All About Building a Bug Out Bag That Doesn’t Weigh You Down

What is the perfect bug out bag for you?

Is it a cross between Costco and your local hardware store?

That sounds like the stuff dreams are made of, but unless you’re Mary Poppins with her magic bag, that’s not something achievable. Nor is it practical for bugging out. 

In this article, we’ll tell you how to go about building a bug out bag you can actually carry. Let’s get right to it:

But First, What Is a Bug Out Bag?

We know you’re no stranger to bug out bags, but let’s take a moment to go back to the basics.

The bug out bag (BOB) concept is simple. It’s the bag that will keep you alive while you travel to your bug out location (BOL) during an emergency. It should have survival supplies that can last at least 72 hours or longer, depending on how far your destination is.

In theory, this sounds easy-peasy. But once you start building a bug out bag, that’s when you realize the challenge you have to deal with. Just how can you secure all your essentials while ensuring your bag’s weight won’t kill you in the process?

The first thing to remember is this: you should only be carrying 20% of your body weight. Any higher, and you probably can’t carry it after a mile. And that’s if you’re physically fit

It’s a rookie mistake to go overboard, but don’t sweat it. We’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you ease your load:

10 Genius Tips for Building a Bug Out Bag That’s Lightweight

Why the need for a lightweight BOB?

If you’re bugging out on foot, it’s obvious. You can’t go far if your bag weighs the same as a tiny elephant. 

But let’s say you’ve got a bug out vehicle (BOV). Can you get away with building a bug out bag on the heavy side? If things went according to plan, sure. But as the smartest preppers know, it never hurts to have plans B and C ready in case.  

If you’re using a BOV, consider having two bug out bags—a bulkier bag with more water, food, and SHTF gear that stays in your car and a smaller one with enough supplies that you’ll grab if you have to abandon your BOV

A lighter pack will allow you to reach your destination faster and makes enemies much easier to dodge. Here are tips on how to pack a bug out bag that’s light enough to carry:

Check the Bag Itself

The bag you pick can make or break your journey. 

Word of advice: don’t get the first one you see. Don’t buy it until after you’ve gathered all your prepper gear and tools, either. 

Have multiple options and narrow them down until you find the right one. Your bag should meet these criteria:

  • Compartments: Does it have several compartments to help you organize it?
  • Frame: Your bag’s frame helps you distribute the weight of your things more easily.
  • Durability: This is non-negotiable for any survival bag—your BOB, your get home bag, and your everyday carry. The last thing you want is a strap tearing off or a hole in your main compartment. 
  • Capacity: It should have enough room to hold your essential survival supplies.
  • Weight: This is just as important as making sure the bag can take a beating and carry your prepper gear. 

To check how much the bags weigh, try wearing them if you’re at a brick-and-mortar store. If you’re buying your BOB online, read the product specifications to compare sizes. 

Carry Enough H20

Having water is crucial, yes. But that doesn’t mean you have to carry 5 whole gallons in your bag. Imagine lugging that while you hike all the way to your BOL

When building a bug out bag, it’s better to bring a single water bottle and then finding H20 when you run out. A water filter and a couple of water purification tablets should help you get rid of the icky germs. It won’t be the tastiest water in the world, but hey, it’s enough to keep you hydrated. 

Bring Less Food

When you’re building a bug out bag, you probably want lots of food stashed inside. But much as you love your favorite snacks, overpacking food is a big no-no. If it’s any consolation, you’re only bugging out temporarily. You can live on MREs, trail mix, and survival bars until it’s time to go back home.

Remember, you’re just supposed to be staving off your hunger and not enjoying five-course meals. Focus on food that gives you enough calories and is easy to prepare. Anyway, as long as you know how to catch fish or set traps, you won’t go hungry out there.

Don’t Pack Too Many Clothes

3 days’ worth of clothes should do…and no, we don’t mean the same amount of clothes you’d bring on a vacation. You’re not going to change outfits at every stop.

Stick to the basics. A few shirts will do while repeating your pants once or twice won’t kill you. As for your shoes, you’ll be fine with the ones already on your feet. Be 100% sure they’re sturdy, though.

One thing you shouldn’t scrimp on? Socks, especially if you’re bugging out on foot. Bring a backup pair or two to protect your toes from stinging blisters.

Switch to a Tarp

What to pack in a bug out bag? When you ask that question, preppers will never fail to include a tarp.

Tarps are just as good as tents, if not better. They’re cheaper, lightweight, and can be made into different shelter configurations. But those aren’t the only reasons why a tarp is awesome.

It’s a must-have survival tool because you can also use it to:

  • Signal for help
  • Collect rain
  • Carry someone who might get injured (as a makeshift stretcher)
  • Make a hammock

Take Advantage of Survival Caches

A survival cache is a secret hiding spot that houses supplies and tools you’ve stockpiled for emergencies. When you’re running low on survival supplies, you can head over to your cache and replenish them.

Survival caches are particularly useful for scenarios like bugging out. Just leave a few along your routes so that you’ll have a stash conveniently waiting for you. But be careful when concealing your caches. You don’t want others to spot them. 

Two Is One, One Is None? Think Again!

That’s a famous saying many folks follow when prepping, but don’t take it literally.

Duplicates are useful when you’re bugging in. When bugging out? Maybe, though they’re gonna add a lot of weight to your BOB.

The fact is you’re not gonna need 3 ferro rods. If you want a sure guarantee of a fire, then pack a ferro rod, matches, and a BIC lighter instead. Contingencies are the way to go when building a bug out bag. 

Focus on Multipurpose Supplies

Items with several uses are your best bet when you’re deciding what to pack in a bug out bag. You can use these bad boys as substitutes for your heavier, less flexible tools. They let you save space without having to toss anything valuable.

Here are some examples of multipurpose items you can bring:

Learn Survival Skills

Building a bug out bag with gear, supplies, and all the sophisticated gadgets you can buy is great, but nothing beats good old survival skills. You get to be less reliant on things, plus no one can take that knowledge away from you. 

Start practicing the following skills ASAP:

Lastly, Find the Right Balance

At the end of the day, you know your needs best. Don’t sacrifice your winter jacket when you know you’re the type who’s likely to get hypothermia. The same thing goes for food if you have a medical condition. 

The key to building a bug out bag is to find the balance between comfort and practicality.

If you really need something, don’t hesitate to add it to your pack. If there’s something you CAN live without, then it’s hasta la vista to that. 

Final Thoughts

A bug out bag is meant to save your life when you get out of dodge.

But if yours is too heavy, it might end up doing the opposite. Get rid of the excess weight by choosing the right bag, carefully evaluating what you’ll pack, going for multipurpose gear, and learning survival skills.

Wanna learn even more about building a bug out bag? We’ve got all kinds of information on the subject. Go check out how to choose the perfect backpack for bugging out here!

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