Chances are you have a Bugout Bag ready to go in your basement with (at minimum) enough supplies to last you 3 days should you have to quickly evacuate your homestead on short notice. Besides food and water what you have inside your bag is usually based on some sort of generic packing list, slightly modified to fit your own personal preferences. Should you have to leave by vehicle your bag can be tossed into the trunk, but what happens if you run out of gas and have to walk? What happens if you can’t leave by vehicle and have to start your journey on foot, is your Bugout Bag set up properly? While you might not realize it the difference between a properly set up bag and one that is not, could be an extra 5 miles covered per day and significantly less back pain (and blisters). Here are a few tips for setting your Bugout Bag up properly so that you can maximize your performance and minimize pain.
What a Bugout Bag is not. That old Jansport bookbag you bought from Wallyworld? Don’t even think about it, that is not a Bugout Bag. You might be attached to your old military green duffel bag but leave that sucker at home too, it’s only slightly less worse of an option than the Jansport.
What a Bugout Bag is. Your bag should be rugged and have good quality stitching. Shoulder straps need to have good amounts of padding and quality linkage/connector pieces. A kidney strap is a great addition to any bag, in my opinion it is a must have item. This should go without saying but bright colors are a no-go, something earth tone or subdued is a much better choice.
Examples of Bugout Bags. At the lower end of the price scale are MilSurp ALICE packs, I suggest buying a large and making sure the external frame is in good shape. Retrofitting the shoulder straps with ones from Tactical Tailor is suggested but not needed. Middle of the road bags can be had from companies like 5.11 Tactical, S.O.C, Maxpedition and Blackhawk. Most of these bags do not have a frame (external or internal). At the high end of the price scale are bags from companies like Kifaru. These bags are built extremely well but you are going to pay upwards of $500 (or more) to call one your own. For what it’s worth I use a large ALICE pack for my Bugout Bag.
Weight Distribution. Personally I prefer the heaviest loads to be up near the top of my pack, this way most of the load is on my shoulders versus my lower back. I have used other bags besides my ALICE pack which had adjustable frames and I would always move the pack as high up on the frame as it would go. Care must be taken while packing your bag so that weight distribution is taken into consideration. Once think you have the bag packed properly go take a walk with it to see how it feels.
Accessibility. Picture this, you are 7 miles into your journey when you need to stop and change your socks. It’s at this point you realize your socks are packed at the bottom of your bag, now you have to dump everything out to get to them. Make sure the items you will need quick access to while on the move are packed near the top of your bag or in the outside pockets. This could be socks, medical kits, foot powder, food rations, or even a flashlight. Remember you don’t always have to take your bag off while on the move, if you are with a buddy just have him/her reach into a pocket to grab what you need.
Water. You need a Camelbak, it’s just that simple. Leave the old school pistol belt and 1 quart canteens where they belong, back in the 1960’s. The less you have strapped to your body the better, you can easily mount a Camelbak to your bag, toss the hose over your shoulder and drink while on the move. If you have a couple of 2 quart canteens you can strap those to the outside of your bag as well. Water is super important while on the move, trust me when I tell you on a hot day under a heavy load you can easily consume 4 quarts of water.
Waterproofing. Waterproof the items which you absolutely do not want to get wet, not the entire bag itself. Ziploc baggies are great for this task, so are military waterproof bags (or even a sturdy 2 mil trash bag). You want to keep your socks, t-shirts, underwear (if you wear them), extra top and bottom and extra boots (if you think you need some) dry. If you have a sleeping bag that should be in a waterproof stuff sack which will help to keep it dry as well. The last thing you want to do is be on the move for hours while in the rain, make your way to shelter and then realize you have no dry clothes to change into.
Tie downs. If you are on the move for hours and tired you could lose things that aren’t tied down. 550 Paracord combined with a few non-slip knots is a good remedy for this. Tie down all of the external components on your bag, tie down everything.
Wind chime effect. In old Vietnam movies they used to have Soldiers jump up and down to see if they sounded “like a Chinese wind chime.” Nobody wants to be moving through the bush with dog tags clinking or gear knocking around on load bearing equipment. The same concept holds true for your Bugout Bag. If everything is strapped down tightly and neatly excessive sound should not be an issue.
Testing your equipment. The most important tip I can give, which is why I saved it for last. Get out on the trail and test your equipment. See what feels good for you, if the straps are properly set up and the weight distribution is correct for your body type. Can you reach the hose for your Camelbak or does it constantly flop back out of the way while on the move, forcing you to drop your bag in order to fix it. Heck you might even find that while your bag looked sexy in the basement there is absolutely no way you can move while carrying the thing, so you’ll have to shed some weight (unnecessary gear).