Choosing the right bug out bag for your outdoor adventure can be tricky business. With a wealth of options and sizes available it’s important to find a bag that suits your body type, experience and of course,the conditions which you will face out there in the wilderness. In the bottom of the article, I’ll recommend my top 7 picks of bags on the market today but to start with, lets discuss the basics of a good bug out bag.
So, whether you’re an experienced adventurer, or a novice on the path to your new adventure, here is a checklist of the important things to consider when deciding on the right bag for your survival gear.
First, let’s talk about what we are looking for in a great bug out bag.
The three most important factors to consider are:
- Durability – The last thing you need is a tear or a broken zipper slowing you down. Your bag needs to stand up to any conditions which it will be put through.
- Intelligent Design – Ease of access to your survival gear is something that is going to save you time, energy and a hell of a lot of frustration.
- Sizing and capacity – Your bag should be the right size to carry your gear while fitting perfectly to your body.It’s important to remember that we aren’t talking about taking the entire contents of your house with you.
- Survival is the name of the game and your bug out bag should reflect that.
- What is the MOLLE system?
- Bug Out On a Budget
- Recommended Bug Out Bags
Survival is the name of the game and your bug out bag should reflect that.
So before thinking about designs and materials, make a list of the survival items you need for your journey. ‘Need’ being the key word here. Too much stuff and it will slow you down. Simple as that. So plan ahead and make sure you choose a bag that’s right for your gear.An important thing to consider is the ultimate goal of your journey. Are you heading out on a 3 day trek or walking off into the woods to a place where home is a distant memory? It sounds obvious, but make sure you consider this before you make your purchase. You don’t want to end up with a bag too small for your essential gear.Here is a quick checklist of things to consider to help you plan the gear you’ll need:
- Your current skill level.
- Which survival gear you are comfortable with using.– Local weather conditions.
- Obstacles and ground conditions you’ll face.
- Remoteness of your location and proximity to emergency services.
How to Find the Best Sized Bug Out Bag
The ideal bug out bag is based on your body size. So grab a measuring tape and take a measurement from your your hipbone to your neck, as this will determine the size of your bag. Remember that your bag should be comfortable on your hips as this is where you’ll carry the bulk of the weight. It’s important to also consider the weight distribution, additional padding and air ventilation of the bag, especially if you are planning an extended journey.
Here is a basic size guide but remember to always check specific sizing with each manufacturer:
- XS ( body up to 15 1/2 inches )
- S ( body from 16 to 17 1/2 inches )
- M ( body from 18 to 19 1/2 inches )
- L ( body 20 inches and up )
Finding the Right Design to Suit Your Needs
Now that you’ve decided on the size of your bag, it’s time to talk capacity. This is a big deal because it will ultimately decide how much gear you can carry and the overall weight of your bag. It’s a good idea to select a bag with a little extra space for any future additions or extra gear you might need, but remember- don’t make your bag too heavy! A little extra space is good but just keep in mind that just because the extra space is there, you don’t NEED to fill it.
Your bag should be light weight and comfortable for you to carry. Not everyone has military training and the ability to carry a pack of 70 pounds or more over long distances and tough terrain. And most likely you won’t be in a military type situation carrying heavy weapons and ammunition. So think light because in an emergency situation you don’t want your bag slowing you down and potentially getting you trapped in a situation in which you could be injured or even killed.
Now you’ve work out the capacity, the next thing you need you need to think about is how to break up that space. After all, this is a bag designed to aid your survival, so unlike a regular backpack, it should not be stuffed randomly with your equipment. In a survival situation you have to think fast and act fast, so your gear needs to be readily and quickly available to you.
To achieve this, your bug out bag needs separate compartments, pouches, zips and latching points so you can be as efficient as possible. Look for a bag suited to your individual needs but remember, a good bag should posses the design components below:
- – Multiple pouches and latching points
- – Top lid
- – pockets on the Hip belt
- – Pocket for your Water bottle
- – Sleeping bag compartment
- – Compression straps
- – Hydration tube
- – MOLLE system
When it comes to bug out bags, the less conspicuous, the better. So choose a color and style that is suited to your environment. Avoid bright colors that may attract unwanted attention and go for neutral colors that will blend in with your surroundings. If living in the countryside, consider a camouflage design and if you are in a urban environment, a plain neutral color might be more suited to you, as it will look more like an ordinary backpack to the untrained eye.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, an important thing to consider is the remoteness of your location and your proximity to emergency services as this may influence the size and design of your bag. If you know you are not far from home or help, then a smaller, lighter pack is probably the best option. Whereas if you are miles from anywhere, you might consider a bigger pack in which you can add more essentials that could help you survive longer periods of time in an emergency situation.
What is the MOLLE system?
The MOLLE system (pronounced like the name Molly) is an acronym for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It is designed for tough terrain and conditions and is one of the best pieces of kit to incorporate into your bug out bag. A MOLLE system essentially allows you to hang pouches and gear on the outside of your bag, allowing for fast access to these items, while freeing up space inside the bag. Newer MOLLE are manufactured from laser-cut cloth to remove the need for stitching that can decrease the integrity of the bag. MOLLE systems are made tough so you can rely on them in the harshest conditions.
Bug Out On a Budget
If you are looking to get out into the wilderness but don’t have the budget for the biggest bag with all the bells and whistles that go with it – don’t worry – there are plenty of options available to you in all price ranges. But here’s a hot tip: look for a smaller, more affordable bug out bag that incorporates the MOLLE system. Not only will this give you more space inside your bag but it will allow you to add extra pouches in the future if needed.
The idea is to place the items you will need most on the outside of your bag and depending on where you are headed these may include:
- Survival knives
- Canteen pouch
- Ammo pouch
- Medical pouch
- Radio pouch
- Small axe or survival multi tool
So get out there and start your adventure no matter what your budget.
Ready to Purchase Your New Bag?
Run through this quick checklist of things to consider before heading out on your journey:
- Plan what you need to carry. This will help determine the size and capacity of your bag. Remember you only want to carry the gear you need, so try to optimize the space in your bag.
- Take correct measurements of your torso, as this will determine the size of your bag and ensure it fits comfortably.
- Before heading out with your new bag make sure you pack it and make sure you fit everything where it should.
- Take your packed bag for a short test run. You want to make sure that it sits comfortably on your hips and shoulders and that it is light enough to carry comfortably for your entire journey. A local hiking trail or park is an ideal place to do this.
In the end, the best bug out bag is one that is suited to your personal survival needs. So make sure it’s durable, packed correctly and is comfortable to carry and you are on your way to your next big adventure.
Recommended Bug Out Bags
As promised, here is a list of what I consider to be the top 7 bags on the market today:
EVATAC Combat Bag
This is my personal favorite on this list. The Combat Bag is a great tactical pack and it is as hardy as you can get. It’s made from 600D polyester., The bag has padded shoulder straps, durable zippers, chest strap and plenty of compartments to organize all your gear properly.
With a 40L capacity it’s large enough to fit all your gear while making it compact enough to use everyday.
Its padded shoulder straps and back panel maximizes comfort while the chest strap with a quick lock secures it in place and prevents the bag from moving around while jogging or scrambling through rough terrain.
All compartments are completely waterproof and the bag includes ten separate carry areas and even a padded compartment to store your more fragile gear.
At a fraction of the price of other similar bags on the market, the Combat Bag from EVATAC stands out as a clear front runner.
5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack
Next on the list is the 5.11 Tactical RUSH72 Backpack. Made in the USA, it’s an excellent mid range pack with a 47L capacity.
Made from water resistant nylon, it is a strong and durable pack featuring an internal support frame and MOLLE system.
The bag also makes use of a large, shove-it pocket, contoured yoke design and is hydration compatible.
Military Tactical Assault Pack
A great, affordable entry-level backpack made from water resistant material with double stitching and heavy duty zippers. This 37L backpack is the smallest on this list, making it a great option for short adventures into the unknown.
This pack comes with the option to upgrade to a MOLLE system, making it the perfect bag for those on a lower budget.
Eberlestock Operator Pack
Made in the USA and designed for tough conditions, this pack is both the largest and most expensive on this list. But hey, you get what you pay for, right?
The Eberlestock Operator Pack incorporates a rigid internal frame and padded hip supports, making it comfortable to carry even when packed to capacity.
With a wide bottom backscabbard, adjustable “shooter” harness and integrated MOLLE system, this is a bag aimed at the serious adventurer who needs to carry a larger array of gear and essentials.
MOLLE II Rucksack
Another great mid range bag with a larger storage capacity than the other mid range packs on this list. This 65.5L pack is made in the USA, using water resistant material and incorporates the MOLLE system and removable sustainment pouches.
It’s rigid internal frame enables you to carry heavy gear over long distances, making it ideal for longer journeys on a mid range budget.
Monkey Paks Tactical Military
This fantastic entry-level mid sized pack is perfect for those new to the survival game. This 50L pack includes a 2.5L hydration bladder and a MOLLE system with 3 MOLLE bags included.
The bag itself is made from water resistant material with heavy duty zippers and stitching.
With great costumer service and a “love it or return it” guarantee, this bag is the ideal bit of kit to begin your new adventure.
Eberlestock Terminator XL
Another high-end product from Eberlestock, this 67L pack is a little smaller than the Operator, making it perfect for someone who wants the same top quality but doesn’t need to carry as much gear.
Water resistant with rugged zippers and stitching, this pack is made to last through tough conditions. It also features the MOLLE system, an articulating rear interior wall (for weapon carry) and a removable top pouch.
The pull-out pack cover makes it a great choice for areas with higher than average rainfall.