Cargo is really where I cut down most of my weight without sacrificing effectiveness. I found a great bag that’s big enough to carry everything I need, with even some extra room left over. With my original bag, attachments to hold what wouldn’t fit, and internal bags to keep things organized, my cargo weight was well over 8 pounds! Essentially, cargo is all the stuff that holds your stuff that isn’t stuff you need to survive. I cut that down by half, saving me four pounds that I could devote to other gear and I actually have more room than I did before. I can now fit everything inside the bag – including the tent – and I still have some room. The tent adds 4.82 pounds but still keeps everything under 30 pounds plus food/water.
I’ve seen that 1/3 of your body weight number getting tossed around a lot. Any idea where that comes from? In Afghanistan I tried to keep my pack around 35 lbs so I was never over 75 or so with my weapon, ammo and body armor. Even then, walking all day with that much weight is brutal when you’re not used to it. I’d hope most people would shoot for around 35lbs total in a bugout bag. Add in a weapon and some ammo and you have another 8-10 lbs if you take a rifle. It adds up quick.

A human being can survive an average of three to five days without the intake of water. The issues presented by the need for water dictate that unnecessary water loss by perspiration be avoided in survival situations. The need for water increases with exercise.[4] Since the human body is composed of up to 78% water, it should be no surprise that water is higher on the list than fire or food. Ideally, a person should drink about a gallon of water per day. Many lost persons perish due to dehydration, and/or the debilitating effects of water-born pathogens from untreated water.


Focusing on survival until rescued by presumed searchers, the Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, especially discourages foraging for wild foods on the grounds that the knowledge and skills needed are unlikely to be possessed by those finding themselves in a wilderness survival situation, making the risks (including use of energy) outweigh the benefits.[13]
The Trangia Alcohol Stove is a great addition to it because the Solo Stove makes it more efficient. The nice thing about the Trangia is that it has a screw-on lid so you can put the flame out and carry it with fuel in it so you don’t have to guess exactly how much fuel you’ll need each time. It burns alchohol so I carry 8 ounces of yellow HEET (which is methanol), carried in one of those cheap squirt bottles you find in the travel size section at the grocery store. Don’t get the red HEET (isopropyl), it’s not nearly as good. There are many fuels you can use with it though. Of note is Everclear, which can be used inside without worrying too much about the fumes, and you can drink it *shudder*.
Mylar emergency blankets are great survival gear but sometimes you need more than that. The Coleman North Rim Extreme Weather Bag will keep you cozy warm when the air temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. In temperatures like that you can lapse into hypothermia quickly especially if you’ve been slogging through the woods all day and are sweaty. Just crawl in the North Rim bag and pull the drawstring to lock in the warmth. The cover is durable rip-stop nylon so you can lay it on the ground if need be and there are snag free dual zippers so you can get in and out quickly and easily. Must have survival gear for winter adventurers.
Design – The best bug out bag is one with plenty of pockets. This allows you to compartmentalize your bug out bag essentials so that you know exactly where everything is and you don’t have to dig through mountains of other stuff to find what you need. Put all your fire and light things together such as tactical flashlight, candles, headlamp, fire starting kit and storm proof matches. Put maps, GPS devices, compass and other navigation related items in their own pocket and so on. The more you can separate things the easier it will be to transcend your difficulties.
Since I live in the desert so I don’t need a lot of cold-weather gear but it does get pretty nippy at night and can easily get below freezing. As you can see in the Clothing Bag above, I have just some basic Army-issue polypros as a backup. I also carry a lightweight rain jacket because not only will it keep the rain off me, it’s a good wind breaker. Once it gets colder, I’ll throw a fleece or something in there. Just make sure you layer your clothes. Sweating in cold weather makes your clothes wet so even after you cool down to the point where you stop sweating, your clothes continue to sweat for you, and you get hypothermia.
Great information. But, please don’t tell people that pepper spray will drop someone in seconds. I was a chemical agent instructor for a medium size police department. I’ve been sprayed by a lot of stuff. Not all of it works on every person. I’ve seen people just sit there and look at you when they were hit full in the face with very good, very reliable chemical agents. We only taught that it was a distraction technique. Use the chemical agent to distract the person so you can hit them next, take them down, flee, whatever your plan is. But, it is only a distraction technique.
A suggestion for your Fenix vs Petzl flashlight problem: Make a headband for your Fenix. Sew an elastic band into a loop so that it nicely fits your head. Then sew two small loops to the side such that the Fenix fits tightly through them. That way you can attach the Fenix to the side of your head. If that works for you you can remove the Petzl headlamp and your dual battery problem is gone. Sure that is a compromise between functionality and less gear but what is not.
Survival skills are techniques that a person may use in order to sustain life in any type of natural environment or built environment. These techniques are meant to provide basic necessities for human life which include water, food, and shelter. The skills also support proper knowledge and interactions with animals and plants to promote the sustaining of life over a period of time. Survival skills are often associated with the need to survive in a disaster situation.[1] Survival skills are often basic ideas and abilities that ancients invented and used themselves for thousands of years.[2] Outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, fishing, and hunting all require basic wilderness survival skills, especially in handling emergency situations. Bushcraft and primitive living are most often self-implemented, but require many of the same skills.
Great information, I was getting ready to buy a 5.11 Rush tactical bag, but you made a great argument against, will look at the Osprey instead, plus this will allow me to use my gear during normal conditions without looking like I’m going on a tactical outing. Also added a bunch of stuff to my wish list from your list of items. Thanks for your article, it was very helpful.
On average, we humans can go about three weeks without food, so this tends to be last on the wilderness survival priority list in most situations. As a wilderness survival guide, I encourage my students to connect with their hunter-gatherer ancestors. The reality is that the majority of our time on Earth, we humans have lived as hunter-gatherers. It is deep in our DNA.
Here’s another bug out bag that’s designed to help you survive in the out of doors for several days following a natural or man-made calamity. As you might expect from a company call “Ultimate Arms” this particular bug out bag is heavy on the armaments including an EDC knife, a large survival knife, a tomahawk and a full sized machete. Oh yeah, there’s also a pick axe and plenty of bandages in case you really get into it with hordes of the undead.
Batoning a knife to build a shelter is a LOT of work so I wanted to get a really good hatchet. It came down to the Estwing E24A Portsman’s Hatchet vs the Fiskars X7 14-inch Hatchet. I went back and forth with this one for a long time. I ended up with the Fiskars because it was over a quarter pound lighter (from what I could find on the web and assuming the sheath weight) and had even more 5-star reviews. I REALLY like the looks of the Estwing but cutting weight is a priority over aesthetics. Barely.
The Emergency Zone bug out bag is one of the best equipped you’ll find with everything from the expected like drinking water and flashlight to the unexpected like works, a tube tent, toilet paper and even a multi tool. What it’s light on is food but there’s plenty of room in the water resistant bag for 4 or 5 days of food or more. While the shoulder straps on the Emergency Zone backpack could use some more padding the rest of the pack is logistically sound with plenty of external pockets for the included gear plus your own compass, GPS device, tactical flashlight, maps and more.
Wow! This is fantastic! I started out blindly trying to put together an emergency “bug out” bag and I found this well written breakdown extremely helpful. So much so that I’ve actually purchased many of the recommended items. A somewhat costly endeavor considering that I made two identical bags, one for my wifes vehicle and one for mine. We live in a earthquake prone region and the talk of the “big one” is always in terms of “when” rather than “if”. It gives me considerable peace of mind to know that no matter where my family is we have the means to survive as long as we can get to our car.
Great information. But, please don’t tell people that pepper spray will drop someone in seconds. I was a chemical agent instructor for a medium size police department. I’ve been sprayed by a lot of stuff. Not all of it works on every person. I’ve seen people just sit there and look at you when they were hit full in the face with very good, very reliable chemical agents. We only taught that it was a distraction technique. Use the chemical agent to distract the person so you can hit them next, take them down, flee, whatever your plan is. But, it is only a distraction technique.
On average, we humans can go about three weeks without food, so this tends to be last on the wilderness survival priority list in most situations. As a wilderness survival guide, I encourage my students to connect with their hunter-gatherer ancestors. The reality is that the majority of our time on Earth, we humans have lived as hunter-gatherers. It is deep in our DNA.
Rain, snow, and dew are reliable sources of clean water you can collect with surprising ease, and they don’t need to be purified. With a couple of bandanas, Stewart has collected two gallons of water in an hour by soaking up dew and ringing out the bandanas. You can also squeeze water from vines, thistles, and certain cacti. Are there any maple trees around? Cut a hole in the bark and let the watery syrup flow—nature’s energy drink.
Without the right footwear you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage when you’re out in the wild. Blisters, trench foot and even frostbite can result from depending on poor quality footwear when the going gets tough. The Irish Setter 8” Waterproof Hunting boots are actually for anyone who cares about retaining comfort, warmth and outstanding traction regardless of conditions. These waterproof boots employ RPM technology that brings the weight down and the warmth up. The boot also employs the company’s innovative waterproofing methods that ensure your feet stay dry so you can concentrate on other things. True survival gear for your feet.
If you have a proper survival knife with you when the weather closes in you can make an emergency shelter; if there’s the material available to do so. But it’s better just to make sure that whenever you venture into the woods for any length of time that you have the right survival gear with you and the Sundome 2 Person backpacking tent from Coleman is that survival gear.
Say you're at work and a terrorist attack occurs. Roads are closed to any and all traffic but you only want to get home - even if that means walking. You may not want to grab your full on family pack in the car or you may not even be able to get to it. But you just want a light kit to get you through. How far is it to get home from wherever you may be? This get home kit should provide for 1-3 nights of traveling on foot till you make it home.
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