Are you looking for some of the best bug out bags reviews? How about an awesome guide on what all to put in your BOB?
Here's the deal:
We all know that it's difficult to put together the perfect bag. We live in a world today where in a blink of an eye, everything can change.
However unlikely it is for disaster to strike, somehow it still does. And that's why it is critical that we be prepared for those type of situations.
It is important for us to take the time when things are good in order to prepare for when things could get bad.
That is why you are here right now, reading this article.
But there's a catch:
There are so many bags, gear, and possibilities that it gets real complicated. What to buy?
My commitment to you:
In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about bug out bags, and have you walk away with a better understanding and a solid plan forward.
So let's go look at the best bug out backpacks first, then we will cover some gear options you need to get for your bag. I also have a bug out bag checklist pdf for you if you need it.
Not only that...
I'm going to show you my bug out bag load out as an example to put all of the info together.
I've got a full guide for you right up ahead.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Best Bug Out Bag Backpacks Comparison Table
22" x 17" x 11"
23" x 13.5" x 10.5"
20" x 12.5" x 10"
18" x 11" x 8.5"
20.1" x 11.5" x 11.5"
18" x 10" x 9"
18" x 12" x 9.5"
600D PVC Nylon
20" x 11.5" x 11"
20" x 12" x 9.0"
600D PVC Nylon
26.8" x 18.9" x 14.6"
Different Types of Backpacks
There are many types of bags on the market. The best survival backpacks are ones that will let us take enough gear to survive for 72 hours, or 3 days.
Depending on your survival skills, you should plan on taking gear to help support you through that time based on your specific needs. The more skilled you are with bushcrafting, the less gear you obviously need.
For the average skilled person, it is a good idea to get a bag that has a volume around 50 Liters or more, or 3000 cubic inches. This size ensures that you have plenty of space for the wide variety of gear that you will need.
Now let's cover the different elements of a good backpack.
There are three main types of backpacks when it comes to frames. They are frameless, external frame, and internal frame.
Frameless bags are more for day trips, school, and other light load trips.
External frames are very popular for heavy duty campers, and can help distribute a lot of weight.
Internal frames bring the framing inside and use a variety of materials to help handle the load.
Most high quality BOBs are of the internal frame type, and should be what you go for.
Material and Durability
Backpacks are made with different materials based on quality, durability, and price. The higher quality and higher cost bags usually are constructed from a high grade Nylon, like 1000 or 1050 denier.
A denier is a unit that deals with the weight of a fabric. Mid grade bags will use a lighter and cheaper material like 600 denier polyester or a PVC nylon mix.
If you have ever worn jeans, went for a hike in the countryside, and ran into some briars, then you know how critical it is to have the right material on you.
If you don't have the right material, you will end up shredding gear that is not made for rugged environments, and then that gear becomes useless, and your body becomes vulnerable.
The heavier Nylon is typically woven better and therefore is more abrasion resistant. All of the bags mentioned in this review hold up well, and therefore you should go for features and price when making your decision out of the top 10 here.
Waterproof is another very critical item. The higher quality bags have more watershedding type materials, and might even have zippers that help keep water out.
You should also consider an overall water cover for your bag, as well as water sealing the contents of your BOB by using many good quality plastic zip bags to store your gear in case of BOB submersion.
Size and Storage
You want to have enough storage for all of your essential gear. Your level of skill will determine how much you need to take to ensure you are successful in surviving your environment.
A good strategy that many people use that build a great BOB is to first plan out all of the gear that you will need. Some of it you will already have, and some you will have to buy.
If you can gather most of the gear up in the same area, it is a lot easier to predict volume and weight, and then determine the proper size bag for your situation.
Another factor is your specific type of gear, and how you want to partition it out in your bag. The different backpack options have varying pocket and storage arrangements for you to look into to see what is a good fit.
If you have a bigger item, like a tent or sleeping bag, it is a good idea to think ahead if you will store this inside or outside the bag, and then ensure the bag you want to get is big enough to handle it or has a way to strap it on the outside.
Most of us love camouflage. However, for a survival situation, you don't want your BOB to be camo. Why, you ask?
Well, if you sit down and think about it for a while, as well as do your research on what others are saying about it, you will find that you want to blend in with the population during a disaster.
Camo makes others that see you think things that you don't want them to be thinking about you, which can put you in danger. It is best to get a black, green, or tan bag that looks like a common camping bag.
If you are looking for one of the best military bug out bags for combat, then camo might be the right choice for the job.
There are many great brands out there that sell gear in this area. It truly is a buyer's market these days. Let's take a look at some of the top brands.
Condor has its origins in the camping gear area. Over their 20 year history, their focus moved to the tactical gear arena, and now they are one of the best in military gear. The 3 day assault pack is one of their most popular products.
5.11 is a company that focuses on gear for law enforcement, military, and firefighting. They stand for innovation and quality in their gear. The company name came from a rock climbing scale that maxes out at 5.10, so the company is all about going beyond what is difficult. They make some of the best MOLLE backpacks out there.
Mil-Tec is a popular brand by the German company Sturm. Sturm has been around for over 45 years as a dealer in tactical and outdoor gear. They are best known for their high quality design.
Top 5 Best Bags
The Condor 3 Day Assault Pack is the best of the best. It has a 50 Liter volume, which means there is plenty of space for all of your gear.
Seven compartments allow you to keep everything separated how you like it.
A big upper front and small lower front sections let you store quicker access items. Two side compartments are a great place for frequent use.
The pack is made out of 1000D Nylon, which makes it extremely durable and ready for rugged terrain. It comes in black, green, tan, and camo color options.
Other features include foam padding on the back to create comfort and better support, as well as great airflow to help keep you cool. Lumbar support is also awesome and the hip belt is plenty thick and can accommodate wastes up to 54 inches.
Each compartment has a grommet to help drainage in case of water intrusion or a hydration bladder leak. There are many pockets in the compartments which is great for organization.
The shoulder straps are about 3.5 inches wide with around 0.75 inch thick padding to help handle heavy loads without cutting into you. They also have front D rings and straps to attach gear to for fast access.
You can also store two 3 Liter hydration bladders in the bag. The outside has plenty of MOLLE gear attachment possibilities.
All in all, this is by far one of the best tactical bug out bags and a crowd favorite. It is the one I have and I love it.
If the Condor is not your favorite, then give a 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack a good look. It has a 55 Liter volume, with a little more space.
It comes with a main, two front, and two side compartments with many pockets to stow your best gear. Strategically placed storage areas allow quick access.
The pack material is 1050D Nylon, giving it awesome durability. The color options include camo, black, and several shades of grey and tan.
A padded back gives you the support you need and allows good ventilation on those long hauls. The padded waste straps can even be stored away in hidden pockets if you want to dual use the bag for more normal activities.
The pack supports a hydration bladder for storage, and there is an integrated drainage grommet. Some reviewers say that their 3 Liter bladder was too big and couldn't be filled all of the way, so watch out for bladder sizes if you get this pack.
Extra features include a fleece lined pocket to store your sunglasses and keep them from getting scratched.
There are plenty MOLLE attachment points on the outside of the bag.
The 5.11 Rush 72 is a great option for the user needing lots of storage space and who wants to pay more for the quality. Which is why it is one of the best out there.
If you like all of the great features of the Tactical Rush 72 Backpack, but think it is too big, then the 5.11 Rush 24 Backpack might be just right.
It has a 37 Liter capacity for storage and has a similar main, two front, and two side compartment setup, only smaller.
If you are a more skilled survivalist, or plan on not needing a big piece of gear like a tent or sleeping bag, then you may be able to fit all of your stuff in this bag.
It is made from the same great 1050D Nylon material and comes in camo, black, grey, olive drab, and a few shades of tan.
Adjustable foam padded shoulder straps help balance weight, which is important because the bag does not have a waste strap.
You can store a hydration bladder, and there are drainage grommets on board. MOLLE is the attachment system on the outside of the bag.
For the highly skilled survivalists that don't need a lot of gear, the 5.11 Rush 12 Backpack is a nice option.
It has a 24 Liter storage capacity, so room for bare essentials only.
This is perfect for bushcraft masters that plan on building their own shelters out of materials found in the environment, as well as hunting and gathering their own food.
It is a small backpack with all of the great fundamental features of the other 5.11 options, including 1050D Nylon material and the same color options.
This bag also makes for a great vehicle emergency kit, where the gear list is not as extensive as 3 day survival. It is also a great everyday carry pack.
It supports a hydration bladder storage and has some MOLLE points on the outside.
If you are on a tighter budget, but still want a great pack, then the Mil-Tec Army Patrol Assault Pack is the right choice.
It has a 36 Liter capacity, so is perfect for the above average skill level user.
There are two main compartments and two front compartments with plenty of pockets.
The material is 600D polyester with some PVC coating, which helps reduce the overall cost of the bag while still providing good quality.
The two inch wide padded shoulder straps help for mid range loads. There is a padded back along with a simple adjustable waste strap.
There is a hydration bladder storage area and plenty of MOLLE attachment points on the outside. The bag comes in black, grey, tan, and camo colors.
If you are tight on budget, and don't need a larger bag for tons of gear, then this bag is perfect.
Next 5 Bags
If you are looking for a competitor to the Tactical Rush 12, then the Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack is another option. It has a 23 Liter volume with several compartments.
There are many color options. This bag is another favorite for the very skilled survivalists, or can make a great day pack.
A more economic competitor to the Tactical Rush 12, the 3V Gear Velox II Backpack has a 27 Liter volume.
It is made of 600D PVC Nylon mix, giving it a cheaper price. You can choose from green, grey, or tan.
Another option in the 36 Liter capacity range is the Explorer Tactical Assault Backpack.
It has the core fundamental features you would expect and is made from 600D polyester. It comes in camo, green, tan, or black.
If you are on a budget, want a full BOB, but are not a fan of the Condor 3 Day Assault Pack, then the Paratus 3 Day Operator's Pack might be for you.
It is made from cheaper 600D PVC Nylon material and has a 47 Liter capacity.
There is a little more versatility to this bag with its different compartment configurations. It comes in black, tan, grey, and green.
If very large size, quality, and a great price is your goal, then the ArcEnCiel Large Tactical Backpack is the winner. With a capacity around 77 Liters, this bag is a monster and can hold almost anyone's BOB gear list.
It is made out of the awesome 1000D Nylon material and has four main compartments.
If you are carrying more than just your own gear, like for other family members, then this might be the right solution.
Buying Guide Tips
There are so many great options to choose from when it comes to getting the right bag for survival. Many companies have been around for a while and developed some great innovation and technologies centered around bags for this kind of job. The end user greatly benefits.
The big tips on choosing are first deciding what is your price range.
Remember that building out a full BOB can get expensive quick, so you have to allocate money wisely on getting a bag that will handle the situation, but won't make you go broke.
The next biggest factor is proper bag size.
Remember, if you are an average skilled person that is not a stranger to the outdoors, but also is not frequently active in camping and hunting, then consider at least a 50 Liter bag to hold everything you need.
The best way to make sure is to gather your entire gear set first, and then take some measurements to confirm what size you need before buying your bag. There is nothing more heart breaking than putting together your BOB and having to decide what gear to throw out because it won't all fit.
Choosing the Right Gear
Now that we have the bag selection process down, let's look at what type of gear you need to get for your BOB.
FEMA offers some overall basic advice on what you need in an emergency situation.
If you want to learn a lot more about BOBs, then this book is a great way.
When it comes to putting together a BOB, you should realize that there is a major tradeoff between several factors which I will cover next.
You want to make sure that you at least get the bug out bag essentials, and then add gear that is relevant to your specific preferences and situation.
This is an obvious factor. Each of us has our own budget criteria, so we should plan out a total amount we would like to spend before buying anything. Quality gear is a must, because cheap stuff often breaks when you use it the first few times.
Therefore, we need to think through what our most fundamental needs are and write it down so that we can see how it aligns with our budget before we waste money. Otherwise, we could end up spending 1,000's of dollars before we are done.
I don't know about you, but I don't normally train every day carrying around a 50 pound bag on my back. If you think that this is easy, but you aren't doing it every day, then you might want to consider doing an experiment to see for yourself how hard it can be.
Also, you most likely won't have the luxury of flat ground in a real scenario. Even the most physically fit among us can struggle over rough terrain with heavy loads. Plus, the risk of injury is high as weight goes up, which could be dangerous.
A runaway BOB project could end with a bag that is way too heavy. The idea is to do the proper trade off between weight, needs, and skill level to create a bag that is effective.
Gray Wolf has an excellent article where he shows his BOB load out, which weighs in at about 25 pounds. That weight is for the raw gear, which does not include food and water.
If someone wants to copy Gray Wolf's BOB and carry the recommended 3 Liters of water and a decent amount of food, that total then becomes around 33.6 pounds.
We all have similar fundamental needs, but we also have specific needs. It is a good idea to make a list of everything we would need to use on a daily basis that we would not have access to when we leave our homes.
The average person has the most basic skills. This means that the average person will need a wide assortment of gear and supplies to function properly in survival.
One option to consider is possible training and practice in some areas with the purpose of being able to remove some heavier items from a BOB. Remember that any skill typically requires sharpening and maintenance through practice over time.
This includes things like good shelter building in nature, water purification, hunting, and gathering food.
When deciding what gear you need for your own bug out bag, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
- You don't want a bag that is too heavy.
- The purpose of your bag is to get you to a safe location and last you 3 days.
- On average, you can live 3 hours in bad weather, 3 days without water, and 30 days without food.
Keeping these 3 key things in mind, it makes sense to focus on BOB gear that addresses clothes/shelter/fire first, then water, and then food.
Bug Out Bag Packing List
If you are looking for an extensive bug out bag list pdf that you can pick and choose gear from, I put a great one together that is very thorough. I do ask for your first name and email address so that I can keep you updated on the latest and greatest from Trek Warrior.
Click on the button below to get your extensive list.
Next is a list of some categories that your gear should properly cover based on your skill level.
The most important purchase besides your bag is your knife. It makes sense to spend a little bit of money to get a decent knife that will allow you to do many things in survival like wood processing and food processing.
A crowd favorite knife is the Ka-Bar Becker BK2. It has a 5.3 inch blade that is 0.25 inch thick and is almost indestructible. It is a workhorse when it comes to batoning, cutting, and carving wood.
It also functions as a great all around food processor and is handy in making shelter.
There are many other great options to choose from, and we cover the top 10 here.
Paracord is another extremely critical item to have in your bag which can save you in a pinch.
I recommend you get 750 paracord, which is rated for 750 pounds and has very good construction so that it holds up and performs when you need it to the most. This is the best paracord that you can get.
Let's start with what interacts with your environment the most. Obviously, it is what you wear on your feet. Having the right boots that will let you walk or run over long distances while remaining dry and comfortable is a must.
Blisters or ankle injuries will take you out of the game quick. I go through the top choices for boots in an article to help you decide which ones you should get.
If you want more tactical type boots, check out these instead.
The next item on the list for interacting most with your environment is your pants. You need great pants that will allow you to move freely, will stay dry, and can handle some rough terrain like thorns or briars.
In a bad situation, you have less than 3 hours to get a shelter up before your body could get into trouble. Average skilled users should opt for a tent, tarp, and/or hammock to help solve this problem.
A poncho can also serve as a temporary shelter to help keep you alive. Having paracord available is critical for your shelter setup. Of course, a proper sleeping bag is a must in most environments.
An emergency bivvy is another fall back option.
Fire is at the core of surviving, so you need a solid plan on how to handle the many different survival situations.
You should have a solid fire gear plan to accommodate many environmental conditions.
For most of us, you should plan on carrying 3 Liters of water ready to drink in your BOB from the start of your journey. The rest of the water you need you will have to gather and purify along the way.
There are many levels of water purification with pros and cons to each method. For example, a personal life straw can be a last ditch safe method. However, some filters may not filter out everything like viruses.
Otherwise you can consider purification tablets, or ways to boil your own water.
Experts advise that you keep 3 Liters of water separated across 3 different containers. This scheme ensures that if one or even two of your containers get damaged, you can still get by.
If at least one of your containers is metal, you can also use it to boil water to purify it.
You won't starve to death in 3 days, but your energy levels will suffer if you don't get decent calories. Being able to cook during a survival situation means you either bring food with you, or you hunt, fish, or gather along the way.
Cooking requires pots and other tools which take up space and weight, as well as if you bring ready to make food.
My personal choice is emergency rations that give you around 3600 calories of food that does not need any cooking. It actually tastes like a cheap cookie too and weighs much less than all of the gear you need to cook.
You will need many different types of tools for the uncountable different types of problems you are bound to run into.
I have a really good tool plan for putting together your set for survival.
You will undoubtedly have to navigate across land to get to your destination in a survival situation. That is why you need a solid compass as part of your gear set.
Knowing the time and being able to coordinate with others is a critical element of survival. That is why you should have a good watch designed for the job.
Night time operation is critical, which is why you need an overall light plan for your BOB which includes a flashlight, headlamp, and keychain light.
You never know if you or someone in your group might get injured, so it's important to have a basic level of first aid at a minimum. There are many different types of kits you can choose from depending on your party size.
I recommend the Adventure Medical Kits products.
Another great thing to carry is some lip balm. There are many survival uses that you can get out of a tube.
My Bug Out Bag
Remember that every person's BOB is specified for their requirements, needs, and skills.
My logic, based on my experience and others, is that you can't simply put everything you might want into your bag without it weighing way too much.
If you don't normally train hiking with heavy weight, don't be fooled into thinking that you can easily haul around 50+ pounds on your back at will.
Most experts recommend shooting for a BOB that weighs between 15-20% of your body weight. This includes the clothes on your back, which believe it or not, weigh quite a bit.
The average American male is about 185 pounds, depending on which data source you look at. That means that you should shoot for a BOB setup from around 27.5 pounds to 37.5 pounds. This includes the clothes you are wearing.
I opted for the max recommended weight, which took a lot of thinking and optimizing to get my entire BOB setup and clothes under 37.5 pounds. This includes food, 3 Liters of water, and the clothes I would be wearing. My total weight addition is 37.3 pounds.
Be careful to account for all of the weight you will have on you. Your feet, ankles, and knees won't be fooled. The best way is to consider your total weight with BOB, gear, and clothes minus how much you weigh in your birthday suit.
Below is a picture of all of the contents of my BOB, as well as the clothes I plan on wearing.
In summary, the weight is:
23.4 gear + 8.2 food/water = 31.6 pounds for the BOB
Remembering to take the total weight of everything:
31.6 pounds BOB gear + 5.7 pounds clothes worn = 37.3 pounds total weight add
I wanted the total weight of everything to not exceed the recommended max carry for someone of my size, gender, and age, which came in right under the wire after lots of optimizations.
Lessons here: I had to give up a lot. I also had to buy a scale and weigh everything, since most online data is way off. I got rid of as much wasteful packaging on products as I could, because it really does add up.
For the scale, I got an Ozeri Pronto for cheap and weighed everything individually. It has a resolution of 0.05 ounces, and a 11 pound max weight. You can weigh bigger items by using a big bowl on top of the scale.
You can use your normal body weight scale for the final confirmation of you wearing and not wearing your BOB.
Here is an overall table of my load out, broken down by gear area with the weight shown to give you an idea of how it all adds up. The numbers are slightly different than above because of the following notes.
- the water area also contains the weight of 3 Liters of water, as well as gear for purification and carry
- the clothes area includes all clothes: what I would be wearing and packing in the BOB
Backpack (Condor 3 Day Assault)
Now let's take a look at each of these areas.
For clothes, I opted for:
- 5.11 TacLite Pro pants
- Timberland White Ledge boots
- 2x Darn Tough Vermont Merino socks
- 2x boxers
- 100% polyester short sleave shirt
- Long sleeve fishing shirt
- Cotton bandana
- Brimmed hat
- Sock cap
- Lower body base layer
- Upper body base layer
I employed the fire plan mentioned earlier, and included the following:
- Regular sized BIC lighter
- 2x Peanut style lighters
- Wind and water proof matches
- Ferro rod and striker
- Dryer lint tinder
- Wetfire tender
- 2x 9-hour candles
- 2x glow sticks
- LED headlamp
- Mini keychain light
- J5 Tactical V1-Pro flashlight (not shown)
Shelter can really pack on the weight. I decided to leverage my military grade poncho as a shelter also instead of getting a tent. Here is the list:
- Sleeping bag (20 degrees F)
- Sleeping bag compression sack
- Military grade poncho/tarp
- Emergency Bivy
- Mylar survival blanket
- 200 feet of paracord (cut into 1x 100 feet, and 2x 50 feet sections)
- 55 gallon black trash bag (with sides cut) as ground water barrier
- 5x tent stakes (not shown)
Here is the water breakdown:
- Metal container, 1 Liter (with removable cap)
- Stainless Steel fish hook hanger (to mount metal container over fire)
- Lifestraw filter
- 2x collapsible container, 1 Liter each
- Water purification tablets
- Water bag (2 Gallon)
- 3 Liters of water (not shown)
Note: If you get a fish hook hanger, make sure it is stainless steel and not galvanized. Galvanized metal can leach Lead into your water when it is heated, which is toxic.
Everyone's health items will be a bit different. Here are mine, which are pretty common for most people:
- 12x wet ones clean wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- 1/2 bar soap
- Camping soap sheets
- Insect repellant
- Tick kit
- 3x light load towels
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
- Pepto-Bismol Multi Symptom
- Clear eyes
- First-aid kit
- Wound Seal
- KIO3 tablets
- Splinter removal
- Any medications for your own personal needs
Here's the list for tools and miscellaneous:
- Blackbird SK-5 knife and sheath
- Pocket chainsaw
- Work gloves
- Emergency whistle
- Sowing kit
- Bag/Tarp repair kit
- Duct tape
- Signal mirror
- Ranger beads
- Cammenga 3H Compass
- Knot cards
- P-38/P-51 can openers
- N95 face mask
- Rubber tubing
- 55 gallon contractor bag (3 mil thickness)
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Pepper spray
- Quarters ($2.50)
- Cash bills
- Identification documents
- Family pictures
I ditched all of the gear needed for cooking, as well as dried up food, and the need for water to make it. Instead, I opted for emergency rations that only weigh 1.6 pounds.
The SOS Emergency rations give me 3600 calories, broken down into 9 individually wrapped bars that are 400 calories each. That way, I get 1200 calories a day of energy.
It's not near as much calories as I'll be burning, but its great for the weight. I could always drop in another one for 1.6 pounds and be perfect.
My BOB Feedback
I hope that my BOB load out was a helpful example. Remember that your BOB will look different.
Here is a picture of my BOB all put together, with the clothes I plan on wearing and carry gear in a water tight zip lock bag ready to go.
I keep my boots out so that I can wear them and get use to them.
If you liked my BOB, help me out and tell the world by tweeting the quote below:
I just checked out Tom's Bug Out Bag load out and think it's awesome! @trek_warrior
If you thought of something I'm missing, use the Twitter box below to complete the text and let me know about it:
@trek_warrior For Tom's BOB load out, what about:
Best Premade Bug Out Bags
Normally, I don't ever recommend you go buy a bug out bag that is already premade. Usually what happens is you get a poor quality bag and cheap gear that will probably break after a few uses.
If you don't like researching BOB topics, then I suggest asking around in your friend network to see if someone you know does enjoy it.
Then, why not give them your spending budget amount and ask them if they are interested in putting together a list of gear for you based on your skill level and needs. Most of us interested in these topics will feel like a kid in a candy store for a project like that.
When that is not an option, there are BOBs out there for sale that are already put together.
Just remember that you get what you pay for, and it is minimal survival insurance at best.
One option is the VAS Black Ops Series 90, but like most bundles of this nature, you get cheap items.
To wrap everything up, we covered all of the great options available for the ultimate bug out bag. We covered what to look for in a bag as well as the best brands. Next, we looked at the top 10 on the market.
If you want the best value for the money, then the Condor 3 Day Assault Pack is the winner. It has a 50 Liter capacity with great storage features and is made from some of the best materials.
Next, we discussed some buying tips on selecting the right bag for you.
After that, we looked at how to choose the right gear for your BOB, and also pointed to many great articles and resources that dive deep into those topics.
I hoped you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I wish you the best of luck on putting together your BOB. Let me leave with a great video on the top 10 mistakes in making a bug out bag to save you time and money.
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