pack is more likely to ride under the radar than a tactical pack. Ditto all of the above when considering the clothes you will wear during these conditions—especially shoes! Learn and practice your Gray Man/Woman Skills now to fly under the radar when a disaster strikes (Click HERE to learn how).

gray man theory

Click on the image to learn how to be a Gray Man or Woman

Large Knife VS. Tomahawk

On many occasions I have watched other first responders use a variety of tools when handling emergencies. I have also used some of these tools personally to gain entry into semi-fortified homes during the course of police work. Other than issued weapons (police) and medical equipment (fire department/paramedics) the tools used most often were those designed to defeat barriers typically encountered in cities (everything from car doors and windows to steel home security doors).

Although you might convince yourself you would not stop to help another in need if it delayed your bugging out from a dangerous environment, you really never know until faced with that scenario. Moreover, you just might need the means to get yourself out of a jam.

bushcraft tools

Each has its place…

With the growing threat of terrorism and active shooter incidents, being equipped to create a travel path (breaking out a hole to crawl through) between a building’s interior rooms is a reasonable preparation. There are many scenarios that could prompt the need to bug out through an urban area—a massive terrorism incident is certainly one of them.

I am trying to make the case for not including a large knife in favor of a rugged tomahawk. Never mind that many “experts” insist on having a large hard use survival knife in any and all BOBs. A person is better off with an affordable tough tomahawk for urban scenarios any day of the week. And a suitable “hawk” can be had for about half the price of any survival knife capable of doing other than traditional knife chores!


Estwing’s Black Eagle Tomahawk fits this bill. It is not very attractive, and the workmanship shows only minimal attention to finish and fine symmetry, but I can personally attest to the tool’s capability. I have used the spike end to break car window glass, punch through heavy steel mesh and car trunks, as well as breaking a six-inch diameter hole in a cement cinder block (I encountered no steel rebar however). I have also used this “hawk” to pry apart two-by-fours fastened with 16D nails. After all of this, the business ends of the hawk’s blade are still not much worse for wear (cosmetic damage only). Does anyone think any of the better quality survival knives out there could perform these tasks without causing damage, or even breaking, the blade?


I once watched a fellow patrol officer show off his $250.00 tanto bladed knife by punching through the steel door of a typical gym locker. Worked fine. He repeated the feat an hour later to show off his new knife to another observer. This time it significantly damaged the blade’s tip. He was so angry we couldn’t talk to him for over an hour. Knives simply are not meant to be used to defeat steel, concrete, or even glass! Check out our article on Picking The Best Tomahawk For Your Bug Out Bag HERE.

Best Tomahawk Survival Tomahawk

Click on the image above to learn how to pick the best tomahawk


I have no financial interest in Estwing, and there may be other equally well-performing hawks out there for a similar price (about $35 HERE on Amazon), but I have not found them. I have discovered far more expensive hawks but never purchased or tried them. And I have tried a couple of the lighter hawks sporting plastic handles, but found their performance lacking—seriously so! The only real downside to the Estwing is its weight. At 27 ounces it is admittedly heavy. The Becker BK2, a popular hard use survival knife, weighs about 10 ounces less, but the capability of the Estwing hawk makes it well worth these extra ounces in an urban environment.


I would feel adequately equipped If my urban BOB cutlery items were limited to a robust hawk and my multi tool (a must for any BOB, regardless of setting, check out our Guide for Picking The Best Multi Tool HERE). The former could handle any rough cutting tasks, while the latter’s small blade could deal with finer cutting chores.

If someone absolutely insisted on carrying another knife for more traditional cutlery chores, a Mora Kniv would fill the bill for about twenty dollars. And it’s doubtful the Mora’s extra 4 ounces (including sheath) would be noticed.


Finally, a hawk can be used for protection against a violent attack when all else fails. As for whether a hawk or a good knife would serve this purpose better…well, that really depends on the individual as well as the circumstances. After all, neither is the best tool for self-defense, for more reasons than one (a topic for another article). Let’s just leave it with the idea that a hawk can be used as an effective self-defense tool in a pinch.


Lightweight Wire Cutters

Being able to cut through standard chain link fence could prove to be the difference between escaping a very bad scenario and falling victim to one. I can conjure up a half dozen scenarios where a person might need to escape a threatening situation, seek shelter, or simply shave off valuable travel time by cutting through a fence.

Chain link fencing is ubiquitous in virtually any urban area. Unfortunately, I have found multi tools fall short of being capable of cutting chain link in a reasonable manner of time and effort. Find the smallest/lightest tool capable of cutting chain link in one clipping action (Tekton makes a good pair, see them HERE). Bending or sawing through wire takes too long under most scenarios that would warrant cutting fencing in the first place.

Rural / Wilderness Pack Items

Knife vs Tomahawk vs Hatchet

You’re probably asking, “Didn’t he just cover this issue?” I did—for the urban setting. However, after spending a good deal of time in the wilderness (including several nights without a tent), both recreationally and as a search & rescue volunteer in the California Sierras, I prefer a good large knife in any environment other than an urban/suburban one.

wilderness survival kit

Surviving in the wilderness doesn’t have to be hard…IF you have the right tools and skills.

Hundreds of years ago, the tomahawk’s philosophy of use was multi-faceted. Only one of these intended functions involved the processing of wood for structure building or building fire. The hatchet (hand axe), on the other hand, was designed for one purpose only—processing wood. As one could predict, the hatchet proved to outperform the tomahawk for wood processing, while the hawks performed better as weapons. I have tried many a “woods hawk” over the years, but in the end I have found quality hatchets of similar weight simply do better with wood chores.

Given the points made in the “Disaster Planning” section of this article, the hatchet gets the nod over the tomahawk for a rural BOB.

All of the above notwithstanding, I prefer a large survival knife to a hatchet for my rural BOB. The hatchet will almost always out chop a knife of similar weight, but this isn’t the end of the story. When it comes to cutting wood a small lightweight folding saw offers a better choice than a tool that chops the wood to the desired length. But the primary element of fire wood preparation involves splitting the pieces for fire building.


A quality knife with a 7 to 9 inch blade can be used very effectively to split wood using the “batoning” technique. And in my opinion it is a safer means of splitting wood than swinging a hatchet to accomplish the task. When “batoning”, only the piece of wood used to strike the knife spine is being swung through the air. The odds of a catastrophic accident are greater when using the hatchet for the job. This can be ever more the case when working in cold climates outdoors. As for the argument that “batoning” to split wood constitutes abuse of the blade, I call B.S. I have split at least a cord of wood over the years with my Ontario SP50, and other than destroying the black blade coating, the knife is still in great working shape. Check out this video to see how batoning works:

I know there are many (far more than hawks that can compete with the Estwing) quality large survival knives that can also perform well when it comes to wood prep. I would, however, urge anyone selecting a fixed blade knife for his/her wilderness BOB to go with a seven inch blade or larger. This makes splitting wood of three inches or larger diameter much easier than using a shorter blade. To see our comprehensive guide on choosing a fixed blade CLICK HERE NOW.



When travelling through areas where there are no street signs, or even no streets, a higher quality compass becomes very important. Land navigation where there are no streets is a skill that demands time and effort to learn. Knowing how to navigate through these types of surroundings using a topographical map is not for the novice! If at all possible, stay on a road, or at least keep the road in sight. In any case, a rural BOB should always include a high quality compass.

Fire Starting Kit

This should be a “no brainer”. When bugging out through an urban setting under circumstances where you might have to spend some resting hours in the dark, it might or might not be advisable to make a fire. Fire attracts the urban predators, while it tends to repel the four legged type.

survival after bugging out

Furthermore, having a fire in a location where there is no man made shelter available is uniquely important. In addition to heat and minimal light, it is well documented that a small fire can provide a significant psychological boost for the solo survivor/traveler.

Having established the greater importance of being able to create fire in a rural setting, ensuring one has the ability to do so becomes paramount. Having multiple means to create fire is a must for the rural/wilderness pack:

everstryke pro review

Don’t forget to Include a few petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls as well. They will ignite with a decent spark (paper and many other tinders requires actual flame) and continue to burn for several minutes. If you want to learn 6 ways to start a fire WITHOUT matches, CLICK HERE.

Steel Water Bottle

Any BOB will include a container to carry water (I’m assuming this goes without saying), so why not have one that can also be used to heat or boil water? A single walled stainless steel water bottle like the Klean Kanteen (or similar design) products can be placed over open flame or coals to heat water.

Boiling water is a dependable way to kill any pathogens (chemical contamination is another issue). I once used a heated steel water bottle as an improvised hot water bottle to ward off hypothermia in a snow cave. Not sure if it was literally a lifesaver, but I was sure glad to have it. Make sure to remove the cap before heating water to avoid a pressure build-up and the subsequent likely explosion.


My experience has convinced me that for urban applications, escaping the locality as fast as possible should be the key objective in a SHTF scenario. Sheltering in place, even for a short time is likely to be catastrophic. In my view a robust tomahawk, coupled with a good multitool and small wire cutters, is close to the perfect set of BOB tools—but this could be surpassed with a new invention at any time.


For rural/wilderness environments, night travel is far less desirable and sheltering through the night(s) becomes a priority. Creating fire and crude shelter is paramount for the wilderness trekker under any circumstances. For this application, a large survival knife becomes the tool of choice, edging out both the tomahawk and hatchet in the versatility and safety categories.

The very fact that those reading this article have probably already put together a bug-out bag at all places them way ahead of most. Having a readily accessible BOB, even if not perfectly constituted, is 90 percent of the game in itself. However, it’s still a good idea to evaluate equipment choices every so often, keeping a philosophy of use mindset while doing so.

If you are ready to build your custom Bug out Bag List, click on the button above now.

Further Reading

For more info on this topic you can check out these articles:

Your Thoughts?

Do you have an item that is a “must have” for your urban or rural bug out bag? Can you think of any other big differences between what you would pack for these scenarios? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About The Author

Frank LaFlamme spent almost a quarter century in law enforcement in the Los Angeles area serving for three local agencies as well as an assignment with the DEA Los Angeles office. His assignments included uniformed patrol in one of the most violent areas in California, narcotics investigation, gang enforcement, robbery and homicide investigation, high risk warrant service, and a terrorism liaison officer position. Upon retiring, Frank volunteered as a Search & Rescue “ground pounder” with a sheriff’s department in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park. Additionally, he started a small disaster preparedness consulting business called F& D Consulting. In 2014 he published a novel titled EMP Los Angeles (an Amazon best seller for a while, CLICK HERE to see it), a raw and gritty cautionary tale of a post EMP attack Los Angeles.

EMP Los Angeles

Click on the book to go check it out on Amazon!


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survival preparedness

Short-Term & Long-Term Survival Preparedness Info You NEED To Know

survival preparedness

Note: This article was contributed by Richard Beck from TheOutdoorsPro.com. Read more about him in the About The Author section below.

Within your lifetime, you may encounter many different kinds of situations where you will need to rely on your own survival preparedness. Therefore, it is essential that you have the skills to survive on your own. Some of these situations include snowstorms, earthquakes, EMPs, nuclear, and many others. Being prepared for these situations is the first important step in survival.

72-Hour Bug-Out Bag

The first thing that you will need is a 72-hour bug-out bag for each member of your family. This bag should be kept with the family member at all times. If you have a child, and you do not live extremely close to the school, then you need to leave it at a friend’s house very near the school.

survival preparedness
Your family bug-out plan should include a safe place for your kids to go near their school, in case you are delayed in getting to them.

As the name suggests, this bag will help the person survive during the first 72 hours. Even assuming that it is safe to go outside, the government and other charities have admitted that it will take them that long to get organized and on site.

survival preparedness
Your bug-out bag should be packed and ready to go at all times.

There are numerous things that need to be in your bug-out bag, but the two most important things are food and water. While that may seem obvious, there are at least five other things that you should keep with you at all times.

Family Bug Out Bag

Food and Water

survival preparedness
While they do not need to be gourmet, your survival meals DO need to sustain you until you can secure an alternate food source.

Numerous governments around the world are stockpiling food. Imagine the very real scenario where you cannot go to the store and buy what you need. For example, you may be ordered to stay in your current location.

Even if you are brave enough to head out, if there is no electricity, you cannot buy gas to get you to the store nor will stores be able to get gas to transport groceries. Therefore, you need to be buying extra food until you have a year’s supply of food, A great place to start, however, is to develop 30 days worth of food.

survival preparedness
Dehydrated meals are a lightweight option for stocking your bug out bags. Just add boiling water to these Mountain House dinners and you have a hot meal. Click to view on Amazon.

While you can survive for a short time without food, although you may not want too, you cannot survive without water. Everyone needs to drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day. Since you may need to be physically active during this period, you may need to drink even more water.

survival preparedness
Carrying two water bottles per person will minimize having to stop and harvest water frequently.

Additionally, if a survival situation occurs during the summer you will need more water. Water can be extremely heavy, therefore, you need to know where to find water including how to drain water from all pipes in your home and how to collect rainwater. You also need to learn how to purify water.

Click here to learn clever ways to harvest water from natural sources, as well as how to make it safe to drink.


survival preparedness
Without currency, you will need to learn ways to barter for items you need.

If you are used to running to the ATM to get money, they will not work when the electricity is down. As recently seen in Germany and Puerto Rico, you may not be able to get your money out of the bank or be able to get it out in very limited supplies.

Therefore, the modern survivalist needs to keep a minimum amount of cash on hand as you may be surprised what it buys you during a bug-out situation. Additionally, make sure to make a copy of all your important legal documents and keep them in a safe at home. During an emergency, you may have to prove who you are and that you belong in an area before you are even allowed to enter an area.

survival preparedness
It’s a good idea to have photo identification for all members of your bug-out party, especially in the event that you need to cross international borders.


Communication is a survival essential whether you find yourself in an urban setting or in the outdoors. If you are starting to forget what it was like to live without a smartphone, or never knew, then stop for a moment and realize that during an extreme emergency, you may not be able to use any phones at all.

survival preparedness
It may be hard to get a signal in remote areas or cell phones may be useless, as with an EMP event. Your survival preparedness plan should include alternate means of communication.

Additionally, depending on the situation, most radio stations and most television stations may be off the air. You will still, however, need to receive information from the outside world such as how to take shelter, what happened, and what officials are recommending that you do about the situation. Therefore, everyone should have a hand-cranked AM/FM radio. If you live in North America, then use this radio to get information from the Emergency Broadcast Network.

survival preparedness
Emergency weather radios are a vital source of information during a disaster. The Eton Scorpion II has a handcrank, solar panel, and DC adaptor for multiple power options. Click the image to view on Amazon or CLICK HERE to learn more about emergency radios.

Secondly, you should consider becoming a licensed ham radio operator and connecting with others in your area that are already a part of their emergency network. For over 100 years, the American Radio Relay League has been active in almost every disaster helping people get the information that they need the most. If you are not ready to fully participate as a ham radio operator, then at least get a good battery operated scanner and learn where they broadcast in your area.

best emergency weather radio

Shelter in Place Vs. Bug Out Location

The next decision that you will need to decide is what your best bet is on location. There may be times when you have no choice, but to stay where you are at the moment. If that is your home, then you need to have supplies ready to create a quarantine room.

Many people are making the choice of moving permanently to a bug-out location. When choosing to buy property for a bug-out location, you need to consider which area is right for you. Many people are buying in remote mountain area because of the abundance of natural resources and the water supply.

survival preparedness
The ideal bug-out location varies depending on your current location and how you plan to meet your individual needs.

Others are choosing to buy bug-out locations in the plains because food can more easily be grown there. Whichever decision you decide is right for your family, you need a comprehensive plan including knowing at least three routes to get there. While many people use GPS to get them everywhere, chances are in a survival situation, GPS is not going to work.

survival preparedness
Planning several different bug-out routes ahead of time will assist you in making the best choice when the time comes. Be aware of flooding or other obstacles that may make a route impassable.

Therefore, you need to get maps of any area that you may be traveling through. While it is important to have great road maps, you may also need detailed topography maps because you may want to avoid the highways. If you decide to purchase a bug-out location, then it needs to be within one gas tank of your current location. Incidentally, you should already be filling up your car every night with a full tank of gas. For more bug-out vehicle tips, CLICK HERE.


survival preparedness
Are you prepared to handle life without electricity?

If a disaster knocked out the electrical grid within the United States, experts say it would take at least a decade to rebuild that grid. Therefore, you are going to need to learn to rely on your own resources to create the power that you and your family needs.

There are at least eight different ways that you can generate energy at home or in your bug-out location. The one that is right for you depends on many different factors including what things you are likely to have present in your environment. Some common choices include solar, wind, water, and steam, but you cannot wait until after an emergency occurs to get started learning to harness these forms of electricity.

survival preparedness
Solar panels are one way to increase the self-sufficiency of your bug-out location.


During an emergency, you may not be able to rely on emergency services to provide even the most basic levels of protection. Therefore, it is essential to know how to protect yourself and your family. The first step in doing this is deciding which method of self-protection is right for you. Remember that you may need to kill someone or be killed.

survival weapons

While a gun may not be the right choice for everyone, if it is the right choice for you, then there are many different choices including Mighty Barret and AK-47s down to 9 mm handguns. There are many advantages and disadvantages to each one, so make the choice that makes you the most comfortable.

Never purchase a weapon that you have not been properly trained to use. If you are likely to have children around, then make sure to teach them how to safely leave a firearm alone and how to tell someone when they see a firearm improperly stored.

Medical Needs

In addition to protecting yourself, you may very well need to take care of your family’s medical needs. Again, remember that ambulances may not be operational and hospitals may not be a safe place to go. At a minimum, you may need to know how to control bleeding and treat wounds.

In order to prepare for survival, you need to build a great first aid kit. You also need to know how to treat more advanced injuries. Since medical care may be set back a long way during some survival situations, it is often best to study older medical guides and know what medicinal plants to grow and use.

We recommend: The Always Prepared Small First Aid Kit

Survival Forums

If you are fascinated by this topic, then there are several forums that you can check out that have great information on them. They also make a great place to ask your questions and have them answered by people who have spent a long time coming to their opinions. These include:

Concluding Thoughts On Survival Preparedness

It is not a question of if you will need survival skills, it is a case of when. Almost everyone will experience a survival situation at some time in their lifetime. Most will be caused by natural events like hurricanes, floods, snowstorms and fires. Others may be centered around man-made events caused by nuclear attacks or EMP events. The steps you take toward survival preparedness today will increase your chances of withstanding these events and rebuilding your life afterward.

About The Author

Richard Beck is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, camping, bushcraft and many other activities in the wild. For more information about all things related to the outdoors check out TheOutdoorsPro.com.

Your Thoughts

Which aspects of survival preparedness do you find most challenging? What resources have you found most helpful? Share your experiences in the Comments section below, thanks!

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best hunting knife

How To Find The Best Hunting Knife For Your Kit

best hunting knife

You’ve been on the road for more than a month. Your initial supplies have run out and you have no choice but to rely on your skill as a hunter. Whether you trap, use a bow, slingshot, gun or just your wits, once your target is down you will need to skin and dress it (cut the meat and prepare it for cooking), and the most important piece of equipment you will be needing is a good hunting knife.

A hunting knife is crucial if you want to:

  • Keep safe. A skinning environment is slippery and wet. A dull blade and slippery handle are sure to cause injury during the skinning process, and in a survival situation an injury could seriously lower your chances
  • Remove the animal skin in one piece for further use
  • Dress the meat in the most efficient manner. You busted your ass to down that animal. You need every scrap you can get.

The difference between a hunting knife and a survival knife

You have that giant survival knife strapped to your waist. Do you really need a dedicated hunting knife?

The answer is a resounding yes. Due to the difference in use, hunting knives differ greatly from survival knives:

  • Tasks: A survival knife will be used for many rough and difficult tasks – chopping wood, breaking glass windows and self defense to name a few. Hunting knives on the other hand are used for the more delicate task of cutting up an animal. Think axe vs. scalpel.
  • Blade Size: Survival tasks demand a large, sturdy blade. When hunting in a survival scenarios you will most likely be acquiring smaller sized animals, which means a smaller blade needed. To illustrate this point – imagine trying to dress a squirrel with a Rambo style blade. Suitable only for those who love fur on their steak.
  • Blade Shape: Survival knives need to have a sharp, pointed blade in order to pierce your enemy in self defense. Hunting knives need to have a rounded blade shape that easily glides between the skin and the flesh.

The 4 elements that make a great hunting knife

So now that we understand the necessity for a good hunting knife, these are the four aspects you need to check out when choosing a hunting knife

  1. Blade type
  2. Blade size
  3. Blade material
  4. Grip material and design

1. Hunting Knife Blade Type

When it comes to survival, you will prefer a clip point, spear point or needle point blade for easy piercing. Hunters on the other hand look for a blade that allows them to remove the skin off an animal without damaging the hide or the flesh. The best blade all-rounder for this kind of work is the drop point blade. Drop point blades have a belly at the end of the blade that rounds up towards the point. This belly makes skinning an easy task and you have little chance of piercing the skin.

best hunting knife blade type

A second decision you need to make regarding blade type is choosing a fixed blade vs. a folding blade. Folding blades, like your common pocket knives, fold into the handle, saving precious space in your bug out bag. The downside is that these knives are relatively more prone to break at the hinge, leaving you without a knife. Full tang fixed blade hunting knives are virtually indestructible, usually supplied with a protective sheath. The knife takes up more space but will last longer.

2. Blade Size

Before you choose a blade size you must first try and plan ahead – what will your target game look like? Will you be out in bear and moose country or will you be hiding in the city where the odd bird and rodent will make up your family dinner?

For medium to large game a blade that is 4 inches and longer will do the trick. For smaller game choose a blade of 2.5 to 4 inches in length.

3. Blade Material

There are many types of hunting blade materials but most fall into two categories: Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel.

best hunting knife blade material

Stainless Steel pros and cons

A misconception about stainless steel is that it never rusts. This is wrong. Stainless steel will rust eventually, but the chemical makeup of these blades ensures that they will rust slowly. The downside of this feature is that stainless steel as a blade material is soft, causing these knives to lose their edge sooner. It is not uncommon for experienced hunters to sharpen their stainless steel knives more than once during one animal dressing.

Stainless steel comes in a wide variety of composites, from the 440A stainless steel which rusts very slowly but is relatively soft, to the expensive VG10 which is considered a super-steel, rusting relatively slowly and holding a scary edge. Look out for the Sandvik 12C27, a Swedish stainless steel that is a great all rounder offering good corrosion resistance, easy sharpening and great edge retention.

Carbon Steel pros and cons

Carbon steel knife blades are harder than stainless steel, which means that they will keep their edge for a much longer period of time. If you are going to be out of civilization for a long time, this would be the best knife material to chose.

The main drawback to carbon steel knives is their poor resistance to corrosion. Unless they are well treated after each use, these knives will rust in a wet environment. Cleaning the knife after each use maintains the blade material and you get a sharp, durable blade that will be great outside.

Of the many types of carbon steel blades, look out for the 1095 steel. It holds a scary sharp edge and is easy to sharpen.

4. Grip Material and Design

Back in the day knife grips were made with bone, cord or wood. Many old school hunters (myself included!) prefer the classic look of an old school handle, but these are not the strongest materials in the market. In survival environments you need a grip that is break proof, slip proof and comfortable. Today we have a variety of brilliantly engineered materials that make great grips. The most popular handle materials include G-10 (impervious to most elements like water, oils and acids), Carbon Fiber (ultra lightweight and extremely strong) and Zytel (strong and light, it offers great surface grip).

best hunting knife handle material

Recommended Models

The hunting knife market is constantly expanding with new models emerging on a weekly basis.

To whittle down the myriad of knives, materials and models, here are our bottom-line recommended knives for a survival scenario:

  1. Small to medium game, folding knife: There are two knives that are perfect for small game survival hunting. The Benchmade Mini Barrage is an axis-locking, assisted opening folding knife that is handy as a self defense weapon while its wide blade works well as a good skinner.
    A second option in this category would be the classic Buck 110. A folding carbon steel knife, this is a knife that is manufactured in the USA and it comes with a lifetime guarantee which tells a lot about the quality. It is sharp and unbreakable, but quite heavy in your hand. The Buck 110 is an all time classic, leading the bestseller lists for generations.
  2. Small to medium game, fixed blade: If you’re short on budget, the Morakniv Companion is a surprisingly efficient and sturdy knife that will hold its edge well. If you can stretch your budget a little, the Scandinavian Fallkniven H1 is the king of hunting knives, a purchase you and your children will never regret.
  3. Large game hunting knives: When it comes to large blades, the king of hunters is the Ka-Bar BK2 Companion, with its 5.25 inch blade. The thick blade means that the knife can double as a survival knife in a pinch, and the greatly designed handle ensures a good skinning experience. This is a great knife for large game hunting.
Hunting KnifeBlade MaterialCostFeaturesSize
Small to medium folder:
Benchmade Mini Barrage

154CM Stainless Steel$$$Axis lock for confidence while skinning, spring assisted opening for quick deploymentBlade: 2.91"
Overall: 6.91"
Small to medium folder:
Buck 110

420HC steel$Classic design used by generations of hunters, made in USABlade: 3.75"
Small to medium fixed blade:
Morakniv Companion

Carbon Steel$Fantastic quality for value, textured, rubberized handle for a sure gripBlade: 4.1"
Overall: 8.6"
Small to medium fixed blade:
Fallkniven H1

VG-10$$$Among the highest quality knives out there. VG-10 steel is corrosion resistant and holds a superb edgeBlade: 4"
Overall: 8.375"
Large game, fixed blade:
Ka-Bar BK2 Companion

1095 Cro-Van Steel$$Can double as a survival or bushcraft knife while still being able to handle butchering and skinning tasks.Blade: 5.5"

About the Author:

Greg Gurland is an avid hunter and knife freak. His website HunterBlades.com is dedicated to finding the best hunting knives for each hunter’s specific needs. For more information, feel free to drop him a line at greg@hunterblades.com

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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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