When it comes to bugging-out, the bag you choose to carry your gear can be just as important as the gear you choose to put in it. Too small a bag and you may not be able to fit everything you’ll need. Too big and it may be too uncomfortable to carry over long distances. With so many different options available, how do you choose the bag that will be best for you? The trick is learning the advantages and disadvantages of the various bags available and selecting one that best suits your particular bug-out plan; this article will give you the know-how you need to choose the perfect bag for your bug-out.
Why Choosing the Right Bug Out Bag Can Make or Break Your Plan
In a bug-out scenario, timing is everything. If you’re threatened and need to reach your self-defense weapon, or a member of your crew needs medical attention, you don’t have time to sift through your pack looking for exactly what you need - it has to be right there. That’s where having the right pack can mean the difference between life and death. A properly chosen pack will have everything you need, right where you need it (of course, survival organizational skills come into play as well, but even the best organization can be thwarted by a less-than-optimal bag).
Another must when bugging out: mobility. Choosing the wrong pack can substantially limit your ability to move - and move fast - over long distances, whereas the right pack will help you to transport yourself and all your gear to safety as quickly and comfortably as possible.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out you’ve chosen the wrong pack - learn the basics, review your bug-out plan, and choose the best bag for you right off the bat.
Choosing the Right Bug Out Bag
The most common choices for a bug-out bag are backpacks, duffel bags, and hiking packs. Each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages, so the pack that’s best for you depends entirely on your own needs and comfort level.
Backpack: A backpack refers to anything from a child’s school bag to a full-on tactical assault bag. Backpacks are generally quite comfortable and easy to carry over long distances, but many lack the space and organizational capacity needed to work effectively as a bug-out bag, especially for families or large crews. However, there are tons of options that can be perfect for smaller bug-out crews where each adult can carry their own pack.
Duffel Bag: In terms of space, the duffel bag offers everything the backpack does not; however, they are cumbersome and can be difficult to carry over long distances. A duffel bag is a great choice for the survivalist planning to bug-out in a vehicle or somewhere close by that won’t require trekking across great distances.
Hiking Pack: The hiking pack offers the best of both worlds, with more space than a typical backpack and easier to carry than a duffel bag. A hiking pack is a particularly prudent choice for those bugging out with a family where one member will need to carry gear for others, such as children or elders.
No matter which pack you choose, there are certain features that are must-haves:
- Comfort and Fit
- Volume and Mass
Comfort and Fit
How comfortable your pack is to carry and the way it fits your body are paramount in selecting the best bag for your needs.
Hip Straps and Hip Padding
For those who have ever had to lug a heavy bag over a substantial distance, you know that choosing a bag with hip straps and padding is essential. Hip straps and padding help to reallocate the load to the stronger muscles in your thighs, taking much of the weight off your shoulders. This will improve your balance and make it substantially easier to carry heavier loads over longer distances.
Strap Width and Padding
Stay away from thin straps made of narrow webbing and opt instead for thicker, padded straps that will make it easier and more comfortable for you to carry your pack for an extended period of time.
Sternum Clips and Adjustments
A “Sternum Clip” is the horizontal straps and clip that stretches over your chest to connect a pack’s two shoulder straps. Bags with sternum clips (enabling you to secure your shoulder straps in a comfortable position) and those that allow for adjustment of the straps and clips are far superior to those without.
There are many bags made specifically for female or male bodies; make sure to choose one that best suits your particular build and frame.
Things to Avoid
Steer clear of bags that have hard elements inside or outside that may rub or poke you while out trekking. Additionally, look for bags that have channels or webbing that face your bag to allow for airflow - you’re probably going to sweat a lot, allowing all that sweat to accumulate on your back can lead to discomfort and chaffing.
Volume and Mass
The size of your bag should be determined by the amount of gear you will be carrying; for singles, needed space will be much less than those bugging-out with children or disabled parties where one person will need to carry more than their own gear. If you want help deciding how much gear you can carry, check out this Free Bug Out Bag Planning Tool HERE.
When it comes to deciding what is a must-have vs. nice-to-have, comfort should always come first. It’s always a better idea to bring less and actually be able to carry it than to pack absolutely everything you might possibly need and have to stop every hour or so to rest - or not be able to carry it at all. All the gear in the world can’t help you if you’re not mobile; plan your gear with comfort and mobility in mind.
Once you’ve chosen the items that are must-haves and the bag you’re going to carry your gear in, the next step is to properly organize so that what you need is available when you need it. Choosing a bag with plenty of compartmental packing space can be a lifesaver in this situation. While you want a bag that is large enough to carry all your gear, you also want to be able to reach certain emergency items at a moment’s notice. When packing, think carefully through the situations in which each item will be useful and plan accordingly. For instance, a first aid kit or a survival weapon needs to be on-hand immediately whereas cooking utensils can be stored underneath other gear.
Additional Useful Features
There are certain features that will make your perfect pack that much better, including hydration bladder, rain hood, and MOLLE compatibility. A hydration bladder, such as a Camelbak, makes it easy to carry water over long distances; staying hydrated can substantially improve your endurance and performance. A rain hood provides instant coverage from the elements when you need it and is typically concealed within an easy-to-reach velcro covering. MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) is widely used by many armed forces and makes it easier to organize and compartmentalize your gear within your pack.
All the pre-thought and research in the world cannot prepare you for what awaits in a real bug-out situation. To ensure the pack you’ve chosen is as close to perfect as possible, make sure to try it out and see for yourself. Spend a weekend trekking in the woods with all your bug-out gear to find out what works - and what doesn’t - on your particular pack. If need be, go back to square one and try again!