We all know that a bug out bag (BOB) is your lifeline in case of an emergency situation or crisis. Everything you need to survive for at least 72 hours (shelter, clothing, food, and water) should be inside your BOB. In a previous article, we've talked about the critical items that should be in your bug out bag. We also rounded up some expert advice from preppers on how to pack the ultimate BOB.
Which now begs the question: what should you look for in a quality bug out bag? What things should you consider? Does brand matter? How big should the bug out bag be?
Consider These Personal Factors First
Before anything else, no two bug out bags are exactly the same. BOBs must be personalized and made to fit your individual needs. So, before we dive into the technical aspects of your bag, consider the following personal factors:
Your physical capability
Since you're going to carry it around, you’d want your bag to fit your frame comfortably. There are a lot of bug out bags available in the market meant for people of all sizes and shapes. There are bags specially designed for women, children or people who are taller than average.
Your BOB should depend on your physique, particularly the size of your torso. Measure the length between your torso and hipbone and use this reference to check your bag size. This way you can make sure that it’s a perfect fit--- the shoulder straps not being too long or short and the hip straps properly secured around your hips rather than the stomach.
Aside from the height and fit of the bag, you should also consider how much weight you can actually carry. Active or professionally trained people can carry heavier loads for a longer period of time compared to individuals who don’t move around as much. Try hiking with a full backpack for at least an hour; this should give you an idea of how much you can carry.
How many you're preparing for
Are you living by yourself? If so, you can do with a smaller sized BOB that can comfortably fit at least 2 people's worth of supplies. This is in case you meet someone you know on the road, or stay out longer than intended.
In contrast, if you have a family with small children who can't carry their own bug out bag yet, you might want to consider a bigger bug out bag with more compartments and modular features.
Your environment or climate
Choose a pack suitable for your weather or climate. Consider not only where you currently are, but also where you're headed to. People from really cold climates may opt for a bug out bag that has enough space for supplies to keep them warm while people from arid environments may want to invest in a bag that has a great hydration bladder.
Those three personal factors should probably give you an idea of what your bug out should be. Now that we got those out of the way, here are the technical qualities of a great bug out bag:
Your BOB Should Be Lightweight
As mentioned above, you should be able to carry your bag for long periods of time. The last thing you need in an emergency situation is additional weight, which can exhaust and slow you down in the long run. Choose a bag made from lightweight, durable material. Denier is the unit used to measure the weight of a certain fabric. Most backpacks ideal for bugging out are made from 600 Denier to 1000 Denier nylon or polyester fabric.
It Should Be Made With Intelligent Design and Features
Technically you can use any bag as a BOB. You can use a duffel, messenger or hiking pack, but the backpack is arguably the most popular BOB style. This is because the backpack's straps distribute the weight evenly between both shoulders, unlike a duffel or messenger bag. That way, they won't give your back too much trouble.
Choose a bag with hip straps and adequate padding. Hip straps divert the weight from your shoulders to your thigh and hip muscles instead, easing the load on your back. The ideal bag should also allow airflow to your back so you don't sweat too much or chafe.
Your BOB should also have ergonomically designed features that are geared towards safety and accessibility. Look for water-resistant bags or bags with a top lid or rain hood that can protect it from moisture. Bags that can accommodate hydration packs are also ideal. This means easy access to water even when you’re on the move.
A bag with a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system allows multiple items like tool sheaths and medkits to be attached to the bag, which is great for ease of access.
Durability Is The Name Of The Game
Your bag should be able to withstand a lot of use and abuse, so it has to be durable. Consider the make and material of the bag. Since moisture is your bag’s worst enemy, make sure that it is resistant to water.
Pay attention to the details of the bag, like the width of the straps and the quality of the zippers. These are vulnerable areas of your bag and are therefore more prone to damage. A busted strap or zipper would be a huge inconvenience in an emergency situation.
BOBs Should Have Enough Space
Since you're stuffing a lot of things into your bag, it would make sense that it should also have a lot of space to accommodate your supplies. This doesn't mean, however, that you can just dump all your items into a single compartment. That would mean taking out all the contents every time you need to take something inside the bag, costing you precious time and energy.
Instead, opt for modular bags with a lot of compartments that you can take out and modify. According to this guide, an average of 2,500 cubic inches or 40 liters capacity should be able to accommodate all your supplies comfortably.
BOB For The Gray Man
Pick a bag that doesn’t draw too much attention. You might find yourself in a situation where law enforcement would be virtually non-existent. In this chaotic environment, a bug out bag full of survival supplies would stick out like a sore thumb. You’d soon find yourself prey to thieves or people who wants to grab at whatever supplies they can get. Make sure to choose a color that doesn’t draw too much attention, like black, gray or camouflage.
Some preppers even suggest using a “disguise BOB”, like a school book bag or a baby diaper bag. It sounds pretty clever, but you really can’t fit much on those kinds of packs. Instead, you can use a trash bag to conceal your BOB until you get to a much safer location.
There are hundreds of bug out bags to choose from these days. However, your BOB doesn't have to be from the most popular brand nor does it have to be the most expensive one. Choosing the perfect bug out bag takes a lot of thought and consideration. Evaluate your needs first, and then take the time to look for the bag that checks all the boxes.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you need.