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When disaster strikes, having a well-prepared bug out bag can make all the difference between life and death. A bug out bag, also known as a survival backpack or a 72-hour bag, is a carefully chosen set of essential items that will keep you alive and self-sufficient during an emergency situation. While the contents of your bug out bag are crucial, the backpack itself plays a key role in your survival as well. In this article, we will explore the best bug out bag survival backpacks on the market and provide guidance on how to choose the right one for your needs.

Creating a bug out bag, also known as a “go bag,” INCH bag, 72-hour kit, or emergency kit, is a crucial measure to ensure preparedness. These carefully packed bags serve as your essential kit for immediate evacuation or as a valuable supply resource if you need to shelter in place.

Even if you never have to utilize it, the reassurance that comes from being equipped to handle various situations is invaluable, making the investment worthwhile.

Creating a checklist for a bug out bag can feel overwhelming. Even if you’re considering specific scenarios, the list of emergency items you’d like to include always exceeds what you can carry. Even experienced individuals face tough decisions when it comes to packing.

Throughout our own journey as sensible preppers, we’ve encountered frustrating and unreliable lists. It was mentally challenging to determine the necessary gear for different scenarios, what to exclude, why certain items were prioritized, and how to maintain a realistic approach within the bounds of modern preparedness and reasonable prepper guidelines.

Here’s the good news and the bad news: There’s no definitive solution like “The Ultimate Bug Out Bag.” Numerous variables prevent a universal answer that suits everyone in all situations. So, the positive aspect is that you don’t have to obsess over achieving perfection.

However, there are distinct and life-altering differences between a well-prepared kit and a poorly assembled one. For instance, many people pack excessively heavy bags under the false assumption that they will always have access to a functioning vehicle.

You might come across various terms that essentially describe the same concept:

  1. Emergency kit or emergency bag
  2. 72-hour kit or 72-hour bag
  3. Bug out bag
  4. Go bag
  5. Evacuation bag or evac bag
  6. Survival bag or survival kit
  7. INCH bag (I’m Never Coming Home Again)
  8. GOOD bag (Get Out Of Dodge)
  9. SHTF bag (Shit Hit The Fan)

While we may use some of these labels interchangeably, such as bug out bag and go bag, we don’t typically employ time-based labels like 72-hour bag or INCH bag.

While the term “emergency kit” can encompass various meanings (such as a kit specifically for snow season in your vehicle), we consider a bug out bag to be the closest equivalent to a comprehensive emergency kit. It is a single bundle of essential items that can assist you in handling a wide range of scenarios.

To ensure you make informed decisions when assembling your bug out bag, it’s crucial to adopt a solid mental framework and comprehend the rationale behind including certain gear (or excluding others).

That’s why, along with highlighting our preferred products, their weights, and the reasoning behind each category, we provide suggestions for common customizations and items to avoid. This allows you to personalize your bag according to your specific needs.

Alternatively, if you prefer simplicity, you can follow this list as it is. We have confidence that it offers a well-balanced selection suitable for a diverse range of people and scenarios. In fact, many of our personal bags closely resemble this configuration.

1. Teton Sports Scout 3400

One of the best survival backpacks on the market is the Teton Sports Scout 3400. This backpack is designed for comfort, durability, and functionality. With its 55-liter capacity and adjustable torso length, it offers plenty of space for your survival gear while still being comfortable for a wide range of body sizes. Its rugged construction, combined with the included rain cover, ensures your gear stays protected in any weather.

Price: $82.46

2. 5.11 Tactical Rush72

Another great option for a bug out bag is the 5.11 Tactical Rush72. This backpack is designed with durability and organization in mind. Its 55-liter capacity, MOLLE webbing, and multiple compartments allow for excellent organization of your survival gear, while its water-repellent 1050D nylon construction ensures your items stay dry and protected. The contoured yoke shoulder strap system and adjustable waist belt provide additional comfort during long treks.

Price: $185.00

3. Osprey Atmos AG 65

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is an excellent choice for a survival backpack due to its comfort-focused design and large capacity. Its 65-liter capacity and adjustable harness provide ample space for your bug out bag essentials. The Anti-Gravity suspension system ensures optimal weight distribution and ventilation, making it perfect for long-distance treks. Its durable nylon construction and built-in rain cover provide additional protection for your gear.

Price: $261.48 – $314.33

4. Maxpedition Falcon-II

For those looking for a more compact option, the Maxpedition Falcon-II is an excellent choice. This backpack has a 23-liter capacity, making it perfect for minimalist bug out bags or for those who prioritize mobility over carrying capacity. Its 1050D nylon construction and triple polyurethane coating ensure durability and water resistance, while the ergonomic yoke-style shoulder straps and waist belt provide comfort during extended periods of wear.

Price: $124.89

5. Condor 3 Day Assault Pack

The Condor 3 Day Assault Pack is another top contender for the best bug out bag survival backpack. This backpack has a 50-liter capacity, providing ample space for your survival gear. Its durable 1000D nylon construction and heavy-duty zippers ensure long-lasting durability. The padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, and waist belt provide added comfort and support during extended use.

Price: $96.95

Summary Bug Out Bag Checklist

To provide more practical guidance, we have categorized the items below into three levels of priority:

Level 1: Lightweight and compact (under 20 pounds) to fit in bags over 25 L, costing between $400 and $1,100. This well-rounded kit focuses on essential items needed for survival and recovery away from home. It is suitable for cost-conscious individuals or those aiming for lighter loads. While designed for typical emergencies like short-term disruptions caused by natural disasters, it can also handle more serious situations with proper survival skills.

Level 2: Slightly heavier (under 35 pounds) and requiring bags over 44 L (or over 50 L if including a sleeping pad and bag strapped to the outside), with an estimated cost of $800 to $2,300. This level adds core gear that can make a significant difference, such as a solar charger and sleeping equipment to provide comfort and temperature control while keeping you off the ground.

Level 3: Pushing the weight limit (under 45 pounds) and necessitating bags over 49 L (or over 60 L if including a sleeping pad and tent strapped to the outside), priced between $1,050 and $2,750. This comprehensive kit offers the best preparation for a wide range of emergencies, including longer-term SHTF scenarios. It is essential to avoid exceeding this maximum weight for optimal mobility.

Tips and Common Mistakes

Avoid carrying excessive weight. More details will be provided in the next section.

Avoid designing your bags based on specific timelines, such as three days or two weeks. Instead, prioritize your items using a cascading system and disregard the BOB vs. INCH arguments.

Avoid packing unnecessary extras. The primary goal is survival, not battling imaginary zombie hordes. Focus on staying hydrated, nourished, warm, dry, and injury-free. Everything else should support these objectives or be considered a bonus.

Do not assume that your predetermined path and “bug out location” will function as expected. You are not fully prepared if you cannot handle unexpected disruptions to your plans.

Consider the surrounding environment and potential risks, but avoid fixating on specific scenarios like earthquakes or hurricanes. Allocate more time to contemplate factors such as terrain, water availability (or excess), temperature fluctuations, urban versus rural settings, the likelihood of armed individuals in your vicinity, and similar considerations.

Strive for a balanced approach between carrying a surplus of supplies and relying solely on hunting and crafting. Unless you have already demonstrated your ability to comfortably sustain yourself through these means in your specific area, do not merely carry 72 hours’ worth of consumables, nor skip consumables assuming you can procure everything you need in the wild.

Prepackaged kits are generally not recommended by experts. Most companies try to meet a price point of $50 to $200 by compromising on quality, including unreliable gear, providing an incorrect mix of essential items, or necessitating additional replacements, which defeats the purpose.

A good kit, even a basic one, will typically cost at least $150 to $200. Considering that you spend more than that amount on insurance each month, it is crucial not to skimp on this critical preparation.

If you have a limited budget, do not settle for anything cheaper than the “budget picks” we recommend in our reviews. It is not worth purchasing subpar preparedness items that will fail when you need them. Most of the extremely affordable items found online are of poor quality. Generally, the cheaper the products, the heavier they tend to be. For example, a budget Level 3 bag will likely weigh significantly more than the average option. Whether you allocate the same budget for a high-quality Level 1 bag or a mid-range Level 2 bag is up to you.

Do not assume your party or family will always remain together. Therefore, avoid distributing critical gear across multiple bags. For instance, it is unwise to keep water gear in one bag and food in another. Each person over 10 years old should have their own essentials in case of separation.

Children under 10 can have their own bags, but focus on their comfort and your redundancy. Construct a child’s bag so that if they become separated, they have some basic supplies and information to assist the adult who finds them. Additionally, you can utilize their bag as a backup in case you misplace crucial items like your water filter. However, ensure that losing their bag altogether is not a significant issue. In a bag appropriate for their age, you can typically include a few essentials such as a complete set of clothes, necessary medications, and documents/photos about their family and home. You can also add more kid-friendly items like a stuffed animal, a book, and treats.

Avoid simply dumping everything into one pile in your bag. Not only does organizing your gear into compartments facilitate quick access and better load distribution while carrying, but the individual containers themselves can serve as valuable resources for improvisation in the field.

There are only two items on this list that do not need to be kept in your bag at all times: shoes and cell phones. This is mainly due to practicality, as it is assumed that 99% of people will have them readily available or nearby when there’s a need to bug.

Avoid combining gear with your camping/hiking supplies or engaging in shortcuts that could hinder your ability to quickly grab and go without hesitation. One of the primary purposes of a bug out bag is to ensure it is always prepared and ready for use.

What’s the Right Survival Kit Weight?

Many people tend to overestimate their physical capabilities or underestimate the challenges of carrying a heavy load on their backs for extended periods. They often assume they will have the luxury of a vehicle or cannot resist the temptation to bring unnecessary items, resulting in excessively heavy bug out bags.

However, it’s important to consider various scenarios where you might have to abandon your vehicle, navigate through challenging terrain, or face physical obstacles like floodwaters or stairs. Fatigue, extreme temperatures, and hunger are also factors to take into account.

Based on our experience and insights from experts, we recommend the following rule of thumb:

  • If you engage in moderate exercise for at least three hours per week, your bug out bag should not exceed 20% of your body weight or 45 pounds, whichever is less.

  • If you are highly active and already comfortable hiking with gear, you can push it up to 30% of your body weight or 60 pounds, whichever is less.

Research studies focusing on optimal pack weight support these guidelines. For instance, a study conducted on hikers along the Appalachian Trail identified the sweet spot at 30 pounds or 20% of body weight. Similarly, a military study found that soldiers who regularly train with heavy gear perform optimally with a load of around 30% of body weight.

It is crucial to test your bug out bag before relying on it in an emergency situation. Take a fully loaded pack for a one-mile walk around your neighborhood and assess how it feels and performs. This practical exercise will provide valuable insights and help you make necessary adjustments.

Item Weights

To determine the weights for each category, we conducted thorough evaluations by weighing and averaging a diverse selection of our preferred products. For instance, when comparing orienteering compasses, we found that common ones weighed around 2 ounces, while lensatic compasses weighed approximately 7 ounces. To strike a balance, we took the blended average of 4.5 ounces, considering a range of 2-3 ounces in either direction as acceptable.

It’s worth noting that when some individuals mention their pack weight, particularly in outdoor recreation contexts, they may be referring to the “base weight.” This refers to the weight of the backpack itself without any consumables (such as stored water, food, or fuel) or wearables. However, in our weight calculations, we include everything in order to provide a comprehensive perspective.

For consistency across levels, we maintained a backpack weight of 70 ounces, even though this capacity is more than sufficient for a Level 1 loadout. The reasoning behind this decision is that even if you start with a Level 1 setup, you might want the flexibility to add more items to your bag once you’ve commenced your bug out journey.

Notes On Using This Checklist

The items in the list are categorized into prioritized levels, but there is no specific ranking within each level.

While models and acronyms like the 5 C’s of Survival (cutting, combustion, cordage, cover, and container) exist, they are simply variations of the same concepts and not rigid guidelines that must be strictly followed.

Rather than viewing each item as a separate product, consider them as goals to fulfill in your preparedness.

Adaptability is a crucial factor when experts determine what to include in different levels. Many products are included because they serve multiple purposes. For example, a tarp can be utilized for various shelter configurations, bedding, rain collection, medical purposes, concealing yourself or your gear, acting as a poncho, signaling device, and more.

However, there are instances where experts find that dedicated products make a significant difference, even if it’s just for mental reassurance. For instance, while you can use the petroleum jelly in your medical pouch as chapstick, we recommend carrying a separate chapstick for convenience, hygiene, and to avoid contaminating the jelly jar that may be needed for more serious injuries. Similarly, while a knife or multitool can serve for nail care, combat medics often carry dedicated clippers for ease of use and handling challenging cases.

Combo and hybrid products are a wildcard. While we generally have reservations about products marketed as “14-in-1 survival tools” because they often fall short, it is not uncommon for reputable products to include additional survival features such as a button compass. In such cases, it may be acceptable for one product to fulfill multiple functions. For instance, a compass with a large mirror suitable for signaling. However, it is advisable to approach bonus features with caution and consider them as backups rather than replacements for dedicated tools or equipment.


When it comes to water, there are several factors to consider and decisions to make:

  1.  Weight and Quantity: Water is heavy, weighing 8.3 lbs per gallon. The decision of whether to carry water and how much is a tricky one. How do you deal with the extra weight?
  2. Water Treatment: Converting random water into safe drinking water is crucial. What methods can be used to achieve this?
  3. Filtering vs. Purifying: Is it better to filter or purify water? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
  4. Treatment with Limited Gear: When you have limited gear, how can you effectively treat water?
  5. Storage and Collection: What containers should you use to carry water, and how do you collect water in emergency situations?
  6. Clean vs. Contaminated: How do you prevent cross-contamination and ensure the separation of clean and contaminated water?

Our strong recommendation is to store potable water in your bag, as relying on finding and treating random water sources may not be feasible in a time-sensitive situation.

Based on our experience and expert feedback, storing around 32 oz (1 liter) or as close to that as possible is recommended. This amount, such as a 27 oz Klean Kanteen, can provide hydration for about a day and adds only 2 pounds of weight. It’s important to note that FEMA guidelines suggesting three gallons of water may not be practical for a well-prepared individual with filtration or purification methods.

To ensure durability and versatility, it is advisable to use a rigid canteen made of single-wall metal. This container serves the dual purpose of storing water and being suitable for boiling water if you have a Level 1 kit.

Filtering water is generally preferred over purifying it, as filtering is instant, while purification products can take up to four hours to treat water. However, including both filtering and purification options in a Level 1 kit is recommended, as purification tablets are lightweight and provide additional backup.

Cross-contamination is a concern when dealing with water. Once a container holds dirty water, it must be properly cleaned before it can be used for potable water.

Having only one container limits your water-carrying capacity and the effectiveness of certain filtration setups that require two containers. A solution is to include a soft canteen in your Level 1 kit, which can be used to squeeze dirty water through filter pores or hang it for gravity filtration, while the hard canteen collects the clean water. The soft canteen is lightweight and can be rolled up to save space, resulting in a versatile combination.


  • If you live in a hot climate or are unsure about finding water nearby, consider adding more stored water to your pack, even up to double the amount. It’s worth sacrificing less important gear to make space and reduce weight if needed.
  • To save weight, you can store only half of the recommended amount (down to 16 oz) and save a pound. Just be mindful when making this choice.
  • Some people carry coffee filters to remove large impurities from dirty water before treating it. They can also be used as tinder. However, a shemagh/bandana can serve the same purpose as a pre-filter, or you can create a DIY filter using rocks, sand, etc.
  • For those preparing for long-term or less-mobile emergencies, adding a large gravity water bag to Level 3 of your kit can make it easier to treat large volumes of water at fixed locations.


  • Do not store water in flimsy pouches, juice-box style containers, etc.
  • Avoid using hydration bladders for prepping purposes. While they are convenient for hiking, they have downsides such as being less adaptable, prone to punctures, and making it difficult to track your water usage.
  • By making thoughtful decisions about water storage, treatment, and collection, you can ensure your preparedness in emergency situations.


While food may not be as critical as water in the immediate aftermath of bugging out, having some on hand can boost energy levels, combat hunger, and improve mood. However, choosing the right food for your emergency kit is essential, considering factors such as weight, space efficiency, expiration, melting in extreme temperatures, and cooking requirements.

Here’s what you should look for:

  1. Ready-to-eat or easily cooked food: Opt for food that requires little to no preparation, with boiling water being the maximum requirement.
  2. Maximum nutrition and calories in a compact package: Choose food that provides high nutritional value and calorie content while being lightweight and compact.
  3. Durable food with a longer shelf life: Select foods that can withstand storage conditions, such as extreme temperatures, without quickly expiring or falling apart.
  4. Survival-oriented food, not based on taste and comfort: Prioritize practicality over culinary preferences, focusing on sustenance rather than indulgence.

In Level 1, prioritize ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking. Examples include granola bars, trail mix, peanuts, peanut butter packets, jerky, pemmican, shelf-stable fats, and ration blocks, which are dense bars packed with calories.

MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) can be included in Level 2 but should be used sparingly due to their space and weight inefficiency compared to the nutrition they provide. They come with an internal ‘cooker,’ but other options may be more suitable for a bug out bag.

Level 2 introduces food that requires simple preparation, such as adding boiling water. The best choice is standard freeze-dried hiking or camping food, like Mountain House pouches. They are lightweight, nutritionally balanced, tasty, and can be cooked and eaten directly from the pouch, even cold.


  • If you prefer MREs, consider substituting them for freeze-dried pouches in Level 2.
  • Take into account survival food options for individuals with food allergies.


  • Foods that require more than boiling water for preparation.
  • Including coffee in your emergency kit, as caffeine can be obtained from medical supplies if necessary.
  • Salt supplements, as excessive intake can cause constipation. Typically, the food in your bug out bag provides sufficient salt. An exception is for individuals in poor shape in hot and humid climates.
  • Nitpicking over dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian or gluten-free. In a survival situation, prioritize obtaining proper protein and nutrition over specific dietary preferences.

Cooking & Eating

The topic of cooking overlaps with fire making in this case, as the primary cooking methods involve boiling water or roasting found/hunted/fished items.

Here’s how you can upgrade your kit from Level 1 to Level 2:

  1. Hobo stove: A portable, flat-pack metal box that serves as a mini campfire ring. It allows you to feed natural fuel like twigs and brush into it, creating an open flame. The box provides protection against wind, making it easier to build a concentrated cooking flame compared to a pile of sticks on flat ground.
  2. Hiking stove: These are miniature versions of gas-fueled burners used in home kitchens. They require a fuel source, typically a 100-gram gas canister, and a burner unit that screws onto the canister.

Choose either a hobo stove or a hiking stove based on your preferences and their respective tradeoffs. However, keep in mind situations where building an open fire may not be feasible or advisable, such as being in an evacuation shelter, wanting to remain discreet, dealing with challenging weather conditions, lacking readily available fuel, or needing a quick cooking solution. Fueled stoves are ideal for such scenarios, allowing you to go from a packed bag to boiling water in just two minutes.

An additional upgrade in Level 2 is the inclusion of a dedicated pot or kettle specifically for boiling water. While you can boil water in your hard canteen, it is generally discouraged due to the potential for metal fouling, warping, and the need to pour out any clean drinking water stored in it. Many hiking stoves come with a compatible pot that can neatly store the gas canister and burner inside. Opt for a pot size of 0.8-1.0 liters, as freeze-dried food pouches typically require no more than 2 cups or 0.5 liters of water.

Utensils are another Level 2 addition. Keep it simple with a camping spork, as there’s no need to go overboard with elaborate utensil sets.


  • Consider adding a compact and sturdy salt and pepper shaker specifically designed for backpackers. It can be a valuable addition to combat bland food and is often favored by those in prison as well.
  • If you find yourself cooking food that needs to be prepared in a pot or washable container, it’s worth including a small hiker’s dish brush. While using stones or other makeshift items can suffice, they can be cumbersome and cause damage to your gear.


  • Steer clear of multi-piece mess/cook kits that are more suitable for car camping. Keep your setup simple and efficient.
  • When selecting reusable items, avoid those made of plastic. Opt for more durable and eco-friendly materials instead.


Having two simple lighters is an excellent choice for a Level 1 kit, providing versatility and redundancy. In Level 2, matches are added to expand your fire-starting options, followed by a ferro rod striker in Level 3.

This combination ensures that you can meet most of your fire-starting needs in the short term. However, as you delve deeper into challenging situations, it becomes advantageous to have multiple methods that complement each other. For instance, while a lighter might struggle in strong winds, stormproof matches can overcome this obstacle. In a severe SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) scenario, the ferro rod will prove invaluable for maintaining fires long after the lighter and matches are depleted. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that ferro rods are more difficult to use, which is why they are placed at the end of the list.

To safeguard your lighters from getting wet or accidentally leaking fuel inside your bag, it is advisable to keep them in a protective case. These cases are inexpensive and widely available.

Contrary to the assumption that having a lighter or fire starter is sufficient, experienced bushcrafters understand the importance of carrying dedicated tinder. This can make a significant difference, especially when the surrounding environment is damp or unsuitable for catching a spark.

There are various pre-made tinder products that are compact and lightweight. Many preppers prefer storing cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly or similar substances in an old pill bottle or Altoid tin, as they ignite easily. Alternatively, items like dryer lint, tampons, or dried-out wet wipes can serve as effective tinder. Whichever option you choose, it should be capable of igniting even when damp.


  • It is important to include a traditional gas-fueled lighter in your gear. For a Level 1 bag, having two lighters is recommended, with the second one being a USB-rechargeable option.
  • Consider adding a lightweight fresnel lens to your kit as an alternative or supplement. However, it is crucial to have prior experience and success in using one before relying on it.

Shelter & Sleeping

Shelter is a crucial aspect of a bug out bag kit, but it can be challenging due to various factors like climate, terrain, size, and weight considerations. Nevertheless, it’s essential to protect oneself from the elements and maintain body temperature, making shelter a top priority even before water.

Experts categorize shelter into three components: what you sleep on, what you sleep in, and what you sleep under.

Level 1 comprises the basic essentials, including multiple layers of clothing, a tarp, cordage, a knife, and fire-making tools. With these items, you can construct rudimentary shelters or find existing ones, providing some coverage and retaining body heat. While not the most comfortable option, it will keep you alive.

Tarps are versatile items often found in minimalist kits due to their usefulness. Apart from serving as various shelter types, tarps can be utilized for rain collection, concealing supplies, creating medical stretchers, improving heat efficiency in larger spaces, covering damaged structures, or sealing off areas during NBC/CBRN emergencies.

Level 2 introduces gear that significantly enhances sleeping comfort and body temperature control. This includes a sleeping pad, a sleeping bag/quilt/bivvy, and an eye mask with earplugs.

Sleeping masks and earplugs are valuable lessons learned by those who have experienced the need to bug out. Imagine being in a crowded space with others snoring, talking, crying, and using lights, like in a public school classroom. Some shelters may even have fluorescent lights on around the clock.

Sleeping directly on the ground is uncomfortable, not just for comfort reasons but due to the contact with the cold ground that saps away body heat. Anything that breaks that contact and provides insulation can be helpful. Homeless individuals, for instance, use cardboard or newspaper for cushioning and insulation, as even seemingly insignificant materials can make a difference. You can improvise a “bed” with available materials such as leaves or stuffed trash in a large garbage bag or poncho.

Investing in a sleeping pad specifically designed for lightweight campers can greatly enhance comfort compared to sleeping directly on the ground or an improvised bed. There are options with significant insulation (up to an R value of 10) that add a few extra ounces but are worthwhile in all but the hottest climates.

Choosing between a sleeping bag, camping quilt, or bivvy is a personal decision. Opt for the lightest and most compact version suitable for your climate and budget. If you’re in colder regions, adding a sleeping bag liner can provide additional warmth, and it’s convenient to keep it stored inside the main bag for easy access.

Level 3 includes a two-person ultralight tent (actually designed for one person). While a tarp can provide similar benefits, a tent offers advantages like protection from bugs and predators, better defense against wind and rain, and easier setup in various locations. Choosing a tent can save you time, energy, and exposure.


  • Ponchos are a popular choice as they can serve as an alternative or combined solution with other gear. Some people opt for a tarp and rain jacket separately, while others prefer a versatile product that can fulfill both functions reasonably well.
  • The use of hammocks as shelter sparks ongoing debates. While there are advantages such as being elevated from the ground, accommodating uneven terrain, and utilizing an existing tarp as overhead cover, we generally recommend sturdy bivvies and/or tents unless you are already an experienced hammock camper or have specific reasons to choose that option.


  • It’s advisable to steer clear of cheap gear, especially when it comes to pads, bags, bivvies, and tents. Investing in higher-priced items often means obtaining lighter, more durable, and better-insulated materials.
  • Inflatable sleeping pads offer weight and space savings, but they are susceptible to punctures or damage from fire embers.
  • Some parents may believe that having a larger tent is beneficial for containing their children. However, if the children are small enough to require such confinement, they are usually small enough to share a two-person tent. Carrying large tents becomes impractical for modern bug out bags, so it’s advisable to avoid this kind of arrangement.


Including a full set of climate-appropriate clothing in a Level 1 kit may add some bulk and weight, but it proves to be highly practical.

The key lies in selecting the right kind of clothing.

Following the same principles as backpackers, it’s essential to avoid underperforming materials like denim, khaki, and cotton. Investing a bit more in “technical” clothing from sports or outdoor stores is worthwhile, as they are lightweight, compact, designed for movement, often reinforced in high-wear areas like the knees, moisture-wicking, heat-retaining, easy to hand wash, and quick to dry.

Even in hot climates, it is generally beneficial to include pants and long-sleeve tops for added protection. The right clothing can offer adaptability, such as convertible pants that can be zipped off into shorts or tops with features for rolling up and securing sleeves.

Similarly, even in hot climates, having an outer shell to shield against wind and rain proves advantageous. It’s important to note that many desert areas experience significant temperature drops during the night.

Depending on the local climate, some individuals (including ourselves) opt to rotate the clothing in their bug out bag twice a year, aligning with the beginning of summer and winter. This simplifies the process of mixing and matching gear. If you prefer an easier approach, err on the side of caution by storing clothing suitable for colder weather. You can always adjust by wearing fewer layers if it gets too hot or use items like tarps, ponchos, bags, or shemaghs to create a makeshift summer layer or rain jacket.

High-quality socks are a critical component of footcare, which plays a vital role in survival, as attested by military personnel and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s advisable to include at least one pair in Level 1, and if space allows, additional pairs can be added.

Shoes, similar to phones, are items that are generally already present and accessible, saving you the need to dedicate a set specifically stored in your kit—assuming your bug out bag is stored in an easily accessible location where shoes are typically found nearby.

Level 1 should include a multi-functional item such as a bandana, shemagh, or neck gaiter. These versatile products can serve as hats, masks, scarves, slings, water filters, rain collectors, signals, retainers of heat, or aids in cooling through evaporation.

A hat is undeniably essential at Level 1, providing both warmth and protection from the sun. Sunglasses are included at Level 2 since, although they may be considered a luxury, impaired vision can severely hinder your capabilities.

While gloves offer warmth and protection, they are added at Level 2 because they are not as crucial in Level 1. For individuals who no longer have calloused hands from manual labor, tasks like splitting wood with a knife or clearing debris after a natural disaster can cause significant damage.

In colder climates, it is advisable to have two sets of gloves, with one being a thinner pair that can be worn inside a second, more durable pair, providing an additional layer of warmth.

A belt is introduced at Level 2 since it is not necessary to carry the extra bulk and weight in Level 1. In Level 1, if you need to secure your pants, alternatives like paracord or safety pins/fasteners from your kit can be utilized.

There are three common types of belts for these packs: the lightest possible option, a belt designed with hidden compartments for storing survival gear or money, or a sturdy belt that can function as a MOLLE pouch and gun holster platform. Any of these options are suitable; choose the one that best suits your needs.


  • Ultralight travelers often favor sink laundry kits, which have gained popularity. These kits typically consist of a compact pouch containing concentrated detergent powder and a flat plastic drain cover. With these items, you can easily create a water-filled bowl in a sink for convenient laundry.


  • When it comes to footwear choices, it’s crucial to prioritize practicality over tactical considerations or concerns about a potentially unclean shelter shower. Whether it’s sandals, Crocs, Vibrams, or any other option, the key is to opt for proper footwear that suits the situation and provides the necessary support and protection.


For primary lighting, a headlamp is often the optimal choice due to its versatility. It can be held like a flashlight, hung on or around objects, or worn on the head to keep your hands free—an invaluable feature. Headlamps are compact, and relatively lightweight, and many modern models offer long-lasting brightness using USB-rechargeable or standard AA/AAA batteries.

In addition to the headlamp, your Level 1 kit includes one or two lighters, a cell phone, and potentially a solar/crank-powered radio. These items serve as backup light sources, even in a minimalist kit.

Level 2 introduces a second powered light source. You have the option to include a handheld flashlight, a second headlamp, or a lantern. With advancements in lighting technology, we lean towards carrying a lantern as the second light source. Lanterns are compact (some can collapse to the size of a hockey puck), rechargeable, and provide superior illumination for rooms or campsites compared to headlamps or flashlights.


  • In the past, candles were commonly included in emergency kits, but with advancements in battery and charging technology, their practicality has diminished. Nowadays, we generally don’t consider candles to be worth the added weight and space in a kit. However, if you still prefer to have candles, there are compact options available that occupy just a few square inches and weigh around 5-6 ounces. These packs can provide approximately 25-50 hours of light.


  • Glow sticks, once considered a viable option, have been overshadowed by advancements in powered lights. The value of carrying glow sticks has diminished as rechargeable and more efficient lighting options have become readily available.
  • The same applies to standalone crank-powered lights. While they were once deemed essential, advancements in rechargeable technology have relegated them to a niche category. The availability of more efficient and convenient lighting solutions has rendered standalone crank-powered lights less necessary.


The cell phone is an essential component of your emergency preparations due to its multifunctional capabilities. It already contains your important information, enables communication, provides various utilities such as a flashlight, compass, or map, and allows you to document your surroundings. Consequently, it is acceptable not to keep an extra phone in your emergency kit at all times, as chances are high that you will have your phone readily accessible when the need arises. Additionally, maintaining an activated spare phone solely for emergencies can be impractical for many individuals.

However, if you still prefer to have an additional phone, you can opt for a prepaid “burner” phone or keep an old phone with a spare SIM card from your primary mobile phone account. Just ensure that these devices are compatible with the charging cables in your kit. It’s worth noting that cell phones can dial emergency services like 911 even without an active plan, but you can activate the SIM in your spare phone if necessary.

In the event of a grid outage, amateur (ham) radio can be a valuable solution. Our ham radio for dummies guide explains why ham radio is the preferred choice and advises against alternatives like walkie talkies and CB radios. Since amateur radios can also receive public broadcasts from NOAA stations and potentially local emergency services, many individuals proficient in operating ham radios choose to carry this single device.

For those not inclined towards ham radio, a crank- and solar-powered NOAA radio is a common alternative for receiving one-way public broadcasts. Although these radios may be somewhat bulky for their capabilities, they provide the advantage of keeping you informed about external conditions. Additionally, many of these radios incorporate a flashlight and USB charging port, serving as secondary or tertiary backup options for solar- or crank-powered lighting and electricity.

Signaling plays a vital role in survival scenarios, but the appropriate signaling method depends heavily on the specific circumstances. Among the choices available, a signal mirror and whistle are considered the best options due to their portability, lightweight nature, and relative versatility. However, it’s important to note that their importance is ranked at Level 3, as they surpass the usefulness of Level 1-2 gear in specific and limited situations.


  • Many experienced preppers opt for tarps, mylar, or similar gear that they would already include in their pack, ensuring that at least one surface is brightly colored, such as hunter’s blaze orange. This allows them the option to be easily visible if the need arises.
  • When venturing onto water, having signaling dye and/or flares can be beneficial. However, it’s important to note that flares, in general, may not justify the space and weight they occupy.
  • Some individuals prefer to carry a GPS device called a Personal Locator Beacon, which serves as a distress signal indicating the need for assistance. The Garmin inReach is a popular choice among preppers for this purpose.
  • While satellite phones can offer valuable communication capabilities, their high cost makes them impractical for most people to acquire.


  • While smoke can be an effective signaling method in certain situations where other methods may not work, the cost, size, and weight of dedicated smoke products often outweigh their usefulness in rare scenarios where alternative signaling methods are not feasible and fire is not an option.
  • Some individuals with a tactical mindset may choose to carry a laser pointer as it allows for distant signaling without revealing their position. However, for most civilians, it is not necessary to include a laser pointer in their emergency kit.


Including a Li-Ion battery in Level 1 was a debated choice due to its relatively heavy weight and limited use. However, considering the criticality of the powered devices in a Level 1 kit, it was deemed important to have at least 1-2 charging cycles worth of power available.

A simple wall plug and USB charging cable are essential additions to the Level 1 setup. It’s important to consider the types of USB ports and cables needed based on the powered gear in your kit. A wall plug with a USB-A port, along with appropriate A-to-B and/or A-to-C cables, offers more versatility compared to using only the plug and cable that came with a specific phone model.

Power generation is introduced at Level 2 with a portable solar panel. While they add weight and take up space, these panels can provide an infinite supply of power for your core gear. Solar panels can charge devices directly via USB, such as plugging the panel directly into a phone. Some popular battery types, like AA and CR123A, even have USB plugs integrated directly into the battery.

At Level 3, a dedicated battery charger is included for removable batteries that lack a built-in USB plug. It is also recommended to have a spare set of removable batteries that fit your core gear, particularly if you have devices that cannot be charged directly from a solar panel via USB (e.g., ham radios).


  • Aim for power standardization: It’s advisable to minimize the use of uncommon battery/power types and instead opt for devices that can be powered using common USB cables and battery types, promoting convenience and compatibility.
  • Caution with novelty power generators: While the concept of water/wind/crank power generators may seem appealing, it’s important to note that the technology currently falls short in terms of reliability and efficiency. However, we remain optimistic for future advancements in this field.


Being prepared involves having a basic familiarity with your surroundings, including knowledge of major routes and landmarks. It is also advisable to store essential map information on your phone, ensuring offline access without relying on network connectivity.

In the opinion of experts, if you could only choose one, a map holds more value than a compass. While a compass provides cardinal directions (N, S, E, W), a map offers more immediate assistance, such as identifying nearby hospitals or other important locations.

Deciding whether to include a map in Level 1 or Level 2 was a challenging choice. Either option is acceptable since maps are relatively compact and lightweight.

Ultimately, we concluded that a map is not crucial for a Level 1 kit due to several reasons: your existing knowledge, the tools already available on your phone, the fact that many GPS apps function offline, the presence of maps in your car, and the fact that a general sense of direction, like “we need to move away from the city,” is often sufficient in many situations.

If you choose to include a map, ensure it is waterproof and covers an area within a 1-2 hour drive from your home, preferably including topographical details.

During severe scenarios, it may be necessary to determine your location without GPS, navigate unfamiliar terrain or waterways, estimate distances, and locate resources. Therefore, a Level 2 kit includes a compass, which, when combined with basic navigational skills and a map, covers most of your needs.


  • Portable GPS units can be a valuable addition to your emergency kit if they align with your specific plans and needs.
  • Utilizing ranger beads or pedometers can be advantageous for maintaining an accurate pace count. Keeping track of the distance you have traveled can help you stay on track when navigating without access to GPS.
  • While binoculars may seem like a practical choice, in reality, they often do not justify the space, weight, and expense. However, if you have a specific purpose or use for them, you can consider including them in your kit.


A field knife and multitool are indispensable tools that should always be included in a Level 1 emergency kit due to their exceptional versatility and usefulness. It is recommended to keep them in a sheath that can be easily attached to a pack or belt.

Cordage is a crucial component of your preparations and is often highlighted as one of the essential “5 C’s of Survival.” Its uses are countless, it is cost-effective, and it adds minimal weight to your pack considering the value it provides.

Paracord is the preferred choice due to its versatility and the ability to unravel it into multiple smaller strands. With 50 feet of paracord, you can have up to 350 feet of usable line. Some paracord products even come with additional survival features, such as integrated fishing line.

It is recommended to carry at least 50 feet of paracord, as it allows for constructing basic shelters, rappelling, and performing common tasks. If you have experience and know that 25 feet is sufficient for your needs, that is also acceptable.

A dedicated hand saw is not included until Level 3. In severe emergencies, you may need to process a significant amount of wood, break into or out of things, or craft items. While a high-quality knife can handle most tasks in such situations, a hand saw can greatly enhance your capabilities.

For serious emergencies, adding a blade sharpener at Level 3 is advisable. With frequent use of bladed tools, a sharp blade not only increases safety but also conserves energy and time. Opt for a pocket stone as the preferred choice, or a pull-through sharpener to keep the tool compact and lightweight.


  • Portable sewing kit
  • Fishing gear set
  • Trapping equipment
  • Tools for lock picking / bump keys
  • Silcock keys are useful additions for urban kits as they can open certain water valves commonly found in city buildings.
  • If you have experience with hatchets, machetes, kukris, or tomahawks, consider their suitability for your environment as a potential replacement for a hand saw. Opt for a size that is portable, and larger options can be attached to the outside of your pack if necessary.
  • Shovels, trench tools, or “emergency tools” are generally not recommended due to their bulky size and weight in relation to their limited usefulness. Additionally, there are few options in the market that meet our preferences. However, if your plans necessitate their inclusion, it is understandable to include them.
  • Pencil sharpeners are often touted as clever prepper hacks due to their ability to create tinder shavings or sharpen sticks. However, since you already have multiple blades, the addition of a pencil sharpener may not be necessary. An exception would be if the sharpener itself is made of magnesium, which can be scraped into tinder shavings.


  • Handheld wire saws often found in amateur survival kits are not recommended as they tend to be ineffective unless you have prior experience using them.
  • A can opener is likely already included in your multitool, and alternative options such as a knife can also serve the purpose, making a dedicated opener unnecessary.
  • Door stoppers or wedges, while a popular viral hack for blocking doors for privacy, can be substituted with other items or improvised solutions if needed.
  • Fuel siphons are not considered practical due to their limited usefulness and the space and weight they occupy in your kit.

Medical & Hygiene

See the expert’s checklist of survival first aid kit items, which align with the three-level model for your bug out bag. The weights mentioned in this guide are based on that list, considering commonly used containers for each size.

Respirators play a crucial role in various emergency situations, including fires, pandemics, civil unrest, and nuclear warfare, as they safeguard your lungs from harmful substances.

However, a full gas mask is impractical for a realistic bug out bag. Unless you are facing the most extreme nuclear or bioweapon disasters, you can achieve similar protection by combining a half mask covering your mouth and nose with goggles to shield your eyes.

The choice between a reusable or disposable half-face respirator, along with extra cartridges, is up to your preference.

Level 2 introduces goggles to the kit. These are essential when walking through smoke, tear gas, contaminated air resulting from earthquakes or other disasters (such as the lung illnesses faced by 9/11 first responders), or even strong winds. Many opt for swim goggles, onion goggles, or other safety goggles that provide a tight seal around the eyes.

Hygiene is often underestimated during emergencies, yet organizations like the WHO, CDC, FEMA, and Red Cross emphasize its significance, having witnessed firsthand how diseases spread in challenging environments. Homeless populations in the US, for instance, are affected by typhus, tuberculosis, and even the plague. Recent floodwaters caused by hurricanes have also shown alarmingly high levels of feces and toxins, posing risks to individuals wading through them with open wounds.

Including soap in Level 1 is a no-brainer. A small bottle of concentrated camping soap, which can be added to water to create lather, occupies minimal space and weight but can greatly impact your health and comfort.

Nail clippers sparked some debate among our experts regarding their placement in the different levels. Despite having other cutting tools available, we chose to include nail clippers in Level 1 due to the criticality of hand and foot care, which is often overlooked. Experienced professionals who have treated soldiers and hikers in the field understand the significant difference that proper nail clippers can make.

Toilet paper takes precedence over wet wipes in Level 1, with wet wipes added to Level 2. This decision stems from the fact that the soap already present in a Level 1 kit can aid in general cleanliness. Wet wipes are better utilized for full-body showers rather than solely for personal hygiene.

In Level 2, we include chapstick and a travel toothbrush/toothpaste, while hand sanitizer is added in Level 3. Although it is technically possible to manage without these specialized products, experts have observed that individuals are more likely to maintain clean hands and oral hygiene, as well as prevent injuries, when these lightweight and affordable items are available. Additionally, they contribute to water conservation and can serve other versatile purposes. However, experienced individuals in the field may choose to omit these items.


  • When it comes to bug out bags, it’s advisable to avoid including menstrual cups as they require clean hands for insertion and removal, which may not always be possible in emergency situations. Additionally, it’s important to conserve water and soap for essential purposes.
  • If you rely on prescription eyewear, it’s wise to have a spare set of glasses stored in a durable case to ensure you have a backup.
  • Don’t forget to include any supplementary items related to critical medical care, such as extra batteries for hearing aids.
  • In hot climates, you may consider including travel sunscreen, although the other gear in your kit should provide sufficient protection from the sun, even while on the move.
  • Some preppers choose to include a compact towel, typically marketed for travelers, hikers, or swimmers. However, keep in mind that its value may be limited, so prioritize keeping it lightweight.
  • Floss can be a useful addition due to its incredibly small and lightweight nature. It can serve as a backup for fishing, trap-making, sewing, or as a general-purpose line.
  • If you have genuine concerns about CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) disasters, such as living near a toxic industrial facility, you may consider including a full gas mask.
  • Iodine tablets may not add significant weight to your kit but are crucial in nuclear scenarios, making them a valuable addition.
  • Condoms and birth control may seem unconventional, but they can play an important role in emergency preparedness. As a tribal chief once humorously pointed out, in areas without electricity, they serve a practical purpose for responsible family planning. 😉


  • Deodorant may not be a top priority in your bug out bag. If you’re in the company of others, chances are they’re also dealing with similar hygiene challenges. In situations where you’re alone, odor control becomes less of a concern. Additionally, the presence of wet wipes, soap, and technical clothing can help manage and reduce unpleasant smells.
  • Mouthwash is another item that can be omitted from your kit. While it can provide a refreshing feeling, it’s not essential for survival or addressing immediate medical needs.
  • Single-use pocket hand or foot warmers are not recommended as they occupy valuable space and add weight to your bag. It’s more practical to allocate those resources to items like high-quality gloves that offer better protection against cold temperatures. However, if you find yourself in an extremely cold climate, a USB-rechargeable pocket warmer discreetly placed in an armpit can provide some relief.

Entertainment & Mental Health

In a survival situation, it’s important to address not just your physical well-being but also your mental health, as it plays a crucial role in your overall resilience.

Including a small token or two in your bug out bag can have significant benefits. These items can help pass the time, uplift your spirits, and provide a topic of conversation that goes beyond the emergency itself. Additionally, having something to occupy your mind can discourage impulsive actions or restlessness.

A popular choice is a waterproof deck of cards due to its compactness, lightness, affordability, and versatility for both solitary and group activities. Here are some other common options to consider:

  1. A pocket-sized religious text or philosophical book.
  2. Dice for various games and activities.
  3. Magic The Gathering cards for those interested in the game.
  4. Travel-sized tabletop games that are easy to carry.
  5. A Rubik’s Cube for a mentally engaging challenge.
  6. A Kindle e-reader for access to a wide range of books.
  7. Preloaded games, music, movies, podcasts, and e-books on your phone in airplane mode.

Since it’s likely that you already have photographs of loved ones for documentation purposes, including a photo that brings you joy or motivates you to survive can have a positive impact.

For Level 2, simple earbud headphones are added to provide entertainment, facilitate hands-free communication, and potentially allow for stealthy use with compatible radios in tactical scenarios.


  • Consider including vices like cigarettes, a USB vape pen, or travel-sized alcoholic beverages. These items can serve as trade goods or provide comfort if you’re addicted, in pain from an injury, or need help with sleep.
  • If you’re a parent, keeping a small item in your bag for a scared child without their own bag and toys is acceptable. However, bulky items like stuffed animals are better placed in the children’s bags. What you carry should serve as an emergency backup for tantrums.


  • It’s important to strike a balance and not overly prioritize combating boredom. Remember that your primary focus is survival, so large books like Harry Potter may not be suitable for this situation, even if you’re a cunning Slytherin.


Including a weatherproof notepad and pen in Level 1 of your bug out bag is highly recommended as it can assist you in various categories, such as documentation, navigation, and medical purposes.

When it comes to important documentation, it is advisable to have both digital and physical copies. In your bug out bag, this typically involves a USB thumb drive and small laminated papers that you print and seal at home. Keep these items stored in a watertight container, alongside files stored in the cloud and on your phone, to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Here is a list of documents to consider including copies of in your emergency kit:

  1. Contact and location information for important individuals
  2. Birth certificate
  3. Social Security card
  4. Passport
  5. State identification card
  6. List of financial accounts and credit card information, including expiration dates, CVV codes, and provider phone numbers
  7. Titles and deeds
  8. Marriage certificate, particularly if you have different last names
  9. Documentation proving parental relationships, especially in cases of adoption or different last names
  10. Photographs of significant individuals, serving both as morale boosters and for potential recovery or reconnection purposes
  11. Estate planning documents
  12. Insurance policy numbers and contact information for health, homeowners, auto, life, and other major insurance providers
  13. Important medical history, medication details (including dosage), and allergies
  14. Living will or Do Not Resuscitate instructions
  15. Level 3 introduces a well-rounded pocket field guide to your kit. This guide, tailored for more severe emergencies, provides valuable information on topics such as building shelters and trapping animals, offering potentially life-saving assistance.


  • Children’s bags should include items like a picture of their house, a map with a pin indicating their home location, photographs and contact information of their family, etc. This ensures they can receive the appropriate help from strangers even if they are upset and unable to remember or communicate specific details.


  • Avoid including full-sized documents in your bug out bag. You can reduce the size of printouts or create your own condensed text file with smaller font and essential information. The goal is to minimize space while including relevant portions of each document from the above list.


Including cash in your bug out bag is indeed a wise decision, but the amount to carry depends on your individual circumstances and the potential situations you may encounter. While there are no strict rules, here are some general guidelines:

For most people, carrying a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in cash is reasonable. It’s recommended to have a mix of large and small bills. You may also consider splitting the cash into multiple locations within your bag to minimize the risk of loss in case of theft or looting.

The usefulness of cash will vary depending on the situation. For example, in a shelter after a natural disaster, having $100 could prove very handy. However, in a total SHTF scenario with widespread panic, you may need $1,000 or more to have any significant impact when it comes to bribing or trading.


  • Some preppers opt to hold alternative forms of wealth such as gold, silver, or other tradeable assets. If you choose to include small, more easily exchangeable bullion in your bug out bag, be mindful of the weight it adds to your overall load.
  • Another approach is to carry valuable items in the form of jewelry rather than bullion. In a bartering scenario, presenting jewelry as sentimental keepsakes or wedding rings may yield better results than displaying a single gold coin that could suggest you possess more.
  • If you consider cryptocurrency as part of your preparedness strategy or have digital wealth stored in that form, ensure you have your wallet and critical information physically and/or digitally stored in your bag.

Remember to evaluate your specific needs and risks when deciding on the amount and form of wealth you include in your bug out bag.

Self Defense

Carrying multiple weapons and large quantities of ammunition in a bug out bag is generally impractical and unnecessary. Here are some guidelines to consider when it comes to including defensive tools in your kit:

Level 1 bags typically include bladed tools that can serve as a means of self-defense if needed. These tools can be practical and versatile for various tasks.

In Level 2, the introduction of a pistol, holster, and a full magazine provides a suitable self-defense option for most circumstances. Pairing it with a sturdy belt ensures easy access and readiness.

For Level 3, which accounts for more long-term or serious emergencies, adding a second or even a third full magazine can be considered.


  • If you prefer a more robust defensive option than a pistol, consider lightweight and concealable alternatives such as an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) or a takedown bow. Remember to prioritize keeping the weight manageable.
  • If you prefer a less-lethal option like pepper spray over firearms, you can incorporate it into your kit wherever it fits best for you.
  • Including a simple taco holster or a similar accessory for spare magazines is acceptable if it aligns with your preferences and needs.


  • Avoid indulging in Rambo fantasies and carrying an excessive arsenal of weapons. Focus on practicality and functionality.
  • Stick to a single caliber of ammunition to avoid unnecessary complexity and weight.
  • While night vision and other bulky accessories may have their uses in specific scenarios, it’s generally advisable to avoid carrying them in a primary bug out bag due to their weight and potential limited utility in most situations.

Remember, the key is to strike a balance between self-defense capabilities and the overall weight and practicality of your bug out bag. Assess your specific needs, local regulations, and personal comfort when deciding on the defensive tools to include.


It’s beneficial to organize your gear in compartmentalized bags or sacks within your backpack for quick access and convenience.

These containers have multiple uses in the field and can serve as preps themselves. For instance, a Ziploc bag can protect items like a severed finger or be used for rainwater collection.

You have the flexibility to choose between different types of bags such as standard Ziploc bags, ultralight packing sacks, stuff sacks, or dry bags. It’s recommended to have at least one large watertight bag that can also function as a floatation device.

Including large contractor trash bags in Level 1 is practical as they are lightweight and have various uses, such as waste disposal, additional poncho or tarp, bedding or clothing layer, and a convenient way to scout for supplies without carrying the entire pack.

Fasteners are highly versatile for improvisation, repair, and organization. It’s important to select quality options like durable twist ties that can keep USB cords together and serve multiple purposes if necessary.

In Level 2, pack straps are added to accommodate the attachment of sleeping pads and/or sleeping bags to the outside of the backpack, assuming it is of reasonable size. In Level 3, the sleeping bag is typically placed inside the backpack, while the pad and tent are strapped outside.

For Level 3, a compact travel roll of duct tape, climbing carabiners, and ranger bands (thick and sturdy rubber bands) are valuable additions. Duct tape can be used for patching clothing or shelter, carabiners assist in holding weight without relying on knots, and ranger bands are useful for combining items or securing gear together. Pack straps are handy for carrying additional gear on the outside of the backpack, such as a sleeping pad or an extra hoodie found during the journey.


  • Consider including a watch or timekeeper in your kit, especially if you can’t rely on having a cell phone for timekeeping purposes.
  • Adding a padlock or luggage lock to your gear can be beneficial, especially when you find yourself sheltering with unfamiliar individuals.
  • Unfortunately, looting can occur during challenging situations, but in shelters, such incidents are often crimes of opportunity. Carrying a simple and lightweight luggage lock can make a significant difference in safeguarding your belongings.
  • It may be wise to have handcuff keys as part of your customized kit, depending on your specific needs and circumstances.


  • While zip ties can serve as makeshift handcuffs, they are generally less versatile and reusable compared to other fasteners. It’s advisable to prioritize other types of fasteners for greater flexibility and practicality.


When choosing the best bug out bag survival backpack, it’s essential to prioritize durability, comfort, and organizational features. Backpacks like the Teton Sports Scout 3400, 5.11 Tactical Rush72, Osprey Atmos AG 65, Maxpedition Falcon-II, and Condor 3 Day Assault Pack all offer a range of options to suit different needs and preferences. Ultimately, the best bug out bag survival backpack for you will depend on your specific requirements, gear loadout, and personal preferences.