The Bug Out Bag - Choosing The Right One Jun 16,2017

Fundamentals ( Planning )

The Second 3 – the 3-day Bug Out Bag


We have talked about a basic Survival Kit and now we are talking about the 3-day scenario, let’s take a little time and talk about being able to move to another location, on foot over a three-day period.  In this case, you are going to be carrying everything you need to survive in your bug out bag [BOB].

Everyone in the family or group should have their own BOB.  This allows stronger members of the group to have some additional group equipment.  In some cases, adults may have to carry additional gear for children. 

First let’s talk about the bag itself.  Duffles, backpacks, backpack rollers, external frame backpacks and internal frame backpacks.


Duffles  Duffles can have shoulder straps although usually they have one strap which you would carry over one shoulder (and across the chest).  They can be larger but usually lack segregated compartments so if you pack a lot of items in the duffle, you may spend some time digging through the bag to find the item you want.  Large bags encourage people to pack everything they can in the bag which leads to very heavy loads which cannot be carried far.  You can consider loading bulky items that are light weight in a duffle if you can’t find a back pack that meets your needs, but in general I suggest avoiding duffles for long foot movements


Large size

Cheaper cost



Gear gets mixed up inside large compartment

Not ideal for lugging over long distances

Can get heavy when fully loaded


Backpack rollers:  A hybrid between backpacks and a roller bag, nice if you are moving over smooth paved areas but really this is a design compromise with not a lot of benefits if you have to move off road or even along dirt roads or paths.  If you really need extra carrying capacity, look at heavy duty garden carts such as the one depicted to the right.

Backpacks without frame:  these are usually smaller in capacity and may not be big enough for your 3-day trek.  However, they might be ideal for smaller children so they can carry some gear (they probably will not be able to carry all of their own requirements).


Possible excursion bag for day trips

Suited for children


Not large enough for a 3-day trek


External frame backpacks:  the external frame keeps the load high up and puts some space between the load and your back – will allow circulation and help you stay a little cooler.  They do a great job distributing weight to your hips which will reduce fatigue.  But the profile is a little larger and you can get caught up if the brush is heavy (we call them “wait a minute” vines).  Depending on the configuration, some external frames carry the load a little higher which can feel top heavy.  But all in all, a great choice.


Internal frame backpacks:  Ideally the internal frame contours against your back so the load will not shift and it feels more stable.  Lacks the gap of an external frame so in warmer weather you will sweat more.  Also does a great job distributing the weight to your hips.  The profile is smoother so it will ease moving through thick brush.  Another great choice.


Both the internal and external frames should have the following features:


► reinforced stitching and heavy duty fabric and high quality/ heavy duty fixtures (buckles, zippers, quick releases)

► water resistance and / or a rain cover

► a hip belt with quick release to keep the load firmly positioned on your hips

► segregated compartments:  you can “fabricate” separate compartments by packing gear in water proof bags within the main compartment(s) and placing them in a distinct spot in the compartment (left / center / right / top / bottom).  The goal here is to find the piece of equipment you need quickly, even in the dark.

As an aside, many years ago in Ranger School, I memorized where I packed each item in my large ALICE (military rucksack).  When we got to patrol base, I could find each item in the main compartment by feel in the dark and change into dry clothes and then repack everything, returning it to its designated spot.  I would have loved a ruck with segregated compartments.

► attachment points on the outside of the ruck:  being able to lash some oversized items to the top, bottom or sides of the ruck is a plus, although you might end up overloading yourself if you keep adding things on.  At some point, you have to consider the overall weight (see below).


Optional features:  If you can find a bag with a water bladder inside (and a sipping tube) that could be a plus.  You can hydrate on the move and keep your hands free for the most part.

There are some rucks out there that include a sheet of Kevlar across the back.  This makes an expedient armor plate that you can rotate in front of you if needed (or cover your back if you are moving away from the attacker).  If you are going to rotate the bag to your front, plan on quick releasing the shoulder strap for your firing hand or slipping your firing hand out of the shoulder strap.  I would keep your firing arm “slick” (no watch or bracelets) so you can do this easily.  If this is one of your intended drills, practice how you are going to do it with all your equipment so you can see if anything is going to get hung up or hinder you.

Some people like the water tight zippers.  I am cautious as they can get clogged with dirt or debris and then get stuck.  If you have to water proof your ruck to cross a river or whatnot, I am going to suggest you place it in a waterproof bag or trash bag for the crossing or protect contents that you want to keep dry with waterproof bags inside the ruck.

You can also find rifle sleeves that fit nicely in between the ruck and the external frame or inside an internal frame to permit quick access to your primary weapon. 

When you decide to buy a bag, go to the store and try it on for size.  Make sure you have a good fit.  You may decide to purchase it on line later but you should make sure that the size is right. 

Color:  I know a lot of preppers talk about being the “grey man” blending in in the post-SHTF environment.  The trouble here is I have not quite wrapped my mind around how my family of five moving cross country on foot with ruck on our backs are going to fully blend in.  On the other hand, if you are in need of help, bright colors will stand out and may assist in your rescue.  You might need to have one than one colored cover for your ruck so you can change your appearance based on your desire to be seen (or not be seen). 

The real tricky part of purchasing your bag is then loading it with your 72-hour gear.  I can imagine the horror of a sales clerk if you bring all your gear into the store and sit there and try to load everything up to make sure it fits.  A better approach would be to layout all your gear at home before you go shopping and estimate the volume (and weigh it).  Go buy a bag that is roughly the capacity you estimated and then pack up your gear when you get home.  If the bag cannot carry it all, you can then return the bag and get a bigger one.

We will talk about the contents of the 3-day BOB in the next blog but it is important that you take your BOB out for a test run.  Load it up and go for a walk.  Find out if it chaffs or pinches somewhere and see if you can remedy the problem. 


De Oppresso Liber 

Leave a Comment Protection Status