In dire situations, you know you can’t stay put when SHTF. Maybe you live in a city that is overrun with looters, or maybe you simply have to make a run to one of your caches. A bug-out bag is a staple of prepping and likely one of the major elements of any savvy man’s plan. The best bags make use of maximizing effectiveness while maintaining a low overall weight, so you can carry it for days with little discomfort.
Though it might be tempting to go buy a fancy pack first thing, that is the worst idea possible. The bag is simply a container and your shouldn’t be limited to your capacity simply because you purchased a bag that was too small to hold all of your gear. Conversely, you do not want to get a huge rucksack, if you are not in the physical condition to carry everything it can hold. The best option is to acquire all of your other gear then research what bag would best fit your needs.
The single most important item to have in any pack is some way to hold fresh, clean water. A water bottle is something simple though overall they do not hold much. It is wise to keep at least small metal canister so you can boil any water for purification purposes. Some bug out bags offer a camelback bladder that allows the pack to double as a multiple liter water container. Be warned that it is common for these bladders to burst if thrown on the ground, so be prepared for the contents of your pack to become soaked.
In addition to canisters, try to have a supply of purification tablets just in case you cannot start a fire. Just because you’ve found a lake, does not mean the water is safe to drink. Check out the “Basics to Purifying Water,” post for some more info on this subject.
Though you might be tempted to load your pack down with food, it is not advised. Try to limit food into high-calorie protein bars, trail mix, or field stripped MRE’s because food takes up a massive amount of space and adds weight that can be better used elsewhere. Eventually, your food will run out and it will be better to pack items that are not perishable.
It is more important to include a small, sealable pot, waterproof matches, flint & magnesium, and some metal tableware because these are items incredibly hard to come by in the wilderness. By having these in your pack, you will guarantee the ability to boil water, start fires, and carry food. Use some of the saved space from limiting your food, to hold some of these items.
Though many people will want to pack tons of extra garments, you do not need them unless you plan on being in a drastically different climate. Several times in my military career, I’ve been forced to stay in the same uniform for weeks at a time. It isn’t comfortable, but you get used to it. The only piece of clothing that you absolutely need is a waterproof poncho. It is one of the most versatile pieces of survival gear and a must have for any bug out bag.
Don’t waste space by packing away a complete tent. While there are some great options that provide a bit of convenience, a tarp is going to be far more valuable due to its versatility. Include some 550 cord and you can make a tent that will rival anything bought from a store. To get some ideas about quick survival shelters, check out “Double Time Survival Shelters.”
In addition to a tent, some people may want to pack a sleeping bag. Though I feel that this is likely to be a comfort piece, a sleeping bag is crucial if your climate is cold. If you somewhere that stays relatively warm all year round, you might be better suited with an emergency blanket.
In the best cases, you will never have to use this equipment. In the worst cases, this will mean life or death. Don’t settle for an over the counter first aid kit. To save space and maximize efficiency you only really need pressure dressings, a tourniquet, alcohol, super glue, and antibiotics. These are intended to save you from injuries or sickness that cannot easily be overcome on your own. Since they take little room, you may also want to consider carrying some form of painkillers as they can likely be used for comfort and trading purposes.
Knowledge is power, and having access to accurate, local maps is the best way to maintain awareness of your surroundings. An azimuthal compass is necessary to be able to turn a map into action, so please read the series on compass navigation if you have not done so already. In addition to a map and compass pack a scale appropriate protractor and some mechanical pencils.
Though it is a no brainer, a survival knife is important for preparing game as well as self-defense. Don’t overestimate its abilities. In almost any circumstances a firearm will be a more effective tool, though it has limitations such as noise signatures and how it draws attention. Carefully consider what you want for your survival pack.
It is a good idea to keep some money in the form of cash and valuable metals just in case you need to trade. Other items that are likely to hold value are ammunition, alcohol, and prescription drugs so consider what will be most effective to carry. Flashlights will be hard to find, so pack yourself one or two as a backup. Remember the goal is to keep you pack as light as possible so you maintain maximum mobility.