A: When organizing materials in a tactical backpack there are certain fundamental rules to follow such as packing the sleeping bag at the bottom and placing most of your heaviest items in the center of the bag, with clothing like thermal tops and hiking pants etc above that. If you’re carrying a tent it should be lashed to the side of the pack. Survival gear – like most of the items reviewed above – is often small and light and should be distributed in the exterior pockets of the backpack where it can be easily accessed in an emergency. Place items related to the same task in separate pockets; i.e. place all your fire starting related items in the same ziplock bag and put them in one pocket then put your navigational aids together in another pocket. Things like emergency blankets and Mylar survival tents can go together in another pocket. While your tomahawk should be tucked away in the backpack, your knife should always be carried on your person. If you need to use your survival gear for any reason it should be returned to the same pocket you took it from so there’s no confusion if you need it again.
Stewart views fire building in terms of four key ingredients: tinder bundle of dry, fibrous material (cotton balls covered in Vaseline or lip balm are an excellent choice, if you’ve got them) and wood in three sizes—toothpick, Q-tip, and pencil. Use a forearm-sized log as a base and windscreen for your tinder. When the tinder is lit, stack the smaller kindling against the larger log, like a lean-to, to allow oxygen to pass through and feed the flames. Add larger kindling as the flame grows, until the fire is hot enough for bigger logs. 

Packing a bug out bag can seem overwhelming as the task of not forgetting something important can be daunting. There are many checklists out there that will tell you the essential items you should always keep in your bug out bag. You can buy an already packed Bug out Bag, like this one here- Urban Survival Bug Out Bag, which contains essentials items like food, water, and a first aid kit. You can also check out our Bug Out Bag Checklist and personalize your bag yourself.
I already have 3 very, very, good books on Survival. My favorite is the SAS Survival Handbook by “Johnny Wiseman”. It is the most complete Survival Handbook I have ever studied from. Not only does it have all the basic skills but also details for different food sources & how to find & identify edible plants, but the ones you should not eat. Making weapons & traps. I could go on & on.
One thing that the article doesn’t reference is “How many people will there be in your Bug Out party?” The point being, that although there are some items that need to be in everyones B.O.B, there are others that don’t require duplication. Figuring out which items can be used by all the members of your party can reduce duplicating these items in each bag. For example, does everyone in your party need to carry a 1 quart backpacking pot, or will 1 or 2 suffice for your whole group? Those types of items can then be parceled out to the members of the group, and cut the weight down.
As a wilderness survival guide, I often am called upon to differentiate wilderness survival from primitive living. Often times these two are lumped together as one, but in fact they are distinct. Wilderness survival refers to the actual experience of survival in the wilderness, which may or may not be a "primitive" experience depending on the gear you have access to. Wilderness survival is usually a short term experience. Primitive Living is usually a long term experience, and refers to the experience of living in a primitive setting, practicing primitive skills for an extended period of time.
There are a few basics to remember when it comes to finding your way out of the wilderness like finding a stream and following it downhill. This will keep you near a water source and take you out of the worst weather toward civilization. However if the weather is bad and there are no streams to follow you’ll need another method of navigation: the compass.
Don’t buy in bulk unless you plan to repackage your food into Mylar bags, vacuum-sealed bags, or canning jars. Once you open a large container of food—such as flour or coffee—the flavor and texture start to degrade. Storage containers provide an airtight seal that keeps rodents and pests out. Proper storage also keeps food nutritionally stable and extends the shelf life.

I have one of the REAL emergency blankets folded into an inner back pocket of the backpack. It’s orange on one side and silver on the other. It can be used as a tarp above (with a reflective cover that puts heat back to you if you need it or away if you don’t) or as a pad below to keep you insulated from the ground. Because it’s orange, you can use it to signal. I originally carried a VS-17 signal panel but it was way not big enough to be used for much other than signaling. I do have a couple of the cheap emergency blankets but those are crap. They’re ok for reflecting heat from the ceiling of a tent or behind you with a fire but don’t think you’re actually going to use them as a blanket for any extended time.
If you find yourself in a survival situation you’re go ing to need rope to help devise shelter or extricate yourself from tight spots. Better yet you’ll need some incredibly tough paracord from Titan. Whether you need to string your food sack from a tree to keep it out of the reach of bears or remove your car from a ditch during rough winter weather Titan MIL-spec paracord is survival gear that can help.
For someone new to being a Survivalist building your first Bug Out Bag can seem like a big task. Everybody you read about has been tweaking theirs for months or even years and has a pile of gear built up. It’s hard to know where to start, but if you cover all of the basics in a survival situation you will still be much better off that 99% of the people.
The more you know about nature, the better you will be able to survive in the outdoors. To be great at wilderness survival, beyond the basic survival skills, requires an in-depth understanding of a variety of nature skills. For example, wildlife tracking skills allow one to effectively locate wild game for food, and knowledge of herbal medicine allows one to heal illnesses with wild plants. Especially for the situation where you may choose to purposefully practice survival living for a lengthened period of time, naturalist knowledge is absolutely invaluable.
On another note, the only thing I had trouble with was #1. Yes, sleeping bags are big and fat and are a pain to carry, but they will make up for it in heat. You need that heat, at least here in the Pacific Northwest where I live. You use a space blanket or bivvy, you get either a miserable night (lucky), or hypothermia (normal). I wouldn’t mind packing a bivvy instead if I lived in a warmer climate, but seriously, don’t skimp on the sleeping bag.
or, I’ll give you a very serious and concrete example, I live in a highly seismic area, if the reason I’m fleeing is the earthquake, I will have to take my backpack really running, but I would hate to run down some unsafe stairs, with a heavy backpack that contains an ax, a bow and a rifle, on that occasion quite useless, but if for another reason I am running away from my house to never go back, or to take a long journey, then maybe even the carpenter’s scrap metal must be taken rushed.
Regardless of whether everything is going swimmingly or you’re lost in a whiteout above tree line your boots are one of the most important pieces of survival gear you have. You need them to stand up to the elements and keep your feet dry and comfortable. Irish Setter Men’s Waterproof Hunting Boot is a fine example of the state of the bootmaker’s art.
My biggest problem is weight. I have two small children so for each vehicle bag I pack as if it is for four people, two kids and two adults. The reality is that it woukd most likely end up being either one adult with two kids or one adult on his/her own. With the children being only 2 & 4 they cannot be expected to carry much. I’d estimate that right now the packs are at 60lbs including food & water. My wife and I are fit and strong so it seems reasonable when wearing them in our living room but in a real situation with two kids in tow I think it’s too heavy. I just can’t figure out where to cut weight. Every time I want to remove something I imagine my wife and kids without it and can’t bring myselr to do it. It’s a real dilemma for me.

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.
That is strange, and I can’t imagine what triggered it either. Just happy that the thanks, and the boot info went through. generally I don’t comment at all, but thought it would be good to help out with the hiking boots info. We use them for riding as well as hiking, which should be a pretty good indicator as to how well they do hold up. Mine look pretty new considering what I’ve put them through. Much of my stuff is the same as yours. I’d spent a lot of time and effort on the choices made. One major ” ouch” price-wise was my choice of Western Mountaineering’s Ultra Lite Sleeping bag. Rated to 10 deg. F, it was a good choice for the high altitude area I live in. I really had to think long and hard before coughing up the cash, but I think it was worth it. Still do!
Don’t forget spices and nutritional supplements. Yes, you can plan a well-balanced diet with prepared foods, but not everyone has the same taste. Spices and herbs allow you to change up the flavor of the same basic ingredients for variety and interest. Vitamins and supplements are an important addition to your emergency supply stash. Choose nutrition bars, protein powder, or multivitamin capsules that support nutrition and boost natural immunity.

By choosing versatile tools like multi-tools and bandanas, planning an array of easy-to-make meals, and arranging an even distribution of weight in your pack, you can prepare yourself for a glitch-free outdoor experience. Essentially, you’ll consider the things you need to live safely in everyday life and then adapt those supplies to fit outdoor life. Once your bag is packed, you’ll be ready to dive in to the next adventure: using a blend of tech and nature’s navigation tools to find your way in the wilderness.
Everyone’s needs when they Bug Out are different. So your Bug Out Bag should suit your needs. Your size/strength, number in party, where you plan to go and for how long will determine what goes in the bag. Bigger groups can share load weights. The only way to determine which bag works for you is to research and try the different sized and designed back packs. In the end, the weight you’ll be carrying may determine whether an external frame or internal frame will be best.
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.
A good read and a very good list to ‘pick and chose’ from – I try to carry ‘multi-person items as much as possible – cuts down on the weight – as a ‘senior citizen’ the packs I carried years ago I can’t carry now so I have to make changes that match my physical ability – Also a good idea on up-dating – at least every three months or seasonal (which also changes pack size and contents) Lastly, don’t just put a bag together – take a weekend and use it occasionally – carry it distances in different terrain – make sure you have the physical stamina to bear the load – it’s useless if you can’t ‘take it with you’..
To hold all my clothes, I currently have a large Sandpiper of California Top Stuff sack. It’s big enough that I can throw a couple other bags in it if I had to go through a river and will hold out water for a short time but it’s not technically waterproof. I’ll be replacing it at some point with a compression dry sack like I use with my sleeping bag. This bag is a fairly heavy addition but I figure it’s worth it to make sure I can keep things dry.
It is an extremely important list in my opinion but dances between the motive. Sometimes it’s hiking, sometimes it’s nuclear bombing and sometimes a fugitive (I even felt Zombie Apocalypse). I think you should set specific scenarios and then try creating a list. For example, a person leaving his home to find a job in a new city or a person who is on a constant move. So you can think about what exactly matters and what does not. We are easily confused homo sapiens, we don’t need a big list of items that may come to our use, we need a list of items we may have forgotten but are very important to us. So, having a scenario-specific list is better. But I do like the list, it made me add a few more items to my almost perfect list.
I’ve had several times in just daily life that I’ve needed a wrench. Can’t hurt to have one if you’re out trying to survive and come across something that needs to be disassembled. Measuring tapes are useful to make sure you can fit something to something else and don’t have both of them together. I have a fiskars hatchet but it’s a different tool. Chopping a 9″ log is a lot of work but sawing it is pretty easy.

My biggest problem is weight. I have two small children so for each vehicle bag I pack as if it is for four people, two kids and two adults. The reality is that it woukd most likely end up being either one adult with two kids or one adult on his/her own. With the children being only 2 & 4 they cannot be expected to carry much. I’d estimate that right now the packs are at 60lbs including food & water. My wife and I are fit and strong so it seems reasonable when wearing them in our living room but in a real situation with two kids in tow I think it’s too heavy. I just can’t figure out where to cut weight. Every time I want to remove something I imagine my wife and kids without it and can’t bring myselr to do it. It’s a real dilemma for me.


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.
What to Put in a Bug Out Bag? – If your pre-made bug out bag focuses on tactical and survival gear you’ll need to finish it by purchasing dehydrated meals and other foodstuffs with long shelf lives. If the bag focuses on food you’ll need to supply survival gear such as a flashlight or two, emergency blankets, first aid kit, paracord, EDC knife and other things. If you’re making your own bug out bag read the answer to the next question.
I’m using an Osprey Atmos 65 backpack in large, which gives me actually 68 Liters of space. I chose this particular bag because I already have an idea about how much space I need from using my Camelbak BFM for so many years. I originally got a 5.11 Rush 72 backpack to replace it, after MANY people suggested it and read some really great reviews on it. After thinking it all through, it wasn’t going to work. In order to carry the amount of items I wanted, I’d have to add cargo space to the bag and it already weighed quite a bit. Plus, it’s a very military-looking bag, which I’d rather avoid if I could. It also seals up at the top and has a built-in cover for the rain.
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