Build a bugout bag

How to select and pack a bugout bag
How to build a survival backpack for prepping

Prepping requires strategy and nothing could require more careful
planning than putting together the perfect bugout bag. Everyone
has an opinion about a bugout bag and what goes inside, but the
ones you should pay closest attention to are the backpackers and

  • Backpackers bugout bags. Of the two, follow the lead of
    the experienced backpacker who actually puts his or her own
    gear together and ventures into the wild, modifying gear
    each season. Read on...

There is a fantasy that goes along with building the perfect
bugout bag when you watch those survival shows from your couch
and second guess what the contestant packed. And sometimes
as a prepper you feel like you've got the edge on others because
you have the perfect firestarter and
survival knife, but in reality
it's not very easy to build a fire when you're "Alone" or "Naked
and Afraid" or at least wet and bewildered, but you can build a
better bag by testing your survival gear, lightening the load and
re-evaluating priorities.

How to Select the Perfect Bugout Bag
There is one basic rule of building the best bugout bag: keep it
light. Your bugout bag can either have everything you need or it
can be light: it can't be both! You will need to make wise choices
about what to pack and this article provides a concise guide to
get you started...

Bugout Bag Rule #1: Keep the pack light.

Keeping the bag light means keeping the size of the bag and the
contents at no more than 1/3 of your body weight.

  • Pack size. The size and weight of your backpack is
    important, because the bigger the backpack the more stuff
    you'll find room to bring. Keep the pack size small and to
    keep the pack light.

  • Pick an internal frame design. That will help keep the bag
    lighter and less bulky and it will distribute the weight on
    your hips.

  • Packweight is relative to your body size. If you can keep
    your bag between 25-30 pounds, you

Bugout Bag Rule #2: Choose a backpack that doesn't scream.
Camouflage screams as much as bright orange.

The best color for your gear is black, dark blue, brown or olive
green. Go incognito, not camouflage!

Selecting the proper color for your bugout bag is imperative.
Now this seems counter-intuitive, but if you've got a backpack
that looks too military, then it screams that you're the survivalist
type or military professional and that you've got something good
to steal.  

In uncertain times, your camouflage bugout bag will make you
vulnerable to marauders in urban settings. Likewise, if you
choose a screaming shade of orange will be all too easy to spot
making you a potential target of marauders in the wilderness.
Certainly an orange backpack would be helpful if you're on a
backpacking trip and find yourself lost in the wilderness in civil
times, but in a bugout situation, your goal is to blend in with
your surroundings.

Color and style is an important factor in selecting a low-profile
bugout bag. Think about it from the other side: if you were
desperate, hungry and cold would you steal the pretty pink Hello
Kitty backpack or the camouflage military looking bag? The
military style backpack might have something more useful in it.

So what color should you choose? Black is an acceptable solution
for either setting and will be a godsend at nightfall for preppers.
Other good color options include blue, navy, olive, brown or tan.

They are good for traveling in the snow or wilderness so that
search and rescue can find you. In bugout scenario, the idea is
that help is not on the way. If you have obvious colors, you may
be a target of marauders.

Bugout bag rule #3: Don't buy a ready made bugout bag.
First, you won't know the contents, but more importantly, most of
the commercial bugout bags on the market are really just 72-hour
bags. They have items to get you through the first three days of
a disaster, but they pretty much leave you stranded for the long
term. As a prepper, you must think differently about your bugout
bag. You must pack as though it's the last man-made items you'll
ever own, yet you must also pack light (no more than one-third of
your body weight, preferably far less).

How to pack an Extraordinary Bugout Bag

Top three items to have in your bugout bag:
While there is a lot of survival gear you could include in your
bugout bag, if you had to pair it down to three things, then these
items will virtually guarantee your survival:
  1. a quality fixed blade knife
  2. metal water container* (appropriate also for cooking/boiling
    water) and
  3. and a fire starter (BIC lighter is the most convenient

* A water filtration device is the fourth essential item for your
bugout bag, but the metal water container could suffice to help
you obtain potable water without water treatment.

Since you have the luxury of preparing an extra ordinary bugout
bag, consider the ten criteria for your survival and compare your
bugout bag contents to our list at the bottom of the page.

How to select and pack your bugout bag
Pack your things wisely, because every item you pack should
have several uses. Build an extraordinary bugout bag by
considering the following criteria:

Criteria #2: Size: Find a Small Bag and Compress your Gear.
If you look loaded like a backpacker, you're looking for trouble.
The bigger the bug-out bag the more attention you will attract
from hungry looters. Another benefit for packing light is that it
will make you more mobile.

For these reasons, choose a bugout bag that's on the small size
(rather than heavy frame backpacker's bag). Your fully loaded bag
should be no heavier than a third of your bodyweight. For this
reason, pack a day bag or slightly larger. Don't pack a
backpacking-sized framed bag.

  • Tip: Get compression sack. A compression sack is essential
    for your sleeping bag or bivvy, but you may also consider
    one for a change of clothing. The PodSac, lower left hand
    page, can help you compress a multitude of items with
    minimal weight. As mentioned, the dry compression sack
    immediate right will offer the added protection of keeping
    your items dry and being see-through allows you to quickly
    identify the location of the contents.

Criteria #3: Prepare for the Elements -- Waterproof your
Bugout Bag!
When exposed to the elements, your bugout bag will get wet or
damp easily, which will ruin the integrity of the contents inside.
Most bags offer a level of waterproofp protection, but for ultimate
peace of mind, spray your bugout bag with a heavy duty water
repellent. Also, get dry bags, pictured right, for your small
articles and dry compression sacks for your gear. Zip-locking
freezer bags are the poor man's dry bag. Garbage bags can serve

  • Water repellent
  • Backpack Waterproof Cover.
  • Dry bags

Criteria #4: Plan your Hydration and Water Filtration.
Harvesting water and filtering it is a top priority in survival
because you can't survive beyond three days with out it. To plan
your hydration, bring along water and a method for securing more
water and filtering it.

  • Get a bladder pack insert. Water is an essential component
    of your bugout gear. Water bottles are often bulky and hard
    to unpack to drink. That's when the hydro bladder pack
    attachment, comes in handy. Camelbak offers hydration
    systems as well; however, they may interfere with your
    bugout bag. If your kids are too young to carry a bugout
    bag, consider having them at least carry their own water for

  • Include water purification tablets. Potable Aqua, pictured
    at the bottom of the page packs light and will give you the
    comfort of

  • Get a Water filter: A typical bug out bag may include a
    water bladder and water purification tablets; however,
    thoughtful preppers also pack a water filtration system, such
    as AquaMira, Sawyer or LifeStraw. An ideal inclusion for a
    bug out bag, a water fil enables you to drink directly from
    the water source without waiting.

  • Have kids? Have them carry water in the Camelbak bug
    out water supply pack, pictured left, since you'll be
    carrying most of their supplies.

  • Consider Oral hydration: Consider adding tea bags, which
    can help you quench thirst quickly after boiling water. Add to
    your bugout bag, sports drink mixes and hydration salts.

  • ORAL IV: Heatstroke happens. An added measure of
    security in your bugout bag is to avoid it and have Oral
    IV handy. This hydration aid helps athletes maintain
    their physical exertion and avoid dehydration. It helps
    maintain a heightened alertness too!

  • RecoverORS Adult Clinical Rehydration Powder.
    RecoverORS is for the clinical treatment of dehydration
    due to events such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever,
    excessive sweating due to strenuous activity, traveling
    and more.  

Criteria #5: Food and Cooking Utensils.
While it's important to pack freeze dried or dehydrated foods
along with hard candy, beef jerky and protein bars, it's most
important to pack survival gear to get you more food and water.

If you've got the bag filled only with MREs, and heavy water,
then you're essentially wasting space for your long term survival,
and you'll soon be dead from hydration and hunger! So be sure to
pack a quality knife or fishing equipment and a metal water

  • Titanium cooking kit and utensils. Most cooking sets are
    bulky, but Titanium is the lightest possible cook set you can
    buy. Above, right, is the solo camper set that needs only

  • Sanitation. Include camp suds soap and a small bottle of
    bleach to clean your cook set and hunting equipment.

  • Food ideas:
  • Beef Jerky or Freeze dried chicken (both are edible
    straight from the bag and are packed with protein)!
  • Food bars and Pemmican bars: Pemmican is a
    concentrated food bar of protein that offers quick energy.
  • Gorp:
  • Dehydrated meals: Harmony House dehydrated foods,
    pictured immediate left.
  • Bouillon cubes. What are bouillon cubes?

Criteria #6: Survival tools.
Bugout bags require tools for survival. To build the perfect
bugout bag, consider a combination of these items:

  • Camp stove: Portable stove and fuel
  • Hunting tools: Hunting / fishing / trapping kits
  • Self defense tools: firearms, Mace/pepper spray, Tazer
  • Sanitation: pot scrubber,

Criteria #7: Shelter/Warmth (tent, tarps, poncho, bivvy,
sleeping bag).
Build your bugout bag to include shelter essentials. Shelter
(backpacking tent, military poncho, mylar blanket). A good knife
can help you build shelter, but if you have included a small mylar
blanket or military poncho in lieu of a bulky
backpacking tent, you
will have a head start for warmth and protection of the elements.

  • Tarp: A tarp should not be blue. Pick green or camouflage.

  • Compact sleeping bag: Suisse Sport Adventurer Mummy
    Ultra-compact Sleeping Bag, at the bottom of the page,
    weighs just 1.5 Lbs, and includes a compression stuff sack
    that brings the size down to a jug of milk. It's highly rated
    by Amazon buyers and very well priced.

  • Mylar and emergency blankets: Mylar blankets retain and
    reflect 90% of body heat and is lightweight. You'll be able to
    use the material as lightweight tarp in addition to using it
    as a blanket.

  • Rain poncho.

  • Bandanna, tactical scarf or Survival buff.

Criteria #8: Hand and foot care.
Many articles on bugout bags forget entirely about hand and foot
care. When building a bugout bag, pack these essentials for your
hands and feet:

  • Hand care: Be sure to include:
  • A small vial of lotion to soothe your hard working hands.
  • A pair of heavy-duty all-weather work gloves. They are
    essential to your survival as you'll be doing work from
    carrying fire wood and creating shelter, and for shooting and
    other duties.
  • Handwarmers (if climates in your area are severe).

  • Foot care: Be sure to include:'

  • Good shoes on your feet! Don't include new shoes, instead
    pack a pair of comfortable and gently worn shoes.

  • Extra Socks: Pack wool socks because they will wick away
    moisture to keep your feet dry and cozy. Wool socks in
    summer won't overheat you, and your feet will stay warm in
    Winter. Best of all, if wool socks get wet, they won't loose
    any thermal heat -- you will continue to stay cozy even when
    wet. If you are sensitive to wool, try HydroSkin Socks by
    NRS, pictured left. You'll keep your feet warm without bulk.

  • Moleskin. BlisterMedic and first aid for relief of blisters.

Criteria #9: Small First aid kit.
Essential to survival, the first aid kit should be lightweight and
yet pack essentials in the
seven areas of prepper first aid. Below,
the bright orange first aid kit will be easy to spot in your bugout
bag to help you provide critical first aid. Chapstick is an essential
addition to the first aid kit.

  • Be sure to also include a Dental Aid kit to help you mitigate
    dental pain and emergency repairs.

Criteria #10: Plan your bug out clothes.
The contents of your bugout bag should include your gear and
only a little clothing. Don't wear camouflage clothing as you'll
stick out or be mistaken for military. Black is an excellent choice.
Mix your tactical wardrobe of black with drab olive or grays. Your
bugout clothes should be ready for you to slip on before heading
out. It's essential to plan correctly. In addition to bugout socks
and heavy duty work gloves, consider these essential items:

  • Tactical shirt. With Nyco rip-stop sleeves, the tactical shirt
    has an element of fire retardant -- the vest portion resists
    melting and dripping! Look for jackets and shirts with “pit
    zips”, these allow you to open or close to help you regulate
    whether you want to cool off or warm up.

  • Tactical pants. Sure they are fade, wrinkle, and shrink
    resistant, but the important features are that the tactical
    pants, pictured left, are crafted with a heavy duty double
    seat and double knee. Loaded with pockets they're made of
    DuPont Teflon treatment that resists liquids and stain.

There's so much to consider when crafting the ultimate bugout
bag. Remember to pack as light as possible: plan to pack gear
that weighs no more than third of your body weight.

  • Pack safety pins in your bugout bag! Why? A safety pin
    has a multitude of purposes, you can: affix gear to your bag,
    improvise a tweezer to remove ticks or a splinter; make a
    fishing hook; secure a bandanna to make a bandage to
    compress bleeding; tighten pants to keep out ticks or snow;
    improvise a finger splint; among many other ideas.

Bugout bag contents
You won't be able to fit everything in your bugout bag if you are
going to keep it lightweight. You'll have to "make do or do
without" some things. Do you need a geiger counter in your bag if
you're prepping for an earthquake? Sure, it might be good to have
one if you live near a nuclear power plant
Nuclear Power Power
Plant Locations

To help you get started on what to include in your bugout bag,
you've got to make a list, then pair it down. We've compiled such
a list!  Here is a list of vital contents for survival. The happy
prepper list of bugout bag contents (in order of importance):  
  1. Knife: a quality fixed blade knife (blackbird SK-5, Becker
  2. Metal container / cookset: metal water container
    (appropriate also for cooking/boiling water) and
  3. BIC Lighter (Primary fire starter). A BIC lighter is the
    easiest fire starter to own. Learn more about why you should
    carry a BIC firestarter.
  4. Secondary firestarter (e.g., magnesium firestarter,  
    ferrocerium rod with metal striker, waterproof matches).
  5. Water.  Certainly it will weigh down your pack, but water is
    life and having a pouch or a bottle or two handy will help
    provide you with comfort when you need it most.
  6. Water filtration. AquaMira water filter, Lifestraw, Sawyer,
    Katdyn, etc.
  7. Water treatment. Water treatment tablets.
  8. Self Defense tools: Firearm, knife, mace or pepper spray.
  9. Dried meat. Freeze dried chicken dices can be eaten straight
    from the bag! Left you'll find Legacy Freeze dried chicken
    provides 16 servings per pouch (1/2 cup serving size
    provides 25 grams protein).
  10. Bivvy or sleeping bag (be sure to use a compression bag).
  11. Camp stove.
  12. Energy candy: Chewing gum and hard candies will provide a
    burst of energy and are lightweight.
  13. Fuel. Fuel tabs or home made fuel (cotton balls with
    petroleum jelly)
  14. Hunting tools: sling shot, snares.
  15. Flashlight / torch (headlamp, LED flashlight or solar light).
  16. Fishing kit: Fishing kit, survival gil net or a frabill net. A gil
    net gill stretches across a stream or pond. A frabill net
    allows a simple push of the grip to open the net and land
  17. Fix-it tools: duct tape, superglue, safety pins, zip ties.
  18. Cordage: Paracord or a paracord bracelet.
  19. Duct tape. Pack what you need without the heavy cardboard
    center, or buy Travel duct tape.
  20. First aid kit (snake bite kit, tweezers for tick removal)
  21. Medicines (prescriptions, anti-diarrheals)
  22. Pandemic supplies: Dust mask, Nitrile gloves,
  23. Sanitation: towelettes, antiseptics
  24. Navigation supplies: compass, maps, cell phone with GPS
  25. Communications: small hand crank or solar radio
  26. Clothing: Wool socks, underwear, change of clothes,
    pantyhose! (Yes, pantyhose as it has a number of survival
  27. Hand warmers. Handwarmers are especially important for
    kids bugout bags.
  28. Cold packs. Cold packs are ideal for and an often overlooked
    prep. They will help reduce inflammation of an injury.
  29. Oral hydration: tea bags, hydration salts and sport drink
  30. Bivvy or sleeping bag (be sure to use a compression bag).
  31. Tactical scarf or a bandanna
  32. Extra batteries
  33. Utility tools: Gas shutoff valve, Military can opener.
  34. A bandanna has multiple functions: first aid tourniquet or
    sling, slingshot head or neck covering, napkin or pot-holder.
  35. Lip balm. Pack your favorite Chapstick for your lips, but also
    as a potential fuel source (because it's a petroleum product).
  36. Collapsible Bucket. Backpacking bucket to help you carry
    water or edibles.
  37. Whistle that has amplitudes which can travel a mile or
    more. You will get exhausted calling out to your group or
    otherwise calling for help.
  38. Wool blanket. Wool is ideally suited to protect you from the
    elements and keep you dry.
  39. Trowel.  You'll need a lightweight trowel for digging cooking
    pits, sanitation pits, and for help extinguishing fires.
  40. Zip Ties. Cable ties wraps are always useful! They are
    lightweight and inexpensive too.

Happy endings...
Get prepped and ready by building the perfect bugout bag.

If you saw the movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon,you can
quickly grasp the naivity anyone can have by packing a bugout
bag. There is as balance to having everything in your bag that
you need without having too much unnecessary stuff to weigh
you down. Keep your bugout bag no more than 1/3 of your weight
and that will go a long way towards ensuring you live happily
ever after.

Keep your gear light weight: don't pack ration bars, which are
much to heavy a load. Instead pack soldier fuel bars:

  • SOLDIER FUEL BARS are referenced in the official U.S.
    Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide. This bar also has
    a refernce in a novel by mark Greaney, called On Target (A
    Gray Man Novel). In the novel, the character, "retrieved a
    peanut butter SOLDIER FUEL bar... He opened the package
    and ate it quickly and efficiently, his game face hardening by
    the minute as the day's operation approached." Ideal also
    for your bugout bag has been a trusted on-the-go nutrition
    for Police, Fire, EMTs, Tactical, EMO, NGOs and Wild land fire
    personnel across North America for more than five years.
    SOLDIER FUEL bars withstand high and low temperatures, so
    you can pop them in your vehicles too.

Happy endings...
Putting together a bugout bag is fun.

Related articles...

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