Packing Your Bug Out Bag

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There are lots of different list showing what you should have in your bug out bag. For the most part, you’ll find the same things on all those lists. Oh, there will be a few differences from one to the other, reflecting the ideas of the writer of the list; but overall they will be pretty much the same. That’s mostly because any bug out bag has to be able to do the same things: meet your basic survival needs until you can get to a place of safety.

One of the big problems that many of us encounter is that the gear that we want to take is much bulkier and heavier than the space we have available to us. That usually means cutting down the equipment and supplies we take, especially the heavier items.

Before going any farther, it would be good for us to remember that backpackers typically go on trips that last as long as a week, although three to five days is much more typical. If they can do it, we can too; as long as we make sure that our pack is ready and that we are too.

To start with, avoid buying a tactical backpack. As with “tacticool” clothing, that will just tell everyone else who you are and that you probably have things that they could use. You’re better off buying a regular backpacking pack, which will be lighter, have more room and not be anywhere near as conspicuous.

Your pack should equal a maximum of 20% of your body weight. So, a 30 pound pack is just about ideal for someone who weighs 150 pounds. However, this doesn’t mean that if you are overweight you can carry more. It’s more the other way around. That 20% pack is for someone who is in good shape. If you’re overweight, you may have trouble carrying that much.

The other thing to keep in mind is the terrain that you’re going to be walking across. The rougher the terrain, the slower you’ll go. So you’ll cover less miles per day, while finding yourself getting tired more quickly.

With the big concern about weight, it’s a good idea to buy backpacking gear, rather than a lot of the typical survival gear around. Most of that was designed without thinking about how much it weighed, while weight is everything for the true backpacker. The lighter you can make your gear, especially your tools, the more food, clothing and other supplies you can carry.

When loading your pack, put the heaviest things close to your back and low down, just above the belt. That will help with transferring the weight to your legs, making it easier to carry. Medium weight items can go above that, especially those you are likely to need frequently. Your lightest gear should be stowed farthest from your back, towards the outside of the pack, or right at the belt line. Generally speaking, the sleeping bag will go there, if one is carried.

Always keep in mind that there are items you’re going to need to be able to get to quickly, like a first-aid kit, as well as tools that you might use fairly often. This creates a bit of a conflict, as the desire  to be able to get to them might lead you to put them on the top or outside of the pack, where they are too far away from your back for good balance. The answer to this problem is to mount those things to the sides of your pack, where they are still close to your back or to hang them on your belt, where they are readily accessible.