Years of experience, and days of packing and unpacking my Bug Out Bag, has taught me How To Pack A Backpack for use as a Bug Out Bag in case the SHTF. I've had A Bug Out Bag packed and ready to go for years. It sits in my closet... waiting to be used. I've said this before, and I'll say it again because it's relevant. If the situation dictates that I implement my survival plan, I can pick up my Bug Out Bag, along with the gear and clothing I intend to carry and wear, and "Bug Out" in less than a minute ... with everything I need to survive indefinitely. All in my Bug Out Bag. And all on my back. If that sounds good to you, I assure you it feels good too. It's also attainable for everyone. It doesn't come easily, and it certainly isn't free, but selecting, and Packing A Bug Out Bag is a very worthwhile endeavor. However, getting it right takes time, and will require some experimentation on your behalf. .
Begin by selecting the clothing you're going to need. All of it ... including those clothes you plan on wearing when the SHTF.
Next, determine exactly what items you're going to need to survive. Use the provided list in the Bug Out Bag Checklist section or make up your own. Include EVERY item. NO MATTER HOW SMALL. Don't forget the gear you'll be putting on your belt, such as a knife, cartridge cases etc., and select the survival gear you intend to carry in your hands, such as a shotgun or rifle.
Assuming you have these items available, put them in separate piles. Separate them by category - IE: clothing to be packed, clothing you will wear, belt items, carry items and the survival items that will go in, or on, the Bug Out Bag.
Now stand back and look. - - WHOA! Don't freak out. I had the same reaction the first time I did it too.
Attempt to pack ALL OF THE ITEMS you've laid out. The chances are almost 100% ... that the gear you've laid out WILL NOT fit in the Bug Out Bag. Or even half a dozen Bug Out Bags. So it's reality time!
Start eliminating. Begin with eliminating (not literally) the least important items. Clothing will take up most of the room, so begin there. Do you REALLY think you're going to need that extra chamois shirt and those 2 sets of insulated underwear? Eliminate as much as you can and re-set the piles. Pack again. Still too much gear? Probably.
Remember that different people will require different survival gear so it's not possible to give you an EXACT list of what you should pack. (See Bug Out Bag Check List.)
It's likely you're going to continue this numerous times until EVERYTHING OF ABSOLUTE IMPORTANCE fits in (or on) your Bug Out Bag(s).
When you finally get the Bug Out Bag(s) packed, it's time to weigh them. Weigh yourself (naked), then dress in full survival mode with the clothing, belts, knives etc. that you plan to wear and the gear you intend to carry, and weigh yourself again. Note the difference. Now put the Bug Out Bag on and weight yourself again. You'll end up with 2 weight references. Your naked weight, and your weight with the loaded Bug Out Bag, and the other gear (including clothing) you'll be wearing and carrying. Subtract your naked weight from the loaded weight and you can see how much additional weight you will be taking on. You're going to say ... WOW! - - OK, chubby, it's time to see if you can carry that old Bug Out Bag as far as the front door.
If you're serious about having a packed Bug Out Bag, most of you will be going back to the drawing board and/or the gym, ...maybe several times. But you do have other options. You can re-think, and re-do your Bug Out Bag in an effort to lighten the load. Just make sure you don't eliminate the BASIC SURVIVAL GEAR you'll need to sustain life and to survive. Remember too that you're not going on a weekend hiking trip. This little trip could last forever. Literally.
Packing the Bug Out Bag is a much simpler process than trying to decide what to put in it. (SEE DIAGRAM)
If the Bug Out Bag is Packed correctly, not only will it be more comfortable, it will be better balanced. A Bug Out Bag that's loaded incorrectly will not only cause you pain, it will present balance problems when climbing or traversing uneven terrain, wading creeks etc.
If you have an internal frame Backpack, start by packing your sleeping bag at the bottom of the Backpack. If your Backpack has an external frame, the sleeping bag will go below the bag. (Between the bag and the bottom of the frame.)
For an internal frame Backpack, place your floor saver and tent (assuming the packed size is small enough) over the top of the sleeping bag. If your have an external frame Backpack, the tent will go on last, at the very top of the pack. Or you may want to switch the Tent and the sleeping bag, or if you're using more than one Backpack, divide the items up between them.
For either type Backpack, the heaviest items should come next, and they should be placed as close to the back of the Bag as possible, and no higher than your shoulders.
Above the heavy items, and towards the front of the bag (away from your back,) place the lighter items like clothing.
Use the side pockets (you can get a ton of gear in most of them) for items you think you'll use or need on a regular basis. Binoculars, compass, matches/fire-starters etc.
Once the Bug Out Bag is packed, tighten the compression straps to stabilize the load and to keep it from shifting. Pull them towards the frame. If you're using an external frame Backpack, put your tent and floor saver on the top of the bag and lash it down.
If you're lashing anything to the exterior of either type Bug Out Bag, do so now.
Follow the instructions that came with the Backpack concerning adjustments of the waist-belt etc. and you're good to Bug Out.
As an aside, you should practice walking with your Bug Out Bag on a regular basis. In the woods or fields, up and down hills (or stairs) in the rain etc.