Nov 25

Tips for setting up your Bugout Bag.

Bugout Bag ALICE Pack LargeChances 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).


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    • Ranger W on November 25, 2012 at 10:19 AM
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    PJ, you are giving me flashbacks to basic infantry 101: and it’s greatly appreciated. I have years of exposure to the life of rucking and it is still good to be reminded of the basics. Too many people get distracted by fancy, high-priced gear when they should be focusing on where to put their socks in their pack!

      • PJ on November 25, 2012 at 5:48 PM
      • Reply

      Thanks RW, much appreciated coming from someone like you!

    • Rusty44 on January 27, 2013 at 4:32 PM
    • Reply

    I have been curious for quite some time as to who would “bugout” I realize living in the City those people should be the first to leave, but would seriously doubt they would walk anywhere, much less carry survival items with them.

    Where do you walk to? Not everyone lives near woods or areas where people could hide and set up camp.

    I have no intentions of bugging out as I am preparing to hunker down. I would not know where to walk to and I would not be familiar with the terrain or neighborhood.

    I would like to hear of the situations that someone would bug out and where they expect to walk to, as transportation will not be available.. Thanks and I’ll look forward to reading them.

      • PJ on January 27, 2013 at 9:58 PM
      • Reply


      It really all depends on the situation. Like you and many I know who prep our plans are similar: bug IN. Hunker down where our supplies are and try to ride out the storm or extended SHTF scenario. However there are many unforeseen circumstances which could arise…which might force even the most well stocked prepper to set out on foot for greener pastures.

      Natural Disasters: Fire, Tornado, Hurricane, Earthquake…whatever it may be might level your home and everything in it. You will need to move our and seek shelter elsewhere.

      Attack: Not only an EMP attack, what about a NBC attack which could render hundreds of square miles around your home uninhabitable?

      Economic Collapse: You have survived SHTF for a couple months, but you catch wind of a large enemy force of looters moving your direction. They burn and pillage everything in sight and are unstoppable. You and your buddies are armed, but that’s peanuts compared to 300 fighters who have machine guns and armored vehicles. You have two options: leave now or die. Gasoline has long since run out so you have one choice: walk.

      Just look at Hurricane Sandy, gasoline shortages were rampant after the storm and that was an isolated area! Imagine any one of the scenarios I listed above, no doubt gas will be gone just as quick. While we all might dream of sheltering in place there might come a time where we have to choose between leaving or perishing.

      Hope that helps. Just because you don’t want to bug out, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to do so at a moment’s notice.


      • Tolik on August 19, 2013 at 8:13 PM
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      Bugging out is to me the last resort , and depending on how well you have thought things out , may not get very far , even in a vehicle . Thats where looking up and mapping the county roads may be of value . How you would go about it would also to a large degree be determined on where you live . If you lived in Maine for example , finding and getting purposefully lost in the woods would be a simple matter , no matter where in that state you lived . Arizona on the other hand would be a serious challenge , its a big state with wide open arid arias , visibility is very good , and you could see the dust plume from a vehicle for miles . The middle of the state is a nuclear test zone not fit for human habitation , the north and south of the state have mountains and forests , especially in the north , biggest problem is water while in transit . You would be better off hunkering down in the city . Phoenix is so big and spread out , that you would be better off moving to a different area of the city than trying to leave it . You know all the roads in that place wil be jacked up .

        • PJ on August 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM
        • Reply

        Unless some sort of natural disaster FORCED me to leave I’m totally with you, in the event of SHTF I’m saying put as long as possible. The question remains for most of us…bugout to where? Most in the city will be fleeing to the country looking for food and water, think refugee camps everywhere with raiding parties (scavengers) dedicated to finding supplies for everyone. These won’t necessarily be bad people, but desperate people forced to do whatever it takes to feed their family. It’s so easy to judge possible future actions now, while sitting in the climate controlled space of our home with bellies full. Yet take even the most pious man and stick him in the woods without shelter for a week, with no food, and two small children that need to be fed. With no manna falling from the sky and other options exhausted (trying to find assistance from others) I’m sure he would resort to desperate measures.

        All that said is the reason why I’d rather be on my home turf versus the unknown, aka Bug-IN.

    • Tolik on August 17, 2013 at 8:40 PM
    • Reply

    Mine is the current issue Molle large ruck in multicam , I put a third sustainment pouch on it , I dont use the sleep system compartment for the sleep system I have , so I can use all of the pack , but rather have it strapped to the top . Military packs ride lower than civil packs do , so having the sleeping bag on top is not a problem . I like the pack , my only complaint is that the frame creaks and groans a little bit , but thats a minor issue .

      • PJ on August 17, 2013 at 9:57 PM
      • Reply

      The current rucksack that is issued does have adjustment capability, I usually move mine as high up on the external frame is it will go. I’ve never tried a really expensive civilian pack (Kifaru etc) but I’m sure they would be super nice in comparison to the milspec variety. For the time being my personal BOB will have to remain as the ever reliable ALICE pack.

        • Tolik on August 19, 2013 at 8:01 PM
        • Reply

        Yeah , if I had the money , I would go for a tried ant true hunting pack , like an Eberlestock , they make packs for the military , so a lot of theirs have pals webbing .

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