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Forum Home > Survival How to's > Bug out bag, packing and what to carry

Garrett Murray
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Welcome to how to properly pack your bug out bag by Garrett Murray

First let me state that not one bug out bag will or should be the same. Understand we all have different skill sets and different needs, so keep this in mind when it comes to packing your bags.

With that being said, there are some basic items that all bags should have in them.

First aid- based on your skill level.

Compass and maps- maps of your area or where you are going is preferable.

Clothing – This should be swapped out based on the conditions outside or season. Carry several socks and underwear.

Food- should be long shelf life foods and should be swapped out with new items at least once a year.

Water- treated water is best and should be swapped out every few months.

Hygiene products- again this differs depending on if you are a man or a woman.

Batteries- extra for all equipment that need batteries is always best.

Light- higher the power the better it is to see distance but at the same time eats up more battery power and gives away your position easier.

Fire starting- when packing this multiple items are better than one.

Knife- a larger knife works well for chopping large branches but a small knife is better for cutting up food or other smaller projects. Consider an axe or additional knife.

The first thing we need with any bug out bag is a good bag. Your bag should be rugged, supportive and comfortable to wear for long periods of time. You won’t get too far with a bag that hurts your back. The bag should be large enough to fit all your items you wish to carry but not so large that everything fits loosely in it. Note: the larger the bag the more you stick out in a crowd and it will be harder to maneuver through thick brush.

I favor Mollie style bags for their loop attachments on the outside of the bag. This allows you to attach other bags or gear to the outside giving you quicker access and more space on the inside for things you necessarily don’t need to access on the run.

Packing items is much more sophisticated than just throwing things into a bag. Where and how they are placed in the bag makes a big difference on how comfortable your trek is going to be. Heavier items should be packed closer to the frame. Items you necessarily don’t need to access on a regular basis should be packed to the bottom.

All items should be packed in sealable waterproof bags. Moisture can weigh down a bag and ruin your things. Separate items into different bags (Clothing, hygiene products, food, maps, batteries, and so on.) Remove as much air from the bags as possible in order to save as much space. Tightly roll your clothing to save space.

This is an example of how to ranger roll your socks. It takes up less space in your bag and the pair of socks are together and easily accessible when needed. You can do this to shirts, pants and even hats. Tighter they are the less space you take. Seal these in water proof bags to keep them dry. Also consider having a separate pair of socks sealed in a bag on the top or on the outside of your bag for quick and easy access in case your feet get wet and you have to change out your socks on the fly.


Break down MRE’s if you consider packing MRE’s as your food source. (Note: MRE’s have a longer shelf life and don’t need to be swapped out yearly.) Any material that is not necessary containing your food is a waste of weight and space. Also added waste like cardboard or plastic will have to be hauled out of the camp site to a location you can throw it away. You might as well not even bring it.


Courtesy of

The bag above is one example of how a properly pack bag should look. Note that the things that are not accessed on an hourly basis are packed lower in the bug out bag, while things like clothing, maps, and food are higher in the bag. Larger items like the tent are best at the bottom because they are harder to stuff in the bag and have to be completely removed in order to access things below it. Smaller items like clothing makes it much easier to reach the food or cooking gear if needed. This saves time and also having to completely repack your bag after pulling the item you need out.

Packing your tent or sleeping bag at the bottom is also reasonable because those are the last things you will be accessing at the end of the day. In the morning when you pack up you will repack your bag the same way before heading on your way.

First aid

When it comes to packing first aid it is not all about the Band-Aids. Survival is not running to the bathroom cabinet to saturate the cut with peroxide and slapping on a Sponge-Bob Square Pants band-Aid. Dealing with first aid becomes much more serious in the field when you don’t have access to 911 or a local hospital and doctor. You are the doctor, nurse and pharmacist. Consider this when purchasing a first aid it. It’s actually better to purchase individual items like suture, hemostats, surgical scissors and tourniquet.

Image of tourniquet

Research medical first responder medical kits to get an idea of what you should purchase. Some things you may not know how to use or what they are for, if this is the case you may want to consider some first aid classes. YouTube instructional videos on how to suture someone up if you don’t know how to. It’s best to learn how to do it now then trying to figure it out later. Best to get it right the first time. Understand that if you plan on bugging out alone you may be doing first aid on yourself, one handed even.


One of a few essential items I like to carry on me at all times is Paracord or 550 cord as the military call it. Like duck tape 550 cord has a million uses. You should consider carrying at least a 100 yards of this cord. Don’t purchase knock off Walmart versions of this cord. Real 550 cord consists of 7 inner strands of thinner cord that has the strength of around 33 lbs. (the name 550 cord stands for 550 lbs cord). In a pinch this cord can be used to repel a large man and his gear without fear of breaking. This cord also lasts a very long time in the elements.

Duck tape is another useful invention you should consider packing in your bug out bag but not a must. Again this tape has a million and one uses and can come in handy in a pinch. From patching up a hole to building a signal (depending on color of tape) you can find many ways of making your life that much easier on the road.


When I say weapons I think of guns. Just about anything can be used as a weapon but the more efficient way of getting your point across is when someone is steering down the barrel of a .45. I carry multiple weapons, one will always be in my bug out bag and a few others may be on my body at all times. When carrying any weapon it’s important that you carry something to maintain that weapon otherwise it may become useless if not cleaned. Gun oil, spare parts and some good brushes makes a big difference between a weapon and a paperweight. Additional magazines and ammunition is also important. Amount of ammunition depends on how heavy and how much room you have in your bag. Typically 100 rounds or more is a good start.

When picking the proper weapon for your bag, consider its use. Hunting you will want to carry a rifle. .22 long rifle is great for small game vs. a 12 gauge shot gun is better for larger game and works well in self defense against a group of determined thugs wanting your gear or life.

Hand guns are great for concealment when you don’t want the general public know you are armed. Remember the smaller the gun (barrel length) the less accurate it is going to be at longer distances. A snub nose revolver is good at close range targets but won’t hit the broad side of a barn at 100 yards. Larger hand guns will be much harder to conceal but increase the distance of your attackers.

I personally would carry an AR15 or AK47 rifle. In a situation like when the Shit Hits the Fan, concealment isn’t going to be a priority to me. I know I am a target because I am out in the open. Being seen with a military style rifle may ward off some attackers.

When considering carrying a gun, consider the caliber. All my weapons are rifled for common calibers. .22 caliber, 9mm, 40 caliber, .223/5.56mm, 7.62x39, and 12 gauge are all common rounds used by our citizens, police force and military members, they are more easily found and obtainable. 45 Colt on the other hand are harder to find so after you run out of ammunition your weapon will become useless.

Typically when I pack my bug out bag, every item better be worth its weight in gold. If you can’t think of at least three useful ways of using that thing, then it might not be worth carrying. Yes I suggest carrying two or more of certain items, but these items are more vital than other items. Having several ways of making a fire could mean the difference between life and death. A Bic lighter may not light in high winds or on rainy days, having an alternative way is going to be well worth the weight and space.


If you plan on bugging out, be sure you have a well thought out plan. Your bag should be packed for the expected and unexpected. If your trip is going to be a day trip, pack for a 2 day trip. When the Shit Hits the Fan your commute may not be to smooth. If the weather man called for clear skies you better pack that poncho.

The last thing we should ever consider when the Shit Hits the Fan is bugging out. When you bug out you have to leave behind the comfort and convenience of the life style we are use to. Yeah you may lose power at your home but a generator or even solar panels can solve that issue. Dealing with rioters and marauders may be a big issue in your town, but dealing with them on the road can present even more challenges. You may also have to leave a lot of your survival gear behind as well. After all is said and done if you bugged out you may not have a home to come home to. Might as well stay and defend it.


March 20, 2016 at 9:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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