Great ideas for your Survival Backpack

It was only a few years ago that people who maintained a survival backpack were considered crackpots and paranoid. In more recent years, many people have learned the true value of having a backup plan for disaster survival. We aren’t just talking terrorist attack either, there is simply no way to know when disaster may strike be it man-made or natural.

A True Assest

A Survival Backpack is a true asset in a survival situation for a number of reasons. Easy to grab if you need to “Bug Out”, easy to carry when running, or hiking and highly portable. Everyone from survival enthusiasts to former SAS members have an opinion on what should go in your Survival Backpack and that’s where it can get tricky.

Your excellent bug out bag is one that is:
1) Ridiculously strong
2) Intelligently designed
3) Customized to your specific body dimensions
Durable because if straps tear, zippers break or cloth rips mid bug out, you’re going to be sorry. Your bug out bag & you are about to become best friends, & nobody wants a real wimpy friend.
Intelligently designed so that you can reach your most critical survival gear fast.
Having the right bug out bag size so that it won’t reduce you down or wear you out, due to body fatigue.

Some Basic Maths – Don’t Worry It’s Easy

The amount of things you pack and what you pack is completely driven by numbers. As there is a weight tradeoff the amount of things you can carry vs the number of people you need to carry things for is important. Tools are of course reusable however food will eventually run down. Make sure when doing the numbers you plan to have at least 3 days worth of food and water per person to get started with.

Backpack And Bag Types

If you plan to do a lot of walking with your survival backpack, it’s highly recommended that you use an external frame type backpack. The frame is a must in cold environments, as it keeps the backpack from direct contact with your back, this reduces sweat. Sweat in cold environments can lead to hypothermia, that’s bad!

The most common type of frame backpack is the Military surplus ALICE style pack. (All purpose, Lightweight, Individual, Carrying, Equipment). ALICE pack are literally battlefield tested so you know it can take a real hammering. There are lots of alternatives however you need to be careful as you don’t to to end up with a cheap rubbish bag.

The choice ultimately, is yours

I’m going to share some of the ideas i’ve got and some of the ideas i’ve researched from around the interwebs!

There is nearly unlimited amount of website out there offering survival packages, some are excellent, however most people agree the best survival pack is the one you prepare yourself. When you’ve packed your own bag, you know intimately what’s in it, ideally you also know how to use all the gear without a second thought.

Now that you know the necessary criteria it takes to be considered a Best Bug Out Bag. Let’s remember what our bag is REALLY for, so we can make wise choices.
It’s NOT meant to be a mini house, & it cannot continue all of your unnecessary “Stuff.”
Too much, “gear” will slow you down.
A good rule of thumb while selecting your survival pack is to decide what you need before getting the pack itself.

How much stuff?

Most commercially sold survival backpack kits are usually designed to allow you to survive self-contained for up to 3 days. This seems to be a generally accepted standard because obviously there is a limit as to what you can carry on your back. Setting yourself a 3 day target is a good place to start.

There is an incredible temptation to want to pack every thing and be prepared for every scenario you can think of. While this would be great however remember, you have to carry the damn thing, maybe even run with. This means multipurpose equipment and survival essentials should guide your equipment and choice of supplies.

What to pack?

This is really where it gets tricky. I’m going to provide a overview of the “categories” of things that make up a good bug out bag and suggest a few items. Ultimately though, the weight you’re happy to carry and time you want your kit to last will drive your final decisions.

Make a List of Bug Out Bag Essentials
Before deciding on a bug out bag, figure out something you plan to put inside of it. This bug out bag checklist can be adjusted later, but this exercise helps to narrow down your options on overall pack size.

What’s your final goal? Is it a 3-day bug out or do you want a full-fledged INCH bag (I‘m. Never. Coming. Home.)
Do this before you purchase because it’s no fun to find out you don’t have enough room once you have your bag.
Carefully consider which tools, gear, & survival supplies will be the most useful to YOU on the go.

Your choices should be based on essential factors such as:

What survival gear you know how to use
Your current survival skill level
Your regional climate conditions
What obstacles you may face
Density population of your county

Also, keep in mind that your first checklist of items may change over time as you acquire more survival skills. However, don’t let that keep you from doing this right assessment today.

So What’s The Best Bug Out Bag Size?

The proper bug out bag size is based on your torso size. Cover yourself from your neck to your hipbone.
Some manufacturers sell bug out bags especially for men, women, & children to make it easier to find the right torso size.
Bottom line your bug out bag must fit comfortably on your hips. Here are some basic torso size guidelines to help (always double check these figures with the bag manufacturer before purchasing):
Extra small (for torsos up to 15 1/2 inches)
Small (for bodies from 16 inches to 17 1/2 inches)
Medium (for torsos from 18 inches to 19 1/2 inches)
Large (for torsos 20 inches & up)
Plenty of Bug Out Bag Storage Space
Regardless of what br& of backpack you choose, you’ll want one with plenty of storage space.
Extra storage space is typically not a serious thing as long as you don’t feel the need to fill each space just because “it’s there.”
Having a small bit of extra space helps with future expansion & gear swaps but again watch the overall weight!
The Best Bug Out Backpack Include Separate Parts
The best bug out bag designs include many zippers, pouches, & other visible & hidden storage options.
Unlike a duffel bag, a bug out bag shouldn’t be randomly packed as full as possible.

In real-world survival situations, you won’t have time to dump all your supplies out on the ground to find what you want. Instead, look for a bug out bag with pieces of separate sections for food, clothes, & gear. That way you’ll be able to access these items quickly & efficiently.

The more zippers, loops, pockets, & straps your bag has, the more organized it will be when you need to find something fast.
If you decide bigger is better & opt for a more substantial bag, you’ll be able to provide a ton of stuff, just don’t forget that you’ll own to carry all that gear. A good set will typically have the following design components:

Hip belt pockets
Compression straps
Hydration tube
Top Lid
Water bottle pocket
MOLLE System
Lightweight & Comfortable

Dedicated Sleeping bag compartment

While there are advanced military bags that include huge capacities, there’s no point unless you’re preparing for a military-style bug out (think lots of guns & ammo).

The most military is trained to carry bags weighing upwards of 70 pounds or larger on their backs for several miles.
If you don’t have this type of practice, you’ll want to keep your bag lightweight & comfortable. Honestly, your bag weight could get you killed. It’s easy to imagine of many life-threatening scenarios if your bag is checking you down.

If you’re not certain how much power you seat comfortably carry, take your bag on a hike or camping trip

Best Bug Out Backpack Color

You’ll want to stay continuously from any bright colors & other features that could attract unwanted attention. Stick with neutral colors to blend in with your surroundings.

Consider a camouflage case if you live in a rural forested area. If you’re in a crowded urban area, you’ll need a bag that pretty much looks like an average backpack or oversized book bag.
The less conspicuous, the better.

Final Bug Out Pack On a Budget

If you want to prepare but can’t provide a significant bags with all the bells & whistles, there are alternatives that can still keep you ready for a bug out situation.
Some less expensive smaller bags can be found with a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system.
Purchase a smaller, more affordable pack with MOLLE & pack it with the bare essentials mentioned above. The latest generation MOLLE is made out of laser-cut cloth to eliminate stitching that may compromise the integrity of the bag. The point of MOLLE is that you can hang gear from the outside of the bag instead of packing everything inside.
You just place the items you’ll need most on the body of your bug out bag with this method.
This type of bug out bag is an excellent choice if you’re on a budget, but you still require the ability to add easily detachable pouches over time. Items you might want to hang from MOLLE are:

  • Survival Knives
  • Ammo Pouches
  • Canteen Pouch
  • Radio Pouch
  • Medical Pouch
  • Small Axe
  • Ultimate Bug Out Bag Recap

Take stock of what you intend to carry. This gives you an idea of the size you’ll be looking for & helps to keep you from getting bent towards a more expensive purchase with space you’ll never use.

Take key body measurements so that you know what the right bug out bag size is for your body type. This is essential to ensure comfort.

Once you get your bag & all your things. Pack it. Make sure everything fits & what the best location is for all the equipment.
Take your bag for a test run. This could be on a limited hiking trail, at a nearby park or unusual another place where you’re ready to walk around.

The idea is to learn if you can walk & comfortably carry your new bug out bag. If you find yourself stopping to rest often, you probably have a bag that’s a bit much for you.
However, if you remain comfortable carrying your bug out bag during the whole test run, you may have just found best bug out bag.
Your bug out bag is one that adequately fulfills all your storage & survival needs.

  • The Real Bug Out Bag On The Market Today

It’s time to share what I believe are the best bug out bags available on the market today.
First I’ll share my all-time favorite Bug Out Bag (the one I own). Then I’ll share a few more quality bug out bags you might be interested in.

Food and Water

Plan to carry enough food for three days. The food can’t require refrigeration or cooking. Here’s some ideas:

  • Water Packets – 4.224 ounces (125 ml) each.
  • Food Bars – 3 days, 2 people, 5 Year Shelf Life.
  • Think about things like, Energy bars, MREs and freeze dried meals
  • Water Purification Tablets – Each tablet purifies 1 qt of water.
  • Water Filter: pocket-sized emergency water filter (filters up to 20 gallons of water, removing 99.9% of Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Canteen + Cup


If you cannot use your home for shelter your survival backpack is going to have to come up why the goods. Here’s some essentials:

  • Blankets – make sure you have enough for everyone in your family, in the case of small children or even a couple you can save weight by sharing a blanket.
  • Ponchos – durable, keeps you dry in the rain. They can also be used as an overhead shelter.
  • Emergency Bivvy Sacks – These are lightweight sleeping bags that retain most of your body heat and reflect it back to you.
  • 2 Person Tent – Two-person emergency shelter keeps you out of the wind and weather. A real tent; not a piece of plastic.
  • All Weather Thermal Blanket – Rugged, heavy duty thermal blanket for emergency use. Much thicker than an emergency blanket. Also use for overhead shelter or ground cover.

If you spare the room, include one change of clothing for each family member, plus several pairs of underwear and socks, nothing boost morale more than a fresh pair of socks!

More On Clothing

The type of clothing is very similar to what you would pack for a weekend backpacking trip. This is also often the best way to test you’ve packed the right stuff. Better to find out in a low stress environment rather than when you’re fighting for your life!

Here’s a sample of some suggested stuff:

  • A pair of sturdy boots or shoes
  • A pair of long pants, I recommend cargo style here
  • 2 Pairs of socks wool makes the best socks
  • 2 Shirts go for long and short sleeve
  • A Jacket that is both warm and offers protection from the elements
  • Warm underwear
  • A hat

Fire Starting

  • Windproof Matches – Strong flame stands up to the wind – Waterproof. 1 box of 20.
  • Magnesium Fire Starter Uses magnesium as flame source of 5400° F. One fire starter should provide sufficient shavings to start dozens of fires. The spark will ignite any form of tinder.


  • Rescue Signal Mirror – You can flash overhead aircraft, boats out to sea, or people from the next ridge over.
  • Rescue Howler Whistle – Blow the whistle instead of yelling your lungs out. A whistle carries further and you won’t get tired.

First Aid

The contents of a First Aid Kit is the subject of another whole article. Like packing your own bug out bag I recommend that you create your own First Aid Kit instead of buying a prepackaged one. Building your own first aid kit gives you an intimate knowledge of what it contains and how to use it.


  • Tri-Fold Shovel – dig fire pit, trench around shelter
  • Work Gloves – Clearing brush, cutting branches, gathering bedding material, digging or sawing.
  • Pocket Chainsaw – With Handles – Works very well. An big upgrade from traditional wire saws.
  • Camp Axe – Use to chop up your firewood.
  • Silva Guide Compass – Gives you the ability to navigate effectively.
  • 550 Cord – 100 foot length; 7 inner strands; numerous field uses.
  • Chem Light – 12 hour light stick. Have light for 3 nights.
  • Candle – have light in your shelter. Takes bite out of the cold.
  • Sewing Kit – to repair clothing and other items.
  • Multi Tool – High quality because your survival should not be left to cheap tools
  • Windup radio with torch
  • Separate windup torch

Hygiene and Sanitation

When you aren’t sure how long you will be without power or utilities, the simple act of freshening up can boost your morale.

  • Razors
  • Multi-Purpose Soap,Shampoo,Shave Cream
  • Toothbrush w/Case
  • Toothpaste
  • Face Cloths
  • Wet Wipes
  • Sanitary Pads (also useful for large wounds)
  • Personal Tissue Rolls


  • Notepad
  • Pencil
  • Deck of playing cards for entertainment

So, Where Are You Going To Bug Out To?

It’s one thing to have a fully prepared survival backpack, however when you grab it where are you planning to run to?

Here’s some things to think about:

  • Do you have a property? Do you own an assest that is in a reasonably safe place out of a major city? If not can you identify a part of reserve?
  • Have you done a recon on the area? Can you just turn up there? is it a difficult journey on foot?

Obviously you can’t just descend on an existing families house you might get a less than warm reception. Plan around this find a neutral place that you can go if “bugging out” is part of your plan.

Direction and way finding

Forget the fancy GPS they may not work, you’ll need to refer back to a good ol’ map. For this you’ll need maps of the local area and routes selected and highlighted. Add a good quality manual compass to your equipment.

Practice And Test

Finally, once you’ve assembled your kit and decided on a number of evacuation plans you’ll need to test your gear out. The best way to do this is go camping and do a “mock” survival situation. See if you can live from your survival backpack for two days. Use the food, drink the water, use the tools and give everything a good going over.

By creating a survival backpack, planning an evacuation plan and testing all your kit if the time does come to “bug out” you’ll have the best possible chance.

Previous articleWhy Prepare?
M,Justin is a survival enthusiast who loves camping, the outdoors, gadgets and being prepared.


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