What is the right Bug Out Bag? Let's find out. Just about anything you can carry could be considered a Bug Out Bag. However, lugging a suitcase through the woods wouldn't translate into a good time, and a rucksack or day-pack, while a much better choice than a suitcase or other type of container, isn't the Best Bug Out Bag selection you could make either. The Best Bug Out Bag is a Backpack with an internal or external frame. That sounds relatively basic ... and on the surface it is. In reality, choosing the right size and style of Bug Out Bag is a matter of critical importance.
Consider; Everything you need to survive for X amount of time, except for those items you can put in your pockets and carry in your hands HAS TO FIT IN THE BUG OUT BAG.
The items you'll need are largely dependent upon the area of the country where you live, and the size of your family. People who live in warmer climates will find it easier to select their survival gear and to pack the Bug Out Bag than people who live in the north. The (extra) cold weather clothing, which is necessary for the colder climate, will take up a lot of room in the Bug Out Bag. That means different people are likely to require different size Bug Out Bags depending ENTIRELY upon where they live.
Let's examine the two types of Backpacks that are commonly used as a Bug Out Bag.
An internal frame Backpack (the most popular) has the frame inside the Bag. The Bag and Frame are an integral unit.
An external frame Backpack has the Bag attached to the frame by a series of "pins." The frame and Bag are separate stand alone units.
Internal frame Bug Out Bags are more sleek, and don't snag up on branches etc. as easily as an external frame Backpack does. Most internal frame Bug Out Bags have ample lashing points to strap external gear.
An external frame Backpack will allow you to hang all sorts of gear from the frame. Saws, axes, fishing poles, etc. An external frame Bug Out Bag also allows a tent to be carried on the top of the pack, covered by the flap, which is adjustable. In addition, on some frames, the shelf (the bottom portion of an external frame pack) is handy for carrying heavy loads like wood, elk quarters etc. This is accomplished by removing the Bag and using the Frame by itself.
Either Backpack will work well as a Bug Out Bag. The choice between an internal and external Frame Bug Out Bag is a matter of personal preference.
The most important aspect of a good Bug Out Bag is to make certain the frame fits your torso. Almost every modern Backpack made today is adjustable. If you intend to purchase one that's not, BE ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE you select a frame that fits your torso. If the frame's too long you're going to be VERY uncomfortable. A Bug Out Bag frame that's too small for you is not really a problem, but it WILL limit the amount of gear you can carry. Measure your torso from the waist to the "big spine bone" at the base of your neck. The Fame you select should fit that measurement. If you're 6'6 and in shape, you should be able to carry a large, quality Backpack and load it to about 50-75 lbs. If you're a 5'2, petite female mom, the Bug Out Bag you'll be carrying will likely be smaller, because the frame of the bag will be smaller. And common sense should tell you that you're not likely to be able to carry as much weight as a guy who's 6'6. Most people, regardless of their size, aren't capable of carrying a Bug Out Bag that's loaded to a weight of more than 40-50 lbs. Unfortunately, most people, myself included (when I first started) think they can manage a pack that weighs 100 lbs. You'll soon discover that for most people, that is nothing more than a fantasy. The weight you're able to carry will be determined by the type and quality of the Bug Out Bag you select, the shape you're in, your strength and stamina, the terrain you'll be traversing, the weather, and other less significant factors. Keep in mind it may be necessary for you to wear heavy winter clothing and boots. Make an effort to envision what you'll be carrying in your pockets, on your belt, and in your hands. (Firearm, ammo etc.) A 50 lb pack, with the additional weight of the clothing you're wearing, and those items you'll be carrying in your hands can quickly increase your total weight by 75 pounds or more. In addition, you may be hiking through deep snow, using snowshoes, or walking in sand. Hiking in deep snow, or walking in sand carrying NOTHING is tiring all by itself, let alone carrying an additional 75 lbs (or more) of clothing and gear. Difficult? Absolutely! Impossible? No! With the right equipment, a little practice, and a sincere effort to get in shape, it can be done.
Assuming you've given some thought as to what you'll be using the Bug Out Bag for, and under what conditions, consider the following when making a selection.
There's no shortage of quality Bug Out Bags available. Almost every big-name Backpack manufacturer makes a good Backpack that's suitable for use as a Bug Out Bag, but none of them call their Backpacks Bug Out Bags. I suppose, it's proper to say that the Backpack doesn't officially become a Bug Out Bag until it's used for that purpose.
There really isn't a lot of difference between any of the high quality Backpacks available other than the name and the price. They all use (for the most part) the same materials and methods to produce the Backpack, and the entire rig works as a system to allow you to carry heavy loads comfortably by dispersing the weight. The higher end Backpacks have a lot of little "goodies" that are irrelevant for a Bug Out Bag, but work OK for serious backpacking. If you stay with a "big name" Backpack manufacturer you can't go wrong. That doesn't mean smaller manufacturers make inferior products. To the contrary, some of the smaller guys make outstanding Backpacks and sell them at prices that are considerably more consumer friendly than the big guys. The problem is in determining what little guy is legit and whether or not they make a good Backpack. Some companies (like the National Survival Center) test each Bug Out Bag they sell and won't sell junk or that won't function adequately as a Bug Out Bag. If the company you're thinking of purchasing a Bug Out Bag from is someone you trust, then definitely take their product recommendations into consideration.
Buy the biggest Backpack that will fit your Frame. Forget about Backpacks with hydration bladders. They're nice for recreational backpacking, but you need the space the bladder takes up. And besides, that's why God invented canteens. Don't automatically purchase the most expensive Bug Out Bag in a companies product line either. You may not need all the extra "goodies", the Backpack offers, and you'll end up paying a premium for features that are irrelevant to a good Bug Out Bag.
For an "extended use," main Bug Out Bag you can look in the $100.00 to $150.00 price range. The frame of the pack will make the difference between being able to load and carry a heavy pack and utter misery. You can find a lot of good, strong Backpacks for $100 to $150. For secondary bags, there are ample selections available for less than $100. I definitely wouldn't consider a Backpack that costs much less than $75 as a main Bug Out Bag. It's difficult to manufacture and sell a quality Backpack for that much money. Even if it's made in China. You certainly don't want your Bug Out Bag ripping and spilling the contents along the way.
Any reasonably good knapsack or day-pack will work well for children who are capable of carrying light items, and most of the smaller Backpacks will work for larger or older children. Make sure the Backpack will fit them comfortably, and under no circumstances over-load a child's pack.
Color is totally irrelevant. (Although personally I prefer a pack that doesn't scream "TARGET!")
Although almost all Bug Out Bags are water-repellent, I recommend you purchase a poly coated backpack cover that encompasses and waterproofs the entire Bag. Some backpack manufacturers, like Alps, include a full cover rain-cover with their backpacks. Definitely a necessity for a Bug Out Bag. Backpack covers are available in a wide variety of colors, including camo, and can help to alleviate any color issue you may have with the backpack itself.