Is your Bug Out Bag Going to Get You Killed?

A bug out bag is designed in theory to give you everything you may need to live for at least 72 hours outside of your home and should be considered as part of any comprehensive plan for disaster or true preparedness.  The tendency with bug out bags is to throw everything but the kitchen sink in them to cover every conceivable scenario or need. When this happens you have people with Bug Out Bags that weigh more than they do. Not only could this seriously slow you down at the precise time you need to be light on your feet, but having a bag that is overloaded with a lot of stuff you could live without or which, more likely, couldn’t help you at all but could get you killed.

Last Updated on November 2, 2020

A bug out bag is designed in theory to give you everything you may need to live for at least 72 hours outside of your home and should be considered as part of any comprehensive plan for disaster or true preparedness.  The tendency with bug out bags is to throw everything but the kitchen sink in them to cover every conceivable scenario or need. When this happens you have people with Bug Out Bags that weigh more than they do. Not only could this seriously slow you down at the precise time you need to be light on your feet, but having a bag that is overloaded with a lot of stuff you could live without or which, more likely, couldn’t help you at all but could get you killed.

When I started my own prepping journey, a bug out bag was high on my list of priorities. I read a lot of articles and watched a ton of YouTube videos about this subject and as you can imagine, there are as many bug out bag ideas as there are grains of sand at the beach. The bags all share a common goal in that they are supposed to keep you alive if you have to leave your house for some period of time.  I think where the line gets blurred however is what your own idea of the duties of your bag are for. What do you really “need” in order to “live”? If your Bug Out Bag contents look more like what you would pack in a suitcase for a vacation, you may want to reconsider your options.

What is the purpose of a Bug Out Bag?

OK, let’s start with what a Bug Out bag is most typically used for and go from there. A 72-hour bag or kit is usually listed as the standard we as preppers should aspire to and is actually what FEMA recommends on their website. Again, this means that your bug out bag should have enough supplies to get you through 72 hours. What you put in here though should vary by person and need. If you have considered whether you will bug out or hunker down, preparing a bug out bag could be the next step in the process.

Your bag is meant to be something that you can quickly grab and run out the door. Your bug out bag should be pre-packed with the appropriate supplies and ready at a moment’s notice. Ideally, you would have practice with your bug out bag and lugging it around through various terrain and experience actually living off the supplies that you have stored in there. A bug out bag is different in scope from a Get Home Bag, but you may have some of the same types of contents in both.

At a minimum, your bug-out bag should cover the 3 basic necessities you need to live; food, clothing, and shelter. After that, we look at supplies to make your life more comfortable or more secure.

5.11 Tactical RUSH24 Military Backpack
Quite simply the best tactical military backpack on the market. This Rucksack bug out bag features a roomy main storage area, dual zipping side pockets and a stuff-it pocket with integrated draw cord and glove friendly pull tabs

Do I need a Bug Out Bag?

Great question! The answer depends on what you are going to use it for I think to a large extent. Bug Out Bags come in two main flavors or types. The first type is the bag that you plan to strap on and head out into the woods or use to hike to a remote location. This might be your retreat hidden away in the woods in a small town somewhere away from your home. This could also be for those who figure they are just going to hike deep into a national forest and live off the land until whatever crisis they are avoiding has passed.

For most people, I think a Bug Out Bag is more along the lines of a pre-packed suitcase so they can get out of dodge quickly without having to stop and pack. These types of bug out bags are very useful for people who may live in wildfire, flooding, or hurricane areas although I would hazard to guess that not many people in today’s society would be able to have a wildfire, flood or hurricane sneak up on them. If you are completely unaware of what is going on around you then you most likely won’t have any bag packed and ready to go in the first place. For the rest of us, fires, hurricanes, and floods are generally forecast and announced with more than ample time to prepare, pack, and get out of the way. Are there circumstances where this is not the case? Of course, but we are talking in general terms here for the most average prepper scenario.

How can my bag get me killed?

There are two main ways I can see how not thinking logically about your Bug Out Bag can end up hurting you. The first is the weight. Let’s assume that your bug out bag’s purpose of use is that you plan to walk out of town with it strapped to your back before the zombie hordes can breach the city. This will be your bedroom dresser, kitchen pantry, shelter, entertainment center and medicine cabinet all rolled into one tidy package. The average weight guidelines for a fully loaded backpack are no more than 25% of your overall body weight. For a 200 pound person (in good health) that is 50 pounds.

How many of you are used to walking with 50 pounds of weight on your back for 20 miles? How many of you think your bag would actually weigh more than 50 pounds? Do you know how much 3 gallons of water, the recommended amount you need for each person – for 3 days, weighs?

Having a bug out bag that is too heavy can cause injury very easily. Not only that, but it can wear you out much faster and make running, something you may have to do when the zombies are hungry, very difficult to do. Unless your bag is packed the right way, your center of balance will be off and you can just about forget doing any type of tactical movement with a heavy pack like this.

Military style packs are good but obvious options as bug out bags
It ain’t heavy, it’s my Bug Out Bag!

Am I talking about trained Navy Seals? No, I am talking about Mr. and Mrs. Joe Public who are probably just like most of us. We have jobs where we sit at a desk most days and aren’t training daily with 50-pound packs like the 10th Mountain division. What about your children? Will they be able to carry all of the supplies needed on their backs as well? Probably not in all cases.

The second way I can see having a large pack could be dangerous is from the standpoint of a total collapse scenario where massive amounts of society are displaced, scared, hurting, and desperate. With a large pack, you are a greater target. If there are truly desperate people and they see you with a big pack full of supplies and goodies they may be more inclined to relieve you of that extra weight. If their children are freezing or starving and you are walking around with the Walmart camping section attached in a big bright orange pack, they may decide that you need that less than they do.

How can we avoid this problem?

Pack Smarter – A bug out bag should be viewed as a life preserver in most situations, not a convenience store. When I see lists out there that have as their contents miscellaneous hardware and tools, saws, and fishing gear I have to wonder what these people are going to do. Most of us, if there is really some type of disaster won’t have any place to fish at all. You aren’t going to likely be fixing a radiator hose on your car either. If you were, that is a different pack for a different purpose. Think smart about your bag and what needs to go in there.  If all hell breaks loose in your town, what will you really need to survive? Will a change of clothes, something to shelter you from the elements and a means to make a fire be most of what you need? Add in some food and a little water with a backup to get filtered water elsewhere, simple first aid and you have the basics covered. Will all of this weigh significantly less than 50 pounds? It should.

There are ultra-light hiking fanatics that try to scrounge every single ounce of weight out of their packs in order to have a much lower weight pack and thus a happier hiking experience. You can see a lot of great ideas for making your gear weight much lower on this site. You can start with these tips, but even if you take 30 pounds out somewhere, you can’t start throwing other items like your books on edible plants in your pack and still save weight. Think about what your bag is for, how you will be using it, and pack accordingly. Remember, this is just to save your life. If you have a bug out bag and you are leaving your world behind, you won’t be staying at the Ritz. Some discomfort should be anticipated so I would plan on leaving the Kindle behind.

Blend In – Packing lighter can certainly help with weight and with less weight should come less bulk. With less bulk, you should have a smaller footprint for your supplies and may be able to pack everything you need to stay alive in a smaller backpack. This will help you look like everyone else out there and not like you are hiking the Appalachian Trail. Just for the record, I am not recommending that all you need is one seriously packed survival Altoids can, but we can think about the bag that we are using to save our lives in a logical way.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas on packing your Bug Out Bag. I would love to hear your ideas and perspectives in the comments below.

  1. My compliments on an important issue as it relates to BOB’s. I have briefly commented on this
    very concern on a couple blog sites but you have done so much better and hopefully the readers will recognize the wisdom of your message. The only suggestion is for readers to consider putting together mini-paks to grab as they go out the door to compensate for whatever immediate issues that they may be confronted with (i.e. cold weather, shared cooking items, etc).

    1. Thank you very much Umbrella Man!

      I have often wondered a similar thing. Could your Get Home Bag, which should have considerably less than most advertised Bug Out Bags do the same job with a fraction of the weight?


      1. When folded properly, a camouflage tarp can act as a BOB. Mine is MINIMAL. Of course I am a 50 yr old woman,(albeit in pretty good shape as I am a farmer) fish tank filters(activated carbon for water filters) dried fruits,peanuts and jerky, socks, pants and shirt, small med kit with gauze,band aids,triple antibiotic creme,ibuprofen,suture kit(sewing kit too), strike anywhere matches, small fishing accessories.Knife,various string/rope. Everything can be put into pill bottles. Compact…light, and keeps you from over packing.An old “military style” PITH helmet can act as a “pot to cook in” A GOOD pair of leather gloves, and of course, my boots are “on the ready.”

        1. Thanks for your comments Debbie!

          It’s obvious you have already given some thought to reuse and re-purposing some of your gear to keep it light.


        2. Dogbert

          unless your a surgen your much better off with super glue than suture kit.
          sutures are prone to enfectiion, super glu works well on wet skin, keeps wound clean. on bigger wonds, i glue the gauze right accross.

          1. Super glue isn’t a great idea… if you’re concerned about infections from suture, then gluing a wound shut will glue bacteria inside the wound. Your best option is to wash, keep it covered, and let it drain, that will leave an “out” for bacteria… just keep it clean as it heals…

  2. 1 other topic I wish he would cover that ties in with this is, your vehicle can also lead to you getting killed. If its outfitted ; you stand out & your a target.

    1. Thanks Chris and I like your idea for a discussion around Bug Out Vehicles. The diesel 4×4 with a warn winch and knobby tires filled to the brim with MREs would be a great target too. Maybe I can write about that in a future post.


  3. Well…the main thing is to keep a low profile, the only obvious accessory being a walking stick, nothing fancy, and to look sick and beat-up and already robbed maybe, any equipment you may have in pockets,under your shirt, down your pants, maybe a belly-bag under your jacket….you should look like everybody else, only worse.
    As far as equipment goes, water and a method of purifying more is the first priority, protection from the weather, simple plastic sheeting has a lot of uses…my” everyday carry” is a pocket full of different sizes of string in six foot lengths, multy tool, magnesium fire bar, cell ‘phone,small first aid kit,small bar of soap, small flashlight,and pocket sized Boggle game…..these cover my needs, what covers yours???

    1. Walking sticks are high on the “city wise, not woodsy wise” list. Looks cool to the other noobs, but uses more calories that just walking. Must be why no military uses them. Might be OK as a Bo (fighting stick).

  4. I agree, but with 2 small children, it changes everything. With the new baby, we are planning to fortify in place. We can hold off a small army and can last 3 weeks in complete isolation and never have to leave the house. The only way we are leaving is if the house becomes unlivable; then pack the Suburban and run over anything or anyone in the way.

    1. Thanks for your comments Jonny,

      I completely agree with your motivation to stay put and actually plan to Bug In myself for anything short of a flood or something you can’t fight off. This was more for the people who do plan to Bug Out. Even if you only going a short distance, packs that are too heavy can be a big detriment to your success.


    2. I see your reasoning for wanting to hunker down, Jonny. I’m sure you’ve already thought of how you’d do it, but for other readers who may be considering the same thing, I’d like to make a mention to…

      Be sure you fully think out and provide for your fire protection. If you plan to fortify in place and bunker in, then all it takes is one out of control fire to destroy your entire set up leaving you destitute and starving…if not dead. Any savage group who wants to take what you have and realizes that you aren’t giving up, may just decide to burn you out. Burning a fort is an ancient practice that every army in history has done to an enemy. So be prepared to deal with fires.

    3. Fortitifying is a solid strategy but don’t neglect a bug out plan as well. The suburban is a great “best scenario” option but especially with an infant you need to have a plan for fire, earthquake, etc. that makes bugging in and driving impossible. If you are holed up in a bunker and the burb is scavanged for fuel and parts when the house becomes compromised are you able to run?

  5. Thank you, what a good article reminding (or notifying, perhaps for the first time) us of what is really important. I carry water and my BOB in my truck all the time, as well as walking shoes and extra socks. The purpose of MY bag is to get back HOME in one piece. I carry a lot of dehydrated food in there, enough for about 3-4 people for two days. I only carry that much because I am often out and about with my kids, (I have 5) and I want to be able to get back home without having them go hungry. If we’re 30-40 miles away, and we cannot use our vehicle to get home, but must walk, then we’re looking at least 2 days to get home. It IS different with kids. I am currently putting together bobs for them, but they will be kids backpacks, nothing that sticks out, but seems more normal, and basically, other than a change of clothing and extra socks and things like hats/gloves/handwarmers/bug spray, the only extra thing they’ll be able to carry is water, to keep their packs at 25% or less of their body weight. For the littles, that’s only going to be a weight of 20lbs MAX. Another good idea is to do “test runs” with your kids, taking them to the local nature area or large park, and hiking around for an hour with packs on. That will give you a GOOD starting point as to what will become issues with your kids. Pack too heavy? They’ll let you know within an hour. Shoes making blisters? You’ll find out when you still have time and means to fix it. Also, it will get them used to the pack and following directions and being aware of things outside – bugs, snakes, scratchy branches or bushes, sunburn, etc. Simply getting OUTSIDE and tromping around for a few hours each week is a great way to get used to things, become more familiar with the environment and you’ll learn a LOT about what you really need in a pack. If you really want to challenge yourself, do this for one full day and night. That’s our plan in a few weeks, to test out things and see what is unnecessary and what we might have forgotten that would make the journey easier.

    1. Thanks for the comments Jennifer!

      Yes, we took our kids backpacking for a couple of days to try the same things out you mentioned. We got to see what worked and what didn’t and were able to adjust. Now, our kids have experience lugging some weight around so the concept isn’t new and we had a great time.


    2. That’s a really good idea Jennifer about the kids. Maybe regular hiking/camping trips to get the kids used to roughing it could be key here. Not only would they work in their ‘hiking’ shoes preparing them for the main event, but they’ll learn various skills that will do them good when the time comes. If I had small children I’d worry about them making noise and alerting potentially unfriendly passer-bys to our presence. Regular stealthly hiking/camping would give them practice for when it becomes real.

  6. We have both Bug Out Bags and Survival Backpacks for each member of the family. Although there are a few tools in the Bug Out Bags, they are mainly clothing and food for 3 days. Their primary mission would be to throw in the vehicle if we had to evacuate out home ahead of a storm, or chemical spill on the highway. The assumption would be that we will be staying indoors. The Survival Backpacks contain mainly camping items that would be required for an extended stay outdoors. I keep a few smaller makeshift survival kits in my vehicle. I guess they could be considered “Get Home Bags”. They are centered around a particular weapon system, Ruger 10/22 Takedown, Rossi Circuit Judge or Smith & Wesson Governor. Aside from ammo, they contain a multi-tool, folding knife, space blanket, water storage, fire making essentials and SOS food bars. They are small enough that you could run with one on your back.

    1. Thanks Irish,

      Your survival kits sound just like my Get Home Bag. My “home” is normally only about 10-15 miles away so something small with the basics (little food, water, survival blanket, blood stopper, energy drink) and I can easily grab and go.


  7. A good thing I have considered is a cart that is used for a golf bag. It’s lightweight and is designed to have something strapped to it. It my be an option for people that can’t carry a heavy bag.

    1. IF you do that I promise someone will take it from you. They’ll see it as something you have that they don’t, they’ll ambush you, you won’t have time to fight back, and they’ll win. If the first guy loses the second or third or fourth won’t. The idea of a heavy bag is a bad idea. Stay light, stay mobile, stay fast, stay alive.

  8. A BOB should have enough gear in it to get you to your BOL (Bug Out Location) which is where your other supplies are. Worst case scenario, how long will it take you to get to your BOL? Then that is what your BOB should be set up for. Also expect to travel no more than 10 miles per day not 20. While you might be in great shape, not everyone in your party may be. Also an injury may slow you down. I modified an old jogging stroller to carry our BOBs. This takes a load off us and allows us to cover more distance. If we have to, we can abandon the stroller and carry the packs as normal. Again, walking out is a last resort. Any miles you can put behind you and toward your goal without walking is a load and time off your back.

    1. Thanks for your comments Michael!

      I think that most people don’t have any location to go to. They are planning to walk out into the great wide open and live off the contents of their packs. That is why they throw everything they can think of in there.

      Your idea for a baby jogger is a great way to mitigate the extra weight though.


    2. Perhaps something to keep in mind–especially if your BOL is rather far from your home–is that someone else may have planned to use the same location, or may have found the location before you get there. Especially if you have stored supplies somewhere, you should be open the possibility that someone else has found it before you get there. If things are bad enough, EVERYONE will be searching and scavenging for anything they can get and they “won’t leave any stone unturned”. Any building or vehicle in any condition will eventually be searched by someone. This all depends, of course, on what type of location you’re using as a BOL.

      1. you guys are NUTS. If the end comes it will be nuclear or asteroid and you puss’s with your backpacks will be killed with the rest of us. And the idiots who have all those stockpiles of guns just waiting to kill their neighbors are just murderer
        s. In case you missed 9/11 in a disaster where people didn’t even know what or what was next, they reached out to help the next person, NOT to kill them. Shame on all of you

        1. People don’t necessarily prep for “The end of days” although a lot do (if you’re prepared for the end of the world you’re prepared for almost anything) It could be for any situation where you need to leave your house for a few days and be prepared, Say your house has been flooded or some sort of other natural disaster where the area you live in is uninhabitable then a BoB would be useful.
          And what makes you so sure that it would be a nuclear strike or an asteroid that would be “the end”?
          There are infinite possibilities of what could occur during our life time and preppers should take all things into consideration, be it a hurricane or home invasion.
          Also preppers are the least likely person to attempt to kill someone during a disaster due to the fact they are prepared and don’t need what others have! and any weapons they make have with them are used merely for self-defence and/or hunting.
          It will be people like you who laugh at the idea and think its ridiculous that anything bad would happen to you, who will be going around killing people for scraps of food because your child is starving and you weren’t prepared so no, Shame on you.

  9. Very useful article!

    I “rethink” my BOB, GHK, and EDC, all the time. Been through multiple variations, starting with a very heavy Alice Pack. Now I have everything devided into three packs. I have two shoulder bags, and a smallish back pack. One of the shoulder bags serves as my GHK. It has a series of Kits. There is a Fire Kit, is a Hygene Kit, a Money Kit, with enough cash, and a few silver coins to get me home. There is a pack of 8 Nutrition Bars with about 300 calories each. There is a knife and tool kit, as well as a Meds kit. I carry a little Swiss M7 Army Stove, and extra sealed packs of Sterno to refill it. There are several light sticks, and a signal mirror. I also have a small cooking pan with cover and cup, and steel wool pads to clean them. There is a Military Compas, and a poncho There are a couple of survival blankets, several large trash bags, Chemical Hand Warmers, a hundred feet of para cord, tissue packs for toilet paper, and, some tuna, salmon, and Spam envelopes. I also have a tree saw, and a small garden trowl. There are seveal flashlights (including one worn on the head), several candles, There is a small AM/FM radio kit with extra batteries. I keep a Military Canteen Kit in my vehicle, with a cup, and lid to cook in, and a stove attachment. I keep bottled water, as well as a Hydration bladder to put it in in the vehicle. I have a short machete, and a decent hunting knife there as well. A medical kit is included. There is a pair of leather work gloves, extra clothing, military boots, and a bed roll, with wool blanket, ground pad, tarp, and tent stakes. There is a head net to keep bugs off. There are a couple of packs of flavored noodle dishes as well to use with the meat packets to make meals. There is a tactical vest to conceal my EDC firearm, with lots of useful pockets.

    If I loose use of the vehicle, I simple put the knife, and machete on my belt, sling the shoulder pack, canteen kit, and bed role over my shoulders, pocket, the noodle packs, put on the boots, and change into needed approprate clothing, and I’m off toward my objective. I keep useful maps in the vehicle as well a a small set of binoculars. I also carry a fold up luggage size hand truck in the vehicle, which I can pull behind me to litten my load on the road.

    The other shoulder pack, resides at home, along with the small back pack, unless I’m traveling more than tweny miles from home, in which case I takethem along. The shoulder bag contains enough home assembled MREs to sustain me for six or seven days, three meals and snacks each. The back pack has a complete Hammock system, My Henry AR7 and 100 rounds of .22 ammo, a larger water purification system, crank flashlight, and radio, a sleeping bag, and a larger tarp.

    I find that distrubing the weight around my body is much less tiring than lugging a single huge back pack. With the modular concept, If needed, I could stash parts of the system if needed for future recovery. If I happen upon a Sheeple that I decide to help, I can share the load.

    I hope the the above sparks some ideas for others.

  10. In response to GSGSheppard’s advice to look exausted and beat up, to be safe,…
    Among other things I’m a certified Refuse to be a Crime Victim Instructor.
    Sounds like good advice, but understand that human preditors exibit the same behaviors as animal preditors, they seek out the weak to pray upon.
    I can see the advantages of looking like you have little of value. But looking strong, even seeming to be to bad ass to mess with may do you more good.
    Remember, situational awareness ALWAYS, and avoidance, avoidance, avoidance.
    If you’re talking about a 72 hour event, the chance of organized bands of preditors is very small. At least the first 24 hours it will be total confusion for everyone. There may be a very few desprate guys as the day devlops who may try to steal your transport, or grab your water off your body, but viewing this as a military Special Operations Mission is off base in my opinion.
    You may decide to hide in a group of folks heading your way. You may feel that striking out across country, and avoiding as much contact with other’s as possible is safer. That’s a jugment call.
    Another thought,…. Of course getting back home is everyone’s natural objective. But, what if this is not an option. You may in fact need to sustain yourself away from home for some period of time. Starting out without food and other basic nessessities could be a very bad choose indeed.
    You’ll need at least a half gallon of water a day, and at least 1500 calories.
    If you think that you can live off the land, well, not really!. There’s plenty of history to prove this is true. Unlike in the T.V. Show, where Danel Boone sets out on a long journey with nothing but his rifle, and a nap sack, the real Boone would have been riding a horse, and leading a couple of pack horses loaded down with provisions. Native Americans learned over the centuries the locations at various times of the year where food resouces could be found, and moved around from place to place to take advantage. Even so, they often went hungry.

  11. I have to say I agree now that I see what you say, looking weak is not the best idea, on the other hand I am 71 years old and 270 pounds fat, and probably look pretty vulnerable any way….your idea of traveling with a group is good,especially staying on the road….I am afraid I am past the cross country alone effort and maybe my “life experience” would be valuable in a group…..

    1. Please don’t take offense because I don’t mean to sound rude, but you can’t do anything about being 71 years old. You might be able to do something about being 270 lbs of fat. The harsh reality is, even if you’re 21 years old, if you’re 270 lbs of fat…you probably are not going to survive long…even without predatory humans around. I’m sorry. That sounds harsh, but it is a harsh reality. There is a reason that the Army was very strict about keeping us physically fit all the time. A person simply can’t survive the rigors of a catastrophic situation without at least a basic level of health and fitness.

  12. As a former Marine and retired professional firefighter, I would just like to make a few comments. First, many people (the majority) will do nothing to prepare. These are the people who will immediately end up in shelters or in line behind a National Guard truck (if one shows up at all) taking whatever they can get as it falls off. Shelters are notoriously ugly places and your BOB should be designed to KEEP YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES out of one. Those who do nothing when things are easy will do NOTHING when things are hard. Speed, stealth, and a plan will keep you and your family SAFE. It is better to have something, not need it, and ditch it, than to need something, wish you had it, and get sick or die because you don’t. Secondary roads, traveling at night, and avoiding mobs or other desperate people who may have no idea what they are doing other than running scared might be considerations to make. Lastly, if your BOB is well thought out, it can make the difference between you becoming a autonomous traveler or a refugee. Don’t believe for a single moment that thousands of unwashed, unfed displaced people are going to be welcome in small town USA. You will either be turned back, turned away, or transported to the opposite side of town where you will likely be asked to “KEEP MOVING.” Plan an prepare for the worst,and your worst fears will never be realized.

  13. Thanks for your comments Lou!

    Your comment was locked away in comment purgatory unbeknownst to me so I apologize for the very long delay in getting this posted on the site and in responding. You have added a lot of great ideas to how you carry your BOB and it is similar to an article I will be writing in the next few weeks about how to think about Bug Out Bags as systems. I think too many times, a BOB is viewed as something like Santa’s sack, filled with goodies and not a lot of thought goes into what is going in the bag.

    Thanks for commenting again!

  14. Yes. planning a bugout bag was daunting,yes I watched a lot of U-tube videos to get ideas just as the author has done. Maxpedition and Tactical 5.11n make/sell durable pack products.Harbor frieight and Wal mart sell very inexpensive tools and prepper gear most people can afford.Start early, planning and persistence over time you/your readers can be prepared for that disaster or economic collapse.

  15. Fantastic post. I do a bit of blogging and I always try to do what you did by incorporating some sort of source like Most emergencies aren’t the end of the world, but they do disrupt your world. It’s a well rounded way of thinking like you’ve displayed here that really helps people from all walks of life. You have stated a lot of interesting things here and I’ll be sure to share this article when I talk about bugout bags. Thanks.

  16. Take you bug out bag out for a spin. The first few bags I
    made I could not walk around my block with them on my back. When you walk the
    dog put on your BOB. Go for a long hike and just take it, make your lunch, from
    only what you have in it. Try to go camping with it for a weekend. You will quickly find out what you forgot and may
    be some things that you do not need.

  17. Thank you for the info. I’ve been tryin to figure out why my bug out bag never seems right. Your article has given me much to concider to make it better.

  18. if i was desperate, i would be LOOKING for people with bugout bags to kill. Its basically a survivalist treasure pack ! Its like wearing a big kick me sign on your back.

      1. Robbing is dangerous. However a subsonic suppressed shot and then wait, observe, wait a bit more and then go collect your supplies 🙂 Sick, but this is what one must actually be prepared for. Walking around with supplies is just not a good idea after the first 24 hours, most folks have a long gun turning anyone into a potential sniper, and it is near impossible to protect from a sniper (unless you never lift your head out of your bunker.) Get where you are going and disappear, don’t walk around advertising your supplies or someone WILL take them.

        1. That’s why groups with common goals and security–perimeter details for the groups are always a good thing. In any emergency there will always be those unprepared, some you can help, that will help in return, while others just can’t be helped. I think that is why people like the “walking dead” series so much–it is more a survival series in some really horrid conditions, but the group thing seems to work well in such a situation. Hence, don’t be the “governor” psycho and a “liability” to yourself and others, but join with like minded “stable” groups to help each other get through difficult times and any unforeseen disasters.

    1. Also, usually those with forethought to bug out for an emergency–are also highly protected. Those who kill needlessly–may well be killed needlessly by others. Karma

  19. This is an article I really needed as I am re-packing all our bug out bags now. My son went camping and took them all apart to use the bags :(. For water, I got a small water purification system, for cooking, I have a small stove that works with just a can of propane. I plan to get a mess kit so I am not lugging heavy pots and pans. I am making up bags of food for meals that will feed 6 for our family. I sell a high end of dehdrated foods and I am building up so I can do more meals that are not only nutritious but that ACTUALLY TASTE GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT! The simple things like solar flashlights, swiss knives, whistles etc… are cheap and I get them and keep them in MY bag since my kids take stuff and mess with it. . . sometimes you just have to have common sense and KNOW your family well. I have to get more sleeping bags, and I am thinking of a Tent, but Tents for 8 are HEAVY and I doubt we will be able to carry them so it may just be pup tents for each and some blankets and REALLY GOOD sleeping bags with emergency blankets in the backpacks.

    My son who went on a wilderness trip for a month, keeps telling me I don’t need toiletries, but I am taking them anyway. along with a batch of medications I take regularly. I am looking for a solar cell phone charger, just in case we can get any type of service, and I need to start hiding money to take with us too in small bills. I also have a wind up emergency radio I plan to take too. I think betweek 6 of us, we can manage, but yes, I definitely do need to start walking to get in better shape and I do definitely do need to lighten our bags.

    Thanks for a timely topic!

    1. Thank you very much for the comments!

      It sounds like you have really thought about your bag situation. I agree on the tents and I don’t think you can get one for that many people that won’t be a heavy beast. Unless you are spending thousands of dollars on some type of Mt. Everest expedition tent. Sadly those don’t come with your own Sherpa to haul them for you either.

      Sleeping bags are probably an item that I could conceive spending more for. To get a lightweight bag that is small enough you are going to spend several hundred dollars. Sleeping bags aren’t all the same either and depending on how cold the environment you are living is, what time of year and how cold of a sleeper you are all factor in.

      I just grabbed a military surplus sleep system (3 bags that work together) for $75 at a recent gun show. The bag is awesome and can keep anyone warm and dry down to 20 below I think, but it isn’t small and it isn’t light.


      1. You can buy space blankets for around $1-$2 each if you buy a 10 pack, they are lightweight and hardly take any room at all. They also double for shelter and are waterproof. They could also be used to collect water. Good to have as back up in case you need to ditch the bulky items.

        1. Thanks ready4,

          I agree, they have many uses and are a great back-up, but I wouldn’t want to use those as my primary shelter. They are very thin, tear easily and you can see those shiny bags from a mile away.


  20. I’ve just started assembling some items for both my Get home Bag and my BOB. I appreciate all the ideas of everyone here and for sharing. I’m still in the planning stages of designing both so these are some great ideas to keep in mind.

    1. Thanks for stopping by 5150! There are lots of great ideas in the comments on our site and I hope you will return again.


  21. I am a little behind on this article coming out but I just had to comment. I have been really prepping for a couple years now. I started blind and this is the really the first website I have found (wasn’t looking, I had some good books). Lot’s of great idea’s here. We live in central NC and where as I was starting to make BOB’s ( I have been carrying the well stocked and unexpired IFAK I purchased in my truck), I never thought about a GHB!
    It never really occurred to me since I drive in a truck and live in a place there’s several ways to get home but really I need to because in the event TSHTF I am going to be going for my parents.

    One thing I have done is purchase a plastic canteen for each person in my immediate family (and a plastic water bottle) for sanitized water and one for collected. In the plastic water bottle I took advantage of the mobile storage and put in waterproof matches, purification tablets, bandaids, bactirin ointment, and a germ mask.
    Ive learned to rotate perishable foods and medicines into daily life so as none of them go to waste.
    One thing I need to do now is prepare for our retreat since it is merely undeveloped land we hunt on, but since reading the article on retreats I am wondering if that’s our best option for a retreat.

  22. I have a subscription to Backpacker magazine because of all the great helpful info it contains. I also love Recoil and Offgrid magazines for the same reasons. I have my B.O.B. with me on hiking trips even if its for just afew hours, I want to know that I can carry it when the time comes and it helps keep me in shape. I am always looking for ways to improve my bag.

    1. Thanks for the comments Jon!

      I just picked up both Recoil and OffGrid the other day and really like them both. I am looking forward to the next installment of Off Grid and it gave me several ideas for posts of my own.

      Your comments remind me that I need to pour my bag out and get it ready for the winter months. Thanks for stopping by!


  23. I went on a hiking trip in the mountains last month. I’m in really bad shape. My backpack weighed 30 lbs and I was very unhappy about it! I’m working on getting in shape but I’m going to have to limit my BOB to 20 lbs or less. That hike was a good test run! Lot of things I didn’t need. Having a water filter means you can save a LOT of weight carrying less water if there are water sources available.

    1. Celeste,

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, its much better to learn this now I think and its good you are working on getting in shape.


  24. i am so overwhelmed by all the incredible information on your site. I just dont know where to start. Im just trying to prepare for the worst, whether thats war, or an earthquake or a famine. My husband doesnt believe anything will happen so I have to prepare for him too, and our toddler. Our home/condo is as equipped as I can make it, and so is our vehicle which is parked in the under ground parking on the 3rd floor lol Not very useful. Im focusing on a bug out bag. Does everyone need the same things in each bag or will my husband be carrying differnt things in his bag b/c he is bigger/stronger(?)?. I wish I had started this 5 yrs ago lol

    1. Thank you very much Dawn!

      I can completely appreciate where you are coming from. I was in the same boat about 5 years ago with my wife and she humored me for the most part. Now though she believes that we are headed for some rough times and can appreciate my efforts and the need to prepare for a wide range of things. Your husband will come around at some point if he is paying any attention at all.

      I like to think that each bug out bag should be designed for the person carrying it as well as what you plan to do with it. If this is your walking away from civilization and never coming back back, you will need more supplies. Even if you carry 200 pounds you will not be able to live off the contents of any bag forever. They are a tool to help you get somewhere.

      Your husband could carry some of the heavier gear, but make sure he isn’t carrying something you have to have. If you two are separated, your individual bags contents should allow you both to have food, water and shelter. Security is extra but shouldn’t be forgotten either. If anything, I would suggest he carry more of something for you but not all of anything. Make sense?


  25. Great site and article/comments. My challenge is that I travel every other week from home in the Midwest (Mich) to my condo in the southwest (Nevada) for work. My concern of late is how to get back home if a SHTF scenario unfolds without much notice while I am traveling. It would be nice to think that auto transport (and fuel availability) would still be an option if I react quickly enough (in which case the GHB is obviously simpler to prepare, and yes I already keep spare gas cans at the ready to fill up), but I certainly can’t count on that I suppose. Which makes the options far less attractive and the GHB a much uglier consideration.

  26. One thing to consider. I’ve seen recommendations of from 18 to 25% of body weight for bobs, but this presumes that a person who may not be in great shape is still relatively weight proportional. But what if you are 20 or 30 or more pounds overweight? You are going to have to pack even LESS because if you are out of shape and significantly overweight, you are going to have to contend with hauling that additional body mass along with your kit. Again, just something to consider.

    1. You are very right. I guess we should start looking at this a different way and say up to X pounds the rule of thumb is no more than 25% of your weight. I personally think that is too much to carry regardless but it is manageable for short periods like a weekend trip to the woods.

      In that case, carrying around 50-60 pounds of gear for a 200 pound guy isn’t that big of a deal, its a workout. If you are a 5’7 200 pound woman, I seriously doubt you are going to want or be able to lug 50 pounds for 20 feet.

      1. Well this is where body mass index comes into play. Two hundred and fifty pounds at 9% body fat is not the same as 250 at 28%. We need to find a ratio that works with your body fat percentages. Muscle earns a living, fat, not so much (though it does insulate, and can be fuel).

        1. Fat does not matter much. I am 29% body fat 5’9 and farm outside most days old school stle wo heavy eqipment. I would run circles around most gym rats amd young people and have on numerous occasions. Trick, get your stamina up. You cant get that with a fifteen minute gym workout evem if you have abs of steel. I have seen so many people that think they are in shape not do near what they tgought they could do. Keep hydated and use salt packs when youve got adequate water or are dehydrating due to sweat. Work ouside some in full sun mid summer, heck yall tote your bob amd youll fimd out real quick how far you could get. Barringbeing mugged shot i would be 250 miles on foot but would almost never bug out on foot. i recon my kids couldhang over most preppers. Emp use a bike. never get too far from home except on rare occasions like vacation. My wife would use her bike over ghb at work in an emp. Before people figure out whats up shes home at 35 miles.

  27. I think that a bug out bag is an essential for anyone. You can argue against it all you want, but when it all comes down to it; if SHTF in one or several of the variety of ways it can happen, wouldn’t you like the option to carry a portable survival/self defense/whatever else you may have built into you BOB? I would. If the weight is too much, I can either get rid of the pack entirely, or get rid of certain items. Also, as you had mentioned carrying gallons of water, why not carry a water purification system and if you feel safer, store some water at home? Every problem has a solution.

    1. Thanks for your comments Gabriel and I agree with you. I guess what I am saying though is to seriously consider what you need now, before you walk out the door so that you don’t have to leave anything behind. A water filter is a perfect idea and can do probably more than anything to reduce weight, but what if you live in the dessert?

      Every person’s circumstances are unique and knowing what this gear will do, how to use it and what you can live with can make huge differences in what you bring and how much it weighs.


  28. I’ve seen many, many BOBs over the years, some weighing as much as 70 lbs that include a MBR, hundreds of rounds of ammo, etc. Give me a break!
    The first question that needs to be answered is: “Where are you bugging out to?” Just having a BOB will only keep you alive for a week or two,assuming you can find water.

    Then what? Do you plan to live off the land or acquire food as you pass by towns? You could set up a system of caches, but you have to sleep sometime, and who is going to pull third watch? How will you defend yourself in someone else’s ‘hood’? Good luck with that!

    If you don’t live within two hundred miles of your retreat, you’re fooling yourself if you think you have a plan for long term survival. That’s the stuff of Hollywood. I hate to be blunt, but sometimes it takes a two by four to wake people up.
    You must think realistically, and plan for most likely to least likely scenarios. We could spend a lot of time thinking about them all. But let’s take a couple of likely scenarios and see if I’m in my right mind:

    1) Economic collapse – depending on when you plan to leave, there will be food and fuel shortages, meaning that many will run out of gas on the road, and guess what? They’ll want to take from others! Not to mention that in virtually every scenario we can come up with the National, State and local Police forces WILL BE setting up road blocks within 45 minutes. You’ll either be turned back or asked to pull over and get in the bus. What do you think an LEO is going to do when he sees your AR sticking out of a suitcase anyway? Think Katrina….

    2) Pandemic – same thing, official road blocks, stranded people (who may have set up their own road blocks) etc. Even if you’re wearing a full bio suit and mask, the ‘authorities’ have no way of knowing whether or not you have been infected. So guess what? You’ll be spending a fun-filled all expenses paid vacation in quarantine!

    3) Nuclear / EMP attack. Hope you had the foresight to have bought a pre-all electronic ignition equipped vehicle (or retro-fitted a newer one). But the end game is the same – you may be stuck in a massive grid lock behind lots of newer cars – a really big road block!

    As J.W. Rawles has said repeatedly, the best situation is to be living on your retreat. The next best choice is living very close to that retreat.

  29. Excellent points about both the weight of a BOB and how it impacts ability to travel long distances. Many people just throw in everything and the kitchen sink and do not account for this. Thanks.

  30. 3J55 – Lately I would be so very lacking in money and debits were eating me from all sides. That was RIGHT UNTIL i decided to make money on the internet! I visited surveymoneymaker point net, and started doing surveys for straight cash, and doing so, I’ve been greatly more able to do my things!! i am very glad, I did this!!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. nPWC

  31. I’ve done extensive hiking/backpacking in the military and I can tell you 1.) Pack light 2.) expect to have to run 3.) stick with the basics (as the article says). Think like a rabbit. Small, fast and nimble. In and out. No one should know you’re there.
    -Semper Fi

  32. THANK YOU!!!
    I keep seeing people talking about bringing the most ridiculous items in their BOB and it drives me crazy! People pack things that make no sense to me was road flares, whistles, 3 flashlights, and a headlamp. You need 1 extra set of clothing for the weather you’re in. Socks, socks, and more socks, your feet will keep you alive. In terms of gear you need remember, lighter is better, don’t make yourself a target.

  33. The previous comment about road flares being a negative for a BOB I have to disagree with. Being an old elk hunter, I ahve found that if you have to build a fire in the snow, pouring rain ect, tha absolute easiest way is with a road flare- bar none- and we have started fires in severe conditions with other means. If you can’t carry a couple of road flares ( I prefer the short ones if you can find them), you need help.

    1. Thanks for your comments Old Marine!

      You are right that a flare will light anything, anytime, anywhere but they have drawbacks too. First, they are hard to extinguish a flare. Also, they are super bright so you won’t be discrete if you have to light one off. I think something like WetFire – would meet the needs of being able to light when wet too, but might be a safer choice in some cases.


  34. Excellent article. I am always examining and re-examining my Get Home Bag and Bug Out Bag, trying to make both lighter and more practical.

    Thanks again. I LOVE THIS SITE!

  35. In all your planning and communications with other people always remember, there are people who love and adore the Tsarnaev brothers. Security at all times is essential, BOB or not.

  36. We usually think in terms of our current physical abilities.
    But we may have to balance our immediate BOB needs vs what we can carry if we’re injured, or are helping another injured person.
    Came across a neat trick to shrink both the weight and bulk of most liquid and powder items you carry. Won’t work for potable water (unless you want to drink it in shots 😉 ), but pretty much anything else.

    Crimp the end of a drinking straw with pliers, leave about 1/16 of an inch sticking out, and melt that 1/16″ end with a match. When that 1/16″ disappears into the pliers, one end of the straw is sealed water tight.

    Fill the other end of the straw with whatever you want in your pack — from sugar to antibiotic oinment — cut the straw to length, crimp, and melt/seal.

    Works to keep small dry items together and waterproofed, like strike anywhere matches, q-tips, and needles, too.

    Very portable, light weight, impact resistent, easy to pack, and waterproof.

    Wrote an article with a video if you want to see it in action.


  37. I think you should bring your kindle or tablet and a way to charge it. This is how you bring your survival books along- ebook form on your tablet. The perfect library.

  38. Great article. I think one of the key thing you mentioned is to get out and use your bag. As a long time outdoorsman I have found this to be the main reason rookie backpackers have a hard time there first few times out in the field. All the gear in the world will not help you survive if you don’t know how to use it.

    1. Thanks Michael!

      Yes, that is the true test isn’t it? We even threw on our packs before for a day trip to a local mountain just for a dry run. You never know what you will find out once you actually put these plans to use.


  39. Great article. All the comments about BOBs and options gave me a lot to think about. This article and comments also confirmed some of my concerns that I had about prepping like being a obvious target when you got a expensive back pack on your back. Our bags are setup to get us home in 48 hours and reduce our visibility (old but comfy laptop back packs). If our cars have to be left at work my wife is to walk home in group that she trusts. Our rally point is our home or kids school.

    I have been prepping as hobby for about 2 years now. I am getting a little more serious this year. One thing that I believe people miss if the world were to fall apart is what to do in the long run. I am trying to learn some valuable trades to make my family and me valuable to our community. I am growing medicinal plants/herbs and learning distillation of water and medicinal alcohol. I have a working rocket stove using available materials in the local area to teach people how to heat their home in the winter, if the need arises. If you are a asset to your community you are protected and cared for.

    As an aside, I am a tech guy by profession and there a few things people don’t know, there is a good chance that cell towers will be operational in a most major disasters. Voice comm will most likely be bad but text is highly likely to be available and GPS not AGPS (Assisted GPS) will be available. Look at your smart phone carefully and see if it is capable of regular GPS. AGPS uses cell towers and more energy to find your position. Use a app that has your local area saved on your phone not in the cloud. Also not everyone is aware that first responders are moving to a new system soon (couple of years) that will be using the existing tower network. And many towers now have back up generators, so the system will be up and running for a little while after SHTF.

  40. Thank you for the article.

    One other thing to think about is consumables. Matches are only good as long as you have them. Lighters are good as long as you have fuel. You might want to get a fire piston and practice using it. As for the bit of materiel you need to operate the fire piston, try lint. Every time you do the laundry their is lint in the dryer. Put it in a zip lock bag, compress the air out, close it, put in your B.O.B.

    Don’t wast you money on fire excelerant or you might come to depend on them and when you can’t get any more, what then?

    Learn hunting and gathering techniques in addition to putting food in your B.O.B.

    At your B.O.L. You should have a water still and in your B.O.B. you should have a metal vessel for boiling water.

    Basically what I am saying is the fewer consumables you need, the better chance you have in surviving what ever comes your way… except a nuke… a nuke would screw you. The other thing I am saying is don’t loose your sense of hummer. You need to survive as people not bests of the field. Don’t use disasters as an excuse to be inhuman with each other.

  41. Howdy fellow preppers! Need yall’s feedback… like most folks I work at least 40 hrs a week away from home (30+ miles one way) so its possible that in a SHTF situation there is a good chance I could very well this distance from home. I’m currently working on my “get home bag” which would be a bag to get me the 30+ miles to my wife and kiddos anyone have any ideas on some must haves? I think I have most everything I could need, but giving the SHTF situation I’m pretty sure there will be something that will have been left out, because let’s face it for most of us no matter how calm we think we are its gonna make us reconsider how tough we thought we were. In saying that I’d like to know I’ve gathered all the information and advice I could get to make sure I’m as ready and possible. Because let’s face it failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Any feedback would be awesome! Thanks and good luck!

  42. Been looking for articles on anyone that has actually used their bug out bag in a real world situation and can’t find any….all this theory is great, but what about real world?

  43. Thank you for this article….I guess I am what you would call a beginning beginner! Lol!I have made it my goal to have these made up for each family member in the next month or so, It is so overwhelming! I have 3 children, so I am thinking about how to provide best for them.

  44. This is a great article and you really hit home hard on an issue that most people are either oblivious to or simply choose to ignore: weight of your bug out bag.
    I like the approach of starting with bare necessities for survival, and then building layers of comfort on top of that. Then the weight of the bag can be managed smartly.
    Well done article!

  45. I see my old BoB in one of those pics, and yes, it was waaay too heavy. I ditched all my Kifaru packs for Ospreys because of weight.

  46. Great article! I love the fact you cover an angle not enough people think about. There are plenty of articles about creating a bug out bag, but your comment “How many of you are used to hiking 20 miles with 50 lbs on your back?” is dead on.

    When I lived in Alaska one of my friends took me hiking to his favorite glacier with a small group. I’ve never been in bad shape, but everyone there was far more athletic than me. But I hiked all the time, so having a large backpack on my back wasn’t a problem for a 6-7 hour hike – I was used to trudging along. A lot of the rest of the group weren’t doing so hot.

    That “grind training” is something you absolutely can’t ignore. I might not be able to outrun or out lift you, but I can hike with a heavy pack forever one step at a time. Great detailed article – I’m looking forward to exploring more!

  47. Most “preppers” and “survivalists” could take some hints from our hippie friends who ultra light.

    I began hiking in 2004 when I began working for a SoCal kayak company and it was part of corporate culture. Since then I have segment-completed the PCT three times, through hiked the PCT and the ADR, and have done numerous eco and rescue hikes in SoCal.

    Today I carry 12 lbs three season and 18 lbs in the winter–if I will be somewhere snow packed.

    For a backpack? Get an Osprey or ULA in 30 liters or so. If it is not waterproof get a rain pouch. Put a small compass on it hanging from a retractable line. Get a tiny waterproof map for where you are going.

    Hydration bladers–use the one that comes with your pack or buy a separate one that is top rack dishwasher safe. Carry a pump for water–on the PCT and most other places in the US you are rarely more than 4 hours from water. It is scary at first but realize that most amateurs carry way too much water. Carry 3 litters at the most.

    Tent–read ultra light backpacking sites. Use a tarp like tent. You will love it. I am old and use a Matt to sleep on–younger guys usually don’t use them. Blankets, bedrolls, and pillows are not needed.

    Clothes–layers. Extra shoes? No. Extra glasses if you depend on them to see are a must.

    Food–read ultra light backpacking sites–this is the majority of your weight.

    Alcohol stove, fuel, Boy Scout Swiss Army knife, two quantum lighters is all you need for cooking, tools, and fire.

    Everything else–not needed!

    Not needed includes: paracord, flashlight, guns, bear spray, medicines, radios, batteries, saws, crazy fire lighting stuff like flint and wax matches.

    Most important? Practice! I was in Cabellas the other day and overheard two guys talking SHTF and end of the world nonsense. They were buying camo camping chairs. I chuckled a little bit.

    If you want to be ready–learn to live outdoors. Not everyone can take 90 days off to go through hike the PCT. I am at a point in my life that I could–but I am getting to the age I would rather hang out with my grandkids.

    You can still practice one weekend a month. Go hike local trails and parks. Start by driving to a campsite and setting up camp right next to your car: use only what is in your ultra light backpack.

    Revise what you take.

    Begin hiking a 1/2 mile to camp, then a few miles. Eventually you will be comfortable enough to hike a day in, and a day out.

    Get a mountain bike and learn what you can and can’t do with it.

    Maybe after six months you will be ready to take a vacation and hike a week in a national park the ultralight way.

    Eventually you will be hooked–you might even quit your day job and take those 90 days to hike the PCT or Appalachian.

    Maybe you will even earn a trail name.

    Just don’t be one of those out-of-shape SHTF preppers buying tactical camping chairs at Cabellas and expect to be able to survive in the wilderness. You will be a bear snack.

  48. This bag can be easily comfortable to hold any equipment like gun tool kit or any another thing. I have seen such bag while one guy was traveling which was very comfortable. you can have a try too.

  49. 72hrs is wrong. Fema says 72hrs because that’s how long they estimate for them to get to you. This does not include the actual time to get everything set up so they can help, in a disaster first responders take priority over you, because without them then the whole thing doesn’t work. You need to consider 2 to 3 weeks, why? Because most likely you will be helping other survivors, you’re not going to let a child go hungry are you?
    Yes, you can go for a while without food but it’s best you don’t. I travel long distances for work and depending on where I am and the situation it may take me a month to get home if I walked. So I keep 2 weeks worth of food in my bag and 2 weeks in the vehicle.
    I am a avid backpacker so 30 miles is easy but if I have to move slow and at night then 3 to 5 miles would be a good day.
    Personally I go for the inch bag philosophy, can always dump something if I have to.

    What many fail to consider is that if you are having to use your bag then the situation is horrible! Also, if you go to a fema camp you kiss all your weapons good bye, I’m not giving up mine ever.

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