Preppers Bug Out Bag – Choosing A Backpack

by Mac Hanks

Preppers Bug Out Bag - Choosing A Backpack

Preppers Bug Out Bag – Choosing A Backpack

There’s a lot of information out on the internet for Preppers and people who are interested in building a a Bug Out Bag. In fact, it’s almost a case of information overload and not a whole lot of it seems to take a “beginners approach”. Unfortunately there’s also quite a bit of information that’s obscure/lacks context as well as information about But Out Bags that is just plain wrong.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that there’s actually very little information for Preppers and Family Survival planners about one very basic Bug Out Bag item. That item is the actual bag itself and how you should go about picking the actual bag or backpack that you’re going to use to build your Bug Out Bag. This article is going to give you some helpful information and tips on choosing the right backpack for your bug out bag.

Choosing A Bug Out Bag – Stay Focused

First lets talk about what we’re trying to accomplish here. When choosing a backpack for a bug out bag there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, you’re not going to try and create a catch all that will have something for every eventuality. The purpose of a bug out bag is to give you a kit that you can use for 72 hours while you either shelter in place or exit the danger zone and head to another area that you’ve determined ahead of time according to your family survival plan. There are too many articles and videos out there that encourage people to build ginormous all-in-one bug out bags that prepare for every eventuality and this is just unrealistic. For one, you’re going to be carrying this thing on your back, if it’s too heavy it’s useless and you’ll soon find yourself sitting around trying to figure out what to keep and what to throw out – instead of executing your escape strategy quickly and efficiently. Keep in mind that a bug out bag should be exactly what the name implies, a kit to help you get out of the danger zone in a short time.

Choosing The Right Sized Bug Out Bag

There are a few things to consider when choosing a bug out bag backpack:

1) Body type – Many people mistakenly assume the important factor here is your height. It is not, the length of your torso is the most important thing to consider when choosing a bag
2) Gear quality – What’s important to you, being able to comfortably carry your pack or weight savings? Is your gear bulky and improvised or are you using modern, efficient, weight saving equipment?
3) How long is your trip – This one is easy as we’ve already determined that the bug out bag is going to be built to contain 72 hours worth of supplies.
4) Are you just carrying gear for yourself or will you be traveling with young children or seniors who won’t be able to carry much of their own bug out bag?
5) What’s the climate like where you will be traveling to or from? If you’re traveling through inclement/cold weather it’s likely that you’ll need more capacity for cold weather gear.

Preppers Bug Out Bag Bear Canister

While it’s not something considered “standard” in most Preppers Bug Out Bags a Bear Canister may be necessary depending on your location & Family Survival Plan

6) One last thing, and this is a bit unusual but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re traveling through bear country where bears getting into stuff looking for food is an issue then you’ll need to put your food into a bear canister. This will mean your bug out bag will need to be larger to accommodate the bear canister.

Choosing A Bug Out Bag That Fits You

While bug out bag capacity is an important consideration, lets take a moment to talk about choosing a bag that fits you. The pack you choose should fit your torso comfortably. This means that your torso length is an important factor when choosing the pack. The pack should also sit comfortably on your hips. Before choosing a pack, measure your torso length with a flexible tape measure like a seamstress would use. Measure from your hips up to your C7 vertebra. This is the spot where your shoulders meet your neck, the bony spot at the base of your neck. Measure to here from your hips and this will determine your approximate torso length.

As a rule, most pack manufacturers size their pack frames like this:

  • Extra Small: Fits torsos up to 15 ½”
  • Small: Fits torsos 16″ to 17½”
  • Medium/Regular: Fits torsos 18″ to 19½”
  • Large/Tall: Fits torsos 20″ and up

Measure your hips just about where you can feel the two pointy bones near where your front pants pockets are. The hip belt should rest on your hips at right about that line.

One final note about pack sizes, most pack manufacturers sizes mentioned above are made with men in mind. There are however some that are engineered to conform to a woman’s form. This varies by manufacturer and when packs built for women are available for an item we review, we’ll be sure to mention that. As a rule the differences in packs engineered for the female torso are: the torso dimensions are shorter and narrower than those built for men and the shoulder straps and hip belts are more contoured to the female shape.

Bug Out Bag Capacity

Most packs that you’re going to use for a bug out bag are going to be sorted by capacity when you go looking at them. This will either appear as cubic inches or in some cases liters. Sometimes you’ll also see packs sorted by potential trip length as well. Packs that are sorted by trip length typically will be categorized into “Day/Overnight”, “Weekend” or “Multiday” bags. You’re most likely going to be sticking to bags that say Weekend or Multiday for your bug out bag. Keep in mind that if your choose a Weekend type bag you’re probably going to want to choose at the higher capacity end of that range.

Here’s a handy chart that shows the cubic inches to liters equivalents:

Preppers Bug Out Bag - Cubic Inches to Liters Conversion Chart

Preppers Bug Out Bag – Cubic Inches to Liters Conversion Chart

Other Bug Out Bag Factors To Consider

While it may be tempting to build your bug out bag into that ultralight pack, make sure it’s going to hold up to its intended use. The lighter materials will be less durable in some cases. Make sure the pack you choose for your bug out bag is rugged enough to withstand the elements and the load you intend to put in it. Also note that some ultralight gear sacrifices padding to reduce the weight. Make sure your pack has the padding your need for the load you’ll be carrying. If you choose an ultralight pack for your bug out bag and then overload it, chances are it will be very uncomfortable when you’re wearing it and could even lead to sore spots on your hips and lower back.

Many modern packs come with some sort of internal sleeve for a hydration system. These are usually sold separately. Check to see if your pack has a sleeve and ports for a water tube. You’re going to want to carry some water in your bug out bag anyway and if it’s built into the pack, even better.

Backpacks for bug out bags are usually coated with a water repellent treatment however they are not water proof. The fabric itself may be fairly water resistant but places like zippers and seams are where water will penetrate. You should consider a pack cover. This can be anything from a plastic trash bag which is a cheap but somewhat inefficient solution to a custom fitted pack cover made specifically for your bug out bag. Also consider wrapping any essential gear in its own waterproof bags, again you can go with the cheap plastic bag solutions or “dry sacks” that will be available at the same place you bought the backpack for your bug out bag.

In upcoming Preppers Bug Out Bag articles we’ll talk more about fit customization (adjusting the straps and belts/padding for comfort) and packing your gear so that it’s accessible.

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