How to Pack a Bug out Bag

This is part 3 of a 4-part article. (Read part 1part 2 - part 4)

large-red-backpack-hikingPreviously, we have addressed why and how to use a bug out bag. In our last article we talked about what to look for in a pack.

Now that you have you pack, it will be important to pack it properly. This can save you time, keep you from hurting yourself and create an efficient, easy-to-use pack.

Packing basics
The first thing you’ll want to do is divide your content into weights. Place all the heavy items together, the light items together and the mid-weight items together. This will help you pack more efficiently.

When you’re packing your bag, you’ll want to keep heavy items close to your spine and near your hips. If you have an external frame pack, try and place the heavy items higher up on your pack - closer to your shoulders.

Also, be conscious of your contents opening up. This may cause damage to other items inside the bag. For example, you don’t want to pack a gas burner above a water supply in case it leaks.

Incorrect_Pack_WeightHeavy core
Keep heavy items in the middle of the pack. If you have too many heavy items, consider breaking them down. For example, if you  have a tent, you can store the polls, tent and rain-fly separately.

Mid-weight packed around the core
In order to distribute the weight evenly, pack mid-weight items around the heavy core. Remember to keep the weight near your spine and middle section to maintain balance while carrying the pack.

Outside pockets full of light items
Keep light items on the top of the pack. They can also go inside the outer pockets. The outside pockets should contain items that you’ll be needing a lot - identification, small snacks, navigation material, etc.

Adjusting the pack
After you’ve packed the bag, you’ll want to make sure that it fits OK. Be sure that the pack isn’t too heavy, that you’re not going to tip over and that you’ll be able to use the pack for a long duration.

REI’s Expert Advice column recommends that you adjust the pack every time you put it on. They recommend that you adjust them in this order:

1. Hipbelt

2. Shoulder straps

3. Load lifters

4. Sternum strap

5. Stabilizer Straps

6. Tweek everything as needed

Here is a video to explain how to adjust all these straps:

Part 4 of this series will cover what to actually include in a bug out bag. Be sure to read about that!

Read part 1 and part 2.

13 thoughts on “How to Pack a Bug out Bag”

  • Diane Talbot

    These tips worked for me when I was young and my children could carry their own packs. Now my husband and I both have physical problems. My husband is in an electric wheel chair. I also have my sister at the nursing home who has trouble walking. She doesn't have an electric wheel chair. I have to be able to get 3 bug out bags and a dog's by myself and get them to a shelter. Hopefully I will never have to go somewhere I can't get in my van. I have a backpack and 2 wheeled carriers. Any help for me or does my situation help others?

    Reply
    • Westerngal

      Diane , I understand completely as my husband is also unable to walk more than a few yards and I have two elderly non ambulatory parents to think if . So , we've invested in an electric scooter for each ( sort of like you see in the grocery store but much lighter and portable ) that can also pull a small trailer. We were very lucky in that our insurances helped us purchase these . The range is 10 miles and the little trailers can carry all their supplies plus our two French Bulldogs and the dog supplies . This leaves me free to only carry my gear and frankly, it's darn cute to see them all tooling down the road when we drill . Look into a small portable " cooler" solar generator to charge them up , this can also go in one of the trailers.
      There are also some foldable ( read storage friendly) garden carts that can carry several hundred pounds but you'd be the cart pusher ! My personal favorite for people powered carts are the traditional LDS/Mormon hand carts which are comfortable to pull and virtually indestructible .
      Good luck , you're a good person to be thinking of how to take care of your family .
      Westerngal

      Reply
      • PUNISHER

        I HAVE THE X BOB BUG OUT BAG. IT COME WITH MANY STORAGE CASES. I ALSO HAVE 2 5 GALLON DRUMS. ONE WITH A PROPANE STOVE THAT SITS ON THE BOTTLE. A FEW 72 HOUR KITS AND EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO SURVIE. I ALSO HAVE THE SECOND BUCKET THAT CAN BE USED AS A TOELIT. I HAVE A BACK PACK WITH EXTRA CLOTHS AND SUPPLIES. I HAVE A SOLAR PANEL AND A SMALL 12V 7-AMH BATTERY TO USE TO CHARGE MY LITIUM ION BATTER'ES AND TO RUN MY HAM RADIO. IF I HAVE TO WALK, I HAVE A LUGGAGE CARRIER ON WHEELS TO HOLD EVERYTHING ,PLUS MY TAKE DOWN RUGER 10/22, CCI STINGERS AND THE CCI STINGER FRAGMENTING. PLUS MY GLOCK CUSTOM 19. . PLUS A CAMOFLAGE TARP TO HIDE MY 4 WHEEL DRIVE. I GREW UP IN THE MOUNTAINS AND HAVE A LOT OF KNOWLEGE ON HOW TO SURVIVE .THANKS DAD!

        Reply
  • Ron Rock

    Just for example , what kind of items would you put in a bug out pack, I'm kinda new to this and would like some help. Any info would be of great help. Thanks Ron

    Reply
  • Nancy Snyder

    Diane I have the same situation and figured out that a well build child's wagon fit all the things in it. Little Tikes makes one that has larger wheels and easy to move. Using bungi cords to strap everything in, even my 4 yr old grandson was able to pull the wagon with little to no difficulty.

    Hope this helps

    Reply
  • Ted

    You should have two bags, one would be a small backpack with just a few things in it and the other would be a wheeled carrier for heavy supplies (most of your food and water). You might need to abandon it if you have to run. You should also think about how you could attach it to a bike if you have one. If you have to get out of a city in a traffic jam, a bike will get you farther than a car.

    Reply
  • Joe

    I have a mountain bicycle, and although I have no kids, I purchased a trailer. It can hold up to 100lbs and can be used with or without the bicycle.
    If I need to get mobile without an automobile, I can put my "permanent" bug out bag on it. I have a base water supply as well as machete and other goodies attached to the trailer.

    Don't forget to carry extra tire tubes, tire changing "spoons" and an air pump. Get the best quality items you can, since you don't want anything to break when using it.

    Semper Fi

    Reply
  • NameJoe

    Here is the inventory of my pack. Be advised that you must make a pack that you will be able to carry. Keep extra items for trade down the road.

    Large A.L.I.C.E. pack with frame and internal waterproof bag

    Cammie blouse ripstop
    Cammie trouser ripstop
    Cammie boonie cover
    Cold weather Under Armor top and bottom
    2 - pairs heavy socks
    1 - pair medium black socks
    2 - t-shirts
    3 - briefs
    hiking towel
    USMC scarf
    USMC green hanky large
    Wool balaclava, cammie/black reversible
    KC jeans
    Toothbrush
    Toothpaste
    2 - dental picks
    Flint tool/striker
    Whistle, screamer
    Hand held chain saw
    Mirror
    4 - Wet fire in tube
    3 - 13 gallon trash bags
    2 - boxes waterproof matches (250 per box)
    Winter gloves, black
    Nomex gloves
    20 – chicken bouillon cubes
    Machete, Kukri
    Hobo tool
    Collapsible canvas bucket
    10 protein bars
    8 EmergenC packets
    Various spices, sugar
    Headlight with spare batteries (taped)
    Hand crank flashlight with radio
    Filet knife
    Gerber LMFII
    Leatherman
    100’ paracord
    Separate survival kit – space blanket, magnifying glass, snare, hand crank flashlight, whistle, compass, hooks, sinkers, fishing line, multi-use pocket knife, small rope.
    Wool blanket
    Canteen with cup
    2 – walkie talkies with spare batteries (taped)
    Mini works water filter (2,000 liters)
    2 – hand warmers, disposable
    2 – foot warmers, disposable
    Aluminum water bottle
    MILSPEC Face paint
    Sunblock 30SPF
    10 – 4” Zip ties
    Small water proof roll bag
    Small Sewing kit
    Electrical tape
    USMC poncho and liner
    Folding Pocket stove
    Dryer Lint in Ziploc bag (free tinder)
    Paracord wrapped on frame
    Spare ammo

    Reply
  • Craig

    Thinking of "well built wagons"... check out some of the new designs of folding wagons (e.g. thewagonstore.com. Shop around and you can find ones that are well built, sturdy, easy to pull and are quickly folded or opened for use on public transportation or carried in the car.

    Reply
  • Mike the Gardener
    Mike the Gardener August 15, 2013 at 2:55 am

    I am slowly putting my BOB together. I have a few more items on the "must" have list to put in there, then I can get to the maintenance phase where I continually tweak it.

    Reply
  • Chip

    I have been studying this subject for a while now and by no means proclaim myself to be any type of an expert. However,I have learned a few things along the way that I will share below.

    1) Be realistic, cause if yer gonna pack it most likely you are gonna have to hump it at some point. This is a survival bag not a weekend camping trip bag.
    2) Keep in mind the rule of 3s. You can live without air for 3 minutes, without shelter for 3 hours, without water for three days and without food for 3 weeks.
    3) Look for items that have multiple uses, heavy duty trash bags come to mind.
    4)Although it can be fun trying to act out the role of a Special Forces Rambo but the truth of the matter is that most of you, let alone your families have never spent anytime on yer own in the bush, so practice every chance you get with your equipment.
    5)You got all of the "stuff" but do you have a plan? Exactly where are you going to pull back too? Have a topographical map and some sort of compass skills.
    6) Pack multiple methods of starting a fire.(1 is none 2 is 1)
    7) Did I say practice with your equipment?

    Reply
  • Happy Preppers

    Bugout bag should weigh no more than 30% of your body weight. That should take care of most of the problems. -- HappyPreppers

    Reply
Leave a Reply